If you were to ask Jesus one question what would it be?
A recent survey published in USA Today asked participants this very question. The highest percentage wants to know: “What is my purpose here?“
Wouldn’t we love for God to give us a life planner dated from birth to death outlining all of our goals and destiny appointments for our God-given purpose? Or maybe even a to-do list where we could check things off as we accomplish them?
Hmmm… where’s the fun in that though? The adventure? I think if we had all the answers at our fingertips, a Mapquest route of our life so-to-speak, it would suck the life out of life. Right? Lol!
There’s excitement in not knowing what’s around the corner. A sense of expectancy stirring inside as we approach something meaningful, something bigger than ourselves.
Recently, I had a vision encounter with Jesus during a Sunday morning church service. Jesus took me to a place I have written about several years ago in a story I titled, “The Journey,” (see story below for reference). We were lying on mossy ground, looking up at the sky, my head resting on His arm.
There was a moment where Jesus said, “Ask me anything you want.” Immediately I sit straight up and one question after another starts spilling from my mouth, mostly about what the future holds for me and my family.
Jesus responds by gently pulling me back down to that place of rest next to Him, settling my anxious heart. He spoke to my spirit saying, “Look up.” And He pointed to the heavens above. He showed me a big cloud, high in the sky.
He said to me, “Look how the wind, blowing as a gentle breeze, is moving and directing that cloud. That cloud is you and the wind is the Holy Spirit. As long as you stay weightless, not allowing the worries of this world to weigh you down, you will soar high like this cloud.”
“You do not have to fret regarding where you are going. Just rest and just soar and then the Holy Spirit will direct you to where I want you to go. And when the Holy Spirit fills you, you will shower down upon the land exactly where I’ve positioned you. You will pour out what the Holy Spirit is pouring in.”
“And people will recognize that I am in the cloud. Others will begin following the cloud, just as the Israelites followed the cloud by day, and I will lead them into their promises.”
“All you have to do is rest in Me and soar!”
Do not be anxious for your life, as to what you shall eat, or what you shall drink; nor for your body, as to what you shall put on. Is not life more than food, and the body than clothing?
Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single cubit to his life’s span?
And why are you anxious about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory did not clothe himself like one of these.
But if God so arrays the grass of the field, that is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more do so for you, O men of little faith?
…But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious for tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. –Matthew 6:25-34
by: Michelle Halloran
I am on an exciting journey to a thrilling destination. He’s not taking me to the destination by any luxurious method of travel like an airplane or a car. But I’m traveling by foot. He wants me to feel the terrain in the journey, to see the sights along the way, to feel the sun on my back and the elements in the air.
He’s walking with me the whole way, pointing out the flowers in the field we are passing and the deer drinking from the river brook. I may walk through the desert, but He will give me drink so I will not faint. And I may walk through rich vegetation, partaking the fruit and honey of His sweet provision.
Or I may spend days just resting in Him. His hand will be my pillow and He will take this time to whisper His love for me and I will whisper back my love for Him. He may carry me some on this journey when I can’t muster the energy to take another step.
But the journey is beautiful! The journey is exciting! The journey is a time of teaching and great revelation. The journey may be long, but it will be so fulfilling. I may just get so caught up in the journey that I forget about the destination, but He will keep my eyes forward and my feet on the path…
The path that leads me to myself and the bridegroom.
Think about it. These are those who profess with their mouths they are Christians, but their lives look just like the world they are called out of.
By definition, the word casual means ‘relaxed, loose’ or something ‘done without much thought’ or ‘not regular or constant.’ 2 Timothy 3:5 defines casual Christians as those who hold on to a form of godliness, but deny its power. Do you see how damaging this is, not only as a stumbling block for others, but the biggest casualty is actually the casual Christian himself.
God didn’t call us so we can be casual Christians just barely getting by. God has called us to be lifestyle Christians. Listen! If casual Christianity causes casualties, lifestyle Christianity imparts LIFE!
Jesus is life and when we live for Him we are living an abundant life!
Romans 8:6 says “to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.” And in 2 Timothy 4:2, Paul says, “Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season.” To ‘be ready always’ is to make Christianity your lifestyle. It’s not just a profession from your mouth, it’s who you are in your heart.
I would love to share with y’all 3 testimonies of lifestyle Christianity from the past couple weeks. Please know, I’m sharing this not to boast in myself because I’m still a novice in stepping out into evangelism, but I’m sharing this to boast of Christ. I’m sharing this to encourage you to acknowledge the Lord in ALL your ways! You with me?
So, the first testimony occurred at the gym this last Saturday morning. We had just finished an hour and a half class and I was heading out the door when a lady stopped me. So, I recognized this lady from a REFIT® class I used to teach. My last class was a couple months ago, but she goes on to tell me, with tears in her eyes, how much a prayer I prayed for her after one of my classes really had ministered to her.
Now, I vaguely remember praying for her, but I have no recollection at all of what I prayed. But two months later, it was still near and dear to her heart. So much so, it still brought tears to her eyes. Awesome, right!?! Praise Jesus!
All God is looking for is a yielded vessel He can speak, work, and move through.
The second testimony from this week was from my 8 year old son, Elijah. He’s been reading this book by Shawn Bolz called “Growing up with God” which teaches kids how to hear God’s voice. Well, Sunday, lo and behold! Elijah comes home from church telling us how he heard God speak to him.
The next day, he’s still so excited, he comes home from school and wants to post a video on Facebook sharing his testimony. Y’all, I had been doing laundry all day and still had not taken a shower after my workout that morning. And he’s wanting us to do this video now! Again, we have to be ready in season and out (I think my version that day read, ‘we have to be ready with make-up and without!’ LOL!).
But would you know! His video has had over 7000 views?!? The author of the book picked up Elijah’s video and shared it on his Facebook page. Incredible! This was his very first testimony ever and over 7000 people heard it!!! Psalm 132:12 says, “If thy children will keep my covenant and my testimony that I shall teach them, their children shall also sit upon thy throne forevermore.”
Lifestyle Christianity rewards are here and now and forevermore!
The last testimony I’ll share happened just today. I was in the checkout line at my local grocery store and a young girl was checking my groceries. I noticed the bagger boy was kind of flirting with her and she was desperately trying to ignore him. So, to help a girl out, I started making conversation with her. I found out she had just received her Master’s in Occupational Therapy and that she was getting ready to move to out of state to look for a job.
So, I just start praying blessings and favor over her and that God would open up doors of opportunity for her. Side note: do y’all realize, we don’t have to take someone by the hand and close our eyes to pray? Prayer is not a demonstration. God is. Right? So, she’s there scanning groceries and I pray over her just in normal conversation.
After I prayed she stops scanning and starts pointing her finger at me grinning. She says, “That’s how I know you! I knew you looked familiar, but couldn’t figure it out till you started praying.” Trying to add two and two together, I look at her and ask, “So, I’ve prayed for you before?”
She’s gleaming ear to ear and says, “Yes! You prayed for me before I took my last set of exams! And I scored 40 points higher on that test than I did the one before that!”
Haha! Did I remember that? Not at first, but vaguely after she started relaying details. But the point is this:
I want to be known as the woman who prays in the checkout line! I want to be known as the mom with no makeup on who helps her 8 year old share his testimony on Facebook! I want to be known for showing the love of Jesus everywhere I go!
Have I got this all figured out? Absolutely not! But I do know all I need to do is follow the One who does have it all figured out. All it requires is boldness and obedience. This is lifestyle Christianity! Lifestyle Christianity imparts LIFE! And this is living, y’all!
Jesus was one of the most offensive people to walk this earth. Imagine what the Jews were thinking when He said to them, “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves.” Remember, the Law of Moses sternly forbade drinking or eating meat with blood remaining in it. Yet, Jesus was asking them to eat His flesh and drink His blood! How absurd!
Furthermore, He overturned the tables of the money exchangers in the temple. He broke the Sabbath by healing a man and then had the audacity to tell the once lame man to carry his mat. He proclaimed He came from heaven and declared Himself equal to God. He called the Pharisees, the religious leaders of the time, a brood of vipers and pointed out they, not only did not know God, but they were serving the father of lies, the devil!
Over and over again, Jesus offended the mind. The ones who fell into grumbling and complaining were the same ones who crucified Him. Dying on the cross was the ultimate offense. How could the King of Kings appear so weak? If He was Messiah, why didn’t He save Himself? These were all questions the crowds were asking.
Yet, the deity of the Lord Jesus Christ and His equality with God are foundational truths for true faith in Him. He wasn’t afraid to expose darkness. Jesus, the Messiah, walked in humility. And His death on the cross was the most offensive display of love ever to be witnessed. He wasn’t trying to win a popularity contest, He was trying to save the world. He died so we can live. What radical love is this?
I said all that said to say, similarly, there’s a lot of grumbling and complaining in our world today. I petition you, don’t be so quick to judge on the surface or by outward appearances. Pray and ask God to reveal where He is working to you. Because He is working.
What appears offensive at first glance, may have the anointing of God all over it. The United States of America is still one nation under God. Whether all who live here acknowledge that does not distort the truth. God still sits on the throne and His mercies flow like a raging torrent across this land! His mercies are new every morning! His mercies overtake the just and the unjust!
I pray God will anoint our eyes to see where He is moving. May our prayers for this great nation fall into cadence with the One who holds all things together. Father, forgive our offense. Let us rise higher than the confusion and sync ourselves with Your heartbeat. I pray peace in our souls and peace over our land. May our gaze be forever upon You that we may witness Your great and mighty winds of revival that are about to take this nation by storm.
Just as You have loved with a radical love, may we also love with a radical love. A love that overcomes offense.
In God we trust.
“Call to Me and I will answer you and I will tell you great and mighty things which you do not know…Behold, I will bring to it health and healing, and I will heal them; and I will reveal to them an abundance of peace and truth.
And I will restore the fortunes of Judah and the fortunes of Israel, and I will rebuild them as they were at first. And I will cleanse them from all their iniquity by which they have sinned against Me, and I will pardon all their iniquities by which they have sinned against Me, and by which they have transgressed against Me.
And it shall be to Me a name of joy, praise, and glory before all the nations of the earth, which shall hear of all the good that I do for them, and they shall fear and tremble because of all the good and all the peace that I make for it.” — Jeremiah 33:3, 6-9
“And the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which shall be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will bind a baby wrapped in cloths, and lying in a manger.'” –Luke 2:10-12
The Son of God born to the son of man, so the sons of man could be sons of God. Incredible, right!?! God chooses the foolish things of this world to confound the wise. (1 Corinthians 1:27)
Take the Pharisees for example. They were the wise religious leaders of the time – professed worshippers of the God of Abraham. Yet, they did not recognize Jesus of Nazareth as Christ the Messiah. They were looking for a king born in a palace, not a carpenter born in a manger. They were looking for riches, power, and prestige, not humility and servanthood.
The image of the Messiah the Pharisees had created in their own imaginations looked nothing like Jesus Christ, the true Messiah. So they rejected Him. And, in doing so, led many astray.
And Jesus told them in John 8:19, “You know neither Me nor My Father, if you knew Me, you would know My Father also.” And again in verse 42 He reiterates, “If God were your Father, you would love Me; for I proceeded forth and have come from God, for I have not come on My own initiative, but He sent Me.” That’s a harsh word, but Jesus doesn’t tell you always what you want to hear. He tells you what you need to hear.
These are the last days and just like the Pharisees, many will fall into deception. They will seek messages that tickle their ears. Remember, Satan masquerades as an angel of light. The fruit Satan used to tempt Eve appeared good for food, delightful to the eyes, and desirable. And Satan twisted the truth God had spoken just enough so that Eve believed it. It was a deceptive trap and Eve fell.
There’s redemption, but there’s also prevention! You must get the Word of God into your spirit so, through the Holy Spirit, you can discern truth from deception. The Word of God will guard you from deception and renounce the lies the enemy has spoken over you, so that you can receive the fulness of Jesus Christ! I pray you have a hunger for the Word like never before!
This Christmas season and every season, may you recognize Jesus – even when He’s in the stable and not the palace. May you come to truly know Him, not just of Him or about Him. And may you walk in the abundant life he destined for you!
What preconceived ideas do you have of Jesus? Are you, like the Pharisees, looking for Jesus to appear, work, or move in a certain way?When we put Jesus in a box we are limiting Jesus from operating freely in our lives. Furthermore, Jesus is moving in new ways like never before and we must live with our spiritual eyes wide open so we don’t miss Him!
Are you praying, but also handing Him solutions on how He should answer your prayer?When we pray, we need to release our burdens to Him and trust Him in answering. His ways are not our ways. Jesus always has the perfect way with perfect timing!
How much time are you spending in God’s Word?God’s word is a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path. It shows us the way to walk in. The word of God is also like a mirror to our soul, revealing the true nature of man. It leads us to repentance, gives us wisdom, and is the truths of God. When we abide in the Word we will not be deceived.
Have you eaten the fruit of Satan thinking it was good, but later realizing you were deceived?There is redemption. Repent, turn from wickedness, and call upon the name of the Lord. Accept Him as your Savior. Receive the ultimate gift, salvation. There is therefore, now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:1).
The air is a bit crisper, the days a bit shorter, and the leaves boasting a bit more color. Yes, fall is upon us. So, in honor of my favorite season, I’d like to share a harvest-time illustrative story I wrote teaching the biblical principle ‘faith, not works‘. Enjoy!
I see a field and I buy it. Boy, this woman is already oozing virtue! Quickly, I run through a mental checklist making sure I have everything I’ll need. Hoe? Check. Tiller? Check. Seed? Check. Compost? Check.
Yes, I believe that’s it! God has called me to cultivate and I am so excited to show the Lord the harvest I’m going to bring in! He’s gonna love it!
Well, it may not be as good as Sister Jane’s. But, I mean… who can compete with that? Really!?! I’m sure if I had a nice big, fancy tractor and all that expensive cultivating equipment my crops would yield like hers too!
Okay, back to the task at hand. Shew! I haven’t even broken ground and I’ve already broken out in a sweat. Focus, Verna! But just looking at all this barren ground around me makes this task seem so daunting! Where to start… where to start. Oh! I almost forgot! Brother Tom’s “How to Manual.”
Step 1: Find a spot. Well, I’ve already done this by purchasing a field and all. Moving on. Step 2: Prepare the soil. Dig and churn all packed dirt approximately two feet down.
Wow! Two feet down, eh? That’s pretty deep. So, I may not have a tractor like Sister Jane, but I do have a tiller. I cannot imagine how poor Sister Pam does it with her little hoe. Bless her heart!
Alright, God. This isn’t so bad. Me and my trusty little tiller are breaking new ground in the name of Jesus! All for Your Glory!
— 8 HOURS LATER —
Oh, dear Lord! That was so hard! I’ve spent all day working and I still haven’t planted the first seed. The ground was so hard and I kept hitting rocks. Every time, I had to stop the tiller and pick up the rock and throw it out. Some of those rocks were so heavy.
God, I ran parallel lines and then perpendicular lines. My back aches and my hands are covered in blisters. All I’m saying is I hope You bless me with a tremendous harvest after all this effort I’m putting in.
—THE NEXT DAY —
So where was I? Here we go. Step 3: Add compost and mix it into your dirt. Well, I’m not really excited about this step. I went to my local farmer supply store and the only fertilizer they had left was a mixture of cow manure, horse manure, and straw. I just now opened the first bag and the stench is awful!
— 4 HOURS LATER —
This is so disgusting! I can’t even scratch my nose or wipe the sweat from my brow without getting poop on my face. God, are you watching? You better turn this into the Promise Land ’cause I’m surely not seen any promises being fulfilled yet!
—DAY 3 —
Step 4: Hoe your row. Now, this isn’t so bad. Gotta make them straight though. There will be no crookedness in my path. Only perfection!
Now on to Step 5: Plant your seeds. Finally! A step that seems productive. I picked out the best seeds too… Pumpkin seeds!
I know, I know… Sister Sara, said I should’ve planted something more practical. Corn, tomatoes, beans. “Verna, get something to feed the hungry,” she said.
Well, don’t judge me until you’ve had my pumpkin pie. It’s the best in five counties! I really could live off my sweet pumpkin pie. God’s gonna be so proud of me!
— 5 MONTHS LATER —
Oh, the sweet aroma of pumpkin pie! I just made the first one of the season and I’m going to sit down and enjoy every last bite! I’ll share the next one, Lord, I promise. But just looking out my kitchen window at that glorious orange patch of goodness blesses my soul! Lord, I know it has to bless Yours too. Glory to Your Name!
REFLECTIONS – WHO WAS LORD OF THIS HARVEST?
In this story, Sister Verna is focused on her works and fully believed the fruit of her labor would be pleasing to the Lord. Throughout, we see her walking in self-righteousness, jealousy, and competition with a lot of complaining and boasting.
She followed man’s plan and never asked God for His plan. She even chose the seed of the harvest after what she thought was good according to her flesh and missed God’s seed of the harvest which brings life into all who partake of it. In the end, her reward was no more than the pumpkin pie she devoured all by herself. Sister Verna got fruit, but it was by her own hand, not the Lord’s.
Dear friends, God calls us all to cultivate. His cultivation always produces the fruit of the Spirit and transformation into the image of Jesus. From glory to glory.
Why was Abel’s offering acceptable and Cain’s rejected? Remember, Cain was a tiller of soil. His offering was brought forth by works. However, Abel was a keeper of flocks. His offering was a blood offering; a representation of the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus Christ. So just as God rejected Cain’s offering of works, God will reject any cultivation brought forth by works. God is looking for a representation of Jesus.
The soil is our hearts. The seed is the Word of God. Our cultivation comes through repentance, prayer, worship, growing deeper in our relationship with Jesus, and sowing His gospel into the hearts of others. What does your harvest look like? Remember, you will reap what you sow…
“For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.” –Galtatians 6:8
“All our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment.” –Isaiah 64:6
“For by grace you have been saved through faith; and not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.” –Ephesians 2:8-9
What does your spiritual bank account look like? While you may be surviving on enough, God wants to bless you with more than enough. While you may be thankful you’re not bankrupt like many in the world today, God wants your account to be filled to overflowing.
Who doesn’t want that, right? I’m all in; just tell me where to sign and what to do! Haha, I hear ya!
The key to having a full-to-overflowing spiritual bank account is to make regular kingdom deposits. Jesus said in Matthew 4:4, “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.”
When we deposit the Word of God in us, we allow His eternal, life giving truths to resonate within us. When we have these truths within us, then we can cancel out the lies of the enemy as soon as they are spoken. The lies will not take root! The thief comes to steal, kill, and destroy and we must not allow him to rob our bank account.
Allow me to illustrate this…
God creates all life with seed. Even your new life in Christ “for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and abiding word of God.” (1 Peter 1:23)
This scripture, as well as, the parable of the soils found in Matthew 13 explains that the Word of God is the seed. Then John 1:1 tells us Jesus is the Word; therefore, we can make the correlation and conclude Jesus is the seed.
We know it is the seed that gives genetic structure for which the seed will grow into. Identity is in the seed. And we know Satan’s greatest desire is to destroy the seed. Think about it… homosexuality, abortion, the widespread identity crisis epidemic. Satan wants to either keep the seed from reproducing, destroy the life of the seed, or distort the truth which brings out the purpose of the seed!
You want this truth to really hit home? Dear reader, what did Satan use in the Garden of Eden to tempt Eve? It was fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. What does fruit have in it? Seed. What was he sowing in her? A false seed that was planted in his lies. She ate the fruit, the seed was sown, the lie took root, and you know the rest of the story.
Remember, each tree bears fruit after its own kind so its extremely important which seed we allow to take root. For everything true and just, Satan has a counterfeit. Not everything that tickles the ears is of God. We must pray for discernment about that which we allow to be deposited into our account. Amen?
Do you know why Satan wants to rob us so badly? Remember, he was kicked out of heaven because he wanted to be like God. God kicked him out for his pride and gave him dominion over the earth with no power thereof. And then God made Satan watch as He, our heavenly Father through Jesus, made man in His very own image.
You see, that’s exactly what Satan wanted! But God gave it to us upon Creation, and now Satan hates us because of who we are. And he will stop at nothing to spiritually bankrupt us, thus preventing us from being transformed into our fullest potential through Jesus! He wants what we’ve got!
But there’s good news! We are overcomers by the blood of the Lamb and the Word of our testimony! The truth sets us free! And what is the truth? It’s sharper than any double edged sword – it’s the Word of God.
So we make kingdom deposits, planting the seed of God’s Word within us which speaks forth our identity as children of God created in His image. Then we cultivate that seed through prayer, fasting, seeking Jesus, fellowship with other believers, and all things associated with spiritual growth, and what happens? We bear much fruit.
And God is such a good Father! His interest plan upon our investments is out of this world! Blessing upon blessing, favor upon favor! We will begin reaping where we did not sow and our cup will overflow with the goodness of God! So much so, that we will be able to pour out into others. Praise Jesus!
I’ll leave you with one final note: We pull out of our deposits, but God pulls out from His substance. However, when our deposits take root, they become our substance. These deposits transform us more and more into His image and, when cultivated, will produce much fruit for His kingdom.
Blessings to you, in Jesus name! May you bear much fruit for Him!
The law of the land has been violated and charges have been pressed against me. Horrified, I study my hands as I stand before the court. Watching as blood trickles down from my palms to my fingertips to the table from behind which I stand awaiting my sentence.
“How did this happen? I didn’t kill anyone,” I hear myself say.
And yet here I am, awaiting my verdict on the charge of murder. The judge asks me once again to recount the events that happened on the night of my ‘acquaintance’s’ murder and once again I stammer my answer. “I…I…I don’t really know what happened. He just made me so angry. I… I… felt my blood boiling over and I could have strangled him with my bare hands. I could’ve. But I didn’t do it… I didn’t do it.” I repeat that final line with total exasperation.
Totally spent from pleading my own defense, I look up at the judge who’s staring through his narrow spectacles back at me. “Well,” he replies while matter-of-factly scanning the paper he holds. “The law states that even if you harbor anger against your brother, you are guilty before the court. Therefore, I declare you guilty of all charges with a sentence of death.”
I crumple in a heap. “God!” I cry out in desperation. “Help me!”
Time Out! Is this for real???
The answer is yes. This is the verdict when we look at the Law which is all the commands of ‘To Do’s’ and ‘Thou Shalt Not’s’ found in the Old Testament, summed up nicely as The Ten Commandments.
But Jesus takes it a step further in Matthew 5:21-22. He says, “You have heard that the ancients were told, ‘You shall not commit murder’ and ‘Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever shall say to his brother, ‘Raca [Worthless],’ shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever shall say, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell.”
Guilty. That’s what the Law makes us. We all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. What’s more is through the Law, I serve the same death sentence for a parking ticket as one who committed murder. Sin is sin in God’s eyes and James 2:10 says, “Whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for [is guilty of] all of it.” That means a 99% is a failing grade! Wow! That’s harsh!
Wait just a minute now… There’s good news! Back to our story…
As the officers approached, handcuffs ready to take their prisoner, a well-dressed gentleman entered the back door. “Judge, allow me to be his advocate,” he said while approaching the bench.
I looked up with amazement. Who is this man that he would plead my case? I’m just a dead man walking. The events that quickly unfolded thereafter, I may never understand.
This man, my newfound advocate, turned out to be the son of the Judge. He did not argue my innocence. He knew I was guilty. But instead, he declared his own innocence and then asked to take my place. To serve my punishment. To die in my stead. That I might live. Not only live, but walk away a free man. Totally free.
What love was demonstrated as I watched the officers take their new prisoner in the handcuffs originally intended for me. The blood disappeared from my guilty hands and now appeared on his. Now, he bore my guilt and my shame.
I was there when he served his sentence of death. The one meant for me. I was the reason for his execution and part of me died when he died.
For three days I mourned. For three days I pondered the love of that father and son for me, the guilty one. But on the third day, he came to me. It was my advocate, the Judge’s only son standing before me.
He was alive!
Speechless, I fell at his feet. But he lifted me up and embraced me. Shouting in celebration he proclaimed, “I have defeated death, hell, and the grave for you! And as proof that my sacrifice was acceptable by the Judge, my father, I have risen from the dead and am alive forevermore! I will advocate for you always and because I live, you live also!”
My heart swelled with love. No longer was I a slave to the hatred that once held my heart captive. Now I’m only captivated by him. My advocate. My savior. My friend.
The good news is the gospel of Jesus Christ! Jesus came and His love conquered all! Romans 5:8-9 tells us, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him.” Amen!
So, Jesus has freed me from the Law and He’s freed me from sin. Paul continues teaching us in Romans 6 that sin is no longer master over me because I’m not under Law, but under grace. “What then?” he says. “Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? May it never be!” This mentality abuses the extravagant grace of God.
Rather, because of Jesus, we walk in newness of life. Our hearts are bent towards God as His is towards us. Therefore, our obedience unto Him comes from love and devotion, not out of ‘have to’ legalism. The letter of the Law is no longer written on tablets of stone, but on tablets of human hearts written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life (2 Corinthians 3:3,6).
It is my desire that you walk in the fullness of the life God has planned for you. Free, free, free!
“I am a great sinner, but I have a great Savior.” –John Newton, writer of ‘Amazing Grace’
“Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin.” — Romans 4:7-8
“Grace brings about the obedience of faith.” –Romans 1:5
In the past several years, I’ve noticed vineyards popping up here and there throughout my lovely state of Kentucky. Now, I’m no expert, but apparently those who are have determined Kentucky’s limestone-based soil and climate are perfect for growing a wide variety of grapes. From vine to bottle, they say, a good wine starts in the field.
So, I’ve researched this a bit and discovered it’s hard work! The work of a vinedresser is endless. First of all, pruning is essential to producing good grapes. The dead canes need to be cut off in winter when the vines are dormant. You see, the dead canes will not bear fruit so they must be removed. The dead branches are then gathered and burned. This pruning process gives room for new, healthy shoots to grow which will bear fruit.
Then, through the growing season, the vinedresser trains the branches. Gently, he combs the branches, untwisting them and positioning them so they have optimum exposure to the sun. The leaves blocking the sun from the berries must be thinned. Clusters that will never ripen evenly need to be broken off. Why? Because they only steal the life of the vine from the good clusters. In addition, the vinedresser cuts away excess showy foliage to concentrate the life of the vine into the best berries that will make the finest quality of wine.
You see, pruning goes on for the life of the vine.
Also I discovered, best wine is produced with a little bit of stress on the vine. Grapes are the only crop that need to be stressed to enhance the flavor. When a good vinedresser waters his vineyard, he pours water just beyond the reach of the roots so they stretch and and grow deep in search of the water.
Essentially, the fruit is richer and the wine is full of character and grace when the vine is stressed enough to produce deep roots, the shoots are pruned, and the clusters are thinned.
Learning these vital details about tending a vineyard make Jesus’ parable about the vine and the branches come alive. Look at this with me. John 15:1-2, 5-6 says,
“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it, that it may bear more fruit… I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit; for apart from Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch, and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned…
Jesus says it right here – in order for us to bear fruit, we must be pruned. The Holy Spirit reveals to us what needs to be cut off in our lives. You know that feeling you get when you know you’ve sinned. That’s the Holy Spirit leading us to repentance. And true repentance cuts that branch of sin off our lives.
Furthermore, it’s God the Vinedresser who trains us and places us in the best position in order that Jesus is glorified in our lives. He thins our showy foliage, which is our flesh (i.e., our own agendas, pride, self-righteousness), so that we will see more of the Son and so that the Son may be seen in and through us.
Lastly, it’s the stresses of this life that help us realize our need for a Savior. These cause us to dig deep in search of the Living Water. Producing deep roots of faith. Then we become firmly established in Jesus Christ and our fruit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self control) is full of character and grace.
Several weeks ago, my family took a quick weekend trip to the Newport/Cincinnati area. One of the highlights of our trip happened on the purple people bridge, which if you’ve never been there, is a purple bridge connecting Kentucky and Ohio for pedestrians only. So as we were walking around Newport, we decided to go ahead and walk from Kentucky to Ohio via this bridge.
It was pretty cool. Walking right over the Ohio River we could see the big city of Cincinnati on the other side, including the Great American Ballpark where my husband’s favorite team resides. Needless to say, the conversation quickly turned to Reds baseball as opening day started the very next day. Then, out of the blue, a man walking a few steps ahead of us, intruded upon our conversation.
He asked if we were going to make it to opening day. Bobby, my husband, replied, “No, we won’t be able to go.” So then this man, whom we didn’t know, pressed and wanted to know why. Bobby continued to explain that we had to get back home that night for the boys to go to school the next day. Then, just out of politeness, Bobby asked him, “Are you going to opening day?”
The man chuckled a bit and said, “Yeah. I’ll be in attendance. I’ll be working,” he said. Well, my curiosity was peaked. Wonder what his job is? But my reservations won out, so I didn’t question him for more information.
Now so far, this whole conversation had taken place with this guy walking a few steps in front and us following behind him. Well, suddenly, he turned around facing us and with a dramatic gesture he announced, “I’m going to go ahead and make a prediction right here. I predict thatJay Bruce guy will go 3-for-3 with 2 home runs, a double and 2 walks. This is going to be the Reds year!”
To that, Bobby quickly replies, “Well, if anybody can do it, he can! I hope they do great this year!” Then the last thing the man said to us before running off was this, “ Yeah, I take it pretty seriously. I’m actually going to church to pray about it right now.”
Well, by now we are in Ohio at the end of the bridge and the guy takes off in a jog as we shout that we’ll be praying too. And then getting some distance ahead, we watch as he stops and pulls out a cigar and continues walking.
At this point, a million things are racing through my mind. Bobby and I look at each other and we both say, “Surely, not!” Well, I immediately pull out my iPhone and start Googling Jay Bruce images. Sure enough! It was him!
We had been talking baseball with Jay Bruce, #32 on the Cincinnati Reds team. As realization began kicking in, we began kicking ourselves because we didn’t say anything and that we didn’t recognize him sooner. How could we have not known!?!
Walking with Jesus
This awesome experience reminds me of a story. A story of two followers of Jesus who were walking on the road to Emmaus. This road stretched 7 miles and connected Jerusalem to Emmaus. So, along their journey, they were conversing with one another about Jesus when all of a sudden a man appeared. Similar to our experience with Jay Bruce, this man, also butted into their conversation. He’s all like, “What are ya’ll talking about?” (Don’t you love it!)
Well, one of the men’s name was Cleopas, and he answered Him saying, “Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem who doesn’t know what’s happened these last few days?” And so they tried to fill this stranger in on all the events that happened regarding Jesus, that He was a great prophet and He was crucified, but now some women who were at the tomb that morning said His body was gone and He’s alive. (See Luke 24:13-35.)
So these two men, followers of Jesus mind you, walked nearly 7 miles with Jesus Himself, talking about Jesus to Jesus, and did not recognize Him. Reading this scripture, do you notice how they did not recognize Jesus until the breaking of the bread? There’s is such significance in this! Do you see it???
What is our bread? Jesus says in Matthew 4:4, “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.” The word of God becomes our bread. It’s our daily bread. Jesus says also in John 6:35, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me shall not hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.” Jesus is the bread. And John 1:1 says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Jesus is the Word.
Tying all these scriptures together we see that The Bread is the Word. Jesus is the Bread. Jesus is the Word. All scripture, even the Old Testament, reveals Jesus. This is how we get to know Him more. We seek and we find. We knock and the door is opened.
Jesus says in John 10:14, “I am the good shepherd; and I know My own, and My own know Me.” And in verse 27, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.”
How does the sheep recognize the Shepherd’s voice? They spend time with Him. Knowing Jesus and recognizing His voice requires intimacy. We must spend time with Him in prayer, searching out the scriptures, and in fellowship with other believers.
Fan or Friend?
Back to our purple people bridge experience. Do you see how that experience proves that we don’t really know Jay Bruce? Sure, we know of him. We watch him on TV. We know what position he plays. Bobby even knows some of his background and some of his stats. But we don’t really know him. If we had known Jay Bruce, we would have recognized him on that bridge. Sad to say, we are not best friends with Jay Bruce, we are just fans.
How many times do you think Jesus is walking with us and we don’t see Him. Or talking to us and we don’t recognize His voice? Or fighting for us and we don’t claim the victory He gives us?
There’s an eternity of difference in knowing Jesus in your head
and knowing Jesus in your heart.
Do you have a head knowledge of Jesus or do you have a heart knowledge of Jesus? Would you be able to recognize Him?
Are you a fan of Jesus or are you a friend of Jesus?
Fans buy tickets. Friends get invitations. Fans are spectators. Friends are partakers. Fans are fickle. True friends are forever.
“So let us know, let us press on to know the LORD. His going forth is as certain as the dawn; And He will come to us like the rain, Like the spring rain watering the earth.” –Hosea 6:3