The Missing Ingredient – Taste and See that the Lord is Good

We want to transform the world for Christ – to witness people flooding our altars, saved, delivered, and set free. We attend church every week, sing-along with our favorite Christian music blasting in the car, and assure desperately hurting people that we will be praying as we give them a quick hug and walk away to our own lives. At the same time, we bicker with one another, find fault in trivial matters, and tear down what we are called to build up. Reality is, our Christian lingo has become cliché and we have been inoculated with the gospel just enough to become immune to what it truly means.

I just finished two semesters of Bible Study Fellowship’s (BSF) Romans Study and was once again taken to the heart of God. The gospel message is LOVE. One our most quoted scriptures, John 3:16, is all that is needed to completely transform the world. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.” Our salvation was conceived from love and our purpose is to grow up in this love. “We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.” (1 John 3:16)

This message has been preached to us over and over. It has been pounded into us, but has it transformed us? Paul understood this message and he became the epitome of the love of Jesus. What really drove this message home for me was what he said in Romans 9:2-3. Paul is speaking of Israel and the “great sorrow and unceasing grief in (his) heart” he expressed on their behalf. He took it to the limit when he said, “For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren.” What kind of love is this that one would give up heaven so another would experience heaven?!? This is the embodiment of the love of Christ.

As I pondered this I was cut to the core. It is one thing that the Son of God loved me so much He would leave paradise for me, but it is entirely a different thing that a naturally born human being would exemplify this same sacrificial trait. Then God showed me Moses had said something similarly. In Exodus 32:32 Moses says, “But now, if Thou will, forgive their sin – and if not, please blot me out from Thy book.”

We know this isn’t how forgiveness works, but if we could get this love – this authentic love of Christ – inside of us, the world would be transformed! It is more than preaching a good word. It is more than gifts of prophecy or hospitality. It is more than the best apologetics have to offer. Love accomplishes more than any of these! It is time for us to sacrifice our comfort and desires and truly love people. Not for what we can gain, but from a heart of giving.

Listen! “If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.” (1 Corinthians 13:1-2) People do not care how much you know until they know how much you care. Paul’s “message (was) not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power.” (1 Corinthians 2:4)

Our culture has tainted love so much we don’t even know what it looks like. For starters…

  • Love doesn’t give up on a hopeless situation, but it gives until the last drop is gone.
  • Love bolsters others up the mountain even if it means it’s left behind.
  • Love sees past the leprosy and embraces the soul God destined for greatness.
  • Love basks in the glory of God, never seeking its own spotlight.
  • Love forgives those who nail it to the cross.

Why? Because love never fails. It rises from the ashes and breathes new life again. LOVE IS CHRIST.

May this be our deepest desire. To imitate Christ by taking love to the limit. Moses could not be a deliverer without the love of Christ. Paul could not be apostle without the love of Christ. You and I cannot be obedient (even unto death) without the love of Christ. We cannot bring transformation without the love of Christ.

Lord, I ask You to reveal to each of us what Your love looks like. May Your love empower us to lay down all selfishness and truly love as You love. And may the love we have for others wet Your people’s appetite so they can taste and see You are good. For it is the goodness of God that leads men unto salvation.

May we never neglect so great a salvation.

In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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Naked Beauty

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Imagine for a second you are naked. Completely exposed, Nothing hidden.

How would you react if you were seen like this by a stranger? I’m sure most of us would try to cover ourselves or hide. We may feel shame or embarrassment, awkward or uncomfortable.

On the other hand, how would you respond if you were seen like this by your spouse, someone who knows you intimately? Hopefully, the exact opposite. There’s no shame, awkwardness, or fear of rejection. Rather than hiding, there’s an inviting. This is the beauty of intimacy. 

Now imagine it’s Jesus you are standing before naked. Every deed you’ve ever committed, good and bad, laid bare for inspection. How do you respond? Are you hiding or inviting?

Your answer reveals a lot about your relationship with Him. If you’re hiding, take comfort in this: nothing is hidden from His sight. He sees everything about you, even the dark places, yet still He calls you altogether lovely. The sin isn’t lovely, but who He created you to be is absolutely… breathtakingly… lovely.

And He invites you to draw near to Him.

How do you respond? When we receive His invitation and, in turn, invite Him to come closer with nothing hidden between us, He brings light into all our dark places. This is repentance. And in our vulnerability, Jesus smooths out all our rough places, perfects all our weaknesses, and purifies all our blemishes.

This is your true beauty.

I absolutely love that He sees all of me and loves me anyway. But it’s more than that. The exposing is sanctifying. The revealing is making me holy just as He is holy. The inviting is creating intimacy between me and my Lord.

Nothing is hidden from Your sight.

Wherever I go You find me.

You know every detail of my life.

You are God and You don’t miss a thing.

You know me…

…You’ve memorized me.

Hebrews 4:13

Empowering Word for the Weary…

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If the devil can’t make you bad, he’ll try to make you
busy, tired, and/or distracted.

It seems many followers and dedicated lovers of Jesus are just plain old worn-out. Has this been you in this past season? I, for one, can totally relate. Especially as school is coming to a close and life has become super busy.

As I was praying for people battling this weariness, God revealed to me three different pictures. In the first picture, one was stuck in quicksand. The more they struggled, the more they sank. In the second picture, one had been traveling and came up against a large brick wall in their path preventing them from going forward. In the third picture, I saw a marathon runner. They’d been running a very long time and had become thirsty and weary.

You see, the enemy’s tactics are to sink you, stall you, and prevent you from crossing that finish line. But the hope of glory is this: If the enemy is trying so hard to wear you down, then there must be something incredibly amazing for you just around the corner! Also know this: Your making is in the wilderness!

It’s in this season where you are going to realize the supernatural strength of God as you rely upon Him. God is inviting you to a place of rest in Him. REST IS YOUR WORSHIP! As you cease struggling and start abiding in His presence through your worship, you will encounter a fresh anointing from Abba, your heavenly Father. It’s in the ENCOUNTER with God where you will be EMPOWERED to overcome all obstacles. It’s in your worship where you’ll be pulled out from the quicksand. It’s in your worship where hindering walls will crumble. It’s in your worship where you’ll get your second wind to keep pressing on.

What looks and feels like a trap the enemy has confined you in, is really a cocoon God will use to transform you in! And as you break free, you will begin to fly into all the possibilities God has in store for you!

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” –Galatians 6:9

5 Steps to Overcoming Adversity and Becoming Unstoppable

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A baby learning to walk doesn’t think, “Well, I tried that and it wasn’t for me.” Instead, they get back up when they fall and, with those chubby, wobbly legs, they try again.

There’s no shame or hurt pride or fear of failure. They see Mommy and Daddy walking and they are determined to do it too. And, boy, once they start walking, all parents can testify that there’s absolutely no stopping them!

These first steps are only the beginning of adversity we encounter throughout our lives. There’s always going to be something in our path that we must overcome. If not, we’re not moving or maturing.

There are times when things get really hard. It’s not a hill in our path, it’s a mountain and we can’t see on the other side to determine whether its worth the climb. So we plop ourselves down and set up camp at the foot of our mountain.

Have you ever experienced this? Are you on a campout right now?

You know, these campouts are relaxing at first. It’s comfortable and easy. We know exactly what to expect day in and day out. But do you ever dream about what’s on the other side of that mountain? Do you wish you had the courage and strength leave your campsite and climb that mountain?

Sure it’s scary. But you can do all things through Christ who gives you strength! Here’s five steps to inspire you to do that thing you are called and chosen to do: 

STEP 1: DARE TO DREAM

Everything starts with a dream. Consider Abraham, a rich man with no heir. The word of the Lord came to Abraham and He took him outside and said, “Now look toward the heavens, and count the stars, if you are able to count them.” And He said to him, “So shall your descendants be” (Genesis 15:5).

Holy moly! Not only does God encourage us to dream, He inspires the dream! Not only does God show us the impossible, He equips us to do the impossible!

God has so much planned for your life. You have such purpose and destiny! Before He formed you in your mother’s womb, He knew you. Before you were born, He set you apart (Jeremiah 1:5).

A BIG God created an INCREDIBLE you for ASTOUNDING things!

So, what’s your dream? Are you wanting to start your own business, write a book, get out of debt, have a better marriage, go back to school, start an orphanage? Dare to dream!

STEP 2: TRUST GOD

When your dream is bigger than you, that’s when you know it’s from God. Trust and know that when God declares a thing, it will come to pass. Remember, if it were easy, everybody would do it, but take courage in knowing God has appointed YOU to do it. And whom God calls, He equips!

Man says, “Show me and I’ll trust you.”
God says, “Trust me and I’ll show you.”

Hallelujah! We serve a God who can move mountains!

“I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion…” –Philippians 1:6

STEP 3: GET MOVING 

You’ve written the vision and made it plain, now run with it! But don’t expect to get there tomorrow. Even an experienced marathon runner endures much planning and training before race day. Schedule things out and set small milestones along the way. Then relish in that sense of accomplishment you feel when you reach those milestones.

“There are dreamers who don’t work and workers who don’t dream. There’s no hope for either.” –Joyce Meyer

“I press on in order that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus…forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the size of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” –Philippians 4:12-14

STEP 4: SEEK GODLY COUNSEL

Talk to somebody who’s already been there and done that. What did they do to get there? Learn from their mistakes as well as from their successes.

Ask God for divine connections and divine appointments. Where would Elisha be without Elijah? Or Timothy without Paul? Find a godly mentor that will speak truth into you even when it’s not what you want to hear; someone who will keep you accountable, pick you up when you fall, and be your biggest cheerleader.

Walk with the dreamers, the believers, the courageous, the cheerful, the planners, the doers, the successful people with their heads in the clouds and their feet on the ground. 

“Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future. Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.” –Proverbs 19:20:21

STEP 5: BE THANKFUL IN ALL THINGS

I am certain that the key to success is a grateful and thankful heart. No matter where you are on your journey there’s always something to be thankful for.

Thankfulness causes reflection upon things God has helped you overcome in the past. When you praise Him for these things, it builds your faith that He’ll do it again. Your thankfulness is a gift to Him. It turns His hand of favor toward you. It opens closed doors and breaks the power of the enemy.

“Thanksgiving brings us into the manifest presence of God and connects us with what He is doing and saying in the midst of our circumstances.” –Bill Johnson

“Praise the Lord! Oh give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, for His steadfast love endures forever!” –Psalm 106:1

***

These five steps aren’t the ‘be all, end all.’ But they will certainly nudge you in the right direction. And believe me, the mountain is always worth the climb!

I pray God will reveal His plans to you, bring your dreams into alignment with His, and pull your mountains down low. I pray your heart of thanksgiving will build your faith in Him and make you unstoppable! And I pray for courage to take that first step. He’s got you, dear one! God Bless!

 

Enter in: Remembering the Cross

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Since January, 2014, twelve acres have been under construction in Disney’s Animal Kingdom in Orlando, Florida. For three years people have pondered what lies behind those walls, blocking off the hidden land from public view. Whatever those walls contained, we knew it was big and exciting, especially since Disney was behind it.

Well, we won’t have to hold our breath much longer. The big reveal is set for May 27, 2017, where Pandora – The World of Avator will become open to the public. Disney describes it as ‘a real world experience‘ where you can ‘interact directly‘ with the rainforest and ‘ride on your very own Banshee.’ I’m excited to say, my family and I will have the opportunity to experience Pandora ourselves in June.

ENTER IN

“And behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom, and the earth shook; and the rocks were split…” –Matthew 27:51

For centuries, the Jewish people could only wonder what lied behind the temple veil. Only the high priest could enter beyond the veil into the Holy of Holies and then only once a year on the Day of Atonement to offer a blood sacrifice on behalf of the people. The veil – made of blue, purple, and scarlet material and fine twisted linen (Exodus 26:31) – was roughly 60 feet high, 30 feet wide, and 4 inches thick. It separated the people from the most holy God (Isaiah 59:2).

But when the ultimate offering had been sacrificed – Jesus Christ, Son of the living God  (Hebrews 9:11-14) – the veil was torn from top to bottom. Only the hand of God could have accomplished such a feat. Only the mind of God could have envisioned such a perfect plan of redemption.

All barriers between man and God were removed in one final breath. All people, both Jew and Gentile, have full access into the Holy of Holies. God no longer dwells in temples made with human hands, but now He dwells in our hearts (Acts 17:24).

And now we can have the confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus (Hebrews 10:19). We can experience Jesus ourselves and interact directly with the living God! We can approach His throne with boldness and commune with Him intimately!

So, why are you still living in the outer courts pondering what’s on the inside? You have access to His Presence anywhere you can bend your knees in prayer. As we remember the cross this weekend, remember to enter within the veil, where Jesus entered as a forerunner for us, having become a high priest forever (Hebrews 6:20).

It is Finished: Remembering the Cross

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“When Jesus therefore had received the sour wine, He said, ‘It is finished!’ And He bowed His head, and gave up His spirit.” –John 19:30

What did Jesus mean when He said, “It is finished!“?

This was not a statement of defeat, but rather a declaration of triumph.It is finished,” three word in English, one word in Greek – “TETELESTAI.” Derived from the greek word “teleō,” it means to complete, accomplish, finish, or pay off. We may use this same terminology to say, “I’ve completed my dissertation paper for graduate school.” Or, “I crossed the finish line of my first marathon.” Or, “I just completed the Dave Ramsey plan and paid off my last debt.

In all these examples, there’s a sense of fulfillment or accomplishment by finishing that which was set out to do. There’s also a sense of purpose and intention in completing the task. It didn’t get finished by accident or by half-hearted effort, but there was a plan that was strictly adhered to from the beginning.

The five illustrations outlined below sum up what Jesus meant when He uttered “TETELESTAI” on the cross:

  1. ILLUSTRATION OF SERVANTS/SONS – A servant would report to their master, “I have completed (TETELESTAI) the work assigned to me.” Or a father may send his son on a mission and the son was not to return until every step of the mission had been completed.
    • John 17:4 – “I glorified Thee on the earth, having accomplished the work which Thou hast given Me to do.
  2. ILLUSTRATION OF PRIESTS – A priest would always examine the animals brought to him for sacrifice. Only those animals spotless and without blemish were acceptable for the offering. When one such animal was found, the priest would say, “TETELESTAI!”
    • John 1:29 – “The next day he [John the Baptist] saw Jesus coming to him, and said, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!’
    • 1 Peter 1:18-19 – “You were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ.”
  3. ILLUSTRATION OF ARTISTS – Frank Boredom writes, “When the painter or the sculptor had put the last finishing touches to the vivid landscape or the marble bust, he would stand back a few feet to admire his masterpiece, and seeing in it nothing that called for correction or improvement, would murmur fondly, ‘TETELESTAI!'”
    • Hebrews 10:12-14 – “But He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from the time onward until His enemies be made a footstool for His feet. For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified.”
    • Hebrews 1:3 – “And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.” 
  4. ILLUSTRATION OF MERCHANTS – During the days of Jesus, when a promissory note was paid, the one holding the note would write, “TETELESTAI” across it. Also, when someone had a debt and it was paid off, the creditor would write, “TETELESTAI” on the certificate of debt signifying that it was paid in full.
    • Romans 6:22-23 – “But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” 
    • Colossians 2:13-14 – “He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us and which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.” 
  5. ILLUSTRATION OF PRISONERS – When a Roman citizen was convicted of a crime, he was thrown into prison. A “Certificate of Debt” listing all his crimes was nailed to his cell door so that anyone passing by could know what he had been accused of and the penalty he was to serve. When the prisoner had served his sentence and was released from bondage, the indictment was taken down and the judge would sign the indictment and write “TETELESTAI” across it. The freed prisoner would keep this as proof that his sentence had been served and that charges for those crimes could never be brought against him again.
    • Isaiah 53:6 – “But the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him.”
    • Romans 8:1-2 – “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.” 

POINTS TO PONDER

  • Are you living like “it is finished” (TETELESTAI)?
  • Are you walking in freedom or still in chains of bondages?
  • Are you trying to earn your salvation or have you accepted it as a free gift?
  • Do you feel shame from your past or do you approach His throne with boldness?
  • Have you forgotten the significance of the cross?

CLOSING PRAYER

Father, I thank You for loving me so much that you would send Your only Son into this world to die so I can live. What love is this, Lord? I stand amazed at Your goodness and mercy and grace. Father, forgive me of all my sins. Wash me clean from all my iniquity. Thank you for removing my sin as far as the east is from the west. Thank you for eternal life. Thank you for Jesus Christ. May I never take the cross for granted. May I never become calloused to the price Jesus paid for me. May I always remember. And may I always share the gospel of the cross with others. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

 

 

Love Poured Out: Remembering the Cross

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His love was poured out into the bitter cup of judgement, which He willingly drank on my behalf.

His love was poured out through His unfailing obedience, even to the point of death on the cross.

His love was poured out from His nail-pierced hands and feet, bearing the weight of my sin and shame.

His love was poured out when He cried with one final breath, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”

His love was poured out in a borrowed tomb where He defeated death, hell, and the grave.

His love was poured out when He rose on the third day and appeared victoriously in all His splendor and glory.

And His unquenchable love continues to pour out as He…

*Makes intercession for us.

*Gives us power and authority in His name.

*Equips us to do great exploits for His kingdom.

*Protects us from the evil one.

*Sanctifies us and makes us holy as He is holy.

*Restores unto us the joy of our salvation.

*And one day, will come again for His Bride, the Church, arrayed in all her glory, pure and spotless.

His love is poured out…

…and my cup runneth over!