Birthday Thoughts

Birthday cupcake against a blue background

Proverbs 16:31-33 (NLT) Gray hair is a crown of glory; it is gained by living a godly life. Better to be patient than powerful; better to have self-control than to conquer a city. We may throw the dice, but the Lord determines how they fall.

Happy Birthday to me. Today marks my fifty-first year of life. I say it, but cannot truly feel it. Age is really just a number. It has never really impacted me like some of my friends. But the idea of fifty-one has made me slow down a bit and take a look at the scenery. I am pretty sure my nose-to-the-grindstone, press-thru-the-pain, and get-the-job-done attitude has caused the last decade of my existence to pass by in a blur. In our ladies Bible study, we talked about our lifetime estimated in the Word to be about seventy years. Seems like a long time and maybe even endless to a teenager, but I took that number and broke it down into days. If I live exactly 70 years, it means that I was born with 25,500 days of which I currently have about 6,935 days left as of today. To some it may be an instance of glass half empty, but to me it is a glass full of possibility. I am not worried so much about my life running out as it ending without fulfilling my purpose.

Gray hair may be a crown of glory for some but as long as my hairdresser will schedule another appointment – not on my head. However, in the Word of God, it is called our crown of glory just the same. I have gray hair carefully hidden under hair dye but that doesn’t keep them from popping up from time to time. Proverbs says – it is gained by a godly life. Perhaps the point is that if we make it in life long enough to have gray hair that it is an accomplishment. Mine mark years of survival. It is representative of a life given to pursuing the Lord and missing Him a lot. It shows that there is grace to overcome our mistakes and misgivings. It marks me as one who should have something more to give for it is the crown of glory that should be woven with wisdom and good common sense that has led me through impatience and impetuousness to the place I am now. The truth about my place in life is that it is usually a crossroad. The place where many decide to dig in or give up on their dreams and inspirations. Is it folly to think that at this age dreams really do come true? Is it possible that we have buried seed meant for planting in the barren field of hopelessness marked with the sign called unmet expectation? It happens all the time. We left life get ahold of our perception and make it into a harsh reality absent of faith, hope and even trust until believing in what we see overshadows the truth of what we know to be true.

“Better to be patient than powerful; better to have self-control than to conquer a city.” The final fruit of the Spirit is self-control. Perhaps patience and self-control are not possible in our youth because endurance and perseverance are necessary to find them. Seeds don’t grow overnight. You may be full of potential that just hasn’t been given enough time to grow, develop and mature into the purpose that God intended it to be. Too often, like the fig tree, it is human nature to cover up a lack of fruit with a plethora of leaves and foliage. Hiding behind a well-constructed façade, no one is as they seem. But God knows…He sees inside of our heart. He knows our deepest desire and while we try to bury it, get over it and move on. The Lord whispers wait a minute. It is part of my plan. Hold on. Don’t be so impatient. You have to live a little more life in order to produce the harvest. Waiting is not a bad thing. It is part of God’s Timing and vital to His Process. If you compare the older me to the younger version, it is clear that I have developed patience. They came at a high price – through difficulty, lack of control, waiting and more waiting and helplessness. I am finally beginning to see small hints of patience in my character. Praise God – it only took five decades to achieve. Self-control. It has been a tough one. I have always been a great starter but horrible finisher. I lacked the self-control to remain engaged when the “woo-hoo” wore off and the process grew tiring. There is the ever so slight but definitely noticeable change in my character to hang on, wait for it, and stay put. All this is to the Glory of God. None of this is human nature, but godly influence. It didn’t come through personal victory but daily defeat. As I sit here this morning, I finally see His Glorious Plan coming together. Though the pieces are definitely spread apart, His Hand is carefully aligning them into a beautiful picture that I am excited to see even in my fifties.

Proverbs 16:1-4 (NLT) We can make our own plans, but the Lord gives the right answer. People may be pure in their own eyes, but the Lord examines their motives. Commit your actions to the Lord, and your plans will succeed. The Lord has made everything for his own purposes…

The Lord has blessed our family. I spent Saturday with our youngest daughter. She is the only one who is still bound to us as she will not drive for a couple more years. Her oldest sister lives in New Hampshire and will arrive today for a visit. Her middle sister has a full agenda and a flourishing social life. So, it was just the two of us for a day of birthday shopping. As we wandered from store to store, she became very agitated with my lack of ability to share something I wanted that was not practical. It is your birthday, she told me. It is a big deal! My husband and I had more humble beginnings. I will admit that we have spoiled our children with love and things. They do not know the difficult times that shaped both of our childhoods. They only know the security and structure of family. I am so very thankful for that. However, walking with her, I feel a nudge inside. The Lord is pressing for my attention to this thing called dreams and desire.

We make our plans. BUT the Lord gives the right answer. When I was a little girl, I decided that I would be a professional mom with just two kids. I wasn’t interested in being a stay-at-home mom much less have a handful of children. Well, when the first one came, I knew my purpose. It was to be a mom. I wanted it more than anything else. I ended up with not two babies, but five of them. There were many times in my life that my priorities set a regulatory standard for my life which has fallen apart. I had good intentions but the Lord was moving in my heart. He has a much higher standard of living for us than we could ever plan or execute. Truth is most days – we don’t believe it any more. Fairytales and fantasies are for children and fools. Reality is adulting. Day dreaming is for the lazy. However, sitting here at fifty, I hear the Lord whispering why not believe? Why not go for it? Why not think my love is extravagant? My power limitless again. Why not?

Commit your actions to the Lord, and your plans will succeed. The Lord has made everything for his own purposes. Is it possible that at my age, I am only beginning to see the harvest of years of planting and sowing in life and people? Could it be that there has been unseen purpose and greater potential in the ordinary steps of my life leading to an extraordinary finish? The Word of God tells us to commit our actions to the Lord AND they WILL succeed. What have you done for Jesus over the last days, months or years of your life? Do you know that there is purpose in each footstep to be discovered? The Lord determines our steps according to His Plan. (Proverbs 16:9) Those dreams and desires in our heart are a product of the eternity and faith hidden there. To bring them to fruition. In Proverbs 16:20 is the promise that those who listen to instruction will prosper and those who trust the Lord will be joyful. Prosperity and joy are found in fulfillment as the Lord brings to completion the work that He began in you before you were born.

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

When our son was diagnosed with cancer, I handled it better than I thought it would. I began slinging the Word of God like a sword at it and held up my shield of faith against it. Fighting the good fight, I never considered it would take many years to accomplish. God gave me His Word that our son would live and not die. I had no idea it would be a seed that took many years to grow. This summer marks remission times three years. However, after the battle was over, I found myself dry, empty and done. How could it be? How is it possible? Victory is not always easy that’s why defeat can be so agonizing. Laying it all on the field means that if winning doesn’t happen you have nothing left to fall back on. After three long years of fighting to keep the faith and finish the course, the reality was that my life would never be “normal” again. It would not be as I had expected. The reality of life’s brevity and uncertainly loomed over me like a tiny black raincloud. The numbness in my limbs from fighting traveled to my heart. Some days, I felt like it was barely beating. I had finally come to the end of myself. It was not pretty. She was no longer in control of her life, family and destiny. For those of us who have control issues, pride barriers and any other type of fear or insecurity – this is not a fun place. It is a realization that demands a choice. It requires a change. The only good part is that finally the Lord has the opportunity to lead us to fulfillment. Grace works best in our weakness. His Power takes over when we step out of the way.

Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.” (Ecclesiastes 3:11) God takes our brokenness and makes it beautiful. When the battle was won, our son declared cancer free. I rejoiced, but it was not as I expected. Three months later, more scans and still clear. I became depressed at my lack of enthusiasm. I felt very guilty because many had not been so fortunate. This would be a turning point in my life forever. I walked around in a daze for about a year. Clueless as to hold to operate outside of my overdriven and constantly controlling personality. These waves of emotions carried me yet I had no idea what to do next. That’s when Joel 2:28-29 was introduced to me in a different way.

Your old men will dream dreams, and your young men will see visions. In those days I will pour out my Spirit even on servants—men and women alike. What if brokenness and undoing is the point when potential finds its way into purpose? What if it takes reality and life to break our hearts to the point where God can reach the bottom? What if our best days really are hidden in the rest of them following our arrival at the end of self? Is it possible that the dreams and visions promised to the “old men” is really where the potential lies? Could it be possible that the course of my life is exactly as God planned it before I was even born? Yes. Yes. Yes. You are exactly where God planned for you to be. He orders our steps for His Destiny not necessarily our desired destination. He is not transporting you to the Magic Kingdom, but transforming you for His Kingdom. We want a better life, but the Lord is preparing us for eternal life. It takes time. It is a process. It will require years to yield harvest. You will have to wait. You must endure. It requires persistence. You will be remolded and reshaped – broken and more. But you know what? It will be worth it all.

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

So what if it’s true? What if God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His Purpose for them? It means that every dream I have dreamed should be dug up from its grave and given a careful and thorough examination according to the faith and hope that I have. Possibility is hidden in every detail of my seemingly ordinary life so I must be careful not to dismiss bad days and mess ups as experience but decide if there is something to be gleaned in that moment. A lot of people my age life in regret, shame and guilt over the not-so-productive choices that they “think” they made when the reality is it is all working together for their good! To God’s Glory! What kind of God would He be if He only showed up for emergencies? He is definitely the First Responder to those who call on Him, but why do we put our God, faith, hope and trust in a glass case to be of emergency. He wants to work every detail of our existence with His Power, Potential and Purpose. He’s not holding back…we are.

As I celebrate with my family today, I am thankful for every one of those fifty-one years. Lord, help me to remember all the seed planted and remind me to continue to sow in the coming year. Age is just a number. My potential is not in my days but how I choose to spend them. Time is the only commodity that cannot be bought but you restore all things. You are a miracle working God who will multiply purpose and yield promises in the time offered to You. Whether I have one more day, 6,935 days to seventy or even more than that, may I give them completely and wholeheartedly to You – Jesus. Keep my heart soft and pliant in Your Hands even it means I must stay broken. Keep my eyes on You Jesus – focused on the future never on the past. Keep my ears open to hear Your Voice, value your instruction and apply it daily to my life. God, I truly believe that the best is yet to come. Thank you for life. Thank you for your promises. Thank you for a purpose and plan worth having a lifetime of lessons to see it come to pass. This is not the end of my life – it is only the beginning. I am thankful to report… He’s still working on me… To make me what I ought to be…It took Him just a week to make the moon and stars, the sun and the earth and Jupiter and Mars. How loving and patient He must be… He’s still working on me!

Philippians 1:6 (NLT) And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.

To Be Still

To Be Still

Psalm 46:10 (AMP) “Be still and know (recognize, understand) that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations! I will be exalted in the earth.”

As I sit in His Presence today, I am waiting. Wondering about some details that just don’t add up. Asking for clarity and divine discernment. Introspection leads to listening. I want to hear His Voice. I want to do what He says to me. So different from my younger days, when dissatisfaction created distance between us, now it only leads to a greater desire to know, recognize and understand Him more. Completion is my purpose. Fulfillment is the potential of my life. To be fully invested in Christ body, mind and spirit until my soul prospers and runs over to every person I encounter in this dark and dying world. To light in every darkness and speak words that lead to life. To love so extravagantly that all they see is God’s Love poured out before them in spite of me.

Yet soon, I will have to close the Bible, turn off the computer and leave the prayer closet/study. The door will be open and life come pouring in like a wave unhindered. I will face challenges. I will have trials. All opportunities to grow a little closer and wade a little deeper into the fathomless grace that I have been given. As I go, my greatest longing is to just be still. To be still and know. To be still and recognize. To be still and understand that He is My God. It would be so much easier if I could stay right here in His Presence. To distance myself from the pressures of life persistently bearing down on my chest, stealing my breath, taking my attention, and just to be still. Oh for a moment of selah today, a moment to pause and reflect on the walls of the strong tower, my refuge, and my strength.

Psalm 46:1-6 (AMP) God is our refuge and strength [mighty and impenetrable], a very present and well-proved help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change and though the mountains be shaken and slip into the heart of the seas, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its roaring. Selah. There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God. The holy dwelling places of the Most High. God is in the midst of her [His city], she will not be moved; God will help her when the morning dawns. The nations made an uproar, the kingdoms tottered and were moved; He raised His voice, the earth melted.

Reading these words today, I am encouraged. Feeling like Peter whose desire for the Lord took him out of the boat to walk on water, but the winds and the waves got in his way. Sometimes faith feels like swimming in an endless ocean, too far out to turn back but so far gone the shore is not in sight. It is then that our life hangs in the balance. It is in that moment that we become aware of grace that is like an ocean – you know the one where we are sinking. God is good. God is always good. He is love. Endless love. Fathomless love. His Purpose and Plan for my life is complete lacking no good thing unless maybe my full attention sometimes. In the past, the adrenaline might kick in right about now. I would have to make the decision to fight for my faith or flee with what is left of my left. Oh, I am too far gone now. Like Jacob in Genesis 32, his wives, children and livelihood crossed over on the other side. Jacob was alone. Nothing to go back to, just Jacob and God wrestling through the dark of night. Holding tightly to the Lord, who said, “Let me go for the day is breaking.” Jacob refused. He declared to the Lord, “I will not let You go unless You declare a blessing on me.” Jacob was given his heart’s desire. No longer would he be known for his struggles, but as the one who came face-to-face with God. Do you remember what happened when Moses came face-to-face with the Lord? God’s Glory shone so brightly on his face that he covered it as not to frighten them. Oh for Your Glory, Lord. I desire that new name. I want to be the one who despite her many struggles and insufficiencies experienced the Glory of Your Grace full immersed and overflowing.

God is our refuge and our strength. His Presence is a mighty and impenetrable fortress that allows us to be still and know – no matter what conditions or circumstances are circling our life. I am so thankful today for His Presence. The Lord does not only promise to keep us safe and secure in His Presence but offers freedom from fear so faith can grow, develop and mature into deep roots that keep us well-grounded so that we learn to thrive in life and not just merely survive. (Psalm 92:14) Jacob fled for his life which didn’t amount to much except the Lord was with him. He served Laban faithfully and flourished even in exile. He encountered the Lord in the stillness of the night upon his return. He was 97 years old. Oh for us to know, understand and recognize that our journey with the Lord is a lifelong endeavor seldom offering immediate gratification or instantaneous harvests. It is a life of sowing and reaping governed by the promise of God that what we plant is what we will reap. God has blessed Jacob in the natural but in his old age he wanted God’s Blessing to reach into the depths of his heart and change him.

Lord, help me to be still. To know, recognize and understand that my life is a process. Grace to faith to trust to confident hope. To complete the cycle again and again until my heart is secure in the stronghold of your love. I don’t want to end the process or escape the pressure. I want you Lord. I will not let go until You bless me with the desire of my heart. Lord teach me to fully rely on Your Sovereignty today. You go before me and fall in behind me. You pursue me passionately with Goodness and Unfailing Love. Teach me to pursue you with my whole heart.

Psalm 37:3-7 (AMP) Trust [rely on and have confidence] in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and feed [securely] on His faithfulness. Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires and petitions of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in Him also and He will do it. He will make your righteousness [your pursuit of right standing with God] like the light, and your judgment like [the shining of] the noonday [sun]. Be still before the Lord; wait patiently for Him and entrust yourself to Him…

Trust is to rely on and have confidence in the Lord. Our ability to trust is in direct correlation with what we believe to be true. Faithfulness is God’s Quality that I believe in along with His Goodness. He is faithful while I can only try to be. My only real chance at faith is created by the amazing grace that I have been given. Do good. Dwell in the land. Feed on His Faithfulness. Such a simple thing, yet a daily challenge with the pressures of life bearing down on us. Dare I believe that in the midst of adversity that God is giving me the desires of my heart? Yes, and a thousand times, yes! Such understanding doesn’t come without a price. It will require my complete undoing. It will take all of my heart, mind, soul and body fully invested in Jesus Christ. It will be in my weakness. It will be found when I fail. Those who commit their life to Christ must put all expectation in the Lord, His Word, His Will and His Way. It is a day by day – moment to moment process to build trust and confidence in the Lord. It is a daily pursuit and endless process that requires endurance. Endurance is marked by stillness. Those who endure must learn to be still.

James 4:6-8 (AMP) But He gives us more and more grace [through the power of the Holy Spirit to defy sin and live an obedient life that reflects both our faith and our gratitude for our salvation]. Therefore, it says, “God is opposed to the proud and haughty, but [continually] gives [the gift of] grace to the humble [who turn away from self-righteousness].” So submit to [the authority of] God. Resist the devil [stand firm against him] and he will flee from you. Come close to God [with a contrite heart] and He will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; and purify your [unfaithful] hearts, you double-minded [people].

Oh Jesus just a few more minutes together before I must leave this place of refuge. This quiet place in our home filled with Your Spirit and like-minded people. I am persuaded today that nothing can separate me from the Love of God. I know that all things work together for my good because I am called according to His Purpose and desire it above all things. Yet still, to be still is such a challenge sometimes especially when the ocean of grace is so vast that I cannot see from shore to shore. What lies beneath the surface frightens me. The length of this journey overwhelms me. The enemy taunts me. His lies raise the hairs on the back of my neck. God gives more and more grace to those who forgo pride and float in humility. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Resist. Withstand. Strive against. Oppose. If I simply resist, the temptation to give up or give in then he must go. The enemy cannot do anything to me other than lie to me. If I silence the lie with God’s Truth – He must go. Our closeness to the Lord allows us to endure such harsh conditions and one day realize that the thing that carried us through was His Grace. It is enough. It is more than enough. It is always sufficient. It leads me to faith. It is the one thing that I trust most because without it – I don’t stand a chance.

Psalm 84:1-4 (AMP) How lovely are Your dwelling places, Lord of hosts! My soul (my life, my inner self) longs for and greatly desires the courts of the Lord; My heart and my flesh sing for joy to the living God. The bird has found a house, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young—even Your altars, O Lord of hosts, My King and my God. Blessed and greatly favored are those who dwell in Your house and Your presence; they will be singing Your praises all the day long. Selah.

Have you ever encountered a spider web? You didn’t see it. Like a carefully laid net to capture you, it overtakes you or so it seems. You flail around as if consumed in invisible fire to get away from it. It is not the web that you are afraid of but the little spider that may be lurking in it who more than likely ran away when you destroyed its home. The world’s largest spider is ironically called the Goliath spider…no kidding. It is about 11 inches in diameter making shudder just to think about it. Though a deadly ambusher of small rodents and even a bird – to date it has not consumed a human. Thank God! However, even a small spider will cause a grown man to jump and scream. So many times – this is how those filled with the Power of Christ respond to the words of the enemy. When walking through the woods, I must look out for spiders. It is their dwelling place. Their home and not mind. But in my house, the spiders are quickly killed and disposed of. It is my home and they are not welcome. Where are you living today?

To live in the Presence of God is a place that goes with us. He lives in us. The world is not our home. However, God gave us dominion over it in Genesis. My authority is evident by the Christ in me but if I have no confidence in Christ – I will remain subject to my fear and insecurities because I have no idea of the strong tower and refuge available for those who take grace to access faith and live in it by trust. Just outside the door awaits all the pressure and pain along with cares and concerns that comprise this life we live. I will be tested and tried by the many challenges. The enemy has new lies and careful traps ready to trip me up and cause me to stumble. The Lord offers a strong tower and refuge for those who desire to enter in and to be still. These are His People who will experience blessing and favor in their life. As their soul prospers in the Peaceful Place of God so will their everyday life no matter how tough it gets. Lord, my soul, my life and my inner self long for you. I greatly desire to live in Your Presence today. Help me to do so. Show me the way deeper into the courts called beautiful, peaceful and strong. Teach me to be still today. Show me how to put all my life in you, Jesus!

Psalm 84:12 (AMP) O Lord of hosts, how blessed and greatly favored is the man who trusts in You [believing in You, relying on You, and committing himself to You with confident hope and expectation].

By Grace…

By Grace

Ephesians 2:8-10 (NIV) For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

By grace I am saved through faith…the order of redemption is important. How many times is faith emphasized outside of God’s Grace and when it fails to move the mountain, make the way or summon dry bones and dead dreams to life – there is discouragement, disappointment and even doubt? Grace is difficult for mankind as it defies pride and calls for crucifixion. Pride prefers faith demonstrated by works and the façade of perfection. The Gift of God called Grace is essential as it is our escort through the door marked faith. Without grace this door is locked and cannot be opened. When our daughter married her true love, he waited at the altar on the frigid November day. The music played as all the groom’s men and bridesmaids filtered in and took their place. The music changed and everyone stood up as she made her way to the aisle covered in rose petals. Her father had her arm and they smiled as she made her way to the future. Turning to face our soon-to-be son-in-law, he was weeping openly at the sight of his bride. Overtaken by emotion, he held his face in his hands with tears literally running through his fingers. His love for our daughter evident in his reaction. As they joined hands to pray, our daughter dutifully bowed her head still donning the radiant smile from before, but he couldn’t stop looking at the top of her head. Trying to also bow his head, it kept popping up to look at her. It’s funny as I think about God’s Grace today – that this image comes to mind. The Bride and Bridegroom standing at the point of completion. The day that they will become one. By grace, I am saved through faith.

Grace is true love. It is the love of Jesus that flowed from His Broken Body and Broken Heart that day as a remarkable gift. Grace is the goodwill and favor of God given to His People through the ultimate sacrifice of His Son. To know, understand, acknowledge and accept His Grace as enough is a requirement for real faith to be initiated in our life. Faith is the seed in our heart activated by grace. However, to try to grow in faith without being fully immersed in grace will only lead to further frustration. The edges and borders of my life are clear cut. It is a giant canvas made white by His Blood in order to become the “masterpiece” as it is called in the New Living Translation or “handiwork” her in the New International Version. I am God’s Masterpiece. Nothing in my life is without potential and purpose to be worked together for my good and completion. It all begins with His Grace. Grace does not change the details of my life prerecorded by the Lord. (Psalm 139:16) It is the access point of all the promises that He has made to me obtained by faith and trust in the Lord. However, it is all through His Grace.

John 1:16-18 (NIV) Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.

Jesus came to provide us a rich and satisfying life. (John 10:10) This promise is claimed not by what we do but by the grace that is given to us by the One who “is in the closest relationship with the Father”. I am stuck today in this place called grace. Have I tried to live by faith outside of God’s Grace? Is it possible that in my zeal to please God with faith, I sometimes forget that His Grace is sufficient for me? We can only accept grace. I cannot earn it. The grace offered in Jesus Christ is completely and blood bought. I cannot do a single act or make a significant change that will make it affordable to me. It will always be too expensive. It will be more than I can do.

Some assembly required. I often read the reviews of a product before purchasing it to decide how difficult it might be to construct. Many Christmas eves filled with frustration. The box boasted five minutes of construction but the 5,000 pieces represented five days of work. There would be times that after putting it all together the darn thing still didn’t work. So what would I do? I would read the instructions again, and go over each step to see what I missed. For me, this verse today is a flashlight on my heart to determine the areas of my life where I missed the first step called grace. I am pulling and tugging on doors that the Lord will freely open because I have forgotten to remain partnered with grace? I am pleading and praying for things that can only be released by grace? By grace, I am saved through faith. Faith must be first planted in grace to produce other fruit in our life.

Acts 15:11 (NIV) No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.”

I can hear the invitational hymn that I grew up with playing in my head. “Just as I am, without one plea, but that Thy Blood was shed for me. And that Thou bid’st me come to Thee. O Lamb of God, I come! I come!” Just as I am. Jesus gives us His Grace exactly as I am. No change in me is required just to come to Him. You know my daughter was absolutely stunning on her wedding day. Her beauty inside radiated in her person outside. As perfect as she looked, she was still imperfect. Her husband didn’t see her faults, flaws or failures that day – only the one his soul loved. When Jesus sees us, it is the same way. As a bridegroom awaiting His Beloved, not based on what we can do or choose not to do. It has nothing to do with anything other than His Love manifested in His Grace which provides us access to His Presence. I can come boldly and confidently before Him not because of my faith but simply by His Grace. Oh that the church would find His Grace again, to rely on the grace given to us by the Love of Jesus and stop trying to reinstitute the imperfect law of grace given to Moses. (Romans 11:5-6) By grace, I am saved through faith.

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

The Lord’s Grace is sufficient for me. It is enough. His Power is made perfect in my weakness. However, it is quite another matter to boast about my weaknesses. Everyone sins. Everyday. There is no one that can overcome the flesh and walk in complete righteousness outside of God’s Grace given to us by Jesus. Who delights in weakness? Insults? Hardships? Persecutions? Difficulties? Not many people I know including myself. However, it is in weakness that I am able to fully accept His Grace. It is a humble position never a prideful state. The more I know Jesus, the more I see how much I need Him and how little I have to offer.

James 2:21-24 (NIV) Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend. You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone.

I shared with our small group last night the helplessness that I felt at the bedside of our son enduring the horrible effects of chemotherapy. Watching his body suffer and waste away, time after time I asked the Lord to put me in his place fully knowing it was impossible. One day as I prayed, I pleaded with the Lord. I am a mother. These children are my promise and purpose in life. God, you know that I would die for them. I heard that still small voice reverberate through my heart – “You don’t have to. I already did.” His Grace is enough. His Grace is sufficient. It is in weakness and failures that I am reminded that it is by grace that I am saved through faith.

Faith is conceived by grace. There is nothing that I can “do” to please God without faith. But I cannot have true and relevant faith without fully accepting God’s Grace and the truth that it is enough for me. Faith without works is dead. Faith cannot be productive outside of God’s Grace will also be fruitless. If you are giving your all to Jesus and it is still not enough, it may be time to revisit your connection to His Grace. His Grace is always enough. It is not reliant on the things we do.

Abraham withheld nothing from the Lord. His trust in the grace of God and faith in His Promise allowed him to journey to the mountain of sacrifice ready to give his all. However, Abraham is not the only one listed in this passage. God considered Rahab “the prostitute” righteous. Hold up! The Bible does not tell of her radical conversion. It does not detail her deliverance from her profession. Grace is enough. You cannot wash yourself clean enough. You cannot be good enough to attain right standing with God again. You cannot pay the debt that sin has slapped on your life. it is by grace, I am saved through faith. Lord, keep in your grace today. Remind me that it is enough for me and every other person I come in contact with.

Acts 4:32-35 (NIV) All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need.

How will I know if I am reliant on God’s Grace to accompany me through faith? It really is simple. God’s Grace is the Good News called the Gospel. Have you heard the old saying, “You catch more flies with than vinegar”? My grandmother used to say it all the time. Grace is the gospel but is this the message of our life? Faith without works is dead. But faith in God without grace is impossible. Grace is the access point that is the way to the Father through His Son. The fruit of faith fully invested in grace is found in Acts 4. Believers who believe in the Grace of God will have one heart and one mind. No longer will there be division. Grace is the commonality of Christ. It takes me out of the equation and makes Christ the constant. It says that they testified to the resurrection – they spoke truth and life to people without judgment and condemnation which are not qualities of Jesus. Jesus came to show mercy and love to all mankind offering them grace to be set free.  It says, “God’s Grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there were no needy persons among them.” Redemption. Restoration. Renewal. Revival. All of these are the fruits of faith conceived by Grace. Could it be that our feeble attempts at faith are fruitless because we have tried to achieve them outside of grace? Food for thought. How can I be gracious if I do not know the sufficiency of grace? I cannot give what I have been not received. I cannot express what I have not personally experienced. I cannot live by faith without living in God’s Grace.

Proverbs 22:11 (NIV) One who loves a pure heart and who speaks with grace will have the king for a friend.

 

Hidden Treasure

for sale

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

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

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

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

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

Matthew 5:14-16 (NLT) “You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Halfsies

Half Empty Half Full

Matthew 6:21 (NLT) Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.

Call me an optimist. I have heard it before. I always believe that when it comes to the age old question, “Is the glass half empty or half full?” I will always say, “Half full!” Without hesitation. I have always believed that there is more to life if we just keep a good attitude and work hard. I believe that people are good, but life is hard. I am quick to apologize. I hate broken relationships and strained communication. I was raised by a man who wasn’t afraid to try. If he broke, he always tried to fix it and many times was successful without the need for a repairman. Not everyone is like that – there are pessimists and they cannot understand such thinking. The glass is always half empty and surely has a hole. Living in bondage to stress and fear of failure, they do not try new things and become frustrated in setbacks. They often live in a state of “it is what it is” and that’s just my luck. Trust is hard for them. They seldom can apologize and struggle to forgive. Unmet expectation overshadows their victories in life. Living under a little black cloud, they do not dance with the optimist in the rain. It is all about perspective. Life perception dictates the outcomes in life because it is what fuels our motivation. To live a life that is half empty is draining. But to live a life that is half full without real expectation is to live a life of misdirected zeal and enthusiasm. We are born with a plan and it’s a good one. It comes with a future and hope that cannot be realized by the optimist or pessimist without a true change of heart. Regardless of perception our life is supplied by sowing and reaping or planting and harvesting. Positive people are rewarded with positive results. Negative people may experience success for their efforts but their perception of life robs them of the reward called satisfaction. Whether you fall into one of these personas or the other – your perception may be flawed. No really.

2 Kings 4:3-7 (NLT) And Elisha said, “Borrow as many empty jars as you can from your friends and neighbors. Then go into your house with your sons and shut the door behind you. Pour olive oil from your flask into the jars, setting each one aside when it is filled.” So she did as she was told. Her sons kept bringing jars to her, and she filled one after another. Soon every container was full to the brim! “Bring me another jar,” she said to one of her sons. “There aren’t any more!” he told her. And then the olive oil stopped flowing. When she told the man of God what had happened, he said to her, “Now sell the olive oil and pay your debts, and you and your sons can live on what is left over.”

As I tiptoe back to this woman’s house, peering in her windows again, I cannot imagine the wonderful hope that flooded her heart and soul as she began pouring the flask of oil into all those jars. Container after container from empty to full and empty to full right before her eyes. It was a miracle that speaks to my heart today. Yes, even the optimist needs some direction when it comes to faith, trust and hope. The Lord has blessed my family and me. I cannot begin to share all the ways that the Lord has provided for us physically, financially and supernaturally. However, lately I have been nudged by the Holy Spirit to leave this place of comfort that produces complacency in life. Most of the time pursuing the deeper things of God are only possible in desperation. Look at this little lady, the threat of losing her children drove her out of her tiny box into a realm of hope overflowing. She was poor then rich not because someone gave her anything or even working two jobs. The woman took what she had, broke it open and it began to flow through her life. She saved that flask for a rainy day or maybe for such a time as this – all along all that she needed to provide increase for her family was bottled within her reach.

Matthew 6:22-23 (NLT) “Your eye is like a lamp that provides light for your body. When your eye is healthy, your whole body is filled with light. But when your eye is unhealthy, your whole body is filled with darkness. And if the light you think you have is actually darkness, how deep that darkness is!

Perception is from the Latin word meaning comprehension, literally or taking in. It is how we perceive things. To perceive means to become aware of, know or identify by means of senses and feelings. Our perception is formed by how we perceive things. Personal recognition, discernment, envisioning and understanding of life and how it works is formed by our five senses, feelings, emotions, education, knowledge, and influences in life. Our parents and guardians begin the process and then the baton is passed to instructors, mentors and even those held in high regard from presidents to pastors. It can be a mixture of many things in our life and defines how we live our life.

Jesus warned us about perception in Matthew 6. In fact, it relates to our treasure and the reality of faith in our life. Wherever your treasure is that is where your heart is pointing to and headed in the direction of based on our perception. Our eye works on the basis of its ability to process light through the lens to display an image on the retina. The retina receives the image through the lens and transforms it into an image into electrical impulses that are carried by the optic nerve to our brain. I wear contact lens to see clearly. If something gets caught between the synthetic contact lens and the lens in my eye, it obstructs my view of things. Over time, my eyesight changes and I need new lens when things are not clear anymore. Jesus is the Light of the world. We must take our perception of life, whether optimistic or pessimistic, to focus on the Kingdom of Heaven rather than the things of this world. In doing so, my perception of life changes from what I see to what I know. Jesus is the Word. Faith is illogical outside of the Word so one must focus on natural elements to survive much less thrive. Jesus said, “Your eye is the lamp that provides light for your body.” To see our life as God planned it and fully utilize the Presence of God in us – our perception must gain understanding and then apply it to our life through the Word. In doing so, life is perceived from a Kingdom perspective rather than a natural one. The greatest influence will become our life perspective.

Matthew 6:24 (NLT) “No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and be enslaved to money.

No one can serve two masters. If the desire of my heart (vs. 21) is to connect with God through His Son, Jesus Christ and live in His Presence. My perception of life must change from darkness to light. What does that have to do with serving two masters or even being enslaved to money? The earth is bound by economy that is not the currency of the Kingdom. The Kingdom is bound by love, grace and increase as it is a place of abundance and increase. I will connect my life to one of two sources – the Kingdom of God or the world in which I live. I researched the word “economy” and it is not what I thought it would say at all. Synonyms for the word economy are “thriftiness, thrift, and saving”. Interestingly enough the opposite of economy is “lavishness and extravagance.”

Sin caused us to “fall short of God’s Glorious Standard.” Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life who gives us access to the Father again. Do you believe it? When the Blood of Jesus washed away sin and grace is applied to my life – God’s Glorious Standard of Living becomes possible again. Are you with me so far? I must allow the Spirit of God to change my perception so I live with a Kingdom perspective of life rather than selling out to the world’s economy which keeps us in a state of thrift and, dare I say, lack. What if I told you today that the glass is not relevant? The substance in it is not as important as the substance of faith in you and I? What I do with the contents is the potential of my life? Will I keep trying to protect the glass in its half full state and add my own provisions to it? Or do I insist on constantly emptying it out so God who is my Provider and Resource must continually fill it up to maintain His Standard and radiate His Glory in my life. Let’s keep going.

Matthew 6:25-30 (NLT) “That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing? Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? Can all your worries add a single moment to your life? And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are.  And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. 

Jesus gives a directive – “I tell you not to worry about everyday life.” What is the source of stress, anxiety, worry, fear or doubt today? What is keeping you from doing what God has called you to do? Are you married to your job? Do you live from paycheck to paycheck? Are you constantly longing for things you cannot afford? Are you content? Are you satisfied? God is good. He is our Provider. Salvation is consummated by seeking out the Lord and living in His Presence. He put His Spirit in us and we connect with Him by pursuing Him. We pursue Him by following Jesus. The secret to success when striving for God’s Will and His Way that are His Plan for us is in our ability to trust the Lord enough to seek Him wholeheartedly. Perfect love expels fear from our life because no matter how life looks our perception of the light of His Love completes us. Our full expectation once invested by faith into God as our Provider and Christ as our Resource allows us to do things like the woman did. She took a small flask of oil and turned it into enough to cover her debt, save her sons and provide well for her household. Whether our glass is half empty or almost full in the natural doesn’t matter as much as what our faith allows us to do with it.

Matthew 6:30 (NLT) Why do you have so little faith?

Paul said this when instructing the Corinthians in his second letter. You know the generous grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty he could make you rich. Here is my advice: It would be good for you to finish what you started a year ago. Last year you were the first who wanted to give, and you were the first to begin doing it. Now you should finish what you started. Let the eagerness you showed in the beginning be matched now by your giving. Give in proportion to what you have. Whatever you give is acceptable if you give it eagerly. And give according to what you have, not what you don’t have.” (2 Corinthians 8:9-12) Our decision to accept Jesus Christ is to ask Him to be our Savior and our Lord. When coming to Jesus it is with the best of intentions but soon it is overshadowed by “real life” and “real problems” so we begin to recant the “Jesus is Lord” part of our promise. We live a diversified life. We trust Him with our soul but not our natural life so when our soul prospers but our life does not – our perception is perplexed. Holding tight to our resources, including but not limited to our time, talent and treasures, we never fully connect to His Limitless Resources. We sow but do not reap. We plant yet never see a harvest. If we do, it is not marked by prosperity or abundance – it is just enough.

Paul’s advice for the Corinthians works for us today. We must return to our First Love and give Him our first fruits in all things. We must learn to trust God with all our life not just the portions that are comfortable to give. To live in the Presence of the Father is only possible by faith. We must seek Him to find Him. We must knock to gain entrance. We must believe that He rewards those who seek Him. Once we do, it will be evident as insomnia gives way to rest. Stress is given up for trust. Worry is no longer a problem as peace floods our heart, mind and soul. Fear gives way to perfect love that clears our perception of live to perceive the opportunities and potential of God in all things pertaining to our life. See the glass is just a glass. The contents unimportant. Given to God it will become increased, abundant and fulfilled. Take your eyes off the glass that contains that which is desired. Put your eyes on Jesus who is the Author and Finisher of Faith. Faith fills every need and produces Godly Riches and Resources in our life to flow from the Windows of Heaven. Abundance flows from a heart full invested in knowing Jesus Christ. He promised to give us a rich and satisfying life. If the Lord cannot do that, then how can I trust Him for the Kingdom? Do you trust Jesus today? Do you believe that His Promises are true? If not, it is never too late to start. His Grace is sufficient for you. He has already given you a measure of faith to start with. Sow it in just one area of your natural life. Yoke up with Jesus Christ today and let Him show you how to walk through life in constant and confident trust. (Matthew 11:28-30) Let Him give you peace and rest. Strive for it. Fight for it. Do not stop pressing until your stress, worry, care and anxiety give way to peace. God is a good father. You are well supplied. He has already supplied every need you have. To those who keep seeking, knocking and asking – He will be found. He will open the door to His Presence. He will answer doing more than you can think, imagine or ask. Faith is the solution to a changed perception of life. Jesus is the light that changes our perspective.

‘Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus, Just to take Him at His Word. Just to rest upon His promise,
Just to know, “Thus saith the Lord!” Jesus, Jesus, how I trust Him! How I’ve proved Him o’er and o’er Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus! Oh, for grace to trust Him more!

 

Grab a Shovel

grab a shovel

I Corinthians 3:6-8 (NLT)  I planted the seed in your hearts, and Apollos watered it, but it was God who made it grow. It’s not important who does the planting, or who does the watering. What’s important is that God makes the seed grow. The one who plants and the one who waters work together with the same purpose. And both will be rewarded for their own hard work.

A visiting minister was sharing his heart on faith and prosperity to our congregation. He spoke of the intangible and tangible blessings of God that is the inheritance of God’s Children. He said, “People pray for God to move mountains but refuse to ever pick up a shovel.” His words made me chuckle audibly quickly looking around to see if anyone heard me. I have been at this whole faith thing a while. Just when I think I have it all together, I realize that I have only just begun. It is an adventure now. Deep cries out to deep so I swim a little farther until my feet can no longer touch and I call out to my Savior to come and get me. He calls me a little higher and as I quickly step up – I realize in my flesh that I really am not a fan of heights and my fear of falling reaches for God to catch me. Hebrews 12 reminds us that the raceway is crowded with many witnesses. In the midst of the great cloud of witnesses is an enemy who wants to get me tangled in worthless words and caught up in bold-faced lies. His response to my faith is to remind me of every insecurity that is hidden in my thoughts. To tell me that I am not good enough, missed the mark, or will fail like before. But I have been in this race for a while now, and what I have discovered is just about the time that I am grow weak or weary yet decide to take just one more step – that tiny seed of faith in my heart grows just a little bit bigger.

The Lord has planted a seed in our heart from the very beginning. Ecclesiastes 3 – it tells us that God put eternity in our heart. If it were complete it would not be hidden, but before the Lord tells us this secret – His Word holds true – God has made everything beautiful in its own time. Time. The most precious commodity given to humanity but so often wasted on useless and ordinary things. I find it a bit ironic that in all the places this could have been put in the Word of God that He chose to scribe it in Ecclesiastes. Written by the one who asked for wisdom to whom it was granted and who wasted in on many futile endeavors in this life. God has planted eternity in our heart. We will journey through life to eternity. We have been given absolute freedom in our relationship with Jesus Christ to do with it what we will. But what I am discovering as time goes by is that if I am not carefully many seeds will never be given the opportunity to grow not because I do not have them or they are being watered but I do not have any faith in the process.

I Corinthians 15:36-38 (NLT) What a foolish question! When you put a seed into the ground, it doesn’t grow into a plant unless it dies first. And what you put in the ground is not the plant that will grow, but only a bare seed of wheat or whatever you are planting. Then God gives it the new body he wants it to have. A different plant grows from each kind of seed.

Growth is a process. It takes an investment or sacrifice if you will. The seed must die to its presence forth to release the hidden potential inside. For the believer, death gives way to life. Resurrection power is demonstrated in each seed that is planted with the promise of harvest. God did not limit seed time and harvest to the earth but through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ empowers us to experience rapid and expansive growth in every area of our life that is committed to sowing and reaping including the hidden growth process called faith. As faith becomes confident, it increases our life. All areas of our natural, physical, emotional and spiritual life are open to God’s Reproductive Process called Prosperity – with no limitation to increase and growth.

Though so simple, people cannot seem to grasp the concept of seedtime and harvest in every area of life. We claim to have faith but our actions tell on us. We profess to belief yet our lives do not emit the Glory of God or Goodness of the Father. It is no wonder that the church buildings are empty. Congregations closing down. Who wants a disempowered god or disloyal parent? Life is full of disappointment. Hope never leads to disappointment but is it the harvest of our life? Those who sow will reap. Those who sow sparingly will reap sparingly. Those who sow generously will reap generously. Every area of my life should prosper because the seed of God’s Word has been planted in my heart. It is watered as I seek the Lord and choose to follow Christ. Where is the increase that He has promised? Why are there areas of lack in my life? The Body of Christ will never be attract to lost and dying people if there is nothing to offer them. If following Christ leads only to more disappointment, why bother? Intentional faith plants seeds in every area of life. Faith waits for the seed to die and begin to grow. Faith oversees the field and waits for the harvest.

2 Corinthians 9:10-11 (NLT)  For God is the one who provides seed for the farmer and then bread to eat. In the same way, he will provide and increase your resources and then produce a great harvest of generosity in you. Yes, you will be enriched in every way so that you can always be generous. And when we take your gifts to those who need them, they will thank God.

God provides seed for the farmer and bread to eat. The difference between disappointment and satisfaction is defined by expectation. Every day is filled with expectation. Hope never leads to disappointment based on the fact that God dearly loves us. He has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with love. Jesus came to give us a rich and satisfying life. Are you rich? Wealth comes in many forms from wisdom down to finances. Are you satisfied? God has placed eternity in our heart. To settle for anything less than complete fulfillment is to leave that seed unsown in our life. Ordinary and natural outcomes are for those who sow sparingly. Extraordinary and supernatural who make it a point to put every seed in the fertile furrows of our heart expecting God to make it grow rather than abandoning the field to eat the scraps under another man’s table.

Why would the Lord command us to be generous and then withhold the resources to fulfill that command? It just doesn’t sound like the God I know. Yet, there are areas in my life that I have not been sowing into. When our son was battling cancer, my faith was completely focused on sowing seeds of healing. I was continually studying, praying and exercising my faith in that area of God’s Plan. So much so, that I now have total trust and confident hope in the Lord when it comes to healing – medically, miraculously and mercifully. However, at the end of his fight and entrance to remission, I realized I had put it all out there. Like an athlete who won the Super Bowl or World Series, the morning after was a little rough. Celebrating victory and realizing that I had just left it all on the field. God gave me time to recover but then immediately started pressing my heart. Faith is not just for healing. It is not just for one thing in our life but God has given us faith to prosper our life and lead us to confident hope that completes us so we will lack nothing. I have been able to share our son’s story including his victory and our experience related to faith in Christ freely and openly because it is worth sharing and I believe it to be true. Faith and confident hope can never be given to others until you have a supply from which to give.

Matthew 13:3 (NLT) “Listen! A farmer went out to plant some seeds.”

Going back to Genesis 1:28 where God blessed humanity to “be fruitful and multiply” and to “fill the earth and govern it.” It was no small order. God blessed us. He gave us the ability to be fruitful and multiply. The gift of increase was given to us in our DNA. From the very beginning, the reproductive gene is in our body, mind and soul. It is not just in physical reproduction but when Jesus gave us His Spirit – it was with the promise of spiritual reproduction as well. We pray “may your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Jesus handed us the Keys to the Kingdom. Grace empowers us in our weakness. Like a seed planted in the ground, the more of our life invested in Christ the higher the dividends across the board.

Matthew 13 is all about planting and harvesting. Reading it today, I discovered four seeds that it eludes to. These are the seeds that grow into harvests worth having in life. Matthew 13:18-23 is the harvest of the heart. God’s Word is planted in our heart but the condition of our heart determines its ability to reproduce. A soft, fertile heart is conducive to successful harvests. ”Good soil represents those who truly hear and understand God’s word and produce a harvest of thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times as much as had been planted!” Before any other area of my life will produce a harvest, it must begin in my heart. I must believe that God is able and will do everything that He promised. I have been guilty of being the one who lets thorns get in the way. Worries and cares of life that overtake my heart and mind. Well, not anymore. I have experienced the productivity of faith and decided to dig up those things that are not worth of faith and trust to replace them with good seed that promotes constant growth.

The seed of Heaven is covered in Matthew 13:24-29. God has given us a plan. A good plan that leads to prosperity as our soul prospers. We must only seek Him wholeheartedly. (Jeremiah 29:11-13) If my treasure is heaven, there the desires of my heart will be as well. (Matthew 6:21) Once my heart is set on heaven every other increase in my life is blessed. Prosperity is not the problem. Riches, power and influence do not have the ability to change a person’s heart. They magnify what is in that heart. God’s Blessing comes without sorrow. If having more leads only to disappointment, then the heart was not set on heaven in the first place. God will grow good things from good seeds in our life naturally and supernaturally. Hope is the only thing that does not lead to disappointment.

The seed of hope is found in the Parable of the Mustard Seed. When a person comes to Jesus, the measure of faith hidden in our heart is discovered. To take this teeny, tiny seed and plant it is to release our life from human expectation and seek something greater. I believe this is the turning point of harvesting and increase in a person’s life. The realization that I am nothing outside of the Christ who lives in me and the grace that Jesus has given me. It is at that moment, heaven and earth connect as the Keys to the Kingdom are used to unlock God’s Hidden Treasure kept safe for us. The handle to the shovel that breaks the ground to bury our faith is marked with “obedience”. The head on the end of that handle is embossed with the word “trust”. God is faithful. What you sow you will reap. When we allow our heart to become fertile and accept God’s Word then begin to seek the Kingdom of Heaven something begins to grow in us as our roots grow into God’s Love. Suddenly, we begin to prosper as our soul prospers. Life is good. Things are getting better. But we must not and cannot stop here…we must keep digging, planting, and harvesting.

The seed of harvest is one that is probably the most difficult to press for so God allows testing, trials, and troubles to apply a certain pressure to our life. The faith discovered in the trial of cancer for our family meant applying all that we had learned about it and putting it all on the line for our son’s life. To say, I trust you God no matter what. At the end, I wasn’t sure I could venture out on faith much farther and stepped back for a moment. Seeds in the ground must die to self to grow. However, if we do not abandon the field, quit or give up – there will be a harvest far greater than we can think about, pray for or even imagine. After a period of rest, the Lord has challenged me. He has put the shovel back in my hand and challenged me to dig some fresh holes and plant more seed. In fact, our life is filled with all kinds of wonderful and valuable seeds that are overlooked because of all the cares and worries that fill our busy lives.

The mentality of just enough seems noble but God says He is the God of more than enough. The last thing the enemy wants us to do is plant seeds and cover them with faith. As the Body of Christ become consistent and confident farmers of God’s Word, the Glory of God will begin to shine from a church full of believers who lend and not borrow, become the head and no longer the tail, are independent of the world’s fluxes in economy or do not trend with society. They are confident in their God who supplies all of their needs as evidenced in the harvest of their life. Complaints are silenced by completeness. Flaws are filled by fulfillment. Who could resist a God who does not lie or change His Mind, but blessed His People as evidenced in their prosperous lives? We cannot offer revival until we experience it. As our soul prospers so will the church.

Galatians 6:7-8 (NLT) Don’t be misled—you cannot mock the justice of God. You will always harvest what you plant. Those who live only to satisfy their own sinful nature will harvest decay and death from that sinful nature. But those who live to please the Spirit will harvest everlasting life from the Spirit.

As I am challenged today, I am asking you to pick up the shovel and begin planting seed in your life again. What area is lacking? It is the perfect place to plant. Where is dissatisfaction or disappointment? Dig into God’s Word and find His Solution – plant it in that barren field and watch what the Lord will do. It is God’s Will for us to prosper and experience increase in every single area of our life. We are His Children. He is a Good Father. His Kingdom is filled with a priceless inheritance with your name on it. It cannot be stolen or taken unjustly but those who faithfully plant God’s Word in their life will have a harvest. The Lord is bound by His Word. It cannot and will not return void. It will do exactly what He said it will do if we trust Him enough to plant it in our life and wait for it to grow. Survey your life. Take inventory of your heart. Grab a shovel and begin to dig up the hard areas that have been overgrown by doubt and disbelief. Water it with His Word. Plant that promise and wait for it to grow. Sow some seed. Real seed. Tangible seed in that area. God is faithful. It will always grow!

2 Corinthians 9:6 (NLT) Remember this—a farmer who plants only a few seeds will get a small crop. But the one who plants generously will get a generous crop. 

Keep Pounding

Keep Pounding

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

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

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

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

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

Romans 8:35-38 (NLT)  Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.”) No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Four No More

Four No More

I Peter 1:3-6 (NLT) All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is by his great mercy that we have been born again, because God raised Jesus Christ from the dead. Now we live with great expectation, and we have a priceless inheritance—an inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay. And through your faith, God is protecting you by his power until you receive this salvation, which is ready to be revealed on the last day for all to see. So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you must endure many trials for a little while.

I could blame it on a hectic and chaotic week or admit I am no spring chicken, either is fine. My usual Saturday routine is wrecked. Usually up before everyone else to spend time with the Lord and get a jump on the day, I dragged myself out of bed much later than most weekends. With my usual schedule disrupted, I tried to gather my thoughts and filter them into an organized list. Saturdays are the one opportunity to do everything that you cannot incorporate into the work and church flow that orders our everyday life. The disciplines in my life allow me to maintain some level of control. (Written with a chuckle or laugh.) I no longer fancy myself in control of this summation of time called life but rather have finally decided each day is simply a new opportunity filled with moments and increments of time to be invested. I know that God has a plan so I loosely hold on to my timeline and prepare for the inevitable interruptions along the way. But I digress…

For those who do not know me, during the week I begin my day around 4:30 AM. Shuffling out of bed stumbling through the darkness, I grab our fur baby – feed her and take her out while the microwave brews the detox tea. With power bar and banana juggling my tea, I then head to my study to enter my prayer closet and spend time with the Lord. On the weekend, the routine is the same just a couple hours later. But not today…today was different. I woke up two hours later. Put on the tea and took care of the fur baby. But before heading to that quiet place, I decided to start a load of laundry. The machines were enshrouded in hanging clothes so retrieving mine I went to the closet to put them away. Trying to find them a place in the midst of the plethora of clothing crammed, I made an impulsive decision to finally get rid of all the pants that don’t fit. I used to be a size four. I am a size four no more.

I will not bore you with the details of my plundering but I will admit that I have not been a size four for quite some time. I have only worn that size once in my life a few years ago. Now some may say – oh man she fell off the wagon. Yes, I fell alright but not off the wagon but an impressive elliptical at the local gym. My fall was not physical but mental instead. I began working out halfway through our son’s illness. Walking for the first year or so gave my clarity and time to talk to the Lord about our journey. It was during the downtime of the battle or in between treatments. Our son is an adult so I am quite certain he welcomed those times of independence and solace from doctor’s and mom’s poking and prodding. I was in the gym a lot during those times and would run on that poor machine until my head was clear, mind at peace and heart still again. It was a long journey. It felt like running up the steep side of the mountain. But this is not about that journey (okay maybe a little) but when I was exercising to benefit my mind, something crazy happened to my body. I melted to a size four. What is ironic is that for my whole life I have struggled with my body image, but during that time my heart and mind was set on healing and nothing else. For God’s Word to come to pass, I was just doing what I needed to benefit my heart and mind. I got healthy – go figure. Well, our son is healed and living his life as it should be. I no longer am fighting a battle within myself and my body is a four no more.

What I realized this morning is, though maintaining my health is important, I do not expect to be a size four anymore. I am quite fine with a solid six. I am so certain that I am gathering all the smaller clothing to post online. Somebody will get a new wardrobe for mere pennies…any takers? Well, God as usual was using this exercise to show me something important. To release limitation in my life comes at the price of human expectation. I must examine my life and ask some pointed questions. Do I want an ordinary life or an extraordinary existence? Do I desire the natural or am I set on the supernatural? Do I settle for face value or will I wait to obtain vested interest? There is a difference. Life is filled with opportunities. They look the same but have great potential according to the mindset of each person. The probability of earthly success is measured by hard work and motivation. Spiritual success is to move the asset called your life into the person named Jesus Christ. The details of the natural for all are the same. The conditions may be different but everyone has a mind, soul and body to do with as they will. You will find many successful and wealthy people who have terrible health habits and horrible mental capacity. Though they prosper in business they are failing at other things. There are many people who lack financial success who are amazing athletes with sharp mental aptitude. Their focus is on health and strive for longer life through making good choices for their body. Though their body is flawless, a few bad choices may lead to the end of the life that was otherwise fit enough to live a hundred years. I have been given the freedom as an American to live my life how I choose. I have been given freedom in Christ to pursue His Kingdom. My life is my opportunity.

Proverbs 8:27-31 (NLT) I was there when he established the heavens, when he drew the horizon on the oceans. I was there when he set the clouds above, when he established springs deep in the earth. I was there when he set the limits of the seas, so they would not spread beyond their boundaries. And when he marked off the earth’s foundations, I was the architect at his side. I was his constant delight, rejoicing always in his presence. And how happy I was with the world he created; how I rejoiced with the human family!

I am going to let you in on a little secret – in Proverbs 8 wisdom who is speaking is actually Jesus. He hints at His True Identity in these words and no I cannot back it up with a whole lot of resources but I know it is Him. I know Him. He was with God in the beginning. His Hand is part of all creation. Everything exists through Him the Spoken Word of God. Jesus came wrapped in flesh to demonstrate God’s Love to us. He lives with God forever seated at the right-hand side of God with all power and authority in heaven and earth. This is important. Remember it. Jesus is God’s Constant Delight. Christ lives in us. God also delights in us. Oh wait, “how happy I was with the world he created; how I rejoiced with the human family!”

God created the world with limitation. He established the boundaries of heaven and earth. He marked the line of the horizon which divides night and day visibly. He put the clouds in the sky. He limited the depth of springs. He set limits for the sea so they could not spread beyond the boundary. He plumbed the earth’s foundations. Jesus was the architect at his side. But when God created mankind it was different. He set us up differently with the potential of an unlimited life. Genesis 1:28 – he gave us the ability to increase, be fruitful, multiply and have dominion over the earth. It is our potential. He planned it and decreed it for His Human family. Sin came to call and humanity chose it. However, God wasn’t done with us. In Genesis 8, though God was angry with the world so He wiped it clean, He found goodness and grace for Noah. He was pleased with this man’s sacrifice so he said, “I will never again curse the ground because of the human race, even though everything they think is evil”…”As long as the earth remains, there will be planting and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night.” The place where you are standing right now is blessed. There is potential in the real estate of your life whether you realize it or not. The situation you are in may seem limited. The conditions adverse to growth and prosperity. But the Word, the Jesus in you is much greater than that. In creation, you were ordained for prosperity from the inside out. When sin took over the world, God blessed the very ground you walk on. You work the land and there will be growth and increase despite our inability to be perfect. The Grace of Jesus Christ and His Blood allows the growth potential of Heaven to live in us and so what is limited to the natural can give way to supernatural because Jesus has all power and authority over every boundary in our life. The ordinary can release extraordinary if we just take the time to work the place we are whether than envying the greener pasture next door. Everything I need to prosper is in me and around me – the only possible limitation is me.

Proverbs 10:28 (NLT) The hopes of the godly result in happiness, but the expectations of the wicked come to nothing.

Hope is the expectation of the godly. Hope is not what we see but faith in the unseen reality of our life in Jesus Christ. I cannot see heaven but I have the keys to it. The first one is labeled faith and it has the powerful potential to unlock every promise of God beginning in Genesis 1:28 including every promise from Genesis to Revelation and ultimately that place called Eternity I am destined for and strive for every day. Faith in God makes all things possible but I must believe. During our journey with our son, I got a tattoo. I can hear some of you gasping. There are times when I must cover it as not to offend the religious and that’s okay, too. I did not get it for you. I got it for me. I needed to remember that this whole journey called life is about faith that produces hope. When I look at my wrist, I see the word “faith”. If I extend my arm, you will see the word “hope”. I wanted to remember that no matter what the outcome of this endeavor, whether God healed our son medically, miraculously or even mercifully taking him home – it was all about faith and confident hope. This would be the journey that changed my life forever. It was the battle that once overcome I experienced true fulfillment like Peter that day when Jesus asked, “But who do you say that I am?” I know Jesus. Everything has changed. Human expectation has melted into the spiritual realization that things of this world really don’t matter. I have absolutely no control over the situations, conditions or circumstances that rise up in my life but I do have the power to overcome and experience His Glory in each outcome.

Hope is the inexpressible joy that many search for and never find because it is not an outward accumulation but an inward uprising. It is the prospering soul transitioning from earthlike expectation to holy inspiration breathing in Christ and expelling doubt and fear along with it. Just like my husband has always loved me no matter what size my body is – Jesus love is far greater than any limitation that I face or boundary built before me. It is in His Love that I overcome every obstacle of faith. It allows me to plant in tears and still sow joy. It is the kind of faith and hope that gives God time and freedom to work all things together for my good and His Glory so I keep myself in the race for faith and fight the things that come against it. I know God will do it. I have experienced it.

So today I am a four no more and truly I am okay with it. I am emptying my closet to make room for the size that fits. I am okay with that. I will still work to maintain a healthy lifestyle and be a good steward of my physical health. I have stopped evaluating my image by a human standard. Is there a closet or two that need to be cleaned out in our hearts and minds today? Do I need to make more room for faith and hope to expand and take over new areas of my life? Human expectations create the limits and mark boundaries around us. They give increase in size to the obstacles that we face. God is greater than our feelings. Perfect love casts out all fear. We have nothing to lose but a Kingdom to gain in our personal life and in the realm of influence called our life. Is it time to stop shaking the keys to the Kingdom trying to scare the enemy off or use them to open the door to God’s Presence running boldly and confidently before His Throne?

Ephesians 3:16-19 (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.

Deep in conversation with someone the other day, I shared with her the simplest truth about faith secured in the love of Christ. I have come to a place in my life where I don’t have to argue religion or the relevance of Jesus Christ. I know Jesus lives in me. I am confident enough not to need anyone else opinion to confirm or deny. I know Jesus loves me. I know His Way is the best way for my life. I know that even if I died to discover there was no truth to heaven or eternity that my life is significantly better just by believing anyway.

I “know” that I will not be a size four again. If I do somehow stumble my way back into it – God will supply all that I need to walk in it and wear it. Just as I am cleaning out my closet of unwanted clothing, I must examine the expectation in my life to determine if it is limited by my human condition or if it is spiritually secured in the Love of God. God calls us His Precious Treasure. He promises an inheritance that is secured in Heaven. This does not mean that I must wait for eternity. It means that I must connect my natural and spiritual life to be mutually conducive rather than ultimately exclusive. (Matthew 6:10; 16:19) We must live in constant faith and confident hope every day for entrance into eternity. Our life does not have to be limited to the natural. It does not have to be ordinary. It is not God’s Plan for us. It is not His Way. It is a choice. We must learn to stop limiting our life by human expectation and yield our life’s capacity to the Lord so He can complete our life by His Design giving us the fullness of life and power that He promised.

Can I just encourage you today? God really is working every detail of your life for your good and His Glory? He is offering daily opportunities to release your natural expectation and increase your expectancy in Him. Focus on faith today. Do you believe that the Lord can and will do more than you can think to ask for? Explore new regions of hope that extend beyond the boundaries and obstacles of your natural life. Consider the impossibilities in your life. God will make them possible according to His Will and Word. Faith and hope are the evidence of believing that must be a daily consideration. The limits placed on our life are natural. God gave us everything needed to prosper from the very beginning and to have a blessed life. Jesus came and handed us the Keys to His Kingdom so now not only do we have all of His Resources but He lives in us empowering us to overcome all barriers and obstacles to have a complete and full life. We can find overwhelming satisfaction in this life and forever. Release those natural expectations today and let the Lord fill you with new revelation that will increase your faith and fortify your hope. The best is yet to come!

I John 3:2-3 (NLT) Dear friends, we are already God’s children, but he has not yet shown us what we will be like when Christ appears. But we do know that we will be like him, for we will see him as he really is. And all who have this eager expectation will keep themselves pure, just as he is pure.

Know Your Limits

Know Your Limits

Ephesians 3:10-12 (NLT) God’s purpose in all this was to use the church to display his wisdom in its rich variety to all the unseen rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. This was his eternal plan, which he carried out through Christ Jesus our Lord. Because of Christ and our faith in him, we can now come boldly and confidently into God’s presence.

Pressing the boundaries of ordinary in pursuit of extraordinary is not without certain challenges. To take this thing called “faith” that is tiny and small in the first place and finding the right “ground” in which to sow it is also difficult. Faith is not logical. I cannot take the title or deed to the supernatural blessing of my inheritance in God secured by Christ and shake it in the world’s face demanding my rights as His Child. Yet, it is because of Christ and (my) faith in Him that I can now come boldly and confidently into God’s Presence. Oh, how elusive this place of power seems when the world and its ways are pressing in on us. The further one ventures in faith the more distant God seems sometimes. In the moment of testing and trials – how do I hold tight to my faith without wavering? Stuck in the realm between impossibility and possibility – I desire more faith to hold on to. I want more confidence in Christ than I have ever had before. I hear His Voice but cannot always see His Hand holding me. What about you? Have you come to the edge of His Love? There really is no limit to God’s Love or the potential of faith in our life. We have limits to overcome to keep exploring and experiencing the spiritual blessings that are already given to us but grace has not expanded far enough in us to release that segmented power hidden within us.

God’s Plan for us is set in the Heavens. The one and only thing that can separate us from God and His Blessings is sin. Sin is overcome by the love and grace that flows in the Blood of Jesus Christ. Our life has the potential to dramatically change by faith. Faith is tough. You cannot see it, feel it, touch it or hear it. The reality of it is not influenced by our inability but rather acceptance of it. It seems too good to be true so it is half-heartedly pursued. I hear people say all the time, “I have faith but the reality is…” I must be a realist. Realism is an interest or concern for the actual or real. It does not consider the abstract or speculative. A realist subscribes to the thought and rationale of all five senses staying away from anything that is not factual reality discerned with the mind backed up by human consciousness. I am a realist. I am also an optimist. I have a tendency to look at the favorable side of things and to expect favorable outcomes. I believe that people all have the potential of goodness hidden inside broken hearts and dysfunctional lives. I believe that goodness pervades reality because God is good. He is a good father who created a good thing. However, optimism does not change the conditions, circumstances or situations in my life – faith does.

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

Hebrews 11:1 (NIV) Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.

Hebrews 11:1 (AMP) Now faith is the assurance (title deed, confirmation) of things hoped for (divinely guaranteed), and the evidence of things not seen [the conviction of their reality—faith comprehends as fact what cannot be experienced by the physical senses].

Hebrews 11:1 (MSG) The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living. It’s our handle on what we can’t see.

Anything untried cannot be proven. It is human nature to try things. We are inquisitive by nature and quite curious about things. Faith must be proven to become a reality in our life. Otherwise, it is just a notion. We must have faith to please God. “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.” God’s Plan becomes possible by faith but not just any kind of faith. It is made a reality by faith that not only believes God is alive but also that He is good. He is a rewarder. He provides well for His Children. It is not enough to believe but we must know God – His Nature, His Character including Who He is and what He does. Faith is confidence in the Character of God and His Faithfulness not our ability to be faithful.

I have included four translations of Hebrews 11:1. Let it soak in for a minute. Faith is the title deed to the things we hope for. It is the evidence of the unseen and our confidence in it. Do you have faith today? I know – every Christian shakes their head in affirmation and whispers, “Yes, of course.” Do we really have faith and confidence in a person who acts completely contrary to human nature and boasts of the impossible? Optimism believes in goodness. Faith rests assured in the Goodness of God held tightly by faith and accessed with bold confidence.

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

If faith is illogical, how do I apply it intellectually to my life? Faith is illogical to the world in which we live. However, to our spirit (and soul) it is absolutely essential. Sin came into this world because a lie was conceived as truth and influenced humanity. Welcome to the world in which we live. Our life is lived by our belief system. Driven by emotion, and reactive to our five senses, it is a difficult transition to believe God for our daily life and not just eternal salvation. Life is hard. The enemies attacks and assaults against us are relentless. Our faith in God must overwhelm every doubt, fear and lie that has entangled us and trapped us in an unlocked cell with a door held shut by ignorance. I must know the Word of God to overcome every doubt and fear. My life is not limited because I serve a limited, powerless Lord. My life is limited because of self-imposed strongholds that must come down.

I believe there are four significant limitations that Christians must overcome to have a flourishing and productive life of faith. Disbelief is always overcome by the Truth. Once you know the Truth, you cannot fall privy to a lie. It becomes a choice. Imagine a field with a fence line of four sections. When each one is in place, it contains something. Limits its ability to move. A farmer puts fences in place to keep his sheep inside of it.

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

Jesus said that He is the Gate but His Sheep are free to come and go. The first limitation is that of limited perception. I must recognize, discern, envision and understand a faith that cannot be perceived by any of my natural senses. It must become the solid foundation of my life. To believe God at His Word, I must know the Word. Jesus Christ is the Word of God wrapped in flesh. I must hold tightly to these teachings to see earth and heaven. There is a relationship between the two achieved by faith in the Person of Jesus Christ. When Jesus asked Peter, “Who do you say that I am?” He confessed Jesus as the Son of God. It was in that moment of faith that the Lord told Peter who he was to Him. Jesus knew when he spoke to this man every fault, failure and denial that would come. My faith is not based on my ability to live according to each every single moment of every single day but my recognition, discernment, envisioning and full understanding that by His Grace – I am saved. I must remove the limits of my perception to the Person of Jesus Christ. Rather than trying to be all things and do all things to be right with Him, I must overstep my limitation of perception into the vast depth of faithful and boundless love that is completely independent of me and available solely in Christ. This is the field in which I live. It is the gateway to freedom.

I John 3:19-20 (NLT) Our actions will show that we belong to the truth, so we will be confident when we stand before God. Even if we feel guilty, God is greater than our feelings, and he knows everything.

The second limitation is that of perspective. God is passionate but He is not emotional. He does not lie or change His Mind ever especially according to how He feels about us on any given day. He loves us unconditionally. It is human nature to examine and evaluate our life from a human perspective. We doubt the influence of faith in God in our life based on current circumstances, situations or conditions rather than seeing them only as temporary. God has promised to make good of every detail in our life. To trust the Lord by faith to do so we must remove the barrier of doubt that is driven by emotions and not our faith. We must learn to respond to God’s Promises and not react to the current stressors of the momentary problems that have a positive outcome and blessing attached. We sell our birthright for a single meal as Esau did when we give up the impossible and settle for what is possible. To live in the ordinary rather than pressing for the extraordinary. We ask not so we have not and we are not asking because we do not believe beyond our current perception and given reality.

Matthew 19:26 (NLT) Jesus looked at them intently and said, “Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But with God everything is possible.”

The third limitation is limited possibilities. We simply do not believe that with God everything is possible. I do not mean to offend you, but if you truly believed that God is able. If you lived by the truth that God does not change His Mind, He doesn’t lie, He does not go back on His Word, and that His Word never returns void – your faith in Him would make all things possible. “To all perfection I see a limit, but your commandments are boundless.” (Psalm 119:96)

Ephesians 1:14 (NLT)  The Spirit is God’s guarantee that he will give us the inheritance he promised and that he has purchased us to be his own people. He did this so we would praise and glorify him.

The word “pretension” can have a negative connotation. There are many believers who boast of a faith they do not have because it is what they are supposed to say. It means to claim something. We claim to have faith. However, our faith is limited. As Christians, we lay claim to the promises of God as the reality of our life by faith. Really we are not claiming it, but attempting to fake it until we make it. Trusting God is evidence of faith and confidence in Him. We may not see His Perspective, Perception or even the hidden possibility of God’s Plan but faith follows through with willing obedience anyway. Are you living a pretentious life? Claiming a faith that you do not have. A Good God that you do not know or see. Pretense limits the potential in our life. It can only come down when faith is applied to the lie that has been holding us. God has filled His Word with promise after promise. Pick one. Grab it. Hold it. Wait for it. This will break down pretentious faith and make it purposeful again.

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.

So here I am again back in Ephesians 3, as the Lord begins to break down my hard heart and plant new seeds of faith and confidence in it. Right after we moved in this house, we took down an overgrown bush that grew into a cumbersome tree on the corner of the house. It was at the end of the flowerbed and an eye sore. We left the little stump there. Now spring, I bought some lovely azalea bushes to fill the barren bed with new life. My husband was planting the bush closest to the little stump but found he could not dig into the ground because of the roots hidden underground. The tree had established some thick and massive roots that we didn’t bother to remove with the tree. And so it is with our faith, as we explore new heights and depths of God’s Love there will be some resistance as our heart and mind shifts from worldly thinking to Heavenly revelation of this new life given to us as new creations in Jesus Christ. We must dig up those roots and strongholds that attempt to keep us in the impoverished mindset of false perception, perspective, and possibility living in a state of pretension when God wants to give us everything He promised us instead. My thinking can limit my life completely. Faith must become the logic. I live by. I must daily fight to remove every bit of my stinking thinking, untangle myself from all the lives and saturate myself in Truth that produces faith and confident hope. As I trust the Lord, doors are unlocked that lead me deeper into His Presence, His Provision and His Prosperity for my life. I may be an optimist naturally but I long to be faithful and confident in the hope that I have supernaturally. Lord, help us today to remove every self-imposed limitation and boundary in our life until nothing stands between me and You! God has blessed me and the earth in which I live. God teach me how to overcome every obstacle of faith in my life so I may live in the unlimited Power of Your Presence both NOW and forevermore.

Ephesians 3:20-21 (NLT) 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. Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen.

Fizzy Soda

Fizzy Soda

Psalm 34:8-10 (NLT) Taste and see that the Lord is good. Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in him! Fear the Lord, you his godly people, for those who fear him will have all they need. Even strong young lions sometimes go hungry, but those who trust in the Lord will lack no good thing.

Have you ever been then grocery getter for your house? You have those thin and useless plastic bags rolling around in the back of the car. When you get home an army of helpers hoping to plunder the new supplies arrive to help carry the hoard in. Some of those big two-liter bottles of soda were on sale so you got them BOGO or to the novice shopper – buy one, get one free. Immediately, my people turn up their nose at them. In my efforts to be a wise consumer, I find that they do not want the surplus of soda and list their complaints. Opening the bottles at the release of pressure, the dark syrupy liquid becomes a foaming bomb shooting soda everywhere creating a huge mess that even the dog is incapable of licking it all up. They don’t like the way that after a day or so they go flat – no matter how tight the lid is kept or how quickly they try to consume it. When the fizz is gone – so is their appetite for the once coveted drink. In all fairness, I bought them for portion control. Tired of pouring their unwanted, forgotten soft drinks down the sink that sounds like change falling in the drain. Yet now, I have a garage full of unwanted bottles but wait what just happened? Suddenly, they are grabbing water bottles instead. How did that happen?

For more than a week, I have had this image of fizzy soda in my head along with the idea that it is just like the zeal a Christian might have at first for the things of God. We come to the Lord full of expectation and excited about the potential of His Spirit’s Inhabitation in life. But once the “fizz” is gone, our life goes flat so we return to our old life and old way of thinking abandoning the potential of faith in God that remains there. Where are we once the excitement is gone? What happens when things take longer than expected? Why is discipline necessary? God is greater than all things. He owns the cattle on a thousand hills. He supplies all we need but when I ask I must wait. We must taste and see that the Lord is good. We must desire to move from things that are not good for us to those things that benefit our life. It will be a struggle in a world that offers immediate gratification and feeds our emotions. God wants us to be godly people who have joy in Him and those who trust Him will lack no good thing.

For the last month or so, I have been attempting to give up a beloved diet drink. Is it bad for me? Depends on who you ask. Water is better for me. All things are permissible, but not all things are beneficial. When I was young, my birth mom was a “Coke” addict in the soft drink form. She gave it to us freely. As I began to share time between both parents’ homes, my new mom provided sweet tea – the soft drink of the South. Loved it and consumed it freely. However, I became more aware as I grew older that water is a much better choice. However, I don’t necessarily want water. I don’t care for the taste. I don’t really want it or desire it. It is good for me in many ways. It is the best for my body health wise. It is excellent for my skin. It keeps me well-hydrated. But I prefer other things and none of that I desire is illegal or prohibited. I make the choice to drink a gallon of water or at least try to every day. What I have found is the more water I consume the less capacity that I have for those things that are not as good for me. Water is more beneficial. How does this all tie together? I am glad that you asked.

So many times, we try to make a Godly life resemble our good life worldly expectations applying our appetite to the things that the Holy Spirit would like to do in us and through us. Did you know that the primary content in all soft drinks is water? We add the sugar or sugar substitute. We put the carbonation in it that makes it fizzy. Have you ever noticed that conscientious parents do not give their newborns soft drinks or tea? They give them milk. If not straight from mom, they sterilize the bottles. Everything they do is to make sure that their baby grows, develops and matures. God sees us as His Children. He feels the same way.

I Peter 2:1-3 (NLT) So get rid of all evil behavior. Be done with all deceit, hypocrisy, jealousy, and all unkind speech. Like newborn babies, you must crave pure spiritual milk so that you will grow into a full experience of salvation. Cry out for this nourishment, now that you have had a taste of the Lord’s kindness.

Pure spiritual milk. What is it? I believe that it is the Word of God. We must know the Word to enter fully into a productive relationship with Jesus Christ. Jesus is the Word wrapped in flesh. Salvation is not an arranged marriage but a personal choice to engage in an active and committed relationship with Christ as Savior and Lord. We make that choice. All things are permissible yet not all things are beneficial. Just as in our relationships naturally, there must be development and growth to mature our relationship so it is no longer superficial. If we are not growing in the Lord, we are growing apart from Him. I find it interesting that in this passage, it says, “Get rid of all evil behavior.” Then it begins to talk about things that destroy relationships first. To cry out for nourishment once we have tasted the Lord’s Kindness is to grow in our knowledge and capacity to love the Lord and other people. We focus on our list of seven deadly sins and regard religious rules and regulations but miss the part about love. God is love. To be godly we must be good lovers.

John 7:38 (NLT) “Anyone who believes in me may come and drink! For the Scriptures declare, ‘Rivers of living water will flow from his heart.’”

A newborn primarily exists on milk although the newest parenting trend does add water at an early age. When my babies were little, I only gave them milk, some juice and lots of water. Growing in our walk with Christ, spiritual milk gives way to living water. Jesus promised that living water would flow from His Heart to us. He has given us His Spirit. The Word of God works with the Spirit of God to allow us those benefits offered to those who choose the better way over the permissible options in life. We must discipline our body and mind to live a healthy spiritual life. Have you ever tried to take candy from a baby?

The little children at our church flock to “Memaw” a beloved matriarch. She always has a sugary candy treat for them so after service like little ducklings they flock to her. They want the contents of her big bag. They know she has treats for them. However, mom and dad have the opportunity to train their children in healthy habits. Thank God I am headed into “memaw” days! I found with my own children that in order to take something from them, I offered them a better choice. If they did not want the new thing, they would often pitch a fit. As a mom, I hated that they were so upset but my heart was set on giving them the very best start in life. Candy and sugar was limited. I made sure they were given the right food – all the things that were nutritious. Too many times, it is human nature to cave in to emotions rather than stand strong for goodness and so it is with the church.

Romans 10:1-4 (NLT) Dear brothers and sisters, the longing of my heart and my prayer to God is for the people of Israel to be saved. I know what enthusiasm they have for God, but it is misdirected zeal. For they don’t understand God’s way of making people right with himself. Refusing to accept God’s way, they cling to their own way of getting right with God by trying to keep the law. For Christ has already accomplished the purpose for which the law was given. As a result, all who believe in him are made right with God.

To pursue God emotionally but not spiritually is misdirected zeal. To claim to know Him but not take in the spiritual milk and living water is spiritual suicide. You are starving your spirit to feed your flesh. False teachers pave new roads every day and we fall for it because our flesh is strong and our spirit weak. Many years ago, in order to lose some weight, I switched from full-powered soft drinks to diet soda. Ironically or not so much, it was after a Daniel Fast, where for a solid month I only drank water. After becoming addicted to them, I read an article that warned of the high sodium content in diet drinks that they wreaked havoc on weight loss efforts. How is this possible? Well, the sodium that settled in our body soaked up the water and got fat, too to put it in layman’s terms. Bottom line – water retention. Ugh! Darned if you do and darned if you don’t. Is it possible that rather than relying on water – we are substituting things in our life that are not God’s Best and of no benefit. Absolutely.

Zeal is not bad. In fact, the Bible encourages and endorses spiritual fervor for the Living God. Romans 12:11 tells us to never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. See the “but” – it is our warning. It is easy to direct our zeal toward the Lord, and then get detoured, delayed, or distracted. In fact, it is the greatest scheme of the enemy. He challenges our knowledge of God every day in the temptations of life. Religion is the diet soda of the church. Rather than truly loving people somehow church folks get an appetite for judgment and hypocrisy based on false knowledge of God who expects love to be our first and foremost motivation. If I can do it, God is not required. It’s everything I cannot do that is where grace causes His Power to manifest. I am not supposed to be strong but weak and reliant on Jesus Christ for all things every day. The psalmist admits in Psalm 119 that “zeal wears me out” and goes on to admit that his enemies ignore his words. Words must hold power. The power of my words is based on my knowledge of the Truth and its ability to set me free. I am free to choose the life I live.

God is not emotional. Our feelings do not move the heart of God or His Hand, His Focus is set on our future. He is working in us now for forever. Endurance means making it to the end. It is a struggle because usually somewhere around the middle we begin to wonder what were we thinking. Towards the end, everything in us screams quit. Those who endure to the end are honored because not many will. When the zeal is gone and the fizz goes flat in their spiritual life, many become discouraged, discontent and disinterested in Living Water which runs steadily and consistently in us. Water seems boring. It doesn’t seem like anything of worth. Yet 71% of the earth is covered in it, and mankind is made up of about 60% water. It would seem that water is important. Living water is essential to spiritual survival and one’s ability to thrive in Jesus Christ. Maybe there are substitutions in our life that must be filtered out so that we can engage in spiritual growth and development again rather attempting to survive in deprivation.

Ephesians 4:11-16 (NLT) So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.

People spend a great deal of time on what they consume. Whether deciding what to eat or where to eat. Challenged to consume more or eat less or even just make better food choices. Intake is a primary concern in many households. There are even some that wonder if they will get to eat. We must taste and see that the Lord is good. The first day of the water challenge was horrible for me. I didn’t want to drink one glass of water let alone almost eight. Some days I do great and other days I choke it down. I know that if I stick to it that over time I will develop a taste for it. Why the struggle? Water is good for me. It is good for my body and skin. I hate when my flesh dictates things so the more it fights me – the more I fight back. I want a healthy body.

God is not building a building – He is creating a body. The Body of Christ. The Bride for His Son. It is important that I do my part to be the best member of the Kingdom I can be not for others or even me but to be who I promised to be when I partnered with Jesus. I would become less and He would be more. I would decrease so He could increase. I John 3:20-21 is clear that God is not an emotionally-driven God. Thank you, Lord! His People are emotional enough. When our spiritual life goes flat, maybe God is facilitating an appetite change in us that will produce growth and maturity. He is giving us something better if we will endure the process of refinement. Our flesh wants none of it and will fight it all the way. Until our relationship is not emotional but faithful – the blessings and benefits promised in His Word may seem elusive. Nothing could be further from the truth – they are exclusive. Exclusively for God’s Children, those who decide to use their freedom to become part of the Body of Christ rather than building another church.

To become rooted and grounded in the Love of God through Jesus Christ, we must stop wavering back and forth. Discipline gives way to faithfulness when we decide to engage in the process called endurance. We must move from the emotionalism of infancy into the steadfastness of adulthood – the Body of Christ must mature to become effective. The Holy Spirit and Goodness of God’s Word produce the spiritual growth potential in the lives of those who are committed to its consumption daily. (Hebrews 6:1-6) We must learn to hold on to the progress made in our spiritual life and build upon it. (Philippians 3:14-16) If our goal is to press on and obtain the high calling, we need something to stand on. The firm foundation of faith built in trust is the only way to reach the heavenlies and bring it to earth. God promised that our earthly life and heavenly existence can be connected in heaven and on the earth. We put in the effort.

Discipline is not a warm fuzzy feeling but a tough painful process. Immediate gratification is not part of it but endurance is. There may be some things in our life that although they are permissible are not beneficial to our walk with the Lord. When runners pass a checkpoint, they are not handed coffee or a can of soda. The helpers hand them water or a supplement filled with electrolytes to replace those used while they run. What do we give others when tired, thirsty or weary? When weighted with sin, do we give them yet another set of rules to fail at or the grace that has been so sufficient for me? The first discipline that is to be readily accepted in the modern church is love. Not love for the rules and regulations set forth by religion, but to focus on our relationship with Jesus Christ and relaying it to the world including every single person in it. Our language is love and we must not only speak it but live it. You cannot give what you do not have. God’s Word and His Spirit give us new life to give to others. We must taste and see that the Lord is good. Has your spiritual fervor gone flat? Are you growing disinterested in God’s Way? It is time to make a change. Call a fast. Ask the Lord to stir you up. It is up to you to develop a taste for spiritual things rather than feeding full of substitutions. God has given us everything we need to live a godly life – now we just have to tap into it. It’s a choice. Better life or best life. Permissible or beneficial. Good or God! I know what I am after…how about you?

2 Peter 1:3-8 (NLT) His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.