Truth and Life . . . 12/27/14
And Elisha prayed, and said, “Lord, I pray, open his eyes that he may see.” Then the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw. And behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha – 2 Kings 6:17.
Has it happened to you? Have you matured enough in your walk with Christ to be a threat to the powers of darkness? If so, then they are angry and afraid. You have inadvertently stirred up a hornets’ nest. Many stinging darts are now pointed at the target on your back. But with God, there is always good news. If you know Him and trust in Him—in all that He is—then you can refuse to be afraid. You can choose to focus on the truth and life of God, allowing them to form a shield between you and the enemy. Those angry hornets may inflict a sting or two, but they can do no lasting harm.
The truth of God is a lightning bolt of energy that moves us forward in His loving purpose. This truth, found in the Word and spoken by the Spirit, guides us to safety, holiness and a powerful destiny.
The life of God is mighty, extending far beyond our human comprehension. It lifts us high above our physical limitations. It seats us in the Heavenlies even while we’re yet on Earth. It whispers incredible secrets, then it enables us to believe and partake in them as creative partners.
As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds His people from this time forth and forever – Psalm 125:2.
Earth is a battleground where truth (the Word) and life (the presence of God) are the powers that prevail. Furious storms are raging, but God is within the darkness and the clouds, causing floods of torrential rain to wash away dirt and uncover His hidden treasure.
The truth and life of God are all around us. When we choose to embrace them, His favor and blessings will begin to overtake us. On that day, the enemy will tremble in their boots.
Dear Lord, we thank You for precious truth and glorious life. When we read Your Word, let it always impart wisdom and revelation. Please bless us each day, Lord, with more of You. When we enter Your presence through worship, let our vision of You be expanded. Please lead us deeper into Your holy heart.
His Glory is Upon Us . . . 11/25/14
Are you going through a difficult time that is severely testing your faith? Are you anxious about the condition of your family, your finances, your health or the chaotic world around you? Are you often focused on negative details? If your answers are "Yes," then I'm sure you are wanting change. But to see it, you must direct your thoughts toward what God says about your troubles and toward the part He wants you to play in His solution.
. . . let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God – Hebrews 12:1-2.
“Let us lay aside every weight” means that we must give up any activity that weighs us down by draining our time and energy. If it’s not in God’s plan for our day, then we should set it down and walk away.
Also, we must “lay aside...the sin which so easily ensnares us.” To be in a position of spiritual power, we cannot play around with sin. Even “little sins” will keep us on a path of mediocrity that leads to nowhere good.
We must run the race before us with endurance, “looking unto Jesus” as our example. When we’re given a difficult task or a challenging situation, then we must embrace it just like Jesus embraced the cross because of the glory that lay beyond it.
But maybe your trial has lasted for years. Your faith has certainly grown, but so has the ferocity of demonic lies and attacks. Your heart is heavy, and you struggle to worship God—just what the enemy had in mind. You plan to stay on track and run the race before you, but there currently is no joy in it.
If I have just described your situation, get ready to be encouraged! God has a word for you today from the Amplified Bible:
Arise [from the depression and prostration in which circumstances have kept you—rise to a new life]! Shine (be radiant with the glory of the Lord), for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you! For behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and dense darkness [all] peoples, but the Lord shall arise upon you [O Jerusalem], and His glory shall be seen on you – Isaiah 60:1-2, AMP.
These words from God are the reality that trumps what Christians sometimes see and feel! He tells you to arise from your depression. Your Light has come! His glory is upon you, just as it was with Moses when first he was humbled for 40 years on the back side of the desert, and later when he was exalted to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. God’s glory is upon you, just as it was with Joseph when first he was thrown into a pit by his brothers, sold as a slave, slandered and sent to prison, and also 13 years later when he rose overnight to be Pharaoh’s right-hand man.
The glory of God is upon us in the midst of our hardship as well as in the day of our triumph. This is a truth we must believe and rely on. During the difficult times, we must praise and worship the Lord. Every day we must rise to a new life that is focused on pleasing Him. That’s what Moses and Joseph did. That’s also what David and Paul and John did, along with many others who made a supernatural impact on this world.
Thank You, Lord, for choosing the lowly and the unimportant as recipients of Your grace. Thank You for giving us our own significant page in the history of Your kingdom. Let us always hear Your voice and see the vision You set before us. By Your power and Your glory, please help us to succeed.
A World of Grace and Miracles . . . 10/5/14
He who observes the wind will not sow, and he who regards the clouds will not reap – Ecclesiastes 11:4.
The reality of God’s presence and power is not always at the forefront of our minds. We take for granted that the sun will rise and that rain will fall; forgetting that God is the sustaining force behind these marvels. We sometimes forget how infinitely superior the Creator is to His creation.
As Christians are moved from glory to glory, our faith expands, and we're more in tune with the reality of God's power. Our faith rests firmly on His loving, holy character; upon His willingness to do whatever it takes to advance His kingdom and redeem what was lost in the fall.
God upholds the laws of nature that He's put into place, but He will override these laws to introduce the grace needed for miracles. At Joshua's request, God caused the sun and the moon to stand still until Israel had defeated its enemies (Joshua 10:12-13). Why wouldn't He also cure a serious illness or even raise the dead? Why wouldn't He provide all that is needed to support the destinies He has assigned us?
I've heard it said that one miracle is worth a thousand sermons, and I completely agree. The impact of a supernatural event is immeasurable. Seeing someone dramatically healed or seeing a life set free from habitual sin is enough to awaken a slumbering soul.
If you dare to believe that the unseen world where grace abounds is greater than the visible world of natural law, then you’re more likely to sow the seeds of faith required for supernatural change. In contrast, if you insist on trusting only what your physical senses detect—"observing the wind" and "regarding the clouds"—you will miss God's amazing grace.
Dear Lord, please make us increasingly aware of the grace reserved for this day and time. Give us eyes that see and ears that hear. Along with discernment of Your grace, make us aware of the needs around us. Help us to comprehend Your willingness to redeem and restore. Thank You, Lord, for involving us in Your plans. We rejoice in Your presence as we work together.
Value Beyond Measure . . . 9/6/14
O LORD God of hosts, who is mighty as you are, O LORD, with your faithfulness all around you? – Psalm 89:8 ESV.
The value of God's faithfulness is completely beyond measure. Apart from this attribute of His character, our Christian faith would have nothing to support it. Hope could not exist.
Holy scripture is our written guide for living, but it’s also the plumb line that measures God’s perfect record of keeping His word. Our Helper, the Holy Spirit, constantly reminds us of what God has said so we can trim our sails and navigate into the future with a strong and vibrant faith—because God’s word is watertight.
God’s word is His holy covenant with “all who love Him and keep His commandments” (Deuteronomy 7:9). As the Sacrificial Lamb, Jesus ensures that the covenant won't be broken.
New revelation of God’s faithfulness is sometimes needed to fan the waning embers of hope back to life. Because the powers of darkness never rest from maligning the character of our Lord, we need supernatural exposure to the truth. God loves to reveal Himself, so you can ask expectantly for enlightenment. And don’t be surprised when your faith explodes with joyful new energy.
God’s faithfulness is a thing of beauty. It can be seen in the ongoing transformation of every born-again Christian. At first we are quite a mess, but God is faithful to finish what He has begun (Philippians 1:6). His dependability is also seen each time the sun rises and sets, and when the seasons change (Genesis 8:22). We witness it when the rain falls (Job 5:10) and when crops are ready for harvest (Deuteronomy 11:14).
The faithful heart of God is glorious and worthy to be praised—even before we see Him move on our behalf. Before the prodigal child comes home, we need to cry, “Hallelujah! God will save this wayward one who is a part of His inheritance (Luke 15:3-7)! Before our financial needs are met, we should thank God for His promise of provision (Malachi 3:10)! Before our destinies fully unfold, we must praise the Lord for His assurance of glorious restoration (Isaiah 60)! God’s faithfulness covers every need, and it will surely endure forever (Psalm 117:2)!
Dear Lord, You are the Solid Rock who keeps us safe from treacherous shifting sands. Your stability gives us faith and hope for all good things. From the bottom of our hearts, we thank You for being faithful.
Higher Ground . . . 8/7/14
Happy is the man who finds wisdom, and the man who gains understanding; For her proceeds are better than the profits of silver, and her gain than fine gold. She is more precious than rubies, and all the things you may desire cannot compare with her – Proverbs 3:13-15.
The Lord has recently shown me the need for getting strategy from Him (specific and precise instruction) to deal with some problems I face. Thankfully, matters aren't complicated by not knowing how to get that strategy. Over the years, the Lord has prepared me well to receive His tactical secrets. To share with you what I've learned, I'm offering a list of precepts that will help any Christian to move from a place of fear and confusion to the higher ground of communing consistently with God:
To hear God's plan for victory (for today, next month...next year), submitting to Him is essential. This allows God to make you ready for increased understanding. Yield quickly to His methods of cleansing, healing and transformation. Humble yourself under His mighty hand, and He will exalt you in due time (1 Peter 5:6).
Ask God to increase your faith. Then “count it all joy” when trials come along to test and strengthen that faith (James 1:2-8).
While your faith is growing, take time to explore the numerous ways that God might speak to you. Use faith to hear the many facets of His voice (John 10:4). Be persistant. An important key is believing that God will speak to you—every day.
Spend time in praise and worship. Increase your time in the Word. When you find the presence of God, you will naturally find His voice. Seek the Lord with all your heart and He will be found by you (Jeremiah 29:13). When you seek God wholeheartedly, finding His presence is not that hard... and it's not just for "special people."
Understand that every truth is preceded by another. Precept must be upon precept...line upon line...here a little, there a little (Isaiah 28:9-10). Growth takes time. Knowing God takes time.
Exercise patience and restraint regarding the sins of others. Let God remove the beam from your eye so you can see to help others (Matthew 7:5). I'll say it again: Growth takes time. But when God decides you're ready to deliver a weighty message, you should do it with confidence.
Practice obedience. God will only reveal His strategic truth when you can be trusted to use it well (Psalm 25:14).
Know that God wants to help you. He is the Way, the Truth and the Life (John 14:6). He wants you to succeed, and He will give you life-changing strategy just as soon as you're ready.
My son, eat honey because it is good, and the honeycomb which is sweet to your taste; So shall the knowledge of wisdom be to your soul; If you have found it, there is a prospect, and your hope will not be cut off - Proverbs 24:13-14.
Wisdom, understanding, knowledge—strategy—all these belong to us through our Lord Jesus Christ. Finding them will keep our hope intact and moving toward fulfillment in God's appointed time.
Dear Lord, we thank You for Your Word. We thank You for Your Voice. Thank You for the beautifully narrow path that leads us to Your presence. Your sweet Spirit guides us always closer to the blessing that is in You.
Focus on God . . . 7/11/14
. . . but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us – Romans 5:3-5.
Being tested by inescapable problems is part of life in the Kingdom of God. Unless you’re completely obstinate, these hard times serve to teach you about your utter insufficiency, apart from the Lord. (We all need reminding of this at times.) Your trials become monuments to God's relentless love as they bring you, step by step, to the proverbial end of yourself.
In theory, the "end of yourself" is a very good place because you’re free from many delusions. In actuality, this point of renewal is daunting. You're now in a place of waiting for God to act instead of stepping forward without Him. You're in a a place of re-learning; a place of change; a place where you must trust God with almost every detail. You yield to the Lord as He offers His higher ways of thinking and doing.
Months or even years may pass, and then one day when you're almost comfortable again, something will happen that takes your concept of testing to a whole new level.
Whatever that "something" may be, its severity has unsettled you to the core:
Your world has shifted and is tilting precariously on its axis.
Anxiety greets you in the morning and follows you through the day.
Your only reprieve comes with the exhaustion of evening and an early bedtime.
But God has not left you alone. After a short time, He speaks mercifully to your trembling heart. “Don't be afraid. I have simply exposed your vulnerability. The things you fear the most now loom ahead in full view. But fear is from the enemy.” Now God asks you to consider: “Do you trust me to keep you safe? Will you courageously stand your ground and wait for My instruction, or will you panic and revert to your previous ways?”
Does this sound intense? Yes, of course, but it’s simply an excerpt from the normal Christian life. The scene is taken from a page in God’s training manual—one that is stained with His tears of compassion. He knows you’ll suffer, but the resulting transformation is worth the price of the pain—both yours and His.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, nor shall the flame scorch you. For I am the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior; I gave Egypt for your ransom, Ethiopia and Seba in your place – Isaiah 43:2-3.
When Christians persistently turn to the Lord during times of testing, His love will always come forth to lift them up above their trouble. Here is what I recently heard from God in the midst of a difficult time: "Susan, you’ve been hit hard by an enemy who claims that you don’t deserve anything good. But this enemy’s most brutal attack is upon the soundness of our relationship. It whispers that I can't be trusted because I don't really love you—that you can't expect Me to keep My word—and that you only imagine you're hearing My voice. Don't listen to these lies. Focus instead on Who I Am and on My many promises to you.”
As I meditated on this personal word from the Lord, I saw that the enemy’s first line of attack was bold and straightforward. It’s true that I don’t deserve good things, but it’s also true that I’m covered in Jesus’ blood, so I’m directly in line to be blessed according to God's plan. The second attack came heavily veiled. Its agenda was cruel: If I would believe the subtle hints that God can’t be trusted, then the foundation of my world would crumble. I would be adrift in a dark sea of hopelessness.
In my experience, evil spirits are far too vicious to succeed with subtlety, so they often overplay their hand. This time was no exception. Enemy attacks only serve to bring praying Christians to their knees. When "hopelessness" rears its ugly head, we turn to God for help. We ask for truth, and when it comes, we embrace it with all of our heart!
Dear Lord, we praise You for Your dealings with us—even for the seasons of suffering that transform us to Your image. We praise You for the storms of life because You are in them all (Nahum 1:3). Thank You for exposing the strongholds of fear that the enemy has built in our minds. We praise You for dismantling this evil and replacing it with Your glorious truth.
Power, Life and Love . . . 6/20/14
Over the years, no matter how close I have felt to the Lord, I've always been aware that He wants more of me―and that I can have much more of Him. I have prayed many times for this to transpire, and God has been faithful to pull me ever closer. He has recently done it again:
While browsing through a Conde Nast Traveler magazine, looking at destinations and amenities that most people can only dream of, I received a revelation from the Lord. He opened my eyes to see that wealthy people who pursue an “ultimate travel experience” are deluded about many things, including what is truly an exalted position in life, what is the finest experience to be gained and what is the greatest possession to acquire. These people seek fulfillment in the realm of creation instead of in the Creator.
With plenty of money, I would also be tempted to pursue those far-off pristine beaches; the ones with backdrops of coconut palms, depths of jungle growth and the distant chatter of tropical birds. I would seek ethereal turquoise bays, enhanced by morning mist and a hint of distant mountains. I would court similar views by moonlight. Ideally, these places would be discovered from the deck of an elegant teak sailing vessel.
Yes, it’s easy to get caught up in the wonder of God’s creation and in His provision. The work of His hands is exceedingly glorious. But the power of revelation will set these places and things in their proper position. With one impartation from the Spirit, I now see more clearly than ever―Jesus is desirable far above anything He has created. Along with His absolute purity, His matchless beauty and His Godly attributes that are beyond words, Jesus also provides the excitement we crave. He offers more pleasure and utter amazement than anything here on Earth or in all the levels of heaven. I’ve always known these facts to be true, but now the Spirit has brightened my vision and increased my understanding. I am infused with new hope and anticipation.
To get a glimpse of what I’ve seen, please consider these three attributes of the Lord:
POWER The power that flowed from Jesus’ lips created all that we see. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made – John 1:1-3. This is my Lord. I will praise Him and pursue Him. I will chase after the One who makes the clouds flash and rumble on a warm summer evening. I will sing to the One who makes kittens purr and oceans roar.
LIFE The life of God swallows up death (1 Corinthians 15:53-55). Life bursts forth with promise and joy as it fills a child at conception, then escorts it through eternity. For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made . . . – Psalm 139:13-14. Our meditations of Jesus should always include His extravagant giving of life.
Let's also reflect on Jesus' desire to restore life: He cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come forth!” And he who had died came out bound hand and foot with graveclothes, and his face was wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Loose him, and let him go” – John 11:43-44. Oh, yes! I will praise the One who gives and restores life to those I love.
LOVE We all agree that love has great value. Many waters cannot quench love, nor can the floods drown it. If a man would give for love all the wealth of his house, it would be utterly despised – Song of Solomon 8:7. Jesus is Love Incarnate, and He has much to say about this matter. I will follow the beat of His heart forever.
Power, life and love! Jesus embodies these things to the max. He is Power. He is Life. He is Love. Never "religious" or stuffy, Jesus is exciting! And He is ours to enjoy forever!
My words don’t do justice to what I’ve seen, so I encourage you to ask the Lord for your own revelation of His glory. Every day, ask Him to show you what you’re most in need of seeing. Ask this fervently, and you will receive.
Sing to the LORD a new song, and (sing) His praise in the assembly of saints . . . Let the saints be joyful in glory; let them sing aloud on their beds. Let the high praises of God be in their mouth, and a two-edged sword in their hand . . . – Psalm 149:1, 5-6.
Dear Lord Jesus, please continue revealing Yourself to me. Don’t let me fall into apathy, but instead keep me awake and alive to Your powerful, glorious presence. Please draw every beloved saint closer to You each day, by whatever means You choose.
Beyond All Comparison . . . 5/3/14
Therefore we do not lose heart . . . For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal –
2 Corinthians 4:16-18 NASB.
Because eternity goes on forever, I’m inspired to make this statement: Our lifetime here on Earth―including our testing and suffering―compares to eternity the same as one grain of sand compares to a trillion oceans. But, since God says these things are “far beyond comparison,” my assessment can only fall short. Oceans have boundaries, but eternity does not.
Nevertheless, taking my insufficient allegory a little farther, we see that our time on Earth will determine the temperature of those “trillion oceans.” Their waters could boil from the fires of hell, or they could offer the cool blue pleasures of Heaven. With this in mind, shouldn’t we make the most of our days on Earth? How we spend this time will influence each moment of eternity, not only for us, but also for the many others in our assigned domain.
Wise choices are critical. We must each decide: Submission to God or devotion to self? Heaven or hell? Where will I lead the ones I love?
Our first "wise choice" brings new life and privileged entrance into the Kingdom of God. After that, our years are filled with opportunities for spiritual warfare, conquest and harvest. But war is never easy. The battles are fierce, and injuries may be severe. Every occasion to fight for good provokes a counterattack. And why is that? Because so much is at stake―not just for today, but age upon age, forevermore without end.
Sadly, the world trains us to pursue affluence and personal achievement as tokens of success. But the truth is, these things can often be a sidetrack from the will of God. From the Lord's eternal point of view, the ones that He requires to be deprived and to suffer prolonged injustice for the sake of His cause are the ones who are the most blessed and honored. The believer who suffers needful hardship without resentment or anger toward God is bringing glory to Him in the sight of the world.
Listen! Right now the Lord is calling to you:
Then I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?” Then I said, “Here am I. Send me!” – Isaiah 6:8 NASB.
Will you answer like Isaiah, or will you waste your precious time on Earth with selfish pursuits? Even “good pursuits" are fruitless if they aren’t part of God’s plan for you. For each of us, our tiny “grain of time” on Earth holds exponential power for either good or evil. Today's word or action may expand and echo through all the space of eternity, testifying either in Heaven for glory or in Hell for torment and condemnation.
Let the Spirit inspire and sanctify your stewardship of time.
Repent of all judgment and criticism.
Don’t miss a chance to be patient and kind.
Sow the seeds of God’s love and truth in every patch of barren soil.
Fight and pray. Loose God’s power through praise!
This may sound like a huge undertaking, especially if we listen to the enemy’s version. But each of us is destined to succeed when we abide in Christ and partake of His strength. One day very soon, we will have golden crowns to cast before His throne (Revelation 4:10-11).
Thank You, Lord, for the promise of eternity with You. Please keep the upcoming "weight of glory" always on our minds as we walk in the brief discomforts of this world. Let Your Spirit rise up within us to face adversity with holiness and power. The tasks ahead are daunting, but we know all things are possible with You. We look forward to loving You forever.
God Wants to Bless Us . . . 4/20/14
Therefore I . . . do not cease to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers . . . that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places . . . - Ephesians 1:15-20.
With all the power at a Christian's disposal, it is ironic that some have trouble believing God wants to bless them personally, here on Earth, in practical Earthly ways. They can more easily believe in their salvation from sin and their home in Heaven because this seems far in the future and is intangible to Earthly senses―apart from the fullness of God's Spirit. But if these Christians are required to believe for healing, financial provision, or other blessings that aretangible, then they're intimidated by the necessity of its manifestation. (Weak faith works best in hypothetical or future situations.) If God’s help doesn’t arrive after their first prayers or attempts at warfare, these Christians will often make excuses and give up altogether, deciding that it wasn't God's will to help them.*
But sometimes our need is so great that we dare not quit. And if we're compelled to wait for longer than first anticipated, then we're in a perfect position to see God's glory. Our faith will be sorely tested, but walking closely with the Lord will cause it to grow. Now we can move to higher levels of trust and belief, and God is delighted. This prompts the enemy to regroup and pull out more sophistocated weapons, with the goal of inciting fear. Being human and subject to the rollercoaster of human emotion, our occasional departures from the “high places” can be frightening. Because we abide in a lofty place of faith, the plunge of doubt is now a lot steeper. Such is life for the believer who waits on the Lord for an extended length of time.
Learning to overcome our negative emotions is vital. Life with God is not for the faint of heart. We must take His hand and hold on tight, no matter what.
However long we wait for the appointed time of blessing to arrive, we’re encouraged to do it with hopeful expectation:
Why are you cast down, O my inner self? And why should you moan over me and be disquieted within me? Hope in God and wait expectantly for Him, for I shall yet praise Him, my Help and my God – Psalm 42:5 AMP.
We can only wait “expectantly” if we know the heart of God. We must have clear revelation of His love for us and His yearning to bless us. Deep in our own hearts, we must be assured that God wants to bless us mightily and have us bless others in turn. Any veil that darkens our view of these things must be removed. (God will gladly do this if we ask.) And we should not overlook the magnitude of the events at Calvary. Our Father sent His son to pay for our sin with His blood. That’s how much He loves us! If God was willing to die on the cross for sinners, He is surely willing to meet sanctified desires:
He who did not withhold or spare [even] His own Son but gave Him up for us all, will He not also with Him freely and graciously give us all [other] things? – Romans 8:32 AMP.
Our longings for peace, rest, wholeness, love, prosperity and purpose were placed in us by God before we were born. Our wants and needs are stepping stones that lead us deeper into the fragrant garden of His love (Song of Solomon 5:1).
Thank You, Lord Jesus, for the gift of Your life. Help us to be in tune with Your holy presence and to treasure every minute with You. Please teach us how to receive Your many other blessings so we can fulfill our purpose in Your Kingdom. Please give us peace while we wait for Your glorious help to arrive.
* If this paragraph describes you, then please embrace the truth presented in this article. Ask the Lord to increase your faith, and He will certainly answer your prayer. You may not like His methods, but you will praise Him for the results.
Winning Attributes . . . 3/22/14
For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another – Romans 12:4-5.
I work at Mercer University in Macon, Georgia. On Friday, 3/21/14, our Mercer Bears showed viewers across the nation what maturity and teamwork look like. Their skillful defeat of Duke University’s Blue Devils in a “March Madness” second-round playoff basketball game was inspiring to watch. Submitted to expert leadership, the Bears moved as "one body" to achieve their lofty goal.
Mercer’s win was a major upset, but in retrospect, sports commentators see it as “not that surprising.” The Mercer Bears were fully prepared for battle. Several online accounts of the game list identical reasons for why the Bears outplayed Duke. If we take a close look at these winning qualities, we’ll see that what works in college basketball will also work in the Christian journey, especially when it comes to defeating giants. I list teamwork first because of its pervasive value:
Teamwork: The Bears’ star players were simply the razor-sharp tip of a mighty sword. The team’s cohesion was a thing of beauty that carried them to major victory over a daunting opponent. In the very same fashion, the body of Christ operates best when working together in harmony. We must toil together, fight together, pray together and love together.
Leadership: Coach Bob Hoffman, who excitedly yelled “Praise the Lord” in a post-game interview, has a proven record of building teams that win. The Bears' spirit of teamwork has thrived under his excellent leadership. For each of us, following strong, time-honored, Godly leaders will undergird the Lord’s personalized training program. Our sports and our game plans will vary, but following a leader who speaks truth, requires good character and practices "love in action" will help to make us winners.
Maturity: Unlike Duke University’s tendency to recruit star athletes who only play a year or two, then leave for the NBA, Mercer University recruits authentic college students who graduate with four-year degrees. The Bears' five senior starters played with wisdom and grace. They were the framework of a team that played with confidence under a glaring spotlight. And we can do the same. Our time on the team matters, but more importantly, learning from our Coach during that time is what brings maturity to our game. By humbling ourselves under the mighty hand of God, we will be exhalted when the time is right.
Experience: Numerous encounters on the court certainly worked to the benefit of the Mercer Bears. As for the rest of us, we also “learn by doing.” We hone our skills with repeated use. This can only happen if we step forward to get involved. When we hear God calling, our answer must be “yes.” Experience is rarely gained while sitting on a couch.
Communication: I read of the Mercer team’s ability to communicate with a look, a gesture or a simple move. To work as a strategic, well-oiled machine, this was imperative. In the victorious Christian life, communication with the Spirit of God, sometimes minute by minute, is essential. Stepping out on our own can be disastrous.
Fundamentals: Being a fundamentally sound team kept any weakness of the Bears from being exploited, and it allowed their strengths to soar. Mastering the basics is like wearing a protective shield. Whether on or off the court, we must always put on the full armor of God.
Height: One of the Bears’ star players is 6’10”. Another is 6'11". In basketball, “taller” is almost always better. My son-in-law doesn’t play basketball, but he is a towering 6’8”. Never slumping, he always stands straight and tall. His height and the way he carries himself makes people stop and notice his positive demeanor. In the same way, the world notices every Christian who “walks tall” in their ventures with the Lord. As we abide in Christ, we learn to sit, stand and walk with a posture of excellence. The enemy won't be able to bend our backs or cause our feet to slip. On the contrary, we will march forward to even higher elevations.
Lord, we thank You for this showcase of winning attributes seen in the Mercer Bears' performance. Please let every member of the team transfer these qualities to all areas of life. Help every Christian to do the same. Teach us to function as one strong body that is governed by Your heart and mind. Dear Lord, please help us remember that teamwork is an important element of warfare. Let us grow together in grace as we fight the battles ahead. May our unity be a sweet fragrance to You.
God Prevails . . . 3/2/14
And God said to him, “ . . . your name shall not be called Jacob anymore, but Israel shall be your name.” So He called his name Israel – Genesis 35:10.
In the context of Jacob’s life, “Isra-El” means “God prevails.” As the years went by, Jacob's self-reliance crumbled under the skillful hands of the Lord. God's strong desire to give us His best―to have His own way with us―has also been a hallmark of my dear mother’s life:
Marilyn Jeanne Rose was a late bloomer. Her early adulthood did not inspire the admiration of others. On the contrary, she was one of those “difficult people.” In the manner of Jacob, my mother was usually focused on herself. And just as with Jacob, God was determined to make a change. With eyes of love, He looked into my mother’s heart and found the face of Jesus smiling back at Him. But for many years, this image was distorted by "acceptable sin," including much religious activity. With great wisdom, the Lord began His program of cleansing and restoration. He made sure that Mama’s efforts to “be good by human effort” did not succeed. Because of this, she experienced many years of frustration.
Mama was stubborn, but the grace of God prevailed. The last chapter of her life was very special―so much that God has kept it hidden from most. Only a few have seen through His eyes to admire the unfolding beauty.
During her final decade, the Lord gave my mother an opportunity to bring Him glory during a season of extreme hardship. This was not the kind of mission that Christians volunteer for. It fell into the category of “satan meaning it for harm, but God meaning it for good” (Genesis 50:20). Due to an auto-immune disease, Mama unexpectedly lost her sight―completely and irreversibly. In the following days, Mama’s world was turned upside down. She lost her home, her beloved pets, and every bit of independence. She was a prisoner of circumstance who would live her remaining years on the “skilled nursing floor” of a government facility for war veterans. My mother was caught in God’s net and couldn’t get loose.
After some initial strong resistance, Mama submitted to the Lord's hand on her life. This first appeared as a strong wave of repentance washing over her. She expressed to me her sincere sorrow over the shortcomings of her past. She soon came to be known among the surrounding staff and residents as a “very sweet lady.” Mama embraced the will of God. Resisting anger and depression, she chose to walk with Jesus. Mama began rising to the challenges around her, one difficult day at a time.
Last summer, at 91 years old, my mother told me something wonderful. We were having a courtyard picnic, and without any prompting, Mama said: “Because of my blindness, I've been unable to live the kind of life I want to. But during the last ten years, because of my situation, I have moved much closer to God. I thank Him every day for this.” I was so pleased with Mama for making this declaration. I reminded her that she could have become a bitter old woman, but that instead she made a conscious choice to turn to God. I told her that I brag about her to my Christian friends. (Submitting to God is a very big deal.)
On February 28, 2014, as I sat with my dying mother, she was peaceful and unafraid. I was able to gently say, “Mama, you have a big date with Jesus in just a few hours.”
I was also able to tell my mother about a dream I had many years ago: I saw her in Heaven, floating through a night sky that sparkled with thousands of stars. Mama was young, vibrant and beautiful. The light of God radiated from her body. Angels and saints were drawn to her and loved her very much. My mother had become the person of God’s intention.
My dream has now come true. Mama has crossed the finish line, completing her assignment victoriously and bringing much glory to God. Today her reward in Heaven is great.
Thank You, Lord, for loving my mother and "prevailing" with her. You chose an unopened bud on a thorny branch, then You watered it every day with the dew of Your grace. You helped a struggling Christian make the transition from lifeless religion to a vital relationship with You. Because of You, my mother flourished in a harsh environment, moving daily from glory to glory. She has crossed the finish line with honor. Please tell her that I miss her.
Painters of Destiny . . . 2/12/14
God keeps teaching me about prayer because He has blessings and changes ahead for my life that are not optional―neither in His estimation or in mine. These things simply have to be. Therefore, I’m learning to fight for what is mine, and I'm teaching others to do the same.
Spiritual warfare always revolves around God’s word, but how we view ourselves as warriors has much variation. During a recent time of prayer, the Lord showed me a picture of a steep mountain. On the tip of this rocky peak was a natural basin filled with water that was transparent but also dark. I was immediately reminded of the water that artists use to clean the paint from their brushes. If enough colors are used, this water becomes gray or brown. God’s message for me in this vision was that “He and I together are painters of destiny.” His Living Word combined with my handling of it in prayer will ensure some bright futures.
This message applies to anyone who has a need or sees a need. We can all use God’s word as a palette of life-giving color to paint His will into being. As you read the following familiar verse about God's plans, please hear the passion in His voice. He wants us to believe so we will pray.
“For I know the plans that I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans for welfare and not for calamity, to give you a future and a hope” – Jeremiah 29:11, NASB.
The word of God holds tremendous power, but it is only released when we pick up this “paint” and use it. The color is especially bright and beautiful when the Holy Spirit selects the perfect hue by reminding us of relevant scripture. Seriously. When God picks the color, we know it’s going to be right. A life is going to change.
If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you – John 15:7.
Storing up God’s word in our hearts is like stocking the shelves of an artist’s studio with the most expensive, highest quality paints in existence. Rare and surprising color can flow from tubes and jars and then be applied to the canvas of someone’s destiny―if we embrace the assignment.
Dear Lord God, we thank You for Your beautiful word. We thank You for the loving plans You have for Your people. We are humble apprentices in Your studio of prayer. Please help us to clearly hear Your voice when You tell us which colors of paint are needed and which brushes we should use. We truly want to do our part in bringing Your will to Earth.
Targeted by Glory . . . 1/27/14
Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him - James 1:2-5, NASB.
Much to the enemy's dismay, our "various trials" provide a target for the glory of God. Life-changing truth and exceptional blessing are always available to us, but they need a place of application. That's where our trials come into play. Maybe God wants to make us more humble, but we're unaware of our need for this change. Or maybe He wants to increase our patience, but we don't have a clue about our deficit. Then along come stressful conditions that reveals our weakness in these areas. Our exposure is painful and humiliating, so we agree with God about our sin and submit to His methods for change. Thus, God's glory hits its target.
Thankfully, every test and trial brings us new perspective of our condition and our need. Being enlightened by God, we're much more pliable in His hands.
Our view of God’s Kingdom will always be enlarged when we are tested. These extra-troublesome days of our lives are choreographed to help us observe sin that might go unnoticed in a different setting. This certainly applies to our own sin. Especially at first. Then, as we settle in submissively to God’s redemptive purpose, we’re given insight regarding the sources and patterns of sin in the lives of those who trouble us. At this point, we’re able to effectively pray and set them free from enemy strongholds.
Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified - 1 Peter 4:12-14.
For the struggling Christian whose heart is set on pleasing the Lord, it is empowering to know that His glory invades our lives during the very tough times. The primary Hebrew word for glory is kabod, meaning “heavy in weight.” God’s glory is the weight of His beauty, majesty and splendor—of all that He is. With this awareness, we can more easily worship the Lord and embrace His glory.
But even with God's glory resting upon us, we don’t want to camp a minute longer than is necessary in the hard places of testing. Being made in God’s image, we always yearn for peace. So, just as Jacob did at Peniel, I suggest that we wrestle with God during our days of trouble and refuse to let Him go until we are blessed in some way (Genesis 32:22-32). I think God would like that.
As we wait for Your perfect answers to our prayers, dear Lord, we revel in the light of Your love. You have promised healing, provision and promotion. You have promised a "broad place" for us to reign with purpose and righteousness. We know Your blessings will arrive soon so we can increase our help to others. We thank You, Lord, for sharing Your vision with us so we can join in Your plans. We thank You for Your glory that surrounds us and conforms us to Your image.
Give and Take . . . 1/21/14
In all healthy relationships, a proper balance of "give and take" is required. The natural world, for example, would soon succumb to malnutrition and illness if it weren’t for symbiosis―the helpful acts of reciprocity among living organisms. And so it is with human relationships.
Let’s take a look at friendship. This connection, with its varying types and levels of intimacy, covers a vast expanse of territory. Husband and wife, parent and adult child, siblings, cousins, co-workers, neighbors and virtually all human-to-human associations can fall into the pleasant and beneficial realm of enduring friendship. This blessing comes straight from the heart of God.
Then Jonathan and David made a covenant, because he loved him as his own soul. And Jonathan took off the robe that was on him and gave it to David, with his armor, even to his sword and his bow and his belt – 1 Samuel 18:3-4.
A friend gives, and a friend receives. These actions work wonderfully, as long as one person doesn’t do all the giving and the other all the taking. Over time, the give-and-take must balance if the relationship is to flourish. Where one-sidedness is allowed to go on too long, the bond is no longer one of friendship. Instead, it becomes an errant meeting of selfishness and codependency.
Wikipedia defines codependency as: “...a psychological condition or a relationship in which a person is controlled or manipulated by another who is affected with a pathological condition (typically narcissism or drug addiction); and in broader terms, it refers to the dependence on the needs of, or control of, another.” This definition is harsh, but many of us should heed it as a wake-up call. If we have fallen into a negative snare instead of a loving friendship, then we need to take proper action. Usually, this means setting stronger boundaries, but sometimes it means ending the connection altogether.*
“What?” you say. “I can’t end this relationship with my sister (or whoever it is). Yes, she’s a selfish pain-in-the-neck, but we’re family (or something of equal strength), and I love her.”
The truth is, if we truly love the offender, we won't enable their sinful behavior. We have to clearly say, “No more!”―and we need to follow through. Setting boundaries can be difficult, but doing this is critical. Only then can we build the proper foundation for a healthy friendship. Only then will the manipulator learn that God is their "all in all"―the One who will heal their wounded heart and meet their every need.
The first bricks in the "new foundation for friendship" are formed by us drawing near to God. If we want mutually rewarding relationships with people, then we must first seek a close friendship with God. While enjoying His company, we can learn what He desires from us. As time goes by, we'll learn how to receive His gifts with gracious maturity. Without this nurturing closeness to God, we’re vulnerable to the controlling abuse of others. But when we put God first, He responds by protecting us and eventually meeting our needs within the bounds of "sanctified and renovated" human relationships.
For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you – Matthew 6:32-33.
While we’re seeking God’s kingdom, His righteousness and His presence, we’ll learn how to effectively intercede for those who want to control us. "Enabling" will be replaced by "tough love." Discernment and revelation will become bright, beautiful lights on our path, and together with wisdom, they'll cause our prayer to hit the bullseye of God’s perfect will.
Dear Lord, we thank You for guiding our hearts, our minds and our steps by Your Holy Spirit. You give us love for many people, then You teach us how to manage and dispense this love with wisdom (even though it's not always done with perfection). By Your indwelling presence, we’re able to give much more than we receive when that is what You require. Thank You for the gifts of hope and faith that keep us from giving up on the "difficult ones" who we love so dearly.
* If we discover that we're the narcissistic controller, then repentance is in order, followed by finding a mature Christian mentor who will hold us accountable. Most importantly, we should learn to walk closely with God each day.
Who Is God? . . . 1/1/14
For who is God, except the LORD? And who is a rock, except our God? God is my strength and power, and He makes my way perfect. He makes my feet like the feet of deer, and sets me on my high places – 2 Samuel 22:32-34.
For who is God...?
As a form of praise, I have compiled an A-to-Z list of who and what God is to me. If you make your own list, it will be somewhat different than mine. And not surprisingly, when reviewing our lists a year from now, we’ll find them needing additional words as certain attributes of God rise to the surface of our experience―but none will ever need subtracting.
A is for Answer. God is the perfect answer to every human need. His heart overflows with the love that our own hearts long for and require. His mind is the source of all wisdom, and His hands hold every creation and provision. (Colossians 1:16-20.)
B is for Best. God knows what is best for us, and that’s what we get from Him. Always. Even when it seems otherwise. (Jeremiah 29:11.)
C is for Cross. Because of Jesus’ death on the cross, we are saved from sin, both initially and progressively. The cross gives us purpose, faith and hope. The blood of Jesus brings power and life. (John 3:16.)
D is for Door. Jesus is the door to salvation, to sanctification and holiness, to purpose and to peace. He is the door to all that our Father has planned for us. He is the door to eternity with the triune God. (John 10:1-3.)
E is for Excellence. Everything God does is excellent. Just look around and see His glorious creation. Then, be still and know the excellence of His being. (Psalm 8:1.)
F is for Fight. The indwelling Christ in us will fight from dawn ‘til dusk and through the night when we’re asleep. Jesus won the victory on the cross, and now He trains us to enforce it. (Ephesians 6:11-13.)
G is for Glory. The glory of God is everywhere. High and low, near and far, large and small, early and late―it pulsates with melodies from Heaven, and it resonates with life. The heart of man can be fertile ground for this glory, allowing it to take root, grow, ripen and overflow as an offering back to God. (John 1:14.)
H is for Holy. God is sweet, pure and clean. He reigns in the perfect beauty of holiness. We should never expect anything less from Him. The Lord has set a standard for us that is very bright and very good. He expects that we be holy too. (1 Peter 1:16.)
I is for Intimacy. The Lord wants to be very close to us. He wants us to hear His daily expressions of love, and He desires the same affection in return. Let’s not resist Him. (Psalm 63:1-8.)
J is for Joy. In the presence of God we find joy. Those who seek “happiness” should instead pursue the Lord. (Psalm 16:11.)
K is for Kindness. Sometimes people hurt us and think nothing of it, but God always has our best in mind. He is tender and merciful to those who are born again. Every action of His toward us is tempered with His perfect love. (Psalm 117:2.)
L is for Love. God is the incarnation of Love. (1 John 4:8.) The Word tells us that God put the sun, the moon and all of the stars in the sky “to give light upon the Earth.” (Genesis 1:16-17.) The whole universe was created for our benefit! Then God came to Earth and to the cross, just for us!
M is for Marriage. Christians are betrothed to the Lord, Jesus Christ. Of course, Jesus wants a holy bride, so His Spirit is carefully preparing each of us for the wedding day. (Revelation 19:7-9.)
N is for Name. Jesus’ name is above all other names. Every knee will one day bow (even the bad guys) and confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. (Philippians 2:8-11.)
O is for Open. God opens many things for us. He opens doors of opportunity. He sometimes opens Heaven so we can experience more of Him. (Ezekiel 1:1.)
P is for Power. Without God we are helpless. But with Him, we can avail of His supernatural strength and power. By these, our way is made perfect. (2 Samuel 22:33.)
Q is for Quiet. We are quieted by the love of God. (Zephaniah 3:17.)
R is for River. The river of God brings healing wherever it flows. It originates with God, flows to us and through us, then out into the world to do its transforming work. We can merely wet our toes in this water, or we can wade out into its depths. (Ezekiel 47:5-9.)
S is for Salvation. The day we are born again is only the beginning! God saves us every day thereafter from the sin and danger in this world―as we abide in Him. (Exodus 14:13.)
T is for Truth. When we embrace the truth of God, it sets us free from every entrapment built of enemy lies. We are then free to love and to do God’s will. (John 8:32.)
U is for Unity. Christians are graced with a diversity of spiritual gifts. These gifts increase in value when they work in unison to help and to heal the entire body of Christ. (Ephesians 4:11-13.)
V is for Victory. Jesus bought the once-and-for-all victory over sin with His blood. Death is completely swallowed up by this. (1 Corinthians 15:53-55.)
W is for Wonder. God is full of wonder, and He overflows with wonder. He freely gives wonderful gifts to His children; as much as we are able to receive. (Joshua 3:5.)
X is for X-ray. With eyes of love, God sees right through us. He knows our thoughts. He understands us better than we do. God is the Great Physician, so let’s be still and let Him heal, restore and even renovate. (Luke 4:23.)
Y is for Yes. “Yes, Lord!” This should be our constant response when the Spirit prompts us to do His will. “Let me think about it” actually is an option, but this attitude will keep us wandering in the wilderness. (Deuteronomy 28:1-13.)
Z is for Zap. We are greatly blessed by the Spirit of God when He zaps us inwardly with needed truth. Many mornings are jump-started by God’s unique voice or touch. His presence brings life, love and truth to the day. (Galatians 1:11-12.)
Thank You, Lord, for letting us experience so much of who You are. Our attempts at praising You fall far short because You are exceedingly more than we can comprehend. But we still offer You our recognition and praise. We simply cannot resist the opportunity to give You glory for Your amazing presence in our lives.