Pathway to Purpose

Pathway to Purpose

Ephesians 1:7-10 (NIV) In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.

There is more to our purpose in Jesus Christ than just to be saved. The fulfillment of Christ is to make us complete lacking nothing. It is a process of sowing seeds of His Word in us, allowing His Spirit to cultivate them, and God will grow them into full satisfaction. Can I ask you a question today? Are you satisfied? Before you answer, think of your needs, wants and desires. If there is a single one, then the answer is “no” I am not satisfied with my life. Settling is not a characteristic of satisfaction and complaining is not born of contentment. Just enough is not good enough when it comes to God’s Standard of Living which is defined by more than enough. Beginning with our soul, the Fruit born of the Spirit is the first fruit of fulfillment. When there is enough love, joy, and peace in our life to be characteristic of our nature overflowing in all conditions and circumstances, it is then that we are finally on track to fulfillment. Until then, fulfillment is only a figment of our imagination. God is able to exceedingly abundantly more than we can think, ask or even imagine. How do I find my way to fulfillment? What will it take to achieve purpose in my life?

Romans 11:22-24 (NIV) Consider therefore the kindness and sternness of God: sternness to those who fell, but kindness to you, provided that you continue in his kindness. Otherwise, you also will be cut off. And if they do not persist in unbelief, they will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again. After all, if you were cut out of an olive tree that is wild by nature, and contrary to nature were grafted into a cultivated olive tree, how much more readily will these, the natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree!

The desirability of salvation is without question. Of course, we desire for Jesus to be our Savior. It is a win for us without any investment. I can do nothing to save myself. The kindness of God in the Gift of His Son is ours for the asking. There is another component to Christ called Lordship. To make Jesus the Lord of my life is cause for my flesh to offer up resistance. Why? My flesh must die for Christ to assume His Place as Lord of my life. This is a huge chunk of meat right out of the Word of God that many struggle to understand as they strive to achieve purpose beyond just being saved. It’s not easy.

Consider therefore the kindness (salvation) and sternness (sovereignty) of God. Do you ever think that there has to be more to life than this? Not eternity or forever, but right here, right now. I do. I believe that there are three qualities that must become part of our character in order to achieve God’s Purpose in our life. To reach fulfillment there must be perseverance, persistence and patience. Not exactly the fuzzy, feel-good fodder peddled in the modern day church. If your purpose in life is to endure to the end and enter the Kingdom than it is important to know and understand God’s Word and His Way in order to fulfill His Will which is that none should die but find eternal life.

Perseverance

Hebrews 12:1 (NIV) Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us…

Perseverance is continued steady belief and efforts, withstanding discouragement or difficulty with persistence. It will take effort on our part to continually sow God’s Word in our heart and protect it and nurture it while it grows into fulfillment, purpose and full productivity in our life. We must become acutely aware of sin in our life because it is the very thing that trips us along the way, entangling us in lies, and binding us in things that will keep us from the finish line if allowed to remain. God is Sovereign. Grace didn’t change His Character but is a product of His Steadfast and Unconditional Love which does not change either. God has provided all of the grace needed to step out of sin and live on purpose that leads to completion in Christ. It is up to us to decide to put effort into the process or settle for something less or accept a substitution. The race of faith is a clearly marked pathway which requires perseverance.

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:2-4) The testing of our faith produces perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that we will be complete, mature and fulfilled lacking nothing. We want the end result therefore we cannot forgo the process of completion. When facing trials, it is important to stop focusing on the temporary and keep our eyes fixed on the promise. The Word of God for our life does not change. Your situation will throughout your entire life as God molds you, moves you and motivates you to fulfillment.

Persistence

Romans 2:6-7 (NIV) God “will repay each person according to what they have done.” To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life.

Persistence is to continue steadfastly and firmly in purpose with a course of action especially in spite of opposition and discouragement. You still keep pressing and pushing on the boundaries and barriers between you and God’s Purpose which leads to fulfillment. Believing in God’s Word for your life in the process of persistence. You must know what God says about you, who He tells you that you are, what He has commissioned you to do, and what He is doing in you. You must be full of faith and confidence in the Word of God and the person of Jesus Christ. You must rely on His Spirit to take God’s Word which is the logic of faith and make it the wisdom of your life.

Bless her heart! I love the persistent widow in Luke 18. She knew what belonged to her and would not be stopped until she received it. She came to him time and time again, “Grant me justice against my adversary!” Over and over again until she finally wore the poor man down. He didn’t fear God and was not moved by any other motivation than to stop this woman from bothering him day after day. In fact, it eludes to the fact that he thought she might be a little crazy. God grants us justice against our adversary. Jesus is our champion who gives us the victory. If we believed that God would be our justice, and Jesus really was our champion, we would be more persistent for the prize rather than settling for sloppy seconds or immediate gratification of settlement. If we believed, we would persist. Lord, help me to stop settling for anything less and teach me to persist in all areas of my life!

Patience

Colossians 1:8-12 (NIV) For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light.

“You must be patient.” I loved my grandmother. She was a godly woman who led me to the Lord. If she said these words to me once, she spoke them a thousand times. I was born impatient. Perhaps, if honest, we all are not born with a propensity to wait graciously for anything. We want it quick and in a hurry. Some say, “Don’t pray for patience” while others encourage it. Can I let you in on a little secret? The Holy Spirit is already working on producing the fruit of longsuffering in us. It doesn’t matter if you pray for it or not, it is already a work in process inside of you. Great endurance and patience are absolutely essential to fulfillment. God makes everything beautiful in His Time… not ours. The Gospel is a story of great patience demonstrated by Jesus Christ. In I Timothy 1, Paul attributes his salvation to the immense patience of Jesus Christ as he calls himself the worst sinner. We all could make the same confession. We must endure to the end to be saved according to Jesus – that is going to take some time. In fact, it is going to take your whole life. Diligence will require tremendous patience as God works every detail of our life to fulfillment and completion. (Romans 8:28) (Hebrews 6:11-12)

“A person’s wisdom yields patience.” (Proverbs 19:11) The Word of God is seed for our life. It must be planted. It must be given time to take root and grow. No farmer gets an immediate harvest from a seed the very next day. He must wait. He must be patient. God’s Word is harvested into wisdom when applied to our life. It increases our ability and willingness to wait on the Lord once we have tasted His Goodness and experienced His Glory.

2 Corinthians 8:10-12 (NIV) And here is my judgment about what is best for you in this matter. Last year you were the first not only to give but also to have the desire to do so. Now finish the work, so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of it, according to your means. For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what one does not have.

Perseverance, persistence, and patience do not produce new things in our life. They produce the Promise, Purpose and Prosperity of God already given to us according to His Plan including our future and hope in Him. Let that sink in for a moment. If it already exists, we cannot produce it. Therefore, these three qualities are not a requirement but a privilege. It is up to us if we are willing to engage in the Plan of God called purpose or if we are good with the life currently lived. Why settle for less than full satisfaction? Because it is easy, fast and affordable – I guess. God is not going to force anyone into the process but offers us potential to encourage us to try. God already has given us an inheritance now we must take the initiative to be His Sons and Daughters. We are free to choose the life to live. Will I live with eager willingness that leads to fulfillment? Or am I okay for today? The choice is mine. I choose my level of commitment. I decide if I will persevere, persist and be patient until the end. It’s my life. I choose to live on purpose today. How about you?

I Corinthians 9:25-27 (NIV) Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.

Misfit

Misfit

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

Forging through life in pursuit of hope led by faith, there are days when I can sit in a room for of believers and still feel like I just don’t fit in. Like a misfit, who is not suited for the environment in which I suddenly find myself yet not given to adaptation. Have you ever felt that way? I have. I do. I don’t like it. In all humility, I will be the first to admit that “I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection” because the more I know Christ the less confidence I have in myself. The transition of faith fortifies confidence in hope not a sense of pride to self. I am definitely pressing to possess that thing called “perfection” or purpose that Christ Jesus first possessed me. I am finding that the more I know the Lord, trust Him, seek Him and follow Him – the more out of alignment with people that I find myself. Maybe that is what the pursuit of Jesus is all about. Letting go of fitting in with the world to fully embrace the joy of His Presence.

It is in those moments when I feel like a misfit that I must dig deep inside my heart and pull out the word or seed that God has planted there. Why am I here? How did I get here? God, what is my purpose in this place among these people? Like an ill-fitting garment, slouching over the chair, I know God has placed me exactly where I am. I am confident that the Lord is the One who led me to this place and put me right where I am. Faith is like that leading us out of comfort zone and the complacency found in it to catapult us into divine purpose that changes everything. When I feel like an outcast, out of place and out of alignment, I must ask myself – “what am I doing here?” What led me to this place? For if it is the Lord, I must only maintain alignment with Him to see all the pieces strewn across the table fall dramatically and miraculously in place. Life is like a puzzle with a beautiful picture depicted on the box. It draws us to the challenge. Once the pieces are dumped out unceremoniously on the table, the need for control and order in us begins to sort through each one. Inspecting them carefully, they must be organized all flipped to the right side and corners and edges (boundaries if you will) carefully set. Once in place, it becomes clear that the more pieces in the box and detailed the design that this could take more time than expected or allotted. Now what? Will I wait it out? Will I continue to concentrate on the finished product? Or do I swipe it all back into the box putting it on a shelf for another day perhaps when more patience is developed or someone will come help me finish it? Sometimes Christ must mess everything up to put it all back together.

Growth in anything requires total destruction of the present form to become that which is hidden inside called potential that will one day become purpose. But I am not in the Hand of the Farmer anymore, I am buried in the dirt, the shell of my exterior lies within the foundation called faith waiting for His Glory to draw me to the surface so I can see the Plan coming together and its fruit born in my life. But right now it is dark, I feel my form changing. It is an isolation that is not separation. The enemy longs for us to look in the rear view mirror. To look back and question, if we took a wrong turn or missed the turnpike. It is human nature in the process of life and journeys that take too long or head in a new direction to wonder if we have missed the destination. It is the definition of doubt. The Lord uses these times to stress the importance of true dependency on His Word, His Will and His Way. Where the Lord called you – He will complete you. You are not a misfit or mistake but rather on a mission called fulfillment to be complete in Jesus Christ.

John 1:1-5 (NLT) In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. He existed in the beginning with God. God created everything through him, and nothing was created except through him. The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.

The greatest love story ever written begins with these words. In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God and the Word was God. It takes an experience to forge God’s Word in our heart. For me it was our son’s illness, when nothing in life could save him but Jesus. When I had absolutely no hope to hold on to in the natural, God’s Word to me the very first night was the end of the rope. I tied a knot in it and held on for dear life. It changed everything. I have seen the Lord perform miracles. I have witnessed signs and wonders that human logic cannot explain. Nothing will ever have the impact that God’s Word holding true will ever have such a profound impact on my faith. The Word is essential. It is the breath of life to every living soul. It is the thing that binds us together and creates commonality in God’s People. It reveals our heritage and birthright. It is sharper than a two-edged sword dividing bone and marrow. It is alive and powerful. (Hebrews 4:12) It is the sword of God’s Spirit that slays every lie that the enemy ever slung at us. (Ephesians 6:17) It is the rod and staff that comforts us with divine direction and discipline. (Psalm 23:4) God’s Word refreshes us like a deep cleansing breath. It reveals the character of God and every promise that He has made us that will become His Purpose and fulfill His Plan. Faith is illogical and impossible without the Word of God to define it. It is but one component of His Alignment that keeps me in place when nothing seems to fit together for my good and His Glory yet it keeps me clinging to hope.

John 14:23-27(NLT) Jesus replied, “All who love me will do what I say. My Father will love them, and we will come and make our home with each of them. Anyone who doesn’t love me will not obey me. And remember, my words are not my own. What I am telling you is from the Father who sent me. I am telling you these things now while I am still with you. 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 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. 

Once the Word of God takes hold of our heart, His Spirit comes to “teach you everything and remind you of everything” that the Lord has told you. We need to communicate and commune with God’s Spirit in us. Faith is going to lead us outside the borders marked trust and boundaries called fear to a place far deeper and farther than ever thought possible. As our life is unraveled to form the masterpiece the Lord has ordained it to be, the coming undone reaches our heart and soul releasing every insecurity and doubt there so faith can finally take over. The process is uncomfortable. It is not fun. It is necessary for fulfillment. To do the Will of God – we must align our life with the Spirit. It means when God tells us to go – we go. If we get there and things are not what we expected – the Holy Spirit reminds us of God’s Word and tells us to stay put. He is our Partner in the watchtower while we wait on the vision. It has an appointment in our life. If we leave the waiting too soon, we will miss hearing our name being called when the time is right.

Jesus said it plainly and made it overly simple, He said, “All who love me will do what I say.” How can I do what Jesus tells me if I do not know His Voice? He shepherds those who know His Voice and follow Him. The Word of God tells me what to do and the Holy Spirit nudges me in the right direction. He is my Advocate who is my support. (John 15:26) He is my Comforter when life is hard and uncomfortable. He is my Peace. I have the mind of Christ because His Spirit lives in my giving me hidden knowledge and secret understanding that the world and my enemy do not know. (I Corinthians 2:16) He is the Intercessor who prays for me in weakness when words escape me but is enunciated in the groaning and wailing of my soul. (Romans 8:26) I must learn to align my life with God’s Word and His Will to have His Way.

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.

Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.” The only way that I can live in agreement with God is through Jesus Christ. He is the Way. He is the “champion who initiates and perfects our faith.” There is a whole lot of mileage between those two words making life a marathon rather than a sprint. We prefer the sprints in life that hint at immediate gratification. Faith is a process defined by endurance. It is a lengthy endeavor requiring a sacrificial commitment of all of me for All of Him. Piece by piece our life is offered to the Lord as He shapes and molds us into who He created us to be. Have you ever watched a potter form a clay pot? It can be a brutal process. First he must begin to squeeze it and press it down hard with both hands to soften it and make it pliable. He may use some water to moisten it. Once on the wheel, it begins to spin all the while his hands creating his vision and bringing purpose to life. But if in the process, something goes awry, he will remove it from the wheel and start all over again. If he places the piece inside the kiln and sets the fire on high, any imperfection may cause the pot to break under the intense heat. God has a plan and purpose for our life defined by His Word. It is written to perfection with a future and hope that He is intent on giving His Children. His Spirit, the very essence of His Presence, accompanies us on the long journey to find the Way. We must follow the Way. He is the Author and Finisher of faith. The Champion who gives us victory. He has gone before us and falls in behind us covering and protecting us along His Path. He will never let the righteous fall. Leveling mountains and straightening our path, we cannot get there without Him.

Philippians 3:15-16 (NLT) Let all who are spiritually mature agree on these things. If you disagree on some point, I believe God will make it plain to you. But we must hold on to the progress we have already made.

Back to the crowded room of Christians, believers, and righteous people, where I sit as a misfit. Knowing this is where I belong but feeling completely out of place, it is the Word of God, His Will and His Way that keeps me firmly in planted by faith. Alignment with the Lord including His Word, His Will and His Way keeps us from being distracted by how we feel because God is greater than our feelings. He put me in this place “for such a time as this.” I can choose to walk away and find a place that I am more comfortable or I can remain committed to God’s Word, Will and Way. I am free. Christ has set me free and given me the choice of the life I live. Now it is up to me. This is what the Lord has said to me and He may be whispering to you today – “we must hold on to the progress we have already made. Regret romances the past while hope embraces the future. My hope is in the Lord not this world it’s people or anything else. Hope in Jesus never ever leads to disappointment. These are not just words to me anymore but the experience I live on and lifeline I hold on to. To continue in the race of faith and make the mark of His High Calling means I cannot give up but must wait it out. Waiting is not my favorite and I daresay probably not yours either. It is necessary while the Lord takes all the pieces of our life making good on His Promise that they will be used for our good and His Glory. This life I live for Christ is walked according to faith not by the things that I see or how I feel. Faith is the substance of the things we hope for not naturally evident or occuring. If we do not bear the qualities of faith such as perseverance and endurance – it is not possible to reap the benefits of it called confident hope. Hope is the priceless commodity that only faith can grow in us. It requires aligning our life with Christ and waiting for everything else to fall into place.

Philippians 3:8-9 (NLT) Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ and become one with him. I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ. For God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith.

Overcoming One of Those Days

overcoming one of those days

Hebrews 12:1-4 (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. After all, you have not yet given your lives in your struggle against sin.

Are you having one of those days? Maybe it’s been a week? For some, it may even seem like one of those years? I have one of those days. Actually, it has been a week. In the midst of change, uncertainty and chaos it is clear that the Lord is doing something beyond my comprehension. Faith in my heart holds on to hope that doesn’t seem as confident but I must not let go. God is working out the details of my life for good. I want everything I do to reflect His Glory. However, my little light has been flickering with the turbulent wind blowing all around me. I woke up this morning and in the quiet I knew that the Lord was right there. He was waking me up with a Word for me. As I opened the Word of God today, it was like a bright and shiny arrow pointing to this passage. No wandering around or wondering what the Lord had to say – it was abundantly clear. Keep going. Don’t stop moving. Just one step each day will lead you to the destination. The only action deemed failure is to fall and refuse to get up or to throw up my hands and say, “I give up!” Not today devil – I am in a race for a prize that will be the key to the rich and satisfying life that Jesus promised me. It is called endurance. It is hard to obtain but worth overcoming each day that turns out to be “one of those days.”

I love days like this when in the quiet of the morning – the Holy Spirit is our encourager. He heard our prayers last night. I have a confession. This week has not been my week to get the gold star of perfection. In fact, it has been an ugly slugfest to keep my eyes on Jesus and keep moving in the right direction. Our leadership team was having prayer on Monday night. It seemed like I had been at church all weekend. Needing time to prepare for the Bible Study the very next night, longing for a family dinner followed by some snuggle time with Jesus and the study guide after a hectic day at work. I didn’t want to go. I wasn’t going to go. I went anyway. Tuesday night – the ladies of our church, the ones who I am supposed to lead, had their Bible Study. I left feeling like a complete and utter failure. I am no good at this whole organizing and executing thing. Ten times I almost text the pastor admitting defeat and telling him to find someone better for these sweet women. Instead, I went to bed. Wednesday morning, it was clear. I had nothing left. As I sat before my Savior with my head bowed, praying for the same people and situations, it seemed so redundant like water poured on a rock, I finally just admitted to the Father, “Lord, I need you today! I am stuck!” As the Lord, poured into me from His Word, I began to blog. His Words powerful and true cutting through my resolve to release a balm inside of me that I knew He was not only sharing with me but others, too. Yeah, so my computer shut down right then and there losing more than half of it. One of those days, now became one of those weeks… I could bore you with yesterday’s details but it ended with the same tired, worn-out believer dragging herself into church.

Today may be no different but my Father has prepared me in advance. He has given me these verses to hold on to and the Holy Spirit, the excellent life coach that He is, provided a detailed game plan for me that I am about to share with you. These are the things to remember not in the beginning of our race towards the prize called a satisfying life but in the midst of it. When you have come too far to turn back now, but struggle to find strength to take one more step. On those days when giving up seems more fruitful than pressing in, because your mind loudly whispers “what’s the point?” The Lord is making a point. We need to hear it and act on it today.

Matthew 5:14-16 (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. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.”

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith…” My life is a light. To walk by faith and not by sight causes that light to shine a little brighter as the Jesus in me begins to attract people. When those challenging and overwhelming days come, I believe is when we have the most people watching us. They are looking for a difference. Has Jesus made a real difference? Is the Savior you are talking about really capable of saving people? The key is learning to respond to God’s Word rather than reacting to our situation or circumstance in life. People are watching. Faith without works is dead. Faith is for the things unseen not those things I can do. Faith makes the impossible possible. If you believe it, your light shines because you will keep following Christ even when it’s tough and seems pointless. My life is not about me. It is about shining so bright that His Glory lights the way for others to see His Great Love. God is good on the bad days. His Goodness is not influenced by anything in my life. I connect to His Goodness by faith in His Love for me and confident hope that nothing can separate me from it. This must be the evidence of my life to be a light.

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.”

“Let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up.” Jesus did not say, “Dump all your worries and cares on me including your sin and then go find something else to do.”  No, He tells us to come…bring all our weariness and heavy burdens…and I will give you rest. Then the Lord says, “Take my yoke upon you.” Jesus is not a dump site. He is the ultimate recycler of everything but sin. My boss is an avid conservationist. He will literally retrieve recyclables from the garbage. The garbage cans in our office are small receptacles but the recycling bin is huge. We must come to know and understand the context of Matthew 11:28-30 in order to understand how the Lord works in us and through us. We chalk up bad days to experience and just move on. But Jesus full of life and resurrection power, digs through the refuse of our life, because He promises to make good of every detail even the rotten ones. (Romans 8:28) The key is to bring our burdens and sins considered the weight that slows us down and YOKE our life with Him. Jesus wants to be our life partner. He wants to be our constant source of instruction and motivation but He is not in the garbage business. The Lord promised to make us a new creation but it requires becoming connected to Him as our Source. Sin is the only thing that separates us from God. Grace allows us to overcome weakness, but Jesus is the Source of Grace that covers us so all the Father sees is a son or daughter. Having one of those days? Come to Jesus and give Him all of your worries and cares. Confess your sin even relinquishing any hidden sin that may be hidden the heart. Then, yoke or attach yourself to Jesus and say, “What can I do for you today, Lord?” It may be a simple (or not so simple) as just keeping your mouth shut which on bad days may take every ounce of effort I have left.

Matthew 24:12-14 (NLT) Sin will be rampant everywhere, and the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. And the Good News about the Kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world, so that all nations will hear it; and then the end will come.

“And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.” The one who endures to the end will be saved. Salvation and redemption are possible only if we finish the race of faith. Endurance is achieved in each step. Do not take for granted the path set before you. Your hope is identified as the Plan of God for your life which is marked by good things but often a product of struggle. The same principle applies to changing lifestyle habits. Incorporating a new heathier lifestyle exhibits the same kind of struggle. You want the fatty, fried foods filled with carbs and calories but in order to have a healthy body – we must defy our physical desires and replace our intake with better choices. I need to exercise as well. I loathe it. Yet as I do it and see the results in my life the pain in my body and constant overcoming the longing to be a coach potato wane. I make myself follow the plan despite my grumbling, complaining and rebelling flesh. Why? I want to live a long, healthy life and chase after grandchildren one day. Our life in Christ is the same. We must flight our flesh to have the life God promised is possible if one believes. I must crucify my flesh in order to endure. Endurance is a successful step that becomes an amazing life. Too many times we cannot see the forest for the trees or the staircase for the steps. We have a prize called Eternity. It is worth fighting for and that is exactly what we must do each day. Those who are successful will claim a prize far greater than anything on earth can achieve. Each successful step taken is one less needed to God’s Heavenly Prize.

John 21:6-8 (NLT) Then the disciple Jesus loved said to Peter, “It’s the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his tunic (for he had stripped for work), jumped into the water, and headed to shore. The others stayed with the boat and pulled the loaded net to the shore, for they were only about a hundred yards from shore.

“We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith.” I love this passage so much. Peter, what a character, who had undeniable passion for the Lord took quite a bit of discipline to get to the man who jumped in the water and swam about a hundred yards to shore. The same Peter who couldn’t make it a few steps walking on the water by faith would not let anything keep him from reaching Jesus. These steps of our journey to secure faith and confident hope in the Lord are not pointless but purposeful. The Promise and Plan of God for our life fills us with great potential that is impossible without faith in the Lord. Not only was Peter confident that it was Jesus, but he must have been confident in his love. Peter knew Jesus heard his denials the night before the Lord died for him. He saw Jesus looking at him through a window. Peter also remembered the day that He first recognized Jesus answering His Inquiry correctly. “But who do you say that I am?” He also knew all the things that Jesus told him like he would be the rock on which the church was built. I am sure during the three days that he thought Jesus was dead, Peter evaluated his whole life just as we do in the midst of the marathon called endurance.

Did I waste my time? Am I giving up my life for nothing? Jesus where are you? BUT when Jesus came to the beach that day – Peter knew that his faith and confident hope was alive and well. Faith will never be logical according to the conditions in life. The world is completely consumed by sin and self. Faith puts our sin in the Blood of Jesus and our self in the Person of Christ. We must strive to remain there. Jesus is our champion. I cannot produce anything good let alone prosper from the inside out apart from Him. It is in Jesus that I live, move, and exist. (Acts 17:28) “And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6)

I Peter 1:8-9 (NLT) You love him even though you have never seen him. Though you do not see him now, you trust him; and you rejoice with a glorious, inexpressible joy. The reward for trusting him will be the salvation of your souls.

“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.” You can live life looking ahead or with your eyes in the rearview mirror. Our future is either defined by our past or hope. Freedom allows us to decide. My past is over. Jesus was clear. Those who put a hand to the plow and then looks back is not fit for the Kingdom of God. Looking back will lead us back. Just as a batter must keep his eye on the ball, we must keep our eyes fixed on the future to maintain the right direction and stay on course. Jesus endured the Cross because of the joy waiting for Him. I will get to what His Definition of Joy is in a moment. God has given you dreams, desires and promises that requires faith to achieve in life. Total trust opens the windows of Heaven and the human heart. Once open to receive, inexpressible joy begins to bubble up and overflow not based on our circumstances but the potential of God’s Promises. If we endure one of those days, weeks or even years, by faith and nothing else, the full satisfaction called joy will well up in us so that we don’t need to depend on the world for happiness but the secret power of a prospering soul will satisfy us in the famine and cause us to grow through adversity to bear fruit in every season.

James 1:17-19 (NLT) Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow. He chose to give birth to us by giving us his true word. And we, out of all creation, became his prized possession.

“Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up.I am His Prized Possession. You are the joy that awaited Jesus on the other side of the Cross. He endured the Cross because He desired us above anything else. God is sending good and perfect promise packages to His Beloved Children every day. Opportunities and possibilities that are often overlooked by the hardships of life. Even when we are weary, tired, wandering or just wondering, God still loves us and sends His Blessings to us. The world that He died to save remained hostile toward the One who only showed it love, compassion, mercy and grace. Compared to my struggles and troubles in life, it seems so small. His Grace is enough to overcome every insufficiency in my life. His Mercy comes new every morning to refresh, renew and reassure me. Every step I take labeled endurance is a step in the right direction. I have everything I need to win the race even on those days that all I can do is stand on the faith and not move an inch. Even Jesus dealt with exhausting and frustrating people, yet still managed to love them enough to die for them. To die for us. To die for me. He endured the process to have the people. Am I willing to endure the process to have the promise?

2 Corinthians 5:15-18 (NLT)  He died for everyone so that those who receive his new life will no longer live for themselves. Instead, they will live for Christ, who died and was raised for them. So we have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view. At one time we thought of Christ merely from a human point of view. How differently we know him now! This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him.

This thing called life is not a sprint it is a marathon. The Lord has painted the perfect picture of encouragement for endurance in Hebrews 12. Endurance is the ability or strength to continue despite fatigue, stress, and other adverse conditions. It is marked by hardship and hostility that should be our expectation. When life gets hard, it is evidence that maybe just maybe we are getting somewhere. The enemy has no interest in a life that is unsuccessful in faith. It has not future. Those who endure will find that you may end up having more of “those days” than ever before. Instead of looking back, press forward. Society tells us to run across the finish line, but I think in our walk with Christ it is actually crawling across when we come to the end of self and rely fully on faith to get us there.

After all, you have not yet given your lives in your struggle against sin.” You are alive. It means that your full potential has not been reached and there is a promise waiting for you. In fact, our life is filled with promises and purpose that can only be reached when we choose to discipline our body, mind, will and emotions to hold fast to faith and confident hope rather than allowing the problems, people and persecution of life overtake us. We have the ability to overcome because greater is He who is in us. There is no power that can overtake the believer yoked to Christ. However, you will not get there apart from endurance. Endurance is the fuel that makes our light shines brighter. When all else fails, but faith in the Father prevails. I had a pastor tell me once, “Do not make permanent decisions in temporary circumstances.” Good advice.

Is it one of those days? Has it been one of those weeks? Is it shaping up to form one of those years? Be encourage today. God has not forgotten you – how could He? You are His Prized Possession. He is working a process in you that will lead to fulfillment and inexpressible joy! Stick with it. Struggles often release unknown burdens and hidden things unnecessary weight in our life. They cause us to press in deeper into the Presence of God striving for help to overcome. When I am overwhelmed, I look to Jesus the Author and Finisher of my faith. God’s Discipline in our life proves His Great Love for us. He is a Good Father on bad days. He is always cheering us on and focused on the good in us. Whether success for you today is running the race, crawling along, or just standing refusing to go back – the Lord loves you and sees that you have chosen to endure. He is Your Champion and you are His Prize. Endurance is not fun – it takes a great deal of discipline – but for those who choose to finish the race – it is absolutely essential to victory!

Here are some verses to accompany you today:

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.

Colossians 1:10-12 (NLT)  Then the way you live will always honor and please the Lord, and your lives will produce every kind of good fruit. All the while, you will grow as you learn to know God better and better. We also pray that you will be strengthened with all his glorious power so you will have all the endurance and patience you need. May you be filled with joy, always thanking the Father. He has enabled you to share in the inheritance that belongs to his people, who live in the light.

Hebrews 10:35-36 (NLT) So do not throw away this confident trust in the Lord. Remember the great reward it brings you! Patient endurance is what you need now, so that you will continue to do God’s will. Then you will receive all that he has promised.

James 1:2-3 (NLT) Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.

2 Peter 1:5-7 (NLT) In view of all this, make every effort to respond to God’s promises. Supplement your faith with a generous provision of moral excellence, and moral excellence with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with patient endurance, and patient endurance with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love for everyone.

Keep Pounding

Keep Pounding

Proverbs 10:28 (NLT) If you fail under pressure, your strength is too small.

I caught a snippet of a sermon from Elevation Church Pastor, Steven Furtick not too long ago about some arrows. It was only a segment of a series. He pointed back to the story in his commentary. I was not familiar with it and jotted down a note in my journal to look it up. But you know how it goes sometimes, time gets away from us, you get busy or head off on another rabbit trail and even the best intention is forgotten. This morning I couldn’t sleep and this story came back to my thoughts. I need to find this person and his arrows. God has something there for me that I am about to miss – propelled me out of bed and into the study. God is good! He knows our heart and its many desires. Even when He offers a nugget of golden Truth and the hidden secret to success that I desire most – but I do not listen – the Lord doesn’t give up but keeps knocking on the door to my heart, whispering in my ear and attempting to get my attention. ”My heart has heard you say, “Come and talk with me.” And my heart responds, “Lord, I am coming.” (Psalm 27:8)

2 Kings 13:14-19 (NLT) When Elisha was in his last illness, King Jehoash of Israel visited him and wept over him. “My father! My father! I see the chariots and charioteers of Israel!” he cried. Elisha told him, “Get a bow and some arrows.” And the king did as he was told. Elisha told him, “Put your hand on the bow,” and Elisha laid his own hands on the king’s hands. Then he commanded, “Open that eastern window,” and he opened it. Then he said, “Shoot!” So he shot an arrow. Elisha proclaimed, “This is the Lord’s arrow, an arrow of victory over Aram, for you will completely conquer the Arameans at Aphek.” Then he said, “Now pick up the other arrows and strike them against the ground.” So the king picked them up and struck the ground three times. But the man of God was angry with him. “You should have struck the ground five or six times!” he exclaimed. “Then you would have beaten Aram until it was entirely destroyed. Now you will be victorious only three times.”

The final words of Elisha must be important. King Jehoash is obviously completely devastated at the impending loss of the prophet. He is crushed. His heart knows danger is coming. Perhaps, the loss of Elisha may be perceived as a new vulnerability as he is clearly God’s Man. He told the king to take a bow and arrow and prepare to shoot it. Elisha put his hands over the king’s hands. He then instructed Jehoash to open the eastern window and shoot. He did. Elisha told the king that this was the Lord’s arrow. It announced victory over Aram prophesying that they would completely conquer the Arameans. Elisha then told the king to take the remaining arrows and strike the ground with them. The king picked up the arrows striking the ground just three times. The man of God angered said, “You should have struck the ground five or six times!” “Then you would have beaten Aram until it was entirely destroyed.” The king quit pounding limiting his victory to just three times.

If we fail under pressure our strength is too small. The Power in my life is a direct result of God’s Grace. I lay claim to His Grace by faith and confident hope in the Lord. I demonstrate my faith and confident hope in my attitude and actions in life. It is not the words I speak but the life I live that demonstrates God’s Power in my life. When I am weak, He becomes my strength. I am called to live a life of overwhelming victory. However, this does not mean that I do not play a valuable part in the release of God’s Power and receiving God’s Promises in my life.

Romans 8:35-38 (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.

There is nothing that can ever separate us from Christ’s Love. However, Christ’s Love does not keep trials and troubles from our life. Instead, Jesus gives us overwhelming victory. If all of God’s Children could tap into this Truth and begin pounding again – there would be a mass revival sweeping the land and uniting God’s Church. The enemy is after the Power in us. The Holy Spirit is public enemy number one and the most wanted picture on hell’s wall. Every demon is hell bent on us rejecting God’s Spirit and will not stop relentlessly pursuing us to engage in combat with the God in us. The more you love God and seek Him the greater the challenges you will face. Your faith may be as tiny as a mustard seed, but the power and potential in our faith can destroy every assignment against us. As long as my heart’s desire is to know the Lord and make Him known, I have a big red target painted in red on my back. Every day – it is up to us to plead the Blood of Jesus over us so that red mark will be our salvation.

Ephesians 3:19-20 (NLT) May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.

The Love of Christ is too great for me to fully understand. His Purpose and Potential in me is to be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. He is working in me. His Mighty Power is pressing the boundaries marked doubt and disbelief to release new faith and more confident hope in the areas. What is my faith in? The Love of Jesus. Where do I find confident hope? In the Love of Jesus. We must press, push back, be persistent, and persevere to have all that the Lord has promised us in His Love. It is not the promise that must be produced. It is faith and confident trust to get past our limitation and claim overwhelming victory.

Remember the widow woman in 2 Kings 4 who Elisha visited only to find on the verge of giving up? He said, “What do you have in the house?” “Nothing at all, except a flask of olive oil.” What if the very thing you need is already housed in your life but you just haven’t tapped into it yet? What if the capacity of your faith is just not big enough to contain the outpouring God is ready to release in you, through you or to you? The oil did not stop flowing until the woman ran out of containers. The victory did not stop until King Jehoash stopped pounding. Have I limited God’s Promises in my life because I stopped pounding? Did I give up when my expectations were not met? Did I stop when I when it seemed pointless? Did I quit when I ran out of strength? Is it just taking too long? Lord, I want to keep pounding – please show me the way.

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

I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. He promised us a rich and satisfying life. Why are we so quick to settle for good enough or just enough? Jesus already told us that the Kingdom of Heaven must be taken by force and that there is a constant war between heaven and earth. (Matthew 11:12) We limit our life when choosing comfort and complacency over constant pressing. God has given us promises and a rich inheritance. He even tell us that it is for the land of the living. When we do not press, there is no release. Religion fancies the arrival of some, but the truth is they still have the same pressures and pitfalls everyone else does some just hide behind the veil. Well, the Holy Spirit tore the veil right down the middle. The Lord has told us that He is working every detail of our life for our good and His Glory. (Romans 8:28) Yes, the very same chapter where He assures us that NOTHING can separate us from His Love. Don’t compare your life to other people. Do not evaluate the grass in your yard to your neighbors. The Lord has made you promises. He has given you purpose. God made a plan for you to have more than you can imagine, think or even ask for. It is time to press. To continue pressing. To never stop pressing for His Perfection in all areas of our life.

2 Corinthians 10:3-5 (NLT) We are human, but we don’t wage war as humans do. We use God’s mighty weapons, not worldly weapons, to knock down the strongholds of human reasoning and to destroy false arguments. We destroy every proud obstacle that keeps people from knowing God. We capture their rebellious thoughts and teach them to obey Christ.

It is essential for believers to KNOW the Word of God. To read it, study it, meditate on it, and pray it over our life. Why? Truth overtakes the lie every time. The enemy doesn’t use bold faced audacious ridiculous lies. No, his attack is subtle as he gently twists the Truth just enough to get you slightly off course. Once, he has a foot in the door – the real attack begins as the enemy works overtime to refute the Truth and get you all tangled up in words that are not what God said or meant for your life. Doubt and disbelief attach to these lies and they begin to take over our mind. Suddenly, we feel isolated and alone. No longer listening to the still small voice of God’s Spirit, we find ourselves locked in the stronghold of human reasoning. Faith is not logical outside of God’s Word. God’s Word is not productive until planted in our heart. Faith grows from it that develops into confidence so that when the enemy offers a life it is quickly shot down by the Truth. We must become violent in the push back against the enemy’s attack on our mind, will and emotions. We must close every door and lock every window. It is an all-out war just ask Paul who talks about in Romans 7 (again right before Romans 8).

Matthew 7:7-11 (NLT) “Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. You parents—if your children ask for a loaf of bread, do you give them a stone instead? Or if they ask for a fish, do you give them a snake? Of course not! So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him.

When our daughters want something and they know that I will say, “No”, they will sneak off to talk to their father. My husband may be a six-foot-one muscular guy who is quiet which is perceived as a daunting and ominous presence to some especially those who would like to date one of his girls, but when it comes to those three – he absolutely melts like a candy bar in a hot car. When they come to me asking where he is, I immediately ask them what they want because I know their intentions. God is a good father. Like my husband, He desires nothing more than to bless His Children. So many times, we don’t come to Him unless things are hopeless and we become desperate. This is not the way to pray.

Persistent prayer is the pounding action that knocks on God’s door and releases heaven on earth. Prayer is communication with God. It doesn’t matter how you pray just talk to Him. The more you converse the more you will have a relationship with His Spirit, who helps us when we don’t know how to pray and will teach us to pray. Our daughter says the blessing over the evening meal. Recently I have challenged her to change up her prayer from the one she has spoken for as long as I can remember. I am encouraging her to do so because her prayer is routine. It is not heartfelt anymore. I am hoping that as she thinks about thanking God for our food – it will change the way she thinks about talking to God about everything. We all fall into ruts and routines. Persistent prayer is asking until you receive. Seeking until you find Him. Knocking until the door opens. We give up too easy on prayer because we are used to pulling up to the drive-thru placing our order, pulling to the first window to pay for it, and picking it up at the second window – it’s called immediate gratification. Here is the problem – God is doing infinitely more than I can even think to ask for, Jesus paid for it because I couldn’t afford it, and He is preparing for me a valuable inheritance not a Happy Meal. We must be persistent in our prayer life to keep pounding.

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.

Finally, to keep pounding it is imperative that we persevere. Holding tightly without wavering to the hoe we affirm because God can be trusted to keep His Promise. What is the promise you let go of? There are so many it is different for everyone. The dream that died and seems like it will never be revived. Did you know that after Elisha died and was entombed that a man’s dead body came body when it was thrust in the same grave? When the cold dead body touched the bones of God’s man – he came back to life. Your dream is not dead. God gave you the desires of your heart and will bring it to pass if you would just keep pounding past the pressure, pain and persecution in life. You cannot have the Kingdom of God unless you are willing to exert pressure, push back against the enemy, be persistent in prayer and persevere for your promise. It is worth having but only faith believes it. You must have faith that God is able to do exactly what He said that He would.

We must motivate and encourage each other to keep pounding. We have inside of us God’s Love, His Power, and His Spirit nothing is impossible for those who believe that and live like it. He has blessed the very ground that we walk on so if we plant seeds – we will have a harvest. It is time to expect the seed that is going in the ground around us – if any and what quality. We must sow generously in life to reap abundance. God has promised more than we can think or ask. He even calls us more than conquerors because Christ is in us. We must believe it enough to live like it. Have you stopped pounding? Well there is no time like the present to start again. Press on. Push back. Pray persistently. Persevere. Those who do will live complete and satisfying lives lacking no good thing. Don’t believe me. Try it for yourself. My faith will not produce your blessing. My hope will not lead you to the same destination. I challenge you today. Dig up that one dead dream. Or focus on the one “forgotten” promise. Commit the next 30 days to pounding for it. See what happens…

Isaiah 40:28-31 (NLT) Have you never heard? Have you never understood? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of all the earth. He never grows weak or weary. No one can measure the depths of his understanding. He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless. Even youths will become weak and tired, and young men will fall in exhaustion. But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.

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.

Just Hold On

Just Hold On

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.

People say all the time that God will not give you more than you can handle. Today, I would like to call that bluff because my friends the Lord absolutely positively on a regular basis give you more than you can handle. Why? He tells us in His Word that His Grace is enough for me. His Power is made perfect in my weakness. If you read and reread 2 Corinthians 12:9, it specifically says that “each time he said” that His Grace is all we need. This tells me that there are always going to be days when we run out of strength, patience, persistence and motivation. But bless the Lord, He does not leave us in a crumpled heap in a mass of defeat but whispers, “Don’t worry! My Power can work in you now.” There are many born again believers that need to be reminded that some days the best that we can do is just hold on. His Word confirms that in our surrender to our weakness and submission to His Divine Power that He will make me strong.

The Power at work in us is Jesus Christ through His Spirit. Our flesh is failing. We die day by day from our first breath to our last. A day cannot be recaptured and a moment ever remade. We must live accordingly. However, though it is human nature to stumble and even fall occasionally such failures are only fatal in our choice to give up. Having one of those pressed but not crushed, persecuted not abandoned, struck down but not destroyed weeks? Yeah, me too. Friday is here! It is not met with celebration as usual. There is no rest for the weary but there is restoration for the broken. When I take my cares, worries, burdens, stress, anxiety and human weakness laying them down to cling to Christ instead, it is then and only then that I will find new strength.

Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep His Promises. Our hope is Jesus Christ. He is the reason that His People are labeled Christians. We speak of faith and hope, but do we believe that is valid and true. Until these two things become the foundation of our life in Christ, there is no power that leads to the fullness of God given to us in Jesus Christ. We are weak and flailing – groping through darkness dimly lit. We briefly experience the tingling sensation and goosebumps as He draws closer but then we drift away.

Acts 27:39-44 (NLT) When morning dawned, they didn’t recognize the coastline, but they saw a bay with a beach and wondered if they could get to shore by running the ship aground. So they cut off the anchors and left them in the sea. Then they lowered the rudders, raised the foresail, and headed toward shore. But they hit a shoal and ran the ship aground too soon. The bow of the ship stuck fast, while the stern was repeatedly smashed by the force of the waves and began to break apart. The soldiers wanted to kill the prisoners to make sure they didn’t swim ashore and escape. But the commanding officer wanted to spare Paul, so he didn’t let them carry out their plan. Then he ordered all who could swim to jump overboard first and make for land. The others held on to planks or debris from the broken ship.  So everyone escaped safely to shore.

To set the scene, Paul is placed on a ship as a prisoner. The Lord tells Paul to warn the others that the route they are taking is dangerous. It will lead to devastation including shipwreck, loss of cargo and possibly human life. So, of course, they did what most people would do ignoring the “religious fanatic” and followed their own course. Well, shortly after leaving, the gentle breeze turned into a radical wind of typhoon strength. The men were panicked and each day went to great lengths to save their own lives, as well as the ship. Paul comes to the men again telling him that this is what he had been warning them against. He encouraged them that no one would lose their life. He tells them, “So take courage! For I believe God. It will be just as He said. But…” We will be shipwrecked.

The Lord is our Strength. In each moment of every day, we live on the brink of disaster. The enemy roams around looking for those who can be devoured. He seeks to steal, kill and destroy God’s People. When our son was deployed, I remember praying for him each day. I asked the Lord to cover Him with His Precious Blood and position angels of protection around him. Why? There was a very real enemy who wanted to kill him each day he was on foreign soil. Sound familiar? The moment a person repents and turns their life over to Jesus Christ, a giant target is painted on their back.

With this in mind, the sooner the realization that I can do nothing apart from Christ becomes my reality, the more likely I am to overpower the enemy and his vicious attacks on my life. The Spirit led Jesus to the wilderness where He met up with the enemy. As a Child of God, we have the promise that we are more than conquerors and the ability to live in overwhelming victory each day. (Romans 8:37) Faith produces confidence in the hope we have in Jesus. Without confidence in God, we will just let go and drift through life. Faith in Christ doesn’t not mean that we will ever escape brokenness but rather that the Lord will use even the most minute detail for His Goodness and Glory in our life.

Then he ordered all who could swim to jump overboard first and make for land. The others held on to planks or debris from the broken ship.  So everyone escaped safely to shore. Why was Paul on that ship? I believe Paul was placed on that ship as a beacon of light that led others to salvation. We go through things in life not only for our benefit but to help others make it safely home. Some sailors could swim so they jumped overboard making it to dry land. They were confident in their own ability to find the way and did. Others held on the ship’s wreckage and were carried to shore by the ocean’s current. The Word of the Lord came to pass and everyone escaped safely to shore.

Are you hanging on the wreckage of circumstances, an unexpected situation, overwhelming condition, or just plain done? Just hang on, Jesus is coming. Are you being swept away disappointed and confused? Just hang on, there is purpose in this test and the mess will become your message. We are not equipped to power through each situation in life. It is His Power in us that takes us across the finish line. You just cannot quit, give up or give in. You must grab hold of something and hang on for dear life. The shipwrecked sailors grabbed the debris of the ship that once kept them safe from the elements of nature and forces of life to make it shore. What are you holding on to today?

I Thessalonians 5:16-22 (NLT) Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus. Do not stifle the Holy Spirit. Do not scoff at prophecies, but test everything that is said. Hold on to what is good. Stay away from every kind of evil.

Hold on to what is good. We must evaluate what we are holding on to today. It matters what we cling to in life. It doesn’t mean that the occasional or regular shipwreck may occur but it means living ready for whatever comes so we will not waver when it is time to stand. Hebrews 12:25 reminds us to “take a new grip with your tired hands and strengthen your weak knees.” It is time to persevere. It is time to press on. It is time to walk through your current situation into victory on the other side. Endurance is a character quality that all men and women of God must possess to be saved. The Word of God states specifically that those who endure to the end will be saved. (Matthew 24:13) Endurance is work. It will require patience…a whole lot of patience. It means letting go of human expectation the how we want it done, when we want it to happen and the way that leads to success and prosperity to take up our cross daily and follow Jesus. The cross gets heavy sometimes. Don’t you think Jesus knows that? He carried not only a physical cross but every single weight and burden associated with it. Jesus did it. He did it for me. He did it for you so we could hang on!

2 Timothy 1:13-14 (NLT) Hold on to the pattern of wholesome teaching you learned from me—a pattern shaped by the faith and love that you have in Christ Jesus. Through the power of the Holy Spirit who lives within us, carefully guard the precious truth that has been entrusted to you.

Living in Florida, when hurricane season rolls around the public is duly notified to stock up on supplies to prepare in the event of a storm. I have lived in two cities hit by hurricane like storms and conditions. Checklists are available at all the local grocery stores to get what we need to endure the conditions until help comes or the weather clears. Do you know that I never take the time to prepare for a hurricane? Even though I have been through two that hit home directly, I have never taken the time to prepare ahead of time for extreme conditions.

Living in the Kingdom of God, I am called to be ready in season and out of season. Do I prepare for the storms of life or sit idly by? I have the Power of God living and breathing inside of me. Every day God’s Spirit is ready to teach us more about the Lord, show us things that human eyes cannot see, empower us for good and show us what is evil. We ignore Him. Not to be a naysayer or negative Nancy, but the condition of your life can change radically in a single second. The moment calmness becomes chaos is not the time to fall on our knees, we should already have been there. When tragedy disrupts our carefully constructed comfort zone not equipped to keep us safe but immediate thrusting us out, what do we do?

Paul warned the men when they stepped foot on the ship that this journey was a no-go with God. They chose to go anyway. He warned them again. They did not listen. When things began to get rough and they were losing control of the ship, Paul peaked their interest with a little thing called survival. We will face tests and trials in life as the Lord produces godly character traits in us and His Spirit cultivates spiritual fruit. I just have to cling to Jesus to make it through. Such survival skills are developed in the calmness before the boat starts rocking and maintained through the journey.

I John 5:18-20 (NLT) We know that God’s children do not make a practice of sinning, for God’s Son holds them securely, and the evil one cannot touch them. We know that we are children of God and that the world around us is under the control of the evil one. And we know that the Son of God has come, and he has given us understanding so that we can know the true God. And now we live in fellowship with the true God because we live in fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ. He is the only true God, and he is eternal life.

To make it from here to Eternity requires only one thing, we must cling to Jesus Christ living in constant fellowship and relationship with the Lover of our soul. I would be remiss if I did not tell you today that sin will loosen your grip. As one reaches for something else, the intensity and strength of the other hand wanes. You cannot travel in two directions. There are only two – closer to Jesus or farther away. Freedom gives us the option to follow Jesus or remain in the dark corridors of sin, evil and darkness. Though the enemy may come close to those who love and serve Jesus, he can do nothing to destroy them. But those who reach for the Lord, often have no idea how far they have drifted.

Philippians 2:13-16 (NLT) For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him. Do everything without complaining and arguing, so that no one can criticize you. Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people. Hold firmly to the word of life; then, on the day of Christ’s return, I will be proud that I did not run the race in vain and that my work was not useless.

Can I remind you today that the weapons of our warfare are not carnal? They are lies and manipulations of the Truth laid before us by the enemy. Mercy is provided each day for all the ways that we fail to believe and trust in God so we do our own thing and go our own way. Each day we have the opportunity who to serve and how we will do it. We are told to hold firmly to the Word of Life – it is the sword we carry in one hand. Reposition and hold more tightly our shield of faith. Pull the chinstrap of the helmet of salvation and decide you will fight for what you say that you believe. God is working in us. He is ready to do great things for us. We just have to be willing to hold on until He works it all out. The Lord promises to even give us the deep desire to do what pleases Him. Weak? Tired? Overwhelmed? There is a Hand of Grace extended to you. Can you see it? Will you take it? Let the Lord be Your Strength, Joy and Peace today in Jesus Name. Let Him overtake your thoughts and captivate your mind. He will transform your thoughts today. He gives us everything in His Divine Power to live a godly life. We must only hang on to achieve it.

John 15:5-8 (NLT) “Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. Anyone who does not remain in me is thrown away like a useless branch and withers. Such branches are gathered into a pile to be burned. But if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted! When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father.

Contents under Pressure

Contents under Pressure

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

Stubborn, obstinate, driven, hardheaded, or persevering – you take your pick. I have been called them all. Through the peaks and valley of life, I guess I would call it survival. With a fiercely competitive nature, there is a careful balance between being all those qualities. In the flesh, they produce things like pride, arrogance, and other self-driven motivators. But in our spiritual life, it can be used to develop endurance. I guess it all depends if you use your powers for good or evil. For many years, I never realized how overbearing and unyielding my personality was. The Lord has dealt with me severely to recognize that people are my process above anything else. To serve the Lord with my whole heart and seek Him completely, I must recognize every single body along the way and find a way to love and care for them. Like a bull in a china shop, most of my life has been spent wrecking everything in my path just to find my way through. Now the Lord is teaching me patience and perseverance as I slowly make my way through this world being conscious of others as I go.

Taught from the earliest age that persistence pays off, those who learn “good” habits and develop “strong” character will be successful in this life. However, success in God’s Kingdom is on much different terms. No it is not doctrine or the traditional beliefs of the church. God looks through everything we say and do to our heart. It is the motivation and intentions of the heart that dictate the outcomes in our life. The Lord is looking for those who love Him. They are the ones who trust Him with their life – all who are in it and everything that they have. How can I know if Jesus lives in my heart? You are not going to like the answer any more than I do. The human heart expresses its contents under pressure.

I wish I could count the number of times some days that I throw in the towel to give up or say that I am not doing something anymore, only to press even harder. As a fighter and doer by nature, there is something inside me that refuses to give up. The bigger they are the harder they fall. When the pressures of life reach a breaking point, it is ugly. Those who know me become suspect because I am usually the one pushing, pulling and dragging them through refusing to allow them to give up or give in. When I am deflated, running on empty, exhausted and ready to just walk away, I hear these words – “My Grace is enough for you. It works best in your weakness.”

We are pressed on every side by troubles yet have God’s Promises to give us release. God does not want to relieve us of pressure but force us to pursue a release. The Light that lives inside of us must find its way out so our life will be fulfilled. We have treasure locked in fragile humanity. God’s Great Power lives in us and is looking for ways to manifest His Presence in our life. His Presence brings light to the dark places. It elevates us to achieve our purpose by exalting His Great Name. Not when things are good, but in the midst of all hell breaking loose in our life when we run out of human strength, patience and tact. What comes out of our mouth? What is our next move? How will we react or do we respond? The pressure felt in us is God’s Purpose fighting to get out of us. Do we quit? Give up? Or wait to see what’s really in us?

Matthew 5:14-16 (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. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.

You are the Light of the World. Jesus did not fill you with the Light of His Love without purpose. Comfort and complacency is the fleshly response to pressure. Our stubborn heart digs in. It is relentless when it comes to change especially the kind that requires pushing and pressing or any exertion at all. Choosing not to read God’s Word or do things His Way, many so-called Christians grope in the dark calling out His Name without the slightest inclination to follow Jesus Christ. A city is on a hilltop. It is developed on a foundation. It is not a nomadic drift but a named place. A lamp is placed on a stand. It was never meant to be carried in one hand while traveling far from home. It is to be the center of our home. The Light in our life, Jesus, came to live in us so that we could live through Him. He said, “If I be lifted up, I will draw all men to me.”

Leviticus 24:1-3 (NLT) The Lord said to Moses, “Command the people of Israel to bring you pure oil of pressed olives for the light, to keep the lamps burning continually. This is the lampstand that stands in the Tabernacle, in front of the inner curtain that shields the Ark of the Covenant. Aaron must keep the lamps burning in the Lord’s presence all night. This is a permanent law for you, and it must be observed from generation to generation.

Command the people to bring pure oil of pressed olives for light. To keep the lamps burning continually. This was a commandment for the Tabernacle to be placed right in front of the curtain that shielded the Ark of the Covenant representing the Presence of God. Reading a little bit further it says, “This is a permanent law for you and it must be observed from generation to generation. Jesus Christ did not come to abolish the law or do away with the commandments of God but to fulfill them. Every time we fall short, He applies His Grace and Power so we can still pursue God’s Blessing as we follow His Son. Therefore, the law still remains in effect that we are to keep lamps burning in the Lord’s Presence even though the dynamics have changed.

We now house God’s Presence and the Light of His Love in our very human heart. The pressures of life expose the contents of the heart allowing us to deal with those areas of our life that lack the fruit of His Spirit. The oil that is requested is the oil that is pressed. Not the superficial undertakings and tasks of religious fellowship or striving to be a good person, but allowing the Living God to express His Glory from our life. This did not change because Jesus died but now is fulfilled as we are His Temple to be filled with His Light until no darkness remains.

Hosea 6:1-3 (NLT) “Come, let us return to the Lord. He has torn us to pieces; now he will heal us. He has injured us; now he will bandage our wounds. In just a short time he will restore us, so that we may live in his presence. Oh, that we might know the Lord! Let us press on to know him. He will respond to us as surely as the arrival of dawn or the coming of rains in early spring.”

Though our relationship with God has dramatically changed since Jesus died on the Cross, it didn’t change His Mind about us, who we are and what we are called to do. The Lord invites us to return to Him. He wants to heal us. He wants to restore us. God can only take as much as we are willing to surrender. Submission to His Power and Authority is a personal choice lived day by day and moment by moment. I was sharing with a friend the other day that it had been one of those days. The kind of day that feels like exercise at that point when you cannot take another step or maybe lift another weight. The distance is too far but turning back is not an option. Broken and empty – you fight the urge to just sit down and cry. I have felt this way when exercising and pushed through. I have felt the same way right before delivering each one of my children. I actually told the midwife that fourth time around that I was done and leaving. She just laughed and waited for my tantrum and tirade to end. It was about that time my baby girl was born. My promise handed over to me. God is doing His Part to release His Blessing in our life. Are we doing our part?

Luke 8:44-46 (NLT) Coming up behind Jesus, she touched the fringe of his robe. Immediately, the bleeding stopped. “Who touched me?” Jesus asked. Everyone denied it, and Peter said, “Master, this whole crowd is pressing up against you.” But Jesus said, “Someone deliberately touched me, for I felt healing power go out from me.”

“For she thought to herself, “If I can just touch his robe, I will be healed.” (Mark 5:28) When I read this familiar story today, I cannot help but wonder, “Did Jesus really not know who touched Him?” I mean really. Of course, He did, but His Disciples missed it. I am just going to pause right here and let you think about that for a minute, too. (Selah)

Peter said, “Master, this whole crowd is pressing up against you.” Peter was trying to manage crowd control and keep His Lord from being crushed beneath the weight of the desperate and dying. Jesus was looking for faith in the heart of each one. The women had deliberate faith that when pressed produced determination in her heart. She would not stop until she found Jesus. She would not be dissuaded until she reached out and touched Him. She was convinced that Jesus had what she needed and would give it to her. Do you believe? Do you believe enough to be persistent under pressure? To ignore the insults and offenses of others to let the Light of His Love shine through you?

The disciples were more concerned with their mission and mandate rather than ministering to those around them. When pressed they conformed to natural thinking rather than supernatural believing. When Jesus’ Power left Him, He was consciously aware of its release. You have been called to be the Light of the world. The Light does not “do” anything other than to shine for all men to see. It is the city on a hill well-established by faith in the foundation of Jesus Christ. We can do nothing to earn God’s Love, Grace and Unmerited Favor other than to love Him enough to trust Him and never give up until we see His Glory come out. People will always be the priority in our life. What profits a man to gain the whole world but lose his soul? None.

The Lord knows you are pressed, but you will not be crushed. He sees the persecution coming at you from all sides, you must persevere. He knows life can be perplexing so God has given us the Mind of Christ and His Spirit lives in us. We are not abandoned but adopted. Though the enemy pursues us relentless, God is before us and behind us with His Hand of Blessing on our head. Every time God’s People are knocked down, grace meets them to help them up. His Glory is expressed when we decide to bring others with us.

2 Corinthians 9:6-8 (NLT) Remember this—a farmer who plants only a few seeds will get a small crop. But the one who plants generously will get a generous crop. You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. “For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.” And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others.

Freedom allows each “farmer” to decide how much seed will be put in the ground. From the days of Noah until Jesus returns, we live in the constant cycle of seedtime and harvest. You will reap what you sow. The amount of “seed” that you sow is decided completely by you. It only takes a spark to start a forest fire if the conditions are favorable. Just as the seeds we plant for produce to feed us naturally, the same is true spiritually. The Lord will never rip seed from your hand (or heart) forcing us to stick it in the ground.

The decision to give our life to Jesus is often facilitating by the pressure applied to our life. Many will not read the Word until they need something from it. They do not seek the Spirit of God for Instructions until they have completely lost their way. We do not go to church but we are the church. God expects us to sow and reap His Promises every day and provides them as such. We do not want the pressure. Well, I have news for you. You are contents under pressure and the Lord will not relent. He will not revoke His Command to bless you but freedom will not allow His Love to be forced. So there is pressure and more pressure until it can be expressed in our life.

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

My life is a pressure cooker currently. Yesterday was especially difficult with family, work, church and moving next week. I went into overload. Family scattered for the moment. Work filled with deadlines. Church still an hour away. The Call of God constantly pressing on my heart. Add selling one house, buying another and moving to the mix and yes, I am physically and emotionally exhausted right now. So, when it was time to head out for the midweek service at church, I had a million excuses. The first and most pressing was packing. When I pulled into the parking lot and got out of the car, it was all I could do not to crawl through the doors down the hallway into the sanctuary.

When the first note of worship began, the weight of the world fell from my shoulders. It is not about me. It is all about Him. As I decrease, His Power increases to meet its full potential. Though the pressure did not change at all, the feeling that it’s going to be worth it all overshadowed any other human emotion. See God didn’t say that there would not be pressure in this life. In fact, He warned us that it would be the opposite. I will fall down, get knocked down and lay down many times in my lifetime. It is what I do when I get back up that matters. First that I choose to use His Grace and get back in the good fight of faith. It also matters that I am conscious of others and consciously bring them up with me win each ascent. The Lord promises that as the oil of our life is pressed out to Light the Word for Jesus that it will be worth it every single time.

Proverbs 24:10 (NLT) If you fail under pressure, your strength is too small.

The Next Day

The Next Day

Mark 4:26-30 (NLT) Jesus also said, “The Kingdom of God is like a farmer who scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, while he’s asleep or awake, the seed sprouts and grows, but he does not understand how it happens. The earth produces the crops on its own. First a leaf blade pushes through, then the heads of wheat are formed, and finally the grain ripens. And as soon as the grain is ready, the farmer comes and harvests it with a sickle, for the harvest time has come.”

 

Impatience is the harvest killer of life. I am an impatient person. Looking back over my life, the Lord has used many situations that were clearly the deception or attack of the enemy to refine my faith through learning to have patience. The seed of faith is already within us. Romans 12:3 indicates a measure of faith that we are born with. This makes sense since our very existence was created by the Word of God. We are infused with the Breath of God. It would only seem right that the potential of God is somewhere within in us. God loves every single person ever created because He created them to be His Children. Sin ruined that but faith overcomes it. Faith in Jesus Christ allows grace to begin productivity in our natural life. Spiritual productivity is unlike natural production. We have learned to clone sheep and even initial life in a test tube. However, God created each of us on a cellular level so finite that as human beings it is impossible to completely duplicate the creativity of God even though we have tried. In that vast reproducing, we have also somehow thought it a good idea to make everything immediate. Our need to increase supply and demand makes convenience an option that must be included or risk losing the sale. While this causes the earth to flourish in things, it does not nothing to increase the Kingdom of God within us.

 

Romans 5:1-5 (NLT) Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory. 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.

 

The hope of God never ever leads to disappointment. So why do I get disappointed sometimes? I trust the Lord, live by faith and strive to follow Jesus, so why isn’t my life perfect? Because I am not perfect even in my pursuit of perfection. I come to these verses over and over again. On the days that I think that I am good and have it all together, they remind me that I have a long way to go. On those other days when nothing is going my way, there is a plan and purpose still being enacted. Faith is the process of acquisition of all that the Lord has promised us even those things we are too human to see, want or desire. He does more than we can ask or think. (Ephesians 3:20)

 

This morning I started a new journal. I love the fresh pages of a crisp, clean journal. They represent a new set of days with the Lord. As each page turns, a new day begins. Some days fill many pages all by themselves and there are other days that barely a sentence makes its way to the page. Why a journal? Each new day represents the promise that there is more to the plan and purpose of God for our lives. The seeds planted in our life are being given time to grow. The faith born in us from the beginning is taking root day after day. The new seeds shoved in our heart from God’s Word are growing into the blessings of God for our life. New seedlings are being given an opportunity to become the oaks of righteousness eluded to. It all takes time. (Isaiah 61:3) It all comes down to faith. Faith in God. Faith in His Word and yes, faith in His Timing.

 

Ecclesiastes 3:1 (NLT) For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven.

 

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

 

In Genesis 17, Abraham asks the Lord to compromise. God says, “No!” He wants God to essentially make Ishmael the substitution for Isaac. He asks, “May Ishmael live under your special blessing?” Oh the Ishmael’s in our life. Those times that we compromise rather than enduring. The many substitutions settled for because the current wait time is too long. If given the option, our flesh would give in every single time rather than waiting on the Lord’s Promises to propagate in our lifetime. However, we are told from the beginning that God does not lie or change His Mind. (Numbers 23:19) When experiencing pressure, we press back rather than resting in God’s Love. As endurance stretches us to hang on a little longer each time, our flesh cries out to just let go. Endurance develops our character. The more we wait and see that the Lord really is good, the longer we are willing to wait the next time a test comes along. We must endure to the end. Immediate gratification just to satisfy the crying flesh would not yield the promises of God but just more compromises and substitutions.

 

God’s Special Blessing was for Isaac. Although the Lord told him “no”, it is followed by a giant “yes”! God told Abraham Sarah will give birth to a son for you. He even called Isaac by name. “I will confirm my covenant with him and his descendants as an everlasting covenant.” Why was Isaac important to the future generation and the everlasting hope? Because Jesus would come through the lineage of Abraham and Isaac. No Isaac. No Savior. No everlasting covenant. Worth the wait, I would say so. Everything has a season because everything is according to God’s Plan. God makes everything beautiful in His Time. Ishmael was a substitute son who was born out of the Will of God. Though God did bless him, it was clear that Ismael was not the promised son. If we look at our life, there will be many times that it is evident that we stepped out of God’s Timing. Maybe it has produced some Ishmaels along the way. I know this one thing. Romans 8:28 promises to make good out of every detail of our life including the Ishmael experiences when we did not wait for the day to come when God’s Promise came to pass. But the Lord will bless those who keep trying to wait and see that He is good.

 

Genesis 18:10-14 (NLT) Then one of them said, “I will return to you about this time next year, and your wife, Sarah, will have a son!” Sarah was listening to this conversation from the tent. Abraham and Sarah were both very old by this time, and Sarah was long past the age of having children. So she laughed silently to herself and said, “How could a worn-out woman like me enjoy such pleasure, especially when my master—my husband—is also so old?” Then the Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh? Why did she say, ‘Can an old woman like me have a baby?’ Is anything too hard for the Lord? I will return about this time next year, and Sarah will have a son.”

 

The measure of faith that each person is born with comes full of potential. It will take every bit of that faith to see it come to pass in our life. Faith is a process not a finished product. It must grow, develop and mature over time. God’s Promise for your life is bigger and better than you can even imagine. Our expectation must be for the impossible because that is what He is doing in us and through us according to His Plan. It’s called future and hope. The future of faithfulness is fulfillment of hope. Hope never disappointments. If you can see it in the natural, you can obtain it in the physical. Supernatural is not naturally occurring. Faith and hope are not provisions of it. Therefore it is important that we do not put our faith and trust in the seen but the unseen just as the Word of God says. We want God’s Plan, His Will and His Way because it will exceed our expectation and lead to unlimited potential.

 

Sarah laughed. Did you laugh at the thought God put in your head today? The vision of the future that is too big to grasp or fully comprehend. Have you been waiting and watching but nothing is happening so you are considering give up as an option? God is working in your wait time. The next day may be the new season that you have longed for. It won’t come until you stop laughing at the ridiculousness of it, and take hold of it for the sake of righteousness refusing to give up until God relents. If you are waiting, watching and praying for the impossible, you are well on your way to fulfillment. God understands how uttering ridiculous it sounds or impossible it seems. He designed it that way so you would put your trust solely and unconditionally in His Word, His Will and His Way. Natural sight leads to doubt and fear. Supernatural vision keeps its focus on Jesus.

 

Romans 4:17-22 (NLT)  Even when there was no reason for hope, Abraham kept hoping—believing that he would become the father of many nations. For God had said to him, “That’s how many descendants you will have!” And Abraham’s faith did not weaken, even though, at about 100 years of age, he figured his body was as good as dead—and so was Sarah’s womb. Abraham never wavered in believing God’s promise. In fact, his faith grew stronger, and in this he brought glory to God. He was fully convinced that God is able to do whatever he promises. And because of Abraham’s faith, God counted him as righteous.

 

Isaac came just as God had promised Abraham and Sarah. Even though it was impossible, Isaac made his arrival just as God told the couple. However, this would not be the end of the story, the Lord came to Abraham and told him that he was to sacrifice his only son, Isaac. (Genesis 22) The next day Abraham cut the wood for the offering, saddled the donkey and left for the place he was instructed with his son, his only son, Isaac. Would you do it? Would you sacrifice your son? Your only son? God did it for us. Abraham was willing to give his son to the Lord. His only son. Abraham loved his son, but he loved God more. Abraham trusted God with his entire being enough to go to the mountain of sacrifice fully believing and trusting that God would not lie or change His Mind but do just what He promised to do. Because Abraham did not waver in unbelief but was fully convinced that God will do exactly what He promises, Abraham was counted as righteous by God.

 

I want to be like Abraham. I want to believe in the unbelievable and impossible things of God. I want to wait until each and every promise comes to pass. I must be willing to wait for what comes next even when I have no idea what I am waiting on other than God.

 

Luke 13:6-9 (NLT) Then Jesus told this story: “A man planted a fig tree in his garden and came again and again to see if there was any fruit on it, but he was always disappointed. Finally, he said to his gardener, ‘I’ve waited three years, and there hasn’t been a single fig! Cut it down. It’s just taking up space in the garden.’ “The gardener answered, ‘Sir, give it one more chance. Leave it another year, and I’ll give it special attention and plenty of fertilizer. If we get figs next year, fine. If not, then you can cut it down.’”

 

God’s Way is sowing and reaping. He eludes to it many times throughout the Bible. We are born with a measure of faith that is the fertility of our heart. We plant (or sow) God’s Word into it each day. We allow the Holy Spirit to cultivate it and toil over it removing the weeds that threaten to choke it out, and the rocks that keeps good roots from forming. We must wait for those seeds to grow. Weeds are a quick work without roots. They have no purpose and die quickly. We are to be oaks of righteousness. Immovable trees with wide spreading roots that not only are secure but nourish us so we will produce good fruit. When we are not seeing spiritual productivity, it is an opportunity to spend some time tending our tree.

 

The Lord is hoping that the next day or season will be the one when you choose to remain in right standing, unwavering belief, and steadfast faith. Because this is when our promises come to pass, each season is God’s Way of teaching us patience and perseverance. This is not to punish us or exert any kind of ill will over His People. Those who endure to the end will be saved. Only faith, hope and love credit our life. Everything else is a fruitless endeavor.

 

Isaiah 30:18 (NLT) So the Lord must wait for you to come to him so he can show you his love and compassion. For the Lord is a faithful God. Blessed are those who wait for his help.

 

Jonah had hit a rough patch. He was at an impasse that catapulted him right in the belly of a whale and to be vomited on a beach. What a mess the poor man must have been. God raised up a shade plant to cover him from the scorching sun. God is a compassionate God. He knows endurance is rough and perseverance a pain. However, the Lord is only going to allow our pity party to last so long. It says, “But God also arranged for a worm! The next morning at dawn the worm ate through the stem of the plant so that it withered away!” (Jonah 4) Pity party over. See God has arranged for new mercy to reach us each morning. (Lamentations 3:22-23) He is turning our mourning into dancing the next day. (Psalm 30:11-12) He will not allow us to remain stuck in an unfruitful season but allow us to become uncomfortable so we will move or be moved. He is producing a harvest from all those tears. (Psalm 126:5-6) It is a joyful harvest for those who will get up and swing the sickle again. We are to live on purpose and with purpose in mind. God is not weak or weary but waiting on us. In the meantime…

 

Mark 1:35-39 (NLT) Before daybreak the next morning, Jesus got up and went out to an isolated place to pray. Later Simon and the others went out to find him. When they found him, they said, “Everyone is looking for you.” But Jesus replied, “We must go on to other towns as well, and I will preach to them, too. That is why I came.” So he traveled throughout the region of Galilee, preaching in the synagogues and casting out demons.

 

Jesus is our example in all thing. Before daybreak the next morning, Jesus got up and went out to an isolated place to pray. Do you spend time with the Lord each day? We make time for every other thing in our life but often forget the most important part – spending time with the Lord. When you set aside time to spend in God’s Word and prayer basking in His Presence, you will not feel abandoned, forgotten or forlorn anymore. It is in His Presence that we discover things really are going according to His Plan. This was not a corporate event for the Bible says that later the others went to find Jesus. We must institute a quiet time with Jesus every single day rearranging our schedule and realigning our priorities so that Jesus is always first. We must be obedient and faithful to the Lord. When we become frustrated with our circumstances or strained by situations, it is human nature to turn on God rather than pressing in and overcoming. We have a mission. It is called the Great Commission. To remain focused and faithful allows us to overcome the temptation to turn our back on the Lord for immediate gratification, conditional compromise, and settling for substitutions. We forfeit our fulfillment by not acknowledging that some days or maybe most days we must wait for the next day to see the harvest we have planted.

 

Genesis 8:21-22 (NLT) And the Lord was pleased with the aroma of the sacrifice and said to himself, “I will never again curse the ground because of the human race, even though everything they think or imagine is bent toward evil from childhood. I will never again destroy all living things. As long as the earth remains, there will be planting and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night.”

 

We have the ability to prosper in Jesus Christ today. We are filled with godly potential with a measure of faith in which it can take root and grow. Only those willing to wait will find fulfillment. The fact that you are breathing right now indicates unfulfilled purpose bubbling inside of you. Are you willing to wait for it? Will you allow the Holy Spirit to cultivate your heart and make it fertile for God’s Word to grow into a promise? Are you tired of the pity party and ready for a victory celebration? The new journal that I opened today has reminded me that there is so much more to life than meets the eye. If I will just continue to pursue the Lord, He will fill my life with His Goodness and Grace each day I choose to live in His New Mercy. He is turning ever heartache into joy. He is allowing all my tears to water my harvest. God is good. His Love is great. Greater is He who lives in me than He that is in the world. If I could just learn to take one day at a time rather than gauging my whole life by one day, I will see His Blessings and Promises come to pass. What if that next day is actually tomorrow?

 

Matthew 28:1-7 (NLT) Early on Sunday morning, as the new day was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went out to visit the tomb. Suddenly there was a great earthquake! For an angel of the Lord came down from heaven, rolled aside the stone, and sat on it. His face shone like lightning, and his clothing was as white as snow. The guards shook with fear when they saw him, and they fell into a dead faint. Then the angel spoke to the women. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I know you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead, just as he said would happen. Come, see where his body was lying. And now, go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and he is going ahead of you to Galilee. You will see him there. Remember what I have told you.”

 

Prisoner of Hope

Prisoner of Hope

Hebrews 6:17-20 (NKJV) Thus God, determining to show more abundantly to the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it by an oath, that by two immutable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we might have strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us. This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil, where the forerunner has entered for us, even Jesus, having become High Priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.

 

Yesterday, I received a wonderful gift in the mail along with a small package wrapped in shiny paper with a bow. It was a packet of pictures from my grandmother’s 90th birthday party with a note “didn’t want to make you cry but knew you would want these.” How true! They are a treasure. As I looked at her smile as she is surrounded by her children, grandchildren and even great grandchildren – I cannot believe more than ten years have passed. I am just a couple of days from turning 50 years old myself and Gram would be 100 years old right now. I miss her today but not rob her the beauty and blessing of being with her Savior where she longed to be worshipping with her husband of 70 years on earth.

 

Among the pictures of my grandmother, there were some pictures of our kids. The little guy who would defend his country as an American soldier. The other little man who would battle a relentless disease before stepping into remission. The sweet little girl who would marry her prince riding off to a faraway place to win souls for Jesus Christ. The cute little beauty with her smiling face who has somehow blossomed into a radiant and godly young woman who will soon graduate high school to pursue with a passion the purpose hidden in her heart. And finally the baby who is not a baby anymore. I can feel her soft curls on my face, taste her chubby cheeks on my lips and feel the warmth of her little body falling asleep in my arms. She is now a teenager, too. Time passes too quickly. I am a bit nostalgic looking back over time. I have no shame or regret other than not falling in love with Jesus sooner and living for Him sooner. The passage of time brings tears to our eyes but for those who live in hope – it brings double.

 

The hope that anchors my soul is forged by fire into iron. Years of testing and trying have revealed it to be strong and immovable when I attach my life to it. The words regarding hope are “sure and steadfast”. It requires making an entrance into “the Presence behind the veil” to encounter Jesus. This morning as I pondered the fact that Gram would be double my age, I consider the place she is now. As I turn 50, I cannot help but ponder the future and hope of the next 50 years of my life or how ever there may be. What’s next? God says, “Double.” What? “It’s time for double for your trouble.” “Thus God, determining to show more abundantly to the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it by an oath, that by two immutable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we might have strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us.” I am heir to a promise. The Lord has made an oath to me. In covenant with Jesus, it belongs to me. If I can find my way to hope, I will have it. No one can take it from me, if I refuse to let go. The Lord wants me to have strong consolation. Such a big word that means comfort and peace. Hope is the very thing that anchors our soul to the abundance of life that Jesus promised us.

 

John 10:10 (NKJV) The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.

To every young person who is reading this today, your failure is not fatal and falling is not futile. Everyone makes mistakes and there is enough mercy to cover it by choosing to live in covenant with Jesus Christ. Put down the stick you are beating yourself with called guilt, shame and the worst of all regret. The Lord knows our plan and purpose along with every fault and weakness that we have. He has given us His Spirit as our advocate. He identifies us as Sons and Daughters of God giving us access directly into the Presence of God. Jesus came to give us life AND that we might have it abundantly. We obtain it be faith which is the substance or material evidence of hope. When we discover the hope that we have in Jesus, we become like prisoners who cannot be free outside of its full potential. We know that there is more so will endure to have it.

 

Zechariah 9:11-12 (NKJV) “As for you also, because of the blood of your covenant, I will set your prisoners free from the waterless pit. Return to the stronghold, you prisoners of hope. Even today I declare that I will restore double to you.”

 

During our son’s battle with cancer, I had to step into the realm of hope to survive because the reality of life surely would have killed me. In essence, I slowly but surely retreated into the Stronghold and Refuge called God. Only those who have had to go there understand this and even to those of us who do – it doesn’t always make sense. When life gets too hard is the moment people seek someone greater than themselves to give them hope and peace. For me, it was Jesus. It had to be the Lord. Naturally, it felt like I was losing everything. Time was passing by so quickly like wind through the pages of an open book. Treatment after treatment followed by diagnosis after diagnosis made the clock spin faster but the world did not wait for my son to win but rather took years of time that I cannot get back. I was exactly where I wanted to be, needed to be, and longed to be yet feeling like the price was so high and cost great. When one child crossed the finish line, another bird would fly from the nest. Lord, redeem my time. I prayed this so many times. His Answer just four short months after her beautiful wedding, our daughter would move 21 hours away. Lord, this is not the life I expected. This is not how your Word said that it would be. Where is the abundance of peace and joy that you promised? Where is the satisfaction? Yet in those moments of quiet inspection, slipping into a vortex of sadness and depression, firmly in my right hand I held an anchor called hope. It would make me endure. It would cause me not to quit. It would yield the greatest promise of all as I became its prisoner. Lord, there has to be more than this…

 

Job 42:8-10 (NKJV) Now therefore, take for yourselves seven bulls and seven rams, go to My servant Job, and offer up for yourselves a burnt offering; and My servant Job shall pray for you. For I will accept him, lest I deal with you according to your folly; because you have not spoken of Me what is right, as My servant Job has.” So Eliphaz the Temanite and Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite went and did as the Lord commanded them; for the Lord had accepted Job. And the Lord restored Job’s losses when he prayed for his friends. Indeed the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before.

 

Abraham had to leave his home and go to the mountain of sacrifice with his son. Joseph was betrayed by his brothers, left for dead, sold to slavery, and falsely accused. Moses was a murder and never stepped foot into the Promised Land yet he led the people to it. I can go on and on but you get the picture. God’s people are not exempt from hardship but are called to endure. Job was innocent yet put up for consideration by the enemy who would try to kill his heritage, plunder his wealth and attack his body. What was his response? “Naked I came from my mother’s womb and naked shall I return there. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the Name of the Lord.” Job became a prisoner of hope. Just like so many before him from Daniel to Paul waiting on the Promise of God while facing terrible adversity yet never backing down or letting go.

 

In the middle of the journey with our son’s illness, I decided to get a tattoo. It was sometime after his first relapse around the first year mark. Another young man who we knew had just passed away, his family together went to get memorial tattoos honoring the life of their son and brother. It was at that point I decided that I would never get a memorial tattoo. The Lord had given me the promise that he would live and not die. But the world was beginning to wonder, so I began praying. Now I know that the church and religion still has a jury out about such things, but I know that the Lord allowed me to do this because there were days that I needed to see what this was all about again. I had to be reminded that it was by faith alone that he would make it to hope. When I look at my right wrist, I see the word “faith”. I am ashamed to admit that there were some tearful nights when I tried to rub it off vigorous as devastation tried to take my hope away. When you look at my wrist, you will see the word “hope”. Faith and hope are forever etched in my skin and written on my heart. I cannot live, breathe or survive outside of them.

 

When the trial in our life became lengthy, many people who walked with us would wander off. It’s hard to face something with another without fearing it will someday touch you. I am not sad and bitter that in the end only a few were still standing. No, not at all. I am not entirely sure it was not of the Lord’s doing as I read about Job and his friends. His annoying friends who gave him worthless advice and cast judgment all in the name of love. The Lord convicted them. They returned to Job. The Lord asked Job to forgive his farfetched friends and he did. Here’s what happened next – the Lord restored Job’s losses when he prayed for his friends. Indeed the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before.” Job received double for his trouble. The Lord is longing to do the same thing for all those who have struggled and strived to endure remaining faithful to the end. Theirs is the gift of abundance.

 

Isaiah 55:1-3 (NKJV) “Ho! Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat. Yes, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend money for what is not bread, and your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, and let your soul delight itself in abundance. Incline your ear, and come to Me. Hear, and your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you—the sure mercies of David.”

 

Exodus outlines the promise of double in our life as it talks about repayment. When a thief steals from the Children of God, the retribution is outlined in this chapter which says, “He shall restore double” (vs. 4), “he shall pay double” (vs.7), and “for any kind of trespass…he shall pay double. (vs.9) The thief owes you double for all of your trouble today. In I Samuel 1:4-6, it tells of Elkanah who loved Hannah and saw her abuse and mistreatment due to barrenness. The Word of God tells us that he gave her a double portion. When Elijah knew that the end of his days were nearing, he asked Elisha (his faithful follower) what he desired of his master. Elisha requested a double portion of Elijah’s anointing. The prophet told Elisha, “You have asked a hard thing.” (2 Kings 2:9-10) Do you see what is happening here? All of these people faced tremendous hardship yet still put their faith in the Lord and dared to hope beyond the reality of their life and natural condition in which they lived. They reached in deeper and grabbed on tighter refusing to let go. Even Jacob when he wrestled with the angel of the Lord received a handicap with his blessing. God loves you. He gave His Son, Jesus so that you and I could be called and identified as Children of the Living God. It takes faith to receive it and hope to maintain it. Hope that never leads to disappointment requires a process by which we endure yet dare to believe. This is what it means to be a prisoner of hope. When there is no natural reason to believe, we still cannot release the anchor of hope that holds tight to our soul.

 

Isaiah 61:6-7 (NKJV) But you shall be named the priests of the Lord, they shall call you the servants of our God. You shall eat the riches of the Gentiles, and in their glory you shall boast. Instead of your shame you shall have double honor, and instead of confusion they shall rejoice in their portion. Therefore in their land they shall possess double; everlasting joy shall be theirs.

 

Is your faith being tested today? Is your hope being challenged? Are you considering giving up as the wait has been too long? Welcome to the realm of hope, glad you made it because for some reason deep in your soul you haven’t given up or you wouldn’t be reading this right now. You are a Priest of the Lord. (I Peter 2:9) You are God’s Elect. You are a servant of God if Jesus is the Lord of your life. Do you cry out for His Kingdom to come on earth as it is in Heaven and mean it? Those who step into these important roles have provisionary promises that are coming directly to them as God works together every detail for our good and His Glory. (Romans 8:28) The Lord is working in us and through us to secure us to His Side forever. He is removing all guilt, regret and shame to fully restore and renew us. As our soul prospers – so will we. He has promised double honor and that we will possess double in their land. That is right here and right now. Do you believe it today? If things seem impossible than you are close to the breakthrough that you have been waiting for because the moment it is impossible – God makes it possible. All we have to do is believe. To become a prisoner of hope only released when His Goodness and Glory release us in fulfillment and satisfaction.

 

Hebrews 6:9-12 (NKJV) But, beloved, we are confident of better things concerning you, yes, things that accompany salvation, though we speak in this manner. For God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister. And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope until the end, that you do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.

 

I love the word “beloved”. It makes me think of the intimate passage in Song of Solomon, “My beloved is mine.” The word “beloved” means greatly loved. My beloved is what Jesus calls us. He desires to have an intimate relationship with us. One that is ongoing and everlasting. Earthly relationships are not formed the same way. When love grows cold is customary to leave and find something or someone else to stir our passion and fan the flame of desire. Love is not that way in the Kingdom. It is called commitment. God loves us and committed His Son’s Life as testimony to it. Jesus loves us and endured a torturous death and entered the grave for us. All so that we could have hope of eternal life. The concept of double for your trouble is preached in many churches in regard to money and possession. Gold is walked on in Heaven. Wisdom in God is of the utmost worth. To know His Love, believe it and live in it as His Beloved offers us the full assurance of hope that He offers us. It gives us something to attach our faith to so that when we are tired, weary, worried and all alone – He becomes our comforter. Promises come by faith and patience. Tribulation produces perseverance (or patience), perseverance produces character, and character produces hope. (Romans 5:1-5) The hope produced in this process is promised to never, ever disappoint us. This is why I choose to live as a prisoner of hope knowing who the Son sets free is free indeed. Jesus promised a rich and satisfying life and I intend to have it. The blessing of the Lord makes us rich and adds no sorrow with it.

 

Psalm 36:7-8 (NKJV) How precious is Your lovingkindness, O God! Therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of Your Wings. They are abundantly satisfied with the fullness of Your House, and You give them drink from the river of Your pleasures.

Slow Internet

Slow Internet

Psalm 130:5-6 (NIV)

I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope. I wait for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning.

 

I do not remember asking the Lord for patience. In fact, I recall many saints of God warning me against such an endeavor. Patience is hard won in this thing called life. It is clearly contradictory to the world with its need for immediate gratification. Turning on the computer, I must wait for the programs to load. The screen is illuminated with a beautiful wedding picture of my family which always makes me smile. Clicking the icon to enter the worldwide web the cursor begins spinning…and spinning…and spinning. Ugh! Slow internet. We have had the same contract for years but now have more users than before. The office is on the other side of the house though only a few rooms and walls away seems as though the signal makes a transatlantic voyage to load on the screen. Is it really the slow internet eating away at me or the fact that I am waiting…again? It is more likely the latter as I have developed some patience in regard to earthly things. Spending years waiting on appointments, doctors, test result and diagnoses will do that for you. Yet patience, like faith, seems to come in small quantities. At least for me that is.

 

The desires of my heart have changed over the years. Yet my propensity to respond to the pressure of waiting does not seem to lessen but only intensify. Perseverance is needed to accommodate faith. Faith cannot be found in anything less than waiting on the Lord. We must wait. But why? What is the point of having to wait for God and His Goodness when we as Christians who strive to live righteous and obedient lives fully demonstrating our belief in Jesus? Why does God make us wait? Friend, there is purpose in waiting. There is preparation in thing called perseverance that is more valuable than any amount of money or a heavy load of shiny gold. It is called faith. When we learn to trust the Lord with our whole being and decide to wait on the Lord in all things – we live the life of the righteous.

 

Righteousness is nothing that we can do or will ever produce in our life. It is a gift from God through His Son, Jesus Christ. (Ephesians 2:8-9) It is our human desire to somehow earn it and repay the obligation as we want to be free of such a responsibility. We cannot repay God for our very life. We have nothing of worth to offer. We do. But it will never be enough. We trust. But it is only limited as we strive to regain control. We have faith but it is as small as a mustard seed. We need patience to allow it time to grow. You know at night when the signal on the Internet is weakest because so many people are drawing from it, it is not unusual to find one of our daughters sitting next to the router. Being closest to the router, they receive the strongest signal. You know when they can get the Internet in their room, they stay right there. But when it becomes weak or disconnected, they move toward it. They close the distance between them and the connection. No longer do you hear grumbling or complaining as they sit there quietly doing homework or on social media. Makes me think… how about you?

 

Judges 6:17-18 (NIV)

Gideon replied, “If now I have found favor in your eyes, give me a sign that it is really you talking to me. Please do not go away until I come back and bring my offering and set it before you.” And the Lord said, “I will wait until you return.”

 

Gideon is hiding in the winepress threshing wheat. He is minding his own business when the Lord comes to him and gives him a promise. “When the angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon, he said, ‘The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.’”(Judges 6:12) Gideon cannot help but remind the messenger of the current condition of the people. The Midianites “like locust” were destroying the people. Burning crops, killing livestock and oppressing the Israelites who yet again had turned their back on God. Gideon also reminded the visitor that he was from the weakest clan and among them the least. The Lord continues to encourage Gideon giving him purpose, go in the strength you have and save Israel. God had placed something in Gideon that was not perceived by his consequence or current condition. The Lord promised the man His Presence. “I will go with you” and you will be victorious. At some point in their conversation, Gideon decided that he must obey the Lord. He petitioned the Lord, “Please do not go away until I come back and bring my offering and set it before you.”

 

I have read this story many times. It is one that encourages us to look past the natural condition of our life and pursue God’s Promise for us. No matter how weak and insignificant we may feel or foreboding and overwhelming the set of circumstances, if God be for us who can be against us? Right. Right? Okay well maybe… God is with us. His Spirit lives in us. When Jesus Christ died on the Cross, He released the Holy Spirit. On the day of Pentecost, His Spirit made its home in mankind. It is up to us to cultivate a life of faith and hope learning to trust the Lord. We cannot make a manmade sacrifice such as Gideon which was immediately consumed by the Lord. We have only one thing to sacrifice. Our whole being. Our broken spirit. A contrite and broken heart. Why did the angel wait? He waited for Gideon to prepare his offering. Maybe part of the reason God waits to give us His Promise or release His Purpose is so that we can prepare our sacrifice.

 

Romans 4:1-5 (NIV)

What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh, discovered in this matter? If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about—but not before God. What does Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” Now to the one who works, wages are not credited as a gift but as an obligation. However, to the one who does not work but trusts God who justifies the ungodly, their faith is credited as righteousness.

 

“Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, ‘Abraham!’ ‘Here I am,’ he replied. Then God said, ‘Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.’ Early the next morning Abraham got up and loaded his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. When he had cut enough wood for the burnt offering, he set out for the place God had told him about. On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance.” (Genesis 22:1-4) I have often thought about the journey of Abraham up the mountain to meet the Lord. In fact, toward the end of our journey with our son, I spent many hours at the gym on an elliptical machine envisioning my footfall and dust flying beneath my feet running up the mountain after him. I had to get to the place of sacrifice. I had to see what the moment after that one held. I had to see the Promise of the Lord fulfilled.

 

As I am reminded of this story today, I can look at it from the other side of the mountain. Our son was spared by the Lord and remains in remission. It figuratively came just moments before the death blow could have come in his young life. At first, the journey was filled with faith and hope as he rallied valiantly through the first round of chemo and radiation. Cancer gone, it was a time of rejoicing that would soon come to an end. Abraham waiting ninety years for his promise. When the Lord asked him to sacrifice his son, his only son, Abraham embarked on the journey to the place of sacrifice. It was a three-day trip and still he saw the place “in the distance.” I wonder if this might represent our wait times and the pathway to perseverance in our life? All those times that God makes a promise and we choose to hang on until He keeps it. As He moved closer to the mountain, I am quite sure that Abraham pressed into God’s Presence. He prayed. He quietly cried out to the Lord. When fear gripped him, his faith took another step closer. When grief tried to stop him, hope pushed him on. Abraham would be found righteous by God – not because he lived a perfect and sinless life. God found Abraham righteous simply by faith. Abraham trusted God. But did it take three or four days of going to the place of sacrifice to prepare the offering? The offering that day was Abraham’s whole being. It was an outward expression of his inward choice to believe that God is good in all things.

 

Romans 12:1-2 (NIV)

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.

 

“Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” (Ephesians 5:1-2) The perfect sacrifice was made so that we could become in right standing with God again. Jesus is our Savior. To make the choice to live our life according to His Sacrifice is to pursue righteousness and holiness. We are to be a living sacrifice. The Word of God calls us “living stones” which are being built into the Kingdom of God. We have a free will that decides the level of our giving. The only acceptable sacrifice is a broken spirit and a broken heart. It is in this “breaking” that we come to the end of self and accept Jesus as Lord of our life. Everything changes the moment we accept God’s Promise and decide to live according to His Word, His Will and His Way. Our flesh rallies to live but our spirit needs it to die so we can give the Lord our whole being and not just some parts. My whole being must wait on the Lord. It is when I am broken that His Grace becomes enough as I move out of the way. God waits on us. We do not wait on Him.

 

Psalm 37:3-7 (NIV)

Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn, your vindication like the noonday sun. Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; do not fret when people succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes.

 

What is God waiting on? He is waiting for me to trust Him. He is waiting for me to continue to do good even when it is not yielding immediate results. He is waiting for me to take delight in Him and continually praise Him even under extreme pressure. He is waiting for me to commit my way to Him by faith even when there seems to be no way out. The Lord is asking me to be still and wait on Him to perfect His Plan and make me complete lacking nothing. (James 1:2-4) Though the wait is long, my faith is one minute longer. He encourages me not to compare my life to others but keep focused on Jesus who is the Author and Finisher of my faith. Comparison is a joy killer. Waiting and persevering will always take us to the edge of self because that is where we find the Lord. (Psalm 38:13-15) Gideon told the angel of the Lord every single reason why He was not the “mighty warrior” that God called him that day until finally he brought the offering that represented self.

 

Romans 5:1-5 (NIV)

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

 

We all need and want a savior. Someone to rescue us in life. But few desire a Lord to love, protect and lead them through life. When Jesus came into your heart and mine, He did so with purpose. He wants His Promise and His Glory to illuminate from your life to become a city on the hill and a light in the darkness. You cannot stay the same. It is in our absolute and complete devastation that we discover the tiniest yet most valuable part of us…our faith. When we take that faith and sow it back into the Kingdom, it grows a little more each time. The sacrifice of harvest is our self. A life surrendered to God knows no bounds but it also knows no other way but through Jesus Christ.

 

Today as I wait a little longer, I am reminded that perseverance is necessary to obtain all of God’s Promises. We must wait on the Lord. But more importantly, He is waiting for us to respond to His Promises to us with faith and confident hope born of character totally offered up to the Lord holding nothing back and surrendering our all. This is how we make every effort to respond to God’s Promises as Paul indicated to the Corinthians. (2 Peter 1:5) What is the Lord waiting on? He has spoken to your heart, now He is waiting for you to say like the psalmist, “My heart has heard you say, ‘Come and talk to me,’ and my heart responds, ‘Lord, I am coming!’” (Psalm 27:8 NLT)

 

So maybe even the slow internet in our house has a purpose more than trying my patience, it reminds me today that sometimes I am not waiting on the Lord but rather He is waiting on me to move in deeper or come a little closer. What if that is the very thing that will bring down the barriers or cover the breaches in our life? What if it is just God waiting on us to prepare an acceptable life offering or gather all of our self for sacrifice? God’s Love is so amazing! He is such a good Father!

 

Psalm 27:13-14 (NIV)

I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.