Hobby, Habit or Holiness

hobby habit or holiness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No More Rivals

No More Rivals

Isaiah 61:1-3 (NLT) The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon me, for the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to comfort the brokenhearted and to proclaim that captives will be released and prisoners will be freed. He has sent me to tell those who mourn that the time of the Lord’s favor has come, and with it, the day of God’s anger against their enemies. To all who mourn in Israel, he will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair. In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks that the Lord has planted for his own glory.

My life has purpose. The potential of my being and existence is fully encompassed in the person of Jesus Christ. He is the Sovereign Lord. Why do I struggle to maintain His Preeminence in my life? There is no rival to the Lord. He has no equal. Yet in our everyday life – the struggle to trust and believe are real and valid battles in the heart and mind of every believer. Every step of faith is met with another challenging opportunity to take another. Following Jesus Christ in this life requires a depth perception of the Kingdom beyond that which our physical being and personal mindset can comprehend. We cry out for the Spirit of the Lord to fall upon us, restore and renew us and spark revival around us. What is stopping this from happening? Could it be the rivals in our life?

A rival is anything that competes for the same object or goal. It is the competition. A person or perception that disputes another’s superiority or preeminence. Who is like the Lord? Well, theoretically no one. There is nobody greater than Jesus Christ. His Power and Authority is unchallenged yet in our own life, one must decide if this is the case. A free will gives us the opportunity to believe anything and live the way that we choose. This does not in any way compromise God’s Power and Authority manifested in Jesus Christ, it only determines our outcomes and position in life. To ask the Lord to pour out His Spirit on us and desire His Will and His Way requires removal of the rivals in our life. To make Jesus Christ our champion, and put our complete faith and trust in His Ability as Sovereign Lord.

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord can only occupy a surrendered and submitted life. To ask the Lord to fill us with His Spirit requires laying aside something in order for holy inhabitation to be complete. I want the Spirit of the Sovereign Lord to live in me. To occupy all areas of my life beginning with my soul, moving through my entire physical and emotional being until He resonates from my life. The process began decades ago. Today, I am still a fragile work in process. However, with each new day comes the challenging opportunity to end yet one more rivalry with the Power of God in my life. It is up to me. To cry out for His Spirit is to put to death anything that comes against my faith in God and willingness to trust the Lord more and more. I must kill those giants. Overcome the enemy. He must become greater and greater and I must become less and less.

Submission is power. Grace is made perfect in my weakness. The world doesn’t operate on that belief system. In fact, to surrender is defeat according to the world. But I am only a temporary resident here, just making my way through life to eternity. Forever is a long time in comparison to a life that is only about 70 years or so on average. We must evaluate our existence for the rivalries and inconsistencies. Those areas of debilitation that the enemy has somehow convinced us hold some power over us or limit us in any way. The Love of God for us is complete. We lack no good thing in His Presence living for His Glory. He wants to take that from you. Steal your power and authority by tricking God’s People into believing that there is a limit to the Lord’s Power and Authority in our life or even a boundary to His Love. Nothing could be further from the Truth.

Luke 4:1-3 (NLT) Then Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan River. He was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, where he was tempted by the devil for forty days. Jesus ate nothing all that time and became very hungry. Then the devil said to him… 

The enemy is not short of arguments when it comes to God’s Word or His Power in our life. He constantly offers shortcuts and compromises us. He tests our knowledge and understanding of God’s Word and Work in our life especially when God’s People are committed to living for the Lord. John the Baptist foretold His Coming. Jesus has now been baptized receiving the fullness of God’s Spirit and God said, “You are my dearly loved Son, you bring me great joy!” Can I just be real for a moment, I see a giant target being painted on the back of Jesus right about now! The enemy identified the Lord as his rival to contend with in that moment, and believed himself successful celebrating for about a minute before he realized the horrible mistake that he had made but I am getting ahead of myself.

Jesus immediately full of the Spirit went straight to the wilderness. Welcome to your new life in Christ! Purpose must be pressed to release full potential. Jesus responded to each temptation with the Word of God. Finally the enemy had finished tempting the Lord, he left him…until the next opportunity came. The enemy is not a true rival of Jesus Christ unless we allow him to compete for the Truth that occupies our life. The more real estate given to Christ in our life the more challenging it will be as the enemy attempts to take us out. Our potential is not just for our self, but as God’s Glory overtakes us the Light of His Love shines brightly for others to see. Immediately following Jesus’ trip to the wilderness where He overcame temptation, He entered the Temple and was handed the scroll of Isaiah to read. He read the words from Isaiah 61…God’s Power becomes our own by overcoming all rivals in our life. To submit and surrender to the Lord’s Power allows His Spirit…His Sovereign Spirit to manifest in our life. He becomes our purpose and gives us the power to overcome.

Isaiah 48:15-18 (NLT) Come closer, and listen to this. From the beginning I have told you plainly what would happen.” And now the Sovereign Lord and his Spirit have sent me with this message. This is what the Lord says—your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: “I am the Lord your God, who teaches you what is good for you and leads you along the paths you should follow. Oh, that you had listened to my commands! Then you would have had peace flowing like a gentle river and righteousness rolling over you like waves in the sea.”

“Sovereign Lord” is used approximately 290 times in the Old Testament depending on the translation you are using. It only occurs 3 times in the New Testament. Why? In the Old Testament, God put His Spirit into different people. When Jesus came in the New Testament, God put His Spirit fully into Jesus Christ. When Jesus died on the Cross, He released His Spirit to His People. Matthew 27:50-52 tells us that 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.” Could this be the first documented revival? When the Spirit of the Sovereign Lord was released along with resurrection power? It was the moment that God’s Power and Authority became completely available to me and you. The choice is mine if I will submit my life to the Sovereign Lord and accept His Power in my life.

God’s Power and Authority given to Jesus Christ lives in me. The only reason that I am not living in it is because I have allowed rivals to take the place of my Champion. I must overcome every hindrance in the race of faith by keeping my eyes on Jesus, my champion who initiates and perfects my faith. (Hebrews 2) How is this possible when there are so many things vying for my attention? How do I keep my eyes (and faith) on someone who I cannot see when there are so many people in the way? How does a football team win the Super Bowl? Or a baseball team the World Series? How does a fighter become Heavyweight Champion of the World? One game, one series or one bout at a time. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. Jesus Christ has given you His Spirit. The Greatness of God’s Son and all of His Sovereign Power lives and breathes in every believer. As we begin to overtake and oust the rivals in our life, Christ becomes the dominant factor in all areas of life. Do not despise small beginnings. (Zechariah 4:10) We begin with small increments of faith to build a larger foundation. (Luke 16:9-10) It begins by believing that Jesus is our champion. Our confidence is not in our ability to be faithful or righteous but that He is enough. His Grace sufficient to release His Power no matter how weak or weary that we may become. It all begins by believing. (John 1:49-51) Nathanael believed simply because Jesus told him that he saw him under the fig tree. Jesus told Nathanael that his simple act of believing would produce greater things. What did the man believe? The Word of God. He believed Jesus at His Word.

John 14:12-13 (NLT) “I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father. You can ask for anything in my name, and I will do it, so that the Son can bring glory to the Father.

Do you believe? Do you believe wholeheartedly that the Lord is Sovereign and without rival? Is there anyone or anything equal to the Power of God at work in your life today? Before you answer, consider this. Your life should be prospering as your soul does in every way. Isaiah 61 clearly outlines the Power of God at work in us and through us. If my life is not being lived in God’s Power including prosperity, miracles, signs, wonders and exceptional favor, I must eliminate yet another rival. Some of the things that tempt us NOT to trust God are things like the enemy (John 10:1-3; 10:10), His lies tempt us every day. The Word of God is the only thing that will silence the lie of the enemy in our life. We must know the Word of God intimately, personally, and completely to live a successful Christian life. Jesus is the Word of God. We cannot know our Savior and Lord without it. Our flesh wants control of our life or it will die. It makes desperate attempts to challenge God’s Love, Authority and Power in our life as it does not want to submit or surrender to its own crucifixion. (Romans 7) Finally, our feelings. Our relationship with Jesus Christ must become a marriage that decides to hang on and fight for the partnership no matter how we feel on any given day or in any situation. (I Peter 5:7-9) The enemy, like Goliath, is constantly roaring his taunts and accusations at us. God is greater than our feelings. (I John 3:20) We must eliminate all rivals in our life and let Jesus be our Champion. His Sovereign Spirit will take over turning the natural into supernatural and ordinary to extraordinary.

I Corinthians 9:25-27 (NLT) All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadowboxing. I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified.

Do you desire Jesus to be your Champion today? To do so requires the elimination of all rivals in our life. We live busy lives in a world that offers many distractions. Comfort is appealing and complacency creates such a place. However, I want to live the life promised in Isaiah 61. My purpose in life is that the Spirit of the Sovereign Lord be manifested in my life and overflow to the world around me. I must be disciplined. I cannot allow the things of this world to rival the championship of Jesus in my life. I have a free will. I have the right to choose the amount of my life that is sacrificed, surrendered and submitted to the Almighty. It is all up to me. I choose to run with purpose in every step. How about you? Will you say with me today, “No more rivals, Jesus! All I want is You! You are my Champion!”

Isaiah 30:15 (NLT) This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says: “Only in returning to me and resting in me will you be saved. In quietness and confidence is your strength. But you would have none of it.

My Personal Account

My Personal Account

James 1:2-3 (AMP) Consider it nothing but joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you fall into various trials. Be assured that the testing of your faith [through experience] produces endurance [leading to spiritual maturity, and inner peace].

My husband and I have been on a “business conference” in the Bahamas for almost a week. A luxury resort on hundreds of acres of beautiful beach, lush palms, and opulent settings. There is a suite in one of the buildings called the “Bridge Suite.” It was built for the late Michael Jackson and is offered at a mere “$25,000” per night to those who would like to enjoy its amenities. Walking through the marina on the way to a wonderful dinner with new friends, yachts lined the waterway all lit up in palatial splendor. Some larger than our homes, one couldn’t help but stop to look at the pristine decks fancifully lit floating effortlessly atop the calm waters. Many of these impressive vessels can be chartered for about $1,000,000 a week complete with captain and crew. What a bargain! It is rumored that one of them is currently being chartered by basketball great, Shaquille O’Neal. There is a great deal of wealth here. Earthly wealth evident in costly meals, amenities and casino tables lined with men and women tossing chips worth more than some people earn in a week – gone in a moment without regard.

Strolling through the casino on the way to our room, several associates from the company lined one table. Stopping to talk with them, I noticed that the table had five men with piles of chips and a row of dice. The gentlemen were clearly part of the casino staff and were preparing to open the table. Carefully counting the chips on the table representing the money that would be won and lost this evening. Someone offered me a place at the table and handful of chips to get started but I quickly declined. I have no idea how to play the game and no real interest in gambling. It’s just not my thing. The routine of the staff as they prepared to open the table to the eager “investors” made me consider some things in my own life.

James 1:2 in the New King James Version says, “Count it all joy…” rather than “consider it”. Counting the cost of our life. Counting it all joy. Many people would lose money last night in the casino. It is their goal to keep people at the table until they do. Those who counted the cost ahead of time brought only what they were willing to give up or able to lose gambling. Others may not have been so wise and lost more than they could afford. Our life really is about reconciliation in all of the choices that we make. Knowledge becomes wisdom or at least one would hope so. As I heard the story of the “Bridge Suite”, walked by all the yachts in the dock and even watched people throw away money at the casino – I considered the cost of my life. Jesus Christ considered my life and well being to be priceless as He thought I was to die for. Do I reconcile my life to such a standard? When I count the cost of my life, how important is it? Do I invest my life in worthwhile things or worldly fancies? Do I use common sense and godly wisdom when it comes to how I portion my life? Or do I throw away precious moments and divine opportunities on things that don’t really matter? Oh don’t get me wrong, I do not believe that Christians have to live poor existences barely scraping to get by, but rather we do so anyway because we fail to recognize God’s Full Potential and Purpose in our life.

Luke 14:28-30 (NLT) “But don’t begin until you count the cost. For who would begin construction of a building without first calculating the cost to see if there is enough money to finish it? Otherwise, you might complete only the foundation before running out of money, and then everyone would laugh at you. They would say, ‘There’s the person who started that building and couldn’t afford to finish it!’

Have you counted the cost for this new life that is offered in Jesus Christ? Sin kept us from God’s Glorious Standard of Living. Is our lack of faith going to continue to hinder us in our salvation? God didn’t call us to be impoverished but to live in abundance. Wise investors count the cost before beginning a building. They have a plan and work that plan until completion. Coming to Christ may be random, but living in the prosperity of God which is His Ultimate Purpose and Plan for us is a radical choice. There is a huge property here that was built by the Chinese government that now sits vacant. They flew in more than 8,000 workers to build an extravagant property to entice the rich and famous to their resort. However, the low paid workers were not qualified and now the cost to bring the property up to code was more than they were willing to pay and so they abandoned the project. It sits vacant to this day. Coming to Jesus Christ is only the beginning, but if we do not count the cost and invest in a firm foundation called faith our life will not be ready to support the new creation that is coming out of us. Without faith, it is impossible to please God. Without spiritual investment – one can only yield the natural not the supernatural or sustain it. What do I have to do to successfully count the cost?

2 Corinthians 5:17-19 (NLT) This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him. For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation.

If you have come to know Jesus Christ, there is a new person inside of you straining and striving to get out. There is a new life waiting for you. It is all a gift of God labeled His Plan. It is a future and hope not just for forever, but to be evident in your today. God brought us back to Himself through Jesus to change our life for the better now and today. The process is called reconciliation. It is outlined in Romans 5:10-11. As we begin to take every aspect of our life and compare it to God’s Promise for our life, there will be inconsistencies. As we continue to reconcile those inconsistencies and make them balance out – change begins to happen as God’s Abundance begins to reach us called fulfillment. Without full reconciliation to Jesus Christ, our friendship with God is not complete. Reconciliation will always be defined by our relationship to Jesus Christ.

Matthew 16:25-27 (NLT) If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul? For the Son of Man will come with his angels in the glory of his Father and will judge all people according to their deeds.

What do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? The profit of reconciliation to Jesus Christ is new life, rebirth and resurrection. But there is more to it than just that, when our life is defined by our relationship to Jesus Christ – we will thrive in the natural. Once the value of our soul becomes firmly established in Jesus Christ, the overflow of our life is in proper order. God begins to pour into us because by faith and trust it flows right back out of us. Light is produced that shines in generosity to others in every possible way. Our life secure in the Lord there is no need to focus so heavily on our life now. Trusting God will produce every spiritual blessing and we become complete lacking nothing. Soul satisfaction is the beginning of all prosperity in life.

James 1:4 (AMP) And let endurance have its perfect result and do a thorough work, so that you may be perfect and completely developed [in your faith], lacking in nothing.

To be quite practical, I will probably never own a yacht. Not because it is not possible, but because there is no desire to do so. I would like to tour one just to see how it all fits together and how things work on a ship of that magnitude. I do have other dreams and desires that may seem impossible to some people. They are hidden in my heart. I know that one day it is quite likely that they will happen in my life. Not because of any other reason than the fact that my first desire is to reconcile my life to Jesus Christ. Faith is the most important thing in my life. When I begin to feel the burden of struggle, weight of problems and become a bit testy from the trials of life – I remind myself of the great potential hidden within me. If I engage in the process counting the cost of my choices and commitment to Christ and when I choose to participate in the process of reconciliation of ALL my life to Christ, it is then and only then that the potential of my life called purpose and prosperity become more than a possibility. They are the probability in that moment. I must make a faith my foundation, trust my motivation and hope my destination to have the new life that the Lord promises those who find their existence in Him. This is my personal account. To prosper as my soul prospers…

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

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.

Time to Push

time-to-push

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

Over the years, as a woman, I have heard more than my fair share of birthing stories. Testimonies of life on the battlefield of childbirth shared as the glory days of each mother. Why not? Most of us bear the scars and weak bladders proving it was a fight for life to get that little person here. God made woman to bear children with bodies equipped to nurture their babies and hearts read to nurture and care for them. It is engrained in our purpose. This does not make having a baby any easier. In fact, included in all the joy and anticipation of preparing for the new arrival, somewhere around the eight-month mark with a belly too big to get around the revelation comes – what is in me must come out of me. I will not deny the pure beauty and wonder of seeing our child for the first time and falling in love all over again but the moments proceeding their arrival is not so glorious. Labor is hard. It takes every ounce of energy. It is surrendering our bodies to the process that God designed in us and is written in our DNA. However, when it is time to push, there is a sudden shift during the transition phase. With every fiber of our being and all that is within us, it is time to see our promise come to pass and hear the wail of a new being. What is God trying to get you to push out today?

We come pregnant with certain promises. In God’s Time, He makes all things beautiful and it is time to push them out into the atmosphere. That’s right, we have to push. To press and to push are too different forces. One is to obtain and one is to release or move away. There is a term to promises in our life set by the Lord for completion. If it were to arrive too soon, it would be a spiritual abortion. If left to its own devices inside of us, it will become a dead dream. But when God puts pressure on us to push, those who respond will see His Glory fill their life. His Glory and His Goodness begin to bring to life all the things He has promised and release His Blessings along the way. His Power in us must find its way into the atmosphere around us. It is time to push.

Hebrews 12:1-4 (NLT) Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up.  After all, you have not yet given your lives in your struggle against sin.

When a mother is given the news that a baby is on the way, most moms will begin to make certain lifestyle changes to give her little one the best possible chance. She changes her diet, stops partaking in things that may be harmful and even may begin an exercise plan. Reading all the latest literature and seeking the advice of others, she engages on a journey to receive her tiny promise. She gives up her body. She disciplines her life according to the promise within her.

I have a promise. Truly many promises are wrapped up in my purpose according to my Champion who is Jesus Christ. He handed me victory in all things and the power to overtake every obstacle between me and His Glory. How do I get there from here? I have to push my purpose from the inside out of me. This is a process. I engage in it by preparing for the arrival of my purpose. I must “strip off every weight that slows me down especially the sin” that keeps derailing, detouring and delaying the completion of my promise. Jesus has initiated and even perfected my faith, but I have to use it to change the way I think, the things I do, my attitude and my actions. To push purpose from within me, I must prepare the way. The process is repentance. It clears the way for His Glory to be expressed and fill my world with the Light of His Love for all to see.

Psalm 44:4-8 (NLT) You are my King and my God. You command victories for Israel. Only by your power can we push back our enemies; only in your name can we trample our foes. I do not trust in my bow; I do not count on my sword to save me. You are the one who gives us victory over our enemies; you disgrace those who hate us. O God, we give glory to you all day long and constantly praise your name. 

Women endure many insults to her body during pregnancy. The growing child zaps her iron from her blood and calcium from bones and teeth as it develops. Many endure months of morning sickness, and continuous illness. There is swelling in her ankles and feet. She is exhausted in daily tasks and her body performs 24/7 in the background making a new person. Even though God made women to reproduce, it doesn’t mean that process of pregnancy any less difficult. Yet I have delivered five babies and I have friends who have even more than me. Why do we do it? Why do we push even when we know the toll it will take on our body? Because it is worth it.

The worth of our purpose does not go unnoticed by the enemy. He has but one purpose. He wants to steal, kill and destroy the purpose of God ready to come out of you before it makes its way out. The enemy wants to destroy our confidence in the Lord with doubt. He wants to force us out of process with discouragement. He wants to create delays that will make us want to give up. With our fifth child in the ninth month, I was exhausted, swollen and done with the whole business of baby making. I remember sitting on the table looking down at my elephant-sized ankles thinking enough was enough. When the doctor came in, he chuckled and asked, “how are you doing, mama? All I could say was “get this baby out.” It is important that when the pressure to give up or give in comes that we push it away and push back the enemy. How do we do that? Simple – praise.

When I choose to praise God in my process, it releases His Power all around me and protects me in my process. When it was time to deliver our children, my husband was by my side and the midwife close by. I was surrounded. God has given us His Spirit inside of us. His Power is in us. Praise release it to the surrounding atmosphere. It announces the promise is coming and prepares for purpose to break loose. Sometimes praise is difficult when the pain too much, the pressure to hard, and the process too long. Praise pushes back the enemy so to discard our complaints and grumbling and replace it with praise is God’s Power being released from us to prepare the way before us.

Psalm 18:30-32 (NLT) God’s way is perfect. All the Lord’s promises prove true. He is a shield for all who look to him for protection. For who is God except the Lord? Who but our God is a solid rock? God arms me with strength, and he makes my way perfect.

God’s way is perfect. Do you believe that today? Do you trust God’s Process for your life? Careful before you answer because a life of true believing is characterized by godly obedience. Those who truly believe in God’s Process, His Promise and His Purpose will walk in his ways. To the faithful – God shows He is faithful. My faithfulness to God tells God that I believe more than a single word uttered from my mouth. If I believe that every promise that the Lord has made me is true, then I would be ravenous for His Word and gorge on it daily. Why? Because if everything that God promised really is true, it would produce a much better life than I have now. Faith is just a word, believing it makes it a verb. When the promise of God becomes my purpose, I will discipline my life to have it. I must decide that I believe that His Purpose is what I want and push through to receive it.

Philippians 4:13 (NLT) For I can do everything through Christ who gives me strength.

If there was not a process to the process of purpose, why would we need Christ to give us strength? We want God to do it. The Lord gave us the Keys to His Kingdom, and Jesus lives in us for a reason. We are supposed to do something. We must exert energy and force in pushing out the promise and purpose of God within us. Faith makes the impossible totally possible. However, we spend a whole lot of time shaking the Keys to the Kingdom while the enemy laughs. It is when I take those same keys and use them that he begins to tremble and retreat. The Lion of Judah is quiet and still confident in His Power. His next roar will be the shout of His Return. The enemy, however; is roaming around roaring on his leash hoping to instill fear, doubt, worry and despair so that rather than pushing through you will run and hide. Not today, devil. I am pushing out purpose today.

“If you fail under pressure, your strength is too small.” (Proverbs 24:10) Weakness is not failure but the very moment I am completely moved out of the way so His Power can become my strength. I cannot obtain spiritual things with earthly force. Heaven comes to earth when I say, “You are perfect in all of your ways, Jesus. Have your way in my life” and mean it. Five times in labor, I have said, “I can’t do this”, “I don’t want to do this” and “I am not going to do this.” Each time it was within minutes of delivering my precious child. The pressure to give in and give up is always the closest to breakthrough. If you are considering such things, tell yourself that transition has arrive and breakthrough is almost here. Praise Him in that moment for the victory that is close and promise that is just outside your reach. It’s coming!

Ephesians 3:16-20 (NLT)  I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. 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.

The Holy Spirit is our partner in the process. He leads us, guides us, teaches us, instructs us, comforts us and even empowers us. Purpose has a process. The pressure is overwhelming as my flesh gives way to supernatural possibilities in my life. I need the Spirit to help me. That is His Purpose. Our purpose and God’s Promises that are obtained by faith are much bigger than me. I cannot comprehend fully what the Lord has in store for me. It is too big for my ordinary life and therefore takes an extraordinary process to prepare my environment for His Glory. God is able in His Mighty Power to accomplish “infinitely” more than we might ask or think. The productivity of our process is much larger than we think or know with this in mind the pressure may be indicative of the promotion and prosperity God has in store for us rather that when we think is going on or the end result. Faith is for those things that I cannot do. Faith is outside the boundaries of comfort and control strive for in by humanity. Faith is for the unfathomable and impossibilities of life. God is pushing us past all fear, doubt and insecurity because what He has for us is greater than anything we have chosen for ourselves. I must push to know the extent of God’s Love and Power invested in me so that I can push forth the purpose which He has placed inside me and empowered by His Son, Jesus Christ.

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

Whether pregnant with a promise, purpose or even a tiny person, you will need endurance and patience to endure the process. It is not a coincidence that God also uses these two things to perfect our faith. To strengthen it. What are you waiting on today? What is the promise that seems so long overdue? What is the purpose hidden in your heavy heart today? God’s Way is perfect. He created you with that longing in your heart and is perfecting all that concerns you. (Psalm 138:8) He works out EVERY detail of our life for our good and His Glory. (Romans 8:28) Whatever your place in His Process, it is important that our response to pressure is to push. Push away every weight that keeps us being fully engaged. Push back the enemy. Push away the urge to give up knowing breakthrough is coming. Our promise is on the way. Pressing in to the Presence of God and pushing aside every obstacle. Protect your promise today. Do not douse with venom called complaining and grumbling but immerse it in praise and worship for the Father who gave it to you and the Savior who died for you to have it. It will be worth it but only if we push through the process and receive that which is greater than we can think, imagine or even ask for. We are birthing God’s Promise. Laboring for His Purpose. There is a glorious prize when victory is achieved in the life of a believer. It is time to push!

2 Thessalonians 2:16-17 (NLT) Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal comfort and a wonderful hope, comfort you and strengthen you in every good thing you do and say.

 

Time to Activate

time-to-activate

2 Corinthians 1:20-22 (NLT) For all of God’s promises have been fulfilled in Christ with a resounding “Yes!” And through Christ, our “Amen” (which means “Yes”) ascends to God for his glory. It is God who enables us, along with you, to stand firm for Christ. He has commissioned us, and he has identified us as his own by placing the Holy Spirit in our hearts as the first installment that guarantees everything he has promised us.

The email was tempting. The newest IPhone at a great price. It was so enticing that I opened it surely too good to be true. It all checked out. Up to this point, I had not been able to decide on a Christmas gift up to this point. I consulted my technology team (hence my daughters) who approved and encouraged me to act. I have an extremely difficult time doing things for myself. It is easy to gift good gifts to my family and friends. However, I do not like doing for me. I didn’t act right away but thought it best to sleep on it. The next morning, I got another email – “Hey, did you leave something in your cart?” After way too much deliberation and too much time thinking about a dumb cellphone made the decision and pushed the button.

A couple days later, I received the brand new shiny rose gold phone. Much larger than my old one, I carefully put it back in the box to await the protective case I had also ordered to arrive. Boxing it up carefully, I put it on my dresser. Another couple of days passed by and the case arrived, I put it in the box with my new gift. The box is still sitting on my dresser. I have not activated the new device even though everything I need to do so is right there. What’s wrong with me? I can psychoanalyze this all day long. I do not feel worthy of something so awesome. I do not want to take the time to go through the steps. I am afraid that I might be disappointed if I run into trouble.

God has given me many promises for my life. Promises that are not currently active in my life. Jesus Christ made every single gift and promise available to me through His Grace. When He died on the Cross, Jesus said, “It is finished.” When I finished wrapping all the gifts, it is with great satisfaction that I look at the tree with all its treasures for our family. The blessings of God evident in our life in a snapshot. I wonder if Jesus from His Place next to God looks at us wondering why we do not open and activate all the gifts given to us directly when He finished His Work on the Cross. What if on Christmas morning our children did not rush out of bed to open their gifts? What if they didn’t like them or chose not to use them? How would you feel? I would feel like I was taken for granted and my hard work wasted. Wouldn’t you? Does the Lord?

James 1:16-18 (NLT) So don’t be misled, my dear brothers and sisters. Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow. He chose to give birth to us by giving us his true word. And we, out of all creation, became his prized possession.

I love Christmas but my favorite is New Years. The chance to start over with a brand new year, make new commitments, to start fresh and all the hope attached to change. I love it. About mid-December each year, I begin to look past the coming holiday to the New Year. It is with such a mindset I do not look to make resolutions but seek divine revelation from the Lord. I want more of Him this year. I want to see the Promises laid on my heart so long ago come to pass. With this in mind and spoken in my prayer time a lot right now, the Lord laid the word “activate” on my heart today.

To activate means to make active or cause to function. In physics, it means to excite. Chemistry uses the word to refer to the hastening of a process or to make it begin to work. For those in the military, it is to be stationed or placed in position. All these things speak to me today for the coming year. Are there gifts and promises in my life that are simply not activated? Yes and amen. Jesus is yelling, shouting and jumping up and down (in a dignified godly manner, of course). He is cheering me on! Saying – “just do it”, “go for it” and “what are you waiting for.” See so many times we don’t see the potential of God’s Promise around us because we are too busy looking at ourselves with every flaw and imperfection listing all the reasons why it cannot and will not come to pass. What if the only thing keep you from fully achieving God’s Purpose for your life is that you simply refuse to activate the Gift within you? It is not only possible, but highly probable.

Why? Why me? Why now? What makes me so special that God would give me such good and perfect gifts? We are His Prized Possession. It really doesn’t matter how one perceives self but how we respond to God’s evaluation of us. Our faith is not in our personal ability or attributes but the Living God who is in us making all things possible. We are our biggest critics. No one beats us with a bigger bat. No one can inspect us any closer than we examine ourselves. What does all of this do? Lower our expectation. Raising fear and doubt. My worth is not based on my physical, mental or natural ability but solely on Jesus Christ inside of me. The gift of salvation activates every other gift in us when Jesus becomes our Savior and Lord. There is no other reason than I am a Child of God.

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

Activating this phone has opened a whole new revelation in my life. In preparation, I realized that my old phone with all its contacts and photos has not been backed up since April of this year. So I plugged it into the computer and downloaded all the new software. I just got a message in order to fully activate the new information that I must restart my computer. I pushed the “not now” button. The minute I did, I could feel the Holy Spirit tug on my heart. How many times do I put off time with God? Doing what He says? Seeking His Direction? How many gifts are left unopened in my life while I settle for lesser more comfortable things? Change is not comfortable or convenient but completely necessary to move the past into the future.

As I prepare for the New Year, my word for the coming year is “activate”. It is my goal to look within my heart for all the hidden things that I am holding on to which need to be surrendered by faith to have the hope that is reserved for me. God has blessed my life already so much that I feel unworthy and undeserving but that does not change the fact that He has blessings and promises yet to be filled. I must “fan into flames the spiritual gift God” has given me. All of them. Not just the ones that I am comfortably in control of but also those that take me out of my comfort zone with bold confidence that He who has promised is able. God did not give me a “spirit of fear and timidity” so if it exists in my life it is not of God but a ploy of the enemy in a vain attempt to keep me from assuming my position. Finally, Jesus gave me the Holy Spirit to be my helper. It is the Spirit of God within me that activates “power, love and self-discipline.” I must acknowledge His Spirit and depend on Him fully to step boldly into God’s Gifts and Promises all ready for me. It is up to me if 2017 will be just like 2016 or if I will activate all that God has for me. Will I function according to His Word and His Will? Will I be excited about the Lord? Will I hasten the process and allow the Lord to work in me through complete submission and full surrender? Finally will I take my position in the Kingdom of God and live like His Child? It is up to me. It is time to activate.

2 Peter 3:8-9 (NLT) But you must not forget this one thing, dear friends: A day is like a thousand years to the Lord, and a thousand years is like a day. The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent. 

The Undoing

Onion.

Romans 8:1-2 (NLT) So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death.

I seldom use onions in recipes but when I do I handle them with care. Peeling off the paper-like covering, to reveal the pearly white surface releases the distinct odor of the onion. However, once you cut into it – the onion fights back as oils are released into the air that irritate our eyes producing seemingly endless tears. A trick to eliminate the tears is to cut the onion under running water. This causes the oils to be rinsed away and keep them from reaching the tear duct. Fancy trick I learned from my grandmother. You can learn a lot from grown folks. You can learn a lot about life in Christ from an onion, too.

Salvation is only the beginning of discovering our newfound freedom in Christ. Redemption is to take full advantage of the gift given to us by the Grace of God through His Son, Jesus Christ. Christianity and the pursuit of Christ also will produce many tears in our life. As the Lord peels back the layers of sin, shame, regret, guilt and stinking thinking, the aroma and stench of death leaving us to make room for new life, new hope, and new freedom causes tears to be released. Our life is going to produce an aroma of some kind. Will it be a fragrant sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving while claiming God’s Gift or will it be the continued stench of rotting flesh taking over again? It really is up to you and me what kind of life that is produced after coming to Jesus inviting Him to be our Savior. It is in His Lordship that a whole new existence is possible free from the chains, bondage and slavery of this life to claim freedom.

John 8:36 (NLT) So if the Son set you free – you are truly free.

Do you feel free today? Are you singing a freedom song? There is no condemnation in Jesus Christ so who the Son sets free is free indeed. The word condemnation means to pronounce guilt. It is an unfavorable or adverse judgment. It means to pronounce unfit for use or service. To force. It is to declare incurable. None of these qualities exist in the character of Christ concerning you. He is intent on freeing you from every thought, suspicion or notion that you are bound, hindered or restricted in any way, shape or form. He says that you are free…completely free…totally free. You are free to win. Free to live. Free to prosper. Free to grow. Free to love. You have absolute and complete freedom in Jesus Christ. You own Him nothing. He gave you everything. So why the long face and heavy heart today?

Christians do not experience freedom because they cannot accept the free gift of God’s Grace completely. There must be a catch. So like a prisoner who has been imprisoned far too long, the door is unlocked but they will not reach out their weary, tired, oppressed and fearful arm to open it and walk out. Jesus has set you free today. Free from sin, worry, despair, self-loathing, religion, and more You are free indeed to do as you please with this new life you have been given. What will you use your freedom for today?

Life is like an onion covered in many layers. I am like an onion who as I have grown older in life taken on many layers that do not necessarily belong to me in Jesus Christ. I wear them proudly and hold them tightly. When the Lord comes to make something beautiful out of my life, I refuse to let go of the known to take a faithful chance on the future. What lies just beneath the surface of me that He is trying to get to? We do not like brokenness and fear the cut of pruning. It produces many tears in our life. But I know a trick that I want to share with you (again) that my grandmother shared with me…you gotta run it under the water!

Romans 8:26-30 (NLT) And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will. 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 Holy Spirit is our partner when it comes to attaining the freedom offered in Jesus Christ. We need His Help. This is way too complex and comprehensive for my finite thinking and limitations of the human mind. I need His Wisdom and Guidance to wash over me and renew me as I endure the process of change from death to new life. As the Word cuts to the core of my heart, pruning out sin, eradicating the flesh that keeps me from growing, it is His Spirit that washes my wounds, heals my heart, nourishes my soul and nurtures my growth. The Holy Spirit is water the water that keeps me in those times when I don’t feel free or try to shut myself up captive in fear, doubt and worry again.

The Holy Spirit takes God’s Word and waters me with it. My family is not too big on raw onions. So often when I cook, I use the dried minced onions from the spice aisle instead. This is very convenient but not as flavorful. It lends some of the taste to a recipe but not the full flavor of a freshly cut onion. Now if you take a raw onion and cook it, something changes. The flavor changes and becomes sweeter as the texture softens. This takes longer than just grabbing an onion and cutting it up. We give food time to cook but refuse to give any credence to God’s Timing and Preparation when it comes to us. The onion is only one ingredient in the recipe. Brokenness is only a part of the process. With patience and time, the onion is going to work with all the other flavors to produce a delicious dinner.

God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His Purpose. His Purpose. His Recipe. His Design. This means that you are only seeing a small part of a huge picture. You are in a single step of a perfect process. Do not judge your future or forever by the tough situation, hard time or heart break you are going through right now. It is part of a beautiful masterpiece that the Lord has designed your life to be. “But whenever someone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. For the Lord is the Spirit and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. So all of us who have had the veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord – who is the Spirit – makes us more and more like Him as we are changed into His Glorious Image.” (2 Cor. 3:16-18)

Colossians 3:10-14 (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. Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony.

There is no condemnation in Jesus Christ. Any part of our life lived in bondage is not of God or His Son or His Spirit. Sin doesn’t condemn us anymore. Sin happens so repentance is given so grace may be applied. Those who love the Lord will try not to sin. Love is the best motivator for repentance. Change comes more easily surrounded in purpose. It is my passion and pursuit to live in the Kingdom of God. I live in Florida. If I get in my car intent on traveling to Canada, I must go north. If I go south, I will fall into the ocean. If I go east or west the same thing will happen. My vehicle is faith. Faith is the title deed to hope that is the Kingdom of God. I must head in that direction if it is my chosen destination. With that being said, religion often adds extra layers of “things” I must do and rules to follow. My relationship with Jesus Christ is not dependent on religion or anything or anyone else. My relationship is intimate and personal. I am committed to Jesus Christ so I strive to be close to Him. To come closer means certain layers of my life have to go. Those things can hurt and produce many tears but it is full assumption of my freedom to undergo the transformation. Beauty is pain. I believe it. Letting go of how life defines me to grab hold of my destiny.

True freedom is to fully assume your new nature. To be renewed body, mind and spirit to become like Christ. It doesn’t matter what religion you belong to because it is all about our relationship with Jesus that matters. God chose to love me. It is my privilege to remove the layers of life and take on the splendor of His Kingdom. To be clothed in tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. To form strong bonds and build relationships with my brothers and sisters. To forgive and off the grace that I have so generously been given. To love and love some more. The freedom that I have is found in His Love. As I discover just how “wide, long, high and deep” His Love really is, it is then that I am able to see just how free I really am.

It is hard to remember in the midst of hurt, hardship and trials that our life is part of something bigger than what we see, know and experience every day. It is also difficult to fully understand and therefore accept that God’s Love is completely unconditional and His Grace never ending. It is with this in mind that I am reminded today I am free. I have been freed from sin, shame, guilt, and every other kind of bondage that exists in the world today. I am a soul set free in the One I love. I am destined to be part of something much bigger. To fulfill my position will be my complete undoing as God peels back the layers that keep me from fulfillment and becoming exactly who He created me to be. Brokenness will come. Tears will fall. It will be my undoing. But it will be worth it – it will be worth it all!

Ephesians 3:17-19 (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.

Proof of Purchase

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I John 4:12-13 (NLT) No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us. And God has given us his Spirit as proof that we live in him and he in us. 

The besties and I set out on the “Black Friday” adventure on Thursday afternoon. With no real plan or intent other than just to hangout and have some fun, we gathered at command central (one friend’s house) to plan our outing. Pouring over sales papers, finding great deals, and enticing offers – off we went to fight the crowds, laugh and start off the festivities of Christmas together. Now before anyone pulls out the old soapbox to declare consumerism is communism of Christmas, let me assure you my friends and I love Jesus. We are considerate of those who had to work on Thanksgiving as well. If the stores had been closed, I would have been just as happy at home with family and friends. I believe in contentment. If your choice was to stay home, I pray it was with the heartfelt intent to enjoy one another and share the love. There is a point to my story and it has nothing to do with politics or opinions, but rather proof of purchase. It is my conviction that human beings compare and find conflict quite easily. We divide and demand our own way readily. Just ask the person who zoomed up behind the car pulling out at one store, and honked profusely when I pulled into the spot that I had waited patiently for. They waved letting me know that I was number one or at least that’s how I took it. This is about proving who I am in Jesus Christ.

Driving home on Friday after Thanksgiving, there was a man on the street corner yelling at the passing cars about God’s Judgment. He was hollering at people that Jesus is the reason for the season and I couldn’t agree more wholeheartedly except the Jesus I know whispers in a still small voice and speaks to my heart. He doesn’t berate me when I fail Him. I let Him down enough to know that the Lord should have left me a long time ago, but He loves me and will never leave me or forsake me. Is the gentleman who gave up his time to “preach” on a street corner really getting God’s Point across or is he only reinforcing what the world already thinks about Christians? It doesn’t have to be the guy on the corner it could be those of us congregating in the lobby of any church. When the person walks in who is not walking the right way in the world or at least according to our self-righteous opinion? Do they feel welcome? How about the one who has not been there for a long time? Do they feel love and warmth? See I think that as believers – we need to reconsider our approach to this thing called Christianity. As followers of Christ – we must be like our Savior and Lord rather than redefining the guidelines with new doctrine. Let’s just do it His Way for a change.

One of the stores was offering small appliances at a major discount. Waffle irons like the fancy hotel kind that make my kids giggle with glee and crockpots were less than ten dollars. I was sold at that sign. I love kitchen goods and gadgets. Once at the register, they rang up more than double the cost. When I asked the cashier, if the price was correct. She said, “Yes, there is a rebate on these items.” Ahh…rebates. Rebates are a commitment that many shoppers are not willing to make. They are safety nets for the stores because many consumers never get around to turning them in. With a bit of hesitation, I went ahead and bought the items I couldn’t resist. There were more purchases that required the same process to claim the discount. I have spent some time gather the information, filling out the form, sorting through receipts and providing proof of purchase barcodes. Each one sits before me in a carefully marked envelope with proper postage. I will mail these in today and wait for the refund for each item. Waiting is not my favorite but always seems to be a requirement.

I have asked Jesus Christ to be my Savior. Many people will agree that they are saved simply because they asked Jesus to save them. This is the only requirement. It is the process of redemption that we declare Jesus to be Lord of our life and live like it. Many will make this process more comfortable by bending the rules which is compromise or making this a legalistic venture requiring staunch adherence to ridiculous rules and regulations never outlined by Christ at all in His Commandments. He only gave us two – to love the Lord God with our body, mind and spirit and to love everyone else the same. Well, now you know why everyone makes Christianity about something else. Love is my proof of purchase. We struggle to love selflessly. Many honest people will admit that it is tough to love themselves some days. How do we know that redemption is at work in us? After all, I cannot see God, yet I know He lives in me. But how? God’s Existence in my life is exemplified by my ability to love other people.

I John 4:15-16 (NLT)  All who declare that Jesus is the Son of God have God living in them, and they live in God. We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love. God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them.

About halfway through our shopping adventure, our group decided that food was absolutely necessary to carry on and came across an old burger mainstay that remained open to serve the tired and weary shoppers. Sitting around the table after inhaling our food, I looked at the faces of three ladies I love and admire very much. They are people who I cannot live without in my life. One face represented the younger me. One represents the transformation process I have gone through. One is the person I am becoming. Each one is necessary in my life not just because I love them with all of my heart but they reflect God’s Hand at work in me. I believe that God positions people in our life everyday meant to draw something more from us. Those we love and respect teach us, sharpen us and encourage us. There are those that challenge us causing our iron to be sharpened. There are those that break us and reveal the contents of our heart exposing anything not worthy of His Spirit that inhabits us. God loves all people. All people have a purpose. Redemption is achieved by our ability to love each other. Say what?

To demonstrate our commitment to Christ, is one’s ability to love and be loved. We cannot earn or achieve salvation any way other than to surrender our life to Jesus Christ – body, mind and spirit that encompasses the whole person. With this in mind, the two commandments are to surrender our entire life to our love for Him AND to give that love to everyone else as well. I have accepted God’s Unfailing and Unconditional Love as my own and now I am mandated to give that same love and grace to others. This is how the world knows I belong to Him. This is the characteristic that tells others I belong to Christ. Can I do it?

Philippians 2:12-16 (NLT) Dear friends, you always followed my instructions when I was with you. And now that I am away, it is even more important. Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear. For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him. Do everything without complaining and arguing, so that no one can criticize you. Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people. Hold firmly to the word of life; then, on the day of Christ’s return, I will be proud that I did not run the race in vain and that my work was not useless. 

In order to receive the refund, I had to follow the instructions on the rebate form. We must continue in the Word of God daily and do what it says not what we want it to say or decide what bits and pieces relate to us. It is all about us. When eating and digesting God’s Word each day – it will feed and nourish our soul, it will strengthen our mind, and it will cause us to lose taste for the lesser things in life. To taste and see that the Lord is good quickly will make us see that the Bread of Life is all that is needed to live a healthy and prosperous life.

To redeem my rebate, I also had to provide everything that was required in the instructions. I couldn’t just give what I wanted to give. I had to follow the redemption requirements. I am speaking this softly and in love, if you try to preach the Gospel and share the Good News without copious amounts of unfailing and unconditional love – you are not preaching at all. The point of the entire Bible is that God is love. If your message is not working, lives are not changing, people are not listening – it is time to evaluate the content of our heart to be sure our message is purely that of God’s Love.

I had to consider the cost. When I purchased the products, I had to pay the full price up front. To mail off the rebate information required postage. Are you willing to pay it forward today? To love when you feel unloved. To give when you are not receiving. To exchange hatefulness and ugliness for love and peace. See the world is not bent on giving but getting. Love has grown cold. Sin is rampant. You are not like that anymore but a Child of God. You live in light that others hide from because they have not experienced the Light of His Love but that of condemnation and mostly by church people. We have work to do to save the face of organized worship that long has invited sinners to slap that them with doctrine and beat them with rules. God is love. Christians should express the same thing to others that the Lord has given them even if it means paying it forward. Self-preservation is not part of the saving process, friend. You cannot give your life away and keep things tucked away and hidden safely inside. Faith is based on unseen things not what is right before you. We must be willing to lay our life down in the Name of Love holding nothing back and considering the cost before attempting to build relationships with others (all others) on anything less.

Finally, my favorite part (not so much), waiting on the return or reward. Ugh! Are you willing to wait for love to find you? Will you love until He comes? Will you provide proof of purchase and wit on your reward?

Matthew 10:16-22 (NLT) “Look, I am sending you out as sheep among wolves. So be as shrewd as snakes and harmless as doves. But beware! For you will be handed over to the courts and will be flogged with whips in the synagogues. You will stand trial before governors and kings because you are my followers. But this will be your opportunity to tell the rulers and other unbelievers about me. When you are arrested, don’t worry about how to respond or what to say. God will give you the right words at the right time. For it is not you who will be speaking—it will be the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. A brother will betray his brother to death, a father will betray his own child, and children will rebel against their parents and cause them to be killed. And all nations will hate you because you are my followers. But everyone who endures to the end will be saved.”

Believers are sent out as sheep in a world full of wolves. Early disciples were beaten within an inch of their life and when released continued to share the message of God’s Love. Most Christians cannot endure a good tongue lashing from another without giving up on loving that person altogether. Everyone who endures to the end will be saved. The world will hate you because you follow Jesus. It is not our job to change the world’s mind. The ruler of the world hates God and therefore hates His Children. Stop trying to change the world and devote your time, energy and prayer life to loving others completely. Unconditional love is mandated as the only thing that true believers are obligated to. God is God over it all. He has everything under control. What if we spent as much time trying to win souls with love as we did with arguments? God didn’t sent you to win a debate but to be His Disciple. He is Sovereign. It doesn’t matter what people think. What matters is have they experienced God’s Love and had a one-on-one encounter with His Son, Jesus? I cannot make proper introductions when He is a stranger to me or casual acquaintance. I cannot be a Child of God or disciple of Christ unless I am learning, striving and devoted to loving others all others. It is part of the redemption process that cannot be overlooked and avoided. It will require me giving my all to love. (Period)

Psalm 103:1-4 (NLT) Let all that I am praise the Lord; with my whole heart, I will praise his holy name. Let all that I am praise the Lord; may I never forget the good things he does for me. He forgives all my sins and heals all my diseases. He redeems me from death and crowns me with love and tender mercies.

Lord do not let me forget the benefits of your love today. I am saved by Your Grace alone and nothing I do. Let me remember each day that I am redeemed and crowned with love and tender mercy. It is from this position that I rule and reign over the enemy each day. To live in Your Love and share it with the world is my process. I am only effective when I give my life away like You did for me. Lord, teach me to love like you do so I will endure to the end and be saved.

John 13:34-35 (NLT) So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”

The Garden of My Heart

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Luke 6:44-45 (NLT) A tree is identified by its fruit. Figs are never gathered from thorn bushes, and grapes are not picked from bramble bushes. A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. What you say flows from what is in your heart.

Home renovation central, I guess is what you might call it. This place has become one DIY project after another. Paint is going on the walls. Furniture is moved around. Making a house a home is a process. Ironically it is the house plan that our former house was. Laid out the same even built by the same builder, yet as we settle in it is different. A new location. A change of season, if you will. A month or so ago, I dug up the front flowerbed. I decimated all the dead plants and overgrown weeds even removing a “Christmas” tree. It is now a clean canvas ready for a floral masterpiece.

I find that as I look at that barren area in need of new plants, that I am carefully considering what to plant there. The soil seems good. The sun hits it differently than our old beds at the previous house. It is a new place and should have new things. Our children were younger and in need of more care before so I would just head to the Garden Center and grab a variety of pots to stick in the ground. It didn’t matter what really just needed some ground cover. But now is different so I am contemplating more now than before. I really would love to successfully grow some hydrangeas in the damp corner by the house. Their full blooms are my favorite. I would also like some of those large colorful pots that people lean over to put annuals in each year. I am considering the time it will take to maintain it also. Heading into winter, some of dreams and aspirations will have to wait for the cold to give way to spring again.

As I read today’s passage in Luke, it made me think of my heart. The things that are growing from it. Are they beautiful like the garden I envision for the front of my house? The kind of blooms that when others drive by they notice the array of color and glorious splendor so they slow down just a little. If a tree is identified by its fruit, it matters the seeds that I sow each day for they will be that which I bear in the future. I cannot grow what I do not plant. To be a good person, I must produce good things. Those good things become godly things when born of the precious seed of His Word cultivated by His Spirit in my life. What is growing in my heart today? What do I want to grow?

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

The Bible is clear as believers the Holy Spirit should be cultivating this kind of fruit. Love. I stop here because it seems to be the biggest problem that we face. How to cultivate Jesus Love among all people. The love in this world has grown cold and selfish…in many ways so has the church people gone. God grow love in my heart today. There is a variety of other fruit including joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. These are produced by God’s Spirit in us and often emulated as a means of defense. I can act like I have joy – until I get a bad report. I can believe that I am at peace – until conflict arises. I can say that I have patience right before blasting the offending person who disrupted my day. I can do kind things yet not act in kindness at all. I can accept God’s Goodness and never offer it to anyone else. I can mistake service for faithfulness. Gentleness is displayed in more than our words – it is to be our response to life. Finally self-control, pride is an enemy of self-control. The Spirit cultivates control from love that evaluates and compares our words, actions and intentions according to the Great Love and Amazing Grace that is sown in us through Christ rather than what is given to us by the world.

It is important to see these fruits in our life. Examining the condition of our heart daily to make sure it is good soil. Softened by the Word of God. Watered by it, too. There will be times of brokenness as God plants the new and better fruit in the old and hard heart surrendered to His Hands. Given to His Way. Accepting of His Will. As I evaluate this new place and new season of my life, I am evaluating the condition of my heart and the atmosphere God desires in my life. What kind of fruit will I plant today? What will I get rid of to make room for that which is better?

Matthew 28:18-20 (NLT) Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

The multiplication of the Kingdom is discipleship. Discipleship is the cultivation of human hearts. It is not teaching people to be like other people. It is not religion. It is not rules and regulations. It is love. “Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you.” Got it, Jesus. I’m on it. What did you command us to do, again?

Matthew 22:37-40 (NLT) Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’  This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’  The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”

I know what you are thinking. What about all those dos and don’ts that I have been taught? What about our church’s doctrine? What about what my preacher, teacher and mentor said? What about this? Jesus said it. I believe it. That settles it. If you act first in love, you will never break a commandment. Not earthly love, but the supernatural love given to us by God through Jesus Christ. If we start planting that kind of love in our hearts, it would begin to multiply the church. Selfless love is not fashionable in a world bent on saving itself. True love. God love. When the avoidance of sin becomes about loving Jesus rather than congregational acceptance – we will be onto something. I don’t really care what people say anymore. If you wait long enough and get close enough from the abundance of their heart – their mouth will speak and tell you what is really growing there. What God is longing for is a church that is set on multiplying His Kingdom not their own buildings. He desires a people so consumed with love that the differences on the exterior of people give way to the potential and promise inside of them. The Lord loves us and wants us to cultivate the same kind of love to all people. How can we ever move down the list of fruits if we cannot become overtaken by the first – love. Love God. Love each other.

Hebrews 6:7-8 (NLT) When the ground soaks up the falling rain and bears a good crop for the farmer, it has God’s blessing. But if a field bears thorns and thistles, it is useless. The farmer will soon condemn that field and burn it.

Rain falls on the just and unjust or so the Bible tells us. God is watering our heart to see what grows from within us. He knows what is in there but now it’s time for us to see what pops up. When I cleaned out the flowerbeds a while ago, I tried to be sure to dig down deep and remove all the roots of the plants I was excavating. Well, as time has passed some of those unwanted plants are growing up again. I didn’t snatch them out by the root so now they are taking over the places vacated by the old plants now long gone. When I do not properly examine my heart every day and remove certain things I run the risk of them growing and taking over again.

I must get rid of all evil behavior. (I Peter 2:1-3) All evil behavior means everything contrary to God’s Word, Will and Way. That’s a lot of stuff. I must stop judging others until I can clearly see my own shortcomings and take them to the Cross. (Matthew 7:4-5) I cannot judge you until I have rid my own life of all the sin hidden within me. What does that mean? I will never be able to judge anyone else. Good! That’s not what I am called to do! I am made for love. I must get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words and slander. (Ephesians 4:31) Oh Holy Spirit, put your hand over my mouth today. While we are at it, our communication should be rid of all filth and malice so that the words we speak are covered in love and smothered in grace. We are sowing in other people’s hearts when we speak so I must always consider what they will produce from our conversation. My new nature should speak life into other people not drive them away. It should offer everything that God has given me not what I think they need. (Colossians 3:7-10) My opinion doesn’t matter. All that matters is the Word of God that brings dead things to life. Finally, so get rid of all the filth and evil in your lives, and humbly accept the word God has planted in your hearts, for it has the power to save your souls.” Here is what I have discovered in this process of growth I am undergoing. The more I know God the less I love me. My opinion is not as important as His Word and Truth. My feelings are emotional but His Word is full satisfaction. If I cultivate anything before love, it is worthless. Every fruit of the Spirit and that of worth in my life is grown from love first.

What is love?

I Corinthians 13:4-7 (NLT) Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.

This is the kind of love that God produces in us. Just when we think we have it all together, it is clear there is another facet to His Love missing. We never arrive fully at the place of unconditional love because only Jesus knows what that is. The selfless love that gives up perfection for people. There are some days that believers will not give up pride for people let alone their whole life. My garden, my heart – to represent Jesus must be covered in love and grow the fruit that comes from love each day. This is what feeds my soul causing it to prosper. As my soul prospers, so will I. Discipleship is the multiplication of love and commitment to Christ through the Body. It has become disconnected with superficial relationships rather than supernatural love.

James 3:13-18 (NLT) If you are wise and understand God’s ways, prove it by living an honorable life, doing good works with the humility that comes from wisdom. But if you are bitterly jealous and there is selfish ambition in your heart, don’t cover up the truth with boasting and lying. For jealousy and selfishness are not God’s kind of wisdom. Such things are earthly, unspiritual, and demonic. For wherever there is jealousy and selfish ambition, there you will find disorder and evil of every kind. But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and the fruit of good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere. And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness.

The property our house is built on belongs to us. It is our responsibility to maintain it. The flowerbed out front is no exception. I must decide what I will plant there if anything at all. I get to choose what grows from the earthly black soil all around it. As I care for the plants, it is up to me to water and fertilize them. Each year as the old dies away, I must evaluate their heartiness and whether or not I should plant them again or choose something else that is more suitable to this environment. I am free to pick what grows from my garden. The garden outside and the garden inside my heart. I will not know until Jesus returns or I meet Him face to face if I chose well.

Wisdom from above is all pure. Get in the Word today and compare it to the productivity in your life beginning with your relationships. If envy, bitterness, or strife has created division – pray for resolution and ask the Lord to make His Way through your heart to forgiveness and resolution. Decide what spiritual fruit needs some attention in your life and look for ways to plant it, water it and cultivate it in your life. The Holy Spirit has probably already begun pressing seeds into the brokenness of your heart. Be peace loving – love is peace. Be gentle to every one all the time. It is time for the church to yield to others again rather than molding and shaping Christians to be like us – it is our lifelong serve to get wrapped up in His Love, covered in His Grace and begin to grow that in the fertile ground around us. Will you examine your heart with me today? Removing all the weeds and worries choking out purpose and prosperity. Breaking up all the hard parts making it ready for more seed. Will you stand in the storm so He can water your soul and wash away hidden sin? God wants to grow you so you can grow others. He is looking at our hearts today. What will He find?

Psalm 65:9-11 (NLT) You take care of the earth and water it, making it rich and fertile. The river of God has plenty of water; it provides a bountiful harvest of grain, for you have ordered it so. You drench the plowed ground with rain, melting the clods and leveling the ridges. You soften the earth with showers and bless its abundant crops. You crown the year with a bountiful harvest; even the hard pathways overflow with abundance.

Developed

Developed

2 Corinthians 3:17-18 (NLT) For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image.

Before the age of digital photography, cameras contained film canisters. A roll of film would produce anywhere from twelve to twenty four pictures by capturing images of life and light making an imprint on the negative inside. The film would then need to be developed. Film processing includes a variety of steps to bring out and stabilize the latent image made by light striking the film during exposure in the camera. Once the film was delivered to the photo shop, one would have to wait up to a week or two to obtain those images. Waiting. The lost art of mankind in this world of immediate gratification. Until the film is developed, the image is hidden from sight. We have shining light hidden inside of us looking for a way out. (2 Corinthians 4:7) The Holy Spirit is working to develop the character of God’s People.

The vision of our church is simple – saved, healed, developed and fulfilled. Four steps to completion as the Lord has intended. As I constantly come back to them, it seems one stands out as the place where it is the most challenging for all of us. Developed. The development process of God is the refinement of one’s character. His Spirit reaches deep down in our heart and soul comparing every thought, intuition, and intention to the very character and nature of God. It would be safe to say our humanity leaves much to be desired in the area of godly character. God’s Word tells us that His Divine Power has given us everything we need to for a godly life just because we know Him. (2 Peter 1:3)

The Spirit of the Lord invested in us by Jesus Christ came to develop us as believers. God loves us too much to leave us powerless and struggling in our sin. Jesus died and rose again to deliver us from the bondage of lowly living well beneath the standard of our creation. We have a purpose to be fulfilled. How do we overcome this hurdle called development to live in the fulfillment of God? Are we there yet? Are there sick among us? Does everyone in our realm of influence know the Christ we serve whether accepting Him or not? The Lord uses the Holy Spirit to make us more and more like Him. We are to be changed into His Glorious Image.

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.

When I was nineteen years old, I was wandering the plains of Africa on a mission trip. Though far from home, I felt alive and purposed. Just a few short years later, I would be wandering in the darkness of the world. How does this happen? Salvation is the acceptance of God’s Grace in exchange for our sin. Healing is the restorative power of God that allows us to rise up from the ashes of a life broken physically, emotionally and spiritually from the brutality of this world. To live right here in these two qualities of godliness is not enough. God did not create you to survive. He created you to thrive in the abundance of His Kingdom. If there is not further development, we will live in a vicious cycle of wandering from the Light of His Love to the darkness of sin and shame. It is an exhausting cycle that can kill dreams, end faith and destroy hope. In the wastelands of life there are waterfalls for those who choose to engage in the active development of godly character.

Hope will not lead to disappointment. We become confident in hope as our character is strengthened. Strength of character is the process of endurance. It is not a quick work but lifelong endeavor to engage in the process of faith that allows us to continue even when we face problems, trials and pain. If you are saved today, are you healed? If you have been healed, are you developed? We can determine our development in our responses to this world. When you run into barricades, obstacles and detours in life, what is our response? Is it faith that keeps pressing and pushing deeper into the Presence of God? Or do we give up or give in?

Deuteronomy 8:1-3 (NLT) Be careful to obey all the commands I am giving you today. Then you will live and multiply, and you will enter and occupy the land the Lord swore to give your ancestors. Remember how the Lord your God led you through the wilderness for these forty years, humbling you and testing you to prove your character, and to find out whether or not you would obey his commands. Yes, he humbled you by letting you go hungry and then feeding you with manna, a food previously unknown to you and your ancestors. He did it to teach you that people do not live by bread alone; rather, we live by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.

Having four older siblings, including three who are adults, our baby girl struggles with constant instruction. There is always someone telling her what to do and how to do it. I wish I had a dime for every time I have heard her say, “You are not the boss of me” or “you are not my mom/dad”. Nobody likes people telling them what to do or how to live. Our flesh bucks authority on every level from the earliest age. I have had to pop (yes, punish) many little hands that would challenge the boundaries set before them. Yes, I believe the padded seats they come with my need the occasional swat to remember certain guidelines in life. Why? I am developing responsible adults packed as immature babies and children. It is my job according to the Lord to train them up in the way that they should go.

We must be careful to obey our Father in Heaven. Faith is evidenced by our wiliness to obey God and take Him at His Word. Our character is limited by our obstinate nature. We want to live our life with the opinions of others. Yet, from early on, it is established that we live by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord if prosperity and fulfillment is our goal. My way always leads to death and destruction. Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life, if I want to be saved, healed, DEVELOPED and fulfilled. I must faithfully follow Him no matter where it leads me. Mountain high or valley low, I cry out to remind my soul that I am yours. Lord, I am yours.

Psalm 105:19-21 (NLT)Until the time came to fulfill his dreams, the Lord tested Joseph’s character. Then Pharaoh sent for him and set him free; the ruler of the nation opened his prison door. Joseph was put in charge of all the king’s household; he became ruler over all the king’s possessions.

The story of Joseph emanates the process of development that the Lord uses to refine our character. Until the time… this is the biggest challenge of building character. The wait times in life are the hardest part in my opinion. The space between the dream and fulfillment when you slowly but surely every earthly way is exhausting until the only foundation left is our faith in Jesus Christ. Here is where we find fulfillment if we have been dedicated to development along the way. See Joseph continued to serve the Lord in captivity. When he was thrown in a pit, Joseph still loved God. When he was shackled among slaves to be made like them, He still knew and understood that He was a Child of God. When he went to Potiphar’s House – he served his master as if he was serving God. When he was falsely accused, Joseph didn’t throw his hands up and quit, but served God with the same faithful obedience in the dungeon of the palace. When those who promised forgot about him, Joseph still served the Lord. What happened? His Dream came true. I wonder if maybe it took all those years to forgive each one of his brothers who left him for dead. Whatever the case? The Lord knew every single step it would take for Joseph to become the wise and mighty man of God who would lead the nation in its darkest hour.

Let’s talk about Peter for a minute. The Bible calls those who believe without seeing to be blessed. Joseph did not see Jesus but knew the Lord. Peter actually walked side by side with Jesus as a man. His struggle with development was no less intense even though he could literally reach out and touch the Lord. In Matthew 14:28-29, Peter tries this thing called faith and walks on water…at least for a little bit. Just enough to taste the power of faith invested in Jesus Christ. Great start, right? Matthew 16:17-19, Peter confesses Jesus is the Messiah, Son of the Living God. Jesus prophecies over him that he is the rock on which the church will be built. He hands over the keys to the Kingdom to this man in this moment. How exciting, right? Nothing can stop Peter now. Matthew 19:26-27 whoops Peter discovers a little doubt festering inside as expressed when he tells Jesus – “Hey, we have given up everything…for what?” That doesn’t sound much like water-walking faith anymore. Thing get worse before they get better. Matthew 26:32-34 Jesus predicts Peter’s denial right after Peter demands to defend him. What’s up with that? Of course, our hero would never ever deny the Lord. Come on… Matthew 69-74 oh well, Peter blows it and denies Jesus three times just like the Lord said he would. Game over. Not so fast. In John 21 is the account of Jesus meeting Peter on the beach. He had decided to go fishing. Back to his mediocre existing fishing the waters. Jesus didn’t change His Mind about Peter but used the string of events to produce character in him. Now that Peter was developed, he could enter fulfillment.

Hebrews 1:2-3 (NLT) And now in these final days, he has spoken to us through his Son. God promised everything to the Son as an inheritance, and through the Son he created the universe. The Son radiates God’s own glory and expresses the very character of God, and he sustains everything by the mighty power of his command. When he had cleansed us from our sins, he sat down in the place of honor at the right hand of the majestic God in heaven. 

To be saved is to separate us from our sin as we repent and turn to the Lord. He begins to move us farther from our past into our future, as our sin continues its trek from the east to west. (Psalm 103:7-12) To know God’s Character as outlined in Psalm 103, is to understand that everything He does is with the mindset of a Good Father. He looks past who we are now to our potential and purpose far beyond our impetuous and impulsive nature driven by immaturity in Christ. God’s Character of compassion and unconditional love allows us to come to Him boldly no matter what our sin with our willingness to walk away from it and pursue His Love. As we begin to walk in His Love, the Lord heals us from the inside out. The more we walk by faith the more complete and whole we become. However, there is more to life than temporary comfort and deliverance. We have a destination called fulfillment that requires development.

To be mature is to be developed. We cannot fulfill our destiny and purpose in the Lord unless we become mature Christians rather than spiritual babies. We must feast on the meat of His Word. We must dive into the depths of His Love. It is due to a lack of knowledge that my people perish or die. Not my word but His Words (Hosea 4:6). To develop self-control that comes from His Spirit that drives us to obedience, faithfulness and a firm commitment to Christ and His Word at all times no matter what the situation or circumstances. We must count it all joy when we enter trials knowing that in our complete undoing we will become like Him more and more producing His Glory in us to shine through us. Are you frustrated today? Tired of turning to Christ and returning to the world like a giant inescapable merry-go-round? Do you want to see God’s Purpose for you fulfilled? You must be developed. It is not a fun process but worthwhile indeed. It is a commitment to follow Jesus past the peace you feel in church and goosebumps when they sing your favorite song to the point when the enemy tries to sift you like wheat.

I cannot help but wonder what the Light of His Love has imprinted on each human heart called potential. What might happen if men and women would simply surrender their life to be saved, healed, developed and fulfilled? Would revival break out? Would Jesus come sooner? Would we live in the midst of miracles? Would dead dreams come back to life? Would our lives be filled with His Glory? I don’t really know…but I want to. We each have purpose that leads to fulfillment along with a process to make it come to pass. Isn’t it time we let the Lord develop us into the masterpiece that He created us to be.

Ephesians 2:4-10 (NLT) But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!) For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus. So God can point to us in all future ages as examples of the incredible wealth of his grace and kindness toward us, as shown in all he has done for us who are united with Christ Jesus. God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.