Don't let your guard down, enemy devours

Don’t Let Your Guard Down

He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field, but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away.” Matthew 13:24-25

Every year as spring begins its march toward summer, I prepare for a season of gorgeous, knock-out roses by feeding and protecting our bushes with a systemic fertilizer and insect repellant. Well, almost every year.

Not this one.

This year just got busy, and I didn’t make the time.

And my lack of preparation left me with a nasty, tedious task: hand-picking Japanese beetles from the plants that were feasting on the leaves and new buds.

I know I’m supposed to love God’s creatures. And I do. Most of them. But my experience with these beetles has me almost convinced that these creatures weren’t part of God’s original creation. Like the thorn, they must have come after the fall.

You see, I can’t see what benefit they bring. They eat everything, leaving destruction in their wake. Buds that began with unhindered potential for flourishing beauty never get their opportunity to open. Instead, these creatures devour them, biting holes right through the layers of delicate petals until the bud withers and dies on the stem without ever opening.

Buds created with promise never satisfy their purpose.

And those clingy, crawling creatures had access to my garden because I got lazy. I let my guard down and rested from the work instead of doing what I know to be best for my plants.

Proverbs 6:10-11 and Proverbs 24:33-34 offer this sobering warning.

A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, and poverty will come upon you like a robber, and want like an armed man.

When God repeats Himself, we should take notice. Slumber allows poverty to overtake us like an armed man. Just like folding my hands allowed an enemy to destroy my roses.

I can’t help thinking that’s precisely how our spiritual enemy works in our lives. He waits for us to let our guard down, then lands where we’ve given him access and eats away at us little by little, leaving holes and scars that rob our potential. And if permitted, he’ll continue to nibble away until the glorious beauty that God wove into our DNA withers without ever blooming.

You know that’s his goal, don’t you? He doesn’t want you to become who God created you to be. So he steals, kills, and destroys (John 10:10), hoping you’ll never discover you hold the power to defeat him.

1 Peter 5:8 clearly describes his intentions.

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.

Like those beetles in my garden, our enemy devours. Thankfully this verse also offers the means to our defense. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Know he’s coming, dear one, and proceed with diligence. Don’t let complacency give him a foothold.

 Trust me. I learned from those beetles. It’s easier to block his access than to remove him once you’ve given him ground. And scripture is your systemic fertilizer. It provides what you need to grow strong and repels the enemy’s advance.

Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. James 4:7 

You and I can’t get lazy about feeding on scripture. It’s our lifeline.

Take the time to read the Word, beloved. Meet Jesus in it. His Word is your impenetrable defense against the enemy. And if you have stumbled and given him unwanted access, don’t despair. Keep planting seed.

And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. 1 Peter 5:10

It’s Christ’s power that defeats your enemy and establishes you.

His Word releases His power.

When God Sends a Storm

God thunders wondrously with his voice; he does great things that we cannot comprehend. Job 37:5

Monday morning, I awoke wondering whether the little island off Tampa Bay we’ve come to love had survived Irma’s vengeance. My parents fell in love with Anna Maria Island, FL about six years ago after stumbling upon it on Craig’s list. And after visiting them there just once, it claimed my heart as well. A few years ago, we purchased a town home there that has been a place of healing and rest for my parents and others. With Irma’s wrath descending on Florida Sunday, we didn’t know if we’d have a home to go back to.

We’re still waiting on word of the damage. But as we’ve seen a few images in news reports, our hearts praise God for His mercy and grace! That narrow strip of land surrounded by water on all sides didn’t get crushed by the anticipated storm surge.

Others, I know, weren’t so lucky. Images of Harvey’s flooding in Texas haven’t even cleared our screens, and now our eyes fix with horror on the devastating effects of this monster storm, leaving more havoc in its wake. Simultaneously, fires burn in the west.

Our hearts may be tempted to cry out, “Where is God?” We look at this devastation and feel abandoned. I’d like to suggest to you that the presence of these storms proves the opposite.

Look at what Job 37:2-12 teaches about God’s power.

Keep listening to the thunder of his voice and the rumbling that comes from his mouth. Under the whole heaven he lets it go, and his lightning to the corners of the earth. After it his voice roars; he thunders with his majestic voice, and he does not restrain the lightnings when his voice is heard. God thunders wondrously with his voice; he does great things that we cannot comprehend. For to the snow he says, ‘Fall on the earth,’ likewise to the downpour, his mighty downpour.…

From its chamber comes the whirlwind, and cold from the scattering winds. By the breath of God ice is given, and the broad waters are frozen fast. He loads the thick cloud with moisture; the clouds scatter his lightning. They turn around and around by his guidance, to accomplish all that he commands them on the face of the habitable world.

Scripture leaves many things unexplained, but who controls the weather isn’t one of them.

God alone stirs up storms, beloved. No wave, or wind or raindrop falls except in response to His instruction. Creation knows its Master, and as Jesus proved when He walked the earth, the wind and waves still obey Him.

I realize the idea of God stirring up storms may make some people uncomfortable. After all, we’d rather view God through the lens of His mercy and grace. God sending something so destructive doesn’t seem to fit our preferred view. But that doesn’t make it any less true.

Lamentations 3:38 proclaims this undeniable truth.

Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that good and bad come?

To declare God only in control of the good that happens in this world robs Him of His sovereignty. As if an enemy had the power to send a storm against His will while He fixed His gaze elsewhere.

No, dear one. God alone loads the clouds with moisture and sends them turning.

They turn around and around by his guidance, to accomplish all that he commands them on the face of the habitable world.

He tells us why in verse 13.

Whether for correction or for his land or for love, he causes it to happen.

Verses 12-13 leave no doubt that God sends storms with purpose. For correction. For His land. And for love.

I can’t help wondering if God’s movement in these storms was inspired by all three. After all, the United States began as His nation—His land—one nation under God. How His heart must break over what we’ve become. A divided nation. With many gods.

Can you recall what filled our news screens before pictures of flood waters took over?

Charlottesville.

Words like hate, white supremacy, and racism filled every news cycle. Murder unfolded before our eyes, and we watched in horror as a man drove his vehicle at high speeds into a crowd. People everywhere turned on one another, hurling accusations and taking sides.

A divided nation. With many gods.

Then the Most High summoned the wind and the rain to fall on the Texas shore. All eyes fixed on Houston, and the dialog changed. Hatred and supremacy gave way to an outpouring. Generosity exploded in the hearts of this divided nation, uniting us in a common purpose. God’s image surfaced on our news screens as ordinary people made extraordinary rescues, risking their own safety for their fellow man.

Color didn’t matter.  Neither did class or income level. Harvey made everyone equal. And a nation began to pray.

Then as an unprecedented storm gathered strength and headed toward our shores, we prayed some more. And the strength of that storm diminished, leaving far less damage than anticipated in many places. Coincidence? I don’t think so.

Now the question remains. Will we continue to pray? Will we continue to unite for God’s redemptive purpose? Or will we soon forget, and return to trusting what we build with our own hands?

If nothing else, Harvey and Irma have proven the dangers of trusting in our possessions. They are a false foundation, easily cracked and gone in a breath.

Oh, beloved. God works all things for good. He hasn’t stirred up these storms to punish. He brings correction. His thundering voice calls our eyes heavenward and our hearts to believe.

God once used another storm to chase down a wayward son. Jonah was fleeing His presence and purpose.

But the Lord hurled a great wind upon the sea, and there was a mighty tempest on the sea, so that the ship threatened to break up. Jonah 1:4

God seeks correction through storms, dear one. His goal is love.

Let’s not refuse Him.

Are You Under the Influence?

And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he [Jesus] made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross. Colossians 2:15 (NIV)

Anybody else sensing a darkness creeping in on the body of Christ like a thick fog?

Anxiety and fear have become common place, surfacing in places we never expected to see them. Depression robs our joy. Many of us live defeated, shrouded in a misery of our own making.

You see, we have forgotten to believe. Let me remind you of some things Jesus said.

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” John 1:5

“You are the light of the world.” Matthew 5:14

Precious one, you hold the power within you to defeat the darkness. In fact, that’s your calling. Christ didn’t suffer the cross so His family could live defeated. He did it so you and I could dispel the darkness and live free.

The question is, do we?

I wonder if you can relate to that feeling of hopelessness. Let me introduce you to a man drowning in it, living among the tombs in the Gerasenes, across the sea from Galilee. A prisoner to his mind, he had suffered a long time, an outcast welcomed only by the dead.

When Jesus had stepped out on land, there met him a man from the city who had demons. For a long time he had worn no clothes, and he had not lived in a house but among the tombs. Luke 8:27

You may have already tuned out at the mention of the word demons. I understand. The word makes us uncomfortable. We’d really rather pretend they don’t exist.

But scripture reveals that much of what we battle results from their oppressive influence over our thoughts.

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Ephesians 6:12 ESV

Whether we like the idea or not, evil is real, and its servants seek to exert its power over each of us. Perhaps it would be wise to learn to recognize their handiwork.

This man overcome by demons in Luke 8 offers a glimpse at what life can look like when evil influences are permitted to have their way in the mind of man. Look at the devastation they caused in verse 27:

  • For a long time he had worn no clothes They rob us of our dignity. The enemy loves to produce destructive behavior in us and then gleefully expose our shame. Then he uses that shame to manipulate us.
  • He had not lived in a house but among the tombs. They cut us off from our families and leave us feeling we belong among the dead. Demons love to drive us into isolation. Loneliness and solitude are sure marks of evil’s handiwork.
  • They also make us self-destructive. Verse 29 reveals that when they put him under guard and shackled him to stop his tirades, “he would break the bonds and be driven by the demon into the desert.” Under the enemy’s influence, we will even fight any measures put in place to protect us from ourselves.

No wonder God wants each of us to be transformed by the renewal of our minds (Romans 12:2). A mind influenced by evil oppressors eventually self-destructs.

Verse 33 provides a clear picture of the enemy’s plans for us when he is left unhindered. Once Jesus commanded the legion of demons to leave the man, they begged His permission to enter a herd of pigs, and Jesus gave it.

Then the demons came out of the man and entered the pigs, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and drowned. Luke 8:33

What does the enemy do when free to exercise his will? He drives us straight over a cliff to the death of everything God created us to be. John 10:10 says it plainly:

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.

That’s a heavy thought if that were the whole truth of it. But praise the Lord, Jesus offers the way for us to escape the enemy’s clutches and live the life God intended for us. He promises in that same verse:

I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.

Beloved, while the enemy destroys, Jesus saves.

How did that translate in the life of our demon-possessed friend?

Then people went out to see what had happened, and they came to Jesus and found the man from whom the demons had gone, sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind, and they were afraid. Luke 8:35 ESV

Oh that we would come to understand the magnitude of an authentic encounter with Jesus! His transformation was so radical, the people responded with fear! They witnessed a miracle in the life of a hopeless man—once without dignity and out of control, now clothed and sitting at the feet of Jesus; previously out of his mind, now clearly in his right mind.

Jesus carries the power to rescue you from the dominion of darkness (Colossians 1:13). He longs to remove your shame and restore your dignity, to robe you in His righteousness and cloak you in His power.

And He has conquered the enemy who torments your mind.

Believe, child of God.

Let Him prove it.

Broken and given away

Broken and Given Away

“I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” John 6:51

We spend a lot of time talking about the Bread of Life. But very few of us eat it. And we wonder at the absence of heaven’s life.

But life doesn’t come from hearing about the bread. Bread only nourishes when we partake.

“It is a solemn thing, and no small scandal in the Kingdom, to see God’s children starving while actually seated at the Father’s table.”~ A.W. Tozer

Taste the Bread, beloved. Don’t just nibble on it. Feast. Until you become the very Bread you consume.

For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. Romans 8:29

You and I are also supposed to become heaven’s bread. Jesus came as the first Bread of many loaves. Bread that multiplies as it’s given away.

Have you ever wondered why Jesus’ miracles that fed hungry crowds both centered around bread?

You may recall that Jesus fed a crowd of over 5000 with a few loaves of bread and two fish.

When the disciples came to Jesus about the late hour and the people’s need for provisions, He responded with an impossible request.

“You give them something to eat.” Luke 9:13

 I imagine you and I would have been as perplexed as they were.

They said, “We have no more than five loaves and two fish—unless we are to go and buy food for all these people.” Luke 9:13

But Jesus didn’t want them to buy food for the people. He wanted them to feed the hungry with what they already had.

 And taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven and said a blessing over them. Then he broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples to set before the crowd.  And they all ate and were satisfied. And what was left over was picked up, twelve baskets of broken pieces. Luke 9:16-17

Blessed. Broken. Given away. Multiplied.

Jesus was pointing them to the cross, dear one.

And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” Luke 22:19

Bread that is blessed, broken, and given away feeds and satisfies the hungry. Christ became the Bread to nourish our hungry souls. He invites us to follow His example.

Taste the Bread, beloved. Consume it so you may become Bread. Then let Jesus bless it and break it, so that you may also be given away.

Life and glory flow out through the breaking. Jesus blesses us beforehand, but the breaking releases the blessing. Like Jesus, we must entrust ourselves to God’s hands, allowing ourselves to be broken and given away. Only then will the Bread of Life multiply.

And then it returns to us.

The disciples gave the bread away, and each returned with an overflowing basket. Do you want your basket full, beloved? Give away your bread.

Blessed. Broken. Given away. Multiplied.

There will be pain in the breaking, dear one. Even anguish. Just look at the cross.

But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. 1 Peter 4:13 NIV

I have seen Christ’s vision for His glorious church. Beautiful. Spotless. Without blemish. Alive.

And I see hungry crowds in desperate need of Bread.

Jesus placed the very river of life that flows from the throne of God (Revelation 22:1-2) into our hearts through His breaking (John 7:38). I long to release that river. But it seems it will only flow out through the breaking of my heart.

So break it, Lord. Do what you must in me to set it flowing, to release your river of life from within me. Catch the wounded and broken in its flow; wash and heal them.

I trust you, Father. For with the breaking, there will be a mending. But I—and those you entrust to me—will be changed.

I would not have chosen this path for myself. The path of suffering—of watching those precious to me suffer.

But Jesus didn’t choose His path either. He surrendered to it.

And His breaking resulted in glory.

Faith moves God

Faith that Moves God

For all the promises of God find their Yes in him [Christ]. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory. 2 Corinthians 1:20

This past year has been a challenging one for my family. I’m sure you can probably relate. Life is just hard sometimes, especially when you watch people you love suffer. And in those times, we need to lift our faces toward heaven and know.

Beloved, you and I need to know God is for us, and His promises are true. They’re not just something we hope for. They’re real. Concrete. Attainable.

We just struggle because we don’t often see those promises lived out. And you and I have a hard time being convinced of things we can’t see (Hebrews 11:1). It’s easier to doubt God’s Word than take an honest look in the mirror.

I’ve said it many times, and I’ll say it again. God’s promises manifest in our lives through faith. But most of us don’t live lives of radical faith. Instead, we carry our faith like a possession we like to talk about and we’re glad we have. But we don’t use it.

We like to think we do. But we have so little expectation of seeing God move in miraculous ways that we limit what we’ll believe God for.

We’re not alone, dear one. I’d like to share a story that recently stirred my own heart. Take a few minutes to ponder this August 17 entry from L. B. Cowman’s Streams in the Desert.

I believe God, that it shall be even as it was told me (Acts 27:25).

I went to America some years ago with the captain of a steamer, who was a very devoted Christian. When off the coast of Newfoundland he said to me, “The last time I crossed here, five weeks ago, something happened that revolutionized the whole of my Christian life. We had George Mueller of Bristol on board. I had been on the bridge twenty-four hours and never left it. George Mueller came to me, and said, “Captain, I have come to tell you that I must be in Quebec Saturday afternoon.” “It is impossible,” I said. “Very well, if your ship cannot take me, God will find some other way. I have never broken an engagement for fifty-seven years. Let us go down to the chartroom and pray.”

I looked at that man of God, and thought to myself, what lunatic asylum can that man have come from? I never heard of such a thing as this. “Mr. Mueller,” I said, “do you know how dense this fog is?” “No,” he replied, “my eye is not on the density of the fog, but on the living God, who controls every circumstance of my life.”

He knelt down and prayed one of the most simple prayers, and when he had finished I was going to pray: but he put his hand on my shoulder, and told me not to pray. “First, you do not believe He will answer; and second, I BELIEVE HE HAS, and there is no need whatever for you to pray about it.”

I looked at him, and he said, “Captain, I have known my Lord for fifty-seven years, and there has never been a single day that I have failed to get audience with the King. Get up, Captain and open the door, and you will find the fog gone.” I got up, and the fog was indeed gone. On Saturday afternoon George Mueller was in Quebec for his engagement.

I wonder, dear one. Which man of God do you more closely resemble? The “devoted” Christian Captain who limited his faith to what his circumstances declared? Or George Mueller, who had so much confidence in God’s answer, he told the Captain with certainty that he would find the fog dispersed?

I have to admit, I long to be George! I want to confidently know God will move. And I have moments when I do. Sometimes. But other times—far too frequently—doubt creeps in to steal away God’s promises.

George Mueller lived the promise of 1 John 5:14-15.

And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.

George Mueller knew that God heard him. And because of that, he knew he would have what he asked for.

Let’s ask God to increase our faith.

Let’s live boldly believing.

Radical faith invites God to move.

Rain, Holy Spirit Blessing

When God Sends the Rain

For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour my Spirit upon your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants. Isaiah 44:3

Monday night I stood in the rain with some beautiful sisters in Christ. Some of them I had never met before. I don’t even know their names. But they’re family.

Have you ever been a part of something so simply profound you knew God was in it?

We held hands in a sweet circle of fellowship, petitioning the throne of grace. We cried out for our nation. For our husbands and children. We cried out for repentance. For His church.

Rain splashed down unrelenting, soaking us to the skin. No one cared that our hair stuck to our faces, or if mascara ran down our cheeks. We were free. Free to worship. Free to love. Free to receive.

Position didn’t matter in that place. Only Jesus mattered. And as we cried out to God uninhibited, He responded to us with rain.

The Lord will open to you his good treasury, the heavens, to give the rain to your land in its season and to bless all the work of your hands. Deuteronomy 28:12

One of the women voiced what stirred in my own heart. It felt like a fresh baptism. God was washing us in His Spirit. He heard us. And He moved.

I can’t help thinking of David’s words from Psalm 133:1-3.

Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity! It is like the precious oil on the head, running down on the beard, on the beard of Aaron, running down on the collar of his robes! It is like the dew of Hermon, which falls on the mountains of Zion! For there the Lord has commanded the blessing, life forevermore.

Beloved, God pours out a special anointing when His people come together in unity. The oil of the Lord pours forth and runs down, covering His precious sons and daughters. There the Lord commands the blessing of life.

Do you know that life, dear one? Have you known the fellowship of uniting with other believers—regardless of church or denomination—to seek God’s heart and accomplish His purpose?

Jesus promises to show up in those moments.

“Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” Matthew 18:19-20

Jesus manifests when His people agree in His Name. Why do you think the enemy works so hard to keep us fighting? If he can keep us pushing our own agendas, wounding one another with the sword, he can keep us floundering in our flesh while Jesus remains distant.

But when we agree—when we bear the image of our Lord who is One and join our hearts in His purpose—Jesus can’t stay away. His very presence comes with anointing power to strengthen His people to fulfill His plans.

And the enemy trembles.

Let the promise of Psalm 23:5 fall afresh on you, beloved.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

Satan quakes when he sees the family of God approaching the Father’s table in unity. He is forced to watch helplessly while God anoints us with the power to defeat him.

Jesus calls us to the table, dear one. It’s time we humble ourselves and set aside our differences. It’s time to forgive. It’s time for fellowship in the Holy Spirit.

We need Jesus to manifest.

Spirit empowered

The Gift You Don’t Know You Have

“Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets, that the Lord would put his Spirit on them!” Numbers 11:29

The words in our opening scripture came from the mouth of Moses. He said them in response to concern that men in the camp were found prophesying in the Spirit. Up to that moment, that job had belonged to Moses alone. He served as the mouthpiece between God and man.

But a problem arose. The people had started grumbling. Again. They were tired of the manna God had provided. They wanted meat—meat they expected Moses to provide.

So Moses approached God with this complaint.

Moses said to the Lord, “Why have you dealt ill with your servant? And why have I not found favor in your sight, that you lay the burden of all this people on me? Did I conceive all this people? Did I give them birth, that you should say to me, ‘Carry them in your bosom, as a nurse carries a nursing child,’ to the land that you swore to give their fathers? Where am I to get meat to give to all this people? For they weep before me and say, ‘Give us meat, that we may eat.’ I am not able to carry all this people alone; the burden is too heavy for me.” Numbers 11:11-14

I wonder if you can relate. Have you ever set out in obedience to God only to find that the people He sent you to serve didn’t appreciate it?

Moses lived in that place. He gave up the palace in Egypt for them. Then he left his peaceful life and the home he’d made with his wife to deliver them from slavery. And he succeeded, with God’s help. God enabled those grumbling Israelites to pass through the Red Sea on dry ground.

The people had moments of gratitude. But mostly, they grumbled. And now they found themselves in the desert, the place between their deliverance and their blessing, and they weren’t happy. Moses found himself so tired of their ingratitude that he asked God to kill him.

“If you will treat me like this, kill me at once, if I find favor in your sight, that I may not see my wretchedness.” (verse 15)

But God didn’t kill him. Instead, He gave him help.

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Gather for me seventy men of the elders of Israel, whom you know to be the elders of the people and officers over them, and bring them to the tent of meeting, and let them take their stand there with you. And I will come down and talk with you there. And I will take some of the Spirit that is on you and put it on them, and they shall bear the burden of the people with you, so that you may not bear it yourself alone.” (verses 16-17)

I love the picture of God in these verses. He comes near to help us. And I will come down and talk with you there. God desires nothing less than intimacy with His people. And do you see what was needed to fulfill God’s purpose, beloved? God Himself.

We can’t fulfill the purpose of God apart from the work of the Spirit of God.

We can’t fulfill the purpose of God apart from the work of the Spirit of God. #LiveSpiritempowered Click To Tweet

So Moses went out and told the people the words of the Lord. And he gathered seventy men of the elders of the people and placed them around the tent. Then the Lord came down in the cloud and spoke to him, and took some of the Spirit that was on him and put it on the seventy elders. And as soon as the Spirit rested on them, they prophesied. But they did not continue doing it. (verses 24-25)

Did you notice what took place when the Spirit of God rested on these men? They prophesied. They spoke the Word of God by the power of His Spirit.

But two men of the chosen seventy hadn’t joined the gathering at the tent of meeting. They remained in the camp. And when God poured His Spirit out on them, they also began to prophesy.

This is what brought the young man to Moses, concerned that others were doing what he could do. Even Moses’ aid Joshua, who would later lead the Israelites into their Promised Land, said, “My Lord, Moses, stop them” (verse 29).

Isn’t it funny how our human nature wants to control who does what. And we fear—even within our churches—that God moving through someone else somehow diminishes our own significance.

But Moses said to him, “Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets, that the Lord would put his Spirit on them!” (verse 29)

Moses understood that what he had with God couldn’t be diminished by someone else having it too. Each of us hold special priority in God’s sight. When we understand our significance to Him, we can applaud when someone else discovers the beauty of what we have.

“Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets, that the Lord would put his Spirit on them!”

Jesus answered that prayer through the cross, beloved. Now every one of us has been empowered to hear from God and boldly declare His Word.

Let’s walk in the power we’ve been given!

discover your promised land

Have you Discovered Your Promised Land?

You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. Psalm 16:11

What are you really after, beloved?

As Christians, most of us say that we seek God. But if we’re honest, I think many of us have been tricked into settling for something less. We encourage one another to fix our eyes on God’s promises. But what if by fixing our eyes on those promises we miss the blessing of God Himself?

Our enemy has convinced us to focus our desires on the blessings found in this world. Our hearts long for material things. For honor. Comfort. Wealth. Security.

And we’ve incorporated those things into our understanding of life in Christ. We know Christ has blessed us, so we interpret those blessings to come through material provision, expecting God’s generous overflow. Christ promises victory and authority, so we assume that means we’ll get everything our heart desires. Chasing that promise, we seek power we’re not yet ready to handle.

But many of us have missed what God taught Abraham when He called him away from the life he knew to a life of radical faith.

After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision, saying, “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward.” Genesis 15:1 NKJV

God Himself is the reward, beloved.

Moses discovered that promise to be true. He grew up in the palace of a king in the wealthiest nation in the land. He had everything a worldly heart could desire. Money. Prestige. Comfort. He lived the life that many of us long for. Yet Hebrews 11:24-26 tells us this about him.

By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward.

Think this through with me a moment, dear one. What reward was Moses looking toward? He had everything the world would tell him to desire. Yet he was willing to suffer dishonor for the sake of Christ, because what he would gain surpassed the wealth and treasures of Egypt.

What was Moses after?

I doubt he knew, until 40 years later when God showed up in a burning bush and called him to Himself. And after encountering His glory, Moses made the same choice Abraham made. He’d follow wherever God led, even if it took him back to Egypt.

God sent Moses to deliver Israel from their slavery. But He wasn’t just taking them from Egypt. He was taking them to their Promised Land. After 400 years, God was fulfilling His promise to Abraham.

“And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.” … “To your offspring I will give this land.” Genesis 12:2, 7

God had promised Israel the land of Canaan. And finally, after centuries of waiting, He sent Moses to deliver them and take them to their land of promise.

But it didn’t take long for the people to start grumbling. They complained about their lack of food in the desert, and God sent bread from heaven. He drew water from a rock when they complained of thirst. And after the people began to worship a golden calf, God offered Moses an opportunity to end the grumbling.

The Lord said to Moses, “Depart; go up from here, you and the people whom you have brought up out of the land of Egypt, to the land of which I swore to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, saying, ‘To your offspring I will give it.’  I will send an angel before you, and I will drive out the Canaanites, the Amorites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. Go up to a land flowing with milk and honey; but I will not go up among you, lest I consume you on the way, for you are a stiff-necked people.” Exodus 33:1-3

I wonder how Moses felt in that moment. God offered to send them from the desert into the land the people had longed for. And He vowed to send an angel to drive out their enemies. God promised power and provision, and Moses would regain the people’s favor by giving  them what they wanted. They could finally exchange the lifeless desert for the land of promise.

You might be surprised at Moses’ response.

And he said to him, “If your presence will not go with me, do not bring us up from here.” Exodus 33:15

You see, Moses realized the Promised Land wasn’t the true blessing. God Himself is. An angel wasn’t good enough. He wanted God. And he was willing to forsake God’s promised blessing to have His Presence.

What would you choose, beloved? Is Jesus your means to an end, or the end you’ll pursue by whatever means?

Don’t fall into the trap of wanting God’s promises more than you want Him. Jesus is your promised land, dear one. In Him you will find fullness of joy.

And He’s worth whatever it may cost you.

What Holds Your Gaze, Your Pain or His Promises?

But Jesus said, “No more of this!” And he touched his ear and healed him. Luke 22:51

I find myself struck by the power of the message tucked within our opening scripture.

The scene takes place in the Garden of Gethsemane, just after our Lord’s agonizing prayer submitting His will to our Father. Jesus had struggled so intently to yield His heart, great drops of blood mingled with His sweat and dripped to the ground.

Then He rose to face His accusers and surrender His life for you and me.

Matthew 26 tells us a great crowd with swords and clubs approached Jesus to arrest Him. His disciples rose to defend Him, and Peter struck the servant of the high priest with his sword, slicing off his ear.

Here we come to our opening scripture.

But Jesus said, “No more of this!” And he touched his ear and healed him. Luke 22:51

I wonder how the crowd must have felt, witnessing this miracle firsthand. They had come to arrest Him for blasphemy. After all, He had claimed to be God, and that idea was impossible. Yet who but God could reattach an ear with just His touch?

How fear must have gripped them. Yet that same fear drove them to kill the Savior who had come to redeem them.

But here’s the thought that struck me today, beloved. Jesus intervened on behalf of one who had come to harm Him. He healed him, and the man hadn’t even asked Him to. He gave of Himself on behalf of one who hated Him.

How much more will He give on behalf of one who loves Him?

“If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” Matthew 7:11

I pray that thought encourages you, dear one. It encourages me. You see, at times life seems to offer one hurt after another. Circumstances arise that we would never choose. Trials come that seem to have the power to end us. They rob us of our breath—sometimes even our will to breathe.

But in those moments, we are never forsaken. The God who loves and gives stands ready to give of Himself to us. But He often waits for His children to fix our gaze upon Him. To know who He really is. And understand who we really are.

I have wept over the promises found in Psalm 27.

The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? When evildoers assail me to eat up my flesh, my adversaries and foes, it is they who stumble and fall.

Though an army encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war arise against me, yet I will be confident… For he will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble; he will conceal me under the cover of his tent; he will lift me high upon a rock. (verses 1-3, 5)

He will, beloved. He always keeps His Word. But the key to experiencing His promise and rescue is found in verse 4.

One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple.

You see, most of us fix our gaze on this life. The things we desire. The people we love. Even on our enemies. And we often find ourselves overcome by disappointment and pain.

But David shows us the way to peace and victory in Psalm 27:4. He set his heart on one thing alone: intimacy with his Lord. He desired to see Him—to gaze upon His beauty—and to hear from Him. As long as David could search out his God and inquire of Him for help, he knew he’d be ok.

And now my head shall be lifted up above my enemies all around me, and I will offer in his tent sacrifices with shouts of joy; I will sing and make melody to the Lord. Psalm 27:6

David knew that even when our enemy comes from every side seeking to drown us in fear and hopelessness, if he fixed his gaze on Jesus and His plan, his Lord would lift his head above his enemies and he would rise victorious.

I have lived the promise of these verses, dear one. Many times over the last year, I sensed a great army encamped against me. Over and over, opportunities to fear surfaced. The enemy whispered he would take my parents, my son, even my ministry. Illness and discord fought for prominence in my life.

But I determined I wouldn’t bow down to fear. I set my gaze upon the beauty of my Lord, proclaiming His promises and inquiring in His temple. And I discovered what David had found.

Peace.

Though an army encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war arise against me, yet I will be confident.

 Our Father will not forsake His children, no matter what circumstances suggest.

He implores us to believe Him.

man experiencing spiritual power

Faith that Promises Power!

For the kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power. 1 Corinthians 4:20

You probably love the message found in our opening scripture. I do. It holds a beautiful promise. Our faith isn’t limited to words and creeds. It promises power.

But I have to ask, dear one. Are you experiencing that power?

I think it’s safe to say that many believing Christians don’t. We’ve settled for something that falls short of scripture’s promises. Most of us don’t really live as new creations in Christ. Very few actually witness any miracles. And we have no expectation that anything’s going to change.

But what if God is just waiting for His people to stop settling and take Him at His Word? What if we really could experience moments like Luke 5:26,

And amazement seized them all, and they glorified God and were filled with awe, saying, “We have seen extraordinary things today.”

Extraordinary moments happen when God shows up. And that’s what we’ve been missing, dear one. We haven’t learned how to carry His presence into every circumstance.

Years ago, God captured my attention with Romans 8:14.

For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.

I’ll be honest with you. For years, I called myself a child of God, but I wasn’t led by the Spirit. I made my own decisions without ever inviting God to participate. And I never experienced His power manifesting in my life.

Beloved, God shows up when we are yielded—when we allow Jesus to take His rightful place on the throne and lead. You see, Christianity isn’t just about acknowledging Jesus is Lord of all. It’s personal.

Real life begins when you choose to make Jesus Lord over you.

That’s what the early church had that many of us don’t, dear one. They were filled with the Spirit, yielding to His leadership. And where they went, God made Himself known.

It began on the day of Pentecost.

And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. Acts 2:4

Do you see it, dear one? Power poured out when they were filled with the Spirit. Suddenly, they had capabilities they hadn’t had before. God’s Spirit enabled them to speak in languages they didn’t know!

Acts 6:5 describes Stephen—the first disciple martyred for his faith— as, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit. What did that filling accomplish for him?

And Stephen, full of grace and power, was doing great wonders and signs among the people. Acts 6:8

When we are filled with the Holy Spirit—fully yielded to His plans and purposes—anything is possible.

That’s why Ephesians 5:17-18 commands us.

Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit.

Scripture compares being filled with the Spirit to being drunk with wine. What happens when people are drunk? The wine influences and controls them. God uses that analogy so that we can understand what it means to be filled with the Spirit. In Scripture, filled with means to be under the influence of and controlled by.

Are you controlled—or led—by the Spirit, dear one? That’s the only way you’ll access heaven’s power.

The Apostle Paul lived in that power.

And God was doing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul, so that even handkerchiefs or aprons that had touched his skin were carried away to the sick, and their diseases left them and the evil spirits came out of them. Act 19:11-12

Can you imagine being so filled with the Spirit—filled to overflowing—that clothing that touched you would carry the power of God’s Presence to others? Many people long for the authority and power that Paul had. But they don’t want to follow the path he chose to achieve it.

You see Paul suffered greatly to live surrendered. 2 Corinthians 11:23-29 offers a taste of it. But through all his suffering, Paul would let nothing come between him and the will of God. Not even death.

When the Holy Spirit warned him and several other believers that going to Jerusalem would mean his death, he went anyway. When his friends tried to stop him,

Then Paul answered, “What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be imprisoned but even to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” And since he would not be persuaded, we ceased and said, “Let the will of the Lord be done.” Acts 21:13-14

Paul did go to Jerusalem and found himself in another jail. Acts 23:11 reveals what happened to him there.

The following night the Lord stood by him and said, “Take courage, for as you have testified to the facts about me in Jerusalem, so you must testify also in Rome.”

Our Lord Jesus never leaves a surrendered heart, dear one. In fact, yielding to His leadership causes Him to manifest, just like He did to Paul.

John 14:21 remains my life verse. You see, like Paul, I have lived its promise.

“Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.”

Beloved, God defines loving Him as yielded obedience. And when we submit to His Word, He promises to reveal Himself.

Are you ready to believe that the kingdom of God is more than talk? Do you long to experience its power?

Yield, beloved. Love Jesus with obedience.

And watch Him manifest.