Now and Later

Now and Later

James 1:12 (NLT) God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.

When I was a kid, my favorite candy was called “Now and Later”. Small squares of taffy individually wrapped in a variety of flavors wrapped in colorful paper sold at every corner store. A bit sour at first, it took a while to chew it until it softened and completely swallow it because it stuck to every corner of your mouth. The inventor decided to take a bar of taffy and cut it up so it could be enjoyed – you guessed it – now and later. Previously the bar was sold in whole pieces so it had to be consumed all at once. Surprisingly this candy has withstood the test of time and is still available in nineteen different flavors. Have you ever eaten a “Now and Later” candy? It is very dense, thick and chewy. At first it requires a great deal of jaw strength and a whole lot of work to make it soft enough to enjoy. It takes a while to process and swallow to digest. So it is with faith and the process is called endurance. The only requirement is patience.

God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation now. Afterward (later), they will receive the crown of life that God promised to those who love him. Why would God test and tempt us now? He doesn’t. God will test us, but it is our flesh that does the tempting. Today – there are many in the middle of a test who think God is tempting them or otherwise engaging them in this difficult process. It is human nature to try to escape those situations and conditions that require us to “patiently endure.” Who wants to be stretched? Who asks to struggle? Yet throughout our life certain circumstances and difficult conditions call for this very thing. We must learn to patiently endure because Jesus told us those who “endure to the end will be saved.” I think we have painted a multifaceted picture with brilliant color of what that means in accordance with our situation or condition. However, God in all things sets forth a redemption process in our life. We endure the process and He produces the outcome. Not just any outcome, the best of all possible outcomes. He gives us victory in all things through His Son, Jesus Christ. We are overcomers.

What does it mean to patiently endure? I looked up both words and here is what I have come up with. To be patient means bearing provocation. Provocation is anything that incites, instigates, angers or irritates. Provocation occurs each day. People seem to be the ones who hit the deepest nerve and many will give credit to the enemy. Proverbs tells us that if we fall under pressure that our strength is too small. There is no provocation that can overtake us unless it is our reaction to give in to it. Provocation is like the giant taunting David in the midst of the battlefield. His words and verbal attack could not hurt God’s Man. He patiently endured his brothers ridicule and the Philistines banter. He won!

To be patient means bearing annoyance. I grow annoyed every day don’t you? Little things become bigger things by dwelling upon them. How many thorns in the flesh do you have? Overcoming annoyance means to learn to ignore disturbances and those pointless arguments. We must learn to focus on the One who brings peace and rest to our mind, will and emotions. Those who trust the Lord will have perfect peace. Annoyances become disturbances that distract us. Leading us from following Jesus to be driven by the fuel of emotionalism.

To be patient means bearing misfortune. Everything may not work out the way that we think it will or expect it to but that does not mean it is not working in our favor. God takes every detail of our life and works it out for our good and His Glory. When reading the Gospels, it is hard to understand sometimes the doubt and disbelief exhibited by the disciples. However, we have the whole picture. We see Jesus on the Cross. We know that He released His Spirit and soon it would be available to us. We know that He is coming back from the dead and resurrected to life. But to these men, this was real life. Depicted in real time without a higher perspective or futuristic vantage point. They say Jesus persecuted. They witnessed the violent beatings and torture of the Man they called Messiah. They heard the nails being driven into His Hands and Feet. They experienced the humiliation of the Cross and the belittling of those who watched everything they believed made a sacrifice that day. We were not. We are given the whole story beginning to end. Yet many still do not believe…it was the same then as it is now. Unmet expectation only means that it was not in Jesus Christ. He will fulfill every desire of our heart if we are patient in misfortune.

Patience is bearing delays, deferment or postponement in life. It means taking a seat right there and being still when God says, “Wait.” I don’t like to wait. In fact, over time I can see all the ways the Lord has offered me opportunities to learn to wait. A little here and a little more there. Over time, I have become much more patient. From my early childhood to young adulthood, my grandmother probably told me once a day – you must be patient. The church told me no matter what to never pray for patience for the process is too hard. Knowing all this, the Word of God tells me that I must by all means endure the process that produces patience to receive God’s Blessing. Proverbs says a hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a dream fulfilled is a tree of life. I wonder if God proverbially calls life a tree so that we will come to realize growing faith is a slow process involving many seasons. We will wait. Those who wait in the Lord are promised not just the strength to do so but in their humble state to be lifted up at just the right time. I know you are tired of waiting – I feel your pain. I also know the joy and life that comes when the dream or desire is finally fulfilled. It is always worth the wait.

To be patient is to bear hardship. Life is hard. Bad things happen to good people. Sin is the rampant. Love has grown cold. Worldly expectation cannot count on fulfillment because the heart is fickle. Difficulties are certain. Oppression will come. Suffering is inevitable. Feeling any better yet?

Of course, the final thing and probably the one most understood is pain. Human beings experience pain from birth. It is a common thread. We know how to support each other through painful processes including physical infirmities, emotional breakdowns and mental suffering. Most people have some form of compassion. Pain is part of life because of sin. It was introduced by the first humans who chose their way over God’s Plan. They picked the lie over the Truth and so here we are now. Your sin does not necessarily produce the pain in your life because of anything you do or do not do. It is just a prevailing factor of human depravity. If a virus or germ goes undetected by our immune system, it becomes an infection. If our body doesn’t come against it fighting it, it will lead to death. Sin is a factor in our DNA. God’s Word, His Will and His Way are given to us and we are guided by His Spirit to avoid it. However, we are still subject to the invasion of our life due to the sin that is already here. God’s Grace given in Jesus Christ has broken the power of sin and death over our life. Though there is pain, there is the promise that He will relieve our pain, wipe our tears, and heal us forever.

All of those bearings in life will inevitably happen in your lifetime, but the thing that makes the difference between going through them or to do so patiently is this: to do so with fortitude and calm without complaint, anger or the like. I have endured many things in life. However, by definition there are not many of them which I have done so successfully. I have quit and I have definitely complained. I have been angry. Pitched a fit. Walked away. How about you? God uses these natural situations and everyday occurs us to teach us endurance. To endure means to bear without resistance, to hold out against, to sustain without impairment. It is to tolerate and put up with it. Those who learn to do so are promised God’s Blessing in their life now and later.

Maybe you are thinking as you read this – you have outlined my life, trials, tests and temptation in great detail – are you really trying to make me feel better about it? “Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know when your faith is tested, your endurance has a change to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing!” God has a purpose in this process called life. It is not easy. It requires patient endurance that is only possible by faith and confident hope. That is not easy either – faith is evidence of unseen things that cannot be experienced in the natural. It is to explore possibility in the impossible. It to live a life that is illogical compared to our flesh and human nature. It takes time to produce such a change in the heart and mind. Trouble is when the pressure and pain that produces endurance hit us – it is our desire and temptation to escape. Temptation is the personal desire to give up, give in, or go another way when faced with obstacles and oppression the force the God in us to be expelled from us. The pressure of death to life is overwhelming. New life takes time. Like a tree planted by the riverbank going through many seasons, but the promise is that we will prosper in all of them. A tree must withstand every season because it is planted with deep roots in the ground. What about you? Are you planted in a firm foundation of faith? Are you patiently enduring the change of each season? Are you struggling just to hang on? Does the end of your rope appear to be a disappearing thread?

I Peter 2:19-21 (NLT) For God is pleased when, conscious of his will, you patiently endure unjust treatment. Of course, you get no credit for being patient if you are beaten for doing wrong. But if you suffer for doing good and endure it patiently, God is pleased with you. For God called you to do good, even if it means suffering, just as Christ suffered for you. He is your example, and you must follow in his steps.

I used to perceive God only as futuristic. This was my way of avoiding the things I did not understand or could not reconcile to the Love of God and found contradictory to His Character. There will be things in my heart and mind that I struggle with. Certain outcomes that do not meet my expectation. Are you patiently enduring today or just struggling to get by? I want to encourage you today. If we decide to apply faith and confidence to our struggles each day, it will produce peace and joy as God begins to complete the work that He began in us. Do not be discouraged. The disciples struggled to believe in all things with Jesus right there with them. God is pleased when we patiently endure. He did not say that we were perfect, He is perfect. It is His Perfection that blesses us as He makes good out of every detail of our life. We must only try wholehearted to seek Him and we will find Him. Patient endurance is holding on to our faith without wavering from our faith. He knows life is hard. He knows we are tempted. He knows we are only human. He is working every detail for our good. His Blessing is not our success or failure to overcome the obstacles presented in each day but our simple obedience called patient endurance.

Mark 6:47-50 (NLT)  Late that night, the disciples were in their boat in the middle of the lake, and Jesus was alone on land. He saw that they were in serious trouble, rowing hard and struggling against the wind and waves. About three o’clock in the morning Jesus came toward them, walking on the water. He intended to go past them, but when they saw him walking on the water, they cried out in terror, thinking he was a ghost. They were all terrified when they saw him. But Jesus spoke to them at once. “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “Take courage! I am here!” 

When the disciples were caught in a storm in the pitch black darkness right in the middle of the lake, Jesus was walking across the lake. We often think it is to them, but in the Gospel of Mark it tells us that Jesus was going to pass them by on His Way to the other side. It was a test to measure their faith. Their faith ran out before they made it to the other side. They cried out to the Lord in fear and terror. So He came to them… Jesus will do the exact same thing for you. Yes this may be a test. This may be the opportunity God has designed to grow you in faith and confidence. If you are in need of strength or courage, cry out to Jesus today. He did not tell you that you must do it alone. He is our example. The Lord is our every present help. We are not called to be the strong ones but to be yoked with Jesus so He can be our strength. Don’t go it alone. He is our Lord both now and later.

Habakkuk 2:2-3 (NLT) Then the Lord said to me, “Write my answer plainly on tablets, so that a runner can carry the correct message to others. This vision is for a future time. It describes the end, and it will be fulfilled. If it seems slow in coming, wait patiently, for it will surely take place. It will not be delayed.

 

 

Que Sera Sera

Que Sera Sera

Habakkuk 3:17-18 (NKJV) Though the fig tree may not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines;
though the labor of the olive may fail, and the fields yield no food; though the flock may be cut off from the fold, and there be no herd in the stalls—yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation.

“Que sera sera” is a Spanish phrase translated means “what will be, will be.” You may be familiar with it from the 1956 song of the same name made famous by actress/singer, Doris Day in the fifties. It means that the future is random and whatever happens is going to happen essentially. It is most often used as a fatalistic term referring to a hopelessly unchangeable situation that is accepted. You may be more familiar with the term “it is what it is.” Usually these statements end with a sigh or some other reflective pause. It is a placeholder for whatever comes after that and the resolve that people are powerless in such situations. Do you feel that way today? Stuck between a rock and a hard place? Nothing ever seems to come out in your favor? It seems like you just can’t catch a break? No matter how hard you try you just can’t seem to get ahead. Have you given in to que sera sera? Today – this very moment – could be the defining moment when you change “what will be, will be” or “it is what it is” or even “que sera sera” to Selah! God wants to move your mind from the place of acceptance of all those seemingly hopeless and unchangeable situations to the realm of hope. The entry point is to leave behind hopelessness and step out in faith to the place called Selah.

The word “Selah” is used twice as much as “amen” and three times more than “hallelujah” in the King James Version of the Bible. Why? God’s Word is alive. It is powerful. Sharper than a two-edged sword, the Word of God has the power to do away with the subtle lies that keep us bound by hopelessness so that the Lord can move us into the realm of hope that strips impossibility from our life making all things possible if we only believe. That’s right! If you believe, faith moves mountains. It changes outcomes in our favor. It doesn’t always eliminate the struggle or battle but empowers us to be victorious in all things. Selah marks a turning point. It is found only in Psalm and Habakkuk.

The prophet, Habakkuk, had pleaded with the Lord in prayerful conversation on behalf of the people. The Lord responds to him each time yet the prophet is pressing in for the deliverance of the people. In Chapter 2, he promises to wait in a “watchtower” for the Lord to take action on his request. Sin rampant. Love cold. Sickness and famine in the land. The prophet still cries out for the people in Chapter 3 four times he says, “Selah”. Selah in the Hebrew means “lift up” or “exalt”. I believe “amen” is similar in that it expresses agreement with God by exaltation as does “hallelujah” which expresses affirmation of God with exuberance.

The difference may be as small as a mustard seed of faith but more powerful than any other expression. It is the moment that in spite of the chaos all around us, wars and rumors of war, famine, drought, circumstances, adverse conditions, or even consequences. Or maybe we should get a bit more personal – the infidelity of a spouse, betrayal of a close friend, loss of income, terminal diagnoses, or even death of a loved one – in that moment by faith when I choose to say, “Selah” that it is the very second that His Grace covers me in His Power and He becomes MY Great I Am. Habakkuk 3:17-18 is the prophets declaration as a direct result of his four “selahs”. It took four, mind you, for him to say, “yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation.” How many will it take you?

Hebrews 11:6 (NKJV)  But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.

For my own peace of mind, I have a list of those things that happen that I just can’t seem to reconcile by faith. Those unthinkables that happened even though God is good and loves us unconditionally. I know that the list will mean nothing when I meet Jesus face-to-face but I had to put the thought, idea, disappointment or uncertainty somewhere in order to keep moving on. I am only human just like you. There will be things that just don’t make sense in this life. His Ways are higher than our ways. His Thoughts much different than my own. Time has resolved some of the items on my list which are now stricken but there will be somethings I never understand. I must have faith that just because I can’t explain it, don’t understand it or even don’t agree with it that God is God. He is the Great I Am. His Love for me complete and comprehensive. Unconditional. His Grace completely unfathomable. I believe that He perfects all that concerns me. It is right there in His Word. I also believe that because I love and trust Him all things work together for my good. Even those things, I try to forget. Don’t want anyone to know. Faith takes us past those things marked impossible and moves them to the column of possibility. When I choose to stop saying, “Que sera sera” and by faith declare “selah” things begin to change.

Psalm 3:1-4 (NKJV) Lord, how they have increased who trouble me! Many are they who rise up against me. Many are they who say of me, “There is no help for him in God.” Selah But You, O Lord, are a shield for me, My glory and the One who lifts up my head. I cried to the Lord with my voice, and He heard me from His holy hill. Selah

Psalm 4:1-5 (NKJV) Hear me when I call, O God of my righteousness! You have relieved me in my distress; have mercy on me, and hear my prayer. How long, O you sons of men, will you turn my glory to shame? How long will you love worthlessness and seek falsehood? Selah But know that the Lord has set apart for Himself him who is godly; the Lord will hear when I call to Him. Be angry, and do not sin. Meditate within your heart on your bed, and be still. Selah Offer the sacrifices of righteousness, and put your trust in the Lord.

Psalm 32:8-11 (NKJV) I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will guide you with My eye. Do not be like the horse or like the mule, which have no understanding, which must be harnessed with bit and bridle, else they will not come near you. Many sorrows shall be to the wicked; but he who trusts in the Lord, mercy shall surround him. Be glad in the Lord and rejoice, you righteous; and shout for joy, all you upright in heart!

Selah is the affirmative response when God says, “Do you trust me?” I don’t want to flood this message with verses that cause you to not see the clear relevance of trusting God when your situation seems impossible, irreversible and overwhelming. When all hell breaks loose in your life and everything falls apart – the absolute best declaration of faith is to trust the Lord. When you are going through the valley – it is not human nature to sing, “Hallelujah!” When everything is going wrong, who is going to shout, “Amen!” But in our distress, discomfort, discouragement and even disagreement with God’s Way of doing things that moment, to say simply, “Selah” tells God despite all these “things”, God I trust you. I believe that you are the miracle maker. I believe that no matter what the condition, circumstances or consequences that I am facing that Your Grace is enough for me and Your Power will overcome my weakness. It is spoken in the darkness, despair and disappointment as a white flag of surrender that no matter what God I belong to You!

Psalm 61:1-4 (NKJV) Hear my cry, O God; attend to my prayer. From the end of the earth I will cry to You, when my heart is overwhelmed; lead me to the rock that is higher than I. For You have been a shelter for me, a strong tower from the enemy. I will abide in Your tabernacle forever; I will trust in the shelter of Your wings. Selah

Selah is a term that is not easily given. It is an offering of all that I am or have left to the awesomeness of the Lord for His Careful Intervention. It is to take that last sense of control or comfort and burn it on the altar so that His Spirit can take over. I love to shout “amen” when the pastor makes a good point, or the Holy Spirit moves in someone’s life. It’s almost like saying, “You go God, I see what you are doing there Jesus!” I love to sing “hallelujah” even when no one else does because the Lord has been so good to me. My life is not perfect, but I have lived long enough to see His Word and His Way make all the difference in my life. However, I can also testify that my faith has grown more in the moments when all I could whisper was “selah” than any of these other times. The days when nothing seems to be going right and all my hope seems lost yet in my prayer closet, on my knees and through my tears cry out, “Selah, I trust you God!” These are the moments that the tiny seed of my faith grows just a little bit more and my hope becomes more confident than it was before.

I don’t know what you are going through today. I know what it is like to feel the pressure and stress of life bearing down on you. I know the breathtaking feeling of anxiety gripping your heart until it can hardly beat. I also have felt the pain of my heart being broken into a million tiny pieces thinking no one could ever put it all back together again. I know what impossible looks like. I know what the realm of hope feels like. It is the moment the breakpoint comes that breakthrough is possible. Are you there yet? Your life is full of possibility and potential yet to be recognized. How do I know? Put your one hand on your chest. Feel that? Your heart is still beating with life. God’s not finished. Put your other hand just outside your mouth – do you feel that? It’s the breath of God that you are exhaling. He is alive and well in you. Without purpose, God would have stopped your heart and carried you home. If you had no further potential, the Lord would not make you suffer here when Heaven is so much better. The fact you are still breathing means there is potential inside of you yet to be revealed and cultivated in your life. The pressure you feel is faith trying to grow so that you will reach the next level that the Lord has prepared for you. If He allowed you to remain comfortable – complacency would take over and your purpose would never come to pass. So rather than saying, “Que sera sera” maybe if you changed your declaration to “Selah” – all those seemingly impossible things might come to life again. Dead dreams begin to breathe with new purpose. Visions become a reality. See God just needs a little bit of faith and trust from you and me to do extravagant things. So I say, “Selah!”

Psalm 67:1-4 (NKJV) God be merciful to us and bless us, and cause His face to shine upon us, Selah That Your way may be known on earth, Your salvation among all nations. Let the peoples praise You, O God; Let all the peoples praise You. Oh, let the nations be glad and sing for joy! For You shall judge the people righteously, and govern the nations on earth. Selah

Had Enough?

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2 Corinthians 9:7-8 (Amplified (AMP))  Let each one give [thoughtfully and with purpose] just as he has decided in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver [and delights in the one whose heart is in his gift]. And God is able to make all grace [every favor and earthly blessing] come in abundance to you, so that you may always [under all circumstances, regardless of the need] have complete sufficiency in everything [being completely self-sufficient in Him], and have an abundance for every good work and act of charity. 

Have you had enough yet? Are you fed up with certain conditions, situations, and circumstances in your life? Wondering where the Lord is or what He is doing because things are simply not okay. It is human nature to get tired, overwhelmed and just plain done sometimes. Believe or not – it is an ordained condition that will produce increase in a believer’s life. It is easy to become full of ourselves even when it is our desire to be full of His Spirit. When we come to the place of “I have had enough” is the exact moment when our desperation becomes motivation. Dissatisfaction creates hunger for more. Disappointment looks for hope that is unseen in our current state of mind or being. It is the point when are willingness turns from a whim to drive. Are you there yet?

God is able to make all grace including every favor and earthy blessing come in abundance to you! Well, where is He? I am working His Plan but His Plan ain’t working for me. Oh, yes it is! The Lord has a purpose far greater than mere satisfaction. It is called complete sufficiency. It is a comprehensive plan that meets the needs and desires of our body, soul and spirit all at the same time producing peace and contentment that allows us to forge forward in faith not worrying about our future. We must find total sufficiency in Jesus Christ to move from striving to thriving. Are you ready? So am I…I have had enough.

Luke 6:38 (AMP) Give, and it will be given to you. They will pour into your lap a good measure—pressed down, shaken together, and running over [with no space left for more]. For with the standard of measurement you use [when you do good to others], it will be measured to you in return.”

God doesn’t need anything I have to promote His Kingdom. God doesn’t need my hands, my mouth or even my heart for that matter. There is nothing good or worthwhile in me because sin infects every fiber of my being. Christ is the only good thing about me worthy of giving to another. Every action and attitude must be filtered through Jesus Christ to make it worthy of giving away. Pride and self must be completely removed to purify my offering and make it worthy of His Name. Give and it will be given to you. We spend a whole lot of our time focused on getting. Getting to work. Getting more money. Getting to church. Getting things. Getting promotions. Getting…getting…and getting. The Word of God tells us to focus on giving and generosity instead. I am challenged today by this concept as for the first time I see that giving is not about reducing my life but expanding my faith. God is trying to press down those things that are taking the place of abundance in my life. He is shaking things up so I will reach for Him. He is ready to pour out His Spirit in my life until it is running over and ready for others to receive. The thing that He is after today is not what I have but me. The previous verse hints at God’s Plan but we skip to this verse because it seems like a recipe for success. However, the Lord tells us to give so that He can make room for more of Him not for me to get more but to be more.

I Kings 19:3-8 (AMP) And Elijah was afraid and arose and ran for his life, and he came to Beersheba which belongs to Judah, and he left his servant there. But he himself traveled a day’s journey into the wilderness, and he came and sat down under a juniper tree and asked [God] that he might die. He said, “It is enough; now, O Lord, take my life, for I am no better than my fathers.” He lay down and slept under the juniper tree, and behold, an angel touched him and said to him, “Get up and eat.” He looked, and by his head there was a bread cake baked on hot coal, and a pitcher of water. So he ate and drank and lay down again. Then the angel of the Lord came again a second time and touched him and said, “Get up, and eat, for the journey is too long for you [without adequate sustenance].” So he got up and ate and drank, and with the strength of that food he traveled forty days and nights to Horeb (Sinai), the mountain of God.

The abundance of God is produced in obedience. Obedience according to God’s Word is demonstrated by our faith in God. Faith is not a noun. Faith is a verb. It is the unseen step into God’s Reality. Faith requires movement to be relative in my life. I cannot speak by faith and stay where I am. Faith always takes one step closer to God according to His Word – not the conditions of our natural life. In fact, faith is usually the step between the boat and Jesus. The one where we let go of natural security hoping for spiritual security relying completely on God to do exactly what He says. Too many times, we keep waiting for the Lord to pull the boat up to the dock real close and reach out His Hand to hold ours and guide us without incident to the next secure step. Where is faith? If you are waiting for God to make His Word come to pass without results, consider this – the next move may be yours. The biggest step of all is using our faith to trust the Lord.

Elijah had just killed all the prophets of Baal. Needless to say, Jezebel was livid. A woman scorned who vowed to kill the prophet. I know it is hard to believe that a mighty man of God would be fearless one day and full of fear the next, but this is the place called “had enough.” Elijah had drained his faith and so fear rooted easily in his heart. He was isolated under a solitary tree. He was ready to die. His physical, emotional and spiritual strength evaporated in the events precipitating his departure. Elijah was a man of God. Elijah was just a man.

When our son was declared in remission, I decided that it was time to go back to normal life. I was certain that our routine could be re-established, my career would continue, and it would be like three years before when our life was rocked to the core. It was not the same. Slowly I came to the realization that nothing would ever be the same. I carefully wrapped up my faith in a tight little package. Set it down on God’s Altar and slowly backed away. Why? I had had enough. My self somehow lost in years of fighting for faith. I laid down the sword because I no longer could carry the weight. Maybe you feel that way today? You have fought for faith. You have tried to be obedient in all things. You have given all that you know to give. You have followed all the rules of the church and what you know of the Word to be true. You just cannot do this another day.

Your obedience today will be the abundance of your future. I know you are tired, but you must not give up. When the Lord came to Elijah – he was determined to die right where he sat. The Lord told him to eat so he ate. The Lord told him that the journey would be too long for him without sustenance. What a meal it must have been? He ate a single meal that lasted him for forty days. I can’t last 40 minutes most of the time. This is the abundance of God in full operation. It is not to give from our enough but give when we have had enough. This is when the Power of God takes over and is made known for all to see.

2 Corinthians 12:8-10 (AMP) Concerning this I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might leave me; but He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you [My lovingkindness and My mercy are more than enough—always available—regardless of the situation]; for [My] power is being perfected [and is completed and shows itself most effectively] in [your] weakness.” Therefore, I will all the more gladly boast in my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ [may completely enfold me and] may dwell in me. So I am well pleased with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, and with difficulties, for the sake of Christ; for when I am weak [in human strength], then I am strong [truly able, truly powerful, truly drawing from God’s strength].

I was talking to someone about transition yesterday and birthing God’s Promises. I have five children who I delivered naturally. The final stage of labor is called transition. It is marked by a desperate need to exit the process. I know it sound foolish, but trust me and those who have endured it. You are ready to get up and leave. Done with the whole thing. It is the point of giving up when the motivation God put in us as mothers kicks in. It is time to push. It is time to press. When it finally dawns on us that it is time to meet the little person who we are desperately and totally in love with already – our inner drive and motivation is to birth them into are arms. What if this season you are in is actually transition? What if God’s Promise is about to burst forth in your life? Why is it so hard? He is finally getting you out of the way. Weakness is the place where God’s Strength and Power take over our life to produce the promise and potential that is our purpose. I know what to do as a mother because God engrained it in me as a woman. As a believer all those years of planting faith and harvesting hope will be the very thing that empowers me to breakthrough transition and obtain the promise. When I have had enough allowing Jesus to be more than enough in my life.

Lessons of faithful obedience are learned along the way. Those little seeds of faith growing from the Word, walking God’s Way, and surrendering bits and pieces of our life to His Will are the very things that will sustain us when it comes time to push and press through to breakthrough. Elisha came to the woman and asked for something to eat. She was preparing the final meal for her family in anticipation of death over the enslavement of her children. Elisha didn’t stop her. He told her to go gather more jars and vessels. She did. Obediently. Faithfully. When she began pouring oil it did not stop until all the vessels were full and she ran out of space. (2 Kings 4) God is making space in us for more faith that will increase His Abundance in us to overflow around us. We must be willing to give up what we have for more of Him. Even if it is all we have, faith says it is more than enough. The Israelites were taught faithful obedience in the wilderness crying out in hunger. God gave them quail and manna instructing them as to its use. (Exodus 16) They learned satisfaction at the hand of God but that’s not all. When it was time to build the Tabernacle, an incredible miracle happened. These people who escaped from slavery with just what they could carry, wandering with it strapped to their backs, and begging God for food had more than enough to build God’s House. In fact, they supplied so much that Moses had to issue a command for them to stop. Where did it come from? (Exodus 36) Where do you think?

2 Chronicles 31:5-10 (AMP)  As soon as the king’s order spread, the Israelites gave in abundance the first fruits of grain, new wine, [olive] oil, honey, and of all the produce of the field; and they brought in the tithe of everything abundantly. The sons of Israel and Judah who lived in the cities of Judah also brought in the tithe of oxen and sheep, and the tithe of sacred gifts which were consecrated to the Lord their God, and placed them in heaps. In the third month [at the end of wheat harvest] they began to make the heaps, and they finished them in the seventh month. When Hezekiah and the rulers came and saw the heaps, they blessed the Lord and His people Israel.  Then Hezekiah questioned the priests and Levites about the heaps. Azariah the high priest of the house of Zadok answered him, “Since the people began to bring the offerings into the house of the Lord, we have had enough to eat with plenty left over, for the Lord has blessed His people, and this great quantity is left over.”

They brought in the tithe of everything abundantly. I believe in tithing. I absolutely can testify that tithing will produce abundance in our life. The abundance is limited to our giving. I don’t want to lose anyone here. This is not about money but first fruits. The Holy Spirit produces all kinds of fruit in our life. It is produced in abundance for the purpose of giving. Faith is the seed of prosperity making all other fruits in our life. To tithe our life is not in our wallets but in our heart. We must portion our life according to faithful obedience in all things including time, talent and treasure. The very thing we are withholding is where God wants to grow us the most. Where have you had enough today? This is the place God wants to infuse His Power and instill His Strength. It is usually our area of weakness that is the first place to give. But see what happened to the people in 2 Chronicles, “since the people began to bring the offerings into the House of the Lord, we have had enough to eat and plenty left over.”

Every step in our life is framed in faith and its purpose is to trust God more. To release what we have to have more of Him is the only way it works. What are you holding on to? What are you unwilling to give up? It is the chain on the door to abundance in life. You hold the key to that door. The lock will give way and the chains will fall when you apply absolute and total faith in God demonstrated by radical obedience. It is the moment we give up on our plan, our way and our self that God fills us with more of Him. His Power is made perfect in what? My weakness. His Strength works best when I move out of the way. I cannot move a mountain but my faith in God can. It is not about me but my willingness to admit I have had enough – giving my all to Jesus so He can do it through me.

Hebrews 12:1-4 (AMP) Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses [who by faith have testified to the truth of God’s absolute faithfulness], stripping off every unnecessary weight and the sin which so easily and cleverly entangles us, let us run with endurance and active persistence the race that is set before us, [looking away from all that will distract us and] focusing our eyes on Jesus, who is the Author and Perfecter of faith [the first incentive for our belief and the One who brings our faith to maturity], who for the joy [of accomplishing the goal] set before Him endured the cross, disregarding the shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God [revealing His deity, His authority, and the completion of His work]. Just consider and meditate on Him who endured from sinners such bitter hostility against Himself [consider it all in comparison with your trials], so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

 

The Warrior

knight wearing armor and holding two-handed sword

Joel 3:9-11 (NLT) Say to the nations far and wide: “Get ready for war! Call out your best warriors. Let all your fighting men advance for the attack. Hammer your plowshares into swords and your pruning hooks into spears. Train even your weaklings to be warriors. Come quickly, all you nations everywhere. Gather together in the valley.” And now, O Lord, call out your warriors!

“God doesn’t give the hardest battles to His Toughest Soldiers, He creates the toughest soldiers through life’s hardest battles.” I believe this is absolutely true. Soldiers are developed in training, but warriors are produced in battle. This is contrary to the popular quote, “God gives His Hardest Battles to His Strongest Soldiers.” Forget this idea. Erase it from your brain. This is simply not true. Close but not quite. God has placed eternity in every human heart. It is our purpose in life to secure the Kingdom and arrive at our destination. It will be a fight to the finish to hang on to our faith and secure confident hope. The enemy is real. He is waging war on God’s Elect from the moment the first breath is taken. To believe that my strength is my own puts me at a great disadvantage. The potential within me is a tiny seed called faith. The one who hates me wants to take it from me and destroy it thereby killing me.

I do not mean to discourage anyone by these words but rather to encourage you. Those who feel like weaklings and failures of faith are usually the mightiest of all God’s Warriors. My strength comes from the Lord. The Power within me is Jesus Christ. His Spirit has been given me along with the potential to overcome. This great power is manifested in my utter weakness and humility before the Lord. He is the Warrior. (Exodus 15:3) His Name is Yahweh. Psalm 144:1-2 tells us that God trains our hands for war. He gives our fingers skill for the battle. He is also our loving ally and fortress who is the tower of safety, as well as our rescuer. He is my shield who makes the nations submit to me. There is really not much room for me in this picture except through submission and surrender to the Lord in the heat of the battle and midst of war.

2 Timothy 2:4-7 (NLT) Soldiers don’t get tied up in the affairs of civilian life, for then they cannot please the officer who enlisted them. And athletes cannot win the prize unless they follow the rules. And hardworking farmers should be the first to enjoy the fruit of their labor. Think about what I am saying. The Lord will help you understand all these things.

“Fight the good fight for the true faith. Hold tightly to the eternal life to which God has called you.” It is important to know what exactly the fight is all about. The enemy is the author of confusion. Many battles in the Old Testament ended abruptly when the enemy camp was thrown into a state of confusion. A military unit is only as strong as the commitment of each soldier to the mission or objection. Each man’s heart set on the same thing. They become so focused on the goal that the danger surrounding them blurs in the mindset of victory. Athletes are known for the same spirit. The battle faced each day is for faith. Will I hold tight to my faith in the Mighty Warrior enough to trust Him in the face of all opposition? Will I overcome in my weakness submitted to His Grace? The only thing worth fighting for on a daily basis is faith. This is the act of endurance that allows us to reach the end of this life and receive victorious redemption through Jesus Christ. “I fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful.”

“Soldiers don’t get tied up in the affairs of civilian life.” This is probably our biggest distraction. We get caught up in pointless pursuits rather than purposeful practice. We are not fighting against flesh and blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world. We wage war on the unseen world, against the mighty powers in this dark world and against evil spirits in heavenly places. (Ephesians 6:12) Know your enemy today. It is not the people in life who oppose you but the enemy who uses whatever means necessary to secure your defeat.

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 Christ overcame the world. “It is finished” meant it was finished. The battle over the war won for us. Now, we fight to believe it. To believe that the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ secured a place for us in His Kingdom so now we are Sons and Daughters of God. The family of unity formed by the Body of Christ binds us as God’s Army ready to fight until death for our faith. Do you believe? Jesus gave us His Spirit to help our unbelief. He knows the battles we face, the struggles of life, the heartache involved and exactly what is needed to overcome. He offers it to us in the form of His Spirit who trains us for the war of life.

John 14:16-18 (NLT) And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. The world cannot receive him, because it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him. But you know him, because he lives with you now and later will be in you. No, I will not abandon you as orphans—I will come to you.

Jesus promised to send down His Spirit to us. When He said, “It is finished” with His Last Breath on earth – He did just that releasing His Spirit to all mankind. Now we have an Advocate who teaches us and trains those who are willing to become mighty warriors of the Lord. Not every soldier is a warrior. In 2 Samuel 24, there was a census that noted over a million capable warriors, yet in 2 Samuel 23, only 37 make the list of the mighty men. The Presence of the Holy Spirit within us empowers us to be good soldiers and fight for our faith. It is the total development of that soldier through successful engagements that make mighty warriors. We all have such potential but only few will answer the call to grow from simple soldiers to mighty warriors.

In Joel 3, warriors are called forth. Let’s go back a chapter to Joel 2. Who do we find? The outpouring of the Holy Spirit on all people. Jesus has given us His Spirit with the intent of intensifying our faith, growing our confidence in God that becomes courage. The Spirit becomes our sword in the heat of battle. His Word our weapon. Faith is the shield that keeps us safe when the enemy attacks with all his fiery darts, lies and betrayal. It keeps us focused from distractions and busyness. We all have the potential to become mighty warriors but must be willing to fight for our faith to become one.

Judges 6:11-13 (NLT) Then the angel of the Lord came and sat beneath the great tree at Ophrah, which belonged to Joash of the clan of Abiezer. Gideon son of Joash was threshing wheat at the bottom of a winepress to hide the grain from the Midianites. The angel of the Lord appeared to him and said, “Mighty hero, the Lord is with you!” “Sir,” Gideon replied, “if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us? And where are all the miracles our ancestors told us about? Didn’t they say, ‘The Lord brought us up out of Egypt’? But now the Lord has abandoned us and handed us over to the Midianites.”

The Lord found Gideon hiding in a wine press threshing wheat so the enemy would not take it. He greeted Gideon, “Mighty hero, the Lord is with you?” I imagine Gideon probably sarcastically chuckled a bit like Sarah’s laugh at the thought of pregnancy at 99. My current condition will never limit God’s Potential in my life unless I abandon faith. Faith makes every impossibility potential in my life. Gideon was ripe for productivity. He was about to advance from soldier to warrior even though he did not see it, feel like it, or even believe it. God called Gideon who He created Him to be not who He was.

Too often our circumstances and current condition are the thermometer of our faith rather than basing our life outcomes on the Word of God by faith. No soldier enters a battle or athlete a competition intent on losing. Faith is the mindset that in complete submission to Jesus Christ that we overcome every single time that leads us to victory. Doubt means I believe losing is an option. It implies that the Power of Christ within me is not enough. Confident hope produces courage that no matter what happens my victory is secure in the Lord both now and forever. It is not prideful, boastful or cocky just plain good old confidence that Christ is enough.

Gideon was a man. He was human. He asked the angel of the Lord to paraphrase, if I am so “mighty” why am I hiding in a winepress cowering in fear? Why is this happening to me if I have the Favor of God?” Why is life so hard? This life is temporary. The Kingdom is eternal. The Kingdom is taken by force. You must fight for your faith every day in order to enter the Kingdom. Your faith and confident hope becomes the light that leads other to victory. No solider becomes a warrior without acts of engagement and forays on the battlefield. To become a warrior means you must fight the war…and win. Why is this so important? “Thousands upon thousands are waiting in the valley of decision. There the day of the Lord will soon arrive.”

Romans 8:35-39 (NLT) Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.”) No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.

When sharing the wonderful testimony of our son’s victory over cancer thanks be to God, many people say, “I don’t know how you did it” or “I couldn’t have made it through like you”. I immediately stop them. When the cancer diagnosis came it wasn’t the result of a questionnaire given us the choice to opt out of the battle. No it was satan’s best attempt to kill our son and the potential within him. With four relapses, each one threw away every bit of my self-confidence. The thought that I had the power to protect and save my own children destroyed my confidence as a mother. There was little of me left by the time – we entered the realm called hope. But it was there when God’s Grace finally became enough for me that I discovered I am not the strong one at all. My faith is the strength of my life. Faith in Jesus Christ that allows Him to take over when I cannot take another step, breathe another breath, do another thing or hold all the pieces of my broken heart. It is in that very moment that I discover Jesus is all that I need. It is through these times that soldiers become warriors not the other way around. I thought I was strong and self-sufficient along with being faithful. Total surrender to the Power of God is claimed in our absolute weakness apart from Him. This is the potential of the warrior hidden within. When against all odds, our response to the war cry of the enemy is that Christ is enough to overcome and claim victory. To fight for our faith above all other things. To advance the Kingdom at all costs. To care less about our life and more about eternal life.

Nothing can separate you from the Love of God today. He is our overwhelming victory. To engage this life in Christ will create a victorious lifestyle that makes you a warrior rather than just a well-trained soldier. These are the ones who thwart the enemy at every turn. The ones who race out to face the giant. The ones who against all odds persevere not by might, not by power, but by the Spirit of the Living God within them. Are you a soldier or a warrior today? You can choose to advance anything you want to by faith. The Lord is calling His Warriors as He readies His Return. Will you answer the call?

Isaiah 13:2-3 (NLT) “Raise a signal flag on a bare hilltop. Call up an army against Babylon. Wave your hand to encourage them as they march into the palaces of the high and mighty. I, the Lord, have dedicated these soldiers for this task. Yes, I have called mighty warriors to express my anger, and they will rejoice when I am exalted.”

 

To All the Strong Ones

Silhouette of a Boy Showing Arm Muscles Strength

Isaiah 40:28-31 (NLT) Have you never heard? Have you never understood? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of all the earth. He never grows weak or weary. No one can measure the depths of his understanding. He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless. Even youths will become weak and tired, and young men will fall in exhaustion. But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.

Well I did it! I made it over a major obstacle yesterday. One I have not cleared in years. It was not the current squat challenge I embarked on in February. I can finally walk and not resemble a toddler on new legs. Yes, I downed the gallon of water. I am absolutely floating. Missing caffeine a little (a lot) but the 9:00 PM bedtime does wonders for that if only my kids would keep it down. It has been a date circled on the calendar in ominous red for about three months. I finally made it to the dentist. (Insert applause.) I am not scared of many things. In fact, the only two things that come to mind are snakes and the dreaded dentist. If I were the first woman created, there would not have been incident in the garden because when the snake came slithering up to me – I would have been long gone. When the dentist called back in December to yet again schedule an appointment after five long years and my youngest calling me a hypocrite (I make them go religiously) – I agreed to a date and time.

Call it my kryptonite if you will but when it comes to the dentist, my heart races. My mouth goes dry. I literally break into a sweat driving over. I have to force myself to take a seat and wait. The dentist has a little sticker on my chart that indicates I have “white coat” syndrome. I share all this to set the scene yesterday in vivid detail. I walked into the Presence of God and prayed for peace and calm over my restless emotions and reactive body. Created a prayer circle of family and friends. I want to overcome this debilitating feeling that is straight from the enemy. It started years ago. We did not go to the dentist regularly as kids. After multiple pregnancies back to back my teeth needed some desperate attention. I scheduled an appointment. The cleaning and consultation went fine. The fillings were another story. Ever since then, I have avoided the dentists at all costs. However, I hate fear. It reminds me that I lack faith and trust in that area even something as simple as the dentist hence this long-winded story to get to my point.

When I arrived yesterday, the office was backed up. Because of my “little problem” they usually whisk me back before I change my mind. They apologized greatly. I canceled my last appointment because it was our son’s first week of treatment after his cancer diagnosis. They all wanted to ask so I quickly shared his miraculous story. My heart slowed down a bit as I could tell of my Father’s Love and Care for our kid. It opened the door of conversation with my new hygienist. She is a Christian, too. So while she worked in my mouth, she shared bits and pieces of her family and faith. She told me the story of her husband’s adoption, and as she shared it came to her mother-in-law’s faith. In the middle of the story, I heard the words that have changed everything time and time again in my walk with Jesus. “Do you trust Me?” I immediately relaxed in the chair. I do trust Jesus. Sometimes, I forget that fear doesn’t mean I lack faith. Weakness is only a lack of human strength but in no way nullifies the Power of God at work in me but rather facilitates a full-takeover. When I doubt, God always offers me a change to believe again. It usually comes in the form of the question – “do you trust Me?”

“Have you never heard? Have you never understood?” Opportunities to trust the Lord come wrapped in packages labeled fear, weakness, and ignorance. Fear allows us to experience faith when turning to the Father for refuge and security. Weakness gives us the place for God’s Power to work fully in our life. Ignorance demands knowledge to be resolved creating a hunger for the Word of God. Each one of these challenges show us that the Lord is the everlasting God. Ready, willing and able to turn doubt and insecurity into instant belief. He never grows weak or weary ready to tackle these things that compromise righteousness. No one can measure the depths of His Great Understanding that creates pathways to appointments that give us the chance to trust Him. Your footsteps are ordered by the Lord, therefore He knows exactly where you are headed. He has already gone before you. He comes in behind you, too. Psalm 23 is the perfect example of the reality of our walk with God. It is not the absence of opposition but the promise that while walking with Him there is nothing to fear and everything to gain according to His Word.

Philippians 4:12-13 (NLT)  I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength. 

It is human pride that tells us to be strong. The truth is grace only is operational in our inability. It is weakness that allows the Lord to infuse our life with His Power – otherwise they work in direct opposition. Trust is the catalyst for God’s Power to be in full effect. Do you trust the Lord today? It is impossible to tell until it is no longer possible for you to produce the desired outcome. Challenges, tests and trials are absolutely necessary to allow us the opportunity to trust the Lord and receive all His Power offers in our life. His Promises arise from the ashes of pride when His Power fully consumes my doubt and fear. Do you believe God’s Grace is enough? Is it sufficient? Paul begged God to take the “thorn from his flesh” three times. However, in the end, he determined that God’s Grace was made perfect in his complete weakness so Paul gave God the opportunity to be His Strength. (2 Corinthians 12)

This is evident in Paul’s many letters of encouragement to the church. This once powerful, strong arm of religion was reduced to a prisoner for the Love of Jesus Christ. All his human strength drained and refilled with the Goodness and Grace of God’s Unfailing Love. This became Paul’s provision and source of strength independent of his current condition or circumstances. Christ was enough. He is enough. We must step down or fall down in order to see that God’s Power in us is greater than anything mustered in my personal strength or ability. This comes at the end of me. This is the point when I am on my knees crawling to the finish line of faith.

Proverbs 3:5-8 (NLT) Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take. Don’t be impressed with your own wisdom. Instead, fear the Lord and turn away from evil. Then you will have healing for your body and strength for your bones.

I don’t understand all the details of my life. I have a list created for the moment I meet the Lord of all the things in my life that just don’t add up. I am quite certain that when that day comes most will be resolved as I continue to see each one turn for my good and His Glory. It just takes some time. To trust in the Lord with all my heart includes those unresolved matters. Do not depend on your own understanding. Can I expound on this a bit? My understanding is based on my five senses and wrapped up in my emotions. It is a self-based, pride-driven operation. My perspective is based on what I can see around me not what is in the future. I was created by God to be a masterpiece. I cannot judge the finished product by what my life looks like today. His Plan is perfect with a future and hope that is impossible to comprehend in my current state. I cannot see the forest for the trees some days, but the Lord has a drone’s eye view taking in the whole picture all of the time. If I make choices based on the here and now, I compromise my future with delays and distractions. I must learn to put my trust in the Lord solely by faith. I must learn to live and walk by faith and not my current perception of life as I see it, know it or think it is.

Psalm 18:28-36 (NLT) In your strength I can crush an army; with my God I can scale any wall. God’s way is perfect. All the Lord’s promises prove true. He is a shield for all who look to him for protection. For who is God except the Lord? Who but our God is a solid rock? God arms me with strength, and he makes my way perfect. He makes me as surefooted as a deer, enabling me to stand on mountain heights. He trains my hands for battle; he strengthens my arm to draw a bronze bow. You have given me your shield of victory. Your right hand supports me; your help has made me great. You have made a wide path for my feet to keep them from slipping.

“In Your Strength Lord” is the secret to our success as believers. God is giving us daily opportunities to trust Him that challenge the weak areas of our faith. It may not feel like an opportunity but rather just another test, trial or temptation. If you seek the Lord in this thing, His Question is always the same – “Do you trust Me?” I have seen great and mighty miracles as a result of my weak attempts to trust the Lord. At the end of such challenges, I discover that the mustard seed of faith hidden in my heart grows a tiny bit more only to reveal more and more of my life yet surrendered to the Power of God. I am not the strong one in my life. I may appear strong person to the watching world and dependency put in that quality. However, the truth is that I am weak and He is strong. The very thing that allows me to walk with others shoulder to shoulder and share their burdens is not me. It is the Christ in me. I have yoked my life to Jesus Christ. So when I am given the opportunity to do life with other people even the messy parts, He is able to be demonstrate His Strength in my weakness so I can be a light to them. The only good thing about me is the Lord. The only hope I have to offer you is Jesus Christ. I can introduce you to the One who knew me and still thought I was to die for. But do not think for a moment, I am the strong one. I gave that up to have His Power work in me.

Proverbs 24:10 (NLT) If you fail under pressure, your strength is too small.

These simple words of truth will set someone free today. Brokenness makes us usable to God. Outside of failure and fear, it is impossible to know the depths of God’s Unfailing Love and Unfathomable Grace. To accept these two precious promises, one must come to the end of self completely. Otherwise, we get in the way. Every time. Our pride will never accept weakness as an option. Therefore, we must humble ourselves before the Lord which is totally contradictory to human nature or modern culture. If you fail under pressure, then you know your strength is too small. You are not supposed to be the strong one. You are supposed to experience weakness in order to full take on the Power of God. It will consume you. It will not force you. But the moment you are on your knees unable to take another step with your arm outstretched to Jesus, He will ask you just one question, “Do you trust Me?” When you have tried everything and are at a complete loss at the end of all understanding, and cry out to Him with your last whisper – the Lord will respond the same way – “Do you trust Me?” It is the moment you say, “Yes” even if it takes all the strength you have left and beyond your understanding but wholehearted that He makes all things possible simply because you believe.

“But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.” What if the very thing keeping us from experiencing the Power of God is our natural strength? Could it be our inability to surrender control and let go that is keeping us from experiencing the Promises of God? What if the thing keeping you do is your hands gripping the ground rather than raised in praise to the Lover of Your Soul in surrender? The stronger you are the longer it takes to experience the Power of God because you can outlast most. However, you will one day come to a place when you cannot withstand the pressure. You will not be able to make it through. You will run out of options. Things will be deemed impossible. It is in that moment of opportunity that the Lord will whisper to you – “Do you trust me?” What will be your response?

Faith will dictate your answer. Hope will determine your decision. Why not begin the process of release today with some of the burdens you have been carrying? What about those cares and concerns you are juggling? How about just taking your whole life and all its contents before the Lord and asking Him to examine it? To show you the areas that need more faith. Here’s a hint – they are labeled fears. Doubt must be drowned in belief. Ignorance filled with knowledge becomes wisdom. Lies are undone by the Truth. It is in the complete surrender of control and power over our own life that allows His Strength to work perfectly through us. When I am weak, I become strong.

Psalm 121 (NLT) I look up to the mountains—does my help come from there? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth! He will not let you stumble; the one who watches over you will not slumber. Indeed, he who watches over Israel never slumbers or sleeps. The Lord himself watches over you! The Lord stands beside you as your protective shade. The sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon at night. The Lord keeps you from all harm and watches over your life. The Lord keeps watch over you as you come and go, both now and forever.

 

Not By Might

not-by-might

Zechariah 4:6-7 (NLT) Then he said to me, “This is what the Lord says to Zerubbabel: It is not by force nor by strength, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. Nothing, not even a mighty mountain, will stand in Zerubbabel’s way; it will become a level plain before him! And when Zerubbabel sets the final stone of the Temple in place, the people will shout: ‘May God bless it! May God bless it!’”

When our children were very small, I taught a class at the local technical school to supplement our income. It allowed me to stay home with the children during the day. The children would stay with my husband and grandma would offer a helping hand. Our youngest was born with a very strong will. She contains quite an impressive purpose if it will require the level on stubbornness or maybe I should call it personal drive. At any rate, she was playing on the neighbor’s playset with the other neighborhood kids. One of other siblings was with her, watching over her, helping her and attempting to keep her in check. She was toddling up one side of the jungle gym and attempting to turnaround to sit on the slide. Now if you have ever watched a small child attempt such a feat – it can be quite humorous. At this stage of development, it can be quite awkward. Her brother reached out to assist her. She drew back quickly, “I do it myself” were the final words as she fell out the other side to the hard ground below. Surveying the damage, her wrist broken in two places. If only she had accepted the help that was offered, she would have successfully completed her mission down the slide that day and many more rounds I am sure. But now she had to wait and watch while all the other kids enjoyed playing together with a cast and strict restrictions.

Independence is human nature. The desire for freedom strong in our DNA. Yet, so often it is in our inability or ignorance that produce delays, detours and disappointment. Our heart is filled with eternity. God put it there during creation knowing that sin would cause us to long for and desire other things. Yet there is a desire for completion and fulfillment that cannot be denied or met with the things of this world. Only righteousness will ever satisfy the eternity placed there. The Plan of God gives us a future and hope that is fully achieved by faith and confident hope. The Word of God is His Way and His Will clearly defined for His People. One’s perception of God’s Word is defined by which side of freedom our life is based on. Freedom to choose or Freedom in Christ.

Zerubbabel was chosen to be the leader of the tribe of Judah. God ordained him to rebuild the temple including many of the gates leading in and out of Jerusalem. God brought Zerubbabel and Judah back from captivity and restored them. Zerubbabel laid the foundation with plumb line in hand. However, after that it would take 16 long years to begin the work to complete it. The purpose of God for our life always begins with a firm foundation of faith, a process to produce confidence in our hope, and ultimately leads to fulfillment. However, it is vital to our potential that these words are fully understood today – “It is not by force nor by strength, but by my Spirit.”

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

Sowing and reaping or planting and harvesting is a principle set forth by God that works naturally and supernaturally. What a man sows he reaps. However, naturally productivity and supernatural productivity are cultivated differently. What is possible for man is possible with God but what is impossible for man is also possible for the Lord as well. We are the weak ones in the connection not the Lord. He has set forth in His Word the way to achieve salvation, righteousness, blessing and prosperity. It is all according to His Will. We just need to walk in His Way. Is this a violation of freedom? No, in fact, this is exactly what freedom is. The opportunity to choose our way. Love cannot be forced or it is not love. My strength is weakness. For when I am weak, then I am strong and God’s Power works in me. When the foundation of faith is established in us when we first believed, it is not a knowledgeable decision but a heartfelt one. The trouble is over time – we change our mind. There are two components that lead to fulfillment obedience that is an attempt to follow the Law or willingness which is also defined by obedience but on the basis of love.

The difference between religious and willing obedience is radical love. We can attempt to live by the Law and do all it says and the law of sowing and reaping will produce good things in our life but it will not secure our place as Child of the Living God. It will not complete us. It will not satisfy our soul. The radical love of Jesus Christ allows us to accept His Spirit to help mold and shape our heart into a willing vessel that obeys the Word of God, follows the Way of the Lord and lives according to His Will because of His Great Love for us that keeps us in love with Him.

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!”

I believe the body of Christ and its many members are frustrated. Doing the “right” things, they are not getting the expected results. What do you expect? Our expectation will never be met until established firmly on the foundation of faith in Jesus Christ. There is no other foundation for us. (I Corinthians 3:10-11) A divided life will yield diversified results. The foundation of faith is established in the Truth that God loved me so much that He sent His Son to die for my sins so that I would be free to build my life where I choose to. If I choose Jesus Christ, it reconnects me with the Father now I am a Child of God. This relationship is founded and rooted in love. Love that promotes a desire and willingness to please the other person. No relationship can grow when one partner decides to withhold bits and pieces of self from the other. It is our constant desire to become one and passion for the other that writes a love story. Without love, I am not God’s Child but simply His Servant.

Love at first sight does happen. Most fall in love with Jesus Christ without really even knowing him. I believe in such a love and experienced it with my husband. I believe that God prepares people for such partnerships and when you meet that person – His Spirit inside of us says, “Hey, that’s the one.” My daughter and her husband were attracted to one another in elementary school. Love is the driving force with in us. It is the knowledge of God that takes our imperfect love and makes it strong and secure. His Love for us allows us to love others fearlessly.

I John 4:16-18 (NLT) We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love. God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them. And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world. Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love.

The dash between our birthday and the day of death is significant. It represents one’s success or failure in knowing the One True Living God and the acceptance or denial of His Love. I believe that this is also the purpose of endurance. The Lord ordained Zerubbabel with a purpose. The purpose would take commitment far greater than the man was born with. He would need time to prepare for the task set before him. Sixteen years to be exact, during that time he rebuilt his home and helped others do the same. Plowed up abandoned fields, planted new crops and harvested greatly. Our life is has potential that requires godly preparation.

God promised Zerubbabel that nothing would stand in his way of completion. Not time, testing, trials, or temptation would keep him from triumphantly rebuilding the temple. It was when the Spirit of God finally got to the tender heart that the tinder there became a fiery passion to fulfill his purpose. He built the foundation. He was faithfully obedient to the Lord. Until his acceptance of His Purpose was wrapped in faith and confidence of God’s Great Love and consummated in the Spirit – he had to wait. When God’s Spirit filled his heart – Zerubbabel was filled with God’s Power which is always His Love.

Perfect love expels fear. This is confirmed in Nehemiah. The rebuilding of the wall became a battleground. Men had mortar in one hand and a sword in the other. (Nehemiah 4) Stay with me – God’s Power is His Love. God’s Strength is in His Sword which is also His Spirit. (Ephesians 6:17) The Spirit produces love in us (Galatians 5:22) The Spirit is nourished and sustained by God’s Word using it to build confidence in God’s Love for us. (Romans 8:38-39) It is the absolute and complete confidence in God’s Love that is our hope. God’s Word is a two-edged sword splitting open our heart separating human indifference and spiritual desire so passion for the Lord rises up in us. The Sword is also referenced as the tongue of our Savior in Revelation. (Revelation 1:16) His Spirit is the Power. His Word is the Sword that the Spirit uses in our defense and protection. It fortifies the foundation called faith and enables to withstand the storms of life. (Luke 6:46-49) We worship in Spirit and Truth. These two essential qualities empower us to overcome every obstacle and live in the fulfillment of purpose promised by God. It is the certainty that when we live in God’s Love that we overcome every single time. We win.

I Peter 5:9-11 (NLT) 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. All power to him forever! Amen.

Are you discouraged today? Disappointed? Heart sick because your promise seems to be delayed? Don’t be. God will not send you in a battle you cannot or will not win. He goes before us preparing the way of provision, protection, prosperity and, of course, victory. You are not stepping into your promise or purpose because you are not ready for the battle. Our strength fails when the battle is the Lord’s. If it is connected to your potential, purpose or promise – it is achieved by His Spirit in us. If our spirit man is flailing in faith or lagging in hope or sluggish in love – God is protecting us by keeping us in His Hand for now while we grow, develop and mature our faith and confident hope in him more specifically His Love. When our full expectation is placed in God, His Spirit and His Word accepted fully by the Grace of Jesus Christ imparted to us – we will succeed in overcoming every obstacle and be victorious in all things. We do not fight like other people. Our weapons are not carnal. (2 Corinthians 10:3-6) We battle self. (Romans 7:22-23) We battle the enemy. (John 10:10) Until we overcome fear, doubt, insecurity, and become fully convinced that God’s Love always wins – we will wait.

“Not by force” – obedience will not force God to do what we want Him to do – it is radical love that opens God’s Heart and releases His Hand to us. “Not by strength” – My weakness allows His Strength and Power to work through me. I must be a willing vessel fully operating in confidence of God’s Love. The Word continues to strengthen my foundation of faith and arms my hand for battle. I must keep my Sword ready at all times. My purpose is at stake. Willingness comes as the Spirit changes our mind about the Lord. The more we love Him and believe how Great Unfailing and Faithful His Love is for us – we are one step closure to having our promise and achieving our purpose. Until then, God protects our purpose until our Spirit is able to apprehend us with love. We need God’s Spirit to take His Truth and make it a reality in our life. He does it because He first loved us. We must return to our first love. Allow His Spirit to be fully consummated in our heart and produce the love that becomes a burning passion for the Lord. To know the Love of God firsthand turns obedience into a privilege.

Romans 8:35-39 (NLT) Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.”) No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.

 

 

Time to Take the Land

time-to-take-the-land

Joshua 1:6-9 (NLT) “Be strong and courageous, for you are the one who will lead these people to possess all the land I swore to their ancestors I would give them. Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the instructions Moses gave you. Do not deviate from them, turning either to the right or to the left. Then you will be successful in everything you do. Study this Book of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do. This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

What is going to make 2017 any different than 2016? Was 2016 just like 2015? What makes this the time? What if it’s not? Oh, but what if it is. The more my heart and mind stir that this is the year of God’s Favor and that it is time for revival – the more I am aware of the steps leading up to this moment. When God says, “Now!” Will I be ready to go? Have I properly prepared? Will I be lost in the moment? Or will it He speak to me the moment after I have given up, given in or decided to walk away? I can only imagine how Joshua felt in that moment when God spoke to him. Moses was dead. He was named leader of a stiff-necked, rebellious people always pursuing other things and new gods. “I promise you what I have promised Moses…” But Moses was dead. Did the dream die with him? No the promise never dies even if the people who see the vision or have the dream of revelation do. God’s Word must come to pass. It cannot return to Him void. “Wherever you set foot, you will be on land I have given you…” Is it too good to be true? Can I really let my guard down? “No one will be able to stand against you as long as you live. For I will be with you as I was with Moses, I will not fail you or abandon you…” God is speaking to my heart today. The time is close. It is coming. I have been lining you up for this moment. It is time to press in and take the land…obtain the promise…fulfill potential… do you believe?

In Joshua 1:6-9, the Lord encourages Joshua. He tells him three times to “be strong and courageous”. I believe in these three verses lie the secret to success and encouragement needed to step into the Promise of God for each one of us individually and corporately as a Body. This Christmas, it seems that the songs I loved the most spoke of Immanuel or God with us. I find comfort, peace and solace in those words. They have been proven in my life by test, trial and fire. I know that if God is with me – I will not fail. However, I cannot see Him or touch Him as I would like to. I cannot rely on “feeling” Him because human emotions are unreliable. I strive to hear Him but some days the Voice of God is drowned out by the lie of the enemy and other distractions along the way. I want to taste and see that He is good but my circumstances cause me to experience the bad things and forget all His Goodness. The only thing that will see me through to the end of this journey called hope is faith. I must believe that God is with me. He has gone before me. I have a promise worth having enough to be strong and courageous. I must believe.

“Be strong and courageous, for you are the one who will lead these people to possess all the land I swore to their ancestors I would give them.”

Isaiah 55:10-11 (NLT) “The rain and snow come down from the heavens and stay on the ground to water the earth. They cause the grain to grow, producing seed for the farmer and bread for the hungry. It is the same with my word. I send it out, and it always produces fruit. It will accomplish all I want it to, and it will prosper everywhere I send it.”

Has God given you a dream, vision or Promise too good to be true? Does it defy human logic? It is something that is beyond your natural strength or ability? Does it seem impossible? Awesome! It is definitely God. The promise that the Lord gives us are “yes” and “amen” in Jesus Christ. The only thing standing between me and what God has predestined for my life is His Timing and my faith (or lack thereof). I wait and persevere. I must submit my life as a living sacrifice so that the Lord can remove those hindrances that keep me from completion and fulfillment. If God said it – we must believe it.

When our son was diagnosed with cancer in October 2011, I burst into the Presence of God demanding some answers. You think I am kidding? No, I was a Christian. A born-again believer of many years. I knew enough of His Word to know that this disease did not line up with what I read or believed so in complete devastation and desperation – I went straight to the source. After yelling, screaming, crying and pleading in a hospital bathroom with an unknown stranger guarding the door, I heard His Voice. It was quiet. It was confident. He was persistent. He asked just one question, “Do you trust me?” I said, “Of course, I do.” Well, in my own “Peter” moment, the Lord asked me again, “Yes Lord, I do!” He said to me, “Your son will live and not die to declare my good works.” Boom! Promise delivered. I would struggle to hold that promise tight until this very day. Our son fought cancer for three long tedious years before entering remission two years ago. Against all odds and overcoming the impossible, he is alive and soon to graduate college. Yet, to this day, I must recall the promise over and over.

Holding on to God’s Promise is not for the weak. It drains you of every ounce of personal strength and causes one’s emotions to run amuck. The enemy takes our weakness and tries to turn it against us so that we accept defeat and give up the glory of God coming to us. Have you given up? I gave up on a lot of things over the course of the last fifty years. When it came to the life or death of our son, it was not an option. Giving up and giving in would not do. I believe that it is with such purpose and drive that God’s People receive those precious and perfect promises. It is never because the Lord gave up on us or gave in to the lie of the enemy. He overcame to hand us the Keys to the Kingdom. What are we doing with them? Are they jingling in our pocket? Or are they opening the doors to freedom and the gifts God has for His People?

God’s Word will accomplish what He sets it out to do. Will I be ready to receive it? Will I be there when it arrives? Will I allow the enemy to steal it from me? Not this year, I am determined to dig up, dust off and see God deliver all that He has promised me. I must do my part. I must believe recall those promises and recite them in my life. His Word is not only my title deed claimed by faith, but according to Hebrews 4:12 it is my provider and protector. It cuts away those things holding me back and removes the lie of the enemy. A lie can no longer remain in light of truth. With this in mind, be strong and courageous! God’s Word for your life, His Promise is true and valid even when it is buried by time, trial and temptation.

“Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the instructions Moses gave you. Do not deviate from them, turning either to the right or to the left. Then you will be successful in everything you do. Study this Book of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do.”

Proverbs 3:1-6 (NLT) My child, never forget the things I have taught you. Store my commands in your heart. If you do this, you will live many years, and your life will be satisfying. Never let loyalty and kindness leave you! Tie them around your neck as a reminder. Write them deep within your heart. Then you will find favor with both God and people, and you will earn a good reputation. Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.

Notice that the second time, the Lord told Joshua to “be strong and VERY courageous.” Trusting and believing God at His Word is not for the timid or weak. To step out of logic and walk by faith is not socially acceptable. It earns labels of “crazy” and “fool”. You cannot know the Way of God or discern the Will of God without the Word of God. It is the seed that His Spirit uses to produce a harvest in our heart. Each day we must sow His Word in us to strengthen our faith in God and His Promises.

Trusting God for “a” promise requires trusting Him wholeheartedly. Jeremiah 29:11 is unattainable if one does not seek the Lord “wholeheartedly” (Jeremiah 29:13) Straddling the fence and wading in the gray areas of life is not for those who desire the Promise of God for their life. It is a life of true repentance, go for broke generosity, unconditional love, and extravagant grace that His Promise is revealed to us. Many will call on the Name of the Lord to be saved. Some will call Him Lord. But is that enough for you today? I want to be strong and very courageous. I want to jump out of the boat even if it means getting wet sometimes or nearly drowning in my own doubt and disbelief. I want to know Him as Savior. I want to make Him my Lord. I want every promise God has for my life enough to give Him this life to have it.

In December 2007, I began praying for the coming year. What could I give the Lord? We were preparing to fast but food was no longer enough. I needed to give something more. The Lord impressed it upon me to begin getting up thirty minutes early each day to study His Word. I began to blog about my quiet time as an accountability partner. For years, I attempted a morning quiet time and failed miserably – I am not a morning person. I thought it would be my “offering” to the Lord. It was something that “I” was doing for Him. The reality is that those first few years sowed seed in my heart to carry me through the darkest days of my life. I wasn’t really doing anything for Him, the Lord was doing something in me. This has been my experience time and time again.

Every “little thing” that I submit, surrender or sacrifice to the Lord is used for my good and His Glory. When I read His Word, study it, meditate on it and believe it – the seed produces a harvest in my heart for the future. It may be the very thing that sustains me through great temptation and trial. It makes all the difference in the test. It is the only thing that always produces good in our life. We cannot live without it. We cannot be confident in anything else and succeed.

“This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

Romans 5:1-5 (NLT) Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory. We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.

Are you afraid? Have you become discouraged? Have you wandered from your walk with the Lord? Be strengthened today. It is a known fact according to His Word that when we are weak, His Strength is manifested in our life. We cannot reach Jesus until realizing that it can no longer be accomplished by self. You haven’t failed unless you refuse to get up. You may have fallen but He will lift you up. Your heart may be broken. This is when Jesus is the closest. When no one can do for you what the Lord can do is when we come to Him in complete humility. This hope will not lead to disappointment. You must hold it with all that you are. God is with you! He goes before you and falls in behind you. He is with you every step of the way. He prepared the path before you. Dead dreams can be resurrected. Lost vision can be restored. Your “time away” did not hinder the process of God – it was part of His Plan and Preparation. The Promise God made you belongs to you. It is titled and deeded to you obtained by faith alone. His Grace is enough to overcome every obstacle and boundary between you and God’s Glory for you. God has done His Part and Jesus, too! The rest, my friend, is up to me and you.

Hebrews 10:23-25 (NLT) Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.

In preparation for the New Year, I am examining my life from God’s Point of View. Before I attempt to “do” one more thing for Him, I am asking the Lord to reveal to me the things He has been trying to do that I have given up on. To reveal every lie that I have given into. This is not about “new things” but dead dreams that need resurrection life. Words spoken to me and over me that have not come to pass but are not impossible by faith. I want God’s Will, His Word and His Way to completely overtake my life. It will require strength that can only come from the Lord. It will require courage that is born of complete confidence and trust in my Lord.

We need each other. The people took the land together. You are not an island. We are part of a Kingdom. It operates best together. God loves harmony, unity and wholeness that represents fully the embodiment of His Son, Jesus. We must get it together church. Apart from doctrine, religiosity and mission statements to open wide our hearts to every man, woman and child. There is strength in unity. Strength and power needed to take the land and build His Kingdom. We must encourage, build up and fortify one another to be confident and courageous. We must decrease and let Christ increase in our lives. I must decrease, He must increase in me. It is time to take the land!

Philippians 3:12-14 (NLT) I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.

The Lion’s Roar

the-lions-roar

Psalm 91:9-13 (NLT) If you make the Lord your refuge, if you make the Most High your shelter, no evil will conquer you; no plague will come near your home. For he will order his angels to protect you wherever you go. They will hold you up with their hands so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone. You will trample upon lions and cobras; you will crush fierce lions and serpents under your feet!

Ever wonder why lions are referred to as king of the jungle? For centuries, lions have been called the king of beasts (not of the jungle). Due to their majestic appearance and position as a top predator, they are the assumed “king” of the beasts due to their raw power. They are the only wild cats who form a community called a “pride” where they live and hunt together. Male lions are the protector of the pride. They defend their territory and protect their cubs from invading males. Human kings were once perceived to play the very same role and do the same things. Where are all the kings now?  Kings are for fairy tales and folklore or are they?

As I read about the King of Kings today, the Lord has promised me a place of refuge. He gives me shelter from evil so I may not be conquered by it but live in His Grace. Nothing can come close to the home I have found in the Lion of Judah – the King of all kings. He promises His Angels will protect me as I go – holding me up with their hands so I will not stumble or fall. I will trample upon lions and cobras. I will crush fierce lions and serpents under my feet. All of this is promised for those who “those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty. This I declare about the Lord: He alone is my refuge, my place of safety; he is my God, and I trust him.”  (Psalm 91:1-2)

Shortly after graduating high school, I felt a tug on my heart to pursue full-time ministry. The College and Career pastor and I were talking about the many aspects of ministry. He offered an opportunity to travel to Africa and spend the summer with missionaries. Lying in bed in Nairobi, Africa in a villa just outside of the city, in the still of the night lions would roar in the distance. I was completely in awe that I could hear lions in the wild roaring. I was not afraid safely tucked in bed. The home was secure. Men of the Masai tribe in Kenya were employed to patrol the perimeter of the property for protection as well. I was safe in my refuge yet I could still hear the roar of the lion.

God promises us power over the enemy but there will be many times that he roars at us. The lies hissed by the serpent are shouted by the lion painted in false power and fake authority. The enemy has no power over us when our faith and trust is safe and secure in the refuge of God in His Presence. Do you trust the shelter of faith built around your life today by the Most High? Do you run when the lion roars? Have you fallen for the whispered lie of the serpent? Today is the day to get back on your feet. The roar of the lion is inevitable but the Power of God manifested in you through Jesus Christ is the greatest authority of all. Greater is He who lives in you than he that is in the world. Do you believe that today? The roar of the lion is silenced by the Power of God for those who choose to love and trust Him.

I Peter 5:6-11 (NLT) So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and at the right time he will lift you up in honor. 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. All power to him forever! Amen.

“Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.” As a true believer in Jesus Christ, it is imperative to live battle ready. The enemy is ready to engage from the moment your feet hit the floor. He will keep your mind awake through the night with fear, anxiety, worries and care that are nothing more than lies taking up real estate in the human mind. Faith and trust cannot exist in occupied space. Faith can only come when fear is given up. Trust is the act of expecting God first enough to make room for Him to be our expectation. If you do not trust the structure, you will not live in the house. If you do not trust the Lord, why would you live in His Presence?

On the other hand, there are those who do not believe that here is an enemy who seeks to overtake them. Remember the story of the three little pigs who set out on their own in the great big world. Two of them built shelters that would not withstand danger. The wolf easily toppled the homes they had constructed. The huts built in haste to get back to living life and entertaining the world. The two fled to their brother’s home who had taken the time and expended the energy to build a sound structure that would not fall down when the enemy arrived. His faithfulness and obedience saved his family from being devoured by the big, bad wolf. Friend, there is an enemy out there that wants to steal you from the Lord. But I have good news…

The enemy is walking around like a “roaring lion” looking for someone to devour. Those who stand alert, watch out for him, stand firm against him, and remain strong in faith cannot and will not be overtaken. It is up to you and me who to believe. The lie of the enemy may sound like a powerful lion who is about to attack but the truth of the matter is “you will trample upon lions” and “you will crush fierce lions.” It is the Word of God so it is true. The only power that the lion has over us today is that which is allowed. The truth of the matter is there is no power in his roar. It is but a kitten’s mew in the ears of a believer.

Daniel 6:16-23 (NLT) So at last the king gave orders for Daniel to be arrested and thrown into the den of lions. The king said to him, “May your God, whom you serve so faithfully, rescue you.” A stone was brought and placed over the mouth of the den. The king sealed the stone with his own royal seal and the seals of his nobles, so that no one could rescue Daniel. Then the king returned to his palace and spent the night fasting. He refused his usual entertainment and couldn’t sleep at all that night. Very early the next morning, the king got up and hurried out to the lions’ den. When he got there, he called out in anguish, “Daniel, servant of the living God! Was your God, whom you serve so faithfully, able to rescue you from the lions?” Daniel answered, “Long live the king! My God sent his angel to shut the lions’ mouths so that they would not hurt me, for I have been found innocent in his sight. And I have not wronged you, Your Majesty.” The king was overjoyed and ordered that Daniel be lifted from the den. Not a scratch was found on him, for he had trusted in his God.

The king could not defy his own order. If he did not put Daniel into the lion’s den, it would be to go back on his word and subsequently cause a ripple of uncertainty to ripple through his kingdom. His power and authority would not allow him to go back on this decree even to save the man of God. Sound familiar? God is not a man. He cannot lie or change His Mind. It would compromise His Authority and make His Power invalid. His Perfection is what makes Him Supreme and Omnipotent. He is Sovereign. This is why Jesus had to pay the ultimate price as the Sacrifice for our sin.

God sent an angel to shut to save Daniel. The king fasted and prayed all night for his servant’s safety. He wanted to believe that Daniel’s God would save him from certain death. I believe the King of Kings is always pulling for us, too. Hoping that this will be the day our trust in Him is secure. The moment that our faith keeps us firmly positioned in His Presence. There was not a scratch on Daniel when he was taken from the den that day. Not a proverbial “hair out of place.” God didn’t promise that we would not hear the roar of the lion or even find ourselves sleeping in his den, but He did promise that in His Presence, in the Shadow of the Almighty, that He would be our Refuge. He is our Protector and Defender. Psalm 91 says “for he will rescue you from every trap and protect you from deadly disease. He will cover you with his feathers. He will shelter you with his wings. His faithful promises are your armor and protection.”

Psalm 34:9-10 (NLT) Fear the Lord, you his godly people, for those who fear him will have all they need. Even strong young lions sometimes go hungry, but those who trust in the Lord will lack no good thing.

Do you hear the roar of the lion today? Is fear creeping in that you will be overtaken? Do you feel forgotten in the lion’s den sure to be consumed? Do not fear. Have faith today. God is with you. He is in you. He is working for you. The roar of the lion is based on his hunger not his power. In fact, the lioness are the real huntress in nature. The king of this world may be asserting his power but it is temporary and will soon be destroyed. His breath is filled with lies. He walks with his “pride” which is the small realm of influence that he has. The enemy is desperate. He cannot overtake anyone who dwells in the refuge called God’s Presence. Those who trust the Lord will not only survive but thrive lacking no good thing.

Proverbs 28:1 (NLT) The wicked run away when no one is chasing them, but the godly are as bold as lions.

I believe that based on Proverbs 28:1 – the Lord does not want us to cower in His Presence but become filled with boldness and confidence because He who is greater lives in me. When will the church start roaring back at the world? When will our voice shout to the victim running from the lion to come with us where you are safe from harm? When will the church become the refuge that Christ ordained us to be? When we stop running from the lion’s roar and come back roaring! Praising His Name. Trusting His Word. Having faith in His Kingdom enough to live there now and invest in our future with hope.

Psalm 91:14-16 (NLT) The Lord says, “I will rescue those who love me. I will protect those who trust in my name. When they call on me, I will answer; I will be with them in trouble. I will rescue and honor them. I will reward them with a long life and give them my salvation.”

Lying in bed in the middle of a foreign country surrounded by the jungles of Africa, I did not feel one ounce of fear when I heard the lion’s roar. Why? I knew that I was well-protected. I could hear the sounds of the night and felt the darkness surrounding me but it did not cause me to fear or worry that I was in any danger. God wants His Presence to be that profound in our life. So that when the enemy shouts at us, we are not afraid. When darkness is foreboding, the Light of His Love comes shining through. During the tests and trials that are inevitable to develop our faith and trust in Him, the Lord has given us freedom that no man or beast can take from us. The only weapon the enemy has to use against us are his lies. Once you know the truth, you will no longer believe the lie. With all this in mind, how loud is the lion’s roar now?

Come into His Presence today with boldness and confidence. The Lord wants to be our refuge and strength. It is up to us if we will rest in the Shadow of the Almighty with peace that passes understanding and inexpressible joy or will we live on the run? I choose you today Lion of Judah. Give me back my voice. Fill my mouth with Your Promises today to dismiss every lie the enemy offers. I trust you today! Let the lion’s roar.

Hebrews 4:16 (NLT) So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.

This Day

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Psalm 27:1 (NIV) The Lord is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life—of whom shall I be afraid?

This day snuck up on me this year. It usually doesn’t as every other year I carefully watch for its approach not to be taken off guard but to revel in the Goodness of the Living God. This year it was shadowed by my mom’s open heart surgery and subsequent recovery with multiple days away from home. It is also trumped by new faces and laughter of a little boy who has brought sunshine into our life as our family gets to know two new people. After three weeks of carefully watching and praying for my mom, then a weekend of pumpkin patches and painting with family – when the social media notification came I couldn’t believe it was this day all over again.

“We have a diagnosis. Brenan Flint has nasopharyngeal cancer. We do not know what stage it is BUT we do know that god is not surprised. Jesus is our Healer and His Spirit is with us! We have to walk it out! Standing on His Promises!” (Facebook post on 10/24/2011) I will never forget this day nor do I think that I should. I made this declaration on social media not knowing that it would literally consume more than three years of my life. So many times it is easy to profess Christ and faith in Him but then when it is put to the test anything lasting more than a day is unthinkable. Yet in that moment on that day, there was no other choice…or so I thought. Over the next couple of years, it would go from bad to worse. I thought I was broken and emptied in that moment but I wasn’t. I am a strong person full of pride and stubbornness that kept me from truly believing without seeing. God changed that on this day. It was the beginning of the end of me. I am okay with that…now.

The Lord is my Light and My Salvation – whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life – of whom shall I be afraid? The person who wrote the post back then and the one who blogs today are very different. The change that began on that day took literal years to complete. I know that by the time the end of the journey was reached my proclamation in life was different. It became this:

Psalm 27:4-5 (NIV) One thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple. For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his sacred tent and set me high upon a rock.

I was recently sucked into watching a portion of the movie, “The Shallows” with a young friend who I at first thought was watching “Cinderella”. By the time I tuned in, the heroine had been attacked by a great white shark surfing and was tuck on a rock with a seagull. I will not ruin the movie for you so feel free to continue. She was on a rock in the middle of the ocean completely along trying to survive. She could not swim to shore or the shark would attack her. She was stranded on the rock in the middle of the ocean. She cared for the wound using her past experiences. But now to live, she must rely on something new. She was in a hopeless situation. In such as state, she had to draw from experience and inner strength to devise a plan for her rescue.

While she was out there, a man wandered onto the beach. She shouted to get his attention and asked for him to call for help. Instead, in his drunken stupor, he robs the young lady. However, at some point, he wanders in the ocean and well I will leave the rest to your imagination, but it was not good. She watched from the rock. Now I wonder what might have happened if she had been on the shore…would she have been in danger of being robbed and harmed herself. See when we think that all hell is breaking loose in our life or our hope is gone – I believe it is the moment that our faith is exposed and allowed to grow a little more in who we know God is rather than what we make Him to be.

When our son’s cancer went into remission the first time, I gave God all the glory for the wonderful miracle that He had performed. He relapsed not once but a few more times before more drastic measures were clearly required. Each battle seemed harder than the first draining my time, energy and resources but what was the choice? To quit, give up, or give in. Absolutely not. So like the girl stranded on the rock, I had to cling to Him – Jesus – My Rock.

The reality of life is that it is uncertain and difficult. Jesus told us it would be like that but yet we become overwhelmed and surprised when trials and hardship come. Faith is perfected and refined in fiery times and difficult struggles so when we pray for such a thing – these things should be expected. Yet even now, in the midst of our current challenge, it caught me off guard and clearly by surprise just as this day did so many years ago.

Psalm 27:7-11 (NIV) Hear my voice when I call, Lord; be merciful to me and answer me. My heart says of you, “Seek his face!” Your face, Lord, I will seek. Do not hide your face from me, do not turn your servant away in anger; you have been my helper.
Do not reject me or forsake me, God my Savior. Though my father and mother forsake me, the Lord will receive me. Teach me your way, Lord; lead me in a straight path because of my oppressors.

The trial of cancer and the illness of our child taught me a valuable lesson to live by. I must seek Him first in all things or risk being destroyed. I live, breath and exist in Jesus Christ. It is in the midst of our trials that all the meaningless and worthless things are stripped away to expose the Light and Glory hidden inside of us when we trust the Lord even just a little. Faith is a mustard seed it is not a mighty oak. The “mighty oak” is the righteousness that is afforded us by the smallest investment of faith. When things don’t make sense, the enemy rushes in, the boat begins to wobble, the waves rise up, the storm winds blow, and the tempest threatens my meager existence – I find that I would rather swim to the rock then risk heading for the shore. I need the Rock of my Salvation to assure me, refine me, restore me and redeem me. When my heart is challenge, it reminds me – “Seek His Face!”

Psalm 27:13-14 (NIV) I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.

Fast forward through this day as I relive it in my mind, the day when everything changed. The moment my heart was completely shattered on the cement floor of a hospital. The time when my faith was tested by a fiery trial burning it down to its source. Those days were hard. The challenge overwhelming. I would relive this day of an awful diagnoses not once but a total of five times. Five times that God told me our son would live but the enemy whispered that he would die. Well, that wasn’t acceptable for me when God told me personally that “He would live and not die” if I trusted Him. At the end of this day, I finally believed and remain confident today that “I will see the Goodness of the Lord in the land of the living”. So I will…”wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart” oh and yes, I will “wait for the Lord”.

Reading this you may be facing a single trial or what seems like a firing line. Faith can be found in the midst of it all when you decide rather than escaping this thing or fighting back in your own strength that you learn to lean on Jesus and trust Him. Great aspiration until someone’s life is on the line, then you wonder is it enough. His Grace is always sufficient for you and me. We just give it lip service rather than life service most of the time. Maybe you are thinking – my trial or test is nothing like the one you went through – and I hope that you never do – but if you do, it will be the teeny, tiniest bit of faith that will get you through. Trouble is that what we call faith in God most of the time is not that at all.

Hebrews 11:1 (NIV) Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.

To walk by faith and not by sight as believers are instructed (2 Corinthians 5:7) means to believe when you do not see. When everything is falling apart, trusting that God is catching all the falling pieces of worth to make the masterpiece that He promised. (Ephesians 2:10) The Lord has taken note of every single tear that has fallen from your eyes. (Psalm 56:8) He is not afraid of the enemy and neither should you be. Jesus overcame the world and has given you the victory. With all this encouragement comes this expectation, faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance of what we do not see. Everything you see and all the things that you can do are not the product that produces faith. It is those times that you see no way out, no one is there to help you, and when it seems like there is no hope that faith is revealed in our life.

Those times when the only hope and help that we have left is Jesus Christ. It is in that moment on this day that your heart decides to seek Him and that the Lord is worth finding. Are you struggling today? Your heart is pressing you to seek Him but your head is recanting “what’s the point?” Is this the day? The one that will go down in history when you decided to put all your love, faith and trust in Jesus Christ? The moment when nothing else matters but crawling on the Rock of your salvation and waiting for the Lord to come to your rescue. The first couple of times that our son was diagnosed with cancer – the doctors were optimistic. But the third diagnosis and it severity – transitioned us all into the realm called hope. Oh Lord, let us live there and never wander out. The place where You are our Refuge and Strength. The Strong Tower where your people live, breathe and exist. I will never forget this day in history. I will relive it in my heart. This is the day that You, Jesus, became my one thing.

Psalm 118:15-21 (NIV) Shouts of joy and victory resound in the tents of the righteous: “The Lord’s right hand has done mighty things! The Lord’s right hand is lifted high; the Lord’s right hand has done mighty things!” I will not die but live, and will proclaim what the Lord has done. The Lord has chastened me severely, but he has not given me over to death. Open for me the gates of the righteous; I will enter and give thanks to the Lord. This is the gate of the Lord through which the righteous may enter. I will give you thanks, for you answered me; you have become my salvation.

 

Take Heart

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2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (NIV) Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since that is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

I am a creature of habit. Driven by routine and scheduling that once was required to manage our large family that has not subsided as our nest is emptied. The recent weather that impacted our community has somehow managed to saturate my life in chaos. Our family is blessed. The storm did not destroy our property. We were without power for only a few days. Internet service is still not restored. The kids have been out of school. I have not been able to work for about a week. Our Sunday worship service was cancelled. I am really not sure what day of the week it is. The inconvenience has been minimal but even the smallest interruption in our lives can distract us from our purpose. The “light and momentary” troubles are magnified by our unwillingness to be uncomfortable and out of control. Oh my, that hit a nerve. Could it be that my frustration is not in the events of the past several days, but rather the revelation that reverberates through this life disruption that I am not in control?

To fix our eyes on the unseen rather than the things we can see sounds so noble and righteous but reality reminds us that is really much harder than one might think. How do we not look at the “light and momentary” or not-so light and momentary troubles that impact our life? How do I keep my eyes completely fixed on the unseen reality of faith and keep my heart trusting God in every situation? To do so can feel like driving a car on our way to a destination and then suddenly throwing up our hands and closing our eyes asking the Lord to get us there. Oh how I know that Jesus hopes that one day this will be the case, not so much in the natural, but definitely spiritually. The day when the circumstances and conditions of our natural life no longer effect our ability to believe and see the Kingdom of God continuing our journey to reach it.

John 16:33 (NIV) “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world!

I love Jesus so much! He did not mix His Words or deceive us by omitting important details along the way. He said, “In this world, you will have trouble.” It just doesn’t get any plainer than that. You will have trials. You will have temptations. You will have trouble. BUT…oh the “buts”. BUT TAKE HEART! I have overcome the world. Victory belongs to me today as long as I do not get wrapped up in civilian affairs. Take heart! Jesus is giving us the heart to know what pleases Him, to do what is called for, and to overcome in every situation. He says, “Take heart!” Here it is. Take it.

Okay, I hear you. It’s all fun and games until the trouble comes. Trouble calls for realism. You are absolutely right. Do not stick your head in the sand like an ostrich at the first sign of trouble. Put your head in the Word of God that delineates your victory. It says clearly that in our weakness, His Grace is sufficient. It also tells me that greater is He who lives in me than he that is in the world. Now I could go on and on with these power verses but to those who choose residency in “reality” they are no good. These are promises for those who walk by faith and not by sight.

2 Corinthians 5:6-9 (NIV) Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body, we are away from the Lord. For we live by faith, not by sight. We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it.

Faith is not really worth a whole lot to us until faith becomes a reality. Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. (Hebrews 11:1) When what I see begins to overshadow what I believe, it moves me from momentary and temporary thinking to disappointment and discouragement based on doubt and disbelief. We must always be confident that God’s Word and His Will are fully operational in our everyday life to transition from ordinary life to extraordinary supernatural living for the Kingdom of God and not the these trials and troubles. The things in life that compromise our comfort, inconvenience us by disrupting our routine, ail our bodies, and disrupt our soul are all the stirrings of God allowed to keep us from digging into reality and remaining faithful until the end.

Every day it is important to “live by faith, not by sight.” This is a conditioning of the mind, soul and body to believe the Word of God. To trust the Will of God. To walk in the Way of God. It is to live for the Kingdom even when it is not evident in what we see but is the basis of what we know to be true in our life. I must live by faith in every situation. When our choices are based on the reality around us rather than the God in us – we have momentarily forgotten where our true residency resides.

Psalm 84:5-7 (NIV) Blessed are those whose strength is in you, whose hearts are set on pilgrimage. As they pass through the Valley of Baka, they make it a place of springs; the autumn rain also cover it with pools. They go from strength to strength, till each appears before God in Zion.

Have the “momentary and light” trials, troubles or temptations of life drawn you from faith to fear? Has the burden of life moved you from eternal thinking to internal disappointment or discouragement? The Lord says to “take heart” today. You are a Child of God. You are a resident of the Kingdom of God with a place in Heaven. Live like it today by choosing faith over the facts you are presented. Release the controls and let Jesus have His Way and Will in your life. It is time to stop calling yourself a realist who believes only in what you see rather than knowing what you believe. To walk by sight and not by faith limits our life to the conditions around us and consequences of choice rather than fathomless grace. It is in human weakness that we gain all of Christ’s Strength – it is that moment when His Grace is enough.

God’s Will for your life and mine is that we live from “strength to strength”. Strength is found in the Grace of God subject to our faith, trust and surrender to Jesus Christ. He is our Strength. The Lord told us that when trouble comes that we can take heart. There is a credit card commercial that says, “What’s in your wallet?” Perhaps, Jesus is asking what’s in your heart? Our heart is where are treasure is kept. Adversity reveals its contents under pressure or when tested by fire. The attitude and actions that are the aroma of our life during times of hardship indicate the content of our sacrifice. A heart that does not believe will quickly resort to human tactics and survival methods based on worldly experience rather than a godly one.

“The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in Him, and He helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise Him.” (Psalm 28:7) Sometimes we just need a little reminder. When my children were small and in need of my instruction or encouragement. I would often get down on their level and kneel down on the floor. I would then ask them to look at me. Sometimes, they would turn around quickly because they knew once I got their attention they could go back to what they were doing. I would not continue until they were looking at my face. I wonder if the Lord is like that with us. Does Jesus stand in front of us while we are looking back at the troubles and trials of life? Does He say our name until we finally turn around again? Is my unwillingness or inability to walk by faith and not by sight limiting the potential, outcomes and victory in life?

More than one time the Lord has asked me in an audible yet still small voice, do you trust me? It seems like these are the moments that I realize I have let my eyes wander from Him to my circumstances. I always say, “Yes Lord, I trust you!” However, from that point on it is up to me if I will make faith my reality and take heart or remain in disbelief, doubt and discouragement. See Jesus already won the victory. He already handed me the Keys to His Kingdom. He gave me a measure of faith to work with and a map to guide the way during this journey called life. I am equipped with everything I need to fulfill my purpose and enough grace for every time I mess up along the way. It is up to me whether I choose to make faith my reality or not.

The psalmist shared it like this in Psalm 73:23-26. “Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take in into glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” Take heart! Jesus will never leave you or forsake you. He resides in you making you a resident of His Kingdom forever. His Kingdom is powerful and strong. It will prevail when everything we can see today is gone. Our body is literally dying from the moment we are born. Our soul will live forever. We must concentrate and focus on making our soul strong and take heart making our faith a reality every day. We are victorious overcomers who hide a “temporary residents” in this world. So, take heart!

2 Thessalonians 2:16-17 (NIV) May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by His Grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.