Death to Life

Death to Life

Romans 6:1-3 (Message) So what do we do? Keep on sinning so God can keep on forgiving? I should hope not! If we’ve left the country where sin is sovereign, how can we still live in our old house there? Or didn’t you realize we packed up and left there for good? That is what happened in baptism. When we went under the water, we left the old country of sin behind; when we came up out of the water, we entered into the new country of grace—a new life in a new land!

Today is Baptism Sunday at our church. There are people who have decided to participate in the symbolic act of baptism, but I wonder if they know the true potential of such a public confession. It is the gateway by which one may enter a “new land” and “new life”. An existence of true repentance marked by a turning over of every dead thing in our life to the resurrection power of Jesus Christ. Oh how I wish they knew how powerful the water can be for those who step in it with such an expectation. Salvation is the beginning of a transformation process that takes a lifetime to complete. It is the moment of realization that sin is killing us and without a Savior there is no chance of life. The next doctrinal step might be a public profession of our faith in Jesus Christ and then baptism. I love the opportunity presented by Paul in this passage and the way the Message explains it to us. It is a form of house cleaning where we lay down our old life, ways, faults, failures and disappointments in order to move into a new one without all the shackles and chains of our past holding us back. A handful of people have signed up to participate in the baptism service today, but I wonder how many more might if they realized the potential of leaving it all behind and moving into the new life Christ promised us.

Romans 6:3-5 (Message) That’s what baptism into the life of Jesus means. When we are lowered into the water, it is like the burial of Jesus; when we are raised up out of the water, it is like the resurrection of Jesus. Each of us is raised into a light-filled world by our Father so that we can see where we’re going in our new grace-sovereign country.

I grew up in the Baptist church. My little sister has a very soft and sweet heart. I cannot count the number of times she responded to an altar call to repent and start again with Jesus. I know you may be thinking it silly, but I think it is essential. Since when did the altar become a place of shame, where people are chided for coming again and again? I think she was baptized at just about every summer camp. My sister is a mighty woman of God who leads home Bible studies and small groups. She impacts many lives with grace and generosity. She understands the life and power of Jesus Christ because she kept coming until she found what she was looking for. Oh what might happen if the church and its people were open to true repentance and transparency before the Lord again? Not afraid to come forward for prayer and divine healing? Unashamed that they want a new life when this one is not working out for them?

John 7:38-39 (Message) On the final and climactic day of the Feast, Jesus took his stand. He cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Rivers of living water will brim and spill out of the depths of anyone who believes in me this way, just as the Scripture says.” (He said this in regard to the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were about to receive. The Spirit had not yet been given because Jesus had not yet been glorified.)

When we are lowered into the water, it is like the burial of Jesus…

Jesus said, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Rivers of living water will brim and spill out of the depths of anyone who believes…” Are you overflowing with Living Water today? Or are you feeling the thirst that comes from seasons of drought – an inner dryness that nothing in this life can seem to satisfy? The Spirit inside of us produces good fruit to nourish and satisfy our soul. There are times when the Spirit of God within us is limited because of the lack of fertile soil – He cannot sow in a hard heart. The Holy Spirit lives in us to change our life from death to life sowing good seeds in fertile soil. Faith produces seeds of potential that must be cultivated to become the promise within each one. It is up to us to provide a place for them to grow, develop and mature into the abundance that the Lord has promised us. Without water, seeds die in the ground. Without the Spirit, the believer cannot move from death to life.

To be lowered in the water is like being buried with Christ, to make an exchange of all the dead things in our life so that they either be washed away or revived again. Sin is washed away along with regret and remorse. Faith is revived in the water and new life begins in that moment for those who believe. We must be buried in Christ with fruitful expectation that His Spirit will take over and produce new life in us all over again. This is not just for the new believer but every other saint of God who has become weary in well doing or overcome by fear, doubt, anxiety or disappointment. The water is for everyone.

Romans 7:3-6 (Message) So, my friends, this is something like what has taken place with you. When Christ died he took that entire rule-dominated way of life down with him and left it in the tomb, leaving you free to “marry” a resurrection life and bear “offspring” of faith for God. For as long as we lived that old way of life, doing whatever we felt we could get away with, sin was calling most of the shots as the old law code hemmed us in. And this made us all the more rebellious. In the end, all we had to show for it was miscarriages and stillbirths. But now that we’re no longer shackled to that domineering mate of sin, and out from under all those oppressive regulations and fine print, we’re free to live a new life in the freedom of God.

When we are raised up out of the water, it is like the resurrection of Jesus.

It is often easier to get caught up in the rules and regulations of our religion rather than live a life true repentance and ongoing surrender to Jesus Christ. I have nothing of worth to give God other than my whole heart. My heart and life are not worthy of His Glory but what God desires therefore enough. We are married to Jesus in the careful exchange of sin and the acceptance of His Grace. When our life is fully reconciled to Christ – all the benefits and blessings associated with our relationship are evident. When we come up out of the water – it is like the resurrection of Jesus and new life begins all over again. There is no Christian who has it all together. There is no preacher, teacher, elder, deacon, or leader that does not fall short of the Glory of God and His Standard of living. No one can live apart from sin and the only hope we have is the resurrection power and life of Jesus Christ to keep us constantly turning in repentance to receive what He died for us to have.

We no longer live under “oppressive regulations and fine print”. We are free to live a new life of freedom in God. Do you live in the perpetual freedom that God offers those who believe? Do you have living water flowing through you today? Have you been baptized? There is no limitation on the water. You can come to the river as often as you like. Repentance is turning. Cycles are circular motions without real results. It may look like revival but it is not. It is repetition. Seasons are the terms and conditions of God’s Productivity. It is the prospering soul that receives all the blessings. A season produces something. It has purpose. It gives provision. In the end, there is an abundant harvest. It is how real revival begins and perpetuates itself. It begins when we surrender every dead thing to new life.

John 5:5-11 (Message) One man had been an invalid there for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him stretched out by the pool and knew how long he had been there, he said, “Do you want to get well?” The sick man said, “Sir, when the water is stirred, I don’t have anybody to put me in the pool. By the time I get there, somebody else is already in.” Jesus said, “Get up, take your bedroll, start walking.” The man was healed on the spot. He picked up his bedroll and walked off. That day happened to be the Sabbath. The Jews stopped the healed man and said, “It’s the Sabbath. You can’t carry your bedroll around. It’s against the rules.” But he told them, “The man who made me well told me to. He said, ‘Take your bedroll and start walking.’”

There was a man who had been handicapped for more than three decades. Jesus asked him, “Do you want to get well?” The man began to make excuses. Jesus told him, “Get up, take your bedroll, start walking. The man did exactly what Jesus said. He didn’t even make it into the water, but received his healing from Jesus right then and there. Immediately the Pharisees began to condemn the man for breaking the rules. It was the Sabbath. You can’t carry your bedroll on Sunday. How many people carry burdens into church and lug them right out afraid to break the rules? Or how many preachers, teachers, elders, deacons, and the like live with heavy chains because they are afraid to come to the altar and be judged by their peers? How many times do we accept death where Jesus promised life just because of our pride? Too often. Jesus gives us the opportunity to exchange every dead thing for new life. He promises to make good of every detail of our life if we would only trust Him. Nothing can every separate us from the Love of God offered in His Son, Jesus Christ. Are you allowing something to separate you?

Seek out new life today. If that comes in the form of baptism when you can lay all these burdens into the likeness of His Death and be raised to new life then jump in with both feet all over again. Jesus didn’t give up His Life so that you would like a dead existence filled with doubt, discouragement, depression, disease or defeat. He came up out of the grave and so can you. You can leave death behind and embrace new life. You can do it as often as you need it. Jesus came to give us life more abundantly. Don’t stop until you receive it no matter what the cost. If that means running to the altar, do it! If that means jumping in the waters of baptism, go! Whatever it takes – let Jesus breathe new life in you again!

John 11:25-26 (Message) 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?”

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Cross Examination

Cross Examination

Psalm 139:23-24 (NLT) Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.

Psalm 139 is my favorite of them all. The story of creation in the intimacy of the womb with a loving Creator who considered me thoroughly before He gave me a single breath. To know that God’s thoughts concerning me are precious and precise. This was the mirror of hope that gave me new life. To know that God lovingly and intentionally created me with purpose. To realize that my life is a plan proposed with enough love, mercy and grace to get me from here to everlasting life. I have been a believer for more than forty years now. In my teens, a youth worker introduced me to this simple truth. After years of contemplation, I am still completely in awe of God and His Goodness.

Psalm 139:1-6 (NLT) O Lord, you have examined my heart and know everything about me. You know when I sit down or stand up. You know my thoughts even when I’m far away. You see me when I travel and when I rest at home. You know everything I do. You know what I am going to say even before I say it, Lord. You go before me and follow me. You place your hand of blessing on my head. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too great for me to understand!

The complexity of God’s Love revealed in the concept that though He examines my heart and knows everything about me…He insists on being with me every step of the way. On my good days, the Lord celebrates with me. On my not-so-good days, He lends an ear to my tearful ramblings catching each salty one in the palm of His Hand. On my bad days, He sees my rebellion yet still insisting to go with me and ready to respond the instant I turn back. His Love for me is unyielding. It is constant. Persistent. Pervasive. It is perfect yet I am imperfect. If God’s Love never fails me and His Grace is enough, why then would I need to examine my heart? Why the cross examination if He knows my faults, failures and weaknesses from the very start?

Matthew 22:37-38 (NLT) Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.

The first and greatest commandment. The one that comes with a promise. The only thing that we must do to keep faith alive and hope confident. To love the Lord God with all my heart, my soul and my mind. The second is equally as simple as the first – to love others the same way. I wonder sometimes if we convolute the commandments with religious doctrine full of dos and don’ts because true love with deep conviction cuts our heart. It penetrates our soul intimately. It changes our mind completely. Flesh dies as the heart, soul and mind prosper. The collateral damage is crucified pride. In this selfless, helpless and weakness, our need to survive overshadows God’s Promise to thrive.

God loved the world by giving His Son to die and pay the price for our sin. My sin demanded every drop of Christ’s Blood so that His Grace would be sufficient for me. I was judged by the Glorious Standard set forth before my birth. God sent the Light of His Love to lead me out of the darkness and live in the Light. There is no judgment against anyone who believes. So why must I challenge myself with cross examination if I have been exonerated by the Blood of Jesus Christ? My faith must be genuine. It must be a valid component of who I am and what I believe. Apart from Christ, I am nothing. How is this possible when Psalm 139 describes a creature made fearfully and wonderfully…it is the potential of my faith revealed in God’s Word that precipitates the process of prosperity. As my soul prospers…so will I.

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

Sin will always offend God. Sin separates me from God’s Plan until surrendered to the Cross. The watered down gospel of grace that many hold tightly to will not produce the kind of life according to God’s Glorious Standard. All things are permissible to the believer. Whom the Son set free is free indeed. Where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom. But not all things are beneficial. If I want the blessings and promises God imparted to me when I was created, I must examine my heart daily. Sin will always cause division. The unmentionables require cross examination. We cannot live a complacent existence but live in a crucified state. It sounds brutal. It seems harsh. People love options. They like to have an opinion. At the end of the day, Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. He is the same yesterday, today and forever. To know Him is to love Him. I cannot do anything to be saved but daily yield my heart, mind and soul to Christ.

For some this will be a message of love, joy and peace as they enter a rest that they have not known. God is less interested in what we do than who we are becoming. If my love is not the product of faith, then it is impossible for anything I do to please God. We must examine our heart each day. Sift through the thoughts that clutter our mind. Surrender our soul the Sword of the Spirit so He can remove the hard exterior and expose the new life within.

I Corinthians 4:3-4 (NLT) As for me, it matters very little how I might be evaluated by you or by any human authority. I don’t even trust my own judgment on this point. My conscience is clear, but that doesn’t prove I’m right. It is the Lord himself who will examine me and decide.

Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.

What in me offends God? It is easy to be offended by the things of this world and people in it. But I wonder if I focused my efforts on the pieces of my broken heart that do not resemble the faith, love and confidence I have in Christ – I could love more, forgive more, and be more of who God created me to be. What if I evaluated my energy and efforts more than others placing my full expectation in Jesus Christ? Could it be that in my need to compare I have missed the inexpressible joy and perfect peace promised those who trust the Lord? I can only imagine as I examine my heart today what I will find there. Looking into the Word of God – I can see my reflection. Not of the person I am but the new creation that Christ wants to make of me. The fearfully and wonderfully made creation of Christ who will be a masterpiece if I just give Him my all today and every day. I want my faith to be genuine. I long to have a secure future filled with hope. Faith makes all things possible. I just have to believe. I am who He says that I can be. Lord, cross examine me today. Show me what offends you. I give you permission to remove it. Let your Spirit sow seeds of good fruit in its place. In all things Lord, be glorified in my life. Make my faith genuine and hope confident today and every day as I learn to live every aspect of my life in YOU! Less of me and more of You – Jesus!

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.

Easy Love

Easy Love

I John 4:18-19 (ESV) There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us.

Love is never easy. The word “love” may flow effortless from our lips but the moment of testing comes when it is not appreciated or returned. Love is not an exchange although that is what our mind perceives it to be. Love is a choice. It is a release of our heart into a realm of uncertainty hoping for its safe return. How many times has your heart been broken? How many times did someone run away with your love never to return it? Each time leaves a mark covered by a scar. For many love begins to take on a whole new meaning caused by unmet expectation. Our response is to build walls, erect facades, and feebly try to protect the barely beating and broken parts that once resembled our beating heart.

The preacher spoke of “easy love”. Loving others should be easy. Have you met the same people I know? He has probably those who society marks as “the worst of the worst.” His profession – prison chaplain. I wonder if we could see just for a moment the impact of a single sin on our heart and the malignancy it created if then we could see the magnificence of grace. The impossibility of God’s Love realized in the precious gift of His Only Son. Could we see that each of us fall in the same category as those who have fallen short of God’s Glorious Standard? I am the least of these. I am abased and broken by sin. I need God’s Love more than anyone.

I John 4:7 (ESV) Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.

God is love. His Character is always to love. He decided to love me as He created me and at no point in time has His Love for me ever been compromised. His Unfailing Love is always pursuing me even when I decide to love someone or something else. Nothing can separate me from His Love. (Romans 8) I wonder what would happen if the church realized the true relevance of God’s Love rather than promoting the other things God does. See the Goodness of God is full obtained in the Presence of His Love. The only thing that keeps me from moving into His Love and fully allowing it to overtake me is when I choose something else.

Beloved is a term of great affection. It means greatly loved and dear to heart. Love is from God and whoever loves God will overflow in it due to its sheer abundance. As it fills our heart – it will spill over into the world touching those who are around us. How do we get to the place of “easy love”? To have love one another without prejudice or expectation. How do we get past comparison to the place of commitment to love simply because we are so loved by the Lord?

I have come to the conclusion that when I judge others it is because I feel judged. Judgement demands a verdict. To put others on trial places me on trial, too. I failed the test of perfection long ago. When I was a child, my parents divorced. In the course of settlement, I was brought to a courtroom. I remember hiding in a bathroom stall faced with the dilemma that I was expected to “judge” my parents. I was supposed to choose a side. I love both my parents. The thought has occurred to me that perfect love doesn’t pick sides. Perfect love is fearless. In fact, perfect love casts out all fear. Fear is a product of punishment. It is because there is something to gain or lose. Whoever fears has not been perfected by His Love.

John 3:16 (ESV) For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

There is no doubt that God loves us. It is absolutely solidified in the Sacrifice of His Son. The promise states “whoever believes in Him (His Love) should not perish but have eternal life.” Penalty paid in full. Grace is sufficient for the rest of our life including every fault and failure. To choose Jesus is to step from death to everlasting life. Many in the church would like others to think that now there is a new set of rules and regulations to follow to maintain God’s Love. Not true. The only thing I must do is love and trust the Lord to save me from my sins and turn my life over to Him. A gift is only a gift when given freely and completely with no strings attached. The Word of God repeats over and over that salvation is a gift. “By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world.” (I John 4:17)

Where fear is present – love is limited. What are you afraid of? What keeps you from giving your heart away to others? The Holy Spirit bears fruit in us according to Galatians 5 and the first fruit is love. Without love, everything we do is worthless even good deeds. To be completely honest, when our good deeds are based on anything other than love – it comes from a place of benefit or reciprocation. We expect something in return even if that something is a harvest or the world’s favorite “karma”. To love like Jesus is unconditional. We love simply because we have to give. The limit placed on love is fear. So I ask again, what are you afraid of?

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

I keep coming back to this place. My ability to love comes from full knowledge and understanding of the steadfastness of His Love. To truly grasp an unconditional love that chooses to love me in spite of me every single moment of my existence whether my life is pleasing to Him or not. A perfect love given to an imperfect person. The Lord sacrificed everything so I could live in His Kingdom and be His Child again. I could do nothing. I had nothing to offer so He gave His Son for me. My debt is paid in full and there is nothing I can do to earn God’s Love or repay Him for the price He paid for me. This is a humble position of indebtedness that causes problems for my pride.

When I place a limit on love, it is usually because I have tapped into a fear. A place of doubt creates insecurity. Misplaced expectation is fully revealed. Rather than praying for God to change those around me into lovable people, I must ask the Lord to break my heart for them to allow the abundance of His Love to flow from me. What if the problem is not other people but my own lack of confidence in the fullness and completeness of this precious gift that I have been given. The love that fully satisfies from a cup that never runs dry. What if love really can be easy when I fully accept His Love for me?

I Corinthians 13:8-13 (ESV) Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

By Grace

By Grace

Ephesians 2:8-10 (ESV) For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

I have been heavily contemplating the grace of God. The fathomless ocean of bottomless forgiveness that believers dive into and dwell in. The sea of forgetfulness that allows us to be cleansed of all sin and iniquity so that God only sees a reflection of His Son, Jesus Christ. Grace so freely given at such a high price without limit. By grace, I am saved through faith. Faith is the access point of grace. Faith that a God so perfect could love and desire a creature so wretched. Given toward rebellion, the sinner who is possesses a wandering and wondering heart that must constantly be reminded to repent and surrender to God’s Love. Grace is the starting point of everything pertaining to life and godliness. I am purposeless, fruitless and lifeless without the gateway of grace that changes me from death to life and rancid to renewed. It is all a gift from God, the Father, to His Undeserving and Undesirable Children.

And this is not your own doing…maybe this should be plastered over our bathroom mirror, labeling every good thing in our life, on the doorpost of our home, over the entrance to our job, and more importantly the church of our choice. I wonder what would happen if for a moment or two, or daily, or weekly, maybe monthly or annually or even every day for the rest of our natural life the people who are called His Body became fixated on living “by grace”. Would our way give in to His Way? Would our control be exchanged for commitment and willing obedience in all things? Would pride finally be crucified and leave the church for good?

The cancer within human DNA is sin. It is an immediate death sentence to the body if not sent into remission. It will slowly or swiftly take over. Cancer is never cured. It is put into remission. In medicine, the word “remission” refers to a diminution of the serious or intensity of disease or pain. It is considered a temporary recovery. Remission also means the cancellation of a debt, charge or penalty. It is the forgiveness of sin and works with both of the previous definitions. Sin is always going to be a battle for believers. Perfection is impossible so we do our best not to but inevitably do so anyway. (Romans 7) The Blood of Jesus Christ is for the remission of sin. (Matthew 26:28) It pays the debt in full, cancels all charges and removes the penalty. We do nothing to facilitate the process of remission. It is all on Jesus. He paid it all. He did all the work. All that you and I can do is accept His Grace by faith, and live in the freedom given to us.

Ephesians 2:1-3 (ESV) And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.

There is a marked difference between cancer and sin. Cancer comes in stages. Stage 1 cancer is considered treatable up to Stage 5 which is terminal. Sin is terminal. It is immediate death when called to accountability. We were literally dead from the beginning due to sin and trespasses. I think as believers it is possible to forget this very valid and important point. Our perception of grace is the spark that lights the lantern of love hidden in our heart. It is the inconceivable and unthinkable generosity of God toward us. The enemy wants us to compare our sin and find validation and confidence in our ability to change when the Truth is the only way to be made right with God is through Jesus Christ and the remission of sin – not just in the beginning but always. Religion gives us a standard to live by and successfully doing so is not anything to boast about because it does nothing. Grace does it all. I would rather associated with sinners who are constantly falling and repenting as they grope to find their way out of darkness than sit among church folk hiding behind fancy clothes and false communication. We are all sinners saved by grace. Have we forgotten?

Ephesians 2:4-7 (ESV) But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

Jesus was crucified between two criminals. One of them yelled at Jesus, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” We can be like this man on many occasions. Forgetting that we were once guilty carrying a death sentence. Yet, in our pride and haughtiness, forget that by grace we are saved through faith and there is not a single thing that makes us worthy of His Sacrifice. Looking down on other sinners, who are just like us, yet thinking ourselves more deserving because we know Christ. I am nothing apart from Christ. He is the sum total of my worth. Without the Lord, I have no future and no purpose. The sin inside of me though in remission is a constant reminder that I will never be able to afford the price paid for my life. The man on the other side of Jesus that day had the right idea. “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” He looked at His Savior and said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus accepted the man’s plea and told him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.” Which side of the cross are you on today? Lord, keep me on the by grace side every day. Help me to remember my sin is no less or more than another. Remind me on those days when pride tries to rear its ugly head that I am NOTHING without You.

So that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. My mission in this lifetime is to show others the immeasurable riches of God’s Grace and Kindness toward us – each one of us. I am not a fancy trophy to be set on a shelf to be admired by a lost and dying world. I am to be a city on a hill. A broken heart restored with cracks in its fragility to let His Light shine from the inside. Grace is evidence of love. Love that is unconditional. It is a commitment to share God’s Love with sinners just like you and me. People do not need to see a perfect church. They need an authentic representation of God’s Selfless Love. His Pursuit of us requires only acceptance so we have nothing to boast about or become prideful of.

According to God’s Word every good thing in my life is a direct result of the Father’s Mercy and Grace wrapped in unfailing love. Where is condemnation in such a place? Where is judgment? For me to lay a penalty on another that has been removed from me is hypocrisy. I have no right. The only weight in my life to carry is His Love, His Mercy and His Grace. I must give it freely to others – everyone – as it has been freely bestowed on me. How can I withhold forgiveness when I am completely forgiven? How can I have pride that is crucified with Christ? I cannot share immeasurable riches that do not belong to me. By grace, I am saved through faith in Jesus Christ.

John 8:7-11 (ESV) And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”

She was caught in the act of adultery and brought before the Pharisees and Jesus. Religion versus relationship played out before us that day and written to return to in stunning detail. According to the Law, she was to be stoned. To die for her sin. (I am still wondering where “he” was.) They continued to challenge the Word with God’s Word. “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” I wonder if our Savior and Lord is saying the same to some of us today. Have we taken the side of the Pharisee? Casting judgment and condemnation on “sinners” just like us because we have forgotten that it is by grace we are saved. In the end, there was no one left to execute her. Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go and from now on sin no more.”

Oh the Love of Jesus! Do you remember when He stretched His Hand out to you and in your mess and desperation grabbed hold of Him? Do you know what it is like to experience His Overwhelming and Unconditional Love? Do you believe His Grace is enough? It is sufficient for salvation and becomes strength and power in our weakness. The beginning of a relationship with God is through Jesus Christ. It is by His Grace, we are saved and not of ourselves. I have nothing to boast about but my weakness and inabilities. It is the commonplace of humanity where kingdom building begins. When another says, “I was so lost” and you can say, “Me, too.” Let’s figure out faith together. Let’s build our new lives together. The commonality of Christ is only possible when the entrance to our new life, new way of thinking and new destinations begin through doorways marked “by grace”. You will never be successful in your redemption process until you have a relationship with God through His Son, Jesus Christ. This is not possible any other way but by grace. Grace makes us righteous not right. Being right doesn’t lead anyone to Jesus but right standing will make our life beacons. Lord, examine my heart today. Find the places that have forfeited grace and renew them again. I repent for times that I have forgotten I am just a sinner saved by grace. Amen!

John 1:16 (ESV) For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.

Throwing Shade

Throwing Shade

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Highly Favored

highly favored

Luke 1:28-30 (NIV) The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God.

You are blessed and highly favored. From the beginning of your life to the last day, your life has been handwritten by the Lord with a wonderful plan. The culmination of which is a future and hope far exceeding the temporary circumstances or conditions surrounding you today. When the angel came to Mary, she was a young girl engaged to her betrothed preparing for marriage. She was a good girl. When the angel came to her it was with the words, “Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you!” He went on to proclaim her “blessed among women.” She feared the awesome appearance of the angel before her but that would not be the end. It was only the beginning.

For just a moment, let’s talk about some of God’s Favored Ones. Those who He proclaimed favor over in their lifetime. Abel who was murdered by his brother, Cain. Noah, who singlehandedly built an ark and rebuilt from scratch after enduring the flood. Jacob who was tricked and taken advantage of by Laban. Joseph thrown in a pit, sold into slavery, falsely accused, wrongly imprisoned and completely forgotten. Moses risked life and limb to lead God’s People out of captivity and died never reaching the Promised Land. Hannah prayed for God’s Favor in the form of a son who upon weaning would be given back to serve in the House of God. David had to kill a giant. Daniel was cast into a lion’s den not to mention his friends, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego who had to walk through fire when they would not bow down. Esther was enslaved as a virgin given to the king. Just to name a few…and what about Jesus favored by God, His Only Son, nailed to a Cross for our sin. All considered favored by God and there are more. I am favored by the Lord. Living in favor is not the end to my trials or temptations but the power by which to overcome them all in Jesus Christ.

Psalm 84:11 (NIV) For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless.

What is favor? How does it work? Favor is something granted out of goodwill rather than justice. It is to be given something better than that which is deserved. It is the excessive and unfair partiality of God and His Preferential Treatment given to humanity despite their sinful condition. Grace makes favor possible in our life. Grace alone is the conduit to God’s Favor. Faith in God is to believe grace is possible outside of human ability. To accept the Gift of God given by His Son, Jesus and live according to His Word (Jesus is the Word who came in the flesh).

The Lord withholds no good thing from those whose walk is blameless. Now, you and I both know that we need God’s Mercy every morning and grace all day long just to make it through. Our salvation is assured through faith alone because if were based on our obedience and willingness – we would all be doomed. The Lord God is our sun and shield. He bestows favor and honor to us. Back to young Mary, she could not possibly know the life laid before her as the mother of Jesus. God knew that no matter what Mary would love and trust Him. All the way to the Cross watching her son be brutalized and murdered – God already knew the substance of her human heart. She was blessed and highly favored but that did not exempt her from the test called endurance.

Proverbs 16:15 (NIV) When a king’s face brightens, it means life; his favor is like a rain cloud in spring.

In the New King James Version, this verse says, “His Favor is like a cloud of the latter rain.” Let’s talk about that for just a moment. We live in a world marked by immediate gratification. We want it all right now. Unwilling to wait for anything and everything this thing called endurance is a challenge. The Promise of God is not yet evident in our life but His Favor is assured. What if the problem is the latter day rain is coming in the form of a storm cloud over our life, but unwilling to wait for the harvest – we keep leaving the field? What if God’s Favor is shining upon you but you are not willing to wait and watch for it? What if the problem is not God or His Word but our inability to be inconvenienced, uncomfortable or out of control? God has made us blessed and highly favored. His Word cannot and will not return to Him void. He has already given us every spiritual blessing with the promise that He will make good in every detail of our life. We must only believe. The Favor of God belongs to me. It belongs to you. It comes with a process. The process of endurance which means that when the going gets tough – the favored stick to God’s Word, watching and waiting for Him to come. The Lord will not pass you by.

Psalm 30:6-7 (NIV) When I felt secure, I said, “I will never be shaken.” Lord, when you favored me, you made my royal mountain stand firm; but when you hid your face, I was dismayed.

“Then the Lord said, “There is a place near me where you may stand on a rock. When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will remove my hand and you will see my back; but my face must not be seen.” (Exodus 33:21-23) What if the truth of the matter is you and I could not handle the Glory of God dispensed in our life right now? What if God is preparing you for a blessing you cannot contain but you keep leaving the process for man’s favor, personal promotion and lesser things? What if God is preparing you to be the next great man or woman of faith but you don’t trust and believe enough to receive it?

Do not make permanent decisions based on temporary circumstances. This is probably some of the best advice that I have ever been given. It was by a pastor. The choices of our everyday life should be as God’s Children not the sons and daughters of man. To believe that He is working in us and through us just as He promised. To believe in His Blessing. To respond to the call of “highly favored.” What if God is moving and shaking up your surroundings so that you will look to Him? Our life is changed by the Presence of God in it. To step “in Christ” in every area and facet of living. To be unmoved and unaffected by the daily changes that are the molding and shaping of our heart and remodeling of our life to be filled with His Glory. You are blessed. You are highly favored. What if God is just making room for it today? How can I be more than a conqueror when I run from every battle? How can I live from victory to victory when I don’t believe I win? How can I experience God’s Favor when I cannot believe that His Grace is enough? Whatever the thing challenging your acceptance of God’s Favor today – let it go. You are a Child of God. You are blessed. You are highly favored. I see a cloud. It is filled with latter day rain. It will burst over those who are ready and waiting for His Glory to come.

Psalm 5:11-12 (NIV) But let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy. Spread your protection over them that those who love your name may rejoice in you. Surely, Lord, you bless the righteous; you surround them with your favor as with a shield.

Psalm 30:4-5 (NIV) Sing the praises of the Lord, you his faithful people; praise his holy name. For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.

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

Soul Wellness

Soul Wellness

Psalm 131 (NKJV) Lord, my heart is not haughty, nor my eyes lofty. Neither do I concern myself with great matters, nor with things too profound for me. Surely I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with his mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me. O Israel, hope in the Lord from this time forth and forever.

Psalm 131 describes the heart of one who fully and completely trusts the Lord. The words are not eloquent painting a picture of divine intervention and a perfect life. It is more a surrender and submission of the psalmist’s heart, mind and soul to the Sovereignty of God. It is simple truth about simple trust. My heart is not haughty or my eyes lofty. Pride crucified. Completely convicted of its own inadequacy and inability to be effective on its own. The first step to trusting the Lord is humility. Grace is accepted in our absolute weakness. It is the moment the Power of the Living God is manifested in us…not necessarily around us. The expectation that Jesus came to change our situation and save the earth is false. He came for one thing. He died for a single cause. It was for me. It was for you. His Desire for us so great that He set aside His Throne to come and live a humble life as our example and to be crucified as a sacrifice for us. My heart is humbled at such a thought. The idea that a perfect and sinless man would lay down his life for me is overwhelming in the first place, but to add that it is the deity of God who took my place is incomprehensible even to those who believe.

As I write these words today, there is a hurricane headed in our direction. The sky is growing darker and the wind beginning to pick up. It is midmorning and the neighborhood is eerily quiet as the community waits, watches and wonders what will happen next. Fully prepared with food and supplies, the unpredictability of nature and the weather is still unnerving. Standing outside it is clear even the birds, squirrels and animals that live in the trees around our house have gone into hiding. Vivid images being broadcast from the center of the hurricane make it clear things are destined to change. In the stillness, I am reminded – the will of God is stillness for our soul no matter what the situation. I do not understand the nature and condition of the world in which I live. I am not entirely sure why bad things happen to good people or why the innocent die young. The more I think I know the less I seem to understand many things. However, I have come to know a few simple things – God is good. He loves me. He is for me. Christ lives in me. His Spirit helps me. In the Lord, I will trust.

Psalm 46:1-3 (NKJV) God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, even though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; though its waters roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with its swelling. Selah

Yesterday, the wind began to pick up just a little bit. A tree fell in our yard. There was only a gentle breeze. How could it cause such damage? On closer inspection, I found that the tree was completely rooted on the inside. Though it looked fine from the exterior, the interior was fragmented and crumbling easily picked apart with my bare hands. It wasn’t the wind that knocked over the tree and caused it to fall but rather the tree was dying on the inside already. When the breeze came along it could not stand anymore. An object lesson for me, I believe. Maybe it Is not the problems in life that cause us to stumble or fall crying out to the Lord, but rather out inward condition of distrust and disbelief that push us over when things start moving and shaking around us. Rather than trusting our Good Father, Loving God, Savior, Redeemer, Protector and Friend, our inward condition causing outward consequences. I want to trust the Lord. I want to be welcomed into the Kingdom of God. I must be unshakable and immovable in my faith which is evidenced by trust.

What if the situations and circumstances that come with life are not the cause of our fall, fail or future? What if it is just the conduit that causes us to see our current condition? The tree was on the verge of falling already. It was deteriorating rapidly on the inside. The first brisk breeze that came along knocked it over. Could it be that it is not the things that happen to us that are the problem but rather reveal the contents of our heart? Psalm 131 says, “Surely I have calmed and quieted my soul…” The security of our heart, mind and soul are manifested by trust. To trust the Lord making Him our refuge and strength. This means letting go of the three “C’s” (comfort, control and convenience) to fully embrace Christ in all things.

Psalm 46:10 (NKJV) Be still, and know that I am God…

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” God is our refuge. He is our strength. He is a very present help in trouble. The humble heart knows this and puts trust in the character and divine nature of our loving, faithful Father and Friend. We must trust the Lord. Trust is reliance on the integrity, strength, ability and surety of the Lord with full confidence. It is the confident expectation or hope given to us as an indication of faith in our life. Hope is futuristic. It is intact whether our natural circumstances or condition indicate its relevancy. God is God with or without our belief. Our belief does not fuel His Power but aligns us within it. Miracles are made up of impossibilities. It is such times that God becomes our hope and security. Without impossible situations there would be no signs, wonders or miracles. It is the shaking of our heart, mind and soul that reveal the contents of our heart and soundness of our trust. It is when we can be still in just knowing that He is God when simple trust becomes evident.

Psalm 62:1-2 (NKJV) Truly my soul silently waits for God; from Him comes my salvation. He only is my rock and my salvation; He is my defense; I shall not be greatly moved.

There is a great deal of uncertainty in the city and surrounding area. Our lives may change dramatically in the next 24 hours depending on the intensity of the hurricane when it reaches our area. More than 20 people have died in its wake. We have prepared to the best of our ability for the storm. Our home is well-constructed and completely insured. There is a generator with a fresh supply of gasoline and plenty of food and water if needed. Now we wait… If tomorrow tragedy strikes what will be my response? Will I be able to say, “It is well with my soul”? Where we wait is the tell-tale sign of the outcome in moments such as these.

Triumph over tragedy is found in the Lord and in God alone. It is the peace that passes understanding that allows us to draw our next breath when it is all we have left. His Love is the place where shattered pieces of broken hearts find healing. The Refuge called Presence is the hiding place for God’s People. His Grace is our strength yet only evident in our complete and utter weakness that causes us to humble our heart before Him.

Today as I wait for the storm to pass, I am challenged to examine my heart and listen for the inner voice of my soul. Will I wait silently before the Lord knowing that He alone is my salvation? Will I be moved? Will I stay put in my faith and simple trust believing that no matter what tomorrow holds that He holds me firmly in place? We put so much emphasis on what we can see, feel, hold and touch in this life that sometimes it is the moving and shaking of those things that cause us to inspect the contents of our heart and soul. My deep desire is that when morning comes – the voice that I hear will say, “It is well with my soul!”

When peace like a river, attendeth my way, when sorrows like sea billows roll whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say, “It is well, it is well, with my soul”.

Romans 15:13 (NKJV) Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

 

Peace with God

Peace with God

Job 22:21-22 (NIV) “Submit to God and be at peace with him; in this way prosperity will come to you. Accept instruction from his mouth and lay up his words in your heart.

These are the words of Eliphaz to his friend, Job during the worst time of his life. Job’s children were gone. His wealth gone. Everything God had blessed him with in his lifetime taken from him within a single day. Even his own physical health compromised, I am quite certain that he was not looking for a sermon but sympathy from his friends. The story of Job is one, though hard to read and difficult to comprehend, is absolutely necessary to understand true submission to God. “Submit to God and be at peace with Him.” This may imply that Eliphaz had decided that Job must have sinned against God to invite such tragedy into his life. From a human aspect – it would be the natural assumption. However, his words I believe are led by the Holy Spirit and not his own intellect. Submission to the Lord in all things will give us peace. The Holy Spirit produces peace in our life as a fruit. As our soul prospers so does our life, but I do not believe that God will allow us to prosper in this life if it compromises eternal life. “

“In this way prosperity will come to you.” Everyone has a natural desire to prosper. To see increase and live in abundance. It is a common thread of commerce. However, peace does not come from financial security but confident faith that there is more to life than this. A place of eternity rest offered through Jesus Christ. The Lord has given us His Spirit to produce the kinds of fruit that satisfies our soul and causes our heart and mind to prosper in God’s Word which is His Plan for us. “Accept instruction from his mouth and lay up his words in your heart.” I have studied the Word of God every day for the last eight years. Each morning getting up early to read, study and meditate on it. I want to extract every single truth, promise and blessing hidden within the pages of text. I do not say this to boast but rather to share that even though I have spent countless hours poring over the Word of God, I find new things every single day. It is life to my heart, mind, thoughts and soul. It is never old but always fresh and new.

Romans 10:2-4 (NIV) For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge. Since they did not know the righteousness of God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. Christ is the culmination of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.

Our zealousness and enthusiasm serving God must be based on His Word. Faith comes by hearing and found in God’s Word. We desire righteousness but do not fully understand what it entails. Pride wants to earn it. Somehow find a way to deserve the Grace of God. It is impossible. Yet still religiosity can interrupt our relationship when pride tells us – “I can do it.” The only way of reconciliation with God is through His Son, Jesus. Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one can make it to God except through Him. The Word made flesh to live among us is none other than Jesus. I must submit to God’s Righteousness fully accepting His Grace in my weakness. His Power is complete in my life when I do. The story of Job depicts man’s struggle with pride. Doing everything right cannot erase our sin or promote a relationship with God. It is our thriving relationship with Jesus that gives us total access to God the Father and His Power in this life.

Divine discipline as recorded in Hebrews 12 is not in the form of punishment. It is God’s Love at work in us to remove barriers of pride, fear, and insecurity that keep us from reconciling our life to God through His Son, Jesus. It is always born of love, mercy and grace. God cannot punish those who believe as it would be contrary to His Word. God doesn’t take back His Promises but daily pursues us in order to bless us. It is His Desire to give us the desires of our heart. Misalignment spiritually creates conflict in our life. (James 4:1-6) Our friendship with God makes us enemies of the world. I want more of God’s Grace. To have it means moving my life from this world to Kingdom living by constantly pursuing a relationship with God by way of accepting His Grace more and more which means I must decrease and He must increase in me. Pride is crucified in this place and submission fully embraced as a way of life.

2 Corinthians 5:17-20 (NIV) Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.

To be reconciled with God is live at peace with Him. Submission to God comes in the form of acceptance of His Grace as enough for my life. His Power is manifested in my weakness and inability to accomplish anything of worth outside of my relationship with Jesus Christ. I must become a new creation. Pride must be executed so that the fulfillment of His Purpose can be accomplished in me. I must learn to submit. Humbling myself before the Lord and other people. God has a plan containing a future and hope that oversteps death into eternity. By faith, I can achieve it. I must understand my place as a participant in this process. I must humble myself before the Lord which means also extending it to other people.

“Submit to God and be at peace with Him” is not a threat or form of punishment. It is an invitation. Like a wedding invitation all in white tied with a scarlet bow, bidding us to come and participate in the greatest love story ever written. To be His Bride. To await His Coming with real enthusiasm not overrated zeal. His Word gives us the opportunity to know Him. His Spirit is the intimate consummation of His Betrothal. We have a promise, not only of a fantastic future, but blessings for the land of the living. Pride will never exalt us to the level of confirmation that humility born of absolute trust in the Living God allows. It is the destruction of the platform of pride that spiritual elevation takes to the new levels and life intended by God. I must live in Christ to find them. He must increase and I must decrease. I must live at peace with God in Christ Jesus to reach my full potential. Sometimes it is the moment when all we have is the Lord, that we find He is all we ever need.

Colossians 1:19-20 (NIV)  For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

The Known God

The Known God

2 Corinthians 1:3-5 (NKJV)  Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds through Christ.

I have a friend who is experiencing a difficult season in life. He has family issues. He is experiencing health issues. He is an optimist at heart but the last message bringing bad news threatens to take him out at the knees. He writes editorials for the local paper. Articles from a personal perspective offered as encouragement. He came to me asking if I would read his latest commentary. His concern was that his perspective was too raw and might be detrimental to his readers. He is part of the Unitarian church which believes that each person is free to search for their own personal truth on issues such as the existence, nature and meaning of life, deities, creation and afterlife. The mission is “inspiring to seek freely, live ethically, and nurture each other and the Earth.” He is one of the kindest people who I know that lives this very thing in his life. However, knowing the adversity that he is facing and reading the words pouring from his heart, it is clear that in the midst of this overwhelming trial – he is struggling to keep his optimism. Without faith there is an end to optimism.

Paul talked about the “Unknown God” standing before the council in the midst of Areopagus…“Men of Athens, I perceive that in all things you are very religious; for as I was passing through and considering the objects of your worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Therefore, the One whom you worship without knowing, Him I proclaim to you…”(Acts 17) When everything is going right and all is well in life, it is easy to praise and worship an “unknown” God but when everything is falling apart and nothing is as it should be – this person is not enough. Without His Constant, Abiding and Sovereignty, there is no anchor of hope to hold on to and no one to put our faith in. So it is through our suffering that God is truly revealed to us. Our desire to know Him deepens trying to make sense of the unthinkable when it comes. He is the one who we carry the pieces of our broken heart and life to in an effort to be made whole again. It is hard to make sense of suffering sometimes but thank you that God doesn’t have to be foreign and unknown to us anymore. Greater is He who lives in us than He that is in the world. (I John 4)

Proverbs 14:10 (NKJV) The heart knows its own bitterness, and a stranger does not share its joy.

Suffering is defined as enduring pain, disability, or death patiently or willingly. To tolerate or allow. To undergo, be subjected to, or endure. You know the very thing that is causing your heart sorrow or even bitterness today. The very thing that challenges your heart and mind to believe beyond the impossible boundaries of the earth into the heavenly realms of possibility just to survive. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted. He rescues those with crush spirits. (Psalm 34) The sufficiency of God’s Grace that releases His Power in our life is when weakness takes over and we cannot in our own strength do anything at all but rely on the Lord. (2 Corinthians 12) God knows what we need, when we need and how to give it to us. We must only have faith in God to receive it. The decision to make the Living Hope a known reality in our life is essential.

Romans 15:4 (NKJV) For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.

Faith is illogical apart from God’s Word. Without a knowledge base to build our faith in Christ upon, there is no possible way to convince our mind of anything else. To attempt to believe in Jesus without knowing Him including His Sacrifice, His Character, and His Identity will only lead to frustration and failure. Jesus is the Word of God. He came wrapped in flesh to be our living love story. (John 1:14) The Cross is unpleasant. His Death violent. His Blood shed quite messy. It is all relevant to the story and without it – God remains unknown to us. Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life. We can know who God is by name but become His Child or know Him. God loves you. He loves me. Jesus died for every single human being on the earth. It is totally up to us in accordance to freedom to choose to know Jesus or not. The seed of faith must be planted in the Word of God to grow and mature into confident hope. This is the substance of things hoped for and evidence of the unseen reality of the Living God at work in us and through us. Without faith, it is impossible to please God. When God becomes known to us, His Comfort surrounds us. He doesn’t make our life comfortable but gives us love, joy and peace from the inside out.

Acts 9:25 (NKJV) Then the churches throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had peace and were edified. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, they were multiplied.

God has given us a Comforter. He is the Holy Spirit. The essence of Christ released when He died on the cross and made available to all of mankind through His Sacrifice. The veil or curtain in the manmade temple which separated God and His People was destroyed in that moment. Free access to God in His Presence offered to all who come by way of Christ. We need God’s Word to know Him and His Spirit to be known by Him.

Those who walk in reverence to God (fear) and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit where multiplied even in the heavy persecution of the early church. The word “comfort” used in this passage comes from the word “paraklesis” which means calling alongside to help, to comfort, to give consolation and encouragement. The Holy Spirit is the one who produces the inner peace that allows us to walk by faith and not by sight as instructed. (2 Corinthians 5) “Paraklete” means strengthening presence or the one who upholds those appealing for assistance. The Presence of God is essential for our successful navigation of trials, troubles and trauma in life. It doesn’t make sense. Jesus warned that as sin grew rampant and love would grow cold. There would be wars and rumors of war. There would be hard times. Those who endure to the end will be saved. This means that no one is exempt from such adversity in life but that we all can overcome through the Word of God and His Spirit. True worshippers do so in Spirit and in Truth. (John 4) And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death.” (Revelation 12:11)

2 Corinthians 4:7-10 (NKJV) But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed—always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.

“That which does not kill us, makes us stronger.” (Friedrich Nietzsche) The humanistic statement quoted by many is simply not true. What doesn’t kill us can make us bitter and broken. It can destroy our soul with vacant barrenness as the last shred of hope is consumed by fiery trial. The treasure I have is the Known God who loves me. He is constant. He is in control. He is good. He is always working for my good and His Glory in the worst of all possible situations. Faith in God is my comfort zone. I must leave the earthly comfort of complacency, compromise, and conventional thinking to know Him. I must accept the terms and conditions of salvation which require a Savior and Old Rugged Cross. I know it makes you uncomfortable to owe someone something. The flipside of the coin is certain death. To live a life that ends in torment forever. Thanks be to God that though there is suffering and sorrow in life – my hope is secure. Faith in God makes all things possible. He comes close to us in our brokenness to be our comfort. He is the Resurrection and Life but to experience these qualities something must die.

We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed—always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.

I am praying for my friend today. His heart is heavy. Hope is waning. He is struggling to maintain happiness and hope without substance. His Faith is in an Unknown God defined by his mind. The Unknown God will never be enough. We must know God to enter His Presence and live in it. You know your own suffering today. Your heart can well define its sorrow. Bad news may have come calling. It has visited me recently too. It is only by faith and trust which gives way to confident hope that I am still here. God knows what I need and how to deliver. His Spirit comforts me, encourages me and restores me when emptiness threatens to overtake me. Christ is enough. He must be our portion. We must live in Christ to know God and experience His Glory and Goodness in our life. His Way is always better which means I must yield my way to Him. Even when that way is dark and foreboding, I must go where He goes, doing what He does, saying what He says, and becoming who He has called me to be. I must decrease so Christ increases in my life. (John 3:30) It is only then that we do not fear the messenger but fully embrace the Word. Only then can I take my eyes off the giant and turn to my Champion. I have hope that is eternal and cannot be stripped away. Living hope. He is the Known God to all who seek Him. His Name is Jesus Christ.

I Peter 1:3-5 (NKJV) Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

 

Simply Repent

Girl Praying With Hands On Bible

I John 1:9 (NKJV) If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

During worship on Sunday morning with lifted hands our congregation sang together, “Holy Spirit you are welcome here…” In the midst of mixed melody as voices melded together inviting the Lord to join us, I heard the whisper of the man standing behind me. I promise I was not ease dropping and I definitely was pressing into the Presence of God all around us. Yet, his words caught my attention and immediate my heart was shattered in that moment. He simply said, “Jesus, forgive me of my sins.” It was soft and intimate. Like one might whisper to a loved one in an embrace. The intent of his heart rolling of his lips in the sweetest apology that I know melted God’s Heart. It made me ask myself when was the last time that I came to the Lord and chose simply to repent?

This verse brings back memories of a scripture memorization challenge in high school. More years ago than I care to count, we were given packets of cards to memorize just one verse per week. This would be the card on top. The significance only now sinking in after many decades. Our life in Jesus Christ begins and ends in simple repentance. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us. He does it all. Not only does He accept our apology but unlike in the realm of humanity – the Lord chooses to restore our righteousness or right standing on the spot without anything else from us. True repentance opens the door to righteousness. To humble myself before the Lord and to say, I have sinned and I am sorry opens the door to prosperity in the life of a believer. Obedience does not change the heart or mind of God toward us. It is repentance that does that. If I could have done anything to save myself from sin, then salvation may have been something altogether different. But the truth is that apart from Jesus Christ, I am nothing. I have no future. I cannot produce anything good in my life including salvation. It is the single most important step of faith that secures future hope for all mankind.

Luke 18:9-14 (NKJV) Also He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’ And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

The Pharisee

Romans 3:23-25 (NKJV) For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed…

We all have sinned and fallen short of God’s Glory. God has justified us freely by His Grace through the redemption offered by Jesus Christ. God accepted His Blood sacrifice as enough to repay every single sin ever committed past, present and future. By way of the Cross, those who humble themselves before the Lord and repent will receive God’s Glory in their life. Note it does not give a list of demands or expectations other than we come with open hearts to receive the Lord. The Pharisee came to the temple to pray. He came to repay an obligation. His routine ritual defined by religion. He prayed loudly so everyone could hear him. He used comparison to prove his ceremonial worthiness. He was prideful. He was arrogant. This man left the temple the same way that he arrived. Full of self. Full of sin.

The Tax Collector

Micah 6:8 (NKJV) He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?

James 4:10 (NKJV) Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.

The tax collector came to the same temple to pray in the exact same condition as the Pharisee. Obedience will never take the place of repentance. It implies that salvation can be earned which is not true. It is offered and received by the humble. Those who are willing to come before the Lord and confess their sins from an honest and forthright heart. The Pharisee compared his life to the other people who came to pray and worship God. Comparison will always keep us from the Cross. My calling is to walk humbly with my God. I cannot do that trying to be like or be better than anyone else. I must keep my eyes on Jesus Christ and keep the way clear. He is close to the brokenhearted. Those who fully expose their heart to the Lord cannot do so without repentance. A relationship defined by love cannot stand to have anything barring access to the other. When we hurt someone we love, we should apologize. To fully restore the relationship there must be some kind of repentance.

What does it mean to repent? The word comes from Latin origin meaning repentir or “to regret” and poenitire to “make sorry”. The Old French definition means to feel such regret for sins as produces an amendment of life. The origin of the words regret and repent are connected. One should produce the other. According to Dictionary.com, repent means to feel such sorrow for sin or fault as to be disposed to change one’s life for the better. To repent means to ask God’s Forgiveness through Jesus Christ and turn from that thing which brought you there. I cannot live a successful life with God is I am not consciously aware of the sin that separates us and take the time to simply repent. Romans 3:23-25 makes it clear that 1) We have all sinned and need God’s Forgiveness; 2) None of us can afford to repay the debt associated with our sin so we need Jesus; 3) the only way salvation can be received is to accept it and obtain it freely; and 4) There is nothing I can do to repay Jesus for one ounce of His Blood so I must live in humble acquisition of His Grace. This is an act of humility. There is nothing I can do to save myself. My life is no longer my own.

Proverbs 28:13 (NKJV) He who covers his sins will not prosper, but whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy.

The person who covers his sins will not prosper. There is a subtle truth in this statement that pride and self-preservation would like for us to overlook. The enemy will continually offer substitutions for true repentance and water down grace if possible by offering excuses for our indiscretions. The worst one of all is comparison. The truth is my first sin was the only sin needed to condemn my life to certain death. It required every single ounce of Jesus’ blood in repayment. God did that for me. Jesus died for me. There are many empty altars in the House of God with rooms full of Pharisees trying to pretend that sin is not their problem any longer. The few who do choose to live at the foot of the Cross are afraid of judgement by the religious order of the day and quietly whisper to God from their seats. I wonder what would happen if we all chose to simply repent before the Lord as the tax collector did that day. To say to the Lord, “God, be merciful to me a sinner!”

2 Chronicles 7:14-15 (NKJV)  if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land. Now My eyes will be open and My ears attentive to prayer made in this place.

Could it be that the church is going about this revival thing all wrong? What if the Lord is listening and waiting for a people to humble themselves, pray and seek His Face willing to turn from their sin and simply repent. The Word of God says that He will hear from heaven, forgive us and heal our land. We must humble our heart before the Lord at every opportunity. True love is defined by forgiveness. Constant grace for each other as offered by the Lord to us. We must learn to live in love with Jesus. We do this by living a truly repentant life that is not afraid to humble our life at the foot of the Cross. To kneel at the local altar in our churches. To say, “I am a sinner who needs God’s Grace.” The confession of an obedient servant touched my heart yesterday. His apology was soft, honest and sincere. His words laced with love, awe and admiration. They broke my heart for my Savior all over again and within a few short minutes, I was doing the same. It was freeing. I felt a peace flood over me. Worries and cares melted off of me. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted. Our willingness to expose all of our life including our shortcomings and sin to the life-giving and life-changing Power of the Living God will never take anything from us we do not want or force anything upon us. It will break every chain holding back God’s Blessing and Prosperity in our life. It is my earnest and heartfelt intent to start each day from this place. To simply repent and walk humbly with my God.

Psalm 26:4 (NKJV) Examine me, O Lord, and prove me; try my mind and my heart.

Psalm 51:9-12 (NKJV) Hide Your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from Your presence, and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, and uphold me by Your generous Spirit.