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Our Lifeline

Faith is the hinge to God’s promises. Without it, we cannot please God (Hebrews 11:6).Without faith we will not see the miraculous happen. Without faith, we won’t see God’s hand at work; we won’t experience all God has for us. There will be no hope because faith is the confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see (Hebrews 11:1).

Faith is one of my highest spiritual gifts on the gifts assessments tool. I don’t know if that means I have more faith than most or that I just take God at His word with greater frequency than most. I do believe God is who He says He is. I do believe God will do what He says He will do. At times, I need to be reminded. My faith starts to diminish and it needs a boost. I got that this week. I didn’t see anything happen that I have been praying for, but I read a book on Fresh Faith by Jim Cymbala that put some air under my wings.

In the last chapter of the book, Jim mentioned that the battle of the Christian life is not only to believe but to keep on believing. It’s a struggle in this day and age to keep believing when society tells us otherwise. Society is a fickle thing. It changes constantly. What was fashionable yesterday may not be fashionable today. But God’s Word is a constant thing. You can stand on it with assurance that what God said is the Truth because God does not lie. Lies do not come from God but from the enemy of God – Satan – it’s Satan’s native tongue.

According to Jim, Satan’s target is to break down our faith – we are the righteous who live by faith. If Satan can cut that life line, then he has us right where he wants us. When we believe the Satan’s lies over the promises of God, we have committed the original sin. It’s what drove Adam and Eve out of fellowship with God. They believe Satan’s lie that they would not die when they ate of the forbidden fruit. Satan didn’t know everything, but he knew enough to drive a wedge between God and man. The wedge was doubt.

Faith is about the future. It’s the things we hope for and the things we do not yet see. The future is about God’s promises to us. It’s something we cannot prove, but we know it will come to pass just because God says so. Jim mentioned that the greatest tragedy of our lives is not the things that have happened to us, but “it’s the missed opportunities to see God help them, due to their unbelief.”

Joshua is a powerful example of a man with incredible faith. He was one of twelve who scouted out the Promised Land. He believed the Israelites could take the land because God said it was there’s already. God promised it. However, ten of the spies led the majority to believe the land was too hard to capture because the occupants of the land were too big and too strong. Everything the ten said about the land was true. However, they didn’t take into fact that God said it was a done deal already. They didn’t believe God. These same people went through the Dead Sea on dry land. They witnessed the miracles to get them to the edge of the Promised Land. And yet, they still didn’t believe God.

How many times do we also come to the edge of a promise when Satan whispers in our ears – it can’t be done? How many times do we believe the lies instead of the promise and the Promise Giver? I am reminded of the story of the man with the demon-possessed son who came to Jesus to ask if Jesus could drive this spirit out of his son. Jesus took exception to the phrase “if you can” and said everything is possible for one who believes. Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mark 9:23-24)

What seems impossible to us is nothing in comparison to all that God can do. It says in the very first line of the Bible – In the beginning God created… if we do not believe these first five words then we do not believe in a big God. We have brought Him down to our size and He can do nothing for us. It’s impossible for a small god to take care of our big problems. But if you believe those first words, then everything changes. We don’t have to rely upon society to dictate what we believe. We can stand on the promises of God. We can have a greater faith because before time began, God is the Creator God. Everything we see today is because of that first line… In the beginning God created. Then He breathed and the story began.

We are a part of the story. We are God’s workmanship and He completes all that He starts. Count on it. Stop the unbelief and believe God’s Word over Satan’s lies. Have discernment over what you hear – test it against God’s Word, does it hold up or fall apart? Faith is our lifeline especially in these trying times. Keep it fresh… keep it strong. And remember that God’s love is central to His character. Look to the cross for the evidence of that love for you. It’s there that all things come together and promises are fulfilled. Jesus said, “It is finished.” Victory has been won in every regard. Believe it.

So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.

You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. Hebrews 10:35-36

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Golden Opportunity

Jesus stopped and called them, “What do you want me to do for you?” he asked. This question is found in Matthew 20:32 and Mark 10:51. Jesus was walking out of the city of Jericho when he passed by two blind men who were begging by the side of the road. Mark names one of the men as Bartimaeus (Mark 10:46). The blind men called out to Jesus asking for His mercy. Everyone around the two men rebuked them, but they called out even louder. Then Jesus stopped. He wanted to know what these men really wanted from Him. Was it a few coins? Did they have a pressing need greater than the obvious? They had to verbalize their need to Him. They wanted to see.

Matthew tells us that Jesus had compassion on them. He recognized their faith and touched their eyes. Matthew records the healing as immediately they received their sight. Immediately. Isn’t that one of the best words you could read? Wouldn’t it be great to have an immediate answer? I’m sure the blind men had been begging for years. But the minute that Jesus crossed their path, they saw their opportunity to act on His mercy. And they asked Him for their greatest need to be met. They knew what they wanted from Him. Immediately.

They must have heard stories about Jesus before this day because when He was coming their way, they shouted out “Son of David.” They recognized Jesus for who He was. This wasn’t just any one. This was the Promised One. They may have been physically blind, but they were more able to see than the Pharisees who never recognized Jesus for who He was. Immediately, they were healed because of their faith in the Promised One.

Jesus was on the way to Jerusalem when He came upon these blind beggars. It would be the final time He would travel that way. There would be no more opportunities for these men if they hadn’t acted when they did. Jesus was on the way to the cross. By the end of the week, everything would be different. No more opportunities for Jesus to touch these men or any other. This was it. Did the men know this was their golden opportunity? No. None of the people in the crowd that day knew what waited just a few days away. This was the last week in the life of Jesus – in the flesh.

We just never know when we have that last opportunity or our own golden opportunity; when we should have acted but didn’t. Maybe we don’t know what we really want and failed to see the opportunity when it came along. If Jesus asked us the same question, how would we answer? Do we really understand the implications of not knowing our greatest need? Probably not. It could be the greatest need that could have the greatest impact on this generation for the glory of God.

God often does more than we request – greater than we can imagine – when our hearts are aligned with His. Psalm 37:4 says delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart. Alignment comes first. If God hasn’t answered our prayers yet, maybe it’s a heart problem that is being corrected before the answer comes. Maybe we have the wrong motivation or the wrong request, or maybe things just haven’t lined up on God’s timetable.

The blind men might have been on that roadside for years, but one day they were at the right place at the right time for a Jesus encounter that changed their lives. They were ready when Jesus came to that place. We need to be ready too. We too will have divine encounters. We need to know what we really want. We need to know it within our souls that this is an encounter we cannot afford to miss. Grab it and let God do something amazing in it. Don’t miss the opportunity. It could be a one shot deal. We may never pass this way again.

Have you heard about this Jesus? Do you know Him for who He really is? The blind men knew Him and received their healing. Once healed, they praised Him; but they also joined Him on the journey. Whatever God is leading you to, don’t waste the opportunity – it could have an immediate effect on you and your world. This is our time to meet Jesus on the road to where He is going. Join Him on the journey. Delight in Him and you will be amazed by what you finally see.

For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins. Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall. 2 Peter 1:8-10a

Good Enough Standard

Sometime in my life, I adopted the “good enough” standard. I am not a perfectionist, although I do have a tendency to lean in that direction. When I get to that point of wanting that thing to be perfect, I have to remind myself it can be just good enough to get it done. I want the job to be done correctly, but all the “i’s” don’t have to be dotted as long as the “t’s” are crossed. There’s a point when the standard has to be “good enough.” That might go against someone else’s OCD, but it might be time to just let it go!

However, the standard of “good enough” doesn’t relate to the Kingdom of God. There isn’t a standard of good enough but of perfection. Scripture tells us no one is good. We could compare ourselves to each other, but we would still fall short of God’s perfection. There’s only one who met His perfect standards – Jesus Christ. He is the standard God set before us.

There are many who believe in the standard of good enough. “I am better than my neighbor or the murderer on death row.” Many believe they can “earn” their way into heaven by doing good works. Many believe this life is it. You only live once, so live it up. Still others say that since they are good, then they will end up in a good place. Many believe the Bible is outdated and not worth the paper it’s written on. Some say that it’s just a crutch for those poor, unstable folks.

Heaven and hell are hard topics to wrap our heads around. I mean, what loving God would throw good people in hell? If there is no hell, then we wouldn’t have to worry about what happens next. We could all live happily ever after. We could have our cake and eat it too! We wouldn’t have to worry about laws. We could kill whoever we wanted to; we could steal anything our heart desires. We could live a life that throws all caution to the wind. It wouldn’t matter. There are no consequences to our actions. But there are rules of the land, and we have to abide by them. God has rules as well whether we believe it or not, and we have to live by them or face His consequences.

Jesus set the standard that we cannot meet, unless we have His salvation that clothes us in His righteousness. I like the illustration that Joyce Meyer uses about our sinful lives. She had an old dirty coat that she wore on stage. The dirty coat represented her sins. There was nothing she could do to make that coat clean. However, her husband came out on stage in a white coat. He played the part of Jesus. Jesus took off His white coat and gave it to Joyce in exchange for her dirty coat. That is the exchange that was made on the cross. Jesus took on our sins and in exchange gave us His righteousness; not because of our goodness but because of His.

I heard that there are no good people in heaven, only forgiven ones. If there was a different way to get to heaven, He died in vain. Jesus even asked if God would take the cross from Him, but in the end said “Your will be done” – and it was. Jesus was nailed to a cross as the Lamb of God, slain for the sins of the world. The sacrifice was made. If there had been another way to heaven, God would have opted His Son to take a different route to get there.

It’s interesting about the symbolism that the Old Testament uses throughout to prophecy the coming of Jesus Christ as a Lamb to be sacrificed. One of the best symbols is Abraham and his son, Isaac. Abraham was told to sacrifice his son just as God would sacrifice His own Son. Isaac carried the wood for the sacrifice like Jesus carried His cross. Isaac was bound to the wood like Jesus was bound to the cross. Isaac was ready to be sacrificed, but God stopped Abraham’s hand and gave him another to sacrifice in Isaac’s place. But God did not stop Jesus from the sacrifice.

There was nothing else God could put in Jesus’ place. Jesus came for that mission. His eyes were set for the cross. If there was another way, it would have been taken. But the good enough standard was not met. It had to be a perfect sacrifice, and Jesus was perfect. The Bible tells us so. Not only that; but the ones who walked with Jesus for three years, told us the story. They witnessed and proclaimed all that happened.

Not only that; but the story has lasted for two thousand years, and it still changes people’s lives. I am one of them. Jesus changed my life. I know myself pretty well, and I can tell you I will never be good enough for heaven. But I am forgiven; I know that because of Jesus and what He did on the cross for my sins, I have been given a place in heaven. He told me so in His Word, and I believe it. I stand on that promise: wherever He is we will be there also (John 14:3).

Where do you stand on the topic of heaven or hell? What’s your measuring stick? Are you good enough? Don’t believe the lie, you will never be good enough, but God said that Jesus is. Trust Him and have faith in His dying on the cross for your sins – He was raised to a new life and you can be too. Believe it and confess it; and I’ll see you in heaven!

“And he ordered us to preach everywhere and to testify that Jesus is the one appointed by God to be the judge of all—the living and the dead. He is the one all the prophets testified about, saying that everyone who believes in him will have their sins forgiven through his name.” Acts 10:42-43 (NLT)

Preparing the Way

As we contemplate Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday, I want to draw your attention to the waiting time. Have you ever noticed when God gives a promise, it usually doesn’t happen right away? Abraham and Sarah waited twenty-five years before the promised child arrived. Noah had to wait 120 years before the first raindrop fell. The Israelites lived in the land of Egypt for over 400 years before they got sick and tired of being oppressed by their slave masters and cried out to God for deliverance. God waited forty years for Moses to be ready to lead the people out of Egypt. Once they were led out, it took forty years before they took possession of the Promised Land.

From religious scholars we are told that it was 400 years of silence from the last Old Testament Prophet until the voice of the Lord spoke to Zechariah to announce the birth of John the Baptist. A baby would be born to Zechariah and Elizabeth to prepare the way for the Lord fulfilling prophecy concerning the coming of the Lord Jesus. The Old Testament prophets prophesied the birth of Jesus and the anticipation grew year after year. But when He arrived on the scene, only a few recognized Him as God’s promised One. It was foretold about His death and His resurrection, but again, no one understood what this would represent to all of humanity. The promise was fulfilled and the sting of death would be removed for all who believe. Promise after promise – and it all came true.

God is faithful in His promises. The silence though is unnerving to us. It erodes our confidence. It causes doubt to arise in us. Did we really hear from God? Noah built a boat on dry land! Abraham and Sarah decided God meant something else; after all she was in her sixties when the promise of a son was given to them. So they took matters into their own hands to fulfill God’s promise to them. But that was not the promised child. God said what He meant. Elizabeth too had a promise of a birth in her old age. Really? This makes no sense to us; yet, God is faithful to fulfill His promises in His time for His reason and in His way.

Then there’s the birth, life, ministry of Jesus written for all of us to read and believe. Prophecies are meant to be fulfilled in God’s will, in God’s way and in God’s time. And we still wait on the fulfillment of more prophecies to come. The Bible is full of promise. It’s full of hope. We are told that Jesus will return one day and receive the church – His bride. And we wait. Like the people of old who didn’t recognize their Messiah, will we lose sight of the promise? After such a long wait, generation after generation; complacency and doubt sets in. God has taken forever to send the promise, maybe He’s forgotten. But we know that’s not true. To God, a thousand years is like a day. His timetable is not ours.

Every time we are waiting for fulfillment, God is still at work. God continues to move things in place in order for everything to be right for the promise to be fulfilled. During the 400 years of silence, the language had to be common throughout the known world; roads had to be built for easier travel; military peace was given throughout the land to make the way for the Word to travel when the time came. God was busy preparing the way. I believe He is still preparing the way for the next event in His eternal plan.

It may seem God is slow in fulfilling His promises. We may have to build a large boat. Or we may have to live in the desert to grow to our potential for God’s purpose. Or there maybe roads that need to be built or nations that need to be lined up to God’s plan. God is always working, even when we hear nothing but silence. Maybe the silence is for us too. Maybe He is preparing our hearts for the promise to be received. Maybe there’s a reason that we cannot fathom right now, but we can be confident in our God – He always comes through – no matter what. His will, His ways and in His time. Just look to the cross of Jesus as proof. He is faithful and He loves you beyond any reason. Count on it and trust Him to fulfill His Word to you. No matter what you’re waiting on; if you have a promise from God, He will fulfill it. And we can count on Jesus coming back. Are you prepared to meet Him?

And so, dear friends, while you are waiting for these things to happen, make every effort to be found living peaceful lives that are pure and blameless in his sight. And remember, our Lord’s patience gives people time to be saved. 2 Peter 3:14-15a (NLT)

A Different Standard

Growing up, I lived in the shadow of two older sisters. I lived more in the shadow of my middle sister since I had some of the same teachers she had in school. My parents didn’t do the comparison game with me and my sisters, but sometimes I wondered if my teachers did. My oldest sister and I call my middle sister the “perfect” child. To my knowledge, she never got in trouble; she had perfect grades in school; and she was always happy (except when I didn’t clean my side of the room). My sisters call me the “spoiled” child. I tend to disagree with their assessment of my finger-wrapping ability, just as my “perfect” sister would disagree with her angelic status. We always have a good laugh when we debate the evidence.

Over the last week in the Armor of God study, Priscilla Shirer instructed us on wearing the breastplate of righteousness. I must say, I am not righteous. And my sisters would agree with that! This is not a natural tendency for any of us. We have a fallen nature, and no one lives up to the standard God set by His own holiness and righteousness. Priscilla wrote this is perfect righteousness (pg 73). “Even the most good-natured among us, on our very best day, fall woefully shy of God’s expectations.”

However, we are indeed righteous. Our righteousness comes from Jesus Christ. It’s an imputed righteousness that comes with the salvation through Jesus Christ. This is Christ’s gift to us by way of the cross. Christ paid our sin debt by the cross, but He also added righteousness to our account (pg 77). Righteousness is credited to our account; it’s an asset we didn’t earn. Nice! A clean slate and righteousness. Neither one based upon our own acts, but all based on the love of Jesus.

We normally don’t think of righteousness in God’s viewpoint. We usually compare ourselves to someone else. I could compare myself to my “perfect” sister. I would have fallen short. But if I applied myself, I could have measured up to her standards. I could have gotten better grades. I could have been more obedient to my parents and followed the rules more closely. When we compare ourselves to others, Priscilla called this comparative righteousness. It is a deceptive practice and can also be disheartening when we fall short of their standards (pg 76). Other people will always give us the wrong standard.

When we put on the breastplate of righteousness, we are putting on Jesus’ righteousness. Righteousness is already in us through Jesus, but we actually have to do something with it. It is part of the fruit we are given to develop. It’s practical righteousness (pg 83). “When you choose practical righteousness, you place a blockade between the enemy and the area of your life he most commonly targets – your heart.” Practical righteousness is an intentional act. It is not just behavior modification but also an internal purification. “You must make a conscious choice to act in a way that is consistent with your new life in Christ (pg 85).”

The breastplate was designed to protect the heart in battles. The soldier had this piece of armor to fight in hand to hand combat. It guarded the vital organs. Wearing the armor gave the soldier a fighting chance against the enemy. It provided to be a life or death choice he made as to whether he wore it or not. We too have a choice to make. The enemy is gunning for us. He has many tools in his arsenal. But thanks to Christ, we too have many tools in our arsenal. We just have to learn to dress properly for the battle.

When we learn to put on the armor of God, we are covered in protection for the day ahead. It’s a matter of reading and applying the truth. It’s our first line of defense against a crafty enemy. We have a measuring stick that’s different than the world’s standards. We cannot compare ourselves to others; the enemy will use that weak thinking every time. But the righteousness we have will attain for us a new life of freedom. No more battles where we are defenseless. We can grow into the full measure of a spiritual warrior that battles the enemy with stronger tools. We have it all available but we have to use it effectively. It’s time to suit up and battle on, warriors!

You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. Ephesians 4:22-24

The Day

This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. You may be familiar with this verse from Psalm 118. I think I have quoted it a thousand times. However, I never realized the significance of it until Beth Moore taught about the Passover meal one January at the Passion conference. In Matthew 26:30 we are told: When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. Wow! If you read Psalm 118 with the thoughts of Jesus leading His disciples through the last Passover He would observe on earth, it is eye-opening. Jesus fulfilled that Psalm on that Day. It was The Day that God chose for that hour when every sin would be wiped away. On The Day, every knee will bow before Him. Some will rejoice in it; others will mourn for they didn’t recognize Him as the Messiah who came to take away their sins.

God set certain days into His calendar which have great significance. He called every Sabbath holy. He set times of festivals for the coming together as His people to remember all He has done. Three of those festivals are significant and must be honored in Jerusalem. The men were supposed to make the trip to Jerusalem. I must say I know very little about these festivals. I didn’t really know much about these fall festivals until this year when the emphasis was on the Blood Moons falling on the festival days.

One day stands out among these fall festivals. The Day of Atonement. Today is the observance of the Day of Atonement. The significance is found in Leviticus 16. If you are like me, you might have breezed through Leviticus when reading through the Bible. There are just too many rules to follow about cleansing and such; do this not that type of thing in this particular book. However, God put Leviticus in the Bible for all of us to understand the depths of sacrifice which must be made for our relationship with Him. We can’t do it by ourselves. There must be atonement for our sins before we can approach His Holiness.

A sin offering must be made on the Day of Atonement. Aaron had to make himself clean before he went in to present the offerings before the Altar of the Lord. Aaron was to cast lots for two goats – one for the Lord and the other for the scapegoat (Lev 16:8). The Lord’s goat would be sacrificed as a sin offering. The goat chosen as a scapegoat would be brought to Aaron. He would then lay his hands on the head of the live goat and confess over it all the wickedness and rebellion of the Israelites – all their sins – and put them on the goat’s head. He shall send the goat away into the desert in the care of a man appointed for the task. The goat will carry on itself all their sins to a solitary place; and the man shall release it in the desert (Lev 16:21-22). Does this sound familiar to you?

God told Moses “this is to be a lasting ordinance for you. Because on this day atonement will be made for you, to cleanse you. Then before the Lord, you will be clean from all your sins. It is a Sabbath of rest, and you must deny yourselves; it is a lasting ordinance. (Lev 16:29-31) With Jesus, He fulfilled every detail of this Atonement. We no longer have to have a scapegoat with the sins of the people on its head. Our sins were nailed to the cross once and for all. However, there is significance in the observance of this Holy Day. God said – this is to be a lasting ordinance for you. Deny yourself – a day of rest. Fasting and prayer. A holy day.

There must be significance in this Day. It is God’s holy day. It is the Day the Lord has made; we must rejoice and be glad in it! We celebrate Jesus’ birth and we observe His death at special times, but do we deny ourselves anything on those days? Do we set them aside as holy days? This is the one that God calls us to be set aside; to remember all He has done for us. He has taken away all our sins so that we can have a relationship with Him through Jesus. This is the Day the Lord has made – Rejoice! Be glad for all He has done! Take the time today to remember and honor Him in some way. Fast. Pray. Whatever the Holy Spirit leads you to do today. Do it in the Name of the Lord Jesus – our scapegoat, our perfect Lamb sacrificed for your sins.

The Lord is God, and he has made his light shine upon us. With boughs in hand, join in the festal procession up to the horns of the altar. You are my God, and I will give you thanks; you are my God, and I will exalt you. Give thanks to the Lord, for his is good; his love endures forever. Psalm 118:27-29

The Lesson

This past week I listened to a couple of messages – one on health and the other was a sermon – both on the spiritual battle that we all face in our minds. They were both on fear. The first message was from Caroline Leaf, PhD.1 She is a brain researcher and lecturer. She has been studying the brain for over twenty years. In her talk, she related that there are two emotional roots tied to our memories – faith and fear. Each memory has emotional components to them. In the brain, there is a place where memory is stored for long-term. When visible seen, the memory storage area looks like trees. The faith-based memories (aka good memories) will look like lush green trees. The fear-based memories (aka bad memories) will look like thorn bushes. Fear creates little thorn growths on the outer edges of our memory trees. (The fear-based emotions cause harm to the body.) I was fascinated with these ideas.

The next message was from Andy Stanley on the N Commandments2– the commandments that Jesus instructed the disciples in order to carry on with His movement. This first commandment in this new series is, of course – “Do not fear.” Jesus was telling His disciples all the time “do not be afraid!” He told them not to be afraid when persecution comes (and it would come). Do not fear man or what man can do to you, but fear the One who has control over life and death eternal. Fear God. We are to respect God. He has authority over life and death; He conquered death through Jesus’ death and resurrection.

In the early years of this new movement, they didn’t have a Bible; they didn’t have great instructions to live by – except what Jesus spoke and was passed along. The disciples followed Jesus for three years. They listened; they saw; then they were given the instructions to go to the world and preach the good news. Jesus told Martha when Lazarus was dead in the grave for four days (John 11:25) – “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever believes in me will never die.”

When Jesus was resurrected, they believed. Because of their belief, they no longer feared death or feared sharing the good news of Jesus’ death and resurrection no matter the consequences of the persecution they would face. They would go before governors and kings; they would be flogged and thrown out of synagogues, but they had confidence in the One who sent them. They became fearless and spoke with the authority that Jesus gave them – no matter what.

One of my own struggles is fear. I needed to hear these messages this past week. For the past couple of weeks, I have been in the place of fear because of my circumstances. But what I realized in the last day or two, if everything was gone and I had nothing – is this life or death? Why am I afraid that I will have nothing? God said He would take care of all my needs. I see persecution happening all over the world today. People are leaving everything behind and fleeing to safer places. They are facing executioners and standing firm until the end. They have nothing in the end, except the One who can save them from eternal damnation. That’s enough – nothing else matters. It’s time to release the fear and know that God is enough!

My pastor concluded his message on Sunday on the wisdom from Solomon found in Ecclesiastes 12:13 – Fear God and keep His commandments (Solomon reminded us that everything else is meaningless). Voids in our lives cannot be filled by stuff or people – God made us incomplete so that we can find our sufficiency in Him alone. Nothing else matters. When fear starts to creep in, I have been recalling a new song I heard recently – “You are a good, good Father – it’s who you are. And I am loved by You, that’s who I am. You are perfect in all your ways.”3 When I remember this, I remember a good Father takes care of His children – no matter what. We are precious in His sight.

“Don’t be afraid of those who want to kill your body; they cannot touch your soul. Fear only God, who can destroy both soul and body in hell. What is the price of two sparrows—one copper coin? But not a single sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it. And the very hairs on your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows.” Matthew 10:28-31 (NLT)

1Caroline Leaf, PhD, “My Body, His Temple” teaching series by Life Today

2Andy Stanley, the N Commandments series, Part 2

3“Good Good Father” by Housefires II, 2014

Lean in

My dear Child,

Oh how I love you! I want you to understand the depths of my love for you. I want you to grasp that my love is deeper than any ocean; wider than the expanse of the sky; my love for you cannot and will not change. I loved you before you were born. I loved you back then when you were doing that thing that has you so feeling so ashamed. I love you right now when you don’t feel worthy of it. I will love you no matter what you do or what you say. I want you to understand to the depths of your being that my love for you is unfailing. My love for you propelled me to the cross to take on your sin and shame. I bared the pain and sorrow of the cross so that you wouldn’t have to. There was no other expression that could demonstrate the depth of my love than to die for you. I forgive you for everything that you have done or will do in the future. Believe in me to take those sins and shame from you. Get your heart right with me so that you can experience my depth of love.

Open your heart and let my love heal you. When your heart aches, mine does too. When I see a tear, I shed one too. When I see the joy in your face, I am welling up with joy as well. I want you to know I am with you. I have never left your side. I feel your heart beating next to mine. I know you probably don’t feel me next to you, but I am here. You do not walk alone. I want you to feel my presence today. Seek my face and you will find me. I want to reside in your heart permanently. I want you to experience my joy and peace. Don’t be afraid any longer.

Let me heal those hurts and let me into those dark places. I will heal you and make you whole. I will go with you when the waters are too deep. I will be with you in the dark valleys. I will take care of you when the darkness closes in. Do not be afraid. I have not given you a spirit of fear but of faith. Believe in me. Believe I can do all things. Tell me what burdens your heart today. Talk to me. I am right here listening. Let me into that place that is hurting right now. Reach out to me. Set your heart toward me. Open your ears to hear.

Remember the joy you once experienced. Remember the times when miracles happened. Remember the times when you were rescued. That was me helping you. Think about the times you felt my presence. The memories are there; just remember. Remember those moments of your greatest victories. Remember the times when prayers were answered. Remember the times when you didn’t know how you were going to get out of the mess, and yet you got through it because I was there with you. Remember that all things will come together for your good, even though it doesn’t feel like it right now. Be still with me for just a little while. I promise when you look for me, I will be found. I am willing, and I am able to do immeasurably more.

My Father wants a relationship with you. He sent me for you. I am your salvation and your hope today. I am faithful and trustworthy – not only for your salvation but for your deliverance. Know that I am for you. I have not turned away from you. What you are experiencing today will not keep you from the place I have appointed for you. I know there are obstacles in front of you, and I am prepared to go with you through them. I want to walk with you. Rejoice now for the things that I am doing that you cannot see at this time. Keep pressing into me as I work it out for your good and my Father’s glory. Stay the course. Keep your faith in me and do not lose heart. I have overcome so that you will have the victory! Remember my love for you will not fail you. Stay close and feel my presence next to you today.

Your friend forever,

Jesus

“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

Getting It

Over the last couple of days, I have been contemplating the cross. It’s Easter time after all. It should be relatively easy to consider these things since devotional material inspires contemplation. I really don’t like to think about it though. It is a cruel way to die. And flogging? A whip with metal or glass shards given to someone for thirty-nine lashes because forty would kill someone? It makes me wonder what mind created such torture devices. How can we be that cruel? Yet, we are all capable of cruelty. Maybe not in that severity, but cruelty can be given in many ways. If I had been in the crowd watching Jesus, what would have been my reaction? Would I have been a follower of Jesus? Would I have been like the women looking on in great sorrow? These are the things I am considering.

But there is one other thing I am considering as well. Love. It is the basis of everything concerning God and Jesus’ actions throughout His ministry. Jesus said “if you have seen me, you have seen my Father” (John 14:9, my paraphrase). Jesus lived out the love that God has for each of us. John 3:16 says that God so loved the world that He gave us His Son. Do I really get it? Do you? Paul said in Ephesians 3 “to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge.” It’s more than head knowledge. It’s heart knowledge. It was his prayer that we would understand this love. I want to. I desire it with all my heart. I want my eyes to be open to it.

Jesus had a moment in the garden when He knelt down to His Father and cried out to take the cup of wrath from Him – but only if it was God’s will. God’s will was for blood to be shed so that we could have a new life. Jesus said that: Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends (John 15:13). Greater love. In His last talk with the disciples, He emphasizes love. His command: love each other. It’s hard to love others. I have someone in my life that is hard to love. Yet, I am commanded by my Lord to love. The only way I can accomplish this Jesus says is to abide in Him. “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). He knew we couldn’t do it by ourselves. He is the only one who can do it. We are to stay connected to Him like a branch is connected to a vine. When His love is in us, we are enabled to share it with others.

When I consider the cross, I don’t consider the horror of it. I consider the love of it – what Jesus did for me. For you. At any moment, He could have opted out and called legions of angels to His rescue. He could have called fire down to consume those who were doing these cruel acts. He could have stayed the hand of those whipping Him. He could have taken the priests out with a single word. He could have done so many things to stop this, but He said nothing. He did nothing. He stayed connected to the cross for me. For you. So that we could love one another as He first loved us. That’s the power of the cross. That’s the power of the love that He showed us even when we were still sinners. Even for those who whipped Him; nailed Him on the cross – He asked His Father to not hold it against them, because of their ignorance of what they were doing. They just didn’t get it.

When we finally get it, it will change everything! Love. There’s power in it. When we grasp, how wide and long and high and deep is that love, it will change everything. Do you get it? I am finally starting to.

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth. 1 John 3:16-18

Blank Page

Over the last several weeks, I have been staring at a blank page. I am not feeling very inspired. I have started out with a few thoughts and have ended up tossing it in the “garbage” can. I don’t know why I am blocked right now, but it’s a bit disconcerting. I know that I am called to write about my story, but I have yet to get down to it. I keep waiting for the words to come but nothing. Not one word seems to be flowing. I have prayed about it – seeking guidance about the blockage. Everybody keeps telling me that the timing will be right when I finally get it written. I just don’t want to be disobedient by not doing what I know I am supposed to be doing.

Over the last few weeks, I have been greatly distracted. My Dad had a few episodes of illness that hasn’t quite been resolved. It has weighed upon me. My Dad is very special to me. My Mom died about six years ago. She asked my sisters and me to take care of Dad, but since he got remarried about four years ago it’s been more a “spirit” of taking care of him instead of a “physical” task. About the time my Dad came down with his illness, I started having house issues that needed my attention. I listen to the news and the overwhelming issues that catch my attention just gives me even greater distractions. It seems that one thing just leads to another. It has given me the sense there are multiple plates spinning, and they are all about to come crashing down.

I have managed to get the blog posts and newsletters written in a timely manner. But that’s just because God is gracious to help me even when I can’t seem to focus. Somehow it all comes together. It would seem that He would do that for the book as well, if I tried to sit down and just start the process. But my head is just a jumbled mess right now. Does anyone relate? I keep thinking that when the weather is bad, I will have ample reason to write. I can’t do anything outside – but the snow needs to be removed from the driveway. The dogs aren’t barking to keep me from writing either since the owners have kept them inside on these snowy, cold days. But I get distracted with doing my taxes, budgeting expenses for the month, reordering supplies, etc; it just seems to be endless with distractions.

When it comes down to it, I think I just have a problem with the subject matter – me. Telling my story isn’t that complicated. The problem is I don’t want to be that vulnerable – to be that open before the world. I know God would like to get the glory of what He’s done in my life, even if it doesn’t seem to be such a big deal to me. He has asked me to share so that it may help someone else who struggles in the way that I have struggled. My story is part of the larger story – the restoration of our relationship with God. He began a good work in the beginning, and He will complete it in the end. My story doesn’t seem to be that great unless I truly look at it from His perspective. There was nothing I could do to restore my relationship with Him. I was far from Him, but He drew me near by the cross of Jesus.

The Bible seems to be just a mass of stories from the first page to the last. But there is only one theme throughout each page – Jesus. I never really contemplated how my story fits into His story, but it does. Every person has a story that fits into God’s story of redemption. We all fall short of God’s perfection, but Jesus redeems us so that we can fit into His story. One day, the distractions will no longer distract me, and I will start the work. The blank page will be filled with the work of Jesus in my life. One day, He will get all the glory. One day, it will be finished, and the work that was started will be completed. The page is blank right now, but it is all going to come together at the right time and in the right way!

Then the Lord replied: “Write down the revelation
and make it plain on tablets
so that a herald may run with it.
For the revelation awaits an appointed time;
it speaks of the end
and will not prove false.
Though it linger, wait for it;
it will certainly come
and will not delay.” Habakkuk 2:2-3

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