Thanksgiving

Grateful for Fellowship

We need each other.

As much as we may like to think we can handle things ourselves, scripture teaches that we need one another. God Himself declared His thoughts on the matter in Genesis 2:18 after forming Adam from the earth’s dust.

Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.”

For five straight days, God opened His mouth and spoke creation into being. Light emerged. Then dry ground as water separated. The plants and animals followed. And each time, God looked at what He’d made and declared it good.

Until He made man. He saw Adam alone on the earth and declared it “not good.” Adam didn’t even realize it, but he needed another human to assist him in this thing called life.

You, dear one, need helpers too. We all do. God didn’t create us to exist alone. He made us to live together and help one another.

Even Jesus needed people while clothed in human flesh. He called together twelve that would help Him fulfill His calling. And although Jesus went off by Himself to pray, He ministered alongside people. When He sent His Disciples out, He never sent them alone.

Now when they drew near to Jerusalem, to Bethphage and Bethany, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples and said to them, “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately as you enter it you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever sat. Untie it and bring it. If anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ say, ‘The Lord has need of it and will send it back here immediately.’” Mark 11:1-3

And he sent two of his disciples and said to them, “Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you.” Mark 14:13

After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them on ahead of him, two by two, into every town and place where he himself was about to go. Luke 10:1

While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off. Acts 13:2-3

Apparently, God still thinks it isn’t good for us to live alone. We need people. Even in our service, He has no intention for us to go alone. We are meant to live life in the beauty of fellowship. This is the means God chose for us to exist in prosperity—with one another.

In this season of uncertainty where sickness and fear have isolated so many, I pray you are able to experience the blessing of fellowship this Thanksgiving. Love is meant to be shared. So is life. We need each other. I am thankful for the fellowship with precious loved ones this week as we thank God for His goodness, His love, and His provision for us.

Tremendous blessings fall when believers gather in Jesus’ name. Jesus shared one of them in Matthew 18:20.

“For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”

Whatever your celebration looks like this week, may His love manifest as you gather.

I am so thankful for you.

Happy Thanksgiving.

 

The Narrow Way to Victory

This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world. 1 John 4:3b

I wonder if you can sense the magnitude of what’s happening in our days. This turmoil isn’t just about our nation. The atmosphere itself expresses the increasing spiritual tension building in the heavenlies. Good versus evil. Life opposing death. Love rising to conquer fear.

We are at war.

But many of us have been confused about who we are fighting. This war isn’t Republican versus Democrat. It isn’t black against white. We battle an unseen enemy, a devil who manipulates hearts. Jesus described him in John 8:44.

You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.

All deception has a source, beloved. You just read about him. Our enemy sowed deception in the hearts of mankind to oppose the very nature of God and keep Him hidden on the earth He created to reveal Himself! Our Creator is Truth and Light, unity and love. Satan operates through deception and darkness, division and fear. What we have experienced as a nation proves his increasing presence in our midst as he divides even brothers and friends on opposing sides.

We can’t allow him to continue.

But we need to understand something about deception, dear one. It deceives. We’re completely unaware of the manipulation. Deceptions make sense to us. They appear right in our mind and hearts, and we feel compelled to follow them.

Hear me, dear one. The greatest danger in our day is not blatant evil. It is evil gaining ground under the guise of apparent good.

And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. 15 It is not surprising, then, if his servants also masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve. 2 Corinthians 11:14-15

I think if we’re honest, we’re hard pressed to know what’s really true in our day. We’ve been conditioned to a particular response, and so whatever we see only serves to reinforce what we already know is true. Here’s a radical thought: What if each of us stopped to consider that we might actually have it wrong?

Isaiah made a declaration that I believe marks our generation.

So justice is driven back, and righteousness stands at a distance; truth has stumbled in the streets, honesty cannot enter. 15 Truth is nowhere to be found, and whoever shuns evil becomes a prey. The Lord looked and was displeased that there was no justice. Isaiah 59:14-15

How can brothers and sisters committed to loving and following Jesus oppose one another so vehemently? Deception is how. The deceiver has entered our midst and set up his throne in the sanctuary of God, manipulating hearts and minds. He has taken the seat we committed to Christ when we professed our faith to follow Him. And we have permitted it, completely unaware that he’s using the very wounds he inflicted on us to manipulate us away from Christ.

What if we pushed pause and asked the Lord to reveal what is true? What does His heart long to communicate to His Bride in this season? What agendas have we allowed the enemy to advance under the guise of right?

Beloved, Jesus is our Way. He is the only Truth. He is our life.

He brings hidden things into the light—not to condemn us, but to save us. To save us from the deceiver who darkens our minds with ignorance and misunderstanding, all the while convincing us that we’re walking in light and truth. To save us from our own pride in assuming we’re right.

We wouldn’t be the first to fiercely oppose the work of God in our day, fully convinced that we stood on the right side. Paul himself—who God later used to write most of the New Testament—began his journey on the wrong side.

And that is just what I did in Jerusalem. On the authority of the chief priests I put many of the Lord’s people in prison, and when they were put to death, I cast my vote against them. 11 Many a time I went from one synagogue to another to have them punished, and I tried to force them to blaspheme. I was so obsessed with persecuting them that I even hunted them down in foreign cities. Acts 26:10-11

Paul’s manipulated heart led him to hunt down and destroy the followers of Christ, and he did it in zealous affection for God. He believed he was fighting for the God he actually opposed. The deceiver had completely convinced him that something false was true. Until Truth Himself appeared to him on the road to Damascus.

Paul had a choice in that moment. He could’ve insisted he was right like the other religious leaders in his day and continued pushing his agenda. But he didn’t. He humbled himself to acknowledge his error and spent the rest of his life aligning with the Truth he had found.

Oh, brothers and sisters, this is our Damascus moment. Will we invite Truth to reveal Himself in this hour? Would you join me in humbling your heart to consider that we may not be as right as we think we are?

I heard a beautiful woman of God say recently,

“Curiosity is the rhythm of humility.”

She’s right. Humility marks every true image bearer, and it begins—not with the assumption that I’m right—but with the humble awareness that without divine intervention, my deceitful heart gets it wrong. Let’s not be the prideful Pharisees that pronounce judgment based on our own understanding. Let’s hear from heaven and discern the spirits with humble hearts, prepared to turn in whatever direction the King of Glory sends us.

This is a divine hour. The Lord of Hosts summons the true worshippers to rise. Spirit and Truth will combine to reveal His glory in our midst.

Let’s not be caught stumbling in the darkness.

 

Living in Denial

Living in Denial

Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” Matthew 16:24-25

Self-denial isn’t something we really like to talk about. Our enemy has convinced us to fear it, so we naturally resist it. But he has a reason for influencing us toward self-preservation. If we do not diligently—purposefully—resolve to deny our flesh, we will end up denying Christ.

We won’t intend to, but we will.

Just ask Peter.

He never imagined himself capable of it. He was Peter—the first to confess Jesus as the promised Christ. One of the first to abandon everything to follow Him. The only disciple to walk on water. He would follow Jesus to His death. At least, he thought he would. But Jesus knew better.

On the night of His arrest, Jesus warned His disciples what was about to take place.

“You will all fall away because of me this night. For it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’” Matthew 26:31

Peter’s self-confidence got the better of him.

Peter answered him, “Though they all fall away because of you, I will never fall away.” 34Jesus said to him, “Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.” 35 Peter said to him, “Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you!” And all the disciples said the same. Matthew 26:33-35

Peter had placed his confidence in the wrong source. He didn’t yet understand the flesh’s dominion over humanity. He still believed he could conquer it. In his heart, he knew he was stronger than his flesh and trusted he could will himself to accomplish what he wanted. Even if the rest of them failed, he would not. He felt secure in his self-sufficiency.

Until later that night when he heard the rooster crow.

And Peter remembered the saying of Jesus, “Before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly. (Verse 75)

Face to face with his own inadequacy, Peter wept, humbled by the fresh revelation of what Jesus had already tried to teach them in Matthew 19:26.

“With man this is impossible.”

Beloved, confidence in your own ability will always come up short. When Peter walked in self-confidence and self-sufficiency, he failed miserably.

You and I aren’t capable of conquering our own flesh, dear one. Peter thought he could. He sincerely believed that no temptation could pull him away from his Lord. After all, He was Peter. The Rock. He had healed the sick and cast out demons. He was part of Christ’s inner circle. He’d walked on water, for crying out loud. Nothing could keep Him from following Jesus.

Nothing, except his own flesh.

Self-sufficiency shifted to self-preservation that made him deny his teacher and friend.

No wonder Jesus told His disciples,

“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” Matthew 16:24-25

Dear one, if you and I don’t deny ourselves, we will end up denying Jesus.

We won’t mean to, but self isn’t capable of following Him with any sustained success. Self-righteousness, self-confidence, and self-will won’t cut it. “With man this is impossible.”

Yet, when Jesus shined a light on Peter’s inadequacy, crushing the illusion that he was capable of fulfilling his calling by his own will and strength, He presented Peter with an opportunity. He could repent of his self-confidence and step into divine power. Peter finally understood the reality of the first portion of Matthew 19:26,“With man this is impossible.” Now he could discover the power of the rest.

“…but with God all things are possible.”

Beloved, you and I must embrace our own inadequacy if we are to discover God’s mighty power. Self-sufficiency only keeps us bound to the world’s limitations. If we will learn to deny ourselves, we can take up the power of the cross. All that it poured out becomes available to us. Forgiveness. Grace. Strength. Love. Restoration.

Perhaps denial isn’t such a bad thing after all.

Self-denial lets go of your limitations, allowing the cross to propel you into Christ’s abundance.

 

Breaking the Power of the Law

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 1 Corinthians 15:56

I wonder if you’ve noticed that the harder you try not to do something, the more you want to.

Anyone who’s ever tried to diet knows what I’m talking about. The more we tell our flesh it can’t have something, the stronger its insistence that we need it.

That’s the nature of sin, dear one.

It sees a boundary and wants to break it. It will push us toward what we want to avoid with increasing strength until finally—exhausted from the battle against our own will—we give in to its call. And our efforts to avoid and delay it only serve to add to our satisfaction when we do.

So many of us have wearied ourselves trying to follow the law of God, but we never discover the capacity to fulfill it. Instead of the victory Scripture promises, we find ourselves caught in a repetitive cycle of stumbling and shame.

I’m about to tell you something that may shock you. It will, however, give you some insight into your frustration. Take another look at the truth found in our opening Scripture.

the power of sin is the law.

Beloved, if you thought the law could keep you from sin, you’re sadly mistaken. Sin actually draws its power from the law. The more we focus on trying to avoid the sin, the stronger it becomes.

Paul explains it further in Romans 7:7-8.

What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead.

Verse 5 sums it up nicely.

For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death.

Do you see it, dear one? According to Scripture, the law on its own has no power to keep us from sin. On the contrary, it actually arouses and provokes our sin nature to disobedience. As the Word of God calls us into righteousness, our flesh awakens to tighten its grip.

But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me…

Sin already lives within humanity, searching for an expression. God’s commands merely afford it a means to rebel and wound His heart. That’s why we can never be justified by following the law.

For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin. Romans 3:20

God gave the law to expose sin and equip us to make judgments between good and evil, but it holds no power to overcome it. And those who try to follow the law by human effort will surely break it. The more they strive, the greater sin’s power within them will grow.

If we want to live in the victorious promises of God’s Word, we need to recognize this truth.

Law without love creates captives.  

Religion doesn’t save us, dear one. It enslaves. It convinces us to strive after something we can’t attain, and it wearies us under the weight of it. No wonder our enemy loves to shackle believers with religious bondage. Under a strict rule of law that denies love and quenches the Spirit, sin grows in secret. Focusing on the law will only increase its power. The law, without love to fulfill it, actually perpetuates sin.

For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near. Hebrews 10:1

Thank God for Jesus.

Jesus fulfilled the law by pouring out what it lacked. He came as the true form of what the law pointed to, an expression of love, revealing the Father’s heart for us. He entered earth’s atmosphere as the Truth that sets men free.

Because Truth carries more than rules and regulations. It also manifests God’s character. Truth finds love as its source, changing us from the inside out and accessing the grace to live differently. Jesus conquered the power of the law with love, enabling us to fulfill it. 

For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. Romans 8:3-5

You don’t need more will-power, dear one. You need love. You need the Spirit of God manifesting within you to release who He is. Love. Joy. Peace. Patience. Kindness. Goodness. Gentleness. Faithfulness. Self-control.

Your victory will come as love increases. Law becomes Truth as we receive God’s heart with it.

“…and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”  John 8:32

 

Exposing Truth

Exposing the Truth

For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. John 1:17

I grew up in Bible-believing, Baptist churches.

They taught me that the words etched on the pages of Scripture set the foundation on which I should live. I learned that obeying those words pleases God and earns His blessing. The other half of that equation filled me with dread: disobeying those words brings judgment. I determined early on which side I wanted to fall on.

But as I grew to know more of God’s Word, I made an uncomfortable observation. I didn’t know anyone whose life looked like the one God described. Mine certainly didn’t. Which led me to the only obvious conclusion. Either God’s Word was a sham, or I was missing something.

We all were.

Then one sleepy afternoon in my living room, God shattered my pretenses with a question, “Do you love Jesus?” I almost brushed the question off. Of course, the answer was obvious. I’d been going to church my whole life. I knew the Bible stories. I had memorized Scripture.

But that day, God wouldn’t let me hide behind religion. That day, I encountered the Truth that changed everything.

I finally encountered Jesus.

And from that encounter, I was able to see what the enemy had kept hidden from me for 26 years. God Himself. I didn’t love Jesus. I didn’t even know Him. And without love, we gain nothing (1 Corinthians 13:3).

I had been guilty of the Pharisees’ sin.

“You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, 40yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.” John 5:39-40

Beloved, we can know Scripture backward and forward and not know Jesus. And if we miss knowing Him, it will cost us everything. Jesus said so.

“And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” John 17:3

Do you know Him, dear one? Has your heart collided with His in a glorious encounter that changes you? Because an authentic encounter with Jesus will change you. We cannot enter into the transforming love of God and remain the same. He is a restoring, life-giving God who leaves His mark. But He will never force Himself on us. Instead, He pursues us and invites us to respond to His love.

That’s what the cross is really about, dear one. Jesus died so you could know the Father’s heart and allow His love to flow through you.

So, why don’t our lives reflect God’s glorious promises? Because we have closed off our hearts to love. We’ll try to use God’s words to earn His blessings, but we simultaneously reject His heart.

Recently, John 1:17 came alive to me in a fresh revelation.

For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

I had always equated God’s law with His Truth. They were synonyms, additional ways to describe God’s Word.

But here, God makes a clear distinction between them.

Law does not equal truth.

Truth brings something more, and it arrived on the scene with Jesus.

Beloved, law reveals God’s words and ways. Truth carries His heart behind it. If we receive God’s words but reject His loving nature, we render those words powerless.

Think of it this way. Luke 8:11 describes God’s Word as seed. That perfect seed carries the full potential to bloom into its spoken purpose, but the seed itself won’t blossom without water to activate and grow it. God waters the seed with Himself, the Living Water of His own Spirit. Galatians 5:22 describes Him.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness…

God Himself activates the power of His Word, dear one, and God is love (1 John 4:8). That’s the Truth Jesus brings. He came as a glorious expression of the Father’s love and kindness toward us, and that love alone can empower us to fulfill the law.

Do you want to live the promises, beloved? Open your heart to love. Tell Jesus you want to know Him and invite Him to reveal Himself. He will be faithful to answer that prayer and lead you on a journey into resurrection power.

The deceiver has used religion to keep you from God’s promises. Let’s break religious shackles and enter into love. Perhaps God is stirring this question in your own heart, “Do you love Jesus?”

Don’t be afraid of the Truth, beloved.

“…and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:32

 

Don’t be Fooled by False Evidence

And he identified it and said, “It is my son’s robe. A fierce animal has devoured him. Joseph is without doubt torn to pieces.” Genesis 37:33

On March 7, 2020, my husband and I boarded a plane for an island in the Caribbean to celebrate our 25th anniversary. Some dear friends joined us for their 30th, and we enjoyed a fantastic week together sharing in the wonder of God’s goodness. We returned on March 14th to a world turning upside down in fear of Covid-19.

International travel restrictions compelled me to stay home in self quarantine for 14 days. By the second day, I began to feel ill. Although I had no cough or fever, a dizzy head and aching body unsettled me. A nagging fear began to whisper that I had picked up the deadly virus and was putting my family at risk.

After 12 days with no change, I called my doctor. He confirmed my suspicion that I likely didn’t have Covid-19 but had picked up some other virus which should soon work itself out.

The achy, viral feeling eventually ended, but I didn’t return to feeling normal. Dizziness continued to plague me in waves, along with a strange, floaty feeling in my arms and legs. A new fear slowly emerged from my history, “Your thyroid has stopped functioning properly again, and you’ve come out of remission.”

A few years ago, I was diagnosed with Graves Disease. An overactive thyroid caused my systems to operate in overdrive and was particularly threatening to my heart. Medication and a radical diet change brought me into remission, allowing me to avoid the looming options of surgery or radiation. Praise Jesus, He healed me! I have been medication free for well over a year.

Until the voice began to whisper that what God had done had been undone.

As the symptoms continued, I became more and more convinced that was the problem, and I called my doctor to get a new prescription to carry me through the next few months of pandemic lockdown. He refused to give me the medication without checking my blood, so I made the journey to a lab. Two days later, I received the call that my thyroid was operating in normal levels, and he would not give me the medication.

Why do I share this with you? Because our enemy is a deceiver who manipulates our hearts and minds through fear.

He works to separate us from what God has spoken, and he even fabricates evidence to substantiate his lies. He is the ruler of the kingdom of the air, playing at our hearts with suggestion. And over those weeks while fear oppressed this nation with increasing power, I allowed the enemy to convince me that a lie was true. Had it not been for a conscientious doctor, I would’ve created a greater problem by taking unnecessary medication.

Beloved, our enemy fabricates evidence to convince us to agree with him instead of God. He uses fear to persuade us that the worst is true.

Our opening Scripture offers a perfect illustration of his tactics. Jealous over their father’s affections, Jacob’s sons had sold their brother into slavery. To cover it up, they took Joseph’s robe—a gift from Jacob—and coated it in animal blood. When they presented the bloody robe to their father, they didn’t utter a word. They simply presented the evidence.

The deceiver then led Jacob to a false conclusion. “A fierce animal has devoured him. Joseph is without doubt torn to pieces.”

Jacob was certain of the conclusion he’d come to. Without doubt. Unfortunately, he was convinced of a lie. Joseph was alive and well, repositioned by God to Egypt where He would use him to save and bless a nation.

Our logical conclusions often lead us away from truth. I wonder, dear one. How often does the enemy author your conclusions, convincing you that his lies are true?

Another lie crippled a nation and kept Israel from entering God’s promises. When Moses sent spies to check out the promised land and bring back a report, they returned with evidence proving the land was bountiful, just as God had said. They also brought back a lie based in fear.

And there we saw the Nephilim (the sons of Anak, who come from the Nephilim), and we seemed to ourselves like grasshoppers, and so we seemed to them. Numbers 13:33

The spies saw the evidence presented to them—giants possessing the land God promised them—and came to the conclusion that those giants saw them as insignificant insects. But who told them that the inhabitants of Canaan thought of them as grasshoppers? Where did that perception come from?

Decades later, when Joshua would finally lead Israel into that very land, God exposed the truth. Joshua’s spies found refuge from Rahab. I’ll let her tell you why she helped them.

“I know that the Lord has given you the land, and that the fear of you has fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land melt away before you10 For we have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea before you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan, to Sihon and Og, whom you devoted to destruction. 11 And as soon as we heard it, our hearts melted, and there was no spirit left in any man because of you, for the Lord your God, he is God in the heavens above and on the earth beneath. Joshua 2:9-11

While fear had told Moses’s spies that the people of the land saw them as grasshoppers, reality was quite different. Their hearts were melting in fear of the God of Israel, and they were convinced of their own destruction. They were still convinced of it, 40 years later.

If only Israel had entered the land at God’s command to claim their victory! Instead, they partnered with the lies of the enemy—rejecting both God and His promises—and lived out the rest of their lives in the scarcity of the wilderness.

Wilderness beliefs can’t enter God’s promises.

Oh, dear one. Let’s stop letting the enemy convince us his lies are true. Let’s stop settling for the devil’s wilderness when God offers a land flowing with abundance.

We need to know the Truth to recognize the enemy’s lies. His name is Jesus.

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.John 14:6

Invite Jesus to show you the way into Truth that leads to life. He won’t disappoint you. He can’t.

His perfect love will cast out fear and lead you to the Father’s abundance.

 

 

Empowered through Connection

Empowered Through Connection

…holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God. Colossians 1:19

We live in a world gone mad.

Accusation and judgment hang in the air around us, dividing and isolating us from one another as we submit to the pressure to take sides. Perhaps we should remember the name given to Satan in Revelation 12:10. He is, “the accuser of our brothers … who accuses them day and night before our God.”

When we join him in hurling accusations, we advance his agenda. Make no mistake, beloved. Our enemy has purpose in his schemes. He fears the rise of the church, and in that fear, he divides.

Let’s explore why he focuses his plans on division. What lies at the root of this assault on unity?

Our opening Scripture offers a glimpse into his fears. Christ’s body is nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments.

God grows us through our connections.  

You and I need connection, dear one, both with God and with His people. 

Intimacy with God is essential, but we will limit our growth if we don’t also experience other aspects of His nature through His church. By God’s own design, you were created to connect with other members of His body that will nourish and strengthen you. And through them, God will grow you into the fullness of who He is and propel you into His plans for you.

No wonder Jesus answered the question identifying the greatest commandment with two replies.

And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment.39And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 22:37-40

We will need to love both Jesus and the people around us to fulfill what has been prophesied. Our enemy knows that, so he assaults love in our days. Time is running short, and he’s terrified of what he knows the church will become. So, he makes us fear one another to disrupt our connection.

We can’t let him succeed.

Churches have become more divided than ever. We gravitate to people like us and isolate from everyone else. We’ve allowed the enemy to divide us according to our similarities.

But God manifests through diversity, dear one. As individuals operating in unique gifts gather together, God can reveal His fullness. Without diversity, we become paralyzed and stagnant, unable to move. Stuck.

Why? Because,

Movement occurs at the joints.

Our connections are what enable us to take ground. A foot by itself remains stuck in its place, but connecting that foot to a leg that connects to a hip, gives them all the power to advance together. Our connection to those who are different from us will both nourish and advance us.

No wonder our enemy wants to divide us.

Today, we find ourselves in a barren land. Although we claim to carry the life of Christ, we’ve become dry bones. Brittle and separated. Lifeless. Powerless. Losing hope. Centuries ago, God showed the prophet Ezekiel a barren valley filled with dry bones. His command?

 “Prophesy over these bones, and say to them, O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. Thus says the Lord God to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. Ezekiel 37:4-5

Ezekiel did what God asked.

So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I prophesied, there was a sound, and behold, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. Verse 7

Don’t miss this truth revealed from the Father’s heart, dear one.

Before the Spirit can fill us with life, we need to let Him connect us.

Not with others who are the same, but with those who are different. Whose gifts can fill our lack and move us where our own can’t, who reveal something of God to us we wouldn’t experience without them. But connecting alone doesn’t reveal God in our midst.

And I looked, and behold, there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them. But there was no breath in them.  Verse 8

Those bones began to have the appearance of life. They had connected and grown flesh. But there was still no breath. More was needed to raise them. They needed a Spirit-led man to discern their lack and pray for the filling that would carry God’s plans to completion.

Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, Thus says the Lord God: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live. 10So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army. Verses 9-10

Behold, our enemy’s fear, beloved.

He knows his defeat has been declared. God’s army rising on the Spirit’s breath will manifest it.

This wilderness hour is pregnant with purpose. Don’t let the enemy rob you of God’s plans to empower you. Put aside fear and judgment, and dare to step into love. Trust God with your connections.

Let’s rise from the dead and claim our victory.  

 

 

Come to the Table

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Psalm 23:5

You and I have a natural desire to run from danger. We’d rather our enemies stay at a nice safe distance, preferably out of sight where we can convince ourselves they don’t exist. And we tend to believe that if God is for us, He’ll agree with our plan.

But God teaches something very different about His approach to enemies. Our opening Scripture reveals a truth many of us overlook. God prepares a place of lavish provision for us right where our enemy is. He leads us into situations where we have to look the enemy in the face. And there, in his presence, He anoints us with the power to defeat him.

Have you ever wondered why God sent Pharaoh and his army to pursue the Israelites after he had finally released them? Perhaps you’re not familiar with the story. The people of Israel had been crying out for deliverance from 400 years of slavery in Egypt. God sent Moses with a promise of rescue and revealed His mighty power with ten plagues in the land. After losing his firstborn son in the final plague, Egypt’s Pharaoh ultimately relented and let God’s people go.

It was finally over. Centuries of oppression and slavery had ended, and God’s people began their journey toward the land God had promised them. Then Exodus 14:4 jumps from the pages of Scripture, bringing with it confusion about God’s character.

“And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and he will pursue them, and I will get glory over Pharaoh and all his host, and the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord.” And they did so.

You read it right. Scripture is clear. God hardened Pharaoh’s heart against the Israelites and led him to pursue them. I imagine you may be disturbed by the questions that first stirred in me. Why would a loving God do that? Does He care so little about the people?

And this is precisely where the breakdown of our faith begins, dear one. The prince of the power of the air whispers questions about God’s motives and character, and in those moments of doubt, we partner with him against God.

The Israelites certainly did.

When Pharaoh drew near, the people of Israel lifted up their eyes, and behold, the Egyptians were marching after them, and they feared greatly. And the people of Israel cried out to the Lord. 11 They said to Moses, “Is it because there are no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? What have you done to us in bringing us out of Egypt? 12Is not this what we said to you in Egypt: ‘Leave us alone that we may serve the Egyptians’? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness.” Deuteronomy 4:10-12

Immediately, the Israelites believed the worst of God. See, God isn’t good. He led us out here to die in the desert. There’s no Promised Land, only pain. We should’ve remained slaves.

The serpent hissed his lies, and the Israelites believed him.

Well, most of them anyway. One kingdom son knew God face to face and refused to wear the shackle of slavery any longer. He stepped into his divine identity—unbound by the world’s limitations—and unleashed heaven’s power through his faith.

And Moses said to the people, “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again.  14 The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.”

Moses knew God’s heart and refused to believe the deception. Instead of succumbing to fear, He stepped to the edge of the Red Sea. At God’s Word, Moses lifted his staff in faith, and creation bowed in obedience to its Creator. Winds began driving back the water that held them within reach of their enemy, and God Himself moved behind them as they waited all night for the sea to part.

Then the angel of God who was going before the host of Israel moved and went behind them, and the pillar of cloud moved from before them and stood behind them, 20coming between the host of Egypt and the host of Israel. Verses 19-20

Defying the enemy’s message, faith raised God as a shield between them, until all of Israel could cross through the sea on dry ground.

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand over the sea, that the water may come back upon the Egyptians, upon their chariots, and upon their horsemen.” 27So Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and the sea returned to its normal course when the morning appeared. And as the Egyptians fled into it, the Lord threwthe Egyptians into the midst of the sea. 28The waters returned and covered the chariots and the horsemen; of all the host of Pharaoh that had followed them into the sea, not one of them remained. Verses 26-28

Love moved God to send Pharaoh into that wilderness, dear one. He wiped out the entire Egyptian army, securing the future safety of His people. They wouldn’t have to fear Egypt’s pursuit again. The path to Israel’s salvation became the mechanism for Egypt’s destruction. Beloved,

deliverance for God’s people simultaneously destroys their enemies.

But we’ve got to be willing to stand with God in the enemy’s presence. We’ve got to stop grumbling against God and longing for the familiar comfort of our slavery. We have to reject the hiss of the serpent, who whispers that God isn’t good and means to destroy us. Instead, we must believe in the character of the God who loves us and refuse to question His motives. We’ve got to settle the debate in our hearts over whether God is good.

He is, beloved. His motives are always pure. And He loves His children too much to allow them to remain bound in fear.   When He leads you into a wilderness place where the enemy seems to have cornered you, He has merely set you up to manifest a victory, delivering you and destroying your enemy in the process.

Trust His heart for you, dear one. Don’t fear His tables of provision because of their location. In Him, you are always safe. You need only believe.

 

How Does God See You?

He brought me out into a broad place; he rescued me, because he delighted in me. Psalm 18:19

It’s amazing how God can be so intimately personal, even in a crowd.

Last year I attended a conference with a few leaders from my local church. The invitation had come in a season of tremendous weariness and doubt, following a difficult step of obedience. I knew what God had asked of me was right, but it had left my heart in pieces.  I was desperate for a fresh touch from Jesus.

I found myself weeping in worship, hands raised in praise of my faithful God. So much in my life had been shaken, but I knew He could not be. And from that place of worship, the bodies around me faded away. Eyes closed, I found myself witnessing an intimate scene.

A little girl sat on the lap of her daddy, leaning back into his arms with laughter, eyes fixed adoringly on his face. My gaze followed hers, and time stood still. The way he looked at her took my breath away. Laughter twinkled in his eyes, love pouring over her with absolute delight.

I realized immediately that I was that little girl, and my Heavenly Daddy was revealing His heart. This is how He feels about me.

Oh, Beloved, do you know that your Heavenly Father delights in you?

Somehow that truth washed over me like a healing balm. Because you see, in this world of deception and brokenness, what is real and true about God has been veiled to us. The enemy of our souls would rather drive us into the ground trying to earn God’s love than allow us to open our hearts and believe we already have it.

You see, only our belief unlocks the power of His grace, Dear One. As much as we might try, we can’t earn it. We can only receive it as we believe.

I realized that day that my own faith had limits. Curiously, there was nothing I was unwilling to do for God, but I had unwittingly put limits on what I allowed Him to give. Deep down in my core, a lie lingered that it was my responsibility to earn God’s devotion, that my choices could make Him love me more or delight in me less.

But God’s reality is that He IS love. He can’t do it any less or more. His nature doesn’t change depending on our actions. He always loves fully and extravagantly, and His feelings about us don’t change.

But, Dear One, our perceptions of them do.

…but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear. Isaiah 59:2

I’ll be honest. For years I read that Scripture to say that God hides His face from us in disappointment when we sin. But look again, dear one.

That verse says that sin hinders our ability to see Him clearly. We feel separate from Him and we can’t see His face. But in reality, any distance between a kingdom child and God is a lie. He says so.

Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!  Psalm 139:7-8

God never leaves His children, Beloved. Even in Sheol—a dark pit of our own making—He is present with us. Wooing us. Pursuing us. Delighting in us and desiring to heal us. He doesn’t separate from us in anger or disappointment. Our iniquities simply hide Him from us, convincing us He’s far, when He is not.

Allow yourself to be the child on His lap, dear one, adored and delighted in. That truth is your reality, and it holds the power to filter grace into every aspect of your life. It can break the bondage of striving and dispel the oppressive yoke of the enemy that leaves your soul crushed and defeated.  It doesn’t matter what yesterday looked like, or even this morning. Receiving that love as your own offers the grace the live differently, and to make different choices the next time.

Oh, Beloved, your sanctification isn’t your responsibility. It’s His. And it starts with believing He loves you desperately. I pray Isaiah 62:3-4 over you today.

You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the Lord,

and a royal diadem in the hand of your God.

4 You shall no more be termed Forsaken,

and your land shall no more be termed Desolate,

but you shall be called My Delight Is in Her

Love alone will unlock the beauty of your new name and the blessings of His promises toward you. Believe, dear one. Receive.  And live your Kingdom inheritance.

 

blind faith

The Dangers of Blind Faith

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. 

1 John 3:1a

Recently, my pastor preached a sermon around our opening Scripture. His message challenged us to reacquaint ourselves with the Father’s love.

I wonder if some of us are still awaiting an introduction.

For many, God’s love remains a theory. We’ve heard about it. We quote Scriptures about it. We may even try to will ourselves to believe in it.

But John invites us to move beyond blind faith in God’s love. He challenges us to see it.

See what kind of love the Father has given to us…

Do you see it, dear one? Have you looked God full in the face and found yourself enraptured by His heart? Have you been caught by the fierceness of His love for you? If you aren’t sure, I’d guess your answer is no.

Many of us have been looking at God through a broken lens. Theoretically, we know that God loves. But something inside of us resists receiving the reality that God sees and desperately loves me. History’s wounds have distorted His truth and impaired our vision, leaving our belief system compromised. If we don’t have a clear view of God, we’ll operate in limited faith.

Take a look at what Jesus said in Luke 11:34-35.

“Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eye is healthy, your whole body is full of light, but when it is bad, your body is full of darkness. 35Therefore be careful lest the light in you be darkness.”

Matthew 6:23 adds these words:

“… If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!”

You may not realize it, dear one, but your eye—your ability to see—greatly affects what you experience in this life. If your eye is good—if you see clearly and your perceptions are true—light fills your being. But when your vision is compromised and your eye is bad, your whole body fills with darkness. And not just a few harmless shadows. Jesus described it as great darkness!

“Therefore be careful lest the light in you be darkness.”

Beloved, if the enemy can alter your perceptions, he’ll overshadow your light with darkness. And you will miss experiencing the graces of your salvation.

Isaiah 59:7b-10 offers a vivid picture of what false perceptions—thoughts of iniquity that defy God’s truth—will do.

… desolation and destruction are in their highways. 8The way of peace they do not know, and there is no justice in their paths; they have made their roads crooked; no one who treads on them knows peaceTherefore justice is far from us, and righteousness does not overtake us; we hope for light, and behold, darkness, and for brightness, but we walk in gloom.10 We grope for the wall like the blind; we grope like those who have no eyes; we stumble at noon as in the twilight, among those in full vigor we are like dead men.

Precious child of God, are you groping in darkness? Do you look for light, only to find yourself experiencing gloom?

False perceptions—deceptive thoughts that oppose God—come from the enemy and have one agenda: to destroy. They rob us of peace. They hide our path. They release darkness where light should be, preventing Christ’s righteousness from overtaking us. They cause us to grope in the dark like the blind. 

That darkness has an astonishing result.

…among those in full vigor we are like dead men.

Behold today’s church, beloved. Many have become like dead men walking. Oppressed by the darkness. Hoping for light yet walking in gloom—and doubting God’s promises. 

1 John 3:14 sums up our problem.

Whoever does not love abides in death.

Death lingers where love is absent, dear one. We can serve God. We can worship every Sunday. We can read the Word and even memorize Scripture. But none of that matters if our hearts don’t run headlong into His. We need to receive and return the love poured out to us. 

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God.

We will only operate in the power of our inheritance as God’s children when we see. We must invite Jesus to reveal who He truly is and allow Him to show us who we really are. Darkness has flooded Christ’s church, extinguishing His light. We have traded our joy for despair, our faith for hopelessness, truth for deceptions.

Let’s proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, liberty for captive hearts, and recovery of sight for the blind.

Lord Jesus, help us to see!