Arm Yourself

Arm Yourself

Matthew 10:34 (NIV) “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) I am a truth seeker. Are you? My trust issues and insecurities demand truth. To be transparent, when betrayed by a lie, it is very difficult for me to establish trust again. If I trust you, it is rock solid. Hidden deception will destroy that in an instant. Forgiveness is a learned behavior for me through years of living in Christ. Childhood and youthful hurts and disappointments led to a do-it-yourselfer who was self-reliant. A faulty and broken marriage led to a bitter and distant person who decided never to love again. Well, God had other plans for the hard-hearted wanderer.

When I met my husband, I wasn’t looking to love or be loved. A conversation over a friendly meal changed my life. He mentioned God. We were not seeking the Lord or even remotely living a life worthy of the love, grace and mercy the Lord was about to pour out in us through the partnership and unity of marriage, but He did it anyway. Loving the Lord is the easy part, however; just like any other relationship it is the commitment of love that can be challenging. The only difference between a natural union and supernatural communion with Jesus is that He is perfect. Always right. Never gives up His Way for our less than perfect wants or desires. He does not give up. He is Perfect Love that drives out all fear.

As one who relies heavily on truth and concrete information, trust is based on the reality of my belief. Growing up in a faith that was Word-based should have been enough to establish firm faith in a Sovereign God but it wasn’t. Jesus told the woman at the well that true worshippers do so in Spirit and Truth. The two are partners. They go together. Both are essential to a long-term partnership with Christ. For example, I told my husband I love you on the day of our marriage. I gave him my “word” that I would live in covenant with him for the rest of my natural life. But if I do not engage my heart (or spirit) into loving him then there is nothing but a contract. We do not have a contract with the Lord but a covenant. We must worship Him in Spirit and in Truth. An imbalance creates a problem in our spiritual life.

Jesus did not come to give us peace on earth. He came to overcome the sin debt owed by mankind and reestablish a relationship between God and His People. The Creator desired intimacy with His Creation and union again. Jesus came to put a sword in our hand. To equip us in our battle against the enemy and our flesh. Are you armed today? You are an overcomer. You have been given authority and power to be victorious in every situation. Are you winning today?

Hebrews 4:12 (NIV) For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.

The Word of God is alive. It is powerful. It is sharper than any double-edged sword which matches the description of Christ in Revelation 1. “It penetrates even dividing soul and spirit.” Show me a church that is Word strong and Spirit weak and in most cases it will be legalist. The Word with binds but the Spirit is freedom. Where the Spirit of the Lord is there is liberty. (2 Corinthians 3:17) If a church is Spirit strong but Word weak it is more than likely a based on emotionalism and constantly swayed by feelings not based on Truth. There must be Spirit and Truth to be true worship. The Word of God penetrates our flesh in order to expose faith. Faith thrives on Spirit and Truth. It grows and comes alive. Developing and maturing into the good fruit, good deeds and good works that God has already ordained for us becoming the abundant life that Jesus promised full of satisfaction.

John 1:1-5; 14 (NIV) In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Jesus is the Word. It is impossible to have a thriving relationship with God outside of the Word. Jesus is the Way, Truth and Life and no one gets to the Father except through the Son. The Spirit of God is unarmed when there is no Word in us. Ephesians 6:17 tells us that the Word is the Sword of the Spirit. The only weapon the enemy has to use against us is a lie. He takes the Word of God and twists it into a half-truth. Ignorance causes people to perish. The Bible says clearly that God’s People perish due to a lack of knowledge. If you read Genesis 3:23-24 it was a flaming sword that kept Adam and Eve from entering the garden and eating of the tree of life. It would have been eternal death. Hope was kept alive as the “flaming sword” kept them from it. The Word was with God and the Word was God. Everything created through Him and under His Power and Authority. God sent the Word to us. He made a way for us through the Word and it is our privilege to know the Word.

Ephesians 6:13-17 (NIV) Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

Are you fully armed today? The shield of faith must be partnered with the sword of the Spirit or the Word to be ready to battle the enemy today. The only weapon that is in his arsenal is a lie. The only way to overcome rebellious thoughts and random wanderings is to know the Truth. The terms and conditions of our covenant carefully scripted by divine inspiration to reveal the heart of God and His Great Love for us. Truth will help your trust issues. The more you know the more you grow deep roots in the Love and Grace of God that allows His Goodness to captivate us. When the enemy tells you a lie, you will know what the Truth says and be able to ignore his taunts and temptations. God always has something better for you. His Way is always the best. Pick up your sword. Read it. Practice it. Memorize it. Don’t leave home without it. Strengthen the Spirit today and crucify your flesh. The Word will cut away the things binding and restricting growth and prosperity and give way to new life as a new creation becoming the masterpiece that God promised you would become in Christ who is the Word. Arm yourself today.

John 4:23-24 (NIV) Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”

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Finding God’s Favor

Finding God's Favor

Proverbs 3:3-5 (ESV) Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you; bind them around your neck; write them on the tablet of your heart. So you will find favor and good success in the sight of God and man. Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.

There are two marketing strategies used in advertising to attract new customers. The first, lost leaders, refers to merchandise being offered at rock bottom pricing to entice people to shop the business. Usually offered in limited quantities, this technique is designed to gain consumer attention. They will continually shop the store looking for the next great deal. The second is considered a dishonest practice called “bait and switch” marketing. Customers are “baited” by advertising of items or services at a low price. Once arriving at the establishment, they discover the advertised goods are either not available or not as good as expected. Salespeople then pressure them to consider a similar but higher priced item. Advertising is a multi-billion dollar business which employees many tactics to sway the current market and gain clients the increase desired from their investment.

Consumerism is the basis of advertising employing the importance of increasing consumption of goods that is considered economically desirable. Supply and demand are the two main factors. To increase the demand requires the supply to meet those desires. This is how advertising thrives by making us think we need, want and desire certain things. It is also an enemy of contentment as the constant infiltration of materialism influences our choices each day. This was true in biblical times as well. Greed existed even in the Old Testament.

God grants His People His Favor. We sow and reap like everyone else does but with seeds of faith heavily invested the prosperity of life begins in our soul and spills over into our natural life. The psalmist confessed, “I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.” What if we applied this same confession to every aspect of our life including our personal economy? We sow our time into family, jobs, hobbies and church. What is the return? We plant our talents into betterment and success. Are you successful? Investing that which is treasured seeking a return – has it come yet? See I believe that I have the favor of God. I believe that His Goodness is for me in the land of the living, but honestly I didn’t always think so. Some days I struggle to stay focused on the faithfulness and goodness of God granted to me by grace and accept His Favor in my everyday life.

God is able to do the impossible. If it is possible for me, who will get the glory once it is complete? I will. People will explain it away or make excuses. There are some who even expound on what God does, accelerate timing rather than waiting on His Perfection, and even some who will exaggerate the blessing to make it some kind of miracle. I have decided that I am not going to “help” God out anymore and wait for Him. How else will I know that God really can do the impossible? Where else will I find confidence that His Grace really is sufficient then by letting my weakness take over and saying, “I cannot do it”? It is easy to give the Lord credit for something we do. Every good thing is from the Lord, right? What if that good thing we did really isn’t a God thing? What if His Favor was ready to prosper us but we stepped in front of the Lord, ran ahead, or did a lesser thing for ourselves? It is sad to think of all the perfect and precious promise hidden behind pride and disbelief. The good news is that the Goodness of God IS for us in the land of the living.

Genesis 30 tells the story of Jacob and Laban. Jacob has worked his fourteen years and now has two wives and many children. He goes to his father-in-law seeking permission to return home. If you will remember, Jacob arrived at Laban’s home fleeing from his brother, Esau. He had schemed to take his brother’s birthright and the blessing of his father. Laban, being a shrewd businessman, is acutely aware that he has prospered significantly with his son-in-law’s help. He asks Jacob, “What shall I give you?” Jacob finally tells him to give him all the spotted, speckled, and black lambs along with all the speckled and spotted goats. This offer is too good to be true. Everyone knew that most lambs are born white and only goats came speckled and spotted. Laban agrees and both men leave thinking they have out schemed the other.

Jacob comes up with a preposterous plan using striped rods to visually incline the animals to produce striped or spotted offspring. He separates the animals so that only the strong animals reproduce. He thinks his elaborate plan has worked as the spotted, speckled and striped herd flourishes. When the time comes to leave, Jacob is a very wealthy man. He thinks he has pulled one over on his father-in-law but he had nothing to do with the prosperity experienced. God prospered his flock despite his interference. Everyone knows that what a sheep or goat “sees” doesn’t impact natural (or spiritual) reproduction.

How many times do we try to manipulate the Lord with futile efforts and fruitless deeds? We boast of blessings and favor not produced by the Lord but the result of our own investment and hard work. God has promised us that He will do exceedingly abundantly more than we can even imagine.

Ephesians 3:20-21 (ESV)  Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

I was sharing with someone not too long ago that I am the Child of God who is given a glimpse of the bigger picture so I grab God’s paintbrush and try to finish the masterpiece. I am God’s Workmanship. (Ephesians 2:10) He has carefully designed my entire existence to be beautiful in His Time. He has prerecorded all the days of my life according to His Unconditional Love, Overwhelming Grace, Abundance of Mercy and Constant Goodness which is always in pursuit of me as I run off to make things happen. What if God is doing a wonderful work in you but you are too busy doing things for yourself that there is no room for His Goodness? Yep – I am talking to me. How often does Father God have a blessing with no sorrow added to it but due to my impatience or need for control I decide to make it happen adding an undue burden to what God was going to do without any burden at all? Religion is based on works. Relationship is based on trust. This brings me back to Proverbs 3 today.

Because of God’s Steadfast Love for me and His Faithfulness, I have His Favor. The Favor of God is for the land of the living. The work that He is doing in me as a result of grace makes way in my weakness for His Favor to flourish prospering me in the natural as my soul prospers. God promises us good success in the His Sight and the sight of man. Laban attributed Jacob’s success to God’s Favor. However, Jacob thought he was doing it. Jacob spent the majority of his life in deception. He wasted many years thinking he was pulling one over on people. Despite all that, God was working in Jacob. He is working on me. He is working on you, too.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.

The Lord gives us opportunities to trust Him each day. Our relationship with a human being requires trust and so does our relationship with Jesus Christ. His Word is the covenant of our relationship. It carefully details every blessing and benefit of our connection with Christ. It says that those who abide in me will bear much fruit. This is not just in a spiritual connotation but a physical and natural directive. If we abide in Him and He abides in us it is the natural reproduction of things. God is good. His nature is to love because He is love. The rain falls on the just and unjust because the Lord desires to prosper us on every level. I am challenged today to trust God in every area of my life. This means I must evaluate every part of my heart, mind, and spirit for compliance. It means I must be patient and persevere. The enemy will challenge the weakest part of our heart. The area where trust seems to be the hardest. He is always seeking the ones who may be devoured. The truth about our life is this…

Psalm 84:11-12 (ESV) For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly. O Lord of hosts, blessed is the one who trusts in you!

God is our sun and shield. He presents to us and gifts us with His Favor and Honor. NO GOOD THING does He withhold from those who walk uprightly. What does the Lord require of us? To act justly, love mercy and to walk humbly with Him. (Micah 6:8) To walk perfectly and live flawlessly has nothing to do with it. To live in a relationship with God through Jesus Christ is our lifelong pursuit that unwraps the gift of God’s Favor in our life. To trust the Lord with all of our heart and stop trying to understand everything. I hear all the time, “Well, if I don’t do it – nobody will.” That’s not true. If you don’t do it, God will have His Way and do exactly what He planned from the start. Pride tells us God needs our help. He needs us to build His Reputation. He need us to do something…anything to participate. Not true! The only thing the Lord requires of us is trust.

As believers it is very important not to sell a “lost leader” God or “bait and switch” Lord who offers good things to us that aren’t really true. To even suggest that we can somehow earn or deserve all that He has done for us is to make a mockery of the Gospel and is defined of a life of works without real faith. When we package our life based on anything other than steadfast faith and hopeful confidence by giving a false persona of who God is and how He operates – we lose people. God does then impossible. He doesn’t need to take credit for our investment. He will do it all to perfection without adding sorrow, burden or even weariness. The Lord has given us His Favor and our life of trust honors that gift. We cannot up sell God when His Gift of Life is priceless.

Do you trust the Lord today? The evidence is in the contents and conquests of our life. Areas of dissatisfaction, lack of fulfillment and discontent are the very place that are ready for divine intervention if we will only give up our need for comfort, control and convenience. Let God bestow His Favor on you today. Let His Goodness be Your Source. Allow Him to do exceedingly abundantly more than you can imagine. His Favor is for you. He is working in you to bring it to fruitfulness today – in Jesus Name!

Psalm 90:17 (ESV) May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us; establish the work of our hands for us—yes, establish the work of our hands.

Throwing Shade

Throwing Shade

I Peter 5:7-10 (NLT) Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you. Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. Stand firm against him, and be strong in your faith. Remember that your family of believers all over the world is going through the same kind of suffering you are. In his kindness God called you to share in his eternal glory by means of Christ Jesus. So after you have suffered a little while, he will restore, support, and strengthen you, and he will place you on a firm foundation.

Is the enemy throwing shade today? Telling you lies like things are not going to get better, you are going under, nothing will change and you might as well get used to it. As if the lie was not enough to plant a seed of doubt, he comes behind the lie and waters it with all the reasons why you are not worthy of God’s Love and Goodness to further grow doubt and disbelief until prevailing darkness weighs heavy in our mind.

The Urban Dictionary describes the term “throwing shade” as trash talking about a friend or acquaintance or to publicly denounce or disrespect. I know the term because I am blessed with teenagers. Throwing shade is a subtle insult not necessarily a direct attack. It doesn’t always result in a direct hit but a slight notice or thought – “Hey, is that about me” or “directed at me”. It is in that moment the “what if” begins or even worse offense takes hold that the attacker hits the mark of its prey. The trouble is no one really knows the truth from a lie so inevitably relationships are destroyed by the notion that someone is “throwing shade” whether relevant or not.

These subtle attacks on relationships are working. Young people today are victims of the viral offense of the enemy to destroy relationships the way that God intended them to be. Jesus Christ is a direct result of God’s Desire to have a relationship with us. He sent His Only Son to die so that our right standing could be restored and our relationship with God, our Father, renewed. His Spirit living in us is evidence of the bond formed. Our perception of relationship has become skewed as people text rather than talk, assume rather than engage, and live life in a self-made bubble based on who people want them to be rather than who the Creator designed them to become. The enemy thrives on our insecurities and uncertainties. Even believers struggle within the social circle called church never fully becoming the family of God by developing strong bonds and relationships. Seeking perfection in people and placing our expectation in the imperfection of the same, it is no wonder that we have forgotten the power and authority given to us by Jesus Christ of overcoming the enemy and all of his schemes.

“He prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking who he may devour.” There are lions who live in captivity. They engage with humans as house cats. While onlookers wonder if they will turn on their captor one day. The lion is the “king of the jungle.” Created to be a powerful predator. Held by a chain or even nothing at all – the will of the lion is broken. He remains subject to the one who cares for him. His natural instinct conditioned to a life of domestication rather than fierce nobility. Jesus has given us His Power and Authority for here and now, but I wonder how many of us live subject to the lie of the enemy? How often we live in the captivity of fear, doubt, insecurity and disbelief without even knowing it? The enemy is powerless unless we become the one he can devour.

Luke 10:19-20 (NLT) Look, I have given you authority over all the power of the enemy, and you can walk among snakes and scorpions and crush them. Nothing will injure you. But don’t rejoice because evil spirits obey you; rejoice because your names are registered in heaven.”

Do you believe that you have been given “authority over all the power of the enemy”? Do you believe that “nothing will injure you”? Do you believe…? If we truly believed, it would impact our way of life. It would be evident in how we live, how we react, how we respond, and what we do each day. Our relationship with Jesus Christ and the fact He lives in us gives us all power and authority over the enemy in our life. However, the enemy knows that if he can just convince you of a half-truth and create just a little uncertainty in you – he’s got you right where he wants you. He doesn’t have to beat you – you will give up. He doesn’t have to force you – you will give in. He doesn’t even have to convince you because without confidence you are easily shakable and movable. He just have to throw enough shade to put out the Light that was only a flicker or spark inside of you. See the enemy is not as strong as most give him credit for. He is just a really good liar.

Ephesians 6:12-18 (NLT) For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness. For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared. In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil. Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.

God’s Armor is not external. It is the protection of God given for our heart, soul and mind. The enemy doesn’t want our body or physical part of our life. It is dying anyway. He wants to change our heart, mind and soul concerning our faith in God and reliance on the Trinity for life. He wants to throw shade to create obstacles and obscure the vision of God for us. If he can just get in your head, he has access to the control panel of feelings, emotions, and logic. Belt of truth and body armor of righteousness fortify the platform of our existence, though unperceivable with human eyes it is the very foundation of our faith. Peace of God keeps us steady and gives us traction when everything starts moving and shaking. A moving mountain makes quite an earthquake. The shield of faith wards off the barbs of the ingenious lies of the enemy that twist truth into palatable fodder that makes us drift in doubt and disbelief. The helmet of salvation is secured with the chinstrap of grace. The enemy wants you to believe that grace is not enough when the truth is grace is always sufficient and Christ is more than enough. The sword of the Spirit is important. It is the Word of God. Most Christians today have dull swords and do not know the Truth from a lie. Many completely disregard the Spirit of the Living God which means they have nothing of use to ward off the enemy when he comes calling.

Pray. Stay alert. Be persistent. How much time is given to your relationship with Jesus Christ each day? I am not talking about hours of service in organized religion. I am not asking how many generous offerings of time, talent or treasure given to others. I am asking how much time is spent in intimacy with the Lover of Your Soul. The One who died for you. The One who fights for you and hands you the victory. The One who is with you. Never leaves you. Never forsakes you. Never gives up on you. Always waits for you. No matter how you treat the Lord – He is always giving us unfailing love, amazing grace, unending mercy, and great goodness. Him. How much your life is given to cultivating a real and abiding relationship with Jesus Christ? It is the strength of our relationship with Jesus Christ that keeps us from believing the lie of the enemy. If we know the Lord, then the lie or half-truth becomes obvious because we know the Word and have chose to believe Him.

John 16:33 (NLT) I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”

Jesus overcame the world. He has been given by God all authority and power over the enemy of this world. In turn, the Lord decided to give us His Power. We have it. But like the lion in captivity, sometimes the enemy persuades to doubt our position in God through Christ. He tells us that freedom is a lie so we will give it back to him. He constantly questions the sufficiency of grace until we give up the fulfillment offered by the Lord to regain control and comfort. Every day as long as the sun rises and sets – the enemy will stop to get you to lay down your cross and pick up the burdens, cares and worries of life. You have the power to overcome. But will you?

The enemy will continue to “throw shade” as the young people say. He cannot put out a light that shines from the inside. He cannot put out a fire that burns from the inside. If we will place an emphasis on cultivating a forever bond and thriving relationship with Jesus Christ, we will not continually fall for his lies and deceptions because we know the Truth. We believe it because we have firsthand intimate knowledge of Jesus Christ through His Word, prayer and intimacy of time spent in His Presence. We pursue the Lord. We desire Him. It is in this relationship that we begin to build lasting and loving relationships with people because now we do not look for their acceptance any longer. We do not expect them to be our fulfillment. Freedom in Christ is to live liberated from every lie the enemy tries to capture us with and throwing it back to the pit of hell. Lord, I pray for my brothers and sisters in Christ today. Lord, spark a desire for more intimacy with you Jesus. Help us fan the tiny flicker of passion inside of us into a burning light or raging fire that the enemy cannot put out. Let your Spirit guide us from victory to victory leading us from self-dependency to sole reliance in You today! We are overcomes! We are victorious! We have all power and authority over the enemy! We believe, God! Lord, help our unbelief in Jesus Name!

2 Corinthians 10:5 (NLT) We destroy every proud obstacle that keeps people from knowing God. We capture their rebellious thoughts and teach them to obey Christ.

When Heaven Opens

When Heaven Opens

Deuteronomy 28:11-14 (ESV) And the Lord will make you abound in prosperity, in the fruit of your womb and in the fruit of your livestock and in the fruit of your ground, within the land that the Lord swore to your fathers to give you. The Lord will open to you his good treasury, the heavens, to give the rain to your land in its season and to bless all the work of your hands. And you shall lend to many nations, but you shall not borrow. And the Lord will make you the head and not the tail, and you shall only go up and not down, if you obey the commandments of the Lord your God, which I command you today, being careful to do them, and if you do not turn aside from any of the words that I command you today, to the right hand or to the left, to go after other gods to serve them.

Last week, I had this revelation in prayer. An “open heaven” is the prayer of believers. To have the blessings and benefits of heaven make natural life supernatural. Miracles, signs and wonders are the epitome of the concept of an open heaven. Are you living an ordinary life or an extraordinary life? The open heaven is an existence that defies human reality defined by faith and confident hope that produces God’s Fruit in our life. When the Glory of God pours out, it has a definite purpose prescribed before time began. From beginning to end, the story has been written before it is time to be lived including every provision, promise, and purpose. If an open heaven is our truest desire, than we are asking the Lord to wreak havoc on our natural life.

Why? If God is good, and His Way perfect, then our imperfection and weakness must give way to His Perfection and Strength. God is Sovereign. He does not change to accommodate my flesh, preferences or demands. He is a Good Father. He knows what is best for us. To request alignment with the heavenly realm and open the windows of it, one must be ready for an undoing like never before. The Glory of God interrupts our plan to make way for His Plan to be revealed. The Lord will make you abound in prosperity. This is an absolutely true statement in the covenant made between God and all of his people…even you. God’s Prosperity begins in our soul and makes its way into our natural life. There will be no abundance in our hand until it begins in our heart.

The Lord will open to you his good treasury, the heavens, to give the rain to your land in its season and to bless all the work of your hands.

A treasury is the funds or the revenue of a government, corporation or institution. It can be defined as the “place where treasure is stored.” The enemy cannot take a single blessing or promise God has in store for you. Nothing can be taken from God that belongs to you. The only way to access the blessings and benefits is for the Lord to “open to you His Good Treasury.” His Good Treasury is the heavens. What opens the windows of heaven? What gives us open access to come and go? Obedience. Obedience is the next step of salvation. It is when Jesus becomes our Lord. Can I go to heaven if He is only my Savior? Absolutely. You miss all the benefits offered in salvation if He does not become your Lord.

People sow seeds every single day. The productivity of life is time, talent and treasure sown into life. When heaven opens in our life, seeds once dormant will receive new rain. God will bless the work of our hands. Obedience begins in the sowing of our life. To align our planting with God’s Timing and wait for His Season allows abundance and prosperity that worldly timing and expectation will never produce.

Matthew 3:16-17 (ESV)  And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”

There are two kinds of obedience in the Kingdom. There is religious obedience and relational obedience. One is driven by love of self and the other is a passion fueled by love for Christ. Religious obedience is based on my ability to follow the regulations set forth in God’s Word. I do it because I want the associated blessing or benefit. God will bless religious obedience. However, this is not the kind of obedience that the Lord is after. He desires a relationship with you. The Love of God for us is unfailing and unconditional therefore it is not impressed with how obedient and faithful we are to rules and regulations. No…Jesus is looking for those who obey because they love Him too much not to. Obedience offered in radical love is the kind that pleases the Lord.

Why did Jesus get baptized? Hmm… I had to think about it. The first thought was because it is what the Word instructs us to do. Well that’s silly, because Jesus IS the Word. When Jesus obeyed God, not because He had to but because He knew it would please the Father, look what happens next – “the heavens were opened.” Could this actually be an illustration of radical obedience based on ridiculous love? Grace has already paid the debt for our life. God’s Favor is upon us. His Spirit lives in us. When we decide to live according to love for God everything changes as obedience opens heaven in our life. Choosing to follow Christ because we love Him leads to a way different existence than that of religious obedience.

Deuteronomy 28:1-2 (ESV) “And if you faithfully obey the voice of the Lord your God, being careful to do all his commandments that I command you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth. And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, if you obey the voice of the Lord your God.

To request an open heaven is to commit to a life of faithful obedience. The Word of God is clear that it is His Intention to overtake us with blessings. Jesus came to give us an abundant life. He will withhold no good thing from those who love Him and seek Him wholeheartedly. Obedience must be a heart choice and not an intellectual decision. It must be a willing surrender of our way to embrace a pursuit of our beloved. Who do you love? Who would you lay your life down for? Would you do the same for Jesus Christ? Logical faith must become practical living if our goal is to align our life with Kingdom Blessing. This means that our treasure is in heaven not on the earth but it is our full intent to open heaven and flood the earth with His Presence.

Matthew 27:50-53 (ESV) And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit. And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split. The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many. 

Once again the Spirit of God is poured out. The first time it came to rest upon Jesus. Then after His Death, Jesus released His Spirit to the people. The first time people could not receive His Spirit because of sin. After Jesus died, paying the price for sin, His Spirit was released on the earth. Immediately the temple veil was torn so religion was no longer a requirement and the graves gave up their spoils. Death rendered powerless to life that day. Everything changed because now heaven was accessible to all God’s People.

When heaven opens in our life – things begin to change. The more of our life given to the pursuit of the Glory of God found in His Presence – the more intimacy that is desired. Moving closer to Jesus means a displacement of self to make room for His Spirit. It will begin to change us from the inside. In the meantime, we must continue to sow good seed and wait for His Harvest. It will come. When our obedience is established in relationship – the Kingdom becomes our home.

How do I evaluate obedience? Well, the results of godly obedience that characterize a prospering soul are not selfish. If I can do it and it has no cost, it is not relationship but religion. It is the moment that I cannot give enough of me to Jesus that radical relational obedience is perpetuated. When there is a desperation to give more, do more, and be more that is beyond anything I can give, do or be – transformation begins. Why doesn’t God just open heaven over His People? Because most of the church couldn’t handle it.

The Powerful Force of His Perfection colliding with our imperfection would kill us. When our stubborn rigidity meets with His Overwhelming Grace it would destroy us. God is waiting for our heart to fall in love with Him. Our heart to be full of Him. Our soul to prosperity in Him just so we can survive His Goodness pouring out on us and in us and moving through us. I want an open heaven. To have it begins with the plea – God change me into who I need to be to absorb your Glory when it comes.

Mark 2:21-22 (ESV) “No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. If he does, the patch tears away from it, the new from the old, and a worse tear is made. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the wine will burst the skins—and the wine is destroyed, and so are the skins. But new wine is for fresh wineskins.”

Too Hard

Too Hard

Jeremiah 18:1-4 (NLT) The Lord gave another message to Jeremiah. He said, “Go down to the potter’s shop, and I will speak to you there.” So I did as he told me and found the potter working at his wheel. But the jar he was making did not turn out as he had hoped, so he crushed it into a lump of clay again and started over.

Modeling clay has great potential. It can become whatever the sculptor desires it to be. When it comes out of the package it is hard and cold. Difficult to shape, it must first go through the rigors of plying and kneading in order to soften it. It may be in the strong hands of the artist or thrown on the potter’s wheel. Spinning endlessly as it is worked into something pliable. The cycle of the wheel perpetuated by the steady foot of the potter. Water is mixed in to make it moist and moldable. This process continues until it completely flexible and changeable. It is only then that it can be useful into becoming the very thing it was meant to be.

So he crushed it into a lump of clay again and started over.

We are called to become a new creation in Jesus Christ. The purpose of true repentance is the changing of our heart, mind, spirit and soul into the masterpiece. God planned a good life with a future and hope with the promise that He would work every detail of our life for good. There is a process to transformation that requires a certain flexibility in order for the Spirit of the Living God to do His Work in us. God promised that He would complete the work. We must make the commitment to remain on the potter’s wheel. To be gracefully broken again and again until we become a new creation in Christ.

2 Corinthians 5:16-18 (NLT) So we have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view. At one time we thought of Christ merely from a human point of view. How differently we know him now! This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him.

Anyone who belongs to Jesus Christ has the potential to become a new person. We do so by reconciling our life to Him through an active and abiding relationship with the Lord. In doing so, one must consider that God is Sovereign. He does not change. He is always right and His Way is always better. Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one can get to God except through Him. Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever. The changing is on our part never the Lord’s. The moment God changes His Mind – we have a problem. It is constancy that keeps our confidence firmly in place.

It is human nature to quit when things get too hard. It is our flesh’s desire to live that keeps us from new life. How do we evaluate our heart and mind properly when that which is in conflict is our very nature? As Paul explains no matter how much we desire to do the right thing, we inevitably do the wrong thing. (Romans 7) Brokenness creates an orifice in our life. Something will fill the void. The flesh wants to fill it with pride in order to sustain itself. The Spirit works to fill it with grace so that our life continues to build a strong bond with Christ. It is our job to live in a pliable state in the Hands of the Creator and battle our fleshly desire to survive the transformation process. Grace is only powerful in my weakness and inability to change myself. God has promised to do all the work. I must only submit and surrender my life to Him.

Luke 5:36-38 (NLT) Then Jesus gave them this illustration: “No one tears a piece of cloth from a new garment and uses it to patch an old garment. For then the new garment would be ruined, and the new patch wouldn’t even match the old garment. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. For the new wine would burst the wineskins, spilling the wine and ruining the skins. New wine must be stored in new wineskins.

In the Old Testament, the Israelites cried out to God. But rather than a relationship with the Living God they decided to remain in the confines of religion. They wanted the Hand of God but did not seek His Heart. How many times do we do the same thing? Try to be a good person, do the right things, be a hard worker, serve tirelessly, and give generously but missing the point altogether? The Hand of God means nothing unless the Heart of God is our desire. The rain falls on the just and unjust. To receive one must only believe that God is able and not doubt His Power and Ability. However, to be complete in Christ means a full offering of self by true repentance and surrender to His Plan wholeheartedly. To allow the Lord to take all of our broken pieces and make the beautiful life that He promised. Nothing is wasted with the Lord. He uses all of our details not only to produce good in us but to resonate His Glory through us.

If our goal in life to live in the Presence of God, our desire is to be completely broken and reconciled to Him. Hardness in the life of the believer is right before the breakthrough. It is the moment that our spirit encounters unyielding flesh and rebellious thoughts that tell us this is too hard and to give up. The moment our flesh screams out in fear and our heart grows weak is the precise time that reliance on God becomes reality in our life. Faith must be tested to be genuine. Confidence left untried cannot be validated. Hope is for that which cannot be seen but accepted as a reality. Impossible is when something miraculous happens. Do things seem impossible right now? Are you considering giving up? Giving in? Walking away from this God thing? What if that which feels like it is going to break you is your breakthrough?

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

Romans 12:1-2 (NLT) And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.

Psalm 51:17 (NLT) The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.

I find that when I think things are “too hard” it is usually because I want my way. Living yoked to Christ only creates tension if I am trying to go my own way, do my own thing, or live contrary to His Word (the way). The hardness is produces from a heart that will not allow further change. It is the opposition with the Holy Spirit that creates pressure inside of me to choose. Will I be a living sacrifice today? Will I choose to give my body, mind and spirit to the Lordship, Authority and Power of Christ or concede the throne of self? God will transform those who are willing and weak but waits on those who are hard-hearted and stubborn. As we cry out to the Lord for more, He will respond and in doing so our old life is shattered to make room for something new. God’s Will is not book knowledge but carefully continuing even when we do not understand or fully comprehend His Method. His Ways are so much higher as are His Thoughts. The only thing of worth that I contribute to this process is a broken spirit that is humble and a repentant heart that turns to God daily for restoration.

The Lord is the Ultimate Potter who only creates masterpieces. He uses the broken heart of His People. He makes beauty from ashes. He is faithful and true. His Grace is always enough. Our weakness is the conduit of change. Our willingness to put our life on the altar again and again until there is no sense of self but overflowing evidence of Christ in us. Nothing is too hard for the Lord.

Genesis 18:14 (NLT) “Is anything too hard for the Lord?”

Mark 9:24 (NLT) “I do “believe, but help me overcome my unbelief!”

Under One Roof

Under One Roof

Ephesians 1:23 (NLT) And the church is his body; it is made full and complete by Christ, who fills all things everywhere with himself.

There is something about having our children together under one roof. Even though there is chaos to just be together enriches my soul and fills my heart to overflowing capacity. Last night, we have the privilege of our oldest daughter spending the night with us. Sitting around the table at a local Mexican restaurant, the girls were chatting and my husband had that look. The smile that effortlessly creeps across his face when his girls are with him. There is something about daddies and their little girls. Even though the group around the table are far from small anymore. Our oldest daughter is great with child in her last trimester of pregnancy. Our middle daughter graceful and beautiful even in a t-shirt, athletic shorts and hair put up in a messy bun has become a woman right in front of us. Where has time gone? In a week, our baby girl, the last to join our large family will be driving a car as her fifteenth birthday comes and goes. God has blessed us with this group. Our boys are now men building families and careers. How does it all happen so quickly? I cherish these moments and times like this when I can enjoy these kids that once had me running in five different directions.

Two people came together with the commitment to love each other no matter what. Now close to twenty years later, look what love has done. It wasn’t always easy. We are a blended family. My new husband and I brought a handful home from the church on our wedding day. God took two empty lives and filled them to capacity with love. There were days when the commitment to God and each other held us all together. He did it. Now our next generation will soon arrive. The connection of family is important. It is worth the cost of love, grace and forgiveness that is required. How often we allow insignificant things to breach the bond that God has instituted? Thoughtless words or careless actions cause offense to root in human hearts as pride tells us that we somehow in our imperfection still deserve better. Families have been under attack since the first one was created in Genesis. We belong to individual families; but it is only a fragment of our true family.

The Body of Christ is a family or at least it is supposed to resemble one. With many members, there is but one unified body that should work together to be unified. I wonder if it brings the Father the same joy it brings my husband when all of his “kids” work together, enjoy each other, share with one another, and long to be together. I’ll let you in on a little secret. Our family doesn’t always enjoy peaceful harmony. My girls can be arguing over a borrowed shirt one minute and helping each other pick out tomorrow’s fashion statement the next. But let another person come against one of my children, and you must contend with the tribe. They will circle wagons and turn on you with a vengeance. There are little insecurities in the heart of our youngest at the thought of a new baby arriving soon. She has always been the baby. She sometimes feels forgotten as we gush over movement in our daughter’s belly or talk about when the little man arrives. It is foolish to think she would lose her place among us but in her heart it is real. These are little things the Family of God encounters although the Word of God says that we are “made full and complete by Christ.”

Romans 12:9-10 (NLT) Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other.

Love is a commitment. I have tried to vehemently express this to each of my children in their relationships and preparing one day to be married. Love as the world knows it is not real love. It is based on emotions and feelings. It requires reciprocation. It is conditional. God’s Love for us and in us is not like that. It is defined as “patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.” Love never fails.

To “love with genuine affection and take delight in honoring each other” takes hard work, motivation and concentration. You can fall in love but you will not remain in love without a commitment to love. God is love. Our identity in God must be characteristic of love to unite the family of God as instructed. Not just to love the lovable, but to love our enemies as well. It is a pure and true love based on how God loves us not how people do. Romans 12 begins with a plea to give our life as a “living sacrifice” and then goes on to tell us to love each other, honor each other and bless one another and more…

Romans 12:14-18 (NLT) Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them. Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all! Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.

The Christ in us allows us to love others unconditionally. There is freedom in such love because it casts out all fear. The fear that breeds insecurity. The kind that allows unbelief to flourish in doubt and choke out the new faith that is growing inside of us. We are to be a representation of Jesus Christ to others. We must not expect others to be our Savior or allow them to reign as Lord. This is evidenced in our ability to love and be loved despite human imperfection, betrayal, and offense never allowing bitterness to disturb the newfound love growing in us as our relationship with Christ makes us one.

Ephesians 2:4-6 (NLT) Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace. For there is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all, in all, and living through all.

There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all, in all, and living through all. My body houses the Holy Spirit. The Spirit of the Living God who identifies me as His Child. The same Spirit that unites me with every other living breathing human who God created with purpose and promise. He is Father to us all. The Spirit lives in those who have taken their place in God’s Family by a choice to be reconciled to the family. Estrangement from God because of sin gives way to reconciliation by accepting Christ to be our Savior. His Grace is enough to give us access to the Kingdom and our rightful place in the Body of Christ. We are all unique. There is no competition and God has no favorites. Our desire to be one with Christ which leads to repentance keeps us unified with His Body that completes us so that we can give our life away recklessly. This allows us to take on the Character of Jesus Christ who is humble, gentle, patient, and forgiving. This is not a human trait. Pride hates these attributes and fights to reject them in our life. It is His Spirit who allows us to become like the Lord by producing good fruit in fertile and broken hearts.

As I mentioned before, though my children may bicker and pick on each other, if anyone comes against them they instantly become a unified front. A few years ago, while I was caring for our son who was undergoing cancer treatment, I got a call from my oldest daughter. Someone was bullying her younger sister in middle school and she was really mad. She called to tell me that she was on her way to confront the girl and do something that were less godly to her. I reminded her that she would be arrested for assault but at that moment she did not care. She continued to vent while I listened with a grin on my face. Someone was picking on her sister and she was ready to fight. She finally calmed down and chose only to stare the girl down. The bully and my daughter are still friends today.

What would happen if the Body of Christ became protective of relationships? What if we decided to become one family? I live in the South. There are churches on every corner, in just about every strip mall, and even small groups in homes. Why so many? There are some churches being planted, but it seems that most of them are products of disagreement. Someone gets upset and spreads their discontentment. People choose sides and suddenly a molecular split occurs. I cannot imagine how this breaks the heart of God who gave His Son, His Only Son, to bring His Children back under one roof.

We must make the decision to agree. To find common ground in Christ, and stop being led by emotions and feelings contradictory to those given to us by His Spirit. Just like a family, the Body of Christ must make the commitment to stop allowing fear, insecurity and offense to be the guidelines for their life and overcome them with the Love of God that gets rid of such nonsense. There will be disagreements. There will be hurt feelings, disappointments, unmet expectations and failed attempts in human relationships. When we allow the Love of God to be our response rather than reacting to the imperfection of humans it will produce the kind of love that will produce unity in the Body of Christ once again.

Is your family coming home for the holidays? Will all of your children gather around the Christmas tree? I find no greater joy than when our family is able to worship together in the House of God. Imagine what the Father would experience if all of His Children gathered together under one roof labeled Jesus Christ. Choosing to put aside personal feelings and accept perfect love, joy and peace from our Living Breathing Source of Life and Hope. It would change the impact of the church. Functioning as one body, the church would become effective. Salt would become salty again. The Light would reach the darkest corners of the lost and dying world. Imagine the Glory that would pour out in our services when Jesus was the Center of it all. Last night my husband slept like a baby, just the thought of all his girls under one roof. He woke up with the same look on his face. I wonder if the Father smiles when we get it together…of course, He does!

Psalm 133 (NLT) How wonderful and pleasant it is when brothers live together in harmony! For harmony is as precious as the anointing oil that was poured over Aaron’s head, that ran down his beard and onto the border of his robe. Harmony is as refreshing as the dew from Mount Hermon that falls on the mountains of Zion. And there the Lord has pronounced his blessing, even life everlasting.

The Unexpected

The Unexpected

2 Peter 3:10-11 (NLT) But the day of the Lord will come as unexpectedly as a thief. Then the heavens will pass away with a terrible noise, and the very elements themselves will disappear in fire, and the earth and everything on it will be found to deserve judgment. Since everything around us is going to be destroyed like this, what holy and godly lives you should live,

The unexpected can bring joy and distress. An unexpected gift or act of random kindness can fill us with excitement. An unexpected diagnosis can shatter a good life in mere seconds. People choose the known rather than unknown because fear cannot allow hope to shine through. The Light of God’s Love that chases away darkness even in our darkest hour. The day of the Lord will come as unexpectedly as a thief. Sin has made the world unstable at the return of the Lord. His Perfection will melt the earth and only those who choose holy and godly lives will live through it. Daunting I know. Yet on a daily basis, do we truly consider the unexpected arrival of Jesus Christ or live in fear of the timeline of life. Unmet expectation placed in a dying place rather than investing in a reproductive heaven. When Jesus returns for us, there will be great judgment. There are only two sides – light and darkness. The Light drives out all darkness even that hidden in human, fickle hearts. Our focus on this life overshadows our constant and ongoing awareness that the Lord will return unexpectedly.

Regret and remorse are terrible baggage not meant for us to carry once Christ inhabits our life. The permeation of His Spirit gives us constant access to the Father where it is possible to release those things that once kept us bound in our past and present. He gives us a sense of our future and hope that allows us to live bravely and fearlessly. If the perspective of our life could change to that of expectancy, it would impact how we live and the choices made in any given moment. Repentance would be the prayer language of God’s People. The Holy Spirit would be released and His Glory would surround us because we know He is coming for us and desire to be ready. There is more to the Kingdom than simple salvation. Salvation is the handle that opens a door to a storehouse of blessings, promises and the unexpected with the potential to always change our life for the better. We must access it by faith and belief that the Lord is coming like a thief to carry us away.

Matthew 25:10-13 (NLT) “But while they were gone to buy oil, the bridegroom came. Then those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was locked. Later, when the other five bridesmaids returned, they stood outside, calling, ‘Lord! Lord! Open the door for us!’ “But he called back, ‘Believe me, I don’t know you!’ “So you, too, must keep watch! For you do not know the day or hour of my return.

The Parable of the Ten Virgins is a warning. A careful indication of those who know the Lord but do not live in expectancy. Expectancy requires preparation. It is a life of endurance that maintains a state of readiness until the end. Five of these young ladies were ready. They were prepared. When the bridegroom, representative of Jesus Christ, came they were ready and waiting on him. Are we? The others got carried away with life. Rushing out to get more oil as they were not properly prepared or perhaps wasted it on lesser things. While they were wandering and searching for oil, their groom arrived but they were not there. Jesus used this parable to explain the Kingdom and proper preparation for His Unexpected Arrival. Oil is used to represent anointing in many narratives. The anointing in us is the Holy Spirit. He creates desire and discipline to become one with Jesus. His Presence in us should create expectancy that overflows into the life lived each day.

“Believe me, I don’t know you!” It is the certainty of expectancy that initiates preparation. If we believed that Christ is returning with a Kingdom prepared for us, it would impact how we live. What difference would it make? One might think that those who await Christ must be religiously prepared living a life of perfection and absolute adherence to His Commands. Our flesh will not allow it. At constant odds with our spirit, outside of His Grace there is no perfection. So it is in profound humility that absorbs God’s Grace every day that allows us to properly prepare for the return of Christ. To get our house in order is to focus on the Temple of His Spirit and wait in hopeful expectation each day. It means reserving ourselves for Christ, retrieving all the pieces of our life given to lesser things and returning them to Jesus as a careful offering of submission and surrender to His Word, Will and Way. Jesus isn’t come for religious people but those He calls “beloved” and lives in an ongoing relationship with.

I Thessalonians 5:4-11 (NLT) But you aren’t in the dark about these things, dear brothers and sisters, and you won’t be surprised when the day of the Lord comes like a thief. For you are all children of the light and of the day; we don’t belong to darkness and night. So be on your guard, not asleep like the others. Stay alert and be clearheaded. Night is the time when people sleep and drinkers get drunk. But let us who live in the light be clearheaded, protected by the armor of faith and love, and wearing as our helmet the confidence of our salvation. For God chose to save us through our Lord Jesus Christ, not to pour out his anger on us. Christ died for us so that, whether we are dead or alive when he returns, we can live with him forever. So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing.

Be on your guard, not asleep as others.

When the Lord comes for you, will He know you? Marriages fall apart and couples break up in the shadow of unmet expectation. Relationships taken for granted and starved for attention suddenly crumble under the weight of ignorance. Busyness steals the attention once given to love. Selfishness devours that once surrendered heart. Pride determines it deserves better than this and goes on the hunt for yet another conquest to feed its need. We must guard our heart. It holds our greatest treasure. The very thing that draws us close to the Lord. The flames of our passion for Christ – to know Him and make Him known – cannot be left untended or it will end in divorce. Nothing can ever separate us from the Love of God. However, we can choose other loves and commit adultery with idols given a greater place in our heart than Jesus.

…Let us who live in the light be clearheaded, protected by the armor of faith and love, and wearing as our helmet the confidence of our salvation.

Believers who choose to live in the Light of His Love must be clearheaded. Our minds must be washed in His Word. Our hearts covered in His Blood. Christ who is the Author and Finisher of faith must be our focus with the rest of our life falling carefully beneath Him into place. When our priorities are out of order, the trap for rebellion and failure are set. The enemy uses many distractions to draw us into an unsafe place. He offers compromises, substitutions and settlements designed to lure us from the place of waiting expectantly for Christ. The urgency of this world is not what we think. It is not in the rat race or chasing the American Dream. The urgent expectancy is the return of Christ. Where will you be when He comes for you? At work, but you left Him at home. Living your life the way you desire, leaving your desire for Him behind. Chasing after lesser things for immediate gratification rather basking in confident hope at His Arrival. Will He even know you? When was the last time you talked to Jesus? Walked with Him? Repented? Desired His Grace? Longed for a closer proximity to your First Love? Do you spend any time with Him at all? How much of your life is given to Christ today? It is an important question to ask if your desire is His Kingdom.

So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing.

Finally, our purpose in life is to build the Kingdom. Be light in the dark. Be salt. Our life a beacon like a lighthouse on the shore or city on a hill drawing others to the Lord. Encourage each other. To build each other up. We miss this sometimes. Human nature is to focus on self. The Fruit of God’s Spirit that is cultivated within us is for more than meeting our needs, wants and desires. They become our offering to a world starved for attention and affirmation. They are looking for love in a world where it has grown cold. Are we building the Kingdom with love or destroying it with selfish ambition and prideful conquests? Jesus is coming again. He expects us to be prepared living expectant lives of complete confidence that produces humility, honor and absolutely fearless love. To give our lives away in His Name expecting nothing from this world but awaiting His Return. We didn’t bring anything with us and cannot take it with us so why not live completely generous lives in the Name of Jesus. Emulating His Character, sharing His Word, spreading His Love all around, and not worrying about the everyday cares that might keep us from Him in the end.

Revelation 3:2-3 (NLT) Wake up! Strengthen what little remains, for even what is left is almost dead. I find that your actions do not meet the requirements of my God. Go back to what you heard and believed at first; hold to it firmly. Repent and turn to me again. If you don’t wake up, I will come to you suddenly, as unexpected as a thief.

The unexpected doesn’t have to be so scary. It doesn’t have to be fearful at all. In fact, expectancy in Jesus Christ is ALWAYS a good thing. His Love is for us. He has given us His Peace that should create confidence even in the most diverse situation or circumstances. There is always a reason for hope when the Name of Jesus is evident. We must wake up as believers that just because plans, schedules and routines do not add an ounce of certainty to our lives. The inspiration of God’s Spirit and His Leading cannot be ignored – where Jesus comes for us individually or corporately it will be unexpected. We must pay attention to the details of our life. We must surrender our hearts and minds to Him daily. Living moment by moment by the Word of God and for the Glory of God – not religiously but continuing to abide in a deep, loving and committed marriage and partnership with Jesus Christ.

Revelation 3:20-21 (NLT) “Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends. Those who are victorious will sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat with my Father on his throne.

 

Level Paths

Level Paths

Isaiah 26:7-8 (NIV) The path of the righteous is level; you, the Upright One, make the way of the righteous smooth. Yes, Lord, walking in the way of your laws, we wait for you; your name and renown are the desire of our hearts.

There is a popular Christian saying that “God is greater than our highs and lows.” Originating from Romans 8:39 – it is a reminder that neither height nor depth or anything in all creation can ever separate us from the Love of God. The certainty of our faith and confident hope in Christ is the fact that His Unconditional Love and Unfathomable Grace belongs to us. No matter how chaotic our conditions or crazy the circumstances of life become making it possible to keep our eyes on Him and our feet traveling in His Direction. The acquisition and full possession God’s Love personally and intimately allows us to walk on level paths. It says so in Isaiah 26 that “the path of the righteous is level.” He makes “the way of the righteous smooth.” The journey of life is full of bumps, barricades and road blocks. We can overcome them all in the Name of Jesus. But how?

Glad you asked. When we walk in the way of the Word, waiting on the Lord, and make His Name and Glory our deepest desire – a union is formed between us. In Matthew 11, Jesus offers to yoke with us or become partners. Intimacy with the Lord requires many of the same things that a personal relationship in the natural would. We must learn to pay attention, invest energy, and give up our way in order to move closer to Him and become one with Christ. Christ lives in us. His Spirit is evidence of the consummation and desire of the Lord to be one with us. However, just as two people can live in the same home or be married for decades, sometimes intimacy is not achieved. Any relationship that is ignored will die over time.

With this in mind, are you walking with Jesus today? Are you aware of His Presence in you and around you right now? He goes before us, stands right there with us, lives in us and hedges us in from behind. I am just like you and cannot fully comprehend the omnipresence of God but by faith I accept it and choose to engage in a relationship because I have confident hope. The Lord has made the Way for us. He has ordered our steps and leveled our path. How do I find it?

Psalm 119:103-105 (NIV) How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth! I gain understanding from your precepts; therefore I hate every wrong path. Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.

As a teenager, I was challenged by a Sunday school teacher to learn and memorize scripture verses. She gifted me with a little packet of cards. Psalm 119:105 was one of the first verses. Why do we need God’s Word? I have heard many people express difficulty in reading, understanding and continuing in the Word of God. I get it because I used to feel the exact same way. However, the Word of God is absolutely essential to walking on level paths through life. You must know the Word to know Jesus Christ. He is the Word. The Word of God is our instruction book and map to the promises and blessings that the Lord has hidden in this life for our natural and spiritual success. It points us in the right direction. It helps us to decide at the crossroads of life and valleys of indecision. The Word of God is our weapon against the lie of the enemy which is the only thing that he has in his arsenal to use against us. The Bible tells us that people perish for a lack of knowledge. It points out that in the end times – the Word will help people identify false teaching. It is absolutely the lamp and compass for our life.

Psalm 119:103 describes the Word as “sweet” to the taste. It’s funny that sometimes it seems like a bitter pill going down but as we begin to feast on His Word, chew it up, and fully digest it something remarkable happens. The Holy Spirit takes the Truth and begins to feed and nourish our soul with it. He uses it to combat all our rebellious thoughts and contrary nature. As we grow stronger in the Word, it develops and matures us from the inside out. When I eat a green bean, I do not immediately feel full. I do not experience the process going on inside of me as my body takes all the nutrients out of the vegetable. It begins a digestion process with in me. I also don’t immediately feel the effects of white chocolate macadamia cookies when I eat them – I just know I really like them until I cannot button my jeans. The Word of God is not always a quick fix. It is an ongoing investment in intimacy with Christ as we get to know Him more and more. We eat (or at least are supposed to) three meals a day. Some of us may do a little snacking, too. This keeps our body strong and healthy. The Word must be partaken just the same to build a strong and healthy soul that will prosper.

Psalm 18:32-36 (NIV) It is God who arms me with strength and keeps my way secure. He makes my feet like the feet of a deer; he causes me to stand on the heights. He trains my hands for battle; my arms can bend a bow of bronze. You make your saving help my shield, and your right hand sustains me; your help has made me great. You provide a broad path for my feet, so that my ankles do not give way.

David killed a lion and a bear before facing the giant that day. God ordered his steps to train him for one of the biggest challenges of his life. He spent countless hours tending sheep. During that time, it is clear that he spent time with the Lord. David is called a man after God’s Own Heart. His Love for us unquestionable in the giving of His Son, Jesus. His Commitment undeniable as evidenced by His Spirit entrusted us. God gave us the Word to make our paths level, but that doesn’t mean to smooth out all the bumps in the roadway of life. It is not about making this life and the world a better place. He has given us His Word and provided the way for level paths by faith and confidence. God is greater than the highs and lows because He carries us high above them.

The Lord has provided a wide path, a spacious place, an open heaven in our midst. Walking in it doesn’t always mean there will not be challenges, struggles or battles otherwise there would be no need to train us or give us a shield. We wouldn’t need His Help if perfection possible. He causes me to stand on the heights but that means I am going to travel up some mountains out of some pretty low valleys. BUT…it says He keeps my way secure…whatever that way is…God has already been there to make a way where there was no way, provide everything I need to get through it and most assuredly will give me victory in due time.

Hebrews 12:12-13 (NIV)Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. “Make level paths for your feet,” so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed.

Make level paths for your feet. Our active participation and dedication to intimacy with Jesus Christ is to pursue Him in the Word. By doing so, we level the way before us because our life is no longer defined by words, opinions or lies. It is bound by Truth. Truth will produce more faith and confidence in the Lord. Confidence that will keep on keeping on even when the mountain seems high or the valley too low. His Love will carry you above your situation to see things as He sees them and give you hope that keeps you in the good fight of faith. Be encouraged today. God loves you. No height or depth or anything in all creation will ever separate you from His Love whether naturally occurring or self-imposed. His Grace is ALWAYS enough. The Lord will never ever let you down. You have to believe that to receive it otherwise your life will be wasted reacting to the change of scenery rather than responding to His Promises and flourishing in faith. You have His Word. You have His Spirit. Christ is in you. Make level your path today. Fill your insufficient faith with the Word and watch it grow into all the good things He promised.

Hebrews 4:12 (NIV) For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.

Together in Common

Together in Common

Acts 2:44 (NIV) All the believers were together and had everything in common.

Last night was Halloween, we live in a neighborhood that is quite popular with families and trick-or-treaters. Since our children are mostly grown, no one was dressing up instead choosing to decorate pumpkins and pass our candy to the army of little superheroes, monsters and the like. The first text message came from my oldest just before lunch to let me know that she had invited a friend over to be the candy police. No problem. As the day went on a text message here and a call there turned into a pop-up party at our house. I was cooking dinner as everyone began to arrive and hungry children filled my kitchen. By the time the parents had gathered, my supplies had run out so we ordered a pizza. The girls greeted the treat seekers while older siblings accompanied the younger ones around the neighborhood. There was food, laughter, and fellowship and as I fell into my bed thoroughly exhausted from the day – I couldn’t help but smile. This is community. This is what God wanted and He was happy. Even on a day heavily debated by many Christians – good had overcome evil.

This is not to debate the participation of Christians in the fall season festivities. God looks at our heart and judges us accordingly with His Love and Immeasurable Grace. The gathering of believers in our home was not about celebrating the darkness or any sort of evil. In fact, it was about coming together as a community. That’s right a community. God loves community. He loves fellowship. A community may be the social group in which we operate, the local of our residence, and a shared government. It can also be an occupational group. The “ecclesiastical” definition of community is a group who shares common interest. Our common bond is Jesus Christ. He brings us together and reconciles us to Himself so that we can identify with each other.

Acts 2:42-47 (NIV)They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

The group who gathered in our home last night all attend church together. Sitting on the front porch, the mamas helped me with a tutu for homecoming week sprung on me by my teen who was out in the neighborhood with the others. Everyone talking, laughing and commenting on the princesses and ninjas on our doorstep. As the night progress and people cleared the streets, we moved inside out of the cold. Our home is not an open floor plan so I often hesitate to invite people over because it doesn’t seem to flow. By the end of the night, there were about a dozen people with an oversized dog all together and it seemed to work out just fine. Laughter filled the air. Everyone enjoying one another – I just cannot help but think the Lord is showing me the value and worth of putting aside our insecurities about where we live, what we have to offer and our opinions on certain subjects long enough to do community. To be a community. To share life in Christ together. Maybe this would end dumb arguments and stupid separation caused by misunderstandings and isolation – we would know each other’s heart and the love to be found there. Did you notice that in the coming together of believers that “the Lord added to their number daily who were being saved”? I wonder if the community called church has lost its ability to come together and have fun. Have we lost the concept of the “more the merrier”? What if we decided to come together and be one? Imagine the possibilities?

In verse 47, there are two key words – together and common. Together means in one gathering, a company, mass, place or body, union and in relationship. Relationship pleases God. It is the whole reason He sent His Son, Jesus to die for us so that our relationship with Him could return to right standing. The Love of God invested in us pays a dividend when it is released from us. It is the harvest that blesses the Kingdom and our Father. The word in “common” has meaning too. The division of believers is a difference never set forth by God. The common bond is Jesus Christ. We are to reconcile our life to Him which incorporates and infuses a love that binds and never restricts. Common means belonging equally to, shared a like by, joint, united, widespread and frequent occurrence. Together in common is the community facilitated by the Love of God through Jesus Christ that should be the practice of the modern day church according to the Word of God it will produce the salvation in many and result in an expansion of the church.

Hebrews 10:24-25 (NIV) And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

Let us consider…think carefully about as to make a decision, contemplate and reflect. The church of Jesus Christ wants to build the Kingdom. I think we lose our focus on how to do that by trying to perfect the people rather than concentrating on loving each other. Community in Christ is all about Jesus. Jesus. That’s all. As we come together to encourage each other and build each other up – His Spirit moves in us. Conviction and conversion by His Spirit is way more effective than our personal opinion or religion. I am not entirely convinced any of us have it all right but Jesus is my righteousness. Yoked to Him, I can give myself to relationship and community freely because He is my expectation.

Before you post on social media, think about this. Is it kind, necessary and true? Does it bring together or tear apart? Before you hit send on that text, is it kind, necessary and true? Am I sharing the love and grace of Jesus or getting my point across? Before you hesitate to join together with others (not only believers) but the sharing of your life with others, remember Jesus is all you need to be a good host or hostess. He has provided all you need to meet together, fellowship and enjoy the company of others. Use every opportunity to have a pop-up party – I am a type A personality kind of planner. I begin the process months in advance. To have an impromptu gathering is outside of my comfort zone, but it is exactly the kind of ministry I am called to. I wonder if we consider our attitude and actions in each invitation or interaction with the community according to Christ what might happen in the church of the Living God.

Finally, I am to be a Light in this world. Like a city on a hill drawing others to Christ, those drawn to the Light will do so in love and their message will be heard by soft hearts safely in a relationship. We must learn to consider our community and incorporate it in our life. We should spur others to love not offense. Just because you interpret God’s Word one way does not mean others will do the same and it doesn’t mean that you are always right. The only thing that you can’t go wrong with is unconditional love and overflowing grace – the qualities of Jesus Christ – the example for the church. Religions dictates our life. Relationship decides to love with our life. Each person lives by a standard. Ultimately, Christ is our standard. We make the choice each day. We are called to build a Kingdom. We are mandated to encourage one another. The Body of Christ is broken and maybe if we consider community first – it will come together as one.

Romans 12:3-5 (NIV)  For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.

 

Tight Spot

Tight spot

Psalm 18:1-2 (NIV) I love you, Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.

Ever find yourself in a tight spot, me too. It seems like sometimes our freedom in Christ is compromised – hedged in by conditions, limited by situations, and overwhelmed by problems – where are the wide open spaces that God promised His People in Psalm 18:19 or the spacious place. In Psalm 16:6 – it is called the pleasant place. Life is not always pleasant even after accepting Jesus Christ. He promises us victory in the outcome but not necessarily triumph in every moment. Life can be hard. It can bring the unexpected. Life is not fair. It can be brutal as a believer to live for Christ every day, to be the light, and remain salty nevertheless that is our call.

Who the Son sets free is free indeed? But with that comes the wisdom that though are things are now permissible – not all things are beneficial. We have a new set of standards for our choices in life. How will I respond to problems? What is my reaction to pressure? The Lord is my strength. He will help me. Right? Well, why do I feel weak and powerless? I am hemmed in and it seems as though the evidence of my life is contradictory to strength and power. These two qualities have changed since receiving Christ, now my strength must fail in order for His Power called Grace to prevail in my life. I am no longer confident in me, my abilities, my surroundings or even the people around me. The Lord is calling me to the rock so He can be my Rock. He is calling me into his fortress so He can become my Fortress. He is allowing me to wander into dangerous territory so that He can be my Deliverer. Otherwise, I would continue to settle for less and do things in my own power. Where is the glory in that?

Exodus 33:21-23 (NIV) Then the Lord said, “There is a place near me where you may stand on a rock. When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will remove my hand and you will see my back; but my face must not be seen.”

Moses was uncertain of God’s Command to “lead these people” as I am sure many men and women in ministry struggle with from time to time. Leading people is tough. People are problematic, prideful and stubborn. Just managing my own brood is challenging enough, I cannot imagine trying to lead an entire congregation in the same vision and mission. Ugh! He goes before the Lord to discuss the matter. I wonder what would happen if we became conversational with God. If we entered His Presence to hash things out and discuss the issues that bring us concern. What if we just decided to have an intimate conversation with Him even on the good days when trouble is not pounding on our door and chaos calm for the moment? The Lord tells Moses – paraphrased – “No worries. I will go with you! I will do what you are asking. I am pleased with you and know you by name.” So Moses presses further – “Now show me your glory.” There is something about God’s Glory – His Manifest Presence that may not change our environment but changes our heart washing away doubt and fear and filling us with confident hope. Are you confident in the Lord today? Or do you feel restricted, limited or hindered by the circumstances surrounding your life? I wonder today if the Lord is pressing you into the “cleft of the rock and covering you with His Hand”? Could it be that He is about to show you His Glory?

I Kings 19:11-13 (NIV) The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper.  When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

Elijah had just killed all the prophets of Baal arousing the anger of Jezebel. Now one would assume that the prophet would be basking in victory but instead he is hiding in a cave. Her threat had penetrated his human heart and now he was in a cave second guessing his destiny. He told the Lord, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty” in this statement we find that the man of God feels far from God as He addresses the Lord formally. He recounts his good works and then the pity party begins…”I am the only one left and now they are trying to kill me.”

Fear and doubt are powerful motivators and sneaky attackers. They come in when we are tired, drained or running low in faith. They pounce on us like helpless prey and devour the little bit of confidence remaining after tests and trials have taken their toll. I never really understood this until our son went into remission. For almost a year, I was broken, empty and on the verge of depression. The victory was great. God is good. His Word did not fail us. Our son is alive and well. However, I am still human and given over to emotionalism from time to time. I couldn’t see the Light of His Glory in that moment as my humanness overtook me. I had exhausted my faith and needed renewal. God passed by me in His Goodness and swept His Glory over me. I was instantly refreshed and renewed. It is not uncommon for us to give in to human weakness. In fact, it is absolutely necessary for His Grace to empower our life.

Song of Solomon 2:14-16 (NIV) My dove in the clefts of the rock, in the hiding places on the mountainside, show me your face, let me hear your voice; for your voice is sweet, and your face is lovely. Catch for us the foxes, the little foxes that ruin the vineyards, our vineyards that are in bloom. My beloved is mine and I am his…

The tight spots, limitations, hindrances and times of being stuck between a rock and hard place have meaning and purpose. They are an invitation. An opportunity to press into the Presence of God and spend time with Him. He is the One who tells us who we really are, what we are called to do, and how to do it yet we get caught up in busyness, the opinions of others and the rat race chasing some elusive American Dream forgetting that He is the God is Good in the land of the living. We see God futuristically and seek Him so when He desires intimacy and communion with us now – today. He pursues us with unfailing love and goodness. Will we stop long enough to experience His Love today and encounter His Glory?

From the very beginning, it has been God’s Greatest Desire to walk with us, talk with us, and live life with us. He desires us. He loves us. The Lord chases after us with His Love, Mercy, Grace and Goodness every day, all day from beginning to end. Could it be that the challenges you are facing is merely the Lord carefully constructing a cleft to catch you in? A place where He can lavish His Love on you, make a way for you, shower His Goodness on you or even just let you know that He is right there with you. See the Power of God does not limit our life but removes every limitation. We are free indeed.

Psalm 36:5-9 (NIV) Your love, Lord, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies. Your righteousness is like the highest mountains, your justice like the great deep. You, Lord, preserve both people and animals. How priceless is your unfailing love, O God! People take refuge in the shadow of your wings. They feast on the abundance of your house; you give them drink from your river of delights. For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light.

Are you in a tight spot today? Do you feel limited? Is your confidence waning and faith running low? I wonder your limitation is really an invitation? Could it be that your Beloved is wooing you to come closer and move deeper in His Presence? He makes all things new. He makes way where there is no way. He gives life and love to those who dare to trust Him. The Lord is good. He is always good. He will never let you down but until you trust Him that will remain an opinion of others rather than your personal experience. God allows us to run into dead ends in order to show us a better way. He waits for us to run out of energy and excuses to illuminate the Plan and Purpose found only in His Presence. When His Glory passes by, you will take notice and be changed. He loves you. He is faithful. He is your righteousness and justice all wrapped in one. His love for you is without condition but you must be convinced enough to receive it today. Those who take refuge in the cleft of His Love will live in the shadow of his wings – safe and secure in all situations. They live in abundance beginning with confident hope. They drink from a river so deep that drought cannot reach it. It is a river of delights including joy and peace even in the tough times and tight spots. He is a fountain of life and light in the dark. He is Jesus. He is all you ever need.

Psalm 91:1-2 (NIV) Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”