Which Kingdom? Your Own, The World’s, or God’s?

All creation was made to be an inhabitation for the Kingdom of God. He set it in motion; He defined it – a Kingdom of righteousness, wholeness, peace, love, joy; the list could go on. God gave us a choice:

“”For this commandment which I command you today is not too difficult for you, nor is it out of reach. It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will go up to heaven for us to get it for us and make us hear it, that we may observe it?’ Nor is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will cross the sea for us to get it for us and make us hear it, that we may observe it?’ But the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may observe it. “”See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, and death and adversity;” in that I command you today to love the LORD your God, to walk in His ways and to keep His commandments and His statutes and His judgments, that you may live and multiply, and that the LORD your God may bless you in the land where you are entering to possess it. But if your heart turns away and you will not obey, but are drawn away and worship other gods and serve them, I declare to you today that you shall surely perish. You will not prolong your days in the land where you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess it.” Deuteronomy 30: 11-18

Deuteronomy 28 lists the blessings associated with obedience to God’s statutes, as well as, the consequences or curses related to neglecting those principles. He also sent His Son (John 10:10) that we might have life by choosing Him, but we have the freedom to choose; life or death, His Kingdom or the worlds.

His goal will one day be reality… no matter what we choose.

 

Many find ourselves living in a world where the fast lane is the heaviest traveled path. We live in a time of instant cereal, instant potatoes, instant service; a drive-thru and microwave existence, and knee jerk reactions for many people. Social media has changed from My Space and Facebook to 140 character tweets on Twitter and Instagram, where a picture says a thousand words!? Media today is made up of sound bites that only give partial and sometimes biased views, rather than the whole story or whole truth. As a rule, we want what we want, and we expect it yesterday rather than when we asked for it today. Tolerance is exalted and called for on every front until it tramples on someone getting their desires met, and then the gloves come off because you’re interfering with my rights. At that point, some of us lose sight that sometimes our rights negate or trample the rights of others. These results were never the intent of our Creator!

Again, His Kingdom is defined by righteousness, wholeness, peace, love, joy, putting others first, caring for: the afflicted; brokenhearted; captives; prisoners; and those who mourn. (Isaiah 61) We are encouraged to take care of the weak, infirmed, poor, widows, orphans, our elderly. (The Kingdom way) The world tells us to look out for ourselves (look out for number one). We are told if we don’t take care of and look out for yourself, no one will! We are told to go for the gusto; enjoy it now while you can, and encouraged to stock up on the latest of everything. These two kingdoms are almost always giving us opposing messages. For example, one says don’t dare let them get by with treating you that way. The other tells us to turn the other cheek and forgive. One brings life to relationships; the other kills relationships; sometimes forever!

Not all of the differences are as cut and dried as these. No, some are much more subtle, and some are even hard to differentiate. Even more important, there are plenty of kind, loving, moral individuals who don’t believe in God or His Kingdom and many Kingdom people or believers that are stuck in a non-Biblical world view. Many are tempted to make the mistake of drawing conclusions and stereotypes of others based on religious beliefs, on ethnicity, on skin color, on their level of education, on their political leanings, etc. The question is: are you willing to be characterized by the same standards that you describe others? And is it a fair or accurate assumption to say that all ______________(you fill in the blank) are ___________________! One example for you that I hear or see on social media: “They don’t have a job because they are too lazy to work and want the government to take care of them.” I’m sure there are those for whom this would be a true statement, BUT there are many who are unable to work regularly because of certain disabilities, others who live in an economically challenged area and do not have the means to move to a new area to find employment. Stereotypes are unfair in most cases and are just mean-spirited and unnecessary. They also lead to the type of behaviors we see in the news media all the time. All lives matter in the eyes of God! Every one of His creations is important to Him. Do we all please Him? No, but He loves us in spite of our shortcomings. If that were not true, why would His Son, Jesus Christ have come to this planet and lived and died to make way for us to find grace and peace with God? To give us the opportunity to have eternal life with God?

We are told in the Word of God;

For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek; there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise.” Galatians 3: 26-29

My brethren, do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism. For if a man comes into your assembly with a gold ring and dressed in fine clothes, and there also comes in a poor man in dirty clothes, and you pay special attention to the one who is wearing the fine clothes, and say, “You sit here in a good place,” and you say to the poor man, “You stand over there, or sit down by my footstool,” have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil motives? Listen, my beloved brethren: did not God choose the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him? But you have dishonored the poor man. Is it not the rich who oppress you and personally drag you into court? Do they not blaspheme the fair name by which you have been called?’ James 2: 1-7

Our Heavenly Father doesn’t show favor based on our skin color, our ethnicity, our bank account or lack of, our gender, our appearance, or based on whether we are in bondage or free. He sees us either as we are (condition of our heart) or through the blood of Jesus Christ, His Son if we believe and receive His salvation.

You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best—the sun to warm and the rain to nourish—to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that. “In a word, what I’m saying is, Grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.” Matthew 5: 43-48
“Dear friend, listen well to My words; tune your ears to My voice.

Keep My message in plain view at all times. Concentrate! Learn it by heart!

Those who discover these words live, really live; body and soul, they’re bursting with health.” Proverbs 4: 22-24

We get to choose! Moment by moment, hour by hour, day by day!! Will we choose our way, the world’s way or will we choose God’s way? Will we choose love? Will we choose life? Or Will we choose death? He sets before us life and blessing or death and curses. Our choice, what will we choose?

May His grace and peace abound to you this day!

What’s In a Story

What if a parable of Jesus is more than it appears? What if it’s more than just a story with a lesson for the hearers? Could it be that what we often see as a lesson taught through story goes much deeper and perhaps has layers of meaning beyond what we may initially see? Can we connect the dots and find deeper richer meanings; a back story, if you will?

My husband and I heard a missionary speak recently on the parable Jesus tells in Matthew 21:33-44. Here a landowner planted a vineyard. He put a wall around it. He then built a winepress in it and built a tower. Finally, he rented it out to vine-growers and went on a journey. As the parable continues, the landowner sends representatives when harvest time arrives to retrieve his produce from those he entrusted his land to in his absence.

First, the owner sent three of his servants to retrieve the fruit; one was beaten, one killed and the third stoned. Again he sent his servants, but this time, he sent a larger group; the results were the same. Finally, he decided to send his son, thinking that surely they will be respectful of him! No, the growers also killed him because if he was out of the picture; his inheritance would be theirs for the taking! The parable ends with the question: What will the owner do with the vine-growers?

Those who were listening purposed that the landlord would have a terrible end for those greedy, wicked people and find new growers who would be responsible for that which was entrusted to them.

Can we consider who and what these each of these might represent?

The Vinedresser – God

The wall he built – His protection set in place, perhaps.

A dug-in winepress – tools needed for success.

A watchtower – again, protection and a tool required for success;
Also, providing a means of watching and communicating issues and threats
outside the wall.

Vine growers – those whom He entrusted with the work of His
land or kingdom.

God provided, protected and gave every tool needed for those He entrusted to be successful. Everything necessary for success was in place at their fingertips and handed over to their care. They were entrusted with all that He had as He set out on a journey.

What are some of the unanswered questions? Were the men the owner hired unreliable from the start? Were they reliable at first, growing weary as time passed? Did the success go to their head and they become greedy for more than He promised to provide for their service? Perhaps, they became deceived; thinking they somehow were owed ownership of the land or His absence (the perception: out of sight, out of mind) made Him no longer a responsible an owner and perhaps an undeserving one. Whatever their reason, when the time came to fulfill their agreement and settle up with the proprietor, these vine-growers renigged on their contract. They had no respect for Him, His ownership and authority, nor for the authority which He had delegated first to His representatives and then to His Son and heir.

Jesus’ reply to those whom He was teaching was this:

“Jesus said to them, “Did you never read in the Scriptures,
‘The stone which the builders rejected,
This became the chief corner stone;
This came about from the Lord,
And it is marvelous in our eyes’?

Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people, producing the fruit of it. And he who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; but on whomever it falls, it will scatter him like dust.”
When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard His parables, they understood that He was speaking about them. When they sought to seize Him, they feared the people, because they considered Him to be a prophet.” Matthew 21:42-46

This was a direct message to the Pharisees of Jesus time. There also seems to be such a richness to this parable; I can help to wonder if there is so much more… Could there also be layers of meaning that go deeper and reach farther than we may have ever considered? Is it possible that it also refers to the institution of the new covenant of grace (the “church” age) that would soon be ushered in by Jesus sacrificial death, His burial, and resurrection and His command to make disciples of ALL nations? Or of the prophecies to be fulfilled in the future before Christ return? Could there be something for us in our very day lives that Jesus is trying to express? Are we greedy, wicked vine-growers? Are we beating, stoning, and killing figuratively; or are we loving and faithful like Jesus? Are we producing fruit?

Honestly, you may or may not agree; but the more I read this parable, the more questions it provokes. I am convinced that there truly are layers and meanings beyond the surface of what we read in this parable and perhaps in all of Jesus parables. I think I’ll be sitting on this one for a while.

Heavenly Father, Your Word promises if any lack wisdom to ask and it will be given lavishly without finding fault. James 1:5 Help us, Your sons and daughters seek You and Your wisdom so that we can have the understanding and rightly divide Your Word. You have gone before us, prepared the way, set protection in place, made provision for our needs, given us the tools so we may be successful, and entrusted us with Your kingdom. In fact, You have given us the incredible gift of Your Spirit dwelling inside of us to teach, comfort, guide and help us! May we accept the gifts, bring forth fruit and gratefully, willingly and gracefully offer it right back to You where it belongs! To You be the honor and glory forever! In the powerful and amazing name of Jesus Christ, Amen

Grace and Peace to you this day!

Enemy Invasion-A Fresh Perspective

The Garden of Eden was a peaceful place. Everything was there that the first couple needed to survive and thrive. Adam (man) had been given dominion over the earth and the animals. He had named them all–the only thing lacking was a suitable helper for Adam. When God noticed this, He formed a woman from man’s rib for his suitable helper. By the end of the Sixth day, everything had been set into place for a successful first family. On the seventh day, God rested; instituting a day of rest for mankind.

Enter the Enemy

“Now the serpent was the most cunning of all the wild animals that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You can’t eat from any tree in the garden’?” Genesis 3:1

There is always something coming along to shake up the status quo! In chapter 3 of Genesis the enemy enters. He comes in slyly and stirs up some trouble. “Did God really say?” How was this even possible? Why would such a creature even exist and what possessed him to question the Creator? What did he hope to accomplish?

Only God Himself has all the answers to the questions we could possibly ask about this intrusion into the peaceful garden. Chapter 3 brings out all kinds of questions and the more you ask, the more that seem to come to mind. Here are some of my observations about his entrance and tactics:

  • The enemy is cunning – definition: artful subtlety and deceptive; exhibiting ingenuity, delicately pleasing, pretty or cute; adeptness in execution or performance. thefreedictionary.com
  • The enemy was a wild animal
  • The enemy used words to inquire and incite – Did God really say…

Results:

  1. Self-doubt – Eve: Did I hear God correctly?
  2. Questioned her understanding – you surely will not die but will be like God.
  3. Called God’s goodness into question – implying that God’s holding out on you.
  4. Usurps the peaceful balance that was found in the garden.
  5. Insights fear – fear of missing out; fear of being less than; fear of God’s reaction/rejection
  6. Stirs up blame and defensiveness.
  7. Causes strife and disruption of unity.

First, the serpent called into question God’s Words by cunningly asking “did God really say…?”. This was most likely designed to call into question either God’s precise words or Eve’s understanding or lack of understanding of God’s words establishing doubt in her mind. (Most battles are fought first in the mind.)  Eve repeated back to him what God had said to them.

Next, the serpent directly contradicted the result associated with eating the fruit. Maybe knowingly or not that the direct results would not be death but regardless; the end result would be sin which would ultimately result in death. Then the serpent spoke truth – the fruit consumed would make them aware of the knowledge of good and evil; what he did not tell her was that once aware, you are now responsible for consequences of your behavior on a whole other level. If you know good and do not do it; it is a sin. If you know it is evil, and yet you do it; you are also guilty of sin.

Results of sin:

Guilt

Shame

Consequences

Broken Relationships with God

Broken Relationships with man

The enemy of God always seeks to bring into question God’s provision, His protection, and His goodness. He goes after our mind subtlely, trying to bring everything we think we know and understand about God into question. Our mind is the enemy’s primary target, and that is why we are told many times in Proverbs to seek wisdom and get understanding. His goal is to destroy our relationship with our Creator and Father by disrupting our faith in God’s goodness, His protection, His provision, God’s faithfulness and anything else that we place our confidence in where God is concerned. His desire to steal our faith, turn it to doubt and incite fear; to tear down love and stir up division and hate; to destroy any peace and unity in our lives; encourage blame and finger pointing rather that finding common ground and working together toward common goals and finding unity.

Best News Ever

Jesus Christ defeated the enemy of our souls more than 2000 years ago on the hills of Jerusalem. His blood and His resurrection have given us the victory and the power to overcome every single attempt that the enemy throws our way!

In Christ, we have everything we need for life and godliness!

Lord, I pray that you will grant each of us wisdom and understanding that we need as we travel through life. May Your peace that passes understanding surround Your children and Your grace – which is sufficient surround us and be our companion. May we never lose sight of the wonder of Who You Are – for You are the Great I AM. No enemy can stand up to You, and You are always with Your kids. Your Word says You never leave us and You never forsake us. You have gone before us, and You walk beside us. Even when our paths take us to places and situations we do not understand, and we do not like, You are more than able to take those situations and over time use them to produce good in our lives. They may not feel good right now, but somehow You have a plan to redeem those things just as You did with Job troubles and with Christ’s persecution and death. Teach us to trust in Your goodness even when we can not see it with our own eyes. In the mighty and steadfast name of Jesus Christ! Amen

Grace and Peace be with you!

Fresh Look at the Beginning

What better place to start when taking a fresh look at something than at the beginning; so today I am in Genesis where we meet God as the Creator. I’m not going to debate or argue this one. Science is finding more and more evidence of intelligent design every day, and that is yours to decide for yourself, but I am fully on board with the creation model and a real and living Creator.

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. Gen 1:1

Secondly, the Spirit hovered over the dark and watery depths, God said let there be light, and there was light, and it was good. Then God separated the light and the darkness–There was evening and then morning; the first day. Next, on the second day, God separated the water by an expanse of land calling forth the sky above and the depths below. Day 3, God said, “Let the water under the sky be gathered into one place and the gathering of water be called “seas.”  God saw that it was good. Day three, vegetation was created, every kind of plant and fruit, and when God saw them, He pronounced them good! Next up on the creation model was the calling forth of times and seasons, days and years. The sun to rule over the day and the moon to guide through the nights, evening and morning of the fourth day. Day five, every creature that moves above or swims in the deep came into being with the ability to reproduce more of their own kind. God blessed them to be fruitful and multiply and declared that it is good. On the sixth day, God said, “let the earth produce living creatures after their own kind: livestock, creatures that crawl, and the wildlife of earth according to their own kinds and it was so.” Genesis 1:24 God then saw that it was good. Finally, God declared “Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness. They will rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, the livestock, the whole earth, and the creatures that crawl on the earth.” He created them male and female, blessed them to be fruitful and multiply; then God saw what He had made and pronounced it very good.

What I notice first off is the goodness of our Creator. He was very methodical in how He created each step of the way. Each step built upon the previous so that by the time living creatures and man entered the earth. Every provision that was needed to sustain life had already been provided.

I love how in Genesis 2:8-10 (CSB) tells us: “The Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there He placed the man He had formed. The Lord God caused to grow out of the ground every tree pleasing in appearance and good for food, including the tree of life in the middle of the garden, as well as the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. A river went out from Eden to water the garden.” Then in verse 15: ” The Lord God took the man and placed him in the garden of Eden to work it and watch over it. And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree of the garden, but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for on the day you eat from it, you will certainly die.” Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper corresponding to him.” The Lord God formed out of the ground every wild animal and every bird of the sky, and brought each to the man to see what he would call it. And whatever the man called a living creature, that was its name. The man gave names to all the livestock, to the birds of the sky, and to every wild animal; but for the man, no helper was found corresponding to him. So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to come over the man, and he slept. God took one of his ribs and closed the flesh at that place. Then the Lord God made the rib He had taken from the man into a woman and brought her to the man.” Genesis 3:15-22 CSB

Not only had every single need been provided for in advance of the first couple, but God had also shown his love and care by checking out the quality of each creation before proceeding to the next step. Creation was not just thrown together, but at every step God was testing quality control, lovingly crafting the environment that He knew would be needed for man to thrive. This is evidenced by His statement that there was no suitable helper for man and His decision to create the woman out of man’s side. Within slightly more than one chapter we see the Almighty God as 1. Creator, 2. Provider  3. Protector and 4. Caretaker.  Our Creator demonstrated Himself as caretaker as He made sure everything was in place to sustain life and for life to continue into the future. Living things from the smallest to the greatest had the ability to reproduce itself so life could go forth. Plants, fruits, and all vegetation reproducing for future generations to have needed food, as well as, animals and humans.  I believe we can also deduce that He is a Good God solely based on the indication that He cared enough to actually sit back and observe His creation and make sure it was good and in mankind’s case, very good.

A Fresh Look

I’m not sure how it came to be, but a few days ago I began a new journey. What will this journey teach me? Where will it lead and what discoveries are waiting along the way, I am not sure but trust that it will be an exciting one.

Let’s start from the beginning… my first journey with Jesus began as a small girl between 4 1/2 and five years old. It hasn’t been without some desert experiences, mountain top times and some peaceful oasis experiences. Perhaps, in the end, those desert times are the ones that have truly shaped me. For a while now, I have been noticing a recurring behavior. I can’t explain why other than it has caught my attention and for some reason, it has arrested my focus, and I am seeing it grow larger and more pervasive in the fellowship of believers.

For at least the last twelve years I have been studying on the topic of Who we are In Christ and often encourage others to look at what God’s Word says about who we are. This study is a wonderful and freeing pursuit, and it will change you forever in many ways. As you begin to unfold the mystery of Jesus, what He has done for our freedom, forgiveness, and restoration to our heavenly Father, He begins to unfold who we are In Him as we give our lives to Him.

The current trend is making declarations about who we are in Christ. Let me be clear–I’m not against this. I am all for learning who we are as believers in Christ! My concern is that we keep the proper perspective in our pursuit of who we truly are. Clearly, the Word of God says we are dearly loved children of the Most High God; our Creator. It also tells us we are joint heirs with Jesus Christ and many other wonderful statements about who we are In Him. These are biblical truths and a great blessing, but we have to remember to keep context in mind and know the Word we are standing on and believing. So here I am again on a new journey; it’s never dull. Here I am seeking afresh to see who He is – yes, who He is. Why? I want to see with fresh eyes who He says we are in light of who the Great I Am is. It’s a heart check if you will. You see, as I have observed and listened to wonderful declarations of who we are In Christ I have noticed there is a fine line between having confidence in who we are and arrogance and that is a line I want to be careful never to cross. I never want to lose the humility to which He call us.

“Mankind, He has told each of you what is good and what it is the Lord requires of you:
to act justly,
to have faithfulness,
and to walk humbly with your God.”
Micah 6:8 (CSB)

Humility is found in scripture between ten and seventeen times depending on the translation. Humble is located between 82 and 84 times. James 4:10 says, “Humble yourself in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.” (CSB)

Jesus is an excellent example of humility in the Bible:
“Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Philippians 2:5-11 (NASB)
Jesus laid aside His standing to do the will of the Father, not once defending Himself because He fully understood Who He was and what His purpose was.

Another example was Moses. Moses was described as humble, a meek man yet God commissioned him to lead approximately 2 million people from Egyptian captivity and toward the promised land. It was Moses who God revealed Himself as “I AM Who I AM” in Exodus.

“Then Moses asked God, “If I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what should I tell them?”
God replied to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: I AM has sent me to you.” God also said to Moses, “Say this to the Israelites: The Lord, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you. This is my name forever; this is how I am to be remembered in every generation.” Exodus 3:13-15 (CSB)

From beginning to end, Scripture is filled with conditional promises, blessings, and even curses. There are many If…then statements all throughout the pages. We must be careful to seek to understand what they are saying to us.
“Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” 2 Timothy 2:15 (NKJV)

“But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away! For of this sort are those who creep into households and make captives of gullible women loaded down with sins, led away by various lusts, always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.” 2 Timothy 3:1-7 (NKJV)

Lord God, please teach us more about Who You are and who we are in Jesus Christ and humbly walk with you fulfilling the purpose that You have for each of us during our lives just as Jesus, Moses and so many others have done whether the task is great of subtle. May we love justice, be ever faithful and walk humbly with our God until our faith becomes sight in Your very presence! In the mighty and incomparable Name of Jesus, Amen!

May Grace and Peace be yours!

Secret to a Well-Watered Garden

If our lives were a garden, what kind of garden would we be? Interesting how our day can shift in just a moment in time! That is if we can be flexible. This morning an interesting topic came up, and I began to research it. It was one simple word– dry. My plan: to thoroughly examine this concept throughout Scripture.

The first suggested reference was Isaiah 58:11: “And the LORD will continually guide you, and satisfy your desire in scorched places, and give strength to your bones, and you will be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water whose waters do not fail.” (NASB)

I was totally hooked and fully submitted to where God would lead this particular thought because WHO wouldn’t like to find themselves guided in all the day-in and day-out decisions which are required of them? Who would not love to have every desire satisfied; especially in the dry and scorched places!! How often do we find ourselves in desperate need of strength? A well-watered garden is a perfect example of a beautiful and quiet place; usually with songbirds singing and just an all around quiet peacefulness-a delight to the senses! Can you just picture such a place? A person who personifies this description?

If you’ve been around awhile, you know it is a must for me to go back further into the text to make sure I have a grasp of as much context of the passage as I can for correct understanding; so I dialed back to Isaiah 57:14 for greater understanding.

The later part of Isaiah 57 is all about God’s forgiveness for those who are repentant. Interestingly, it is more about God’s actions and responses to His people. Verse 13 clearly states that whoever trusts in God will inherit the land and possess His holy mountain. God instructs Isaiah to rebuild the road; moving all rocks and stones. It’s to be a smooth road without rocks and stones so that His people can return from captivity to the safety, protection, and freedom in His presence. They had been led away captive by greediness and the desire to go their stubborn ways. Now, it is His desire for them to return to live with Him in the high and holy place; His requirement– a contrite (remorseful) and humble spirit.

Many will think this is a steep price to pay; others fail to see any need for remorse or humility. For those who find it within themselves to return to Him, He promises restoration and courage. In fact, He also has a promise for those who had remained in their stubbornness. Though He was angry, punished the greedy and withdrew from those who kept to their stubborn ways; He declares that He will heal them.
He pledges comfort for the mourners; also, abundant peace. But for the wicked, there is no peace. They will be like a churning ocean; without rest.

In Isaiah 58, we come across the contrast of real and false worship. False worship is described distinctly as worship that is self-seeking, self-pleasing and done with the expectation of recognition or reward. Some would call this form or worship religion rather than relationship; which is God’s heart for His people. Finally, we get to what the Lord, our God describes as His fast. The fast that God finds pleasing:

1. Bring freedom to those wrongly imprisoned.
2. Lighten the burden of those in your charge.
3. Free the oppressed; those subject to harsh treatment or treated as subservient. (remove chains of bondage)
4. Feed those who are hungry.
5. Shelter the homeless.
6. Clothe those who need clothing.
7. Do not hide from relatives that could use your help.

I find it very intriguing that there are exactly seven things that God lists in this passage. Isaiah is part of the Old Testament and is written originally in the Hebrew language. Hebrew tradition gives a numerical meaning to numbers. Seven is defined as the Divine number of completion; a covenant promise; and some say the number of perfection. So is there a promise or a covenant promise attached to the above behavior? Let’s explore…

Let’s pick up in verse 8 of Isaiah 58: ““Then your salvation will come like the dawn, and your wounds will quickly heal. Your godliness will lead you forward, and the glory of the LORD will protect you from behind. 9 Then when you call, the LORD will answer. ‘Yes, I am here,’ he will quickly reply. “Remove the heavy yoke of oppression.
Stop pointing your finger and spreading vicious rumors! 10 Feed the hungry, and help those in trouble. Then your light will shine out from the darkness, and the darkness around you will be as bright as noon.
11 The LORD will guide you continually, giving you water when you are dry and restoring your strength. You will be like a well-watered garden, like an ever-flowing spring. 12 Some of you will rebuild the deserted ruins of your cities. Then you will be known as a rebuilder of walls and a restorer of homes.” (NLT)

Five Promises or Results of the Lord’s Fast:

1. Your salvation will come like dawn.
2. Your wounds will heal quickly.
3. Your godliness will lead you forward.
4. The glory of the Lord will protect you from behind.
5. You will call, and God will answer; He will quickly reply.

You might be interested to know if you don’t know already; the meaning of the Hebrew number five is God’s grace. God’s grace is abundant in our lives when we find ourselves submitted to His plan and purpose for us. As you can see in the above passages of scripture; our repentant and submitted life to the things which are of greatest importance to the heart of God causes His abundant grace to flow in our lives and allows us to abide in a place of peace, beauty, and fruitfulness!

May His grace abound to you in all you do!

One True Love

It is here! Today is the day, the one that is either the most awaited or the most dreaded day of many people’s year– Valentine’s Day. Whether you’re ever-the-optimist, unlucky in love or somewhere in between; most people have strong opinions or feelings about this day. Many of these strong opinions come from hurts, unmet expectations, and sometimes unrealistic expectations on our part.

Let’s be honest. Most of us are not mind readers. If we were, we would know not to expect much from that loved one who doesn’t see this day as anything more than a commercialized day for selling extreme numbers of cards, boxes of chocolate, expensive gifts, and jewelry. Conversely, they would know that getting gifts (small tokens of love) was something that spoke volumes to their loved one and just might choose to go against their opinion for the sake of love. How easy would that make life or perhaps how hard! Just consider that for a moment. If your love language was about receiving gifts and I was a mind reader and withheld that gift from you… What would that say about me?

We would do well to understand how differently people are wired. What is a ‘no brainer’ to me just might be the absolute last thing that you would ever think about and the reverse is also true. There is only One Who knows the very core of our heart. Only One Who knows how our heart beats and what it longs for and that is the One who laid down His life so that we could find actual life.

The thief comes to steal, kill and destroy–John 10:10. He sends his fiery darts: if they love me, they would___________; or any other of countless expectations that the object of our love has no idea is in our heads, therefore, could never fulfill. It is a setup for unmet expectations that divide and conquer in our relationships. Clue: if you’re in a relationship with someone who forgets parents or siblings birthdays, expect that they might also forget yours–it’s their m.o. It might be a little too optimistic to expect that you are the exception that will cause them to change. Maybe it’s the way they are wired.

We can also be misunderstood. I made a flippant generalization about pearls many years ago, not knowing my love had bought me a gift made of them. Not knowing, I had said that I wasn’t much of a pearl girl (and I was a girl, not a woman, at the time). So the next time I was with him at the mall, he walked into the jewelry store and returned the present sight unseen. Right there in front of me, he told the salesperson that I didn’t like them. The truth, that was the first I knew of them; I hadn’t seen them. By the way, they were beautiful dangly earrings. He had an expectation my being delighted by them and my words had dashed that hope all because I wasn’t keen on the more traditional concept of pearls. We both lost out, and special occasions went ignored rather than being celebrated for many years.

There is great news.  John 10:10 is a follow-up to Jesus statement, “I am the door.” meaning the door to the sheep pen that brings safety and protection to them; keeping the thieves and predators away. It doesn’t end with pitfalls and predators, and neither does our story! It goes on to say “I (Jesus) have come that they (we) may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance [to the full, till it overflows]. Amplified version
Jesus Christ, sent by God as a representation of Who God is and of His love; true love came to reveal what authentic love is and what real love does.

In this same general area in John, you begin to find the, I Am’s of Jesus. In John 6:35, Jesus tells us, “I am the bread of life: he that comes to Me shall never hunger, and he that believes in Me will never thirst.” In Him, we find nourishment, sustenance and hydration! When we hunger and thirst for Him and for His Word; we find satisfaction. We may or may not find all the answers to all of our questions and life may not be all that we would desire it to be but we will find what we truly need for our journey .

In John 8:12, Jesus reveals Himself as the “Light of the World.” “Whoever follows Me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” Jesus set the example for life when He walked among the people; He set the standard for love also. Light illuminates and brings that which we need for growth and understanding. Light helps us see fully; in places that we may not have noticed without the light pinpointing the nuances.

John 10:11 highlights Jesus as The Good Shepherd who lays down His life for His sheep. He claims responsibility for us, our safety and our well-being at the cost of His personal safety. In essence, He is clearly stating through His life, death, and resurrection that our well-being (freeing us from the penalty of our sin) is worth giving His everything, including His very life.

 

In John 11:25, Jesus declares, ” I am the Resurrection and the Life. He who believes in Me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives in Me will never die.” Death was not the end of His story. Jesus arose on the third day conquering death, providing life through forgiveness and a promise of life everlasting and abundant.

The Way, the Truth, and the Life is the sixth I am proclamation of Jesus. This one has stumped people age after age. If God is love and is a loving Father, how is there only one way to Him? Religion after religion claims they have the way, but God’s Son clearly says He is the way. He laid His will down to fulfill God’s plan, to show God’s love and to restore our relationship with God; to bridge what sin had destroyed.

Lastly, Jesus is The Vine. John 15:5 Picture if you will, a beautiful vineyard in August; branches heavy laden with lush fruit. This fruit is big, beautifully ripe and perfect for consumption. What a beautiful sight! Just remember this is only possible when the branches connect to the vine. Without the Vine bringing much-needed nutrients into those branches, this fine and delicious fruit would never happen. Don’t believe it? Just separate one branch. Cut it off and toss it aside and see what happens. Without the nutrients that cause the branches to thrive, not only will fruit not appear but that very branch will wither, shrink and in time be fit only for composting at best.

I don’t know your stance on Valentine’s Day or your perception of God; whether you even believe. I also don’t pretend to know what you are facing this Valentine’s Day; where you are on the swinging love pendulums high’s and low’s. What I do know is I believe in love. It is stronger than our present feeling about it; whether good or bad! God is the source of love. What better place than God in Whom we live, move and have our being to seek out the true definition of love with all that it encompasses and what better example than the life and ministry of Jesus Christ–who humbled Himself, walked among us loving, serving, ministering, teaching, and healing. Jesus laid down His life even to the point of death to bring us the fullness of life, wholeness in this present world and for eternity. This is the One True Love that is ageless and available to us all!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Grace and Peace be with you!

Could Someone Please Turn up the Lights?

The America in which I grew up is M.I.A.! Yep, Missing In Action. This country is unrecognizable on so many fronts. By all reports, it seems divided right down the middle. The truth is it is not. Many of us were not happy with either of the final choices that we had to pick from for president. However, we now have a new President! Believers, it is our job to pray for those in authority according to scripture! It is not our job to judge, complain or fear. It is our responsibility to pray for him and our country without regard for our feelings!

To the Women marching on Washington: You claim to speak for women everywhere. I hate to bear you this news, but much that was said represents only a portion of women in this country. Scare tactics, vulgarity, threats and parading your female parts on your heads with your face peeking out doesn’t speak for me; nor many other ladies I know. How appropriate I must say were the cat hats because that is just what some of your representative’s behavior was; “catty.” Oh, how different was the March for life just one week later! Your threats indicate you are bullies disregarding the opinions of women who disagree with your ideology. You do not represent me, and just because I don’t agree with many of your talking points does not make me any less of a woman or any less an advocate for females. I was brought up with manners, modesty and to act like a lady, as were many women all across this country. You, I repeat, do not speak for all women!

To those attacking the New President’s son: I DO NOT care who you do or do not like or support politically. Nor do I care how scared or threatened you feel about the incoming President! Making vicious attacks, accusations or judgments about a ten-year-old young man is absolutely NEVER ok!! It is especially heinous when coming from a supposed adult!! That is the epitome of a bully, and IT IS EVIL!

Without support, this kind of rhetoric could easily do much damage to a ten-year-old, and you are responsible whether your acknowledge it or not for the damage that ensues. Imagine if this young man or anyone you treated so poorly were to act in desperation because of your actions!!

To American Voters everywhere: Have you ever wondered why there has never been such unrest and violent rioting as we have seen since this election? Did you see Republicans act like this after President Obama entered office? President Bush? How about after President Clinton entered office? This process happens every four years and when have your ever seen this kind of out of control behavior in the civilized world? Violent riots are increasing! Everyone is looking out only for their causes without regard to the rights of the other side, and in the process innocent people and businesses get caught in the cross-fire, suffering loss! It is wrong and senseless!! People are stepping on others rights to assert their own. That, my friends, is called oppression- forcing your thought and ideas on others. America is referred to as the land of the free for a reason. All people are entitled to be free unless they break the law. People’s belief is not legislated, at least not yet in this country; though many are pushing us that direction by the thought police. What possesses people to act out in such destructive, violent ways? Why is it acceptable for them to revert to barbaric behavior? Why do others choose more productive ways to deal with loss, disappointment, and fear?

I have news for you; the world is watching. The nation once admired for being a kind; generous, Christian nation is now on display around the world. Where the world is concerned, the media stories are America. No wonder they see Americans as selfish, self-promoting, spoiled, childish, and entitled people. The nation once admired for being a kind; generous, freedom-loving country is now on display around the world, and the picture is ugly and dark. A moderately small number of loud voices are speaking out and claiming to speak for us all. Maybe I am deceived, but I believe that there are many others of you out there that are just as horrified as I am with what they are seeing. We are at a crossroads, and if we continue traveling in this direction, we just may not be happy with the outcome. The question is, “What can or will we do about it?” How long will we sit by and keep quiet allowing those who think differently be the only ones heard? What can you and I do? Can someone please just turn up the lights?? Can we roll this darkness back or call on Someone who can?

President Trump has said that under his leadership, America will become great again. Even with the best of intentions, one person cannot achieve this. Even with the cooperation of every staff member, Congressman, Senator, and Judge, it would be difficult at best. The answer is we the people. Let’s face it, darkness and division are plaguing our people. We spend more time on the few things that divide us than those that unite us. Instead of finding common ground, people insist on their own selfish ways. Each man does what is ‘right’ in his/her own heart. Moral absolutes have often been cast aside and caution in many cases thrown to the wind.

America’s greatness has come from being united. Separate states governing themselves united in one country, under one flag. America’s greatness came from freedom. Freedom of religion, protecting us from a forced national religion. In other words, we can practice whatever religion we choose or none at all; we are free. Freedom of protection which includes our speech, the right to defend ourselves and bear arms. Let’s face it; it also includes freedom of journalism which is a very HOT topic these days! That includes their right to report the story first despite having accurate and truthful facts. They are free to do this, though it isn’t a very smart choice of behavior. I like most others would much prefer an accurate and unbiased report over lots of speculation that later has to be repaired, retracted or corrected. Frankly, it causes chaos and fear that is very unnecessary. Can WE PLEASE just turn up the lights?

Father God, Please forgive us for letting our voices grow softer. Please forgive us for becoming more and more silent; letting our lights dim. Change and revival begin in Your House, oh Lord; with the individuals who love You seeking to be their best self by seeking You, following Your statutes. Help us to be the people You created us to be. To be bold and unashamed of our inheritance or our destiny! Teach us to be brave, bold and stand firm for the things that are deep in our heart; fearing not to be different and stand up for what is good and what is true!

Your Word says:                                                                                                                                       “Then the Lord appeared to Solomon at night and said to him: I have heard your prayer and have chosen this place for Myself as a temple of sacrifice. 13 If I close the sky so there is no rain, or if I command the grasshopper to consume the land, or if I send pestilence on My people, 14 and if My people who are called by My name humble themselves, pray and seek My face, and turn from their evil ways, then I will hear from heaven, forgive their sin, and heal their land. 15 My eyes will now be open and My ears attentive to prayer from this place. 16 And I have now chosen and consecrated this temple so that My name may be there forever; My eyes and My heart will be there at all times. 17 As for you, if you walk before Me as your father David walked, doing everything I have commanded you, and if you keep My statutes and ordinances, 18 I will establish your royal throne, as I promised your father David: You will never fail to have a man ruling in Israel.19 However, if you turn away and abandon My statutes and My commands that I have set before you and if you go and serve other gods and worship them, 20 then I will uproot Israel from the soil that I gave them, and this temple that I have sanctified for My name I will banish from My presence; I will make it an object of scorn and ridicule among all the peoples. 21 As for this temple, which was exalted, everyone who passes by will be appalled and will say: Why did the Lord do this to this land and this temple? 22 Then they will say: Because they abandoned the Lord God of their ancestors who brought them out of the land of Egypt. They clung to other gods and worshiped and served them. Because of this, He brought all this ruin on them.” 2 Chronicles 7

Please Lord, help us to realize there is much more here than just a prayer for forgiveness and healing in our land. There is a warning to keep false gods out of our lives, including the god of selfishness. So what are the false gods that plague us today? Please give us eyes to see what they are. Perhaps political correctness is one, or materialism, obsession with technology, televisions, hobbies, sports, fear. Is it possible self can become a major god in our life? How about education? Have we become so smart that true wisdom is lacking? Please give us the wisdom to humble ourselves, repent and seek Your face, learn and grow and allow our lights to shine brightly. Please help us to find True North and get back on the right road and may Your children turn up their lights all around this land and live peacefully! In Jesus Mighty Name, Amen.

“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God,                                                                         and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you all.”                                                                          2 Corinthians 13:14

The Power of Praying God’s Word

“For the Word of God is living and active and full of power [making it operative, energizing, and effective]. It is sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating as far as the division of the soul and spirit [the completeness of a person], and of both joints and marrow [the deepest parts of our nature], exposing and judging the very thoughts and intentions of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12 Amplified Bible

Prayer is a powerful tool in the arsenal of a believer but sometimes we forget just how mighty it can be. In fact, at times when life is going along just fine we can neglect our prayer life, and when the heat turns up then, we are quick to realize that we have a source to Whom we can turn. Hopefully, that’s not true in our case, but it sometimes happens when our life is rocking along pretty well.

God’s Word is chocked full of sound advice, effective principals for life, and great promises. We just have to be open to searching them out. You just might be surprised at how relevant it can be to life even in the 21st century. Now I have prayed the Word for some years, but recently I am realizing that even so, I am underutilizing it in my prayer life. For example, I was praying for a friend this morning who is seeking the Lord about some decisions. I ran across a scripture that I found to be very helpful. I know when I am asking the Lord for something; sometimes I find it hard to know the difference between Him answering, my thoughts and other thoughts and ideas that ‘pop’ into my head. I ran across this scripture this morning and felt prompted to pray it over my friend.

““I assure you and most solemnly say to you, he who does not enter by the door into the sheepfold, but climbs up from some other place [on the stone wall], that one is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep [the protector and provider]. The doorkeeper opens [the gate] for this man, and the sheep hear his voice and pay attention to it. And [knowing that they listen] he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out [to pasture]. When he has brought all his own sheep outside, he walks on ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice and recognize his call. They will never follow a stranger, but will run away from him, because they do not know the voice of strangers.”” ‭JOHN‬ ‭10:1-5‬ ‭AMP‬‬

““The sheep that are My own hear My voice and listen to Me; I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they will never, ever [by any means] perish; and no one will ever snatch them out of My hand.” ‭JOHN‬ ‭10:27-28‬ ‭AMP‬‬

The focus scripture was My sheep, (my followers) hear My voice and they follow me. The voice of a stranger, they will not follow. Based on these words, I felt compelled to petition the Father that this is His child I am praying for and that they are diligently seeking His wisdom. So my prayer went something like this: Lord, I pray (their name) will clearly hear Your answers for he/she is Your child and Your children (sheep) hear your voice and Your Word says that the voice of a stranger they will not follow. I pray that Your voice will be clear to (name) and that all others will be silenced so that he/she clearly hears what You alone have to say to them. From there, I went on to look up appropriate scriptures to pray over my friend’s current needs. What is an excellent way to pray for others or yourself!

You might ask why? Why is praying the Word of God relevant? Isaiah 55 tells us in verse 11, “My word, which comes from my mouth, is like the rain and snow. It will not return to me without results. It will accomplish whatever I want and achieve whatever I send it to do.” Now that sounds like another promise we can count on; we just have to remember it says that it accomplishes what He wants and achieves what He sends it to do. That means we must pray the promise within the context it is written and with the right motives.

“What is the source of wars and fights among you? Don’t they come from the cravings that are at war within you? You desire and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. 

                                                  You do not have because you do not ask.

     You ask and don’t receive because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your evil desires.” James 4:1-3

As you can see, as we seek to pray our motives are important. Proverbs 21:2 tells us that “Every way of a man is right in is own eyes, but the Lord weighs the heart.” (English Standard Version) Because of this, we need to search our own heart as we make request and petition for ourselves or others. Another good example is Galatians 1:10 Paul asks: “for am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? OR AM I TRYING TO PLEASE MAN? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ?” 1 Thessalonians 2:4, “But just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts.” ESV And lastly, 1 Timothy 1:5: ‘The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.” ESV. So let’s make sure to examine our hearts and motives and “Let us, therefore, come boldly before the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in the time of need”! Hebrews 4:16 NKJV

May the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ grant you grace and peace!

Life Perspectives

img_1678

A display of His Splendor!

Sometimes every single sign points to one particular scenario and then we wake up to find everything’s changed!! Nothing is as was expected. Sometimes the changed expected outcome is a good thing; other times not so much. Many situations may bring mixed reactions depending on each individuals perspective! In the meantime we have a decision to make.  How will we react or respond?

By noon yesterday, most of metro Atlanta began to shut down. Schools let out early or closed; o and staff left at noon and some businesses as well. We were in for mixed rain turning to sleet and later to snow with expected accumulations ranging from .25 ” of ice up to 4″ of snow. Temperatures hovered just above freezing. At 1:30 I found myself driving home in very hard rain and as I got closer with my weekly grocery purchase; it tapered down to a mild drizzle. (That was favor) Nothing much more until after dark, more rain; then turning to sleet or frozen rain after 8:00. Enjoying the evening with some friends, we lost track of time.  Finally, a bit after 10 we wandered out to a .25″ carpet of slushy ice covering all surfaces from power lines to the ground. The 11 o’clock news was certain as the rain tapered, snow would come through between 4 and 8 a.m. leaving a nice blanket, again about 2-3 inches.

Morning  came. Much to the surprise of many, it looked almost exactly as it had at 10 p.m. The only real difference was the slush was frozen harder and a scant unmeasurable dusting of snow that you actually had to hunt to see. Children and snow lovers everywhere were disappointed; though many others were rejoicing. (Again, it’s all about perspective.) As I sit looking out back through my picture window, I can’t help but look up at that beautiful blue sky with trees glistening,  their bare branches covered with sparkling ice; a display of our Creators splendor! The picture just doesn’t do justice to the beauty.

I can’t help but stare mesmerized wondering at how like life this whole situation is. Everyone going along with their everyday life, doing whatever it is that is required. Suddenly something changes, in this particular case an announcement of winter weather with unseasonably cold temperatures, ice, snow, increasingly colder temperatures followed by ice-covered trees and very high winds. It is a sure mixture for broken limbs and falling trees, especially after a late summer drought. No wonder many were more concerned than excited about snow. For some the lack of snow was very disappointing. Many others are just plain grateful for areas where the snow, ice, and winds were much lighter than expected, as were the damages.

Life happens this way all the time. It throws a ‘suddenly’ our direction; some good, others not so good.  Like our weekend weather, it may or may not follow the predictable paths. It may surprise us pleasantly; shock us beyond belief; knock our socks off; or completely devastate us. The possibilities are endless and we have a choice when it does. With what perspective will we choose to look at the circumstance? Will it be a positive perspective? Or negative? Will we seek to look at the big picture weighing one against the other to find a balanced perspective? Will we panic or will we keep a cool and distant position to observe? Honestly, it’s not easy to say how we will react when so many variables are around us all the time. One thing is sure, at least in my mind. We are always better off seeking balance in our perspective when something happens suddenly or unexpectedly. You may not agree, but personally I believe the key to riding out the ‘suddenlies’ in life may just be found in carefully weighing our circumstances and finding a balanced perspective which in my mind leads to a more peaceful place where our mind can find rest.