Catch 22

Change

 

 

2 Corinthians 5:17 (NLT) This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!

Christians live in a daily process of change. Those who truly believe and turn to Jesus Christ cannot remain the same and in a relationship with Christ. The evidence of Jesus in us is that we become a new person. The old life is passing away giving way to the new lift that has begun. To be yoked to the Lord means accepting His Way. Therefore, in order to become one with Christ, we must be the ones who accept the new way of life and thinking because He cannot and will not change to conform to our way. There is not a believer out there who would openly admit that they do not want all of Christ but few engage and endure the process necessary to be successful in such an endeavor. When change begins to take place, it usually produces inner turmoil, discomfort, inconvenience and things appear to be out of control. Our flesh and inner being is not okay with it and rebels against it. The human tendency is to escape rather than fully engage in the process of revival, restoration and renewal that the Lord is producing in us to secure the conditions of our present environment. There are many reasons that the church is not thriving mostly intrinsic. The Presence and Power of God is available to us but the catch 22 is called change.

Romans 7:22-24 (MSG) It happens so regularly that it’s predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up. I truly delight in God’s commands, but it’s pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge. I’ve tried everything and nothing helps. I’m at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn’t that the real question?

The paradox of humanity is the war within our bodies. The inner being called our flesh likes to have its own way and preserve its place of control. God’s Spirit moves in and begins mixing things up. The flesh dies a little each day. It must give way to the change God is producing unless we allow it to maintain full control. Mind, will, emotions and even our body chime in against what the Lord is doing in us. The rebels rise up and if our heart does not stand strong against them – our process remains incomplete. Frustration and discouragement set in.

The Lord uses a process called transformation. He does not use conformation but we must be transformed by Christ. This means change. Change so comprehensively complete that it changes who we are, how we think and what we do. There is no compromise in God’s Vocabulary. He is God. God is not human. He is eternal. He is sovereign. He is constant. He does not lie or change His Mind. (Numbers 23:19) God is everlasting. He is the Creator of all things. He does not grow tired or weary. His Understanding is endless. (Isaiah 40:28) His Thoughts and Ways are nothing like a human being. He is perfect in all of His Ways. When He speaks, His Words are on a mission and will not return to Him until that command is complete. (Isaiah 55:8-11) The ordination of our life including His Plans (Jeremiah 29:11) handwritten before our birth (Psalm 139:16) even the calling the Lord has placed on our life cannot be withdrawn or recanted. (Romans 11:29) He said it and He meant it.

Finally, I would be remiss in not mentioning God’s Unconditional Love and Affection for us is eternal. The constancy of God includes His Great Love for us. God is Love. (I John 4:8) He loved us first. (I John 4:19) He loves us most. He will love us always. His Mercy given to us each new day is evidence of this very thing. (Lamentations 3:22-24) He pursues us through life with goodness and unfailing love all the days of our natural life. (Psalm 23:6) His Son, Jesus, bears the same qualities and traits. He is the same yesterday, today and forever. (Hebrews 13:8) His Example is set and clearly delineated in the Word of God with an invitation to yoke our life with Him. (Matthew 11:28-29) Every detail of our life has the potential to turn out for our good and God’s Glory based on all these foundational truths and promises concerning God’s Unchangeable Character. (Romans 8:28) He does not change like a shifting shadow. The sun casts a shifting shadow moving according to the natural conditions. However, the Son never changes. God has sent good and perfect gifts for His People including the ability to have a new life and become a new creation. Our flesh dies in the process therefore tries to abort it quickly to save itself.

I’ve tried everything and nothing helps. I’m at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn’t that the real question?

Romans 7:25 (MSG) The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does. He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different.

Change is inevitable to achieve a new life, become a new creation and experience godly fulfillment that leads to full satisfaction and contentment in Jesus Christ. Our flesh creates a paradox. Our body, mind, will and emotions are sinful and contradictory to God’s Way. The problem is that God will not change. He will not compromise for you, me or anyone else. He will settle for nothing less than His Best for us. He refuses to leave us in our current state or condition but must see our purpose and potential fulfilled. This is all because of His Love and Goodness. We are His Passion, Prize and Treasure. He will stop at nothing to bless and prosper our life. Even when we whine, complain and give in to the flesh when our body doesn’t like the change the Holy Spirit is producing in us – God will not relent. He will continue to work in us as long as Christ is in us.

Romans 5:1-2 (MSG)  By entering through faith into what God has always wanted to do for us—set us right with him, make us fit for him—we have it all together with God because of our Master Jesus. And that’s not all: We throw open our doors to God and discover at the same moment that he has already thrown open his door to us. We find ourselves standing where we always hoped we might stand—out in the wide open spaces of God’s grace and glory, standing tall and shouting our praise.

Faith will always be a catalyst of change. To trust God moves us from glory to glory which is a conduit of change. Change is also a crucible which burns away at the things keeping us from experiencing all of God’s Goodness. It is hard to see the forest for the trees as the saying goes. We forget that our life is a comprehensive plan set into motion that will lead us from victory to victory. We are overcomers in all things because Christ lives in us yet fall subject to light and momentary troubles allowing them to stop the momentum of change. Salvation made us right with God. Repentance is the turning each part of our life over to Him. As we do so, change is inevitable. We must embrace change each day or risk hindering the process of full consummation in a thriving relationship with a jealous God who is reckless and extravagant in His Love for us. He stops at nothing to give you His Absolute Best in full abundance.

Romans 5:3-5 (MSG) There’s more to come: We continue to shout our praise even when we’re hemmed in with troubles, because we know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us, and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next. In alert expectancy such as this, we’re never left feeling shortchanged. Quite the contrary—we can’t round up enough containers to hold everything God generously pours into our lives through the Holy Spirit!

Every single man and woman of God has days when they question God’s Motives and Intentions. Pressure, pain, and problems make us wonder is God’s Promise really for us. In pregnancy – we wait for the baby to grow, develop and mature into a viable little human. During the birth process, anticipation of fulfillment is close but the real work begins. Right before the baby is born, the woman’s body enters a phase of labor called transition. This is generally marked by the mom’s sudden change in her demeanor. She will say things like “I can’t do this” or “I don’t want to this”. She becomes frenzied and irrational. Usually within minutes, she is holding her precious baby in her arms. If she quit or gave up in that moment, refusing to push her newborn into the world, what would have happened? Maybe you are in transition right now in your spiritual life? Perhaps the Lord is finally birthing that promise that He has grown and developed in you all this time, but it is too hard so you are just want to quit. Impossible is the birthplace of miracles. Does it seem impossible? Does it feel like it’s never going to happen? Are you expecting today?

The Lord is calling out your name today. Like Elijah on the mountaintop, He is asking, “What are you doing here?” The enemy wants you to disengage in this process called change and take the easy way out. It is the moment that he will take fulfillment, contentment and soul satisfaction from you. The moment you give it up to compromise for comfort, convenience or control. Don’t let him do that to you. Jesus came to give us a rich and satisfying life. Not just forever, but in the land of the living too. You must push, press and endure stopping at nothing to have it. There is no catch 22 for the one who is sold out completely by absolute faith, total trust and confident hope. God will do it. He is able. He is true. The rest, dear one, is up to only you. No more catch 22 or contradictions allowed. Be confident that the Lord who has begun this great and glorious good work in you will complete it!

Philippians 3:12-14 (MSG) I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back.

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Power of Agreement

Power of Agreement

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Philippians 2:1-2 (NKJV) Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.

How many churches have you attended in your lifetime? Can you count the number of places you have attended? I posted something on social media. A friend liked the post. Another friend inquired how the person knew me. We had attended church together many years ago. I have had this happen more than a few times. I do it myself. I have a high school friend who teaches another friend’s children. The Body of Christ is to be just that a living, breathing, working, communicating complete unit. It seems like just when a ministry is growing and strengthening into a fully functioning body something happens and it falls apart. It is time to out the enemy and his assault against unity to become the Body of Christ – a strong source to be reckoned with in the world today.

After years of tearing apart Christians, how ironic that Paul would give the rest of his life after coming to Jesus Christ to rebuild the ruins of wreckage left behind. In an almost pleading fashion, He says, “If there is any consolation (comfort, solace) in Christ…if there is any comfort in His Love…if there is any fellowship in His Spirit…if there is any affection or mercy for one another…fulfill my joy…do it for me if no one else…be like-minded…have the same love…be of one accord…be of one mind.” (paraphrased) The tone reminds me of trying to deal with our teenagers. We teach, instruct, discipline, and finally exasperated in effort plead with them.

It’s funny how families work together. Dysfunction is a key trait in families. Our children fuss, fight, pick and disagree on just about everything UNTIL someone dares mess with a sibling. Suddenly there is complete agreement that that person is about to get hurt as they rally together. The church isn’t much different. Rather than walking in love and commitment together, it only happens in the midst of opposition or tragedy. God desires unity in the Body of Christ. He purposed it for us. Jesus even prayed for us to be one. The Holy Spirit identifies us as one family. How do we overcome the natural sense of family to become one as God’s Family? To stop fussing and fighting all the time and begin to function as Christ intended. It may be harder than you think.

Genesis 11:4-6 (NKJV) And they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top is in the heavens; let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.” But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men had built. And the Lord said, “Indeed the people are one and they all have one language, and this is what they begin to do; now nothing that they propose to do will be withheld from them. 

After the flood, Noah and his family replenished the people of the earth. The whole earth had one language and one speech. Unity. They decided to build a tower all the way to heaven. “Let us make a name for ourselves. Lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.” Self-preservation and pride decided to make a “name” for itself. The Lord came down to see the city and tower. Immediately, He interrupted the building of such idolatry by confusing their language and ability to communicate ending the unity and stopping their downfall. I wonder sometimes if church communities built on the wrong foundation fall apart for the same reason. False prophets who create a community built on foundations other than faith in God’s Word and an introduction to Jesus Christ.

The point of opportunity in this passage and promise rising from another’s misguidance is that when people become one “nothing they propose will be withheld from them”. The power of agreement works naturally and spiritually. Natural agreement produces favorable results in the world. Supernatural agreement builds a Kingdom. It creates a living, breathing body that will become the Bride who Christ is coming for. We have a long way to go!

Acts 2:42-47 (NKJV) And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need. So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.

The early church set the precedent of fellowship. Thinking of fellowship today, I smell fried chicken and a desert table piled high on a special day at church. In the South, there is homecoming or maybe it’s a “Friends and Family Day” to invite or entice new members. This is not the concept set forth in the New Testament. The church broke bread together and prayed together daily. Every day. Not Sunday’s and Wednesdays. Not small groups. Not via texting. No, every single day. The word “fellowship” or koinonia means sharing, unity, close association, partnership, participation, a society or contributory help. Every member was a valuable asset to the group. They sold all their possessions and goods dividing up the proceeds evenly among everyone and giving to those in need. They lived in one accord. The early followers who were baptized by the Holy Spirit literally devoted their whole life to unity with God and each other.

John 17:20-21 (NKJV)  “I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me.”

This was the prayer of Jesus Christ for all of us just before going to the Cross. He desired that those who will believe in Him through the message of the disciples and apostles “that they all may be one” like Jesus and God are one. To abide in love and fellowship together in one accord. One heart. One mind. One body. How are we doing?

Ephesians 4:1-6 (NKJV) I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.

I wonder if the Lord allows confusion and discord to set in to the church so it doesn’t become built of pride and self-preservation. Is it possible that it is the heart of His People causing the issue and not the enemy to blame? Pride is a human trait overcome by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit produces the spiritual fruit that feeds our soul. As our soul prospers, it overflows those same gifts and characteristics into our natural life. We must live lowly and gently lives. Patient. Bearing one another with love. Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit who binds us together in peace. There is one body. There is one Spirit. In 2016, there were estimated to be over 300,000 Christian churches in America. Where is the impact and influence of such mass numbers?

We have been called together in one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is above all and through all and in us all. We must work on the Body before we take on the world. What is lacking?

Philippians 2:3-5 (NKJV) Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.

It’s not about me. It’s not about you. It’s about us united with Christ in full fellowship together according to His Spirit. It is not about building new buildings and erecting new walls – physically, structurally, emotionally, congregationally, or corporately. It is about tearing down every barrier between us and God and everyone else. God doesn’t desire one person over another. Our God doesn’t have favorites. He loves us all. His Love is for us all. His Kingdom has a place for us all. His Body has a function specifically for us and no one else. We cannot fulfill our purpose without the other members of the Body no more than my hand can function apart from my arm if detached from my body. We must learn to live in fellowship. We must figure out how it all works. We must strive to live in harmony and unity with all mankind. It is the Will of God for us and the Way to the Father’s Heart. It is to achieve the Mind of Christ.

John 13:34-35 (NLT) A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

 

 

 

Freedom of Forgiveness

Freedom of Forgiveness

Micah 7:18-19 (NKJV) Who is a God like You, pardoning iniquity and passing over the transgression of the remnant of His heritage? He does not retain His Anger forever, because He delights in mercy. He will again have compassion on us, and will subdue our iniquities. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea.

A woman scorned went to one of the places she and her thought-to-be true love had spent a great deal of time. A quiet park by a lake surrounded with trees. In the dark of night with only the moon for light, she was on a mission. The serenade of crickets and frogs soon disrupted by the objects hitting the water with a variety of loud splashes. The concert grew silent as her mumbled words were followed by the crashing and then sinking tokens of love now lost. She drove to their “secret place” and unloaded every gift that he had ever given her. Hundreds of dollars sunk into the mud and sludge at the bottom of the lake. She wiped her tears and moved on that night.

The latest craze is painted rocks. Rocks with pictures and/or messages placed in hidden and obvious places for unsuspecting people to find. A new kind of pay-it-forward inspiration, the rocks are meant to bring spontaneous joy and express human kindness to the one who is lucky enough to find one. A quick smile at a low cost. But I wonder what might happen, if rather than putting useless images on little rocks, we put the sins, hurts, betrayals and turmoil that create unforgiveness on a rock and threw it into the lake. Attaching all the thoughts and emotions that unforgiveness offers to each stone, and them tossing them away and letting each one sink to the bottom of a lake out of sight, out of mind, and void of emotion forever. Would there be freedom? Would it expand the capacity to love in our life? Would it heal our bodies, minds and emotions?

Insecurities build walls with stones of forgiveness every day. God offers a solution. It is called mercy. Kindness counts. However, water poured on a rock has no point of entry. Our hearts become hard and callous when continually hammered by hurt and disappointment. People will always let us down – most unintentionally yet it still happens. We must become acutely aware of those things living in us in the form of hurt that has produced unforgiveness. A lack of forgiveness is a detriment to the Kingdom of God and limits our life from His Blessings. To offer forgiveness in the absence of the expectation of full restoration is not the kind God exhibits or wants. He is looking for a united and harmonious family. God casts our sins into the depths of the sea. He is asking the very same of me.

Psalm 103:1-5 (NKJV) Bless the Lord, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless His holy name! Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits: Who forgives all your iniquities, Who heals all your diseases, Who redeems your life from destruction, Who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies, Who satisfies your mouth with good things, so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

The first benefit of God in our life is His Mercy. His Willingness to forgive all of our sin through His Son Jesus Christ. It gives us complete access to Heaven. It is from this standpoint that believers are able to bind and loose things between Heaven and earth. It is from this place of undeserved mercy and copious grace that fills my life with God’s Goodness and Glory in abundant proportions. It is also from this place that I must release the same forgiveness in my life. Forgiveness is a process that is coupled with trusting God. How so?

The more I am able to trust God with the expectations of my life the more willing I will be to release others from this obligation. Unmet expectation is the source of unforgiveness. When another person doesn’t do what we expect them to do, doesn’t act as we expect them to act, doesn’t meet the obligation of relationship that we have put upon them, or fail to meet any other ethical, moral, physical or emotional, and yes, even spiritual obligation – unforgiveness rears its ugly head.

Who forgives all your iniquities…

I believe that forgiveness gives us access to all the benefits of God that come through relationship. Hope meets and exceeds our expectation. It has its own set of standards and timeline for execution that requires absolute and total trust in the Lord…not people. However, to allow unforgiveness to remain is to leave a lock on the door to our blessings and promises in God. The Lord wants to open the doors and windows our life to let Him fill it with all the good things that He has already provided to us.

Daniel 9:9-10 (NKJV) To the Lord our God belong mercy and forgiveness, though we have rebelled against Him. We have not obeyed the voice of the Lord our God, to walk in His laws, which He set before us by His servants the prophets.

To the Lord our God belong mercy and forgiveness. If He is our portion, the same belongs to us. We have the ability to forgive and offer mercy to others. Am I willing to forgive like the Lord? Psalm 86 says that the Lord is good and ready to forgive. Psalm 99:8 calls God the God-Who-Forgives. It is in His Very Name. Mercy is His Character. To love first. To love confidently. To love completely. God desires mercy. He loves when we love like He does. He moves closer when our heart forgives because it gives Him more room to expand and fulfill our desires apart from limitation. All have sinned and fallen short of God’s Glory. I believe that there is not a living breathing human being that cannot find a person who needs their forgiveness. I need to forgive. Forgiveness leads to full restoration.

Matthew 6:12-15 (NKJV) And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen. “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.  But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”

Jesus offered a model of prayer in Matthew 6. Included in the prayer are these words, “And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” They come right after give us our daily bread. I wonder if we somehow miss the point that the Lord included these words in His Prayer Model. Forgiveness and mercy are not supplements but substance in our life. If my life is lacking this may be the primary source, the blockage, the backup and the wall that must come down. Forgiveness is an opening that allows God’s Mercy and Love to make a way for new relationship. Restoration always makes way for relationship. We are building a Kingdom of Souls that are knit together. The bond must be in place. I must be open, willing, and ready to forgive at all times in order to experience God’s Power in all things. Here are some truths about unforgiveness:

Unforgiveness represents smallness of soul. As our soul prospers, so will we.

Unforgiveness restricts our life. It limits the mobility of God’s Power to work in us and through us as we have deemed His Grace insufficient in our life.

Unforgiveness inflicts suffering in our bodies, minds and emotions. It is literally unhealthy.

Unforgiveness creates isolation with a wall of stones placed day by day with unmet expectation.

Unforgiveness does not promote Kingdom living. To sustain an unforgiving heart is a liability as a believer mishandles Kingdom privileges and power. It is a direct misuse of binding and loosing as ordained in Matthew 18:18-19.

Each of us own a heart and soul. God has offered us mercy, grace and forgiveness as healing balm to fill every void, bind together the broken pieces, and meet every expectation so that we can express the Light of His Love. How am I doing? I am asking myself today. I am asking the Lord to examine my heart and reveal any unforgiven debt that I have been holding on to. I desire fulfillment. Full satisfaction. Completeness in Christ. Every good thing that the Father has for me. It begins with forgiveness. Accepting God’s Mercy and Forgiveness. Paying it forward to everyone who I have left unforgiven. New life, new creation, restoration, renewal and yes, even revival begin in such a place. I want to be there to see it come.

Matthew 9:4-6 (NKJV) But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts? For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Arise and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins”—then He said to the paralytic, “Arise, take up your bed, and go to your house.”

As the church continues to cry out for revival, I wonder if our heart’s desire must change just a bit. Perhaps if we searched the depths of our heart and continued to pursue full redemption, restoration and renewal from the Lord for ourselves that maybe our heart might change to more like Jesus toward people. People struggle every day accepting the fullness of God’s Mercy and Grace as demonstrated through those representing His Son, Jesus and call themselves Christians. Crusaders of the Cross who have become blood thirsty rather than covered in the Blood of Jesus surrendered to His Spirit. God is love. His Message is Love. His Desire is Love. His Kingdom is Love. Love is impossible outside of forgiveness and full restoration of relationships. We would accept a miracle in our midst faster than to fully live in God’s Love and Forgiveness by placing all our own expectation in Him. Forgiveness begins in me. I must accept that I am fully forgiven and restored in Jesus Christ. Secondly, I must extend the same to all mankind. All of His Wonderful Benefits are produced by this process by His Hand. Forgiveness comes from God those who have fully accepted it will freely give it. So today, maybe its time to grab a handful of smooth stones and begin to write some things on them that need to be forgiven. Take them to a river, lake or even the ocean and throw them as far as possible. It doesn’t stop there. Begin to pray for complete forgiveness and total restoration. Find a way to forgive that person. If possible, let them know. The freedom of forgiveness far outweighs the comfort of isolation.

Mark 11:24-26 (NKJV) Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them. And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.

 

 

 

Special Delivery

Special Delivery

Lamentations 3:22-23 (NKJV) Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.

I don’t know about you but I set some pretty high standards for myself on any given day. Without goals, there is no way to reach higher levels of expectation. Comparison can be the worst of all enemy’s because it adds to the pressure of performance. So naturally, with all this focus on me, I fail miserably. The unmet expectation puts a baseball bat in my hand so I begin to beat myself up over and over again in all the ways I fall short. Taking it to the next level, all things I want to do to please the Lord, to be faithful, obedient and steadfast in faith never seem to reach fulfillment. I continue to sin despite every effort to avoid it. I cannot seem to get control of the rebellious thoughts and stinking thinking. Trying to fulfill all responsibilities and religious obligations combined is overwhelming with such weak flesh and a rebellious mind. God’s Grace is enough for me. His Grace emphasizes the freeness of His Love toward us. It is a product of His Mercy.

God gives us new mercy every single day. It comes because we need it. It is available. It is already provided. Mercy is the character of God that religion often misses but relationship fully embraces. God’s Mercy is always available but seldom considered. Maybe if we could understand God’s Characteristic called Mercy, we would understand the significance of it.

Mercy is God’s Covenant of Compassion

Psalm 78:37-39 (NKJV) For their heart was not steadfast with Him, nor were they faithful in His covenant. But He, being full of compassion, forgave their iniquity, and did not destroy them. Yes, many a time He turned His anger away, and did not stir up all His wrath; for He remembered that they were but flesh, a breath that passes away and does not come again.

God knows you are only human. A breath that passes away and does not come again. He knows the workings of our heart and the weakness of our flesh. Yet, His Compassion for us never fails. When Jesus went to the Cross, He died for every single sin and offense of every single person. Think about it. No fault of failure, past, present or future, is unknown and unforgiven by God through Jesus Christ. Even when our shortcomings and weakness surprise us – His Mercy keeps us from the punishment deserved. God is love. (I John 4:8) Our sin keeps us from God but doesn’t not in any way change the fact that He loves us. His New Mercy delivered each day is evidence of His Love.

Mercy is God’s Consuming Commitment

Romans 5:7-9 (NKJV) For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him.

The Bible tells us that “greater love has no one than this than to lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13) But what about your innocent child…your only child. I love my friends. Yet I am called to love my enemies the same. I might lay down my life for a friend. But if you are asking me to love anyone enough to give up one of my children, I must draw a line. My kids are nonnegotiable. God’s Mercy is evidence of His Consuming Commitment to a restored relationship with us. It is the precedent of His Grace that provides access to His Love again. It allows us to live apart from the consequences of sin and bask in the Light of His Love. God loves us completely and wholly right now. It doesn’t matter if you are saved, lost, or somewhere in between. His Love for us is uncompromised by our current condition. Freedom in Christ and application of His Grace gives us access to God the Father to enter His Presence and experience His Love in a tangible way. It was and is always available and just one prayer away.

His Offer of Everlasting Communion

Revelation 3:20 (NKJV) Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me. 

John 14:1-3 (NKJV) “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.

God’s Mercy provides a place in His Presence and Heaven for us. Revelation 3:20 describes the relationship that the Lord desires with us. It is not as a slave or servant but beloved child. God prepared a place for us in Heaven in advance. When sin barred our entrance, God’s Mercy kept justice from consuming us. He sent Jesus, His Only Child, to die for us and provide the grace needed to pay our sin debt. Jesus released His Spirit to commune with us now as a helper and reproducer of God’s Likeness in us. He identifies us as Children of the Living God. When we fail or fall short, it is not a shocker to the Lord. He knows us better than we know ourselves. Even in the foulest and most depraved state of any human being, God’s Love remains intact for them. His Desire to receive them and commune with them is the mercy that meets them each morning. God will stop at nothing for us to discover His Grace and does it with new mercy each day. By grace through faith – we are able to access the place that mercy built for us.

Ephesians 2:4-7 (NKJV) But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

I always love to see “but God”. “But” nullifies everything stated before it. Ephesians 2:1-3 outlines my condition before I received God’s Grace. That’s right, even when sin consumed me, death imminent, in complete disobedience, rebelling against God and His Kingdom, and fulfilling the desires of my flesh – God loved me and gave me new mercy every day. It is His Longsuffering Character called Mercy that leads us to repentance. God is rich in mercy. It is because of His Love that He send Jesus to die for us. His Desire to make us part of His Family alive together in Christ is what caused Him to build a place for us called Heaven. God’s Love and mercy for us was never compromised by sin. He loves and desires us anyway. Mercy is the evidence of this valuable truth that should bring us much encouragement today. His Expectation of us is to accept His Love and Mercy by His Grace to live in a right relationship with Him forever. This should resolve unmet expectation with confident hope that there is nothing that can separate us from God’s Love. I need to be aware of God’s Love and Mercy every day. His Mercy is all the encouragement I need to pick myself up, dust myself off and try again. His Love is a constant commitment to me that I cannot brush off, sin away, or refuse. He will send it anyway! Open the door to your heart today and you will see you have a special delivery. It’s a package marked mercy. It belongs to you. Why not use it today? Those who do will overcome and be more than conquerors empowered by great love.

Romans 8:37-39 (NKJV) Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

 

Without Further Delay

砂時計とお金

2 Peter 3:8-9 (NKJV) But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.

A young woman who was quite intoxicated made the fatal decision to livestream from her car while driving. In the video, she loses control of the vehicle which flips multiple times. You can hear the screams and moaning of her passenger. She continues to livestream from the accident as her fourteen year old sister succumbs to her injuries. The newscaster sharing the details of this tragic and terrible story says, “What has the world come to? Is it going to get any better? It only seems to be getting worse.” Senseless death and the memorialization of horrible events such as this happen every day. Children committing suicide on the air. People mocking a drowning man rather than saving him. What once was hidden is now broadcast on blast. The modern day anchor-now-prophet declaring to the world on national television – things are only getting worse. He wasn’t talking about the economy or the healthcare system. He was talking about human beings. The love of many has grown cold while the lukewarm hearts become stone cold. Sin is rampant. I remember my grandparents telling me how sad the state of affairs of the world had become and that surely Jesus was coming soon. Now as I await the birth of our first grandchild, I realize they were right. Jesus is coming back. As the details of God’s Word become the chilling reality in which we live – there is no reason to fear. Instead, it is a call to action.

Some will stop reading right here. Isn’t there enough bad news in the world today without the added stress or pressure of the end of the world? For those who know the Lord, the end is only the beginning. God is not slack concerning His Promise. Jesus will return to triumphantly claim His Bride. It all sounds like some fairy tale. However, faith tells us that is not fiction but the fact to live by. One day is as a thousand years and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack. He is not in any way delayed. His Longsuffering and His Heart cannot accept that any of His Beloved would choose to die rather than accept eternal life. The new life that comes to those who are a new creation. It all sounds wonderful and almost too good to be true. As God waits, it is time to take notice. He is not delayed. You are not deferred. He is waiting for us to respond to Him so He can receive us.

Romans 6:15-17 (NKJV) What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Certainly not! Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness? But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered.

We are no longer slaves bound by debt or obligation. The Son has set us free and given us His Grace. The Blood of Jesus Christ paid the price of sin fully so now freedom takes over our life. We choose who we serve making us servants. I can choose the master of my life each day. Who do I choose to portion my life to? Who do I give the best of my time? What is the ethical and moral outline of my life? The process of salvation is grace giving way to faith that produces obedience to the Lord. Salvation is only the beginning. If salvation does not make our life better and more productive, we are not fully utilizing the promised provision, every spiritual blessing and exceeding abundance that God has ordered for His Children.

All things become possible to the one who believes. If the process of God is not producing these things in our life, it is up to us to find the disconnect. Why? Because by grace, we are saved through faith. Faith is the productivity of our life. If we believe, all things become possible because God does not lie or change His Mind. If He releases His Word, it cannot return to Him without first accomplishing all that it set out to do. This is all from the Word of God to the believer but we must accept it as the Truth of our life for it to change us from the inside out.

The girl who foolishly caused her sister’s life to end is greatly desired by God. Acting out in her personal freedom, she will now likely give up the rest of her life to captivity in prison for a single moment. Yet, it did not diminish God’s Love for her in any way, shape or form. The crack addict wasting away in a building is His Beloved. The madman who killed a warehouse full of people or human smuggler who allowed eight human beings to suffocate and die in a tractor trailer – all these people Christ died for. The goal is that none would die and all would come to know Jesus and receive His Precious Gift. We are not in this for ourselves but to build a Kingdom based on the Grace of God filled by faith in God rising up from the obedience of God’s People in expectation of the return of their Savior and Lord – Jesus Christ.

Luke 12:35-37 (NKJV) “Let your waist be girded and your lamps burning; and you yourselves be like men who wait for their master, when he will return from the wedding, that when he comes and knocks they may open to him immediately. Blessed are those servants whom the master, when he comes, will find watching. Assuredly, I say to you that he will gird himself and have them sit down to eat, and will come and serve them.

In Ephesians 6:14, it says, “Stand therefore, having girded your wait with truth.” The Truth of our life is found in the Word of God. Jesus Christ is the Word of God. To know the Lord it is important to know His Word. Not just to know it but to “gird” our life in it. What does that mean? To gird means to surround, enclose or hem in. It is to prepare for action. To provide, equip, or invest as with power or strength. “Let your waist be girded.” Are you girded and fortified by God’s Word today? Could it be that your provision, promise or prosperity is delayed simply by ignorance that produces disobedience?

The wise servant keeps his light burning waiting for the Master’s Return. Jesus is the Light of the World. He has put His Light (His Love) in us to spark passion for all mankind and lead as many as will come into the Kingdom. Is our light burning bright? The Light of His Love is a powerful force that will draw even the most callous heart to be broken. It is not a haughty position but humbling of our life to represent God’s Love. Faithful obedience is demonstrated in unfailing love. To love God with all our heart and others more than ourselves. There is no greater love than to lay down our life for another. To forsake convenience, comfort and even control so that another might get a glimpse of God’s Love for them. When was the last time you gave up your personal comfort to be a blessing to someone else? To consciously serve another over serving yourself? God’s Love is exhibited through His People. It is not a live and let live but a daily giving up our very lives to pursue others as the Shepherd leaves the ninety-nine to go after the one.

It is not enough to serve the Lord but we must also sup with Him. To live in communion with Jesus Christ building a strong relationship not just a religious connection. Many know the Name of Jesus, some even believe in its power but few yield their life to faith in His Power that gives way to obedience. We rely on His Grace to save us but not change us. There is power in our weakness when we give His Grace an opportunity to work in us and through us. When we allow His Spirit to produce the good fruit that is promised, it becomes prosperity in our life that is easily shared with others. To know and experience God’s Love through a thriving relationship with Jesus Christ causes us to become a new creation, a living love story, and true testimony of God’s Power.

Psalm 119:60 (NKJV) I made haste, and did not delay to keep Your commandments.

The watered down gospel of today does not offer the supernatural power given to us by Christ. It invites people to experience Jesus Christ but does not fully expose the power workable through His Grace. Our life was not meant to be like it is now. God’s Design for you is a masterpiece. Consider the Word of God the paint by numbers that gets us there. All throughout the Bible, we cry out to the Lord to make haste in His Coming. What if He is waiting on you? What if the grace being provided is for you to finally believe? This passage hidden away in Psalm 119 demonstrates a change of heart that invites the Lord to have His Way in our life. “I made haste.” Has the Lord been speaking to you about something? Has your heart been heavy? Is there something you want to see changed in your life but keep procrastinating? The word “haste” means swiftness of motion or speed. It is urgent need of quick action. “I made haste and did not delay to keep your commandments.” The Lord is inviting us into a union and partnership with Him today. An opportunity to have every provision, promise, and prosper in all we do beginning with obedience.

I love to find new recipes on Pinterest. Changing up the family mealtime and trying new things. When I find a recipe with many favorable comments from those who also tired it and liked it – I make it for our family. I must follow the recipe line by line. There are instructions on how to prepare the food, set the oven and steps to be followed in order to have the desired result, I follow the recipe. No one forces me to try it. I want to. Did you know that is exactly what obedience to God is like? Growing tired of the same old thing, I try something new. The Lord has promised that you will be a new creation. I do not feel imprisoned or any way hindered during the process no matter how long it takes or painstaking it becomes because I want the end result. The enemy wants you to believe that obedience to God is the absence of freedom. Nothing is further from the Truth. It is the opportunity to yoke our life with Christ and claim every promise for our life. It is not burdensome as some might think but leads to victory after victory. We must make haste to know the Word of God and follow the steps to prosperity as a way of claiming all that Christ died for us to have and to become which is exceedingly abundantly more than I could ever think, ask or imagine.

2 Corinthians 9:12-14 (NKJV) For the administration of this service not only supplies the needs of the saints, but also is abounding through many thanksgivings to God, while, through the proof of this ministry, they glorify God for the obedience of your confession to the gospel of Christ, and for your liberal sharing with them and all men, and by their prayer for you, who long for you because of the exceeding grace of God in you.

In 2 Corinthians 9. Paul is speaking to the cheerful givers. Salvation is a Gift from God to be sown in our life. God gives seed to the sower. Those who sow sparingly will reap sparingly. Those who take the seed of faith and sow it obediently will produce enough in their life to become givers. It goes on to say, “And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work.” The Grace that God has given us is the beginning of many great things that He has for us. While this passage refers to tangible giving, our life has nothing to offer anyone else outside of grace that claims faith and uses it for obedience. Obedience prospers our life increasing our offering. People don’t need more stuff but rather the tangible substance of faith that finds love that is passionate, reckless, all-consuming and unconditional. I cannot give that kind of love away unless I have a commodity of it in my life. God increases me as I come to know Christ and He becomes the reality of my hope. My life is to glorify God for obedience that confesses not only that I know who Christ is but I believe in who He is and what He came to do. God supplies us in surplus so that we can give from the abundance and increase of our life. If you are not a receiver of God’s Love, you cannot be a giver of it. If you have not accepted God’s Grace fully, you cannot share it with others. If you do not believe the Word of God, you will have nothing to encourage others. We must believe in God who rewards those who diligently seek Him with wholehearted and hasty obedience in order to stay in His Service.

Matthew 25:6-13 (NKJV) “And at midnight a cry was heard: ‘Behold, the bridegroom is coming; go out to meet him!’ Then all those virgins arose and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise answered, saying, ‘No, lest there should not be enough for us and you; but go rather to those who sell, and buy for yourselves.’ And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding; and the door was shut. “Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, Lord, open to us!’ But he answered and said, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, I do not know you.’ “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming.”

In Ezekiel 12, the Word of the Lord came to the prophet to tell the Children of Israel that they were making a mistake. They believed that the postponement of God’s Judgment was actually an annulment. Despite the cries of men like Isaiah, Micah and Jeremiah, the people decided that God had changed His Mind and granted some kind of reprieve. The Lord spoke to them. “For I am the Lord. I speak, and the word which I speak will come to pass; it will no more be postponed; for in your days, O rebellious house, I will say the word and perform it,” says the Lord God.’” We must not ignore the signs of the times. Jesus will come back. Will you be ready? Will I? The answer is within each human heart.

God is not delayed. He is waiting on us. Jesus wants us to be with Him. He wants us to know Him so that He can say that He knows us. The Lord has not left us but lives in us. He wants to consummate the relationship fully as salvation plants seeds of faith and obedience creates a bond stronger than death and greater than the grave. Jesus wants us. He desires us. He is waiting for us. He will not wait forever. There is a day that will come when He will return. It will be a day of great victory for His Servants and huge regret for those who missed the opportunity. It is my privilege to serve Christ not my responsibility. To know Him is to love Him and it is from this place faithful obedience is born…not because I have to but because I want to. I want Him. I desire the Lord above all things so I pursue Him wholeheartedly by faith and obedience His Grace empowers me. One day there will be no further delays. I intend to be ready. What about you?

I have been married for almost two decades. My husband likes things neat and tidy. When I get home each day, I will clean up the house and put away the things our girls leave strewn about the house. I do it just about every day if I beat him home. He doesn’t require me to do it. I know that he likes things in order. This daily act of obedience is not because he makes me do it but because I love him and know he likes things that way. I do it out of love not responsibility. Our life with Christ is like a marriage. When our obedience flows from love, it is not a burden or challenge but an opportunity to strengthen our relationship and please our beloved.

Philippians 2:5-10 (NKJV) Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name,  that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

What’s Love Got to Do with It

Love

John 13:34-35 (ESV) A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Just as I have loved you…you also are to love one another. Oh Jesus, if it were only that easy. “People are people so why should it be…You and I should get along so awfully.” (Depeche Mode) A little 1984 flashback for you today. Why can’t we be friends? Another song from the past and the list goes on. Why can’t people accept one another in love? Church I am talking to us just as much as anyone else. “Bless their heart” gives an open door for backdoor banter and faulty fodder. Jesus tells us to love one another but not just to love from our capacity but as He does in abundance without prejudice. Withholding nothing to give it away. Isn’t that what it means to give up this life to have forever? Serving in the local church and avoiding sinful habits outlined clearly in doctrine is one thing. However, love is the only thing that Jesus requires. For if we learn to love the Lord completely, it becomes the overflow of our life to love others. All others. More than ourselves. Jesus – teach us today to love one another enough that ALL people will know that we are your disciples.

Every human being ever created is seeking love and acceptance. I am convinced that each heart is born with a receptor sending out a signal for love. Unconditional love. True love. Eternal love. Gracious love. Never ending love. Where do we find such love? God is love. (I John 4:8) He loves with His All. (John 3:16) Jesus laid down His Life for us which is deemed as the greatest love of all. (John 15:13) The First Fruit of God’s Spirit in us is love. (Galatians 5:22) The only commandment given to us by Jesus was to love one another. (John 13:34) There is nothing that can separate us from the Love of God again thanks to His Son, Jesus Christ. Nothing at all. (Romans 8:31-39)

Romans 8:37-39 (ESV) No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Our ability to become more than conquerors is our full acceptance of God’s Love as trustworthy and true. We test the limits of His Love constantly. Our flesh rebels against the slightest possibility that there is a God who loves me beyond my capacity to love and live for Him. A selfless Father who doesn’t look at sin and has no regrets but loves us completely. This is the vast reservoir from which a believer loves others more than themselves and extends the same courteous grace to their enemies. (Matthew 5:43-44) Why? We were once enemies with God. (Romans 5:10) Sin put us in that position as adversaries to the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God is taken by force. (Matthew 11:12) The enemy assaults the Kingdom by trying to convince the Body that Christ cannot truly love them beyond what they do or how they live. It is such insecurity that keeps our love limited and with carefully constructed borders. Never letting anyone in or allowing our love to pour out beyond comfort and control. What if they hurt me? Do you serve a Living God who heals you? What if they don’t love me? So what, there is a God who loves you and wraps you in His Arms. What if they betray me or use me? God supplies all our needs doing more than we can think, ask or imagine to satisfy the desire of our heart. Why do we put such a great expectation in others to fill our needs and voids with a God like that? Are you a lover? Do you love the Lord with all your heart, mind, soul and body today? Is it evident in the love you are giving to others?

Matthew 22:36-39 (ESV) “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

I used to work for the school system in technical education. My position was supervising Student Services which meant dealing with student complaints. There was a young man who made some poor choices in education and ended up on academic probation. His financial aid could not be disbursed due to his performance. His mother decided to pay the school a visit due to the unfair treatment of her son. She was a force to be reckoned with. By this time in my career, I was pretty good at reasoning with mama bears offended at the treatment until this lady showed up. She yelled. She screamed. She cussed out my entire staff. As if not enough, the administration of the school were all away at a conference and it was up to me to satisfy this woman AND the federal government. After what seemed like all afternoon, we finally came to agreement. My team was battered and bruised by her abrasive words, accusations and outright ugliness. As we parted ways, she said, “God bless you!” I smiled as she handed me a business card to contact her if her little precious began acting up again. Her profession? Reverend So-So…

What does love have to do with it? Everything. A church absent of unconditional love that flows to every person who walks through the door is just another religion and not worth anyone’s time. Jesus came to prepare a Body of Believers who love unconditionally and selflessly following His Example all the way to the Cross. To lay down their life for other people on a regular and ongoing basis not because they have to but because they want to honor His Gracious Gift of love to them. Step outside into the church parking lot as people are racing to beat the church next door to the buffet. It becomes clear that the rain of God’s Word did not find fertile soil but is more like water being poured on a rock. Our love for God must flow beyond all barriers including our family, friends and co-workers but outside our comfort zone to strangers and enemies, too. What is love?

I Corinthians 13:4-8 (ESV) Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.

This is love. These are the qualities of true love demonstrated by Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit inside of us produces this kind of love which gives seed to every other fruit in the garden of our heart. This kind of love. Love in this world has grown cold. Dysfunction defines most relationships which opens a gateway to God’s Grace. Grace is required to love other people without condition. People are sinful. Sin is just part of the package. Selfishness is a human quality that can only be overcome by the death and eradication of pride. In the verses preceding this definition of love, the Word of God dares to enter the sacred corridors of the church. The “Gifts”, prophetic powers, and even mountain-moving faith are rendered useless in the absence of love. If we do not have love…there is nothing gained from the Gospel.

To gain proper perspective, we move on to the verses after the definition of love. All these “gifts” given to us will one day pass away. They are to edify the Body of Christ and build us into a sound structure of love to have a relationship with God through Jesus Christ that extends to every other living, breathing soul without condition. Spiritual maturity comes when love is blind. It moves like faith believing without seeing. Spiritual maturity is to love others not for what they can or cannot do for you or if they treat you with the respect you deserve but rather in godly character that understands our love is not from us but from the One who loves us most, who loved us first and who loves us forever. Loving others is not something I do but the Christ in me does from the inside out. The Love of God restores the trampled and broken hearts of humans transforming them into overflowing springs to refresh others and show them the Light of His Amazing Love. Love is revival. There will be no revival in the midst of God’s People until first His Love is manifested there.

I Corinthians 13:13 (ESV) So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

I know what it feels like to have a broken heart. To feel unloved and unwanted by others. To be the outsider in a crowded room. But you know what else I have discovered, the vast parameters of God’s Love. When I find myself wallowing in self-pity or about to lose my temper and tell someone how I really feel, it is time to stop and consider my position in God’s Love. See there is no end to it. It has no boundaries. His Love is limitless. I can get caught up in religion sometimes and lose sight of the relationship I have with my Beloved. I allow human expectation to overshadow what the Lord is doing in my life because I am seeking acceptance and affirmation from the wrong place. When this happens, I tend to lose sight of those around me who need the Love of God lived before them. Those who need my immediate attention as conduit of God’s Love, Grace and Acceptance just as I am. People are not a problem – they are the Kingdom. Every single one of them have potential to become sons and daughters of God. Jesus died for them too. He gave just as much for the one who forsakes Him as He did giving up His Life and Kingship for you and me. I forget that sometimes when selfishness and pride overtake my very human heart. The hardness becomes a callous that must be quickly and severely dealt with. Faith, hope and love are the only eternal things in life – the Lord has pointed to love as the greatest of them all.

2 John 5-6 (ESV)  And now I ask you, dear lady—not as though I were writing you a new commandment, but the one we have had from the beginning—that we love one another. And this is love that we walk according to his commandments; this is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, so that you should walk in it. 

How’s Your Love Life?

How's Your Love Life

Matthew 27:50-51 (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.

Everyone loves a love story. A feel good tale of the boy that comes for the girl against harrowing odds. He catches her right before she gets on the plane. Throws pebbles at her window before singing her a love song. The Hallmark-made-for-television-movie love where boy meets girl, they fall in love, overcome obstacles, and end up together when all seems lost. Love is awesome. Relationships matter. Stumbled upon often yet so hard to maintain. Love begins with desire that is fueled by passion. How do we keep love alive? I shared some words about intimacy last night in a church service. I have an intimate relationship with my husband, my children and even a few close friends. But do I have an intimate relationship with Jesus? The sum of my life will amount to nothing at all unless I discover this love stronger than death.

What is intimacy? The world defines it in a variety of ways. It pursues it by different means. Intimacy is the state of being intimate. It is a close, familiar, and affectionate, loving, and personal relationship with another person. It also means a close association with, detailed knowledge and deep understanding of a certain subject. Finally intimacy is expression of love and affection that is exhibited in an abiding union. It is synonymous with terms such as closeness, familiarity, warmth and affection. It is to allow people to establish a place in our life much closer than the usual and customary. Christ desires intimacy with us. It is the first thing Jesus established once He died on the Cross. He paid our debt and claimed His Prize. His Beloved. It says it right there in black and white. Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded His Spirit – the Holy Spirit. What happened next is often overlooked but should be cherished forever! “And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom.

The veil in the Temple was a barrier prescribed by God to keep us from carelessly wandering into His Presence covered in sin. Sin is immediately consumed in His Presence and men literally died from their irreverence and ignorance. So the Lord placed a curtain around His Presence so that only those fully prepared and ordained would come and go – He didn’t want us to die in our sin but live in His Grace forever. The curtain was no joke. Its dimensions were significant. It was about 60 feet high, 30 feet wide and 4 inches thick. When the ultimate offering was made and His Sacrifice accepted by God – this massive material woven together into a single piece which was seamless was torn from top to bottom. No man could have done such an act and so quickly – clearly it was a message from the Lord and open invitation to enter His Presence and live in His Midst.

Hebrews 6:17-20 (ESV) So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us. We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.

We can make God into a lot of different personalities according to our experience or lack thereof. He is often defined by the human beings around us rather than getting to know Him in an intimate and personal relationship. I have a lot of friends who I love dearly but none of them will replace my relationship with my husband. He is my partner. He is my soul mate. I live in constant and abiding covenant with him as one. I am also the Bride of Christ. My relationship with Jesus trumps even the relationship that I have with my spouse. In fact, there is a strong possibility that I would be another failed marriage statistic outside of the Grace and Goodness of God that is the center of our life. In Christ, we live, move and breathe or at least could if we so desired. There is a difference between receiving Christ and embracing Him. I may meet ten new people today. Not all of them will be given immediate access to the innermost workings of my life or details of it. It takes time and trust to decide who is allowed in our inner circle. Jesus Christ immediately imparts His Spirit to us when we believe. Now whether or not we accept and embrace His Spirit partnering and becoming one with Him is really up to us.

Jesus gives us hope. It finds security in our life of love and commitment to Jesus Christ. Outside of Him, the concepts called love, faith and hope really do not make any sense. God is love. The very essence of His Being is love. He created us from His Love, for His Love and to be the focus of His Love. Have you entered into His Love today? Have you embraced the privilege called Presence? ”God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath, so that by two unchangeable…” The Lord has made it a point to express His Unfailing Love to us. He opened the door to His Presence and invites us to come in and commune with Him. Become one with Him. To let His Love become so passionate and fulfilling that it radiates from us like a beacon in the dark. The whole point of the Cross was God’s Desire to love us up close rather than from afar. To make our life better by making us better from the inside out. Have you ever watched someone fall in love, grow in love, and mature in love? There is nothing more precious than to watch to elderly lovebirds who still hold hands after 50 years. My grandparents were together 70 years before he passed away. I cannot imagine being alive that long much less in love that long. Jesus wants to live a love story with you and me that lasts forever. He was willing to die for it. He longs to give it new life and new possibilities. Will you be the one who ventures past the veil today? I intend to be.

Song of Solomon 8:5-7 (ESV) Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm, for love is strong as death, jealousy is fierce as the grave. Its flashes are flashes of fire, the very flame of the Lord. Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it. If a man offered for love all the wealth of his house, he would be utterly despised.

How’s your love life? Is it passionate or fizzling out quickly? Do you know what true love is? Have you ever experienced love at first sight? Do you dream of falling in love all over again? My husband and I went on a date last weekend. We do not do it nearly enough. Caught up in life and family it is not our habit to carve out precious minutes just the two of us. We planned our date midweek. After spending most of our Saturday doing chores, it would have been easy to just order takeout and stay home but we didn’t. He even opened the car door for me. Put away our phones and just spent some time together. We do not do it enough. However, it is moments like these that keep love alive. To stop life long enough to enter intimate moments of togetherness. It is the kind of love that fuels passionate marriages, families and friendships. God loves relationships. He is the one who instituted it. Jesus came and did away with all the other commandments leaving us with just two mandates – love God and love each other. We cannot do one without the other.

Jesus demonstrate love as strong as death and jealousy as fierce as the grave. He placed the Light of His Love inside of us to be a catalyst in our relationship with Him so that all other relationships in life can find security on its foundation. We can love and be loved without expecting anything from anyone because Christ is our fulfillment. Such a love cannot be drowned out by noise, taken by a lie, overcome by trial and troubles, it is secure by the hope found in an intimate relationship with Jesus. Will you accept His Invitation today? He will never force His Love on us but offers it day in and day out. He is a gentle suitor and always the perfect gentleman. All we says is “yes” and make a time and place for Him in each day. Love comes with a price. Jesus gave up His Life to love us. It would seem a little time and energy wouldn’t be too much on our part. Set Him as a seal on your heart today. A seal on your lie that will become a love stronger than death. He is jealous for you. Why not be jealous for Him? Desire His Attention. Long for His Embrace. Listen for His Voice. Come when He calls. Jesus wants to live a love story with each of us today. When the Temple veil was torn from top to bottom immediately following His Death it was a declaration of His Love and His Commitment in pursuing us and having our love and devotion. The happily-ever-after is up to you and me.

Romans 8:38-39 (ESV)  For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

It Matters

It Matters

Colossians 3:1-3 (NLT) Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God. And when Christ, who is your life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all his glory.

I used to work with someone who professed vehemently to be a Christian. In theory, the confession was absolutely true. This person would tell others that God was in control… which He is. Serving in church attending all the services and sharing the experience. Feeding the soul with the Word and good teachers – conversationally this person was living the life. However, at work this person was not a faithful employee. Arriving late, leaving early, not coming at all, and when in the office doing others things. Poor performance and inconsistent contribution forced the company to eliminate the position due to the tremendous weight on the company. The employer was extra patient and completely understanding until it took a terrible toll on his business. Seeds sown for life now have left nasty weeds for others to uproot and plant good seed in its place. It matters. Life matters. What I say as a believer is not nearly as important as how I live? To live for Jesus Christ is to put my feelings, emotions and bad habits in check to represent the One I serve appropriately and faithfully. It begins in real life doing ordinary things as though I was serving my extraordinary God.

“Since you have been raised to new life with Christ.” This is the very reason why it is important that our life line up with our conversation. The Lord has given us the opportunity to live a new life as a new creation. I must set my sights on the “realities” of heaven. Let’s pause right there for a moment. Reality is important. It is resemblance of what is real. It is take the tiny seed called faith and plant it in every area of our existence until the life I live is based on heavenly concepts rather than worldly conformity. It would be easier if given a full heart transplant when coming to Christ but the truth of the matter is that the Lord did not come to you, call you and confirm you so that He could change you into someone else. You were born with the potential of God in you and eternity in your heart along with a measure of faith so that when the time came to pull it all together – you had everything needed. Coming to Christ, just activated God’s Plan and set the wheels in motion. He loves you. He made you. He have given you vast potential and called you to greater purpose. So how you live each day matters when it comes to God’s Process at work within you!

The reality of heaven is realized when Jesus Christ lives in us. To acknowledge Jesus is to recognize that our life is no longer bound by sin and grave. There is now more to live than this for those who desire and choose to live it. It is a conscious choice made every day to give up my way and follow Jesus.

Colossians 3:11 (NLT) In this new life, it doesn’t matter if you are a Jew or a Gentile, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbaric, uncivilized, slave, or free. Christ is all that matters, and he lives in all of us.

Christ is all that matters…and He lives in all of us. Rather than dissecting and scrutinizing each other, what we believe and how we serve…what if…just for today…just for this moment, one considered the fact that the Lord has called us to one mind, one body, one heart and one purpose. This would mean that how I live my life directly impacts other people whether I know it or not. The things that I do each day reach someone. As the Light of the world by calling, others look to us for answers for practical life. My sights are set on heaven. I want to be with the Lord one day. How am I treating His Body? We are the Body of Christ. Jesus died for everyone not just one but all. This means that even those who do not believe – I am accountable to treat with respect. Why? Because my interaction with the Body should always represent the Christ in me and not the me He lives in. Let me take this home for a moment. When someone comes into our church, not my church but the one that each of us call home, how are they received? Is there condemnation as their appearance relays their choices? Are we judgmental? Are we fake? Do we ignore them? How do we receive them? Is it like the Father welcoming the prodigal son? See that is how Jesus would do it – He would run to them, wrap His Arms around them, genuinely receive them, welcome them, and love them in that moment not when they cleaned up nicely and fit our religious routine and could speak fluent Christianese. We are the Body of Christ. Even that homeless man speaking to unseen facing and caring on quiet a debate. Jesus loves him. He died for him. He desires Him. God has no favorites. It matters how we live our life when it comes to other people.

Colossians 3:12-15 (NLT)  Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful.

Can I be transparent today? It is hard to live out the Gospel when it comes to people sometimes. Seventy times seven is a lot when you are the one who has to forgive and forget. We cannot forgive without forgetting and be like the Lord. He puts our sin in a sea of forgetfulness and justifies us just as if we never sinned. Can you say the same? I can’t and still be truthful. People can be downright difficult. BUT…since God chose (me) to be the holy (person) who He loves… I must clothe (myself) with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Ugh! As if that is not enough, I must make allowances for faults and forgive ANYONE who offends me. In the South, it might be called even those who hurt my feelings. I must forgive like Christ forgave me. He did away with a lot of junk and mess that’s for sure. Above all. Clothe yourselves with love. Walk around in it every day. It must be the filter through which every emotion, attitude and action goes through before it reaches another. I must be a lover. I must love all people. This will most definitely influence the choices I make and how I live because it matters. I am not representing myself any longer but the Christ who lives in me. “Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives. Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom he gives. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts. And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father.” (Colossians 3:16-17)

Colossians 3:22-24 (NLT) Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything you do. Try to please them all the time, not just when they are watching you. Serve them sincerely because of your reverent fear of the Lord. Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. Remember that the Lord will give you an inheritance as your reward, and that the Master you are serving is Christ.

It matters how we live and represent the Lord not only in the midst of our congregation but especially in our everyday life. The daily interactions with others as our character is revealed. Each day is the opportunity to be the Light for someone else but it requires strict attention not to others, how they live, what they do or even what they say. People have no influence over my purpose in the Lord Jesus Christ. They are my purpose in the Lord. For me to live is Christ and die is gain. This must be the reality of my life.

Work willingly at whatever you do as though you are working for the Lord rather than people. Think about the tasks on your to do list. The places you will go today. The things that you are planning to do. There is no better representation of Jesus Christ then to do it all wholeheartedly as if working for Him and to love everyone in the process. Your pay grade doesn’t matter. The people you work with do not control your destiny. You will be rewarded abundantly for every seed sown in love and faithfulness. The Word of God tells us that as long as the earth remains – there will be seedtime and harvest. Those who live in drought and famine must carefully evaluate the seeds being planted in their field called life. Grumbling and complaining just grows into bitterness. Unforgiveness creates a wall that love cannot find its way around. Discontentment lead to discouragement but hope never will take you there. God has something far better for us hidden in Heaven and He promises His Goodness is for us in the land of the living. I do not pursue the Hand of God but rather His Heart so I must live according to what is found there – love, grace and mercy that gives way to faithfulness and obedience in all things. A diversified life is at risk. To fully invest my life in the Kingdom and have its reward requires a wholehearted effort to live, move, breathe and exist in Christ while I live this life. It matters. It all matters. Do not let the enemy convince you otherwise.

I Corinthians 15:58 (NLT) So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless.

The greatest ministry in life is not found in a position at the local church. It is not given the title of pastor, preacher, teacher or apostle. The greatest ministry is the life of worship lived by men and women who commit each day to work enthusiastically for the Lord in all things. To erase the line drawn between life and ministry. To decide that Heaven came exist on the earth and work diligently to make it so. It all begins by believing in the reality of Jesus Christ. He has flooded the earth with gracious, overwhelming, overflowing and unconditional love that is in us. We must decide to make it the reality of our life and decide each day matters to the Kingdom. Jesus set us free to live the life of our choosing but He clearly shows us the life that He desires for us and the promises that come with it. I want that life. To live a life that matters.

Ephesians 6:7-8 (NLT)  Work with enthusiasm, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. Remember that the Lord will reward each one of us for the good we do, whether we are slaves or free.

The Power of Relationship

The Power of Relationship

Ruth 1:16-17 (NIV) But Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.” 

My sister stopped in last night for a quick visit. She lives in Missouri. We live in Florida. Seven years apart seems like forever as children but now as women – we finally connect. Early this year, we spent a great deal of time together when our mom had open heart surgery. In those days, years melted into moments and the reality of relationship decades in the works gently unfolded. The Lord was working in my heart on His Next Great Set Up for my life. How could my sister who lives miles away know the details? With busy lives, there is little time for conversation yet she gave insightful words only possible through a Living God who lives in us. It’s funny how the Lord starts at the beginning and works things to the end when we live unaware and incognizant lives so “independently” only to discover that He has been working it all the time.

Our family would be considered a blended family. A small version of the “Brady bunch” with a man and his two children meets a woman and her two children and from there the rest is history. Messy and difficult – yet by the Power of God seamlessly sewn together into something of value and worth. There is power in relationship. Jesus came to restore our relationship with God the Father. He did so by grace because apart from it – our flesh and sinful nature would not ever allow such a union. In an age of hook-ups, break-ups and make-ups with quick marriages and even quicker divorces resulting in broken lives and if we are blessed blended families, I wonder if people are truly experiencing the power of relationships.

Walking through the quiet house knowing that my sister is sleeping in our guest room, I am thankful. Thankful that in spite of us, God had an amazing plan. The story of Ruth and Naomi replayed in my mind. Naomi and her husband took their sons to Moab to escape the famine. Her husband died in Moab. His sons married two Moabite women, but both of her boys died within ten years. Naomi and the two women were now helpless in their culture. They had no one to care for them and Naomi felt there no other choice but each to return home to the care of their family. She blessed both women to return to their families. They were reluctant. Naomi finally convinced Orpah to leave and she kissed her mother-in-law and departed. But Ruth would not go. Ruth was committed to the relationship. She would go where Naomi went even if it meant dying there.

John 15:12-14 (NIV) My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command.

The command of Jesus Christ for my life is this – Love each other as I have loved you. He wants me to develop long-lasting and committed relationships with all people to form the Body of Christ. Build the Kingdom Of God. I wonder what might happen if the church and all of its people really followed the commandment of Christ for us all. It is not in the religion or even proper doctrine. No, it is in the messy and complicated thing called love. Not just any love but love that follows through in a relationship. To lay down our life for our friends. This is the power of relationship. Love is the power that fuels relationship. Love and all that it is defined clearly in I Corinthians 13 is the only thing that is required of us. However, it is easier to give all else but keep our self. It is difficult to love anyone else if our love for Christ is incomplete. If His Grace is not sufficient for me, I will never be able to love another because of unmet expectation. It is not until I find completion in a linear connection to the Lord that is vertically kept that I will ever be able to give my life to a friend let alone all of them.

Romans 13:8 (NIV) Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.

As children, my sister and I lived in constant competition for love that already belonged to us. My father was absent for many years of my life and when he resurfaced it was with another child. What I didn’t realize was that some of the difficulties between my sister and I were because of my unmet expectations. I couldn’t love her the way I should because of the hurt in a young girl’s heart. However, as Christ healed my heart over many, many years and mended my relationship with my dad by His Grace, I have found that this person who is my sister is a treasure. A blessing hidden in my life by God who the Lord has placed on a very similar path. It took years to bring us together and form the union of sisterhood that is evident now. I wonder how many of us are willing to admit that maybe the lack of longstanding and fulfilling relationships in our life is not because other people left us but rather our inability to let other people into our hearts and lives. Hearts hardened by betrayal. Emotions devastated by unmet expectation. Empty soul spots reserved for another that truly belong to Jesus. Once filled with the Love of God, we will love others as Christ loves us. However, until we experience the Grace of God to fill our hurts and heal our hearts – there is the danger of living and striving for a love that already belongs to us and cannot be earned only discovered.

Let no debt remain outstanding except the continuing debt to love one another. The only obligation in life that God identifies is our purpose to love. Love is a commitment. It is not a shallow emotion. To love is to lay down our life including our mind, will and emotions for another person. God does not limit the sphere of relational influence to just our family and acquaintances. No the truest test of love is to love even our enemies.

Matthew 5:4348 (NIV) “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

What would happen if the Body of Christ truly became a New Testament church? A body of believers who truly loved each other according to God’s Word and not personal expectation. Religion is easy. It’s a list of do’s and don’ts that make us feel better about our ability to earn a little bit of grace. It is the opportunity to maintain our own pride and peace of mind by retaining a piece of self. It is toxic. Religion excludes. The Spirit of Jesus Christ tore the veil in the Temple from top to bottom. His desire was clear. He wanted a relationship with us. He desired a place in our hearts. A love so deep and overflowing that it would pour out on others. We must rediscover the power of relationship to fulfill our commitment to Jesus Christ. He has promised to never leave us or forsake us. Go where we go. Make a way for us. The list goes on and on. When I decide to love others or at least to try to as Christ loves me beginning with absolute and abundant grace, I am about to experience the most powerful breakthrough possible as Child of the Living God. Such bonds of love produce agreement that make miracles possible.

Jesus said, “Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” To release the life-giving and full empowering Spirit of God in the form of revival will start with relationship. One relationship at a time. I believe that our greatest miracle may just be hidden in our most impossible and difficult relationships. We must rediscover the power of relationships to see the Glory of God fall all around us again. He promised He would be in the midst of just two people who agree.

Come on church! We can do so much better than that when we decide His Grace is enough for me to let go and love. Forgive or forge the way with love glorious love. It is all about love. Thank you Jesus for the important reminder that it is all about love. Look around. Who do you find it most difficult to love? Find that person. Pray for the restoration of the relationship or creation if there has never been one. Tell them, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God”. In the beginning – it may just be you telling you under your breath. The person the enemy fights the hardest to keep you from loving is usually the one who is the key to your miracle. The secret of revival is the power of relationship. Lord fill us with your love today. Give us more of Your Grace to forgive and forgive some more. Let your new mercy fall on  us like rain that washes away hurt and insult to allow new hope to spring up in the cracks and crevices of broken hearts. Lord, bind us together in the Light of Your Love for Your Glory. Amen and amen.

John 13:34-35 (NIV) “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

Passion Fruit

First Fruit

2 Corinthians 3:16-18 (NLT) But whenever someone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image.

When taking on large projects or tasks, I usually comprise a “to do” list to keep me focused. I write down everything that needs to be done and then decide on a game plan. I will be the first to admit as a young adult – I was a procrastinator. Chronically late, I lacked conscious respect for other’s time. I would stay up late and wake up later. I live a completely disheveled and disorganized life. I will even admit that there would be days or even a week that I did not make my bed. This chaotic existence was not the fault of my parents who built a structured home and attempted to teach us discipline. When set free into adulthood, I was able to choose how to live my life. What changed? Children. When my first child was born, I discovered this little thing called responsibility in a whole new way. This little perfect person was depending on me for everything. I was to mold him, shape him, and care for him as he was now my responsibility. Suddenly – I wanted to be a better person and the perfect mom. Love produced a change in me.

Purpose is a wonderful thing because it sparks passion in us that burns away things that used to hinder us. It ignites a change inside of us that requires careful attention to build momentum and see the results. As my family grew so did I, old habits gave way to new and improved drive to be organized and skillful in the things “good moms” do. But despite my best intentions, looking back, I realize that even though I tried really hard to be the best mom ever and never make mistakes with my children. I blew it on several occasions. There were days that I took the responsibility of parenting too seriously and needed a little more grace and love. My desire to be perfect overshadowed my purpose which was to love my children with all that I had and give them the life I thought they deserved.

For the Lord is the Spirit and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is – there is freedom. Freedom to live a life of full satisfaction apart from perfection but marked by passionate purpose. The Lord – who is the Spirit – makes us more and more like Him as we are changed into His Glorious Image. I am struck by these words today. I am in a relationship with Jesus Christ. He is my beloved as I am His. As in any partnership, I must learn to find ways to remain faithful to Him even when my flesh doesn’t necessarily agree. The first fruit of God’s Spirit – who is now recognized as Jesus is love. Love produces passion. Passion fuels purpose. How do I take the natural love I have and use my freedom in Christ to expand it and fan it into burning desire? I must live by the Spirit.

I am tiptoeing here. So please bear with me…I am challenged today! I want to live in the Glory of God. I don’t think the church or people who call ourselves Christians really know what that is or how to achieve it on a regular basis. We are to live in the Presence of God. Well, if Christ lives in me doesn’t that mean God is present all of the time? Yes! Am I present all of the time? No! Let me explain – there are times when my husband and I are sitting in the same room and one of us will begin to speak to the other. While lost in thought or completely engrossed in what we are watching or reading, the other may not hear what he or she is saying. Suddenly shaken from our stupor – we will respond to the other with apologies because our attention was elsewhere. God’s Spirit lives in us. His Name is Jesus. He has granted us freedom. Freedom is the opportunity to choose our life and how we live it. To become aware of the Glory of God in us and His Goodness all around us would be the most advantageous use of the gift of freedom – but sometimes we have our heart and mind set on other things.

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

Jesus lives in me. His Spirit has set me free. This freedom is made strong as it is nourished by the Fruit it provides us. The first fruit of the Spirit is love. I cannot love anyone else until I fully conceive the Love of God for me and living in me. See God’s Love IS His Glory. When I love like Jesus loves and inspired by the selfless and unconditional Love of God – I reflect His Glory. God gave us freedom to choose a relationship with Him as His Child. Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life for us that allows us to have a rich and satisfying life beginning with love and ending with self-control. Religion gets this all out of order. We attempt self-control outside of love which leads us nowhere. The passion of our love for Jesus Christ will inevitably produce self-control as the final fruit not the first fruit.

Galatians 5:24-26 (NLT) Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives. Let us not become conceited, or provoke one another, or be jealous of one another.

Those who belong to Jesus must nail their passions and desires associated with their sinful nature to the Cross. Do not think about the seven deadliest sins and most horrible offenses you can think of, but consider this – if our passion promotes anything other than sincere and persistent love for people – we missed the first step of full satisfaction in the Glory of God. Love produces joy. Joy gives us peace. Peace affords us patience and so on. “Since” we are living by the Spirit as God’s Spirit is manifested as Christin us…we must follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives. Love is the first step of freedom yet the hardest to overcome. Love puts others before our own wants, needs and desires. It is not a me-first position and therefore considered the greatest vulnerability. But if Christ truly lives in me – I am free to do so because greater is He who lives in me. The greatness of God’s Grace is His Love. His Glory is His Presence that is possible by His Love. Everything begins with and ends with love.

Luke 12:49 (NLT) I have come to set the world on fire, and I wish it were already burning! (Jesus)

Have we misplaced our passion? Have we focused heavily on producing fruit from our self and not of the Spirit? I can pretend to have all of God’s Fruit in my life but my life is not surrounded by His Glory and defined by His Love it is just another pointless pursuit. Jesus came to set the world on fire. His Love could not be denied for His Sacrifice complete. He empowered us with His Grace which is totally sufficient to overcome every obstacle and live in His Glory now and forever more. However, this would require giving up our way first.

When I think about the Glory of God, I hear the churches outcry for revival. Revival is new life that will take the place of our old ways. Like the relationship now possible with God through Jesus Christ removed the “veil” that once separated us from God’s Presence. It did not open the curtain so we could step behind it. It tore it right down the middle. When Christians live according to the rules and regulations of the Law, it is not freedom but a foray back into judgment. In Christ there is no condemnation. Christ is alive in me so I am no longer condemned so think about this…

If you come upon a burning building, it would probably be your immediate instinct to call 911. You may decide to be a good Samaritan and get out of the car to offer assistance. If you hear cries from within the inferno, you may try to find a way to get inside and save those who are trapped. Only a few people might risk their life to go inside despite the danger to pull people from inside. However, if the house is your home everything changes. Your love will overcome all fear and insecurity to get your loved ones to safety pulling them out of harm’s way. What if Jesus meant to set the world on fire so we would develop a passion from His Love? What if it is a test of our first fruit to see how willing I am to use my freedom to love people enough to reach them right where they are rather than standing outside calling them out?

Jude 20-25 (NLT) But you, dear friends, must build each other up in your most holy faith, pray in the power of the Holy Spirit, and await the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will bring you eternal life. In this way, you will keep yourselves safe in God’s love. And you must show mercy to those whose faith is wavering. Rescue others by snatching them from the flames of judgment. Show mercy to still others, but do so with great caution, hating the sins that contaminate their lives. Now all glory to God, who is able to keep you from falling away and will bring you with great joy into his glorious presence without a single fault. All glory to him who alone is God, our Savior through Jesus Christ our Lord. All glory, majesty, power, and authority are his before all time, and in the present, and beyond all time! Amen.

The potential of my life is the Glory of God because Christ lives in me. I have a new love that has given me a whole new purpose. I am a new creation. The law is no longer relevant to me as it has been made complete in Jesus Christ. His Grace is truly sufficient for me. As long as I choose to live free from the Law, I am able to pursue with passion the First Fruit of the Spirit which is love and believe that as every other fruit is born of its seed that I will someday learn self-control. If sin separates me from Jesus, my love for Him will keep me from sin. Apart from God’s Love there is no glory. His Glory is His Love. His Love must be perfected in my life. It does not require me to be a perfect person just perfected by His Love. Passion must be examined and evaluated in our life to determine its origin. It is easy to become religious in our pursuit because habits come and go every day. Love does not. Love is the most difficult to obtain and arduous to keep because it is the constant consummation of self. We must invest all that we are into the Christ living in us so He takes over. Jesus would not think twice about going into whatever hell we wander into and pulling us to freedom if we cry out to Him. My response to others must be the same. Lord, I ask you to examine my heart, my mind, every motive, attitude and action for love. Love is the first fruit produced by Your Spirit, and I want to know I am living a life guided by Your Spirit. Help me to love like You do. Teach me to love like You. Complete me in love as You do. I ask you to grow the first fruit of love in me so I can share it with everyone else and be a true reflection of Your Glory! Fan the flame of love in me until it burns like an all-consuming fire with passion for You, Lord! For without passion – love quickly grows cold!

John 14:26 (NLT) But when the Father sends the Advocate as my representative—that is, the Holy Spirit—he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you.

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