Just Turnaround

Just Turnaround

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.

In a Bible Study, the speaker said, “Cancer is a cell unwilling to change.” I tucked it in the back of my mind for a bit. The recent news of cancer scares, chemotherapy appointments, “pink nightmares” and another diagnosis have me contemplating cancer and change. Our son has scans next month that will determine if the cells in his body remain in check. I believe the bone marrow transplant and Hand of God upon him are doing their job but my heart grieves for all who have awakened in this nightmare, living the bad dream or trying to make sense in the aftermath. The last couple of weeks have been overwhelming. It seems that ever since our son’s journey ended, I have been struggling to decide what a “normal” life looks like or if there is such a thing. Something happened during that time. Something inside me changed forever and now I am learning to live in it. To survive the ordeal of a horrific and traumatic illness threatening the life of one of my children, I had to fully step into Christ. My whole being – body, mind, spirit and every single piece of my crushed heart had to be surrendered to find my next breath.

The perspective of my life has changed. My goals and aspirations are much different. Just like you, I see my future one way and when life takes a turn it causes stress and worry to fill my mind. As the pressures of life began to weigh me down, I started to complain and resist in an outward display. Challenged to find a solution or quit my job, I went to the Lord. You know what He told me? I had to change. God doesn’t see our life and all the problems. He sees my potential. The purpose for which He created me and the plan designed specifically for my life. It is not dependent on the variables around me but it all works together for my good. If I can keep my eyes on Jesus, the Author and Finisher of faith and remain yoked to Him – life and power belong to me. His Grace is always enough. I have to change…no one else and nothing else but me.

John 3:30 (NLT) He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less.

A quick and simple lessen about cancer from a novice perspective. Cancer is just another cell in the body. The problem is it doesn’t come pre-programmed with the life sustaining power to change. It is rogue. Rogue means no longer obedient, belonging or accepted and hence uncontrollable. It becomes a renegade. If you think about it, cancer never wins. For death is to kill its own source of life. It is suicidal in its mission. For if medicine doesn’t stop it or the Hand of God does not immediately heal it – it kills itself by ending the life of its human source. Cancer is basically a disease of uncontrolled cell division. Cells come with regulators that are overridden in a cancer cell. It does not have the safe limits built in that tell it how to grow and develop normally in the human body. Cancer cells make their own rules and growth factors. They are stuck in the “on” position. They ignore the innate signals from the body designed for healthy growth and development. How many times do I allow my flesh to override the Spirit? The Lord is working in me to make me a new creation and produce new life yet in my impatience and unwillingness to change cause a delay in my development. What if the lack of progress towards fulfillment of my purpose is me?

Repentance is turning back to God. It is not a mandate for change. I can do nothing to make my life better. Repentance leads to salvation which is an act of submission. It is to surrender every “cell” of my body and fiber of my being to the redemptive, restoring, renewing and renovating Power of Christ. To allow Him to improve my standard of living to God’s Glorious and Life-Giving Standard. I can do nothing apart from Christ. But in Christ, I have everything I need to grow, develop and mature my purpose. The only parts of my life that will not be renewed, restored and revived are those unwilling to change. The process of transformation is change. Not a change I can produce, but the One the Lord will if I give every part of my life to Him.

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. 

At one point in our son’s fight against cancer, the doctors discussed his participation in a clinical trial for immunotherapy. Essentially they take some cells from a patient with active cancer and teach the immune system to fight back. We didn’t enter the trial but instead he was approved for a bone marrow transplant which took some of his cells after chemo-blasting as much cancer out of his system as possible and storing them for later use. He entered the hospital and for weeks they killed every cell they could without killing him and then reintroduced the clean cells to take over. They did and our son is alive today despite only having a 2% chance of survival. He is a living, breathing miracle. Though he celebrates victory day by day, there are still challenges in his post-cancer life. A review of systems provides a lengthy list of side effects from the disease and treatment alike. He requires medications and monitoring of certain health conditions. He is still dependent on his medical team which leads me to this point – you will always need Jesus. In fact, the more you grow, the more you will come to know that He is Your Life Source.

Sin will take over in the absence of Christ. Rogue behaviors will surface from our past. Flesh will rise up to overtake us in weakness. Our mind will play tricks on us as the enemy tries to convince us that God is not good, or He has forgotten a single promise. The enemy wants you to believe that the Grace of God is not enough. The truth is friend it is more than enough to make it through each day triumphantly even in the midst of trial or tragedy. We must only be willing to repent (turnaround)to face the Lord and allow Him to live, move and breathe in us. There is no condemnation in Christ. Someone needs to hear that today and understand. God sees sin as cancer. He has the cure. Just turn around and let His Unfailing Love and Goodness overtake you – this is when death becomes life, potential results in purpose, and you will experience Him from glory to glory.

2 Corinthians 12:8-10 (NLT) Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Jesus didn’t come to save the world. He came to save us. You. Me. Everyone. To think that He came to save the world would be like Christ draining the ocean to keep our feet planted on the ground. No. Faith is not needed in such a case. It is when water is all around us and still our heart beckons us to come. Jesus says, “My grace is all you need…today.” No matter what you are facing or how good the day may seem – we all need His Grace and Mercy to continue the transformation process that all believers are undergoing. We much know that His Power works its absolute in our weakness. Why else would the prideful be warned of a fall? It is in that moment when Christ is enough that our life is immediately changed for the better and life released in the midst of such a declaration. This is the Gospel of our life. To let Christ have His Way in every area. It is not a choice attributable to anything that I can say or do but in the choice to let Him have His Way and fill every space and void in my life. Sometimes it is releasing my expectation to fully embrace His Promises which are always more than I can think or ask. Is it possible to take pleasure in weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions and troubles – yes it is. The power to change lives within us. Christ is enough. I just have to believe it to receive it. To believe it means that each and every day – I must repent (turnaround) and embrace the Christ in me and the life He is producing.

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!

I made a startling realization this week. Okay, I am not going to lie I come to this every time. When I am stressed, anxious, worried, and overwhelmed – I begin to release the pressure by taking it out on those around me. I find myself complaining and grumbling. I become exhausted and given to tears. Time and time again…I hear the Lord whisper – “Hey, My Grace is still enough for you.” I turnaround and find Him right there where He always was with a Handful of Goodness and Heart full of love that the Lord is ready to lavish on me. I only have to turnaround from doing things my way and holding to my expectations to receive it. Jesus always gives me joy and peace that is indescribable without fail. I want to be a new creation. I want the new life I am promised. I am all too human just the same. When I find my life overwhelming, it is then that I realize I am the one who got turned around. I am the one doing it my way according to my will. The overwhelming feeling inside me is desperation mixed with unmet expectation that reminds me – Christ is all I need and He lives in me.

Stop evaluating your life according to those around you. Your Purpose and Plan are designed specifically and exclusively for you. This is not a competition. God has no favorites. Everyone has the potential and promise to be a Child of the Living God by accepting Jesus Christ. Everyone. You have the opportunity to put your old life of shame, regret, lack and discontentment behind and fully embrace the new life Christ died for you to have including full freedom and soul prosperity that somehow makes its way into our life as increase. What if all you have to do is stop doing it your way and let Christ have His Way? Could it be you are trying too hard rather than depending fully on Jesus? The Lord stands right behind you. He is ready, willing and able to change your life beginning with you. Will you just turnaround?

Psalm 23 (NLT) The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need. He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams. He renews my strength. He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to his name. Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me. You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies. You honor me by anointing my head with oil. My cup overflows with blessings. Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the Lord forever.

Just Breathe

Just Breathe

Job 33:4 (NLT) For the Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life.

Here is a thoughtful nugget for today – breathe in, breathe out. Congratulations! You just successfully accomplished something in life. You perpetuated it by simply inspiring and expiring a single breath. Now do it again! Two triumphs in one day…now keep doing it throughout the rest of today. Completely overwhelmed by work, church and life, I sat working on surprises for Mother’s Day for church. After working the second late night, swinging by the grocery store to restock, taking care of our little puppy, nursing our adult fur baby whose tummy is not well, cooking dinner and settling in to prepare for Sunday. I could feel the pressure closing in on me. Tired. Exhausted. Brain not fully functioning. I could feel tears welling up in my eyes as my heart pounded in my chest. Another rough day. There have been more than a few lately. More challenges than usual – but that’s just life right? Having gone through much worse and surviving, I still feel might heart yearning to thrive again. The Lord rushed in to comfort me during my unspoken prayer. His Words clear, calm and focused to me – just breathe.

Too often in the name of busyness – it is human nature to breathe shallowing. To keep running from this task to that one using all of our body, mind and spirit to create a better life and meet human expectation. Burn out comes. The wall is hit hard forcing all the breath from our body. Our humanity a heavy weight that burdens us rather than becoming the blessing we are promised. It is certainly not of God. He doesn’t tell us to “do” it all. In fact, He doesn’t need us to do a thing. I exist for God’s Pleasure. He gives me purpose that promotes prosperity by His Grace not because I deserve it. Just like our children do not earn the house they live in, the food they eat, the money I give them or the clothing that overflows from drawers, closets and the laundry hamper – I give it all to them simply because I love them and want to care for them. But I am not the Lord, and I do grow weak and weary. Thankfully, He does not.

Acts 17:22-28 (NLT) So Paul, standing before the council, addressed them as follows: “Men of Athens, I notice that you are very religious in every way, for as I was walking along I saw your many shrines. And one of your altars had this inscription on it: ‘To an Unknown God.’ This God, whom you worship without knowing, is the one I’m telling you about.  “He is the God who made the world and everything in it. Since he is Lord of heaven and earth, he doesn’t live in man-made temples, and human hands can’t serve his needs—for he has no needs. He himself gives life and breath to everything, and he satisfies every need. From one man he created all the nations throughout the whole earth. He decided beforehand when they should rise and fall, and he determined their boundaries. His purpose was for the nations to seek after God and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him—though he is not far from any one of us. For in him we live and move and exist. As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’”

The Unknown God. Do you know the Lord? I have been married to my husband for almost two decades. He is my best friend. I know him better than any other person in this life. To know him comes from spending almost every single day with him consecutively for more than 18 years. It has meant giving up my way to follow him on many occasions. It requires forgiveness time and time again. It is to put him above other people. To love him. Seek him out. Serve him with love. Day by day getting to know him more. Have I applied the same desire and drive in getting to know the Lord? His Word is the Way, Truth and Life. See if you really know the “unknown” God who Paul speaks of – you can breathe easy.

God doesn’t need us to do anything. He desires us. He wants us. He sent His Son to die for our sins so that there is an opportunity to live in a relationship with Him. That’s it. All the other religious rules and regulations are not of God. Grace has them covered. What will allow the greatest success in our Christian walk and “living for the Lord” is not in our personal ability or dedication to righteousness but one’s ability to slip into the Robe of Righteousness and return home as the prodigal son or daughter. The Father/Child relationship is what the Lord desires. Our family depends on one another. Though from time to time there is rivalry amongst them, let someone come against them or there be a proposed threat – the circle the wagons quickly prepared to fight. There are many days that I forget this truth. The part about God not needing me to do any particular thing or that my success or failure as His Child is not hinged on my performance. God loves me for me. He formed me in my mother’s womb writing a perfect plan and purpose for my life including enough grace to get me through it. He is always for me. He gives me new mercy each morning and is just waiting to for me to breathe Him in deeply. To allow His Presence and His Spirit to work in me and through me giving me peace and inexpressible joy as I do the unthinkable, unimaginable, and absolutely infinitely more than I ever considered possible. There is more to life than this. It is found in Jesus Christ and the Kingdom of God. I just need to remember to keep breathing. It is in Him I live, move and exist. This is all part of inspiration and expiration the breath called life.

Daniel 10:16-18 (NLT) Then the one who looked like a man touched my lips, and I opened my mouth and began to speak. I said to the one standing in front of me, “I am filled with anguish because of the vision I have seen, my lord, and I am very weak. How can someone like me, your servant, talk to you, my lord? My strength is gone, and I can hardly breathe.” Then the one who looked like a man touched me again, and I felt my strength returning.

The breath that keeps me breathing is the same air breathed into Adam. It has continued to bear fruit called life from generation to generation. Just as God’s Word will not return void, neither will His First Breath that brought humanity to life. The perpetuation of life will continue until Jesus comes. It is an awesome thought to think that the very mouth that formed the words that created all that we know is continuing its purpose in me today. If I am breathing – I am alive. I have human breath that is given to accomplish natural respiration. However, I have been given the spirit of Jesus Christ when He released His Last Breath on the Cross and saying, “It is finished.” Do you remember what happened next? The veil in the temple was torn from top to bottom. Nothing could ever separate me from God again. His Spirit (His Breath) did not stop there but resurrection power brought the dead back to life. His Breath cannot help but produce life in and around us.

Daniel was filled with anguish, overwhelmed by sorrow, and very weak. He was so weary in fact that he said, “How can someone like me, your servant, talk to you, my Lord?” He had seen a vision that drained his faith and overtook his hope so quickly that Daniel was drowning in sorrow unable to catch his breath. “My strength is gone, and I can hardly breathe.” Whether you are overcome by physical, emotional or spiritual exhaustion, weakness, weariness or just plain empty – the Lord has what you need today. His Voice is reminding you just breathe in and let it out. Breathe me in – let fear out. Breathe me in – let broken pieces fall where they will. Breathe me in – let worry go. Breathe me in – fall on me in your weakness. Breathe me in – become one with me, yoke your life to me, become one with me. The Lord is offering you His Whole Life – every fiber of who He is and what He is able to do in a single breath. Will you just breathe today? Will your declaration be as Daniel’s when he said, “I felt my strength returning.”

Psalm 33:4-9 (NLT) For the word of the Lord holds true, and we can trust everything he does. He loves whatever is just and good; the unfailing love of the Lord fills the earth. The Lord merely spoke, and the heavens were created. He breathed the word, and all the stars were born. He assigned the sea its boundaries and locked the oceans in vast reservoirs. Let the whole world fear the Lord, and let everyone stand in awe of him. For when he spoke, the world began! It appeared at his command.

So…

Psalm 104:30 (NLT) When you give them your breath, life is created, and you renew the face of the earth.

And finally…

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

Embracing Change

embracing-change

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.

Living in Florida, the winter season is very mild here. There may be rainy days, but at least I do not own a snow shovel or ice scraper. Amen! Hallelujah! When I woke up this morning to twenty degree weather, I could feel it coming through the window before I got up. Mounds of blankets and covers along with the steady hum of the heater running, I snuggled in a bit more. The clock was not so accommodating. If I was going to have time with my Lord this morning before church, it was clear I must get out of my cocoon and prepare for the change in the atmosphere. Donning a hoodie and wrapped in a blanket, I was ready to face the cold with our fur baby in her tiny cute sweater. I still wasn’t ready for the blast of frigid air that met me at the door. Baby, it’s cold outside.

Rummaging through the closet, it is clear that I must put on some extra layers today. But what to wear is yet another challenge as the change of conditions make it necessary. I have apparel for warm weather and even days of pouring rain but this freezing thing is new so I must adjust. I have pulled out some options to be revisited before I get dressed. It’s funny that on days like today rather than getting out there and embracing this new season as experience, my girls and I just want to hunker down and hibernate. Willing to forgo shopping or an outing into “town”, they were just fine piddling around the house and staying warm inside. Oh the comforts of home that breed complacency within us in more ways than one!

What is complacency you ask? It is the feeling of quiet pleasure or security along with satisfaction with an existing condition or situation that often makes one unaware of some potential danger or defect. I am comfortable in the warm weather of the South. This sudden change in the environmental conditions around me are unfamiliar, uncomfortable and unwelcome. God does not change. Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever. If there is to any change or transformation in my life – I must be the one. Change is inevitable in the progression of our relationship with the Lord…if we allow it to move us, mold us and make us new.

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

The Lord is constantly promoting change in our life. His Deepest Longing and Greatest Desire is that we are changed into His Glorious Image. This morning when contemplating what to wear to headed to church. I have selected some options not only for the occasion but for the conditions. There is one thing to be clothed in to meet with the Lord. Do you know what that is? Righteousness. The only thing that God looks for when He sees us is Jesus Christ. When I am “in” Christ, I am His Child. Sin is no more. Grace properly applied and love exuding all around me as Light to a dark and dying world. It is all about righteousness. God is absolutely right. He is perfect in every way. When my life doesn’t line up with His Word, it would be foolish to pray for my way because the Lord will never march us back to captivity but always provides opportunities for freedom.

Genesis 31:1-3 (NLT) But Jacob soon learned that Laban’s sons were grumbling about him. “Jacob has robbed our father of everything!” they said. “He has gained all his wealth at our father’s expense.” And Jacob began to notice a change in Laban’s attitude toward him. Then the Lord said to Jacob, “Return to the land of your father and grandfather and to your relatives there, and I will be with you.”

To recap the story of Jacob, he came in this world wrestling with his twin brother, Esau. He finally tricked him out of his birthright. With the help of his mother to avoid his brother’s wrath, Jacob went to live with his family member, Laban. Laban had two daughters, Rachel and Leah. Jacob fell in love with Rachel immediately and after working to obtain her hand was tricked into marrying Leah. He worked even more and would be given Rachel in marriage as well. The Lord blessed Jacob with many children and he prospered caring for Laban’s flocks. However, Jacob began to notice a change in Laban’s attitude toward him. It was then that the Lord revealed His Plan to His Child. “Return to the land…I will be with you.” The conditions of Jacob’s life which once were comfortable became uncomfortable and it was time for him to move.

It would be ridiculous for me to get mad that the temperature has dropped outside. It is not unusual for extreme cold in winter seasons. However, it is not normal for where I live. With this in mind, consider the conditions of your life today. Has there been a change in people’s attitudes? Have uncomfortable situations presented themselves? Do you feel sudden dissatisfaction? Are you discontent? Is there strife or division around you? Conflict? God does not change. We must. Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever. There I must not be. If the conditions surrounding my life change, could it be a new season is upon me? Is it time for a move? Is God promoting change? His Spirit seeking more freedom? Yes. Yes. Yes.

Genesis 32:22-28 (NLT) During the night Jacob got up and took his two wives, his two servant wives, and his eleven sons and crossed the Jabbok River with them. After taking them to the other side, he sent over all his possessions. This left Jacob all alone in the camp, and a man came and wrestled with him until the dawn began to break. When the man saw that he would not win the match, he touched Jacob’s hip and wrenched it out of its socket. Then the man said, “Let me go, for the dawn is breaking!” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” “What is your name?” the man asked. He replied, “Jacob. Your name will no longer be Jacob,” the man told him. “From now on you will be called Israel, because you have fought with God and with men and have won.”

At this point, Jacob has made a covenant with Laban. He could go back if he wanted to. Jacob has sent gifts to his brother to make way for his future. His wives and children were already there including his servants and possessions. It was Jacob and the Lord. In Exodus 14, the Children of Israel have been freed from slavery but now faced with the Red Sea they are unsure if they desire this change. The people and Moses cry out to God. God replies, “Why are you crying out to me? Tell the people to get moving!” I wonder if this was not the same point in time for Jacob. While the promise of his future and hope was before him, the comfort and control of the past summoned his return. We do not like to be uncomfortable. We do not yearn for inconvenience. Like Jacob, we wrestle with change. God does not change. Jesus is the same yesterday today and forever. If a new life is to be had, new person discovered and new thing to come about, it will never because anyone else moved but me.

Philippians 3:20-21 (NLT) But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Savior. He will take our weak mortal bodies and change them into glorious bodies like his own, using the same power with which he will bring everything under his control.

There are some people who will wake up this morning realizing how unfavorable the conditions, turn over pulling the covers up and skip church. Barring unsafe conditions, these are the ones who just do not want to weather the cold but certainly go make it if they tried. We are citizens of Heaven. The future hope held on to is much more than our needs, wants and desires for our natural life but securing our residency in God’s Kingdom. This will always require change on our part. Change is inevitable to those who desire success according to God’s Plan which is perfect. He perfects all that concerns us. Promising to make good all the details of our life, no circumstance is wasted. No hardship unnoticed. However to avoid change is to skip the transformation process of God that moves us from death to life. God desires to give us a new heart. He wants to give you His Spirit to produce the kind of fruit that will satisfy our soul. He will take out that stony, stubborn heart that keeps you from fully accepting the robe of righteousness that awaits you so that you will be responsive to the change that the Lord is precipitating in your life. (Ezekiel 36:26)

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

Have the conditions of your life changed? Do you feel like it is time to move? Is the atmosphere of your life forcing a choice that you are not comfortable making? God is with you today. He is in you. He is more than likely the One who is promoting change in your life. Change means to make the form, content, nature or future course of something different from what it is or from what it would be if left alone. God will not force you to change but offers us the opportunity to do so in the form of freedom. You are free to remain comfortable and complacent without hope. Hope is for the future. Hope requires change.

Hebrews 6:17-19 (NLT) God also bound himself with an oath, so that those who received the promise could be perfectly sure that he would never change his mind. So God has given both his promise and his oath. These two things are unchangeable because it is impossible for God to lie. Therefore, we who have fled to him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us. This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. It leads us through the curtain into God’s inner sanctuary.

Hope is the anchor for our souls. Hope is for the future. It requires faith that believes without seeing. Faith will allow God to move us and change us even when uncomfortable and inconvenient. God does not lie. He doesn’t change His Mind. We must change. Change is indeed inevitable, yet why are we surprised when it comes. Struggling and striving with God for our way only hinders the process of prosperity in us. We must submit and surrender to win the race of faith and secure the hope to endure to the end.

I want to encourage you today to embrace the change. Look for the ways that the Lord is pressing you toward freedom, take the leap of faith that carries you from death to life transforming the natural into supernatural that touches here and now. God has a plan for you that contains a future and hope that is not in any way impacted by us. It can only be accepted. You can do nothing to limit God’s Love and Devotion to you. Nothing can separate you from His Amazing Love. It is unconditional. That in itself will take me a lifetime of searching and transition to Heaven to fully understand. Friend, God is offering you an opportunity to be changed and transformed. For your life to look like His Word and according to His Plan… the rest is up to you!

I Peter 1:3-5 (NLT) All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is by his great mercy that we have been born again, because God raised Jesus Christ from the dead. Now we live with great expectation, and we have a priceless inheritance—an inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay. And through your faith, God is protecting you by his power until you receive this salvation, which is ready to be revealed on the last day for all to see.

Wasteland

wasteland

Isaiah 43:18-21 (NLT) “But forget all that—it is nothing compared to what I am going to do. For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland. The wild animals in the fields will thank me, the jackals and owls, too, for giving them water in the desert. Yes, I will make rivers in the dry wasteland so my chosen people can be refreshed. I have made Israel for myself, and they will someday honor me before the whole world.

The New Year is finally here. On this last day of 2016, what is your outlook for the coming year? Have you written down carefully thought out goals and aspirations of dramatic change? Have you prayed and sought the Lord on what His Desire for you might be? Are you merely just trying to get through today after a long hard holiday? Maybe you really are only trying to pick out an outfit and clean yourself up for a fancy soiree or one last family gathering, plastering on that smile to hide your pain, and make people think you are happy and whole when deep down inside there is broken despair? When the ball drops at midnight in the midst of Times Square where will you be? What will you be doing? What are your thoughts or whispered prayers?

Full of anticipation yet the lingering fear that next year will be the same as the one that is left. I feel this way every year. I hunger and thirst for the Glory of God. Like many there are days when the valley seems so deep and dark and life a barren wasteland despite the Goodness and Favor of God all around me. I have so much to be thankful for that this need for more sometimes makes me feel so unthankful. Yet today as I read Isaiah, I am reminded that is in the wasteland that God creates waterfalls. The thought that there must be more to life than this is not necessarily born of our flesh. No, I believe that God allows us to experience wastelands, barrenness, and dryness for the purpose of desire, hunger and thirst. The more I read the Word of God the more evident it is that my life has way more potential than realized today. To enter His Presence only makes it clear that I have only scratched the surface of the vast depths of His Love and Goodness. His Voice a whisper that beckons me closer to hear what He is saying in His Close Proximity. God wants to refresh us. His Greatest Desire is to restore us. However, personal satisfaction and human fulfillment can often stop our progress in faith and eliminate our need to trust the Lord so we enter wastelands. Are you in a wasteland today? On the verge of giving up? Do you have hope for 2017 or expect the same hard life as every year before? God wants to turn your wasteland into a waterfall. Are you hungry and thirsty in the depths of your soul? God wants to refresh, restore and renew you like never before.

Psalm 105:39-41 (NLT) The Lord spread a cloud above them as a covering and gave them a great fire to light the darkness.  They asked for meat, and he sent them quail; he satisfied their hunger with manna—bread from heaven. He split open a rock, and water gushed out to form a river through the dry wasteland.

Psalm 105 details the Way of God with His People. The movement and progression of tests and trials that lead to trust and faith. Salvation comes about only one way. It cannot be reconstructed by a man or his hands. It can only be accessed with our heart. So often, we take what we need from the vast depths of His Love and Goodness thanking Him for the immediate help but then wandering off to make our own way, maintain control and hope for the best. Yet the Plan of God is too perfect just like its Maker and He will not relent allowing us to settle for less than His Best. God is always working all around us for our good. He goes before us. Stands with us. Falls in behind us. This is obviously too much for human comprehension but one’s inability to understand the Truth does not render it void. So the Lord presents us with opportunities to trust Him more and depend on Him. If only in 2017, each one who claims to be a Christian and professes belief would decide to stop looking at the barrenness and brokenness of current conditions and circumstances to see what God is doing up ahead. Sometimes it is important to shake off the reality of human perspective to gain godly perception. Our life has purpose not in our natural ability but supernatural potential hidden in disbelief behind a barrier of sin. Pride builds tall walls to protect what is left of our almost broken heart. The knock on the door is not the enemy trying to take what is left, it is the Lord who wants to come in and commune with you. He wants to plant seeds of righteousness. He longs to fill you with hope. What is keep 2017 from becoming the year that hope is restored, life renewed, and dreams fulfilled? You. Me. Our pride. Doubt. Disbelief. Disappointment. Today we have an opportunity to pack what is worthwhile and take out the trash readying to move forward and take the land as the Lord promised.

Job 39:-8 (NLT) “Who gives the wild donkey its freedom? Who untied its ropes?  I have placed it in the wilderness; its home is the wasteland. It hates the noise of the city and has no driver to shout at it. The mountains are its pastureland, where it searches for every blade of grass.

I have been called stubborn by just about everyone who knows me. I prefer the word “driven”. I decided as a young person that there were some things that must change in my life and set off on my way. Not consulting anyone but relying solely on experience, I fell flat on my face. When I did commit my heart to Jesus Christ, I really don’t think anyone believed me. So I couldn’t rely on what others thought of me but only the Lord to cultivate good fruit and be my encouragement. Over time, it didn’t matter what people thought but spiritual pride and religiosity took over.

In 2011, my entire world fell apart and my heart was broken irreparably. I should have died in that moment. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t move. I couldn’t think beyond the next sixty seconds. After a desperate consultation with the Lord in my complete devastation, I was asked to trust Him. Not just with my life, but with my precious son. I said, “Yes.” I had no idea the journey ahead that would span three long hard years and even now two years into remission haunt me from time to time. Yet, I can say with transparency and complete honesty while I would have never chosen to go through or for our son to be put to such a test, I would not trade the faith obtained in that moment. I cannot humanly explain the course of events any more than the medical team involved. All I know is that I trusted and believed. God delivered.

With this in mind, consider the trial and test you are in right now today. When the clock strikes twelve, it will not dissolve or go away. You can resolve to trust the Lord. You can decide that this year your faith is going to reach a handbreadth farther than your fear. Your doubt will be overshadowed by the Light of His Love by basking in His Word, finding a promise, and letting it shine in the darkness. Freedom is found only in Jesus Christ. Who the Son sets free is the one who is free indeed. I can claim freedom but not necessarily live in it bound by sin, shame or a number of other foolish emotions or temporary things. God is attempting to move us from slavery to Sonship. We can only achieve a new destination by leaving our present position. The Lord wants to take you higher than ever before. Are you willing to go through a wasteland to get there? Friend, you are already in the wasteland looking for a waterfall. Faith splits rocks. It moves mountains. But first – it must move you!

Isaiah 35:1-10 (NLT) Even the wilderness and desert will be glad in those days. The wasteland will rejoice and blossom with spring crocuses. Yes, there will be an abundance of flowers and singing and joy! The deserts will become as green as the mountains of Lebanon, as lovely as Mount Carmel or the plain of Sharon. There the Lord will display his glory, the splendor of our God. With this news, strengthen those who have tired hands, and encourage those who have weak knees. Say to those with fearful hearts, “Be strong, and do not fear, for your God is coming to destroy your enemies. He is coming to save you.” And when he comes, he will open the eyes of the blind and unplug the ears of the deaf. The lame will leap like a deer, and those who cannot speak will sing for joy! Springs will gush forth in the wilderness, and streams will water the wasteland. The parched ground will become a pool, and springs of water will satisfy the thirsty land. Marsh grass and reeds and rushes will flourish where desert jackals once lived. And a great road will go through that once deserted land. It will be named the Highway of Holiness. Evil-minded people will never travel on it. It will be only for those who walk in God’s ways; fools will never walk there. Lions will not lurk along its course, nor any other ferocious beasts. There will be no other dangers. Only the redeemed will walk on it. Those who have been ransomed by the Lord will return. They will enter Jerusalem singing, crowned with everlasting joy. Sorrow and mourning will disappear, and they will be filled with joy and gladness.

Life is hard. The past was difficult, today has troubles of its own, and next year will present further complications. Welcome to a world infiltrated by sin. This place called home will end one day and be completely destroyed. The only thing capable of lasting is the human soul. A diversified life yields no real gain. To live in the gray zone never truly committed to Christ but not really living for the world is called lukewarm mediocrity. The Lord would rather you be hot or cold. I am not trying to paint a dim picture or cause you to relinquish the last bit of hope you hold on to at all. Just gain a clear perspective of what is and what is to come.

It is time to decide if our dedication is sincere. True repentance or turning can only be accomplished once the course is set. Otherwise it creates an endless merry-go-round spinning but going nowhere. Before you set goals for the future, one must truly evaluate where it is you are today. Examining our heart reveals the truth of our commitment to Christ. Are you willing to look past your pride to see the real you? I can fast and pray in the New Year but I stay the same nothing will change or come to pass. It is in the complete surrender of all that I am to all He is that creates a catalyst for change. I cannot achieve deeper levels in God if I am not willing to move from my present position of comfort, convenience or complacency. Rather than leaving the valley, I must go through it. It’s called endurance. Rather than crying for rescue, maybe a little refreshment is all that I need. Hunger and thirst only come in the absence of sustenance. Perhaps, I have been relying on others or even myself to provide when God has Goodness stored up for me that He is desperate to deliver.

Is your wasteland really a wasteland today? I leave you with this thought to mull over while you cook the meal, or prepare for guests or get gullied up for the grand event. Think about it. A wasteland is a barren place or one that is uncultivated. It may be a devastated area. We all have some places like that. It is considered to be something that is spiritually or intellectually barren. To be barren means unproductive or unfruitful. These are not qualities characteristic of believers because the Holy Spirit works day and night to produce good fruit in us. The wasteland you are in is the gateway to your future. You must go through it to get there. The promise was on the other side of the Egyptians, Red Sea, wilderness and Jordan. Not everyone made it. Many died in their wandering looking for God’s Promise their way. When Jesus came, many died in their own expectation because how could the Messiah, King of Kings and Lord of Lords not be of noble birth or die at such a young age. They died in disbelief when the Promise was an arm’s length in front of them. Perception can cause us to lose sight of godly perspective. Hope is not seen in the reality of this life. It is perceived by us through faith that sees past the valley and through the wasteland. It requires trust. Is your wasteland really a wasteland today? I encourage you. I implore you today. Before you make a long list of resolutions, get this revelation. Trust God in 2017. Trust Him with your life. Your whole life. If we can do this one thing, wastelands will soon become waterfalls overflowing in the Glory of God and filled with His Goodness.

Isaiah 40:3-5 (NLT) Listen! It’s the voice of someone shouting, “Clear the way through the wilderness for the Lord! Make a straight highway through the wasteland for our God! Fill in the valleys, and level the mountains and hills. Straighten the curves, and smooth out the rough places. Then the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all people will see it together. The Lord has spoken!”

Hope for the Future

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Jeremiah 29:10-13 (NLT) This is what the Lord says: “You will be in Babylon for seventy years. But then I will come and do for you all the good things I have promised, and I will bring you home again. For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. In those days when you pray, I will listen. If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me.

Most of us have heard the age old expression to be stuck between a rock and a hard place. Could this be the same thing as being stuck in a rut? I don’t know. I often feel as though I have stepped out of the boat by faith and Jesus is just out of reach – so now what? Welcome to the realm of hope. The uncomfortable place where faith is expended but hope not yet realized. It is the place offered as deep cries out to deep. It can also be the very place the enemy meets us when he knows fear may be stirring and doubt beginning to rise like waves just before the storm. The place where mockers cry out foolishness from the shoreline. Christians call out from the boat, “Are you sure it was God?” and Jesus waits with His Nail-Scarred Hand extended. He said, “Come.” And you responded. Now what?

Welcome to hope. The so-called “anchor of our soul”. The place where faith takes it first step and leaves us in an abyss of swirling thoughts and the vortex of our mind attempts to suck us in and pull us from every single promise engrained in our thoughts. Why? Why do we struggle? Why is life so hard? There really must be an adversary who wants my soul. Who desires every good thing God has given me in this lifetime. He wants my faith. It is the only thing that can save me. He wants to rob me of hope and a future more glorious than can be imagined. Joy so wonderfully secure that it is inexpressible. Do you have plans for the future? Maybe a birthday coming up or an anniversary. Perhaps, you are awaiting a birth be it a person or a promise. Are you taking a special trip? A promotion coming down the pipes. Whatever it is that lies beyond today and this moment are not promised. Only today. This moment. This breath. What will you do with it?

Jeremiah 29:10 hints at a lifetime. Mankind did not have a prescribed lifetime until sin entered him. God offered death as a release from the effects of sin in our life. He limited our years to 120 in Genesis 6:3. The psalmist eludes to a further shortened existence of just 70 years in Psalm 90:10. God’s Grace would not allow His People to suffer as a demonstration of His Unfailing Love and Compassion for us. Jeremiah 29:10 says “You will be in Babylon for seventy years.” Could it just be a coincidence? Or is our future truly vested in forever? We want the future and hope that is mentioned in these verses but so often design it by our choice and preference when it is all by predestination and God’s Master Plan and Design. If our future and hope is hidden in Jesus Christ, one might be wise to decide what am I doing to invest in this future and hope rather than in the one scheduled to end a few decades or less.

“But then I will come and do for you all the good things I have promised, and I will bring you home again. For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. I am captivated by the future today. What is to come? This week between Christmas and the New Year evokes this response more and more each year I am alive. Since becoming a Christian, this has stirred excitement in me to move into the new thing God offers with each year of life. Our life comes with a plan. It contains a future and hope. Every step of this life has the potential to lead us there. However, our thinking must grow and expand from thoughts about daily life, current conditions and all the circumstances surrounding our existence beyond this life to forever…now. God planned good for us forever. He plans a future in Jesus Christ. We have hope that can only be realized after our departure.

In Matthew 24:36, the Lord tells us that we do not know the day or hour of His Return and that only the Father knows. In Romans 8:28, God promises to take every detail of our life and use it for our good…for those who love Him. What you desire, you pursue? We pursue many things in life based on our wants, needs and desires. Investing our time, talent and treasure in passions and pursuits to improve our standard of living naturally. Will we allot the same amount of energy and dedication to a future and hope that is never experienced by the five senses and only confirmed by His Spirit in us. Will we take a single step of faith when the rest of the process is unclear? Will I waste my time with no guarantee other than one that is promised in ancient text and whispered by an unseen Spirit? I must if what I am after is eternal life and forever with the Lord. I have no idea when He is returning or the day I will meet Him face-to-face, but what I do know today is that I must invest more of me into the process of finding Him in order to have faith that is secure and hope that is confident.

Romans 8:22-24 (NLT) For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering. We, too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children, including the new bodies he has promised us. We were given this hope when we were saved. (If we already have something, we don’t need to hope for it.

I believe that the church does people an injustice when they do not teach the meaning of hope. I have hope because I have Jesus Christ. But the hope that I have does not exempt me from trials, heartaches, disappointments, and seeming disaster sometimes. Heavenly hope in Jesus Christ does not lead to disappointment, but how many times do we invest our belief in something other than the Word of God, His Truth and His Way? We diversify our faith. Giving some to God, some to man, some to money, and some to self just to name a few. All the while, wondering why we are stretched in so many directions.

We are given hope when we are saved. Hope that will never be fully realized in this lifetime. I remember the first time I heard “realm of hope”. It was sitting in an infusion room when the doctor was trying to tell me that the third relapse of cancer in our son may be his last. As I asked her a flurry of questions, the physician who was always so optimistic and encouraging could not make any promises. When she said those three words, “realm of hope”, something in me leapt with exhilaration. Would this be the place where God took over?

Later in our conversation, she used my other favorite word. She said, “Impossible.” In every trial of life I have endured so far, when someone uses the word “impossible” or “forever”, I have seen the Hand of God intervene. He is the God of our future and no one can dictate the outcome of His Children’s future no matter what. When man says our situation is impossible, it means our faith must be fully shifted to the God who makes all things possible. In our utter devastation and weakness, it is human nature to call out to the One who is higher. He answers our call in that moment of pure desperation. This is the moment when His Power becomes enough for us because it is all we have to hold on to. Life drives us to this point by design. God desires us to live forever with Him. He wants to give us a future. The Lord is making all things possible for those who believe enough to pursue hope wholeheartedly.

Ephesians 4:4-6 (NLT) For there is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all, in all, and living through all.

“You have been called to one glorious hope for the future.” In my fifty years of life, I have seen the Hand of God come close to the earth and do great and mighty things. I have also wandered in darkness so deep that I thought I might not return. I have joined many churches and left most of them, too. I have seen ministers step up and sit down. I tried religion for many years struggling with all the “do’s and don’ts” of doctrine and regulations of religiosity. I have been built up by pride and shattered in brokenness. I have come to this revelation today. All of these things are trivial and do not matter if I do not have hope. One glorious hope for the future. It is the commonality of Christianity that is lost in hidden rivalries and mass marketing but remains the same day after day. My future is in Jesus Christ not my ability to work or invest appropriately. Nothing I do, say or become outside of a Child of God really matters. We must focus our attention on one hope in order to experience the revival the Body of Christ is calling out for. It is time to liquefy our lives as an offering to God.

There is one body and one spirit. We are the Body of Christ. We are not functioning as one body currently. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all. We do not act like it. Our hope demands unity in order to fulfill our future. My future, my forever is in Jesus Christ. I have made it about so many other things. “You have been called to one glorious hope for the future.” Me, too. How do we get there from where we are now? If we all are headed there, why can’t we get it together?

Ephesians 2:6-7 (NLT) For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus.  So God can point to us in all future ages as examples of the incredible wealth of his grace and kindness toward us, as shown in all he has done for us who are united with Christ Jesus.

The Ephesians were “members” of the Church of Ephesus. Do you remember them? In Revelation 2 they are applauded for all their “hard work” and “dedication”. They were known for their patient endurance. The picture of “Christianity”. They were victorious in many ways and touted for not being quitters.  The model church, right? Wrong. What does the Lord say to them? “But I have this complaint against you. You don’t love me or each other as you did at first! Look how far you have fallen! Turn back to me and do the works you did at first.” The incredible wealth of Jesus Christ is His Grace and Kindness toward us. His Great Love for us is our hope. He is our future and forever. Have we taken back our heart? Are we pursuing God with some of us and the world with the rest of us? If our heart is not invested in our pursuit of Christ, are we not just lusting after His Hand?

Jeremiah 29:12-13 (NLT) In those days when you pray, I will listen. If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me.

What am I currently pursuing in this life? What are my passions? What do I desire? Where is my treasure? My future and hope are in Jesus Christ. I must align my life with Him in order to have that which I hope for. It is time to repent. It is time to return to the Lord wholeheartedly. It is time to pray more than ever before. It is time to examine what is precious to me right now in this moment and determine if it is my Savior and Lord – Jesus Christ. Do I love Him like I used to? Do I love Him more than ever before? Have I lost my first love? My one true love. Are there things in my life that have taken God’s Place? Have I chosen to hold more tightly to this life than my future? Am I gaining the world but losing my soul? Is there anything worth more than your soul today? Jesus certainly doesn’t think so. He died to give us one future, one hope and life everlasting. Do I want it? I do. How about you?

Matthew 26:25-26 – “If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?

What Is Revival?

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Psalm 85: 4-7 (NLT) Now restore us again, O God of our salvation. Put aside your anger against us once more. Will you be angry with us always? Will you prolong your wrath to all generations? Won’t you revive us again, so your people can rejoice in you? Show us your unfailing love, O Lord, and grant us your salvation.

Driving home from church last night, my husband and I began talking about the coming New Year. In the midst of our conversation, it turned to revival. The cry of the church seems to be revival. Everyone is preaching it. People are praying for it. The united cry of the church is for God to send revival to us now. But my husband asked a question that cranked the motor of my brain, when he simply inquired…”what is revival?” It is obviously noted in history as Great Movements of God in churches and communities with many names associated with it. However, if we as a church corporately have finally joined our voices in one accord, it would seem that it is important to know what we are asking for so that it will be recognized when it comes. So I ask you today the same question for careful consideration, what is revival?

Going straight to the Word for an accurate description as the only credible source, I find only this passage and one other in the Old Testament that refers to the revival of God’s People. This leads me to believe that revival is a manmade term. It is not actually an “event” to be planned and executed but an experience that carries over somehow. God of our salvation. The cry for revival is an invitation for God to restore us. It is a personal plea for the God of the Universe to come down and touch me. Me, first which will ignite passion to overflow into my family and church. As the Light of His Love spreads among us, it builds momentum. The momentum of the church is unity. Unity is selfless harmony that burns away flesh and pride to expose our heart and mind to more of God’s Spirit than ever before. Let us not be confused. To experience true revival requires true repentance and complete forfeiture of self to be fully consumed by the Lord for His Service and Use in a collective community called the Body of Christ.

Put aside your anger from us once more? Have I drifted? Has the church strayed? Yes and yes. God has put the spark of desire in us for revival BECAUSE He wants grace to cover our fickle heart and wandering mind to be one with Him again. Revival is to desire the Presence of the Living God to come down in our midst. To save, heal and deliver everyone who dares to come near. However, if I think that revival will come to change other but not to do the same for me, I am merely delusional. Revival begins in me and overflows from me. I cannot offer what I have not experienced. I cannot introduce anyone to someone I have not encountered and become acquainted with myself. My message is less than convincing until it radically changes my life.

Won’t you revive us again, so your people can rejoice in You? I have attended many churches over the course of my lifetime. I have met many believers, professing Christians, pastors, teachers and leaders. I have served many positions in the church enough to see the business in the building. However, I have rarely experienced such great moves of God that I can recount them to you now. I have experienced the Lord personally but corporately I have not seen the Glory of God called revival in our midst. Why? We cry out for something but not make any attempt to find it within ourselves. People need Jesus. But if I do realize my own desperation and depth of longing for my Savior, Messiah and Lord – I will never be able to meet the need of another by offering them something I do not know. So many starts and stops, makes it apparent that we are missing something along the way.

The woman at the well had a personal experience with Jesus Christ so radical that she had to run back and tell everyone. (John 4) Come and see this man that told me everything… She forgot her guilt and shame including all those things that had isolated her and kept her from the company of others. She didn’t have time for pride, guilt and regret to hold her bondage any longer. No, they had to come and see. There was no other alternative than to come to the well with her to taste and see. When was the last time, your experience with Jesus Christ moved you to push, pull and drag people to church? How many times do you miss meeting together with other believers because there is something, anything more important to do? The want, need and desire for revival from the Lord must begin in each one of us to become the next great move of God. Going into the New Year doing the same thing but expecting different results is deemed insanity. You know the routine. The New Year comes and the church calls for a corporate fast. Everyone becomes focused on new menus, renewed prayers, shaking off the old, and embracing the new. Then by February, it is the same old thing all over again. If I truly want revival, I must decide that in the coming year that I will let God restore, renew and revive me first. I must submit my life including my mind, will and emotions to Jesus Christ to change me from the inside out. Revival did not come this year or the year before despite my cries and pleas. I do not believe that it is because of God’s Timing but the condition of God’s People that has kept it elusive for this long.

Ezra 9:7-9 (NKJV Since the days of our fathers to this day we have been very guilty, and for our iniquities we, our kings, and our priests have been delivered into the hand of the kings of the lands, to the sword, to captivity, to plunder, and to humiliation, as it is this day. And now for a little while grace has been shown from the Lord our God, to leave us a remnant to escape, and to give us a peg in His holy place, that our God may enlighten our eyes and give us a measure of revival in our bondage. For we were slaves. Yet our God did not forsake us in our bondage; but He extended mercy to us in the sight of the kings of Persia, to revive us, to repair the house of our God, to rebuild its ruins, and to give us a wall in Judah and Jerusalem.

“And now for a little while grace has been shown from the Lord our God, to leave us a remnant of escape, to give us a peg in His Holy Place, that our God may enlighten our eyes and give us a measure of revival in our bondage.” Pride has driven the church back into bondage. Preaching for profit has cluttered our storehouses with lesser things. The modern day church is big business. Don’t get mad at me. I am not judging preachers who live in million dollar mansions. Things are not the problem. Purpose and drive are what is missing. Passion for Jesus turned into passion for other things. Pride of life that has caused us to deviate from building God’s Kingdom to prosper in this world. God is showing us grace. He is positioning our heart for a radical change from idolatry and worldly pursuits to a passion and drive for Jesus Christ that forces a choice to make a decision that is really not that difficult in the Presence of One’s Savior.

Revival is the remnant’s escape. Revival is the doorway that leads from self to selflessness. It is the moment that all I want is Jesus Christ. It is when He truly becomes all that I need to live, breathe and thrive in this lifetime. It is such a radical connection with the Lord that it creates an opening between heaven and earth that when two or more are gathered in the same spirit – His Glory overtakes them all. This is revival. We are not ready. Yet from our bondage and captivity – the church cries out for Him. “To give us a peg in His Holy Place” – I need to study this some more. Many years ago, someone spoke a word over me that God was driving me into the ground like a peg or stake. This passage made it come to my mind again. What if the next great move of God is not random or released on a whim? What if revival is not what we thought it might be but something more overpowering and overwhelming than we have every experienced? What if it changes my lifelong pursuits? What if it takes up too much of my time? What if it means being at church more than I care to? What if? What if revival is not about others but God releasing me first?

Psalm 85:8-9 (NLT) I listen carefully to what God the Lord is saying, for he speaks peace to his faithful people. But let them not return to their foolish ways. Surely his salvation is near to those who fear him, so our land will be filled with his glory.

Do I really want revival? Do I want God to restore and revive me which will always roost me from my comfort and convenience right into fiery refinement? Do I want His Glory to fill my life completely? Revival is for the remnant for a reason. Small pockets of people throughout the history of time who dared be pegs driven into His Presence. Refusing to move until He comes near to them. Those who, like Jacob, will wrestle with God until the new man (or woman) and new life emerges. It took a lot for me to forsake myself. I am not the same person with the same beliefs that I had five years ago. The price paid for such revelation is one I would not have paid knowingly or willingly. Everyone talks a good talk. However, when it is our life to be laid on the line everything changes…trust me. When it is time to totally trust the Lord for survival or even your next breath, this is the moment of truth and when only a remnant remains.

The Lord used my husband in a mighty way last night. I am blessed to be partnered with a godly man. I cannot shake the question now. “What is revival?” From now until the New Year comes, I am going to continue to ask this question of God and dig into His Word until I find that one thing I am not doing or surrendering that will allow His Glory to fill me and overflow from my life into my home into my church and into my community. I cannot participate in a move of God until I am moved by God. To cry out for revival is noble, but God knows our heart. He knows who is not serious enough to give their all. No one knows your heart but you. We can all put on our game face when need be, but who is willing to be driven in the ground like a peg to seek and stay in His Presence until His Glory comes. To be uncomfortable. To be inconvenienced. To wait, tarry and stay right here until He comes.

According to man’s interpretation, the dictionary defines revival as restoration to life, consciousness, vigor or strength. It is to restore to use, acceptability and currency (or worth). It is an awakening of interest in and care for matters of religion. God is ready to breathe life back into the Body of Christ which is gasping for air. He longs to restore the joy of salvation so that our hearts and minds will be one with the Lord and passion will produce a persistent pursuit of God and His Ways. Revival will not be the result around us until it is the change in us. If at the end of 2017, I am the same as I am right now, again I have failed. If there is no change in the atmosphere around me as God moves closer and His Glory fills the space around me, He did not fail – I did. There is a reason that revival only comes to the remnant. It is not a manmade feeling or controlled spiritual encounter, revival is to allow God to completely overtake us body, mind and spirit and then letting Him flow out of us to change the surrounding environment. Revival is not an elevated position but a prone posture as pride and self are sacrificed to make room for more of Jesus. It is not fashionable but definitely favorable.

Psalm 85:10-13 (NLT) Unfailing love and truth have met together. Righteousness and peace have kissed! Truth springs up from the earth, and righteousness smiles down from heaven. Yes, the Lord pours down his blessings. Our land will yield its bountiful harvest. Righteousness goes as a herald before him, preparing the way for his steps.

Many have seen the movie or at least heard the clip of Jack Nicholson yelling to the crowded courtroom, “You want the truth? You can’t handle the truth.” Maybe just maybe this is what the Lord is whispering to us today. When His Unfailing Love and truth meet together righteousness and peace kiss and truth springs up from the careful consummation. Intimacy with the Father through the Son is at the complete forsaking of self. We must give up our way, wants, whims and wanderings to find our way into His Presence. A total commitment of mind, soul and body is required for God’s Fulfillment to begin restoration, renewal and revival to take place. All that we hold precious and dear in this life is at stake to be burned up with God’s Passion for us and ignite our heart with the Light of His Unfailing Love to be the torch for others. This is when the windows of Heaven will open allowing His Blessings to finally reach us not the meager provision experienced now but an outpouring like never before. Our land will yield a bountiful harvest of souls set free if believers and Christians would just do their part now. Righteousness is the herald before Him. Jesus is coming back. We are not ready. Revival must come. It must begin in me. What is revival? I am not completely sure right now. I intend to find out. I don’t want to waste another year doing the same things hoping for something new and different to emerge. Lord, take this time to start a fire in me.

Psalm 119:37-40 (NLT) Turn my eyes from worthless things, and give me life through your word. Reassure me of your promise, made to those who fear you. Help me abandon my shameful ways; for your regulations are good. I long to obey your commandments! Renew my life with your goodness.

The Purest Gift

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Romans 3:21-24 (Message) But in our time something new has been added. What Moses and the prophets witnessed to all those years has happened. The God-setting-things-right that we read about has become Jesus-setting-things-right for us. And not only for us, but for everyone who believes in him. For there is no difference between us and them in this. Since we’ve compiled this long and sorry record as sinners (both us and them) and proved that we are utterly incapable of living the glorious lives God wills for us, God did it for us. Out of sheer generosity he put us in right standing with himself. A pure gift. He got us out of the mess we’re in and restored us to where he always wanted us to be. And he did it by means of Jesus Christ.

I usually do not study or write using the Message translation of the Bible. It must have been the last one I used because when I looked up the word “restore” today, this scripture in Romans 3 was included. I love the part where it tells us that we have “Jesus-setting-things-right” for us. I know that I am incapable of living the glorious life that God wills for me. I get distracted, disappointed, discouraged and even disgusted which causes me to wander or even sometimes stomp off mad in my own direction. Pride is the ominous beast within me always vying for control, pointing a finger at others ignoring the four aimed straight at me. Out of sheer generosity, God has given me a pure gift that as hard as I try to mess it up – somehow it just keeps rising up around me. The Lord restores us. Day after day, He lovingly and gently nudges those who love Him and serve Him back into His Will in spite of our hard hearts and willful attitudes. It is a pure gift.

Romans 8:29-30 (Message) God knew what he was doing from the very beginning. He decided from the outset to shape the lives of those who love him along the same lines as the life of his Son. The Son stands first in the line of humanity he restored. We see the original and intended shape of our lives there in him. After God made that decision of what his children should be like, he followed it up by calling people by name. After he called them by name, he set them on a solid basis with himself. And then, after getting them established, he stayed with them to the end, gloriously completing what he had begun.

In the midst of the holiday season and the Christmas crush, people come together. Though driving up to the party, everyone may be rush tempers flare and frustration builds. But once the door opens and everyone comes together, it seems differences melt at least for the moment. Tis the season that brings families, friends, and even enemies together to celebrate. Forced into the proximity of acquaintances and strangers, a sense of community begins to rise up. People who have not been together since last year around this time find themselves catching up over apple cider or standing by the bonfire wondering what happened over the past year. The promise to communicate more and see each other fell through as the New Year came and life marches on.

God knew what He was doing from the beginning. He has always been intent on building a Kingdom. A family. A community. No wonder the enemy tries on every level and at every turn to destroy relationship rather godly, familial or even just friendly. He walks around like a roaring lion with a giant ax ready to cut and severe every bond of love and soul tie formed between God and His Created Ones. It is working. People are drifting farther and farther apart. Relationships are conducted on social media or via text. Face-to-face encounters are fewer and fewer so lies circulate in the midst of misinterpretation and insecurity. But God…

The Son stands first in the line of humanity he restored. Jesus died to give us new life. A place in the Kingdom of God as part of His Body and community called Heaven. It is no wonder that the Greater is He in us continually is striving to connect with those who are around us even when our flesh is not privy to His Plan. I have watched the Lord melt division this holiday season. Strife that no one could seem to overcome has dissolved this Christmas. No lengthy discussions. No overthought words. Just Jesus. He is the only explanation as relationships are restored and friendships renewed. What about you? Gods will is for His Kingdom to be restored and His People to be renewed. If you are sitting on the sidelines in the midst of anger, hurt, or frustration today – Jesus has a gift for you. You don’t have to try. You don’t have to do a thing. Just bring all your disappointment to Him and let the Lord give you hope again. The first step of restoration is not one a forward movement. It is only to turn around and see that His Unfailing Love and Goodness has been pursuing you every day you thought you were alone, misunderstood and yes, even rejected. He was whispering, “Wait! Where are you going? I am doing a new thing. Hang on! Don’t run off! Just wait on me! It will be worth it.”

Many live by the words “fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me!” This is not the position of Jesus who is our example. It is not a notion that leads to anything good. Yes, we must be wise and discerning in our relationships but one must also allow Christ to oversee all of them. When we put Jesus, His Love, Grace and Mercy in the midst of ourselves – something beautiful and pure rises up in our midst. When the Lord becomes the Protector, Provider and Portion of our heart – there is a place for people in it too. He is more than enough for me. I cannot experience thriving relationships that can be renewed, restored and replenished day by day until I am rooted and grounded in His Amazing Love and Overflowing Grace.

Colossians 2:6-7 (Message) My counsel for you is simple and straightforward: Just go ahead with what you’ve been given. You received Christ Jesus, the Master; now live him. You’re deeply rooted in him. You’re well constructed upon him. You know your way around the faith. Now do what you’ve been taught. School’s out; quit studying the subject and start living it! And let your living spill over into thanksgiving.

For months, there has been a rift among some young ladies that I know. Friendships – close friendships – torn to shreds by the enemy. Lies and gossip spread about one another rising from insecurity planting bitterness and strife that spread beyond them causing mass destruction in a body of believers. No one knows the root, but many experienced the devastating effects of it. Yet this Christmas in the midst of holiday gatherings celebrating the birth of Jesus together something no less than miraculous has taken place. New life has risen up among them. Restoration is bringing them together without any intervention. The pure gift of the Father was His Son. The gift of the Son is amazing grace. The grace that is given is more than enough to restore and renew every broken relationship in our life.

2 Corinthians 12:7-10 (Message) Because of the extravagance of those revelations, and so I wouldn’t get a big head, I was given the gift of a handicap to keep me in constant touch with my limitations. Satan’s angel did his best to get me down; what he in fact did was push me to my knees. No danger then of walking around high and mighty! At first I didn’t think of it as a gift, and begged God to remove it. Three times I did that, and then he told me, My grace is enough; it’s all you need. My strength comes into its own in your weakness. Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift. It was a case of Christ’s strength moving in on my weakness. Now I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size—abuse, accidents, opposition, bad breaks. I just let Christ take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become.

The power of God’s Kingdom is relationship. Our relationship with God is fully and completely dependent on Jesus Christ. What if someone else’s relationship with Jesus is completely dependent on us? How is that possible? What if my inability to facilitate a relationship or build community with someone else creates a stumbling block that keeps them from Jesus? What if my stubbornness and lack of grace for them makes them think Jesus is as fickle as I am? What if my unwillingness to be in the same room with them keeps them in the dark rather than exposing them to Light? God’s Kingdom is a body of believers. Believers who form a community not a commune. All should be welcome. Heartbreak is most often inflicted person on person. Someone hurts us. Offends us. Betrays us. They don’t even have to actually do any of these things, but if I think they did the seed is planted.

What kinds of seeds are growing in the garden of our heart today? Will they produce fruit that nourish, replenish, renew and restore the Body as Christ intended? Or will I allow bitterness, division and pride to destroy the pure gift given to me by the Grace of God through Jesus Christ? I have struggled this Christmas because my family will not all be together. I want all my children together in one place at the same time to open gifts and stay in our pajamas all day. Most of my kids are adults. Some will be here. Others will not. I must have the same longing for the other relationships in my life. They must take a place of importance. Be a subject in my prayers. The only new commandment is to love one another. To love them more than ourselves. To love them as He loves the Body and everyone in it. It is His Will that all would be saved and not a single one lost…not even the one who is a thorn in our flesh today.

Are there relationships in your life in need of restoration? Are there some that need to be renewed – labeled “too difficult” so pushed far away? Is Jesus laying problematic people on your heart? Do you find the same ones showing up in random places? Jesus wants to give His People the pure gift of restoration and renewal so we can fulfill His Commandment together. Jesus wants to renew our grace for each other and restore our love for one another. I must be willing to let Him do it in me and around me. Relationships are the most important thing to the Lord and the most difficult to maintain. His Grace is enough today. I speak life to every dead relationship in your life today in Jesus Name. Lord, teach me to use the love and grace that you have given me to maintain healthy and thriving relationships with people all year round. Show us how to form strong, impenetrable bonds that the enemy cannot break. The purest gift given is love and grace. The best gift to give someone is the one they desire most. Jesus wants us to love each other. After all, it is His Birthday right…

I John 4:7-10 (Message) My beloved friends, let us continue to love each other since love comes from God. Everyone who loves is born of God and experiences a relationship with God. The person who refuses to love doesn’t know the first thing about God, because God is love—so you can’t know him if you don’t love. This is how God showed his love for us: God sent his only Son into the world so we might live through him. This is the kind of love we are talking about—not that we once upon a time loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to clear away our sins and the damage they’ve done to our relationship with God.

Give Me Your Heart

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Ezekiel 36:26-27 (NLT) And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart. And I will put my Spirit in you so that you will follow my decrees and be careful to obey my regulations.

Some mornings as I dive into this time with the Lord, it is in a quest for knowledge or a thought that came to me during my commute that is creates urgency to dig a little deeper and uncover another nugget of truth to be cultivated. Other times it is a battle of my spirit to apprehend my flesh washing it in His Word while I act like a stubborn child who loves the mud. Thoughts that do not correspond with the Christ who live in me are challenged during this time as the strongholds I try to build with my hands are torn down by His Spirit in my life. Parting from reality and stepping into hope, I find this place in His Presence to always be refreshing and renewing. Time well spent in the course of the day and never missed or decidedly wasted at the end of my day.

This morning was a little different. When the alarm went off, I had this profound need to surrender my heart to the Lord again. Just hand it over to Him in exchange for the new heart that He promises me day by day. Coming through a challenging season and stepping into the new thing God is doing – I am overwhelmed with the need for His Heart. The kind of heart that He promised in Ezekiel. I want a new heart. I want a revived spirit today. My heart is given to stubbornness. It is apt to become hard without me even trying to do so. God, I want a tender responsive heart today.

If the church was completely honest, every single person sitting on a pew or even comfortable padded chair in the climate controlled comfort zone of religion, it would probably feel the same way. Frustrated that others do not see the Light so clearly hidden in the recesses of my very human heart. Concerned for a lost and dying world that doesn’t seem to hear the message of the Gospel being shared. Tired of serving without results. Hurt by those around us who are imperfect. Desperate due to misplaced hope expecting something that has not happened or that seems impossible. You are the ones who can relate. I don’t want life as usual. I want supernatural life that cuts through darkness, breaks every chain, heals every hurt and renews me day by day to engage with others and share the Love that is greater than life given to me absolutely free and with more than enough grace to discover.

I need a new heart. Not just today, but every day. Pride would like to convince me that my confidence in Christ has something to do with me. The Spirit of God within me often cannot get past the resolve of resignation that I somehow or some way can contribute anything at all to a perfect gospel, flawless message or selfless service already accomplished by Christ on the Cross. I cannot. Less of me and more of Him is the only way that I live a worthwhile life from the mess that I made it. My heart will never bow to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords until it turns on itself. Pride has no place in a human heart that longs to be all God created us to be. Grace is the only sufficiency in my life. It completes me. Otherwise, I am only half the woman God created me to be. Lord, humble my heart today so your Spirit can take over.

I John 4:7-8 (NLT) Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love.

Our dining room table has seen better days. How it survived all five children and countless meals is a miracle in and of itself! Over time, our daughters discovered nail polish. They also found nail polish remover. On multiple occasions, I expressed my concern about using it on the table. Explaining in careful detail that it would remove the finish if it happen to find its way on to it. I was “assured” by my girls that would not happen as they were being extremely “careful”. And then I would hear the word, “Oops!” The dark expresso finish has some boo boos compliments of the girls and their beauty quest. I have been refinishing and repurposing furniture lately to reuse in our new house. He has hinted that it would be nice if I did the same thing to our kitchen table. For years, he has asked for a new one but I cannot part with it.

The table is special and unique. Many years ago, one of girls struggled with a deficiency in her fine motor skills. She could not write her name or other words smaller than about six to eight inch letters. After consulting many doctors and neurologists, she was given a weighted pencil to achieve the task. The wood on my table is pine and softer than an oak finish. The weight of the pencil made an impression in the table and her name is found inscribed there. I do not want to remove her little masterpieces from it so I cannot bear to redo it.

God wants to use our heart. He wants to write the names of people who are on His Heart and trust us to love them more than ourselves. More than our comfort. More than our convenience. More than our hang-ups and insecurities. But we hold tightly to the pieces of a broken and hard heart wondering why there is no movement in our personal ministry (called life) and why others are not benefiting from the Light of His Love that we try to project. The ministry of Christ was not apart from Jesus but who Jesus was. God is love. His Son was made in His Father’s Image just as we are. I cannot be effective for Christ or even serve Him efficiently if I withhold any of my heart from Him.

Matthew 9:16-17 (NLT) “Besides, who would patch old clothing with new cloth? For the new patch would shrink and rip away from the old cloth, leaving an even bigger tear than before. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. For the old skins would burst from the pressure, spilling the wine and ruining the skins. New wine is stored in new wineskins so that both are preserved.”

New wine is stored in new wineskins so that both are preserved. The call for revival is a cry for a new outpouring of His Spirit. His Spirit cannot inhabit a hard heart. If He does remain there, He cannot move without risk of destroying the person. God does change. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. His Spirit is from Him so therefore has the same characteristics. Yet believers want the Spirit to move in them, through them and around them, one must be full aware that this will only come at sacrifice of self. God’s Spirit will not change to meet your space or condition. The move of God’s Spirit through you will not be limited to the space allowed. If God poured out His Spirit on the church, due to its current heart condition it just might implode or collapse at the weight of it.

Why? On the way home from work last night, I stopped to spend some time with a lovely young woman from our church. She is quiet and shy. The Lord has placed her on my heart to love and get to know. Yesterday was a long day at work, I had to work late and tried to think of every reason in the book to cancel but couldn’t. My heart told me to go. Afterwards, it was late and the family was hungry. I had a meal prepared to cook for them but knew that by the time I got home no one would want to wait so I swung into a fast food restaurant. Too tired to think, I ordered four of the usual and recanted the drink order that I have asked for a hundred times before. Arriving home, everyone gathered around the table immediately gratified by food that isn’t all that good or good for us. We want it fast. We want it now. We want it our way. We want what we want when and how we want it without waiting more than five minutes to get it. We want convenience, comfort and control. This is not how life in Christ works as He lives, moves and breathes in us. We must give up all those things that this life offers to acquire a new heart, new spirit and new life. It all begins with our heart.

I John 4:15-19 (NLT) All who declare that Jesus is the Son of God have God living in them, and they live in God. We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love. God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them. And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the Day of Judgment, but we can face him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world. Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love. We love each other because he loved us first.

Today all I want is a new heart. I want the kind of heart that loves like Jesus. The kind that is willing to be broken over and over again if grace and salvation comes out of it. God is good, yes! He has been so good to me! But first and foremost, God is love. To be like my Father requires a selfless, patient, unconditional, unfailing and unending love that this world cannot identify with but longs for. This is the kind of love that sparks revival. This is the heart ready to be filled with His Spirit. Lord, I ask you today for the new responsive heart promised in Ezekiel. The kind of vessel that is willing to be inconvenience, uncomfortable and broken over and over again for Your Glory! Give me your heart God, the one like yours prepared for me. Amen!

Psalm 51:10-12 (NLT) Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a loyal spirit within me. Do not banish me from your presence, and don’t take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and make me willing to obey you.

Wet Blankets

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Philippians 2:1-2 (NLT) Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? Any comfort from his love? Any fellowship together in the Spirit? Are your hearts tender and compassionate? Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose.

Small town life agrees with me. I love the community just outside of the city which is adopted as home. Sitting around a folding table in a diner with friends, I begin to survey those with us. Such an informal meeting yet by the end of the evening, I am content. God has blessed me with wonderful friendships that I cherish. People who I cannot imagine not being in my life. God loves relationships. He created Eve with the mindset that it was not good for man to be alone. He needed a helper. While there are obvious reasons why Adam needed Eve, I believe the heart and soul of all relationships were manifested in that moment.

Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper who is just right for him.” (Genesis 2:18) God deemed relationships to be important from this moment on. Yes, he made a partner, spouse, and companion for Adam with purpose. But I believe that this mandate was also for all relationships in life. It is not good for man to be alone. The enemy has worked since the moment that the very first relationship was form to violate it, tear it apart, and ruthlessly destroy the connection between humans. His purpose is to steal, kill and destroy. He is obviously very good at it. Divorce is soaring. Drama is entertainment. Division has made its way from the home to the community and is devouring the church. God provided encouragement for us in His Son, Jesus Christ. It is in belonging to Christ that righteousness is restored so that we can once again have a thriving and productive relationship with our Father. It does not stop there.

It is by God’s Design and Divine Will that relationships are restored. Is there any comfort from His Love? If so, we will become lovers of people again. Is there any fellowship together in the Spirit? If so, the Lord becomes our source and the fruit of His Spirit will nourish connections to become healthy relationships again. Is my heart tender and compassionate? To be like my Father, it must be so. How do I make God happy? Become a friend to all His People. To agree wholeheartedly with each other. Love one another…even those I consider to be against me. Work together with one mind and purpose – I have the Mind of Christ. It is my purpose to share the Light of His Love with others and glorify the Lord with my life. It seems to fulfill my purpose I must build relationships.

I Thessalonians 5:9-11(NLT) For God chose to save us through our Lord Jesus Christ, not to pour out his anger on us. Christ died for us so that, whether we are dead or alive when he returns, we can live with him forever. So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing.

In our home, there is a basket of warm blankets and soft, comfy throws for people to use. When gathering in the family room to watch television or just be together everyone usually grabs one to wrap up. Our little dog loves them. If you find one on laying around, please lift it gently or a tiny Chihuahua may fall out. Who doesn’t love to be comfortable? Many days after work, I cannot wait to come home and change clothes. Hot showers wash away the worries and comforts of the day. However, if you take the same blankets and throws putting them in the washer, but not drying them what happens? They aren’t comfortable anymore. They are wet and cold. The material is heavier now filled with moisture which now becomes a burden. The same source of comfort now is not so comfortable anymore.

Because God chose us, created us, and send His Son to save us – it is clear rather than pouring out His Anger – God desired reconciliation with His Beloved People. More than that – He wanted a closer relationship so He adopted us calling us His Children. We are all comfortable with salvation and the thought of redemption. Amen and Hallelujah. Now if we can just get there from here… So (or now do this) encourage one another and build each other up. Are we doing this? If not, we should be. People can be a burden. Relationships may be messy and unpleasant sometimes but His Grace is enough to rebuild, repair, restore and renew relationships day by day.

Isaiah 40:1-5 (NLT) “Comfort, comfort my people,” says your God. “Speak tenderly to Jerusalem. Tell her that her sad days are gone and her sins are pardoned. Yes, the Lord has punished her twice over for all her sins.” Listen! It’s the voice of someone shouting, “Clear the way through the wilderness for the Lord! Make a straight highway through the wasteland for our God! Fill in the valleys, and level the mountains and hills. Straighten the curves, and smooth out the rough places. Then the glory of the Lord will be revealed,     and all people will see it together. The Lord has spoken!”

I have shared many times that when the Lord started speaking to my heart about women’s ministry. I begged and pleaded with Him – not me. Women make me uncomfortable. I am not good at relating to other women. I hate the drama. I hate the gossip. I hate the whole persona the world has placed on ladies of all size, shape and color. Ugh. I don’t even know where to start. So as usual, the Lord started in me. He comforted and corrected me for over a year. True to form, the enemy was well aware of my reluctant obedience and within days after the kickoff of the Ladies’ Ministry at church – all hell broke loose (please don’t be offended) because we all have those days. To step out on faith releases a storm almost every time, Peter is not the only one who encountered an assault against his faith as he moved closer to Jesus.

Comfort, comfort my people. God has created us to be a comfort to one another. I cannot give what I have not received. This does not mean waiting on others to comfort me but rather to allow the Holy Comforter inside of me to have His Way with my heart, mind and soul. To open my heart to others will always require confidence in my Lord to sustain. Ever been hurt? Yep, me too. Ever been taken for granted? Same. Felt the sting of betrayal? Friend, I am right there with you. Want the Peace of God? Clear the way for renewal but asking the Lord to remove all bitterness and hate. Ask the Lord to make a way through the wasteland of offense, level the mountain of hurt, and pave a level and straight path of forgiveness and freedom to love and be loved again. What does the God promise those who do? His Glory will be revealed. Revival will come!

What is comfort? True comfort. Comfort means to sooth, console and reassure one another. To cheer each other up. To make physically comfortable. To aid, support and encourage each other. Life is hard. Choices get tough. Love has grown cold. It is time to fan the flame into a fire again. We must become passionate about building healthy and strong relationships with one another based on the love and comfort offered to us by Jesus Christ. It is our purpose. He has told us to love one another as a result of the gift of Unfailing Love given to us. We cannot withhold it because it is obtained by a grace that mandates the same grace to others.

Job 16:1-5 (NLT) Then Job spoke again: “I have heard all this before. What miserable comforters you are! Won’t you ever stop blowing hot air? What makes you keep on talking? I could say the same things if you were in my place. I could spout off criticism and shake my head at you. But if it were me, I would encourage you. I would try to take away your grief. Instead, I suffer if I defend myself, and I suffer no less if I refuse to speak.”

Am I a miserable comforter? I have struggled to read the book of Job because of all the banter back and forth. I often wondered if these were really Job’s friends or messengers of satan sent to rub salt in his wounds. Over the last year, I have discovered that the Book of Job is about pride. When pride exalts itself in our life, people will always rub us the wrong way. Their advice seems callous. They appear uncaring. Such a rigid stance does not allow us to bend and sway in the waves of grace necessary to love, console, and comfort one another. Let’s face it when suffering in our own problems – the opinions of others either fall on death ears or feel like pebbles being pelted at us one by one. God wants us to comfort one another. He wants our eyes and ears to be tuned to the cries and calling of one another. Our feet should be ready to move in their direction. Our arms and hands should be open to help or hold each other. We are all in this together. Whether or not, I like a person does not exempt them from God’s Love and a place for them in Heaven so I should probably get with the program and become more generous with my love and compassion.

Job 42:10-12 (NLT) When Job prayed for his friends, the Lord restored his fortunes. In fact, the Lord gave him twice as much as before! Then all his brothers, sisters, and former friends came and feasted with him in his home. And they consoled him and comforted him because of all the trials the Lord had brought against him. And each of them brought him a gift of money and a gold ring. So the Lord blessed Job in the second half of his life even more than in the beginning. For now he had 14,000 sheep, 6,000 camels, 1,000 teams of oxen, and 1,000 female donkeys.

Newsflash! People are not perfect. Our family and closest friends will let us down. Job prayed for his friends. Granted it took 26 chapters and intervention from the Living God, but he finally forgave them for what he perceived as callousness and uncaring. The fact is that they were there. Job was a rich man and very influential in his community. Only three people showed up when he lost everything and his health appeared to be failing. When depression overtook him and he was in deep despair, just a trio of individuals left the comfort of their lives to enter the chaos of their friend, Job. Sometimes if we just change our perspective and stop expecting perfection from people, one might see the intentions of the heart. When Job forgave his friends releasing bitterness to rebuild the relationship, offering grace that He had freely been given, and decided to restore his faith in God that allowed him to love other people unconditionally, God blessed Job with a double portion. What if the blessing we are missing is actually relational and not financial or material? What if the very thing that brings contentment is not really found in stuff but in the souls we connect with on an intimate level? Could it be that the missing link in our life is relational?

Isaiah 50:4-7 (NLT) The Sovereign Lord has given me his words of wisdom, so that I know how to comfort the weary. Morning by morning he wakens me and opens my understanding to his will. The Sovereign Lord has spoken to me, and I have listened. I have not rebelled or turned away. I offered my back to those who beat me and my cheeks to those who pulled out my beard. I did not hide my face from mockery and spitting. Because the Sovereign Lord helps me, I will not be disgraced. Therefore, I have set my face like a stone, determined to do his will. And I know that I will not be put to shame.

In the version of Bible that I am studying from, this section is titled “The Lord’s Obedient Servant.” It is not enough to serve the Lord with our actions or even our attitude. Until our heart breaks for others and relationship begin to form – there is no point to Christianity at all. It is all about building a Kingdom. The center of the Kingdom is Jesus Christ. The Light of His Love shines so brightly in the center of it that no other light is need and dark cannot penetrate it. Does the Light of His Love shine in me that brightly? What is my limit? Where is the line in the sand? Is my heart always open to love and forgiveness? Have I built walls so that it will never be broken again? Friend, the Word of God tells us that He is close to the brokenhearted. Pride wants to build a wall that protects its own interest and keeps our own life comfortable. We are called to be comforters not wet blankets in life.

To be an obedient servant of the Living God requires building relationships with other people. Even those we have nothing in common with or the ones who appear to be in direct opposition. The burden does not belong to them. It is on me…if I desire to please the Lord with my life and become His Obedient Servant. A life not spent rebuilding, renewing, restoring and reviving relationships in our homes, churches and community is wasted effort. Our faith must always keep us moving closer to the Lord. In doing so, we will suffer hurt, brokenness and disappointment in other people. However, if we put our expectation fully in Jesus and love from His Love in us – we will never be disappointed in people again. People are not problems. People are opportunities to please God through the gift of relationship. Reconciliation makes the Lord happy because it strengthens His Kingdom as His People join together in purpose. Are you building relationships today? Or are you a “miserable” comforter? God can change all that if you will just reach out to another. We must not just reach out to others but wrap them in the Love of God.

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

 

Wash Rinse Repeat

wash-rinse-and-repeat

James 4:7-10 (NLT) So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world. Let there be tears for what you have done. Let there be sorrow and deep grief. Let there be sadness instead of laughter, and gloom instead of joy. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor.

My sweet sister is an esthetician. She is a skincare specialist. During her visit to care for mom during her open heart surgery, there were endless hours of conversation in the waiting room during our more than 24 hours stay the first night. Please disregard any and all Dubsmash videos that may or may not have been posted – it was a very long night. My sister’s skin is perfection. Given her profession, she has a routine of care that has made her completion nearly flawless. She promised to send a box of products for our teenage girls who battle the usual adolescent skin issues. The box arrived yesterday as promised. Late last night my phone received a series of text messages with instructions for all of us regarding the products that she sent. As I read through them this morning, I found that none of the bottles contain any medicine but rather it is all about the proper cleaning. This is definitely intriguing to me.

Wash, rinse and repeat with a once-a-week special treatment. Anyone who knows me knows this is bound to strike a connection with my spirit and surely it did. Sometimes I think we over complicate the process of spiritual freedom by making about more than it really is. I am set free by the Grace of God offered freely through Jesus Christ. The products my sister sent to us are expensive. Probably a higher price than I would pay since I balk at the skin products at Walmart. She must be so ashamed. However, do I also take for granted the simple process of repentance, renewal and restoration offered to me day by day by my Lord? It begins with humility. At first, I asked her not to send at her expense. She insisted. I offered to pay her for the items which she generously declined. Jesus offers to cleanse my heart and mind each day. The gift already given yet I leave it in a box on the counter of my soul much like the box of products not yet applied. He wants to renew me each day so that I may be restored and find joy in my salvation yet I choose to remain guilty, dirty, stained, and full of regret somehow. Am I the only one? Do I carry a burden of sin that could be so freely given in exchange for more freedom than I have ever known? Do I have stains covering a radiant countenance of righteousness freely given but not used for anything in each day? It is time to learn a new soulful routine. It is simple – wash, rinse, renew and restore. I need to do this each and every day to make my soul secure and my Light shine to a world looking for love in all the wrong places. I have it. It is at my disposal. I just need to use it.

Humble yourselves before God. This thing called “humility” is a lifelong endeavor that is produced through our relationship with Jesus Christ. It is promoted with each encounter and experience offered in the Presence of God. You cannot enter His Presence and remain the same. He changes us day by day. He frees us from sin, guilt, shame and regret to renew and restore the life that God planned for us to have not the one poor choices delivered. You cannot resist the devil covered in sin. You cannot tell him to flee or make any other authoritative directive to the enemy without the Power of God at work inside of you. The Power of God that gives us strength is His Grace. It cannot be usurped in our own strength and power but humbly accepted as it cannot be earned in any way. To come close to God and live in His Presence begins with repentance. Repentance is a continual process of exchanging sin for salvation each day. This process cannot change for if it does our loyalty is divided between God and this world. No such division will withstand the process called judgment.

Psalm 51:1-4 (NLT) Have mercy on me, O God, because of your unfailing love. Because of your great compassion, blot out the stain of my sins. Wash me clean from my guilt. Purify me from my sin. For I recognize my rebellion; it haunts me day and night. Against you, and you alone, have I sinned; I have done what is evil in your sight. You will be proved right in what you say, and your judgment against me is just.

I recently posted the lyrics to the song “Brokenness Aside”. It begins “I am a sinner if its not one thing its another. Caught up in words, tangled in lies.” It’s funny because I could feel the buzz of people wondering what I had “done” or how far I had “fallen”. The truth is that I am a sinner every single day. I am almost willing to bet that you are, too. I am aware of it and try to continually repent as not to become weighted down with transgressions. His Mercy is because of His Unfailing Love so no matter what I do I can come to the Lord and request cleansing. The Lord does it. Right there. On the spot. Whatever I submit to repentance, Jesus washes away as far as the east from the west. However, just as if I were to put a toy sailboat in the current of a river holding it tightly it will not float away – my sin cannot go away from me if I do not let it go.

We hold sin in our life two ways. First, we do not repent. Continuing to engage in it, calling it weakness, attempting to cover it up in grace, there is no freedom from it as it plagues us night and day. The second way to hold on to sin is regret. The same God that removes our sin renews our life in the process if allowed to. God is a gentleman. He doesn’t force us to accept anything that He has to offer.

With three daughters, the skin issue has come up many times. All three girls have a different skin type which requires a variety of skin regimes. However, there is one thing that works for all three. I have instructed them to wash their faces in the morning and evening. After school, they should remove makeup and rinse the impurities picked up that day. They have all balked at me until they tried it and found that their skin cleared up. Women use makeup to cover imperfections. However, that is not what we need as believers. Don’t cover up sin. Let it go. Let the Lord remove it and send it away as far as the east is from the west. It doesn’t matter what other people think if you choose to crawl to the altar in every service. So what? You didn’t sin against them. It is God alone we live to please and Jesus who died for us and now we live for.

Psalm 51:7-9 (NLT) Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. Oh, give me back my joy again; you have broken me—now let me rejoice. Don’t keep looking at my sins. Remove the stain of my guilt.

Purify me from my sins and I will be clean. Salvation is a process. It is not just one prayer one time at an altar but daily acceptance of Jesus Christ, His Word, His Will and His Way. We must work on it. Daily surrendering ourselves to Jesus. But unfortunately here is what happens. We wear one face for the world and another when alone at home and no one is watching. There are times when like the Pharisees, it is easy to become enthralled with what we can “do” for the Lord rather than allowing Him to do what He would like to “do” in me. Pride takes over holding on to sin rather than relinquishing it to the Cross. Repentance admits weakness. Our flesh isn’t comfortable with such a thing.

There is no true joy outside of salvation but to fully accept the terms and conditions of the New Covenant means to lay one’s life down at the Cross each day. In John 13, Jesus was preparing to wash the feet of His Disciples. He knew the end was near. The Lord also knew that He had been given full power and authority by God His Father. Symbolically, he removed his robe and knelt to wash their feet. When Jesus made his way to Peter, you have to know he would raise a ruckus. He did true to form saying, “you will never wash my feet.” Jesus said, “Unless I wash your feet, you do not belong to me.” There is no personal pride or accomplishment in our salvation. Jesus did it all. He paid for our life in full. There is nothing else for me to do other than accept it. When I try to maintain my pride and take hold of His Grace, I find this to be impossible.

Of course, during this discourse, Peter the extremist tells the Lord well if you are going to wash me – wash me from head to foot. Salvation cleanses us from head to toe. We work to maintain it by daily cleansing called repentance and humility. Those who do will be renewed day by day. Life will rise up in the places left void of sin as God does a new thing in each surrendered space of our heart and mind yielded to Him. His Word sheds light on the dark places. He speaks softly to us to come closer and let Him get that smudge off our face and stain out of our clothing. God is meticulous in His Care for us and will wash us as many times as it takes until each area is fully surrendered to His Unfailing Love and Amazing Grace. You will never not be a sinner. Full redemption comes when we meet Him face-to-face. Be washed in His Presence daily. Cleansed by His Word.

Psalm 51:12-15 (NLT) Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and make me willing to obey you. Then I will teach your ways to rebels, and they will return to you. Forgive me for shedding blood, O God who saves; then I will joyfully sing of your forgiveness. Unseal my lips, O Lord, that my mouth may praise you.

My daughter was frustrated about her complexion one day. I asked her if she was washing her face regularly. She promised she had. I asked her if she had taken the prescribed medication. She again promised that she had. Now I am the “drug dealer” in our home who orders and usually picks up pharmaceutical orders for the crew. I know that I had not refilled her antibiotic in quite some time so I inquired further. How long have you been doing this? She admitted a couple of days. Well, of course. The Word of God tells us that He will restore us. Come on God. However, there is a second part that we are not so excited about…”make me willing to obey you.” Oh that part…

We must allow God time to restore us and commit our lives to the process called restoration. This means waiting, patience, persistence, faithfulness and commitment. We must continue to do what we know to do even when we cannot see the results. This my friend is faith. If I believe, the Lord is working to restore me and renew me I must remain faithful to the process which is what we call endurance. But God is even more faithful and does not make us wait or work out our salvation alone…

Titus 3:4-7 (NLT) But—when God our Savior revealed his kindness and love, he saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit. He generously poured out the Spirit upon us through Jesus Christ our Savior. Because of his grace he made us right in his sight and gave us confidence that we will inherit eternal life.

I love it when God “buts” in don’t you. God our Savior is full of kindness and love. He is mercy full! He washed away our sin. Gave us a new birth so we could live a new life. Jesus gave us a partner, advocate, guide, protector, defender, teacher, instructor… I could go on and on. The Lord gave us His Spirit. His Grace made us right in His Sight. We can have full confidence that every dead dream can come back to life. Old things will become new things. Dead ends are of no use because the Waymaker lives in us. Nothing wasted. We have nothing to lose but everything to gain as Jesus makes good of every detail of our life. We just have to remain in right standing. He did that, too. But God.

Psalm 51:16-17 (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.

Repetition can become religion without true repentance and daily surrender of our life to Christ in all humility. We can become indignant like Peter to our own detriment. Lord, I am going to serve You. Not the other way around… Pride can sound so holy. It can make its point about being right but righteousness is only found when we surrender and submit our life to Jesus Christ – humbly accepting His Gift of Life day after day. We cannot sacrifice anything of worth. We cannot do anything to earn this wonderful gift that we are given. All we can do is wash, rinse and repeat day after day until He comes.

John 9 tells the story of a man who was blind from birth. Jesus takes some dirt off the ground, spits in it, smears it on his eyes, and then tells him to go wash it off. He does. The man is instantly healed. Yay God right! No not so fast. This begins a series of interrogations of the man, his family and bystanders who witnessed it. Jesus healed the man on the Sabbath. Well, as you can well imagine this drew the attention of the Pharisees who were already sick and tired of this man named Jesus messing everything up. Surely the Messiah would obey the rules and regulations of religion.

Reading this story again, I have come to the conclusion that maybe there is purpose in the mud covering the man’s eyes. I wonder if our natural and spiritual condition is easier to heal then the “muddy messes” of this life. We overcomplicate the process making salvation way too hard. When asked about his healing for the umpteenth time, the man said, “I know this: I was blind, and now I can see!” Have we overcomplicated the process stopping the next great move of God? Could it be so simple? Maybe it is as easy as “then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14) These are God’s Words to Solomon after he completed the temple. Our temple is complete in Jesus Christ maybe these are the words resonating from Heaven today. If my people…

I John 1:8-10 (NLT) If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth. But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness. If we claim we have not sinned, we are calling God a liar and showing that his word has no place in our hearts.

I am a sinner. I sin every day. If I told you or implied differently not only am I a liar, but I am calling God a liar. If I choose to coat my life with good works, good deeds, good words, and the like it is not the truth or the Gospel. It is not my job to set the standard of life and love for the rest of the world. God set the standard and it is glorious. It says that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us. He then gave us this wonderful benefit package to open and enjoy as we continue to journey to forever through this life. I must engage in the process which begins with humbling my life at His Feet every single day and accepting the Grace that is given. New mercy meets me each morning. Will I scoop it up and use it throughout the day? Or will the mud of pride, doubt, fear and anxiety cause me to lose my way? God wants to do a mighty work in us. We are His Temple. He wants to fill us with more of His Presence day by day. Repentance gives way to restoration which makes way for renewal which is how we live in true freedom day by day. Our life is raised to His Glorious Standard each day we say, “Forgive me, Lord. Your Grace is enough for me.” Sin is a burden. It renders us powerless to fight the enemy. It keeps us in bondage. Jesus says, “Come to me all who are burdened.” It is an open invitation to wash, rinse and repeat every day! I speak freedom over your life today in Jesus Name!

Matthew 11:28-30 (NLT)  Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”