Never Say Never

Never Say Never

Ezekiel 36:25-27 (NLT) “Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean. Your filth will be washed away, and you will no longer worship idols. And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart. And I will put my Spirit in you so that you will follow my decrees and be careful to obey my regulations.

I don’t remember who spoke these words into my life. Like a challenge issued to every part of my stubbornness, I set out to prove them wrong. Never is a powerful word. It is difficult to enforce. It is final. It means not ever, at no time, not at all, absolutely not, and to no extent. However, who are we as mere human beings to dictate time. Ecclesiastes 3 tell of God’s Outline of life including the relevance of His Timing in that “for everything there is a season, and a time for every activity under heaven” climaxing with the promise that “God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, and even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end. Never implies control over God’s Will and Timing that is simply not the case.

When our daughter was very small, she developed rapid onset asthma. Within a matter of weeks, her condition had worsened to the point of daily doctor visits and an extension list of medication to manage her breathing. We had to carry a nebulizer with us everywhere. Her activities were limited in order to prevent a respiratory illness due to the compromised state of her lungs. This would be the beginning of a journey of faith. I had been praying for the Lord to give me faith. I wanted to see the sick healed, the blind see, the deaf hear, and even the dead raised. I wanted to see the signs, wonders and miracles. For weeks, I struggled with the condition of my child. A couple strong in faith mentored us and taught us about the elements of faith. To them I am forever thankful for their teaching and guidance by the Holy Spirit. On the day that the Lord would reach down and touch our daughter, forever removing this dreaded disease in a single instant, I found a truth about the Lord that I will “never” forget. God rules forever. He dictates the boundaries of our life with His Love. When the enemy tries to cross that barrier, the Lord firmly enforces His Position of the Reigning King. When the doctor told us that she would remain the list of medications forever based on a slightly improvement and never be without it. Heaven and earth collided. The room stood still as His Presence filled that place. Our God is the One who has dominion over forever. Neverland is not a real place. God does not ever except never but gives it a time and place.

I have found it to be true that every never I ever have spoken is a line that I have crossed. Never makes us think we have some kind of control over our life including our mind, will and emotions. The moment it is established as some kind of boundary – it seems our flesh takes the challenge. As a young person, there are some things that I said that I would never do based on the mistakes of my parents. Disappointments and doubts that formed a plan for my life with certain boundaries which I am sad to report – I did them all. Giving my heart to Jesus during my teenage years, I accepted a harsh doctrine with many more definitive items on the long list of never. I did them all, too. Every never has become a reality in my life. I wonder if Peter felt the regret of never, the pain in his heart as he discovered that he was all too human by denying Jesus not once, or twice but three documented times. Jesus told him that the enemy wanted to “sift him like wheat.” I am sure it was a painful process but oh so necessary to make the reunion on the beach more wonderful.

Matthew 5:34-37 (NLT) But I say, do not make any vows! Do not say, ‘By heaven!’ because heaven is God’s throne. And do not say, ‘By the earth!’ because the earth is his footstool. And do not say, ‘By Jerusalem!’ for Jerusalem is the city of the great King. Do not even say, ‘By my head!’ for you can’t turn one hair white or black. Just say a simple, ‘Yes, I will,’ or ‘No, I won’t.’ Anything beyond this is from the evil one.

To say, “I will never” is a vow. It is implied control over our present state that is just not the case. We are ruled by a master – be it sin and flesh dictating our attitudes and actions or the Master who gives us the Mind of Christ. The enemy uses the statement that “I will never” to set up false barriers and invisible boundaries in our life so when we cross them we are shackled with guilt, shame or regret. The feeling of failure erodes faith as doubt and fear take over. We cannot ever say that never is possible for us or become insistent in one direction. This life that I live given to Christ is a humble offering. It is to yield my life piece by piece to the Lord. It is to accept His Will giving up my own. Therefore, I cannot say never but remain hopeful that whatever happens in my life that the Lord will keep His Promise. What promise? This one:

Romans 8:28-30 (NLT) And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And having chosen them, he called them to come to him. And having called them, he gave them right standing with himself. And having given them right standing, he gave them his glory.

For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.” (Romans 8:29 NIV) Predestination – now that is a word that will start a quick theological debate. I am not looking for a discussion or a debate simply to reveal the promise of such a revelation. Predestination means to decide in advance, to foreordain, to predetermine which is exactly is what the Lord did for us. He provided a plan for our life including a future and hope. (Jeremiah 29:11) He recorded every single day before our birth. (Psalm 139:16) He decided to give His Son Jesus as a sacrifice for my life. Not to bring condemnation but grace sufficient to cover ever sin in advance. (John 3:16-18) The Lord has provided everything I need according to His Riches in Glory (Philippians 4:19) and every spiritual blessing (Ephesians 1:3) to yield abundance and prosperity in my natural existence on my way to heavenly hope. Jesus even promised that He went to prepare a place for us in eternity and will come back for us one day. (John 14:2-3) We are predestined. Freedom allows us to choose our destination. There are many flights leaving the airport today that will go to a variety of destinations around the world. The people in the airport must choose their destination according to their free will. We do the same. To indicate “never” in our life may be the very dictate issued that limits the rich and satisfying life that Jesus promised us. (John 10:10)

The promise found in predestination is this: “we know that God causes EVERYTHING to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His Purpose.” Jesus came to save us and provide the grace needed to return to right-standing with God. Humility is the route to such a destination. It is to release control of our life including mind, will, emotions, body, spirit and soul to live in His Love completely. This eliminates never and impossibility from our life. Faith in Jesus is the requirement which means I give up my way to follow Him beginning with my stubborn heart set on dictating the order of my life and accept His Spirit to lead me into the everlasting.

Ezekiel 11:19 (NLT) And I will give them singleness of heart and put a new spirit within them. I will take away their stony, stubborn heart and give them a tender, responsive heart.

The New International Version translates the same verse as – “And I will give them an undivided heart”. We want Jesus in our life. However, to release perceived power and control contradicts everything the world tells us. We are to protect our heart. Gather all the broken pieces and hold it all together. Hide our insecurities. Build walls between ourselves and fear. Fake it until you make it. God has placed eternity in our heart because that is the part He longs for. To pursue God with our life and keep our heart for ourselves will end in disappointment and frustration. God is love. Love is messy. It requires brokenness and giving up our way to unite with the object of our affection. No marriage can survive two people bent on having their way all the time. There must be giving.

2 Corinthians 4:3-4 (NLT) If the Good News we preach is hidden behind a veil, it is hidden only from people who are perishing. Satan, who is the god of this world, has blinded the minds of those who don’t believe. They are unable to see the glorious light of the Good News. They don’t understand this message about the glory of Christ, who is the exact likeness of God.

Is the Gospel of my life hidden behind a veil? This veil can be constructed of many things. It represents the veil in the Temple. The one that kept people on the verge of knowing the Lord but dependent on someone else to endure the process. The Spirit of the Lord ripped the veil in half when Jesus died for our sins. There is no longer anything separating us from God and His Heart except those who decide to reconstruct a barrier in our life. The limitation in our life is built by us not the Lord. He made it clear. God wants His Children. His Desire is for us. He longs to live in love with us. He has created a life for us worth having.

We cannot share a love that has not been experienced. If we do not give our heart and all its stubbornness and brokenness and insecurity to the Lord to accept the new heart that He offers then what is the point. I can share the Good News with others but without the Light of His Glory which is His Love shining forth – it’s just another fairytale or feel good story. I can share all the miracles that we have experienced in our life as a result of faith – but without the love found in the careful and constant intervention of Jesus – it is just another coincidence or inexplicable random event – gawked at today and forgotten tomorrow. The Gospel is a farce without the heart of God’s People shining His Love through fragile, clay jars containing grace and mercy for all. We must give our hearts to Jesus. Every part. The broken parts. The hidden parts. The held-on-to parts for safekeeping. Our life is nothing under our own control. We cannot even keep the simple promises and vows made in our life. Jesus makes all things possible. He erases impossibility completely according to His Will and Way. His Goodness can only overflow from a heart freely given and a responsive one accepted in return.

Ezekiel 36:25-27 (NLT) “Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean. Your filth will be washed away, and you will no longer worship idols. And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart. And I will put my Spirit in you so that you will follow my decrees and be careful to obey my regulations.

So we go back to the beginning…God has promised to give us a new heart. He also offers us a new spirit. A tender and responsive heart. What is the never in your life that is holding you back? Or maybe it is the never that you did anyway? You and I are created in the Image of God. Christ is the visible image of God. Before departing this world, He took the Light of God’s Love and placed it in our heart. The cold, stony, and stubborn heart still held on to carries the potential to live a rich and satisfied life not in the choices we make or our ability to “change” our life making better choices or improving habits, but in our acceptance of a tender and responsive heart. We must respond to God’s Promises beginning with accepting the new heart and new spirit that is freely given to us. However, this is a position of trust that believes no matter what happens in our life that His Love is working out everything for our good. Do you believe that today? If so, your love will be made in the image of God. Your giving will be complete as you give your life away in love relinquishing control. God is intent on changing us not the environment that we live in.

The Glory of God shines brightest through the broken. This verse came to me praying for a mighty woman of God with congestive heart failure. A year ago, she testified in church that through many complications she did not have a “zipper” meaning no heart surgery. She gave the Lord glory for her healing and was a source of encouragement to me. She is in the hospital today facing her third heart surgery. Her faith in the Lord is stronger than ever. She still sings louder than everyone else when worshipping Him in the sanctuary. The first to proclaim “Hallelujah” at the mention of His Name. Her testimony is even stronger today than it was a year ago because in the midst of her trial she is still in love with the Lord. Her faith shines through the darkness of a broken body. Her heart for Jesus beats strong though her human heart is struggling. Jesus let that be me today. I give you my broken and beat up heart for a tender responsive one that shares the Light of Your Love consistently in all things, in all ways, from now until You come! I must decrease allowing You to increase Jesus! Like a wineskin bursting with new wine, I give my heart to you again. Make it beat with Yours, Lord. Give me the desires of Your Heart, God. Make me one with You today Jesus!

Psalm 27:8 (NLT) My heart has heard you say, “Come and talk with me.” And my heart responds, “Lord, I am coming.”

Hidden Treasure

for sale

Matthew 13:44 (NLT) “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a treasure that a man discovered hidden in a field. In his excitement, he hid it again and sold everything he owned to get enough money to buy the field.”

Hidden treasure, how exciting! The thought of a chest of gold at the bottom of the ocean. Or maybe beneath the sandy beaches of a shore left long ago. Secret maps encoded by those who never would return to claim their prize left to be discovered in another time. The fodder of fairytales no doubt or is it. Is there really such a thing as hidden treasure and secrets in this life?  In the ruthless reality of life is there really room for fantasy? Or would it just be another set up for failure to expect the unexpected? To truly believe that there is more to life than this and that there is a favor yet to be revealed in a mundane existence of struggle and striving just to get by. Does Cinderella really leave to marry a prince in a castle? Does Snow White find a way of escape? Does Aurora ever truly experience the kiss of her sweet prince? The plight of the princess ends in a rescue by her prince. Such things are not truth but written by fanciful authors to bring hope to the hopeless. What about us? We are believers. We have hope. Hope that promises to never lead us to disappointment. We do not wait for a prince but King Jesus. The One who sits on a throne with every enemy as His Footstool. The reality of hope is dependent on faith. Faith is the substance of what we hope for. It is the matter that keeps us engaged in the pursuit of the impossible day by day.

The Kingdom of Heaven is like a treasure. When you think about Heaven, what do you see? The envisioning of a place filled with light paved in gold? A gathering of those who are now gone but your heart still longs for? What does it look like to you? The Kingdom must become a reality in our life in order to fully seek it out and discover its true potential. A man discovered a treasure hidden in a field. He was excited. He would not steal it so he hid it again. The man returned to his ordinary existence and sold everything he owned to buy the field. Is Jesus real? Is His Kingdom a true destination? Our life hints at the truth of what one believes. We invest our time, talent and treasure to have what is truly valuable to us. There is treasure hidden in Heaven for me. I have an inheritance and secret blessings that are mine for the taking yet if I do not understand the value and worth enough to desire it above all things – it is as the hidden chest of gold or potential princess in the secret place – it waits for us to believe and therefore search for it.

If my grandmother were alive today, she would confirm that I loved to read about the princesses. The story of Cinderella was my favorite. The pages worn thing in the book from constant reiteration. She would offer to read another account of one of the others, but I pleaded to read Cinderella again. Dreams are something given to us at a young age which often are forfeited to cruel and harsh reality. Visions of a better way, life and journey forsaken to disappointment that causes us to bury our dreams while entering adulthood. The desire of our heart is designed by God. I believe it is the potential that the Lord wrapped with the measure of faith and marked “eternity” that is placed in our heart. Your life today has the priceless potential to be more than you can think, ask or imagine. Have you buried your dead dream today? Deciding that it was just a childhood foolishness called fantasy and moved on to real life. I did, too. However, for some reason, they seem to be coming back. My mind is entertaining them again. My heart quickens at the thought. Could it be that the Light of the World is lighting up inside of me and through a fragile heart marked with cracks and crevices full of flaws and imperfections that He is illuminating the hidden secrets called fulfillment as He works the details of life for goodness and His Glory just like He promised. Is it possible?

John 8:12 (NLT) Jesus spoke to the people once more and said, “I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.”

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.

People are quick to judge the rest of their life by its current condition. We make permanent decisions based on temporary circumstances. There are things that the Lord has hidden in us from the beginning of time when our creation was decided. (Jeremiah 29:11-13) Every moment of our life is previously recorded by God. (Psalm 139:16) Our life is predestined to be glorious. (Romans 8:29-30) Jesus changes everything. (Ephesians 1:10-11) Nothing can separate us from God’s Love any longer. (Romans 8:38-39) This is not random fate or good fortune. God planned it from the very beginning that our life would become a masterpiece on display for all the world to see, like a city on a hill that is well lit and inviting. The Glory of God is revealed in His People. What glory is there in a life of poverty, weakness, and ignorance? Faith promotes growth and increase in our life. His Grace gives us the power to overcome every weakness. Knowledge and understanding mean nothing until they become wisdom or applied in our life. Hope never leads to disappointment but if we do not believe hope exists or do anything to pursue it – we will not benefit from it in our natural life. If hope exists only after the expiration date marking the end of our earthly existence – we will miss the glorious life that Jesus Christ offers while alive. Christ lives in me. He is worth having and I am ready to “sell” out to have His Kingdom a reality in my life.

Proverbs 2:1-4 (NLT) My child, listen to what I say, and treasure my commands. Tune your ears to wisdom, and concentrate on understanding. Cry out for insight, and ask for understanding. Search for them as you would for silver; seek them like hidden treasures.

Jesus is the Word of God wrapped in flesh to come express God’s Love in a real and tangible way. Even the people closest to Jesus struggled to believe even witnessing great miracles, signs and wonders. Those who believe without seeing are the ones that Jesus called more blessed when showing Thomas His Wounds for credibility. To ask Jesus to be our Savior and call Him Lord gives us keys to His Kingdom to unlock hidden doors and open secret places that are just for God’s Children. My faith in Christ is all that I need to make those dreams and desires a reality now. To know Jesus I must know the Word. To treasure His Commands empowers the process that leads to potential and the realization of my purpose. Ignorance is not bliss. It kills our dreams and the potency in our life. We must listen for God’s Voice and engage in conversation with Him to know the way. Wisdom is applied knowledge. Concentrate on understanding. Cry out for more insight. Ask for understanding. What if all that I am doing is in vain even humbling my life in service to God? What if all the things that I am doing are religious because I do not have a connection or real relationship with Christ? The enemy tells us that Christ requires us to give up everything and live an abased existence because we owe it all to Jesus. Jesus didn’t say that at all. We forfeit the bondage to sin, captivity to the lies of the enemy, and breakthrough every wall of resistance when our faith in the hope that He offers makes us confident enough to pursue Him wholeheartedly. We are adopted by God as His Children. To live in His Kingdom is to experience His Glory now AND forevermore. We must get our faith working for today as it does for the future.

Mark 4:21-23 (NLT) Then Jesus asked them, “Would anyone light a lamp and then put it under a basket or under a bed? Of course not! A lamp is placed on a stand, where its light will shine. For everything that is hidden will eventually be brought into the open, and every secret will be brought to light. Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand.”

It is human nature to think the worst. How many times have I heard this verse used in conversation concerning people living double lives? “Well…everything that is hidden will eventually be brought into the open…” said with strong Southern slang followed by the obligatory “bless their heart” or worse the knowing nod of the pious. What if Jesus didn’t mean that at all? What if He was saying as my love burns through your heart igniting a passionate love affair building confident hope that causes you to come boldly before me seeking, knocking and asking that I will show you all the wonderful things that I have hidden in your life? What if it means the windows of Heaven will open flooding your life to overflowing with all my promises so you can lend and not borrow being generous without regard, worry or regret? A lamp draws those in darkness to the light. The Lord is gracious. He doesn’t want to put our sin on display but His Glory. We are all sinners who have fallen short of God’s Glorious Standard of Living and continue to do so daily no matter what we do to avoid it. His Grace is enough. His Mercy is new every morning and fuels His Love and Power in us. We have great potential and purpose in life to do more than imaginable simply because Christ is alive in us.

Joel 2:28-29 (NLT) “Then, after doing all those things, I will pour out my Spirit upon all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy. Your old men will dream dreams, and your young men will see visions. In those days I will pour out my Spirit even on servants—men and women alike.

Matthew 27:50-52 (NLT) Then Jesus shouted out again, and he released his spirit. At that moment the curtain in the sanctuary of the Temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook, rocks split apart, and tombs opened. The bodies of many godly men and women who had died were raised from the dead. 

When Jesus died on the Cross, He released His Spirit. The temple veil torn from the top to the bottom. God was ready to receive His Children and grant them an inheritance. Joel’s prophecy fulfilled. Dreamers could dream again. Visionaries have new visions of the Kingdom. God’s Glory permeated the earth and in Acts 2 came to live in His People. This would be the moment in time that changed everything. God in us. Why is that we bury our dreams? Why do we pass off vision as fantasy? Where is our confidence in hope? It is time to take the measure of faith given to us and unwrap it, inspect it and use it again. God has given us the potential to achieve great purpose and shine His Glory for all to see. We will prosper. We will have success. We will be blessed. We will have influence. We will experience favor. We will see signs, miracles and wonders as His Glory permeates every area of our life. However, none of this is possible until faith is the reality of our passion and persistent pursuit of our life. The reality of His Kingdom is our hope. Hope must have confidence to be of any use today. My forever and future are secure. It is up to me to decide if His Kingdom will impact my today. Dreamer – the Lord invites you to dream. Visionary – the Lord invites you to see new things. Child of God – there is a treasure you have yet to discover. Give up the reality called life to experience the true revelation of hope. A life fully invested in Jesus Christ will bring to light the secret and hidden things that are there just for you! Sell everything to acquire it and it will be yours.

Jeremiah 29:11-13 (NLT) For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. In those days when you pray, I will listen. If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me.

Early Check In

early-check-in

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

The date circled on the calendar months ago has finally arrived. For the past week, I have been picking out clothes, preparing to pack, organizing the house, making a menu, listing instructions and informing our kids of our expectations while away on a trip. Not just any trip, but a trip to the Bahamas provided by my husband’s company. The resort is picturesque. Amenities ample and prime. It is a place many only dream of that the Lord has blessed us with. I have anticipated the trip and tomorrow it’s off to the airport. This morning, I went online to check-in and get our boarding passes. Our flight leaves around 7:00 AM. After providing all the information required by Homeland Security, a layout of the aircraft is provided with our seats clearly marked. After agreeing to all terms and conditions, a final notice marked “Check-in Successfully Complete” flashes on the screen with a “Enjoy Your Trip!” As I put away all the necessary documents and sealed them in the bright-colored pouch from the travel agency, I couldn’t help but wonder – Lord, wouldn’t it be awesome if I could do the same spiritually? Log in to Heaven.com or WeRSaved.com and make sure there is a place for me ahead of time. To be sure that I am doing the right things, living the right life, and making good choices so that I won’t be turned away at the gate…the pearly gates that is. I know if I made it to the gate for my flight tomorrow and they wouldn’t let me board that I would be very sad and disappointed. I don’t even want contemplate how I might feel if it was standing before Jesus and He said, “I’m sorry but I don’t know you.”

When the details of this glorious trip were sent to my husband who forwarded them to me, I immediately put the dates on the calendar at work and in my phone. Planning. Now that I knew it was coming, it would be good, and I wanted to go – I made plans around the trip. It became a priority of sorts. The destination of my faith is a placed called confident hope. It must be something that I desire and decide to participate in. It must become a priority in my life. Faith is established in my relationship with Jesus Christ. He must be my priority. Prepare. I have spent several months planning and preparing for this trip in advance. I have children who need to be cared for. Details to be decided. Faith requires preparation as it develops characteristics contrary to man. Our flesh chooses immediate gratification over endurance. It would rather give up then persevere. It prefers the easy way rather than the Highway of Holiness which is a narrow road with a small entrance described as harder to get through than the chances of a camel passing through the eye of a needle. What if the destination called Heaven, His Kingdom, Eternity and Forever were as highly anticipated, planned and prepared as an exotic vacation of sorts. What would happen if we invested an equal amount of time planning for our future as we do to have fun?

Ephesians 1:18-20 (NLT) I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope he has given to those he called—his holy people who are his rich and glorious inheritance. I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms. 

Flying is a love/hate relationship. I love the fact that from start to finish it will only be four hours. However, for those four hours, I must trust the craftsmanship of the airplane, the mechanics who maintain it, and the pilot who will fly it, so trust is an issue. As I enter flights, just before walking in the doorway I lay hands on the airplane and pray. It is quick and brief and most people don’t even notice although one stewardess in Atlanta did whisper, “Amen!” with a wink and smile. Trust is an issue of faith. We must trust the Lord with our life. I believe that to try to do so blindly is ignorance on our part that leads to death and destruction. I cannot trust God outside of faith. Faith is found in the Word whose Name is Jesus. Jesus is the Word. To try to know Him, let alone trust the Lord, outside of the Word of God is impossible. You are setting yourself up to fail. The Word cuts flesh from bone exposing the innermost parts of what we have been taught and our new life in Christ. I cannot know the blessings, benefits, promises, purposes and process by which it is achieved in my life if I do not strive to know the Word of God including Jesus the Way, the Truth and the Life. I have studied the packet provided by the agency in detail. I have confirmed our flight. I have retrieved our passports. I have visited the website of our destination and I am almost packed. Do I give this much attention to the Lord and my destination in Him each day? Each week? Consistently? Confident hope is born of constant trust that develops and matures our faith.

Hebrews 3:12-14 (NLT) Be careful then, dear brothers and sisters. Make sure that your own hearts are not evil and unbelieving, turning you away from the living God. You must warn each other every day, while it is still “today,” so that none of you will be deceived by sin and hardened against God. For if we are faithful to the end, trusting God just as firmly as when we first believed, we will share in all that belongs to Christ.

I am excited about the time of rest for the next week. Time with my husband apart from hectic schedules, rigorous routines and the busyness of life. Rest is also a blessing of the Lord given to those who find their place in Him. Jesus promises rest to those who yoke their life to Him. (Matthew 11) Those who seek Him wholeheartedly will find Him and the future and hope that He holds for us. (Jeremiah 29:13) What if we planned and prepared each day for the place called Heaven and Eternity with God? What if His People anticipated it for the Glorious Destination that it is? Far more wonderful than a week in some tropical paradise from which you are dumped right back in the rat race called life. To be with Jesus Forever apart from fear, worry, anxiety, stress, sickness, pain and brokenness, to live forever in the Light of His Love basking in His Glory. It will be so much better than any of His Creation. We must believe it enough to anticipate it.

Faith given the opportunity to become confident hope is our boarding pass. To trust Jesus with the details and simply live in wholehearted pursuit of Him. To follow His Way because we want to be where He is. He must become our desired destination. The only way to become confident in the Lord is to try trusting Him at His Word. I am trusting the travel agent who planned and prepared this trip for us. Just a person doing her job who doesn’t know us at all. She is just doing what the company instructed her to do. Yet, I am trusting her with the details of the next week. Hmmm, so what about Jesus? He died to offer me a place in His Kingdom forever. His Love, Grace and Mercy to transport me from sin to salvation. His Blood to cover me so that when God sees me I will be white. My boarding pass is ready. I just need to check-in. If I go over the details of my walk with Christ, it is easy to see the areas that need my attention. To locate the places where other things have maybe become the priority and need to be reorganized. Jesus should be at the top of every list. There should be no other books unless I read the Bible every day. There should be no other conversations until I converse with Jesus first in prayer. The most important place I go before heading out the door is His Presence. Who lives like that you are asking? I do if I want to be where Jesus is forever. If I want confident hope, I must engage in trusting the Lord and building the foundation called faith. Faith will always produce confident hope so I do not have to wonder what will happen after I take my last breath. I will already know and have inexpressible joy!

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.

Even Though

even-though

I Peter 1:5-7 (NLT) And through your faith, God is protecting you by his power until you receive this salvation, which is ready to be revealed on the last day for all to see. So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you must endure many trials for a little while.  These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.

Excuses will always be there for you. Opportunities won’t. (Unknown) Today is an opportunity to choose to believe in God’s Love. His Goodness. His Glory. His Promises. You and I have Potential and a Plan carefully constructed in all the qualities of God mentioned above. It is a choice. Your choice and my choice that is made intentionally or unintentionally by the attitudes and actions formed to respond to the challenges of each moment. An excuse is to obtain an exemption or release. Our excuses are the very things that disconnect our faith from God’s Future. Excuses are evidence that there is a lack of belief on our part to the Characteristics of God that make Him perfect in all things. When I decide not to follow the Lord, and make an excuse I eliminate the potential in that moment accepting defeat. I have reduced the Greater is He that lives in me to just not enough. Is Christ enough for you today? Is He enough to eliminate excuses and execute excellence in your life?

Dani Johnson was a young woman who suffered violence and abuse in her childhood. As a teenager, she became pregnant by a deacon’s son in her church. She gave up her baby for adoption and walked away from church for good. Or so she thought, but the seeds of God’s Words were already sown deeply in her heart. God had a plan. Her potential became evident as she was an excellent sales person with a flourishing career who married a conman who was taking her money. He abandoned her with huge amounts of debt. Dani lost her job and her home. She was living in her car with $2.03 to her name. She was depressed and contemplating suicide. It was at that very moment she felt God’s Spirit within her telling her to press on, to rise up and do something with her life. She did. She went from homeless and broken starting her first business in the backseat of her car and in two years became a millionaire at 23. She is quoted as saying, “Excuses are well planned lies!” The enemy wants to destroy all of God’s Potential in our life. He does so by offering excuses when opportunity presents itself. He hushes the Voice of God with all the reasons it won’t happen. He recalls our past. He fills the present with busyness. He discounts our future. The productivity of his cultivation are all lies that become our excuses.

Jeremiah 29:11-13 (NLT) For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. In those days when you pray, I will listen. If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me.

God has a plan for your life. These moments called past and present are all with in the woven threads of the dream and vision for your life. Romans 8:28 is His Promise that even the bad ones, hard ones or those deemed to be a failure have goodness in them providing for our future. He has promised that the plan is good with a future and hope attached which I believe references this life and forever. The fruit of the Spirit cultivates good things for now and later. Our steps are divinely ordered by the Lord so even when we walk through the shadow of the valley called death there is no reason to fear. The Lord is waiting for you to respond to His Offer. Will you willingly accept His Plan or continue to wander without purpose with blinders called excuses? The secret is in verse 13 – If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me. To find Him is to have all that He has promised. We will not find the Lord if we do not believe. The evidence of belief is faith. Faith to follow the Lord without excuses.

Romans 4:20-21 (NLT) 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.

Even though there was no reason to hope, Abraham kept hoping – believing that he would become a father despite his age. Even though – he was 100 years old and Sarah 99. Even though in the natural, Sarah’s womb would be considered dead. Abraham believed in God who brings the dead back to life. The promise of God is received by faith. Faith encounters the impossible and says, “Even though…I still believe.” This is the mindset of spiritual success. To be and do all that God promised requires this very idea to take root in our heart and mind and grow to be tree of life within us. The tree that provides the fruit to sustain us during drought seasons and times of famine when our life does not represent the purpose or potential that is God’s Plan. It is faith that meets the impossible and does not turn away but says…even though!

2 Corinthians 5:6-7 (NLT) So we are always confident, even though we know that as long as we live in these bodies we are not at home with the Lord. For we live by believing and not by seeing.

Faith is not necessary until the impossible presents itself. We are to live by believing and not seeing. It is only natural to have the “who-turned-the-lights-off” and “what-was-I-thinking-moment” in our journey. Peter had it. He was gung-ho jumping out of the boat to come to Jesus. But a few steps into it, he had an epiphany that revealed that he ran out of faith too soon. He began sinking. What happened? Jesus reached out and grabbed him. We will all experience such times when venturing off the short, dock or stepping out of the boat and walking by faith. Faith is illogical in the natural. It is uncomfortable to the flesh. If at any point in the process you dare to look down, it will absolutely suck the breath right out of you. God is ready to exceed all human expectations with His Excellent Love, Power and Providence for us.

As long as I live in this body, my faith in God will be tested. I will be given opportunity after opportunity to trust the Lord. I must surrender all of my life – heart, mind, soul and body to have all that He has planned and prepared for me including eternity. I cannot get tangled up in lies that are the foundation of excuses as to why I cannot or God will not but must live by confident faith in His Unfailing Love, Overwhelming Grace and Constant Care for me.

Hebrews 5:7-8 (NLT) While Jesus was here on earth, he offered prayers and pleadings, with a loud cry and tears, to the one who could rescue him from death. And God heard his prayers because of his deep reverence for God. Even though Jesus was God’s Son, he learned obedience from the things he suffered.  

Even though Jesus was God’s Son – he learned obedience through suffering. Jesus was God incarnate. He had every component of humanity. He had body. He had a mind. He had a pulsating heart. Jesus was a man. He did not lack any of the physical qualities that you and I have so when it came to suffering the pain of heartbreak and the brutality of his beatings then the cross. Jesus experienced it just as any other person. Yet He was still the Son of the Living God. God lived in Him. How are we different? God is exercising and conditioning our faith to endure the trials and hardships of life so that we will have confident hope that can obtain resurrection power and new life. He is not picking on you. You are not being left behind. There really is no excuse for our lack of persistence in following Jesus Christ. He endured the exact same things successfully to become our example.

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.

Jesus Christ said, “It is finished.” The Lord meant every single word of this three-word statement. He released His Spirit to live in us from that moment on. Romans 1:20 tells us that God has demonstrated His Love in perfect form so that no one has a good excuse not to know Him. Your past does not define your future. Your present condition doesn’t necessarily project your future. By faith, all of this is according to God’s Plan. He offers a future and hope that is accepted by faith not excuses. God speaks to guide us. Why aren’t we listening? He gives us His Word as a rod and staff to steady our way. To discipline our steps to avoid many pitfalls. Do we read it? He is ready to communicate 24/7 through prayer yet the door to our prayer closet remains closed. The Lord asks just one thing of us to be humble enough to love others – all others. We flatly refuse to give up our position of pride to love one another.

We have the Power of the Living God available to us by His Grace – yet we choose control over surrender every day. If life is immediately gratifying – an excuse is formed while we do it ourselves rather than waiting on the Lord. If hard times come, we exit. When it’s time to press, we rebel and pull back. God is God. He is the great I Am and perfectly able to do every single thing that He promised. He works best in the form of “even though” but we choose excuses instead abandoning ship to sail in other directions afraid to get our feet wet much less sink in the waves. No trust that He will catch us, excuses form a tower that becomes a prison. A place where His Promises cannot reach us.  A cell of simply not enough. Caught up by stress, anxiety, and worry – all the while Jesus is saying come to me. I will give you rest. Where is faith in your priorities today?

Ben Franklin said, “He that is good at making excuses is seldom good at anything else.” Friend that is a stinger. Lord, I don’t want to be that person. What has the Lord laid on your heart to do? Have you abandoned ship? Have you walked away? Do you think you have a good excuse? God doesn’t believe in excuses. He is moved by our faith. The times when “even though” everything is stacked against us and the situation is impossible – we dare to believe just one more day. Or even better, take one step closer to Him by faith that God will do it anyway. These situations, circumstances or conditions that we think will break us only make room for God’s Grace to flow through us. His Grace produces His Power in the place of our weakness and supernatural strength to keep following Him even when nothing is going “right” in our own eyes. As our faith flourishes in such conditions, the hope that anchors our soul becomes a little more secure. God has a purpose for each step. Especially the hard ones, taking in absolute faith with nothing in the natural to support them. These are the ones that release His Power the most in our life. Stop making excuses and pack faith in its place. Be the one who believes “even though”. Walk by faith not by sight. The best is yet to come for those who stop making excuses and step out in faith.

Hebrews 11:6 (NLT) 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

The Wanderer

California, USA

Matthew 18:12-14 (NLT) If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them wanders away, what will he do? Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others on the hills and go out to search for the one that is lost? And if he finds it, I tell you the truth, he will rejoice over it more than over the ninety-nine that didn’t wander away! In the same way, it is not my heavenly Father’s will that even one of these little ones should perish.”

All who wander are not lost. The thought popped in my head this morning and I couldn’t shake it off. What is it Lord? Am I wandering? Have I strayed? Why are these words commonly quoted impressed in my heart today? I looked up the word “wander” to see if it held a clue as to what this thought might mean. To wander is to ramble without a definite purpose or objective. To roam or to stray. To go aimlessly, indirection or casually with no real destination. To stray from a place, path or companion. To deviate in conduct or belief. Wow, this word “wander” covers a lot of proverbial and literal ground.

We all wander according to definition. Have you asked yourself recently what is God’s Plan and Purpose for my life? Do you deviate from God’s Word from time to time to pursue your own desire or direction? Do you struggle to avoid sin and do all that His Word says? Have you ever asked “why me”? Felt isolated, alone or afraid? All these are signs of wandering, but friend, you are not lost. Do you love Jesus today? He loves you. If only I could remember on the days that I set the bar far above His Measure of Grace and decide that there are certain acts of service that must accommodate repentance that the Love of Jesus Christ for me is more than enough to secure my faith and become my confident hope.

The Kingdom of God is compared to a man with a large flock of sheep. Can you imagine? There were days when all five kids were younger and moving in different directions that it was a challenge to keep them all together, I cannot comprehend having any more. Yet the Lord carefully reminds us that no matter how many enter the Kingdom and are saved, you are of the utmost important to Him today. He is not looking for you to do anything other than find Him. He doesn’t even wait for you to look as Jesus pursues us passionately with His Goodness and Unfailing Love. (Psalm 23:6) It doesn’t matter where our feet lead us – God has been there before preparing the way of return for us. Fighting our battles and overcoming the enemy. He even blesses us in our wandering in order to lead us back home. When “one” is found and returns – ALL of Heaven rejoices. Whether you are that one today, or maybe the Lord is laying someone on your heart – His Message is clear. Jesus loves the wander and all who wander are not lost.

Isaiah 53:4-6 (NLT) Yet it was our weaknesses he carried; it was our sorrows that weighed him down. And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God, a punishment for his own sins! But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed. All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God’s paths to follow our own. Yet the Lord laid on him the sins of us all.

When I was young and coming up in church, I remember a preacher telling his congregation that God has a perfect plan for our life. If you deviate from His Plan, essentially his message was you missed it until you repented and rededicated your life to Christ. I lived by that mindset for many years. Each mistake laid heavily on my back or a scarlet letter around my neck, until I decided what was the point of my salvation? I could not be perfect. I still made mistakes. No matter how many times I apologized to the Lord and tried to live for him – the wilderness overtook me time and time again. Do you ever feel like no matter how hard you try that you never measure up to God’s Standard? Well according to His Word, “everyone has sinned, we all fall short of God’s Glorious Standard.” It means that from the moment I took my first breath – I was born dying. My flesh was marked with the DNA of sin from Adam and I needed Jesus to save me.

If we could stop right there and live in that place that I am a sinner. I need Jesus. End of story, what a different place church would be. No longer ruled by religious regulations set forth to identify the lost and saved – we would all confess our wandering and rejoice when one comes home. Our purpose would be found in introducing others to the Savior who died for our weakness, brokenness and imperfection and welcome them home even joining the Lord in beating the bushes to share His Love with them, too. His Grace might be enough for even me.

People become more valuable in the realization of His Grace. The moment it is understood that nothing I do can ever make me worthy of His Love and Perfection. Yet He looks for me and treasures me like the woman who lost a coin. (Luke 15:8-10) Though she had nine days of wages, that one lost was of the utmost importance. She lit a lamp and swept her floor. She would not be deterred until she found it. What do you value in life? God turned the world upside down to insure you would be found.

Psalm 139:7-12 (NLT) I can never escape from your Spirit! I can never get away from your presence! If I go up to heaven, you are there; if I go down to the grave, you are there. If I ride the wings of the morning, if I dwell by the farthest oceans, even there your hand will guide me, and your strength will support me. I could ask the darkness to hide me and the light around me to become night—but even in darkness I cannot hide from you. To you the night shines as bright as day. Darkness and light are the same to you.

If you have never read Psalm 139, I encourage you to do it today. This Psalm was life changing for me and continues to be as I pursue the Lord with all my heart. It breaks the chains of religion because it is all about God’s Relationship with us. It puts our life in perspective from beginning to end allowing us to see our life from His Perspective. His Word crushes the idea that God is surprise by any sin or rebellion in our life. It reminds us that His Love for us is predestined. It started when He formed us in our mother’s womb and carried us through every place our feet have wandered. My life even the secret life I live when no one is around is an open book to the Lord…

Psalm 139:16-18 (NLT) You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed. How precious are your thoughts about me, O God. They cannot be numbered! I can’t even count them; they outnumber the grains of sand! And when I wake up, you are still with me!

If this is the case, how can my sin, shortcomings or wanderings ever surprise an Omniscient God? He was there from the beginning and recorded every single day of my life in His Book. Every moment of my life laid out before a single day had passed. He knows. God is fully aware of our weaknesses and therefore has provided enough grace for His Power to take over our life. No matter how far you have fallen, the Lord is there to pick us up. Even when we have wandered so far away that we cannot find our way back, His Spirit is there to lead us. I am beginning to believe that wandering is a necessity in this journey called life. To find our way back to Him and decide that His Grace is more than enough. Faith has but one purpose – to find confident hope. Hope has a name. It’s Jesus. Those who know Him will know His Voice, He is calling to us today. No matter how good I may think I am doing, I still need new mercy today. No matter how wretched I have become – His Grace is still sufficient for me. Why? Because He knows me…

Psalm 33:10-11 (NLT) The Lord frustrates the plans of the nations and thwarts all their schemes. But the Lord’s plans stand firm forever; his intentions can never be shaken.

Psalm 37:23-24 (NLT) The Lord directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives. Though they stumble, they will never fall, for the Lord holds them by the hand.

Do you believe with all your heart today that the Word of God is true? If so, do you also believe that the Lord’s Plans stand firm forever and He directs the steps of the godly? Your life is going exactly as planned and God is directing every step. It doesn’t say anything about what is going on around us or in us. It just says that God’s Plan stands firm and His Intention can never be shaken. But I am wandering, fallen, broken, on the verge of quitting…what does that have to do with God’s Plan? Will it change? No, God does not lie or change His Mind. If only those who call themselves Christians could live transparent lives, so that others could see there is struggles and pressure in everyone’s life. The only thing that matters is whether or not Jesus is in our life. Why? Our life is preset, prerecorded, and predestined. God knows exactly what has to take place to find our way home.

Romans 8:28-30 (NLT) And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And having chosen them, he called them to come to him. And having called them, he gave them right standing with himself. And having given them right standing, he gave them his glory.

The day after our son was diagnosed with cancer, I was asked the question – “How can you love a God who would give your son cancer?” This person is not a believer. God didn’t give my child a dreadful disease. Sin is the source of every disease in life. It is in our bloodline. Not mine, but everyone’s. My response, “I cannot make you understand or believe that God will heal him, you are just going to have to see it for yourself.” At that moment, I didn’t know how the Lord would do it but in my heart I had peace that He would. God’s Word etched in my heart. His Word spoken to me in my desperation. It had to be enough. It was a long and horrible fight. I am not glad that our kid ever had to endure such a thing. However, the faith produced in brokenness has changed my life forever. Entering the realm of hope, experiencing the peace of totally trusting the Lord, and finally understanding that His Power works best in my weakness has not allowed me to go back to the way things were before. I am different. There is a new normal. What is your story today? Are you in the middle of the book? Worried about how it will end?

We “know” that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His Purpose. If God called you and you have responded, He is working every detail of your life for His Good and Glory. Every single moment is recorded in His Book. Our sin is now as far as the east is from the west covered in the Blood of His Son, Jesus. If we are in Christ, though we wander we are not lost. His Unfailing Love and Goodness is in hot pursuit of us. Faith has but one purpose – to achieve confident hope. If we have something we do not need to wait for it. Our life is in transition from death to life. In this transition, Children of God must learn to walk by faith and not by sight. To live by what we believe and not what is seen. (2 Corinthians 5:7)

Ephesians 3:17-20 (NLT) Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong.  And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. 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.

God uses our wanderings to allow us to experience the vastness of His Love and Grace. This is how I can experience just how wide, how long, how high and how deep His Love is for me. If I make it to the end of my life with faith in His Love, I will be saved. Are you wandering today? Maybe life just didn’t turn out the way that you expected? Friend, it is exactly how God expected. His Grace is more than enough to produce His Glory in your life – right here, right now. It doesn’t matter what brought you to this place. His Love is ready to overtake you. Allow His Grace to reach you today! Give yourself a break! You may have tripped, stumbled or even fallen but in no way did you reach the boundary of God’s Love and Grace. It is always enough!

For those who are locked in an embrace with Jesus Christ, maybe this is the Spirit of God sending you out to find one who is wandering and bring them back to the fold. You know the one. The one who is broken and lost who needs Light to find their way back. The one who was hurt, offended or abused that needs a loving arm to carry them home. We are one. The Body of Christ is a unit. We need each other. Our purpose is to build a Kingdom together. We are all wanderers but none of us lost. If only we could find the time in our busyness to see that it is the Love of Jesus Christ that is fullness and completion in my life. Nothing else really matters. No moment is wasted. All who wander are not lost – maybe they are just waiting on you.

John 10:9-11 (NLT) Yes, I am the gate. Those who come in through me will be saved. They will come and go freely and will find good pastures. The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd sacrifices his life for the sheep.

Invisible Ink

invisible-ink

Psalm 139:16-18 (NLT) You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed. How precious are your thoughts about me, O God. They cannot be numbered! I can’t even count them; they outnumber the grains of sand! And when I wake up, you are still with me!

Many Christmas’s ago, my grandparents gave me a science kit. It had various little experiments that were quite intriguing including invisible ink. After writing a message, it would disappear leaving a clean white page. There was a super-secret special chemical that would bring the image back when applied. I found it quite fascinating. On Valentine’s Day, I also liked the scratch off cards  with sentiments hidden under metallic-like seals. My kids have always enjoyed scavenger hunts. A series of messages leading the chase to a gift tucked away somewhere. The thrill and anticipation of the chase before realizing the blessing seems to be enjoyable to them. They are definitely my children.

After fifty New Year’s celebrated, this morning I have invisible ink and hidden messages on my mind. I have made more resolutions than I can count. Some have become useful habits and others long since forgotten. I have had many revelations since coming to Christ which culminate on the famous eve as prayers and commitments for the coming year. So this year, I am all out of ideas. I want Jesus. I want His Way, His Truth and New Life. I have seen many social media posts that indicate “today is the first blank page of a 365 page book” going on to encourage people “write a good one”. Well, I have tried this approach for many years now and find that this may not be the approach I will continue to take.

“Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed. How precious are your thoughts about me, O God.” On this first day of the New Year, as I consider resolutions and revelations that might promote new habits for a better life, I cannot help wonder if I have gone about it all these years. I posted many years ago, that my resolution was “instead of deciding what I want to change or telling God what I am going to do…this year all I have to say is ‘God change me into who you want me to be the way you want to do it!’” I may have been on to something back then, but it is not necessarily the way things turned out. It was the first Christmas after our son’s diagnosis. We thought he was in remission, but little did anyone know that it was only for a moment. Would I have prayed that prayer knowing what was to come?

Our life is a mystery. It is already prerecorded by God. It was written before our conception at the time of our creation. The same time when God the Father prescribed everything I would need to live a complete life. How many times as believers do we forget this important detail? Thinking there is something…anything in us that has the power to perfect our life and make positive change outside of total surrender and submission to Jesus Christ. If it were possible, it would have happened long before desperation and devastation came to call. The inner power and strength of self would have been able to change our situation, endure our condition, or overcome our circumstance… but it didn’t. His Grace is enough for me and His Power works best in my weakness. Jeremiah 29 reminds me of this perfect plan elaborated upon in Psalm 139. It also tells me that the only way to find it is to seek Him wholeheartedly. This is how new life is revealed. I can do nothing. But through Christ all things are possible.

Psalm 138:8 (NLT) The Lord will work out his plans for my life—for your faithful love, O Lord, endures forever. Don’t abandon me, for you made me.

The Lord will work out His Plans for my life. This is my revelation for 2017. I have tried everything that I know to do to make God’s Plan manifest in my life. I have “done” the things I thought were required. This year, I am doing the one thing that I know is required. I must seek Him wholeheartedly. I cannot look for something if I think I found it. I cannot search for what is already revealed. Deep is crying out to deep today because my life is not complete. I am not completely satisfied in my proximity to Christ or content with the fruitful productivity in my life. Yes, there are some habits I intend to change and new attitudes I am working on but that is for this life. It is not for the future and hope that I have in Him. This year I will not work for the church but become the church. I will not wait for the move of God to come but let God move me so I become the current that brings revival. I cannot offer the world something I have not found or attained. I need Jesus this year.

Romans 8:28-30 (NLT) And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And having chosen them, he called them to come to him. And having called them, he gave them right standing with himself. And having given them right standing, he gave them his glory.

Reading this today, I am reminded that His Glory has not completely filled my life…yet. God knew (me) in advance. I am called according to His Purpose for me. God knew me in advance as evidenced and recorded in Psalm 139. He gave me a future and hope as delineated in Jeremiah 29. Having chosen me, God called me to come to Him. Having called me, I have the right to stand with Him. Having given me right standing, the Lord gave me His Glory. If I do not see God’s Glory manifested in every detail of my life, it is because I have not fully assumed my position standing next to God in righteousness. The only way to come to the Father is through the Son. If my life does not line up to God’s Written and Spoken Word in my life, I just need to move a little closer than before. Skip all the fancy fasts and habit changes. Fasting is good. It is an act of not service. To fast without prayer and true repentance is a diet. To do more is not the design or plan of God but rather to give more of my life to Jesus.

God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His Purpose for them. Did you know that? It says, “And we know…” Knowing is not the same as believing. I know a lot of useless information that I do not necessarily believe. You cannot know until the idea or thought is tested. This mystery called life is not a mystery to the Lord. If I put all of my life in His Hands, it becomes all that He planned and purposed it to be. Every single moment of my life becomes seed to be sown. Every tear is caught. Every sorrow is recorded because My Redeemer lives today. It is only by investing all of the real estate of my natural life in Jesus Christ that I gain the Kingdom.

I Corinthians 13:12 (NLT) Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.

My new commitment for the coming year is for clarity. To continue to pursue God wholeheartedly and give more of me than ever before to Jesus Christ. It is important to realize that even if we think our life is almost sinless and perfectly aligns to the doctrine our church completely dedicated to serving Christ that it is still “partial and incomplete”. I will not know for sure that I worked out my salvation successfully until I stand before Jesus on the Day of Judgment. It is then that completion is realized. Tears redeemed. Sorrow satiated. I am humbled by the thought today that no matter how far I have come…I have so far to go. His Plan is for my whole life not just bits and pieces.

Revelation 3:5-8 (NLT) All who are victorious will be clothed in white. I will never erase their names from the Book of Life, but I will announce before my Father and his angels that they are mine. Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches. Write this letter to the angel of the church in Philadelphia. This is the message from the one who is holy and true, the one who has the key of David. What he opens, no one can close; and what he closes, no one can open: I know all the things you do, and I have opened a door for you that no one can close. You have little strength, yet you obeyed my word and did not deny me.

Welcome to a brand year! It is a mystery to you and me what God has in store for us, but He knows exactly what is coming. He has provided everything that I need to get over the mountains and through the valleys. He has lit every dark place and gone before for me to prepare the way. Doors are opened and shut soundly around me. I must simply trust and obey. There is nothing more “I” can do. I must seek the Lord wholeheartedly. He is working every detail for my good. Examine my heart today, Jesus. Reveal any part of me that is not in complete alignment with Your Will, Your Way or Your Word. Wash me in Your Blood and rinse me in Your Word so that the magnificent masterpiece called Your Purpose is revealed in me more than ever before in 2017. Show me my wanderings and lead me back to Your Way. Show me my rebellion so that I may submit to Your Will. Lord, thank you for Your Word today that sheds light on my life. Let the invisible mysteries be visible to me according to Your Plan for my life. It is a good one. Be with me this year Lord, as I seek You wholeheartedly.

Jeremiah 29:12-14 (NLT) “In those days when you pray, I will listen. If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me. I will be found by you,” says the Lord. “I will end your captivity and restore your fortunes. I will gather you out of the nations where I sent you and will bring you home again to your own land.”

 

The Perfect Holiday

the-perfect-holiday

John 15:1-4 (NLT) “I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more. You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me.”

Is Thanksgiving really next week? How in the world did it sneak up on me this year? Not really sure with all family, church, work and life how it happened but it did. Normally, I would panic that certain preparations have not been made. By now, the list and menu should be fully outlined and detailed on a Pinterest board. Have I mellowed with age? What’s wrong with me? I cannot understand why I am not all worked up right now. Life happens. It changes us. Molds us and shapes us into creatures of habit. For a long time, I had a houseful of kids and a list of personal expectations that kept me on the run. But now, in this new stage of life, my nest is emptying and I cannot find my list or my glasses and sometimes my keys.

Remain in me and I will remain in you. Have you made room for more of Him lately? Before you answer that, I know what it means to be busy, stressed and overwrought not just during the holiday season but all the time. I used to live that way. Constantly moving, never stopping and working harder than I was supposed to by calling or design. The whole idea of resting in the Lord was lost somewhere in my Martha mindset. Mary called from within as the Lord whispered, “Come talk to me.” But rather than responding to His Invitation and opening my heart to His Gentle knocking, I said, “Hang on.” We all do it.  Expectation is a powerful driver. When I was a kid, my parents divorced and there were two of everything for a long time. Two Thanksgiving meals to eat. Two Christmas’s. Two lifestyles. Two families. When my family finally settled, blended to become one, my husband and I decided that holidays would be spent at home. There would be no rushing about…though our traditions changed – my heart did not. I wanted to make the “perfect” holidays for the kids. The kind of memories that I wanted to have. Though my intentions were good, His Plan is always better.

God made a plan for our life. (Jeremiah 29:11) It comes with a future and hope. Sin blocked us from having all the benefits and blessing of God’s Plan which is His Glory for our life. You were created as a marvelous masterpiece by God. (Psalm 139; Ephesians 2) However, the original was tainted and flawed in need of a good cleaning. Jesus came to forgive our sins and died on the Cross so that we could reclaim our predestined life. Don’t get caught up in these details but continue to the place where we are changed. Knowing all of these things does nothing until we apply knowledge and it becomes wisdom. Peter shared the secret of a success in obtaining a new life – “each of you must repent of your sins and turn to God, and be baptized in the Name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins. Then you will receive the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:38) This is the beginning and ending point of spiritual success. The renewal process of God the best restorer because He is the Creator is all in Jesus Christ. I can do nothing to add to His Plan or take away from it. No matter how close I choose to live to the Lord or how far I wander – God’s Heart and Hand for me is never moved. He does not change. He is constant. I am the one who must change. I must move. I must be renewed.

Let’s take a moment or two to talk about true repentance. Repentance is not just saying that you are sorry. If my husband and I disagree or maybe I hurt his feelings, I will say that I am sorry. However, if I continue to do the same thing over and over again with no real intent to change, what is my apology worth? Nothing at all. Repentance is an admittance of wrong and acceptance of change. It is to “turn” to God. Which is a new direction? An unwillingness to turn from sin is only an apology. In order to repent, one must be apologetic and change directions, attitudes, actions and intentions.

Ephesians 4:21-24 (NLT) Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from him, throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy.

“Since.” For our purposes today, let’s decide that since represents the moment that I gave my heart and life to Jesus Christ. When I heard the Gospel and responded with my life. I now know the Truth. Truth changes everything. Once you know the truth it is like light that chases away darkness. The lie now is overshadowed by the truth. Choosing to ignore the truth is called denial and leads to disobedience when the truth is disregarded. Jesus Christ is Truth. He is also the Way and Life – no one can get to God except through Him. (John 14:6) This is the truth that now guides my life and hopefully yours. Jesus is the Son of God. I need Him. He is the Way. I must turn from my way and follow His Way.

Now what…”throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life.” Ew. That means the “c” word. It means change. Change is uncomfortable. We want it but do like how it feels or what it requires. To have something new means letting go of what formerly occupied the space. Let’s be real for a moment. My desire to make “perfect” holiday experiences for my children stemmed from dissatisfaction of my own childhood. Feeling pulled in two directions. Always being tugged between two families whether it was intended or not. Anything we do stemming from dissatisfaction is not of God but man. My sinful nature desires its way. Every day. All day. My former life has baggage that occupies the space of new things that the Lord has designed and prepared for me. I must actively seek the new life that I am promised making room for it.

How? God has given us His Spirit to help us. He will renew our thoughts and attitudes. God is not mad at us for our feelings of dissatisfaction, discontentment, devastation or desperation. These are the things that drove us to Him in the first place. However, as a new creation, these dry, dead and rotting things are replaced with fresh fruit prepared by His Spirit. The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. As His Fruit nourishes all my new life – I will begin to prosper as He prunes away the dead fruits and rotting flesh of sin-infested life.

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.

The hope given to us in Jesus Christ will not lead to disappointment. Do you believe that today? Do you trust the Lord to make good of the details of your life as promised in Romans 8:28? We confuse God’s Renewal Process sometimes with the world’s way of doing things. Some simply throw out the “garbage” and get something new. Others choose to recycle taking what was old and making it useful some other way. God made us perfectly. Our Creation is flawless. Sin was the problem. Once we turn from sin, the product of our life remains. Our purpose was not changed or influenced by sin simply hidden under it. Through the lifelong process of “working out” our salvation – it is how I come to terms with every single misplaced expectation in my life.

We have purpose. God defined and delineated our purpose as He recorded moment by moment of our existence. (Psalm 139) If salvation to me is a moment when I say sorry to God, but do not turn from some things or turnover some things to Christ there is no exchange. Cutting away the sin that separated me from the Lord, I know must cling to Him. Becoming grafted to Him, I strive to remain close to Jesus. Allowing Him to change me from the inside out. Faith is about the unseen never the seen so my life may look the same. The change in me precipitates the change around me. The conditions of my life may not significantly change but the change in me will create a different outcome. As we cling to Jesus, His Spirit works in us to change our character.

Character change releases our new life and the person who God created us to be from the beginning. Right standing with God realigns us with His Will and Way through His Word so we can have every benefit and blessing ever promised for us. Repentance is a change of position that will impact our character. Our character is molded and shaped by His Spirit when problems come that knock off sharp edges and make us soft and pliable in the Hand of God for His Plan and Purpose. Trials cause discomfort that produces a desire for change. Endurance strengthens our character allowing us to endure the process of change and accept His Work within us. Continued endurance gives way to confident hope that will release our expectation from this life and place them in forever.

Colossians 3:10-11 (NLT) Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him. In this new life, it doesn’t matter if you are a Jew or a Gentile, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbaric, uncivilized, slave, or free. Christ is all that matters, and he lives in all of us.

I have a new nature. I must put it on day by day. It really is simpler than I realized. For a long time, I felt like I had so much to do. Countless changes to make. See what it says…put on your new nature. Then what? Renewal is knowing God and becoming like Him. All that matters to God is that Christ lives in me. Every expectation outside of Jesus Christ is in vain. Every good thing in my life comes from God – I did nothing to produce it. Every blessing I have is from the Hand of God. Every good thing being produced in my heart and mind is fruit of His Spirit. Every single day of my life is planned to perfection by the One who goes before me to make a way. All I have to do is remain in Christ. He renews me. He softens my heart to accept His Word. He changes my mind to live by Truth. He satisfies my soul. It is from there, my life will prosper as my soul does.

2 Corinthians 4:16-17 (NLT) That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever!

Thanksgiving is next week. That’s just crazy. The only thing on my menu as of right now is pumpkin cheesecake. Tried some and liked it so I am going to make it. However, honestly it is just another day. I am given the opportunity to be thankful every day. When I choose thankfulness every day, it produces contentment that solidifies character in my life allowing God to renew me. I am thankful for my life, growing family, and the new things He is doing all around me. I am thankful for the present troubles that are small yet seem so significant because God is working out His Plan for me. I want God’s Glory in my life. It always outweighs the problems. It will last forever.

Yesterday, I heard the news that a young man who I prayed for had received a good report from the doctor. He is still in remission. I literally broke down in tears of thankfulness and awe at the Goodness of God. Our son endured three years and multiple relapses including countless rounds of chemotherapy – in the end to God be the glory – He is in remission, too. Sin is the cancer in our life that too often is held tightly in fear of dissatisfaction, discontentment, desperation, and more. God wants to take that which is killing us and fill our life with His Goodness and Glory today. I think it is in that moment of realization that the renewal of God is not religious or radical but complete reconciliation of our past and present to prepare for a perfect future that we find out it is refreshing and worth having all the small inconveniences that build character along the way. I am thankful today. I am content. Thanksgiving is next week, but the celebration has already begun.

Do not give up? Do you feel like it is just not worth it anymore? I promise it is when we allow God to be God and do His Thing. You cannot create a perfect life but He can and will perfect those who are willing to turn it all over to Him. It is refreshing. It is renewing. It is revival of our heart and soul the joy of the Lord and His Peace flood our life. His Spirit is a happy homemaker who will do it all if given the go ahead. The Lord promises in Psalm 138:8 to perfect all that concerns us. Will you allow Him to do so today? Don’t panic. Don’t freak out. Don’t get all worked up and stressed out. Just trust the Lord to do what He promises. He will work it all out. The Lord is producing glory for us that far surpasses and completely outweighs any burden that is released. Why not give it a try? I am going to get a menu together. Grab some food. Put together a good meal. No need to worry or rush. I no longer expect a perfect life. I cannot do it I tried. Stop worrying about everything next Thursday may or may not be and begin to count your blessing right now. His Goodness is right behind you accompanied by His Unfailing Love. New mercy is waiting on your doorstep why not open the door to your prayer closet and let it in. God is good all the time. His Love is forever. You have all you need to live a glorious life so live it. Make new memories. Do new things. Stop worrying and start celebrating. You are a new creation. He makes all things new including you!

Psalm 138:8 (NKJV) The Lord will perfect that which concerns me; Your mercy, O Lord endures forever; do not forsake the works of Your hands.

Brevity of Life

brevity-of-life

Psalm 90:12 (NLT) Teach us to realize the brevity of life, so that we may grow in wisdom.

Looking up at the morning stars contemplating the day, the word “brevity” comes to mind. The brevity of life to be more specific. I have never been one to worry too much about my age or the passing years. Today, on the eve of my mother’s open heart surgery, I am taken back to the day my grandfather underwent triple bypass surgery many years ago. Suddenly, I am caught up in the passage of time. Both of my precious grandparents are now in Heaven, and thankfully so. Sparing them the heartache of their great-grandson’s plight with cancer which would have devastated them completely. This world has changed so much and would have caused them great distress when considering their children and grandchildren and even great grandchildren left behind. Many joys have happened, too. Weddings and additions to the family giving their heart much joy. Their great-great grandson becoming a famous athlete. Life happens so quickly. However, it takes times like this to make one stop, even if only for a moment, to come together and recognize the brevity of life. Life is short.

Life is a series of breathes ordered by God to the fulfillment of purpose and then we leave this world sometimes way too soon. During the three years our son battled cancer, our life stood still other than pursing treatment or did it? Not really, our kids kept growing. Our oldest daughter graduated and fell in love. The two younger girls grew and there were moments that I missed caring for their sibling that pains me can never be regained. When it was all over, I realized that my priorities in life had changed. Time became very important. When facing the possibility that it may not be as limitless as once considered, we are forced to see our life in terms of time. The reality is that our next breath is not certain. Life cannot last beyond today without carefully considering that first moment our natural breath leaves us. Will we have the Breath of Life – God’s Spirit – to carry us on to eternity?

Psalm 33:6-11 (NLT) The Lord merely spoke, and the heavens were created.
He breathed the word, and all the stars were born. He assigned the sea its boundaries and locked the oceans in vast reservoirs. Let the whole world fear the Lord, and let everyone stand in awe of him. For when he spoke, the world began! It appeared at his command. The Lord frustrates the plans of the nations and thwarts all their schemes. But the Lord’s plans stand firm forever; his intentions can never be shaken.

I have been mustering faith in God for a long time. When I gave my heart and life to Jesus Christ completely, faith intrigued me. The kind of faith that provoked Peter to step out of the boat and walk on water. Who would even consider such a thing in a storm no less? I was completely enthralled by the centurion soldier who believed the Lord at His Word alone. I wanted to be like that, too. Be careful what you pray for!

Faith is a process. It means coming to the end of ourselves in order to trust Jesus. It means our natural circumstance or condition must completely use up all our confidence in anything else so the only one left is the Lord. You think that sounds easy. I will admit it is a rush. It brings you to the edge of your life and everything believed in your heart and asks the question, “Do you trust me” enough to take one more step, to live one more day in this situation, to stand when you just want to quit? It is a thrill ride alright.

Imagine standing on the edge of a massive cliff looking down into darkness, not sure where it leads or its depth, and the Lord whispers, “Do you trust me?” Depending on your desperation in life will determine one’s response. Now consider the same imagine, but you are holding your child in your arms. Whoa! Just whoa! Whatever is most precious to us will be challenged at one time or another. It could be our spouse, child, family, church, job, comforts or any other thing in this life that may somehow mean just a little more to me than God. We hang on to those things tightly. God says, “Life is too short to hang on to this life. We must work for forever.” How do we attain eternal life? Through Jesus Christ, the Way, Truth and Life. What do we need to do? Put our faith and trust in Him. When? Today. Right now. In this moment. Lord, teach us the brevity of life SO THAT we may grow in wisdom.

Jeremiah 29:11-13 (NLT) For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. In those days when you pray, I will listen. If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me.

God created you with a plan and purpose. He gave you a future and hope. He says that when you pray – He will listen. In seeking Him wholeheartedly, you will find Him. In Psalm 33, the Lord’s Plans stand firm forever. His Intentions can never be shaken. In Psalm 139, the psalmist writes “You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed. How precious are your thoughts about me, O God. They cannot be numbered.” In Psalm 144, it is asked, “What are human beings that you should notice them, mere mortals that you should think about them? For they are like a breath of air; their days are like a passing shadow?” We must understand the brevity of life to achieve our purpose and live in the fulfillment of God.

Psalm 39:4-7 (NLT) “Lord, remind me how brief my time on earth will be. Remind me that my days are numbered—how fleeting my life is. You have made my life no longer than the width of my hand. My entire lifetime is just a moment to you; at best, each of us is but a breath.” Interlude We are merely moving shadows, and all our busy rushing ends in nothing. We heap up wealth, not knowing who will spend it. And so, Lord, where do I put my hope? My only hope is in you.”

“My only hope is in you.” There are many things that can drive us to this point in life, but what I have found to be true is that it was factual my whole life. We think faith is something we grow and hope newly discovered. It is not a new thing but revelation of the one thing. This breath that keeps us alive started with Adam. It continues as humanity reproduces. It God withdrew His Breath everything that breathes would die. (Job 34:14-15) The Spirit of God made me and the Breath of God keeps me alive. (Job 33:4) My mom noticed that during certain activities she became a little short of breath. As it became a bit more uncomfortable, she sought medical attention. The cardiologist discovered that there was a problem with her heart. During a heart catheterization, they realized there was a huge problem with her heart. Her aorta was completely blocked and the aortic value not functioning. She should not be here. BUT God made it clear that was not His Plan and a tiny vessel made its way around her blockage keeping her alive and her heart undamaged. What does this have to do with anything? Well, if we would take notice of our “shortness of breath” in life, it may give us the opportunity to detect any heart problems that keep us from eternal life. When faced with the end of our life, we look for the beginning of eternal life.

John 20:21-22 (NLT) Again he said, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.” Then he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.

When Jesus died on the Cross, He released the Holy Spirit to come live in us. Denominationally this has caused much division in the modern church. So before you get your hackles up, just hear me out. Listen to what the Word says about the moment Christ died and released His Spirit. ”Then Jesus shouted out again, and he released his spirit.  At that moment the curtain in the sanctuary of the Temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook, rocks split apart, and tombs opened. The bodies of many godly men and women who had died were raised from the dead. They left the cemetery after Jesus’ resurrection, went into the holy city of Jerusalem, and appeared to many people.” (Matthew 27:50-53) Now where did the Holy Spirit go after causing an earthquake, tearing the barrier between us and God apart, and resurrecting the dead? Umm… He breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”

Life is brief. Tomorrow is not promised. As believers, the Lord has filled us with resurrection power. He has given us the Good News which is the Gospel that He commanded us to share in the Great Commission. Too often, we become consumed with life. The problems and temporary troubles of a limited existence take precious time that could be used advancing the Kingdom and setting the captive free. Harboring unforgiveness or being offended builds walls rather than using the time we have left to come together united as one body becoming a worthy bride. So maybe just maybe God allows moments like this to make us aware of the brevity of life. To shake off all the unimportant burdens collected over time to yoke our life to Jesus Christ once again. As we give Him all our cares and concerns – the Lord teaches us to rest and rely on His Love. Rather than stepping on or over all the dry bones, just trying to make it or get by. If we realized that there is nothing to lose and everything to gain, we might decide to speak to them bringing new life. (Ezekiel 37)

This is not a word of despair or discouragement but rather a declaration of hope for our life today. You woke up this morning to new mercy which means God still has purpose and prosperity for your life. Death is not the end for the soul set free. My mom is going into her surgery tomorrow with complete peace. She will openly admit that no matter the outcome – her total trust is in the Lord. While I am sure that we will all be a little (or a lot) nervous tomorrow, I am so thankful for a family who understands the brevity of life no matter what it took to get us here. Lord, thank you for the realization of Your Love and confident hope we have in You!

Psalm 104:30-33 (NLT) When you give them your breath, life is created, and you renew the face of the earth. May the glory of the Lord continue forever! The Lord takes pleasure in all he has made! The earth trembles at his glance; the mountains smoke at his touch. I will sing to the Lord as long as I live. I will praise my God to my last breath!

Little By Little

Little By Little

Psalm 8:3-6 (NLT) When I look at the night sky and see the work of your fingers—the moon and the stars you set in place—what are mere mortals that you should think about them, human beings that you should care for them? Yet you made them only a little lower than God and crowned them with glory and honor. You gave them charge of everything you made, putting all things under their authority—

Just over a year ago, our family adopted a new member. A teacup chihuahua whose name is Izzy. She is four pounds of ferocity. Bold and vivacious bounding through life in a tiny body with mighty heart. Not the cowering timid creature who came to our house looking for love and security. Upon arrival, it was clear our newest addition had issues. She would attack her food bowl not eating but inhaling the contents as if it were her last meal. She would draw back if approached too quickly. Izzy did not trust us. She clearly had not had consistent care. The vet was ecstatic to learn that she had found a new home. It was clear that we had some work to do with her.

Izzy had an accident just before coming to live with us. One of her paws is scarred. The previous owner indicated that it was a burn of some kind. The vet could not tell me the specifics but indicated that she had been attacked. To put her appendages into perspective, her paw is no bigger than the pad of your finger. In an attempt to give her a doggy pedicure aka trim her nails, Izzy bit me. Not hard, she held my hand in her mouth fighting to get all her paws safely under her body. This was the first indication of any aggression in her. We had an immediate come-to-Jesus about the error of her ways. I put away the clippers and for about a week just took every advantage to touch her paws no matter how bad she fought me. To do nothing more than to touch them, hold them and gently rub them. We would continue this for weeks on end until finally I was able to trim her nails even though she was quite reluctant. As I sit her today, Izzy is sleeping in my lap as she does many mornings during this time. As I read and study, I realize that I am touching her outstretched paws without any hesitation from the comatose dog in my lap. Izzy trusts me. It took time. It could not be forced. With simple steps, I was able to lead her to faith in her new owner.

Why this talk about a dog? Human beings do not compare to mere animals. People are created in the Image of God and made just a little lower than Him. It says so in His Word. The thoughts of the Lord are consumed by His People. He desires our love, faith, trust and devotion. However, sin has tainted love and many are lost in the darkness of this world looking for it. It is human nature to trust no one and take care of ourselves. We learn this behavior through unmet expectation and failed relationships along the way. God has crowned us with glory and honor that most people have not yet assumed simply because of doubt, disbelief and distrust. He longs to give us charge over everything but we must know who we are and who He is before authority and dominion can operate in us and through us. How do we get there from here? Moment by moment. Step by step. Little by little.

Matthew 13:31-33 (NLT) Here is another illustration Jesus used: “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a mustard seed planted in a field. It is the smallest of all seeds, but it becomes the largest of garden plants; it grows into a tree, and birds come and make nests in its branches.” Jesus also used this illustration: “The Kingdom of Heaven is like the yeast a woman used in making bread. Even though she put only a little yeast in three measures of flour, it permeated every part of the dough.”

Small seeds grow into big trees. A little yeast will permeate every part of the dough. God is looking for big things but relishes small beginnings. Too many times, impatience aborts God’s Growth process in us because we cannot see the forest for the trees. There is a bigger picture and much larger plan underway in your life than the simple daily tasks performed. Each day holds a hidden treasure that is accomplished by faith. The kind of faith that causes a farmer to plant a seed and wait for it to grow. We must constantly be cultivating faith by allow God’s Seed or His Word to be pressed into the fertile soil of a heart turned over to the Lord. As long as the earth remains there will be seedtime and harvest. No matter how bad things seem to get, God is always in control. As long as you are willing to plant, you will harvest because that is what His Word tells us. However, you cannot reap what you have not sown.

Faith is our investment. When we take the things of this world turning our life over to God as residents of His Kingdom, supernatural change takes over that is not always evident in the natural right away. But it makes sense because when a farmer plants a seed, he cannot see what is going on underground as the seed begins to grow. Faith is nothing more than a farmer picking up a handful of seed, believing it will grow so he plants it on his property. No, he doesn’t walk away but tends the tiny plants that surface and cares for them as they grow. When those seeds die, grow and reach full maturity, they will produce the desired fruit. Faith works the very same way. We plant God’s Word in our heart by faith. We wait for it to grow in us until it manifests in fruit coming out of our life.

Proverbs 16:8-9 (NLT) Better to have little, with godliness, than to be rich and dishonest. We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps.

People plan but the Lord determines our steps. We want to take a leap of faith but the Word of God tells us to walk by faith. (2 Corinthians 5:7) What’s the difference? Well, if we always leap valuable steps may be missed that are the very details that God promised to work out for our good and His Glory. (Romans 8:28) We like dramatic and climatic finishes but the Lord warns against despising small beginnings (Zechariah 4:10) Our life of faith is to be lived step by step. Moment by moment. Little by little. The Lord operates in full satisfaction and completion while our very human flesh cries out for immediate gratification, comfort and compromise.

Peter’s first step of faith is found in Matthew 14 when he stepped out of the boat to meet Jesus on the sea. It lasted a few steps and down he went. Throughout the account of his life, Peter had many mishaps on his way to fulfillment. One might even call them failures. He just kept walking it out. When Peter decided to return to his old life, he was tired and weary. Jesus was gone or so he thought. In his final moments, Peter failed the Lord and Jesus knew it. His love for the Lord hidden inside a broken man. When Jesus arrived on the beach, Peter no longer needed an invitation to come to the Lord – no the man jumped in the water swimming all the way to shore. (John 21) This is cultivated faith in action. Every step of his walk conditioned Peter to fulfill his calling of the rock on which the church would be built.

Luke 16:10-12 (NLT) “If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones. But if you are dishonest in little things, you won’t be honest with greater responsibilities. And if you are untrustworthy about worldly wealth, who will trust you with the true riches of heaven? And if you are not faithful with other people’s things, why should you be trusted with things of your own?

Faith is a practical application of God’s Word to our life as a daily exercise. We must track our steps of faith just as one might use a Fitbit to count their natural footsteps each day. Consciousness of God comes with knowledge of God. Mark 4:24-26 tells us that the more we listen the more we will hear. In I Kings 18:43-45, Elijah sends his servant to look for the rain cloud more than seven times. Would the rain have come anyway? Yes. Obedience allowed the man of God’s servant to be part of a miracle. By what? Faith. Just before that in I Kings 17, Elijah asks the woman preparing her final meal for her and her son for bread to eat. He knew her intentions and that she was set in her way. But he asked her, “Don’t be afraid! Go ahead and do just what you’ve said, but make a little bread for me first.” The Lord knows us. He sees our heart. He meets us right where we are waiting for us to come to Him. What did God do? In her faithfulness, He provided an abundant supply of the very thing she lacked. Step by step. Moment by moment. Little by little. The giving of our life and faith to the Lord are met with His Abundance.

Revelation 3:8-12 (NLT) “I know all the things you do, and I have opened a door for you that no one can close. You have little strength, yet you obeyed my word and did not deny me. Look, I will force those who belong to Satan’s synagogue—those liars who say they are Jews but are not—to come and bow down at your feet. They will acknowledge that you are the ones I love. Because you have obeyed my command to persevere, I will protect you from the great time of testing that will come upon the whole world to test those who belong to this world. I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take away your crown. All who are victorious will become pillars in the Temple of my God, and they will never have to leave it. And I will write on them the name of my God, and they will be citizens in the city of my God—the new Jerusalem that comes down from heaven from my God. And I will also write on them my new name.

In the message to the church in Philadelphia, it says “you have little strength, but you obeyed my word and did not deny me.” In our weakness, He becomes our strength. This is faith. This is trust. This is God’s Deepest Longing and Greatest Desire for our life. In that moment when our strength fails, bodies grow weak, and human thoughts overwhelmed, this is the precise moment that Jesus becomes all that we want and need. One must be emptied to be filled with His Grace which is the one thing that allows faith to be active in our life. The power of perseverance is to be positioned in the Kingdom of God. A place of residency that allows us to reclaim Christ’s Power and Authority binding things on the earth and releasing Heaven in the form of God’s Will and Way. The Lord tells these people that He knows what they are doing and it has opened a door that no one can close. He will do the same for you. He will do the same for me. This is not a one-time acquisition or perseverance would not be indicated. This is a lifelong pursuit without beginning or end. It’s funny that these are the words spoken over the Church of Philadelphia known as brotherly love.

Philippians 4:11-13 (NLT) Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.

In the movie a few good men, Tom Cruise cross examines Jack Nicholson. Jack Nicholson says, “You want answers?” Then Tom Cruise says, “I think I am entitled to them!” Nicholson says again, “You want answers?” to which Cruise replies, “I want the truth!” Then comes the famous movie line, “You can’t handle the truth!” I believe this applies to the Goodness of God’s Grace in our life. If He poured out His Love on us in one quick toss, I am afraid that it would be so overwhelming that it might consume us entirely. If the Truth was revealed about our life and God’s Love, it would be very difficult to move from our current position. We would not want to go through those things that allow weakness so we can obtain His Strength. Avoiding the process and thereby aborting the process of growth, development and maturity that is the Work of God in us and how we cultivate His Word. So the Lord works in us little by little.

God is good. He is consumed with love and compassion for His Children. He cannot lie or change His Mind. All great qualities. His Love for us is made complete and unconditional in Jesus Christ who meets our need and becomes our strength in all things. Our faith invested in the Kingdom of God is complete surrender of our way, our will and our wants to His Will, His Way and His Plan. The Plan of God for me incorporates a series of steps from here to Eternity. I navigate them with faith because they are not always visible and clear. The important thing is that I remain committed and continue to obediently follow Jesus. Step by step. Moment by moment. Little by little until my life, my body, my mind, my spirit, and my soul are fully invested in His Kingdom alone.

Psalm 37:16-19 (NLT) It is better to be godly and have little than to be evil and rich. For the strength of the wicked will be shattered, but the Lord takes care of the godly. Day by day the Lord takes care of the innocent, and they will receive an inheritance that lasts forever. They will not be disgraced in hard times; even in famine they will have more than enough.

Down to the Wire

Down to the Wire

Philippians 3:12-14 (NIV) Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

 

Oh the pressure of pressing. Can I get an “Amen”? I am pressing. I am being pressed. I feel the pressure. I cannot say that I do not expect it anymore. Having been a participant in this race of faith for a while now, I know that the Lord uses every possible opportunity to shape me, mold me and change me that I will allow in my life. So when the perfect storm starts brewing, I feel the wind begin ever so gently across the back of my neck, I come to full attention. I thank the Lord daily for the Holy Spirit. With Him, I am never ever alone and that comes in handy when the enemy attempts to shift me like wheat. He begins tugging on my ear, trying to turn my eyes, move my heart with lies and deceptions, but the Holy Spirit reminds me that this is only a test. A trial that I am fully prepared for and able to overcome because Jesus lives in me. It doesn’t mean that I am not cautious. Sometimes I will worry and fret, but if I choose to not be moved. I will overcome in any and every situation arising in my life by the Power of God within me.

 

I guess it helps just a smidge that I am a very stubborn and headstrong person. Once I made up my mind to give my heart, mind, body and soul to Jesus Christ forever, it was a done deal. However, this in no way exempts me from the process of perfection begun in me by the Lord. In fact, there are some days that I believe that it intensifies the heat of the fire and stirs hunger in the belly of the lion so he roars all the more. Today might just be one of those days.

 

I am pressing to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. It is called purpose. It is by design. He has a plan for me too good to pass up. I have not arrived until the very last breath leaves my body. The fact that you are breathing today means that your purpose is not yet revealed and promises are still not all attained. There is more because you are here. One thing that I must do is this – forgetting what is behind, straining toward what is ahead, I have to press for the goal!

 

2 Corinthians 4:7-12 (NIV) But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.

 

I have been blessed with an amazing opportunity to work in the youth ministry of our church. I love those kids. Just another way that the enemy has been defeated in my life, as we used to be the youth leaders. A series of events long in the past had caused me to walk away. I loved all those kids and when our season ended abruptly, I mourned the loss of each one. I vowed “never” to work with young people again as then my heart would be safe. Ha! Our church is almost an hour from home so I was shanghaied by the Lord into serving again. Driving my daughters to the service, it just was not sensible or economical to drive all the way back home again so I stayed sitting in the back. Well played God! I love these kids. God broke the hard barrier around my heart so that I could live and breathe on purpose again. It was not an easy journey but definitely worth taking.

 

A couple weeks ago, the Lord laid some things on my heart to share with a very sweet, loving, wonderful, and power-packed kid. She is growing leaps and bounds in the Lord. Her family is in the midst of some trials. One of the things that I shared with her is that the higher we travel in God’s Way by faith the further the ground is so when we look down it is easy to be overwhelmed. As I spoke these words to her, I could feel the Holy Spirit pointing right at me. The Lord is pressing me for new things, new goals, new growth, and new responsibility. I am hesitant. He is using every opportunity to make this a reality in my life so together with my sweet, precious young friend – we are learning to trust the Lord more and more.

 

Why is our heart not covered in Teflon? Wouldn’t that make more sense? I guess if we were designed to be hardened warriors not called to love. God has given us this great love through His Son, Jesus to share with the world around us. The enemy wants us to forget all that and worry about ourselves for now…tomorrow…and forget forever. We are hard pressed. Jesus will not allow us to be crushed. We are perplexed. The Holy Spirit will not allow us to be in despair. We are persecuted. We are never alone. Though struck down time and time again by our own insufficiencies of faith, the Lord promises that we will not be destroyed but His Grace is enough. So what does it mean that we carry around the death of Jesus? Well, it is the Blood of Jesus that covers our sin allowing us to live in Jesus Christ. Not only should every decision that I make bear this truth in mind, but as I encounter problems, troubles and trials in life it is my confidence that God is not finished with me yet. It takes every detail of my life and He makes something good out of it. (Romans 8:28) I have a whole lot of things that would like to see that good today. Do you?

 

Matthew 11:28-30 (NIV) “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

 

I cannot count the number of times as a young person that I gave up when things got too tough. I guess if I were completely honest, I still cannot count the times that I succumbed and buckled under the pressure of life. When our son got sick, my whole world fell apart. My neatly constructed and completely manageable life under my complete and complacent control was shattered like fine china or delicate glass coming in contact with a concrete floor at a high rate of speed. Everything and I mean everything changed in my world the moment a doctor with tear-filled eyes and a pity-filled commentary indicated that our son had cancer. It was the most horrific moment of my life. I couldn’t hold my life together any more. Everything came apart right before my eyes. There are going to be times in our life when the straw comes that will indeed break the camel’s back. When you cannot take on one more thing, carry another burden or breathe one more breath without the Lord’s immediate assistance. It is part of the process. It is part His Plan to take every attack and assault of the enemy against our life and make something good and relevant out of it.

 

I had finally come to the first battle where retreat was not an option. The first race that I could not give up. I had to make it to the end. I had to have my faith when I got there to attain the promise. Our son had to live and he could not die just as the Lord had promised. If I had to drag his lifeless body to the top of Abraham’s mountain, the Lord was going to heal our son. Nothing less would do. Hear me today! Victory is not always pretty. A win is a win no matter how you look when you cross the line. When a football player lays his all on the field to win the Super Bowl, he says that he is going to Disney world, but the reality is that it will half to wait while he takes care of his tired and hurting body. It took a season of wins to get to the big game and everything he had left to win the trophy. Jesus said that those who “endure to the end will be saved.” You just have to make it there. God will heal your wounds. He will mend your broken heart. He will supply all your needs both inside and out. You must press on. You must dig in your anchor called hope and refuse to give up or give in until you have exactly what the Lord promised you. The enemy will offer substitutes. He will allow compromise. He will pad your comfort zone for you and knock you right back into it. The Lord loves you too much for all that and is pressing you to victory and pushing you to the Kingdom.

 

The last couple of months have been exciting as we begin the next chapter of our life. Lots of new beginnings that have definitely compromised the comfort zone and will not allow for complacency. I made the mistake of looking at all the details of our life naturally and agree with my young friend that the ground is way down there as the Lord carries me higher. A couple of weeks ago, I began to see the storm rising. Details of life coming together quickly to form a little rain cloud. Too many details for my finite thinking and frail humanity to see through so you know what I did? I had to dump them all on Jesus…again.

 

The Lord offers to remove our burden and give us rest. Pride and flesh excuses the offer and says, “That’s okay, I’ve got it!” Until that is, the one small detail manages to make us weary and overwhelmed. Jesus offers an exchange. Take my yoke and I will give you rest from the pressure and victory in the process. Why? Why does it have to come to this? Secret is in verse 29 – Jesus says, “Learn from me…” It’s definitely a learning curve. Knowledge is nothing until applied when it becomes wisdom.

 

2 Corinthians 12:8-10 (NIV) Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

 

His Grace is sufficient for me. It is more than enough to finish the race and claim the prize awaiting me. However, the process by which grace is applied and accepted is tough. “My power is made perfect in weakness.” We must come to the end of ourselves to accept more of God’s Grace and henceforth, His Power in our life. The stronger you are the longer it takes. The bigger they are the harder they fall. God takes it down to the wire because that is what it takes to get us to the end of our personal strength, knowledge and motivation. Those who are emptied can become filled. Only when we are completely out of options and optimism can the world see that our God reigns and His Glory can break free from those fragile jars called the human heart.

 

I have witness many photo finishes in my life. In fact, every time I choose faith over fear it seems to take it down to the wire. The phrase comes from horseracing. There used to be a wire that crossed the finish line and when it was too close to call the announcer would say that it was down to the wire. It is used now to imply a tense situation where the outcome is clear only in the last few seconds. Welcome to the life of faith in God. The pressures of this life squeeze the life out of our flesh so we must come to the Lord. When we are empty, His Grace becomes our sustenance. Now all things become possible to those who believe – it is His Grace made complete that gives us maximum power. Are you feeling pressured today? Thinking about giving up? Is your life down to the wire? Is it impossible? Good! You are on the verge of victory and the edge of breakthrough. If your flesh is telling you to stop, press in! Give it all you got! Give every worry, care, burden, fear and doubt to the Lord, find a promise and claim it today. Refuse to move from there. Just tell the enemy, if it is all the same you will wait right here because Jesus is coming. Do not budge an inch.

 

Psalm 118:5-7 (NIV) When hard pressed, I cried to the Lord; he brought me into a spacious place. The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me? The Lord is with me; he is my helper. I look in triumph on my enemies.

 

The pressure around me is building to a climatic level. The next couple of weeks will be intense. I feel the pressure closing in on me. I am definitely a bit hard pressed. This is how I know that the Lord is bringing me into a spacious place. It is called freedom. Freedom from all barriers in life means a life under construction. In Galatians 5:1, Paul reminds believers that Jesus Christ has set us free and not to let ourselves be yoked in slavery again. This requires daily seeking the Lord, digging in His Word to find our promises, allowing His Spirit to work those seeds of faith found in the Word into our mind, soul and spirit so they will grow into the wonderful purpose our life in Jesus give us. A seed must press to change form and grow. A butterfly must press out of the cocoon to strengthen its wings to fly. You and I, my friend, must press, too.

 

Some reminders from Paul to the Philippians in the church of Philippi – forget the past. God will bring to the present anything in our past worthy of our future. Do not lug worthless baggage but let the Lord do it for you. Strain toward what is ahead. Keep your faith firmly planted in faith. Hold tightly to the anchor of hope. Lean into the Presence of the Lord and wait as long as it takes for His Word to come to pass. Finally, keep your eyes on the prize. It will take a life of tests, trials, races and battles to settle our soul on the Savior. To hammer out all doubt and disbelief so our faith is secure.

 

“What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith.” I used to be all about the things that I “could do” for the Lord. It took a strong dose of reality to change my mind and right my thinking. What we do is not as important as who we are in Jesus Christ. We discover this through the trials and tests of life that break off and burn the insufficiencies and facades of faith in God and if we are lucky a tiny seed the size of a mustard seed will remain. Everything else I once thought was important became worthless garbage when my world fell apart. Those “things” didn’t matter anymore. Faith kept our son alive. It kept me alive. It was the only thing we had to hang on to in the end when the world turned its back on our kid – the price for salvation too high. Jesus didn’t think so. He died to set us free from our sin. After exhausting all natural efforts, the world can only call our son’s life miraculous because there is no other explanation. You can no longer convince me that the Lord is not our Healer. You cannot tell me that His Grace is not enough. This knowledge came in the midst of great pressure and even greater pain but it was worth every moment of it.

Feeling the pressure? Down to the wire? The race is almost over. Victory is finally here, but not if you give up, give in or walk away! Press in today. Faith is worth having and hope worth fighting for. When life presses you, push deeper into the Presence of God. You are about to win!

 

I Corinthians 15:57-58 (NIV)  But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.