Go the Distance

Go the Distance

I Corinthians 9:24-27 (ESV) Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.

What is your purpose? What are you passionate about? Do you have a plan? We live each day in anticipation of tomorrow and miss the moments given in each breath. How do I know? How many times do you go to bed on Monday only to wake up and its Friday again? Or write the date only to find that a quarter of the year has passed in what seems like just a few days? Time continually passes by and seasons change so what do I have to show for it? Well, I have a seasoned marriage of almost two decades. We have four adult children and one teenager. I have a beautiful and precious grandson. I am blessed to have a nice home with a mortgage attached. A good job. All these tangible blessings given by the goodness of God but the one thing still elusive is the fulfillment of purpose. All these “people” and “things” are wonderful. I do not take them for granted. Even those things not quantified but rather quality of life such as good physical and mental health. I am truly grateful for all that the Lord has given me. Yet still I have not achieved my calling or claimed the prize that I know is set before me.

How do I know? Do you ever have the feeling that there has to be more? Maybe there are things you have been chasing without success for years? In your home, marriage, job or ministry. God placed a purpose inside your heart. He sprinkled it with just enough faith to get you started. He wrapped the whole thing in eternity and said, “Go for it!” But then life happened… now you wonder if it really was for you or did it have an expiration date. Why do you travel so many miles and live countless moments yet they do not add up to the fulfillment and satisfaction you had hoped for? Why? You have not gone the distance yet. You are still en route. Premature promises are abortion of purpose. There is a time prescribed by God when that thing inside you will be birthed just like He has promised. Will you go the distance?

There are three disciplines needed to achieve Kingdom purpose that will also prove effective in earthly endeavors. We must be disciplined to make it to the end. Endurance is required for heavenly pursuits. Jesus told us that directly. Yet, we put limits on God by rewriting His Plan to meet our preference. To maintain the three “c”s of our demise – comfort, convenience, and control. These are the things that keep us in the present rather than pursuing our purpose. There are some things that have to change if we are to reach the prize of our high calling and inherit the prosperity already predestined for us.

Pursuit

Hebrews 12:1-2 (ESV) Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

Every single person ever born was created by God with purpose. (Psalm 139) His Thoughts of you and for you more numerous than stars in the nighttime sky or grains of sand on an endless beach. He has a plan for your life that contains a future and hope. It is a good one! He predestined us to become a masterpiece. We have all the parts and when placed in His Hands – it becomes exactly what He purposed it to be. The key is pursuit. What are you after in life?

Whom the Son sets free is free indeed! You can pursue whatever it is you would like in this lifetime. But you cannot have the things of God without pursuing the heart of God – Jesus Christ. He is the founder and perfecter of our faith. The one who takes a seed of faith and makes it the masterful purpose individually prescribed by God for our life. We get to the Father through the Son. He is the Way, the Truth and the Life. He came to give us a rich and satisfying life full of abundance. Not by chance, but on purpose. His Example was not void of the struggles faced with all the temptation that goes with it. He dealt with natural challenges such as hunger and later on torture all with His Eyes on the prize. It was for the joy on the other side of the Cross that He endured it. We must take up our Cross and pursue Jesus Christ for our purpose. It is not a diversified effort. There is no double standard. You cannot live for this world and engage in the Kingdom.

Persistence

Luke 18:1-5 (ESV) And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man. And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’ For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.’” 

The value of purpose pays for persistence. How worthwhile is your purpose? What is the end result? Is it eternity? Eternity can be birthed in the home, workplace, and every social arena of life. It is our light shining in the darkness that makes us like a city on a hill. We are in this world but not of it. However, if our heart does not value the purpose God has placed in our heart pushing to get out then we will not be persistent. Persistence is essential. It means to continue steadfastly and firmly in purpose, maintaining the course of action in spite of any and all opposition. The widow had a purpose. The purpose was of value and worthwhile to her. She kept going to the judge, “Give me justice against my adversary.” He finally gave her justice.

During our son’s battle with cancer, it was decided that the medical team would try a bone marrow transplant. Clinical studies had shown some results in this area. It looked like we were fighting a losing battle but this offered some hope after four rounds of chemotherapy. We began the workup for the transplant but the insurance company denied coverage so the hospital refused treatment. To make it very clear, our son was going to die. We had no more time. The cancer was aggressive. Chemo was no longer working. Even with the transplant, there was only a 2% chance of survival. Without it, there was 100% that he would not according to medical science. You better believe that I began to persist for his treatment. For six months, I prayed and persisted exhausting every possible avenue from the local level to governmental level. But God… persistence pays off. I believe that when we believe the Word of God for our life nothing is impossible. My persistence did not move the heart of man but it did move the Heart of God. After the final denial, I bowed my head in an empty office with all but my desk lamp on. There were no tears. There was no wailing, pleading or begging. Honestly, I think I was too broken for that. I had been rejected over and over again. I simply repeated to the Lord exactly what He told me from the beginning of the journey – “Lord, You said, ‘Your son will live and not die…’ I am taking you at Your Word. Lord, I have done everything possible to make this happen – the rest is up to You!” I turned off the light, locked the door and went home. It was not dramatic or climactic. I had persisted now God had to provide. He did! Purpose requires persistence.

Perseverance

Romans 5:1-5 (ESV) Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

Purpose becomes our passion. Passion must lead to pursuit, persistence and perseverance to yield its gain otherwise it just fizzles out like every other human emotion and feeling. If lust begins with passion, but becomes purpose when it turns into passionate love. I think sometimes just as lust and love can be confused – so is purpose and passion. The relationship of the two is bound by commitment. If you are not committed to your purpose – passion is just a feeling. If you are not passionate about your purpose – you will lose interest quickly. We talk about suffering for Jesus Christ. We do not suffer for Him. Our suffering is our flesh dying inside of us giving way to new life and new possibilities found only in a passionate relationship with Jesus Christ. Our life must become one with Him. That means that every earthly endeavor has eternal possibilities according to the purpose of our design.

Faith is given to us in a measure and grace makes it fruitful. Peace with God is a fertile field that will yield the abundance God promised for us. Misplaced passion in earthly endeavors produce only natural results. It is our passionate pursuit of Jesus Christ that makes the supernatural our reality. This requires perseverance. Suffering produces endurance when we must push past the pressure of pain to continue. Endurance produces character. Failure is not falling down but rather refusing to get up. Character is the hand that grabs hold of the fallen. Pride tells us to give up – perseverance tells us to get up. Character produces hope because it is when our identity as a Child of God becomes our life. Hope will never put us to shame. It doesn’t lead to disappointment. Those who decide to become passionate about their purpose will pursue, persist and persevere with confidence knowing and believing that God does not lie or change His Mind. What He says He will do. What He purposed will come to pass. His Word is our compass straight to success. We must go the distance. Why? “I do it all for the sake of the Gospel, that I may share in its blessings.” (I Corinthians 9:23)

Philippians 1:6 (ESV) And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

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Resurrection Life

Practice_Resurrection.Peterson

Colossians 2:8-10 (NLT) Don’t let anyone capture you with empty philosophies and high-sounding nonsense that come from human thinking and from the spiritual powers of this world, rather than from Christ. For in Christ lives all the fullness of God in a human body. So you also are complete through your union with Christ, who is the head over every ruler and authority.

“The Kingdom of God is within you…” Leo Tolstoy

Jesus Christ is alive. He is living and breathing inside the heart and soul of every believer, but not every Christian. To follow Jesus Christ is not enough. The only way to live a life of successful faith is to let the Holy Spirit change our mind and open our heart to the truth that Christ lives in us. With Resurrection Sunday just a few days away, I am filled with excitement and expectation. I like Christmas, but I love Easter. We celebrate the arrival of the Messiah in December, but the thing that makes Jesus so powerful is the fact that He died for our sin and rose again on the third day. Except Christ be crucified AND resurrected, there is not power, authority or dominion over death. It is important that believers serve the risen Savior and Lord or they are worshipping a dead god.

To believe that the fullness of God be fully invested in Jesus Christ means nothing if He is not alive in us today. How full is a broken cup? No matter how much is poured in it would only gush out. The substance of our faith is contained in the hope of the Living God. If our faith has nothing to build upon – it has no validity. Faith in God is paramount on the fact that Jesus Christ lives in us or to make a connection with Him would be sudden death. Outside of Christ – I have no chance of living in the Presence of God day by day into eternity. The fact that Jesus Christ is alive and lives in us is what changes every impossibility into future possibility. It takes a natural life making it supernatural. Our ordinary existence becomes extraordinary when Christ comes to live in us. It is time to change our mind about the God we serve and recognize that Christ is alive and well inside of us. Christ in us identifies us as part of the Kingdom of God.

“God cannot be understood by logical reasoning but only by submission.” Leo Tolstoy

Faith is not logical. It will never be understood by human reasoning. It is not validated by what we see but Who we know. The more I know Jesus Christ – the more logical my faith becomes. As I submit my life to Him, He fills me with the fullness of God that is in Him. The Spirit produces fruit from seeds of faith like love, joy, peace, and the like. He bestows forgiveness, kindness and goodness to us in epic proportions so they begin to flow from us as we cannot contain the Favor of the Living God any longer. Too many Christians are trying to pour from empty cups. I must submit my life fully to the Lord in order to have a reservoir to draw from.

Romans 8:10-12 (NLT) And Christ lives within you, so even though your body will die because of sin, the Spirit gives you life because you have been made right with God. The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you. Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, you have no obligation to do what your sinful nature urges you to do.

Scrolling through social media, I came across a meme posted about the recounting of sins at the pearly gates and not realizing you were that wild or something like that. All in good fun. A particularly long comment thread caught my attention beginning with a young woman who berated the poster as sacrilegious. I will not recount the back and forth banter because quite honestly the debate a complete embarrassment to Christians. Anyway, she recanted that unless we completely separate ourselves from the world and live “sinless” lives that we will not enter Heaven. I just shook my head and scrolled on. Nobody can do that. We all have a sinful nature to be crucified daily. Religion tells us to follow all the rules and regulations and you will make it into Heaven. If there is no relationship with Jesus Christ, you will never get there from here.

I share this revelation because sinless perfection is impossible in a human being ever. Even saved, sanctified super spiritual people sin – all the time. The mindset of the believer is to do everything humanly and spiritually possible to avoid it but surrender and submit our life to the Cross when we fall short. I cannot judge or condemn another person because I have fallen short. It only took one sin and Lord knows I am capable of way more than that. Our mission in life is complete unity with Jesus Christ. Laying our life down, crucifying our flesh and living in the love of God given to us through His Son. I have no obligation to sin anymore. What does that mean? It means that the Spirit of the Living God gives me power and authority over sin. I can make better choices just because He lives. But even on my best day, the good in me and greatest potential of my life is Jesus Christ. My elevation comes from exaltation and the revelation that surrender and submission are the only way to live. “Christian joy is letting Christ live His Life out through you so that what He is…you become.” (David Jeremiah)

2 Corinthians 13:4-5 (NLT) Although he was crucified in weakness, he now lives by the power of God. We, too, are weak, just as Christ was, but when we deal with you we will be alive with him and will have God’s power. Examine yourselves to see if your faith is genuine. Test yourselves. Surely you know that Jesus Christ is among you; if not, you have failed the test of genuine faith.

“God doesn’t throw a life preserver to a drowning person. He goes to the bottom of the sea, and pulls a corpse from the bottom of the sea, takes him up to the bank, breathes into him the breath of life and makes him alive.” (R.C. Sproul) If we could get the imagine of death in our mind, the reality of it, the brutal and abrupt end of life – maybe there would be a better sense of exactly what Christ offers us in His Resurrection. We avoid death at all costs. Born dying, we try to outrun, outlive, and outsmart the inevitable end of human life. There is another option but in order to embrace the joy of eternity one must engage in the death process prematurely. The unfathomable and incomprehensible has happened. In our revelation of the true meaning of Christ’s Resurrection is that now that same power, authority and vitality lives in us. He was crucified in weakness and raised in complete fulfillment and victory. We must engage in the same process to move from death to life. To obtain grace comes at the price of strength and ability – it is obtained in utter weakness. When we could do nothing to save ourselves – Jesus died for us. “He did not come to shame the sinners. Jesus came to save sinners.” (Reinhard Bonnke) “He came into this world to make dead people live.” (Leo Tolstoy) Apart from the Grace of God our connection with Him is religious. The consummation of our relationship with the Living God is that Christ lives in us. We have live because He is life.

Galatians 2:19-21 (NLT)  For when I tried to keep the law, it condemned me. So I died to the law—I stopped trying to meet all its requirements—so that I might live for God. My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not treat the grace of God as meaningless. For if keeping the law could make us right with God, then there was no need for Christ to die.

I encourage you to join me if examining the heart and mind in these days leading up to Resurrection Sunday. Do you believe that Christ is alive? Do you understand that He lives in you? Do you live through Him? It is important to evaluate our personal walk with Christ each day? To compare our direction to His Directive (His Word, Will and Way). To completely empty the contents of our heart and make sure it is only faith in God that is retained and worthless things thrown away. The only thing of worth in us is Jesus Christ. If we do not fully believe and base our life on the fact that Jesus lives and resides in us – what is there to celebrate on Easter? If Christ did not emerge from the grave victorious over sin and death – folks, we have a problem. It doesn’t matter how good you are doing or successful you are at avoiding sin, without the Living God – there is nothing to live for. All those efforts following the example of Christ are meaningless if the person of Jesus does not reside inside you. The Spirit gives us life. Apart from Him, death is the only option. Revive us again, Jesus. Teach us to celebrate the power and authority that You have given us and live a resurrection life.

John 11:25-26 (NLT)  Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying. Everyone who lives in me and believes in me will never ever die. Do you believe this, Martha?” Do you believe this (put your name here)?

 

Black Sheep

Black Sheep

Luke 15:4-7 (NLT) “If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them gets lost, what will he do? Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others in the wilderness and go to search for the one that is lost until he finds it? And when he has found it, he will joyfully carry it home on his shoulders. When he arrives, he will call together his friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.’ In the same way, there is more joy in heaven over one lost sinner who repents and returns to God than over ninety-nine others who are righteous and haven’t strayed away!

On my daily commute, I pass a small makeshift farm. It started as one pen with a couple sheep. Now it is three pens, several sheep, two herding dogs, and some chicken coops. Recently, there were several lambs born with one that is solid black. The sheep and Great Pyrenes are solid white so the little guy sticks out like a sore thumb with its raven-colored coat. Every day I slow down to look for the black sheep. But as of late, the little one is not among the flock.

Today, I am acutely aware of the black sheep. I am part of a blended family. My parents each brought two children to their union. I have a very tangled family tree so we will stay on this side of it for now. My sister was very young and my biological father adopted her when she was just two years old. My bonus mom as one might call her also had a son. He did not embrace the new family quite so much and gravitated toward his own father and his side of the family. He might even be called a black sheep of sorts. Life for him was very difficult and his struggle very real. He loved the Lord, but had his own wilderness moments along the way. He passed away yesterday. I am sad. Although he was not as closely knit into our family as my brother and sister – I am sad for him. He died feeling that he was a black sheep. He felt like a disgrace who was ostracized. Not because he was not loved and cherished by his family, the enemy wrapped him in up in a lie that would cause him to stumble in life many times.

The tragic news of his death has haunted me. I see black sheep all the time. From the actual animal to the people who wander through life never experiencing the Love of God and all His Fullness. The inability to fully grasp and understand the completeness of God’s Grace and Goodness that He has just for them. Caught up in comparison, tangled in lies and stumbling over stupid things – they wander through life never really knowing, understanding or fully comprehending that which is pursuing them. Have we as Christians and believers contributed in some way? Setting conditions on love and acceptance that God never truly intended? To distance ourselves from the lost, wandering and broken afraid it is contagious? To gravitate toward success avoiding those who represent failure? To forget that we too were once the one lost sheep who was carried home by our Savior?

Matthew 18:12-14 (MSG) “Look at it this way. If someone has a hundred sheep and one of them wanders off, doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine and go after the one? And if he finds it, doesn’t he make far more over it than over the ninety-nine who stay put? Your Father in heaven feels the same way. He doesn’t want to lose even one of these simple believers.”

Where is the celebration when a simple believer is born? When the one who was lost wanders to the altar of our churches? Do we embrace them as they are? Or do we mandate a grace of change from imperfect to perfect in an instant? The Blood of Jesus covers our sin. Over time the Word begins to wash us clean including old wounds. A black sheep cannot change the color of its fur. It is still a sheep. The DNA the same it just looks different. You can shear it a hundred times and its coat will remain black. However, as Christians caught up in religion, we get so bent on changing people to meet our expectations and mandates of doctrine that we forget to love them just as they are. Love is not mean. It is not unkind. It is forgiving. Accepting. Affirming. This is the kind of love that allows the Lord to work out salvation and complete the transforming power offered through Jesus Christ. Where are the beloveds? The Love of God is unconditional. It loves with powerful passion even when it is not wanted or reciprocated. The Perfection of God meets us in our imperfection and loves us just the same. I don’t think we get that. If we did – people would flock to our services to encounter such love – no pun intended.

I Peter 2:25 (NLT) Once you were like sheep who wandered away. But now you have turned to your Shepherd, the Guardian of your souls.

The example of Jesus Christ is to be a guardian of souls. Our Shepherd is the Guardian of our souls. Guardian means defender, protector and keeper. The one who looks after and is responsible for someone. My mission in life must be to seek the sheep and CARRY them home. It doesn’t say that when he found the sheep that he beat it severely, reprimanded it harshly, or any other form of punishment. It says, “and when he has found it, he will joyfully carry it home on his shoulders.” He did not wait for the sheep to come to him, but the true shepherd searches for the sheep. He pursues the one that is lost. Religion will only separate and divide unless it becomes about relationship. I tried to change a thousand times going to church and following everyone’s instructions. Yet I still wandered into the wilderness of life, I made countless mistakes. I let God down and failed Him faithfully. When I came back to the Lord, He didn’t berate me. In fact, He wooed me. He loved me. He filled me with more love and grace than I ever thought possible. When I fell in love with Jesus – all the hypocrites and haters didn’t matter anymore. I found love. Unconditional and unfathomable love. It is from that I have learned to love others without expectation. I find that I gravitate toward black sheep and embrace them because I was once lost and now I am found.

My heart is heavy today. I am sad that my brother has passed. I believe that Jesus mercifully came and set him free. I grieve the relationship that could have been and never will be. I am pressed to consider my love for others today. Do I look for the lost sheep as I do the little black sheep each day? Do I show unconditional love to those who are wandering? When they do come to church – are they met with celebration or more condemnation? God don’t let that be me. Fill my heart with the love and compassion that you have for each us. The kind of love and commitment that leaves the ninety-nine to pursue the one. Lord, let my response be rejoicing as I carry them home. Forgive me Jesus for the forgotten ones. Those who I turned a blind eye to or just walked around. All the times that I judged someone for not living up to my convictions or pursuing them with anything but unconditional love. Teach me Holy Spirit to be a guardian of souls. To rejoice over the sinner more than the saints. Be my example Lord for you are the Good Shepherd.

John 10:9-11 (NLT) Yes, I am the gate. Those who come in through me will be saved. They will come and go freely and will find good pastures. The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd sacrifices his life for the sheep.”

Fairytales are Fiction

Fairytales are Fiction

Ephesians 6:10-12 (MSG) And that about wraps it up. God is strong, and he wants you strong. So take everything the Master has set out for you, well-made weapons of the best materials. And put them to use so you will be able to stand up to everything the Devil throws your way. This is no afternoon athletic contest that we’ll walk away from and forget about in a couple of hours. This is for keeps, a life-or-death fight to the finish against the Devil and all his angels.

What did you expect coming to Christ? A happily-ever-after fairytale with a prince on a white stallion coming to steal you away? Or maybe the final scene in An Officer and Gentlemen when he comes to whisk you out of an ordinary life to embrace a new journey? Did you expect every problem to disappear? What did you expect? What do you expect now? I do not want to dissuade you. I do not bring bad news. You are called more than a conqueror for a reason. You have more than enough to achieve great purpose. There must be a challenge to find victory. There is no glory in surviving. God called us to thrive.

God promises to be our strength. To give us His Power by Grace in our weaknesses. He give us the land and then commands us take it. Did you really think the enemy would give up that easy? Oh, he came to Christ – game over. The enemy is desperate. He has nothing to lose. The end of the story is clear and the odds not in his favor. Like a thief who comes in the darkness looking for an open window or unlocked door to enter the unguarded heart or unfiltered mind. His weapon is not hewn out of metal or forged in steel but a tiny little lie or half-truth lobbed into our thoughts. What if? Or else? Really? All he has to do is trick you into believing that God is not Who He says that He is, or He will not do exactly as He said. In that moment, faith falls apart and confidence crumbles.

2 Corinthians 10:3-6 (MSG) The world is unprincipled. It’s dog-eat-dog out there! The world doesn’t fight fair. But we don’t live or fight our battles that way—never have and never will. The tools of our trade aren’t for marketing or manipulation, but they are for demolishing that entire massively corrupt culture. We use our powerful God-tools for smashing warped philosophies, tearing down barriers erected against the truth of God, fitting every loose thought and emotion and impulse into the structure of life shaped by Christ. Our tools are ready at hand for clearing the ground of every obstruction and building lives of obedience into maturity.

We must demolish the mindset of culture set forth by life experiences and encounter Jesus Christ as the powerhouse that governs our life. If we could just change our mind about Who He is and What He came to do – we would channel our life including our goals and dreams through Christ. Reconciling our life to His Word mandates change from poverty to prosperity in our soul that begins to change every possibility in our life. The impossible becomes possible in Jesus. Every detail of our life turned for good to His Glory. The enemy has no power against us. It is embracing the lie over the Truth that caused us all to fall short of God’s Glorious Standard of Living. The struggle is real. It is in our heart and head. How do you wrap your mind around surrender that gives way to power and submission that becomes freedom? To give up and gain it all. It just doesn’t make logical sense outside of faith that believes God does exactly what He says and the Gift of His Son is all that we need.

Mark 9:22-24 (MSG) He asked the boy’s father, “How long has this been going on?” “Ever since he was a little boy. Many times it pitches him into fire or the river to do away with him. If you can do anything, do it. Have a heart and help us!” Jesus said, “If? There are no ‘ifs’ among believers. Anything can happen.” No sooner were the words out of his mouth than the father cried, “Then I believe. Help me with my doubts!”

There is a young man who I met just over a year ago at our daughter’s birthday dinner. Before the food arrived, she asked him to bless our meal together. As he began to pray, I almost fell out of my chair. The thick anointing in this kid’s honoring God just to say grace got my full attention. I immediately left the “adult” table to meet him. His testimony will blow you away. He was not raised in church but when he met Jesus Christ – he was forever changed. His mother passed away prematurely. He and dad are distanced. No real parents living with grandparents yet finding his way as a Child of God. The potential in this kid is unprecedented. God is going to use him. There is no doubt in my mind. His grandmother was diagnosed with metastatic cancer last week. He knocked out a tail light yesterday. On his way, he got pulled over. He is battling discouragement. He feels alone. What did he expect? To set our heart and mind on Christ paints a big red target on our back. To engage in the pursuit of faith and confident hope gains negative attention from the enemy. He begins lobbing attacks to stop you from reaching your destiny, becoming a bright light or just a little salty. It is up to us to identify these attacks and fight back. How? What can I do?

You just have to believe. You must pump up Jesus and not your problem. Put the Lord on the throne and make Him the king of your hill. The mountains become molehills for those who believe. David didn’t see a Philistine giant but rather knew a Gigantic God. The devil wants you to think that the impossible is the ending point. It is the starting line of faith. It is the entrance to the realm of hope where all things are possible. Do you believe? If you do, then the battle indicates you are about to step into God’s Promise and the place right in front of it is enemy territory. Go back. Give up. Don’t be ridiculous. Why would God love you? You are nothing. You can do nothing. You will be nothing. All the taunts of the father of lies. He is ruthless in his candor and relentless in his taunts. But they are all just words unless we hold on to them. The Word for our life is God’s Word. It contains every promise and provision given to us by the Cross. If we hold it with both hands and wrap our mind around it, it becomes the shield of faith that guards our heart in battle.

Matthew 24:13-14 (MSG) “Staying with it—that’s what God requires. Stay with it to the end. You won’t be sorry, and you’ll be saved. All during this time, the good news—the Message of the kingdom—will be preached all over the world, a witness staked out in every country. And then the end will come.

Jesus was clear in Matthew 10 that He did not come to bring peace but a sword. Life is a battle to the finish. We must endure to the end. Jesus is not all about world peace. He is love. To teach us to expect His Love and love others from the Source. We must tear down every stronghold and leave no stone unturned when it comes to claiming God’s Promises. He has given us victory over every scheming attack. It is found in faith for those who choose to believe even when such a thought is illogical. Confident hope keeps us in the battle when it looks like we are losing. Sometimes it takes losing everything to gain our very soul. I have to lose my life to find it. I have to lose my life in You – Jesus!

We are called to be soldiers of the Lord. A soldier on duty doesn’t get caught up in civilian affairs. The unit will provide his basic needs. He is trained. He is equipped. He has his objective. His life is a mission. Not every soldier is a warrior. A warrior becomes seasoned in the fight. His hands calloused from holding his weapon. His mind now confident that he can win. His scars are his glory of victory gone by. He does not flee engagement but welcomes it because he longs for the next big win. He is ready to see glory. I wonder today what would happen if we lived for the battle rather than running from them. If our faith was aroused by confrontation and hope became our life force. What if the impossible got us excited because we knew God was about to do something big? What if we expected miracles rather than settling for mediocre? Let me assure you if you are not living a rich and satisfied life of exceeding abundance beyond what you could think, ask or imagine – there is more to life than this. You have a land to take. A promise to claim. With every promise, there is a fight. With every miracle, a battle in our heart to be won. You can do it. Christ lives in you. He is enough!

Fairytales are fiction. Faithful expectation produces in real life. Every story has a climax. An evil to overcome. Every princess at times must straighten her crown. Every prince must find his way to the throne. We are sons and daughters of the Most High God. We are not called to poverty but prosperity. It gains the attention of the thief. The battle rages on. The promise that we live for is that Christ is enough to make us overcomers. He gives us the victory. He infuses power in our weakness. He will be our Strength. He is more than enough. Live in expectation. Focus on your faith. Pick up your sword (the Word of God) and partner with His Spirit. You are in it to win it. Fight for it. It’s yours!

Romans 8:31-39 (MSG) So, what do you think? With God on our side like this, how can we lose? If God didn’t hesitate to put everything on the line for us, embracing our condition and exposing himself to the worst by sending his own Son, is there anything else he wouldn’t gladly and freely do for us? And who would dare tangle with God by messing with one of God’s chosen? Who would dare even to point a finger? The One who died for us—who was raised to life for us!—is in the presence of God at this very moment sticking up for us. Do you think anyone is going to be able to drive a wedge between us and Christ’s love for us? There is no way! Not trouble, not hard times, not hatred, not hunger, not homelessness, not bullying threats, not backstabbing, not even the worst sins listed in Scripture: They kill us in cold blood because they hate you. We’re sitting ducks; they pick us off one by one. None of this fazes us because Jesus loves us. I’m absolutely convinced that nothing—nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable—absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us.

 

Give Me A Sign

Give me a sign

Hebrews 2:4-8 (NLT) And God confirmed the message by giving signs and wonders and various miracles and gifts of the Holy Spirit whenever he chose. And furthermore, it is not angels who will control the future world we are talking about. For in one place the Scriptures say, “What are mere mortals that you should think about them, or a son of man that you should care for him? Yet for a little while you made them a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honor. You gave them authority over all things.” Now when it says “all things,” it means nothing is left out. But we have not yet seen all things put under their authority.

Gideon was at the bottom of the winepress threshing wheat when the angel of the Lord came to him. He called Gideon, mighty warrior, while he was yet to emerge from his hiding place. The man of God was trying to survive when the Lord decreed that through him Israel would thrive. Gideon did not immediately rise up to his calling. He needed a sign. Actually before the chapter ends, Gideon would ask the Lord for multiple signs to signify that this encounter and experience was real and the Word of the Lord true.

For a long time I struggled with stories like Gideon’s, God’s call tested by mankind. But the longer I walk with the Lord, the more that I have come to realize that true power is accessed in my weakness rather than when I pretend to have strength. The first miracle performed in my life drained every single ounce of trust I had in the Lord and His Word. When faith becomes our mission – it is in the pursuit of miracles. Faith is not for the things naturally occurring but for supernatural outcomes. Faith is the credible confidence that we are fully assured of God’s Promises for us and live expectantly. Faith is illogical in accordance with natural intelligence and human reasoning. It is the mindset that the power of God is within us and will find its way out of us that should keep us constantly aware that signs, wonders and miracles are the attainable lifestyle of all God’s Children. As our soul prospers, in all things so shall we.

I need a sign. I have walked as far as faith will carry me. I need the Lord to show me that I am still on course. I do not need a release from my calling but rather confidence in my way. I am not asking for a change of way but a change of heart today. Do you feel lost in the journey today? Does everything seem contrary to your calling? Do you think maybe you missed Him? I do. The Lord has given us power and authority over all things. Jesus Christ gives us grace infused with His Power. It flourishes in our weakness as long as we do not give up, wander off or refuse to wait. I have asked the Lord for a sign. I know He will give it to me.

Judges 6:36-40 (NLT) Then Gideon said to God, “If you are truly going to use me to rescue Israel as you promised, prove it to me in this way. I will put a wool fleece on the threshing floor tonight. If the fleece is wet with dew in the morning but the ground is dry, then I will know that you are going to help me rescue Israel as you promised.” And that is just what happened. When Gideon got up early the next morning, he squeezed the fleece and wrung out a whole bowlful of water. Then Gideon said to God, “Please don’t be angry with me, but let me make one more request. Let me use the fleece for one more test. This time let the fleece remain dry while the ground around it is wet with dew.” So that night God did as Gideon asked. The fleece was dry in the morning, but the ground was covered with dew.

The angel of the Lord called Gideon a “mighty warrior”. Gideon asked for a sign. The sign was the acceptance of his offering to the Lord. God obliged him. Gideon took ten men to destroy his father’s altar to Baal and cut down the Asherah pole. Even though his father’s household and town people came against them, the word of the Lord proved true and Gideon was spared. The Lord “clothed” Gideon with power. The armies had formed an alliance to come against Israel. Battle was at hand. So Gideon, asked the Lord for a sign. “If you are truly going to use me to rescue Israel as you promised, prove it to me this way…” Friend, I don’t know what you are battling today but I do know the battle is the Lord’s. There is victory inside of you.

Is it wrong to ask God for a sign? To take Him at His Word sounds easy until impossibilities take over. When you need a miracle is the hardest time to keep your mind, will and emotions in check. Desperation takes over. Fear of disappointment is cast at your weary soul each day. God is the God of the impossible. It is impossible to please God without faith. He knows us inside and out. He even offers us the opportunity to test Him, try Him, and prove Him. (Malachi 6) This passage in Malachi refers to money and finances. What better place to start? One of the staunchest competitors for our heart. Yet I believe that in all things God says, “Put me to the test.” If you desires faith and a more meaningful relationship with Jesus Christ – He will give you a sign.

Matthew 9:6-7 (NLT) Is it easier to say ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or ‘Stand up and walk’? So I will prove to you that the Son of Man has the authority on earth to forgive sins.” Then Jesus turned to the paralyzed man and said, “Stand up, pick up your mat, and go home!” And the man jumped up and went home!

I believe the outcome of our request for a sign from the Lord is contingent on our heart. What is that we desire from Him? Are you after God’s Hand or His Heart? There was one thief on the cross who desired to be with Jesus while the other one only wanted to escape. Only one was granted his request that day dying nevertheless. Is it easier to say, “Your sins are forgiven?” or “Stand up and walk?” There are many people who call themselves Christians but never go beyond the title. This is not a word of condemnation just part of the identity crisis of the church today. Signs, wonders and miracles should accompany the modern day Christian just like the early church. We have everything needed to live under an open heaven so what is keeping it closed?

Doubt. Truly that is the source of the mountains that we face and obstacles we cannot overcome. It is always doubt. God’s Power is never lessened by a lack of faith. Grace releases the power and authority of Christ as we humble our life before Him. We can say that our sins are forgiven, but no one can see the contents of our heart. However, signs, wonders and miracles in our life are evidence that His Power is at work in us and through us.

Matthew 12:38-41 (NLT) One day some teachers of religious law and Pharisees came to Jesus and said, “Teacher, we want you to show us a miraculous sign to prove your authority.” But Jesus replied, “Only an evil, adulterous generation would demand a miraculous sign; but the only sign I will give them is the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was in the belly of the great fish for three days and three nights, so will the Son of Man be in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights. The people of Nineveh will stand up against this generation on judgment day and condemn it, for they repented of their sins at the preaching of Jonah. Now someone greater than Jonah is here—but you refuse to repent.”

When the religious folks requested a miracle, Jesus had one for them. The sign of Jonah that was yet to come when He died on the cross, laid in the grave three days and emerged with victory over sin and death in His Hand. For them, there’s the sign. However, for those who seek to live by faith and an abiding relationship with Jesus Christ – He will give them signs, do miracles and they will experience wonders that cannot be explained so all glory will go the Lord. True repentance opens the window of heaven. Faith is a series of steps toward loving and trusting Him more. It is not an easy journey. The Lord sees our heart. The heart intent on finding Him will seek Him. He sees your heart and responds to your faith. If you need a sign, do not be afraid to ask for it. The Lord comes close to the brokenhearted. The one who is searching for Him will find Him.

Are you striving in obedience? Do you think you lost your way? The Lord will be our light. His Word is a lamp for your feet and light to your path. His Spirit is your helper. He will give you a sign when you need it. Ask for it. Look for it. Trust Him. Believe. Walk by faith and not by sight. God is doing exactly as He promised according to His Will and Way which always is exceedingly abundantly more than we can think, ask or imagine.

Acts 1:3 (NLT) During the forty days after he suffered and died, he appeared to the apostles from time to time, and he proved to them in many ways that he was actually alive. And he talked to them about the Kingdom of God.

We focus on Acts 2 and the day of Pentecost when Jesus poured out His Spirit on mankind. However, if you look in the first chapter of Acts – a beautiful love story unfolds. Jesus had been betrayed and brutalized. He died on the Cross and came up out of the grave. For forty days, the same amount of time he was in the wilderness, the Lord spent time with the apostles. What was he doing? He proved to them in many ways that he was actually alive. Are you in a wilderness of testing? Fasting? Praying? Believing? Yet still wondering? Wandering a bit? The Lord will come to you. He will give you a sign. He will prove that He is still alive. Jesus will show His Love for you again and again if you request it from a repentant heart. He is that good! He has that much grace!

Proverbs 30:5 (NLT) Every word of God proves true. He is a shield for all who come to Him for protection.

God always responds to our cry for help. He listens to our doubts and disappointments. In that moment when our heart desires Him, and strives for more faith – He will answer and give us a sign. You just have to want Him more than anything else. Miracles still happen. They come at a high price. We must give up on ourselves and fully embrace Him by faith and trust to do what His Word says that He will do. No more compromises. No more shortcuts. No more excuses. Here is your sign – the One who has called you is faithful. He will do exactly as He promised to do!

2 Corinthians 1:19-22 (NLT)  For Jesus Christ, the Son of God, does not waver between “Yes” and “No.” He is the one whom Silas, Timothy, and I preached to you, and as God’s ultimate “Yes,” he always does what he says. For all of God’s promises have been fulfilled in Christ with a resounding “Yes!” And through Christ, our “Amen” (which means “Yes”) ascends to God for his glory. It is God who enables us, along with you, to stand firm for Christ. He has commissioned us, and he has identified us as his own by placing the Holy Spirit in our hearts as the first installment that guarantees everything he has promised us.

Water on a Rock

Water on a rock

John 7:37-38 (NLT) On the last day, the climax of the festival, Jesus stood and shouted to the crowds, “Anyone who is thirsty may come to me! Anyone who believes in me may come and drink! For the Scriptures declare, ‘Rivers of living water will flow from his heart.’”

“I am like a drop of water on a rock. After drip, drip, dripping in the same place, I begin to leave a mark and I leave my mark in many people’s hearts.” These are the words of Guatemalan Human Rights Activist and 1992 Nobel Peace Prize winner Rigoberta Menchu. It is a declaration of persistence. A canyon is not formed by the hands of man but by persistence water flowing through it. What mark am I leaving on the hearts around me? Do I speak life to them consistently? Do I use word to confirm God’s Love and Affirmation of them in order to show them the Light? What is my impact on others?

The Grand Canyon is 277 miles long and 18 miles wide and about a mile deep. It is the result of the Colorado River running through it. Man did not design it or carve it from the rock masses but a constant flow of water slowly and persistently eroding the hard surface. It is majestic. It is flocked to by many visitors each year attracting tourists to Arizona just to behold its breathtaking beauty. A national attraction of unintentional creation by the Hand of God carved from rocks with a simple flow of water.

Do you feel like the Word you share with others is like water on a rock? You try to share the Love of God through His Word and according to His Spirit, but you are just not seeing any results. Jesus told those celebrating that day, “Anyone who is thirsty may come to me. Anyone who believes in me may come and drink! And, “Rivers of Living Water will flow from their heart!” The power of God’s Word is not by force but by persistence. God does not force us to accept His Love and Grace but offers it daily. In the morning, there is new mercies not according to our faithfulness but the Lord’s Faithfulness. Every promise is “yes” and “amen” for us and His Unfailing Love and Goodness pursue us no matter where our feet may wander. His Grace is enough. Always sufficient. Christ gives me overwhelming victory just because He loves me so. Calling me “more than a conqueror” as He completes the good work started in me. He manages to use every detail of my life for good and His Glory. It just doesn’t make sense and it is very simple. Maybe that is why people have a hard time accepting it.

2 Timothy 4:1-2 (NLT) I solemnly urge you in the presence of God and Christ Jesus, who will someday judge the living and the dead when he comes to set up his Kingdom: Preach the word of God. Be prepared, whether the time is favorable or not. Patiently correct, rebuke, and encourage your people with good teaching.

“Dripping water hollows out a stone, not by force but persistence. (Ovid) Some translations of this passage say, “Be ready in season and out of season” to speak the Word of God. It seems that in times of drought and famine in our life that the highest platform is given. What will flow from me when my feelings take over? When pressed? When angry, sad, hurt, betrayed or offended? What will be the words that flow from the depths of my heart? It is from the abundance of the heart our mouth forms thoughts, ideas and words.

We must carefully consider the contents of our conversation. The Word of God is the water and the Spirit gives it life. In John 7, the rivers of living water are a mixture of Word and Spirit that will flow from the heart through the mouth making our witness productive in promoting the Kingdom. We must find truth in the Word and allow the Spirit to teach us God’s Wisdom to share His Love effectively and communicate it to the world. Jesus told the woman at the well about living water. He encouraged her to worship in Spirit and in Truth. In that moment, she forget those she was avoiding and the people who shunned her with boldness she went to them and shared her encounter with the Messiah.

Our message to the world will never be effective if put on reserve. Waiting for the right moment to sow seeds is not advantageous. We sow seeds in every season so there will be a harvest for the next. Withholding God’s Word and His Love from others promotes seasons of drought and famine. God will prosper those who continuously sow in season and out of season including the seeds of His Word into others. Husbands are encouraged to love their wives as Christ loved the church even “having cleansed her (His Bride) with the washing of water with the word.” I wonder what would happen if rather than forcing our convictions on others and withholding the grace given to us by Christ – we chose to carefully bathe and dress the wounds of the broken and lost what might happen? If our vocabulary was a constant drip of God’s Love, Grace and Mercy for us to others who need it as much as we do. Sin becomes less palatable when love is properly seasoned.

Proverbs 18:4 (NLT) The words of a man’s mouth are deep waters; the fountain of wisdom is a bubbling brook.

There is life and death in our words. The depth of our soul is revealed in our daily conversation. The Fruit of God’s Spirit are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness AND self-control. Our words should bear heavy fruit of the Spirit’s cultivation in our heart and mind. Such words end famine in human hearts and begin spiritual reproduction in others. The first fruit is love. The Word defines love as patient and kind. It says that love is not jealous or boastful never rude or demanding its own way. Love is not irritable and always forgiving while not keeping record of any wrongs. Love rejoices in the Truth. The Truth concerning us is the Word. The Word is Jesus. Love does not desire vengeance but thrives on mercy. Love never ever gives up. It never loses faith. Always hopeful, it endures through every circumstance. Without love, I have nothing to offer and nothing to gain.

Luke 6:45 (NLT) A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. What you say flows from what is in your heart.

Jesus didn’t change the world standing on a platform. He did not do it through a megaphone. He did it by walking, talking, living and breathing God’s Love. Jesus did not come to do His Will. He came to express the Father’s Love to us and make a way for us to come back into the family. It worked. Our heart is the treasury that contains His Word and His Spirit. A hard heart cannot flow living water. A stony exterior will stop its overflow. Our words hold the secret of what the contents of our heart may be. To express Christ’s Love effectively our heart must not only contain the Word and His Spirit but be soft enough to let it flow from our lips. We cannot give what has not been received. What are the words of my mouth today? Do they express God’s Love? Are they full of His Fruit? Do they satisfy those who hunger, thirst and desire a better way? Are they light that draw others from darkness? Are they salty enough to add flavor but not ruin the whole meal?

There is an urgency in our collection of water from the Word. Amos 8 warns that the Word of God will not be found in the future. Men will look for it and it will not be found. We must hide God’s Word in our heart so He is with us always. Moses experienced heartbreak when God told him to speak to the rock so water might flow from it, but he decided to strike the rock twice instead. The Word of God is to make a way from death to life and darkness to light. I must always use the Word of God and His Spirit according to His Purpose – not my own agenda. God’s Word is the water that washes away sin and heals broken hearts. His Spirit is the Living Flow that finishes the Good Work God has begun in us. Persistence is my pleasure. Not that I would see immediate results but that the constant drip of obedience to the Lord will make it through my stony exterior to the depths of my heart.

John 4:10 (NLT)  Jesus replied, “If you only knew the gift God has for you and who you are speaking to, you would ask me, and I would give you living water.”

Without Love – I Am Nothing

Without Love

2 Thessalonians 1:3 (NLT) Dear brothers and sisters, we can’t help but thank God for you, because your faith is flourishing and your love for one another is growing.

Flourishing faith is evidenced by growing love. What is your response to pressure? When faced with opposition how do you react? It is human nature to play the name game. It feels good to retaliate even seek revenge. Our flesh prefers to harbor an offense rather than freely forgive. Pride doesn’t like being wrong or to be wronged. We are not creatures of flesh or pride any more but new creations in Jesus Christ. This new life is one of liberty. Our freedom doesn’t limit the Gift of Love but makes it our passion. Grace is free to us but not to Jesus. His Grace is enough because He paid the ultimate price to give us this abundant life beginning with a prospering soul. Our soul does not deal in commodities, assets or finance. It is not hindered by time or testing. Our soul is eternal thanks to Jesus.

These words penned in a letter to the church of Thessalonica by Paul, Silas and Timothy commend the people for their flourishing faith and growing love in the midst of persecution. I wonder if such a church exists today. Could it be that religious freedom takes for granted the importance of love and grace in binding believers into an effective body? Our temporary and often petty problems cause the world to see us as just another struggling organization. Divisions and splits create a “Frankenstein” effect. Rather than a flourishing family with a beating heart pumping out love and community – it is a fractured farce framed in doctrine, rules and regulations, buffeted by comfort and convenience, ruled by preference and opinion, and thereby misrepresenting the Love of God and His Son that draws us together in the first place. We have lost our first love and put ourselves in His Place. How do I know?

Acts 2:42-47 (NLT) All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer. A deep sense of awe came over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders. And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had. They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need. They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity—all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved.

Peter preached the Word of God. The same message that is given to us was what flowed from him. There was no difference. The Word of God never changes. It cannot return to God until it completes its task and accomplishes all that He sent it forth to do. About 3,000 in all gave their hearts and lives to Jesus in Acts 2. What happened next? They formed a community. All the believers met together in one place and shared everything. They sold property and possessions to share with those in need. They worshiped together every day. Met in homes to take communion. Fellowshipped together with GREAT JOY AND GENEROSITY. Praising God was their lifestyle demonstrated in freely giving all they were and all they had to create a community called the Body of Christ. With this in mind, they did so knowing that at any moment the radical religious community could drag them from their homes torture or murder them as martyrs. What happened next is the very thing the modern church cries out for…revival. And EACH DAY the Lord added to their fellowship… People were getting saved, healed and delivered and joining the community called church each day. Where oh where have we gone wrong? Oh Lord, teach us to love one another properly.

John 13:34-35 (NLT) So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”

To love like Jesus Christ is unnatural. It is not our natural instinct to lay our life down for another. It is not our preference to pray for our enemies and loving those who spitefully use us. It is not our culture to form communities of one but to draw lines of division to protect our own personal interests. All lives matter. Jesus proved this on the Cross when He poured out His Blood for all mankind to have access to the Father if they choose His Way.

“Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” Put away the personal agenda. Step down off the soapbox. Forget all the rules and regulations. If we do not love others, we do not possess the Love of the Father freely administered by the Son. The full acceptance of God’s Grace requires giving up our own personal interests to pursue Christ in all things. A sacrifice is not a sacrifice if nothing is given. Love is a discipline. It is a learned behavior. Disciples of Jesus Christ must learn and replicate His Love to be His Body and become His Bride. It is that simple but extremely difficult to achieve.

Romans 13:8 (NLT) Owe nothing to anyone—except for your obligation to love one another. If you love your neighbor, you will fulfill the requirements of God’s law.

Love is not religious – it is radical. I believe this may very well be the biggest stumbling block of organized religion. The thought or idea that God’s Love is completely given by His Grace. His Goodness belongs to me and is exemplified by a daily choice to love one another. The rules and regulations administered as doctrine in the church do nothing to demonstrate God’s Purpose. They are simply guidelines to keep godly order. I like order. I am gifted in administration. But if I am not careful – it will quickly become legalism. The enemy limits us in legalistic thinking and radical religion that adds to our obligation. God says simply the only thing we owe anyone is love. Perfect love expels all fear. Expectation is fulfilled by God’s Love, Grace and Goodness towards us so that we can love freely without expectation.

Galatians 5:13-14 (NLT) For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love. For the whole law can be summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.

Whom the Son sets free is free indeed. How freedom is used is up to us? God does not force us to fulfill His Purpose just promises that His Plan contains a future and hope. Jesus is the Way, the Truth and Life but we are not made to follow Him only offered a better way. The Holy Spirit lives in us but only takes control of the pieces and parts of our life given to Him for holy inhabitation. Love cannot be forced it must be freely given or received. Love contains no “buts”. I love you, but… I love him, but… I love her, but… I love you. Jesus never added a single condition to His Love offering for us. He freely gives it to us and it is up to us how we choose to use it. Unconditional love is the kind of love that proves our discipleship in Jesus Christ. To love like He does. This is how our freedom is revealed in the Lord when no one or nothing holds our expectation above knowing Him.

I Corinthians 13:1-3 (NLT) If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.

Are we gaining anything from church? Lord, help us to love more. Show us what true love is again. Let us fall head over heels in love with our First Love again. Rekindle the passion in our heart and burn away all the worthless things that reside in Your Place.

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

There is a fable about a frog placed in a pot of water. It is said that if he is put in boiling water that he will jump out. But if he placed in tepid water and the heat is slowly brought to a boil that he will not perceive the danger. Frogs like water. It is comfortable to them. Science believes this to be false and that frogs will notice the change but I wonder if we notice the change in our own habitat called church. Could it be as we float around in “lukewarm” water that the Lord is turning up the heat to get our attention? Comfort causes a condition called complacency that will create false confidence that can lead to death. If we do not learn to love unconditionally and with the same intensity as Jesus Christ, we have gained nothing other than adopted a social circle.

Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. The best way to motivate others is to motivate yourself. You get what you give. Sowing and reaping have been around since the days of Noah and will continue until the earth no longer remains. If you plant love, you will harvest love. If you sow grace, you will experience grace. If you bind yourselves to one more person, unity is formed. If you decide to give up your way, harmony is restored. We can never offer the world something we have not attained for ourselves. The Love of God is our primary purpose in life. To live in His Love and share His Love with the world. End of story.

2 John 5-6 (NLT) I am writing to remind you, dear friends, that we should love one another. This is not a new commandment, but one we have had from the beginning. Love means doing what God has commanded us, and he has commanded us to love one another, just as you heard from the beginning.

Half Baked

Half Baked

Philippians 3:7-9 (NLT) I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done. Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ and become one with him. I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ. For God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith.

Our little grandson came for his first visit to our house. He is just over a week old. Tiny and helpless but perfect in every way. As I sat holding him inspecting every little feature as he peacefully slept in my arms. Time stood still in those moments. Everyone told me that becoming a grandparent would be a blessing but I could not fathom until now just how wonderful it is. As I continued to rock back and forth, I realized that with age and maturity experience has taught me to savor this time with him. He has wonderful godly parents who will raise him. My role is to enrich his life and enjoy every moment.

It’s funny how people mellow with age. The kitchen could wait. Laundry just fine in the hamper. The television turned off with all its incessant blaring. Just to sit in the little man’s presence while he slept brought peace to me. I imagined what it would be like when those little legs began running all around. I thought about the things we would take about and discoveries made together at Grammy and Big Poppa’s house. All this contemplation brought force by a little human who is just as imperfect in all his humanness as me yet making me a better person just knowing him for one week. I wonder what life might be like if our amazement and awe of Jesus were the same. To decide it worthwhile to sit and spend time getting to know Him, falling in love with Him, and giving up something to give the One who loves us most and best to have a place in our life and busy schedules. Honestly, in those moments, nothing else really mattered but spending time with my grandson. What if we gave up something worthless to give worthwhile time to Jesus?

I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done.

I do not live in regret. Shame is gone thanks to the Lord. However, I have wasted a good majority of my life on worthless endeavors. Time consuming traps by the enemy to steal precious moments that cannot be regained or relived. Thankfully, I have a promise hidden in Romans 8:28 that tells me that God takes every detail of my life into careful consideration and turns it into something good. Our spiritual life comes and goes in seasons just like our natural life. If I blink too long, my children will all be out of the nest and my grandson chasing his dreams and aspiration. Time is the only commodity once spent that cannot be reclaimed. The Work of Christ within me doesn’t necessarily add to my everyday life but extends my existence into eternity. Why not invest some of my time to the things that are valuable. Paul understood. Most of his adult life was shrouded by religion. He became a murderer for the cause. He didn’t know the Word in person just by perception. Religion had not given way to a relationship. When Saul met Jesus everything changed. Has Jesus done the same for you?

Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ and become one with him.

To know Christ and become one with Him. Is this the relationship you desire? To love Christ and be loved by Him completely. To build your life on a faith so tangible that it becomes shelter in every storm. To have a hope so concrete that you can approach the Throne of God regularly, boldly and with absolute confidence. Me too. It is my heart’s desire. In order to make it my mission, it must be worthwhile. I must see the value and worth of the exchange of my time for more of Him. Going to church won’t do it only encourage me. Other believers are trying to find the Way, too. Pastors and preachers are human beacons yet still struggle with fleshly battles and rebellious thoughts. The Truth that is valuable for my life is God’s Word. Jesus is the Word who came wrapped in flesh. His Spirit fills me. His Right Hand extended. He is waiting for the Sword that will tear down and cut through every lie the enemy has presented me until only tangible Truth governs my life and directs my movement.

Psalm 119:33-40 (NLT) Teach me your decrees, O Lord; I will keep them to the end. Give me understanding and I will obey your instructions; I will put them into practice with all my heart. Make me walk along the path of your commands, for that is where my happiness is found. Give me an eagerness for your laws rather than a love for money! Turn my eyes from worthless things, and give me life through your word. Reassure me of your promise, made to those who fear you. Help me abandon my shameful ways; for your regulations are good. I long to obey your commandments! Renew my life with your goodness.

Everyone has the same amount of time given in a single day. We all wake up with 24 hours and choose how it will be portioned by our mind, will and emotions. I shudder when someone claims to be “too busy” and even catch myself when I try to use the excuse. Priorities are the cut marks that portion out our time. We choose what is important and what is worthy of our time. The Word of God is absolutely essential to become one with Christ as Paul describes in Philippians. Jesus is the Word. We need to know the Word of God to know Jesus intimately and completely. His Spirit uses God’s Word to seed our heart and prosper our soul. With empty hands, there is nothing for God’s Spirit – the Holy Spirit to produce His Good Fruit.

Giving our time to seek God and know Jesus in His Word empowers us with some excellent tools for godly success. Consider the following:

The Word of God

  1. Teaches me. (Vs. 33)
  2. Gives me understanding. (Vs. 34)
  3. Convicts me. (Vs. 35)
  4. Produces eagerness. (Vs. 36)
  5. Leads me to repentance. (Vs. 37)
  6. Reassures me. (Vs. 38)

7, Helps me. (Vs. 39)

  1. Renews my life. (Vs. 40)

The Word of God is absolutely vital to our vitality as believers. It requires us taking a portion of time allotted to something worthless and applying it to something worthwhile. Saul knew the Word. He knew the rules and regulations strictly enforcing the religious mandate. Everything changed when Paul met Jesus Christ who is the Word. Suddenly, the rules and regulations that once convicted him set him free to become a bright light in a dark world. Salt becomes worthless if it is not salty. What’s the point if it adds nothing to our life? (Matthew 5:13)

I Corinthians 3:20-23 (NLT) And again, “The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise; he knows they are worthless.” So don’t boast about following a particular human leader. For everything belongs to you— whether Paul or Apollos or Peter, or the world, or life and death, or the present and the future. Everything belongs to you, and you belong to Christ, and Christ belongs to God.

In Acts 14, Paul and Barnabas encountered a problem. The people decided they were idols and tried to worship them. How silly right? Maybe not. When the Word of God is spoon-fed to us by speakers, preachers, pastors and teachers ONLY – it is a leftover. God has promises, blessings and hidden things that are just for you that will not come from the teaching of another. It is very easy in this age of media to listen to many great podcasts of sermons and teachings BUT the Word of God is the source of seed for our life. When I hear people quoting people and not the Word of God or more importantly Jesus Christ – there is an immediate concern. The enemy also knows the Word of God intimately. He is quite adept at twisting and turning the truth just enough to make it dangerous. If you do not know the Word personally and intimately, you will fall for his traps and snares every time. You cannot consider the message you are hearing if you have no Truth to compare it to. There is a strong warning in the Bible of false teachers. How will you know if the word you live by is from a man or God if you do not know His Word? Impossible.

Hosea 7:8-10 (NLT) “The people of Israel mingle with godless foreigners, making themselves as worthless as a half-baked cake! Worshiping foreign gods has sapped their strength, but they don’t even know it. Their hair is gray, but they don’t realize they’re old and weak. Their arrogance testifies against them, yet they don’t return to the Lord their God or even try to find him.”

One of the list of “to-dos” with our grandson is baking. To sit him on the counter and bake cookies and cakes together during the holidays. I cannot wait to let him lick the spoon and see his chocolate covered face. In Hosea, the prophet shares this warning, “My people are being destroyed because they don’t know me.” Some translations say, “My people are destroyed from lack of knowledge.” You can know a lot about one thing or a little bit about everything, but if you do not know Jesus Christ it really doesn’t matter when time runs out. In Chapter 7 it warns that a co-mingled life can make us worthless as a “half-baked” cake. Have you ever bit into a cake or brownies that were not quite done yet? I want only the best for my family including that new little baby. God wants His Very Best for you. He detailed your life and all its possibilities in His Word. He even sent His Word to us to demonstrate His Great Love and Desire for us. Can we set aside some of our life to know the Word and fall in love with Jesus? Lord, turn my eyes from worthless things to fully engage in a worthwhile pursuit of You! I want to know You and be known by You! May I never lose the wonder of Your Word and desire to find You in it each day!

I John 1:1 (NLT) We proclaim to you the one who existed from the beginning, whom we have heard and seen. We saw him with our own eyes and touched him with our own hands. He is the Word of life.

 

Are You Listening?

Are You Listening

Proverbs 8:32-35 (NIV) “Now then, my children, listen to me; blessed are those who keep my ways. Listen to my instruction and be wise; do not disregard it. Blessed are those who listen to me, watching daily at my doors, waiting at my doorway. For those who find me find life and receive favor from the Lord.

My husband and I were having a normal conversation on an ordinary day. He kept saying, “What?” I would repeat the previous statement. This continued until I insisted on a visit to the doctor and hearing test concerned that he may have hearing issue. He laughed and said, “Or at least they can tell me if it is selective hearing loss!” Oh my goodness! Always the jokester. I read on social media recently that a husband told his wife that scientists have found that men say about 10,000 words a day while women say about 20,000. His wife shouts back from the kitchen, “It’s because we have to repeat everything twice to you blockheads.” The husband responds, “What?” And there you have it, what science deems a response to “higher level of protein” is really just a need to be heard…

Psalm 50 tells us that “the Mighty One, God, the Lord, speaks and summons the earth from the rising of the sun to where it sets.” Who is He speaking to? You. Me. All of us. God still speaks today. Whispering to those He calls beloved in an effort to illicit a response and release the instruction that leads to abundance in all things as God has ordained and predestined for us. Are you listening? Am I listening? When we hear His Voice is it easily recognized and discerned from all the other influences in our life? The Lord has called the listeners “blessed”. Those who watch and wait at His Doorway. Those who do will find life everlasting and overflowing with His Abundance.

Psalm 78:1-3 (NIV) My people, hear my teaching; listen to the words of my mouth. I will open my mouth with a parable; I will utter hidden things, things from of old—things we have heard and known, things our ancestors have told us.

God speaks to us. The truth is that He speaks to us every day from the rising of the sun until it sets. God is encouraging us, teaching us, leading us, and guiding us to better things by better ways. We choose the voice who guides us each day. However, His Thoughts are not my (natural) thoughts and inclinations. (Isaiah 55:8) His Ways are not my instinctual ways, attitude or actions but much higher altogether. God leads us to the narrow road less followed and the higher way not always perceived in our humanity. There are two keys things necessary to discern God’s Voice from the other influences.

John 14:26 (NIV)  But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.

We absolutely need the Holy Spirit to discern the Voice of God. The Advocate who weighs earthly logic and Heavenly Knowledge to give us the upper hand. Faith is not logical in our present state of mind. It is only by continually allowing His Spirit to mold and shape us that we adopt the mindset of Christ that allows us to follow through with His Actions.

Matthew 4:4 (NIV) Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

The Word of God is essential. If I may paint a picture, the Holy Spirit lives in you and me. He is the advocate and our personal warrior who enables us to overcome the enemy. The only weapon the enemy can use against us is the lie. The Shield of Faith protects us from those fiery darts. The Word of God is the sword of the Spirit that cuts to the Truth. When you know the Truth, you will not accept the lie. Matthew 4:4 is the response of Jesus to the lie of the enemy. What is yours?

I have been to many churches and found them all unique. There are churches that emphasis the Holy Spirit and spiritual gifts. However, the Word is often overlooked. I grew up in a Bible-based church that focused solely on studying scripture and silenced the Holy Spirit. The church I believe that will be the “remnant” church of the end times will worship in Spirit and Truth just as Jesus tells the woman at the well in the Book of John. We must be filled by the Spirit and the Word in order to rightly divide the Truth from the lie even in our churches and small groups.

Proverbs 1:20-23 (NIV) Out in the open wisdom calls aloud, she raises her voice in the public square; on top of the wall she cries out, at the city gate she makes her speech: “How long will you who are simple love your simple ways? How long will mockers delight in mockery and fools hate knowledge? Repent at my rebuke! Then I will pour out my thoughts to you, I will make known to you my teachings.

The Lord is relentless in His Pursuit of us. Psalm 23 tells us that His Goodness and Unfailing Love follow us all the days of our lives. God desires us to dwell in His Presence. He wants to communicate with us. Commune with us. He lives inside of us as a holy consummation of the covenant of love that He has made with us. He wants to pour His Thoughts in us so we will overcome the lie of the enemy and stop living in lack. Lack comes in many forms. It is not a material or monetary term. The Fruit of God’s Spirit grows in the vacated spaces occupied by substitutions and compromise. As our soul prospers in Spirit and Truth, so will we. We must be listening for God’s Voice in every moment of every day to have all that He has promised and ordained to bless us with in this life leading to eternity.

I Kings 19:11-13 (NIV) The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

Elijah left Mount Carmel victorious over the prophets of Baal. God accepted his sacrifice proving their religion a farce and 450 were killed that day. Jezebel was infuriated and in her rage leveled a death threat against God’s Man, Elijah. He fled to a cave high atop a mountain. It’s funny how easy a lie can ensnare us. Just when everything seemed to be going so well, and then our feet get tangled in a half-truth or subtle suggestion. The enemy of our soul knows the Word of God personally. Jesus is the Word of God. He saw satan fall from Heaven. Who better to twist and taint the Truth but one who knows it intimately inside and out? With this in mind, the best defense is a good offense. You can prepare for the lie of the enemy by engaging in the Truth. Faith is credible and logical when rooted and grounded in the Word of God.

God did not yell at His Servant or berate him for falling for the oldest trick in the Book. No, he came to him in a gentle whisper and called him by name. “What are you doing here, Elijah?” God is intent on the one. He will leave the 99 just to find you in the midst of delays, detours or distractions. He understands our vulnerability when it comes to believing the lie. He has empowered us to overcome yet in our weakness – His Grace is always enough.

Have you fallen for the lie of the enemy? Have you stopped listening? There is a difference between ignoring God and ignorance. If you know the Word and are filled by the Spirit and choose to do what you want to do – there is a sin problem in your heart today. Repent and let Him lead to the better way. The problem is most likely fostered by a faith plagued by fear, doubt and insecurity creating disbelief. He is not mad at you but still insists on communicating His Love to you one-on-one.

If you have never heard the Voice of God, you are in for a real treat. There is nothing more relevant in your life than to hear the Words of the One who created you. Your Father in Heaven who loves you perfectly and completely. When the enemy comes in like a flood, the Word of God hidden in our heart begins to cut through the lie to expose the Truth. The Holy Spirit holds firmly the Shield of Faith to protect the tender, broken heart that has repented and presented itself to the Lord. God is speaking to you today. He has secrets just for you. Thoughts that will blow your mind with possibility. He desires a personal relationship with you that will bring you together as one. God is speaking to you. Are you listening?

Psalm 27:8 (NIV) My heart has heard you say, “Come and talk with me.” And my heart responds, “Lord, I am coming.”

Arm Yourself

Arm Yourself

Matthew 10:34 (NIV) “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) I am a truth seeker. Are you? My trust issues and insecurities demand truth. To be transparent, when betrayed by a lie, it is very difficult for me to establish trust again. If I trust you, it is rock solid. Hidden deception will destroy that in an instant. Forgiveness is a learned behavior for me through years of living in Christ. Childhood and youthful hurts and disappointments led to a do-it-yourselfer who was self-reliant. A faulty and broken marriage led to a bitter and distant person who decided never to love again. Well, God had other plans for the hard-hearted wanderer.

When I met my husband, I wasn’t looking to love or be loved. A conversation over a friendly meal changed my life. He mentioned God. We were not seeking the Lord or even remotely living a life worthy of the love, grace and mercy the Lord was about to pour out in us through the partnership and unity of marriage, but He did it anyway. Loving the Lord is the easy part, however; just like any other relationship it is the commitment of love that can be challenging. The only difference between a natural union and supernatural communion with Jesus is that He is perfect. Always right. Never gives up His Way for our less than perfect wants or desires. He does not give up. He is Perfect Love that drives out all fear.

As one who relies heavily on truth and concrete information, trust is based on the reality of my belief. Growing up in a faith that was Word-based should have been enough to establish firm faith in a Sovereign God but it wasn’t. Jesus told the woman at the well that true worshippers do so in Spirit and Truth. The two are partners. They go together. Both are essential to a long-term partnership with Christ. For example, I told my husband I love you on the day of our marriage. I gave him my “word” that I would live in covenant with him for the rest of my natural life. But if I do not engage my heart (or spirit) into loving him then there is nothing but a contract. We do not have a contract with the Lord but a covenant. We must worship Him in Spirit and in Truth. An imbalance creates a problem in our spiritual life.

Jesus did not come to give us peace on earth. He came to overcome the sin debt owed by mankind and reestablish a relationship between God and His People. The Creator desired intimacy with His Creation and union again. Jesus came to put a sword in our hand. To equip us in our battle against the enemy and our flesh. Are you armed today? You are an overcomer. You have been given authority and power to be victorious in every situation. Are you winning today?

Hebrews 4:12 (NIV) For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.

The Word of God is alive. It is powerful. It is sharper than any double-edged sword which matches the description of Christ in Revelation 1. “It penetrates even dividing soul and spirit.” Show me a church that is Word strong and Spirit weak and in most cases it will be legalist. The Word with binds but the Spirit is freedom. Where the Spirit of the Lord is there is liberty. (2 Corinthians 3:17) If a church is Spirit strong but Word weak it is more than likely a based on emotionalism and constantly swayed by feelings not based on Truth. There must be Spirit and Truth to be true worship. The Word of God penetrates our flesh in order to expose faith. Faith thrives on Spirit and Truth. It grows and comes alive. Developing and maturing into the good fruit, good deeds and good works that God has already ordained for us becoming the abundant life that Jesus promised full of satisfaction.

John 1:1-5; 14 (NIV) In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Jesus is the Word. It is impossible to have a thriving relationship with God outside of the Word. Jesus is the Way, Truth and Life and no one gets to the Father except through the Son. The Spirit of God is unarmed when there is no Word in us. Ephesians 6:17 tells us that the Word is the Sword of the Spirit. The only weapon the enemy has to use against us is a lie. He takes the Word of God and twists it into a half-truth. Ignorance causes people to perish. The Bible says clearly that God’s People perish due to a lack of knowledge. If you read Genesis 3:23-24 it was a flaming sword that kept Adam and Eve from entering the garden and eating of the tree of life. It would have been eternal death. Hope was kept alive as the “flaming sword” kept them from it. The Word was with God and the Word was God. Everything created through Him and under His Power and Authority. God sent the Word to us. He made a way for us through the Word and it is our privilege to know the Word.

Ephesians 6:13-17 (NIV) Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

Are you fully armed today? The shield of faith must be partnered with the sword of the Spirit or the Word to be ready to battle the enemy today. The only weapon that is in his arsenal is a lie. The only way to overcome rebellious thoughts and random wanderings is to know the Truth. The terms and conditions of our covenant carefully scripted by divine inspiration to reveal the heart of God and His Great Love for us. Truth will help your trust issues. The more you know the more you grow deep roots in the Love and Grace of God that allows His Goodness to captivate us. When the enemy tells you a lie, you will know what the Truth says and be able to ignore his taunts and temptations. God always has something better for you. His Way is always the best. Pick up your sword. Read it. Practice it. Memorize it. Don’t leave home without it. Strengthen the Spirit today and crucify your flesh. The Word will cut away the things binding and restricting growth and prosperity and give way to new life as a new creation becoming the masterpiece that God promised you would become in Christ who is the Word. Arm yourself today.

John 4:23-24 (NIV) Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”