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.

To Be Genuine

To Be Genuine

2 Corinthians 13:5 (NLT) Examine yourselves to see if your faith is genuine. Test yourselves. Surely you know that Jesus Christ is among you; if not, you have failed the test of genuine faith.

What is genuine faith? To be genuine is to possess the claimed or attributed character or quality. It is not a counterfeit but real and authentic. Something genuine is free from pretense, affectation, or hypocrisy defined by sincerity. The word “faith” is tossed around loosely in the “Christianese” language, but I cannot help but wonder if it bears the mark of authenticity. 2 Corinthians 13:5 says to “examine yourselves” and to “test yourselves” which tells me that you cannot test or evaluate my level of faith. It is not up to anyone else to decide if I have it or not. The contents of my heart and how it impacts my existence in my sole (or soul) responsibility. To allow others to dictate what faith is or how I achieve total trust in the Lord is pointless. It is up to me to examine and test my faith for relevance and substance. I wonder what might happen in believers took responsibility for their own heart rather than trying to judge everyone else and compare others to our own successes and failures as Christians. Those who endure to the end are saved according to Jesus. What is this thing called endurance?

Hebrews 12:1-2 (NLT) Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne.

Endurance is important in this life. We must not stop loving, believing, trusting and following Christ. To keep the course is difficult because there are peaks and valleys along the way. These require us to dig a little deeper, grab hold a little tighter, and remain on our knees a little longer. When things are out of our control and beyond our comfort zone, we must remain consistent. Endurance produces discipline. It works heart muscles that have never been challenged before as the Light of His Love within us pushes its way out of us. Endurance is the ability or strength to last despite pain, stress or adverse conditions in life. When your life does not resemble God’s Word, but you continue to walk humbly with God knowing He is faithful even though you are challenged to be the same.

Hebrews 12 mentions a “huge crowd of witnesses” who are not our main concern. Too many times, they become our primary focus rather than the race of faith which is a marathon. Though friends and teammates may be on the same course, we run for the prize, our prize, and the high calling of Christ. It doesn’t matter what the voice of the witnesses say or do not say. It doesn’t matter what their personal evaluation, estimation or examination of our life reveals. The one who seeks to endure is in verse 2. They are after one thing – Jesus. With eyes fixed and focused, each step is examined for purpose, each breath exhaled in praise, and the next step embraced with potential. Jesus is our Champion. He is the reason faith is essential in the first place. Sometimes it is important to refocus and reprioritize our life to make sure that faith is our goal and Jesus the prime example.

James 1:27 (NLT) Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.

“So get rid of all the filth and evil in your lives, and humbly accept the word God has planted in your hearts, for it has the power to save your souls.” (James 1:21) Pure and genuine religion is not what it has been made out to be by mankind. Pure and genuine religion as God intended is a love story. It is a relationship with Jesus Christ so deeply committed and passionate that one cannot help but give their life to Him. We give our life to many things in the name of love, but have we given our heart to Jesus Christ? Jesus is more than an opportunity. He is not just an option other than death. Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one can come before God outside of Christ. We must have communion with the Lord. We must consummate our relationship with the Holy Spirit. The filth and evil in our lives is everything contrary to love. Anything that might separate us from our partner, Jesus Christ. However, outside the boundaries of love, obedience is meaningless acts of self service. Designed to make us feel better and avoid true repentance that leaves no room for anything good or worthwhile coming from me outside of Christ. It is a hard pill to swallow marked humility. His Grace must become enough for me in order for faith to take over my life. This is only possible when all I am is not enough to be where He is. When weakness prevails, even if I don’t fall, but simply stumble into His Arms. Jesus is always ready, willing and able to carry me on.

God’s Love is unconditional. Do you believe that today? Jesus did not come to judge the world or even condemn it. Sin already did. God sent His Son Jesus because before we were created, He loved us and desired us despite our rebellious and impetuous nature. It didn’t matter that our heart was fickle and gravitated toward depravity. Jesus already decided to die for us to make a way for our return. Why do we set conditions and limitations on others? Why do we expect them to be religious? Why do they have to dress a certain way or act a certain way to be accepted by us? Could it be our faith has some hidden fallacies that need to be exposed? Perhaps, our own inability to believe makes it necessary to set other criteria for acceptance?

Mark 10:20-22 (NLT) “Teacher,” the man replied, “I’ve obeyed all these commandments since I was young.” Looking at the man, Jesus felt genuine love for him. “There is still one thing you haven’t done,” he told him. “Go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” At this the man’s face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions.

Jesus gives us genuine love. Love without boundaries. Love without conditions. This man had no problem following the rules but when it came to following Jesus – he couldn’t give up this life. He had many possessions. Jesus said, “Come, follow me.” The man’s face fall and he went away sad. This is the true test of faith. When Jesus asks us to step out of this life to pursue eternity to seek Him wholeheartedly. Holding nothing back. This man was not surrounded by people, it doesn’t say that his family or friends were close by, just Jesus. We will all come to a place in our life that the line is drawn in the sand. The point of no return. The moment when we must choose commitment or comfort. To pursue purpose or settle for mediocrity. Faith follows Jesus, Anything else will hang its head and go home.

Romans 12:9-18 (NLT) Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically. Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying. When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them. Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all! Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.

What if this was the true measure of faith and following Jesus? To love one another as Christ loves us. Laying our life down for each other so that we all make it to the end. Would it be your religion? Would you give it the hierarchy of church doctrine with all its rules and regulations to live this life every single day? To really love people. To hate what is wrong and hold tight to what is good. To take delight in blessing others. To work hard. Really hard and not be lazy – giving your absolute best in all areas of life as doing it for the Lord. What about patience? Who needs them? We do. What about helping everyone in need without judging the person, their situation or what got them there in the first place. Blessing our enemies. Forgiving seventy times seven and turning the other cheek. What if we decided rather than building a church and filling it, each person decided to be the church and take their rightful place in the Body of Christ? Is it even possible for people to live in harmony when families can’t even seem to get it together? What if all God really wanted and required of us is in Micah 6:8 – “to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.Genuine faith is born of genuine love. Genuine love does not consider self but others first beginning with Jesus Christ and filtering His Love to everyone else. Until I am ready to give my life up to follow Jesus and love others this way – I fail the test of genuine faith every time. Religiosity melts in the midst of a true relationship with Jesus Christ. Fully committed to pursuing Him wholeheartedly and no one else resolves all doubt and disbelief because faith has completed us and we lack no good thing.

I Timothy 1:5 (NLT) The purpose of my instruction is that all believers would be filled with love that comes from a pure heart, a clear conscience, and genuine faith. 

The purpose of my life begins and ends in Jesus Christ. My faith must be genuine. There will be situations in life when I am challenged to examine my heart and mind to determine if the faith I claim to have is real and authentic. I welcome such an opportunity. There has not been a single time that I have not had to call on the Grace of God for His Help because I lack sufficient faith and need His Power to cover my weakness. The Law of God is not intended for those who have decided to follow Jesus yet we use it as a weapon all the time. While it should be directed at the enemy – it is often leveled at family. We are all Children of God loved and desired by our Father just the same. Jesus died for us…all. There are no boundaries to His Love. The only obstacle I face is my ability to believe and live by faith. Lord, help my unbelief today! Teach me to love like you do! Make my faith genuine so it will bring you praise, glory and honor for the whole world to see!

I Peter 1:6-8 (NLT) So be truly glad.There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you must endure many trials for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world. You love him even though you have never seen him. Though you do not see him now, you trust him; and you rejoice with a glorious, inexpressible joy.

Winning Friends

winning-friends

 

Romans 5:10-11 (NLT) For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of his Son. So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God.

I am a friend of God. I have put my faith and trust in Jesus Christ. He has restored my right relationship with the Father by His Sacrifice. Now what? No, seriously. This is the crossroads of faith where many will fall in the crosshairs of religion rather than becoming fully committed to a new and right relationship with the Lord. My friendship with God ignites a tiny spark in me that should become a burning light of His Love for all the world to see, but I am I getting it right? Am I introducing others to my friend, Jesus and His Father, God? My daughter came back home for a wedding recently. In the last year, our family relocated to the rural county just outside of the city limits which had been our home for more than a decade. We have made new friends in our new church here. During our conversations, my daughter has heard me mention these people so on her last visit, she made a point that she wanted to meet them based on my many accounts and shared experiences. She wants to know them because I love them which has created an interest in her. Today I am wondering do I portray and relay the same when it comes to Jesus. Does my conversation, attitude and actions make them desire to connect with the Lord as well?

Dale Carnegie wrote the best-selling book, “How to Win Friends and Influence People” in 1936. It has sold more than 30 million copies world-wide and is #19 on the Time Magazine list of most influential books of all time. As I skimmed through the outline of topics to compare my ability to win friends and influence people, I was a bit surprised at the simplicity. However, I was also immediately convicted that I am not always the best friend. He offers a list of fundamental ways to handle people that goes as follows: 1) Don’t criticize, condemn or complain. 2) Give honest and sincere appreciation. And 3) Arouse in the other person an eager want. Imagine what our congregations might be like if we just focused on item #1 for a while. I could have stopped here with enough to chew on for a while, but I say, “Go big or go home” right?

He also details six ways to make people like you. Who doesn’t want people to like them? I want people to like me. I don’t want to be the one others avoid. I am in this world and definitely not of it. But I also called to be a Light in the darkness that is attractive illuminating the way to Jesus Christ. My life is to be a beacon for others to experience an introduction to Jesus Christ who is the Way, the Truth and the Life. So here is what Mr. Carnegie believed would make people like us: 1) Become genuinely interested in other people. 2) Smile. 3) Remember a person’s name for it is the sweetest world they hear. 4) Be a good listener and encourage others to share about themselves. 5) Talk in terms of other people’s interest. And 6) Make the other person feel important and do so sincerely. Jesus died for “that” person. They are important to God. No matter how they are living, what they look like, the choices they are making, or the bad things they are doing. His Grace is just as sufficient for them and equally intended to be the Power in their life. We must learn to build friendships if our desire is to build the Kingdom. The Kingdom of God is built on our relationship with Jesus Christ and our ability to effectively relay His Love to others.

James 2:22-24 (NLT) You see, his faith and his actions worked together. His actions made his faith complete. And so it happened just as the Scriptures say: “Abraham believed God, and God counted him as righteous because of his faith.” He was even called the friend of God. So you see, we are shown to be right with God by what we do, not by faith alone.

During our son’s long battle with cancer, I spent a great deal of time studying about Abraham. He was counted as a friend of God. Abraham believed God. We point back to the mountain when he was ready to sacrifice his son, Isaac to the Lord. He trusted God completely even if it meant driving a knife right through the heart of his promise. I was looking for that kind of faith at that time. The kind of faith that loves God no matter what or how significant the heartbreak may be. Abraham was considered a friend of God. Why? God called him friend because he was considered righteous or in right standing with God but if we read just a verse further it says – he was not only made right by his words or confession of faith but that his actions reflected his faith in God. So what about Rahab the prostitute? Do you ever think about her faith? She made into the Hall of Faith in Hebrews 11. Did her actions make her right with God? It was by faith that Rahab the prostitute was not destroyed with the people in her city who refused to obey God. For she had given a friendly welcome to the spies.” It doesn’t say, Rahab the “former” prostitute. She was living in sin yet God found her faithful in her friendliness to the spies who came into her city.

Religion has killed our social skills when it comes to building relationships with people in the church. We look for works and judge them by their appearance when God is always searching their heart. How will I know a person’s heart outside of a sincere relationship? How can I introduce them to the Love of God found in friendship with Him if my life and love bear no resemblance of the Love that changed my life? My friendship with the Living God is based on faith expressed in love. (Period) It is by grace that I am saved and nothing I can do will ever change that. Until I allow the Love and Grace of God to penetrate my heart beyond works, and get back to the business of building relationships and friendships with others so that I can share my Jesus with them, revival will not come. The spark of revival comes from a real and right relationship with God that can effectively express it to others. God’s Love is not critical it is not condemning – it is come as you are.

John 15:13-14 (NLT) There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command.

There is no greater love than to lay our life down for another. Jesus died for us. We don’t have to die for others. We must simply allow the Love of God to work out faith within us that will overcome insecurity so that we can freely give our life to others. Social media has silenced conversation. Nobody communicates anymore other than via text message. Friends keep in touch via the internet hardly ever meeting, embracing and conversing with one another. We work with people day in and day out yet never really get to know them or care for them. I can preach the Word of God at people and it will bounce off them like seeds being thrown on a rock. Or I can invest time and energy getting to know them to reach them where they are and plant seeds in a soft pliable heart. A wise person wins friends. (Proverbs 11:30) We need friends so iron can sharpen iron. (Proverbs 27:17) The heartfelt counsel of a friend is like perfume and incense to the Lord. (Proverbs 27:9) We must closely examine our heart. Am I a friend to others? Am I a good friend? Am I a godly friend? Am I willing to lay down my life for others? Jesus said that if I am His Friend, this is exactly what I will do.

I John 2:7-8 (NLT) Dear friends, I am not writing a new commandment for you; rather it is an old one you have had from the very beginning. This old commandment—to love one another—is the same message you heard before. Yet it is also new. Jesus lived the truth of this commandment, and you also are living it. For the darkness is disappearing, and the true light is already shining.

I think I will order Mr. Carnegie’s book. I think it will be a benefit. God has promised that being a godly friend can produce His Favor in my life. In fact, when Job prayed for his three friends, the Lord released a double portion. What if God is not holding up revival but I am because I choose religion over relationship when I should be all about relationships always? It is not my job to change people. Truth is I couldn’t change myself. God did it. His Love is amazing. His Faithfulness unmatched. His Goodness is too much to ever be reciprocated. His Grace more than enough for me. His Favor is better than life. I cannot begin to tell you about the Love and Affection God has shone me or the inexpressible joy it has produced in me. Or maybe I can… over coffee, or what the heck, let’s get some ice cream or a fancy dessert, or maybe on a good day we can go for a walk in the park and talk awhile? We must create opportunities to be light. This light burning in us comes with arms, legs and mouths that can be an extension of God’s Love to others. He came into this world to empower me with plenty of love and grace to be the Light that reaches the world. My friendship with God facilitates an opportunity to connect and share His Love with others. If your message is not inviting, and people are not responding, maybe it is time to make a few adjustments. Ask the Lord to filter your words, motives and intent. Purify your heart. Ask Him to give you grace and love above your capability and outside your comfort zone to reach others with sincerity. The Holy Spirit is our helper. Love is a fruit of God’s Spirit. Learn the definition of love in I Corinthians and live it with all people all the time. You will be a Light. You are God’s Friend. By faith, He will teach you to win friends and influence people with His Love.

I John 4:11-12 (NLT) Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other. No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us.

Dangerous Habits

dangerous-habits

2 Corinthians 5:16-17 (NLT) So we have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view. At one time we thought of Christ merely from a human point of view. How differently we know him now! This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act but a habit. (Aristotle) Successful people are those with successful habits. (Brian Tracy) We often look to those who have achieved success that is coveted to decipher their lifestyle and habits to glean the tips and tricks needed to have the same effect in our life. What are their habits? The things they repeatedly do. Here are some examples that I discovered: Get up early (Robert Iger – Disney CEO), Have a plan (Benjamin Franklin), Stay active (Anna Wintour – Vogue Editor), Prioritize what’s important – Steve Jobs, Make time for hobbies (Warren Buffet), Practice stillness (Oprah Winfrey), Take time to reflect (Bill Gates), Give back (Richard Branson – Billionaire), and Keep up momentum (Jay Z – Rapper/Music Producer. These people are considered highly successful individuals whose wisdom is coveted by those who wish to achieve the same things in life. There is truth in their statements that can be applied to our life and effect positive change.

“You will never change your life until you change something you do daily. The secret to your success is found in your daily routine. (John C. Maxwell) There is a myth that habits are formed in just 21 days of repeating the same behavior. This is now proven to be a myth. There is a new belief that there are actually three phases to habit formation. The first is the Honeymoon Phase – This is characterized by the feeling that this change will be a piece of cake. The “this is easy” feeling much like in marriage. The first week or two of elation ends when two people begin to actually do life together. The next phase is termed appropriately the Fight Thru Phase. It is when inspiration turns into brutal reality. A person must find the means and motivation to “fight thru” positive habit completion. The final phase is called the Second Nature when balance is achieved and the habit finds its place in our routine becoming engraved in our brain. All of this is not a bad thing, but I have decided that though good habits make for success in life that they can be dangerous to one’s spiritual success.

A habit is an acquired behavior pattern regularly followed until it has become almost involuntary. As I prepared a cup of hot tea this morning, I forgot to put the microwave cover back in its place. I stopped and put it back. It caught my attention. When I was a young person, I was messy. My children all but one have followed suit. Yet now, I make my bed every morning. Put things away after I use them in the proper place. I get up early each morning. I used to love to sleep until noon. There are mornings as I make the commute to work in thought or prayer that I lose track of the journey. Segments of time that I am no longer conscious of the road, lights or other drivers. These are all things that I no longer think about but just do. Some may call these good habits, I tend to agree as they suit me just fine. The part that concerns me is the word “involuntary”. Involuntary means independent of one’s will. It is not by choice. Unintentional. Unconscious. What if my pursuit of Jesus Christ has become a habit and I am no longer aware of it? What if the things I do for the Lord are no longer faith based but just something I do lacking passion and desire? Am I a creature of habit or becoming a new creation? I must examine my heart to be certain that my life is marked by intentional Christianity and not involuntary actions. If you make positive changes, you will most certainly reap what you sow. However, I am not after earthly reform but holy transformation.

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

It is comfortable to order our life according to certain behaviors and schedules that offer a level of control. Is the control over my life self-control produced by my ability to change or the Holy Spirit within me? We pattern our lives in accordance with the goals perceived as good and beneficial. At some point, most successful people will achieve some form of balance. This is not all bad, but it can cause our relationship with the Lord to become stagnant. If I judge my life according to the world’s standard, it may appear to be a good life with a fair amount of success. I have had my share of failures. Success is not defined by those who don’t fail but those who do not give up. When I experienced a failure in life, it quickly became a lesson for survival. I am not called and created to survive in this life but to thrive well beyond the 70 or so years that I am given.

With this in mind, if I become comfortable with my life serving God I am susceptible to complacency. Religiosity gives a false send of security to the believer based on good behavior and time well spent serving God that produces certain blessings. I am blessed. Is it enough for me? No, I have a deep desire and burning passion to be transformed. What if transformation doesn’t look like success to the world? It doesn’t my friend. Success in the Kingdom is selflessness that gives way to complete unity with Jesus Christ. I cannot gauge my spiritual success by a worldly standard. I must not become a habitual Christian but strive to be an intentional one.

“Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% of how you react to it.” (Charles R. Swindoll) While this is applied in both the natural and spiritual realm equally, I believe that this powerful statement holds the secret to our success as a believer. If we could focus 10% on life and become 90% fixed on responding appropriately by using God’s Word, His Wisdom and Christ’s Example to transform our heart and soul – we would be a successful, healthy and functioning Body of Jesus Christ.

Revelation 3:16-20 (NLT) But since you are like lukewarm water, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth! You say, ‘I am rich. I have everything I want. I don’t need a thing!’ And you don’t realize that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked. So I advise you to buy gold from me—gold that has been purified by fire. Then you will be rich. Also buy white garments from me so you will not be shamed by your nakedness, and ointment for your eyes so you will be able to see. I correct and discipline everyone I love. So be diligent and turn from your indifference. “Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends.

Has my spiritual life become a habit? Am I serving God involuntarily? Am I lukewarm? Am I intentional anymore? Am I willing to be honest with myself? Our life in the Lord is like an onion as each season peels back another layer producing a new aroma and often many tears. What if I get used to the smell and do not give way to those tears anymore. Becoming comfortable with the process of transformation thereby giving way to complacency. How will I know? Will it be too late when my lack of newness becomes evident in the Presence of my Savior? My attitude and actions can be changed by my ability to change certain habits in my life. But if I don’t allow the Lord to expose every weakness and every insufficiency to effectively apply more of His Grace until I am a new creation – my life will be a complete failure. The Lord is offering to strip us of indifference before it’s too late. He wants to heat things up so our life is palatable again. I must be willing. It must be my choice. I must be intentional. It is my conscious decision to be successfully transformed no matter what it takes.

Galatians 6:14-16 (NLT) As for me, may I never boast about anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. Because of that cross, my interest in this world has been crucified, and the world’s interest in me has also died. It doesn’t matter whether we have been circumcised or not. What counts is whether we have been transformed into a new creation. May God’s peace and mercy be upon all who live by this principle; they are the new people of God.

“The difference between who you are and who you want to be…is what you do.” (Bill Phillips, Author and Entrepreneur) Whom the Son sets free is free indeed. We are free to choose the life we life. The Lord will not force us into a relationship with Him or this would be void of love but enslavement. He is offering us the opportunity of unity which means I must leave “me” behind and become one with Him. All of me for all of Him. I am free to choose the type of relationship that I have with God. Each day holds 24 hours of opportunity. I am the master of my time. How I spend it? How I waste it? What I do with it? What I get out of it? My mind, body and soul can be invested as I choose to do so. However, if my heartfelt desire is Jesus Christ. It is not a habitual change that will create success in my pursuit but rather intentional surrender and submission of my life to the process of transformation called faith. I must give up my rights to claim righteousness. I must admit I am weak to secure His Strength. Hope must be the anchor for my soul not schedule or routine. I must go where Jesus goes. Do exactly what He says. Come when He calls to me. Not because I have to but simply because He is my greatest desire.

Lord, forgive me today for the lukewarm places in my life. I repent for every action that has become habit and routine lacking passion and burning desire for You, Jesus.  I want to move deeper into Your Presence. I desire You above all things. Show me the areas of indifference in my life so I may surrender them all to You, Lord. Show me the involuntary actions of compromised complacency. I rebuke religious habits and give these also to You! My greatest accomplishment will be acceptance into Your Kingdom forever. Lord, make my life so. I ask you to makeover my heart and renew a right spirit within me, Jesus. All I want is You, Lord and my full intention is to have more of You!

Philippians 3:7-9 (NLT) I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done. Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ and become one with him. I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ. For God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith.

You Don’t Have To

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John 10:17-18(NLT) “The Father loves me because I sacrifice my life so I may take it back again. No one can take my life from me. I sacrifice it voluntarily. For I have the authority to lay it down when I want to and also to take it up again. For this is what my Father has commanded.”

Engaged in worship on my daily commute, a song called “Thank You” came up in the playlist. It is a song asking for nothing but simply thanking Jesus for always coming. “How do I say thank you, Lord for the way that You love and the way that you come…” It goes on in the chorus to say, “You don’t have to come but You always do.” The bridge explains further…”You didn’t have to come, but you wanted to.” Jesus Christ came as a sacrifice for my life. He didn’t have to. He chose to. Let those words sink into your heart today. Jesus didn’t have to come. He still doesn’t have to. He chose to be made an example for us. He decided to sacrifice His Life for me. The Son of God in an act of submission gave up Heaven and all His Glory to come save us. People who didn’t want Him, yet He came to give up everything just to give every human being the opportunity to have eternal life. He chose to surrender His Life for me on a long shot.

Sometimes our unmet expectation misplaced in this world or misguided by half-truth or boldfaced lies gives us a sense of entitlement created a divided and unthankful heart. We forget who we are in the midst of insecurity when fear overtakes our still small faith. Jesus is our example. He demonstrated the best way to use our freedom and obtain a Kingdom far greater than anything we can see now. He gives a place to put our faith. Wraps us in a robe of thick righteousness allowing the Father to only see the Son in whom He is well-pleased. Placing an anchor called hope in our heart to keep us from wavering. All of this simply because He wanted to. Can you just thank Jesus for a minute that He desired you? I am so thankful that the Lord wanted me enough to come to me! Die for me! Get back up for me! Secure my place in Heaven forever! Now what is it that God desires of me…

John 6:29 (NLT) Jesus told them, “This is the only work God wants from you: Believe in the one he has sent.”

The only “work” God wants from you and me is to believe. How is this possible? It is not the way of the world though difficult to wrap our head around imperative that we do. The “work” of God in us is a relationship with His Son Jesus Christ. Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life. (John 14:6) The Word of God is clear that no one comes to the Father except through Him. It is human nature to try to earn our way but it is clearly evident there is nothing that I can do to earn my freedom. “Who the Son sets free is free indeed…” This one truth will change your perception of religion forever. Jesus died to hand us the Keys to the Kingdom. In our hand, pocket or lost in the junk drawer, they open nothing. Everything remains closed in our life but for those who choose to engage in the “work” God desires may lose their life on earth but gain forever in that moment.

John 14:6 (NLT) Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.”

Jesus set three very important examples of us as believers and Children of God here on earth. They are hinted at in John 14:6. I am the way, the truth and the life. There are three responses respectively to these three qualities. If He is the way – we must surrender. If He is truth – we must submit. If Jesus is life – I must sacrifice my life to have eternal life. These are not the ideal characteristics people seek God for. They want His Gifts, His Goodness, and His Glory. Desiring His Kingdom come to earth but not His Kingdom more than the things of this world. When it came down to the wire, and this message was finally brought into the light. People had a problem with it. John 6:67-69 us that many deserted Christ. He asked the twelve, “What about you?” (Paraphrased) Simon Peter spoke from the newfound faith in his heart and replied, “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words that give eternal life. We believe and we know you are the Holy One of God.” Our faith must produce a belief in our heart that Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life so that our mind, soul and body believes in Him enough to surrender, submit and sacrifice our life and gain eternity. We are free to choose. Have I chosen well?

Matthew 10:37-39 (NLT) “If you love your father or mother more than you love me, you are not worthy of being mine; or if you love your son or daughter more than me, you are not worthy of being mine. If you refuse to take up your cross and follow me, you are not worthy of being mine. If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it.

Have you surrendered to the new way of life offered in Jesus Christ? It is not as you might think or has been engrained in us by religion. There is nothing to gain from religion other than a new set of rules. Relationship is the key to successfully surrendering our life to Jesus Christ. The moment that He becomes the One who our heart loves and desires more than anything – sin is no longer our desire. Anything that may come between us and our one true love is unacceptable. Just like in marriage, there are things I no longer do because my husband does not appreciate them. Just as Christ surrendered His Way to become the Way for us, love demands surrender. The commitment of love is a giving of our way to be one with another. Since Jesus is “the” Way, it seems to be one with Him that I must surrender my way.

Matthew 8:8-10 (NLT) But the officer said, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come into my home. Just say the word from where you are, and my servant will be healed. I know this because I am under the authority of my superior officers, and I have authority over my soldiers. I only need to say, ‘Go,’ and they go, or ‘Come,’ and they come. And if I say to my slaves, ‘Do this,’ they do it.” When Jesus heard this, he was amazed. Turning to those who were following him, he said, “I tell you the truth, I haven’t seen faith like this in all Israel!

Jesus is the Word of God who came wrapped in flesh to share the message of His Great Love for us. (John 1) Do you believe God at His Word? Do you trust that every single written word is inspired by God and useful in everyday life? Will you submit to His Word? Submission recognizes authority and is the response to it. The Roman officer commanded an army. He understood the importance of submission even though many responded to him the very same way. When Jesus spoke the Word that his servant would be healed, as a man of authority, he responded to the authority of Jesus Christ over sickness and disease. What is that thing too big to overcome? If I am willing to submit to God’s Word in every facet of life, it is possible to have the power and authority of the Lord in my life. Do you believe God’s Word is the Truth? If so, our response should be submission. Not only to the things that appeal to us, but every single written word like any good soldier reacts to his commanding officer. Jesus Christ is the Truth. To believe in the Truth and “work” out one’s salvation requires belief that operates on the Word of God alone in the Person of Jesus Christ, His Son.

I John 3:16 (NLT) We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters.

Jesus gave up His Life for us. Jesus had the perfect life but came to sacrifice His Perfection for our imperfection so that we have the freedom to choose a new life. That’s right a new life rather than the stagnant existence that produced dissatisfaction drawing us to the Cross. We come to Christ is search of a better life. He offers us the freedom to have one. We must choose the life that is desired. He will never force us to live in His Love, become His Light, or give up our life. Love is not forced it is sacrificed. I choose to respond to His Love with my life. Am I willing to lay down my life, hopes, dreams and desires at the feet of Jesus Christ and become the new creation obtaining new life? I have that choice. I don’t have to. I must want to…just like Jesus wanted to. God did not send His Son to judge us but to save us. Jesus didn’t come to condemn us but that all might be set free. His Spirit lives in us with a handful of keys that will open many Kingdom doors for those who choose to surrender, submit and sacrifice this life for a new life in Christ. We have the right to choose.

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

You are free in Jesus Christ today. You can use your life any way that you see fit. You can come to Jesus and allow Him to give you the rich and satisfying life promised or continue to forge your way through the world. You don’t have to if you don’t want to. In this right to choose, we can follow the example of Christ which is always surrender, submission and sacrifice or any other way that one might life. The invitation is simple and clear – “Come.” (Revelation 22:17) God just wants you to come. Jesus died so you could come. The Spirit calls out to you to come. Will you come? Well, that is up to you. But the one thing I know that inspires me is that Jesus didn’t have to come but He did. He still doesn’t have to come when I call but He does every single time. He doesn’t just come and say, “What a fine mess you got us in again!” No, the Lord brings the very thing I needed and gives it to me in abundance. He gives me perfect peace. He provides inexpressible joy. He gives me deep satisfaction. All these things well up inside me even when not a single detail changes. All this in spite of my fickle, disbelieving heart that I struggle to keep in check. Just because He loves me. Jesus really loves me. Do I really love Him? Enough to surrender, then to submit and ultimately to sacrifice – giving this life away for the new life found in Christ alone. I want to…I really do!

Revelation 22:17 (NLT) The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.” Let anyone who hears this say, “Come.” Let anyone who is thirsty come. Let anyone who desires drink freely from the water of life.

Can We Agree?

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Matthew 18:19-20 (NLT) “I also tell you this: If two of you agree here on earth concerning anything you ask, my Father in heaven will do it for you. For where two or three gather together as my followers, I am there among them.”

As a mom, there have been many days that I found a referee shirt and whistle would have been more suitable attire. With two boys and three girls, not to mention five very different personalities, it seemed like they just could not get along. Yelling did not work, screaming, begging and pleading didn’t seem to get me anywhere. Putting them in the yard to settle disputes on their own only led to the need for a water hose to separate them. But let someone come against any one of them and watch out, the claws come out and teeth are bared. Abusing one another as siblings is perfectly acceptable, however; no one else may have the pleasure. I love to see my kids when my kids agree. When they can work, play or just be together laughing and enjoying one another’s company. I can only imagine how Father God feels when His Children do the same.

Five individuals were enough for this human heart to contend with. With three grown and on their own, the holidays are wonderful because we are blessed with opportunities to be together. Yet in the midst of such elation, squabbles break out, jealousy rises up and friendly competition has been known to cause a war. I cannot fathom the patience of God with us as His Children. Always pointing fingers, tattling, getting mad, getting offended and disrupting the “family” of God with our petty differences and hurt feelings. I remember a Jim Carrey movie, when he played God for a day. He was answering prayer emails and thinking that he was doing a pretty good job until they started pouring in by the hundreds, thousands and even millions. Why can’t believers agree? We are given such a wonderful promise of power when we do, yet it seems as though Christians just cannot get it together most of the time.

“If two of you agree here on earth concerning anything you ask, my Father in heaven will do it for you.” Just two. Agree concerning “anything”. God will do it. It almost sounds like the desperate plea of an exhausted parent for just a moment of peace and harmony. The Lord promises His Presence when two or three gather as His Followers, yet in the midst of them there is usually division and drama. Why is that? How do we overcome it? If we learn to agree, we will see the Glory of God in our midst. I believe that if people, churches, congregations, and Christians learned to agree – revival would come and new life created.

What does it mean to agree? Let’s go to the earthly source. According to the dictionary, to agree means to have the same views and beliefs. It is to give our consent or assent which means to yield or concede. (Oh, I can already see trouble ahead.) To live in one accord without contention. (Aw man, I told you it would be problematic.) To come to one opinion. (I could insert so many analogies about opinions lest I digress.) To have one mind, agreement or settlement. One. Just one. To be consistent. (Stop it already.) To conform. As I read this definition, there are no I’s only we’s in the meaning of agreement. The identity changes in agreement as two or three or more become one. The Power of God will return when His People, His Children choose to agree.

I John 5:6-10 (NLT) And Jesus Christ was revealed as God’s Son by his baptism in water and by shedding his blood on the cross—not by water only, but by water and blood. And the Spirit, who is truth, confirms it with his testimony. So we have these three witnesses—the Spirit, the water, and the blood—and all three agree. Since we believe human testimony, surely we can believe the greater testimony that comes from God. And God has testified about his Son. All who believe in the Son of God know in their hearts that this testimony is true. Those who don’t believe this are actually calling God a liar because they don’t believe what God has testified about his Son.

According to Jewish law, when two witness agree – their testimony becomes fact. (John 8:17) This confirms what the Lord tells us in Matthew 18. God never contradicts Himself. His Word does not change. God does not have an opinion. Unfortunately, people do and often believe them as the truth that governs their life. Isn’t it just like God to outdo the law time and time again? The Law says only two witness are needed. But in God, there are three: Father, Son and Spirit. If we believe the “testimony” of God to be true, why don’t we strive to maintain the truth about God in our life rather than allowing our pride to disrupt things all the time.

I remember telling my children, it takes two to tango. If you don’t react, there is no argument. Imagine offense, hurt, angry or hurtful words to be like those lightweight balls in a kid’s ball pit. If one is coming at you, it is human nature to catch it or deflect it. But what if it hits you and you never raise your hand to claim it? It will just fall to the ground and roll away. Without a reaction, the one attempting to cause harm or damage will stop because their efforts are fruitless. Isn’t that what Jesus did? His Heart so for the people that He ignored their insults and injury to make His Way to the Cross – to die for such things. We must follow the example of Christ. To unite with the Lord and live in the Triune God – we must give up our way, opinion and right to be insulted in order to agree wholeheartedly with one another. Forgiveness gives up such things to allow love to flow again.

God’s Word is an absolute for my life. (Luke 1:37) Matthew 19:26 reminds me that all things are possible with God. In John 15:5, I am instructed that Jesus is the vine and my attachment to Him allows me to connect with God. John 14:6 already established that no one can gain access to the Father except through Christ. Mark 9:23 says that all things become possible when I believe. Jesus has guaranteed a better covenant with God if I choose to partner with Him or agree. (Hebrews 7:22) Finally, the Lord has given us His Spirit as a guarantee of every single promise. (2 Corinthians 1:21-22; Ephesians 1:14) I am now a Child of God. Not of my doing, but of this complete work. To live as a Child of God means that I must give up my way to follow His Way. Jesus promotes relationship, connection and agreement in the Body of Christ. Am I doing the same?

Luke 9:59-60 (NLT) He said to another person, “Come, follow me.” The man agreed, but he said, “Lord, first let me return home and bury my father.” But Jesus told him, “Let the spiritually dead bury their own dead! Your duty is to go and preach about the Kingdom of God.”

Luke 22:19-21 (NLT) He took some bread and gave thanks to God for it. Then he broke it in pieces and gave it to the disciples, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” After supper he took another cup of wine and said, “This cup is the new covenant between God and his people—an agreement confirmed with my blood, which is poured out as a sacrifice for you. But here at this table, sitting among us as a friend, is the man who will betray me.

It is human nature and the desire of our flesh to have our own way. To maintain pride is to kill unity because agreement always requires humility. Each person must ask themselves if they agree with the Word of God, His Will and His Way. It is personal choice to join in building the Kingdom or be one of those tearing it apart. There is no middle ground even if people try to paint it a modern and fashionable gray. There is unity or division. The church has built many fences that must come down until our Kingdom is united again. Jesus’ invitation is simple – “Come and follow me.” This is the gateway to endless possibility in our life. Nothing is impossible any longer. But many will say that they agree, but choose their way.

There are many Judas’ in the church today. They give in to the lie of the enemy that serving God is more important than sacrificing self to forgive and form relationships with people. God is about building a Kingdom. Becoming one body – the Body of Christ. Will we disagree? Of course, just like my kids do time and time again. But let someone come against them, and watch out. We must develop the same conviction and commitment. It must not be okay for one to be lost. Agreement is the cellular level of faith. Faith is formed by our agreement with God. Those who learn to be agreeable will find that their faith begins to do something active in their life rather than just empty words touted as truth.

Philippians 3:14-16 (NLT) I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us. Let all who are spiritually mature agree on these things. If you disagree on some point, I believe God will make it plain to you. But we must hold on to the progress we have already made.

Agreement is a sign of spiritual maturity. If you are in contention with people most of the time, it is time to reevaluate relationships. Relationships are Kingdom builders. Agreement fortifies its walls and allows His Glory to reach us. Arguments are Kingdom destroyers and keep us from the Blessings and Promises of God for His Children. In Matthew 18, the verses before todays’ scripture speak of permission. Freedom allows to choose the course of our life. If we permit things on earth like judgement, division and strife – it impacts the Kingdom because we are God’s Kingdom. If we strive for agreement and unity – it releases the Power of the Kingdom here on earth through us. The verses right after it talk about forgiveness. Infinite and endless forgiveness no matter how many times people hurt, offend or abuse us. Why? Because that is exactly how Jesus Christ loves and forgives us. His Power is released in our weakness. When humility takes the place of pride to follow Jesus and connect with His Kingdom simply by believing God and His Word are true. Do you believe all things are possible? If so, you will hear these words today and take them to heart. Can we agree? We must agree. It begins with me. Together, we are His Kingdom.

Hebrews 11:13-16 (NLT) All these people died still believing what God had promised them. They did not receive what was promised, but they saw it all from a distance and welcomed it. They agreed that they were foreigners and nomads here on earth. 14 Obviously people who say such things are looking forward to a country they can call their own. 15 If they had longed for the country they came from, they could have gone back.16 But they were looking for a better place, a heavenly homeland. That is why God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.

Burn in Me

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Hebrews 6:10-12 (NLT) For God is not unjust. He will not forget how hard you have worked for him and how you have shown your love to him by caring for other believers, as you still do. Our great desire is that you will keep on loving others as long as life lasts, in order to make certain that what you hope for will come true. Then you will not become spiritually dull and indifferent. Instead, you will follow the example of those who are going to inherit God’s promises because of their faith and endurance.

“For our God is a devouring fire.” (Hebrews 12:29) He is an all-consuming fire. How does one approach such a being? I have been overtaken by the notion of the living sacrifice this week. It has been one of those weeks. Work has been crazy. Our schedule all out of whack. There have been details of life mounting. Chaos. It has definitely been chaotic. As I have prayed for the Lord to restore order and bring me peace, I have come to realize that the stirring and fanning of the flame inside of me is normal. It is the constancy of His Love that does not allow for complacency when we call on His Name. Yes, I am saying that I asked for it.

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

It is human nature to offer the Lord what is in our hands. To extend our service to Him to honor His Name. To do rather than be. All these “things” that are within our power and strength. We give and we give yet in our heart there is that notion that it is never enough. It’s not. The sacrifice of our life is worship. Worship is sacrifice. An offering can be renewed. Sacrifice requires all. I can give an offering to the Lord and come back again with the same thing. I cannot be a living sacrifice and remain the same for what is given is gone and something new must be made.

Oh Lord, help me to relay this burning in my heart today. Open the hearts and minds of your people to understand the art of consumption and beauty of brokenness today. Moving into His Presence will not allow you to remain the same. Why? God is likened to fire. It is bonfire season. As the hot, humid days give way to cooler temperatures, fire pits are being cleaned out and readied for gatherings. Moving into closer proximity of the burning pile of brush, limbs and whatever combustible substance offered to the fire, the temperature rises. Scarves and gloves come off as it gets warmer. Drawing near to the flame, coats and sweaters are discarded to allow for the heat to permeate to our flesh. Now we can keep up with our progress, but will be warned that if not careful – we will get burned. This is where one must decide is it worth the sacrifice. In the natural, absolutely not. There is nothing in this world worth giving up our life for other than Jesus Christ who is not of this world. We must decide if our life will be an offering to God or if we will become a living sacrifice – one that is holy and acceptable, good and pleasing and perfect to Him.

Isaiah 1:11-18 (NLT) “What makes you think I want all your sacrifices?” says the Lord. “I am sick of your burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fattened cattle. I get no pleasure from the blood of bulls and lambs and goats. When you come to worship me, who asked you to parade through my courts with all your ceremony? Stop bringing me your meaningless gifts; the incense of your offerings disgusts me! As for your celebrations of the new moon and the Sabbath and your special days for fasting—they are all sinful and false. I want no more of your pious meetings. I hate your new moon celebrations and your annual festivals. They are a burden to me. I cannot stand them! When you lift up your hands in prayer, I will not look. Though you offer many prayers, I will not listen, for your hands are covered with the blood of innocent victims. Wash yourselves and be clean! Get your sins out of my sight. Give up your evil ways. Learn to do good. Seek justice. Help the oppressed. Defend the cause of orphans. Fight for the rights of widows. “Come now, let’s settle this,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, I will make them as white as snow. Though they are red like crimson, I will make them as white as wool.”

Religion is not bad as long as our relationship is authentic. The danger of doctrine is when it is confused with God’s Commandments. Our flesh wants to “do” not “die”. It is common place for our mind to confuse what we “do” for God with what He is “doing” in us. Everything I offer to God outside of sacrificing myself is meaningless. My flesh has nothing to offer God but the putrid and rancid rottenness of sin. Repentance is to relinquish our sin to accept His Salvation. There is nothing good in me to give the Lord except that which is given by Christ. We fill our life with attitudes and actions that appease our flesh and establish our pride when a life given over completely to God is consumed by His Love alone. We must understand the order of sacrifice to effectively engage in this life as a living one.

Psalm 51:16-19 (NLT) You do not desire a sacrifice, or I would offer one. You do not want a burnt offering. The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God. Look with favor on Zion and help her; rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. Then you will be pleased with sacrifices offered in the right spirit—with burnt offerings and whole burnt offerings. Then bulls will again be sacrificed on your altar.

The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God. What kind of God would desire such a thing? Aren’t we broken and abused enough in life? Isn’t there enough hurt in this world? Why be so brutal? If my heart is not broken, it will not repent. If I do not see the futility of life without a Savior, I will die forever. God loves me too much to pass me by leaving me in the same condition that He found me. His Son sacrificed His Life to make me a new creation. To become such a thing I must give up the old me, my old ways, even the things that I may have once thought were offerings and sacrifices worthy of the King.

Lord, I’ve given you everything. Have you? We cannot evaluate our giving to God in any tangible measure. It is when we come to the end of ourselves desperate to encounter the Living God unwilling to relent until He blesses us like Jacob. It is the moment when the mountain of sacrifice is before us and we answer the call to worship like Abraham willing to give up everything just to be one with the Lord. If you can find something to give, you have not given enough. God is an all-consuming fire who will destroy everything in His Way until He gets to you. His Passion for you burns hot in His Presence drawing us closer like a moth to a flame. To be close to Him will cause a complete consumption of our natural life in pursuit of the supernatural God and all that is Him.

Hebrews 6:4-7 (NLT)  For it is impossible to bring back to repentance those who were once enlightened—those who have experienced the good things of heaven and shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the power of the age to come—and who then turn away from God. It is impossible to bring such people back to repentance; by rejecting the Son of God, they themselves are nailing him to the cross once again and holding him up to public shame. When the ground soaks up the falling rain and bears a good crop for the farmer, it has God’s blessing.

It is impossible to bring back to repentance those who were once enlightened. There is a process to one’s salvation. Hence the Word of God states plainly – “continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12) and “being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion” (Philippians 1:6) We are all working it out. Just to set the record straight – no one has it all together. It doesn’t matter how they act or how successful they seem.

When I was eleven, something welled up in me and I knew that I needed a Savior. I would love to say that was the end of my journey of faith looking for hope. Not the case. In high school, our family returned to church and I was “on fire” for God even spent a summer in Africa as a missionary right after graduation. Yep, still headed into the wilderness when I realized Christians were not perfect. When I finally emerged, my life was not what I expected. Still I came back to the Lord with a “let’s try this again” attitude. Well, it stuck kind of. I still became wrapped up in church affairs but I had discovered this thing called faith and was not a bit more intrigued so dared to venture a little bit closer and move deeper into God’s Presence. Our family seemed to be on the right track. I thought I was doing exactly what the Lord wanted me to do serving Him faithfully obeying His Word doing His Will. I was “doing” a lot alright.

It was not until my life was completely interrupted and everything that I thought to be important completely consumed. When my heart was completely broken and I arrived at the end of myself that I realized what the Lord had been after all along – He wanted all of me. Not what I had or what I could do. Jesus wants me. Once you are enlightened, you will repent. Once you experience such an encounter with God – it changes you forever. After that moment, you will try to return to normal but it is gone forever. You may think you can pretend it never happened but you can’t.

Matthew 13:24-29 (NLT)  Jesus told them another parable: The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared. The owner’s servants came to him and said, “Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?” “An enemy did this,” he replied. The servants asked him, “Do you want us to go and pull them up?”  “No,” he answered, “because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them.

My greatest fear is no longer what the enemy can do to me, because I know that he has no power in my life. My only concern is to reach the end of my life without enough faith to be accepted into the Kingdom. To arrive before Jesus with an uncircumcised heart. To hear the words, “I never knew you. A sacrificed heart is a circumcised heart. The mark of those who belong to Jesus. In this life, there are “weeds and wheat” growing in the same field. There are goats and sheep abiding in the same pasture. From a distance, it all looks the same but upon closer inspection there is a difference. It doesn’t matter how good I look or the good things I do without a heart sacrificed fully and completely to the Lord, there is no mark of salvation to distinguish me from the rest. He cannot know me if I do not come to Him. A relationship must come before my religion. To do so requires entering His Presence. It is an act of intimacy that will cause our life to be consumed by His Love. The closer to the fire the hotter the flame. Everything that cannot withstand the heat will be burned away. God provides the fire. We provide offerings regularly, but now He didn’t ask for that. He desires our heart.

I Corinthians 3:12-15 (NLT)  If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames.

I must evaluate my life in Light of His Love today. Am I willing to be a living sacrifice or just make my life an offering? The fire will test the quality of each person’s work. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were tested by fire. They were literally thrown into a fiery furnace. The evidence of their life and worship was clear as the Lord joined them in the fire. When they were lifted out of the smoldering ash, their clothes were not soiled and they did not even smell of smoke. I wonder what might happen if the substance of our life and authenticity of our faith was to be tested the same way. What might be the result? Would we make it out alive with our faith still intact? Would we discover that our connection to Christ is simply religious without a meaningful sacrifice? I want to know Lord if my faith is genuine. I want to know that my love for you is real. If it means discomfort, so be it. If it means my life must be consumed to see its content, go right ahead. Draw me closer Lord and yes, I realize that in doing so all the worthless, meaningless, and trivial things must go. Burn in me today Jesus. I want to be a living sacrifice. Nothing less will do.

John 15:5-7 (NLT) “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.

Condemned Buildings

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

When purchasing our house, the home inspector came to examine the property for inherent defects that may be detrimental to our family’s health. The inspector looked for evidence of faulty mechanical, electrical and structural defects pointing out each and every tiny flaw in a detailed report. He inspected the property from pillar to post. The pest control folks came out to see if there was evidence of a termite problem or any wood rot on the property. Not only did we want them to come to check things out, the bank who financed our new home required it to secure their investment. They did not want to lend us the money to purchase a condemned property. A property appraiser came to establish its worth. In our eyes, it was the perfect home for our family. We had decided in our hearts to move here. However, it had to be deemed sound in order to make that happen.

The structure of our new life in Jesus Christ is based on a foundation of faith. Faith in God that the sacrifice of His Son provided enough grace to allow us righteousness to have a right relationship with Him once again. It really is simple. The three most important things in life now are faith, hope and love demonstrating our relationship and deep abiding connection to Jesus Christ. However, we have built fancy houses and even fancier sanctuaries that have faulty foundations. Beginning with good intentions, sometimes our ideas of what God meant and thoughts on His Ways take shape into something that is far from the structure the Kingdom of God is building. We must examine the contents of our hearts, capture the ideas circulating in our mind, and even chew on the words of our mouth to determine if it is still a profitable investment in the Kingdom.

There is no condemnation is Jesus Christ. Say that again, “there is no condemnation in Jesus Christ.” This is a freedom verse for those who love the Lord and have accepted Him as Savior and Lord. It doesn’t mean perfection but rather persistence in our pursuit of Jesus. When Christians try to add importance to our investment rather than understanding the significance of the solidarity of His Sacrifice, it is easy to become prideful, stubborn and selfish. God doesn’t need us. God desires us. Christ doesn’t have to have us. He wanted us enough to die for us. There is nothing for me to contribute to the Kingdom outside of accepting the Love and Grace of Jesus Christ. My love for Him will keep me from willful sin. It secures my wandering feet from finding the dark. He does it with love not condemnation. He clothes me with righteousness based on compassion. What am I offering the world? Is it what I have been given? Or what I think I deserve?

Luke 6:36-38 (NLT) You must be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate. Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn others, or it will all come back against you. Forgive others, and you will be forgiven. Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full—pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.

You must be compassionate just as Your Father is compassionate. Is the Body of Christ compassionate? Do they see sin as a desperate situation or call for condemnation? Have we forgotten that a single sin is enough to convict us? If we murder with our heart, it is just as bad as if we do it with our hands. If we consider evil, it is committed in our heart. Our religion has overtaken our relationship when how a person looks and how they act is more important than what they believe. Our church life should represent our daily routine. Worship is a life style. Praise is provision in all things. To honor God on two days and live for the world for five is adultery in the eyes of God. To decide that what I think is right is more important than compassion is judgment. Judgment condemns. It condemns me.

Compassion leaves no room for condemnation. To condemn another is to restrict their growth and development by imposing a personal set of standards and rituals that are not part of Christ’s plan. The Holy Spirit is our teacher. He is our helper and our guide. As far as I know, we are to build up and equip other people. Fanning the flame of the Holy Spirit so our hearts are consumed with godly passion that is compassion. Stirring up the Spirit so our own fruit is worthy of sharing rather than spewing our own poisonous rhetoric on people and imposing our own set of standards outside of love, grace and mercy. Our churches are empty because our construction is flawed. In our doing, we have condemned the building called church and defiled the temple. With what you may ask? Judgement, pride and selfishness.

The church is being judged as an exclusive organization. People searching for an authentic God to give real faith to have come up short due to the lack of compassion found among His People. Forgiveness is forgotten in our self-justified state. Seventy times seven has become one and done. How do I know? What gives me the right to say such a terrible thing? Well, the Word of God says in verse 38 to “give and you will receive. Your gift will return to you full – pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.” If we were giving love selflessly, the relationships in our church houses would be solid and significantly growing day by day. We would add to our numbers rather than daily dividing and falling apart. What we are sowing is what we are reaping? Crying out for revival is pointless if I don’t want to change? My heart must change. My mind must change. My life must change. To follow Jesus and have His Way is constant change as I turn more and more of my life in for more and more of His Love, Grace and Mercy. It would hypocrisy to take such a thing and give another.

Luke 19:20-26 (NLT) “But the third servant brought back only the original amount of money and said, ‘Master, I hid your money and kept it safe. I was afraid because you are a hard man to deal with, taking what isn’t yours and harvesting crops you didn’t plant.’  “‘You wicked servant!’ the king roared. ‘Your own words condemn you. If you knew that I’m a hard man who takes what isn’t mine and harvests crops I didn’t plant, why didn’t you deposit my money in the bank? At least I could have gotten some interest on it.’ “Then, turning to the others standing nearby, the king ordered, ‘Take the money from this servant, and give it to the one who has ten pounds.’ “‘But, master,’ they said, ‘he already has ten pounds!’ “‘Yes,’ the king replied, ‘and to those who use well what they are given, even more will be given. But from those who do nothing, even what little they have will be taken away…’”

The Parable of the Ten Servants (Luke 19) tells of a nobleman who went away on a trip. He called together his ten servants and them each ten pounds of silver with one simple request, “Invest this for me while I am gone.” When he returned, he called each servant to give account of that entrusted to them upon his departure. The first servant invested his money receiving ten times the original amount. Well done, he was told and given a reward. The second servant’s investment yielded five times the amount. He was also rewarded the same. Then the third servant came with to show as he did not invest what he was given at all.

“I hid your money and kept it safe. I was afraid…” The king’s response was to call his servant wicked. It was not fear that kept him from investing at all. Fear was his excuse. What is mine? What makes it alright to decide others are not worthy of this Gift that I have been given? We seek the lost yet destroy the saved with condemnation every single day. Along the Highway called Holiness – how could we ever lose sight of grace? We do. We live in condemned buildings called church who judge each visitor who walks through the door by the weight they carry or the label give rather than seeing and responding to the person. Jesus is compassion. It was our need for His Love and Grace that led to the compassion that nailed Him to the Cross. He is our Savior. He is always our Savior. Even when the sin in our life is less, it is present. When we repent and accept righteousness – it is still in our imperfection. Lord, teach us to love and build the Kingdom as you have prescribed rather than tearing it down from the inside. Give us humble hearts given to compassion rather than hard ones solidified by pride.

John 5:24 (NLT) I tell you the truth, those who listen to my message and believe in God who sent me have eternal life. They will never be condemned for their sins, but they have already passed from death into life.

Romans 5:18 (NLT)Yes, Adam’s one sin brings condemnation for everyone, but Christ’s one act of righteousness brings a right relationship with God and new life for everyone.

Perhaps, the church might try a new approach to the people who enter their doors. Rather than judging them by the way they dress, how they smell, the lifestyle they live or the choices they make…what if for a moment our objective is to give them exactly what we have received from Jesus Christ. Love. Grace. Mercy. Acceptance. Seeds of hope rather than a list of changes. What if we let the Holy Spirit convict and instead adopt the role of builders rather than inspectors? Those who hear His Voice and do not harden their hearts but believe “will never be condemned for their sins but have already passed from death to life”. One sin brings condemnation for everyone. Even me, I know that I sin and need God’s Grace every day. I guess when I master sin in my own life then I will tell you how to live. For now, we are all in this together – one body, one church. Christ’s one act of righteousness brings a right relationship with God and new life for everyone. If you hear nothing else hear this today – we all need Jesus. Just Jesus to make the foundation of our life secure. We do not need religion. We need a relationship with Christ alone. We are to be builders not demolition experts. Expert builders will stand the test and be found complete when Jesus returns to inspect the foundation of our life. In the meantime, my faith is in Christ alone.

Can we do a little better? Absolutely. Should we give a little more? Yes! People don’t need our opinions or advice. They certainly don’t need me to tell them what to do or how to do it. Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life. When I share these things with you, it is because the Holy Spirit is convicting my heart of those things that keep Christ’s Investment in me from multiplying until it is shaken together and running over in my life. Are you living in a condemned building today? Do you want revival to come to your church? This could be the hour of restoration. A radical makeover that produces a sound return on God’s Investment and Christ’s Sacrifice for our life. God lives in us. He connects us and completes us. We must build the Body of Christ and stop tearing it apart. It begins with me and you. We are the Body. The Temple of His Spirit. Together we can make a difference if our objective is compassion demonstrated by His Love pouring out to all mankind.

I Corinthians 3:13-17 (NLT) But on the judgment day, fire will reveal what kind of work each builder has done. The fire will show if a person’s work has any value. If the work survives, that builder will receive a reward. But if the work is burned up, the builder will suffer great loss. The builder will be saved, but like someone barely escaping through a wall of flames. Don’t you realize that all of you together are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God lives in you? God will destroy anyone who destroys this temple. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.