Now and Later

Now and Later

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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. 

What Is “This”?

what-is-this

I Peter 1:6-9 (AMP) In this you rejoice greatly, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith, which is much more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested and purified by fire, may be found to result in [your] praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen Him, you love Him; and though you do not even see Him now, you believe and trust in Him and you greatly rejoice and delight with inexpressible and glorious joy, receiving as the result [the outcome, the consummation] of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

“In this you rejoice greatly…” What is “this”? When tragedy, trauma, trials, temptations or tests come into our life – what is the point? Why me? Why, God? I have been asked point blank, “How can you love and serve a God who gave your son cancer?” Well, first and foremost, God did not “give” our son cancer. If God had His Way, sickness and disease would not have ever been a part of human design. It was our choice to have our way that introduced sickness, disease, and hardship into life. It began with Adam and Eve in the garden and has perpetuated through reproduction. Yes, our son had cancer. Not once, but a total of five times. No, I do not rejoice in the suffering he experienced during his sickness. I can attest to the thing called “inexpressible joy”. It comes from a well dug long before the trial of life hits us. It is a reserve that is cultivated through our relationship with Jesus Christ and our desire to know Him more. But it did not stop the pain, suffering, or brokenness marked by buckets of tears at the reality our son, his life, and wellbeing was completely out of our control and rested solely in the Father’s Hands. Death was a reality but Truth defined it as a crossover moment from death to life. “This” is the source of our joy. “This” is the point of our faith. “This” is the deciding factor when it comes to our salvation.

The “even though” moments comprised of temporary (for a little while), if necessary (yes, there is a purpose to your distress) have a meaning in our life. They illuminate the genuineness of faith. Faith that produces “praise, glory and honor” of the Father for you His Child at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Revelation is when what I truly believe is made known, revealed or uncovered in my life. It is the moment that the notion of faith and reality of what is truly believed becomes the foundation of our life and the promise that is stood upon. It is marked by the defining “thoughs” that no longer bear the “even”. The world produces instances when our life does not look like, feel like or bear resemblance to the purpose, promise or potential of God in it. These are the moments when faith is essential and what is believed truly relevant to our life. Will I continue to believe “even though” I lost my job? Will I continued to believe “even though” my child is sick? Will I continue to have faith “even though” my spouse has passed away? Will I continue to believe “even though” my life appears to be falling apart filled only with dead dreams and disappointment? Will I dare to still hope as the psalmist writes? Faith says, “Yes!” “This” is our faith made a reality.

Hebrews 11:1 (AMP) Now faith is the assurance (title deed, confirmation) of things hoped for (divinely guaranteed), and the evidence of things not seen [the conviction of their reality—faith comprehends as fact what cannot be experienced by the physical senses].

I attended a one-night only women’s event. While making new friends, I met a woman who attended church with an amazing lady who would be honored during the service. This sweet soul was a single mom who lost her husband to a heart attack four years ago. It was just seven months after welcoming their precious daughter into the world. Last December, she was experiencing some dizziness, blurry vision and headaches so she went to the doctor. After a series of tests, she was diagnosed with Stage II brain cancer. The more her friend told me about her, I knew I had to meet her. She is being treated by one of the same doctors our son was treated by. The moment I introduced myself and shook her hand, I could feel it. The absolute confidence and power exuding from this lady. We began to share experiences and testify to the Goodness and Greatness of God. She had “this”. The “this” of faith that oversteps the limitations of this life and reaches into the supernatural drawing it to the earth. Faith is assurance. It is the title deed to our place in the Kingdom of God. It is confirmation so greatly engrained in us that no matter what happens now, forever is secure. The things which we hope for are divinely guaranteed. Hope is based on the evidence of things not seen. All those “impossibles” ready to be made possible simply because by faith we choose to believe in the Power of Jesus Christ rather that the impact of tragedy, trauma, trials, temptations or tests come into our life.

John 20:26-29 (AMP) Eight days later His disciples were again inside the house, and Thomas was with them. Jesus came, though the doors had been barred, and stood among them and said, “Peace to you.” Then He said to Thomas, “Reach here with your finger, and see My hands; and put out your hand and place it in My side. Do not be unbelieving, but [stop doubting and] believe.” Thomas answered Him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Because you have seen Me, do you now believe? Blessed [happy, spiritually secure, and favored by God] are they who did not see [Me] and yet believed [in Me].”

Thomas walked with Jesus throughout His Ministry here on earth. When Jesus died, Thomas’s faith went into the grave with Him. He could not believe without seeing the Resurrected Lord. Jesus came and presented Himself to Thomas for thorough inspection of His Scars. Jesus asked him, “Do you believe me now?” Jesus went on to prophesy that those who believe without seeing Him are blessed, happy, spiritually secure and favored by God. Do you believe? How do you know? Faith not tested is not certain.

Faith comprehends as fact what cannot be experienced by the physical senses. If you can see it, feel it, touch it, hear it or do it – faith is not required. It is when the outcome is impossible that faith becomes necessary. The popular song “Oceans” is a prayer plea to “Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders, let me walk upon the waters, wherever you may call me, take me deeper than my feet could ever wander, and my faith will be made stronger, in the Presence of my Savior.” I wonder if you would still sing this song if you understood what exactly you are requesting from the Lord. A life beyond your control. Circumstances overwhelmingly more than you can possibly hand. This is an invitation for an impossible situation to arise before you. It is a call that challenges our faith and belief system down to its foundation. Do you really mean it? Do you really want to know the genuineness of faith? Do you want to know the true reality of what you believe?

Hebrews 11:6 (AMP) But without faith it is impossible to [walk with God and] please Him, for whoever comes [near] to God must [necessarily] believe that God exists and that He rewards those who [earnestly and diligently] seek Him.

Yes, you do need to know what you believe. Yes, you do need to pay close attention to the cultivation of faith in your life. Why? Without faith, it is impossible to please God. It is absolutely essential to believe not only that He exists but that His Love is real and valid. You will seek Him if you believe that He rewards those who earnestly and diligently seek Him. Even in those dark times, especially through the Valley of the Shadow of death accepting His Invitation to the banquet before the enemy. Faith is the “this” that we are after and must attain to step out of this life and into forever.

Romans 5:1-2 (AMP) Therefore, since we have been justified [that is, acquitted of sin, declared blameless before God] by faith, [let us grasp the fact that] we have peace with God [and the joy of reconciliation with Him] through our Lord Jesus Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed). Through Him we also have access by faith into this [remarkable state of] grace in which we [firmly and safely and securely] stand. Let us rejoice in our hope and the confident assurance of [experiencing and enjoying] the glory of [our great] God [the manifestation of His excellence and power].

Romans 5:1-2 explains the process of faith called justification. Justification is the act of God whereby humanity is made just or free from guilt and the penalty of sin. To justify is to be “just as if” you never sinned. Faith is the catalyst by which this is achieved. Faith declares us to be justified. Now we have peace with God which is reconciliation just like the prodigal son when he returned to his earthly father. It is a cause of celebration. Let’s be real. A journey to the altar and encounter with God does not produce an Enoch experience. We are not instantly swept away but must walk out and work out our salvation. Our faith must be credible. It must be real and valid. It must be proven. Salvation is the access point of faith. It is up to us whether we cultivate it and facilitate its growth, development and maturity or not. Every test, trial and trauma even those deemed tragedies by the world have great potential in our ability to remain firm, safe and secure in our faith, His Word, the Promise, and our place in the Presence of God no matter how big the storm, how high the waves, powerful the earthquake, or uncertain the future. We have forever and by faith it will be enough to endure any of the travesties of this temporary life. He is enough. Jesus is more than enough. Faith adds weight to the anchor of hope holding us safe and secure until He comes to take us home.

Jude 20-21; 24-25 (AMP)

But you, beloved, build yourselves up on [the foundation of] your most holy faith [continually progress, rise like an edifice higher and higher], pray in the Holy Spirit, and keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting anxiously and looking forward to the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ [which will bring you] to eternal life.

Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling or falling into sin, and to present you unblemished [blameless and faultless] in the presence of His glory with triumphant joy and unspeakable delight, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and power, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

Faith is non-negotiable. It must be found to be genuine and valid or all of our best effort to be found holy, godly or righteous are just dead works. It is the starting place of productivity where potential finds its purpose for those who believe. I thought I had faith. I thought I believed. I prayed for more faith. I deeply longed to trust Him more. When the test came, and after three long hard years to victory – I did not run across the finish line victoriously waving my arms in the air and fist pumping across. No friend, I crawled across and collapsed on the other side. My faith intact but I suddenly became aware that all I was doing didn’t matter, all the serving was just works, and everything I thought pleasing to God in my life worthless compared to “this” – the mustard seed of faith that I clutched in my hand. Faith is the hardest to attain yet worth every trial that we ever face. I know that now. If I had known what it would take going in to the test, I would not have done it. I would not have put my son’s life in jeopardy. However, until forever becomes a reality – faith does not seem necessary. Now, it is the one thing, the only thing – the very thing that is most important in life. This is faith and it is what we must live for.

John 6:29 (AMP) Jesus answered, “This is the work of God: that you believe [adhere to, trust in, rely on, and have faith] in the One whom He has sent.” 

Joy Ahead

joy-ahead

I Peter 1:5-7 (NLT) And through your faith, God is protecting you by his power until you receive this salvation, which is ready to be revealed on the last day for all to see. So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you must endure many trials for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.

Over the weekend, I began renovations on our soon to be guest bedroom. The spare room in our house received a fresh coat of paint. The baseboards, trim and doors were painted with pristine white paint. An old dated bed I bought secondhand also received a makeover. New linens I had my eye on were purchased and now await the arrival of the new mattress set soon to arrive. All the work the last few days has produced soreness in my body due from age and being completely out of shape. Getting up in the morning, I am moving a bit more slowly allowing my muscles to loosen up and catch up with my reeling mind full of the next home makeover to do list. Even though I am filled with little aches and pains the smell of fresh paint and all the like new things coming together have filled me with deep satisfaction. Sitting on the couch with my husband, my best friend, and partner for life sharing a cookie date to reward our labor, I am no longer concerned about the fact I may require assistance to get back up and walk like an elderly woman. I am deeply content in our progress together and look forward to our next project as our new house becomes our home.

There is wonderful joy ahead. I believe this statement wholeheartedly. I know that God is working the details of my life for His Good and His Glory just as He has promised in His Word. (Romans 8:28) However, it is going to take an investment on my part. It is through faith that God protects us by His Power so that we will receive salvation. Too many times, we buy in to things without reading the fine print and conditions or go in halfheartedly making it into what we want it to be. The fact is that in this life there will be trials and temptations that test our faith for genuine authenticity. It is just a part of our life in Christ that determines if this thing called faith is valid or not.

I Peter 2:19-20 (NLT) For God is pleased when, conscious of his will, you patiently endure unjust treatment. Of course, you get no credit for being patient if you are beaten for doing wrong. But if you suffer for doing good and endure it patiently, God is pleased with you.

Jesus promises that the one who endures to the end will be saved. (Matthew 24:13) The one who continues to live by faith when it seems small and insignificant. When things don’t go our way, do we react in the moment or have the confidence to respond by His Spirit. Faith is about forever. It is futuristic. It is unseen. In a world full of distractions, it is up to those who desire a relationship with God through His Son, Jesus Christ to live “conscious of His Will” and not according to how we feel or how others may treat us. Life is hard. It is unfair. People can be callous, cruel and uncaring. My conditions, circumstances or even consequences may cause inconvenience, suffering or hardship in my life. How do I respond? What is my reaction? If the things I endure are merely consequential, it is not the kind of endurance that produces more faith. When I do what is right and I am treated unjustly yet still choose to endure – it is then that God is please with me.

God’s Will for my life is good. He promises me a plan with a future and hope. If I pray, the Lord listens. If I seek Him wholeheartedly, I will always find Him. (Jeremiah 29:11-13) When I choose to walk by faith and not by sight, it doesn’t secure the journey but the outcome. I will still go through things. I will face temptations. There will be trials. It is the joy ahead that my heart holds on to. The reality of Jesus Christ is formed and fortified through every hardship endured. It is our decision to stand that makes Him the Cornerstone of our life. The unmovable and unshakeable foundation that will remain when everything else falls apart. Are you ready to give up? Thinking of giving in. Not sure what the point is anymore, life is getting harder. There is no relief. Where is Jesus in all of this?

Hebrews 12:2-4 (NLT) We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people then you won’t become weary and give up. After all, you have not yet given your lives in your struggle against sin.

To gain perspective in the life of faith, one must keep all eyes on Jesus who is the Champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Don’t look down but look ahead to the joy of meeting Him face to face as you are welcomed into forever with Him. This must be the reality of our life and existence to overcome the hardships and trials. We are the “joy awaiting him” that kept Jesus on His Journey to the Cross. His eyes were on us. His Beloved so He kept going. He endured the Cross. We just have to make it through hurt feelings, hard times, and harsh reality. Yet we have hope. Jesus did it all for me a broken shell of a human who needed everything that He had to offer but able to give nothing in return. In His Perfection, people were hostile to the Lord. Threatened to kill Him. Tortured Him. Humiliated Him. Mutilated Him. Nailed Him to a Cross. Most of us will only know minor inconveniences in life but have a hope far greater than anyone can imagine. Lord, thank you for the Cross. Thank you for enduring and calling me joy!

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

Thanks to Jesus, God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Those who do are promise the crown of life reserved for those who love Him. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 1, “we think you ought to know about the trouble we went through…” He goes on to share the hardships and trials they faced in their ministerial journey. “We were crushed and overwhelmed beyond our ability to endure…” Paul elaborates that they did not think they would live through it and expected to die. The result is the part of this passage that is “as a result, we stopped relying on ourselves and learned to rely only on God.” Paul continues “we have placed our confidence in Him and He will continue to rescue us.” This is the point of our trials and hardships in life. Endurance is not easy. It is not the outcome for everyone. Those who do will be blessed.

2 Corinthians 6:10 (NLT) Our hearts ache, but we always have joy. We are poor, but we give spiritual riches to others. We own nothing, and yet we have everything.

When we were looking at homes to purchase, we had to picture our life in the house despite the fact others lived here. When we found this one, we knew it had the potential to become our home. Now that we live here, it is a continual process of cleaning, painting, and renovating to make it our own. Some areas are bare while others are coming together. If I choose to continue this process, one day each room will represent home to us. For now, there are paint swatches on the walls, patches on the holes, lots of conversations concerning possibilities, and purchases to be made. It will take some elbow grease or maybe a lot of it to get this place into shape. Crawling around the floor painting baseboards the other night, I could feel the stiffness coming on. I knew the next day or so would prove that climbing up and down the ladder produces the same results as three sets of squats in the gym. However, it is worth it to see the new guest room coming together.

Our spiritual life comes in the form of possibilities. What once was impossible becomes completely possible because we have a seed of faith to grow, develop and mature in us? We must count the cost of faith and decide if we are willing to make the investment required to have real and genuine faith. Faith is a process. It requires a commitment to Jesus Christ and the unseen reality of faith in Him. We must believe that He is real and His Promises are true. We have an advocate. The Holy Spirit works in us and through us to produce all the awesome things that God has promised. We must give up our personal real estate called pride and selfishness to have it. We also have an enemy who tries to taunt us and tempt us to give up, give in or quit altogether. The struggle is real. The promise is true. We have been given a free will to choose how much of our life that we will invest. Will I give until it hurts? Will I press when I am weak? Will I trust when I am discouraged? How far am I willing to go to find Him? Will I endure?

Matthew 14:28-31 (NLT) Then Peter called to him, “Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you, walking on the water.” “Yes, come,” Jesus said. So Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus. But when he saw the strong wind and the waves, he was terrified and began to sink. “Save me, Lord!” he shouted. Jesus immediately reached out and grabbed him. “You have so little faith,” Jesus said. “Why did you doubt me?”

I have been thinking a lot about Peter walking on the water. Jesus didn’t make him leave the boat. He chose to step out of the boat to walk to Jesus. When he saw the conditions around him, and stopped looking at the Lord, he began to sink. “Save me, Lord!” he shouted. Jesus “immediately reached out and grabbed him.” I believe wholeheartedly that it is in these trials and temptations of life when I come to the end of myself. It is in that moment, when I cannot do it anymore, and lunge toward Jesus that the purpose is served. The moment when I have nothing left to give but rather than going under I make one last effort to reach Jesus. Peter did not try to save himself. He did not try to get back to the boat. He called on Jesus. He found His Joy. He didn’t want to go back. Peter wanted the Lord as is clear throughout the account of his life. This disciple tested every boundary or perceived obstacle between himself and Jesus Christ. He endured. I believe that Peter was saved. I want to live this kind of life. Like Peter I must decide that the joy ahead of me is worth all that is in me to obtain. Jesus is my joy! He is my salvation. It is His Grace alone that is the powerful potential locked inside of me. I must be willing to endure for it to make its way out of me by faith!

We endure this life for the joy set before us. He died for us. We will probably never experience more than inconvenience for His Cause. He gave up everything for us. I must decide today if His Way and His Will are worth having and that the joy found in His Love and Grace are enough to get over those things that irritate, annoy and hurt me to find my joy. When Jesus is my everything, He will always be enough! Endurance is the effort put forth to respond to God’s Promises rather than reacting to the persistent testing, trials and troubles of life. It keeps us engaged and fighting the good fight. Be encouraged today! One small step of faith can change our entire perspective of life. To endure for a moment can offer strength for a lifetime. You can do it. Don’t give up. Jesus hasn’t given up on you. You were worth dying for! Surely we can stand a little longer for Him. For those who do, there is joy ahead!

2 Timothy 2:11-15 (NLT)  This is a trustworthy saying: If we die with him, we will also live with him. If we endure hardship, we will reign with him. If we deny him, he will deny us. If we are unfaithful, he remains faithful, for he cannot deny who he is. Remind everyone about these things, and command them in God’s presence to stop fighting over words. Such arguments are useless, and they can ruin those who hear them. Work hard so you can present yourself to God and receive his approval. Be a good worker, one who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly explains the word of truth.

While We Wait

while-we-wait

Psalm 27.14 (NLT) Wait patiently for the Lord. Be brave and courageous. Yes, wait patiently for the Lord.

Waiting on God is not at all for the weak and fearful. To take a stand on an invisible foundation with nothing more than a word or thought seems fruitless in a world based solely on sight. Yet as believers, we are called to walk by faith and not by sight. It is important to accept that God always incorporates waiting in His Process and Promises concerning us. Prosperity always has a prescribed wait that cannot be avoided. To know what to do while we wait requires one to understand the purpose of waiting.

James 1:12-13 (NLT) God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him. And remember, when you are being tempted, do not say, “God is tempting me.” God is never tempted to do wrong, and he never tempts anyone else.

Jesus said,But the one who endures to the end will be saved.” (Matthew 24:13) Endurance requires patience and persistence. Humanity is born with stubborn obstinacy that gives have to persistence but it is patience that is nonexistent. Through the process called life, it is up to us to allow the Holy Spirit to produce it in us. The Spirit produces patience in us. The evidence of patience is in the fruit called self-control. We are tempted by our flesh and desire for immediate gratification to reduce wait times and leave the watchtower.

God does not prescribe wait times as a form of punishment but discipline. Temptation to hasten God’s Process and quickly obtain His Promise is the very thing that keeps us from it altogether. We must wait on the Lord. It is important to the growth process. The seed of faith must grow, develop and mature in us until there is total trust in Jesus Christ. The Crown of Life is the desire of our heart. To avoid death and obtain life in all things. Those who endure to the end will be saved. Those who give up and walk away receive nothing.

Psalm 5:1-3 (NLT) O Lord, hear me as I pray; pay attention to my groaning. Listen to my cry for help, my King and my God, for I pray to no one but you. Listen to my voice in the morning, Lord. Each morning I bring my requests to you and wait expectantly.

Are you waiting today? I am. As we sit and wait together, let’s talk about what to do while waiting. I find that most of the time, I am not afforded the luxury of other company in my wait times. So I will take full advantage of this time with you. “Each morning I bring my requests to you and wait expectantly.” What is your expectation of this wait you are in? Has the Lord given you a promise? Is He doing a new thing? Are you at a crossroad or even a valley of decision? If you want godly direction or the Lord’s Instruction – it is important to bring your “expectation” to Him.

Christians pray. Believers may even pray a little more. However, the challenging examination is whether or not we are able to wait on the Lord “expectantly”. When our son was sick, occasionally he was able to attend worship services. People would come to him and say things like “I am praying for you” and other tidbits of encouragement. We could always tell who believed that he would make it and the ones who had their doubts. The culture called Christianity adopts its own language but without acquiring a new heart it is all just lip service. The culture changes into a community when there is a viable relationship with Jesus Christ full of expectancy in His Word and Will alone.

Psalm 37:7 (NLT) Be still in the presence of the Lord, and wait patiently for him to act.
Don’t worry about evil people who prosper or fret about their wicked schemes.

You are waiting on God not people. The Lord may use people and He may not. The enemy may or may not use people to try to interrupt you as well. People are not the provider of your promise. God is. People are not the problem. The enemy of our soul is. We must continually keep this in mind while we wait.

Psalm 62:1-2 (NLT) I wait quietly before God, for my victory comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress where I will never be shaken.

On the game show, Let’s Make a Deal, contestants are given choice after choice. They will have a prize and be asked if they would like to trade what they have for that which is hidden behind the curtain. Giving up the known for the unknown? It is the exchange day by day. To give up life as it is to have what is eternal. Is it a fair exchange? Of course it is more than fair – it is overly gracious. But is it easy? Not really. I know that when my children were babies, if they had something in their hand that they did not want to give up, I could get them to release it by offering them a something else. At that age, they were easily distracted. However life begins to harden our heart and stubborn pride takes over our mind until there are times when God offers us a promise that is better but because our flesh likes comfort – we settle for less. Oh to have childlike faith that always trust the Father for what is better.

While we wait it is important to decide what we are waiting for. Do I want victory? Will I wait for the win or walk away? When our choice is to wait on the Lord, we will be victorious every single time. It may not happen now or today but the Lord has secured it for us in His Time and His Way if we will wait to have it.

Psalm 62:5 (NLT) Let all that I am wait quietly wait before God, for my hope is in Him.

All of me must wait all on Him. God’s Plan is complete. It is accomplished in Christ alone. When I decide to put my faith in the hope that I have in Him, the anchor only secures that parts of me that are firmly attached.

Habakkuk 2:1-3 (NLT) I will climb up to my watchtower and stand at my guard post. There I will wait to see what the Lord says and how he will answer my complaint. Then the Lord said to me, “Write my answer plainly on tablets, so that a runner can carry the correct message to others. This vision is for a future time. It describes the end, and it will be fulfilled. If it seems slow in coming, wait patiently, for it will surely take place. It will not be delayed.

The faithfulness of God is unchangeable. He cannot lie or change His Mind. The blessing and prosperity that He preordained and predestined for us does not change by our choices. I visit the watchtower often and climb the ladder to the guard post a lot. It is the place where I watch and wait for the Lord. Note that verse two is actually the Lord’s second response so it is not uncommon for us to inspect, dissect, and examine God’s Word and His Promise for our life frequently when it does happen as one would expect in the natural. It is those things labeled impossible that miracles happen so why do we get so discouraged and dismayed? The watchtower and guard post are often lonely. It is a place where the Lord has our attention or at least He should.

The Lord has recorded every moment of our life in advance. His Plan comes with a future and hope. We live in a new covenant much more glorious than the old one. With all this in mind, it is up to us if it is what we want and worth waiting for. Some things seem nonnegotiable. Other things test our ability to wait and self-control. Each moment spent waiting gives that small seed of faith time and space to grow.

Isaiah 30:18 (NLT) So the Lord must wait for you to come to him so he can show you his love and compassion. For the Lord is a faithful God. Blessed are those who wait for his help.

Finally, if you have been waiting a really long time or your promise seems to be taking forever, I wonder – could it be that the Lord is waiting for you? There are times when I have done everything to stand and waited until what seems the final hour only to realize that He was waiting on me to come to Him. Startling revelation to think that sometimes we may not have had to wait as long as we did if we had come to the Lord in the first place with all our heart and soul.

While we wait together, may I remind you that God is good, good Father. Everything He does and does not do is for our benefit and blessing. He is always faithful. His Faithfulness is not contingent on mine – thank you Jesus! His Ways are not my ways even though I often expect them to be. His Thoughts are not like mine so I must change my mind and how I think to recognize His Presence in my life. Those who wait on the Lord always win. They are the redeemed who are saved in the end. So while we are waiting we can do so peacefully praising His Great Name. And so, dear friends, while you are waiting for these things to happen, make every effort to be found living peaceful lives that are pure and blameless in his sight.” (2 Peter 3:14)

James 5:7-8 (NLT) Dear brothers and sisters, be patient as you wait for the Lord’s return. Consider the farmers who patiently wait for the rains in the fall and in the spring. They eagerly look for the valuable harvest to ripen. You, too, must be patient. Take courage, for the coming of the Lord is near.

It was nice waiting with you today. Be encouraged that the seeds of faith, hope and love God has planted in you are being carefully cultivated, developed and matured in your life to prosper you, bless you and complete you until you lack no good thing. Even when you feel nothing but frustration, impatience, and discouragement but choose to remain in the watch tower manning the guard post of your heart waiting on the Lord – the time spent there will never be in vain. God is always worth waiting for you. It will be worth it. It will be worth it all.

Psalm 38:15 (NLT) For I am waiting for you, O Lord. You must answer for me, O Lord my God.

Found My Joy

found-my-joy-2

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.

Our family has a very odd way of dealing with discomfort. When trouble comes, it seems to produce laughter in us. At the hospital the night our son was diagnosed with cancer, the nurse came down the hall to see what all the commotion was as the Lord turned our sorrow and immediate devastation to gut wrenching, overflowing laughter. The tears of sorrow were somehow exchanged for those produced by joy. When my mom went in for open heart surgery a few weeks ago, at 6:30 AM in the morning, the surgery waiting area erupted with laughter while our family took selfies in matching tees that said, “God is good, y’all!” After surgery, while mom was resting in ICU, since the militant nurse would not allow us stay with her, my sister and I created Dubsmash videos and reconnected after many years apart in an empty waiting room all night long. Joy. Just joy. Not the kind of joy that the world has but the kind that comes from knowing that God works everything out for the good of those who love Him.

There is a great exchange made when gathering our hopes, dreams and expectations and dumping them at the feet of Jesus Christ. It is the moment that our tears created by sorrow can be turned into joy. It is in that decision that a challenge, hardship or trouble goes from a struggle to an opportunity. When our faith is tested, endurance has a chance to grow. Yay, patience?! It is not the growing pains that are funny but the inexpressible love and peace found in the refuge of Christ offered to those that bring their hurts for healing, disappointments for hope and brokenness for beauty. We decide when joy makes its way to us because it is always streaming down from the Heart of Jesus to His Beloved People.

Let it grow. I believe that joy is evidence that there is another root has made its way into His Foundation, that our lives have transitioned a little more to the Kingdom, and that our faith is a little stronger than before. (Colossians 2:7) The Lord has a plan. It is that you and I will be perfect and complete needing nothing. Is that you today? Are you perfect? Do you feel complete? Are you needing nothing? Yeah, me either. So now what?

James 1:5-8 (NLT) If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. But when you ask him, be sure that your faith is in God alone. Do not waver, for a person with divided loyalty is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind. Such people should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Their loyalty is divided between God and the world, and they are unstable in everything they do.

What did people do before Google, YouTube, and Pinterest? No, really. How did we find information without the world’s largest search engine? How did we fix things before YouTube came along? My cooking skills were developed spending hours on Pinterest expanding the menu. In fact, my daughter’s wedding was made completely possible by Pinterest as well. See there is an information highway out there and media that floods our hearts and minds. It is driven by supply and demand as every website and television show is sponsored by a company trying to “sell” us something. It may be a product, service, or idea. When I need true wisdom, there really only is one credible source.

The Word of God is written, spoken and imparted to people. If we do not have joy, it represents a need for faith and trust in the Lord. This is not developed the way it is achieved in the world. Yes, there are resources on the Internet, television, podcasts, and in churches, but the most credible resource that is given to the believer is the Holy Spirit. Do you spend time in the Word of God each day? Do you listen for His Voice? Do you exercise the knowledge that you have attained turning it into wisdom? Only faith and trust in a God who cannot be seen produces the kind of joy that gushes past the troubles of life making its way into the atmosphere. We must know the Word of God and recognize His Voice to have the kind of faith that endures tests and temptations.

James 1:9-11 (NLT) Believers who are poor have something to boast about, for God has honored them. And those who are rich should boast that God has humbled them. They will fade away like a little flower in the field. The hot sun rises and the grass withers; the little flower droops and falls, and its beauty fades away. In the same way, the rich will fade away with all of their achievements.

God doesn’t really care about your bank account, investments or portfolio. He gave it all to you anyway. It all belongs to Him. The treasure that He is after and desires most is our heart. The love born of commitment, devotion, desire, passion and pursuit. When our life is worthless outside of Christ is when a believer finally invests all their resources including time, talent and treasure into knowing Him more. This kind of life is marked by humility. This is the downfall of the modern day church and the rising of the remnant church all at the same time. The religious congregation says come here let me fix you. You need to look like us, talk like us, act like us and be like us to see Heaven. Then there is the opposite extreme that tells you grace is free so trample it as you may. Do what you want when you want and it really doesn’t matter because God is all about free love. Well that’s not the truth either. Jesus paid the ultimate price to set us free. It was not free but cost Him everything. He freely gave His Life as a sacrifice. This is humbling.

I believe that the Lord is rising up a church that is recounting the cost paid for them and realizing its incredible worth. They are embracing “whosoever come” and “meet this man”. It is filled with imperfect people passionately pursuing a perfect God together. Laying down their life for the Lord and one another. It’s called a remnant because it’s small. God is looking for humble people with heart’s intent on finding Him. Committed to knowing Him. Devoted to following Jesus all the way to the Father. Giving up their life to have Eternity. Is that you? Oh Lord, I want to be that kind of church.

James 1:12-15 (NLT) God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him. And remember, when you are being tempted, do not say, “God is tempting me.” God is never tempted to do wrong, and he never tempts anyone else. Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away. These desires give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death.

Having a large family and five children, you think that you will always have a houseful until they begin to grow up and fly away. Our fourth child will be a senior in high school next year – ugh! She brought home her class ring information which made my husband decide to look for his own class ring. I don’t know if he found it or not but he did manage to produce the sappiest love letter I have ever read from a clearly smitten woman – me. How embarrassing! As I read it, I realized that after all these years – I still feel the same way. We have been through many ups and downs. We are blended family which only adds to the commotion. We have had great times, good times and devastating times and the glue of our family has held tightly.

God blesses those who patiently endure the testing and temptation. Life is full of tests. There will always be temptations and easy ways out. At the end of this life will we find our first love? God never tempts us so when a trial comes or hardship arises – we can find refuge in the Lord. Do we? Or do we give into the temptation to react to our circumstances, situation and discomfort? When I am faced with difficulties, I have learned that I can trust the Lord. How did I learn that? Brokenness that lead to complete submission. Absolute loss of control which has been my undoing. It is the trials and temptations of life that drive our faith in the ground like a well-positioned post so as it gets harder the believer gets stronger. The process can be painful. It is hard. But it is always worth it.

James 1:16-18 (NLT) So don’t be misled, my dear brothers and sisters. Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow. He chose to give birth to us by giving us his true word. And we, out of all creation, became his prized possession.

There is a song that I love by Bethel Music called “I Have Found My Joy.” It says, “there’s a line and we’ve crossed it. Some would say that we’ve lost it. But we’ve found our joy, we’ve found our joy, it’s all in knowing You.” Don’t be misled, my dear brothers and sisters. The joy in our life is discovered in our relationship of faith and trust in Jesus. We are His Most Prized Possession but how can we know that if we do not come to Him, communicate with Him, and commune with the Lord. It is our relationship with Jesus that allows all the good and perfect things that the Father has for us to make their way to us. This is why when hard times come, true believers laugh through their tears. We can trade every sorrow for joy at His Feet and in His Presence.

Have you found joy today? Do you know what its like to laugh in pain? Find humor in hardship? Jesus wants that for you today. He is calling you to it. There is inexpressible joy in Jesus Christ. I cannot explain it but to say that when I should be crying – I am laughing. Some people may think that I have lost it but I really don’t care what they think – I have found my joy. In every season there will be rain, but He is the Light of my Salvation that reminds me that this season will end producing new seeds to plant, some that are growing and there will be fruit on my vine if I just stay close to Jesus.

I Peter 1:7-9 (NLT) These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world. You love him even though you have never seen him. Though you do not see him now, you trust him; and you rejoice with a glorious, inexpressible joy. The reward for trusting him will be the salvation of your souls.

Are you in the middle of one of “these trials”? Yeah, me too. The good news is that the Lord will reveal if you have genuine faith. The bad news…well, I can’t seem to find any because where faith is revealed joy is released. The more faith produced in us when we go through trials, overcome temptations and move just a little bit closer to the Lord, the more blessed we become even if we have less in this life – it is abundant life that makes us completely needing nothing. Don’t give up. Trust the Lord. No matter what you are going through He is fighting Your Battle, making a Way, and there is purpose and meaning in our life far beyond human comprehension. Just stand right where you are and He will fight for you. Jesus loves you. You are His Prized Possession. In exchange for your small investment of faith under fire, the Lord will give you glorious, inexpressible joy. This is the reward of trusting Him and it will be the salvation our soul!

I have found my joy!

Psalm 1:1-3 (NLT) Oh, the joys of those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or stand around with sinners, or join in with mockers. But they delight in the law of the Lord, meditating on it day and night. They are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season. Their leaves never wither, and they prosper in all they do.

Heart Failure

heart-failure

Colossians 3:12-14 (NIV) Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

Forgive as the Lord forgave you. Really? Forgive as I forgave you. Come on Lord, you know what they did! Forgive as I have forgiven you…Okay fine. The conversation in my mind continues to go in circles. What happens when you want to forgive but can’t seem to find it in your heart? Or when the offender doesn’t have any remorse and continues in their plight? What then? We must forgive them anyway. I know not as easy as it sounds even to the “best” Christian. There are many perceived enemies and threats all around you in any given day but people are not one of them. We may call them our enemy but really they are our brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus. Sibling rivalry is raising a ruckus in the Kingdom and will continue to cause division as long as we don’t really dig down in our heart and find the faith to forgive others as God has forgiven us through Jesus Christ. I am guilty of unforgiveness. Clothing myself as a Child of the Living God includes compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience, of course, but without forgiveness I exempt myself from God’s Grace, Mercy and Love. We cannot withhold that which God so graciously gives us and think to become one of His Kingdom. Unfortunately…or maybe fortunately it just doesn’t work that way.

Matthew 18:21-22 (NIV) Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.

In Matthew 18, Jesus shares a parable with Peter concerning forgiveness to reinforce the importance of forgiveness. A king decided to settle accounts with his servants. A servant was brought to him that owed him a significant amount of gold. The servant begged and pleaded with the kind promising that if he would patient with him that the servant would pay it all back. The king let him go. The servant was wicked and grabbed one of his fellow servants who owed him less than what he owed the king demanding immediate repayment. But when this servant begged to be allowed time to pay it back, the wicked servant refused to do to his peer what the kind had done for him throwing the man in prison. When the king heard the news, he had the wicked servant apprehended, thrown in jail and tortured until the debt was repaid in full. The parable concludes with this verse – “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.” (Matthew 18:35)

Forgiveness is a matter of the heart. It has nothing to do with being right or being wrong. It is not contingent on the repentance or repayment of the offender but rather a release of real estate in our heart for the Lord to fill with more of His Grace, Mercy and Love. It is uncomfortable to learn that when you think you have it all together in God that He allows us to be shaken a bit so that voids may be discovered in our life. I am a forgiving person when it comes to me. Maybe it is because I know who I am and what I have done and how much I need God’s Grace. However, there is always more that I need to learn and the Lord is faithful to teach me those things. I share this with you from the bottom of my heart which clearly needs just a little more love.

Recently my mother had open heart surgery, I have spent time with her as she recovered. A home health nurse indicated on a visit that she could hear a slight rattle in mom’s right lower lung. This is of note in a patient especially a heart patient because that could indicate fluid in their chest which can lead to congestive heart failure. If fluid builds up around your heart, it can keep the heart from pumping blood through the body sufficiently. As the pumping power is affected, the body will begin to show symptoms of distress such as shortness of breath, swelling, fatigue which will worsen over time until there is irregular heartbeat and chest pain, etc. The next day I took my mother to get an x-ray. Walking into the clinic, she indicated that she felt weak, tired and a bit short of breath. This would not be alarming if it was part of her continued recovery but up until that day she was slowly increasing her activity so I became alarmed. The radiologist showed her some fluid built up in her chest. The nurse called that evening but did not address the fluid so I asked her about it including running down the symptoms that I was seeing as mom lay in her chair becoming weaker throughout the day. Within minutes, she called back with a whole list of doctor’s orders to address what now appeared to be the early stages of pneumonia. God is so good! Within 24 hours mom was recovering quite nicely.

I share this to story with you today because we must pay careful attention to the signs and symptoms of unforgiveness in our life. It will begin to manifest things in us that are not Christ like. To forgive another person from our heart opens our life up to harm again so it is human nature to forgive but never forget. This impacts our heart and ability to love others as the Lord has instructed us to. I am guilty. During the time with my mom, there was a situation with our daughter that has caused great heartache and division between us and people who we love. Now a week or so later, I am struggling to find forgiveness in my heart. I can forgive and pretend to move on but I must forgive as Jesus has forgiven me to insure that my heart stays healthy and in tune with Him. It’s funny how I can forgive people for hurting me but mess with my kids and mama bear comes out. Well, I cannot live in unforgiveness and in the Kingdom of God as well.

Matthew 6:12-15 (NIV) And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

Half of the Lord’s Prayer is about forgiveness. This tells me two things – it is a high priority to God and it is probably one of the number one temptations to His People. Forgiveness is an act of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience because if fully demonstrates the love, grace and mercy demonstrated on the Cross. We are to love one another. More importantly, we are to love our enemies. (Matthew 5:43-48) The world loves its family and friends. It chooses to hate those who are perceived as enemies. Jesus has commanded, not suggested, us to love other people as He has loved us. How are you doing with that? Our heart must grasp the power of loving those who are unlovable and even those who cause hurt, offense, and brokenness just as much as our friends and family. It begins with forgiveness. Who do you ignore? Who have you written off? Who has real estate in your heart today that belongs to Jesus? Just as fluid will cause the heart to stop functioning properly and lead to death, so will unforgiveness if we do not deal with it properly.

Luke 6:37-38 (NIV) “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

I need, want and desire all of God’s Love, Grace and Mercy in full operation in my life. Now that my mom has had her heart “fixed”, she must observe a heart smart diet. She must change certain habits and modify what she eats to keep her heart healthy. We are the same when it comes to love, grace and mercy in our life. If mom goes back to eating a high sodium and high fat diet, she will likely end up in the same condition as before as her heart will not be properly cared for. It is up to my mom to make life changes to accommodate her heart. We must do the same. The world will justify hurt and unforgiveness. After all doesn’t the saying go, “fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me”? How many times must I forgive seventy times seven? Really God? Absolutely. The Lord will give me the same amount of love, grace and mercy that I give to others not based on their offenses but compared to His Great Affection for me. I am to love others as He has loved me.

2 Corinthians 2:5-11 (NIV) If anyone has caused grief, he has not so much grieved me as he has grieved all of you to some extent—not to put it too severely. The punishment inflicted on him by the majority is sufficient. Now instead, you ought to forgive and comfort him, so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. I urge you, therefore, to reaffirm your love for him. Another reason I wrote you was to see if you would stand the test and be obedient in everything. Anyone you forgive, I also forgive. And what I have forgiven—if there was anything to forgive—I have forgiven in the sight of Christ for your sake, in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes.

Has someone caused you grief? Are you offended? Are you done? The closer a person is to you the deeper the cut when they come against you. I understand this completely. Several years ago, I was struggling with unforgiveness toward someone. I wanted to just become indifferent about them. You know act like they did not exist. As I prayed for the Lord to calm my heart and forgive me for my attitude, a question popped into my head. “What if you are the only person praying for them?” Think about that. Could it be that the scheme of the enemy is to get us to write people off in our heart and mind so that we will not pray for them much less love them? The Lord’s Prayer says, “Lead us not into temptation…” The enemy wants to cause bitterness, strife and division in every relationship where a Christian believer is present. It sabotages the Kingdom work and stops revival when relationship are interrupted in such a way. We must live in a surrendered state of forgiveness because it allows His Grace to be sufficient for me. Unforgiveness implies that Christ’s Work on the Cross was not enough to cover every offense. It was enough for me. I must extend to others. All others. I need the overflowing love and mercy of God in my life every single day. I will not allow the enemy to stop it with unforgiveness which always leads to heart failure.

John 13:34-35 (NIV) “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

For the Joy

 

for-the-joyPsalm 89:14-17 (NLT) Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne. Unfailing love and truth walk before you as attendants. Happy are those who hear the joyful call to worship, for they will walk in the light of your presence, Lord. They rejoice all day long in your wonderful reputation. They exult in your righteousness.  You are their glorious strength. It pleases you to make us strong.

George Orwell said, “Happiness can exist only in acceptance.” We must learn to accept and reject certain things in our life to maintain our emotional state of wellbeing. Those who allow their circumstances, situation or current condition to touch that part of our heart where happiness lives will never be satisfied. Life is hard. It is not fair. Society is perverse and twisted. It is heart wrenching to read the news. How do I keep happiness in my heart when it keeps being broken? How do I maintain joy when there is so much pain and suffering all around? To remain constant in the Lord by faith will produce joy in us that is not impacted by trials but maintained by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the one who produces real joy in our life. (Galatians 5:22)

Bitterness is a root that chokes our spirit and crushes the human soul. The idea or thought that captures our heart and begins to overtake the seeds of life sown in the Spirit. Hurt left unhealed. Offense allowed to survive. Doubt not dealt with turns to disbelief and suddenly we become discouraged. Where is God? When darkness compromises the Light in our life, it is not because the Light has somehow moved like the sun setting, but rather we have moved away from it. Sin will create darkness in a once illuminated life. How do we combat it? Perseverance takes its toll even on the strongest Christian and most dedicated follower of Jesus Christ.

“My heart is breaking as I remember how it used to be: I walked among the crowds of worshipers, leading a great procession to the house of God, singing for joy and giving thanks amid the sound of a great celebration!” (Psalm 42:4) David goes on to say, “Why am I so discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? Then He bounces back with a solution, “I will put my hope in God! I will praise Him again My Savior and My God!” We all can get discouraged. It is hard not to be. The state of affairs whispers, “He is coming!” but still produce tragic circumstances as the earth quakes at His Close Proximity. Jesus is coming! I am happy that He is! Lord, help me to live for the joy!

Hebrews 12:2 (NKJV) Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Jesus Christ sits at the right hand of the Throne of God. He earned this position because “for the joy” that was set before Him endured the Cross. Any idea what that joy was? You and me. He looked past the torture and complete disrespect to see us and decided it was worth putting down His Crown and taking up the Cross. Thank you Jesus that you thought I was worth it! In Psalm 89, it says that the foundation of His Throne are righteousness and justice. Both are big problems for people due to inherited sin and the fact that God is Sovereign. Let’s talk about that for a minute. We do not understand the concept of a Sovereign God because we live in polluted justice. There is no one who is righteous other than Lord. We have never encountered such a presence therefore do not understand the gravity of our situation. God does not consume us because He is mad at us or hates us. It is the sin that causes our destruction because God is that good. He does not lie or change His Mind, but if I do it causes a problem because He cannot change. He is absolute and constant. Take that in for a moment.

God has a plan and purpose for our life. (Jeremiah 29:11) We can only obtain it by seeking Him wholeheartedly. (Jeremiah 29:13) To do so required Grace from God because He could not give up His Perfection. The foundation of His Throne are still righteousness and justice which will never change but we can change because there are attendants around the Throne called unfailing love and truth. Unfailing love says that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. I have been given His Unfailing Love accompanied by His Grace. The Truth is that God so loved the world that He gave His Only Son that we would not die in His Presence but have everlasting life. There should be joy the fact that I will not die but live eternally. Where is my joy? Why do I get discouraged? When I move from the Presence of God, I feel the separation from the Source of Life. I cannot be righteous or get justice because I am a sinner. God hates sin. I need His Unfailing Love and the Truth to prevail in my life to allow His Spirit to produce joy and happiness in my life that is not conditional. To live in the Presence of God allows me to look beyond this life – for the joy set before me.

Proverbs 3:13-18 (NKJV) Happy is the man who finds wisdom, and the man who gains understanding; for her proceeds are better than the profits of silver, and her gain  than fine gold. She is more precious than rubies, and all the things you may desire cannot compare with her. Length of days is in her right hand, in her left hand riches and honor. Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace. She is a tree of life to those who take hold of her, and happy are all who retain her.

Jesus is the Word of God wrapped in flesh who came to bring us unfailing love and truth. Truth is the Word of God. The Word formed the world. The Word is wisdom. We must find wisdom to be happy. Worldly wisdom is the truth according to sin that always leads to death. The introduction of Jesus Christ gives us new truth. New wisdom. New understanding. When we try to fill our old life and way of doing things with new truth, it bursts like an old wineskin. We must put on new ideas, habits, attitudes and actions to accept happiness in our life and allow the Holy Spirit to do His Work producing joy. Joy and happiness are not a way of life but only found in the Source of Life. We must take our expectations from this life and put them in everlasting life.

To know God is to love God. To know Jesus is to desire the Lord. The more I know Him – the more I want to know. Faith is like riding a bicycle. At first, there are training wheels. We ride up and down the road without a care in the world because we know there is extra support that will keep us from falling. But then comes the day when it is time to learn to ride the same bike without the comfortable assistance that we have become accustomed to. We must learn to keep going on just two wheels. I still remember my dad teaching me to ride a bike. We lived in North Carolina and I was maybe six years old. There was a dirt road behind our house that sloped downhill. His brilliant idea was to put me at the top of the path and let the momentum carry me down sure that I would not fall. Well, he didn’t consider that I may not be able to stop the bike. What a scary ride! What a dramatic ending! Faith feels like that sometimes. I didn’t want my training wheels off and cried when dad took them off. But can you imagine how ridiculous it might be for a grown person to be riding around with training wheels. We walk with them sometimes.

I Peter 1:7-9 (NLT) These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world. You love him even though you have never seen him. Though you do not see him now, you trust him; and you rejoice with a glorious, inexpressible joy. The reward for trusting him will be the salvation of your souls.

Inexpressible joy is found in faith. Jesus Christ is the author and finisher of our faith. Our decision to love and trust the Lord in all things allows His Spirit to produce this joy that cannot be described in our life. But like the child who likes keeping those training wheels rather than risking a fall, we do not take the steps according to our purpose in fear of failure. Faith is tried and tested. As we learn to love and trust Jesus, we begin to live by faith and not by sight. This perspective begins to produce happiness and joy in our life. The kind of joy and happiness that is not impacted by ordinary life but based solely on the unfailing love and truth who is Jesus Christ. We have been given a gift that can be opened daily in our life. We can choose joy by choosing to trust the Lord. We can live a happy life in the most devastating circumstances by believing the Word of God and not the opinion of man. I can trust the Lord because God is Sovereign. He is constant. He remains the same. He cannot lie or change His Mind or God wouldn’t be God. I can put my whole life in His Hands and in return, He fills my life with joy!

Psalm 51:10-12 (NLT) Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a loyal spirit within me. Do not banish me from your presence, and don’t take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and make me willing to obey you.

Create in me a clean heart. Why do you think it says “create” in me a clean heart? It is only through repentance that we can have a pure heart. I need Jesus to scrub my heart each and every day. To remove every impure thing that keeps me from coming to the Throne of God boldly. His Grace is enough for me. I need the Word of God to renew my spirit – to feed and nourish my soul so I can remain steadfast and loyal in my pursuit of the Lord. I need the Holy Spirit to produce inexpressible joy and complete happiness as He satisfies my life with all the good things that God has in store for me. I am ready to receive the Joy of the Lord when I start each day this way.

Do you need the Lord to restore the joy of salvation today? Does happiness escape you in the midst of trials and temptation? Every single morning the Lord leaves you new mercy in the hope that you will take full advantage of His Gift. He wants to wash your heart, rejuvenate your spirit and stir up the Holy Spirit in you. Do you want Him to? We cannot have the joy of the Lord and prevailing peace any other way but to live in Jesus Christ! It is just not possible. To accept anything less is a tragedy. We choose happiness. We decide to have joy. It is released in our commitment, obedience and devotion to Jesus Christ. He gives it to us freely. He applies it to our life generously. If we do not have it, maybe we just need to move a little closer. We find joy when we find ourselves in His Presence basking in the Light of His Love. The Lord invites us to come to Him today. He will never pull us or shove us into His Glory and Goodness but whispers our name day by day. Those who answer the call to worship will find true happiness and inexpressible joy!

Lamentations 3:21-23 (NLT) Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this: the faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; His mercies begin afresh each morning.

No Such Luck – A Devotion

No Such Luck

Matthew 5:1-10 (Message)

When Jesus saw his ministry drawing huge crowds, he climbed a hillside. Those who were apprenticed to him, the committed, climbed with him. Arriving at a quiet place, he sat down and taught his climbing companions. This is what he said: “You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule. You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you. You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought. You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat. You’re blessed when you care. At the moment of being ‘care-full,’ you find yourselves cared for. You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world. You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family. You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s kingdom.”

Wow all I can say is wow! When I read these verses this morning in The Message translation of God’s Word, it literally gave me goose bumps and the hairs on my neck stood up. Instead of a vision of a man thousands of years ago in a flowing white robe speaking to strangers on the side of hill in ancient Israel, it became a personal and intimate encounter with the Lord in my quiet place. Jesus took those who were committed and climbed above the crowd to speak sweet and encouraging words to His Disciples, these were His Beloved. Not because they were any better than anyone else, but were connected to Christ beyond fascination and gawking. These men left their whole lives behind to follow Christ. As He ushered them deep into His Presence alone on that hill, He spoke to them – directly to them. His Message that day – “You are blessed!” The Lord knew that they could sense the hostility of their religion, the overwhelming wave of new followers and immense responsibility perhaps potential loss at following Him. He wanted them to get a different perspective so high on a hill the Lord took them. Arriving at the top, He would change their perspective.

I needed a change of perspective. You know the kind you get in an airplane in the middle of a storm, when you have to climb higher and get above the clouds to see that the sun really exists and that this too shall pass. Just before the small vessel gets on top of the wind, rain and heavily burdened overhang of electricity and power – it feels like it may be crushed like a can and tossed back to the ground. But then as the aircraft makes its way through and suddenly there is absolute stillness and quiet. We feel the pressure, pain and hardships in life for a reason. There will always be suffering as long as there is sin in this world. Not to mention those things that just don’t make sense and clearly defy justice and all that is right, but we must get over that and rise to the top. The institution who I am employed by is in the midst of a terrible storm with hurricane winds and torrential rain. Our head administrator arrested and the police report outlining every misdeed that they could find against him for all the world to see along with a mugshot making sure there is no mistake that “this guy” did it. Yep, it was him. I read the report. I was there in the midst of it all yet unaware of the activity going on all around me. The Lord spoke to my heart and I am overtaken with gratitude that He has spared me the embarrassment and humiliation of such an experience. My sins on display to be judged by the world. Imagine if the whole world knew everything you had done wrong. Thanks to the Gracious Gift of Salvation, I will never have to face up to my transgressions as my sin is whisked away into forgetfulness. As I follow Christ, I have learned that to gain this world and lose my soul would rob me of the hope that I have so I will give up this life to be where He is. This experience has been a stark reminder that the only thing standing between me and the accusations of the enemy and every consequence that I deserve is Jesus Christ.

Matthew 5:14-16 (NLT)

“Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.”

 

Sitting on that hill listening to Jesus, it is clear that there is purpose and meaning in every storm of life. If we lived perfect unaffected lives no one would ever be able to understand this glorious power and wonderful grace that we have been given. The church is a place for broken people to be made whole but there will always be a scar that points us back to Jesus. We are the Light of the World. Light shines through our brokenness to reveal God’s Love that completes us from the inside out. Your life is on display for a reason. You are pressed not to be crushed but so His Glory will spill out of you and overshadow your life to encourage other people. The most generous people who give their heart to Christ are willing to give themselves to others.

“You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.” This battleground called work has caused many casualties. Lives completely destroyed that were invested carelessly. I thought that I was safe above the ridicule and harassment in the order I created of rule-following which I am pretty good at. No such luck, they came for me just like everyone else trying to expose anything that was newsworthy and even making things up that were not true. I was mad. I was frustrated at the injustice of it all. I know we didn’t do the things that they are accusing us of in their attempt to destroy another. I cried out for justice. I fought with other administrators pleading my cause. But then I tried something different, I asked the Lord for peace. He gave it to me. I know who I am. I know WHO I belong to. I am good with that. He will fight for me. He will honor His Promises. I have confident hope that no matter what happens to my employer or workplace that this world has nothing for me. I want to encourage you today, too! You are blessed if you believe. Nothing else is needed. Nothing can be added or taken away from the Promise and Plan for your life. It is all about His Glory. The enemy cannot take God’s Glory from Him. He cannot rob Jesus of His Fame. It will shine for you in the darkness if you choose to reflect the Love of God and His Salvation in every situation. Position yourself as close to Jesus as you can get. Diving for cover in His Presence. Staying there until the storm passes. His Grace is ALWAYS sufficient for you! You were not created by chance but by your Father with love. Nothing in our life is random. There is purpose and meaning in each season and in the next it will produce a harvest of righteousness when you plant the Word of God in your life watering it with tears if that is all you have left. Be content with who you are in Christ even if no one else notices. Besides does anyone else really matter?

Counting Joy – A Devotion

Counting Joy

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.

 

Black Friday is just around the corner. I used to rely heavily on those great deals to fulfill the holiday wishes of our five children. Having a large family requires some fancy budgeting sometimes to make ends meet. There is nothing quite like pouring over those ads on Thanksgiving Day to develop one’s strategy, setting the alarm for some ungodly hour, bundling up to face the cold, and standing in line with countless strangers. When the hour nears for the grand opening, heart thumping, list clenched in one hand coddling caffeine in the other, it’s time to press through the crowd and claim the prize. There is nothing quite like the feeling of emerging victoriously from the store with exactly what you came for. A feeling of satisfaction warms your cold body and strengthens those tired bones. Why? It was worth it. I feel the sheer elation. Let’s review. I hate mornings. I do not like being cold. I tend to become overwhelmed in a crush of people. However, I did all this willingly to claim the reward. Just let it soak in for a minute…marinate if you will…I did something that I do not like to do….I left my comfort zone…I faced early morning willingly. Why? It was worth it. When will following Christ, doing what our flesh does not want to do, leaving our comfort zone and taking up our cross be worth it?

Pregnancy was a happy occasion in my life. My body is good at gestation. There were no evil side effects that could not be alleviated or did not quickly subside. I have “easy” pregnancies. Around the eighth month, my brain would suddenly remember that this happy and quite healthy (raging in birth weight from eight to almost ten pounds) baby would have to exit my body to enter the world. Hold that thought. Suddenly, I would get a little antsy about the whole thing. But by the time I was ready to deliver, I was ready for the hard work that would lead to another great love affair in my life. My arms ached to hold my new baby. My eyes longed to see their face. My heart ready to grow just a little more. So when labor began, I was willing to endure it so I could meet the new little person. I have no recollection of the pain but just remember that it is hard work to get them here. All were natural deliveries and three were without any medication at all. The pain quickly dissolved when love came into my life again. Why? It was worth it to know them, love them and be with each of my precious children.

The trials, troubles, hardship and difficulties that come our way in life are sometimes created by us and other times just find their way to us. There are so many things that we do in life because we want to. The severity of which is perceived, the price is calculated and effort produced simply by the worth we think we will find there. We must decide if the benefit is worth the risk. I have been this route many times in the last few years with our son’s illness. Each treatment and every single measure, the doctors must ask themselves does the benefit to his life outweigh the risk taken in each treatment. The question is then posed to us. Jesus decided a long time ago that the benefit of loving humanity far outweighed the risk. Through salvation, the same question is posed to each of us. Why did the Lord say that we must take up our cross and follow Him? Why not say something more like ‘skip through the daisies” and follow me? Why do we as believers think that God would come into our life and make it better when all along He says come to me? It is going to be work. It will be uncomfortable. It will cause you to break your will to fully discover His Will. It is worth it…to me.

Proverbs 20:25 (NLT)

Don’t trap yourself by making a rash promise to God and only later counting the cost.

 

This is a common problem among believers…I will give you a minute to quit looking around because I did the very same thing. I don’t make rash promises to God spewed in instant denial, hissed in great offense, and then it hit me. I have done this many times. I ask for the Will of God but still want it my way. I pray for God to take all of me but then refuse to God. I surrender my heart to Him but withhold those lesser things that are so dear to me but clearly my detriment. Every time I surrender my life to the Lord but expect anything less, I have made a rash promise. The only way I can continually live in a position of surrender is to continually give up bits and pieces until all my life belongs to Him. I must decide if the risk of sacrifice is worth the benefit of blessing enough to do something about it. Why? Because asking the Lord to follow Him means suffering sometimes. It requires an investment of faith to return a harvest of hope. The promise to follow Jesus Christ will cost you your life are you willing to give it to Him. Really? Listening to my playlist last night, I decided to find something “new” or even “renewed” meaning old music that I haven’t heard in a while. I came across the band “Worth Dying For” and their song “Closer”. The chorus goes “I don’t want to walk away from this place… unless I know I’ve given you all of me.” It occurred to me that I had asked this of God so many times in my life and He kept bringing me back to certain places until I get it. People have a big problem with commitment and keeping promises but not our God. He keeps all His Promises. He does not lie or change His Mind. When we cry out to God, a command is released immediately in Heaven to answer that prayer. You cannot stop it even if you change your mind because God already did it. We must evaluate what we are asking of God before we ask it. We must be willing to do it or need to stop crying out to Him the way that we do choosing appropriate words for an acceptable return.

Luke 14:27-29 (NLT)

 “And if you do not carry your own cross and follow me, you cannot be my disciple. But don’t begin until you count the cost. For who would begin construction of a building without first calculating the cost to see if there is enough money to finish it? Otherwise, you might complete only the foundation before running out of money, and then everyone would laugh at you.

The world is laughing at Christians and the church today. Just to bring some clarity to the issue, ISIS the radical Muslims who are attempting to take over Syria and Iraq. Yes, the ones beheading people on a regular basis. They are religious extremists in what they believe to be a holy war. They are doing it for their god. This is sobering.

A true believer is the person who believes that following Jesus Christ is worth any pain, suffering, hardship or discomfort that they may face. They are the ones who decide to take up their Cross and be His Disciple because they have weighed the risks and benefits. Christians who do nothing to build a stronger relationship with Jesus Christ do not want the Will of God or to walk His Way. They are robbers who want the Blessings of God and the Grace of Jesus Christ giving nothing in return. You cannot earn it but those who understand the true value and worth of believing in Christ know that it is worth it. The sacrifice will never outweigh the blessings of joy and peace found in a surrendered life. When I decide to go Black Friday shopping, I have decided that the great deals I will find are worth giving up sleep and comfort to find. When I decided to yield my body to pregnancy and have another child, I decided that it would be worth it, talking care of my body while the baby grew and submitting myself to the pain to get them here. I was not mad at them for causing it but just thankful they made it. We must count the cost of following Christ before making the commitment. Once we are committed to the Lord, it is up to us to never give up.

Luke 15:8-9 (NLT)
“Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Won’t she light a lamp and sweep the entire house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she will call in her friends and neighbors and say, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost coin.’”

 

I have friends who think Black Friday is ridiculous. The crush and craziness just too much. But everyone has something in their life of value and worth. These are the things that we invest our life in looking for a return. We determine what will make us happy and go for it. When hardship comes or even pain, we are forced to evaluate those things we hold on to for validity or worth. Some things must go when we shift into survival mode. The Kingdom of God is like the woman who loses one of her ten silver coins and must find it. Again, let me stop here.

Today is the three-year anniversary of our son’s diagnosis, it has been hard the past couple of weeks leading up to this moment. For the last couple of days, I can feel the Lord tugging me closer as He sees my lip quiver and my heart shake. He knows my heart. He has been with me through the long days and even longer nights. The Lord sees right through me to my weakest part. It has been a long walk. Endurance is building. But today when the date finally hits the calendar, I can say without a single reservation that it has been worth every step to know His Love like I do now. I have no idea what tomorrow will bring or the scans will show at the end of this month, but today as I sweep the floor and move the cushions and dig in the drawers of my heart – I have found the faith, hope and love that produce peace and joy no matter what the occasion. Maybe that is why I have struggled so in the past several days as the Lord continues to reveal His Glory and Grace. This battle has been hard and very, very long. The Word of God says that those who make it to the end will be saved. (Matthew 10:22) He promises that every detail will turn out for our good and there are a lot of things that are still undone. (Romans 8:28) He promises to perfect all that concerns me and well, things are not perfect yet either. (Psalm 138:8) So we must endure. Today I count it all joy! I seize the opportunity to surrender more of my life to Christ and experience more peace and joy than I ever thought possible and certainly not with circumstances like this in our life. God told me from the beginning that our son would live and not die. Today, three years and four relapses later – God’s Word for my life remains true. He is alive. Has it been hard? Yes. Has it seemed endless? You bet. Has it been worth it? Absolutely! For today I decided to begin counting my joy!

James 5:10-12 (NLT)

For examples of patience in suffering, dear brothers and sisters, look at the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. We give great honor to those who endure under suffering. For instance, you know about Job, a man of great endurance. You can see how the Lord was kind to him at the end, for the Lord is full of tenderness and mercy. But most of all, my brothers and sisters, never take an oath, by heaven or earth or anything else. Just say a simple yes or no, so that you will not sin and be condemned.

 

Today I encourage you rather than making rash promises to the Lord and trying to map everything out your way, simply say “Yes, Lord.” Whatever it is. Whatever you are facing or wherever you want to go just say “Yes, Lord.” You will not invite troubles, trials and hardship in your life with such an approach but rather learn to walk in step with God. Endurance this is a marathon not a sprint. Be conscious of what you asking the Lord to do in your life and be willing to do it His Way. It will be worth it in the end. He promised.

I Corinthians 10:12-13 (NLT)

If you think you are standing strong, be careful not to fall. The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.