No More Resolutions

No More Resolutions

2 Peter 1:4-5 (NLT) And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires. In view of all this, make every effort to respond to God’s promises. 

Renew. Restore. Revive. Radical. Reckless. To respond. The “R”’s of my rambling for 2018. Tonight at sundown or a little after, our family will begin our annual fast for the New Year. For eleven days, through fasting and prayer, as a body of believers (yes, just the four of us), we will seek the Face of God for many areas of our life. To focus our family and life in one direction. The Way. To turn away from the worthless things that so easily captivate our attention and rob us of time. As I began to write in my journal today, I found these words forming from the ink of the pen. I am asking the Lord to renew me from the inside out. To restore me after a month of minor illness and inconvenience. To revive my passion and desire to pursue Him wholeheartedly leaving behind the distractions from 2017. To make my love for others radical in recognition of His Love for me. To be reckless in my pursuit of Christ making faith seem the only option. To respond to all of God’s Promises. To believe that God is doing exactly what He said and to let His Spirit fortify my fickle heart. I can make a list of habits to change, budgets to follow, and schedules to keep but if Christ is not the priority in all of them – what’s the point?

No more resolutions. The power to change is the Christ in me. It is not something I do but what He does in me. I am giving up on resolutions and instead this year I choose to respond to God’s Promises instead. Why? Because of His Glory and Excellence, He has given (me) great and precious promises. These promises enable (me) to share in His Divine Nature. A resolution is a firm decision on my part to do or not to do something any longer. It is the action of solving a problem, dispute or contentious matter. It is me. A resolution is self-resolve to fix something that appears to be broken or dysfunctional. Well…I have come to the conclusion after fifty-one years of life – I can’t fix it. I cannot make “me” a better person. I am going to fail. I will mess up. I will fall short. I will give up, give in and give out depending on the situation. The only good thing in me is Jesus Christ. The Power of Christ is manifested in my weakness. So this year, I no longer resolve to make me a better person but let Christ transform me into a new creation. (2 Corinthians 5:17)

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

Jesus Christ revealed God’s Kindness and Love for us. When He saved us, it was finished. The process of redemption complete. The renewal process made available to all mankind. He washed our sin away. Gave us a new birth and new life through His Spirit. Generously His Spirit is on us identifying us as God’s Precious Children. It is said that you do not pick your parents which is absolutely true. In this case specifically, God chose you. He chose me. God, the Father, decided that He loved us and wanted us. His Reckless Love would stop at nothing to have us. I wonder what would happen if for just a moment, a single solitary second, we could completely wrap our head around the Truth that the entire process of salvation and redemption is a direct result of the Love of God. He had no other intention but to pour out unfailing love and unfathomable goodness on His Beloved. Would we respond differently? Absolutely. Religion would be crushed beneath the heaviness of unconditional love in the church and “whosoever come” would be plastered over the doors and altars while those who want to be loved would come pouring in.

Because of his grace he made us right in his sight and gave us confidence that we will inherit eternal life. Grace is the reason that God loves me and is for me. It is the essence of relationship that if we could just wrap our heads tightly around it – faith would not be so hard and confident hope the common sense of our life. We can go into the world and try to share the love of Jesus Christ but until we understand that His Love, Grace and Kindness are for us and there is nothing further that we can do but receive it – our message is in vain. Perfect love casts out all fear. Fearless faith comes from a heart that comes to know God’s Unfailing Love and accepts it as a way of life. This will enable us to “respond” to God’s Promises rather than trying to earn them or deserve them which cannot be done.

Proverbs 3:3-4 (ESV) Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you; bind them around your neck; write them on the tablet of your heart. So you will find favor and good success in the sight of God and man.

This year it is my deepest desire to live in God’s Steadfast Love and Faithfulness to the fullest. I must bind His Promises around my neck and continually inscribe them on my heart. My love is imperfect. It tends to be conditional. It has flaws and faults that the Lord continually works on. I will never love like Jesus unless I love through Jesus. The Christ in me must be given wide open space. The Spirit in me must be the ruler of my heart, mind, soul and body at all times. The Favor of God and Good Success that I believe God has promised us is not in my ability to do everything right this year, but to continually seek the Lord wholeheartedly. I must decrease so that He can increase.

I wonder what would happen in our natural life if we lived as though supernatural promises were inevitable. What if we decided that God is good, His Love unfailing, His Grace enough, and His Faithfulness forever? Would it change the potential of our life? Would it change us? We must invest our mind, soul, body and spirit into obtaining the promises of God which begins by believing that they actually exist and are obtainable rather than living a diversified life with one foot in the world and the other in the Kingdom. It is impossible to establish dual residency with God. He is not a wishy washy – halfhearted God. You love Him or you hate Him. There is no coexistence in the Kingdom. You embrace Christ or idols. See we live in a world of moving lines and shifting sand – it makes a completely constant God who is always good and always loving and always kind very hard to believe so we must not lean on our own understanding. (Proverbs 3:5)

2 Peter 1:5-7 (NLT) In view of all this, make every effort to respond to God’s promises. Supplement your faith with a generous provision of moral excellence, and moral excellence with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with patient endurance, and patient endurance with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love for everyone.

Responding to the Promises of God. This is my resolve for this New Year. This is the year that I will allow God to be God and simply cling to Him. I must supplement faith with qualities and characteristics produced by God’s Spirit inside of me. I must embrace and acknowledge the Holy Spirit as He is my teacher, guide, counselor and even comforter in the process of becoming a new creation. Transformation is not comfortable. It is inconvenient. It is uncontrollable. It takes time that I don’t think I have. Yet, in the end, it will all be worth it. Forever is the past, present and future wrapped neatly into a package called life. God knows the beginning from the end. It is His Unfailing Love and Faithfulness that has brought you this far and will carry you through. You have done nothing to facilitate the process other than present your worthless life to Jesus Christ. Rather than making any more resolutions. This year I am changing my resolve. I want all that God has for me. I must submit my life to Christ all over again. All of it. Holding nothing back, making the decision that this life is not about me – nevertheless Christ is for me. His Promises are real. His Love is true. His Word lasts forever. He is faithful. To this I will respond…

Proverbs 3:5-6 (ESV) Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.

Advertisements

Time Management

Time Management

Psalm 90:12 (ESV) So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.

The holidays are finally over. It is now time to get back to “normal” life. The junk food is cleared out of the refrigerator. Guests have all gone back home. The house is somewhat in order. Kids are getting ready to go back to school. Work days fall back into Monday through Friday each day with its own schedule and routine. There is comfort in the known. Life goes on.

Will 2018 be like every other year? Will I make of list of good intentions? Will I follow through? I am a planner who finds solace in the mundane routine. Not much for surprises, I enjoy knowing what comes next and preparing for it. I am a budgeter of everything. My life. My time. Our finances. Everything. Order makes my life controlled. However, as I read this verse today, I wonder if there is something missing in the projection of my life. Have I considered all the factors? Or at the end of my life, will I miss what mattered most? I want to live an intentional life. The security I have in the natural must be transferred to the supernatural.

Psalm 90:12 says, “Teach us to number our days that we may get heart wisdom.” I am a Child of God. He created me and ordered my life from the beginning. (Psalm 139) Nothing in my life is a secret or surprise to the Lord. My sin, faults, failures and weaknesses were all considered when Jesus died on the Cross. Otherwise, there would not be sufficiency in His Grace. God’s Plan for me includes a future and hope. Christ has set me free from all penalties to choose the life that I will live. Why are we so quick to fault God with our bad choices? Lack of obedience? Small faith? Flourishing unbelief? All the things that keep us from radically pursuing the Living God yet we blame Him when things don’t work out the way He said the way that we planned. We need a change of perspective.

Timelessness of God

Psalm 90:2-4 (ESV) Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God. You return man to dust and say, “Return, O children of man!” For a thousand years in your sight are but as yesterday when it is past, or as a watch in the night.

I have never watched the movie, “Titanic”. People are often shocked and tell me to watch it. I have no interest in doing so because I know how it ends. The ship sinks. Men, women and children perish in frigid waters. It does not have a happy ending. The film is historical. It is a sensationalized cinematic version of the events leading up to the fateful day. I know the end from the beginning. God knows the beginning and end of our natural life. He knows the potential hidden along with eternity and faith in our heart. It is up to us to decide if we will participate.

The Lord is good. He has promises scripted into the future and hope provided in Jeremiah 29. The only thing required is to seek Him wholeheartedly. To live life intentionally pursuing the Living God means understanding who He is. Intimate knowledge of God comes from the Word and through His Spirit. True worshippers will do so in Spirit and in Truth. Why is this so important? Intimacy with God is offered through Jesus Christ. Jesus came to save us, heal us, deliver us, protect us and prosper us in THIS life called the land of the living. The consistency of my commitment to Christ allows me to know Him more. When you know someone, you know is true and what is not true. I know my husband. We have been together almost two decades. We live together and communicate every single day. He loves me. I know that. I know him intimately. I know His Character – faults and all. So if someone were to tell me something untrue about him – it would be obvious to me. So it goes in our relationship with God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit.

To know the Word is to know Jesus. To understand who He is there is no substitution for knowledge and wisdom. Otherwise, your information is secondhand. People can tell me who He is to them, but I will only be confident in the One I know. God is timeless. He is everlasting. He knows the end from the beginning. He has carefully detailed the steps of my life to fulfillment. While I look for success in the seventy or so promised on the earth, the Lord takes it one step further into a fathomless forever. I must expand my consciousness of Him from the here and now to the forever or for some from the forever to the here and now.

The Word of God tells us that God does not lie or change His Mind. The blessing on our life stands forever. He is working every detail of our life for good. He pursues us unfailing love, mercy, and His Goodness every single day. There is nothing that can separate me from His Love. It is my absolute inability and weakness that allows His Power to manifest in my life. All of this is true. God perfects all that concerns me.

Brevity of Our Natural Life

Psalm 39:4-5 (ESV) “O Lord, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am! Behold, you have made my days a few handbreadths, and my lifetime is as nothing before you. Surely all mankind stands as a mere breath! Selah

Make me know my end and what is the measure of my days…this is not a message of gloom and doom. It is a change of perspective that many of us would benefit from myself included. People get sucked in by life. The enemy uses busyness to steal precious moments from us. Time is priceless because it can never be recaptured once it has past. Every human being has twenty four hours in a day, sixty minutes in each hour and sixty seconds in a minute. Busyness is a personal choice of how one chooses to use their commodity called time. We establish the pursuits in our life. God didn’t tell you to work hard and stay motivated in order to find success. We choose the pathway and our perception of success. If all our time is sown into other things, we will reap what we sow. It is only those endeavors blessed by the Lord that produce no sorrow with them. Your job is a blessing from the Lord. If you take that job and make it your idol, it may become a barren field or you may only gain what your hand has sown.

Godly prosperity begins in our soul. If our soul does not prosper, we will never find contentment or completion in Jesus Christ. We must become conscious of the brevity of life. To understand the need for heart wisdom that prospers our heart and mind. Changes us by producing godly character. As the fruit of God’s Spirit is cultivated in us, it grows into the very offering of our life. It is time to slow down and consider our days. The number of them. The quality of them. The wasted moments. The priority of our life is evident in the dispensation of time. To sow seeds of faith and hope in our natural life requires a consciousness of our time and the timelessness of God. Where you sow – you reap. To sow only for this life will leave you well supplied today but what about forever?

Proverbs 3:1-4 (ESV) My son, do not forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments, for length of days and years of life and peace they will add to you. Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you; bind them around your neck; write them on the tablet of your heart. So you will find favor and good success in the sight of God and man.

In Ecclesiastes 3 it is established that God has ordained a time for every activity in life. He promises that in His Time – He makes all things beautiful. He placed eternity in our hearts because that is the true definition of success. To become a new creation and extend our life from the natural to supernatural realm. Intentional Christianity requires integrating the timelessness of God and our natural timeline. We cannot make time but we can certainly portion our time. When faith is sown in our heart, it connects us with the eternity that is hidden there. God gave us everything needed to live a godly life. We must choose to use our time intentionally. He even promises that it will add length of days and year of life and peace. Not only that – “you will find favor and good success TODAY in the sight of God and man.” There is never a more influential Christian then the one who is prosperous in all things pertaining to life and godliness.

Time Integration

Proverbs 3:5-6 (ESV) Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.

God doesn’t need you or me to do anything. He doesn’t want anything from us. He just wants us. The Lord wants and desires an intimate relationship with us. Will you trust the Lord today with all of your heart? Time management and distribution is telling of where our trust really is in life. If it is fully consumed by worldly pursuits waiting for more time for godly pursuits – these are wasted moments. To successfully integrate God’s Timing and our timelines means giving up my way to have His Way. God will never change His Timing for us. He is perfect in ALL of His Ways. Those who do not lean on human understanding and choose to trust God with their time will find that He adds to it days and years that would have otherwise been consumed by busyness and peace to the fearful and insecure heart.

The Lord wants to live life with you and through you. He will complete the work begun in us but we must give Him our time and attention so He can do it. We must trust that the Lord will do exactly what He says enough to stop trying to do it all ourselves. Let the Holy Spirit be the Master of your time today. Give the Lord your schedule and let Him reprioritize it according to His Will and His Way. How can we trust the Lord with forever if we do not trust Him for this day?

Psalm 16:11 (ESV) You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

The Walk

The Walk

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

Peace is a journey of a thousand miles and it must be taken one step at a time. Lyndon B. Johnson

The blameless walk is not a series of perfect steps but walking with Christ every step along the way. In fact, perfection is often the enemy of faith as it drains us in our pursuit of the impossible. Like chasing the wind but never catching it while deciding the current scenery and state of affairs is the end result. The journey is made up of many steps not just the place where you are standing. It takes a series of steps to find a new destination, but how often we allow one or two to determine the outcome.

Genesis 5:24 (NIV) Enoch walked faithfully with God; then he was no more, because God took him away.

To walk faithfully with God. This is the secret to a successful journey. He withholds no good thing from those who walk with Him. In fact, the rain falls on the just and unjust. Perhaps to walk with the Lord blamelessly is to strive to do things His Way and inherit His Promises. Our steps are ordered by the Lord. He provides a plan for our life containing a future and hope. His Word a guide for us. His Spirit is our compass. Willingness, discipline and obedience keep us on course to have every good thing already predestined for our life. God promises to use every detail for our good and His Glory.

Enoch walked with the Lord for 300 years. In all those years, I am certain being a human being that he made mistakes along the way. Like many others, he fell short of God’s Standard and even sinned. The secret of Enoch’s success was presence. He sought the Presence of God in his life every day. Faithfulness is not about our ability to do all the right things. It is not always evident in our speech. It is not a life of perfection but perspective. To see our life through the eyes of our Creator, and attempt to follow Him to the end result. Enoch was not defined by his religion but an ongoing and abiding relationship with the Lord. So close, in fact, that when it was time for him to leave the earth and enter eternity – it was a seamless transition void of suffering and death. He simply was no more.

Enoch was not the only person in the Bible swept up by God and he was no more. Elijah was walking with Elisha when suddenly a chariot of fire appeared and he was never seen again. There is a transition in life when our life is no longer our own. A place in time when trust takes over and faith flourishes in the absence of doubt. The point of destiny is defined by such moments when in our imperfection and inadequacy the Lord is able to sweep us up and away from this world…but until then we must learn to walk in the Presence of God each day.

Deuteronomy 6:6-8 (NIV) These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.

The practicality of faith is its simplicity. To apply what is believed to our natural existence requires pursuing the Lord and His Presence in each step rather than waiting for a church service or special time. God desires to walk with us daily – step-by-step. The commandments given to us do not restrict our freedom but grace has given us the liberty to pursue God and step into His Presence. It gives our life purpose, potential and a plan.  To live in unison with Christ and His Spirit inside of us in a relationship that is practical. Faith is illogical outside of God’s Word. Jesus is the Word made flesh. To know Christ one must have intimacy with the Word. The instructions for living take us somewhere that we couldn’t find outside of God. What if the perception of God’s Word became a roadmap to life rather than a handbook of condemnation? There is no condemnation in Christ. He is part of God and one with Him. God is love. His Love produces mercy and grace. The enemy wants you to think that Jesus limits you in life. The truth is that when you pursue His Presence – every step has meaning and detail purposed for goodness.

Acts 17:23-25 (NIV) For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: to an unknown god. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship—and this is what I am going to proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else.

Paul addressed the men of Athens concerning the “unknown God”. I wonder what might happen within the Body of Christ if the reality of our faith was to walk with the Lord daily. To decide with each step to seek His Presence. To determine that even on the worst day, to take one more step closer. To never give up. Never give in. The concept of a God who sits on a throne too high for us to reach and too perfect to approach was wrecked when Jesus Christ came to live with us. He then died for us. He soon came to abide within us. Now we are blameless in the Sight of God covered by the Blood of His Son, Jesus. When God sees us coming, He only sees Jesus. Perfection. Blamelessness. Righteousness.

The Lord desires to be with us. His Spirit is evidence that He is with us. Always. He never leaves us or forsakes us. We must learn to walk in the freedom of His Love. The place where you are today has purpose. A new life in Christ does not always change the scenery but it will take you to the mountaintops and keep you in the valleys of life. Christ didn’t come to change the world but to live in the hearts of those who belong to the Kingdom. When we accept Christ to save us and live in us, it is to invite the Holy Spirit to lead us, guide us and direct us. He is our Savior and He also is to be our Lord. Prosperity in our life is a direct produce of abundance overflowing from our soul. As our soul prospers so will we. Success comes with the harvest. The seeds of diligence in each step will change the crop of the next season. Each step you take has potential outside of our perception in that day. So on those days when of weakness and weariness, His Grace is enough to carry us through. Nothing is wasted. We only miss the mark by deciding to quit.

Psalm 23:1-4 (NIV) The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

The Lord is a shepherd. We are his sheep. He will leave the ninety-nine to find the one who has lost its way, stepped off course, become distracted, or just plain gave up. You are important to Him. He has decided to put His Spirit inside of you to empower you, give wisdom and direction, and to be our comforter when our natural life does not reflect the vision in our spiritual life. Sometimes, we lose sight of the close proximity of God or become tired of waiting for Him to perfect those things that concern us. This does not change the fact that His Presence longs to go with us, be with us, grow in us and lead us to better things.

Lord, create a consciousness in us regarding the steps of our life. Each one has its own importance and significance because you are detail-oriented and work it all for our good. Let us never lose sight of your unfailing love and abundance of goodness that follows us all the days of our life. May we become caught up in Your Presence today.

Psalm 23:6 (NIV) Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

The Steadfast

The Steadfast

2 Chronicles 27:6 (NIV) Jotham grew powerful because he walked steadfastly before the Lord his God.

The view of strength and power based on human perception implies influence and affluence. One might think those who have it all are set, when in truth their souls are empty. Void of peace, looking for love, and hoping for acceptance outside of the social circle, those envied and sought after often are the loneliest of them all. Even in the church, people paint a pretty picture over the reality of a life lived in fear and insecurity. Setting up a religious order, that makes us feel comfortable in our inability and effective in human weakness. The Lord tells us His Grace is enough. He has overcome the world. We have the victory. If only we believed Him enough to stand steadfast. To wait and watch for the Lord rather than human acceptance, affirmation and acknowledgement. To order each day and every single step in accordance with the one who offers all of this one neat package labeled Jesus Christ. The One who will fill us with His Spirit to produce all the things ever longed for that will overflow from a prospering soul into our natural life. If only we became the steadfast…

To be steadfast. It doesn’t sound exciting. It really seems to be quite boring. Maybe the enemy tells us it is such to keep us from the blessing and prosperity found in walking steadfast with the Lord. To daily be loyal, faithful, committed, devoted, dedicated, dependent, steady, true and constant to our calling in Christ. What would be the impact? We would grow more powerful. It happened for Jotham, King of Judah and son of Uzziah. Though he never entered the temple built with human hands, He walked steadfastly before the Lord His God. His reign only lasted sixteen short years yet he defeated his enemies and grew in great wealth. He was a good king who walked in alignment with God’s Kingdom.

What about Enoch? He walked faithfully and steadfastly with God until he was no more because whisked him away. There is no record of his death only that God took him away. Hebrews 11:5 says that “he did not experience death” for “he was commended as one who pleased God.” Faithfulness until the end is exemplified by a steadfast and immovable heart that does not react to this life but responds to the Promises of God and His Purpose for our life now and forevermore.

I Corinthians 7:37 (NKJV)  Nevertheless he who stands steadfast in his heart, having no necessity, but has power over his own will, and has so determined in his heart that he will keep his virgin, does well.

This passage from I Corinthians is part of Paul’s letter to Corinth regarding principles of marriage particularly referencing the unmarried and widows. While this refers to the one who cares for the unmarried, I love the inspiration to stand steadfast – He who stands steadfast in his (or her) heart, having no necessity (content) but has power over his own will (self-control) and has so determined in his (or her) that he will keep ________ , does well. There is instruction in the Word of God that is to lead us to a better life. A life filled with a future and hope. Jesus has given us freedom and complete liberty to choose how we live and make our own choices. He has given us abundant grace when we choose less than His Glorious Standard or decide to sin. True repentance leads us back into the waiting Arms of God who never left us and waits for us to respond. To be steadfast is a heart decision to choose the Lord over anyone or anything else in this life. The impact of steadfastness blesses this life – it doesn’t make sense but the Grace and Goodness of our Lord seldom does.

I Peter 5:8-11 (NIV) Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings. And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.

You do not fight for victory but from victory. Jesus Christ has given us victory. We must only assert His Power and Authority in our life to secure it. The stand of steadfastness is our battle stance. The Sword of the Spirit is the Word of God which is the details of our covenant and what belongs to us as Children of God. It is not our job to oppose the enemy or even other people but rather to oppose our flesh. The inner tendency to try to do something that has already been done for us. The drive to be perfect or at least appear worthy of the priceless gift that has been given. To stand in opposing flesh demands a certain death. Will your faith die or your flesh? You decide. Day by day – a steadfast heart must stand on faith in God’s Word, His Will and His Way to overcome the thief who will try to steal from, kill or destroy you. How is your stand today? Are you unshakeable, immovable and fearless?

Psalm 112:6-8 (NIV) Surely the righteous will never be shaken; they will be remembered forever. They will have no fear of bad news; their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the Lord. Their hearts are secure, they will have no fear; in the end they will look in triumph on their foes.

Fear is a symptom of insecurity. Something inside of us is not convinced and unbelief exists. We must secure our heart and eliminate fear. The spirit of fear is not given to us by God and therefore can be refused. Fear rears its head in many ways. Stress, worry, and anxiety are just a few. When we experience any feeling or emotion of dread and do not have perfect peace (Isaiah 26:3) there is a trust issue that requires immediate attention. Our steadfastness is compromised and in need of immediate attention. A steadfast mind produces a peace-filled life. Trusting the Lord defies who we are as human beings. Circumstances and situations do not impact or influence our heart when set on the Lord. It is a daily pursuit of His Presence guided by His Spirit to become a new creation as He promised. It will cost us every ounce of our flesh. As more of our natural life is yielded to Christ, He fills our voids, heals our wounds, roots out insecurity and doubt to fill our life with the good things that He has promised beginning with the soul-strengthening Fruit of His Spirit.

Philippians 4:4-9 (NIV) Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!  Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

Could this be the guidelines for a steadfast life? A steadfast heart is important to our spiritual success. We have a plethora of promises yet to come to pass. There is an abundant life waiting for those who desire it enough to pursue it. Our flesh wants to fight, but our spirit guided by the Holy Spirit tells us to stand fast on the Word of God and let Him complete the work that He has begun in each of us. To be steadfast is not a proud position but a humbled existence that considers God’s Word, Will and Ways before our own. Jotham grew in power because he walked steadfastly before the Lord. Enoch did not die but instead was simply swept up in the Presence of God. The lives of both men are briefly detailed in God’s Word. The message of faithful obedience and steadfastness speaks volumes. In our need to acquiesce our flesh, it is human nature to complicate things with overwhelming details and complexity. It weaves a tangled lie making the excuse that such an existence is impossible. The simple truth is a life lived in steadfastness before the Lord is powerful.

Proverbs 4:25-26 (NIV) Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you. Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways.

Fake Plants

Artificial Plants

John 15:5 (NKJV) “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. 

I am a natural born plant killer. When I walk through a garden center or nursery, all the little plants shake in fear that they will be fatefully selected. My thumb is a dark and ominous shade of black. Thank the Lord that I am much better at raising children and pets than the unsuspecting houseplant. About the only safe plant I own would be the one that is planted in our yard where my husband can take care of it. I am not a fan of artificial plants with all the vivid and perfect greenery. I have one little tree in the corner of the house given to me by my mother. It really is beginning to look sad after years of being dusted and vacuumed. Little hands tugging at the fronds. Now a huge puppy who likes to nibble running by. It cannot experience new life and regrowth because it is plastic created in a factory made to look good but produce nothing.

Jesus said, “I am the vine, you are the branches.” An illustration of new life, growth, maturity and productivity available by engraftment. The cutting away of our flesh sounds painful and brutal. Engrafting allows us to grow from a new source. In horticulture, it means to insert one tree or plant into another for the purpose of multiplication. The Kingdom of God operates on the principle of sowing and reaping. We sow our life into Jesus Christ. He produces the Kingdom through us. Planting is the pathway of productivity ordained by God. Whatever you plant, you will harvest. You cannot harvest what you do not plant.

“He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.”  

The Fruit of the Spirit are clearly identified in Galatians 5:22-23 as “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” But many times, this is not the natural expectation of new or young believers. They come to Christ desiring the things naturally occurring rather than supernaturally produced. It’s only natural. However, to truly flourish and prosper is to live IN Christ. Give up our way of doing things to live disciplined lives hence He produces self-control in us that allows us to truly repent and turn from our old way of life to fully embrace His Gift of new life.

John 15:1-4 (NKJV) “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.

Walking through the local Ace, looking for my next victim. Just kidding, I was actually trying to find a crepe myrtle tree for the yard so botanist and horticulturists can put their mind at ease. It was hot and humid outside but then a steady midst of cool water made me look up. All around the covered area a PVC irrigation system periodically watered all the potted plants. The plants will survive in this environment until they are rescued and put in the ground. Once in the ground, the fertile soil will begin to give the plant or tree the nutrients it needs to begin to sprout new growth. The roots will anchor it down so wind and rain will not be a threat. It will be watered from the ground to the sky and all around as natural and man cooperate to produce an environment conducive to growth and prosperity. What was once limited to a contained environment will hopefully begin to grow, develop and mature. God is inviting us to enter the prosperity process of growth but it requires being moved out of the limitations of our natural life and planting ourselves in His Presence. I access such a place through His Son, Jesus Christ. He washed us in the Word. The Word made flesh is Jesus. Now we have true growth potential but we must endure the growth process to actually prosper.

Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.

Reading some commentary on this passage, I came across a new term. It shook me to my core rattling my roots if you will. Pseudo-believer or false believer. Yikes! How is this even possible? Do I truly believe? Am I growing in Christ or producing a bunch of leaves without fruit? Here is the danger of religion versus relationship exposed as a warning to those who follow Christ. If I do what the Word of God tells me to do, my life will become productive. I will experience increase because I am sowing good seed…God seed. It will do what is sent forth to do in spite of me. God is good. He wants to bless us. Obedience produces blessing and prosperity in our life. Any part of my life partnered with God’s Word will begin to experience a radical change and dramatic shift not because I did anything but when I plant and water with the Word – God gives increase. However, it is possible to walk with Christ but not live in Christ. Prime example – Judas. He was one of the twelve. He heard every word spoken by Jesus, experienced every sign, wonder and miracle with the others and even walked in the Presence of the Living God but did not believe. If I do what the Word says but do not fall in love with Jesus Christ, I can experience a pseudo-relationship called religion. If I fall in love with Jesus Christ and do my best to follow His Teachings and allow His Spirit to produce His Fruit in my life – I am redeemed. I will live in Christ. I will become a true believer worshipping in Spirit and Truth. I will not be separated from Him in the end.

Matthew 11:28-30 (NKJV)  Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

I John 5:2-4 (NKJV) By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome. For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.

The word “yoke” is the device that joins two or more work animals so that they work together. Jesus invites us to take His Yoke upon us and partner with Him in this life. I must give up my way to go His Way. The promise is that His Yoke is easy and His Burden is light. This does not mean that life is easy and becoming a new creation is not without its struggles, sorrows and suffering because the death of our flesh and old way of thinking is often painful. But when we love God, live in Christ, and strive to keep His Commandments – His Spirit cultivates growth in our relationship. We do things every day out of responsibility. Some relationships such as that with our co-workers is born of responsibility. There are things we do to maintain that relationship because it is our job, duty or responsibility. However, when we yoke our life to Jesus and decide to live in love with Him first, all other responsibilities become His Responsibilities. He takes the lead. It is His Yoke. His Burden. We can have peace that the process is prosperous without worrying, stressing, or fretting about it. We do not have to fear the outcome but simply wait on it. God gets no glory in our death but His Glory shines in our success.

Ephesians 3:14-19 (NKJV) For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height—to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

Are you rooted and grounded in His Love today? Does Christ dwell in your heart? Do you abide in Him today? Fake faith and artificial growth produce nothing but disappointment. It may bring some momentary happiness and temporary blessings but just a fake plant fades with time so will our satisfaction. Sometimes it is easier to take up the responsibilities of religion and do the right thing rather than allowing Jesus to be completely and totally responsible for our life. I cannot become the new creation that He promised and have the rich and satisfying life marked by abundance if I do not surrender my life to Jesus. My heart must bear the Fruit of His Spirit first to live in love with Him. He is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think according to the power that works in us. Jesus lives in us. We must focus first on cultivating our relationship with the Lord in order to experience the prosperity and success promised as our soul prospers. Without a prospering soul, our flesh will never be satisfied with the productivity of our life. Jesus is the One who satisfies our soul.

Ephesians 3:20-21 (NKJV) Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

Have I Failed?

Have I Failed

Psalm 73:26 (NKJV) My flesh and my heart fail; but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

My flesh and my heart fail…Have I failed God? What happens if I do not pass the test? When my flesh and heart feel like failures – what then? What’s next for the believer who doesn’t get it right? In the midst of spiritual droughts, it is not uncommon to feel like a failure. To wonder “what’s the point” of even trying because I have made a fine mess of things. Or even worse lug out the heavy bat marked regret in order to beat yourself up over and over until you live in shame. The enemy of our soul wants us to believe that failure is not an option but inevitable. Do you feel like a failure today?

But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. We can be our own worst critics. Examining our life and choices with a magnifying glass. Comparing our success to others. Trying to do it all and do it all well. A life of excellence is not defined by doing everything but doing what you do well. The accomplishment of excellence takes focus on raising the standard of our life with commitment and discipline that cannot be diverse. It must be consistent. It must remain constant. How does a human being accomplish such a daunting task? With fickle hearts and wandering minds, how is it even possible to achieve God’s Standard of Living. Truth is it is impossible. I cannot make my life any better. I can make better choices. I can change some of my behaviors. I can develop good habits. Yet still I cannot change my future and hope. It is already established. A plan carefully written for me, my good and God’s Glory before I was born. It contains a future and hope. Always good things in store for me. But the only way that I can have constant success in life is to seek the Lord wholeheartedly. Is it possible to fail God? We already did. Is it possible to fail? Yes. Our flesh and heart will fail us over and over again. The good news is that even when our flesh and heart fail that the Lord is our strength and portion forever. “For with God nothing will be impossible.” (Luke 1:37)

The definition of failure is a lack of success. It is absolutely possible and inevitable that there will be failure in certain areas of our natural existence. In fact, our body is born in a state of aging and deterioration. Our choices directly impact the advancement of the process. At some point in the future, everyone will die. It is unavoidable. However, as sons and daughters of God this does not impact our future negatively. Others will mourn our crossover into Heaven, but I do not think a single person welcomed by Jesus ever looks back. Disappointment is unmet expectation. Any expectation placed in people or the world will often result in disappointment or discouragement. This impacts our heart and mind. Unless we understand the greater picture of our new life in Christ it is easy to become persuaded that there are things that can separate us from the Love of God and His Plan for us. This is simply not true.

I John 3:1-3 (NKJV) Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.

I am a child of God. Are you? If you are a child of God – you have an inheritance. He becomes your portion. What does that mean exactly? Every promise and blessing that the Father has for you is unconditional. It is your inheritance. You receive it simply by becoming His Child. Let these words sink in for just a minute. Failure means nonperformance on something due, required or expected. God released His Word for your life. His Word cannot return to Him void. It must accomplish what He pleases and it must prosper in the thing for which He sent it. (Isaiah 55:11) It doesn’t matter if you fail what matters is that God’s Word cannot fail. God is not like mankind. He does not lie or change His Mind. Once He commands a blessing in your life, it must happen. It will happen. Lord, You are the portion of my inheritance and my cup; You maintain my lot. The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places;Yes, I have a good inheritance. (Psalm16:5-6)

Lamentations 3:21-25 (NKJV) This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope. Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is Your Faithfulness.  “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “Therefore I hope in Him!” The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him.

I have hope. Faith is the substance of things hoped for. The evidence of the unseen reality in our life. God is our hope. Faith attaches us to the hope. We must believe it to receive it. If only men and women of “faith” could overcome fear of failure. Imagine the explosive impact on those who were not afraid to fail in their faith but flourished in hope. Confident hope becomes consistent faith. Faith that moves mountains is not the kind that whispers words of uncertainty or remains tangled in regret. Fearless faith is that which relies on God’s Mercy that comes to us each day. The Spirit-Filled Bible puts it like this – “Where grace emphasizes the freeness of God’s Love toward us, mercy stresses the freeing of our lives from the misery of disobedience.” The truth is that we obey God’s Word because we do not believe it. For if we believed in our inheritance, we would devour the Word of God finding ways to make it work in our life. When new mercy came this morning, did you receive it? Did you use it to cover the wounds of disappointment, the marks of regret, and the stains of shame? God’s Compassion for us does not fail. His Love for us provided a wave of grace much larger than any mistake or indiscretion. The current of His Love, Grace and Mercy gently drawing us closer to Him so that our inheritance is released to us as His Children.

Mercy is God’s Covenant of Compassion for us. It is His All Consuming Commitment to bring us into the good things that He has prepared for us. It is the invitation to live in everlasting communion with our Father. Mercy is the key to our success. It is the understanding that though we may fail, God never fails in His Love including His Compassion, Commitment and Communion with us. He is our portion. This is vital in our understanding of faith and hope and how it all works together. We need His Mercy every single day because we will fail. It allows us to see that He never fails. We will prosper by remaining in His Love.

Psalm1:2-3 (NKJV) But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night. He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper.

I wonder if a barren tree sitting in a blanket of snow in the winter feels like a failure. Or maybe a flower whose blooms are wilted and withered on the ground, does it bow its head in regret at what it has lost. It knows what season it is and therefore waits in the soil for the conditions to change. You are God’s Child. He is molding and shaping your life into a masterpiece. (Ephesians 2:10) Just because your life looks like a mess right now, does not in any way mean you have failed?

At the end the school year, my youngest partnered with a friend to do a class project. She asked if they could use some of our crafting supplies and work on it at our house. I agreed. When I came home from work from my kitchen to the porch all the way in the back yard including covering the girls – it looked like a paintball war had occurred. I was quite sure her oldest brother was involved but I cannot prove it. I was less the enthused by the condition of our home. They completed the project with a “B” – I think. I am still cleaning up the paint. Life is messy. There will be tests. Some you will pass with living colors, others only barely get by and there will be those that you fail altogether. God’s Grace is sufficient in every season. His Mercy is new every day. His Love for His Children unfailing. He is constantly working success and prosperity according to the measure of faith that He put in our hearts and the Spirit that He has given us. He knows we are weak. He knows we can’t do it all.

All that the Lord desires is that we seek Him. Make a commitment to love Him wholeheartedly and seek Him the same. He will make His Way known and empower us to follow and equip us for success. We must only know that though I may fail – it is impossible for God to fail. His Hope NEVER leads to disappointment – we must follow through. God is good! He loves you! He is our inheritance which is freely given to His Sons and Daughters without condition. He is prospering us from the inside out. God is for you – you cannot fail. His Grace is producing His Glory in us and through us. Where my life ends, and my new life in Christ begins is the day I leave failure and regret behind. He is working all things together for my good and His Glory. (Romans 8:28) Take hold of Jesus today. He will lead you from victory to victory. Let Him tell you who you are. Stop looking around and look up. Let the Lord be the strength of your heart and your portion forever. You will be satisfied.

Proverbs 3:21-24 (NKJV) My son, let them not depart from your eyes—Keep sound wisdom and discretion; So they will be life to your soul and grace to your neck. Then you will walk safely in your way, and your foot will not stumble. When you lie down, you will not be afraid; yes, you will lie down and your sleep will be sweet.

Cloudy Days

TX_Road_Into_Rain_HDR

2 Corinthians 5:7 (ESV) For we walk by faith, not by sight.

Just before the alarm began to vibrate on the nightstand, my eyes opened as if shaken awake. Laying in the quiet, a flash lit up our bedroom. In the distance a soft low rumble, I thought it sounds like rain. Trying to shake myself from slumber, the room was bright again. I stumbled out of bed gathering my senses and calling my mind and body to work together and start this brand new day. The thunder again could be heard far off. A bit of urgency got me moving. I have two little dogs that need to go outside. If I hurry, I will beat the rain. Outside the air was heavy with anticipation of the low pressure that would soon burst forth the clouds and produce a downpour. Thankfully our fur babies cooperated and we made it in just as small droplets turned into the promised overflow.

The anticipation of rain led to immediate action today. Hearing the thunder and seeing the lightning – all signs pointed the coming storm. I had to choose to act on the signs around me or ignore them and sleep just a little bit longer. Those five or ten minutes would have changed the outcome of my morning as I trudged through the rain with the dogs. But instead, the action of anticipation changed the outcome and everything worked out just fine. Now the rain can water the grass and flowers around our house, wash away all the dirt and pollen and the earth is replenished by the Mighty Hand of God. Who knows I might find rainbow on the way to work?

Anticipation is influenced by expectation and hope. It is the sense of what is coming, intuition, foreknowledge, or prescience. It is the realization in advance. It is the very thing our faith in God works from. If our faith is in the Lord, He sets forth our expectation and promotes anticipation. Faith is to expect, look forward to and be sure of … before anything happens. As believers called to walk by faith and not by sight, it is important to allow the Holy Spirit through God’s Word to change our expectation so anticipation calls us to action in advance of the desired outcome. To become aware of the Spirit of God moving and changing the atmosphere around us. If our faith in God does not change our expectation – it cannot influence the action of anticipation.

I Kings 18:42-46 (ESV) So Ahab went up to eat and to drink. And Elijah went up to the top of Mount Carmel. And he bowed himself down on the earth and put his face between his knees. And he said to his servant, “Go up now, look toward the sea.” And he went up and looked and said, “There is nothing.” And he said, “Go again,” seven times. And at the seventh time he said, “Behold, a little cloud like a man’s hand is rising from the sea.” And he said, “Go up, say to Ahab, ‘Prepare your chariot and go down, lest the rain stop you.’” And in a little while the heavens grew black with clouds and wind, and there was a great rain. And Ahab rode and went to Jezreel. And the hand of the Lord was on Elijah, and he gathered up his garment and ran before Ahab to the entrance of Jezreel.

Elijah had declared three years of drought according to God’s Instruction. Now in the third year, God was ready to send rain to the people again. Elijah was on his way to tell Ahab when he met Obadiah along the way. He asked his fellow prophet to announce his arrival to Ahab. Obadiah considered this a death sentence as the last message delivered by Elijah had brought a terrible drought and severe famine. Surely, Ahab would “shoot the messenger.” Ahab was definitely not amused or overjoyed at Elijah’s arrival. The next scene would be at Mount Carmel. Elijah would put his faith in God up against the prophets of Baal. Of course, all prophets were no match for God’s Power that day and none would live to tell of it. It was after that the prophet told Ahab to “Go up, eat and drink for there is the sound of rushing rain.” Ahab followed his advice. Elijah did not join him. Instead, “he bowed himself down on the earth and put his face between his knees.” Elijah began to pray. Do you think it is odd that though Elijah defeated the prophets of Baal and was the overcomer that it was Ahab who went to eat and drink while he went to pray? Why pray after the events of the day? Because though God showed up in a miraculous way, Elijah did not come for a show of signs and wonders. He came so that it would rain and replenish the earth. He came to bring the Word of the Lord to restore the land. He did not lose sight of his mission in the midst of great success. Have we lost sight of our mission?

Elijah didn’t go to Ahab to show off God’s Power but to give Him God’s Promise to deliver God’s Word. The Lord was ending the drought. He was going to rain on the land and end the famine. His message of hope for Ahab was that the Living God was coming to restore the land. Nothing was expected of Ahab. There was nothing that he could do. He was the king but could not control the atmosphere or environment. God manifested His Glory on Mount Carmel so the king went back to doing what king’s and ordinary people do. Elijah was not ordinary but extraordinary. God was with Him. His Word in the prophet. Elijah expected rain. He anticipated the rain. Yet, the Man of God still went to pray. To seek the Face of God again, not for His Hand but His Heart. God had already promised rain. In fact, Elijah sent his servant not once, not twice but seven times until the first sign of rain was evident.

We are called to walk by faith not by sight. Walking implies movement or action. Our action is driven by anticipation and expectation. Elijah expected it to rain even though at first there was no sign of rain. If our daily motivations are driven by the atmospheric pressures of life, our outcomes will remain ordinary. We are dependent on the natural resources and not supernatural abundance produced in an abiding relationship with God. The kind of relationship not influenced by people or the problems of the day but completely driven by God’s Word and His Spirit within us.

2 Chronicles 7:13-16 (ESV) When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among my people, if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayer that is made in this place. For now I have chosen and consecrated this house that my name may be there forever. My eyes and my heart will be there for all time.

Life is a series of seasons. Some pleasant while others are long and harsh. Winter with its bitter cold. Spring as the earth is replenished and replanted. Summer with high temperatures and little rain. Fall brings the harvest. The manifestation of every seed put in the ground. Our spiritual life is perpetuated by seasons, too. Ecclesiastes 3 delineates most of them. God’s Promise for each season is that all things are made beautiful in His Timing.

I have been in a very dry season. My soul has experienced almost drought-like conditions. I know God is good. I know He has a plan for my life in full motion. I know that if I walk by faith – I will have all that God has promised and willed for my life. I believe God’s Word. I am filled with His Spirit. Yet, there are still days, weeks and even months that turn into years of waiting are tough. During those times, it is important to continually seek His Face, look for the clouds of His Presence all around us and more importantly humble ourselves and pray.

The pressures of life push out the God in us and produce the fruit that is planted in the deepest recesses of our heart. Whether we remain engaged in the process and continue to expect God’s Best or settle for what is currently available is truly up to us. This morning I awoke to the sound of rain. The thunder seemed distant. The lightning lit up the sky but it was not loud at that point. The air was heavy. A choice had to be made. I could move with expectancy finishing the task at hand in anticipation of the rain or I could slough it off and sleep another 15 minutes or so. This is our life in Christ. A series of opportunities each day to seek and serve the Lord or put it off one more day. We want revival. It comes like the rain. There is a small cloud in the distance rising up. It is not from the church house but the prayer rooms of God’s People who desire Him to come like the rain. Their eyes fixed on the clouds in full anticipation of His Arrival that brings them to their knees and faces to the ground. If my people who are called by my name. Are you a Christian? Are you a believer? Do you expect Jesus to join you each day in each new adventure? I know that Elijah did. On Mount Carmel, the prophet expected God to come and consume the sacrifice offered not because it was a fancy show but because He is a Faithful God ready to rain down on those who anticipate and expect Him to by faith that seeks Him and desires Him before He comes.

For now I have chosen and consecrated this house that my name may be there forever. My eyes and my heart will be there for all time.

God chose you. He loves you. He desires you and your heart above all things. He is desperate to reach you. He sent His Son to save you. The Spirit of God fills us as we have become His Temple. He has given us a new name and relationship – we are the sons and daughters of God. His Eyes are on us and His Heart is with us. Do you love God today? Do you desire Him wholeheartedly? Do you expect Him to come? Do you look for His Presence in your everyday life? His Word says clearly and boldly that “if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land…” God is ready to send revival like rain to restore our dry and weary land. To end the drought-like conditions in our churches and fellowships. The cloud is on the horizon. Will you be like the servant that continues to seek after Him? Once, twice, seven or more will you look and listen for the Lord. Or will you be like Elijah praying, facedown before the Lord inviting Him in and welcoming the Lord in full anticipation and expectation of His Arrival. Or will you be like Ahab and just go about your day business as usual? It is really up to us. Those who humble themselves and seek His Face will experience the God of the Breakthrough who opens the windows of Heaven releasing the Abundance of His Kingdom to those waiting and watching on the earth. Lord, let me walk by faith and not by sight today. I will humble myself and pray before you. Please Jesus rain down revival on our dry and thirsty land. Send healing to our land. Let my actions show anticipation of Your Arrival. May every expectation be fully invested in You!

I Corinthians 13:12-13 (ESV)  For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

 

Care Package

Mail package parcel on wooden table, top view

I Peter 5:7 (NLT) Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.

I wonder what life would be like if people were able to give God all the cares and worries of life. To give up anxiety and fear to live confident trust no matter what the situation. It is possible but not popular. So often it is the instruction from pulpits, teachings and other Biblical resources but when it comes to our own heart and life – it is personal and intimate. Some try to hide the fact they live in insecurity barricaded by constant thoughts of uncertainty. Pride tells them if anyone finds out it will make them a fraud or phony. This is a lie from the enemy meant to isolate God’s People so in time he will surely overtake them. Others openly live struggles constantly looking over their shoulder at the giants pursuing them reminding God there is a problem and it is closing in quick. Everyone has problems. There will be troubles in this life. Jesus told us that trials and temptations would be at every turn. How do we successfully give ALL of our worries and cares to the Lord?

All is a big word including everything and anything. To rewire our thinking and gain control of our thoughts such knowledge and understanding attributed to society must be replaced by faith. Faith is not logical. It just doesn’t make sense. We must allow our mind to be transformed by letting the Holy Spirit renew our mind day by day. “But let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.” (Romans 12:2 – NLT) Yes, in our salvation experience there will be things that are easily left behind. Things that really don’t matter. Addictions and bad habits miraculously or even naturally released. But then there is the common mentality ingrained by society encoded in our nature from the beginning, some are worriers, some live in fear, others survive on control and then there are those who live with all of the above and more. These are mindsets. The only way to change our thinking is to “destroy every proud obstacle that keeps people from knowing God” and to “capture (the) rebellious thoughts” teaching them to obey Christ. (2 Corinthians 10:5) How do I change my mind? How do I change who I am? What I believe? Easy. You don’t – Jesus does.

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

A couple of things to note in the successful transference of burdens, cares and worries to Christ. We cannot release them completely. They are come from our heart’s desire. There are things in our life that are contrary to God’s Plan and His Word that are subject to change by faith and confident hope over time. Until then, we label them by these names. Also of interest is the use of the word “yoke”. The Lord says, “Come to me…I will give you rest.” Rest is the Peace of God that passes all understanding…in the storm, during the trial and in the midst of hardship. He then tells us to “take His Yoke upon us.” We must partner with Christ in our life. Become one with Him. Walk with Him. Talk with Him. Develop a loving and trusting relationship that produces confidence in His Ability and Willingness to care for us. It is the one who endures to the end that is saved so that must mean there will be struggles all through our natural life. Of course there will be as long as our flesh is alive. Pride has no interest in dying and will do everything in its power to survive. To live with Christ who is the Way, the Truth and the Life does not allow us to not change or be changed because He will never change. Good to know. It explains many of the times when it felt like God was not with us, the Spirit was not moving, and the Grace of God not enough. We refused to change or be changed so at an impasse there was no satisfaction.

Let me teach you. The Word of God is absolutely essential in the life of a believer. It is our guide and instructions for living a godly life. It tells us exactly what to do when we have no idea what is expected. It changes the way we think giving us new knowledge and important understanding that will grow into wisdom and truth. This feeds our confidence and gives faith a chance. “I am humble and gentle at heart…” Jesus will never make us follow Him. He invites us. He will never force us to love Him. Love is freedom. His Grace is enough without exception but must be accepted to become a powerful force in our life. It is perfected in weakness. Jesus is humble. We must be likewise humble. Humility releases burdens, carries and worries to Christ in exchange for rest, peace and even joy during the most harrowing of times. It is the moment that we understand that we have no control that His Power can be manifested in our life. Pride says hold on. Humility says let it go.

I Peter 5:6 (NLT) So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and at the right time he will lift you up in honor.

“Consistency in godly living despite our circumstances is the true test of growth in godliness.” Studying these verses today in the Spirit-Filled Bible, I came across this reference. Consistency relays the evidence of confidence. To trust God when things are good is a natural response to human satisfaction. To praise God in the storm is evidence of faith and confident trust in the hope we have in Jesus. Is your heart heavy today? Mine has been lately. Is your mind racing with all the problems that you face? Seems lately that worries and cares are being handed to me at every turn as well. I am not telling you what to do but sharing instead what I have been doing simply to survive. I have been creating care packages. Each new day I take the biggest burden, worry, fear or anxious thought I have and mentally put it in a box. I put a note inside for the Lord with the promise or passage that He has given me through His Word. I wrap it up neatly in faith, trust and confident hope. I sent it to Him in prayer not asking for anything other than for Him to hold on to it for me today. He is welcome to work on it and do with it what He will, but I don’t have time to deal with it anymore. Instead, today I choose to fill that void with praise and honor. I accept His New Mercy as healing balm for my worn-out brain and weary emotions. I am confident that the Lord will take care of the desires of my heart so for today I will just give Him glory even if nothing changes in my life to allow Him to change my heart and mind.

Here are some verses that keep me company while I wait…

Psalm 8:3-5 (NLT) When I look at the night sky and see the work of your fingers—the moon and the stars you set in place—what are mere mortals that you should think about them, human beings that you should care for them? Yet you made them only a little lower than God and crowned them with glory and honor.

God loves me. He created me. He takes pleasure in my existence and has big plans for my life. He is always thinking of new ways to bless me and to convince me of the same.

Psalm 55:22 (NLT) Give your burdens to the Lord, and he will take care of you. He will not permit the godly to slip and fall.

God will. Most people believe God can – they question if “He will” based on their summation of their life, worth or choices. Grace took care of everything and anything that kept us from God and His Kingdom. I can live in the Presence of my Father not based on anything I do or do not do. He will take care of me. I just need to trust that My Father will not permit me to slip or fall so I keep walking even when I have no idea where we are going or how it will turn out.

Psalm 112:6-8 (NLT) Such people will not be overcome by evil. Those who are righteous will be long remembered. They do not fear bad news; they confidently trust the Lord to care for them. They are confident and fearless and can face their foes triumphantly.

We must fight for our faith. Walking by faith and not by sight is not easy. The pitfalls of pain are many but praise overpowers pain and fills in the potholes along the way. Investing my life in God’s Plan and Purpose insures fulfillment and completion that far exceeds my expectation. It empowers me to be fearlessly confident in the good fight of faith knowing no matter what the battle or how impossible things seem I have victory in Jesus Christ. I will be triumphant as long as I hold fast to the anchor of hope. It anchors my soul so that when the storm passes and the sun shines again all will see the faithfulness and goodness of God and give Him the glory.

Matthew 6:31-33 (NLT) “So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.

Psalm 104:16 tells us that the “trees of the Lord are well cared for.” In Psalm 1, it says those who delight in the Lord are like “trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit in each season. Their leaves never wither and they prosper in all they do.” I know Jesus tells us not to worry about the cares of life but human nature has a very strong influence. In the transformation process, there are seasons. Some are favorable and some not so much, but we are promised success in every one of them if we simply trust and depend on the Lord. God knows exactly what I need. He will give me the desires of my heart. I must only seek the Kingdom of God above all else and live confidently in the hope I have through Jesus Christ. To live in Christ assures me that He will give me everything I need. I have already been given every provision. He wants to prosper me now.

Do you have burdens weighing you down today? Cares crowding out every good thought. Overwhelming worries that keep you up all night. Pick one. The biggest one. The one that keeps your feet planted in fear and anxiety. Take it to the Lord. Just the one. Your pride will not allow you to relinquish full control. The secret to trusting the Lord is beginning with one thing and continuously giving Him one more worry, one more care and one more burden. Each new day when the enemy comes ready to give it back – simply refuse it while working on the next care package. I cannot have fulfillment of the fruit of the spirit including love, joy and peace until I rid my heart and mind of all the junk taking its place. Faith allows confident hope to prosper in the place of every fear released. Join me today as once again I yoke myself to Jesus Christ learning to love and trust my partner more and more. He is worthy. God is able. The Lord will to do just what He says. It’s all in the waiting not in the worrying. Give the Lord your problems and take on the task of praising His Great Name.

Psalm 27:14 (NLT) Wait patiently for the Lord. Be brave and courageous. Yes, wait patiently for the Lord.

Tug-0-War – It’s Not A Game Anymore

Tug o war

Philippians 1:21-23 (ESV) For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.

Since bringing home our new lab puppy, Scout – she bonded quickly to our Chihuahua, Izzy. From the moment, they get up until it is time to go to bed there is nothing but nonstop activity. Scout is very large yet quite passive while Izzy is tiny but ferocious. When they both take hold of a toy and pull, it is clear by Izzy’s hold and posture that she fully intends to win the game of tug-o-war clearly unimpressed by Scout’s size and power. Currently, Scout is five times the size of her fur sister. But Izzy has heart and tenacity – she does not ever back down. When she engages in tugging, she believes she can win. With one mindless jerk of Scout’s powerful head, the game is over. Izzy’s response – like any good sport – she attacks Scout with all the growling and snarling she can muster while our oversized fur baby just enjoys her conquest and rolls over on her back.

While both of the participants in the tug-o-war are impacted by the pulling and tugging, can you imagine the condition of the object of their grasp? With our dogs, it may be a rope or small squeaky toy but in the game of life too often it feels like it is us. Or maybe I am the only one who has days when despite my very best effort to hold tight to my faith, steady my heart, do the right thing and keep pressing on – I feel stretched and pulled in two opposite directions? I have put forth my best effort. Tried to keep the right attitude. Even forgiven along the way as hard as that may be sometimes, yet still feel as though I have come up short. A discarded heap of hopelessness who strived with all her might yet her flesh failed and her heart is weary. Come on. I cannot be the only one.

For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.

To live IS Christ. To die is gain. The death process begins at birth. From the moment of taking in our first breath, a human being is one step closer to their death if you think about it. God has ordered the life span of each person according to His Will and His Way. It is not always possible to understand the number assigned to each living creature, but God knows. If only it were easy to live for Christ every moment of every day and serve Him faithfully apart from all sin and transgression as one might desire. It is not easy. It is not even possible. So why keep trying?

I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.

The struggle is real. For me to live is Christ but to die is gain. The more I grow to understand this – the more I understand terms like endurance. The stretching, molding and shaping of my heart and mind to hold fast to the confession of my faith and let other things go. It would be easy if I did not battle an unseen adversary every single day. No, it is not the enemy. Satan has no power or control in my life because I have given it to Jesus Christ. I am a Child of God. No the waging war with in us is our flesh. On those days when the pressure and problems of life leave us stretched and stressed lifeless forms crawling into His Presence exhausted and done, it is not always because the oppressor has been the foe that is faced but our flesh. We do not battle people. We must hold tight to the Word of God and respond to the Will of God even when our stubbornness and pride dig in. The good fight of faith is waging in our heart and mind not the world in which we live. I believe that it is important to identify the problem to find the solution. What if the problem is me?

Romans 7:21-25 (Message)

It happens so regularly that it’s predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up. I truly delight in God’s commands, but it’s pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge. I’ve tried everything and nothing helps. I’m at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn’t that the real question? The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does. He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different.

No believer – saved and sanctified can ever say with any credibility that “the devil made me do it”. Satan cannot come near the Light that lives within us. God has given us His Spirit. The object of greatest oppression is flesh. Our own will who seeks to survive despite our desire to be crucified with Christ and live. I have been crucified with Christ by choice. I have chosen to give up sin and accept salvation. Now what? Fight. Fight for faith. Work toward obedience. Do my very best to hold on to what is good and avoid that which is not. To endure. To love. To forgive. To hope. Christ lives in me and is working His Way out of me into every part of my existence. The life I live now in the flesh is by faith in the Living God who is in me. The overwhelming factor that is my success is His Grace. (Galatians 2:20) Despite my full intent and heartfelt commitment, my flesh fails time and time again. This is the reason His Grace is my power. It is the very essence of power that lives in me overriding my inability to allow the fulfillment of Christ to be mine.

Can I just publicly thank the apostle Paul for his transparent honesty in Romans 7! If only every believer would allow others to see the reality of their plight, not by glorifying sin or immortalizing failure, but rather allowing others to witness the process. Our soul cries out for the Living God but our flesh fights to survive. It is a natural born tendency that is not exempt when it comes to dying to this life to obtain forever with the Lord. When I am overwhelmed and feel stretched like a dog toy that has been tugged and pulled on all day, I realize that maybe just maybe it isn’t the enemy pulling on me. In fact, the Lord has shown me clearly that it is not. I live in the Hand of God. The enemy cannot touch me. No, on those days, I have held hope with one hand not two and taken hold of something with my flesh that I need to let go of. This process is so intimate and personal. The good fight of faith is not in an arena but in the quiet recesses of our heart as His Word works its way through and hopeful confidence lays claim to it.

“Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge. I’ve tried everything and nothing helps. I’m at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn’t that the real question? The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does.” His Grace is sufficient for me. It is enough for those days when my flesh rises up and wages war to take over my heart and mind. I will not overcome this rivalry until Jesus takes me home and removes it from me forever. In the meantime, it is important that I work in close partnership with the Spirit of God so it is two against one.

Hebrews 5:7-10 (ESV) In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him, being designated by God a high priest after the order of Melchizedek.

Hebrews 4:14-15 (ESV)  Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.

Jesus lived in the flesh. Yes, He was God during that time, too but chose to be subject to flesh and blood just like the ones who He loved and chose to die for. He experienced every bit of warring of the flesh just as anybody else does on any given day. He overcame sin. He endured every test and trial all the way to the Cross. He died a sinless man. Who better to help us then the One who knows and understands our flesh and feelings? Jesus overcame the world. He did it by overcoming flesh. One sin would have nailed Jesus to the Cross. His Death was would have been required if only a single sin existed. The necessity of grace is not proportioned to the quantity of sin but rather to overcome death produced by a single sin. Wrap your brain around that one and the playing field of life becomes quite level. There is no pride in obedience just surrender to God because there is no prize or promise outside of the Grace and Love of Jesus Christ. If there is no hierarchy of sin, that means that God has no favorites. There you have it the full potential of our life is in the Grace of God given through Jesus Christ…alone. I can do nothing to earn it, obtain it or pay it back. I can only accept it.

Philippians 2:14-16 (ESV) Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.

What if we have been interpreting these verses all wrong? We are to do all things without grumbling or disputing…good luck with that right? To remain sinless (without blemish) in this crooked and twisted generation…it is not possible. Do you work with other people? Commute home in five o’clock traffic. Let’s be real – do you own any teenagers? Life happens. Sin slips out. Our flesh rises up. What then? The Light that shines within us comes out through our brokenness. When our hard heart cracks open and our one-track mind gives way to the new life and new way of thinking that is not religious but relational. The Law of God did not save us just shows us how bad we messed up. It proves the sufficiency of His Grace when knowing all my faults and failures in a single day – I still fight to hold on to faith and cling to confident hope. “Holding fast to the Word of Life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run or labor in vain.” The confident hope that I have is not in my own ability to live a sinless, good life but it is in the Grace of God given to me based on His Love and Faithfulness. The Word of Life says that nothing can ever separate me from the Love of God and in fact it is His Love that makes me more than a conqueror. (Romans 8:37) Pride says otherwise but grace always proves it wrong.

I Thessalonians 5:23-24 (ESV) Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.

Before this passage in I Thessalonians 5 comes a list of instructions. Things like love each other, help one another, and be an encourager. It also tells us to rejoice, pray and be thankful. It clearly outlines qualities and characteristics that are the Will of God for our life. (I Thessalonians 5:18) But the important part follows closely behind, the specific thing that I must cling to throughout each day as I try to run with purpose. The goal that I long for and strive for is this – that my whole spirit, soul and body will be kept blameless. His Grace is enough, I must cling to it every day. He is the one who is Faithful. Jesus will surely do it if I will just hold on the hope that He has given me.

Hebrews 6:17-19 (ESV) So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us. We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain…

My steadfastness will not ever be in me. I will continue to strive to live apart from anything that displeases the Lord but I know that it is only by His Grace that I find the power to overcome every shortcoming, fault and failure. Sin separated me from God and only His Righteousness will allow me to live in His Presence again. He does not lie or change His Mind so the Word of Life is the anchor of my soul and substance of my faith that keeps me from giving up and letting go when I feel the pressures of life, stress or restlessness. My flesh is always at war with the Spirit in me. It is a fight to the death. The Spirit of God overcame death and administers life to all who live in partnership with Him. It doesn’t mean there is not struggling or no suffering in this life but He give us the power and strength to hold on and endure to the end. I don’t know what might work as soul soothing for you but when I feel weary in well doing or pointless in my pursuit of Christ, I find that worship is my release. To lift my hands, open them wide, and show love and adoration on Jesus. Burdens fall off as He picks me up and holds me. When was the last time you stepped into the Presence of the Living God? There is nothing there but life. The struggle ends where surrender begins. The hopelessness gives way to hope in the Light of His Love. Grace works best in weakness. His Power is manifested in our life when we can’t but believe He will. There is a reward for those who choose to keep His Word, walk by faith, hold on to hope and endure until the end through every trial, hardship and struggle believing God is good, God loves me, and God will never let me down.

As Scout and Izzy wrestle at my feet, I am blissfully aware that Jesus isn’t finished with me yet. Izzy will learn one day to pick and choose her battles but I hope that she never loses her heart. Scout in her sweet nature will one day learn the same or give up every toy and treat to Izzy. I believe that this is life in our house with our pets. I believe this is the life lived in Christ as well. Picking and choosing battles, knowing when to take heart and surrendering to Christ always. It is only a tug-o-war if both sides pull. The game ends when one or the other let’s go. Lord, I give you my heart, mind, body and spirit all over again today. I let go of everything except the Word of Life. May hope keep me anchored. Have your way in me, amen! I surrender all!

Revelation 3:10-12 (ESV) Because you have kept my word about patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world, to try those who dwell on the earth. I am coming soon. Hold fast what you have, so that no one may seize your crown. The one who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God. Never shall he go out of it, and I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name.

The D-Word

Dare To Be Disciplined

 

Philippians 3:12-16 (AMP) Not that I have already obtained it [this goal of being Christlike] or have already been made perfect, but I actively press on so that I may take hold of that [perfection] for which Christ Jesus took hold of me and made me His own. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider that I have made it my own yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the [heavenly] prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. All of us who are mature [pursuing spiritual perfection] should have this attitude. And if in any respect you have a different attitude that too God will make clear to you. Only let us stay true to what we have already attained.

It’s funny as I type this today, that spellcheck on my computer doesn’t care for the word “Christlike”. It has the red squiggly line under it that means it doesn’t recognize it or suggesting that I select an acceptable alternative for it. Isn’t that life most days? Autocorrect and spellcheck are used for grammatical and typographical errors but omit certain legitimate words according to the usual vocabulary. It is even modified as not to offend others. Sigh. Yes, I have inserted a sigh. I am not a runner. I am not built for endurance. Patience are a challenge for me most days. I am cool under pressure… most of the time. But as time goes by, things don’t change, my plans don’t line up, and fatigue sets in – the thought “there has to be more to life than this” brings me to a choice. The valley of decision. It is a low place with many dark corners. It is filled with echoing voices and shadows of doubt and fear that tell me just quit. Stop. Give up. Quit. What’s the point? Life cannot ever be normal again. There will always be problems. Constant pressure. What are you going to do? My head is filled with circling thoughts of why I should give to all these suggestions made valid by my feelings and emotions. But then I hear it…that still small voice inside of me…probably a lot like the one Elijah heard on the mountain after the earthquake, fire, and storm…”What are you doing here?” The Lord spoke these words to the prophet. So many victories in his corner, so many miracles already in his midst, yet still the voice of doubt and fear drove him into hiding. The voice I hear today is just a bit different. The Lord says, “Press on.”

2 Timothy 4:7-10 (NLT) I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful. And now the prize awaits me—the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on the day of his return. And the prize is not just for me but for all who eagerly look forward to his appearing. Timothy, please come as soon as you can.  Demas has deserted me because he loves the things of this life and has gone to Thessalonica. Crescens has gone to Galatia, and Titus has gone to Dalmatia.

Before you pick up the bat of comparison and begin beating yourself soundly in the head for feeling this way today, let’s look at the Super Christian Paul. Paul fought the good fight. He finished the race. He remained faithful. He knew in his heart that his days were numbered and soon he would claim the prize. The crown of righteousness which the Lord would hand to him. He was ready. Paul was also human. Immediately following this confident statement comes the cry of man struggling and feeling isolated. “Timothy, please come as soon as you can.” Everyone had gone on their way. The only one left with Paul was Luke. He was calling for backup. Paul needed some support. It is only natural in this life of following Christ to have days when the pressure is overwhelming, doubt may kick in, discouragement gets the best of us, our emotions out of whack, and even when throwing in the towel seems like a viable option. It doesn’t mean that you do not love God or desire Him with all of your heart. It means, dear friend and follower of Christ, that you are human.

Matthew 26:36-40 (NLT) Then Jesus went with them to the olive grove called Gethsemane, and he said, “Sit here while I go over there to pray.” He took Peter and Zebedee’s two sons, James and John, and he became anguished and distressed. He told them, “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” He went on a little farther and bowed with his face to the ground, praying, “My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.” Then he returned to the disciples and found them asleep. He said to Peter, “Couldn’t you watch with me even one hour? 

Jesus understands how pressure feels. He knows what it means to want to give up. He also decided to press on. The Last Supper over and the betrayal of his follower, Judas revealed. Our Savior and Lord is well on His Way to the Cross. The hour had come. The end was near. He needed to talk to His Father one more time before this final journey to the Cross. He already knows the one who claims to love him most and the person who professed dying for him would soon deny ever knowing Him. Yet, Jesus asks him to come and keep watch while He prays. Well, Peter, James and John were exhausted from their journey. Still mulling over His Words, they fall asleep. Even after Jesus said to them, “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death” – still they could not keep their eyes open. In those final moments, Jesus petitions His Father in Heaven, “If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.” I cannot imagine how the words of the Son must have ravaged the Father’s Heart.

I believe that when in the midst of a trial or plagued by problems that when we pray – the Father’s Heart breaks for us. The Word of God admits that He is close to the brokenhearted and rescues those whose spirits are crushed. (Psalm 34:18) What a promise? Especially for those who feel abused, violated, betrayed or isolated. The Lord is with you. He is close to you. He is ready to rescue you. You must press on. You cannot give up. It is now when the breakthrough comes because God can easily access the brokenhearted.

2 Corinthians 4:6-10 (NLT)  For God, who said, “Let there be light in the darkness,” has made this light shine in our hearts so we could know the glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ. We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves. We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies.

Our body works against us. Our thoughts rally to stop this foolishness. Our emotions and feelings press us to give up. Why all the pressure? Why am I so perplexed? Why isn’t following Jesus easy? All the workings of our flesh are enticed by temptation working against us from the inside out. The enemy is aiding it in every way possible. Why? “There is a light shining in the darkness for you today. It invites you to live in the Presence of God. To experience His Glory in your life. To radiate the Favor of God. To become a beacon of hope to those who are lost and dying. To have this great treasure means pressing in rather than giving in to the pressures of life. Sin is not the problem for those who have fully experienced God’s Love, Grace and Mercy responding by faith that says, “Jesus, I want you.” It doesn’t mean my life will look radically different the morning after I ask Him into my heart. It is the starting point of the race to the finish line marked faith. It is going to be a long, tedious journey. My flesh and feelings are going to try to trip me up. The enemy will be shooting fiery darts at me all along the way. Those who cheer me on in the beginning may not make it to the end. But there is a prize worth having and I intend to take it.

2 Corinthians 9:22-27 (NLT) When I am with those who are weak, I share their weakness, for I want to bring the weak to Christ. Yes, I try to find common ground with everyone, doing everything I can to save some. I do everything to spread the Good News and share in its blessings. Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win! All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadowboxing. I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified.

It is a privilege to participate in this race of faith. It is a divine opportunity provided to me by Jesus Christ. I would also like to run the Disney Princess Marathon races. If you must know, I would be thankful just to survive a 5K or 3.1 mile race. I must admit that I am not a runner. I am not sure that I could make it one mile running and not dying. In fact, I will tell you the same thing I tell other people – if you see me running you should too, because something is probably chasing me. Now how in the world can a 51-year-old mom who is out of shape make it to a Disney Princess marathon? I guess first I would have to make up my mind that I wanted to do it and set a goal with certain steps to achieve before the next race. Given the popularity of these events, I should probably go ahead and sign up now. It might be a good idea to invest in some good running shoes. The next is probably the hardest part of all – I would then have to discipline myself to train for the marathon. Ugh! The D-word wreaks havoc in us. It is the boundary and barrier for most people when it comes to achieving even the smallest goal or aspiration. What overcomes the thought of discipline – devotion. What is devotion? It is profound dedication and consecration. An earnest attachment to a person or cause. Devotion is the attachment or assignment to any purpose. In the Biblical sense, devotion is an act of worship including worship for a special use.

Are you dedicated to Jesus Christ? Fully devoted heart and soul to knowing Him fully and having His Way in your life? Me, too. Discipline is the choice to take what we know about the Lord and His Word and apply it to our life. Not just in word, but in every attitude and action much like an athlete eyeing a prize. It is not an endeavor casually undertaken but a full-on effort to make every part of our life conform to that of overwhelming victory. After all, Christ is our Champion according to Hebrews. To those who disciplined, dedicated and fully devoted probably the worst word they will ever hear is disqualified. “So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadowboxing.”

Hebrews 12:11-13 (NLT) No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way. So take a new grip with your tired hands and strengthen your weak knees. Mark out a straight path for your feet so that those who are weak and lame will not fall but become strong.

I do not believe that discipline is the same as punishment. Jesus did not come to condemn the world but that through Him that I would be saved. Thank you, Jesus! However, it is human nature to view discipline as punishment. When I go to the gym after missing days, weeks, months or the past year – my muscles scream for relief as I press through the pain and work through the notion that quitting would be so much easier. No one is punishing me. I want more. I desire to be healthy. I pay for the membership to undergo such “torture”. Devoted to Christ, the pressure inside of us is His Way of making us into the masterpiece that He purposed and designed us to be. It is the molding and shaping of character so that endurance will keep us until His Glory is released in our life. I must press past every pain, insecurity, fear and emotion if I am dedicated to this cause called Christ. Anything worth having requires a higher price, I must decide today if I will pay that price. If I will endure tough times, difficult seasons and painstaking processes to let Christ have His Way in my life which will lead to a rich and satisfying life just as He promised. I must press on to have that which the Lord is calling me to. I must not give up or give in but allow the Lord to strengthen my tired hands to life them in worship and my weak knees to seek Him in prayer. The only thing that must not happen is I cannot and will not quit, give up or give in. I am His Prized Possession. No discipline is enjoyable. Can I get an “amen”? It is worth the peaceful harvest that is coming for those who decide to be devoted to right living and following His Way.

Isaiah 38:16-20 (NLT) Lord, your discipline is good, for it leads to life and health. You restore my health and allow me to live! Yes, this anguish was good for me, for you have rescued me from death and forgiven all my sins. For the dead cannot praise you; they cannot raise their voices in praise. Those who go down to the grave can no longer hope in your faithfulness. Only the living can praise you as I do today. Each generation tells of your faithfulness to the next. Think of it—the Lord is ready to heal me! I will sing his praises with instruments every day of my life in the Temple of the Lord.