Jesus

His Masterpiece

The other day I received a text message from one of my best friends. Her oldest graduated from high school and over the summer will be getting ready to move to Chattanooga where her daughter will attend college. I texted her back how excited I was, but I knew deep down she was sad to see her go. Then my cell phone rang.

No more texting. We needed our voices. We cried together and I made her promise that she would walk this very same road with me too, very soon.

It’s moments like these that you remember everything is for a season.

Continue reading at Perspectives: The Mom Experience - His Masterpiece

What God Asks Of Us

It’s morning and as usual I grab my cup of coffee, sit down at our dining room table and begin to read the devotion for the day. I like routine. I look at my collection of Oswald Chambers, Smith Wigglesworth, and Rick Renner, and ask myself, “I wonder which one will inspire me today.

Love God
Today, it’s Smith Wigglesworth.  It’s titled – To Be like Jesus.

I reread the title again, to…be…like…Jesus.

A thought rushes my mind of how difficult this is becoming in the world today. I think about my kids, who are all teenagers, and wonder what life will look like for them not in 20 years, but just in 5 short years.  Life changes quickly and somehow as mothers we feel we have to complete the manual of parenting before the timer goes off.

Wait. There’s a parent manual?

I dig into the devotion for the day and read Wigglesworth’s words:

“In Christ, we have encountered divine resurrection touches. In the greatest work God ever did on the face of the earth.”

I pause and think about those words “greatest work” and “ever did”.  I think about what would life look like during that time having to make a choice to follow a Savior down the Via Dolorosa or would He write words in the sand as I hold a stone in my hand.

Jesus died and rose again for you and for me. Despite how ugly things look around us, we must continue to rejoice in the greatest work He ever did.

I continue reading:

“Christ was raised from the dead by the operation of the power of God. As the resurrection of Christ operates in our hearts, it will dethrone wrong things and will build right things”.

Did you catch that?

We can wonder what our world is becoming, why our kids seem to fall into temptation, or why we feel like giving up in life. It’s not until we get a hold of Christ and exchange what the New Living Translation says, a stubborn heart to a responsive heart.

And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart. – Ezekiel 36:26

It’s a heart issue. Until the heart is right, wrong decisions that go against His Word and Resurrection, is what we will have to endure as long as we live in this world.

Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings. – 1 Peter 5:9

He continues:

“Callousness will have to change; hardness will have to disappear; all evil thoughts will have to go. In the place of these will be lowliness of mind”.

When I exchanged my heart almost 35 years ago, I exchanged it for my sin.  Now don’t think in all those 35 years I never had to make another exchange.  Oh, no, this girl has a story.  The key was the final exchange. The moment when I said no to sin and yes to God.  When I did that I exchanged it for a place of lowliness of mind.

What’s lowliness of mind?

It’s a humbleness.  A humility of mind.  Not one that acts as a slave or is miserable because it stays quite amidst the sinful surroundings. To be humble does not mean that one has no abilities or achievements. It’s what the Bible says leads to honor.

The result of humility and the fear of Jehovah is riches and glory and life.” - Proverbs 22:4

Do I like where the world is going? No.

Do I like when the enemy wants to come and tempt my kids? No.

Do I like seeing people still live in their past continuing to make mistake after mistake? No.

But, I still love.  I just hate the sin.  I hate when we give room for an enemy to steal, kill, and destroy.

I don’t know, is there something wrong when we actually do what the Word says and love one another? (John 13:34)

I think about the women that have come to me in private and have told me horrendous life situations that have happened to them.  How they walk into a church and feel as though they are looked down upon. Feel like they are not good enough, not worthy enough of forgiveness.  Shame on us.

When we can’t be thankful for them taking the first step and praying that they would allow God to move into their heart condition, something is wrong.

When did we decide to play God and stop being love instead?

That’s all God asked of us – to love one another.

When we submit to love, we become useful to one another. And when we come to a place where we serve for pure love’s sake, we find the Master upon us and find out that we will never fail. Love never fails when it is appointed in us.

[clickToTweet tweet="Human love fails, but God’s love never fails." quote="Human love fails, but God’s love never fails."]

I challenge you to be lowly, be humble.

Be love instead.

You never know who God may bring your way to show love to.

Maybe we should add that to the parent manual.

What Is Real Happiness

Lately, I’ve been asking myself this question, “What makes me happy?” Is it my relationship with God?

Assurance there is enough money in the bank?

Knowing that my kids are serving Christ?

Date nights with my husband?

My ministry, my work?

how to be happy
I’ve been reading The Happiness Project written by Gretchen Rubin.  She talks about being on a bus, and asking herself “What do I want from life, anyway?” She responded, “I want to be happy.”  She calls her “first commandment” – Be Gretchen.  It is simply taking your strengths and weaknesses, your likes and dislikes and being ok with your limitations.

You can read an excerpt here.

It is time for me to Be Michelle.

I’m not saying I don’t like who I am or what my life is about. I do simply not want to just pursue the future, but be me in the midst of it.

I want to Be Michelle.

Do I have dreams and aspirations? Yes. We all should no matter how old we get. We should never stop dreaming.

Where I think we get tired is when we pursue the dream over being.

Do I want to go to Spain, speak Spanish, and eat paella? Absolutely.

Will I ever? Maybe.

Do I want to travel the world and see God’s wonderful creation? Yes.

Will I get to? I don’t know.

Do I wish my bank account was full and I didn’t have to worry about the month or the year ahead, sometimes? Of course.

Will I get to? Don’t know.

But, what happens if we stop pursuing and just start being?

What happens if we just start being who God has created us to be?

Can you Be ____________? (insert your name)

Think of your childhood, what did you enjoy? What made you laugh, smile, or get excited? What made you happy?

As Christians, we call this the goodness of God.

A.W. Tozer in The Knowledge of the Holy writes, “By His nature He is inclined to bestow blessedness and He takes holy pleasure in the happiness of His people”.

God wants us to be happy. He wants us to have joy. He desires for us to be who He created us to be.

But, joy and happiness are two different things.

WORLD’S DEFINITION

The words happiness and joy are used interchangeably, and we often view them as having the same meanings.

Happiness: is defined as a state of well-being and contentment based on good fortune.

Joy: is defined as a vivid emotion of great delight or happiness.

GOD’S DEFINITION

According to the Bible, if we seek to know God and discover his plan for our lives, we will find the happiness that has eluded us for so long. In other words, happiness does not come from pursuing it, but from pursuing Him, because “Happy are the people whose God is the Lord!” (Psalm 144:15 NKJV). God built us to turn to him and find our fulfillment, our contentment and our happiness in a relationship with Him.

“Happiness is dependent on outward circumstances. Joy, on the other hand, is internal and constant. As believers, we have an unlimited source of joy through Jesus Christ. We shouldn’t be as concerned about happiness which is dependent on outward circumstances. We should have joy in the Lord based on an internal constant – our relationship with Him.” – Larry Jones

Be the internal you, so you can be the external hands and feet of Christ with a smile on your face and joy in your heart.

Be _____________.

The Thing That Has Me Afraid...

Can I get honest? I’m scared.

Maybe the right word is afraid.

I’m afraid.

I don’t have a perfect starting paragraph that is going to grab you. I’ve deleted it and started over several times already.

Here is what I am going to do; I’m just going to write.

Holy Spirit
I’m afraid we are missing the people in front of us. I’m not talking about the people that we live with, our kids and/or our spouses, if we don’t have that right then stop reading and make that right first.

I’m talking about our fellow Christian brothers and sisters. I’m talking about those that have heard about Jesus, but can’t decide if they want to get out of the boat and follow Him. These last few months after speaking at different events, I had the privilege of all sorts of women come to me and tell me they were going through some difficult times in their marriage, how they were struggling with addictions, or even how they feel like they are not good enough for God’s love.

Women that are dealing with their present moment or their past experiences and can’t seem to get free for the future.

And to tell you the truth I hate it!

I hate that women in our churches are feeling unloved and unwanted. I hate that women in our neighborhoods or at our schools are feeling not good enough or unqualified. I hate that women in our workplaces or even sitting next to us are feeling worthless and ashamed.

Here we have all the big lights, big platforms and big speakers. We see pictures of thousands of women that gather in one place and call it a Women’s Conference or Retreat. We see social media blow up with just the perfect words of inspiration that is worthy of a repost or a share.

Yet, we have a woman that has lost a child or another who has been through a heart-wrenching accident that leaves their child permanently altered. We have women that are in abusive homes. We have young girls struggling with sexual abuse from a father. We have death, and pain, and tears falling down eyes and yet, we see women gathering in thousands while God is seeing the very one that needs an encounter from Him.

So maybe this is just me, but I’m pledging.

I don’t want it.

I don’t want the lights, I don’t want the big platform, I just want God.

I am tired of seeing hurt where there shouldn’t be.

Yes, we live in this world, but we are not part of it.  We are separate from it.

I’m not saying we won’t go through difficult times. Lord, knows I’ve had my share.

But, I refuse to have this voice God has given me to bring attention on myself.  I want nothing to do with it if that is the case.  I want to walk into a room where women leave differently than when they came in.  They leave knowing who they are in Christ. They leave knowing that His promises over their life have and will not change. That He will not fail you. That He does Love You no matter what you have done. Having a confidence that you are who God says you are.

I want none of it. I want none of me and All of Him.

Let's start a revival. Who will join me?

Holy Week Day 8: He's Alive!

Jesus is Alive! He has Risen!

morning sky
The tomb is empty.

The blood that was shed for you and me was for this moment.

The moment where we are redeemed and fellowship between us and our Heavenly Father takes place.

He paid it all!

Jesus is alive

THE RESURRECTION

We hold so close to our hearts The cross where Jesus died But so much more than the blood-stained cross Is that Jesus came back to life

The stone's been rolled away The tomb lay open and bare They looked for Him, and then the angel said That He is no longer here

Oh what joy they must have felt To see Him just once more To eat with Him, to drink with Him To receive Him back as Lord

So much did He accomplish Through His death upon the cross And in His rising from the dead He reconciled us back to God

Nothing else could bridge the gap That sin had wrenched apart Now we can freely go to God And receive Christ in our hearts

By M.S.Lowndes

The Holy Week Series

Sunday Day One: The Hammer or The Branch

Monday Day Two: The Fig Tree

Tuesday Day Three: The Pharisees

Wednesday Day Four: The Betrayal

Thursday Day Five: The Upper Room

Friday Day Six: The Blood

Saturday Day Seven: The Secret Disciple

Holy Week Day 7: The Secret Disciple

“It is finished! It is finished!” The angels must have shouted with joy in Heaven knowing in that moment the whole world can now be saved!

The Son of God had the victory; He had died to make payment, and through Him all flesh might die and live eternally.

 As You have given Him authority over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as You have given Him. {John 17:2}

The work was complete;  the world was saved!

Jesus died
But, let’s not leave Him on that Cross.

Joseph of Arimathea, a rich man and a member of the Sanhedrin, went boldly to Pilate and begged for Jesus’ body that he might bury it.  He was just a man, he was an honorable member of the council, yet what I find interesting is that here is Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John all join in telling us the sacred act of Joseph.

These men, these disciples, left Jesus to suffer and as in an act of forgiveness and humility they pen words of possibly the agony they felt  knowing it was Joseph of Arimathea, the secret disciple, asking for the Lord’s body and not one of them. All His outspoken disciples suddenly had nothing to say and fled; all had forsaken Him, some had denied Him, and Judas betrayed Him; and it was left for Joseph of Arimathea to go to Pilate, and himself alone, surround our Savior.

It was the death of Jesus that brought out Joseph of Arimathea, the secret disciple.

May we never be secret Christians.

May we live for Him.

May we be an extension of His voice.

This is the least we can do.

Pilate gives orders to make sure that Jesus is dead.

Roman soldiers head towards Calvary and Joseph with some servants following behind them.

We see them standing at the Cross and a soldier just goes up and pierces the Son of God’s side with a spear, and the prophecy from Zechariah was settled:

In that day a fountain shall be opened for the house of David and for the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin and for uncleanness. {Zechariah 13:1}

The soldier drives it in, and His blood covers the spear.

Yes, Christ’s blood covered sin.

Yes, God, in mercy, covered sin.

Now, Joseph and Nicodemus take down His body and you see the act of Love take place.

Washing the blood from His head only to find a blood-stained cloth richly-soiled with grace.

They draw those nails out carefully from His hands – from His feet, and they take that mangled and bruised body down and wash it.

Wash Him. Every drop of blood removed. 

Says the Lord, “Though your sins are like scarlet, They shall be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They shall be as wool.{Isaiah 1:18}

At this moment the roaring wind, which had been going all evening, had nearly grabbed everyone's attention.

But know this, it is only the wind. 

The devil doesn't want you to hear this story of Jesus’ dying love for you; he doesn't want you to hear and be saved.

 If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. {Romans 10:9}

Give attention to the scene before you.

The washing of blood from a broken body. 

The nails stained with blood.

A crown that has mangled flesh for hours.

Let the wind go, but the scene of the Cross stay.

We see them take the body down and wrap Him in fine linen.

We see Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, another secret disciple, anoint our Savior’s body with ointment, and then the procession to the tomb.

A stone cut from that rock, and there our Jesus lay that day.

We know Sunday is coming.  Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus only heard.

Is His dying for us enough?

Is it enough for us to say from the rooftops, “He died for you and for me!”

Is it enough to see the act of unending Love given freely to us and a grace that flows from it?

We know Sunday is coming.

But, was Friday enough for us in the silence of Saturday?

The Holy Week Series

Sunday Day One: The Hammer or The Branch

Monday Day Two: The Fig Tree

Tuesday Day Three: The Pharisees

Wednesday Day Four: The Betrayal

Thursday Day Five: The Upper Room

Friday Day Six: The Blood

 

Holy Week Day 6: The Blood

In the early hours as Peter, James and John are still sleeping and Jesus wrestling in prayer, a group of men come to the garden. Holding lanterns and torches to see through the fog, it was as if they were hunting for someone.

Blood of Jesus
Judas steps out from the group of men carrying out his betrayal.

He kissed Him.

But Jesus said to him, “Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?" {Luke 22:48}

You wonder if He wanted to ask him other questions.

What have I done that you would betray me?

Was I ever unkind; have I ever lied or deceived you; have I ever betrayed you?

Why Judas do I receive this treatment from you?

The men seized Him and took those innocent hands that had raised to bless others, that had brought bread to the hungry, and touched the leper and made them clean, touched the blind and would see, touched the ears and the hearts so many could hear and feel His love – those innocent hands, they took them and bound them.

Jesus
He gave Himself up as a willing sacrifice and was obedient to their will.

As they entered the temple of the Sanhedrin. It was as though you could hear the drool from their mouths.

They were thirsty for His blood.

Standing trial, they accuse Him of hearing Him say, “He would tear down the temple and He could raise it up again in three days”.

It was enough to make the high priest, Caiaphas tremble.

I put You under oath by the living God: Tell us if You are the Christ, the Son of God!

Jesus said to him, “It is as you said. Nevertheless, I say to you, hereafter you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven.” {Matthew 26:63-64}

The verdict – death

It was still Thursday night…it may have been midnight.

And Peter – he was there- would he be loyal?

Only a few days before he had promised to stand by his Lord…to the very end.

Why would Peter not be brave and have the courage to stand before the world and own Jesus as His Lord?

Would we?

That very night Jesus was in the Sanhedrin courts, Peter denied Him with a curse, and swore he never knew Him.

It seemed there was no hand to defend Him; no hand to help Him.

That night He was in the hands of His enemy.

And so was Judas, as he hung himself from the sting of his own guilt.

Friday has arrived.

Jesus must now go before Pilate.

“I find no fault with this man.”

The people kept screaming. Thirsty for His blood.

Poor Pilate! He hadn’t the moral courage to stand firm.

“Send Him to Herod.”

Oh, but Herod. The one that just had John killed, would gladly have a taste of the same blood.

Herod must have thought, “this is the King, John was talking about”.

They took Jesus and stripped his clothes and put a scarlet robe on Him.

Twisted a vine of thorns and placed it on the temples of His head.

CrownOfThorns
You could hear Herod’s soldiers' mocking…”Hail, King of the Jews!”

As they bring Him back to Pilate, not one of His disciples stood up for Him.  His friends that were shouting “Hosannah, to the Son of David,” now cried, “Crucify Him.”

Pilate wanted the release of Jesus. His conscience and his wife instructed him to.

Instead, he devised a plan… release a prisoner in exchange.

The crowd standing. They see the soldiers bringing out one with his hands dripping with blood of a murder, and another who had all His life healed the sick, given life, and done good.

We want Barabbas to be released the people screamed.

And then Pilate gave Jesus to be scourged.

“a whip or lash, especially for the infliction of punishment or torture– Websters Dictionary

His wrists bound and fasted to a post.

His back bare.

A nine lashes of cat o’ nine tails.

Thirty-nine sharp pieces of steel pulling from His flesh.

But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed. {Isaiah 53:5}

He was wounded for you and for me.

May this be our reality.

It was the God of Heaven that was beaten for us.

Jesus beaten

Blow after blow to that innocent body.

And after they beat Him, they didn’t take a first aid kit and stop the bleeding.

They didn’t take oil and ointment and pour it on His wounds.

Instead, they took the crown of thorns that were removed and put them back on His head.

The treatment the Son of God received!

And those wounds, they were made for us; He bore His stripes for you and for me.

You can see the blood trickle down that innocent head, down every crease along His face, and over His body. And all for us!

They remove that purple robe and replace it with His own garment, and they lift up His cross and lay it upon Him.

It’s not one of those shiny gold necklaces we see or a cross set with diamonds, this was a rugged, heavy cross made out of a tree.

They lay crosses on two thieves as if the devil wanted to blacken the name of Jesus. Placed between two thieves carrying their own crosses.

Then that moment happens, we see Jesus stumble and fall as though the sins of the world are too heavy to carry. They lay it upon Simon as the Lamb of God goes up to Calvary, like a sheep to His slaughter.

They’ve arrived – Golgotha.

With hammers and nails in their hands, they stretch His arms across that Cross. Those innocent hands pierced as you hear the hammer become one with the nail.

image
Longer spikes driven through both feet.

It was as though God our Father was nailed to that Cross.

As the cross was lifted, heaven and earth met.

Sure, He could have called all the angels of God against His murderers or called down fire out of heaven to consume every one of them. But no, instead He willed His flesh to hang there between them.

Then we hear the act of forgiveness given. Not the one that will be given freely, but the one that holds nothing against the other.

Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do. {Luke 23:34}

One prisoner asks, “Lord, remember me when you come to your kingdom.”

As blood drips from His lips, love was spoken, “Today, you will be with me in paradise.”

Jesus patiently endured.

We hear the cry from the Cross, “It is finished.”

The Holy Week Series

Sunday Day One: The Hammer or The Branch

Monday Day Two: The Fig Tree

Tuesday Day Three: The Pharisees

Wednesday Day Four: The Betrayal

Thursday Day Five: The Upper Room

Holy Week Day 5: The Upper Room

It’s Thursday afternoon, the upper room is being prepared and we see thirteen men coming down the street. Every eye is upon them. Men, women, and children are running out of their houses to see those men. What if we as strangers ask, “Who are these men?” and the people tell us, “Why, that’s the Galilean prophet and his apostles, from the city of Capernaum.”

We look upon them with amazement. We have heard how that man has given sight to the blind, how He has healed the lepers, given bread to the hungry, and even raised the dead.

Our curiosity takes us and we follow the tribe.

They go along the streets, and come to the home of that “certain man” and begin the flight of stairs to the upper room.

Let’s go up those stairs with them.

Upper Room
We find them there in a guest room, the Son of Man seated with His twelve.

He was soon to taste the bitter cup, to taste death for every man, to lay down His innocent life for sin.

His soul was troubled, and as He sits there at that table in the upper room He lets out the secret of His heart, and tells them that that night He is going to be betrayed by one of them. They look at one another, and one says, “Lord, is it I?” “No.” And another says, “Master, is it I?” “No,” and they one after another ask the question until it is Judas’ turn to answer.

The betrayal from the day before comes to a head at that moment, turns to Him as though it was the devil himself asking, “Is it I?

Jesus said to him, “What you are going to do, do quickly. {John 13:27}

You could have heard a pin drop in that room. Judas’ time of repentance had come and instead he stood up and ran out.

You could hear him running down those stairs and into that dark night.

That night the Son of man was to be betrayed by a man.

He sold Him. Sold Him for the price of a slave as was promised.

But while Judas was finalizing the sale of his Master, Jesus was speaking tender words to His disciples.

You can feel the love He had for His disciples as He spent these last three years with them. They walked with Him and heard those beautiful parables; they had seen Him raise people from the dead, had seen Him cure the deaf and the blind. They had been in His presence for three years, and now they were about to be separated from Him.

It was at the moment Jesus whispered to them,

Let not your hearts be troubled… {John 14:1}

They started with 13 and finished with 12 in the upper chamber.

Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. {John 14:1-3}

There was our Savior in that bitter, dark hour, trying to cheer and comfort the tribe. Promising them a Helper that will be with them forever. {John 14:16}

And then He utters those beautiful words in prayer in John 17. He poured His heart out to God in prayer. He not only prayed for His disciples, that had stood firmly by His side, but prayed for His enemies.

John 17
He longed for our knowing of His Father and Him as His Son.

And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. {John 17:3}

Closing it with, “the hour of my departure is at hand.”

And then He gathered the eleven around Him and they started back down the steps, out of the house and through the streets of Jerusalem.  As they continued through the Valley of Jehoshaphat and to the garden of Gethsemane.

You wonder in awe what was going on in the minds of His disciples as they were going through the Valley?

How many times do we give up in the valley with our trust, our faith, and even His purpose for our lives?

Yet, like Jesus, we can meet God in the garden.

And there He took Peter, James and John with Him and told them to wait here. He departed a short distance from them, fell on His knees and prayed.

The cold night has fallen this Thursday and you can hear Him in that garden; you can hear His shattering cry: “Father, let this cup pass from me if it be your will.”

It was as if you could hear the agony in His voice. The drops of sweat leaving His brow as great drops of blood as each one hit the ground.

You could hear the Son of God’s voice not only physically agonizing, but mentally, because the sins of the world lay on Him.

And God the Father turning His face away from Him because God could not look upon sin.

He was sin made flesh.

In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ {Colossians 2:11}

The Father could not take away the cup. He had to leave Him to drink the very filthiness of you and me.

And Peter, James, and John?

They are fast asleep as our Lord suffers for us and them.

 The Holy Week Series

Sunday Day One: The Hammer or The Branch

Monday Day Two: The Fig Tree

Tuesday Day Three: The Pharisees

Wednesday Day Four: The Betrayal

 

Holy Week: The Fig Tree

Continuing our series of Holy Week from Day One. It’s the next morning after Palm Sunday.

Jesus was hungry and sees a fig tree.

And seeing a fig tree by the road, He came to it and found nothing on it but leaves, and said to it, “Let no fruit grow on you ever again.” Immediately the fig tree withered away. Matthew 21:19

fig tree withered
It’s the last miracle Jesus did before being nailed to the Cross.

He went looking for figs and only found leaves.

Our faith must produce fruit.

It takes three years from harvest for a fig tree to produce fruit. But, this tree was producing only leaves which means it was rooted in good soil yet, not producing fruit.

The abundance of leaves held out the promise that the tree might produce fruit.

Jesus instead condemns it for not providing what its appearance promised. Condemns its misleading appearance that suggested great productivity without providing it.

Is it not interesting that Adam hid behind those fig leaves?

Our Christian walk must be authentic. It must be real and have a faith that produces the fruit that Jesus is looking for.

I love what Spurgeon says:

He makes a show of piety that is altogether premature—he gives signs of maturity before the season. He professes much though he yields nothing to corroborate it—a prodigy of self-conceit. He does not say he is absolutely perfect, but it needs very fine optics to distinguish the line. He outstrips all his fellows. His talk is something marvelous. His creed is more sound, his conscience more sensitive, his conduct more sanctimonious and his standard in estimating others more censorious than the rest of the community.

You are amazed at it till you come near to him and then you find it is all talk, tinsel and trumpery. "Nothing but leaves"—no real virtue, but a verdant show.

Faith must produce fruit.

It wasn’t that he was hungry for figs or was angry that there was none, He knew the days were coming to a close and took this opportunity to instruct His disciples, to instruct us, in this object lesson.

The disciples seeing the extraordinary power of Christ as He simply spoke,

Henceforth let no fruit grow on you forever

We must be that fig-bearer that produces fruit.

But, I want to take us further when the disciples marveled at what Jesus did to that fig tree.

So Jesus answered and said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but also if you say to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ it will be done. 22 And whatever things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive.” Matthew 21:21-22

He spoke about the great power of God that His disciples were wondering at. Telling them that they could have that power. They could exercise it and that they could put it into practice as He did.

Four Observations of His Power

1.    It is good for us to observe the power of God. The disciples saw the power of Christ in that withering fig tree. We can find the same miracles in the nature He created around us.  Our eyes must constantly be open to see the power of God in the renewing of the earth. Observe the miracle of creation and resurrection this Spring. Look up at the stars at night and think about the incredible God we serve that knows each star by name. Being careful that we don’t get lost in the extraordinary and wonderment of it all but, we simply see that this is the way of Him.

2.    Have Faith In God. A Christian is a miracle. You and I are a heap of miracles. When we get to Heaven, we will be a miracle of miracles. For some of us, we see a huge mountain of our past sins and call ourselves unqualified. We find ourselves far away from God. Our trees withered and the mountains taller. Instead, have Faith in God. Finding our Father’s Love and Grace, His Goodness and Faithfulness.  In those places we find His Power within us. In those places we arise ourselves and speak to the mountain and produce fruit.

3.    Our Connection between Him and His Power. We believe God can do all things because we align our faith with His Power. This is the connecting link between our weakness and the Divine strength by which we are made strong. Have faith in God. Carry it with you, use it daily.

4.    I am Nothing Without Him. Samson’s confidence in God was stronger than his own physical strength. A thousand Philistines may have shouted against him, but that didn’t matter because He knew God was with him. May we have that same confidence. That every fear and doubt is overwhelmed by our faith. That we know that God is with us wherever we go and whatever trial or circumstance we face.

Christ searches through our fig tree looking for our Love for Him and our Faith in Him.

What will He find?

When We Fight The Same Battles Over

chains
Have you ever taken a personality test. You know, the one’s that tell you who you really are between the lines. I’m an INFJ.

I don’t like that last letter.

Every new year, I take one just to see some things about me clearly. Here are my scores:

Introvert – 44% Intuitive – 25% Feeling – 12% Judging – 44%

When I was in Corporate America, I would have all new and returning employees take the Myers-Briggs or the Jung test every new year. This helped me as a manager understand who they were as individuals and what they needed from me so they didn’t feel as employees, but part of a team, a family.

See that Judging number, I hate it. {Trust me, by no means does this give me the right to judge neither, it does, though, help me to understand my strengths and weaknesses.}

I wish it was lower or that I was more of a perceiver than a judge. My husband is 60% perceiver and the longer we are married the more I ask him how to handle things or what he thinks about a person or a situation. He’s the discerner in the house.

I can definitely say God knew what He was doing when He put us together.

Maybe you’re like me - I’m praying for more compassion for others.

So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets. - Matthew 7:12

No, I need more compassion for others.

Beneath the quiet exterior, INFJs hold deep convictions about the weightier matters of life.Those who are activists - INFJs gravitate toward such a role - are there for the cause, not for personal glory or political power. - Myers- Briggs

For so many years, I’ve seen our altars filled with people that have asked Jesus in their heart for the very first time. Man, it’s awesome to see God move-in.

When they genuinely ask God to dwell in their heart, you can begin to see a change in them.

A passion - a fire has set in.

They are hungry for the Word. They want to soak in every message, every sermon, every Bible Study, and when the church doors are open, they are there.

Yet, I find myself struggling with compassion for those that go to the altar five, ten times.

It is hard for me. I am ashamed to admit that.

It is hard for me to see Christians wallow in guilt and past hurts, especially here in America when we have so much more than others.

Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed. – John 8:36

I want to grab them by the arms and look at their eyes and ask them - Do you not know the God that you serve?

Do you not know who lives inside of you and the power that you have because of Him?

Little children, you are of God [you belong to Him] and have [already] defeated and overcome them, because He Who lives in you is greater (mightier) than he who is in the world. – 1 John 4:4 (Amplified)

That you can fight any battle the enemy brings. You can fight any burden or circumstance that is thrown your way. Don’t turn to the left or to the right, keep your eyes focused on Him.

I weep for them and yet, I find me righteous in myself. I judge because the God that you and I serve is greater than our circumstance.

I don’t like myself for that.

So I ask God why?

God, why do I feel this way?

Why, God, do I see these things this way?

Then, asking a friend, she gently reminds me to ask myself – “Are you writing this with righteous anger only needing to get over yourself or is God breaking your heart because He does want more for His people.”

Lord, break me, I need Your compassion.

I struggle because I think about the great things we can do for the kingdom together because we are greater and mightier. How there would be more of us walking in confidence in the fight to win souls because we are no longer dwelling in our past hurts or sins.

Listen, I am far from perfect. No where near it.

But we have been bought with a price that was paid for you and was paid for me. We were set free a long time ago from a Man that died and shed blood for our sins, our salvation.

Who are we to lower that price, that cost, that Jesus paid for us by continually going to the altar. By continually dealing with bitterness and shame.

God is greater than that.

He deserves better than that.

I am always awed by His patience with our unappreciative attitudes of spiritual entitlement yet baffled, especially when we, like the Israelites, have already been the beneficiaries of His never-ending love and generosity. - Anonymous, Alicia Britt Chole

One thing we must be confident in - is knowing the same battles we fight today need not be the same battles we have been set free from. [clickToTweet tweet="The Same Battles We Fight Today Need Not Be The Same Battles We Have Been Set Free From" quote="The Same Battles We Fight Today Need Not Be The Same Battles We Have Been Set Free From"]

It’s not rinse and repeat, it’s rinse and walk free.

Instead, what these words did...was chip away at my own imperfections.

Teaching me that there is no one perfect, but only Loved.

A Challenge to the Church and its DNA

church
It’s been over a month since I wrote something here. I didn’t do it on purpose or set out to “take a break from blogging”. I guess it just happened. These last few weeks I’ve been observing. Observing this “Christian” thing. Observing how we do church with, I guess you can say, a new set of eyes and open ears.

I’ve been re-reading Francis Chan’s book, Crazy Love. It is a definite must read.

A couple of things written had hit my Spirit and challenged the very core of my heart:

“I quickly found that the American church is a difficult place to fit in if you want to live out New Testament Christianity. The goals of American Christianity are often a nice marriage, children who don't swear, and good church attendance. Taking the words of Christ literally, and seriously, is rarely considered. That's for the 'radicals' who are 'unbalanced' and who go 'overboard.' Most of us want a balanced life we can control, that is safe, and that does not involve suffering.”

“Our view of the Holy Spirit is too small. The Holy Spirit is the One who changes the church, but we have to remember that the Holy Spirit lives in us. It is individual people living Spirit-filled lives that will change the church.”

The church has been on my heart lately. It’s as though an awe, a reverence if you will, has been burdening my heart.

Do you ever wonder if God looks down at the church on Sunday mornings and wonders why we have put Him in a box?

Why we sing 2.5 songs? You know the routine 2 fast, 1 slow, all to stay within the timeline of getting the congregation out for lunch, when God says "I don’t remember a schedule, I remember a suddenly (Acts 2:2)."

I don’t want to talk about denominations or get into a conversation that divides us.

I think... [Tweet "God just wants the simplicity of what He designed the church to be."]

When we decide, what Chan said, to allow the Holy Spirit to change the church through us, is when we begin to unify as one body, one accord. And when this happens, God will change the atmosphere of the house, the atmosphere of our church, our home.

I remember a day when we invited the Holy Spirit into those places.

Remember the Holy Spirit isn’t an IT. He is the third person of the Trinity (1 John 5:7).

We have created a place where Jesus is the One that sits with us at Starbucks or in the hospital, but really we are in the dispensation of the Holy Spirit (John 14:16).

Jesus is at the right hand of the Father (Acts 2:33), but the Holy Spirit is the One that wants to walk in the door of your house, sit at the foot of the bed in your hospital room, ride in the car with you.

And when He is in the room with you, He will remove burdens and destroy yokes, He will heal your body, bring peace to your mind, He will be an unspeakable joy in your life.

We must not forget, yes, He was not Word made flesh, Jesus was (John 1:14). The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of the Living God (2 Corinthians 3:17-18).

I know a lot of people don’t talk about this or for some of you reading this it may seem crazy, but I love what Chan said recently in a Keynote at CLA (Christian Leadership Alliance) :

He’s (Tozer) talking about the angels in heaven. You know how in Revelation 4 it describes the angels around the throne of God and screaming Holy, Holy, Holy, and talks about the big pillars of fire and sea of glass. Tozer than asking (in The Knowledge of the Holy), “What if one of these Holy Ones, one of these Angels, who spent his glad centuries by the sea of fire would come to earth? How meaningless to Him would be the ceaseless chatter of the busy tribes of men, how strange and empty would sound a flat, stale, and prophet-less words heard in the average pulpit from week to week.”

Chan – “What if one of those beings did come in? What if he is observing us after being in the presence of God? What would he think of my words coming out of my mouth - asking, “What are you doing up there?”

To listen to the rest of Chan’s talk, click here. You don’t want to miss his explanation of the clock!

We are not serving a wind, a breath. We are serving, in Him, a Holy Spirit, the One that comforts us, lifts us up, makes a way where there seems to be no way.

God never determined His church to be a place of religious rhetoric.

He never determined the church to be a place of lifeless worship.

He never determined the church to be a place where we get bored or ask ourselves how quick can I get out of here.

He intended the church to be a life-transforming, body-healing, soul-saving, Spirit-filling, mind-changing church that seeks after His presence.

He intended the church to be something that was a transformation out of the old man into the new. But, instead what we are doing is constantly messing with God’s DNA.

The cynics say we don’t need that “Holy Spirit thing” anymore.

Yeah, we don’t need people on the brink of suicide being prayed for and being set free so they can live out their destiny.

We don’t need people that have cancer, dying and the doctors are giving them no hope.

We don’t need to pray for cancer victims, we don’t need to pray for the oppressed, we don’t need to praise God until the glory comes.

We don’t need to preach the Truth because the Truth is offensive to the culture.

We don’t need to be the church anymore.

We need to be surgically altered, yet somewhat close, but not really what it was designed to be.

No... [Tweet "We need to be the church that once again finds it way back to Acts 2."]

What was birthed was not a lifeless, powerless gathering of people.

What was birthed was a Supernatural being that would transform the world around them.

We need the church to resurrect from the DNA God intended it to be.

Let the church get back to what God created it to be.

We, Christians, challenge you because we are the Church.

I Still Believe

Fifteen ladies gathered in a room last Tuesday to begin a study called Restless by Jennie Allen. Some of them completely unaware of the journey they are about to embark on. We started with a brief introduction of ourselves telling each other their name and how long they have been at Cornerstone Church - one of them beginning their third week as a visitor.

The room is filled with all ages from 18 to 52.

It seems as though a common bond is present – where do I take my life as it is and move forward into God’s purpose in my life?

Some of them stuck in their past.

Some of them not feeling worthy enough to pursue dreams.

Some have forgotten how to dream.

via Creative Commons
via Creative Commons

In the moments of sharing, it seems as a blanket of criticism covers them. It’s as though silent struggles were in that room crying out inside for a sense of hope, a sense of peace.

I love what the Bible says in Isaiah 10:27:

In that day their burden will be lifted from your shoulders, their yoke from your neck; the yoke will be broken because you have grown so fat. (NIV)

I still believe in something we don’t talk about in the Christian circuit anymore…

[Tweet "I still believe in a burden removing, yoke destroying power of God"]

This is what gets me excited the most - these ladies, these fifteen women that have come and made a commitment to want a change in their lives, that want to grow – they will begin to see the yoke of their struggles broken. Why? Because of the last part of that verse…because you have grown so fat!

Oh, I can’t wait until they get so fat, so sassy, in whom they are in Christ. How they will begin to see themselves how God sees them.

Sorry…I get excited when I know God is up to something!

Last week, I posed the question –

[Tweet "What is one thing Christians struggle with the most?"]

There was an incredible response with so many diverse answers. I’m hoping to touch on each one of them because I think it is something we all need to be talking about. Do you struggle with hope? Knowing Him? Needing Him? Trusting Him? Let’s talk about them.

If you struggle as a Christian in a certain area, I would love to hear about it.Let’s point each other to the One that can remove every burden and destroy every yoke as we learn from each others journey.

Friends continue to pray for these women that each of them would have a God-encounter that will set their feet on the path God has laid out for them. And pray for me that I simply be only a conduit of the Lord making way for Him.

Love.

God Promises Hope For Your Future Despite the Pain Of Your Past

God works all things together for good. You were created for a purpose.

God has a plan for your life.

Do you believe these promises or doubt them?

Do you find yourself doing both sometimes?

 

ashamed of the past

For many of us, we have been knocked down and for some we can get back up and continue to walk in confidence that God will see us through. For others it takes awhile.

We doubt our purpose. We doubt God’s plan for our life. Yet, over time we find this incredible strength in Him.

God wants to heal the pain of our pasts and use what we have experienced to pave the way to His plans for our future. It’s when we are in the midst of the pain when we ask God – why did this happen?

It’s in the moments that we draw near to Him, a love that surpasses all understanding, sweeping in and a redeeming love takes place.

[Tweet "God wants us to live in the promises of tomorrow despite the pain of our past."]

Why?

Because He knows our past and the pain of it leads us to His plans and our hope in Him for our future.

Some of you, like me, have been through the process. You know that your past does not define who you are today. It may be steps that define your future, but God’s grace has been sufficient.

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners - Isaiah 61:1

This verse is incredible in that we find four types of people God sent His Son Jesus for - the brokenhearted, the captive, the prisoner and the darkness.

(So here goes some honest moments)

What is your brokenhearted place? For me it was my family. I had so much hurt and hate in my heart as a young girl only to find myself broken wanting to remove myself from the world because life wasn’t worth living if I didn’t have a family that didn’t love me. I hated life. I hated me.

Webster’s dictionary defines captive as someone who has been taken prisoner. What is or was that thing that keeps you bound? Is it a secret you haven’t told your husband? Is it an addiction you can’t seem to quit? For me it was bad decisions in my past. Going through those brokenhearted places I found myself making decisions that weren’t nine times out of ten the right ones. Oh boy was the devil good at reminding me of that.

Maybe you are a prisoner in your own cell. I was a prisoner of failure. I hated to fail. I hated to lose. I grew up playing sports and there was nothing more than winning. Winning championships, winning the title, winning the position - failure was not an option. Then when you feel like you fail in this thing called marriage with one already failed, you are afraid to fail again. Or when you have children and you are afraid they might feel the same way you did growing up about you. You become a prisoner.

What about darkness? What kind of darkness are you living in? What secret are you hiding? Maybe like me you lived feeling dirty and ugly about yourself. Ashamed as a child because you had a secret that you could tell no one. It feels like a dark cloud over you and yet you’re scared to say anything because you’re afraid of what others might think.

I lived these for so long.

to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God - Isaiah 61:2

But just like God remembered Noah, He remembered me (yet, I realized He never forgot me).

I picked myself up out of that pit of self-pity and began to proclaim the favor of God over my life.

You can begin to do the same.

You will begin to see that despite the circumstances, you believe and are confident in knowing that you are who God says you are. That His redeeming love removes all the lies, the bitterness and anger of the people or things that have hurt us. You begin to see what he talks about in the last part of verse 2 of how vengeance instead becomes a place where you look at the devil and say bring it. Let’s fight this fight because we already know who wins and with God on our side nothing is impossible.

What darkness or shame are you fighting? Have you talked to someone about it? I want to pray for you!

Mary Wasn't Told the Whole Story

Christmas is upon us. It’s the time of year we reflect on who Jesus is as we celebrate His birth. December is filled with 30 days of remembering our incredible Savior that came upon this earth from the Virgin Mary. He was born in a stable and put in a manger.  They named Him Emmanuel, God with us, obeying the angel that visited Joseph in a dream.

I can take this blog post and talk about how we should be in constant communion with Him 365 days of the year.  I can discuss the beautiful name of Emmanuel and how God truly is with us.  But, my mind dwells on Mary, the mother of Jesus.

Mary birthed a child in what generations today think is so young; she was between 14-16 years of age.  To have an angel, Gabriel, visit you and tell you not only have you found favor with God but that you will also birth a son who will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High (Luke 1:26-38). She had purpose; she had a plan.

But God didn’t share with her the rest of the story that night.  Where her son would be mocked and spat on.  Where he would be tempted and tried yet without sin. Where her son would endure blood stains and walk the Via Dolorosa.  Where He would be nailed to a cross for the worlds sins; generations after generations.

JesusHe didn’t tell her that part.

I’m glad He didn’t.

Any mother would not want the pain and suffering for any child, let alone their own, that her son would have to endure.

The next few days leading to Christmas, I want to talk with you more about Mary.  Let’s talk about her bravery and sacrifice she made as a mother.  How she had to let go and let God.  Grab your mom friends and let’s talk about this one-of-a-kind mother who made the ultimate sacrifice.

What does the birth of Jesus mean to you? When you think of Mary, what do you think about?

God Needs the Word in Us Before He Can Start the Molding Process

Gala cheveux 007 Over the next few weeks, I want to continue our conversation on Isaiah 64:8:

“But now, O Lord, You are our Father; we are the clay and you are our Potter; and all we are is the work of Your hand.”

I want to give you ten discussions of key points of this popular verse and how I believe God is transforming so many of us to trust the Potter and not ourselves in our thoughts, our ideas, and our lives.

Number one being that God Needs the Word in Us Before He Can Start the Molding Process

When you look at how a potter begins to make a piece of pottery, the lump of clay is put on a wheel to start the process of molding the clay into the piece of pottery he wants to make.  He must first add WATER into the clay in order to make it pliable and soft enough for him to be able to actually use it. If he does not add enough water into the clay, the clay will remain too hard and rigid for him to be able to actually use.

Kind of like the Word of God.

 " … that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that He might present it to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that it should be holy and without blemish.” (Ephesians 5:26)"

What this is telling us is that God cannot even begin to mold and transform us in this life unless we are first willing to do our part. And our part has to be to get into His Word and try to read, understand, and do what is in the Bible as best we can, with the Holy Spirit also helping us to understand what we are actually reading.

So begin today doing what the Bible says “to grow in the knowledge of God” so that He can begin the molding process.

The Anticipation of....Snow.

Since this weekend, all the buzz has been about the snow that is coming.  They are predicting 3-6" for our area north of Nashville.  We moved there 7 years ago from Denver and saw plenty of snow.  We still laugh at the milk and bread aisles and how bare they become before the first prediction of snow.  As I sit here in anticipation for the snow's arrival, I wonder what the week will hold.  More snow days that the kids will be out of school?  More rescheduled meetings and lunches?  More Facebook and Twitter instead of face-to-face time? I love the snow because it reminds me of two things: 1) To stop and warm up in His presence and 2) He makes me white as snow (Psalm 51:7).  I love that song!

Nothing But the Blood

What can wash away my sin Nothing but the blood of Jesus What can make me whole again Nothing but the blood of Jesus

Oh precious is the flow That makes me white as snow There's no other fount I know Nothing but the blood of Jesus

This is all my hope and peace Nothing but the blood of Jesus This is all my righteousness Nothing but the blood of Jesus

Oh precious is the flow That makes me white as snow There's no other fount I know Nothing but the blood of Jesus Nothing but the blood of Jesus Nothing but the blood of Jesus

I encourage you today to look out your window and as you see the snow sing this song to Him.  Let it be a reminder of all He did for you and me.  That in the busyness of the week, we are reminded of His precious blood that washes away all our sins and He has made us whole again....nothing but the blood of Jesus.

Enjoy the snow!