Hunger Games

Hunber Games

2 Corinthians 9:10-11 (NLT) For God is the one who provides seed for the farmer and then bread to eat. In the same way, he will provide and increase your resources and then produce a great harvest of generosity in you. Yes, you will be enriched in every way so that you can always be generous. And when we take your gifts to those who need them, they will thank God.

The Hunger Games trilogy is a futuristic novel set in post-apocalyptic times. The Capitol society is marked by extreme wealth and power over the twelve Districts who are the product of past rebellion live in extreme poverty. As entertainment, each year one boy and girl from each district is chosen by a lottery system to fight to the death in the public arena which is broadcast for all to see. The winning participant and their district will be supplied with food, supplies and riches. The Capitol continued to exhort its power over the Districts this way. I cannot imagine. How horrible to think that a child would be selected as a sacrifice for that which is freely given to us in the earth? This was the inspiration for the writer after reading Greek mythology’s account of Theseus and Minotaur – as punishment for past crimes, Athens were required to sacrifice seven boys and seven girls. Even as a child, she was stunned by the cruelty. Her writings are also influenced by society’s public display and entertainment called reality television. We make sport and competition in the name of entertainment. Yet the reality is that cruelty and poverty are rampant in a world inhabited by a Kingdom of more than enough. Sons and daughters of the Most High King who join the numbers of impoverished ones of the districts rather living in the life their Father has given them.

Though the concept of The Hunger Games is futuristic, it can be compared to the reality of life. The rich get richer and poor get poorer is a frequently used statement. Dependency is created by need. Those in need of something must find a source to provide it if they cannot produce it themselves. The Districts had rebelled against the Capitol and were now being punished with poverty. Kept in a perpetual state of need, it would take a rebellion to obtain their freedom. In the subsequent books of the series, this is exactly what would happen. I am not promoting the trilogy called The Hunger Games. I am only aware of the books and concept of the series. I am challenging the impoverished mindset of God’s People that keeps us captive and stagnates our purpose to set the captive free.

“For God provides seed to the farmer and then bread to eat.” Our family has been committed to tithing for almost twenty years now. For eighteen years, it has been our commitment to pay God the 10% that He requires up front as an act of obedience. Before I lose you, this is about you tithing but a personal testimony of harvest and favor. In all those years, there has not been an unmet financial need in our family. Every bill paid, lights that turn on, transportation and of course, food on our table. The kids all had diapers and clothes. Not a single natural need has not been met. But wait there is more, we have also been able to help others giving to missions, feeding the hungry and other noble efforts. I hope I haven’t lost you yet. Giving the Lord His Requirement and also sowing seed (yes, seed) in offerings has also produced a hidden abundance in our life. During spring cleaning and organizing closets, I always find things that we no longer need, want or use. Some of it, I give away to those in need. The rest of it, I post in online resale sights or set up a garage sale. I cannot think of a time when the Lord has not supplied our needs, or given us more than enough. I do absolutely believe that two Biblical Truths are in full operation. Tithing, as well as, sowing and reaping. God’s Abundance is hidden in our life from the devourer. But it is often the “hunger games” of life that allow us to connect with the Source of Life.

In Luke 15, we visit the home of loving and wealthy father with two sons. He loved both of them exactly the same and cared for them equally. There was no favoritism in him and all that he had was to be their inheritance. As you may already know, one son chose to take his inheritance and leave his father’s home losing everything. Ready to eat slop with the pigs came the realization that even servants in his father’s house were well-cared for so he would go back, beg his father’s forgiveness and serve him. You may also know that the son who remained true to his father and home was overtaken with jealousy for his brother. He had done both of their jobs while his brother was out carousing. When his father welcomed his lost son home, the brother refused to come to the celebration. He was mad. He couldn’t understand the grace of his father. See the estate and wealth did not mean as much to this man as his precious and dear children. This is the Father’s Love that is given to us as His Children.

Luke 15:17-20 (NLT)  “When he finally came to his senses, he said to himself, ‘At home even the hired servants have food enough to spare, and here I am dying of hunger! I will go home to my father and say, “Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son. Please take me on as a hired servant.”’ “So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him. 

Our Father is the Source for our life. Nothing can separate us from His Love for us. His Compassion longs for our safe return. Jesus promised to prepare a place for us. (John 14:1-3) I have a home in His Kingdom that is mine. It is an individual inheritance not offered to anyone else. A place in His Presence just for me with my name on it. There is no need for insecurity and doubt because God does not have favorites. There is no competition for a place in God’s Kingdom. It has been given to you when you accepted the Keys to the Kingdom from His Son, Jesus Christ. All that is to be done is follow Him home. Humility accepts God our Father as the Source of Life and lives according to His Standard of life. It takes us out of the rat race, fighting our way up the corporate ladder and no longer subject to the dog-eat-dog world. We are given more than enough according to His Riches in Heaven.

Luke 15:28-32 (NLT) “The older brother was angry and wouldn’t go in. His father came out and begged him, but he replied, ‘All these years I’ve slaved for you and never once refused to do a single thing you told me to. And in all that time you never gave me even one young goat for a feast with my friends. Yet when this son of yours comes back after squandering your money on prostitutes, you celebrate by killing the fattened calf!’ “His father said to him, ‘Look, dear son, you have always stayed by me, and everything I have is yours. We had to celebrate this happy day. For your brother was dead and has come back to life! He was lost, but now he is found!’”

The son who stayed with his father did not feel that his brother was worthy of celebration. His jealousy overtook him so that he did not see the obvious. “You have always stayed with me, and everything I have is yours.” As Christians, it is human nature to fall in the trap of the other brother. To have it all but lose sight of it. Pride robs us of satisfaction with the weapon of comparison. We cannot see the blessings and promises coming to pass in our life and the abundance hidden in our closets blinded by envy. When those who have been used and abused by the world show up on our churches, we tell them of God’s Great Love, His Grace and His Compassion but do we show it or even share it with them? Or like the jealous brother set requirements based on our willingness or unwillingness to welcome them home just as they are. I am a Child of God. My inheritance is secure in my relationship with my Father through Jesus Christ. I do not have to compete with anyone for His Attention, His Supply, His Provision or even His Abundance in my life.

Like 12:16-21 (NLT) Then he told them a story: “A rich man had a fertile farm that produced fine crops. He said to himself, ‘What should I do? I don’t have room for all my crops.’ Then he said, ‘I know! I’ll tear down my barns and build bigger ones. Then I’ll have room enough to store all my wheat and other goods. And I’ll sit back and say to myself, “My friend, you have enough stored away for years to come. Now take it easy! Eat, drink, and be merry!”’ “But God said to him, ‘You fool! You will die this very night. Then who will get everything you worked for?’ “Yes, a person is a fool to store up earthly wealth but not have a rich relationship with God.”

It is important to have a rich relationship with God. Who wants to serve a Father who does not have enough to care for all of his children? The richness of our Father should be filtered through us His Children. It is called generosity. We have seed to be put in the ground that is stored in silos of fear and greed that mark the impoverished mindset. Like the widow who kept her “oil” sealed in a bottle for a “rainy day” found that there was more than enough to care for her family for the rest of their life, we have more than enough but it is hidden behind fear of lack and no trust in the Father’s Love and Resources. The prodigal son had to lose it all to realize the resources in his father’s house. His failure humbled him and he returned to his home. The woman lost her husband who she perceived as her source only to find that God had already provided her with more than enough.

A rich relationship with God through Jesus Christ amply supplies our life with favor and resources. Seeds of potential are hidden away tucked in the dreams and desires of our heart. Rather than building bigger barns to house God’s Surplus in our life living in fear that His Grace, Love or Mercy might run out – what if we built bigger windows and doors to let it all come pouring out? A rich relationship with God is marked by trust that He does have a Kingdom with streets paved of pure gold and that He is a Good Father who cares well for His Children.

Matthew 15:32-34 (NLT) Then Jesus called his disciples and told them, “I feel sorry for these people. They have been here with me for three days, and they have nothing left to eat. I don’t want to send them away hungry, or they will faint along the way.” The disciples replied, “Where would we get enough food here in the wilderness for such a huge crowd?” Jesus asked, “How much bread do you have?” They replied, “Seven loaves, and a few small fish.”

Jesus did not just believe in feeding people the Word. He believed in feeding their bellies, too. Unmet need creates desire. When we send the hungry and hurting off with a kind word and hug around the neck when what they really need is food or their utility bill paid, what message are we sending? Are we Children of the King or kids on welfare? I do not have to participate in hunger games. I am a Child of God who has supplied all that I need and desire in abundance. As my soul prospers, so will I. I am ordained for increase, multiplication and reproduction in this life. I have access to the riches in Glory. In fact, obedience stores it up for me according to God’s Kingdom. Generosity is my opportunity to give it my life away. To let go of this world and claim His Kingdom.

Man’s economy is based on supply and demand. Creating desire so it can make something to fill it. It does not want you to be satisfied or content but always leaving you wanting more. Buy a new cellphone and before you can run the battery down there is a newer and shiner version being hawked as the best. We have more than enough. An endless supply flowing from the windows of Heaven, it is accessed by generosity and giving. How? Generosity is good seed. If we give to others expecting nothing in return, it is a seed of faith that says, “I believe my God supplies all my needs according to His Riches.” It will grow into a harvest in our life. Seed left in silos will also die, rot and decay. Its purpose is unfulfilled. It is destine to be nothing. When sowing good seeds of faith not just in word but in our works, it becomes a harvest of abundance in our life. There is an equal and personally identified inheritance for each child of God individually. It cannot be earned. It is our birthright. To tithe protects us from the devourer but it is our offering that demonstrates faith and confidence in God who is more than enough.

I John 3:16-18 (NLT) We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters. If someone has enough money to live well and sees a brother or sister in need but shows no compassion—how can God’s love be in that person? Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions.

Fizzy Soda

Fizzy Soda

Psalm 34:8-10 (NLT) Taste and see that the Lord is good. Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in him! Fear the Lord, you his godly people, for those who fear him will have all they need. Even strong young lions sometimes go hungry, but those who trust in the Lord will lack no good thing.

Have you ever been then grocery getter for your house? You have those thin and useless plastic bags rolling around in the back of the car. When you get home an army of helpers hoping to plunder the new supplies arrive to help carry the hoard in. Some of those big two-liter bottles of soda were on sale so you got them BOGO or to the novice shopper – buy one, get one free. Immediately, my people turn up their nose at them. In my efforts to be a wise consumer, I find that they do not want the surplus of soda and list their complaints. Opening the bottles at the release of pressure, the dark syrupy liquid becomes a foaming bomb shooting soda everywhere creating a huge mess that even the dog is incapable of licking it all up. They don’t like the way that after a day or so they go flat – no matter how tight the lid is kept or how quickly they try to consume it. When the fizz is gone – so is their appetite for the once coveted drink. In all fairness, I bought them for portion control. Tired of pouring their unwanted, forgotten soft drinks down the sink that sounds like change falling in the drain. Yet now, I have a garage full of unwanted bottles but wait what just happened? Suddenly, they are grabbing water bottles instead. How did that happen?

For more than a week, I have had this image of fizzy soda in my head along with the idea that it is just like the zeal a Christian might have at first for the things of God. We come to the Lord full of expectation and excited about the potential of His Spirit’s Inhabitation in life. But once the “fizz” is gone, our life goes flat so we return to our old life and old way of thinking abandoning the potential of faith in God that remains there. Where are we once the excitement is gone? What happens when things take longer than expected? Why is discipline necessary? God is greater than all things. He owns the cattle on a thousand hills. He supplies all we need but when I ask I must wait. We must taste and see that the Lord is good. We must desire to move from things that are not good for us to those things that benefit our life. It will be a struggle in a world that offers immediate gratification and feeds our emotions. God wants us to be godly people who have joy in Him and those who trust Him will lack no good thing.

For the last month or so, I have been attempting to give up a beloved diet drink. Is it bad for me? Depends on who you ask. Water is better for me. All things are permissible, but not all things are beneficial. When I was young, my birth mom was a “Coke” addict in the soft drink form. She gave it to us freely. As I began to share time between both parents’ homes, my new mom provided sweet tea – the soft drink of the South. Loved it and consumed it freely. However, I became more aware as I grew older that water is a much better choice. However, I don’t necessarily want water. I don’t care for the taste. I don’t really want it or desire it. It is good for me in many ways. It is the best for my body health wise. It is excellent for my skin. It keeps me well-hydrated. But I prefer other things and none of that I desire is illegal or prohibited. I make the choice to drink a gallon of water or at least try to every day. What I have found is the more water I consume the less capacity that I have for those things that are not as good for me. Water is more beneficial. How does this all tie together? I am glad that you asked.

So many times, we try to make a Godly life resemble our good life worldly expectations applying our appetite to the things that the Holy Spirit would like to do in us and through us. Did you know that the primary content in all soft drinks is water? We add the sugar or sugar substitute. We put the carbonation in it that makes it fizzy. Have you ever noticed that conscientious parents do not give their newborns soft drinks or tea? They give them milk. If not straight from mom, they sterilize the bottles. Everything they do is to make sure that their baby grows, develops and matures. God sees us as His Children. He feels the same way.

I Peter 2:1-3 (NLT) So get rid of all evil behavior. Be done with all deceit, hypocrisy, jealousy, and all unkind speech. Like newborn babies, you must crave pure spiritual milk so that you will grow into a full experience of salvation. Cry out for this nourishment, now that you have had a taste of the Lord’s kindness.

Pure spiritual milk. What is it? I believe that it is the Word of God. We must know the Word to enter fully into a productive relationship with Jesus Christ. Jesus is the Word wrapped in flesh. Salvation is not an arranged marriage but a personal choice to engage in an active and committed relationship with Christ as Savior and Lord. We make that choice. All things are permissible yet not all things are beneficial. Just as in our relationships naturally, there must be development and growth to mature our relationship so it is no longer superficial. If we are not growing in the Lord, we are growing apart from Him. I find it interesting that in this passage, it says, “Get rid of all evil behavior.” Then it begins to talk about things that destroy relationships first. To cry out for nourishment once we have tasted the Lord’s Kindness is to grow in our knowledge and capacity to love the Lord and other people. We focus on our list of seven deadly sins and regard religious rules and regulations but miss the part about love. God is love. To be godly we must be good lovers.

John 7:38 (NLT) “Anyone who believes in me may come and drink! For the Scriptures declare, ‘Rivers of living water will flow from his heart.’”

A newborn primarily exists on milk although the newest parenting trend does add water at an early age. When my babies were little, I only gave them milk, some juice and lots of water. Growing in our walk with Christ, spiritual milk gives way to living water. Jesus promised that living water would flow from His Heart to us. He has given us His Spirit. The Word of God works with the Spirit of God to allow us those benefits offered to those who choose the better way over the permissible options in life. We must discipline our body and mind to live a healthy spiritual life. Have you ever tried to take candy from a baby?

The little children at our church flock to “Memaw” a beloved matriarch. She always has a sugary candy treat for them so after service like little ducklings they flock to her. They want the contents of her big bag. They know she has treats for them. However, mom and dad have the opportunity to train their children in healthy habits. Thank God I am headed into “memaw” days! I found with my own children that in order to take something from them, I offered them a better choice. If they did not want the new thing, they would often pitch a fit. As a mom, I hated that they were so upset but my heart was set on giving them the very best start in life. Candy and sugar was limited. I made sure they were given the right food – all the things that were nutritious. Too many times, it is human nature to cave in to emotions rather than stand strong for goodness and so it is with the church.

Romans 10:1-4 (NLT) Dear brothers and sisters, the longing of my heart and my prayer to God is for the people of Israel to be saved. I know what enthusiasm they have for God, but it is misdirected zeal. For they don’t understand God’s way of making people right with himself. Refusing to accept God’s way, they cling to their own way of getting right with God by trying to keep the law. For Christ has already accomplished the purpose for which the law was given. As a result, all who believe in him are made right with God.

To pursue God emotionally but not spiritually is misdirected zeal. To claim to know Him but not take in the spiritual milk and living water is spiritual suicide. You are starving your spirit to feed your flesh. False teachers pave new roads every day and we fall for it because our flesh is strong and our spirit weak. Many years ago, in order to lose some weight, I switched from full-powered soft drinks to diet soda. Ironically or not so much, it was after a Daniel Fast, where for a solid month I only drank water. After becoming addicted to them, I read an article that warned of the high sodium content in diet drinks that they wreaked havoc on weight loss efforts. How is this possible? Well, the sodium that settled in our body soaked up the water and got fat, too to put it in layman’s terms. Bottom line – water retention. Ugh! Darned if you do and darned if you don’t. Is it possible that rather than relying on water – we are substituting things in our life that are not God’s Best and of no benefit. Absolutely.

Zeal is not bad. In fact, the Bible encourages and endorses spiritual fervor for the Living God. Romans 12:11 tells us to never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. See the “but” – it is our warning. It is easy to direct our zeal toward the Lord, and then get detoured, delayed, or distracted. In fact, it is the greatest scheme of the enemy. He challenges our knowledge of God every day in the temptations of life. Religion is the diet soda of the church. Rather than truly loving people somehow church folks get an appetite for judgment and hypocrisy based on false knowledge of God who expects love to be our first and foremost motivation. If I can do it, God is not required. It’s everything I cannot do that is where grace causes His Power to manifest. I am not supposed to be strong but weak and reliant on Jesus Christ for all things every day. The psalmist admits in Psalm 119 that “zeal wears me out” and goes on to admit that his enemies ignore his words. Words must hold power. The power of my words is based on my knowledge of the Truth and its ability to set me free. I am free to choose the life I live.

God is not emotional. Our feelings do not move the heart of God or His Hand, His Focus is set on our future. He is working in us now for forever. Endurance means making it to the end. It is a struggle because usually somewhere around the middle we begin to wonder what were we thinking. Towards the end, everything in us screams quit. Those who endure to the end are honored because not many will. When the zeal is gone and the fizz goes flat in their spiritual life, many become discouraged, discontent and disinterested in Living Water which runs steadily and consistently in us. Water seems boring. It doesn’t seem like anything of worth. Yet 71% of the earth is covered in it, and mankind is made up of about 60% water. It would seem that water is important. Living water is essential to spiritual survival and one’s ability to thrive in Jesus Christ. Maybe there are substitutions in our life that must be filtered out so that we can engage in spiritual growth and development again rather attempting to survive in deprivation.

Ephesians 4:11-16 (NLT) So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.

People spend a great deal of time on what they consume. Whether deciding what to eat or where to eat. Challenged to consume more or eat less or even just make better food choices. Intake is a primary concern in many households. There are even some that wonder if they will get to eat. We must taste and see that the Lord is good. The first day of the water challenge was horrible for me. I didn’t want to drink one glass of water let alone almost eight. Some days I do great and other days I choke it down. I know that if I stick to it that over time I will develop a taste for it. Why the struggle? Water is good for me. It is good for my body and skin. I hate when my flesh dictates things so the more it fights me – the more I fight back. I want a healthy body.

God is not building a building – He is creating a body. The Body of Christ. The Bride for His Son. It is important that I do my part to be the best member of the Kingdom I can be not for others or even me but to be who I promised to be when I partnered with Jesus. I would become less and He would be more. I would decrease so He could increase. I John 3:20-21 is clear that God is not an emotionally-driven God. Thank you, Lord! His People are emotional enough. When our spiritual life goes flat, maybe God is facilitating an appetite change in us that will produce growth and maturity. He is giving us something better if we will endure the process of refinement. Our flesh wants none of it and will fight it all the way. Until our relationship is not emotional but faithful – the blessings and benefits promised in His Word may seem elusive. Nothing could be further from the truth – they are exclusive. Exclusively for God’s Children, those who decide to use their freedom to become part of the Body of Christ rather than building another church.

To become rooted and grounded in the Love of God through Jesus Christ, we must stop wavering back and forth. Discipline gives way to faithfulness when we decide to engage in the process called endurance. We must move from the emotionalism of infancy into the steadfastness of adulthood – the Body of Christ must mature to become effective. The Holy Spirit and Goodness of God’s Word produce the spiritual growth potential in the lives of those who are committed to its consumption daily. (Hebrews 6:1-6) We must learn to hold on to the progress made in our spiritual life and build upon it. (Philippians 3:14-16) If our goal is to press on and obtain the high calling, we need something to stand on. The firm foundation of faith built in trust is the only way to reach the heavenlies and bring it to earth. God promised that our earthly life and heavenly existence can be connected in heaven and on the earth. We put in the effort.

Discipline is not a warm fuzzy feeling but a tough painful process. Immediate gratification is not part of it but endurance is. There may be some things in our life that although they are permissible are not beneficial to our walk with the Lord. When runners pass a checkpoint, they are not handed coffee or a can of soda. The helpers hand them water or a supplement filled with electrolytes to replace those used while they run. What do we give others when tired, thirsty or weary? When weighted with sin, do we give them yet another set of rules to fail at or the grace that has been so sufficient for me? The first discipline that is to be readily accepted in the modern church is love. Not love for the rules and regulations set forth by religion, but to focus on our relationship with Jesus Christ and relaying it to the world including every single person in it. Our language is love and we must not only speak it but live it. You cannot give what you do not have. God’s Word and His Spirit give us new life to give to others. We must taste and see that the Lord is good. Has your spiritual fervor gone flat? Are you growing disinterested in God’s Way? It is time to make a change. Call a fast. Ask the Lord to stir you up. It is up to you to develop a taste for spiritual things rather than feeding full of substitutions. God has given us everything we need to live a godly life – now we just have to tap into it. It’s a choice. Better life or best life. Permissible or beneficial. Good or God! I know what I am after…how about you?

2 Peter 1:3-8 (NLT) His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 

Exceedingly Abundantly

Exceedingly Abundantly

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.

The Lord is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think according to His Power that works in us. This is a bold statement which may be interpreted many ways. The definition of exceedingly is to the extreme and to an unusual degree. Abundantly is to be present in great quantity, more than adequate, and overly sufficient. Do you believe that God is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all we ask or think? Obviously, the immediate response of most Christians would be “yes” or “of course”. But before you answer today, let’s examine our heart and mind for the real answer. Do I believe? I believe that I have faith but the Word of God is clear I that faith without works is dead. If the estimation of my life is based on the factors including circumstances and conditions present than it is limited to the natural and prohibitive of the supernatural. If ordinary suits me just fine, my bills are paid, marriage is rocking along, kids are doing well, and no major illnesses – praise the Lord – but your life will not be extraordinary locked in the promised provision. Christians spend a whole lot of time trying to make better choices, spend more time in the Word of God, and come up with the right prayer language. God has already prepared a plan for us with a future and hope. It is available to all who seek Him wholeheartedly. To seek God wholeheartedly will open up a new realm of heaven that contains the exceedingly abundantly above commodity most believers never tap into and don’t even realize is available.

2 Kings 4:2-6 (NKJV) So Elisha said to her, “What shall I do for you? Tell me, what do you have in the house?” And she said, “Your maidservant has nothing in the house but a jar of oil.” Then he said, “Go, borrow vessels from everywhere, from all your neighbors—empty vessels; do not gather just a few. And when you have come in, you shall shut the door behind you and your sons; then pour it into all those vessels, and set aside the full ones.” So she went from him and shut the door behind her and her sons, who brought the vessels to her; and she poured it out. Now it came to pass, when the vessels were full, that she said to her son, “Bring me another vessel.” And he said to her, “There is not another vessel.” So the oil ceased. 

How big is your God? God is not limited in size or power. We are the limited resource that keeps exceedingly abundance from flowing through our life. I love the story of the widow woman who had a dilemma. Her husband a prophet had passed away. I am assuming that they had both served in the ministry many years. Now with no way to pay the bills, creditors were coming to enslave her children to pay the family debts. When Elisha came, she expressed her concerns. He asked her, “Tell me, what do you have in the house?” What’s in your house? What’s in your wallet…as the popular credit card commercial asks? What’s in your heart? Oil represents anointing. The woman’s life did not line up to the Will, Way, Word or Work of God presently but she had the secret all bottled up on a shelf. Elisha told her to “go, borrow vessels from everywhere, from all your neighbors – empty vessels.” He only wanted her to gather the empty ones. He was not telling her to go beg from her neighbors. This is important. He was not telling her to put her faith anywhere else but in the Lord. Where is your faith today? People, job or personal ability? The widow did as instructed.

How big is God’s Supply? God has an exceeding abundance for our life that is much greater than our human perception. The woman and her sons gathered together the jars and brought them to Elisha. Once inside the house, she was to “shut the door”. There are things that we need to “shut the door” on in our life to hear the Voice of God, to actively participate in our relationship with Him, and live in His Presence. When the Lord instructs us to do something, how often do we add our own spin or share it with anyone and everyone who will listen? She went inside with her sons and she “shut the door.” Obedience. Distorted or delayed obedience is disobedience. What if God has a miracle that is exceedingly abundantly more that is limited only by our unwillingness to obey His Directions? What if it is us deferring our blessing and not God at all?

The final instruction – pour it (the jar of oil) into all those vessels, and set aside the full ones. The widow did exactly as she was instructed. She did not take her small jar and compare it to the much larger vessels. She did not question the prophet. She did not delay. She did exactly what he told her to do when he told her to do it. The oil did not cease flowing until she ran out of jars. What if within us is the resource needed to produce exceedingly abundantly more and our limitation is our faith? Is it possible? Oh my friend, it is more than possible it is probable. The woman was desperate to save her sons. I understand that kind of desperation. The point of no return is the best place of all when it comes to faith because it is when the end of self is found and the prosperity of God in full measure can fill our life. You have the anointing. Christ lives in you today. You just have to become an overflowing vessel so He can pour it out in your life.

Ephesians 3:13-19 (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.

It is much easier to make excuses and find all the reasons that we are not blessed or prospering than to commit the time, energy and discipline necessary to making exceedingly abundantly the reality of our life. Doubt tells us that the Goodness of God is too “good” to be true. Shame and guilt persuade us to somehow believe that His Grace is insufficient when nothing could be further from the Truth. There is no boundary to the Love of God concerning us. The death of Jesus Christ was absolutely enough to secure a right relationship with the Father, but we refuse to come home. God’s Goodness is for us in the land of the living, but pushing it off to the future allows us to attempt to maintain some form of control. It is when faced with desperation at the end of all possibility that God becomes our only option and mode of survival, yet God didn’t put us here on earth to survive but has ordained and anointed us to thrive.

God’s Love for me is so wide, long, deep and high that I will never reach the edge of it. When I allow faith to root and ground me in that unconditional and overflowing love – I become fearless. I can reach for the Lord and all that He has without fear of disappointment. God loves me. He is for me. He wants to do everything in His Word in my life. I must simply become the vessel that is needed to be conducive to such an overflow. Yes, it means provision. Yes, it means prosperity. Yes, it means healing. It means every good thing God has in Heaven is possible on the earth for those who believe. Do you believe? Lord, help our unbelief today!

Ephesians 1:3-6 (NKJV) Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.

God has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the Heavenly Places in Christ. He didn’t do this because I asked Jesus to be my Savior and Lord. He ordained my birthright and inheritance before I was ever created. I am predestined to be blessed. Sin sold my birthright for a meal like Esau. Jesus gave it back. The Spirit of Adoption is complete. Why? Why does the Lord bless us? Why would He still do good things for me when I fail Him every day? It is not about me. It is His Good Pleasure. Blessing me blesses the Lord. He decided it gave Him pleasure from the start. To not actively pursue the Blessings and Promises of God for my life is to say, “No, thank you to Jesus!” To truly believe that God is able to do exceedingly abundantly more than one can think or ask would certainly facilitate faith on our part to have it in our life. Christ lives in us. He is more than enough. We must use our time, talent and treasure to be the vessel conducive to reproducing that anointing in our everyday life. It is not just for church. It is for our life. Every moment, every season, and every activity. We just need to be a bigger vessel so God can pour out His Blessing in our life.

2 Corinthians 4:7 (NKJV) But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us.

God has a purpose for our life. He wants the Light of His Love to shine for all the world to see. He has hidden that Light in these earthen vessels. It is a treasure to be discovered. It can only be discovered when allowed to shine for all the world to see. Who wants a God who does nothing? Who needs a Lord of the ordinary? Grace makes God’s Power complete in our weakness. What if the season you are in is just breaking the seal off the prosperity of your future? What if the oil in the jar sitting on the shelf unused is the very thing that will overflow abundance in your life? Maybe the secret to your success planned by the Lord is that idea or thought you have been mulling around in your head afraid to step out in faith to try? What are you waiting for? You only fail if you do not try. Faith releases God’s Anointing in our life that leads to success. It is the key to unlock the exceedingly abundantly that is beyond anything you can envision or dream. What are you waiting for? Shut the door on negativity. You don’t have to tell everyone what God has promised but let the Light shine as He completes His Work in you and through you. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain when you step out on faith to dream the impossible and do what the Lord is telling you to do. Who cares what the world thinks! Let the Christ in you have His Way today! You are a Child of the King. You should live like one. God’s Full Potential and Purpose for our life is that we will live up to the full standard of Jesus Christ to be complete lacking nothing. God is ready to do exceedingly abundantly more than you can think or ask. Are you ready to receive it?

Psalm 1:1-3 (NKJV) Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful. 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.

The Road Not Taken

The Road Not Taken

Psalm 32:8-11 (NLT) The Lord says, “I will guide you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you. Do not be like a senseless horse or mule that needs a bit and bridle to keep it under control.” Many sorrows come to the wicked, but unfailing love surrounds those who trust the Lord. So rejoice in the Lord and be glad, all you who obey him! Shout for joy, all you whose hearts are pure!

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I – I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference. – Robert Frost (The Road Not Taken)

Regret is to romance the past as if it were a long lost love. Many people live in regret in the midst of consequences that seem unchangeable. How can I go back? You can’t. What’s the point of trying? All these circumstances have created a barrier around my life now? Regret is a sense of loss, disappointment or dissatisfaction that can literally suck life even new life right out of you. It is to put a hand to the plow paving your future but using your other hand to point back. God promised to make all things new. If our heart is still set on the past, the forgotten, the lost or left behind, it becomes quite difficult to reach forward. We must stop looking in the rear view mirror and begin to look ahead. God’s Purpose for your life is alive and well if you are, in fact, still breathing. Nothing is lost. Yet, nothing ventured is nothing gained. I cannot make the same choices tomorrow and expect different results. It would be foolish to travel the same roads but expect different destinations. My potential as God’s Masterpiece is limitless. His Promises are limitless. I must simply choose the right path. Yet, it is too often the road not taken.

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, and sorry I could not travel both and be one traveler, long I stood and looked down one as far as I could to where it bent in the undergrowth…

The words of poet Robert Frost are true in so many ways. Standing at the crossroads of life, one must choose the path of life. It is a strain to see too far down it as it surely gives ways to twists, turns and curves making it impossible to see the end from the beginning. Our ways are not like His Ways. His Thoughts so much higher than our own that I am convinced it is humanly impossible to see much further than the next step down the right path because surely we would not take it. Our purpose, potential and promises hidden in His Way lead us to a rich and satisfying life. However, trust issues keep us bound at the crossroad in the crosshairs of the enemy who is waiting to steal, kill and destroy that dream God is about to make our reality. A life rich in love, joy and peace full of wisdom and grace that always leads to hope and never disappointment. He must lure you another way in order to have his way. Yet there is a still small voice saying, “Follow me.”

Matthew 7:13-14 (NLT) “You can enter God’s Kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose that way. But the gateway to life is very narrow and the road is difficult, and only a few ever find it.

Matthew 7:13-14 (MSG) “Don’t look for shortcuts to God. The market is flooded with surefire, easygoing formulas for a successful life that can be practiced in your spare time. Don’t fall for that stuff, even though crowds of people do. The way to life—to God!—is vigorous and requires total attention.”

The road not taken. What does that road look like to you? Is it a time when you think you should’ve have done one thing but did the other? Maybe you decided not to go to college, and now feel as though your earning potential is locked because you do not have the key labeled education? Or perhaps, you settled for something or even someone who you think was less than God’s Best now filled with regret tinged in bitterness – you have lost all drive and motivation – lost in the monotony of life things seem a little hopeless and lifeless – now what? You are at a crossroads. Every detail of your life leading up to this moment can be used for your good and His Glory depending on the road that you choose next. The pathway of trust leads to new life. Revival, renewal and restoration from a Resurrecting God through His Son doesn’t change our circumstances and conditions but cures them. He is the One who brings out all the potential hidden in our past and uses it to show the watching world that He really is God who makes all things new and brings dead things to life.

Are you committed to the road not taken? It requires only one thing. Trust. Absolute and total confidence in Jesus Christ to be the Way, the Truth and the Life. It means that we make Jesus, not only Savior, but Lord of our life including every decision from this moment forward. It means leaving the past behind us, keeping our eyes fixed on the future and not turning around again. Are you romancing regret or revival today?

Psalm 18:32-36 (NLT) God arms me with strength, and he makes my way perfect. He makes me as surefooted as a deer, enabling me to stand on mountain heights. He trains my hands for battle; he strengthens my arm to draw a bronze bow. You have given me your shield of victory. Your right hand supports me; your help has made me great. You have made a wide path for my feet to keep them from slipping.

The prophet Joel warned, “Thousands upon thousands are waiting in the valley of decision.” Where are you today? Salvation is more than asking Jesus to be our Savior. It must be solidified by faith, In other words, we must believe. It cannot be assumed that He will come sweep us away just because I bowed my head and recited a quick prayer in some fancy prayer meeting. Heading down to a river, or into a baptismal did not seal the deal, but opened the gate to my future. Trust is the act that God is waiting for. The first step in my future is called trust. It is moving in that new direction that doesn’t make sense is not logical and most often completely contradictory to human nature but simply an act of obedience as we learn to trust God at His Word. I believe the “thousands” in Joel is not an example of those who are lost but rather those who call on the Name of Jesus but cannot truly grab hold of Him in belief. Those who want to have faith but refuse to trust the Lord.

The Lord has made a way that is exclusive for His Children. (Isaiah 35:8-10) Do you trust Him enough to follow it home? We pray for the Lord to show us His Way crying out for His Glory. The church requests His Spirit to come and revival to fill us yet do not do our part in securing its way. Trusting the Lord does not clear our path but provides an unseen way. Remember the Children of Israel, stuck between the Egyptian army and the Red Sea. They expected death that day either at the hand of the enemy or by force of nature. But God had hidden a road under the Red Sea that was exposed by trust. Even as the wall of waters made the way for their escape, I am sure some were skeptical. Those who chose to trust the Lord that day made it safely to the other side. It was not logical or conventional and so it is with Jesus.

God uses our journey in life to prepare us for victory. He doesn’t want us to simply walk through this life meekly but instead is read to prosper us in every way. The Lord has already imparted to us every spiritual blessing possible so where is it? Maybe it is on the road called trust that has not been taken. Perhaps if we put one foot out – we will begin to see that God made a way. I just wasn’t walking in it. Those who choose to trust the Lord and follow Him are promised the following: God will arm us with His Strength. He makes our way perfect. He makes us surefooted or confident. He enables us to stand fearlessly. The Lord trains us for the battles. He makes my arm capable of holding the shield labeled faith. He supports me. God helps me. The path of trust is surety and it becomes wider as we walk in it so it is not a slippery slope any longer. Psalm 23 promises me that He is a Good Shepherd who goes with me every step of the way when I choose to follow Jesus making Him the Way and the Truth for my life.

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

I am attending a conference in the beautiful Bahamas with my husband this week. The property is absolutely massive. The scheduled meetings are not in the main tower of rooms where we are staying. It would be easy to get lost. However, when we start in the direction of the next event there are signs directing our large group to guide us. From stepping off the elevator, clear directions with people holding signs with our group name and freestanding banners mark the way. It is impossible to get lost unless, of course, one decided not to follow the route. Trying to find a shortcut to avoid the crowd of people or shorten the distance, they might choose another way. I have that choice, but I do not allow myself to give into it because clearly these people can get me there just fine. What about the Lord? What if my frustration is caused by my unwillingness to choose His Way? What if my lack of trust is keeping my life from fulfillment and prosperity? What if it is me? What if I am not taking the right road or choosing His Path? What if my regrets hold my full attention and letting go is not an option? Could it be me? It usually is friend. My experience is that when my life doesn’t line up to God’s Word, it is time to evaluate my position in life. It is easy to become detoured which leads to delay. Delayed obedience is always a deterrent that stops us heaven’s overflow. God is pouring out His Spirit. He has already given us every spiritual blessing. My purpose is part of His Plan that leads to a future called hope but am I seeking Him wholeheartedly? Trusting Him with my life? Could it be the road I have not taken marked trust that leads to faith and confident hope? I intend to find out and make the right decision. I want to arrive successfully at the right destination. I want to endure this life which is salvation to my soul. Show me the right path today, Lord.

Psalm 25:4-5 (NLT) Show me the right path, O Lord; point out the road for me to follow. Lead me by your truth and teach me, for you are the God who saves me. All day long I put my hope in you.

Changing My Profession

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James 2:19-20 (MSG)  Do I hear you professing to believe in the one and only God, but then observe you complacently sitting back as if you had done something wonderful? That’s just great. Demons do that, but what good does it do them? Use your heads! Do you suppose for a minute that you can cut faith and works in two and not end up with a corpse on your hands?

When I asked Jesus to be my Savior, I was just eleven years old. My grandmother told me that after doing so that I should make a public profession of faith and go before the church to declare Jesus as my Savior and Lord so I did. After service and a wonderful lunch, she sat with me at her secretary desk with a paper and pen. She told me to write down my profession in my own words. What did I think it meant to make Jesus my Savior and Lord? So I did. Many years later, she shared the tattered piece of notebook paper with me. How precious it is? I have no idea what happened to it after she moved from her home after grandpa passed away and went to live with my aunt. I had no idea what my life would turn out to be. I was just trying to make it through my childhood with a bit of rough start. I remember the feeling inside me when I asked Jesus into my heart, and the unrealistic expectations that went along with it. Jesus was going to fix everything.

Today after almost 40 years of getting to know God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit, trying to piece together the Godhead three-in-one, I have decided that most of the time our profession never becomes a declaration. To profess something is different than declaring it. To profess it and do nothing about it is the failure of most faith fights. The word profess is to lay claim to something. But if you read the full definition, it acknowledges that most professions are insincere. People pretending but never following through to have what they insist belongs to them. The affirmation of faith is evidenced in our ability to live our faith in belief. Our words must become our actions. Faith compromises our “control” giving way to God’s Plan which moves us out of comfort. Complacency is the idea that if I just sit and wait here long enough that the Lord will come like Santa Claus and dump out blessings in my life. It doesn’t work like that. Faith is free but it is not without a price.

To believe means a desire for change. To change mere conversation into faithful motivation to believe beyond what we see, feel or can do. Jesus told Thomas after allowing him to examine His Wounds now healed, “Now will you finally believe?!” Faith is acting on what we hope for. The impossibilities of life that exist just beyond our reach and ability to grasp. It is the final lunge out of comfort and control to allow God to fully have His Way. It doesn’t always mean that fear is gone but that one chooses to fight their way out of fear’s grasp to take grab hold of faith that will pull them closer to confident hope. My profession must become my declaration sealed by my actions in everyday life.

James 2:21-24 (MSG) Wasn’t our ancestor Abraham “made right with God by works” when he placed his son Isaac on the sacrificial altar? Isn’t it obvious that faith and works are yoked partners, that faith expresses itself in works? That the works are “works of faith”? The full meaning of “believe” in the Scripture sentence, “Abraham believed God and was set right with God,” includes his action. It’s that mesh of believing and acting that got Abraham named “God’s friend.” Is it not evident that a person is made right with God not by a barren faith but by faith fruitful in works?

I am challenged today to evaluate my life on the context of faith. Am I merely saying I have faith or am I acting on faith as the belief system in which I fully operate? I have an IPhone and an IPad. There are certain applications on my phone that are not on my tablet. Why? I asked myself that question preparing for a trip recently. I am carrying both with me, as well as, a laptop. Technology overkill for sure. The purpose of my life is to become one with the Lord. Too often – we diversify faith in our life. We reserve it for certain things and then withhold it from others. I believe that Abraham gave us a very explicit example when he made his way to the mountain of sacrifice with his son, his promise, Isaac and no other means of offering. He came willing to give God everything. Everything he dreamed of, hoped for, held on to. He took it all to the mountain that day and somehow as only God can do came back with so much more. Back to my technology burden, I must sync my life. All of my devices can be synced together which alleviates the burden of carrying them all with me so that I can have everything in one. We must sync our life with Jesus Christ, His Calling, His Purpose and His Plan is all-inclusive, comprehensive and in every detail of our life. Abraham laid his whole life and purpose on the Altar of Sacrifice fully believing and trusting the Lord. Have I? Are there parts of my life where I profess faith but do not fully declare it by the way I live my life?

Romans 4:17-18 (MSG) We call Abraham “father” not because he got God’s attention by living like a saint, but because God made something out of Abraham when he was a nobody. Isn’t that what we’ve always read in Scripture, God saying to Abraham, “I set you up as father of many peoples”? Abraham was first named “father” and then became a father because he dared to trust God to do what only God could do: raise the dead to life, with a word make something out of nothing. When everything was hopeless, Abraham believed anyway, deciding to live not on the basis of what he saw he couldn’t do but on what God said he would do. And so he was made father of a multitude of peoples. God himself said to him, “You’re going to have a big family, Abraham!”

Abraham’s profession to be the “Father” of many nations. Was true? It was real. God told him that, but if when he tried to make his own family – he failed. His wife was barren struggling with infertility because clearly he could make children hence Ismael. Yet Abraham honored his commitment to the Lord and his wife, he just kept trusting the Lord and living like it. Once he held Isaac in his arms, Abraham felt natural fulfillment. This is where the real choice comes. We have been given the Gift of Salvation. It is easily within our grasp, but will I take hold of it and make Jesus Christ my Lord. Will I choose to keep going on this journey called faith that leads to confident hope? Will I “sync” my life now and futuristically to achieve the impossible? It is not up to God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit or even Father Abraham…it is up to me. Will I give up some of the things I hold most dear and precious to the Altar of Sacrifice? Total trust in God means that when the impossible comes I do not settle for possible but continue to give my all to the One who says that He will do more than I can think, ask or imagine. Comfort holds us back. Complacency is its cushion. Those who desire a life of not just professing our faith but make it a declaration must move from the place of comfort to uncomfortable giving up this life for forever.

Romans 4:19-25 (MSG) Abraham didn’t focus on his own impotence and say, “It’s hopeless. This hundred-year-old body could never father a child.” Nor did he survey Sarah’s decades of infertility and give up. He didn’t tiptoe around God’s promise asking cautiously skeptical questions. He plunged into the promise and came up strong, ready for God, sure that God would make good on what he had said. That’s why it is said, “Abraham was declared fit before God by trusting God to set him right.” But it’s not just Abraham; it’s also us! The same thing gets said about us when we embrace and believe the One who brought Jesus to life when the conditions were equally hopeless. The sacrificed Jesus made us fit for God, set us right with God.

Abraham was a righteous man. He was not a saint. His title “friend of God” was given not because of his religious values or ability to uphold such traditions. His friendship with God was based on absolute trust and total faith in the Lord evidenced by his willingness to sacrifice his life, his future and all that was precious simply because God asked Him to. Abraham was declared fit before God by trusting God. Faith must be planted in trust to give way to confident hope that solidifies our relationship with God the Father. We demonstrate faith in God by giving up our life to take hold of faith and confident hope completely. This is done by doing not by just saying. My declaration is a formal announcement of allegiance to Jesus Christ not in words or even useless works but to commit every deed, dream, desire and declaration to faith in action. Trust is faith in action. It can’t see beyond the natural yet chooses to take hold of the supernatural. It is not a one-time act but daily occurrence called life. Jesus honors such a life and gives us access to His Presence to live in close proximity and friendship with God. A life worth living. Lord, change every profession in my life that is not actively defined by faith and trust into a public declaration from the inside out in Jesus Name.

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

Life in a Pressure Cooker

life-in-a-pressure-cooker

2 Corinthians 4:7-10 (NLT) 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.

The pressure cooker was invented by a Frenchman, by the name of Denis Papin, who was a scientist rather than a renowned chef. His goal was more of a science experiment in physics more than a culinary innovation. The first pressure cooker was called the “Digester”. A solid metal pot with an airtight lid and steam-release value on top to adjust accordingly. The early models of his invention resulted in many explosions that ultimately led to the development of the piston-and-cylinder. The Digester was also the forerunner to the autoclave used to clean medical utensils before and after each use for hygienic purposes. I have never used a pressure cooker, but have had food cooked in one. The high pressure cooking brings out the moisture in food making even the toughest meat tender. It cooks much faster than normal as the boiling point is raised from 212 to 250 degrees. However, by design, it can be a bit intimidating with the bubbling value that shoots out steam under pressure. Though I cannot relate to cooking with pressure, I certainly will “amen” that I live under constant pressure.

“Pressed by every side by troubles, but we are not crushed.” The pressures of life though unseen can feel unbearable at times. Pressure is force upon the surface of an object. Life is fueled by expectation influenced by society, culture and even religion. Certain expectations that create external pressure to perform up to the level of the expectancy of others, self and yes, God. We have the Light of God’s Love within us and it is trying to make its way out. All the while the enemy tries to snuff it out with half-truths, lies and deceptions meant to make us give in, give out and buckle under the pressures of life. But what if the pressure you are feeling is not from external force but internal resistance trying to extract our purpose and fill our life with God’s Goodness to His Glory. The Light in us resisting the darkness around us and we are caught in the middle. What if the pressure is not to crush us but promote us to the position God intended for us? We are filled with a Great Treasure not meant to be hidden under a basket but positioned on a hill high above the city for all to see. Our life is not supposed to be ordinary but extraordinary thanks to the God in us. Natural gives way to supernatural by allowing God to move through us … the process that is used most by God is pressure. Pressure to change. Pressed to release. To be pressed down, shaken together so the Lord can run over in every area of life. Are you feeling the pressure today?

Job 23:8-14 (NLT) I go east, but he is not there. I go west, but I cannot find him. I do not see him in the north, for he is hidden. I look to the south, but he is concealed. “But he knows where I am going. And when he tests me, I will come out as pure as gold. For I have stayed on God’s paths; I have followed his ways and not turned aside. I have not departed from his commands, but have treasured his words more than daily food. But once he has made his decision, who can change his mind? Whatever he wants to do, he does. So he will do to me whatever he has planned. He controls my destiny.

One of the most challenging things about God and a pressure cooker is that you cannot see what’s going on inside of them. The pressure cooker is sealed for the entire time. Who can see or really know what God is up to inside of us? During times of testing, it is only natural to feel like God has abandoned us when nothing could be farther from the Truth. He prepared you for this moment when pressure surrounds us. He has been positioning you for such a time as this. When taking a test in school, does the teacher give you the answers during the exam? No, the answers were provided before the day of the test. God prepares us along the way with His Word. He teaches us discipline. He gives us discernment so that when the time comes to be tested – we will pass. If you fail under pressure, your strength is too small. (Proverbs 21:10) Job expresses this very feeling in Job 23:8-9 but comes to a very important conclusion by faith – “But he knows where I am going, and when he tests me, I will come out as pure as gold.”

What is the purpose of the test? God is working to develop faith in us to be used to overcome and prosper. To be successful in all we do demands obedience to His Word, Will and Way. This is not about a religion or church guidelines. No, this about purpose and destiny inscribed on your heart and brought about by Christ living and breathing inside of you. Too often, we do what people say and don’t listen for God’s Voice or study His Word or follow His Way. Instead we rely on people to take us somewhere they have never been and do for us only what God can do. God applies pressure so that we will not settle for where we are, who we are or what we have. He wants His Goodness and Glory to overflow in us and around us.

In Psalm 23, David writes “even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me. You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies. You honor me by anointing my head with oil. My cup overflows with blessings. Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the Lord forever.” Like Job, David understood the Presence of God all around him. He knew that “rod” of discipline and “staff” of direction were absolutely necessary to make it through the shadows and valleys of life. Everyone has tests and trials in life. Everyone experiences pressure. It is our response to these things that dictate our destiny. David knew if he remained faithful and followed the Lord through these hard times and did not succumb to pressure that he would experience tremendous and overwhelming blessing despite his hardship. How about you? What do you do when pressure bears down on you? Is your strength in the Lord strong enough to endure? To seek relief from the pressure is to start the whole process over again. If I release the pressure cooker value before my meal is done and ready to eat, I must begin the process over again. God’s Way is perfect. His Plan is fulfillment. To comprise and give in to pressure will result in costly do overs and lengthy delays in reaching our destination.

Job decided it was better to remain faithful and true to God’s Word, Will and Way. He made the choice that when his world fell apart around him to continue to honor and serve God despite the horrors he faced. He did not give into the pressure of life. When others would have cursed God and died, Job made the right choice yielding to the Lord and walking in His Ways despite his pain, heartache and complete devastation. How are you responding to the pressures of life today? Jesus tells us in His Word that we must endure to be saved. Pressure produces endurance in the heart secured by faith and confident hope. Is that you today?

“But once he has made his decision, who can change his mind? Whatever he wants to do, he does so he will do to me whatever he has planned. He controls my destiny.” I love Job’s declaration in the midst of devastation. Job surrenders to the Lord. God’s Way is perfect. Say that with me: “God’s Way is perfect.” Even though it may seem perfect – He is always working to perfect that which concerns us. (Psalm 138:8) If He is working everything for our good like His Word says, we must trust the Lord to complete this work that He began in us. I cannot work God’s Plan – He will work it out in me. I must simply surrender and submit to the Lord every area of my life. To endure the pressure to make it to the gold inside of me. To know that God is love. God is good. God is faithful. God is steadfast. His Love unfailing. His Grace neverending. All this means nothing, if I do not believe. Belief is demonstrated in trust. Do you trust the Lord today? If you do, you will not be tempted to turn the knob of rebellion and give up midway again. You cannot seek to relieve the pressure but endure it so that what God has placed in you, your potential will be refined and released as purpose.

Hosea 6:1-3 (NLT) “Come, let us return to the Lord. He has torn us to pieces; now he will heal us. He has injured us; now he will bandage our wounds. In just a short time he will restore us, so that we may live in his presence. Oh, that we might know the Lord! Let us press on to know him. He will respond to us as surely as the arrival of dawn or the coming of rains in early spring.”

Would the Lord really tear us to pieces? The Lord works best in our brokenness. His Grace is perfected in our weakness when His Power can completely overtake us. When a colt is introduced to a bridle and bit, the first urge is to resist. It shakes its head and tries to go its own way trying to wrestle the reins from the trainer. Whom the Son sets free is free indeed. The Lord will not make you follow Him. He will not force blessings and prosperity in your life. Simple obedience provides basic provision. Radical obedience produces an abundance of prosperity. Not because of what you do, but because of where you are going. The deeper in love I am with Jesus the greater my desire for His Presence. The more I seek Him, the more I find Him. Where He is – there is my greatest treasure. The only thing that gets me closer to the Lord is faith and trust. I must learn to not give in to the pressures of life and rather rejoice that the Lord is up to something wonderful and if I don’t give it – it will come to pass in my life. Trusting the Lord keeps us steady under pressure. In the meantime, let us press to know Him more.

Psalm 119:143 (NLT) As pressure and stress bear down on me, I find joy in your commands.

As I have shared before, transition is the final phase of childbirth. It is also the hardest. You want to give up. You don’t think you can do it anymore. The pressure seems unbearable. The promise is so close. The very thing God is birthing in you is in transition. It is closer than you think. You cannot give in now. Get your hand off the release value, you are going to see this thing through. Maybe the pressure around you is not intended to break you down, but bust through the darkness to let your Light shine. Perhaps, it is your purpose about to break down every wall between you and prosperity. God uses pressure to promote us but only those who endure will know the sweet taste of victory. Are you feeling the pressure? Dive into God’s Word find your promise. Let Him strengthen those weary hands and weak knees today. Those who do will learn to rejoice under pressure because they know God’s Promise waits on the other side. Release is coming. Everything is going according to plan! God’s Plan. The Holy Spirit is cooking up something wonderful in you so taste and see that the Lord is good!

James 1:2-4 (NLT) Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.

 

I Must Press

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Philippians 3:12-14 (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.

“Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence.” Vince Lombardi

Perfection is impossible to achieve on the earth. Those who live in pursuit of perfection will one day achieve it. Jesus Christ is perfect. Sinless. Selfless. He belongs to me. Paul said, “I have not obtained or been made perfect…but I actively press on to take hold of perfection.” (Paraphrased) There is a better life worth having. God has empowered us with all that is needed to attain. It is the inheritance claimed by repentance as one returns to His Father through Jesus Christ. It belongs to us. We just have to desire it enough to “come boldly” to get it. Jesus has given us the keys to the Kingdom. I am free to use them at any time. The door is locked to keep the enemy from taking what is designated as mine. Shaking the keys does not scare the enemy, however; when I decide to use the Keys to the Kingdom to release God’s Power in my life – he will tremble and flee. The devil’s roar is no match for the Lion of Judah.

I must press for perfect to walk in excellence. This is true in all aspects of life. When I decide to be the best in any given area, it is a mind, body and soul decision to press past every obstacle, overcome every weakness and push past every barrier that keeps me from success. Vince Lombardi was a great football coach. He coached in the National Football League. The highest award in football bears his name, The Vince Lombardi Trophy is given to the winner of the Super Bowl. Certainly, his attitude reflected in his statement was emulated in his life. What about you? I wonder what would happen if we set our heart on Heaven and Jesus as heavily as we do on natural achievements? What if I got up early to work the Word instead working my body? What if I left ten minutes early to make it to church as I do to get to the office early? What if I engaged in conversations with the Lord as much as other people? What if I sought the affirmation, acceptance and approval of Jesus Christ as much as every other person who roams the planet? What if my foremost expectation was in Christ alone? Would I press? Would I pursue perfection that is Jesus Christ?

“I press on toward the goal to win the (heavenly prize) of the upward calling of God in Christ Jesus.” The word “press” has two meanings: 1) to move by weight or force in a certain direction or into a certain position, and 2) to compress or squeeze as to alter shape or size. If our goal in life is to become a new creation and engage in transformation both of these are applicable in our life. We cannot stay as we were and become who God created us to be. We cannot remain still and not become stagnant. God is moving. I must learn to live, move and breathe with Him. His Spirit in me presses out the impure to make room for the pure through the process called conviction. Jesus invites us to become yoked to Him so we can go where He goes, say what He says, and do what He does. We want to remain the victim, but Jesus tells us no you are an overcomer. A victim is not a victor. It is moving from one role to the other where victory is achieved and the prize obtained in life.

Matthew 11:28-30 (AMP) “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavily burdened [by religious rituals that provide no peace], and I will give you rest [refreshing your souls with salvation]. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me [following Me as My disciple], for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest (renewal, blessed quiet) for your souls. For My yoke is easy [to bear] and My burden is light.”

The biggest handicap in Christianity is ignorance. In fact, Hosea 4:6 says that people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Knowledge is to know God’s Word. Wisdom is when it is applied to life. To be a true disciple of Jesus Christ means knowing the Word. Jesus is the Word wrapped in flesh. (John 1) To attempt to follow Jesus but not know the Word is to wander aimlessly without a map, compass or GPS to guide the way. To walk by faith and not by sight means there must be something to guide us where we cannot see to go. Our faith must be found in Jesus Christ. Our faith must be in the Word of God. Our faith must believe enough to follow Him.

Are you ready to press? Matthew 11:28-30 is not about Jesus picking you up and carrying you through life. Read it again. It says plainly, “Take My Yoke upon you and learn from me.” A yoke joins two together to walk as one. Jesus invites us to walk with Him. He teaches us how to live, move and breathe in Him. Our weakness is given up for His Power in grace. Grace is achieved when I humble my life to accept His Salvation and live in His Righteousness. It is when I discard the filthy rags and assume the Robe of Righteousness offered to me by His Nail-Scarred Hands. Old wineskin cannot carry new wine. (Matthew 9:16-17) With this in mind, I cannot expect a new life or to be a new creation which is absolutely necessary to claim perfection when I meet the Lord one day, if I am not willing to press today.

John 5:5-9 (NLT) One of the men lying there had been sick for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him and knew he had been ill for a long time, he asked him, “Would you like to get well?” “I can’t, sir,” the sick man said, “for I have no one to put me into the pool when the water bubbles up. Someone else always gets there ahead of me.” Jesus told him, “Stand up, pick up your mat, and walk!” Instantly, the man was healed! He rolled up his sleeping mat and began walking! 

The man was sick for 38 years. The woman with the issue of blood suffered for 12 years. Both had infirmities that would be healed by faith in Jesus Christ. Faith applies pressure to the possibilities in our life that will cause us to push past impossible and receive the miraculous. However, if I am satisfied with my life remaining status quo, good enough, or I settle for less to maintain comfort and complacency – the real problem is a lack of faith. Desperation will press us to step out of our weakness and infirmity. The important question here is “would you like to get well?”

To be well requires change. It will mean doing something or a series of things that you are not necessarily comfortable doing. It will require faith that is more than rhetoric but a reality in your life. The man sitting by the pool was a victim in life. When he met Jesus that day, he was faced with a choice. Do I continue to wait for someone to carry me? Or am I going to press for perfection by responding to the Word? He chose the better. He pressed past the impossible and obtained the miraculous the moment he gave up being a victim to take hold of victory. He believed. His faith changed everything once put in Jesus and not anyone or anything else.

Jesus told him, “Stand up, pick up your mat, and walk!” Jesus is telling us the very same thing today. Stand up. Press. Apply pressure and force to that thing called faith within you. Give it some attention. Nurture it. Feed it. Foster it. Force it to grow. Label it “purpose” and make it a priority in your life. What if the only thing keeping you from supernatural living is you? How sad would it have been if the man waved off Jesus keeping his eyes on the water and facilitating fruitless relationships hoping someone might carry him? How tragic if the woman with issues stayed home that day inhibited by the judgment of others and hindered by the crowds allowing her weakness to hold her captive forever? Jesus has given us the Holy Spirit to “help us in our weakness”. (Romans 8) He is working in harmony with God’s Will for us to achieved and succeed according to God’s Plan for our life. He is our helper which means that I must still be doing something to promote this radical change faith produces in our life.

Mark 8:33-37 (NLT) Then, calling the crowd to join his disciples, he said, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake and for the sake of the Good News, you will save it. And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?

In an effort to improve my physical well-being, I have engaged in a “squat challenge” for the month of February. Every day I have committed to a certain number of squats. The first day it was just fifty. Today on day 18 – it is now up to 155. On the last day of the challenge, the goal is 250. I cannot even imagine such a feat. I am disciplining my body to do the exercises every day. When I begin a set, I feel good, powerful, and have the mindset for success. About halfway through, it gets more difficult. My momentum begins to slow. I am becoming out of breath. My legs grow shaky. Sweat begins to form on my brow. Toward the end of the set is when my thoughts begin to rally against my commitment. I want to stop. Give in to the discomfort. Stop and catch my breath. I must press to complete the set. I must push past the pain in my body, the discomfort in my chest, and the thoughts in my head to finish. Why? I have made it my goal to be successful in this challenge and kick start a plan for better health and wellness. Why don’t we apply such principles in our spiritual life as well?

We would not need the qualities of patience and endurance if the walk of faith was easy. It’s not. It kills our flesh and ignores our thoughts. It presses on for something greater than our natural senses can perceive therefore needs a higher perspective obtained only through the Word of God and close alignment with His Son. I must put forth the energy. I must make a commitment. I must take responsibility for my part of the partnership in my relationship with Jesus Christ. I must decide I am no longer a victim in this life but will pursue victory in all things. I must become an overcomer because greater is He who is in me. I cannot try to drag Jesus to defeat because He will not go there, but continues to lead me to victory. I must press. I must push, I cannot give up or risk being left behind. If I submit my weakness to Jesus Christ by faith, I will be made whole. But it won’t happen if I don’t press! I will remain subject to people or clothed in my issues. I must apply weight and force to my fear. I must squeeze out every doubt. The Lord promises to help me if I just yoke myself to Him. I must press. Will you?

I Corinthians 9:25-27 (NLT) 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.

Dare To Be Disciplined

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Proverbs 10:17 (NLT) People who accept discipline are on the pathway to life, but those who ignore correction will go astray.

The dirty little word called “discipline.” It makes our pride buck up. Our mind comes to complete attention. The call to order within our mind, body and soul. It is the pathway to life called the Highway of Holiness. If you look around, it can be a lonely road. The destination is important. It is eternity. Forever. To cross from death to life forever with our Savior and the Lover of our souls. How I choose to live this life directly impacts my future. Do not be deceived. Without proper discipline, I will not see the Kingdom of God. I will not endure. Destination is secured by direction. Direction is heeded by discipline. I can route and reroute as much as I want because I am free to do as I please. However, if I have a particular goal in mind, a certain desired destination then I must choose a disciplined life to obtain that which I am after.

This is not just applicable to our life in Christ but all endeavors. We must set a course. Develop a plan. Decide our course. Discipline is the vehicle that carries us from point A to point B successfully. Discipline is behavior in accordance with rules of conduct. My attitude and actions must be maintained by training and control that is not natural. It is taking the knowledge given to us by God and applying it to our life. The reward of such an endeavor is called wisdom. Why? Why is this thing called “discipline” so important? Jesus has given us grace to overcome our weakness. God supplies new mercy each day to erase yesterday’s mistakes and make a way for today. Why do I need discipline?

Genesis 5:23-24 (NLT) Enoch lived 365 years, walking in close fellowship with God. Then one day he disappeared, because God took him.

Genesis 6:8-9 (NLT) But Noah found favor with the Lord. This is the account of Noah and his family. Noah was a righteous man, the only blameless person living on earth at the time, and he walked in close fellowship with God.

My deepest desire in life is to walk like Enoch. To exhibit the faithfulness of Noah in response to God’s Direction in my life. To live a life of absolute faith in Jesus Christ and complete dependence of God in all things. This is not a natural lifestyle but requires supernatural discipline. My flesh wants no part of it because it is pride’s death sentence. My mind will always create opposition to the unseen relied on by faith and confident hope because it desires knowledge that is common and logical. My heart and soul desire a connection to God so close that I disappear and all that is seen is the Light of His Love through me. I want my offering to become the sacrifice of seed in others honoring the altar Noah built after the flood. The one that produced promises for all mankind not just goodness and grace in His Life. If this is your goal to be one with the Lord, one must take hold of discipline and never let go.

Revelation 3:19-21 (NLT) I correct and discipline everyone I love. So be diligent and turn from your indifference. “Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends. Those who are victorious will sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat with my Father on his throne.

Each day the Lord desires to move closer to you. His Deepest Desire is to commune with us dwelling in our life as friends. This type of relationship is not movement on His Part but acceptance on our part. To give up my way and fully embrace the Way is an act of discipline. Discipline opens the door of fellowship between the Lord and I. It allows me to partake of the feast that is set before me by the Hand of God and have His Favor in my life. The key to spiritual success is not found in religious duty or church doctrine. The door of communion with Christ is opened by relationship. Discipline rights indifference. We must become diligent in discipline to have a right relationship with the Lord.

Hebrews 12:11 (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.

The month of February became the new January for me. My usual foray back to the gym and decision to make healthy eating choices did not start until the second month of the year. For the last couple of weeks in January, I plotted and planned my strategy. As the new month grew closer, my body loathed the turn of the calendar. My mind made many excuses as to why the timing was not right. However, come February I started. One of the changes was a “squat” challenge recommended by a friend. She faithfully followed the plan for a month with excellent results. The first couple days were tough, but by the third day – I could barely walk. My legs were stiff and every muscle in my lower extremities ached to the point of tears. These muscles had been dormant for months. I disciplined my body to endure the discomfort, press on, and keep doing it despite all these things. Now well into week two, my body is beginning to accept the new way of life.

No discipline is enjoyable. It is painful most of the time. Whether physical, mental or spiritual – our humanity is not a fan of discipline because it requires giving up our way, comfort and complacency to accept change. For forty years, the Children of Israel wandered in the wilderness. During that time, the Lord provided everything they needed according to His Plan. The people became disciplined in following the Lord and indifference was killed off never making it to the Promised Land. The Children of God were not punished during that time as some complained but rather in a training process under the strictest control by God. Their shoes didn’t even wear out during the journey. God protected them from the tops of their heads to the souls of their feet. The difference between punishment and discipline is relationship. If my child enters my house when I am not home, he or she is welcomed. My adult children all know how to get in. They are still my kids. But if a stranger comes in uninvited, well they are consider to be an intruder and the law will be called. Discipline versus punishment is defined by our relationship with God. He will not let anyone come to Him over the fence but must come through the Gate called Beautiful. His Name is Jesus and there is only one way – God’s Way. Faith opens the gate and discipline guides us through.

I Corinthians 11:27-31 (NLT) So anyone who eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord unworthily is guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. That is why you should examine yourself before eating the bread and drinking the cup. For if you eat the bread or drink the cup without honoring the body of Christ, you are eating and drinking God’s judgment upon yourself. That is why many of you are weak and sick and some have even died. But if we would examine ourselves, we would not be judged by God in this way.

If our goal in life is to be close to Christ and live in His Shadow, discipline is absolutely necessary to filter our life of those things which keep us from a right relationship. It is by paying careful attention to our walk with Christ to ensure a proper relationship. This is not about never sinning though our goal is to avoid sin. Never falling – everyone makes mistakes as part of the growth process. It is not absent of failure – it takes the pit to make the palace just ask Joseph. Failure produces humility that causes the King of Kings Face to shine His Favor on us. Discipline is a commitment to never give up making our way closer to God by allowing His Word, Will and Way to shape our behavior. We must love discipline. (Proverbs 12:1) Respect for the Lord and His Ways are the foundation of wisdom. (Proverbs 1:7) To reject discipline is harming us. (Proverbs 15:32) Discipline purifies our heart so that we come to the Lord’s Table worthily. (Proverbs 20:30) Not just during a Communion Service at church, but in our daily fellowship with Jesus Christ as friends. Discipline is not just a change in our attitude but our actions back it up. (Proverbs 29:19) Discipline must be evidenced in our deeds as well. The Holy Spirit helps us as He offers self-control to become a fruit in our life that sustains us causing discipline to thrive.

Isaiah 38:16-18 (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.

A woman at church approached me a few years back at the gym of all places. She had discovered this blog sharing that she also felt called to be a writer. She then asked, “How do you find time to write every day?” I quickly responded, “I get up two hours early each day to spend time with the Lord.” She began shaking her head, “Well, I can’t do that. I love my sleep.” I chuckled a minute because I love to sleep, too. Mornings are not my favorite at all. Then I realized she was completely serious and my heart grew heavy for her in that moment. She gave up an hour almost every day to maintain her health but she was willing to give up her calling for a couple hours of sleep. What have you given up your calling for? What is the thing that makes you comfortable and complacent enough to become indifferent to the whispers of Jesus to come deeper? Discipline will break the stronghold of indifference in our life. It connects us with our destiny. It puts on the course to the proper destination which is eternal life. We cannot have a right relationship with God our Father and Jesus if we do not accept discipline from Him. If the goal of my life is to be found IN Christ, I must use discipline as the vehicle to get there. Faith without works is dead. Discipline is evidence of deeds worthy of His Calling. Discipline never leads to disqualification. It is the pathway to life.

I Corinthians 9:24-27 (NLT) 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.

Time to Take the Land

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Raising My Standards

Happy woman standing with hands up on long straight road facing

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

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

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

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

Matthew 16:25-27 (NLT) If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul? For the Son of Man will come with his angels in the glory of his Father and will judge all people according to their deeds.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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