Living Sacrifice

Living Sacrifice

Romans 12:1-2 (AMP) Therefore I urge you, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies [dedicating all of yourselves, set apart] as a living sacrifice, holy and well-pleasing to God, which is your rational (logical, intelligent) act of worship. And do not be conformed to this world [any longer with its superficial values and customs], but be transformed and progressively changed [as you mature spiritually] by the renewing of your mind [focusing on godly values and ethical attitudes], so that you may prove [for yourselves] what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect [in His plan and purpose for you].

Living – having life, being alive and not dead.

Sacrifice – to surrender something of value as a means of gaining something more desirable.

To consider being a living sacrifice seems to me to be a contradictory term. How can a total sacrifice be alive? If sacrifice is to surrender something of value as a means of gaining something more desirable, how can I give up my life and still be breathing? Just doesn’t make any sense. Maybe that is why it’s easy to breeze over the first two verse of Romans 12:1 and 2. Reading these two powerful verses today, I realize that sacrifice is no longer a death sentence thanks to Jesus Christ. It is no longer a requirement. It have become an optional choice. Though the components of sacrifice have changed the function remains the same. An offering is not enough to have fulfillment of duties. As a true believer, it is our privilege to be a living sacrifice. To dedicate ALL of myself to the Lord and be set apart from sin (notice I did not say the world). Sacrifice should be a rational, logical and intellectual response to salvation and the acceptance of His Amazing Grace. Offering is more comfortable. It is the portion of what one might be willing to give rather than what is required.

Offering is to present something as an act of worship or devotion to God. It is limited in its power and potential according to its worth. It is a thoughtful gift rather than ultimate surrender of our all. An offering makes sense in comparison to rational, logical, and intellectual thinking when our life is compared to the world. Limitation and/or lack will cause one to consider the amount of each gift in comparison to the longevity of life rather than its significance beyond breathing. Today is Memorial Day. It is often confused with Veteran’s Day. This is the day set aside to honor those who offered their life as a sacrifice for freedom and it was accepted. The ones who did not make it home but died for their cause. There is a sacrifice for freedom. Just because you do not agree with it or support Armed Forces, doesn’t mean that innocent men and women didn’t die to maintain your freedom and right to disagree with their mission. Sound familiar?

Galatians 5:1 (AMP) It was for this freedom that Christ set us free [completely liberating us]; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery [which you once removed].

The death of Jesus Christ on the Cross and His Sacrifice for your life is non-negotiable. His Cause called freedom from sin, death and the grave remains intact regardless of whether a single person chooses to accept Him as Savior and Lord or not. His Identity remains the same. Jesus Christ died to set us free from sin and give us the opportunity to reside in the Presence of God forever. He opened a door that no one can shut. There is not a power in hell or on this planet that can hinder or stop the move of God from person to person or heart to heart. Killing every Christian will not stop the fact that God is God, Jesus is His Son, and His Spirit sets people free. It is only the fulfillment of the Gift given to us by Christ. Jesus broke the yoke of slavery. It was removed from you and He offers you to become yoked to Him. To experience a peace and rest in this lifetime that few will ever discover. The word “yoke” means to join, couple, link or unite. Jesus wants to live in relationship and partnership with you to maintain your freedom even if you do not desire Him. I have a friend who doesn’t believe that Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life. He maintains that there are other ways to the Father. He will many times attempt to lure me into a friendly debate. I have many other friends who might entertain his invitation which would result in a heated conversation or possibly lead to an argument. I choose to state the truth that I believe, but refuse to debate, argue or try to prove the validity of Jesus to anyone. I know what you are thinking…isn’t that what we are supposed to do? Convince other people to follow Christ. To believe and be saved. To save them… No friend, it is not my job to save anyone. Jesus did that on the Cross sufficiently and completely. It is my opportunity and privilege to be a living sacrifice.

2 Corinthians 3:17-18 (AMP)  Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty [emancipation from bondage, true freedom]. And we all, with unveiled face, continually seeing as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are progressively being transformed into His image from [one degree of] glory to [even more] glory, which comes from the Lord, [who is] the Spirit.

The word “emancipation” in Latin means “setting free”. When Jesus died on the Cross, He released His Spirit which immediately created access for people to step directly in the Presence of God and the same to live in them. The Spirit couldn’t contain its character for a second and immediately began releasing resurrection power across the city. Literally, dead people came back to life and walked out of graves. Again, this happened whether anyone believes it or not. Our thoughts or willingness to believe something doesn’t give it validity or authenticity. The reality of something is in its substance. Hang on to that thought, we care coming back to it. The Lord is progressively changing and transforming those who love and accept Him. The ones who do not are constantly being pursued by His Unfailing Love and Goodness just the same. Liars, adulterers, haters, thieves, murderers, psychopaths, pedophiles, even the most heinous person considered in society today is the subject of God’s Great Love and Desire. He offers them freedom no matter how horrible the sin or depraved the nature because once the Spirit of God was released from Jesus Christ – He had His Assignment. He knew what to do. The Spirit of the Lord offers freedom to everyone just the same and continues to do so day after day and time and time again. He will do so until Jesus comes back.

Romans 6:6-9 (AMP) We know that our old self [our human nature without the Holy Spirit] was nailed to the cross with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin. For the person who has died [with Christ] has been freed from [the power of] sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live [together] with Him, because we know [the self-evident truth] that Christ, having been raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has power over Him.

There are many churches and even more doctrines that tell us what to do, how to live, and what God requires of us. Many times it forms the thoughts and ideas regarding offering and sacrifice among believers. I do not believe that someone who chooses to live their life as an offering to God has less of a chance entering Heaven. My dad and son both served overseas in the United States Armed Forces. I am a proud daughter and mom. I am a thankful one, too. Their lives were not required of them to maintain our freedom. Thank you, Lord. My dad lived in the days of the draft. He was not drafted but allowed to choose whether or not he would serve. Our son knew in high school that he was called to serve his country. It is the same for many believers. We choose our level of service to the Lord. Some will only offer the Lord a portion of their life and He will most gladly take it and do amazing things in that small space. There are others who will chose to be a living sacrifice. Now had my father or boy given their life for this country, today we would honor their sacrifice. As usual God has offered a better way, thanks to Jesus Christ who paid the ultimate price, I have the opportunity to live my life AND give my all to Him as a “living sacrifice”.

“And do not be conformed to this world [any longer with its superficial values and customs], but be transformed and progressively changed [as you mature spiritually] by the renewing of your mind [focusing on godly values and ethical attitudes], so that you may prove [for yourselves] what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect [in His plan and purpose for you].”

I have openly shared that lately I have struggled with a bit of discouragement. I still love Jesus with all of my heart, mind, body and soul. Never a doubt that God is good or that He is faithful. His Love for me is truly overwhelming. Yet, still my humanness gives way to emotions and feelings sometimes just because life is hard. It rains. People get sick. Bad things happen to good people. Senseless and random acts of depravity are in the news every single day. Sin is definitely rampant. Love has gone from lukewarm to frigid cold. This does not change the fact that God, by His Spirit, still is transforming me and progressively changing me. There is no such thing as perfect people. Even by allowing the Lord to take over every area of our life, there will still be hard times and tough battles. God is renewing our mind today with truth.

Freedom belongs to us. We don’t have to offer a portion of our life for it or even sacrifice all of our life for it. Jesus gave it to us. We have the ability to choose the part or portion of freedom that we desire according to how much of our life that we will give up to have it. It is not an even exchange. It is a bonus. A once-in-a-lifetime deal that will be presented to us daily with new mercy. Our mind thinks of sacrifice as death. Jesus already satisfied death and the grave. Payment for every sin paid by His Bright Red Blood flowing down the Cross. By accepting this gift labeled freedom in Christ, I am saying, “Yes” to becoming a living sacrifice which defies the logic of mankind. I am surrendering this life and all its problems for completion in Christ. To prove that God’s Will is best. That His Plan and Purpose is good, acceptable and perfect. I do this by experiencing it. Living in His Presence and capitalizing on every single promise that He has made me. Living this life fully in Christ and bearing every single fruit that comes from it. His Spirit will prosper my life as my soul prospers. It begins by sacrificing this life as an offering to God. For me to live is Christ and die is gain. I believe it…do you?

John 8:36 (AMP) So if the Son makes you free, then you are unquestionably free.

Today if you are a resident of the United States of America, you have the Armed Forces to thank for preserving your freedom. Now, if you do not believe in the military or war, that is your right and privilege thanks to these brave men and women. You are free to live in this country thanks to the bloodshed of these people and great loss to their families whether you believe it or not – you have accepted it. The only way to truly show that you do not honor their sacrifice is move out of this country and live somewhere else. Jesus Christ died for your sins. All of them. Every single one. You cannot change it or lessen the impact in terms of the earthly and heavenly realm. You simply choose whether or not you will give up this mediocre live to take full advantage of the prosperity born of the freedom Christ has offered us. In other words, when you give up this life, you are merely accepting a Kingdom life. It belongs to you. God created you with a plan. It is a good one with a future and a hope. He gave you grace which is enough to have it all. The Lord even promised to do more than you can even think to ask for. He offers us inexpressible joy. He even accepts the sacrifice of our old life offering us a brand new rich and satisfying life. God is good! Jesus loves you. He sacrificed His Life for you and doesn’t even require a single bit of it back. He offers you freedom to “sacrifice” this life in order to have all that He promised. To be a “living sacrifice” further proves the undeniable love and grace of our Amazing God! It is the only way to honor the Lord – giving up lack for prosperity, giving up defeat for victory, giving up sickness for healing, giving up discouragement for joy, giving up fear for perfect peace. What an exchange! What a Savior!

Hebrews 10:19-23 (AMP)  Therefore, believers, since we have confidence and full freedom to enter the Holy Place [the place where God dwells] by [means of] the blood of Jesus, by this new and living way which He initiated and opened for us through the veil [as in the Holy of Holies], that is, through His flesh, and since we have a great and wonderful Priest [Who rules] over the house of God, let us approach [God] with a true and sincere heart in unqualified assurance of faith, having had our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us seize and hold tightly the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is reliable and trustworthy and faithful [to His word]… 

 

Wrestling with God

Wrestling With God

Ephesians 5:21 (NLT) And further, submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

The struggle is real. To learn to submit is a far greater discipline than most. I remember the first day I heard the word “submission”. Preparing for a women’s conference at church, in the copy room. My husband and I had a rift the night before and I was looking for support from a close friend. Expressing my frustration about the situation and, of course, HIS stubbornness causing me great aggravation, I didn’t hear her careful footsteps coming up behind me. Turning me mid-packet with her hands gently on my shoulders, she lovingly yet firmly looked me in the eye and said, “You must learn to submit to your husband.” Say what? My gaping jaw slammed shut and my mouth became dry. I know that there was fire in my eyes that gave away the fury in my belly about that time. Had she not been listening? How could she say such a thing? Like a basketball thorn unsuspectingly, her words hit me in the stomach and bounced on the ground at my feet. To be honest, I stewed for the rest of the day. I avoided conversation and contact with her immediately following that conversation. I had no response. Oh, I was reeling and ranting in my head and the filter right behind my mouth – but nothing.

The Word of God is clear. Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Submit from its earliest Latin conception means to yield, lower, let down, put under or reduce. It means to yield to the power or authority of another. To be subject to certain influence. To present for approval or consideration of another. The Lord has spoken on submission and it remains clear that our reverence for Jesus Christ should promote such behavior. He is not asking us to become human doormats or accept abuse at the hands of an oppressor but rather to give up our way to embrace the humility demonstrated by Jesus for others. It means giving up our rightness to maintain righteousness according to the Grace of God given through the Love of Christ and the ability to effectively demonstrate unconditional love and overwhelming grace. It is forgiveness. Not once, but constantly forging deeper and stronger relationships through the release of self.

It is the “and further” moment in life when our soul longs for satisfaction. It is often representative of human interaction rather than any other opportunity. We are called to submit to others as a form of worshipping Christ. We wrestle with that. The struggle is real. To give up our way, wants, needs and desires to experience the fulfillment of Christ seems appealing on paper, but completely overbearing in life. It is, however, the beginning of the giving our life away described as acceptable offerings by the Lord.

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.

Sacrifice is against human nature. Our instinct is for survival. Our flesh rebels against daily crucifixion with Christ. It rebukes the nails that hold our passions and desires to the Cross. Yet, in our heart, we long to worship the Lord in Spirit and Truth. Therefore, something must give. Will it be my way or God’s Holy Highway? It is foolishness to think that going my way that I can have His Way. It is naturally impossible. Impatience and lack of endurance makes us think that we are capable of deriving God’s Best from our own perpetuated imperfect plan. We give up on waiting and watching while living a disciplined and purpose-filled life of faith, hope and trust in the Lord, but instead do our own thing and balk at the results. To be a living sacrifice requires giving up or it is only an offering. Such a giving limits the increase and abundance of God in our life by boundaries set by self.

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. I know how you feel right now. I felt the same way when my dear friend introduced me to submission. I thought she was crazy to tell you the truth. I didn’t believe in the power of submission but could only see its weakness. I couldn’t perceive its reward just the risk associated with such behavior. To submit to the Lord by submitting to others is NOT what you may be thinking. It is to release yourself and humanity from your expectation and putting all our faith, hope and trust in the Love of God and His Caregiving of us. The world will tell you that submission is weakness. I will testify today that submission to the Lord is power. Submission to the Lord is to submit to all mankind.

2 Corinthians 12:7-10 (NLT) So to keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud. 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.

What if the very thing that you think God is using to break you is really an attempt to remake you? What if the giving up of your way is essential to claiming His Best for your life? Are you convinced now? Of course not. The risk seems to outweigh the reward. How many times have I heard I will forgive them but not forget what they did to me… Our stubbornness and unwillingness to submit certain areas of our life creates boundaries to God’s Grace reaching those areas. I must submit my life to grace in order to receive it. I must sacrifice my life by submitting it to the Lord through careful and complete submission of each area day by day.

Submission to God’s Way is all the way. When Samuel approached Saul about his disobedience, Saul insisted that he did obey God. The Lord told Saul to completely destroy the Amalekite nation including “men, women, children, babies, cattle, sheep, goats, camels and donkeys.” They won the battle but Saul chose to spare the life of Agag the king, and some choice animals for sacrifice. Saul kept everything that appealed to him. When Samuel arrived, Saul boasted his obedience. The Lord pointed out the error in his way. “What is more pleasing to the Lord: your burnt offerings and sacrifices or your obedience to his voice? Listen! Obedience is better than sacrifice, and submission is better than offering the fat of rams. Rebellion is as sinful as witchcraft, and stubbornness as bad as worshiping idols. So because you have rejected the command of the Lord, he has rejected you as king.” Partial obedience is disobedience. Deviance is rebellion. Submission is sacrifice anything less is an offering. If my desire is to sacrifice my life in obedience to Christ, it will require me to submit my way. Give up what I want and fully embrace the Lord’s Desires and Design for my life. The Lord is clear. His Word is the same today. Still true in every way…Obedience is better than sacrifice. Submission is better than an offering. To have God’s Plan means giving up our way to fully pursue Him.

Genesis 32:24-31 (NLT) 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.” “Please tell me your name,” Jacob said. “Why do you want to know my name?” the man replied. Then he blessed Jacob there. Jacob named the place Peniel (which means “face of God”), for he said, “I have seen God face to face, yet my life has been spared.” The sun was rising as Jacob left Peniel, and he was limping because of the injury to his hip.”

Are you wrestling with the Lord today? Jacob wrestled with the Lord. He left his home long before this night to save his life. He had stolen his brother’s birthright. He had manipulated his way to the firstborn position. He fled for his life. He served Laban well, marrying his two daughters, bearing eleven sons, and building a powerful estate. It was time to go home. I cannot imagine the conflict within him that night as his family waiting on the other side of the river. I think everyone comes to this point at some juncture of life. The turning point when control is surrendered to submission. It is a breaking process that releases the breakthrough promise. He had every right to march back into his homeland with his head high. He left with nothing and came back a successful man. He had been given the birthright. The land and honor belonged to him. He was right, but Jacob wanted God’s Blessing. He desired righteousness first.

The Lord gave Jacob a new name. He would no longer be the “supplanter” who had to overthrow others for his position in life. His new name would be “Israel” which means “triumphant with God.” No longer at odds with the Lord, Jacob now Israel had chosen the better way. He didn’t have to fight his way through life or struggle for success. God gave Him victory in his relenting to the Lord. Submission is always the best way. Note that as he left that place of victory, he was limping because of the injury to his hip. Submission marks a changed and transformed state to the believer. The transition point when all of me is given to all of Him through giving my life as a living sacrifice. It is not what I can or cannot do but my willingness to do it all for the Glory of God.

I cannot tell you the many blessings and benefits in my marriage as a result of submission to God first and then my husband. Giving up my strength and reveling in human weakness that allows the One who is greater to live through me. It is called submission and smacks of all things unpalatable to people. It is fragrant aromatic worship to the Lord. He desires it more than anything else. To give less to God who has given it all for us to live in His Love seems so senseless, yet we do it every day. God – teach me to submit to all people in reverence to You today. May I find the fullness of Christ in pouring out my life as a living sacrifice – the kind that is holy and acceptable to You, Lord!

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.

Expert Witness

Expert Witness

I Timothy 2:1-4 (NLT) I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity. This is good and pleases God our Savior, who wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth.

In many court cases, attorneys will call on expert witnesses. Doctors or specialists in a variety of fields to testify on behalf of their client. These individuals are retained by either side – plaintiff or defense in order to sway jurors in their favor by proof beyond a reasonable doubt. Human reasoning can be a dangerous thing. People are bias. Objectivity tainted by a subjective perspective of life. Emotional impact causes us to feel rather than rely on the facts or truth sometimes. It can impair our judgment at times. The more influential the witnesses in a case the more likely it is for a ruling in your favor. These individuals called to testify are highly paid based on their qualifications. While the counsel may give passionate statements, these folks just speak the truth. Their words hold conviction as they relay what education and experience have given them. They have no side to take other than that of truth. No need to be emotional because at the end of the day they do not win or lose but continue about their daily life.

Each of us is called to be a witness. To share the Gospel of God’s Love and illuminate the dark world in which we live as temporary residents journeying to our forever home. Are we expert witnesses? I wonder. During the past election, my Facebook Friends list grew a bit smaller. I had to unfollow many people who I have kept on my timeline for years. The debate grew ugly. The arguments became less about truth and more about agendas. Hate began to fester. There was no encouragement or kindness as brothers and sisters in Christ began to wage war amongst themselves. Please do not judge me for one click of the button. I did not want to get drawn in or begin to have bitterness in my heart so I disengaged instead. I do not have a dog in the fight as they say. Yes, I live in America. I pray for my country. Yet, I am just a temporary resident. My home is a Kingdom far greater than this place that I live. I have a purpose in my travels. It is to be an expert witness. I must decide who I am in Christ and assume my identity as Child of God to represent Him well.

I Timothy 2:1-4 is a great reminder of real worship. One of my very best friends is a worship leader. My son-in-law the same by profession and trade. When the Bible talks about “instructions about worship”, this is the description given. To pray for each other. Ask God to help them. To intercede on behalf of others. To give thanks for them. Pray for all who are in authority. To live peaceful and quiet lives personified by godliness and dignity. This is good. It pleases our Savior. He wants everyone saved and to understand the Truth. In the words of Jack Nicholson in A Few Good Men, “You can’t handle the truth.” I wonder if we can really handle the Truth appropriately. It is not about my rightness but God’s Righteousness. His Grace that is all too sufficient needing nothing from me. Will my pride allow me to be an expert witness?

Revelation 12:10-12 (NLT) Then I heard a loud voice shouting across the heavens, “It has come at last—salvation and power and the Kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ. For the accuser of our brothers and sisters has been thrown down to earth—the one who accuses them before our God day and night. And they have defeated him by the blood of the Lamb and by their testimony. And they did not love their lives so much that they were afraid to die. Therefore, rejoice, O heavens! And you who live in the heavens, rejoice! But terror will come on the earth and the sea, for the devil has come down to you in great anger, knowing that he has little time.”

There are two things needed to defeat the enemy in our life. The Blood of the Lamb shed by Jesus Christ and accepted by us. The word of our testimony or truth by which we live. These two things are the essentials to overcoming. The Blood of Jesus is for the remission of sin. Everyone sins. Everyday people sin and no one is exempt no matter how they act or good they pretend to be. God’s mercy is new every morning because it is a daily requirement. The testimony of our life is displayed in our attitude and actions. Those who are confident in the Truth will live by it and through it each day. This is not to be confused with the Law which condemns but the Truth of God’s Love and Salvation who is Jesus Christ. The Word became flesh. He came to live out God’s Love for us and die to pay the bounty for our sin. Now we are free to live and love like Jesus without regard for the outcome. We know how it ends. We win. We overcome. Victory is in Jesus Christ. Or is it?

We are overcomers because Jesus Christ overcame the world. However, there is a very real enemy. He cannot threaten us because he has no power over us but he can spend “night and day” before the throne accusing us. Jesus is on the throne next to Father God so each venomous slanderous word is consumed by the Grace of God given to us by Christ who faithfully intercedes for us each day. The enemy cannot snatch us from God’s Hand or harm us in any way. Christ lives in us and we live in the Presence of God. However, his constant attacks and thoughts on our mind can destroy confidence in Christ if our faith foundation is not solid. We must live to solidify our faith in Jesus Christ. We must cast down every thought contradictory to Christ. We must not join the accuser or cast more stones at God’s People. This is not the kind of testimony that the Lord is referring to. I don’t need you to tell me everything I do wrong. I know the heaviness of my sin as I lug it to the Cross each day. People need to know is the gravity of God’s Grace and potential of His Great Love.

John 8:4-11 (NLT) “Teacher,” they said to Jesus, “this woman was caught in the act of adultery. The law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?” They were trying to trap him into saying something they could use against him, but Jesus stooped down and wrote in the dust with his finger. They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!” Then he stooped down again and wrote in the dust. When the accusers heard this, they slipped away one by one, beginning with the oldest, until only Jesus was left in the middle of the crowd with the woman. Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?” “No, Lord,” she said. And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.”

Unfortunately, religion can sometimes skew one’s perspective. The woman caught in the “act” of sin and thrust before her accusers was dead wrong. The Law was clear. Her sin demanded her life. Jesus is life. He stood over the woman interceding in the flesh as He does now in Heaven. Let the one without sin cast the first stone. I am an expert witness. My sin left me naked and afraid exposed to a life of disappointment, discouragement, defeat and ultimate death. But God! Jesus came to my rescue standing between me and my accuser. He wrapped me in a robe of righteousness. He has been compassionate, caring and concerned each day continually showering me in His Love, Grace and Mercy. Helping me up when I fall. Holding my hand so I do not stumbling. Whispering truth to silence the lie of the enemy in my life. Who am I to do anything less for others? To be a constant source of compassion and encouragement. To love them unconditionally. To drop all the stones labeled with my expectations of them to fully embrace the grace God has given me to share with others. This makes us an expert witness. Not our rightness but His Righteousness that covers our living breathing soul for redemption sake.

Hebrews 7:24-26 (NLT) But because Jesus lives forever, his priesthood lasts forever. Therefore he is able, once and forever, to save those who come to God through him. He lives forever to intercede with God on their behalf. He is the kind of high priest we need because he is holy and blameless, unstained by sin. He has been set apart from sinners and has been given the highest place of honor in heaven.

When Jesus was on trial, he did not defend himself. He went to the Cross completely innocent saying very few words – he endured the torture and horror of a brutal death…quietly. In Acts 24, Paul is brought before Felix by his accusers. He did not riot or raise a ruckus. He was brought to Felix because of lies and accusations that were not true. Paul shared the truth but did not argue or cry out for justice. He remained imprisoned instead. Jesus does not need you or I to defend Him. He doesn’t need us to argue His Case. Jesus commanded us to love one another. It is not my role or position in life to point out other’s sin or dissuade them from it. It is certainly not my job to tell them how to live. The testimony I have is simple – I once was lost but Jesus found me. He loves me. Now I am going to love you like Jesus does. Look in your hand – are there stones with people’s names on them? If so, release them and ask God to fill your heart right now with overflowing love and overpowering grace for that person in Jesus Name.

I Peter 2:11-17 (NLT) Dear friends, I warn you as “temporary residents and foreigners” to keep away from worldly desires that wage war against your very souls. Be careful to live properly among your unbelieving neighbors. Then even if they accuse you of doing wrong, they will see your honorable behavior, and they will give honor to God when he judges the world. For the Lord’s sake, submit to all human authority—whether the king as head of state, or the officials he has appointed. For the king has sent them to punish those who do wrong and to honor those who do right. It is God’s will that your honorable lives should silence those ignorant people who make foolish accusations against you. For you are free, yet you are God’s slaves, so don’t use your freedom as an excuse to do evil. Respect everyone, and love the family of believers. Fear God, and respect the king.

Are you an accuser or affirmer? The expert witness offers love, grace, and encouragement based on our faith in God’s Love for us. Envy, bitterness and accusations come from insecurity in our own heart concerning His Love for us. I can fill a bucket with water. However, I cannot share it with others if there is a hole in it. By the time, I get to them the water has run out. We do not live in competition for anything but as God’s Children our inheritance including every blessing and promise is secured for us in Jesus Christ. His Sacrifice set me free to love without condition or consequence because His Love overpowers every other force. It brings fulfillment and contentment in me that results in overwhelming satisfaction allowing me to love other people without any expectation of reciprocation. It draws my attention from self to serving others. My life should not be controversial. It should relay the confidence I have in Jesus Christ, the Power of His Blood and Testimony of His Love lived out before others. I must be an expert witness. To do so requires more of Him and less of me.

I John 5:5-8 (NLT) And who can win this battle against the world? Only those who believe that Jesus is the Son of God. And Jesus Christ was revealed as God’s Son by his baptism in water and by shedding his blood on the cross—not by water only, but by water and blood. And the Spirit, who is truth, confirms it with his testimony. So we have these three witnesses— the Spirit, the water, and the blood—and all three agree.

…When these three agree…it leaves no room for me.

Resurrect Me

Resurrect Me

John 16:33 (MSG) Jesus answered them, “Do you finally believe? In fact, you’re about to make a run for it—saving your own skins and abandoning me. But I’m not abandoned. The Father is with me. I’ve told you all this so that trusting me, you will be unshakable and assured, deeply at peace. In this godless world you will continue to experience difficulties. But take heart! I’ve conquered the world.”

Good Friday. It doesn’t feel like a good day. The list of to do is way too long. The amount of sleep way too small for the weekend filled with remembering the greatest day in history. But there had to be this day, the day that Jesus died for us. Releasing His Grace and His Power that would be available to us. The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ are important. The sacrifice is the very thing that saves us, but there is so much more to the story than His Death. However, one must be observed with the other for a perfect union to be made. Communion is not just that which signifies His Blood but there must be a breaking of the bread which is His Body, too. What can wash away my sins? Nothing but the Blood of Jesus. Today is that day… the day His Blood ran red for me. It was a messy day filled with the failures of those who promised to be with Him, to stay by His Side, and never deny Him. The ones who were committed to even “die” for him. All empty promises in the shadow of the “old rugged cross”. Why do we call such an epic failure on our part – something good? Good Friday is the day is the day that despite our inability to be who we promised that Jesus was exactly who He promised.

The responsibilities of today are overwhelming. I have a great deal to do in just a 24-hour span. I am feeling the pressure of performance yet in the quiet place of God’s Presence – I am challenged to release this heavy burden and take hold of His Grace. Maybe the clouds in my head, and heaviness of my heart are not about my inability as a person to do all the many things I want to do but it is the heaviness of the moment – Jesus died for me. If it had ended there, it would have been enough to save me. Perfect sacrifice for imperfect people. However, God had a plan. It is was for my good. It was to prosper the purpose inside of me and release my full potential. The pressure around me is pushing this out of me. Overcoming power is rising up within me. Jesus is with me. He is the One who is everything I need to conquer this day and every challenge that comes in this life.

Luke 23:44-54 (MSG) By now it was noon. The whole earth became dark, the darkness lasting three hours—a total blackout. The Temple curtain split right down the middle. Jesus called loudly, “Father, I place my life in your hands!” Then he breathed his last. When the captain there saw what happened, he honored God: “This man was innocent! A good man, and innocent!” All who had come around as spectators to watch the show, when they saw what actually happened, were overcome with grief and headed home. Those who knew Jesus well, along with the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a respectful distance and kept vigil. There was a man by the name of Joseph, a member of the Jewish High Council, a man of good heart and good character. He had not gone along with the plans and actions of the council. His hometown was the Jewish village of Arimathea. He lived in alert expectation of the kingdom of God. He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Taking him down, he wrapped him in a linen shroud and placed him in a tomb chiseled into the rock, a tomb never yet used. It was the day before Sabbath, the Sabbath just about to begin.

There was a man named Joseph. The Word of God remembers him as someone who was good and had a good heart. He lived “in alert expectation of the Kingdom of God.” I like him already. He went to Pilate requesting the body of Jesus. He took him down from the cross, the broken body of our Lord, and wrapped Him carefully in linen and placed Him in a tomb. It was the day before the Sabbath. It was the day before… How many times on the brink of breakthrough do we do the same thing? Take Jesus off the Cross burying Him with our dreams and visions wrapped in the grave clothes of doubt, unmet expectation, failure, or even just plain disbelief. It is over. God, you didn’t. I failed. It’s over. Time to move on. Oh but the Sabbath is coming. The Sabbath is just about to begin. Sabbath had two purposes – rest and worship. The Lord was about to make a grand appearance. What people called the end and death of the dream was actually only the beginning and donning of miracles. It is human nature to see the physical state of our lives as reality. If our perception of Jesus goes with Him to the Cross and follows Him to the grave but gives up right there – where is the power? His Grace sufficient in His Death and Sacrifice. Enough to cover every sin I commit, fault that I have and failure that is before me. However, Jesus didn’t stay in the grave. Death had no hold. It was only the beginning.

I Corinthians 15:15-57 (MSG) God can pour on the blessings in astonishing ways so that you’re ready for anything and everything, more than just ready to do what needs to be done. As one psalmist puts it, He throws caution to the winds, giving to the needy in reckless abandon. His right-living, right-giving ways never run out, never wear out. This most generous God who gives seed to the farmer that becomes bread for your meals is more than extravagant with you. He gives you something you can then give away, which grows into full-formed lives, robust in God, wealthy in every way, so that you can be generous in every way, producing with us great praise to God.

On the day that Jesus died, His Lifeless Body hanging on the Cross. I wonder how overwhelmed and disappointed the people who followed Him must have felt. Fearing for their own lives – they went into hiding. Soon many would return to an ordinary life – their traditions of religion. Too often we live in the three days between His Death and Resurrection. Accepting part of the package but giving up on the Power promised on the third day when the grave was now empty. We don’t get that far as the pressures of life force us into busyness and our failures force us into hiding. Good Friday is a Good Day! Resurrection Day changed everything. Will this be the year that it marks His Triumphant Resurrection? Will this be the day that I finally take hold of the Keys to His Kingdom and begin opening all the doors and windows of my life to His Presence and Power? I call myself a Christian because I love and follow Christ. My journey didn’t end at the Cross but began there. It followed Him to the grave, but what I must do is stay there. I must stay in the dead zone called comfort and compromise but accept all the Power His Resurrection holds.

The seeds in my life will grow with faith. Trust in the Lord is what waters my potential and develops into purpose. There are two more days until Sunday – the Sabbath. Jesus died for me. Today I remember and rejoice in His Sacrifice that made a way for me. I cannot stop at the Cross. In the natural, I cannot see how in the world that I will accomplish everything on my demanding schedule in just three days. Grace is not just what saves us but empowers us. It is a busy weekend after a long week. But Sunday is coming…the Sabbath is almost here. The Lord is doing something is us that will soon be poured out of us. Our lives are becoming fully-formed and complete in Him. The Lord is enriching every area of our life and making us wealthy in every way. He is filling us with His Love and overflowing generosity to give our life away praising Him along the way. He is the Bread of Life that blesses our life making us edible. I have nothing to offer anyone even myself outside of the Christ in me. He has to live in me. I must allow Him to fill me.

John 11:21-26 (MSG) Martha said, “Master, if you’d been here, my brother wouldn’t have died. Even now, I know that whatever you ask God he will give you.” Jesus said, “Your brother will be raised up.” Martha replied, “I know that he will be raised up in the resurrection at the end of time. You don’t have to wait for the End. I am, right now, Resurrection and Life. The one who believes in me, even though he or she dies, will live. And everyone who lives believing in me does not ultimately die at all. Do you believe this?”

Lazarus had been dead more than three days. His family including his sisters, Martha and Mary, were mourning his passage. Jesus arrived to join them. Martha told the Lord if only you had been here…my brother would not have died. Jesus told her that he was going to be raised up. He was dismissed in her disbelief. Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life. For His Life to end in the natural would pay the price for our sin, but it is in the Resurrection that life begins now and the supernatural abundance of God is released. His Power is accessible by His Grace. His Grace gives us an open invitation to attend His Resurrection. Nothing meant to live can remain dead when Jesus is present. It must come to life. It cannot stay in its former state. Yet, there is a process. Jesus was in the grave for three long days. It seems that Lazarus may have endured the same process before Life called him out.

“Do you believe this?” Good question for this Good Friday. We struggle just to accept the sufficiency of God’s Grace and the totality of Christ’s Sacrifice – let alone allow it to be the dominate power in our life. Good Friday cannot just mark the death of Jesus but the death of self. I remember one night sitting at my son’s bedside in a dark hospital room. For days it seemed that he had been sleeping which given the circumstances was not a bad thing. I felt so alone in that place. The clicking and beating of monitors like a ticking clock on the wall. I put in my headphones to crank up the music and drown out the noise. Ready to dissolve in His Presence and escape overwhelming isolation so I went to YouTube. Kari Jobe was the next video loaded and the song, “Forever”. One of my favorites – I cranked it up really loud closing my eyes. It was that night that I fully experienced and fully comprehended the Power of the Resurrection. The future of the resurrection insured that our son had a place. Suddenly every boundary and barrier between heaven and earth melted to reveal a Savior who is the Resurrection and Life both now and forever. So many things were broken up in my heart that night with tears streaming down my face. “Everyone who lives believing in me will never die.”

Hebrews 11:5-6 (MSG) By an act of faith, Enoch skipped death completely. “They looked all over and couldn’t find him because God had taken him.” We know on the basis of reliable testimony that before he was taken “he pleased God.” It’s impossible to please God apart from faith. And why? Because anyone who wants to approach God must believe both that he exists and that he cares enough to respond to those who seek him.

When Jesus came back to life, He walked among the people again. But now, He was God unstoppable. His Flesh was no longer a hindrance. His Power unlimited. I wonder if that is the message of Easter. Could it be that this pressure is the response of my dying flesh? I love Easter. It is my favorite holiday. No kidding! It is the day that Jesus came to live in me. His Power made complete by grace partnered with faith. Now I can please God with the feeble offering of my life – because Christ is enough! He lives in me! He is making His Way through me so His Love will pour out of me. Now…in the land of the living. I love Enoch’s story. He walked so closely with the Lord that one day he just disappeared. God’s Glory is for us. It rose to meet us. We didn’t meet Jesus at the tomb. In fact, not a single person witnessed the Resurrection of Christ. The stone was rolled away, the grave clothes neatly folded, and the tomb empty. Jesus was gone. Where was He? Standing at the grave of our life, speaking life to us, digging up our dead dreams, and changing the reality of our life and its destination. I was not at His Grave … He was at mine.

Overcoming death to live in overwhelming grace is a process. Exchanging doubt and fear for faith and trust is a huge endeavor that must be a daily endeavor. However, need I remind you as the Lord is reminding me – His Grace is enough to release His Resurrection Power in every area of our life? Martha revealed that her faith was invested in the future. Jesus was about to release His Power right then and there. Living for forever points to the Cross and the Sacrifice of Jesus including the outpouring of His Grace. It is Good Friday! But Sunday is coming! The tomb is history. Jesus just became the history maker, earth shaker and world changer. His Power is now available today. It is our ability to establish faith and decide that His Grace and Power are for today that lead us to fulfillment. Jesus died to give us a rich and satisfying life now. Today. The process of moving from death to life took the Lord three days. It was a similar experience for Lazarus. Enoch walked so closely with the Lord that He disappeared in His Presence. I want to be that person who lives and walks by faith every day. I want to live adventurously expectant of God’s Power manifesting in my life all the time not just when He raises me in the final day. I want all that He died for me to have and rose up to give me. I must live in such expectancy. So today in the midst of overwhelming pressure, overpowering details, and a chaotic life – God resurrect me. Lord, I speak life in the Name of Jesus to every dead dream, paled vision and unclaimed promise in my life. You are the Resurrection and Power for this life not just my forever! Resurrect me Lord to live in Your Shadow and dwell deeply in Your Presence now and forevermore.

Romans 8:15-17 (MSG) This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike “What’s next, Papa?” God’s Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are. We know who he is, and we know who we are: Father and children. And we know we are going to get what’s coming to us—an unbelievable inheritance! We go through exactly what Christ goes through. If we go through the hard times with him, then we’re certainly going to go through the good times with him!

To Give

To Give

Luke 6:38 (NLT) Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full—pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.”

Our small group has been studying Ann Voskamp’s book, The Broken Way. When I first chose to use in our group, it was really a no-brainer. The Holy Spirit put on my Facebook feed, and then dropped in my email. The Holy Spirit really operates like “A Spiritual Guide for Dummies” most of the time, at least where I am concerned. At our first meeting, each participant shared a moment of brokenness. Their transparency evident as they tried to make sense of the broken pieces each held ended with giving God glory for their survival. Some shared the lesson learned in the shattering of their fragile heart. The more tears that fell the heavier my heart became threatening to spill out at any moment. I carried the burden home with me and began to pray for these ladies. At the next meeting, as I watched the video listening to the author share, I realized that there was a rattling in my chest, too. Broken pieces of my destroyed heart put under the Blood and committed to the Lord but still crashing around in there. Suddenly, my comfort with brokenness and the thorough examination of this journey became clear and discomfort rose up inside me. I don’t know if I want to do this anymore. To look into the mirror with eyes wide open and see the shell of the woman looking back at me. I gave it all to you, Jesus. Now what? Do I really have to try to put those pieces back together again? It was much easier to leave them be. To consider healing as a scar that holds them tightly within my bandaged heart rather than allow Christ to complete the process. So, on Sunday afternoon after a glorious nap, I knew that I must embark on this journey for it was part of my process. I didn’t want to. Who does? To consider all those things that we don’t understand or that did not turn out as one expected. I have a list. The list of the things that I still cannot reconcile with the Goodness of God and how it ended for His Glory. I save it for Jesus. When I meet Him face-to-face, so He can help me comprehend them.

The author talks about a cross that she has drawn on her wrist. It makes me look at the tattoo forever marking my right arm. It reminds me that this journey is all about “faith” which is what I see when I look down at it. It offers “hope” to others when they see it from a different perspective. I got it when our son was battling cancer not the first time or even the second, but the third time. I wanted to remember that no matter what the outcome was that God is good. My life is all about acquiring faith and confident hope. I was doing pretty well, or so I thought, until our son was diagnosed. I managed to somehow find my legs and walk through the first two rounds. But by the third time, I just wasn’t sure how much farther I could go. I wonder if Abraham felt the same on his journey to the mountain. To receive his promise, and now consider offering it back to God. This study brings back to a time of great victory. However, the brokenness experienced during that time changed me into someone I wasn’t comfortable with. It made me relinquish control of my life. Nothing would ever be “normal” again. The Lord wants to make something beautiful out of our brokenness. It has been not only a theme in my own personal time with the Lord but is coming from many other authors and writers. However, the evaluation of the pieces of our life requires us to go back to times of great hurt, hardship, betrayal and disappointment. The Lord promises to make good of every detail of our life. Perhaps some of those pieces buried deep within have potential and purpose that have yet to be released. Rather than being in captivity behind our scars, Jesus wants us to sow them with His Promises in our fertile heart. It has been plowed and watered with our tears. Now covered in the Blood, it has the ability to be renewed, restored and refreshed so that our giving is complete.

Brokenness is the prerequisite of giving. To give means to present voluntarily and without expectation of compensation. It is to place in someone’s care. To hand it over to someone and grant it to them. Giving is a form of communication. It is to transfer ownership and place in the permanent possession of another. There are two forms of giving. Offering and sacrifice. To give an offering allows us to maintain our life as it is. To sacrifice is to give something away for good. To give our best. To give our all. We all know the story of sacrifice offered by the hen and the pig. The farmer cooks breakfast as they peer through the window. The chicken gives an offering. The pig gives their all. What is the giving in your life? I am not talking about what you do for Christ, give to the church or offer others? What is the level of your giving? Offering or sacrifice?

Psalm 25:1 (NLT) Lord, I give myself to you.

Giving comes in many forms. We give tangible gifts. We also give intangible gifts such as thanksgiving, forgiving, care-giving, and so forth. It is a form of brokenness to be thankful because it honors another. Forgiving is humbling ourselves before others. Care giving is to offer assistance to others rather than choosing our way. Give and it will be given back to you. It is so basic yet labeled different ways in the church today. I offer this to you. If I allow myself to be broken, I will receive the blessing of the Fullness of Christ in me. It takes what I am willing to give and makes it blessed, beautiful and worth having. Suddenly, my life is complete in Christ so giving is without fear or trepidation. The Lord supplies everything I need. Jesus is the desire of my heart. His Spirit completes me.

Matthew 26:26-28 (NLT)  As they were eating, Jesus took some bread and blessed it. Then he broke it in pieces and gave it to the disciples, saying, “Take this and eat it, for this is my body.” And he took a cup of wine and gave thanks to God for it. He gave it to them and said, “Each of you drink from it, for this is my blood, which confirms the covenant between God and his people. It is poured out as a sacrifice to forgive the sins of many.

Covenant in the Old Testament was a mess. Each bringing a sacrifice, to tread down the middle of, yet sacred in those days. Jesus was the Blood sacrifice for our union. He gave His Body to be broken and His Blood for the remission of sin. Once His Blood covered our sin, it is our privilege to live in the Presence of God. However, what about His Body. What can wash away my sins? Nothing but the Blood of Jesus! What can make me whole again? Could it be that we missed it in this old hymn? Could it be that our brokenness is blessed by the Body of Jesus instead? When the disciples gathered and Jesus performed the first communion, the Lord said, “Take this and eat it, for this is my body.” He had taken a loaf of bread, broken it into pieces and blessed it. They were instructed to “eat it”. The Lord’s Body now one with their own. Isn’t this what happens when the Holy Spirit comes to live in us. Our relationship with Jesus Christ is consummated. However, unless our heart remains broken it cannot be made beautiful. We must be broken to be blessed. That is what true repentance is after all – giving up my way for His Way. Giving up my life so that Christ will be complete in me. Religion and relationship are marked by two different things. Religion is defined by what I can do for God. My relationship with God is when I can do nothing – His Grace becomes enough for me. (2 Corinthians 12:9) Ironically, or not so, this is the verse that the Lord gave me right after the call marking the third diagnosis of cancer in our son. When the doctor told me it was back and it was really bad, I fell to my knees. I was at work. My office consisted of three walls and one full of windows. Everyone in the lobby could see me go down. It didn’t matter. I was broken. To truly take in the fullness of Jesus Christ, one must consume Him in every part of life. It is in our brokenness that blessing comes. The blessing makes something of our once worthless offering and giving which is now a sacrifice of our whole life.

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.

Why would God desire a broken spirit? It leads to repentance. A soft heart is a fertile heart. A broken heart allows God’s Word to penetrate and give way to growth. Faith needs a place to grow. The Lord is close to the broken hearted. It is in our weakness that He is made manifest in our life. Brokenness allows us to partner with Jesus and become yoked to Him. (Matthew 11:28-30) While I control my life, dictate my way and choose my path – I am not broken or repentant. To give my life to Jesus Christ means yielding all that I am to all He is. We cry out for it, want it, desire it, and even pursue the fullness of Christ never considering the brokenness that provides for the blessing.

In Psalm 129:3-4, the psalmist refers to his “back covered in cuts as if a farmer had plowed furrows.” He goes on to say, “The Lord is good; he has cut me free from the ropes of the ungodly.” Jesus freed us from the captivity of sin. The consequence of sin is brokenness. The Lord blesses brokenness and makes it beautiful. He has redeemed us from sin and now His Grace exhibits its power. Every broken thing (or detail) of our life is designated for our good and His Glory. (Romans 8:28) We must not ignore the broken pieces or hide them away but haul them to the altar called sacrifice and give them to Jesus. We must examine our heart. To those rattling pieces of the past, the jumbled mess of circumstances, and even scars that bind our wounds to staunch the bleeding. Brokenness must not be ignored. It is meant for our good and His Glory.

Psalm 37:3-5 (NLT) Trust in the Lord and do good. Then you will live safely in the land and prosper. Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you your heart’s desires. Commit everything you do to the Lord. Trust him, and he will help you.

Jesus Christ is the strength of my life. It is in my utter and complete destruction that His Power is made manifest in my life. Blessed are the brokenhearted because the Lord is close to them. Not because He feels sorry for them but because it is in such a state our heart is open to the Lord and His Careful Intervention. Pride keeps us from humbling our heart and life to Jesus. Personal strength must give out by coming to the end of self. Trusting the Lord is a noble effort until our broken heart can beat no more. In our brokenness, it is the Savior who we see. The One who rushes to hold us closely, care for us deeply, and it doesn’t matter what we are doing or where we are the moment before tragedy strikes. His Loving Compassion for us cannot help but come to our side. How can I commit everything to the Lord if I am withholding pieces of my life? I cannot. It is when my heart is irretrievably broken that I can lay all of the pieces at His Feet. Trust is born in that moment. Not ordinary trust, but complete dependency on the Lord that allows us to give our life away unrestricted. Brokenness is the perquisite of blessing that makes our life worth giving to others. Grace empowers us to be blessing. Thank you Lord for brokenness. It enables our giving and empowers our works to be the Hands and Feet of Jesus. It gives us a life worth giving. All giving starts with brokenness. Brokenness is made complete in Christ.

Philippians 3:8-11 (NLT) Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ and become one with him. I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ. For God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith. I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death, so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead!

You Don’t Have To

you-dont-have-to

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Intentional Planting

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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.

The seeds planted in our life today yield the harvest of tomorrow. Intentional planting of the proper seeds will give us the things desired in the future. In the natural, people prepare for the future. Carefully considering investments, retirement accounts and even creating a will to divide their assets once departed. No matter how carefully I plot out the rest of my life, there is always uncertainty. Even those who plan and prepare for the future seldom are completely satisfied with the results. Seeds planted in this life for daily provision that provide a sense of control will never satisfy the longing in our heart for eternity. We can strive for a comfortable life with careful planting and planning for the future. However, human beings were created to thrive. If there is no planting in us for our spiritual future, the things of this world will fall far short of meeting our expectation.

I know that my heart’s desire is to be a living sacrifice. What about you? However, to do so requires a transformation. This can only be achieved by depositing all that I am into all of who Jesus Christ is. I must be found in Christ to enter heaven. Jesus is my righteousness. Religion does not produce rightness with God, but is through the Grace given to me by Son that gives me the privilege of peace with the Father. The fine line between sacrifice and offering are confusing. In a world full of compromise, it is hard to comprehend God who does not accept such a thing. It is by transitioning one’s life from this world into the Kingdom that residency is established in Eternity.

John 15:1-5 (NLT) “I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more. You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me. “Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.

What if the problem is not our action but attitude? What if the lack of abundance in our life is a disconnection from the Source of life? We cannot produce good fruit or godly character apart from Jesus Christ. In fact, apart from Him there is nothing we can do to change the sowing and reaping productivity in our life because it is directly connected to the world. When I place all of my life in Christ sacrificially which is ALL OF ME versus an offering of my life in service and partial commitment – complete alignment produces abundance. I must be intentional.

I was visiting my parents when I noticed a stick sitting by the back door. It was a limb barren of leaves and slumped over leaning. I inquired as to its purpose. He encouraged me to take it home and plant it. I couldn’t help but laugh kind of like Sarah laughed when God promised her a son at 99 years old. He continued to press me to take it home so I finally relented. If you know my father, you know the source of my pushiness. When I got home, I couldn’t just throw it away as was my original intent but decided to test my dad’s word. The more I considered putting the dead limb in the ground rather than carelessly sticking it somewhere, I decided to choose the proper place for it in the event it did actually grow into the crepe myrtle it came from. There was a place by the deck in our backyard that could use some privacy and shade. I watched and watered it without real hope anything would happen just doing what my father said. Well, low and behold the little twig became the mighty tree that dad promised it would. It grew so big in fact you can see it over the privacy fence from the road next to the house. The roots so deep and vast that when I wanted to replant it at our new house, it was impossible. I wonder how many blessings we miss out on because we refuse to believe and take our Father at His Word. In Christ is new life, a life marked by abundance. Abundance is released when our life is in alignment with the Word. When the Word begins to work in our life, it is clear that God is the One doing it.

Ezekiel 36:25-30 (NLT) “Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean. Your filth will be washed away, and you will no longer worship idols. 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. And you will live in Israel, the land I gave your ancestors long ago. You will be my people, and I will be your God. I will cleanse you of your filthy behavior. I will give you good crops of grain, and I will send no more famines on the land. I will give you great harvests from your fruit trees and fields, and never again will the surrounding nations be able to scoff at your land for its famines.

God’s Grace given to us by Jesus Christ erased the bloodlines of Jew and Gentile. Every promise given to Israel is now available to all God’s Children. As I studied changes in human behavior and its direct connection to sowing and reaping, I came across Ezekiel 36:29-30 which promises good crops and great harvests when He becomes our God. It is to choose the Light of His Love over the darkness of this world that facilitates such a change. But when I read the reference, I immediately realized that one of my favorite promises was just a few scriptures above.

“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.” I cannot produce the fertile ground for God’s Word- His Seed – to grow in me. He has to give me the heart, mind and spirit to produce an abundance in my life. I must give Him my heart. All of it. I must give Him my mind including every wayward thought. My spirit of pride and selfishness must give way to His Spirit in order to produce the kind of life that satisfies our soul and secures our future. We must sow seeds of righteousness. I don’t know if the church will ever fully understand that this has nothing to do with religion but everything to do with one’s relationship with Jesus Christ.

Hosea 10:12 (NLT) I said, “Plant the good seeds of righteousness, and you will harvest a crop of love. Plow up the hard ground of your hearts, for now is the time to seek the Lord, that he may come and shower righteousness upon you.”

Plant good seeds of righteousness and you will harvest a crop of love. Rightness is the law of God. No one is righteous. Our righteousness is in Christ alone. His Love produces seeds of love in us worthy of planting in others. Religion is about being right. Religion can change a person’s behavior and perhaps improve an attitude, but it cannot and will not ever produce the seeds of righteousness that only Christ can give. His Spirit cultivates the crop worth sharing in us including love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Intentional planting requires directing our efforts in life to spiritual cultivation and not natural acquisition.

Jesus did not come to make this world a better place but to draw a line in the sand. He did not come to make peace but war against sin and darkness. He came to provide the way for all humanity to come back home and live with the Father forever. It is all about a Kingdom not this world in which we live. If you are after God’s Hand, you don’t need to waste your time for every good and perfect gift already in your life is from Him. If you desire His Kingdom, it is found in His Heart. Jesus Christ is the fullness of God’s Heart and the place where our life must be planted to be transformed from a lifeless limb into a tree of life. Doing God’s Word will produce good things in our life. Every act of obedience will yield the connected promise. Is that enough for you? It will change your life today and even make tomorrow a little easier. However, it will not afford you the peace with God necessary to secure faith, hope and love forever. Do you want a good life? Do you want a God life? It’s completely up to you – who the Son sets free is free indeed – to choose the abundance of their life. You will reap what you sow. You will harvest where you plant.

Colossians 3:1-4 (NLT) Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God. And when Christ, who is your  life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all his glory.

When my dad told me to plant the dead stick in my yard, I did not believe that anything would grow out of it. I planted the twig because I trusted my father. Knowing him, I decided in my heart to be obedient and see what happened. God has given us His Word. It is filled with opportunities to take something from it and apply it by faith. Not just throw it on the ground, but intentionally plant it in our life. Trust is essential in our relationship with the Lord. We must trust His Word. We must believe His Word. We must follow His Way. Salvation is choosing the Light of His Love over the darkness in this world. Jesus did not come to condemn anyone but that everyone might know Him and be saved. This is very different from making Him our Lord. The Lordship of Christ is established through obedience. To do what the Word of God tells us to do makes Jesus the Master of our life. This allows me to tap in to the resources of His Household – the Kingdom. I benefit from every bit of the abundance because of our union.

The truth is that by faith in Jesus Christ and acceptance of His Grace – I am a Child of God. No longer a slave to sin or just a hired servant – I am His Child. Do I act like a Child of God? I have shared this many times. Three of our children have entered adulthood and live their own life. Two still live at home. The ones who remain in our house have access to everything. We care for them completely. They do not worry or fret about their next meal, clothing or having shelter. All that we have benefits them right down to money. When they grow up and leave the house, they must care for themselves. Provide the things that are needed. While they live under this roof, there is no need to do anything but maintain our relationship. When our children buck the house rules or demand certain rights – I gently but firmly (okay maybe a bit sarcastically) remind them that if such is coveted it must be accompanied by a lease or mortgage but in our home this is the requirement. We want heaven on earth. We desire the abundance of the Kingdom. We must abide by the house rules to have them.

Set your sights on the reality of heaven. If Heaven is real, it is worth living for. Think about the things of Heaven…not the things of the earth. Jesus gives us a new heart and new spirit for the asking. We decide how to respond. Wholeheartedly, half-heartedly or not at all. The life worth having is hidden in Jesus Christ. I must be in Him to find it and yield the harvest that is found only in the grace that empowers me through weakness. I must exchange being right for being righteous. I must live as though Christ is all that matters. (Colossians 3:11) Before I can share anything of worth with the world, God must produce an abundance of His Love, Joy and Peace along with all the other fruits of His Spirit to share with others.

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.

Through Jesus Christ, I am a new creation. Before I anything worthwhile can be produced in my life, I must plant all that I am in the Person of Jesus Christ completely. All that I am for all that He is. This means that I must not conform to this world but be transformed. Transformation is only possible if I commit to the process. It is a sacrifice not an offering. Christ becomes my example. (Ephesians 4:21) Behaviors have to change. I must not continue to react to the conditions, circumstances or situations that I face but to Christ who lives in me. It doesn’t matter how thinks look. Dead things must give way to the resurrection power inside of me. Without faith, I will never trust the reality of heaven enough to put my whole life in the pursuit of it. There are certain behavioral patterns that I must work diligently to change in partnership with the Holy Spirit. Pride fortifies our right to be right. Acceptance of God’s Grace no longer allows it. Now I live to sow seeds of peace with God and every other person I come in contact with. I must check my attitude. Evaluate my actions. Not by religious practices but relational values such are listed in Ephesians 4, Colossians 3 and 2 Timothy 2. I don’t need to fix others, I need the Lord to continue to transform me. Intentional planting of our life in Christ, growing deep roots in His Love, trusting Him in all things and producing even the smallest seed of faith will create an abundance in our life that satisfies our soul, strengthens our heart, enlightens our mind, and nourishes His Spirit. The best is yet to come for those who choose to respond to God’s Love by sowing seeds of righteousness.

James 3:17-18 (NLT) But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and the fruit of good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere. And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness.

 

You Reap What You Sow

you-reap-what-you-sow

Ecclesiastes 11:4-6 (NLT) Farmers who wait for perfect weather never plant. If they watch every cloud, they never harvest. Just as you cannot understand the path of the wind or the mystery of a tiny baby growing in its mother’s womb, so you cannot understand the activity of God, who does all things. Plant your seed in the morning and keep busy all afternoon, for you don’t know if profit will come from one activity or another—or maybe both.

And the Lord was pleased with the aroma of the sacrifice and said to himself, ‘I will never again curse the ground because of the human race, even though everything they think or imagine is bent toward evil from childhood. I will never again destroy all living things. As long as the earth remains, there will be planting and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night.’” (Genesis 8:21-22)

“Don’t be misled—you cannot mock the justice of God. You will always harvest what you plant.” (Galatians 6:7)

There is a truth perpetuated from Genesis to Galatians of sowing and reaping or planting and harvest. This idea, though a basic concept in the natural, has supernatural potential. If believers would tap in to the importance of this promise of God the Kingdom of God would explode. The world had been wiped clean of humanity all except for Moses and his family. A complete do-over by God with this promise “I will never again curse the ground because of the human race.” This is the promise of amazing grace. No matter how sinfully depraved we are, God will always leave us fertile ground for sowing and reaping. This was a promise to the earth, as well as an eternal promise for our soul. God promised that he would not allow His Anger and Wrath to destroy all living things. This was the promise of salvation yet to come. As long as the earth remains, we are guaranteed prosperity.

Prosperity is growth potential. God has provided the platform to grow things. He has mapped out seasons. He has provided the ground for planting, the sun, the rain and even a harvest. All that is left is the act of sowing. Sowing is sacrifice. It is to commit a seed to the ground, care for it until it becomes a harvest…at least that is what good farmers do. We sow seeds of something in our life every single day. Sometimes diligent in our care and concern to wait for the harvest of our attitude or action and then other times losing hope abandoning well plowed fields to eat from other crops. It is important to evaluate the seeds of our life to determine the harvest. Do not be misled, misinformed, or misguided – what you sow you will reap, what you plant you will harvest always.

“You reap what you sow” is a statement with a negative connotation. When rumors and gossip of another’s misfortune, too many times it is used to describe a life bad choices. Though completely true, it is hissed as a curse against those who are broken, burdened, struggling, failing or falling. As Christians, I have seeds planted in me by God cultivated by His Spirit to give to others when they stumble or fall for the lie of the enemy. Do I share them? When God gave us the promise of seedtime and harvest, I do not believe it was a threat but a promise of salvation, deliverance, mercy and grace. A Savior was coming to be our Sacrifice. Like a seed, He died and was buried in the ground. (I Corinthians 15:36-37) Jesus didn’t stay in the ground and the harvest of salvation made available to us through Resurrection Power now offered to us the same way. God has provided all that is need to prosper us. Where is our seed? Have we planted it well? Do we even know what good seed is? Where to get it? How to farm it? How to wait for it to grow? When to harvest it? We are farmers who sow seeds that will become the Kingdom of God? How are we doing so far?

God was pleased with the sacrifice of Noah. It was in that moment that God ordained sowing and reaping. It is a covenant promise not a conventional tool. It is not a financial concept though it works there too. God was giving us hope. He was preparing the ground for Jesus. He was preparing us for His Arrival. Now the Savior has come, He died for our sin, His Sacrifice acceptable to God now we have been handing the seeds and told to plant – are we planting?

Isaiah 61:3 (NLT) To all who mourn in Israel, he will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair. In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks that the Lord has planted for his own glory.

Beauty for ashes. Who doesn’t want a beautiful life? The quaint little house with the white picket fence. The perfect family who never quarrels or hits hard times. The sun is always shining and the rain never falls. The bills always paid. The unexpected never knocks. No talk of disease, sickness or death. Wouldn’t it be beautiful? Yes, maybe but only temporarily.

Sin is the root of the imperfection of this world. Let’s just say that hypothetically that an apple was the fruit Eve chose from the Tree of Knowledge that day. God created every living thing with the ability to reproduce. This is the same apple that the seeds of every other apple tree is produced from. Even if we do our best to build the perfect life with the perfect family and perfect home and perfect portfolio – the influence of sin will never ever escape us in this lifetime. To sow in this life is not good ground but temporary provision for a certain death.

A beautiful life is eternal life. The point when we step out of what is to what Jesus promised. The promise is not for this life but the hope that I have in forever with the Lord. No more sin. No more shame. No more darkness only Light. No more sorrow. No more sickness. No more pain. Nothing reminiscent of what sin provided in this life but only the fulfilled promise of God in eternity. This is where sowing becomes the harvest that satisfies the soul. It is the place of completion where nothing is lacked. It means sacrificing this life to have forever.

Everyone wants beauty but do not want to endure the fire for the ashes that it takes. Everyone wants abundance but will we sow seeds sacrificially because that is what it takes. My way will never produce the abundant harvest that I am promised. Sacrifice is not giving what I want or can afford to lose but giving my all. Sacrifice is everything. It means giving up this life to have eternal life. For it is the pursuit of righteousness, our seeds become established as mighty, immovable and great oaks.

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

God gives us increase. He gives us growth potential. Grace is the power source of productivity in our life and works the same as planting. We have nothing of worth to give outside of Jesus Christ within us. I have been compelled in this New Year to stop sowing worthless seeds and really evaluate the potential of my productivity. Stop focusing on things that don’t really matter and examine my heart make sure it is set on what really matters. Am I sowing the right seed? Am I watering (and waiting) as it changes into that which God has promised and ordained to happen? Am I depending on God to grow, develop and mature it into what HE decided it should be? Am I sowing into this life or eternity?

Looking back over my life, I have had many experiences. My life is blessed. God has prospered our family and we are well cared for. However, the harvest you see is born of seeds planted long ago. I have finally lived long enough to inspect the fruit of my life. I see the things grown from my mistakes and harvested in bad choices. God has managed in His Unconditional Love, Overwhelming Grace and Mighty Power to turn them out for my good. I have been through the fire of testing and trials too many times to count. Suddenly there is less of me and I am finally okay with that. Brokenness has made a place in my heart to deep and wide for anything to fill but the Love of Jesus Christ. He holds me together now. I have sown many tears and now see their blessings. I have tried to plant when the season cold, ground heart and in drought-like conditions. These are the times when emotions and feelings cannot be our forecaster but commitment the driving force. Looking ahead, to the future called hope, I want to be an expert farmer for the rest of my life. How about you? If you don’t mind, I think I might stay here as long as it takes. I really want to plant to harvest for the Kingdom. I have sown in this life and God has been faithful. Now I want to sow for a future forever with Him.

Today I will sow. Lord, let my seed by of Your Word according to Your Will planted Your Way. Today I will water. Holy Spirit, lead me to the seeds that need nurturing, watering, covering, and care. Today I will harvest – every good and perfect gift comes from You!

Hebrews 6:7-10 (NLT) When the ground soaks up the falling rain and bears a good crop for the farmer, it has God’s blessing. But if a field bears thorns and thistles, it is useless. The farmer will soon condemn that field and burn it. Dear friends, even though we are talking this way, we really don’t believe it applies to you. We are confident that you are meant for better things, things that come with salvation. For God is not unjust. He will not forget how hard you have worked for him and how you have shown your love to him by caring for other believers, as you still do.

 

 

Raising My Standards

Happy woman standing with hands up on long straight road facing

Ephesians 4:11-13 (NLT) Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ.

Does my life measure up to the full and complete standard of Jesus Christ? Well, one would hope so but how can I really know? Am I satisfied with my natural life? Am I making a supernatural influence and divine impact on the world around me? Has my relationship with Jesus Christ raised my standard of living? When it comes to economics, standard of living refers to the level of wealth, comfort, material goods and necessities available to a certain socioeconomic class in a particular geographical location. In other words, it changes from person to person, class to class, country to country and even county to county. Success and failure are often determined in this life but what we have or do not have, what is achieved or attained. The gross domestic product (GDP) is one of the primary indicators used to gauge of a country’s economic health but gives no insight to a soul’s survival or well-being. It is the total dollar value of all goods and services produced over a specific time period and based solely on human ability not godly influence.

“Equity, dignity, happiness and sustainability – these are all fundamental to our lives but absent in the GDP. Progress needs to be defined and measured in a way which accounts for the broader picture of human development and its context.” Helen Clarke, UNDP. I agree with Ms. Clarke. Too often people become consumed with a better way of life and not raising their standard of living. Comparing our lives to those around us, it is difficult to achieve success and happiness beyond what we know now. People and society is always changing. Supply and demand drive economic influences producing a never-ending cycle of dissatisfaction. For example, I can buy a new cell phone or computer today and in six months it will be obsolete. Why? Supply and demand can never be satisfied and produce a healthy national economy. Consumed by needs, wants and desires there is no cessation to our greed and drive to attain more so when it comes to the standard of Christ which means less of me to have more of Him – humans are locked in a battle. Our heart wants God, but our flesh only wants more…

My standard of living in the world’s terms has vastly improved since I was a child. I remember spending a cold night in a frigid mobile home with no electricity because our mother did not have money to pay the bill. My brother and I went to live with our dad when poverty struck our mother. I will never forget that night and it became a driving force in my life to make sure that my children had everything they needed and more. As long as I worked hard and stayed motivated, all would be good right? The economic outlook for our life is good. My husband and I are blessed with stable jobs and incomes. We can provide for our children better than our parents were able to give to us in those days. What profit is it if I gain the whole world but lose my soul? These are the words running through my thoughts today.

Matthew 16:25-27 (NLT) 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? For the Son of Man will come with his angels in the glory of his Father and will judge all people according to their deeds.

“For all have sinned and fallen short of God’s Glorious Standard.” (Romans 3:23) God’s Standard of Living is not a set of rules and regulations given to us to follow and adhere to at the risk of judgment. Since we have all sinned, the standard of living produced by God for us and in us has been abandoned so humanity set up their own standards and moral code. Over time, it becomes convoluted when the rules are constantly amended and adjusted to meet the criteria of an imperfect society filled with dysfunctional people. When Jesus came the first time, it was to provide the grace that is needed to establish a new life of righteousness again. Our Savior came to provide one last chance for us to be made right with God, not to judge mankind but lead them to fulfillment. (John 8:14-15) He made us righteous when we accepted His Gift. Our ability ended with our choice to be saved. Jesus became our Savior in that instant. However, the choices and decisions taken in future endeavors determine whether or not one chooses to make Him Lord. This is vitally important to one’s survival. God put us on the earth not to survive but multiply. He wants us to thrive. However, our standard of living must change in order to achieve success in this area. I will never be content in things. My prosperity in life begins in my soul. If my soul prospers, my life will too.

The standard set before me is Jesus Christ. Sin was not a problem for Jesus. He didn’t know what it was like. He and the Father were one. Sin had no place in their relationship. Jesus consciously laid down His Life to take up the Cross and become the Way, Truth and Life through which I became able to achieve a higher standard of living. It does not look like man’s way. It doesn’t always produce economic wealth or financial growth but it grows me from the inside out into the person I was created and called to be. Christ completes us. We must choose to be made whole again.

Romans 9:30-32 (NLT) What does all this mean? Even though the Gentiles were not trying to follow God’s standards, they were made right with God. And it was by faith that this took place. But the people of Israel, who tried so hard to get right with God by keeping the law, never succeeded. Why not? Because they were trying to get right with God by keeping the law instead of by trusting in him. They stumbled over the great rock in their path.

Is your spiritual growth today stuck between a rock and a hard place? The Rock is Jesus. The hard place is often in our heart. We want the Lord our way not His Way. We do not want to “wait” on the Lord but have His Best right now. When not immediately gratified as conditioned by the world, it is all too easy to throw in the towel and settle for less. Every act of obedience to God produces prosperity in our life. Blessings are found in the smallest of gestures. Grace abounds in the slightest act of kindness and generosity. If we do nothing more than ask Jesus to be our Savior, our life is made better so too often it is the place of comfort where many stop. We ask Him to be our Savior but do not make Him our Lord.

Faith is the only thing that establishes right standing with God. Faith in His Son. Faith in His Word. Faith in our future with Him because of His Son’s Sacrifice. Trust is the catalyst of strong spiritual growth in our life. He must increase. I must decrease. (John 3:30) Now hold on just a second, I was born again to die to self. Who would want that? Why make Jesus Lord if less is more? Well, less of me allows room for more of Him and with Christ all things are possible, all things are made new, and my standard of living has the potential to be complete. There is nothing I can do – it is all about who I become in the releasing of my control and power to let Christ rule in me.

Jeremiah 6:16-17 (NLT) This is what the Lord says: “Stop at the crossroads and look around. Ask for the old, godly way, and walk in it. Travel its path, and you will find rest for your souls. But you reply, ‘No, that’s not the road we want!’ I posted watchmen over you who said, ‘Listen for the sound of the alarm.’ But you replied, ‘No! We won’t pay attention!’

True satisfaction and complete contentment are God Products in our life. The Holy Spirit works in us to produce soul prosperity that is not dependent on our natural conditions. Jesus raised my standard of living when He became my Savior. I attain it when I make Him my Lord. We stand at “crossroads” every single day. Just like the rich young man who asked Jesus what he must do to be saved. (Matthew 19) He was comfortable following the Law with all its rules and regulations even asking Jesus for the specific ones to follow. Jesus replied that he must not murder, not commit adultery, not steal, and not testify falsely. He was to honor his mother and father along with loving his neighbor as himself. The rich young ruler went down the list checking each one off. We do this so often comparing our life to the Law rather than the example set before us by Jesus. Jesus then told him that if he wanted to be “perfect” that he must sell all his possessions, give his money to the poor AND come follow me. Jesus basically told this rich man with power and influence that he must give up all he had worked for and held in his possession to follow Him. To trust Him. To have faith in Him. See we must all consider the cost when we decide to take up our Cross each day. This man came to the crossroad and chose the less not the more.

“Thousands upon thousands are waiting in the valley of decision. There the day of the Lord will soon arrive.” (Joel 3:14) Each day I stand in the valley of decision and choose the standard for my life. Will it be Christ? Or will I choose something far more comfortable than faith? Will it be to raise the standard of my life to God’s Glorious Standard if it means less of me or waiting endlessly for His Completion? What must I give up today to have more of Him? Pride is usually the first casualty of faith. Control is forsaken for trust. Well worth the trade but you cannot have one without giving up the other. So today believers wait at the crossroads of choice and valley of decision not because there is no promise or potential for greater and even the impossible to be made possible. No, we are still counting the cost. Do I want my pride or Jesus? Do I want control or Christ? Do I want the best life ever or something more manageable? More of Him will always require less of me. He must increase which means I must decrease with every crossroad and choice.

Colossians 1:15-20 (NLT) Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation, for through him God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth. He made the things we can see and the things we can’t see—such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world. Everything was created through him and for him. He existed before anything else, and he holds all creation together. Christ is also the head of the church, which is his body. He is the beginning, supreme over all who rise from the dead. So he is first in everything. For God in all his fullness was pleased to live in Christ, and through him God reconciled everything to himself. He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of Christ’s blood on the cross.

The Bible tells us in Hebrews 6 that once you experience the Goodness of God there is no turning back. Those days that I struggle to have my way and follow Jesus. Those times when I do not want to wait anymore, I am reminded of the Goodness and Grace I have experienced those times when I chose to give up my way and do things His Way. Those moments when I laid down my pride to let Him rule in my heart. Those situations that seemed impossible – yet I dared to hope in the Lord. Few and far between those were the times that my life benefited with fulfillment and completion. The best is yet to come. I have experienced the Goodness and Greatness of God and I am hooked. Faith is worth fighting for. You are not alone. When you come to crossroads, His Spirit will always point the way. When you are in the valley, His Spirit is guiding you like a light in the darkness. It is not a problem concerning God’s Faithfulness or Commitment to us but rather our willingness to give up substandard living for God’s Glorious Standard of Life. Compromise will never produce a better way of life even for believers. Substitutions will always take the place of that which is genuine and real. Waiting is a requirement as the Lord perfects that which concerns us beginning with what is inside of me. He promises that all things will work together for my good. I must trust and believe Him enough to choose His Way each day.

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

First Love

first-love

Revelation 2:2-4 (NLT) “I know all the things you do. I have seen your hard work and your patient endurance. I know you don’t tolerate evil people. You have examined the claims of those who say they are apostles but are not. You have discovered they are liars. You have patiently suffered for me without quitting. But I have this complaint against you. You don’t love me or each other as you did at first!”

Have you ever fallen in love before? Have you ever taken that love for granted? As long as they do what they do and you do what you do…it’s all good right? You know I love you, honey. Well, that may work for a while but in the end it will burn out quickly. Love is hard work. It requires investments. It is messy. To love the way that Jesus loves us is just about dang near impossible. People are difficult, stubborn and downright hurtful sometimes. I was looking at some t-shirts for this month. I am really loving the ones that say, “Thankful.” What are you thankful for today? I know the proverbial list that falls from our lips in the form of thoughtless words. The rhetoric of thankfulness. What does thankfulness have to do with love, you may be thinking?

Gratefulness is to express our gratitude. In life, it is human nature to focus on what we want and desire rather than the very things that we have been given. It is also our nature to put ourselves first even when trying to put others first. Spouses and parents forget about anything and everyone else to slave for except their family. You are no longer a slave. The servitude position that you have assumed is comfortable and complacent. An excuse not to engage beyond the four walls of a comfort zone. God wants to change the way we think. His Ways are not our ways. His Thoughts are not our thoughts. Why is this such a hard concept to grasp? My husband and I have been married for a very long time. We may do a lot of the same things. Our routine may be established. I am committed to our marriage just as much as he is – we are both 100% in. But if we do not continually tend to the fire, passion, and express our love to one another – our marriage will suffer tremendously and one day fall apart. I can do everything that he wants me to do to make him happy but without love what’s the difference between me and the mechanic who fixes the car, barista who prepares coffee, cook who can make a good meal, or the cleaners who can wash and fold clothes. These things that we do are not love but so often we depend on them to express our love to others.

“I know all the things you do.” As I read these words today, I am struck with the thought that so often we “do” things for the Lord hoping to please Him. When we came to Jesus – we didn’t know what to do, how to act, how to live but then He gave us His Love, Grace, and Forgiveness so something changed in us. He promised a future with a hope and promised us His Glory so we engaged in a relationship with Him. Now could it be that our relationship has turned into comfortable religion? Are we going through the motions of love but forgotten our first love today? It is easy to do. Routine gives way to mundane schedules. The blessing of God in our life as believers is perpetual. The smallest act of obedience gives way to more than thought possible in this ordinary life. Do I take God’s Love for granted? Have I become complacent in my comfort? Am I speaking God’s Love Language today? His Language is always love. Let’s dig a little deeper today.

I heard a preacher on the radio ask the question, “Who do we hate enough to keep the Gospel of Love and eternal life from?” I don’t hate anyone. Or at least, I don’t think I do. I do not withhold the Gospel of Jesus Christ, do I? For three days, this thought has overtaken me causing me to evaluate the relationships in my life both close and distant. There have been couples in the past that announced a “separation” or pending “divorce” that others found shocking. They seemed so in love. Everyone is surprised except the couple who lived together. What if we think our relationship with Jesus is good, but in truth we have lost our first love? What does that mean exactly? What if I have been doing all these “things” that were good and noble in obedience to His Word, Will and Way but forgot to love Him or others as I should?

I Corinthians 13:1-3 (NLT) If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.

What if I get the do as I do? Say what I say? Go where I go? What if I follow Jesus closely, but do not love others. What have I gained? Our love for other people cannot be comfortable and get the message across. We cannot shout it from our comfort zone. We cannot tell others we love them and do nothing about it. It is just not possible. We can do it all but without love – I think it makes us imposters rather than true disciples. What is love?

I Corinthians 13:4-7 (NLT) Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.

It doesn’t matter what I do or even do well in life if I do not grasp the concept of love as Christ has defined it. Every time I read these verses comparing them to the love in my life – I am challenged by the parameters and borders that I place around my love for others. The walls built around human hearts must come down completely in order for us to experience the Love of God for us completely. The kind that is wider, longer, higher and deeper than one can ever truly comprehend. To love others with the intensity that does not allow anything to separate us from our love for other people. Love is patient. Love is kind…to everyone. Love is not jealous. Love is not proud so say goodbye to pride. It is not rude. Love does not demand its own way and expect it all of the time. Love is not irritable so give it a rest grumpy butt. Love keeps no record of being wronged. LOVE KEEPS NO RECORD OF BEING WRONGED. Love forgives. Love forgives again. Love forgives seventy times seven which is figuratively way more than the actual number implies. Love does not rejoice in injustice. Love rejoices in truth especially when it wins. Love never gives up. Love never loses faith in other people. Love is always hopeful. Our hope is Jesus. Love endures ever circumstance.

Love endures every circumstance. I know that not everyone is lovable. I know that I am not lovable sometimes or perhaps a lot of times. I know that I choose not to forgive sometimes even though God is challenging me to do so. To love God means loving other people. All other people. All of the time. If you have arrived at such a place, if not you are with me today. I need you Lord to search my heart for the places that do not honor our love as it should and make me like you full of kindness, compassion and love for other people…all other people. To love them like Jesus not the way that I want to.

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.

Each day I go to work giving eight or more hours of my day to my employer in exchange for a paycheck each month. Twice a year, he graciously gives bonuses based on the amount of business my performance has yielded. We have a professional relationship. God has ordained sowing and reaping which is basically what I do when I go to the office each day. I sow my time and reap a monetary benefit. If I am obedient to the Word of God and do what it says, I will be blessed in this lifetime even if I never learn to love Jesus beyond a working relationship. I can serve Him and be blessed more than I ever thought possible … in this life. Because this is how many of our relationships in life operate, it is easy to become comfortable and even somewhat assuming that God is pleased with me and Jesus knows me because I am doing what He says to do. I am obeying His Commandments.

Is it possible to have a “working” relationship with the Lord and never a loving one? Absolutely. It is called religion. When we become committed to the performance and not the person of Jesus Christ. Our motivation is program based not Presence based. Our actions are of service not sacrifice. When every investment is for a certain yield our expectation is in us and not the Lord. To return to my first love means going all the way back to the day that I came to Christ with nothing to give but a messed up life and sinful heart to accept His Unfailing Love and Glorious Grace. It is in this place that I remember that I had nothing to lose and everything to gain in that moment. It is humbling to realize that you are no different today in this regard than yesterday. The first sin was the fatal one. Our flesh battles our spirit every single day. God doesn’t care what I do. He desires my love. He doesn’t care if go to church or even serve there faithfully – He wants me to discover His Love and let it lead my life. Sin is not desirable once we experience the Love of God found in His Presence. Though we continue to battle sin, we no longer want it but just want His Love. Is this what we are sharing with the world?

Hey Martha, this is the Mary inside of you calling out to put down the tools and vessels of service for a moment. I like to do nice things for other people. I love to give gifts. I love serving God in church and “doing” ministry. But there are days that I have discovered that maybe I forgot love that day. To withhold love and grace from others is a form of hate in God’s Eyes. We love because Jesus first loved us. (I John 4:19) He is my source of life and love. I have no excuse to withhold my love from another simply because it does not belong to me in the first place. It is given to me by God.

Would you watch someone wander in to harm’s way or warn them? Wouldn’t you try to wake those sleeping in a burning house? Surely you would pull a toddler away from a busy roadway? Yet day after day Christians hold back the love that changed everything. Guilty as charged. Lord, teach me to love others with the love that I have found in You. Teach me to share love first and “do” later. Nothing I do today is more important than sharing life with a dying person. Help me to remember it’s all about love. Show me the way to love You and others as I did at first!

Philippians 1:9-10 (NLT) I pray that your love will overflowed more and more, and that you will keep on growing in knowledge and understanding. For I want you to understand what really matters, so that you may live pure and blameless lives until the day of Christ’s return.