Coasting Through Life

Coasting Through Life

Psalm 107:29-31 (ESV) He made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed. Then they were glad that the waters were quiet, and he brought them to their desired haven. Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man!

As a child, I had a bike with big handlebars and a banana seat. I would love to trudge up the hill in our neighborhood and coast down letting the momentum of the downward slope carry me quickly to the bottom. It was the same hill where my dad taught me to ride my bike just after removing the training wheels. He encouraged me as he began undoing the little nuts holding them in place. He tried to build my confidence as I fearfully climbed on the seat. He promised to hold tight to the back as I started my decent. But then he did the unthinkable, as I gained my balance he let go. I did great…for a while before crashing into a tree at the bottom. He came and scooped me up. I was mad, hurt and scared. My father loved me and then put me right back on the bike again so that fear would not keep me from the freedom of doing the very thing that I desired which was to ride my bike.

Some who read this might think my dad cruel to just let me go like that. We live in a society where kids don’t try anymore because they are given what they want in such a situation. They go unchallenged by parents but are pacified for peace. My father was not mean or abusive. He always encouraged us to try. He taught us to go after the things we wanted in life and that failure was not the end but the opportunity to do it again until success was found. Yes, I fell down that day but the crazy thing is that I got back up and continued to climb the hill and ride down it over and over again. I cannot help but believe that in some strange way there was a life lesson learned that day much greater than just riding a bike on two wheels.

There is a saying that “all who wander are not lost.” Life is our lesson book. The Word of God holds every solution to every problem but let’s be real – it is not the first authority in our life. It should be, but for many it is not. Christians desire the things of God but do not go after God to find them. When presented with challenges, circumstances, conditions, and change – it is human nature to give up. If I had attempted to ride my bike on two wheels alone, would I have been successful that day? Or was it the love of my father and his ability to see the lesson far greater than the task at hand, to build character in his children to try. To equip us to not give up when times are tough but dig in. My dad taught us not be concerned about the climb but to make it to the top and coast down it. I believe that someone needs to know today that the challenge you are facing has meaning and purpose. It is not the Father’s Will to destroy you but to wrap you in His Steadfast Love. Everything He does is with His Plan in mind. The future and hope that He has prepared for us never leads to disaster of defeat but overwhelming victory in Jesus Christ. To continue on this journey even in the wandering is to know that you are never lost but constantly pursued by His Unfailing Love and Goodness that is ready to overtake you! The Father is for you today.

Psalm 107:4-9 (ESV) Some wandered in desert wastes, finding no way to a city to dwell in; hungry and thirsty, their soul fainted within them. Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress. He led them by a straight way till they reached a city to dwell in. Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man! For he satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul he fills with good things.

It might be human nature to do good and parental compassion leading us to pull Joseph from the pit and the prodigal from the pig pens of life. I know that I never want to see my children fail or fall down but there are times and seasons when I must remember that God loves them more than I do and has meaning in the struggles they go through. My love and compassion does not change but I yield to the Power of God at work in them. To trust the Lord with their future and hope as I work to define my own. Journeying through Psalm 107, there are some examples of different situations where people went through something to find the Presence of God in their life. Opportunities to let go of our expectation in order to survive and find that God has something bigger and better. There is purpose in the climb, blessing in each valley and your sowing is never in vain. “Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble.” Oh how many of us can relate?

Our ability to endure the trials of life and continue through to the other side requires confidence in the Steadfast Love of God our Father. He promises to satisfy the longing soul and to fill the hunger of our soul with good things. The word steadfast means fixed in a direction, firm in purpose or in faith, and unwavering. God’s Love for you is constant. It cannot be changed or undone by a single sin or mistake. It is forever. Do you believe that today? Or did natural paternal relationships jade your thinking and compromise your trust? Sometimes it is our nature to view the Lord through human eyes rather than a broken heart. Withholding the pieces marred by betrayal, broken promises, and shattered trust, we do not give the Lord what it takes for Him to make our life the masterpiece He declared it would be. (Ephesians 2:10) I am a work in progress but if I do not allow God to move me, mold me or shape me – I will remain unchanged. It takes faith and confidence in the fixed, firm and foundational love that is the solidity of our life and permanence of our position as Children of God.

Psalm 107:10-16 (ESV) Some sat in darkness and in the shadow of death, prisoners in affliction and in irons, for they had rebelled against the words of God, and spurned the counsel of the Most High. So he bowed their hearts down with hard labor; they fell down, with none to help. Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress. He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death, and burst their bonds apart. Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man! For he shatters the doors of bronze and cuts in two the bars of iron.

There are times when the actions in our life produce unfavorable consequences. God does not promise to end the consequences of our actions and eliminate the challenges that arise from our rebellion. It would contradictory in that it would end the sowing and reaping ordained in the days of Noah. There is cause and effect in life. For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. In Romans 8:28 there is a precious promise for such times. “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” To interpret this verse to mean that God will spare us from every consequence is foolishness. Where is the power to overcome if there is not difficulty? How does one experience victory without the possibility of defeat? Where is the glory in such a life of entitlement? God uses our struggles to produce faith in His Love and His Power that leads us from victory to victory and glory to glory through the challenges of life not around them.

True freedom in Jesus Christ is experienced by accepting our position as Sons and Daughters of God and living in His Favor. To pour out blessings and prosperity on a rebellious heart would only give way to farther wandering and worse mistakes enabled by God’s Provision. God loves us too much for that. He doesn’t withhold any good thing from us but will certainly not contribute to our fall. By faith, we are given access to God’s Presence and Promises through Jesus Christ. To enter into this place of undeserved privilege allows us to experience freedom from the driving force of self that keeps us hungry and thirsty imprisoned by our emotional bondage and lack of trust.

I John 3:19-21 (ESV) By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him; for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything. Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God…

The New Living Translation says “God is greater than our feelings.” When my dad let go of the bike so I could coast down the hill, he knew that I might fall. He also knew that I might just make it and successfully meet my goal, too. His feelings may have told him to hold on, but his faith in me told him to let me go. He was ready to meet me at the bottom. Pick me up and love on me when I fell down. Wiping away my tears and brushing off the dirt. Did I mention that the slope was covered in packed sand rather than asphalt? On the other side of the houses, there was a paved road which would have made the ride faster and smoother but if I feel I would have really gotten hurt. It probably would have made the ascent easier and the ride much smoother but if I fell down, which was inevitable as starting and stopping are two different lessons, I probably would have stayed down for good. God makes a way for us. He knows every pathway of our life even the hard or difficult ones. His Love always makes a way. God is not leading us to defeat but victory.

Psalm 107:33-37 (ESV) He turns rivers into a desert, springs of water into thirsty ground, a fruitful land into a salty waste, because of the evil of its inhabitants. He turns a desert into pools of water, a parched land into springs of water. And there he lets the hungry dwell, and they establish a city to live in; they sow fields and plant vineyards and get a fruitful yield.

If only we could see with human eyes what the Father is doing on the other side of our test, trial or tragedy? If we could just understand a portion of His Purpose or an ounce of His Passion for His Children? God has the power to change your situation instantly. He can do anything and everything except go back on His Word. When He released His Word as purpose for you and penned the days of your life including a future and hope with the promise to become a masterpiece, He cannot change His Mind no matter how loudly you cry. He must endure the process just like you do. His Steadfast Love is set on seeing you successfully satisfied now and forever. He will not relent or back down. We walk by faith and not by sight. The faith that we walk in is the Steadfast, Fixed, Firm, Unwavering, and Unchanging Love of God our Father. We can label the journey anything we want but the destination remains the same.

Coasting is to continue to move or advance after effort has ceased. It is different from drifting which is to be carried along. Drifting is driven by emotions, feelings, and circumstances. Coasting is confidence in that which is moving and advancing you to finish the course. You stop “peddling” and let the momentum carry you. When our life seems out of control, fear overtakes us, bondage threatens captivity, people let us down, and chaos is overwhelming us – it is important to remember that as Children of the Living God – we are not drifting but coasting in His Love. God was with us in the beginning, by us through it all and is waiting at the end.

Psalm 107:30 (NLT) What a blessing was that stillness as he brought them safely into harbor!

Let go and let God! It doesn’t mean to just give up, throw the towel in, or quit. It is an act of surrender and submission to the Power of His Love being greater than our feelings and emotions. It doesn’t mean that there will not be storms, deserts, darkness, affliction, pain or the occasional fall but it means that the Father’s Love is always there for us. He is always perfecting that which concerns us. Even in our wandering, things are going as planned. Coasting is really the desired response. When I don’t let the conditions or circumstances of this life pull me from the Truth that God loves me, He is for me, and He will never let me down.

Psalm 107:1-3 (ESV) Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever! Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, whom he has redeemed from trouble and gathered in from the lands, from the east and from the west, from the north and from the south.

”So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us. We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul” (Hebrews 6:17-19)…indeed the anchor for our soul is hope. An anchor does not keep a ship from the storm put it keeps it in place through it. We will go through things in life. There will be many choices and opportunities. It is up to me if I will choose to believe that God loves me. He is good. He is for me enough to grab hold of that anchor and endure to the end. His Blessing is the stillness, peace and confidence that no matter what happens – His Love for me is steadfast and unchanging. I can coast through life knowing that His Love will carry me home.

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

He Will

He Will

Hebrews 11:5-7(NLT) It was by faith that Enoch was taken up to heaven without dying—“he disappeared, because God took him.” For before he was taken up, he was known as a person who pleased God. And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him.  It was by faith that Noah built a large boat to save his family from the flood. He obeyed God, who warned him about things that had never happened before. By his faith Noah condemned the rest of the world, and he received the righteousness that comes by faith.

“It was by faith that Enoch was taken up to heaven without dying—“he disappeared, because God took him.” For before he was taken up, he was known as a person who pleased God.”

Enoch had the kind of relationship with the Lord that most of us desire. However, to follow in the footsteps of this man right in to the New Testament would mean He must increase and I must decrease. (John 3:30) It is a faithful proposition to find fulfillment in God through Jesus Christ. Enough was taken up to heaven without dying because he had already died to self on the earth. Walking in the giant footsteps of God, side-by-side with the Almighty and sharing in the rhythmic timing and beat of God’s Heart. It was a seamless transition from this life to eternal life. Or could it be that Enoch’s walk with the Lord projected a light so brightly that people saw the Lord and not the man anymore. I am fascinated by the idea. Some days it is my greatest desire, but in building anything including a new life as the new creation that Christ died for us to be there is always a price. The price of my life for God’s Best is self. Every selfish thing in my life must be submitted and surrendered to the Cross Examination of Jesus Christ for Kingdom relevancy. This life is temporary but constantly on blast demanding my time and talent. Some may choose to give portions of their life as an offering to God while maintaining a strong presence in the natural existence. Others may decide that walking with the Lord is worth a fully obedient tithe of 10% with the occasional love offering of just a little bit more. This life producing the blessings of sowing and reaping – seedtime and harvest just as God promised in the days of Noah. For those who are after the Kingdom, it requires much more. It requires all of my life for all of His Plan. All of it.

This life is not for everyone. There were only twelve disciples and yet still one still became a traitor. There is only one Enoch. One man who would walk enshrouded in the Presence of God and become elusive to the naked eye. Enoch was known as a person who pleased God. How do people know me? What pleases God? We do not decide what pleases the Lord. It is what we are willing to give to the cause. The only thing that truly pleases Him and rightfully so would be faith.

Acts 17:24-25 (NLT) “He is the God who made the world and everything in it. Since he is Lord of heaven and earth, he doesn’t live in man-made temples, and human hands can’t serve his needs—for he has no needs. He himself gives life and breath to everything, and he satisfies every need.”

We serve an all-sufficient God. He doesn’t need us, but rather desires us. He loves us. He provides for us. The Lord doesn’t lie or change His Mind so there is nothing I can do to change the plan set forth for my life. It is impossible for God’s Word to fail. (Luke 1:37) He made this world and owns everything in it. He is the Supreme Authority over heaven and earth. Nothing here surprises Him or causes God to flinch. “He doesn’t live in man-made temples.” Christ lives in me and you. Human hands cannot serve His Needs. Let me put that on repeat. There is nothing that I can do to earn God’s Love and Acceptance because His Grace is enough for me. It is the total summation and sufficiency of my salvation. (2 Corinthians 12:9) God has given me life and it is in Jesus Christ who I live, breathe and exist. Finally, it is all wrapped up in His Promise to satisfy our every need. I can do nothing to please God other than to have faith, trust and believe all of this is true.

Luke 18:24-30 (NLT) When Jesus saw this, he said, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the Kingdom of God! In fact, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God!” Those who heard this said, “Then who in the world can be saved?” He replied, “What is impossible for people is possible with God.” Peter said, “We’ve left our homes to follow you.” “Yes,” Jesus replied, “and I assure you that everyone who has given up house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the Kingdom of God, will be repaid many times over in this life, and will have eternal life in the world to come.”

A religious leader came to Jesus. He had one question. “Good Teacher, what should I do to inherit eternal life?” After a long discourse, Jesus told him the man, “There is still one thing you haven’t done. Sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” The man considered the price too high and became very sad for he was very rich. Jesus shared this story with his disciples to which Peter threw in his two cents. “We’ve left our homes to follow you.” As if Jesus didn’t know the lives these men had given up, his outspoken disciple chose to point it out. In Matthew 19, a different account of the same event quotes Peter as saying, “We’ve given up everything to follow you. What will we get?” Don’t’ judge him too harshly. One must consider their own good intentions in following Jesus Christ taking offense at Peter’s words. Isn’t that really the reason for coming to Christ in the first place – a desire for a better life? We live in a living color world but serve a black and white with occasional red lettering God. The Word of God must become alive to us. His Spirit must be recognized in order for faith to be acquired. Faith is not easily harvested in our life. But…

“It is impossible to please God without faith.”

The word “impossible” means not possible. The very thing which is unable to be, exist or happen. Incapable of being true. Not to be done or endured. Utterly impractical. Hopelessly unsuitable, difficult or objectionable. It is impossible to please God without faith. Faith is confidence, belief and trust. The Latin root explains further – trust, faith, confidence, reliance, credence, and pledge. Faith demonstrates allegiance. The Bible tells us that “faith shows the reality of what we hope for; it is the evidence of things we cannot see.” Just as it is impossible to please God without faith – it is equally not possible to have faith outside of impossibilities.

I have personally witnessed the miraculous in my life. Each time it came prefaced by the word “impossible”. The moment that a desired outcome became absolutely and utterly impractical in the natural – God did it. There is no other explanation. The steps of arrival to the procurement of faith are difficult. It requires all of you. All of your trust, confidence, reliance, credence, and a pledge to not let go of hope at any cost. The substance of our faith is our willingness to stay true to the Lord even when our life becomes impossible. Even if our circumstances seem intolerable, still hanging on to God’s Word – waiting and watching. It seems that He will never do it, never come and even makes us feel foolish while the world mocks our dedication to an invisible and seemingly absent God. God is faithful. I just need to have a mustard seed of faith.

There is a promise hidden in Luke 18:30 that perhaps you missed. ” Jesus said, “I assure you that everyone who has given up house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the Kingdom of God, will be repaid many times over in this life, and will have eternal life in the world to come.” When Jesus finally made it to the home of Lazarus, he was dead. Talking to Martha, it was evident that she believed in Heaven, but she didn’t recognize her Lord’s power here on earth. Jesus intended to raise Jesus from the dead right then and there. He is the Resurrection and Life. (John 11:25) Christ now lives in me. (Galatians 2:20) Faith releases His Power in my life the moment it is planted. I have confidence in my employer to pay the wages that I earn. I trust the roof over my head will be standing after a storm. I believe my car will get me around today. I rely on many objects and some people in my life every day for fulfillment. However, if I want God’s Word, His Will and His Way completely including the rich and satisfying life that is promised to us in this the life or the land of the living (Psalm 27:13) I must put my faith into action.

“It was by faith that Noah built a large boat to save his family from the flood. He obeyed God, who warned him about things that had never happened before. By his faith Noah condemned the rest of the world, and he received the righteousness that comes by faith.”

When Noah built the ark it had never rained a single drop on the earth. Yet God told him to build an ark with specific dimensions. Noah did just that day after day – he continued to do what the Lord told him despite not knowing the full plan. Hammering away at doubt and fear, he built the ark. It would be the vessel that not saved his entire family. It would be the vehicle that continued the perpetuation of the human and animal population. Faith requires the impossible. I don’t know what you are facing today? I only know my own heart and its troubles. God has been faithful in every test and trial. He has never ever contradicted His Word or gone back on a single promise that He has made me yet I still struggle daily to completely trust and believe. What about you? Are you faced with the impossible today? Is the Lord telling you to do something crazy and out of character? Is He calling you deeper but you don’t know how to swim? Jesus invites us to trust Him. Our heart must respond. It is impossible to please God without faith because truly there is nothing of worth that I have to offer Him BUT to love and trust Him.

“Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him.”

I have a picture hanging in my home that says, “Faith is not believing that God can but knowing that He will.” Think about that for a minute. Faith is not believing God can. Why would that motivate a God who already did? His Plan for your life is prepared before creation. Therefore, with our first breath, it is set into motion. Faith does not give Him Power. It allows His Presence to fill our life. It is to believe that despite my sinful, selfish, and self-centered disposition that His Unfailing Love and Goodness pursues me every day. Faith is our acceptance of God’s Love and gives Him presence in our life. Faith wants the life that God has promised and is willing to give up time and space in this life to have it. Do you believe that God exists? Most people reading this will say, “Yes.” Do you believe that He rewards those who sincerely seek Him? This depends on faith. How long have you been waiting? Wait just a little more. How much have you been praying? Just five more minutes might give you the confidence to watch one more day? How precious is the promise? I want all that God has for me and my family. I want His Fulfillment to bring full satisfaction in all things, but through these times of testing one thing has become evident in my life. At some point, I stopped breathing. The thought of waking up a single day, walking another step or breathing my next breath without the Lord is incomprehensible. All the broken pieces of my heart cannot maintain a single beat except His Hands that hold it together every single day. His Word is my protector, defender, and confidence. Faith grows when things are impossible and yet for just one more day we choose to hope fast to His Promise that His Love never fails.

Zechariah 8:6 (NLT) “This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies says: All this may seem impossible to you now, a small remnant of God’s people. But is it impossible for me? says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.

Zechariah 8:12 (NLT) For I am planting seeds of peace and prosperity among you. The grapevines will be heavy with fruit. The earth will produce its crops, and the heavens will release the dew. Once more I will cause the remnant in Judah and Israel to inherit these blessings.

The prophet Zechariah prophesied to the people of Judah who were returning from 70 years of exile in Babylon. I am quite sure rebuilding their life and taking back the land of seemed overwhelming. The Lord points out them that He is God of the impossible. He asks the question of them, “But is it impossible for me?” I wonder how many of us are being asked the same today. It is an invitation to take that measure of faith the size of the tiny mustard seed and plant it. In verse 12, the Lord delivers the promise. What a wonderful promise it is! “For I am planting seeds of peace and prosperity among you.” Sowing seeds of faith produces harvests of God’s Faithfulness. We may plant, others may water, but God always gives increase to even the tiniest seed of faith, trust, confidence, dependence and passion for Him. He always delivers no matter how reluctant I may be – God is never reluctant to bless me. It has been His Plan all along.

Does today seem impossible, this week, this year? Could it be that the impossibility is evidence that God is working all things together for our good? Could it all be a divine set up so that I will trust Him more and receive all that He has for me? Is it an opportunity to move from glory to glory? I believe that for those willing to walk through the impossible to reach the Lord will find Him and every blessing and promise even those thought dead and gone. I am a careful person. A planner who is uncomfortable with spontaneity. I am by no means an adrenaline junkie. However, I have personally seen God do the impossible. Not just once, but consistently. The transition is not easy. You are birthing the supernatural. Endurance is tough. There are even times when you feel foolish because no one sees the potential of our faith but yet you still believe. God is faithful. The great news is that the impossible is possible for the Lord. Most of us believe God can do anything, but we must invest our faith in believing that He will!

Mark 9:23-24 (NLT) “What do you mean, ‘If I can’?” Jesus asked. “Anything is possible if a person believes.” The father instantly cried out, “I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief!”

 

Substance of Prayer

Substance of Prayer

Psalm 141:1-2 (ESV) O Lord, I call upon you; hasten to me! Give ear to my voice when I call to you! Let my prayer be counted as incense before you, and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice!

In the Tabernacle and then the Temple, the high priest was tasked with burning incense. Incense is a gum, spice or other substance that is burned for its sweet smell it produces. Incense comes from the Latin incensus or set on fire. Incense refers to the substance consumed and burned not the aroma emitted. The high priest would offer incense while performing morning and evening prayers in the Presence of the Lord symbolic of the prayers of the people to God. Prayer is the incense of our life. It is to be sweet smelling and sacrificial. Pouring our hearts out to the Lord in reverence of who He is.

Give ear to my voice when I call to you!

God hears every word spoken. The conversations among each other. The secret whispers in the dark. The cries of His Children never uttered past thought. He is interested in us. He longs to live in intimacy with us. Too often our approach to the Lord is like the local fast food drive-thru, speeding up the window, barking our requests in detail into the speaker, pulling around to the window impatiently, and grabbing our food then speeding off. God forbid the poor worker gets our order wrong or it is delayed at which time it is our duty to angrily give them a piece of our mind. Oh, I know what you are thinking. I would never treat God like that. But I ask you to carefully consider your prayer life today as I do mine. To examine your heart for the content of godly communication in your life. How do you approach the Presence of God? Do you enter in with thanksgiving and praise or barging in to demand what’s ours? Is it an ongoing conversation between friends and lovers or a clandestine affair of convenience? God hears every word that is spoken, what is He hearing from you? What am I a saying to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords on a daily basis? “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!

“Let my prayer be counted as incense before you,”

Isaiah 56:6-8 (ESV) “And the foreigners who join themselves to the Lord, to minister to him, to love the name of the Lord, and to be his servants, everyone who keeps the Sabbath and does not profane it, and holds fast my covenant—these I will bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer; their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.”

Are my prayers incense to the Lord? In Isaiah, an image of prayer arises that may change one’s perception of prayer altogether. Good, I hope so. Prayer has not lost its power but people have forgotten its purpose. By joining ourselves to the Lord, it becomes our privilege to minister to Him, to love His Name, to be His Servant, and to hold tightly to the covenant given to us in our relationship with Jesus Christ. He promises His People to be brought to “my holy mountain” or into His Presence. To make them joyful in my house of prayer. The old time church believed in travailing before the Lord and there are times and seasons that may elicit such prayers. However, the true power and potential of our prayers come when our confidence in the Lord allows us to praise His Name and live in His Presence apart from the distractions of need or want knowing and believing God will do exactly what He has promised to do. These are the prayers that silence worry, fear, anxiety and doubt. Power packed petitions that silence the enemy in the Greatness of our God. The Lord waits for “the one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me; to one who orders his way rightly I will show the salvation of God!”

Jeremiah 29:11-13 (ESV)  For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.

Psalm 139:16 (ESV) Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.

Romans 8:28 (ESV)  And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

Do you believe these verses are true? Is this the potential for your life in Jesus Christ? Can I ask you to consider your prayer life? If this is the Truth concerning your life, what is there to ask for? God has plans for our welfare never to be in distress. He has given us a future and hope through His Son, Jesus Christ. The Lord promises that when you call on His Name, come into His Presence and pray that He will hear you. When you seek Him, you will find Him. Are you seeking the Lord wholeheartedly? Only you know the answer to that. Truly believing and trusting the Lord takes our faith and plants it in His Word, relying on His Wisdom, and walks in confident confidence not in our condition or circumstances but the constancy of His Great Love. God doesn’t lie or change His Mind. Once His Word is released, it cannot come back to Him until it accomplishes exactly what He sent it forth to do. It tells us in Psalm 139 that every day of our life is prerecorded and therefore provided for by God. We do not lack any good thing because He is a Good and Gracious Father. And finally, trusting the Lord includes those days when He is still working to work all things together for our good and His Glory. What does my prayer life sound like on those days? Is it an incense filled with sweet praise? Faith and confident hope changes the consistency and content of our prayers changing them from desperate cries for help to desperate cries for more of Him.

“The lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice!

James 5:12-16 (ESV) Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.

Prayer and praise are partners. They go together. Our prayer must be infused with praise to become powerful. Yes, there will be times when our human weakness needs assistance. However, the majority of our prayer time should be incense on the altar of God – day and night, night and day – let incense arise. In Exodus 30:7-8, there is a direct command for the priest to enter the Presence of God each morning and evening with incense. This represents prayers and praise to the Lord perpetually. Is your prayer life consistent? Day and night and night and day. What is the content? Is it incense to the Lord? Does it give off a sweet aroma of faith mixed with confident hope emitting praise and honor and glory to God? Or does it stink of doubt and fear crying out for what is already given? Exodus 30:37 makes it clear that prayer is not about me and what I want but the Lord and who He is. The vessels on the altar of God took human form (2 Timothy 2:21) when the Spirit of the Living God came to live in us and make us His Temples (I Corinthians 6:19-20).

“The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.”

My righteousness is not me, but Christ who is in me. Every good thing in my life is straight from God. Nothing good lives in me apart from the Lord. When I come to Him and communicate with the Lord, it is an opportunity to express my faith in His Power and confidence in His Plan. Am I wasting my time whining and complaining or do I spend it wisely worshipping the Lord? I can only evaluate my own time spent in the Presence of God. God is able. His Power is not in any way lessened by my ability to believe but when I do by chance get it right and plant my faith in His Power, watch out! The prayer of a righteous man or woman is powerful. My righteousness is Christ alone. If this is what I believe, it changes my prayer time. To fully invest our time and energy in praising Jesus even in our prayer time changes the content of our life. There is power in prayer, I have seen its wonderworking power firsthand. Imagine the change in the atmosphere if God’s People stopping begging for bread and began singing the praises of an abundant God. The Light of His Love would burn brightly from our passion. The incense of praise overpowering the stench of doubt. Revival would come as God rushed in to get a closer whiff of His People’s Praise. The drawing in of His Mighty Breath would pull us closer and deeper than ever before. Lord, set us on fire with passion for who You are. Make the words of our mouth and mediation of our heart agree and pour out praise. May the incense of our prayer life be praise and adoration formed from faith and trust in You!

2 Corinthians 2:14 (ESV) But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere.

 

Through It All Again

Through It All Again

Isaiah 43:1-3 (ESV) But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.

“Through it all.” What a great old song? “I’ve learned to trust in Jesus. I’ve learned to trust in God. Through it all. Through it all. I’ve learned to depend upon His Word.” No truer words have ever been spoken about someone. This is my song. This is about me. I wish I could testify that this is enough to keep me from wanting to throw in the towel and give up some days but it’s not. One might think that after many battles a seasoned warrior does not hesitate for a moment before engaging, everyone has to step over fear. Trusting Jesus. Believing that salvation is real and His Grace enough takes many trials and tests to gain strength and validity in life. To fully comprehend the unconditional and boundless Love of God that knows no limits is an act of constant surrender. Depending on God’s Word can be a lonely proposition. Psalm 77 talks about God’s Steadfast Love and His Promises. His Graciousness and Compassion. His abiding faithfulness and the many deeds that He has done for us. But it also does not hesitate to mention that often His Footsteps are unseen. (Verse 19)

Through it all. We are called to walk through it all. Keep moving. Do not turn back but go through. In Psalm 23, the promise of God’s Love, Protection and Provision under the careful eyes of the Good Shepherd are still not without challenges. The table prepared for us has an audience. There will be low spots. Dark places and even valleys to go through. The promise is that He goes with us – before us, beside us and even behind us. God goes before us and prepares the way for us. He fights our battles and obtains victory for us. Strength and courage are not in our ability to fight but that Jesus overcame the world – ahead of time. The promise is secure not in my own faithfulness but in the Lord’s Faithfulness. I have blessed assurance in my future by faith. In Matthew 11, Jesus offers to walk beside you and be yoked with you in life. To help carry ever burden, relieve pressure, eliminate stress and keep us upright in the tough times of life. Finally, as if all that is not good enough or more than enough, the Lord constantly pursues us and falls in behind us with His Unfailing Love and Goodness just waiting to overtake us with His Blessings. With all these precious promises made simply out of love for us, there are still days when the struggle is real. It all may seem pointless. The next step too hard. The flesh cries out. The mind plays tricks. What do I do when I don’t’ want to keep going? What do I do when I have had enough?

But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.

Psalm 139 is the passage where I find myself in the Lord. The place where it is clear that I am not a random act of conception and cellular reproduction but a planned creation by God who gave me a purpose and plan. I am fearfully and wonderfully made. I am not insignificant. My life has purpose beyond what I feel or reason. It is planned and executed by the Lord with a future and hope. The Lord who created you, who formed you is telling you (and me) today to “fear not, for I HAVE redeemed you! I have called you by name, you are mine.” Why is it important to find yourself in God’s Word? Faith is illogical outside of knowing God’s Word, Will and Way. His Ways are higher and so are His Thoughts. If I do not take the time to gain knowledge and mull over them for understanding, where will wisdom come from? The Holy Spirit takes God’s Word and works into my psyche changing my thoughts renewing my mindset and positioning me to see my life through His Perception and not worldly speculation.

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.

The last week or so it has rained quite a bit. Off and on but consistently hot and humid. We needed the rain even though it is inconvenient. Rain comes as dew in the early morning like a fine mist. Other times, it may be a light shower on a sunny day. Then there are the sudden downpours that come out of nowhere and drench us. Some storms come accompanied by wind, thunder and lightning. Even hurricanes are just mighty storms wrapped in ferocity. All of them produce rain. We need the rain to water the earth, but who really wants to inconvenienced and uncomfortable in the process. It never seems to downpour on days when I have nothing to do but curl up on the couch with a furry animal, junk food and a book, but those times when my schedule is full, errands endless and work is calling. Maybe that is the whole point of going through things…to overcome complacency and become completely confident in the Lord. We need Him. We want Him. But when He comes in like a flood, suddenly it is uncomfortable, inconvenient and change is required to let His Love, Faithfulness, Goodness and Graciousness to sink in the hard ground around us and make it into our ready and waiting heart. I must go through it even though I don’t want to. I must endure the storms of life to have the harvest it produces. Even on those days, it is messy, uncomfortable and inconvenient because I cannot maintain my current state and be who God called and designed me to be. I must be renewed. I must be restored. I must be revived. I must be transformed. To grow in God I must position my life in obedience in order to increase.

While this verse is encouraging, it does not aid my cause. I want to walk away. Avoid this difficult time just throw my hands up and say, “I quit.” Yet something inside me says, “Wait!” I have something I am doing. It will be all that I promised. You must go through it. God’s Word for your life today and mine is that you must “go through it.” When I do not have a clear perspective of what the Lord is doing and His Footsteps are unseen, I find that I begin to dig in the Word deeper. Call out for more understanding or even a fleece. God, I have to know you are right here with me. I need you to remind me that I heard you correctly. I want to follow you, but geez this one is tough. All of these things running through my head and circling my thoughts.

I looked up the word “through” desperate to find a loophole or escape. Maybe there is another meaning that I missed and provides an open door. I really want a shortcut to the good part. I would love something to make the harvest grow faster and victory come sooner. Through means in one end, side or surface and out the other. It means to move past and go beyond. It is during the whole period. Through is to have reached the end. Isn’t that the same as endurance? To endure means going through without stopping, leaving or turning back. I must go through it to endure it. Ugh…I must go through some things to reach the other side. To have the future and hope that God has promised. It is unavoidable. It is inevitable. It is my pathway to every promise.

Song of Solomon 8:6-7 (ESV) Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm, for love is strong as death, jealousy is fierce as the grave. Its flashes are flashes of fire, the very flame of the Lord. Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it. If a man offered for love all the wealth of his house, he would be utterly despised.

The passionate, all-consuming Love of God is pursuing us. Pushing us to keep going and moving through the deep waters, raging storms, darkest night, and lowest valley to get to the other side. These are the times when our strength fails. When our mind cannot comprehend how in the world there is anything good to come of our situation. It is during these times that the Lord seems silent, unmoving, and nowhere to be found. Do you trust me? That really is what this is all about. Do I truly believe what I am calling faith?

I am currently refinishing an antique table. It is an amazing piece with intricate carvings and uniqueness. In transport, one of the legs broke off so I had to repair it. Wood glue and a strong clamp for a couple days would do the trick. I carefully removed the clamp and gently moved the table a bit to see if it would hold. This table will be a conference table in its new life. I put it through a number of rigorous tests to be sure that the leg would hold up under pressure. The last thing I want it to do is collapse during an important meeting or when everyone’s lunch arrives. I wonder if this is part of what I am going through…the Lord testing the bond of my heart to Him. To make sure that it will stand tests of time, waiting, uncertainly, lacking clarity, and an end. I must make it to the end of this journey called life with my faith in Him. I must hold tightly to the substance of what I hope for so I can access eternity. It doesn’t matter if I do anything else “for” God – I must love Him wholeheartedly.

Jeremiah 29:11-13 (ESV)  For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.

I cannot have what I hope for absent of faith. Faith is not something I do though it will produce certain works in our life. The faith that I hold tightly to along with the hope that anchors my soul is the fact that God loves me. Jesus died for me. I accept His Grace fully and decide to seek Him wholeheartedly. The effort in my relationship with Jesus that means the most is my love for Him accepting His Love for me a fully consummated and full-blown relationship. If Jesus is on the other side of what I am going through, then I must go through it. Through it all – learning to trust Him and depend on His Word.

I Kings 19:11-13 (ESV) And he said, “Go out and stand on the mount before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper. And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. And behold, there came a voice to him and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

I believe I am having one of those “what am I doing here moments?” Elijah had an amazing victory yet the malicious and threatening words of one woman put him on the run. What did it for you? Elijah was hiding in a cave when the Lord came to him and asked, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” Elijah lodged his complaint. The Lord then told him, “Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord.” Of course, Elijah obeyed. It was there that the Lord passed by Him in all of His Glory. God cannot move apart from His Glory. It surrounds Him. As He went by, what happened? A great and strong wind tore the mountain apart. Rocks rolled into an avalanche. The wind was followed by an earthquake. The earthquake gave way to fire. Finally, after all of that, the Lord had his full attention again. He asked Elijah again, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” Elijah recited all that he had “done” for God again. God didn’t even stop for a moment but went on to tell him what was next. God hears us but will not indulge us. He has a plan far greater than our whining and complaining will ever cause Him to stop trying to make a reality in our life. The Lord has purpose for prosperity in us that will not allow us to stay in hiding but prods and pokes us to go on. Oh how I just want to run into hiding. Elijah was looking to relieve the pressure. He wanted to stop pushing. He didn’t want to fight anymore. He was tired of being brave. He had lost his confidence and courage. God had other plans that did not involve stopping, quitting or giving up.

There will always be a Jezebel. Opposition is inevitable. Enemies will present themselves. Obstacles will rise up. Oppression will threaten to take you captive. You are a precious to God. He treasures you. His Love for you stronger than death. His Jealousy more fierce than the deepest grave. It is all-consuming fiery passion that will not relent until He has won your whole heart. Rising waters cannot quench and there is not a flood that can drown it. The enemy will offer you opportunities to escape the potential of growing in understanding and full acceptance of His Love but those who choose to endure until the end and go through it all – will have their heart’s desire. His Name is Jesus. He offers a rich and satisfying life. An existence that lacks nothing and is fully confident in His Love. It is found on the other side of through it all.

Psalm 136:1 (ESV) Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.

Secrets of the Deep

Secrets of the Deep

Psalm 42:7-9 (ESV) Deep calls to deep at the roar of your waterfalls; all your breakers and your waves have gone over me. By day the Lord commands his steadfast love, and at night his song is with me, a prayer to the God of my life. I say to God, my rock: “Why have you forgotten me? Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?”

Life is crazy. Change is inevitable. Becoming a Christian, inviting Jesus to live in our life doesn’t exempt us from such extremes but rather invites us to a place of utter chaos. Religion is man’s attempt to string together all the details and bring people to some form of order. The truth of the matter is that God comes to each of us on an individual basis – Jesus invites us to live in love with Him – the consummation of such an experience is the Holy Spirit. After that buckle your seatbelts as your existence is completely undone. Believers who act like that have it all together project a farce. It is not in the doing that God accomplishes great things but in our undoing. It is not when we have it all together that His Light shines through us but through our broken heart. It is not because He is cruel or controlling but rather because God created us with a plan much bigger than our finite thinking and prepared us for much more than perceived by limited sight. It is in those moments that lack understanding or make no sense at all – our inability to cope or control – that the deep surrounds us.

My husband and I were walking and talking. It would begin like most other nights. Going over the events of the days, activities of children and sharing life experiences. But last night, he dared enter the unknown. Asking the complicated question that most men would avoid – “What are you really thinking about?” I hesitated. The thoughts circulating in my head and swirling through my mind were questioning. Wondering. Contemplating. The details of life overwhelming and chaotic churning through my thoughts. The last week or so an emotional roller coaster of high highs and low lows. I feel like the toy our puppy plays with that has been shaken and pulled apart even frayed. I lay it all before my husband and become only more convinced that God has to be in all these deep places. He is ready to fill voids, level mountains and make a clear path. I have walked through deep waters before and always prevailed by His Mighty Hand and Loving Heart. I hear deep calling again. My spirit says, “Yes!” but my flesh begs “Lord, not again!”

Isaiah 35:3-8 (ESV) Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees. Say to those who have an anxious heart, “Be strong; fear not! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God. He will come and save you.” Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then shall the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy. For waters break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert; the burning sand shall become a pool, and the thirsty ground springs of water; in the haunt of jackals, where they lie down, the grass shall become reeds and rushes. And a highway shall be there, and it shall be called the Way of Holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it. It shall belong to those who walk on the way; even if they are fools, they shall not go astray.

I believe that God is good. I know that His Plan for my life contains a future and hope beyond my comprehension. His Thoughts are higher than my own and so therefore His Ways must be also. It is in my lack of knowledge and understanding that challenge me. The deep is God’s Invitation to grow in these areas. It is not in knowing what or how God works that builds faith and hope but in knowing God that makes all things possible. Faith is what pleases the Lord. Faith is not living by what we see but rather living in constant knowledge of who God is and how much He loves us. It is to put our trust in His Character and not life’s conditions or circumstances but to become fully enveloped in His Love and Grace each day. Strength, courage and fearlessness are not achieved by human sufficiency but when our confidence is completely invested in the Lord and His Process.

The Highway to Holiness unfolding before us is the pathway to victory. Holiness is not anything we do but rather what happens as one becomes the much coveted new creation Christ promised to make us. Religion has attempted to change our appearance but the Lord promises a new heart. A heart set on a pilgrimage to where He is, to do what He is doing, and make the commitment to remain in the deep as long as it takes to enter the Light of His Love.

Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees.” What if the deeper things of God are entered into not by our own strength or willpower but rather the moment of letting go and allowing the Lord to do it all. Weak hands let go relinquishing to His Power and Control. Feeble knees stopping trying to do it all and walk it out allowing the Lord to carry us through. Dependency on the Lord is established in the deep when we cannot see or do what we used to. Maybe this is what it means “then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then shall the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy.”

Daniel 2:20-22 (ESV) Daniel answered and said: “Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, to whom belong wisdom and might. He changes times and seasons; he removes kings and sets up kings; he gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding; he reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what is in the darkness, and the light dwells with him.

The Lord gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding. He reveals deep and hidden things. He knows what is in the darkness of the depths and the Light dwells in Him. In Genesis 1:1-3, the whole love story of God begins with the Spirit of the Lord hovering over the deep. Read it. The earth is formless and void and then God spoke. Life perpetuated life from that moment forward. God and His Spirit were there. Jesus is the Word. When God spoke – Jesus was and is and is to come. Knowledge of God is found in the Word which is the story of Jesus Christ wrapped in flesh who came to give us life just like in the beginning. (John 1:14) The Word is our wisdom for life. We read it. Apply it. In that moment, God’s Wisdom becomes power in our life. Our words begin to line up with His and there is agreement. (Proverbs 18:4) Understanding extracts the secrets of the deep hidden there for human discovery. (Proverbs 20:5) Where can wisdom be found? It is not in the deep but the One who keeps us in the deep. (Job 28:12-14) God has had complete control over the deep forever. Darkness runs from the Light so even in the lowest valley or deepest sea the Light of His Love will surrounds those who are His Children.

It may be dark all around you today. No relief in sight. The wait may be one minute longer than you can do it. The pressure overwhelming. The pain beyond enduring. The night won’t last forever. Joy comes with new mercy each morning. God is not calling you to drown you but to drench and saturate our life in His Goodness. It is the opportunity of obedience to walk by faith and not what you see. But you know what I have found to be the greatest blessing of the deep…

Romans 8:26-28 (ESV) Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.  And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 

When I venture into the deep, ready to obey, willing to trust and thrust my heart in God’s Hands – He is always faithful. His Spirit, the same one who was with Him in the beginning, helps me. When I am at a loss for words or strength to move, His Spirit takes over. The Lord searches my heart removing weights and hindrances until the only thing holding me is hope that strong anchor. Somehow and some way – everything keeps working together for my good and His Glory despite my weakness and whining. I find that as I surface again – His Purpose is clear…

Romans 8:36-39 (ESV) No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers,  nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Through all the peaks and valleys and even in the deepest depths of life – God’s Love has never let me go. I am more than a conqueror – an embattled and scarred warrior for sure – but I refuse to put my sword down. I will fight to the end to maintain this faith I have been entrusted with and keep my deep abiding affection and trust in the Lord. It is a fight when the deep closes in around me. I feel panic and distress where peace once abounds. Then I am reminded of all the times before when His Love rushes in and He breathes new life in me. When His Perfect Love has expelled my fear – so I keep going.

Ephesians 3:14-19 (ESV) For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

The details of my life are stretch from elation to exhaustion. I cannot put into words how I feel or the emotions running through me. It really doesn’t matter how I feel now does it. My success today is based on my ability to enter the deep based on what I know. I know God loves me. I know that He has victory in store for me. I know that He is blessing me but it is only the beginning of the abundance growing in my life. One day it will be increase that will only be attributable to the faithfulness of God. Until then, I will continue to plunge in the deep when I am called. I have nothing to lose and everything to gain in obedience and trust. The deep exposes us in our weakness and insecurity to God’s Love. The width, length, height and depth of His Fathomless Love for us is evident when we can do nothing but must rely on the Lord for everything. These are the times when faith are rooted and grounded in a hard heart now broken and fertile. The Lord is letting us know that His Love surpasses our knowledge and ability to understand. He is filling our voids with the Fullness of God. The opportunity of the deep is simple. It is to invest our life and all that we believe in the Lord who desires to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think according to His Power at work in us! Welcome to the deep! It is full of God’s Secrets and Hidden Opportunities of blessing and prosperity for those who decide to enter in.

Ephesians 3:20 (ESV) Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

Get It Together

Get It Together

2 Corinthians 5:17-20 (ESV) Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.  The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.

I used to think it was my job in life to defend Jesus Christ. Many times it ended in disputes. I have noticed that when some people find out I am a “believer” that they want to somehow change my mind or debate the issue. There was a time in my life when I would engage them. I took offense to their attack on my religious faith. However, I have changed my mind. I don’t feel the need to defend my Jesus any longer. I am confident that He is the Christ, died for my sins, offers my life and has enough grace to back it all up. I believe that God is good. He is always good even during those times I do not understand. I know that I have a future and hope and that each step of my life is triumph unfolding. It took away my need to explain. I no longer feel threatened by someone else’s questions. I know that God is faithful and that Christ is my freedom. I am called to love people. Not to argue with them, be offended by them or make enemies along the way. I am supposed to love everyone just like Jesus loves me. I can’t do that all by myself. I must reconcile my life to Jesus Christ.

If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.  The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God…” God did it. Jesus paid it all. His Spirit lives in us. If someone came to me and said that I am not who I say that I am, I have proof. I have a birth certificate, driver’s license, social security card, and numerous other forms of identification. The DNA in my body is exclusive to me. If I was introduced to a stranger, and they denied who I was, I wouldn’t argue with them and keep fighting with them. I would prove it to them. If they still didn’t believe me, it would be foolish to continue to try to prove myself to them because they have decided for themselves. We are one with Christ. Jesus lives in us. I am confident that my old life has passed away and the new has come. It is from God. Change in us and through us is from God alone as Christ makes His Way into every facet of our being. We don’t have to argue the point but rather become living proof.

I was setting up for an event one day when I noticed someone I used to work with. She was my supervisor. At that point in time, my life was a wreck. I don’t know any other way to put it. I was a broken women, far from the Lord, struggling single mom of three, and a terrible employee. I didn’t want her to recognize me. I spent the whole day avoiding her and making sure we didn’t end up in the same place at the same time. I was a different person now. I had found my way back to the Lord. I had given my life to Him. I wasn’t that person she knew any more. Completely packed up and ready to leave, I made a quick stop to the restroom. You guessed it – she was coming in as I was leaving. She said, “Lori?” I acknowledged her and she quickly engaged in conversation despite my reluctance. I didn’t want her to judge me for who I was back then and I certainly did not want to apologize for being the worst worker ever. How could I explain my transformation in a 5-minute testimony to someone who knew me at my absolute worst? I didn’t have to. She told me that she had been watching me the whole time. She knew it was me but hardly recognized me by my attitude, actions and appearance. She finally asked, “What happened?” I think I was so shocked all I could say was Jesus. I was ashamed of who I was but she was enthralled with who I had become. It was a lesson learned. Sometimes the greatest testimony to be shared is the one of just living life in Christ.

Convincing people of God’s Love is impossible. They must experience it firsthand. Telling them about it will never do it justice and to argue the point is contradictory to what the Lord told us to do anyway. Our confidence in Christ allows us to trust Him. In the place called trust, our lives become transformed. The Light of His Love shines in us and through us. If every person who claims to be a believer, truly believed the Word of God and place of Christ in our life – it would not be necessary to make everybody believe what we do. We only see in part. Remember that when you encounter someone who worships differently than you do. The Lord allows us to express our worship religiously but if that religion begins to negatively influence our relationship with Christ – it is not okay.

“We are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” As ambassadors of Christ, God should be appealing to others through us. My life should make others want to know my God. I am an ambassador of Christ who should implore or beg with urgency on behalf of others to receive the same mercy that we found in Jesus. Ambassadors are high ranking dignitaries who go to other countries and nations to negotiate treaties. They do not go to make war or create conflict but to find the way of peace between two parties. Christ calls us to be His Ambassadors. Are we ready to make peace, give grace, pour out mercy, and do everything in our power to bring others to Christ? To expose them to the Love that has made our life new and changed our person by simply encountering it. I love the woman at the well. After meeting Jesus that day, she didn’t care what people thought of her or how they had hurt her, betrayed her or even shunned her. She met the Savior. She encountered unconditional love. This was definitely worth sharing and she knocked over the walls of hurt, fear and insecurity to tell those who perpetuated these tragedies about Jesus.

Colossians 1:15-20 (ESV) He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.

Just a glimpse into the strangeness of my thoughts, on the days I blow it. Those times when I don’t behave like someone who knows the Lord or am overtaken by worry and fear. I will envision myself pushing Jesus back to the throne of my life. Like really striving to get Him back up there. He is in His White Robe and I am sweating and huffing hauling Him back to where He belongs in my heart and mine. Jesus reigns supreme. He is the image of the Invisible God. You can see God because Christ painted a clear picture. In Christ all things were created. All things were created through Him and FOR Him. This is important. Every single human being has the same eternity in their heart and measure of faith that can grow. Love is the perpetuator. Rather than changing people, maybe just maybe if we shared the commonality of our need, want and desire to love and be loved it would get us a little further in our ambassadorship. I don’t need anyone to tell me what’s wrong with my life – I can tell you in vivid detail including the things you don’t know about. We need the One who can make our life new. Every single breathing body was created for His Pleasure with a place in His Kingdom. This is the common thread offered by Christ to live in God’s Love forever.

He is before all things and in Him all things hold together. People can interpret the Word of God a million different ways and build doctrine on their perception of the Bible. God is love. Jesus is His Son. I am loved by Him and called to share His Love not my religion with the rest of humanity. Sometimes it gets a little confusing, in our efforts to change the mind, hearts and lives of others our good intentions overshadow the Grace of God that accepts people just as they are not as they may one day be. When our son was diagnosed with cancer, the enemy used the opportunity to send people to me with the common question, “How can you serve a God that would allow such a thing?” I don’t. God didn’t give our son cancer. He will heal and restore His Body. I don’t believe the enemy gave it to him either. Cancer is a disease. Our bodies were created to be eternal. Sin made that a problem because it corrupted our flesh. The Garden of Eden was shut off to us so that the Tree of Life would not give us eternal life in our sinful condition. Jesus paid the price for our sin so now we have the opportunity to enter eternity and be rid of the dying, rotting and corrupt flesh that is our human body. Now, if I tried to share all that with someone who doesn’t know my Jesus it comes out like blah, blah, and blah. My answer was simple. Just watch what God will do. Our son battled cancer multiple times in three short years. His body has many side effects from treatment but he has been in remission for almost three years now. He only had a 2% chance of survival. Most people can only sustain chemotherapy treatment two or three times, He has had five rounds. Our son has graduated from college and is alive today because God did as He promised when He told me that “he would live and not die for My Glory.” That is exactly what happened. True story.

Reconciliation is the process of making consistent and compatible. We get our life together and experience the Glory of God – not by forcing someone to believe like we do but when we effectively reconcile our life to Christ becoming consistent in our faith and confident in our belief. When the evidence of my life is compatible with the Cross where Christ died for me. It is not my ability to teach you the Word of God but demonstrate His Love that makes all the difference as His Ambassador. You don’t need someone else to point your flaws and failures. You need the Grace and Goodness of God that says, “I love you anyway. I will make something good of all that!”

Hebrews 3:12-14 (ESV) Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end.

The Lord did not commission us to divide and conquer but to unite His Body and build His Church on the foundation of His Love and Faithfulness. Sin will always be something every human being struggles with so don’t let anyone fool you. We all need each other to continuing building confident and steadfast relationships in Christ. Church is not a bad place and its uniformity called religion adds order to it. However, each day my life is evaluated by God on the basis of true love. Abiding love established in the preeminence of Christ. It is the very thing that makes the Lord prominent in my life. I am confident in Christ and His Love for me today. Are you? I believe that He is working on my behalf and has complete control over every authority and power in my life. Do you? I am striving to become the new creation who I am called to be in Christ but that means I must full invest my life and love in this covenant relationship. I don’t fight for Jesus. He won the victory for me. I don’t have to overcome every false religion or lie the enemy has told people just live the loving truth. Sometimes to get it all together means entering His Presence to find ourselves again. It means grabbing Jesus with both hands to hoist it back on top of the throne of our life and make sure to keep Him there. His Lordship is not compromised by my lack of faith. His Purpose is not overshadowed by my doubt and fear. My insecurity will never push Him out so far I cannot reach Him. We have come to share Christ. We must hold our original confidence until the end. The First Love feeling when we met the One who knew every detail of our past and choices in the present yet loved us anyway. Can we do the same? The First Love feeling that you would do anything, go anywhere and give up everything for Christ. Do we feel that way today?

Revelation 2:2-4 (ESV) “‘I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary. But I have this against you that you have abandoned the love you had at first.””

Peaks and Valleys

Peaks and Valleys

Psalm 23 (ESV) The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Psalm 23 is probably the most popular of all the psalms. It is about the constancy of Christ even though He is called the Shepherd. I could elaborate on the first verse endlessly never moving on to the rest. When Jesus becomes our Provider, Protector and Providence – there is nothing more valuable or desirable to be found. He is constant. He is sovereign. He is faithful. Always good. Forever gracious. His Loving Care and Kindness is endless. He always offers me more, better, fruitful, and productive opportunities in life. However, this knowledge and understanding comes at a price.

It takes trust. It requires time. It is to invest a footstep in following rather than leading the way. It is to submit the most precious commodity given in order to receive forever. It is a risk in the beginning. How do I know? Where will I go? What will I do? Will it be worth it? The second part of verse one is an achievement of soul satisfaction. Jesus promised to give us a rich and satisfying life which the enemy has decide to steal, kill and destroy if at all possible. This is the journey of life. The ebb and flow of our flesh and spirit as one attempts to surrender our only thing of value to a Savior of infinite worth. The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want is not one-sided statement but a partnership. The Lord is my Shepherd. He is doing His Part. I do not want because I have invested my life and my soul is satisfied.

The enemy cannot take anything from us that we are not willing to give. Any part of our life under the Lordship of Jesus Christ is heavily guarded by the One who is victorious and overcame the world. There is nothing invested in the Kingdom that the enemy can lay claim to or take hold of. Someone needed to hear that today. Our eyes keep looking at the giants rather than staying focused on our champion. He is bigger, greater and more powerful. The Shepherd is not meek but a fearless and faithful warrior who will not leave a single one behind who desires to be found.

He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

The peaks and valleys of life are inevitable. Jesus did not come to save the world. The tumultuous journey and path chosen by darkness is written and confirmed. The earth as we know it will pass away one day despite our stewardship of it. Jesus came for me and you. He loves me and you. His Greatest and Most Earnest Intent on the Cross was to have a relationship with us. The very first thing His Spirit did was to tear the veil that once separated mankind from God’s Presence from top to bottom. It was clear in that moment that our Savior and Lord’s Desire was for us. A personal and intimate journey through life into eternity with us. He is ready to escort us through a world where love has grown cold and sin rampant. Where bad things happen to good people. To a place where sickness and disease snatches innocent children. A place where mental illness plagues many as the tormentor and accuser hisses in their ears. See this world is not going to get better. It has an end. Enoch lived a life pleasing to God immersed in His Presence so one day he just disappeared. I believe Enoch to be just as human as you and I. I am sure some days were great and some a struggle. The consistency of His Life and Love was God.

The last week has been a challenge. The past few months a struggle. However, in the midst of the hardship, hurt and even uncertainty, I have found Psalm 23 to be true all over again. Life with Christ is not always level paths. There will be peaks. There will be valleys. Even plateaus that make some wonder if the Lord really will do as He promised. I have visited all three time and time again. I have a choice in these challenges. I can change and be changed or remain subject to the roller coaster of life. I can remain yoked to Christ or decide to do this on my own. When I remain faithful, I find that His Goodness and mercy are right behind me and overtake me on a regular basis. Not because I have done it all right, or even gotten a single point of the learning experience, but simply because God is faithful. He is constant. He does not change. What if I could for a moment establish such constancy with Christ?

Psalm 37:4 (ESV) Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.

About five years ago, I gave up control of my life. It was not a beautiful surrender or sweet submission. It was the moment that I realized I have absolutely no control over the daily outcomes in my life. I cannot provide, protect, or prevent anything in the life of those I love. I cannot fulfill God’s Promises of healing, deliverance or salvation. I am but a mere human being who is dearly loved by the All Mighty. Something in me has changed. At first, I thought it was a survival mode mentality that would surely change when danger passed and disaster was averted. It didn’t change at all. Normal was shattered. New life had begun. It was uncomfortable. It was not convenient. It was my complete undoing. Things are so much better now.

There is a song by Bethel called “All I Know Your Love Endures”. I found it on YouTube this week looking for comfort. A new song. Something to sing walking through the darkness of the valley. The chorus is “all I know is this Your Love endures through every change…I am sure of it Your Love endures it will remain.” Do you believe that today? Can you sing such a love song in the midst of uncertainty, climbing the rough side of the mountain, or on those days when the Light of His Love appears as only a faint flicker in a distance just too far to traverse? The bridge says this “Emmanuel…Your every word sustaining…your nearness is my victory…from summits and in valleys I’ll sing.” I encourage you to find this powerful worship song and listen to it over and over. Our victory in Jesus Christ is not in our ability to make it up the mountain or through the valley but to allow Him to be our constant. To be our song from the highest peak and into the depths of the wildest sea. Deep calls to deep not to wade in the murky and stagnant waters of complacency. God is greater than the highs and lows in life. We say it, wear it, and recite it but when it makes its way into our heart and soul enough to believe it. It is then that our delight will be the Lord and His Unfailing Love, Goodness and Mercy will sweep us into His Presence. As our soul prospers so will we despite the challenges and struggles of life. Not because of our faithfulness but simply because He is faithful. Thank you Lord! You are the Good Shepherd. I do not want but only desire more of You!

3 John 1:2 (NKJV) Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers.

This is the Day

Field and sun.

Psalm 118:24 (ESV) This is the day the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it.

After receiving some challenging news, a friend text me, “Are you okay?” I confirmed that indeed I was just fine. I have been through enough seasons like this to know that “it is what it is”. If I fell apart every time the enemy threw fiery darts at me or dropped smoke bombs in my camp, I would be a worthless wreck right about now. Walking with the Lord can feel like skirting through a land mine field sometimes trying to avoid pitfalls and trip wires, but sometimes they are unavoidable. I would be a liar to say that I am unaffected. It is hard to maintain joy in the midst of adversity. It is our privilege in Christ to live in constant rejoicing but one must find such a place first.

This is the day the LORD has made. Today. This one. The day you woke up in. It has every bit of potential and purpose God saw fit to pack in it just for you. You do not have to just endure it, go through or be held captive by all the things that want to suck you in. This is the day the LORD made for you. He captured each second in handwritten form before you were born. He knew exactly what you needed to make it to the end of it. He prepackaged enough mercy to see you on your way and grace to catch you as you fall into bed tonight seeking rest and refuge from all its worries and cares. The faith in you has room to grow today. Hope can add another link the anchor that holds our soul. God’s Goodness can reach us right here and now. His Glory can surround us if that is what we desire. We have a choice to make today. Will I rejoice and be glad in today?

I know what you are thinking. I hear your sarcastic smirk even though silently crossing your face. What do I have to be happy about? What could there possibly be to rejoice over? I will be honest, I have no idea what it is or how you will do it but I know that joy is always possible in Jesus Christ. The night our son was diagnosed with cancer – I was there with his older brother. In that moment, the carefully constructed and controlled life that I had built came crashing down. However, about an hour later, there was laughter coming from our room. The nurses came down to check on us. Surely their ears were deceiving, as it must have been tears and wailing they were hearing. When they came in the room, it was indeed laughter. The joy of the Lord is our strength. He is our refuge. To rejoice is not just words written by a psalmist to make us feel better but the reality is it is a place that will hold us when life is hard and the struggle real. They smiled in awe as they shut the door and allowed us to continue. I wonder if that is what the others thought when Paul and Silas sang praises to the Lord from their prison cell. Could it be that our light shines brightest in the dark? How can it shine if there is no joy in the hope we have? Faith is evidence of what we cannot see that manifests in the impossibilities of life. We must learn to take each day and make it a time to rejoice.

Philippians 4:4-7 (ESV) Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice! Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do. Remember, the Lord is coming soon. Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

Is it even possible to “always be full of joy in the Lord”? Life is tough. The unexpected hidden in each twist and turn. Disappointment lurking in the dark corners. The struggle real. The thoughts overwhelming. Responsibilities endless. Distractions plentiful. Doubt logical. Fear real. How do I remember that the Lord is coming soon? How do I choose peace over worry? When can I find time to pray about every little thing? God knows what I need, right? He knows my heart and can see all its good intentions. If I want the kind of peace that God provides…the peace that passes understanding it means I must stop trying to figure it all out and choose joy in every situation. Where do I find such a thing? When I decide to rejoice, pray, and let God be the source of my hope again…I will find perfect peace just like He has promised. (Isaiah 26:3) To live in perfect peace – I must trust the Lord and keep my thoughts fixed on Him.

Philippians 4:8 (ESV) And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.

If it is true (which it is) that faith is the reality of what we hope for and evidence of things we cannot see, we must learn to trust what we know rather than what we see, feel and experience in this life. It is to begin to look at things through God’s Word, His Will and His Way. To apply Jesus to every situation in our life is to apply the Word because Jesus is the Word of God. I will not rejoice in my situation or circumstances – my joy comes from the Lord so if I am constantly fixated in what I see rather than living out what I know – I will not grow in my faith but be surrounded by fear. Hope is elusive to the human eye most of the time. If I can see it or imagine it – it is smaller than what the Lord has planned for me. What I can do in each new day is choose to fix my thoughts and eyes on what is true. God’s Word is the Truth concerning my life. To focus on living an honorable, sincere and authentic life. To do what is right. Live what is pure. Devote myself to what is lovely and loving. To fix my thoughts on what is admirable or that which is deserving of respect and approval – I can think of only one thing – Jesus Christ. When I decide to devote my focus and energy on that which is excellent and praiseworthy it always comes back to Him. No matter how hard life is and terrible it seems – the joy of the Lord is my strength. (Nehemiah 8:10)

Habakkuk 3:17-19 (ESV) Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. God, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places.

Again, I have no idea what you might be facing today. It could just be another day of the same old thing. It could be the day you decided to throw in the towel. Maybe it is the moment you thought things will never change. There is a knock on the door of your heart. It is the Lord. In His Hands, He offers new mercy and the opportunity to turn things around. Why? No matter how bad today is – God is still good. No matter how testing the trial – He has the answer. No matter what comes your way expected or unexpected – He knew it all along and prepared you with everything you need to go around it, through it or to overcome it. Nothing surprises the Lord so He can remain our confident hope. He has provided all that we need and ordained us to have every spiritual blessing. I am well-equipped for victory today. It comes when I set the Peace of God as my priority.

Psalm 16:8-9 (ESV) I have set the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure.

As I set things in order, ready to face this crazy day, I am encouraged by the Word of God today. If I choose to set the Lord always before me, he is always at my right hand. I must set the Lord always before me. To see life through Him, the future through Him, and make better choices through Him. I will not be shaken in such a position and faith will make me immovable. Therefore…my heart is glad. It begins in our heart. The place where faith grows into confident hope. My whole being rejoices. As my soul prospers, it spreads. And finally…it is important to note that the flesh is the last to be secured. Our flesh will always war against the peace of God in our life. To give up its right to understand all of the “what ifs” and “whys” to fully expect the great I AM in all situations. When I decide to rely on what I know about the Lord and focus on my champion – I will beat my feelings and frustrations today. I will find peace and joy as my refuge. THIS is the day the Lord has made with all its ups and downs, bumps and bruises – I will rejoice and be glad in it.

Philippians 4:4 (ESV) Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.

Plot Twist

Plot Twist

Matthew 1:20-23 (ESV) But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us).

Talk about a plot twist. Joseph surely didn’t see it coming. I imagine that Joseph and Mary were the couple everyone knew would one day be betrothed and then married. Good Jewish kids from faithful families, there would be a celebration when they finally were joined to be one. A house full of love, laughter and many children. It was all predicted and carefully planned between their families. God came and messed it all up. Like a made for television movie by Hallmark, who would have thought that Mary would be found pregnant before the union. Who would have ever believed that God would design such an introduction and arrival for His Only Son? God is the master of plot twists, my friend. Life with Him will never be found to boring or mundane. It is thrill ride for those who grab hold of hope refusing to let go. It will take you to the depths and raise you up to the highest hill. Never a dull moment, but always worth it.

One might only imagine the turmoil in Joseph’s heart that night, he wanted desperately to believe the story of his one true love. How can she even whisper that God did this? The Holy Spirit producing a child. Is it even possible? The Word of God predicted it. Yet, how could he believe such an audacious claim? He gave this young lady his heart, and now considered taking whatever part of it he could reclaim prayed to the Lord for help. I do not think Joseph was asking God in that moment if Mary was being truthful but how to get out of this mess alive. He loved her. He had given his heart, life and future to her. But now, he felt embarrassed, betrayed, hurt and confused. The Lord came to his sweet son that night. He told him the truth, his beloved had been true to him. She was carrying the Jesus the Messiah who would save his people from their sins. The baby was Immanuel. He would be God with us. All Joseph had to do was believe.

In the plot twists of life, it is human nature to reevaluate what one believes. When God doesn’t do things as expected, doubt rises up and disbelief tries to erode our trust. “But as he considered these things…” What’s on your mind today? What is the plot twist currently unfolding before you? Take it to the Lord. I say that without hesitation or moving one more step in the Word today. He did not leave us alone or forsaken. Christ lives in us. (2 Corinthians 13:5)

As our worship team sang “Spirit Break Out” in the morning service, I heard the voices of those around me which is unusual. Worship is my escape. Praise is the platform that rises my head above my circumstances to see God is in control. Yet, as they sang, I wondered if they really comprehended the words of the song. “Spirit break out. Break our walls down. Spirit break out. Heaven come down.” To look to the roof, sky or beyond the clouds for His Spirit is not looking for Him at all. The Holy Spirit lives in us. He is with us always. From the moment, one invites Jesus to be their Savior and become the Lord of their life – His Spirit unites with us like a marriage. He is with us always. He guarantees every promise God has made us. When God sees the Spirit – He knows that I am His Child. The Holy Spirit is not coming down from Heaven to be with us and then recede back to the sky. He lives in us and is always trying to find a way out of us. God’s Goodness and His Glory wants to permeate our life from the inside out. The walls that need to come down are of our own making. Heaven joins with earth when our spirit connects with the heavenly realm. It doesn’t happen all around us if nothing is going on inside of us.

Isaiah 7:10-14 (ESV) Again the Lord spoke to Ahaz: “Ask a sign of the Lord your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven.” But Ahaz said, “I will not ask, and I will not put the Lord to the test.” And he said, “Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary men, that you weary my God also? Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.

Immanuel is introduced in the Book of Isaiah. The Lord offers King Ahaz an amazing offer. “Ask a sign of the Lord your God” not just any sign, but God goes one step further…”let it be as deep as Sheol or high as heaven.” The response of Ahaz may sound shocking to read, but it is very common. “I will not ask, and I will not put the Lord to the test.” Drop the mic. The Lord invited Ahaz to ask anything of Him. The All-Powerful, All-Mighty, and All-Knowing God gave this man the opportunity to test Him. He declined the offer. Who would do such a stupid thing? Before you begin to judge Ahaz too harshly, consider the fact that God lives in us. Jesus Christ offers to yoke with us and help us through this life including providing everything we need, carrying every burden and doing more than one might think, ask or imagine, yet we still try to do it ourselves. Until that moment, the plot twist comes and everything seems to be falling apart.

Hebrews 6:17-18 (ESV) So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us.

Ahaz refused to trust the Lord. The sum total of his response was an absolute refusal to allow God to be God, have His Way or do His Will. God was shaking things up and the king’s comfort zone was being unsettled. But rather than trust the Lord, Ahaz was going to try to work out the details in his own power as king. Doubt and fear were his counsel. Lack of faith evident in his words. His heart feeble and shaking at the thought of such a plot twist. No thanks, God. I have everything under control. How many times do we say it? We pray one way with words and do something entirely different.

God’s character is constant. He does not lie or change His Mind. The plan that the Lord designed for your life is for your absolute good with a future and hope. The only requirement is faith. Not words, but trust that responds to His Voice and His Word. His Spirit is your guarantee that everything God promised will be yours if you decide to believe. The Spirit of God is in you today. The only limitation on your life is the one placed there when you choose not to believe. God is okay with us testing Him and trying out His Word. He answers our questions. He calms our fears. Immanuel is God with us. Jesus deposited His Spirit in us. It is still full of every bit of power and resurrection life that it contained the moment He released it. If God’s Power is limited in my life, it is me.

Romans 8:5-11 (ESV)  For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.

To further divulge the imagery in my thoughts during worship that day, I saw the Holy Spirit standing with a person looking at a giant wall. They walked around the wall. They shouted at the wall. Together doing everything one might have heard to do in church or a song. Now the man is scratching his head looking up at the wall with one hand on his hip, when the Spirit whispers in his ear with a huge sledgehammer in the other hand. It is clear to me that the Spirit is offering to take the wall out. The man shakes his head putting one hand up as if to say, “Wait a minute, I am thinking this through…” How many times is the Lord ready to take down walls, boundaries and barriers between us and His Blessing that we respectfully decline until we figure it out? What is the chance that God has been pushing on walls that we are holding up?

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” God has given us His Word. Jesus came as the Word of God wrapped in flesh. He died and released His Spirit to live in us. To give us His Power and Authority on the earth and mark us as residents of Heaven. It is finished. The deal is sealed. Faith is the assurance of the hope we are given. It is evidence of the unseen. Ahaz could not see God’s Plan so he chose his own instead. Gideon did not see the man in the mirror who the Lord did so he asked for a fleece. (Judges 6:37) Nothing is impossible for God. (Luke 1:37) Impossibilities in our life is the opportunity to expand our faith and trust in the Lord. As a spirit-filled believer any impossibility in our life is the chance to let the Spirit out. We cannot please God without faith so what if the plot twists in our life are really God given us another chance by His Grace to grow in faith and confident hope rather the enemy’s device to take us out. Impossibilities are only impossible for those without the Living God. The moment He came to live in us nothing is impossible anymore…if you believe.

Hebrews 11:5-6 (ESV) By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death, and he was not found, because God had taken him. Now before he was taken he was commended as having pleased God. And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.

Set your heart and mind on the Spirit life. Plot twists will happen in every great love story even the one that is written for us in Christ. Without change, it is human nature to become comfortable and complacent right where we are. God has offered us a limitless life with endless possibilities. It is accessible to those who by faith and trust choose to believe Him at His Word and follow live as one with His Spirit. Immanuel. God with us. The sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the Cross allows the same Spirit in Him that overcame death and the grave to give us overwhelming victory in life. Enoch was a man of faith. He walked so close to God that he just was gone one day. I want that kind of relationship with the Lord where I disappear in His Presence. Enoch pleased God. Enoch put all his faith and trust in the Lord. In order for my faith to be valid, it must grow into trust and confidence. God uses every plot twist in our life as an opportunity. Impossibility is just another reason to test Him at His Word and follow the Guidance of the Holy Spirit. God is in us. God is with us. We cannot fail. God doesn’t fail or fall short. Neither will I if I put my faith and trust in Him today and every day especially those days with a plot twist or two.

I Corinthians 1:9 (ESV) God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

The D-Word

Dare To Be Disciplined

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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