Hobby, Habit or Holiness

hobby habit or holiness

Luke 14:26-30 (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.

In January, my husband and a group of men arranged to go duck hunting. They planned the excursion for months. Purchased mounds of hunting gear and ammunition. Planning included requesting leave from jobs, making hotel reservations and mapping out travel. Everyone paid their portion of the hunting lease and provided for meals and expenses. When the calendar finally fell on the travel date, the weather conditions took a dramatic turn for the absolute worst. It was below freezing. The lakes and ponds frozen over. Each morning they would trudge out to the field, break through the ice, set the decoys and lay in the blinds in the frigid conditions. They didn’t get a single one. They paid a high price yet got a miserable return other than the lease owner offering them a free return visit at the beginning of hunting season. This hunting hobby is new to our family.

We all have hobbies in life. It may be a variety of different things. Activities or interests pursued for pleasure and relaxation but no as a main occupation. I recently began repurposing old furniture. Reconditioning them is therapeutic to me. I was purchasing some pieces from a new acquaintance who encouraged me to sell the pieces rather than giving them away. I don’t really want to do that because I do this to escape the world and get lost in something creative. It is a hobby. Since most pieces are this side of tossing in the garbage, my investment is limited other than time spent cleaning, repairing, sanding and painting. It brings me peace. The great thing about a hobby is that I can choose how much of my time, talent and treasure that I invest in it. If I walk away for a few weeks, a month or so – it has not impact on me, my family or future other than a few choice words from my husband about the clutter in the garage. It is good to have hobbies in life.

What about habits? Those things that are not necessarily for pleasure or relaxation but driven by routine and schedule. Most adults have certain habits instilled by the values imbedded by the example of their parents or mentors. Some habits are formed by a desire to change certain behaviors, trends, circumstances or conditions. Habits can be good or bad. It is just what we do, who we are, and the choices we make. A habit is an acquired behavioral pattern regularly followed until it becomes involuntary. The word “involuntary” means independent of our will and not by our own choice. There are habits worth giving up for better health, emotional wellness, and spiritual awakening.

Church can become a habit. Religion is the routine of the church for organizational purposes. Habits and routines are comfortable. They give way to complacency in life and love. We must evaluate our habits as often as our heart to see our motivation. Do I do the things I do because I have always done them this way? Is there a better way? Is this a Christ-like endeavor or just something I do to fit in to my social group? Church is known for cliques and many times it is the birthplace of complacency as our pursuit of God is tempered by the other sheep in our fold. Is church a weekly habit? Is it an occasional hobby? If our relationship to Jesus Christ can be defined as either it is up to us to count the cost of becoming a disciple. Hobbies and habits do not produce holiness. It is not the way of those who desire God’s Kingdom and His Riches in Glory. It is just another way the enemy is keeping our churches and communities from experiencing revival.

2 Corinthians 6:16 (NLT) For we are the temple of the living God. As God said: “I will live in them and walk among them. I will be their God, and they will be my people.

When Jesus died, He released the Holy Spirit. On the Day of Pentecost, the Lord made it clear that the new dwelling place of His Spirit was in His People. Those who opened their hearts and minds to Jesus Christ and desired Him as Savior and Lord would house His Spirit. The church moved from the outside world to inside God’s People. Empowering them with new purpose and new power. When Jesus told the people that He would destroy the temple that it took 46years to build and rebuild it in three days, (John 2:15-21) He was referring to His Death which destroyed religion and His Resurrection that move His Church from buildings to bodies. As believers – we are the church. Not just any church of any denomination, we are the Temple of the Living God. Holy inhabitation is the cornerstone of holiness. Holiness is not a hobby or habit. It is who we are in God through Jesus Christ. We must become holy because God is holy. (Leviticus 19:2) His Presence in us forces an evaluation of our contribution to the Kingdom. Are we mere contributors or fully committed to the Cause called Christ in us?

Proverbs 20:25 (NLT) Don’t trap yourself by making a rash promise to God and only later counting the cost.

Have I made a rash (acting too hastily without due consideration)? We all are prone to say, “Yes” to many things without proper consideration or careful contemplation. Why? Who doesn’t want the affirmation and acceptance of others? Our “yes” is often based on meeting the expectation of others rather than fully consideration what it requires or what the desired outcome may be. We must count the cost of discipleship and decide if it is the life desired. Why is this important? At the end of my life, I will meet Jesus face-to-face. If I invested in the Kingdom as a hobby, I do not believe that He will say, “Well done, though good and faithful servant!” A hobby is something I do for me. Me alone. It is for my relaxation and my personal pleasure. Is that what I signed up for when I came to Jesus Christ? Is that what He was really offering? I don’t think so.

Is my commitment to Jesus Christ a habit? Has it become just another routine and scheduled event added to the long list of responsibilities in my life? Is it my religion or a true relationship? The truest test of religion verses relationship is passion. Am I passionate about loving, knowing, serving and following Jesus for the rest of my life? Or do I just go with the flow of the local church? Is my spiritual temperature set by the thermostat of my church or is it a flame being fanned and fueled by an All-Consuming Fire and burning desire to become His Disciple? To go where He goes, do what He does, and experience His Kingdom (as promised) on the earth as it is in Heaven. Hmm… makes me think. How about you?

Luke 14:26-27 (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.

Holiness is not a religious preference. It is not an organized denomination. Holiness is God’s Mandate on the life of the believer. To be wholly consumed and filled with His Spirit. To passionately pursue the Calling and Purpose found only in Christ as He calls us a new creation. To bring Heaven to earth in our own life while connecting the Body and its intricate membership and parts coming together with one heart – one mind – and one purpose. To make Him greater and greater while I disappear in His Presence. Sounds good until one begins to count the cost. We decide if we will carry “our own cross”. Jesus died to set us free to choose the life we live. To “take up our cross” is become responsible for our membership as one part of the Body of Christ. I cannot live, breathe, move or exist as an effective part of the Body unless fully connected to and directed by Jesus Christ. He must be my motivation. He must be the One Thing that I am after. I hear you. Family comes first. It does right after Jesus Christ. To be a disciple of Jesus Christ is to discipline my body, mind and spirit that in all things Jesus is first which means if anyone else makes a contrary decision that it does not influence or impact my partnership with Jesus.

Love and grace are the foundation of this wonderful relationship. I cannot have my way and live successfully in any relationship. My relationships (all of them) must have Christ as a foundation. Even my relationships to my perceived enemies, even those who are considered a threat or constant thorn in our flesh have purpose in our life. God put them there for a reason. We do not systematically cut off difficult relations or those who don’t understand our faith and marriage to Jesus. We must learn to put all our expectation in Jesus Christ and trust Him with every other relationship that we have engaged in. We must always take up our cross and follow Jesus.

What do I give my life to? Is it possible to graph the timeline of my life? Of course, it is but do I really want to. How much of my day is focused on this cross I have chosen to carry versus all the other endeavors in my life? Ignorance is not bliss but the death of the good seeds ready to be planted and harvested in our life. The secret to a successful partnership with Jesus is found in His Word. Simply because Jesus is the Word. To decide not to know releases us from responsibility is not ignorance it is foolishness when all of creation displays the Glory of God. If I refuse to follow Christ – the Word of God tells me that I “am not worthy to of being called mine.” Holiness requires shirking off the filthy rags and donning a robe of righteousness. It means picking up the full armor of God to step into a victorious life. It means to put away pride and live in humility. It means giving up my way. If I cling to this life, I will lose it. If I give my life to Jesus fully, I will find my true purpose and live in fulfillment forever. (Matthew 10:37-39) It is a daily choice. (Luke 9:23)

Luke 14:28-33 (NLT) “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.

Our life is comprised of three things of worth: time, talent and treasure. These are the things that we have to invest in something or someone. It is totally up to me how I invest my life. Time is the most precious commodity because it is irreplaceable. Talent is only as valuable as the realization of that potential in our life. Treasure is every tangible thing we own whether we think it’s worth anything or not. To become a disciple of Jesus Christ and live a holy life is not what so many have made it out to be. It is to live our life fully consumed by Jesus Christ. To step out of self and into Christ completely. It means investing my time, talent and treasure into His Kingdom. It is to combine our resources with the Lord completely. Giving Him all our time. All of our talent. All of our treasure. Then stepping back and letting Him use it for His Glory. The problem is that we give our hobbies and habits too much time and there is not enough to pay the price of discipleship. Divided interest and diversified investments may create natural security by not putting all our eggs in one lifetime basket but if my heart and soul are set on Eternity – I must take all my life and invest it in Jesus Christ.

1 Timothy 2:5-6 (NLT) For, there is one God and one Mediator who can reconcile God and humanity—the man Christ Jesus. He gave his life to purchase freedom for everyone. This is the message God gave to the world at just the right time.

When Jesus handed us the Keys to the Kingdom, the first key is marked “freedom”. I am now free to choose how I live my life. I choose my master. Asking Jesus to be our Savior is not enough, we must make Him our Lord to pledge allegiance to the Kingdom of God. I choose death or life each day. I choose blessing or otherwise. I decide if today will be to the Glory of God or pursue selfish interest. I get to choose. When I do, it determines my destiny. I cannot choose one course and expect to become part of the Kingdom. There is no middle of the road or gray compromise. Is my relationship to Jesus Christ a hobby? Do I do it for my own benefit and blessing but nothing more investing what is left of my time and energy? Is my relationship a habit? Do I take Him for granted? Rather than pursuing Him do I just pencil Him in? Is He part of the schedule or a routine measure? Do I every even think about Him or just do what I do and have done traditionally? Is my life ordinary? Is it just mediocre? Where is His Glory? It is not for the hobbyist or habitual Christian. It is for the intentional believer whose one desire is to be one with Christ. To put everything second. To give God the surplus of our life trusting Him with all of it. To follow Him relentlessly and passionately from beginning to end, no matter how deep the valley or high the mountain – no matter who comes with us. Does your love affair with Jesus have passion? Do you think about Him most of the time? See we have made this thing called discipleship a production but its not. It is the process by which our life, entire existence, is reconciled to God through Jesus Christ. It is how we achieve a state of holiness. It is not a hobby. It is not a habit. It is a relationship with the One who thought we were to die for. He gave up everything for me. I must reconcile my life to Jesus Christ to live a holy life. I must use my freedom to bring every part of my life into agreement with His Word, His Way and His Will. It is personal. Am I willing to give everything to Jesus? Lord, examine my heart and evaluate my life. Reconcile everything to you, Lord.

Acts 17:28 (NLT) “For in Him we live and move and exist.”

Boots on the Ground

boots-on-the-ground

Psalm 18:30-36 (NLT) God’s way is perfect. All the Lord’s promises prove true. He is a shield for all who look to him for protection. For who is God except the Lord? Who but our God is a solid rock? God arms me with strength, and he makes my way perfect. He makes me as surefooted as a deer, enabling me to stand on mountain heights. He trains my hands for battle; he strengthens my arm to draw a bronze bow. You have given me your shield of victory. Your right hand supports me; your help has made me great. You have made a wide path for my feet to keep them from slipping.

“Boots on the ground” is a military term. It is used to convey the belief that strategic success can only be achieved through the direct physical presence of troops in a conflict area. It is the idea that presence makes prominence. Maybe concurrent with the thought that “possession is nine tenths of the law” which further implies that ownership is easier if one has possession of something or difficult to enforce if one does not. I believe that both convey confidence. Confidence in strength and power according to that which is attained. Man of valor fight for a cause dear to heart as they are called to serve and protect the people of their country. Their mind is focused on battle and maintaining the safety and security of those who reside in the land. They fight for freedom. Even if someone uses their freedom to protect their mission, they do it just the same.

Jesus Christ died to set us free. It is our option to use our freedom to trust the Lord or continue wandering in the darkness of this world. Truly – who the Son sets free is free indeed. However, if we do not know our rights as a believer it is difficult to understand the benefits offered by obedience. To choose to live for the Kingdom rather the world is impossible if we do not see the point. We can see, hear, feel, touch and experience this life with our senses. How does one come to their senses by faith that cannot see, hear, feel or touch the Lord in a tangible sense? How does one find confidence to walk by faith and not by sight? How do we win the war of flesh versus spirit when one is intimate and the other foreign? God has given us His Spirit but we must empower Him by eliminating the influence of our flesh. In short order, every lie must be dissolved in Truth so we can fully walk in the freedom intended for us and imparted by Jesus Christ.

“God’s way is perfect.” Do you believe this is true? Think about it for a moment. Do you really believe that God’s Word is true and valid for every aspect of your life? If so, do you do what it says? Are you willing to give up your will to have God’s Will just as it is without reservation? This is the freedom to be fought for by faith. To secure our freedom in Jesus Christ and walk His Perfect Way to overcoming victory in our everyday life. It’s not easy. It is not logical. It is faithful.

He makes me as surefooted as a deer, enabling me to stand on mountain heights… You have made a wide path for my feet to keep them from slipping.” I would venture to say that if following Jesus was easy there would have been more than 12 disciples. In fact, even in the handful of men with Jesus one still managed to betray Him. I am challenged today to find purpose in my steps. (1 Corinthians 9:26) To be surefooted as a deer enabling me to stand on a firm foundation of faith in all things. I long for the wide path of obedience called the Highway of Holiness that keeps me from slipping. I want to follow the Lord walking in close fellowship with Him as Enoch did until I disappear and only God remains. Is this even possible? Absolutely. Is it logical? Not in reality only faithfully.

Psalm 91:1-2 (NLT) Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty. This I declare about the Lord: He alone is my refuge, my place of safety; he is my God, and I trust him.

Trust labels the steps that lead to greater faith. Without faith, it is impossible to please God. It is faith in Jesus Christ that opens the door to Him in the first place. I must protect my faith. Feed my faith. Condition my faith. It is the most important thing in my life that leads to eternal life. Without, faith I will die. It promotes perseverance and endurance in me that is far from natural and instinctual. It is supernatural. A soldier joins the army with potential. It is through rigorous training and conditioning that changes his potential into purpose. When that purpose engages in battle, the soldier becomes a warrior. I want to be a warrior of faith. I have been in some fights in my life. I have the battle scars to prove it. The Lord promises those who seek refuge in Him will have security. A place of safety. This place is secured by trust.

If we continue to read Psalm 91, it tells us of more than just a place to hide in the Lord but a place also to take a stand against sin and darkness that attempts to overtake us and invade the good things in our life. By faith, “a thousand fall at your side, thought ten thousand are dying around you these evils will not touch you.” It goes on to promise that “no evil will conquer you” and “no plague will come near to your home.” His angels are positioned to protect you. I love this part. “You will trample upon lions and cobras; you will crush fierce lions and serpents under your feet.” If you look at the verse right before this one, it says, “They (angels) will hold you up with their hands so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone.” Are you tired of stumbling? Are you sick of struggling? There is a better way. God’s Way is perfect.

Proverbs 3:21-26 (NLT) My child, don’t lose sight of common sense and discernment. Hang on to them, for they will refresh your soul. They are like jewels on a necklace. They keep you safe on your way, and your feet will not stumble. You can go to bed without fear; you will lie down and sleep soundly. You need not be afraid of sudden disaster or the destruction that comes upon the wicked, for the Lord is your security. He will keep your foot from being caught in a trap.

God’s Word is a lamp for our feet. (Psalm 119:105) Common sense and discernment must become fast friends and constant companions to make faith logical for our life. God’s Word is the Truth for our life. We must learn to walk in it every single day. This takes our common senses and applies discernment too it from God’s Perspective. His Thoughts are higher than ours and so are His Ways so it is imperative that godly knowledge counteracts stinking thinking. Common sense and discernment is logical faith defined by the Word of God applied as wisdom for our everyday life. We must change the way we think by deciding the Word of God is true and valid for today.

Hebrews 12:12-13 (NLT) 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 must not evaluate my life or decide my course of action based on how I feel, what I think or the circumstances in the natural. If I do, I will have life based on fate not faith. When I set my heart and mind on achieving God’s Purpose for my life which is always by faith then I will respond to His Word rather than reacting to the daily struggles I face. This will cause me to walk in victory. The man sitting on the ground asking for handouts was limited by his ability to walk. He fell victim to his circumstance and identified with his infirmity. When Peter passed, he begged for money. Peter said (to paraphrase), “No brother I will do you one better than that…” The man was immediately healed and then “walking, leaping and praising God went to the Temple with them. I cannot give others what I have not discovered and obtained for myself. I cannot pawn fake faith that doesn’t believe enough to follow through with each day. I cannot share a truth that is not a reality in my life. So if I want to walk in victory and be boots on the ground for Jesus Christ, it is imperative that I believe. Believe enough to walk with Him and follow Him each day. Where He goes I go. Are you tired of limping through life? Have you fallen on hard times? In the Name of Jesus Christ, it’s time to get up and walk. Get those boots back on the ground. Fight for your faith. You have victory up for grabs.

Proverbs 4:25-27 (NLT) Look straight ahead, and fix your eyes on what lies before you. Mark out a straight path for your feet; stay on the safe path. Don’t get sidetracked; keep your feet from following evil.

Why does something simple seem so hard? Our faith must be daily fed the Word of God to strengthen it. We must continually strap truth to our feet so it protects us as we tread over lions, serpents and the enemy in life. (Ephesians 6:15) The enemy is acutely aware of our weakness because most days we complain and grumble showing him the insufficiencies of our faith rather celebrating our victory in Jesus with constant praise, endless worship and consistent gratitude for our freedom. We lose simply because we do not believe we win! Not me. Not anymore. I am tired of fighting losing battles especially when I have figured that the Christ in me is enough to always overcome if only I believe. Do you believe? If not, there is no partnership between common sense and discernment. The two will disagree making it even more difficult to find the way. Jesus is the Way. He is our Champion. The Author and Finisher of Faith. If I am willing ahead and stop living looking in the rear view mirror. If I choose to fix my eyes on Jesus who is before me. If I make a conscious and decisive effort to mark the pathway of my life with the Light of His Word. My path will be safe and secure in the Lord. The enemy will remain under my feet where He belongs. I will have victory in all things.

Romans 16:19-20 (NLT) But everyone knows that you are obedient to the Lord. This makes me very happy. I want you to be wise in doing right and to stay innocent of any wrong. The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. May the grace of our Lord Jesus be with you.

Learn To Run

learn-to-run

Hebrews 12:1 (NLT) Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.

Not really sure how it happened, I guess I was just one bowl of ice cream away from a binge. After working for a long time to establish a good diet and consistent exercise routine, I just stopped. The workout was the first to go. Three or four days at the gym turned to one here and there, which constituted good stewardship and ending our relationship. I quit the gym. But that’s okay, I still had a “good” diet right. I ate healthy for the most part. Well, I did anyway. It did not take long for old habits to come creeping in and late night snacking to take over. Now as I like to joke with others, I have noticed a waist line that resembles a “busted can of biscuits” so it is time to bet disciplined again. It is important to be a good steward in life and that includes our health. I will never be a 5’10” super model with abs of steel. In fact, as I shared with someone yesterday, I am not so sure this model came with abs. I believe that balance in life is mind, body and soul. We cannot be healthy in our soul and it not impact our mind and body. As my soul prospers, so will I in health and other things. (3 John 1:2)

It is with this thought that I am embarking on the journey once again to get my body back under control. I am not a runner. I aspire to be one day just because I believe it to be the ultimate endurance. If you see me running right now, should probably do the same because something is obviously chasing me. However, as I gain endurance, I have learned that running becomes a little bit easier. As my heart gets stronger and lungs learn to breathe under pressure, I am able to go longer and farther without stopping to catch my breath or ease a cramp. Hebrews 12:1 offers excellent advice to those who want to run a marathon or continue in the race of faith. I am interested in both.

“We are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to (our) life of faith…” If I profess with my mouth to be a Christian, the folks around me will immediately place new expectation on me as a person. They will indeed judge me. I know God is our judge, but if we use His Name I believe that to honor Him – we must be conscious of those around us just like Jesus. Jesus was always aware of those around Him. He took notice of the weak. He looked past infirmity to find their purpose. He did not discard those clothed in darkness and filled with hatred. He reached out to them – dismissing that which was hindering them to remind them who they really were. It is easy to build walls of righteousness around us. It is even easier to “work” ourselves in a frenzy in the Name of the Lord. But until we love others like crazy…we have missed the point. Yes, they are watching. Yes, they are evaluating. And yes, they are more than likely judging you. But does it really matter what they “think” as long as in the end they find that the love that never fails. We must be aware of the huge crowd of witnesses – it is every face that we encounter in life.

“Strip off every weight that slows us down…” Our life was very chaotic during the time it took to sell our old house and move into our new home. Our church life is very busy now too as we have become more involved than we were able to be in the past several years. Our kids are on the go. The transition period completely wrecked our schedule and routine. The ordered fell into disorder. When we finally began to establish a new routine, a hurricane came blowing through our community. Now as it all settles, it is time to examine our life and place new priorities on certain things.

I believe it is easy to become undisciplined in areas that once were under strict control. Discipline is not welcomed by our flesh so if we let our guard down it is easy to become distracted. We start eating bad again because fast food does not equal healthy diets. We stop exercising because there are too many other “things” we need to do. We stop reading the Bible because work is overloading us. The prayer closet door remains closed because there is not a moment for ourselves. Church is the last thing on our mind when home is the last place we go. If we do not check the weights in our life and seek the Lord to remain in good order, we will become overloaded, weary, and weak so we give up. People experience burnout not because the burden in their life is too heavy. They burnout because they do not balance their life according to God’s Word and His Way. You can have it all but are not called to do it all.

“Especially sin…” Sin is in everyone’s life no matter how hard one tries to avoid it. No one will ever be without sin. It is human nature. We escape sin only when fully redeemed. The perception of innocence is false. It is by grace we are saved by faith because we will never overcome our battle with sin without Jesus Christ. I find that if I focus on other people’s problems with sin that I somehow fall into it myself. If another person does wrong, and I choose to discuss it with other people – I am a gossip and I have sinned. If a new person comes to church who doesn’t look like a believer, act like a Christian, or dress like the rest of the religious folks, and I look down on them or think of ways to change them OTHER than introducing them to Jesus Christ, well then I sinned again…in church no less. Comparison with anyone or anything other than Jesus Christ will always open the door to sin and darkness. He is our example.

Finally, “run with endurance the race God has set before us…” I aspire to run the marathon at Disney one day called Disney Princess Half Marathon. It supports the Children’s Miracle Network. Participants don tutus and mouse ears running for an excellent charity. Why? I have no idea other than I feel like it is impossible for me to run that far. In order for me to successfully complete the event held in February each year, I must train and run for the other months in order to be prepared. When I (notice my optimism) arrive at the event, they will give me a map of the course and mark it out so that I can follow it. God has set a course for my life. It is in each step from the moment I am born until I leave this world behind and step into eternity. Nothing is wasted or forgotten. He makes good of every detail of my life. (Romans 8:28) There are days when I fall or fail but that is not the end. It is in the rising again that I discover a little more character where my flesh used to be. It is when I push and press against adversity that I discover the overcomer who lives in me. This life is a marathon. It has a clearly marked course. We find it in the Word of God. We work to claim the Will of God. Jesus is the Way of God.

Hebrews 12:2 (NLT) We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne.

“Keeping (my) eyes on Jesus…” I am good at getting distracted…the Good Lord only knows. I am surprised that He never put blinders on me. If He did, I would never develop faith. We are called to walk by faith not by sight. A word of warning needs to be interjected here. This is not just about fellow believers or those living in sin and darkness around us. We must be very, very careful not to look at preachers and teachers as our example either. I have heard people quote famous preachers from Billy Graham, Jentzen Franklin, Steven Furtick, and Joel Osteen. I have heard young people quote their leaders, teachers and the like. I challenge you to quote Jesus. To make His Word the authority in your life. To make His Spirit the guide for your life. To stop listening to what everyone else says about Jesus and experience Him one-on-one for yourself. Our encounter with Jesus Christ must be personal to be credible.

“The champion who initiates and perfects our faith.” We are in a process. This process is not a sprint but a marathon. It will always require patience and endurance whether you have them or not. Jesus is the Source of all faith. He is the only way to God the Father. (John 14:6) We cannot bypass faith and collect grace. It is by grace I am saved THROUGH faith. I must believe. I must believe that Jesus Christ has given my victory or how will I ever sell my soul on commitment. What’s the point if the end is uncertain? I can certainly find ways to entertain myself until I die if there is no relevance to Heaven.

“For the joy awaiting Him, He endured the Cross…” We are the joy that awaited Jesus Christ on the other side of the Cross. Do we joy enough in Jesus Christ to endure this life to reach Him on the other side? He gave up everything just to be with me. Yet, on some days, I struggle to give up small things just to be with Him. We will never be committed if find no joy in Jesus Christ. He is ready to satisfy our soul. We must believe that to engage and endure in the marathon of life called the race of faith.

I Corinthians 9:23-26 (NLT) 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 must run with purpose in every step. My life has the potential for constant victory. I can live each day in full satisfaction without disappointment. It requires a discipline in faith that I have not yet achieved but have the potential to do if I give my life to Jesus in each step. My life is recorded by God moment by moment. (Psalm 139) Nothing escaped His Immediate and Divine Attention. It is my inability to remain disciplined and committed that keeps me from fullness and completion in Jesus Christ. He demands my full attention yet I constantly find myself looking to lesser than things and giving them what belongs to God including my energy and time. Thank you Jesus that your Grace is enough for me to get back on track again and again and again. You have a prize for me worth having if I will just discipline myself and devote this life to You.

Philippians 2:13-18 (NLT) For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him. Do everything without complaining and arguing, so that no one can criticize you. Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people.  Hold firmly to the word of life; then, on the day of Christ’s return, I will be proud that I did not run the race in vain and that my work was not useless.  But I will rejoice even if I lose my life, pouring it out like a liquid offering to God, just like your faithful service is an offering to God. And I want all of you to share that joy. Yes, you should rejoice, and I will share your joy.

Are you stuck in a rut? Is there a certain part of your life naturally or spiritually that has become a place of discontentment? Are you tired all the time? Do you feel weak and weary? Do you feel like God has moved away from you? Or that Jesus is no longer with you? That’s God. He is working in us giving us the desire and power to do what pleases Him. He will never force us to change but encourages us from deep within. How do I know? You came with a measure of faith that is purposed to grow. When we pray and seek the Lord, it nourishes that seed and it begins to press back against every oppressive thing in its way from full realization. We become discontent. We feel isolated. It seems like we just can’t get ahead. What happens? We begin to dig deeper in His Word, seek out His Face, call on His Name and He comes rushing in to lead us, guide us and direct us to better things. It is God’s Love moving inside of you telling you to get up, dust yourself off and start running again.

“Do everything without complaining and arguing.” Do not speak against the promise that is putting pressure on your life for change by griping all the time. Such conversation is a curse on that promise and alignment with the enemy’s declaration on your life. You are an overcomer. You are a winner. You are a runner. You are a mover. You’ve got things to do that require messing up your routine. You have a purpose that is not on the corporate ladder. You have people to reach so your arms must be emptied of all that extra weight and unnecessary burdens you picked up along the way. God is rearranging our lives to make room for the discipline and commitment that leads to revival and full redemption. “Hold firmly to the Word of Life.” You cannot give up! It is those who endure to the end who are saved. Most mamas want to give up in the process of labor just before the baby is born. It hurts. You are tired. You don’t think you can give any more to the process. It is with that last push something wonderful and perfect emerges in your life. The promise you have waited for all this time is here. God is doing the same in you, my friend. He is birthing a promise more wonderful than any child ever born. It is called faith. It is the one thing that can take you into Eternity to live in His Love forever. We must learn to run and not grow weary. Walk and not fall. We run this race of faith with purpose. Never giving up until we win!

Isaiah 40:30-31 (NLT) Even youths will become weak and tired, and young men will fall in exhaustion. But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.

Be Successful

be-successful

Joshua 1:7-9 (NIV) “Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

How do you define success? What makes you successful in any given day? I find that as I grow and change throughout my lifetime that this word takes on a new meaning with each season. As a young person, it was making it to class on time. When I had a houseful of young children, it was to take a shower some days. As I have grown older, it is to laugh without having to excuse myself. Sorry about the “TMI”. Looking back over my life at my age, I find that the things I once thought defined my success or failure in life were not necessarily of my own design but rather driven by society and others.

I worked from home when all five children ranged from infancy to elementary school. At one time, they were spread across four schools all over town. It felt like I was a cross between housekeeper, lunch lady, and taxi driver. Each morning, I would get up early showering and preparing for the day as though I was actually going to work outside our home. I didn’t want to get into the t-shirt/ yoga pants routine. So many times, mamas forget to take care of their own needs to care for our families, husbands and children. I was sitting in yet another parent pickup line when I noticed that one of the princesses had left her crown on the floor of our minivan. Quickly retrieving it, I ceremoniously placed the tiara on my head adjusting it in the rearview mirror to the chagrin of my toddler watching from her car seat. I became the queen in that instant with a chuckle. I wore it as I retrieved my little princes and princesses from school. They did not find it quite as amusing as I did. I am the Daughter of the King. I have the right to walk through life successfully each day in whatever capacity of life that I live. I am not subject to my circumstances but bound by the mandate on my life given to me by the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Jesus – teach me to live successfully each day as such.

Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.Could it be so easy? Am I bound for success simply because God’s Word says so? If I meditate on it day and night careful to do everything in it – will I really be prosperous and successful? Well, there really is only one way to find out. We must test it. The only way to know if you can do it is to commit our life to it and see what happens next.

Proverbs 2:6-8 (NIV) For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding. He holds success in store for the upright, he is a shield to those whose walk is blameless, for he guards the course of the just and protects the way of his faithful ones.

Jeremiah 29:11 promises the Lord knows the plans that He has for you. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Jesus plans to give you a hope and future. That’s awesome right? Now what? If we read just a little farther it tells us to call on the Name of the Lord, come to Him, pray and listen for His Voice. Success is found when we seek the Lord wholeheartedly. The Lord gives us wisdom in His Instruction. His Ways are perfect for us. (Psalm 18:30) During our creation, a carefully detailed purpose was recorded moment by moment and day by day for my life which included a future and hope that is completely possible because of God’s Grace. (Psalm 139) His Grace is enough for me to live a prosperous and successful life despite my many failures. (2 Corinthians 12:9-10) God has not given me the spirit of fear including doubt, worry or anxiety that comes along with it. (2 Timothy 1:7) So it is courage hidden in my innate character beneath the layer of sin, shame, guilt and regret that the Lord desires to press out of me so that rather than merely surviving – I will begin to thrive now all the way into forever. What if I told you today that the only thing between you and the prosperity of God in Jesus Christ is sin, would you avoid those things contrary to God’s Way immediately? Oh how I wish it were that easy…

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

True success in life is found when our soul prospers. It resonates through our life from within us to our natural life. Applying the Word of God first to our heart, it makes its way to our mind. Over time, the Spirit turns what we read about the Lord to what we know as understanding and discernment take root in our heart and seeds of faith begin to grow. Our perception of success begins to change as we learn to seek satisfaction rather than gratification. Jesus came to give us a rich and satisfying life. (John 10:10) The enemy of our soul wants to live for immediate gratification. What’s the difference? Glad you asked.

To gratify means to give pleasure to a person by satisfying desires, humoring inclinations or feelings. To satisfy means to make full or complete. Satisfaction is fulfillment and contentment. It is confident acceptance. Gratification requires constant supplication as our feelings and emotions change along with our circumstances and conditions. A satisfied soul is content in all situations because it is full of Jesus Christ. We settle for gratification when we do not take the time to know and understand satisfaction. His Name is Jesus. He is the Only One who can ever complete us.

Philippians 4:11-13 (NIV) I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.  I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

I do not believe it is God’s Will for His Children to live in lack. I believe contentment is to be thankful every step of the way. If we could only walk by faith and not by sight – everyone would be completely successful and prosperous. However, life is full of distractions. Watch television for an hour and you will be subject to at least four commercial breaks and sometimes more. Each advertisement lasts between 30 to 60 seconds. During that time, markets have a very limited amount of time to convince you that you want or need what they are selling. I used to pass car lots driving to work each day. I would look at the cars on the lot and think about stopping by on the way home just to look. Here is a good philosophy for life – if you don’t have money don’t go shopping. We feed human nature when we look, compare and entertain the lesser things in life.

Contentment is born of thankfulness. Those things you think you want and have been labeled a need are not as important as the satisfaction that lives in you already. You, my friend, are a Son or Daughter of the King. Why are you scrambling for crumbs under a table that has a place prepared for you? Confidence builds courage in our life. His Grace gives us strength in every weakness and shortcoming allowing us to live in a state of successfulness every day. Our life is scripted by the Hand of God to perfection. We must simply know and understand His Plan including His Way and Will which all comes from His Word.

“But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.” (I Timothy 6:6-7) Are you content today? Do you feel satisfied? Contentment and satisfaction do not come from natural and imperfect things. The very thing we think will bring us satisfaction turns into sorrow if not from the Lord. The contentment based on emotions is not confident but conditional. We can live a successful and prosperous life. It is not found in this world or anything in it.

Psalm 23 (NIV) The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

If I am unsuccessful today – it is not because the Lord has not given me success but I have failed to claim it in my life. To live successfully begins with contentment and satisfaction in Jesus Christ alone. To believe that He can, will and already has provided everything we need for a satisfied and prospering soul. I once had a preacher friend who worked in a church. He was let go by the executive pastor and harbored deep hurt and bitterness. One day, I had a hair appointment and ran into him while the man was waiting on his wife at the salon. He felt like the Lord was leading him to write a book about the 23 Psalm and as he was sharing his thoughts I noticed that in his notes each verse had an accusation and reference about the person who had hurt him. The Word of God was a sword that he was using to accuse the man of his wrongs that had hurt him. I felt so sad for him in that moment and began to pray for the removal of the root of bitterness. This was many years ago. Recently, I ran into the couple at the local Wal-Mart. He still continued to reflect on the wrongdoing and hurt of his past. I asked him if he ever wrote his book. He said, “No.” Our ability to be successful and prosper is only possible when we put our faith, trust and full expectation in Jesus Christ. We must live according to His Word of God to have the Will of God which makes His Sons and Daughters successful!

Is the glass of your life half empty or half full? His Desire is that it is running over. According to Psalm 23, the Lord anoints our head with oil and “overflows” our cup. His Goodness and Love are pursuing you and me today. His Purpose is that we will dwell in His House (His Presence) forever. Please take note the overflowing cup is found at the table prepared before our enemies. It is going to take a people who are confident in their Lord so that they will be bold and courageous to claim such a life. The Lord is my Shepherd. I lack nothing. Without looking around, can you tell the Lord that today? You are my Shepard. I lack nothing. I have everything I need to be successful today. It is found solely in you, Jesus. Keep my eyes on you. Keep my heart close to you. Keep my thoughts fixed on you. Satisfaction will bring the success that I long for. I will be content lacking no good thing. You alone are my portion and my cup. You make my lot secure. You will show me the way of success and fill me joy in Your Presence. I believe it Jesus. Amen and amen.

Psalm 16:5-11 (NIV) Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup; you make my lot secure. The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance. I will praise the Lord, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me. I keep my eyes always on the Lord. With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure, because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, nor will you let your faithful one see decay. You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.

Just Before Jericho

Just Before Jericho

Psalm 37:3-7 (NIV)

Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn, your vindication like the noonday sun. Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; do not fret when people succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes.

God is a good God. He have a very specific and highly detailed plan for each of us that always results in our prosperity – mind, soul and body. With this thought in mind, it is not always easy to stay true to our inclination, vision or the nudging of the Holy Spirit when the world and everything in it seems bent against that which the Lord has promised us. The vision is exciting. The dream seems so real. But in the waiting and preparing, sometimes our heart loses sight of that which is to come. The barriers seem too high. The obstacles too challenging. The opposition too great. The enemies outnumbering. It is in that moment of counting the cost that one must decide if they believe. The sum total of our life is weighed on a scale not of what we amass in this life but rather what we believe. The trend and tendencies of our life are formed and fashioned by what we believe.

To believe that God is good and His Intentions for me are true means that I must trust Him. I cannot always see what He is doing, hear what He is saying or feel His Closeness in my life but I know what He has promised in the Word of God. We live on the edge of breakthrough. The moment that we take a promise and decide that it is true pursuing it wholeheartedly. The covenant entered in with Jesus Christ contains more than a promise of life after death. It promises a new life before you die as well. For those who choose to pursue Him wholeheartedly and live in His Promises, this will be a daily challenge to trust the Lord and do good no matter the circumstances, situations, obstacles, pain and process. To delight in the Lord. To commit our way to the Lord because we believe He will do exactly what He promised. To live a righteous life without compromise, no substitutions, apart from sin just to know Him more. This the covenant that allows us to have the life of promises carefully scripted for us to read and written on our hearts by His Spirit during our daily encounters. What are you waiting for today? Do you want the life promised to you? Do you have a dream? Do you have a vision that seems too far in the distance to even comprehend? So did Joshua and the Israelites as they stood just outside of Jericho.

Joshua 6:1-2 (NIV)

Now the gates of Jericho were securely barred because of the Israelites. No one went out and no one came in. Then the Lord said to Joshua, “See, I have delivered Jericho into your hands, along with its king and its fighting men.

God. Such a kidder. Just reading the first two verses of Joshua 6 will sum up just about every endeavor of pursuing the Promises of God in life. The gates of Jericho were securely barred because of the Israelites. They were prime enemy number one. The warriors on the wall were waiting and to attack the first one who tried to gain entrance to their city. The Lord tells Joshua, “See, I have delivered Jericho into your hands, along with its kind and its fighting men.” As my kids might say, “LOL”. Can you imagine Joshua, hands on his hips, feet in a battle stance, looking up the side of the concrete wall, maybe just a little sarcastic – “Yes Lord, I see that you did.” Or maybe since Joshua was way more holy than I, he quietly waited for the Lord to tell him more. Ok here’s the plan. Walk around the walls for six days carrying the Ark of My Presence out in front. Now on the seventh day, walk around seven times and then shout. In that moment, the walls will collapse and everyone is to straight in. (Verses 3-5) What does Joshua do? He goes directly to the people and instructs them to do exactly what the Lord tells them to do. (Verses 6-14) This is exactly what Joshua, the priests and people did for six days straight.

These are the moments just before Jericho. When standing just outside the thing that keeps us from having all that the Lord has promised and claiming it. This is the most important part of the process. It is completely based on what we believe molding our attitude and motivating our actions. I think if we could learn from Joshua what to do just before Jericho more and more Christians would be stepping over barriers, overcoming obstacles and living to the Glory of God every single day. There would not be sporadic miracles, occasional healings, and once-in-a-while deliverance but men and women coming to know Jesus and turning their hearts and lives over to the Lord. We cannot ask of another what we are not willing to do. We must live wholeheartedly for Jesus to ever expect another to do the same.

 

God gave Joshua His Word. Though the walls around the city were fortified, barred and armed, God told His Man this is your city. This is the destiny of My People. Just do what I say, and I will hand it over to you. Placing it directly in your hands for My Use. What did Joshua do? He saw the mighty walls before him, but He kept looking up until He saw God’s Face, heard His Voice and decided to take Him at His Word. Whose got the final say in your life today? Has the Lord promised you something that the world denies? Who do you believe? It matters.

 

God’s Plan may have seemed a little off or even a bit crazy. Joshua did not add to it or take from it but delivered it directly to the people. He told them exactly what God said to do with the sole intent to do exactly that – nothing more or less. Faith in God will always require absolute trust in His Direction and His Timing. The Lord will lead you into your promise unless you choose to look for it your way or make it happen when you want it. This is spiritual rebellion and will cause an abortion of that which is perfect in its own time.

Joshua 6:15-19 (NIV)

On the seventh day, they got up at daybreak and marched around the city seven times in the same manner, except that on that day they circled the city seven times. The seventh time around, when the priests sounded the trumpet blast, Joshua commanded the army, “Shout! For the Lord has given you the city! The city and all that is in it are to be devoted to the Lord. Only Rahab the prostitute and all who are with her in her house shall be spared, because she hid the spies we sent. But keep away from the devoted things, so that you will not bring about your own destruction by taking any of them. Otherwise you will make the camp of Israel liable to destruction and bring trouble on it. All the silver and gold and the articles of bronze and iron are sacred to the Lord and must go into his treasury.”

On the seventh day, what would be the final hour, Joshua believed that the city would be theirs that day so right before they were to shout, he instructed them on what to do once inside. What amazing faith! Six days of marching around a wall may have seemed pointless, but Joshua was planning with each step asking God for direction and making the final preparations for once they stepped inside. How about you? As you walk out these days just before Jericho, are you preparing to make your entrance into the promise for which you wait? Those who truly believe the Word of God is true will begin to prepare when the barriers are tall, obstacles many, naysayers plenty and the promise humanly unattainable. This is the place where the believers who refuse to relent will dare to dream past today, cast vision for tomorrow, envision victory and claim the win. It can also be a bit scary in the moment preceding the breakthrough when the enemy questions every single belief we have mocking our commitment to God reminding us of every other time, we quit, gave up or walked away never achieving that which God promised. It was not because God was not intent and fully committed to bringing it to pass. It was our inability to wait, plan, prepare and push through in that final hour that snatched victory, success and prosperity from us. “When the trumpets sounded, the army shouted, and at the sound of the trumpet, when the men gave a loud shout, the wall collapsed; so everyone charged straight in, and they took the city.” (Joshua 6:20)

Are you just outside Jericho? Is this the day just before you will march over the wall and step into God’s Promise? Only the Lord truly knows. What matters is our level of commitment to the Plan of God and His Promise, are we wholeheartedly pursuing God with all our mind, soul and body today? It does matter how big the enemy, high the wall or solid the mountain when it comes to God and His People, He will do anything to take care of His Children. By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that is in keeping with faith.” (Hebrews 11:7) It is time for God’s People to reclaim the faith and commitment of men of God like Joshua and Noah who before they could see the victory, claimed it and lived for it. Noah began building the ark before this world even knew what rain was or where it came from. God told Noah what to do and by faith Noah began to plan and prepare for what was to come. This is the life of a true believer unchanged and unaffected by the world and its perception but fully motivated and committed to see the Word, Will and Way of God come to pass in their everyday life. Changing things from ordinary to extraordinary. Moving from what is possible into the impossible possibilities given to those who choose to live by faith with confident hope in God alone.

Hebrews 10:19-23 (NIV)

Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.

The days of our life that lead us to the day before our breakthrough are ordained by God with purpose. He prepares as we go through life for what comes next in life. His Purpose is that His Children will one day have a sincere heart and full assurance of what faith brings. This will be a journey of peaks and valleys as we learn to walk with the Lord, follow Jesus and stay true to Him in season and out. He molds and shapes us to enter His Kingdom one day which will require total trust and commitment of one’s heart, mind, soul and body to Jesus Christ. The steps of life are designed to lead us to that very moment when we claim forever with the Lord. Until then, we face obstacles, challenges, and barriers in order to see how far our personal faith will take us. How near we will draw to His Word. Whether or not we will obey and remain true to our covenant with the Lord. What is our covenant?

The Lord instructs people to follow His Decrees and Commands for righteousness sake. We must carefully observe them with all our heart and soul. Why? We have declared that He is our God and that we will walk in His Ways. We were not forced but chose this life on the day we said, “YES!” to Jesus. I was the one who promised to give Him my life and seek Him wholeheartedly. So the Lord now calls me His Treasured Possession and treats me as such. The moment that I decide to stay committed to our covenant, walk in His Ways and follow Jesus – my life becomes praiseworthy. The Lord says that He will lift us high above other nations. (Deuteronomy 26:16-19) God does not waver. He does not lie. He never changes His Mind. He set out to love us and He does. He desired to save us and so He did. He opens the doors to His Kingdom and says come on in weary sinner and I will give you rest. He is always keeping His Promises and true to His Word. So if my life does not add up to what He promised, where is the disconnect?

“Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.” Are you just before Jericho today? Is breakthrough about to come? You will never know if you stop walking with the Lord, watching for Him, waiting on Him and hold back your shout! Words hold power are you welcoming the promise or pushing it away with fear, doubt and negativity. God is doing exactly what He promised and just as He planned. Nothing has changed. So neither should you? Or me? We must press into His Presence today. Praise Him for His Promise that is sooner than we think, more than we asked for, greater than we know and that will bring us closer to Him than we ever thought possible. Are you weak? Good, now Jesus will be your strength! Are you tired? Good, now He can give you rest. Are you heavy laden? Let the Lord remove the yoke from you as you prepare to break out in praise. Are just before Jericho today? Awesome! You are exactly where you are supposed to be. Victory is coming! If you choose to go in! I wonder how all those people felt walking around the city unarmed and silent each day. I bet by day six they were thinking they lost their minds. Questioning their decision to follow the Lord listening to Joshua. God was not doing anything. Joshua must be crazy. Why must we walk? Why must we wait? I bet they forgot all those things when they walked right in the very next day. Trust the Lord. Do good today. Delight in Him. Your breakthrough is coming. Who knows? It may already be here. Why not praise Him like it is? Or at least, like we believe it just might be!

Galatians 6:8-10 (NIV)

Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.

Pruning Me – A Devotion

Pruning Me

John 15:1-3 (NKJV)

“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.

 

There is a little crepe myrtle tree in the backyard that I rescued from the garbage many years ago. My father had been pruning several large trees in his yard and kept some branches for neighbors who wanted the same. He threw one in the car encouraging me to plant it and just see what happens. A tree happened right in my own back yard that each year produces an abundance of tiny pink flowers. We cut back all the crepe myrtles for winter just as we always do. Living in Florida, all the plants and trees struggle with the seasons because it gets really warm one day and will dive back into the freezing temperatures the next. That’s why pollen is such a problem in heavily wooded areas. Anyway, the little tree isn’t showing signs of growth yet. I am wondering if I cut it back too far this time. Did I prune it so much that now it cannot grow and produce its array as before? It has come so far from the skinny dead stick that it once was that it would be a shame to see it die after all. There is one tiny leaf that seems to be budding if you examine a limb really, really close. Lord, I pruned it but you must bring it back to life.

I have been pruned by the Lord. Our daughter and son-in-law have announced that they will be moving to New Hampshire (21 hours away) to answer the Call of God on their life at a new and upcoming church. Onset emotional overload. Like a band aid being slowly ripped off my heart, I wonder if this time Lord the cut will be too deep. I have a carefully constructed expectation of what our life would be like now with cancer behind us and the wedding done. This would be the time that we enjoyed the peace and joy that comes when our mourning is turned to dancing. It has been three tough years for our family so now I just knew that the Lord would redeem our time together. Now this… I know that it is God calling them. I know where He calls you that He equips you. I know that every need they have will be met. I know that God is going to prosper them from the inside out and reach many people with the Good News of Jesus. Five years ago our oldest son answered the call of duty and spent a year overseas. It was hard to have my heart stretched 7000 miles around the world but we made it through and the Lord brought him safely back to us. Then for three years we have fought cancer with our son, he is now cancer-free, back in school and living life. Without any recovery time, our daughter married and left the nest. Now just five months after, she will embark on a journey miles and miles from home. My heart is full of pride and expectation but in the same moment it is cut and bleeding in desperation.

The Lord is my vine. I must remain in Him to thrive and prosper in this life. God is the vinedresser. It is His Responsibility to ensure that the fruit of His Spirit burst forth from my life to satisfy my soul and complete that which He created me for. I am being pruned today as the Lord cuts through my hard and callous heart yet again to expose me to the growth potential found in surrendering all my plans and expectations to His Word, Will and Way. I not asking the Lord, “Why” these two are going. It is quite clear. They have a message in their heart of a God who saves. They want to share it with the world. They are fruit from our life being released to the world. I just want to survive being pruned.

John 15:3-4 (NKJV)
You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you.
Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.

 

New growth always requires removal of dead things. When the leaves reach past maturity and die, the wind whisk them away to become compost and fuel the next generation of trees. When fruit is ready for consumption, it will fall to the ground to die if not picked and consumed. The fruit bears the seeds of the future that will continue the reproductive cycle. Pruning allows us to move from season to season of life without growing comfortable in the process. Rather than living off the overripe and dying fruit of the past, God prepares us to produce new things for the future. We do not have to waste our energy, effort or resources sustaining those things which are past their season. God is always looking to prosper our soul and completely satisfy us. If we try to hold on to the past, we will live there. If we try to sustain our future with what has been provided for today, we will starve. If we refuse to surrender our life to His Pruning, we abort that which carries us into the future and forever. The more that we seek to abide in Jesus Christ, the weaker we become in our fully dependency on the Lord. His Grace is made manifest in our total weakness and complete submission to Him. It is in this place of engrafting when we can honestly say with a bleeding and exposed heart, “Not my will, but Your Will God” that we are finally going to experience His Glory in our life. It is the moment that we feel that we cannot survive in our naked and exposed state that we truly understand the necessity of full dependency on the Lord.

Deuteronomy 30:6 (NKJV)

And the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul that you may live.

 

When we think that we have nothing to give the Lord, He shows us what we have left. Coming into this year, I have prayed for revival and restoration in my heart and soul. It has been a long, hard and dry winter. I have exhausted all my resources to survive. I just knew that the Lord would begin to rain down in our life to refresh and renew us. This new change seems so drastic. It is fast and furious. Panic overtakes me sometimes but then peace like a river comes flowing, too. I have been very candid with the Lord. As I feel the knife poised over my heart ready to circumcise my flesh to expose His Spirit, I am not sure that I will survive. I don’t want to make this sacrifice for His Kingdom. Looking in from the outside, many would say that they are missionaries and praise God that our children are serving the Lord. Amen and amen! But when it is your kid that you are loading on a moving truck and moving across the country when you just got used to them not living in your house, you can judge me. For now, I am absolutely heartbroken that my baby is moving. Our family is close and very tight knit. We have dinner together on a regular and ongoing basis. We share our lives not just our names. I love that they love the Lord and have a heart to serve Him. But I want them in my life, too. So as we shuffle and rush to get their affairs in order with all the packing and planning that is going to be crammed into less than two weeks, I know that the Lord is working in my reluctant. The Lord is yet again circumcising and pruning my heart. His Effort is not in vain but to expose me. I want a deeper walk with Jesus. I do. I really, really do. So as I call on His Name to keep my heart from being irretrievably broken – it is with total trust that I can say it is that it is well with my soul. See I am falling apart, but in these moments it is the Lord holding me together. Who knows maybe what this is all about anyway? Less of me and more of Him. I am decreasing and He is increasing. My flesh is slowly dying giving way to more of His Spirit.

Psalm 34:17-18 (NKJV)

The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart and saves such as have a contrite spirit.

 

The Lord is near. Oh, I know that He is. He is the One who is catching my tears for His Redemption. He is the One who is making sure that they hit every seed that we have planted by faith. He knows how hard this is. He is sustaining me in my weakness. He is my Comforter in the mist of change. How do you explain a God who facilitates change and yet is our Source of comfort and peace through it all? He is a Good God. He is working out every detail of our life for Goodness and His Glory. He is the Vinedresser who is pruning my life to produce an abundance of new life. But He is no ordinary farmer, but provided the Vine who is my Source in the challenge of change. When my weakness is exposed, He becomes my strength. When I am powerless, He is all the strength that I need to hang on until His Plan falls into place. When I am broken hearted the Lord moves in closer than ever before saving those who surrender their spirit to accept His Life-Giving Spirit of Love. To know God is moving and causing discomfort, but then providing the Comfort I need to get to the other side of change is overwhelming. I cannot naturally understand how the Lord does all these things, but I know that He is.

Psalm 103:15-18 (NKJV)

As for man, his days are like grass; as a flower of the field, so he flourishes. For the wind passes over it, and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more. But the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear Him, and His righteousness to children’s children, to such as keep His Covenant and to those who remember His commandments to do them.

 

I sure hope that I have not killed the little crepe myrtle in the backyard. It has been through too much to lose it now. I want to see it grow again and prosper with its array of tiny flowers. Imagine how much more the Father loves us and how He feels the same way with an even greater intensity. This is only a season of life. It may seem that we may not survive it but we will do more than survive if we remain connected to our Source of Life. His Name is Jesus. He is doing a work in our family’s life. I know it. As He prunes us – it is with purpose. We will know Him more in these moments if we run to Him rather than from the change that His Pruning is producing. I would love to talk these crazy kids out of this ridiculous move. But the truth is that I know it is God calling them. I want Jesus for my children more than anything else. So with a heavy heart, I will gather more boxes and answer more questions as I help them get ready to go. I know the Lord will sustain me as He prepares me in this season to prosper in the next. Lord, bring on spring. I am so ready to move and grow. Hold me and help me survive this season of preparation. Make me new in You!

Matthew 6:28-30 (NKJV)

 “So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?

Jumping Ship – A Devotion

Jumping Ship

Galatians 6:9 (NLT)

So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.

 

Are you ready to give up? Throw the proverbial towel in or at least at someone? Have you had enough? Are you fed up? Tuckered out? Done! Poke me with a fork and turn off the oven kind of done and over it. Get the picture? Like a wet rag wrung out until it is almost dry, I need the Lord. Maybe this is where we were headed all along. To that place where faith led by fear becomes fearless faith because change must occur and the only solution is Jesus. Is it the right time to swing my legs over the side and jump ship? I am not a quitter. It is not in my nature – physical, emotional or spiritual. But that same never-give-up attitude comes with a tenacity born of stubbornness that needs discipline and guidance to make the right choices at the right time. Timing is everything and faith is the only relevant factor when faced with such a challenge. I am tired of this season that I am in. I am dry, thirsty and desperate for change. Is it the right time? Is the harvest near?

Matthew 14:28-31 (NLT)

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

In the midst of a storm, it is not uncommon for those who call themselves Christians and even those who don’t have a clue to seek the Lord. When the trials of life reach beyond human comprehension requiring divine intervention, people cry out in a last ditch effort at salvation not from Judgment but their current situation or the fear that they have reached the end of life as they know it and decide that they want it back. Peter walked with Jesus every day. They lived together in close proximity. He was constantly under the guidance and teaching of the Lord. He didn’t have to read the Bible. He lived it, breathed it and even wrote portions of it. Peter told the Lord, “If it is really you…” He left the boat that he was in because he feared that it would not be safe in the storm. Peter did not have faith but left his circumstances to pursue it. When he saw the big waves, felt the pounding wind, and was pelted by the stinging rain – he found that his fear was bigger than his faith and so Peter began to sink in the water. Jesus asked him, “Why do you doubt me?” Life is filled with things that test our faith every day. There is purpose and meaning in these trials as the Lord prepares us to harvest the many blessings born of true and genuine faith. Peter was still focused on his surroundings and not His Savior. He didn’t believe in the God and His Power more than his perception and position in this life. So when Peter jumped ship the first time – he sank. Peter jumped out of the boat because he was afraid. Jesus wanted his disciple to stay in the boat because he had faith!

John 21:3-7 (NLT)

Simon Peter said, “I’m going fishing.” “We’ll come, too,” they all said. So they went out in the boat, but they caught nothing all night. At dawn Jesus was standing on the beach, but the disciples couldn’t see who he was. He called out, “Fellows, have you caught any fish?”

“No,” they replied. Then he said, “Throw out your net on the right-hand side of the boat, and you’ll get some!” So they did, and they couldn’t haul in the net because there were so many fish in it. Then the disciple Jesus loved said to Peter, “It’s the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his tunic (for he had stripped for work), jumped into the water, and headed to shore.

We meet up with Peter later in the water again this time back to his old life of fishing. Jesus had been crucified. This was not the ending that Peter and the other men had anticipated. How many times in life do things not turn out as we expected even when we are honestly trying to live a good life and follow Christ? I will be first to raise my hand and confess that I never expected our life to turn out like this. God has made a beautiful family out of a disjointed mess. He has formed a strong union between a man and woman that can only be of Him. So how does the fact our son was stricken and fights something as horrible as cancer? How does that fit in with His Plan? Then there is the war zone called my job as my co-workers and I struggle to dodge bullets and bombs not meant for us but clearly make us collateral damage in a war between two men. We must take the good with the bad. I know that. My soul cries out in the midst of it all – “Blessed be the Name of the Lord!” Peter did the only thing that he knew to do which was fishing. He fished all night and caught nothing. How would he make it without Jesus? He had given up everything to take up his cross and follow Christ. When Jesus called out to the men from the beach, they immediately obeyed. In that moment, Peter knew it was Jesus. He did not ask to walk on water, leave the boat or even if it was really the Lord. Peter knew. He jumped ship and swam all the way to shore. He made it. His faith was now fearless. He knew the Lord. He wanted Jesus more than anything leaving behind the catch of a lifetime for the chance of a lifetime. Am I ready to follow Peter to the shore?

Matthew 11:28-30 (NLT)

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

 

“All to Jesus I surrender; all to Him I freely give; I will ever love and trust Him, in His Presence daily live.” (I Surrender All by Judson W. Van DeVenter) I remember singing this song in church first with my grandmother and then as a young person. We don’t sing it much in church anymore. The old hymnals removed and new songs sung with lyrics on a fancy screen in the sanctuary. Simple songs that mean so much. I didn’t really know what I was saying back then just that it felt right inside my heart and soul. Now I know what I am asking the Lord to do in me, and just how much is required. I am tired today. I am weary of this walk that we have been on. I know that God loves me. I believe that He is always good. This walk with Christ is filled with peaks and valleys that all lead to “harvests of blessing if we do not give up”! Faith is the only requirement but the most difficult acquisition. But it is the burdens that were not meant for us that weight us down in life. The winds of the storm or waves of the sea cannot do me in if I surrender all to Jesus. Making Him the highest priority of my life allows me to face such adversity and animosity in life and make it safely through to the shore by faith. Faith that asks who He is cannot carry me all the way. It is the kind of faith that knows who He is and will do whatever it takes to get to Him that makes it to the other side. I want that kind of faith. As I look at the water, I see Jesus on the shore. The storm around me rages, the wind tries to knock me off my feet, and the rain is blinding but my faith is intact and focused on the One who loves me most and loves me best. Is it time to jump ship Lord? Am I a ready? Is that which You have prepared ready yet? These are the questions that I am asking myself today. Just because you may be tired of your situation and ready for a change is not necessarily a good reason to get your feet wet. But when Jesus completes His Work our faith can get us to where He is by His Grace we are saved by faith. Jesus completed His Work on the Cross. Now He is completing His Work in us. We may not understand the process but that doesn’t mean that we are not a work in progress. Hang on. Watch the shoreline. Is He there yet? When everything is ready. The Lord will let you know that it is time to jump and this time you will make it to the other side.

Isaiah 40:28-31 (NLT)

Have you never heard? Have you never understood? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of all the earth. He never grows weak or weary. No one can measure the depths of his understanding. He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless. Even youths will become weak and tired, and young men will fall in exhaustion. But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.

 

When Jesus died, He went to fight for our freedom and won. When He reappeared to the disciples, everything was now ready. I think that sometimes in the midst of the storms of life when we cannot see the Lord or hear His Voice – it is because He is not done with His Work and our faith is not ready to make it to the shore. If we see Him or hear Him in our desperate need for change – we may try to make the journey too soon and not fully equipped. So the Lord waits until everything is ready for our successful passage to make Himself evident again. He does this to help us. He does this because He loves us. Jesus wants us to make it. He loves us and cannot imagine life without us. He wants to give us everything that He promised and we have to have faith to get it. God is always working every detail of our life for good even when we would be willing to settle for so much less just to escape our circumstances or change our situation. Those who trust the Lord find new strength. Thank you Lord! I needed that reminder today as I wait on results from our son’s MRI of his hip. Thank you for wisdom in the situation that I am facing at work today with yet another false accusation being hurled at my co-workers and I with no one to defend us. Today will be a day of walking by faith not by sight. My person does not want to go but My Spirit says, “You can do it! Just one more day, the Lord is readying you for safe passage and to transition you from this Valley of Weeping into a place of refreshing springs and abundant blessing. (Psalm 84:6) I am ready to jump ship. I will wait until I know that He has completed His Work in me to go. Until then, I will not be weary in well doing but seek to surrender all!

Hebrews 12:10-13 (NLT)

 For our earthly fathers disciplined us for a few years, doing the best they knew how. But God’s discipline is always good for us, so that we might share in his holiness. 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.

Counting Joy – A Devotion

Counting Joy

James 1:2-4 (NLT)

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

 

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

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

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

Proverbs 20:25 (NLT)

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

 

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

Luke 14:27-29 (NLT)

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

James 5:10-12 (NLT)

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

 

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

I Corinthians 10:12-13 (NLT)

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

 

Needed: More Grace – A Devotion

Needed More Grace

Ephesians 2:8-9 (NLT)

God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.

 

I need more grace. Apparently, I do not always have enough to extend to other people or so I am being convicted of as we speak. God saved me by His Grace. His Great Grace is sufficient for me, but I am not to keep it for myself but rather allow it to overflow into the life of other people no matter how unworthy they may be. I am not worthy of His Grace but from time to time I forget that altogether. Every time I fail to extend the loving kindness of Jesus Christ including His Graciousness to another person, I am taking credit for this gift that I have been given. Salvation has nothing to do with the “things” I do but the great thing that Jesus has done for me. What is grace? Grace is the unmerited favor and goodwill of God to mankind in a Biblical sense. In practical life, it is every time that we extend the same goodwill and favor to others including, not limited to and ESPECIALLY those who do not deserve it in the slightest. We need grace, grace and more grace today. If we could grab hold of this Gift of Grace and begin re-gifting it to others, what a different world this would be!

Romans 5:20-21 (NLT)

God’s law was given so that all people could see how sinful they were. But as people sinned more and more, God’s wonderful grace became more abundant. So just as sin ruled over all people and brought them to death, now God’s wonderful grace rules instead, giving us right standing with God and resulting in eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

 

God’s Law is impossible for mankind to abide by. It came after the first person disobeyed God so it is after the fact. Put in place as a mirror, the Word of God shows us His Way and allows us to reflect on how much we need our Savior. If this is true, than the more we read God’s Word, study His Way and seek to know His Will the more grace that we will find and the more ways that we will endeavor to extend it to others. God’s Grace is abundant. It just keeps flowing and flowing. God has given us everything that we need to prosper in life beginning with His Grace that gave way to His Mercy and Love. We are set for life. However, grace is a river that runs through us. Otherwise, we become stagnant. If we do not tap in to a fresh supply and allow His Living Water to continue filter through us than grace is not grace anymore. Why? Sin pollutes the tank. There are many sins. Some that we willingly commit and others that are unknowingly perpetrated. The Holy Spirit works inside of us to remove every sin that comes between us and the Love of God so that we can experience just how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is.” (Ephesians 3:18) Sin will always lead to death. Salvation is the given by the grace, goodwill and favor of God to deliver us from our sin so we can live. When we take that gift and use it for something other than it was intended, we are now rebelling against God again and it becomes useless. We must allow God’s Wonderful Grace to rule in our life. It is the very thing that gives us right standing with God resulting in Eternal Life. We need more grace today.

Romans 6:1-4 (NLT)

Well then, should we keep on sinning so that God can show us more and more of his wonderful grace? Of course not! Since we have died to sin, how can we continue to live in it? Or have you forgotten that when we were joined with Christ Jesus in baptism, we joined him in his death? For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives.

 

“You catch more flies with honey than vinegar” is an English proverb that I remember from my childhood. It simply means that anything you want to achieve in life is obtained in our sweetness more so than in aggression. Honey is sweet. Vinegar is acidic. You add nothing to honey to make it palatable but must mix vinegar with other things to get it down. For a while, my oldest daughter and I were drinking a concoction we found on the Internet to supposedly reduce fat. It was vinegar, honey and orange juice. Talk about burn all the way down. I will go on record to say that I did not find any benefit in it other than I now know how disgusting vinegar tastes even apple cider vinegar. People are attracted to sweetness.

Salt is another element used to describe the Christian life. As a believer, we are to be the salt of the earth. Jesus said that believers are the salt of the earth but goes on to ask what good is salt that has lost its flavor. (Matthew 5:13) It becomes worthless. So let’s talk about salt for a minute, salt obviously is used in the kitchen as a spice. But when I was in Africa many years ago, I found that they locals used it for a lot more than just seasoning. While doing laundry, they would take salt and sprinkle it on stains and then take half a lemon and rub it in really well. The soiled and treated fabric would be laid in the sun while they worked on hand washing the other items. Finally, they would wash the salt and lemon combination away to reveal pristine clean beneath it. When I wash clothes here in America, I just dump them in the washing machine pour in detergent, stain remover, bleach and/or fabric softener to get the job done. I cannot see the process and I do not hand wash the clothing so I am not familiar with what actually transpires – it is very impersonal. Welcome to the Body of Christ today! We dump the Blood of Jesus on people, wash them with some Godly Words, and send them right back into the vicious cycle from which they came. Grace was hand delivered to us when they nailed our Lord and Savior to the Cross. It is to be hand delivered from each believer into the lives of another no matter if they are lost, saved or searching. It is our mission. We must learn to do it in His Love. The church is too salty and people have lost their taste from Christians. The Word of God without the Love of God is condemnation which is acidic to the soul. We must spend some time evaluating our salt to be certain it is useful. We must learn to make our life palatable to the watching and waiting world. We will not compromise on quality but definitely learn to make our life flavorful to others. “Taste and see that the Lord is good” becomes a credible statement when His Goodness and Grace overflow in our life. The best way to get people to buy food is to give them a sample.

2 Corinthians 12:9-10(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. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

 

My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness. I have relied heavily on these verses in the last few years. Now that things are slowing down, I find that I am right back here again. Humility is the essential quality in fully accepting the Grace of God and His Power in our life. I have grown frustrated yet again with ordinary things in this life rather than allowing the Grace of God and His Power to see past other people and the circumstances of life. The Grace of God is limited when my selfish sinful nature erects a wall of pride that once was laid flat before Jesus Christ. I become agitated. I cannot get over simple things that do not concern me. I become judgmental. Right now, I am being transparent. I compare my lot in life with other people and cannot see the forest for the trees. The inheritance of others is not my concern, it is my inheritance and portion that I must live on. I had a bad day at work. It coincidentally was a Monday. My frustration level began to grow and grow until I began to lash out at other people. I fussed. I fumed. I vented. By the end of the day, I was just waiting for the person who would push “that button” so I could explode. It was not a stellar day and needless to say I did not win any lost souls to Jesus Christ in my attitude and actions. So on Tuesday, I spent some time with Jesus that morning and knew that I had some work to do. When I lose myself, I find His Grace is all that I ever really needed. The enemy traps us with a sense of entitlement that is clearly not the case. He tries to convince us that we do not “deserve” certain treatment and “don’t have to take it” anymore. He is right. We do not have to take it anymore. The moment that we stop laying down our life for other people is the moment that we take our cross back up in this life and decide to become self-reliant. Fatal error. When I came across those people from the day before, I had to apologize for my behavior. They were quite perplexed. But what I discovered is that as I did this, they took a seat and actually engaged in a conversation in my office. Is it true? Yes, it is that we do attract more people with grace, love and mercy than when we put ourselves first. As the day went on, I humbled myself before many people and what I discovered is that in humility that wrecks self-confidence I felt free again. No longer filled with bitterness and pent up hostility, the events of the day no longer weighed me down. His Grace is all that I need. It always works better in my total weakness, submission, humility and undoing.

2 Corinthians 4:15-18 (NLT)

All of this is for your benefit. And as God’s grace reaches more and more people, there will be great thanksgiving, and God will receive more and more glory. That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are[b] being renewed every day. For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.

The person who rubs you the wrong way is for your benefit. The situation that frustrates you beyond words is for your benefit. The problem that perpetually pops us in your life – yep it’s for your benefit. Why all do we have to endure all these things? Friend, they are temporary. God is using everything including every detail to allow His Goodness to flow through your life. (Romans 8:28) It is all about His Grace making it to you and then through you. This is the state of a believer. This is what defines us as Children of God. In our total weakness and annihilation, we discover His Strength. Perhaps if learned how to tap into God’s Grace, turn on the faucet that is His Word, and seek to become connected to the Source, we would stop facing so many streams, storms and hurricanes as God tries to remove that which is keeping us from His Goodwill and Favor that is all details of His Grace. In Sunday school as a child, I was told that GRACE was God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense. Grace is indeed free, but it is not useless, worthless or invaluable in our life. Grace has become an excuse in the modern day church. Trampled by those who believe you can just walk in and out of God’s Presence and it will hold your sin for you. Grace is a gift from God for you and I so we can experience His Power in our life. It is our strength. It is our Source for every good thing that He has promised. It must flow to us, in us and through us to be effective. Is God’s Power working in your life today? Stagnant? Stifled? Frustrated? Overwhelmed? All that you need is more grace. God is faithful to give us what we ask for in the Name of His Son – Jesus. Why not ask for more grace today?

2 Peter 1:2-3 (NLT)

May God give you more and more grace and peace as you grow in your knowledge of God and Jesus our Lord. By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence.