In the Shadow

in the shadow

Psalm 91:1-2 (ESV) He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”

To live in the shadow of can mean to live close to or in a position of being unnoticed because all the attention is given to someone else. It is human nature to live by comparison. The shadow of choice is the standard set for our life. He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. It is important that the standard of our life is from the Word of God and not living in the shadow of other people. God made you with an individual plan and purpose that no one can fulfill but you. It is filled with blessings and benefits that are your inheritance set aside for your good pleasure. There is no competition with God. The Father has no favorites. Each one of His Children unique and complex in His Creation. Or have you someone found yourself living in the shadow of others? Maybe you live in the shadow of the impossible mountain that won’t seem to move? The Lord offers us a place in His Presence. A close proximity to Him. To dwell in the shelter of His Refuge and the Fortress marked “Peace”. He invites us to abide in the shadow of the Almighty! Yes, please.

“My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” Oh and there is the secret. Trust. To eliminate all fear, doubt, and insecurity by moving from the obscurity of the crowd into the courts of the Almighty. The transition will defy all human logic as it is solely reliant on faith. We walk by faith and not by sight. Faith must have a new foundation. The foundation of our faith is Jesus Christ. We must compare our standard of living to Him to align our life with the Father. Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life. What is right for me may not be right for you. Our convictions may be different. The habits that are healthy and choices that are right are not the same for everyone – it is important to understand that while we all have fallen short of God’s Glory not every produces the same light. Each light is needed to drive out darkness of every kind. The brightness of our life is produced by living in the Shadow of the Light of the world.

Psalm 91:9-10 (ESV) Because you have made the Lord your dwelling place—the Most High, who is my refuge—no evil shall be allowed to befall you, no plague come near your tent.

The story of Elijah is one of my favorites to study. In 1 Kings 18, he is killing all the false prophets but then in I Kings 19 – he is hiding from simple threat. I was listening to a snippet of a sermon from one of my favorite preachers yesterday. He was retelling the story from a different perspective. Elijah was in the midst of transition. He was being repositioned by the Lord in his ministry. He was a teacher, prophet and minister. He was becoming a mentor. Sure enough at the end of I Kings 19, Elisha arrives on the scene. I wonder if in the midst of transition or perhaps transformation the undoing is too much for our humanity. If in those times – we forget that we live in the shadow of the Almighty and reposition ourselves in the shadow of others. Shadow of fear. Shadow of doubt. Shadow of insecurity. Shadow of isolation. We forget that we live in the shadow of the Almighty God who never grows weak and weary. When we are tired of the process, He continues to work on us just the same. His Word does not return to Him void even when we give up on it. Two different mountaintop experiences – one man. Great faith and confidence on one. Fear and doubt on the other. Same God. Sometimes the Lord has to get us away by ourselves to reassure us. He wants to speak to us but must silence all the other voices so that we listen to the still small voice. No weapon formed against us will prosper in this place.

No evil shall be allowed to befall you, no plague come near your tent. Faith will always release God’s Favor in our life. It is no different than turning on the faucet and water running out. As long as you are connected to a source, the source is available to you. The source of water to my home is the county water line. The source of Living Water is Jesus Christ. When I align my life to Him and live in His Shadow, things begin to change. My closeness to the Lord allows me to experience such a life.

Psalm 91:14-16 (ESV) “Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him; I will protect him, because he knows my name. When he calls to me, I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him. With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.”

Because he holds fast to me in love… We are God’s Beloved. He bestows His Unfailing Love on us each and every day. He gives us new mercies every morning. His Grace is always enough to restore any breach. He gave His Only Son to die for our sins. This gift of God to us cannot be earned or deserved only returned. God doesn’t need us. He desires us. He wants us. He is desperate for us. The only thing that you and I can “do” for God is to love Him. To live in close proximity and intimacy with the Lord. To dwell in His Presence. Those who find the way into the shadow of the Almighty and choose to love Him forever will experience long and satisfied living as the Lord shows Him salvation at its finest. There are many who call on the Name of the Lord without the express desire to actually find Him or make their way to Him in this lifetime. It is like having money in the bank but living a bankrupt existence. The fulfillment of God given to us is found in His Love. There is nothing more to do than connect with His Love and never let go. Those who fall in love with God through His Son Jesus Christ will experience a holy inhabitation that consummates the relationship – it is the Holy Spirit. He becomes our teacher, mentor and guide through life so when things don’t make sense or storms rage or situations arise or the impossible comes – we have nothing to fear living in the shadow of the Almighty.

James 1:16-18 (ESV) Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of first fruits of his creatures.

Oh how He loves us! He is jealous for me, loves like a hurricane, I am a tree, bending beneath the weight of His wind and mercy. When all of a sudden, I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory and I realize just how beautiful You are and how great your affection for me. And, oh, how He loves us… (How He Loves – John Mark McMillan) The capacity of God’s Love for us is not limited by inability to receive it. He just keeps pursuing us and inviting us to enter into His Presence. Every good thing in our life is a product of God’s wooing us. He sends good gifts to His Children even those who do not live in an intimate relationship with Him. The prodigal’s father had two sons. A good son who was faithful to the family and another wild rebellious child who took his inheritance and squandered it prematurely. The father didn’t forget his “lost” son. He didn’t give up on him. In fact, when the broken shell of a man returned, the father welcomed him and celebrated his return fully restoring his place in the family.

God feels the same about you and me. He keeps our place in His Presence. There is no competition. There is no comparison. There is no condemnation in Jesus Christ. His radical and ridiculous love for us cannot be deterred or displaced it just keep pouring out in our life. Do not be deceived, my beloved. He invites you to come boldly before His Throne today and claim your place in His Presence. There is only one you. He made you to be a masterpiece. You are fearfully and wonderfully made because God did a marvelous work in your creation. (Psalm 139) Jesus Christ has given us boldness and access with confidence through faith in Him to approach God and live in His Presence. (Ephesians 3:11-12) The Lord invites you to live in His Shadow today.

Hebrews 4:15-16 (ESV) For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

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Yes Lord Yes

Yes Lord Yes

Psalm 51:10-12 (ESV) Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.

There are seasons in life when it is time for a little introspection. It is important to evaluate our heart carefully to determine the proximity of Presence in our life. Relationship can easily turn into religion if our worship becomes habitual not a result of intimacy. I am here today. In this place of quiet with the Lord, the only One can truly hold me accountable by His Spirit in faith and confident hope. The words of the psalmist inspired by the Holy Spirit hold true today for all of us if our internal desire is the eternal hope of Christ. Though righteousness is found in Christ alone, it is up to us to give the Lord permission to examine us, evaluate our progress, eliminate that which is unproductive and exact growth and development in all the proper places. All we can do is say, “Yes!”

Create in me a clean heart, O God

Ezekiel 36:26 (ESV) And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.

A change of heart is in its absolute breaking. God must have all the pieces of our heart in order to create a masterpiece. An artist cannot do anything with a canvas if there is no brush or paint. It is easy to withhold bits and pieces of our heart in order to preserve pride. It is difficult to surrender those parts that are painful. Depths of emptiness too vast to risk devastation. Darkness that is so recessed light has not reached it yet. All this space within us ready for holy inhabitation must be fully exposed and exchanged for the new heart, new spirit, and new mind waiting in the Presence of God offered by His Son, Jesus. Lord give me a new heart today. Remove the stony one of flesh and make it soft as promised.

Renew a right spirit within me.

2 Timothy 1: 6-7 (ESV)  For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.

The Helper, Holy Spirit, who the Father gave us through the Son lives in us. He teaches us all things and brings into our remembrance that which God has ordained, decreed and spoken to us. (John 14:26) The Spirit offers us internal insight and eternal understanding not given to the world but received through Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 2:12) Finally, the Spirit is God’s Guarantee of every spiritual blessing in our life. The Spirit identifies us as God’s Children. This is the Gift of God when we come to Him through Jesus Christ. It is a non-negotiable part of our covenant with God as the Spirit is full consummation of our relationship to Him. Have you opened this gift in your life?

God has not given us the spirit of fear. Too often it is readily taken when offered by the father of lies as the truth that governs our life. Oh to have back all the time wasted worrying about things that never happened and carrying burdens that never came to fruition but still robbed me of peace and rest in the Lord. God has given us the spirit of power, love and self-discipline. Have you taken hold of that today? Sometimes we must exchange something we have to fully obtain what God is trying to give us. The same is true in renewal of a right spirit within me. I must examine my motives and emotions for power and love which always requires self-discipline to overcome the traps of doubt marked worry, anxiety and fear. God didn’t give us these so we must reject them.

Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me.

2 Corinthians 12:8-10 (ESV) Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

There is nothing that can separate us from the Love of God. (Romans 8:28) Do you believe that today? I mean really believe it. Sometimes even saints of God forget that the Love of God for us is constant and concrete in the Cross. There is absolutely nothing you can do to ever make the Lord stop loving you or pursuing you with unfailing love and goodness. His Mercy is new every morning according to His Faithfulness not our ability to be faithful. There are no fatal errors for those who love God. Hard times create soft hearts. It is those moments of extreme weakness (physical, emotion and/or spiritual) that the truest nature of God is discovered. His Grace. When I am weak, I am strong. The enemy tries to make us think that when our walk turns to wandering or our thoughts to wandering that we somehow become lost. The Lord never leaves us or forsakes us but waits like the father for the prodigal son. I wonder what would happen if Children of God fully understood and embraced the importance and power of God’s Grace. It would be a life changer and history maker for the Body of Christ as the fullness of His Power permeated people and steeples everywhere.

Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.

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

I’ll say yes, Lord, yes to your will and to your way. I’ll say yes, Lord, yes… I will trust you and obey. When your Spirit speaks to me with my whole heart I’ll agree and my answer will be yes, Lord, yes! (Shirley Caesar)

As I sit here today in the quiet of early morning, I am offering my heart to the Lord once again. I say yes, Lord, yes to Your Will and to Your Way. Sometimes that is not an easy proclamation in our journey with Jesus. We walk by faith not by sight. Trust is the issue of greatest importance. He will make known the path of life to me and offers me a choice which is a product of the freedom afforded me by His Son. In His Presence, there is fullness of joy but I must leave myself at the doorway and enter through Jesus Christ. He is the Way, the Truth and the Life. The only way to the Father is through the Son. I must give Him my heart today. I must present Him my willful and overbearing spirit with all its pride to make room for His Spirit. I must move in closer with each “yes” until I am close enough to experience His Pleasures marked as promises forevermore. I find joy in doing His Will which always starts with love. His Spirit is producing the kind of fruit in me that is worth sharing. The cost is my pruning so that more fruit will grow. The sacrifice is my hard heart and unwilling spirit. Today – I say I will say, “Yes, Lord, yes!”

2 Corinthians 5:16-17 (ESV) From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 

We Walk

We Walk

2 Corinthians 5:6-9 (ESV) So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. 

The giant step in the walk of faith is the one we take when we decide God no longer is part of our lives. He IS our life. – Beth Moore

Patience is primary in the life of faith because our walk is in a reality that is not seen. It is incomprehensible by the human eye or perceived by any of our natural senses but nevertheless relevant and profound. It causes our reactions to turn into careful responses, not to our circumstances or current conditions, but to the God living inside of us. It is a transition that takes time and transformation. It is partially a learned behavior as we take God’s Word taking it the knowledge given to us and turning it into wisdom by practical application. It is believed that certain habits can be changed in 21 days. New life begins with the introduction of Jesus Christ and takes a lifetime to achieve. Therefore, we must learn to be patient in the cultivation of faith.

The “giant step” of faith is not a leap. It may feel like such a heart-pounding moment. However, the reality of faith is in each footstep taken each day. Even when all there is to do but stand and we choose to stand for what we believe rather than what we see is a monumental victory in the realm of hope and reality called faith. For we WALK by faith not by sight. It is important to understand that it takes a lot of willpower to walk by faith rather than leaping by fear into the unknown daring the Lord to catch us. It takes time to rightly divide our thoughts and acquire the gifting of discernment. It is important to know that when we take a step it is in the right direction. To be sure we are moving closer to the Lord and His Purpose and not making Him pursue us all over again. We are to walk with the Lord each day.

Isaiah 55:8-11 (ESV) For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

Faith never knows where it is being led, but it loves and knows the ONE who is leading. – Oswald Chambers

So shall the word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty… This statement is vital in our journey. To understand that God’s Word and Declaration over your life is already in place and working all around you. To know that His Unfailing Love and Goodness is pursuing you and ready to take over your life may just slow you down…or at least it has me. I have a testimony. A young woman came to our church recently. An absolutely stunning girl who radiates beauty. I noticed her a few weeks ago. Instant attraction if you will. She came forward seeking prayer. The moment I took hold of her hands and began praying I knew there was a connection. A deep desire to know her and engage with her. We left the service that evening but she never left my thoughts. It was definitely a God moment so I reached out to her on social media. She immediately accepted my request. Her introduction read, “Six year cancer survivor.” Well there you go! The Lord has put many people in my life who have experienced the awful disease. It is my goal in life to equip and empower every single one of them to overcome in Jesus Name. The disease is marked for destruction in the Heavenlies and I hope God uses me to help! When the next service rolled around, there she was sitting with her mom. I thanked her for accepting my request and inquired about her journey. It is in that moment that I realized the Lord had sent her to me. She was treated by our son’s doctors at the same place using the plan developed from his care. She was alive.

Going back through all those days of praying and believing – one of my declarations was that many would be saved because of our son’s story and that we would rob hell one soul at a time. I remember it vividly during his transplant. He was sick and tired and tortured by the process and wearing the thick purple gloves used only for chemo patients, I was grabbing sheets and blankets out of the cart threatening the enemy and every demon in his army. I was coming. Hot tears of frustration, anger and pain rolling down my cheeks but a heart on fire within. We have seen this in the natural because now they are treating people particularly children, teens and young adults without risk factors differently. This particular form of nasopharyngeal cancer is very aggressive. I have been told that a child came all the way from England to be treated and survived. Thank you Jesus. Though I would not have chosen this for my child, I am so thankful that the Lord is using it to give others new life. Now this would be miraculous enough if I stopped here. But there is more to the story, this young lady gave her heart to Jesus Christ to be her Savior and Lord this week. I cannot express how my heart exploded at the faithfulness of God to His Word. The Word that seemed to take forever to arrive is here.

The illness of our son and years it took for him to find remission took a toll on me. It cost me myself. At some point, my life changed completely. I don’t know when or how but I know this – I stopped being led and started to lean. After leaning awhile, I fell hard. No longer do I have confidence in what I see but Who I know. I cannot explain it. I don’t know how it happened. Just one day, I realized that I can’t do this thing called life anymore. I was broken beyond repair so I handed Him the pieces. Do I still have temptation? Of course. Do I still fail? Every single day. Do I still struggle with situations including insecurity, fear and doubt? I am only human. The only thing I know for a fact is that God loves me, Jesus died to save me and His Spirit lives inside of me and if I just stay right here with Him – it will all be okay. The life that He has breathed in me now sustains me. How about you?

Hebrews 11:1 (ESV) Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

Basically, there are two paths you can walk; faith or fear. It is impossible to simultaneously trust God and not trust God. – Charles Stanley

Faith is assurance…blessed assurance…not in the outcome but the One who promised to make all things work together for our good. The One who promised that nothing could or would ever separate us from His Love. The One who gave His All for us. The One who will never leave us or forsake us. The One who not only provides for us but in abundance doing more than we can think, ask or imagine. To walk by faith is simply to walk with Jesus.

Time to Confess

Reverse the Curse

James 5:16-18 (ESV) 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. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again, and Heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit.

Elijah prayed and by the power of God it did not rain for three and one-half years. When he prayed again, the Heavens opened releasing rain and prosperity again. Why doesn’t God answer the prayers of man? Why do we not see the power of God in such an obvious and vivid display? His Word says that He will open the windows of Heaven over our life. We do what it says. Try to live right. Be right. Do right. However, the results so lackluster that doubt creeps in and disbelief begins to raise some questions. What’s wrong? What is out of order that is limiting God’s Glory from creating abundance in all areas of my life. If my soul is prospering, why not my life? Well…it is the prayer of a righteous man that has great power. Elijah prayed. He walked in God’s Ways. He had obvious faith – after all look at the miracle of Mount Carmel.

Prayer is our communication with God. God is omnipresent. Wherever you are – God is right there with you. Christ lives in you. The Holy Spirit inhabits you. The words spoken in every conversation is equally as important as those in our prayer closet. I wonder if the problem is not what we say to the Lord but words scattered everywhere else.

James 3:9-11 (ESV) With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water?

A spring does not have fresh and salt water just as our words cannot bless and curse at the same time. Blessing is rebuked by the curse. Curse are rebuked by the blessing. The Bible is clear to bless those who curse you and spitefully use you. There are no enemies in the Kingdom just family. The person that causes you the greatest distress is your brother or sister in Christ. To pray for them and then talk about them stops the flow from Heaven in every relationship. The only enemy in our life is satan. He is at the root of every problem. He is the one who offers temptation. He is the one who sows division and discord. But do not discredit the power of God within you and me called self-discipline. Change the words that come from our mouth and our life will change according to what we speak. Life and death are in the tongue. Are you bringing life to the Promises of God by faith or are you causing them to die in the field because of grumbling and gossip? You have the power to speak life into every situation in life. You have divine authority over every demon and even the devil as it tries to take what the Lord has given you by faith. It is up to you and me if we will reverse the curse and establish a life of blessing. God ordained it. Christ died for us to have it. The Holy Spirit fills us with the good fruit needed to produce it. The rest is up to us.

Matthew 16:18-19 (ESV) And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

Jesus asked Peter directly, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter’s response, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” No ifs, ands, or buts. Peter knew Jesus. He believed in Him. He confessed Him as the Messiah right then and there. Then Jesus tells Peter who he really is and reveals the power of his confession. The same mouth that confessed the Lord would soon deny Him, not once but three times. Everyone struggles when the conditions of our life do not line up with the confession of our mouth. We must learn to speak from our heart. A heart full of faith and promise rather than give praise to those things that do not line up or are not yet evident. We must respond to the Presence of God in us and stop reacting to every discomfort, discontentment, inconvenience and chaotic situation in our life. We have the power to change the atmosphere but it is not in our rightness but righteousness found in Christ alone. When our tongue is bridled and led by the Spirit, it will not say what we are thinking but rely on Who we know.

Proverbs 18:20-21 (ESV) From the fruit of a man’s mouth his stomach is satisfied; he is satisfied by the yield of his lips. Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.

We have no excuse. The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. The Lord has already seeded our life with the seeds of faith that produce good fruit to satisfy our heart and soul. These same things produce a confident hope that allows us to remain fearless and full even in famine and drought. Death and life are in the power of the tongue. Every lifeless situation is subject to the vocabulary of our confession. We give life to those things not of God but giving them precedence in our proverbial overtures making our problem bigger than the promise. We say that right words but then smother them with complaining. Our communication is a confession that gives life to the thing in which our faith resides – what are you talking about? What are you confessing? What is the basis of communication?

Are you satisfied? Are you content? The fruit of our mouth produces the abundance of our life. It is from the abundance of the heart – the mouth speaks. (Luke 6:45) We may think that there is growing, developing and maturing faith in our life until we carefully begin to listen to what we say. You may be surprised. Though it may be justified by the current condition of your life, the fruit of our mouth can also choke out the new life and new creation being cultivated by Christ.

When our son was undergoing extensive radiation treatment, his skin was burning from the inside out. His tumor was located inside his nasopharynx so the concentration of therapy was his head and neck. To my utter horror despite being warned near the end of his treatment, the burns began to surface. The blisters were awful. I would apply ointment that would cause him great pain and began melting off my hand before I even touched him. On one such morning, as tears ran down my face, I told him God would understand if he complained about this situation. The Lord would understand. He looked at me with tears in his eyes and said, “Now what good would that do?” Lesson learned. In the midst of the unthinkable, undergoing a treatment no one should endure along with chemotherapy which is poison coursing through his body – this young man still did not see fruitfulness in complaining when just that morning I griped about the uncomfortable bed as I rolled out of bed with a healthy body and free accommodations graciously provided to us. Perspective can often change our communication when we stop complaining.

James 3:1-5 (ESV) Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire!

Many years ago, I thought being right was all that mattered. It gave you a free license to stand on your soapbox and yell. Things are different now. The journey of faith with our so changed my life forever – in a good way – in a God way. Nothing is normal anymore. Such an ordeal takes highly regarded priorities and completely changes them forever. I am not necessarily a better person but I am definitely humbled at my lifelong disregard for righteousness. That’s right righteousness. I was right in many of my observations. But the power of my life is righteousness given to me by Christ and the access to the Presence of God that I now have – my responsibility is to sow seeds of faith and life into the world. I am to be a Light. Not one that shines on the faults and failures of others, but rather Light that attracts others from darkness to engage in the Light of His Love. My life is not attracted by harsh, bitter words. It is not influential when plagued by complaints. It is not going to cultivate fruit in barren fields of doubt and disbelief. The only hope that I have in this life and eternity is Jesus Christ. My heart and mouth must agree that He is who I boast in.

Before the change in my heart, I used to feel it appropriate to give people a piece of my mind. I did it so frequently that a co-worker made a literal “STOP” sign. When a conversation became heated, she would hold it up as a warning. On the other side, it said, “GO RIGHT AHEAD!” She was more influential than the Holy Spirit at that time. But the sign has been discarded and now I must truly rely on the Holy Spirit. The change of heart was appropriate because now rather than focusing on my pride or being right – the Lord keeps my eye on the prize. The prize and potential of the Kingdom is in people. My response to them and the situations of life is by faith. Faith in the Love of God that I can never be separated from therefore I am free to share without reciprocation because my life is full. The kind of love that is always pursuing me. It is looking for ways to bring His Goodness and Glory in my life. Yet, even now with years, I still find that there are so many areas of my life that need attention. Careless words that need to be redacted. Prayers that need to be released from bondage. Fields of foolishness that need to replanted with faith which produces good fruit. So many idle words that require repentance to be filled with life again. Lord, help me to always be sure that the meditation of my heart is You. May the meditation of my heart and the words of my mouth agree! May the greatest confession of my life always be You – Jesus!

Psalm 19:14 (ESV) Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight,Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

Wild Horses

Wild Horses

2 Timothy 1:7 (NLT) For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.

If I had a dime for every time I have recited this verse to my rambling mind, rebellious thoughts and overwrought emotions. God did not give me the spirit of fear but there are days I completely own it myself. Stress and anxiety fuel doubt and disbelief. The enemy whispers, “But…” Lies that get me all hot and bothered as I try to wrestle in my flesh and take captive those thoughts that so easily distract me. God did not give me the spirit of fear or timidity. He didn’t give it to you either. Anything contrary to God in our life must go in order for us to fully embody Christ and experience freedom that is given through Him.

Yesterday was one of those days, after a week of fighting the good fight, it seemed like it was going to be a good day. I got out of the house on time – major victory for the time challenged. I had an awesome worship, praise and prayer time on the way to work. Two major victories before the morning meeting at work had me feeling pretty confident that it was going to be a great close to the long week. Well then the enemy lobbed a bomb over the fence and immediately I was on the run. I was angry, mad, stressed, worried and anxious all at the same time all of a sudden. Caught off guard, I was unsuccessful at pulling in the wild horses dragging me off fast and furiously. It’s hard to remember to never let your guard down especially on the “good” days. To think that the enemy is not lurking in the darkness just looking for a foothold. For me it came as a “misunderstanding” mixed with some “confusion” all the enemy’s tactics waging war against a confident heart and made up mind. “Are you sure? What if? Or else?” Subtle attacks that lead to devastating results if not handled immediately.

So this morning, I am going to share three tips for reining in “wild horses”? Those thoughts and notions that there is a limit to God’s Love, Power and Faithfulness in our life. I hope they help you. They are not quick fixes. It will take a lot of time and practice to instill them as habits in an emotional world that has decided God is not who He claims to be and tries to rob the finished work of Christ on the Cross. So here goes…

Power

2 Corinthians 12:9 (NLT) Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.

Matthew 19:26 (NLT) Jesus looked at them intently and said, “Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But with God everything is possible.

Luke 1:37 (NLT) For the Word of God will never fail.

Grace is available in our weakness. Power comes when we relinquish control of our life to the Power of God promised by Jesus and the Word of God. The problem is that our world is D-I-Y obsessed even the church. “Well, if I don’t do it – who will?” The one called and commissioned to. Giving up control is what crucifying the flesh is all about. To decide that you will fully invest your life in God’s Way through the Way – Jesus Christ means giving up your power to fully embrace His Power. How do you do that? Repentance. Obedience. Trust. Key components to full embracing God’s Power is at the end of self. We cry out for God’s Intervention asking Him to open the windows of Heaven over us and fill our life with the abundance that is promised but never really understanding the change that comes with it. We cannot live in the Presence of God unchanged. We cannot reach the depths offered without giving up our current position. There is no way to discover the vastness and limitless boundaries of His Love and Grace for us without accepting His Grace fully.

Love

Romans 8:37-39 (NLT) No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.

I John 4:18 (NLT) Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love.

There is no limit on God’s Love. He pursues us with unfailing love. (Psalm 23) It is endless reaching from creation, through life and into eternity. God demonstrated His Love by giving us amazing grace. The kind of grace that works best in our weakness. Christ was the example who was crucified in weakness to give way to resurrection power and new life. We have overwhelming victory in Jesus Christ who loved us. His Spirit lives in us as evidence of adoption. No longer are we exiled from God but through Christ reconciled as sons and daughters of God. Do you love your children? How much? Too much sometimes, right? How much more does God love us? Do you believe that God loves you today? Are you convinced? Love is the conviction of God’s Faithfulness to us outside of our ability to remain pure and blameless. His Love came down and rescued us in our weakness and gave us victory. We do not deserve it. We cannot earn it. We can do nothing to repay God for His Gift. The only thing we can do is believe it and live in that love fearlessly.

Fear is evidence that there is doubt or disbelief in the fulfillment of God given through Jesus Christ. It does not fully embrace the finished work on the Cross or grab hold of the “overwhelming victory” promised in God’s Word. The only hope that you and I have of living a courageous life is in our ability to completely and confidently receive God’s Love. To allow His Love to change our heart, soul and mind until it is completely convinced that there is nothing that can separate us from His Love. His Faithfulness is not contingent on anything we do other than to believe it enough to embrace it and stop running from Him.

In fact, the Word of God says those that believe in the perfect love of God live fearlessly. Perfect love expels fear. The solution to the problem does not end fear. Fear continually sows seeds when not eradicated. It is in the constant sowing of God’s Love in our life that fear has no place to grow, mature or develop into worries, cares, stress or burdens. The conviction of God’s Love is the birthplace of freedom. It is the place where ordinary life takes on an extraordinary existence. Right where you are even if nothing changes. Perfect peace takes over until God delivers.

Self-Discipline or Self-Control

2 Corinthians 10:3-5 (NLT) We are human, but we don’t wage war as humans do. We use God’s mighty weapons, not worldly weapons, to knock down the strongholds of human reasoning and to destroy false arguments. We destroy every proud obstacle that keeps people from knowing God. We capture their rebellious thoughts and teach them to obey Christ.

Proverbs 25:28 (NLT) A person without self-control is like a city with broken-down walls.

I Peter 1:13 (NLT) So prepare your minds for action and exercise self-control. Put all your hope in the gracious salvation that will come to you when Jesus Christ is revealed to the world. 

Galatians 5:22-23 (NLT) But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!

Each week I make a grocery list and menu for the upcoming week. I have the best intentions of making delicious meals for my family that are often upended by busyness. Just because I have all the ingredients doesn’t mean I will follow through with my original plan. The Holy Spirit produces all the good fruit for an amazing life – but self-control is what we must use to make it all work together. My thoughts are pivotal in execution of God’s Plan. I must rein in every thought contrary to Christ and adverse to God’s Word. I cannot allow myself the opportunity to worry, stress or fear what is to come. God promised to work every detail of my life for His Good and Glory. Do I believe Him? My response to lies and taunts of the enemy will reveal the content and true conviction of my heart. Consumed by worry, I must decide to worship. I cannot give lies permission to remain but must pray and praise my way through it. I must give up every other conviction than the one that says, “God loves me and He is for me – I cannot fail!”

When I was much younger, I had a good friend who owned horses. We could go riding on Saturdays. There was one particular horse that I was riding which was a bit skittish. My friend who was a confident equestrian asked as we were headed home, “Would you like to change horses because the one that I was on was “barn sour”? I had no idea what that meant and later wish I did. Coming out of the woods when she saw the pens and barn just past it – she took off running out-of-control. I pulled the reins with all my might but she was not having it. All I could do was hang on and pray I didn’t fall off in her haste.

A “barn sour” or “herd bound” behavior is produced by anxiety. Fear of separation from the herd or physical location which it deems secure such as a pasture or barn. It is a dangerous behavior as the rider loses all control of the animal. There is no threat except the stress of the animal. The basis for this equine problem is one that many humans suffer from, too. Insecurity. According to experts, the insecurity caused by this instinct in horses is exacerbated by a lack of training which is easily overcome.  You must teach the horse to be responsive to your clues. It is the same with people who want to live a fearless life embracing fully the freedom given to us by Jesus.

Father, I ask you to flood our hearts with light today. Expose every lie that the enemy has sown in us that it may be uprooted and replanted with faith. I rebuke fear, stress, anxiety, worries and care commanding them to go in Jesus Name. Lord, I trust you. Help any disbelief in me to give way to resurrection power and life. I believe that You love me. I am convinced that nothing can separate me from Your Love even my fears, doubts and insecurities that you are removing right now. Lord, let your Spirit complete His Work in me. I give you permission to permeate every part of my life for my good and Your Glory! In the Name above all names – Jesus!

Ephesians 1:18-23 (NLT)  I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope he has given to those he called—his holy people who are his rich and glorious inheritance. I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms. Now he is far above any ruler or authority or power or leader or anything else—not only in this world but also in the world to come. God has put all things under the authority of Christ and has made him head over all things for the benefit of the church. And the church is his body; it is made full and complete by Christ, who fills all things everywhere with himself.

 

Working in Me

Work in Me

Philippians 2:12-13 (NLT) Dear friends, you always followed my instructions when I was with you. And now that I am away, it is even more important. Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear. For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.

“Work out your own salvation. Do not depend on others.” Buddha

There is more to the story of salvation than to escape the ramparts of hell. To engage in an experience of repentance and leave the same person with the same problems with a lack of purpose is a great tragedy considering the deposit and investment that is conceived in that moment. We live in a visible world serving an invisible God. His Presence surrounds us and His Spirit lives in us but the tangible being is not so evident. We must work hard to show the results of our salvation through love-driven, passion-infused, reverent and radical obedience to the Living God. The words of Buddha hold true even if not the intent. We must work out our own salvation independent of people and fully reliant on the Lord. God is working in us even before our first encounter with Christ leading us to that moment. Once we have found our Savior and Lord the continuation of our life has the potential to be powerful and purposeful in every single endeavor because Jesus is now inside of us.

We must make a personal investment in the potential of our future. But the Work of God in us is not an external effort but rather an internal transformation. It is not an act of doing but rather a work of becoming. The work completed on the Cross by Jesus was enough to provide all the grace needed for the Power of God to fully finish that which He predestined and preordained for us. All the blessings and promises are predesigned with our only act of obedience to fulfillment. We must work God’s Plan so it will work in us. The distinguishing factor in all of this is to keep our relationship with Jesus Christ who is the Way, the Truth and the Life of every purpose and promise rather than becoming a willing participant of religion that is consumed by what we do more than who we are.

Mind, will and emotions are pivotal to the change of God beginning to take over within us. We must sacrifice them along with our feelings to let the Holy Spirit produce good fruit that nourishes our heart and soul instead. As our soul prospers, our spiritual life becomes primary and natural life is impacted by a crucified flesh giving way to the Holy Spirit. It is a takeover of sorts by those who long to be pursued and overtaken by God’s Unfailing Love, Amazing Grace and Constant Goodness. It is a submission of our mind, will and emotions to the Cross so that confidence in Christ and what He promised to do is our primary position. It is the moment that we take up that Cross to follow the example of Jesus that things begin to change in a good way.

James 2:19-22 (NLT) You say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God. Good for you! Even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror. How foolish! Can’t you see that faith without good deeds is useless? Don’t you remember that our ancestor Abraham was shown to be right with God by his actions when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see, his faith and his actions worked together. His actions made his faith complete. 

Working the Plan of God is not what we do but the confidence to lay down our life in careful and continual obedience. To trust the Lord means doing things His Way when all logic points another. Abraham is a prime example of working God’s Plan. There was no reason for him to believe that he would father one child let alone a nation. Yet, he dared to believe. The unbelievable was his absolute confidence and so he lived loving and serving God. Did he mess up? Yes. Did he make mistakes along the way? Absolutely. God did not look for his perfection but rather his perseverance that no matter what he still believed especially when there was absolutely nothing tangible to be confident – the person of God – the Great I AM – was simple enough.

“Salvation is not a self-improvement program. That can only change us on the outside. The work of God changes us on the inside.” (Zac Poonen) It is easy to change habits and make better choices. Hard work, determination and motivation will change our way of living and produce a better life. Even religious obedience can produce the benefits of sowing and reaping, but in the end if our relationship with Jesus Christ is not established – we gain absolutely nothing. There are those who will come to Christ and have a better life just because they decided to work the plan. The Bible is the precedent of obedience that leads to productivity. However, if we do not allow the Lord to work His Plan in us – our life is worthless and meaningless void of God’s Glory found in His Grace.

Philippians 1:6 (NLT) And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.

Greetings from Paul to the people in Philippi who belonged to Christ is one of thanksgiving for the testimony these people lived. As he continues, “And I am certain that God, who began the good work in you, will continue His Work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” Friend, we are a work in progress. The only time that Christ stops working in us and through us is when we decide go our own way (He is the ONLY Way), to live a lie (contrary to Truth), and choose something other than Resurrection Life and Power given to us for today. God will do exactly as He promised. Our only job is to continually surrender our life to Him. How? “You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.” (Philippians 2:5) He finished the Work on the Cross for the joy set before Him. Jesus did not live for immediate gratification but eternal pleasure. His Good Pleasure is you and me. He thought we were to die for and He did. He marched into hell and took possession (title and deed) to our life. When Christ came out of the grave, His Motive always was love so rather than take ownership of us and enslave us. He gave us freedom to live in love with Him or choose something else. What is your choice today? Will you work God’s Plan by submitting everything to Jesus? Will you surrender your heart to the work that was begun in you? Do you trust that God will complete it? That is what this life is all about – falling in love with Jesus Christ! Living in a loving relationship that transcends the boundaries of time and brings heaven to earth. He gave it all to us. We must only work out our salvation with fear and trembling as His Love consumes our ordinary life and produces an extraordinary existence.

“Salvation is a work of God to show His Glory. That’s why He’s not going to let it fail.” (Paul Washer)

Ephesians 3:20-21 (NLT) Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

 

Oneness

one

Colossians 3:10-11 (NLT) Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him. In this new life, it doesn’t matter if you are a Jew or a Gentile, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbaric, uncivilized, slave, or free. Christ is all that matters, and he lives in all of us.

Christ prays in me. Christ works in me. Christ looks through my eyes. Christ speaks through my words. Christ works with my hands. Christ walks with my feet. Christ loves with my heart. As St. Paul’s prayer was – I belong to Christ and nothing can separate me from the Love of Christ. It was that oneness – oneness with God in the Holy Spirit. (Mother Teresa)

I am struck by the words of this meek and mighty woman of God. Mother Teresa gave her life to passionate prayer and pursuing complete oneness with God through Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. Her words echo through the recesses of my mind, body and soul asking the question, “Are you one?” Am I experiencing the fullness of oneness with Jesus Christ? To be fully consumed by love for the One who loved me first and always loves me the most. The holy inhabitation of God’s Spirit is given in order to live in complete consummation of our relationship to Christ. Have we lost our passion for God? Have we lost our first love – Jesus Christ? Busyness robs us of precious moments better given to Christ. Distractions keep us from seeing the opportunity offered in each encounter. Stress and worry produced by fear erode the confidence that is conviction of God’s Timeless and Endless Love for us.

Put on your new nature. Our identity is not an orphan but dearly loved Child of the Living God. It goes deeper through Christ now we are a bride. We prepare for marriage with Him similar to that of natural marriage in the confession and conviction forsaking all others – I choose You – Jesus! Is that your heartfelt desire today? To be a Child of God. To become the Bride of Christ. It is through the pursuit of oneness with the Lord and reconciliation to Christ that this is accomplished. Christ is all that matters. He is alive in us.

2 Corinthians 5:14-19 (NLT) Either way, Christ’s love controls us. Since we believe that Christ died for all, we also believe that we have all died to our old life. He died for everyone so that those who receive his new life will no longer live for themselves. Instead, they will live for Christ, who died and was raised for them. So we have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view. At one time we thought of Christ merely from a human point of view. How differently we know him now! This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!  And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him. For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation.

Comparison to people and personal evaluation to human standards will build and fortify pride in our life. We can always find someone who will make us feel better about ourselves. We can use the scales and balances of the world and find self-satisfaction in our own rightness. But that is not the standard of living that the Lord has called us to. Reconciliation to Jesus Christ will produce a godly standard of living impossible apart from Him. It removes every arrogant thought and prideful excuse to give way to complete submission and surrender to the Lover of our Soul. When two people married it is perceived that they become one. No longer two separate individuals through the bond and covenant of marriage they are one. It is from this union designed by God that our union with Christ is personified. Except two come together in agreement and harmony giving up their way to pursue life together – there is no relationship but constant striving and struggling to maintain our own way.

This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! Do you belong to Jesus Christ? Mind, soul and body have your given your heart to the Lord? If so, then you know it requires a change of direction called repentance. God does not lie or change His Mind. Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life. The unchangeability of the Trinity makes it impossible to pursue oneness unless I am willing to give up my way, the lie of the enemy and engage in new life together with Jesus. The church cannot properly reconcile the world to God until the individuals comprising the Body get it together first. We must reconcile our life to Christ completely to create unity of the Body as a whole. We must stop evaluating the success and failure or the church by numbers and begin to identify with the person of Jesus Christ again pursuing oneness with Him in every possible conceivable way.

Love is a commitment. It is a covenant relationship that forsakes self for oneness. If you have been married more than a few days, you understand that success in a marriage is giving. Taking is not conducive to continued unity but the constant and consistent giving of yourself. It is the pursuit of oneness that keeps us on the altar with our flesh slowly dying when it comes to our commitment to the Lord. It is this sweet smelling sacrifice that entices others to engage in such an endeavor to give up this life for so much more.

I Peter 3:8-9 (NLT) Finally, all of you should be of one mind. Sympathize with each other. Love each other as brothers and sisters. Be tenderhearted, and keep a humble attitude. Don’t repay evil for evil. Don’t retaliate with insults when people insult you. Instead, pay them back with a blessing. That is what God has called you to do, and he will grant you his blessing.

Our first two children are boys. After that, we have three girls. Lord, help me. Boys are pretty straight forward. Girls on the other hand test every fruit given by the Holy Spirit on a regular basis. The emotional overtures are ridiculous. My childhood was very different from our family. The relationships of this generation are mind boggling to say the least. I know people who have sons pray for daughters so consider yourself duly warned – be careful what you pray for. All joking aside the on again off again relationships sometimes hormonal and always emotional are like a rollercoaster that is out of control. I am currently working with our girls on humility and forgiveness whether their adversary deserves it or not. The teenage culture is brutal. I want my girls to arrive at the doorway of adulthood with tender hearts. I want them to be a blessing even if they are cursed by others. The only way this is accomplished is to be of one mind with Christ. I wonder if we are setting a good example for our children. The heart of God is love. The mind of Christ is love. The Holy Spirit cultivates love in us. The confidence of my commitment to Jesus is that He loves me. Nothing can separate me from His Love. This must be the foundation of my life – body, soul and spirit.

Philippians 2:1-2 (NLT) Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? Any comfort from his love? Any fellowship together in the Spirit? Are your hearts tender and compassionate? Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose.

The joy of the presence of Jesus, you must be able to give wherever you go. But you cannot give what you don’t have. That’s why you need a pure heart, a pure heart that you will receive as a fruit of your prayer, as a fruit of your oneness with Christ. (Mother Teresa) Oneness with Christ must be our lifelong pursuit. It fuels the Light of His Love within us. It is the saltiness that flavors our message making it palatable to a lost and dying world. Unity with Jesus cultivates the fruit of His Spirit – the first one is love. To be one with Jesus of the same heart, mind and purpose requires an overtaking of our self with His Unfailing Love and Overwhelming Grace or it is a religious learned behavior. I can change habits. I can make better choices. But I cannot be a new creation living a new life outside of oneness with Jesus Christ.

I Corinthians 1:10 (NLT)  I appeal to you, dear brothers and sisters, by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, to live in harmony with each other. Let there be no divisions in the church. Rather, be of one mind, united in thought and purpose. 

Shining Light

shining-light-e1523356149849.jpg

Matthew 5:14-15 (NLT) “You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house.”

You are the light of the world. A city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. A lamp is placed on a stand where it gives light to everyone in the house. I think sometimes this imagery of Christ is modernized into a flashlight meant to shine in the darkness when all along it was intended to be a light standing in the darkness attracting others to its light. The need to illuminate the life of others must never be to expose them but always to encourage them to leave the darkness behind. We choose to live in the Light and give others the same opportunity by becoming light.

Yesterday started out well, I knew there was a big project with a looming deadline waiting in my inbox. I was prepared for it. However a couple hours in the day, things took a twist. It sent me to the Emergency Room with our son. I could feel my not-so-normal life trying to put a damper on the day. My joy was under attack by the constant reminder of days gone by. Sitting in the hospital for some precautionary tests, I could feel frustration rising up accompanied by the incessant beeping of a monitor the nurse forgot to silence in her haste. As time ticked by, I could also sense the urgency of the task waiting at work. Upon returning, I knew that it would be a late one. My heart sank. This is the night our daughter and grandson come to visit. Though the sun was shining, I could sense rain clouds on the horizon. It seems like lately the tears fall just a little faster than before as though they are on the edge of my eyes all the time. Standing in the grocery store with the deli backed up, now even dinner was taking forever. I felt like I would burst into tears at any moment. It was then my daughter called she was passing by the store and asked if I would like her to come wait with me. When she walked in the store holding her bundle of joy, it was like sunshine through rain clouds. She was light. My dark day illuminated by two people who bring me absolute and complete joy.

John 8:12 (NLT) Jesus spoke to the people once more and said, “I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.”

You are the light of the world…or at least the Light of the World lives in us. Rather than living like flashlights, it is our privilege to become lampstands of Christ. The light of His Love burning bright inside of us is more appealing than a spotlight in someone’s eyes. There are days I don’t feel saved. There are times when I don’t want to get up again. There are moments when the pressure seems too much to bear. The enemy too close to my ear. But it is in that moment, that God sends His Light to me. I do not ever have to walk in darkness but if it possible to be honest and transparent some days the darkness finds us anyway.

How do I maintain the Light of His Love? To keep a fire alive requires attention or it will burn out. We must feed the Light of His Love within us with the Word of God. The Light of His Love is a lamp that keeps us company in the dark times and helps us find our way in our wanderings. It shines through the broken pieces of its fragile jar called our heart for all to see. This life in Christ is one of complete transparency. People don’t need an artificial light that doesn’t represent a real God but rather need a passionate fire to fuel God’s Love in them. Is your light attractive? Is it bright enough? Is it properly fueled? Maintained even in the most inclement weather?

Psalm 27:1-3 (NLT) The Lord is my light and my salvation—so why should I be afraid? The Lord is my fortress, protecting me from danger, so why should I tremble? When evil people come to devour me, when my enemies and foes attack me, they will stumble and fall. Though a mighty army surrounds me, my heart will not be afraid. Even if I am attacked, I will remain confident.

This little light of mine…I’m gonna let it shine. This little light of mine…I’m gonna let it shine. This little light of mine…I’m gonna let it shine. Let it shine! Let it shine! Let it shine! Hide it under a bushel…no! I’m gonna let it shine… I am quite sure that I will sing this with my grandson one day. He is a little light already. He is just another representation of God’s Love, Goodness and Faithfulness in my life. A blessing among blessings. The Lord is my light and my salvation. The next part of this verse is so important…why should I be afraid? What are you afraid of? What keeps you from living fully in the Light of His Love today? I guarantee you it is from the father of lies because there is absolutely nothing that can separate you from the Love of God today.

Before I can be a light to the world, I must identify the Light that lives inside me. He is Jesus. He is the Light of the World and definitely my salvation. In order to become a light in the darkness, I must become confident in His Love and Salvation. I know many people who claim to be saved but do not know or understand that capacity of God’s Love and Grace for them. They live in prisons built by fear, doubt and insecurity because surely no one can love like Jesus or offer grace without a price. Well…plot twist…He did and He does!

Psalm 36:7-9 (NLT) How precious is your unfailing love, O God! All humanity finds shelter in the shadow of your wings. You feed them from the abundance of your own house, letting them drink from your river of delights. For you are the fountain of life, the light by which we see.

One of my favorite worship songs has a verse, “You can’t turn out a light that shines from the inside. You can’t put out a fire that burns from the inside.” You cannot become light to the world without a constantly consuming passionate relationship with Jesus Christ. Your light will flicker and go out according to circumstances and conditions if not fully confident in the Lord as our Source. He must be more than enough. He must stand as overcomer. He must be exactly who He says He is to me in order for me to offer any kind of glimmer to another. The passion in our hearts is missing so the vibrant reflection of Christ that once was a beacon drawing thousands at a time, without sound systems, light shows, computerized screens and full bands with professional singers but just a light on a stand or city on a hill, is slowly fading to black. The Light that shines from my heart is an important part of the Kingdom. The Light potential in you is, too. Together we become the city for all to see and run to for refuge.

I have a flashlight I use each morning to take the dogs outside before dawn. It is important to avoid any surprises such as freshly dug holes or piles of mess. I share this because this is true in life, too. The Lord has given us the light to see. We must use that light in our own life. It is important to keep our eyes on the path before us with a consciousness of the “cloud of witnesses” all around. Those who are looking for light. Those who need help out of the pits of life and those who need to clean the mess off if you know what I mean. Sometimes we become so consumed with our own magnificence in life that we forget to magnify Jesus and draw others to Him. A light in the darkness stands like a candle. It cannot move or be swayed but nevertheless must be constantly consumed by fire to accomplish its purpose… as do I!

Ephesians 5:8-10 (NLT) For once you were full of darkness, but now you have light from the Lord. So live as people of light! For this light within you produces only what is good and right and true. Carefully determine what pleases the Lord.

I must live as light. I must pay attention to the lens of my life to be sure that I am allowing the Light of His Love to shine through me. I am not called to illuminate my darkness and live in my circle of light but to be a lamp on a stand and city on a hill to shine the Light of God’s Love to the lost, broken and dying people who He came for. We become consumed with our own life sometimes rather than allowing the all-consuming fire of His Love burn away fear, doubt and insecurity so total trust gives way to complete transparency. The world is looking for love – real love. We have it. Hidden in the fragile jars of our heart ready to spill out for all to see – will you let the Love of God shine through you today? It means focusing on others rather than self. It means climbing the rough side of the mountain with a smile on your face. True joy is found in Jesus Christ. If you do not have joy – it is time to reevaluate the well. Living water flows through you to quench the thirst of others. You were made to be salty adding flavor to life. Jesus Christ lives in you. You are the Light of the World. Don’t hide. Shine. Shine bright and confident in His Love today. No matter what you face you will be victorious. No matter the obstacle – you will overcome. You are more than a conqueror with the confidence that no weapon formed against you will prosper. Even if you are weary, if you wait on the Lord – He will take you higher than ever before. You are called to be a city on a hill! Be the Light!
Proverbs 4:18 (NLT) The way of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn, which shines ever brighter until the full light of day.

Proverbs 13:9 (NLT) The life of the godly is full of light and joy, but the light of the wicked will be snuffed out.

 

Finding Purpose

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Proverbs 20:7 (ESV) The purpose in a man’s heart is like deep water, but a man of understanding will draw it out.

A throne is God’s purpose for you; a cross is God’s path for you; faith is God’s plan for you. (Alan Redpath)

Did you know that you were created on purpose? It doesn’t matter the details of conception or conditions of birth – no baby arrives void of purpose. Your situation may not have been ideal. Your childhood a terrible tragedy. Teenage years a journey of guilt and shame. Adulthood filled with broken relationships and dead dreams yet still deep inside your heart is purpose. God placed eternity in our heart. He gave us a measure of faith to insure our success. He sent His Son – Jesus to take our life back paying the penalty of all sins so a full dispensation of grace might be available. Our life handed back to us labeled “free” and now it is up to us to decide how to use it. The purpose of God within us is far greater than just making it to Heaven. It is the opportunity to bring Heaven to earth.

The woman at the well had no idea that a divine appointment awaited her. She arrived around noon at the peak of the sun. She was shunned by other women and used by many men. Her current master not her husband just one willing to take the broken pieces of a shattered life and capitalize on it. She had no idea that the broken path she followed was leading her straight to redemption. She didn’t think this was a new day of new opportunity – I believe like many women just like her – she was just trying to get by. When she met Jesus, he asked for some water to satisfy a thirst. It would become an invitation for this dry and devastated life to be renewed.

John 4:13-16 (ESV) Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.”

The purpose in our heart is deep water. We must search for understanding to draw it out. This woman began her conversation in the natural and then encountered the supernatural. She forgot who everyone said she was and ran back to tell them about the Messiah. “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?” I wonder today if the well of our hearts get so filled with worthless conversation and other garbage keeping the living water within us from making its way out of us. The opinions, insults and offenses stuck in our heart. The woman found her purpose. His Name – Jesus Christ. The guilt, shame and regret of our past is no match for the unfailing love and unfathomable grace given to us in just one encounter with the Lord. Purpose is a deep water that will only be found by those who are willing to dig a little deeper than the superficial overtures of life to reach the abundance found in new life.

Proverbs 16:4 (ESV) The Lord has made everything for its purpose, even the wicked for the day of trouble.

For you will certainly carry out God’s Purpose, however you act, but it makes a difference to you whether you serve like Judas or like John. (C.S. Lewis)

Purpose is God-given. It resides in us. God placed eternity in each heart. He also provided us all with a measure of faith to successfully secure us in the Kingdom. He even sacrificed His Son to give us the freedom to choose between good and evil again with new mercy each day and more than enough grace for those days we miss the mark. God has us covered completely. Jesus gives us overwhelming victory as a byproduct of His Love for us. We can overcome in every situation. Why are so many Christians and so-called believers struggling then? Are you serving Jesus like Judas or John? Everyone would be quick to say, “John” but on closer evaluation of a wayward heart may be an indication that Judas is hiding in the darkest part.

Job 42:1-6 (ESV) “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. ‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.  ‘Hear, and I will speak; I will question you, and you make it known to me.’ I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.”

The story of Job is all about pride. Job’s life was prosperous. He was known as a religious man. He lived a righteous life. Yet, in all his goodness, the messengers came one by one as his kingdom fell. His family and finances were devastated. Disease soon infected his body. His own wife told him to give up on God. Yet in all his misery, Job did not give up on the Lord. His friends didn’t understand. They tried to offer comfort but only inflamed his heart and mind. In his complete and utter misery as his flesh was dying, Job came to the Lord and this was his cry. Job still believed. In the midst of all the tragedy, God still lived on the throne of his heart. Job knew that God is sovereign. “I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you.” Such a profound statement. We hear a lot about the Lord and even adopt a certain language laced with hints of faith and believing. Yet it never reaches their heart or penetrates their thoughts forming a new belief which becomes a new life. As the Truth of God’s Identity and Character began to seep into the brokenness of his heart, something changed. Job was ready for a turnaround. Job repented.

Our purpose in the Lord will never be more than a promise if repentance is not a lifestyle. The Kingdom is not a place to ask forgiveness rather than permission. Delayed obedience is disobedience. Hearing the Word of God it is easy to make a list of excuses why it’s not for us. But one encounter with the fullness of God in His Son – Jesus changes everything. The Lord dealt with Job’s accusers disguised as friends. He did not just restore Job but gave him double for his trouble. The renewal of faith in God will fill the gaps left by every tragedy in life. Jesus came to give us a rich and satisfying life. God already gave us everything we need including the promises so greatly desired. It must be our purpose to discover God’s Purpose and invest our life in Him.

“Use me, God. Show me how to take who I am, who I want to be, and what I can do, and use it for a purpose greater than myself.” These are the words of Martin Luther King, Jr. What if God’s Purpose is for you to give your life away for others? It is. What if you must lose your life to truly find it? You do. What if the eternity in our heart will not escape without brokenness? It won’t. God has placed a purpose in you far greater than your human life can produce or sustain. It will require every bit of faith to achieve. Your heart will be devastated to be redesigned – molded and shaped into the Masterpiece promised by the Lord in Ephesians 2. My heart was forever changed during our son’s battle with cancer. Normal will never be normal again. Once you know the truth, you cannot believe the lie anymore. For years, I prayed for the Lord to increase my faith and He did. It was not in some glorious service when Heaven opened and poured out His Glory. It was in a hospital room when I finally gave up all of me. Pride must die in His Presence for purpose to be properly birthed. It is painful. It can be messy. It is always worth it.

Psalm 138:8 (ESV) The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever. Do not forsake the work of your hands.

The Lord will fulfill His Purpose for you and me regardless of our participation. God will do exactly as He planned and promised to do because of His Steadfast Love for us. His Unfailing Love and Goodness pursue us even when we think we are pursuing Him. The Truth about us is that God created us with a plan containing a future and hope far greater than the life created by randomness. Every step has the potential to be purposeful when committed to the Lord. He is leading us to something far greater and exceedingly abundantly more than we can think, ask or imagine. Do you trust Him today? Do you believe in God’s Steadfast Love? If you do, you will go with Him. Following Him to the ends of the earth just to continue in His Unconditional Love. He will never leave us or forsake us. The Lord invites us to invest our freedom in His Purpose and to prosper in this life. It is up to us whether or not repentance turns us from a worthless life to a radical resurrection of a power-infused supernatural existence filled with God’s Favor.

Is there more to life than this? Yes, there is. His Name is Jesus. He is our Purpose.

Proverbs 19:21 (ESV) Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.

The Price

The Price

2 Corinthians 5:17-19 (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.

I have a new guilty pleasure. A friend recommended that I try the grocery pickup service. Each week I make a list for the coming week of all the food and household items needed for the coming week. On Thursday or Friday, after work I make my way to the store and spend one to two hours filling the cart with everything on my list and everything else that catches my eye. After making my purchase, I push the overflowing cart to the car and proceed to unload the haul. Get a ten-minute rest on the drive home, unload it all again, and begin putting everything away. Sigh. Well not anymore… I tried the online grocery ordering. Walking through the house filling the cart based on the contents of the fridge and pantry, I asked everyone if they needed anything adding those items, too. Finally, with a huge intake of breath, I pressed submit order choosing a time for pickup. Using location services on my phone, the associate tracked my progress to the store. I parked in the designated delivery zone and a gentleman walked out with my purchases. He showed me substitutions and had me sign for them. The entire exchange took about five whole minutes and to top it all off it saved me a great deal of money on wasteful impulse shopping. Currently, the program does not charge a fee for this service. But if they do, I would probably still use them because considering the cost of my time and energy – it is totally worth it!

I have shared my experience with friends. Many scrutinize and question the quality like “what about produce” or “what if the bread is not soft”. The store offers full refunds if you are not full satisfied with your order. You can request no substitutions on items out of stock. Other people decide they are just not that “organized” etc. What is right for me is not for everyone. There are some things I would rather select for myself and pop into the fancy grocer to pick up these items using a whopping five or ten whole minutes. We must consider the cost of our everyday choices in all areas of life to decide how to budget our time, energy and resources including our new life in Jesus Christ. It will cost something – every choice has a consideration, consequence and cost. My bananas were slightly yellower and a little bruised this time but they doubled another item. Did I decide to stop using the grocery pickup service? Absolutely not!

“Christianity without discipleship is always Christianity without Christ.” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer)

Reconciliation of our life to the one Christ has given us is a personal choice. It means to bring into agreement and harmony or make compatible and consistent. It requires change. There are some who know Jesus but choose to use their freedom to satisfy their flesh. Even the demons know Jesus and tremble, so it is the same with people. They know of Him but do not live in a relationship with Him. Each day mercy greets us at the door and grace is given to us to make it through the day. In fact, when we choose to live in the love, grace and mercy of Jesus Christ reconciling the details of our life to His Word, Will and Way – there is new growth potential in our pursuit of God’s Best.

We decide if the cost of our life is too great to follow Jesus. Those who desire to reconcile their life to Jesus will have to be ready for change. Jesus does not change. Like Father God, He doesn’t lie or change His Mind. The Bible says that the Word of God will not return to Him void. Jesus is the Word. With this in mind, we must count the cost of discipleship. There were only twelve original disciples and they did not all make it to the Cross, see the tomb or experience the resurrection of Jesus. To give one’s life is the bearing of our soul and allowing the Lord to mold and shape our life according to His Plan and Purpose and release its full potential. But you will never be forced to do so. Reconciliation to Christ is a choice. We must consider the cost.

Luke 14:26-33 (NLT) “If you want to be my disciple, you must, by comparison, hate everyone else—your father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even your own life. Otherwise, you cannot be my disciple.

And if you do not carry your own cross and follow me, you cannot be my disciple. But don’t begin until you count the cost. For who would begin construction of a building without first calculating the cost to see if there is enough money to finish it? Otherwise, you might complete only the foundation before running out of money, and then everyone would laugh at you. They would say, ‘There’s the person who started that building and couldn’t afford to finish it!’ Or what king would go to war against another king without first sitting down with his counselors to discuss whether his army of 10,000 could defeat the 20,000 soldiers marching against him? And if he can’t, he will send a delegation to discuss terms of peace while the enemy is still far away. So you cannot become my disciple without giving up everything you own.”

“Salvation is free, but discipleship will cost you your life.” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer)

The cost of discipleship is not required of all. You are not required to be a “disciple” of Jesus Christ. John 8 tells us that the Truth sets you free. The Word is Truth. Jesus is the Word. It also tells us that whoever the Son sets free is free indeed which means you don’t have to choose to live for God or His Kingdom. It is up to you. But if you do not pay the price – you do not make the purchase. Jesus died for you. He went to hell and took back your life for you. He hands it over to you and allows you to decide how to live it. Those who desire a relationship with Jesus Christ will reconcile their life to Him and those who do not will use their freedom as they choose. However, if you desire the Kingdom and all that it has to offer – the only choice is discipleship. Christ is the Way, the Truth and the Life. He gives us access to the Father. We must only give our life to Him.

Matthew 13:44-46 (NLT) “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a treasure that a man discovered hidden in a field. In his excitement, he hid it again and sold everything he owned to get enough money to buy the field. Again, the Kingdom of Heaven is like a merchant on the lookout for choice pearls. When he discovered a pearl of great value, he sold everything he owned and bought it!”

“Discipleship can tolerate no conditions which might come between Jesus and our obedience to him.” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer)

What does the Kingdom of Heaven have to offer you today? Have you thought about it? There is a natural designation between Heaven and earth. Humanity considers today where we live and eternity where one resides after death. Like Martha when Jesus came to awaken Lazarus, our heart wants to believe that Jesus is the Resurrection and Life for today but logic tells us that He is our eternal hope that new life is not an everyday happening. The Lord will be the Resurrection and Life to those who believe and have faith for today not fully invested in forever. We must believe that God is a Living God and that we live in the Presence of God or Heaven on earth today. The realm of hope is not restricted to the next breath after death. It is for everyday life as well.

The price paid to know the Living God today requires a purchase. The more expensive the item the more careful the consideration. The investment of entire life is probably the most valuable of all. What will you lay down your life and everything you own for? That is your treasure. The mouth speaks from the abundance of your heart. What do you talk about? What do you dream of? What is your greatest desire? What fuels your passion? What are you pursuing? Be careful in your consideration. The heart is fickle and our mind plays tricks on us. We can believe one thing but live completely to the contrary. Until our heart, mind and mouth agree, life will be plagued with cyclic frustration. We must live what we believe. We must decide what we will give our life for. The man found a treasure worth having so he sold everything to own it. The merchant found a choice pearl. When he discovered its value and worth, he sold everything and bought it. I wonder if maybe we do not see the value and worth of reconciling our whole life to Christ so we give Him bits and pieces waiting and praying for a full return. The man who bought the field was given a price. He decided it was worth it and paid it. The pearl was appraised and deemed quite valuable. The merchant considered its price and the possible yield on his return so he invested fully to own it. How important is God’s Kingdom on earth to you? Is it worth it? Is it worth it all?

Luke 15:8-10 (NLT) “Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Won’t she light a lamp and sweep the entire house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she will call in her friends and neighbors and say, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost coin.’ In the same way, there is joy in the presence of God’s angels when even one sinner repents.”

The economy of Heaven and wealth of the Kingdom is souls. Human souls are what the Lord desires. He yearns for His Beloved Children to all return home. God gave His Son to make a way for our return to His Home. He searches high and low. He will stop at nothing to give us eternal life. In the meantime, He gives us faith to obtain blessings and promises that benefit our life now. Here. In the land of the living. God loves unconditionally and grace is always enough. I must decide if I will pay the price and count the cost of travel from the natural to the supernatural. Like a business venture or any other investment, I must decide if it will be worth it. A half-hearted investment will not give a full bodied return.

Matthew 6:33 (NLT) Seek the Kingdom of God above all else and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.

And live righteously… These words are often misinterpreted. Righteousness is provided by Jesus Christ. To live in Christ is to maintain right standing with God. It is not a religious endeavor. There is nothing I can do to earn or deserve salvation or the Favor of God in my life. My flesh and pride so would like to though for this is how they can stay alive. Jesus has promised a new life to those who live reconciled to Him. This is the life of discipleship. To put all of our life in studying, following and imitating Christ. To seek the Kingdom first above all else is reflected in our choices. What a man sows He reaps. Sow Kingdom seeds and bear Fruit of His Spirit. To live all in opens the windows and doors of Heaven in our life. It comes at a price. It means that I must relinquish my rights and step fully into righteousness. I must lose my life to find it. I have to lose my life in Jesus. God is not calling us to suffer for Jesus Christ. He is asking for our soul. As our soul prospers, our natural life will be impacted Heaven’s Economy. You cannot experience Heaven on earth living in your present condition. Repentance and reconciliation to Jesus every single minute of every single day changes us forever into the new creation that Jesus promised. Nothing ventured nothing gained. I am all in today. I want all that His Kingdom has for me. I have decided to follow Jesus! How about you?

Mark 8:36 (NLT)  And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul?

Discipline says, “I need to.” Duty says, “I ought to.” Devotion says, “I want to.” (Adrian Rogers)