The Sacrifice of Sharing

“But do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased. Hebrews‬ ‭13:16‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

IMG_1518Our good works cannot save us, but they certainly impact others. God is pleased when we sacrifice for the benefit of others.

This verse reminds me of several people God blessed me with as a young divorced mother. I remember being so humbled as time after time God sent someone to meet my need.

It was difficult for me to ask for help when I needed it, but God always made a way, through the generosity of others.

IMG_1519I remember asking God at some point, “Will I ever be the one in a position to help others?” You see, I truly believe it is more blessed to give than receive. Those who give to others, with a pure motive, experience a wonderful sense of satisfaction.

The struggles I faced shaped who I became later in life. Everyone has different spiritual gifts, some we are born with and some that are acquired through experience. Mine are mercy and exhortation.

God has given me many opportunities to bless others as He blessed me. Even in ministry I work with hurting people … the homeless, the addicted, prisoners. It is far more fulfilling work than my career ever was.

Being a giver doesn’t always involve finances. The key is to find something you are passionate about and allow God to use you in that area.

People are hurting. The greatest gift we can give someone (other than the good news) is a sense of value. What can you do today to show someone they are important, needed, loved?

Ask God to give you creative ideas to impact others.

PRAY:
Father, thank You for putting people into my life over the years who have sacrificed their time and resources to bless me. I ask that You give them a hundredfold return on their investment.

Give me eyes to see the needs of others. Help me to be a resource to bless others spiritually, emotionally, physically and financially as You lead.

Father, help me to see others as You see them and to love them as You love them.

 

Loyalty … Obedience … Perseverance

“You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.”  ‭‭Deuteronomy‬ ‭6:5 NKJV‬‬

IMG_1516According to Jesus, this is THE greatest commandment. As such it makes sense that we need to truly grasp what it means.

As I read this verse, I asked myself … why did Moses say to love God with:
(a) all my heart
(b) all my soul
(c) all my strength.

How does loving God with my heart differ from loving Him with my soul and my strength? It must be important or Moses wouldn’t have expounded on it.

In Deuteronomy 6 Moses is preparing the children of Israel to finally enter the promised land. Knowing their inclination to idolatry and rebellion he reminds them of three key mandates which in turn answer the question of ‘how do we love God with all our heart, soul and strength?’

Loving God with all my HEART is about loyalty: There is ONE God and He is a jealous God. God will not share His glory with false gods. Anything, or anyone, that is more important to us is an idol.

Loving God with all my SOUL is about obedience: Moses instructed the people to keep the commandments of God AND to pass them on from generation to generation. To love God is to obey God. This theme is seen repeatedly in the Word in both the Old and New Testaments. Our soul is comprised of our mind, will and emotions. To love God with all our soul we must “know him’, through experience/relationship, knowledge of His Word and revelation of the Holy Spirit.

Loving God with all my STRENGTH is about perseverance: Possession of the Land required defeat of Israel’s enemies. To this day Israel has to fight for their land. While God is capable of wiping out our enemies with a single word, He knows we value what we struggle to obtain. Our dreams and visions are worth the fight! Never give up on God’s promise(s) to you.

PRAYER:
Lord, thank You for opening my eyes to understand Your command to love You will all my heart, soul and strength. Help me to always love you with loyalty, obedience and perseverance.

No More Tears

“He will swallow up death forever, And the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from all faces; The rebuke of His people He will take away from all the earth; For the LORD has spoken. Isaiah‬ ‭25:8‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

IMG_1515We often look at this scripture as reference to the afterlife; I believe it is also relevant to this life.

The people of Israel have always had to fight for their promised land. Even though God gave them the land, their enemies didn’t give up  without resistance. They still face rebuke and prejudice from other nations.

Satan, our enemy, doesn’t give up without a fight either. I often hear people talk about “all Hell breaking loose” after giving their lives to Christ. It only makes sense. Satan hates God, and we are His children. As long as we are submitting to Satan he has no reason to come against us.

While this passage was written long before the birth of Christ, it pointed to a time when God’s people will finally have peace.

Jesus first came as a lamb, but will return as the lion of Judah. The Word tells us, He will rule and reign on Earth for a thousand years, followed by the creation of a new Heaven and Earth. (Revelation 20) Those who gave their lives for the gospel will be resurrected to reign with Christ.

I’m going through a really tough time emotionally right now. This verse gives me hope. Whether I live to see the Lord’s return or not, I know that ultimately He will wipe away my tears. In fact, I can go to Him in prayer, crawl up in His lap, and allow Him to comfort me as a loving Father.

I also know when I breathe my last breath on Earth I will breathe my first in eternity. Jesus has conquered death. It is no longer an end, simply a transition.

As for rebuke, it hurts when someone we love scoffs at our faith. It’s not fun to be ridiculed or persecuted, but Paul told us to count it all joy. (James 1:2) God will reward our faithfulness; more importantly we have an opportunity to be a living witness, if we respond appropriately.

PRAYER:
Lord, you are a good Father. I am thankful I can run to You when life is hard. Though You have not promised an easy life, You have promised to be with me through it all. I can trust You will never abandon me.

Thank You for being my comforter, giver of life and for turning rebuke into joy, tears into laughter.

AMEN

Friend of Sinners

“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” ‭‭Romans‬ ‭5:8‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

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God loved me before I loved Him! He chose me, before I chose Him. The fact that He loved me while I was still living in willful sin and rebellion blows me away. It should also help me see others with compassion. It’s easy to become frustrated and lose hope with people who refuse to surrender their lives to God. We must continue to love and intercede for those who reject God. Trust the Holy Spirit to melt their hearts of stone.

As I read Romans 5 today it talked about how it is rare that someone would die for a good man, much less a sinner. As Jesus journeyed life on Earth He was scolded by the religious leaders for associating with sinners. He broke religious rules, yet remained completely righteous. He understood the difficulty of reaching people outside the context of relationship.

He knew something else … He knew those claiming to be righteous were hypocrites! Romans 3:10 tells us, “There is none righteous, no . not . one!” The religious leaders were counting on their position of power to save them. They claimed to “observe all the law” and yet failed to observe the most important law of all – to love God and to love others as yourself.

Without Christ we are powerless against our sin nature. We cannot accept the call of God on our life until we are willing to acknowledge our need for Him. In Luke 5:32, Jesus said, “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.”

PRAYER:
Lord, thank You for loving me while I was (am) still a sinner. Help me to show that same love and compassion towards others who aren’t ready to surrender their lives to you. Let me be a reflection of You rather than a stumbling block to them.

Forgive me if I’ve ever come across like the religious leaders of Jesus’ day. I am not better than anyone. Like Paul I recognize that: I am a chief of sinners. (I Timothy 1:15)

Lead me to those who are “ripe for harvest”. Help me to be a friend of sinners. Lord, here am I, send me!

AMEN

 

Justice or Mercy? The Choice is Yours

“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” ‭‭Romans‬ ‭6:23‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

IMG_1513I have earned a death penalty for my sins. People often ask why a loving God would send anyone to Hell. I confess, I have struggled with this question. But the truth is, He has given us a choice … justice (getting what we deserve) or mercy (having our wages paid in full by Jesus.) The choice is ours.

The problem is we do not see our sins as worthy of death. We make ourselves judges over God when we try to justify what level of sin actually deserves eternal death (separation from God). 

We cannot understand God’s repulsion of sin because we have lived in a fallen world all our lives. I imagine if we had one glimpse of Heaven and the purity of God’s presence we would fall to our knees and join the angels in their chorus of, “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty.” God hates sin so much He had to turn His back on Jesus as He who knew no sin became sin for us. (See: Matthew 27:46 and II Corinthians 5:21)

As a society we SCREAM for justice; unless that justice impacts us, or someone we love, in a negative way. We rave defiantly against a God who would send someone to Hell, yet are infuriated when someone who commits a crime we deem worthy of death is given mercy by the court. What a double standard.

The “good news” is He offers us mercy IF we will accept His gift … the sacrificial payment of our debt, by Christ. Any good parent would gladly lay down their life for their child, and that is exactly what God did! But, you cannot benefit from a gift unless you receive it. 

“I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live.” Deuteronomy 30:19  (NKJV)

PRAYER:
Father, thank You for Your mercy and the gift of eternal life. Because of Your love I do not have to face the judgement I deserve for the wages of my sin. Jesus, thank You for being willing to take MY place on the cross.

I pray today for those who do not know Your love, for those who have not experienced Your mercy. Lord, help them to see that You are a God of love, but also a God of justice. You have provided a path of redemption but we must accept it to receive it.

Help us to see sin as You see it. Remove the blinders from our eyes and show us truth. In the mighty name of Jesus I pray. Amen

Perfect Man … Perfect Lamb

“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 NKJV 

IMG_1496As we approach Easter I am reminded that the cross wasn’t pretty! Jesus was beaten, bruised, ridiculed, pierced and crucified for MY sin, and yours. He took OUR place. The perfect man of God became the perfect lamb of God.

Every time I watch the movie, “The Passion” I have to force myself not to turn away as they portray the suffering Christ endured for us.

As amazing as His amazing grace is, He purchased more than our salvation that fateful day. He bought our salvation, our forgiveness, our peace, our healing and our adoption. He bought US. We are now slaves of God rather than slaves of sin.

God did for me what I could not do for myself. I believe He looked to the future and saw each and every soul He would redeem. Somehow, in spite our our unworthiness, He still willingly gave up His life so we could live. We cost Him EVERYTHING!

Salvation is a two-fold process of belief and repentance. You cannot have one without the other. While salvation is free, it will cost US everything as well. God doesn’t want part of us, He wants all of US. Everything we do should be motivated by a desire to please Him. Salvation isn’t an excuse to live in sin; it is the power to overcome it. That doesn’t mean we will live perfect lives, but we now have peace knowing we have a loving Father who is willing to forgive and restore us when we sin. 

PRAYER:
Lord, thank You for paying a debt I could not pay. Thank You for continuing to intercede for me even now! Your grace truly is AMAZING!

I surrender my life to You. I know that I cannot make it without You, but I can do “all things” through You.

Walk with me Lord. Teach me, guide me, correct me, forgive me. I am Yours. My life is not my own. I have been bought with a price, Your precious, perfect, sinless blood.

Help me to never forget what it cost You. Help me to never lose sight of Your suffering. You demonstrated the purest love imaginable. I am eternally in awe of You.

Amen

Just Love

I had the wonderful privilege this weekend of joining my friend Eva in jail ministry. She preached a message called, “The sheep, the coin and the Son.” In her message, she explained to the inmates how each of these parables demonstrates God’s heart to seek and save that which is lost. Eva and I have been serving in jail ministry together for a couple of years, but this message moved their hearts in a way I’ve not seen before. Why? Because it is the ‘goodness‘ of God leads men to repent. (Romans 2:4) They were overwhelmed by the love of God. Who wouldn’t want to serve a God who loved them enough to die for them?

IMG_1489People often view God as an angry, vengeful being who creates havoc in the world. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Bible tells us, “God IS love”. (1 John 4:8) The havoc we see everyday is the consequence of mankind’s disobedience to God’s command to “love your neighbor as yourself.” (Galatians 5:14)

You don’t have to look far to see the result of that disobedience in our world. A life of selfishness and greed does not lead to happiness. It leads to misery.

What would it look like if mankind took God at His word and just loved? Medical advances in resuscitation have given many a glimpse into what lies ahead in the moments following death. A reoccurring theme emerges from those who’ve had near death experiences … LOVE. They are sent back with a message that loving God and loving others is what matters in this life. Isn’t this simply a confirmation of what Jesus taught?

Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” – Matthew 22:36-40 King James Version (KJV)

IMG_1490Love is the message of the gospel and the central theme of a purposeful life. When we walk in love for God and others, sin loses it’s power over us. Without love, we are just making noise. (1 Corinthians 13:1)

Yes, I believe in hell. It breaks my heart to think of anyone spending eternity separated from God, especially knowing the price Jesus paid to redeem us. That being said, in all my years as a Christian I have never won one person to Christ by spewing judgement and condemnation at them. In fact, the rebellious nature of mankind causes those who are presented the gospel in this way to rear up in pride and reject God’s grace and mercy. A fear based message should be a last resort in winning the lost, not a first. There is a place for it, but only when the love of God has been rejected, and only out of true concern (love) for the soul of the individual.

Pray: Father, thank You for Your love and mercy. Help me to live a life of love toward You and others. When I see the pain and injustice in the world, caused by the rebellion of mankind remind me to, ‘just love’. Help all of humanity to grasp the simplistic truth that love is the solution to the turmoil we face. Love does not kill, steal or destroy. It heals. It restores. It overcomes.

The Secret To Contentment

I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:11-13 NKJV)
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I take comfort in knowing I can do anything the Lord empowers me to do. I believe in miracles. I believe in the power of prayer and of faith. 

Philippians 4:13 popped up as the ‘Verse of the Day’ recently on YouVersion. Because I am an advocate on reading scripture in context I have started reading the chapters as well as the verses. As I read Philippians 4 it occured to me, Paul wrote this verse in the context of contentment. He wasn’t quoting a formula for victory, he was declaring that he was able to endure both hardship and victory because he knew the secret to contentment was knowing God would sustain him in every circumstance.

I must admit, there are times I question God when I see things that don’t make sense. Certain things rob my contentment, if I allow them to. When I see children suffer or people die prematurely; when prayers don’t get answered the way I would like, it’s hard to be content.

And yet, I know that God is good! I may not understand the why, but I believe God’s promise that, “All things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28 NKJV) Ultimately it comes down to this, do I trust Him? 

The secret to contentment is knowing that God will sustain you through the trials and the triumphs of life. It is knowing he will give you the strength you need, when you need it. He will not leave us to face our battles alone. He is always with us.  Contentment is birthed in trust. It is resting in the knowledge that God is for you, not against you. 

PRAY: Lord, help me to follow Paul’s example in learning to be content in spite of my circumstances. Forgive me for the times I have complained and allowed circumstances to rob my faith allowing doubts of Your goodness to prevail. Help me Lord to be content in all things, knowing you will sustain me and give me strength. 

Something New

God’s creative genius didn’t end with creation.

IMG_1472What do you want God to birth in your life this year? Whatever it may be, He is up for the challenge.

Need mercy? His mercies are “new every morning”. (Lamentations 3:22-23)

Are you broken, or bitter? God promises to replace your stony heart with a heart of flesh. To give you a new heart and a new spirit. (Ezekiel 36:26) It’s easy for life’s challenges to harden our hearts, if we allow them to. Sometimes being healed is as simple as letting go. Trust that God has something better for you.

Need a fresh start? Just as God’s mercy is new every morning, each day brings the chance for a new beginning. When you surrender your life to the Lord, you become “a new creature,” old things pass away, all things become new. (2 Corinthians 5:17) That doesn’t mean you are never going to blow it. But when you do, God’s not waiting to punish you. His desire is to restore you. Run to the Father, confess your sin and allow Him to cleanse and make you whole.

I could go on and on but the point is this: whatever your “something new” is … He is able. God is a good father.  (Luke 11:9-13)

Each year, many churches participate in a 21 day fast. I challenge you to begin now to search your heart and define what “new thing” you want to see God do in your life this year. Don’t just wait and see what happens. Pursue it! As I was just writing this paragraph the Lord gave me a visual of someone waist deep in swamp water, pushing their way through reeds and weeds that were blocking their path. He calls you today, as He did in Matthew 7:7 … 

ASK, and it shall be given you; SEEK and ye shall find; KNOCK and it shall be opened unto you:

Once you have defined your new ask God what He would have you fast for 21 days as you ASK, SEEK and KNOCK your way through 2018.

Join me January 11th. ~ 31st. in prayer and fasting for God to move in our lives and in our nation this new year! 

PRAY: Father, thank You that each day brings a new beginning. As I begin this New Year help me to refine my focus and visualize what I need birthed in my life. Give me a clear cut path to pursue You and Your will for my life in 2018.