Reflect the Light of the Son

We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

2 Corinthians 5:20-21

I have just enjoyed the tremendous blessing of spending the last five days in the country of Costa Rica. Each evening the sun would bid its farewell amidst a glorious display of pink, yellow and orange, the colors of the fiery sky reflecting on the dancing waters of the Pacific Ocean before disappearing into darkness beyond the horizon. It’s the kind of beauty that takes your breath away.

As I witnessed creation reflecting the splendor and glory of its Creator, I couldn’t help but think about the glory that will be revealed when God unveils the new heaven and the new earth. One day, we will see creation as God intended it to be, free from the dark curse of sin. Instead of the shadow, we will finally see the true, an array of color and beauty that we can’t even begin to imagine. And we will no longer need the sun to cast its light and warmth because the Son Himself will be with us.

The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. Revelation 21:23

The beauty of Costa Rica’s landscape was matched by the beauty of its people. Wherever we went, they greeted us with warm smiles, doing their best to assure us that it was their great pleasure to serve. Their humility opened my heart toward them, and I found myself drawn to their warmth. They seemed to represent a beautiful expression of Philippians 2:4-7:

Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:

Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped but made Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant . . .

The thought left me wondering. Are people drawn to us as believers? Is humility the essence that marks our lives? Do those who come in contact with us get the feeling that it’s our great pleasure to serve them? If the Spirit of Jesus Christ resides within us, that's exactly what those who come in contact with us should experience.  

1 John 4:16-17 teaches, “God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him.”

Are you like Him, dear one? Will you be able to stand confidently on the day of judgment knowing that you have allowed God to impart His character to you through His Son? Are people drawn to His humble warmth expressing itself in you?

You will often hear this phrase erupting from the lips of the Costa Rican people:  Pura Vida! They speak it in greeting to one another, as an expression of joy, or simply in answer to the question, “How are you?” Its meaning literally translates to “pure life.”

Perhaps we need to adopt their mantra as the foundational anchor for our own lives.

Until Jesus returns in glory to usher in the new heaven and new earth, freeing us once and for all from the very presence of sin and restoring all things to its original perfection, we are His vessels of glory. We are the light given to penetrate the growing darkness. We are His expression of love to draw the lost to Himself. We are divine righteousness in a world of depravity. If we truly desire for Christ to be seen in us, we must choose holiness. We must allow Him to sanctify us and bestow upon us His righteousness.

As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written:      “Be holy, because I am holy.” 1 Peter 1:14-16

May your life become a beautiful expression of the character of your Savior, and may all who cross your path be drawn to the warmth of His humility and love flowing through you.

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Nourish Your Soul

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

I must begin today in worship of my Lord and King! He is the Beginning, the End, the First and the Last. He is Faithful and True. He is Redeemer, Savior, and Friend. He is so much more than we could ever grasp or imagine. He is love, and He desires to pour into me and into you. Will you allow Him to?

I have just returned from teaching at the first ever “Women of Purpose” conference in St. Pete Beach, FL. I found myself so blessed by the worship and the messages from each of the other speakers; I was truly ushered into the presence of the King! I come away with a sense of excitement and expectation as I commit to allow God to lead me to fulfill His purpose for me, and I want to share that joy and hope with all who will receive it. I want you to know the all-surpassing joy that can only come from doing what you were created to do.

I praise God for each one of you who answered God’s invitation to join us last weekend. I see your beautiful faces filled with emotion—expressing smiles and tears, sadness and hope, darkness and understanding. We basked in the Son this weekend, didn’t we? We abandoned the dark chains of deception and stepped boldly into the warm radiance of Christ’s light. I’m so proud of you! It is my great joy and privilege to have walked beside you for a few steps of your journey with Jesus. Now, dear one, you must keep walking.

I once read an article in which Beth Moore described taking her first trip to Africa to help feed the hungry. The group she traveled with warned her in advance that the people were so starved they would likely begin to eat the grain itself rather than plant it for a long term harvest. Their immediate need was so desperate, they would consume their fill without considering the need to sow the seed so it could continue to sustain them; they would eventually find themselves right back in their same desperate need.

Scripture compares the Word of God to seed scattered by our Heavenly Father (Luke 8:11). He sends it forth seeking to fill us with it, to nourish and sustain us so we don’t return to the place of desperation. But we often approach the seed He scatters like those starving souls in Africa. We flock to our churches, Bible studies, and conferences so starved and desperate for nourishment from God’s Word that we immediately begin to devour it. We take it in, taste the beauty of its refreshment, and come away full! But we often forget the most important part. The seeds of Truth God has given us aren’t meant to merely be devoured. They need to be sown.

Scripture teaches an important truth in James 1:22,

“Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves.  Do what it says.”

If we don’t commit to actively trust God through our obedience, we will soon return to the same emptiness that sapped us of our joy and strength in the first place. Dear one, we come away from an encounter with God feeling empowered, refreshed, and full! But if that’s where it ends and we just return to life as if nothing had changed, nothing will. We must choose to live differently, to daily partake of His Word so He can fill us with strength and sustaining life. And as He meets us in the stillness, revealing Himself and illuminating our path, we must follow where He leads.

God’s grace is released into our lives when we trust Him through our obedience. As you faithfully sow into your life that which He has spoken, the floodgates of heaven will open, unleashing the blessings ordained for you at the creation of the world. You will begin to taste and experience heaven while still abiding on this earth. And you will wonder how you could’ve survived so long without feasting on the bread of life.

Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ ” Matthew 4:4

Feast on His Word, dear one. Allow Him to nourish your soul, strengthen your spirit, and empower you to become all you were meant to be. And as you follow, you will discover what it means to truly live.

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Not For You

I'm excited to introduce you to Susan Stilwell, a free-lance writer who loves the Lord and serves Him through her gift of teaching. I asked her to share a word with us this week. I pray you'll be encouraged by the truths she shares and will accept her challenge to pray. Be blessed, dear one.

 

 

"Not For You"

by Susan Stilwell

One of my favorite televisions shows was Seinfeld, and an episode I particularly enjoyed was “Soup Nazi.” If every rule wasn’t immediately obeyed, the chef barked, “No soup for YOU!”

We good-naturedly growl that at my house, but I’ve noticed a similar sounding voice that occasionally echoes in my head, “Not for you!” Sometimes it barks, but more often it murmurs, especially after a mountain top experience.

Inspired and refreshed, I come away feeling as though I can conquer the world. The seeds planted on the mountain take root and become little sprouts of inspiration. I dream of the changes I’ll make and the things I’ll accomplish. But then, reality sets in.

  • Job and family issues are still there.
  • Grouchy people still irritate me.
  • Bad habits still rear their ugly heads.

My little seedlings struggle under the demands of everyday life. If I’m not careful, my enthusiasm and hope can be smothered by a voice of discouragement and doubt.

“See?” The voice whispers, “Nothing has really changed. That message wasn’t for you.”

This weekend, hundreds of women will gather at the Strive 4 Greatness Women of Purpose conference in St Petersburg, FL. They will praise and worship our Lord, and hear testimonies of the mighty work He’s done in the lives of other women. Many have prayed in anticipation of this event, asking God to prepare hearts to receive His truth.

We trust the Holy Spirit to plant seeds in the hearts of those who desperately long for freedom, peace and purpose. After the conference, many will come away encouraged, refreshed, and inspired to surrender to Him and live with passion. Tending their own seedlings of inspiration, they’ll return home, ready to conquer their worlds.

Reality will set in. Distracted by ringing telephones, looming deadlines, and exasperating people, many will struggle. They will hear a voice whisper lies like:

  • “That message was really for those other women.”
  • “Your situation is totally different.”
  • “You should’ve seen some change by now. But, see? It wasn’t for you.”

It’s critical that we pray for the time following the conference. I’m asking the Lord to guard all the seedlings from the event, so that the Word may dwell richly within each woman (Col 3:16). I pray those seedlings grow, and that each woman’s life is transformed. May their minds be renewed (Romans 12:2) as they silence any lies with Truth:

  • I can do all things through Christ Who gives me strength (Philippians 4:13).
  • I know He works all things for my good because I love Him and He has a purpose for my life (Romans 8:28).
  • I am a new creation in Christ Jesus. He has taken all the old things (habits, thinking, desires) and is making them new (2 Cor 5:17).

We know the enemy of our souls is the father of those lies (John 8:44). He comes against us to kill, steal and destroy any seedling of hope we have in Christ Jesus (John 10:10). So anytime the voice of doubt and discouragement starts, speak God’s Truth aloud and remember –

The message WAS and IS for you. Believe and press on!

“…They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of His splendor.”   ~Isaiah 61:3b (NIV)

 

Visit Susan's blog at www.susanstilwell.com.

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She Stands Alone

 “For many are invited, but few are chosen.” Matthew 22:14 (NIV, 1984)

Can you sense the Spirit of God moving, dear one? My soul has come alive with expectant anticipation! He summons His body to rise, to awaken from our complacent slumber and stand for the glory of His great Name. Our Lord desires to be witnessed throughout the earth, and He chooses to reveal Himself through you. Will you accept His invitation? Will you yield your heart to become one of His chosen?

Last week, I read this devotion by Glynnis Whitwer, and I felt compelled to share it with you today. Her words stirred my heart; I pray they will stir yours as well.

 

 

  "She Stands Alone"

Glynnis Whitwer

“Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” 1 Corinthians 15:58 (NIV)

         

I wiped beads of sweat from my forehead as I pushed the shopping cart towards my car. Unloading my groceries as fast as I could, I hopped in my car, hoping for quick relief. But the triple digit temperatures had seeped inside. Blasting the air conditioning, I pulled out of the parking lot on to a back street. That’s when I saw her. Standing alone.

A petite figure stood on the sidewalk in front of a brick building. A black covering draped her head, leading to a black dress, black hose and sturdy black shoes. Though she faced the building, I could see she held a Bible. Her head bent over the cradled book as she stood in the sweltering heat. Alone.

It took but a moment to pass her, but the image of her standing alone branded into my brain. Oh, I’ve seen people standing alone in front of buildings. But this wasn’t just any building. This wasn’t a bank or a restaurant. There was no bus stop in front. The women entering this building were broken, and weren’t going in for healing.

And on that hot summer afternoon one woman stood alone praying for them and the children they carried.

She stood alone for what she believed God told her to do that day. In the heat. Facing discomfort, odd looks and probably some derisive comments. Some might say her sacrifice made no difference. We’ll never know.

We’ll never know whose plans were changed by her prayers, by her willingness to stand alone.

Moments before I saw her, all I thought about was getting out of the heat. But her conviction challenged me to ask: For what cause am I willing to stand alone?

The sight of her touched me deeply because I know the exhaustion of battle fatigue. I’ve sat in frustration rather than standing firm. I know what weary feels like when it seems my efforts aren’t making a significant difference. I’ve felt cornered rather than like a conqueror.

Some days, I’m tired of standing for what I believe in. I think others would stand taller, or with less exhaustion. They’d deal with discouragement better than me. They’d show mercy where I show frustration. Maybe someone else could … maybe they should … take over for me.

That’s when the image of this humble woman comes to mind. And the Lord says to me:

You just think she’s standing alone. She’s not. I’m right next to her. And I’ll be right next to you. Keep standing.

So I breathe in and breathe out. I picture the precious sister standing in front of the building. Only this time, she’s not alone. In my mind I see Jesus standing beside her.

And on my own street, in my own life, in my own home, facing my own calling, wondering if I’m making any difference, I determine to stand another day. For a cause I believe in … for the cause of Christ … wherever He calls me to stand.

Dear Lord, thank You for reminding me that when I think I’m standing alone, I’m not. Thank You for being my hope in difficult times, and holding me up when I want to sit this one out. Help me to remember You are a very present help in times of trouble. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

 

This devotion is reprinted with permission of the author, Glynnis Whitwer.  To learn more, visit www.GlynnisWhitwer.com or www.Proverbs31.org.

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More than a Conqueror

No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it. 1 Corinthians 10:13, NIV (1984)

In two and a half weeks I will have the remarkable privilege of sharing Jesus Christ with hundreds of women at the new “Women of Purpose” conference in St. Petersburg, Florida. It astounds me to think of the plan God has chosen for my life. One particular verse comes to mind as I consider my story. Romans 4:17 celebrates “the God who gives life to the dead and calls things that are not as though they were.”

Recently, Karen Hickam, the founder of Strive for Greatness who is hosting the conference, challenged each of the speakers participating in the event to consider the raw, painful moments of their journey. I prayerfully asked the Lord to take me back to some of my own struggles and allow me to feel them again. I asked Him to help me describe them in a way that others might feel them too and relate to my experience. Here’s where the Lord led me.

  • I sat under the shelter of my covered porch watching the rain wash over the earth around me and wondered briefly if God had opened the skies to match my tears. Thunder shook the sky, literally rattling the chair beneath me. I felt each crack shudder through me, every pounding blow echoing the ache in my own fragile heart. Doesn’t obedience bring protection and blessing, Lord? Could I have been wrong about Your will for me?

 

  • I swallowed hard, attempting to quiet the churning in my stomach by sheer will. It would be easier if I could just retch. Maybe then, it would at least be over. But it wasn’t over. It hadn’t been for . . . How many days, Lord? When will it end? . . . I can’t do this anymore . . . I’m not strong enough . . . forgive me . . .

 

  • Reeling from the sting of betrayal, I sobbed until my face hurt. Darkness hovered about me, undaunted by the break of day. Life had turned upside down. Everything would be different now, the comforting familiarity of my routine stripped away from me by one who claimed to love me. How could this happen, Lord? Of all people to do this to me . . . how could it be her?

 

Tears flowed freely as my fingers moved across the keyboard, the vivid memory of my darkness flooding back in poignant waves. This time, however, my tears did not find their source in anguish. They fell in worship of the One in whom I overcame.

My story isn’t marked by perfection, success and glory. Far more consistently, my story revolves around the breaking of my heart. But you see, my heart was bound in chains that needed breaking, and Jesus loved me enough to allow the pain so He could set me free.

Dear one, in your moments of greatest darkness, Jesus has not abandoned you. He is there with you, holding you, even when you can’t feel Him. Very often, what keeps you from recognizing His presence in your difficulty is the very chain in you He seeks to break.

In those moments of weakness, temptation comes. The enemy hisses in your ear that Jesus doesn’t love you . . . that He doesn’t even exist. He will do everything He can to convince you to turn back and abandon God’s plan for you. After all, just look at you; God has obviously already abandoned you.

His lies, dear one, come at you in those moments with such ferocity out of his own desperate fear. The enemy knows what lies on the other side of your victory: your freedom. As you press on, take hold of Jesus by faith, and allow Him to show you your way out (1 Cor 10:13), the enemy’s grip on your heart is broken. The oppressive chain that once bound you to him—your fear, your pride, your need for significance—falls idly to the earth with a thud. And you, dear one, will discover with elation that you are free—free to experience the all-surpassing joy of Christ’s fullness dwelling within you unfettered by the enemy’s chains. “Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy” (Psalm 126:5).

When the LORD brought back the captives to Zion,
   we were like men who dreamed.
2 Our mouths were filled with laughter,
   our tongues with songs of joy.
Then it was said among the nations,
   “The LORD has done great things for them.”
3 The LORD has done great things for us,
   and we are filled with joy.

Psalm 126:1-3

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. . . In With the New!

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! 

2 Corinthians 5:17

With faithful certainty, January rolls around each year offering the promise of a new start.  If you’re like me, you’ve probably had your share of New Year’s Resolutions.  Looking forward to a new beginning, we make promises to ourselves that we’re fiercely determined to keep.  And we actually believe we have the power to make each year different by the exertion of sheer will. 

Sadly, instead of glowing triumphs, we soon slip into the comfort of those old, familiar patterns and realize with disappointment that the life we’re living this year bears a remarkable resemblance to the one we thought we were leaving behind.   What if this year became the year that everything really did change?  Imagine the joy of living out the promise of 2 Corinthians 5:17 and discovering you have indeed become a new creation, “The old has gone, the new has come!”

For once, what is being held out to you is an attainable goal.  In fact, if you have approached the throne of grace and received Jesus as your Lord and Savior, it’s a guarantee.  That’s the very reason He came to the earth and bore our sins on a cross.   He died so that all who turn toward Him in repentance could leave behind who they’ve been and become a new and holy creation through the power of His Spirit. 

It sounds good on paper, but you may have discovered it’s a much more difficult thing to live out.  I can relate.  I spent 20 years under the banner of Christianity striving to be what God desired me to be.  I knew I was supposed to take on the righteousness of Christ, but I didn’t know how to make it happen so I did my best to change myself.  If you’ve tried it, I’m certain you also discovered our carnal nature will not allow us the victory for very long.  

Perhaps Jesus’ words in John 5:39-40 will lend some insight into the cause of our defeat:  “You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life.  These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.”  I hadn’t realized it, but through all those years of attending church and praising Jesus with my mouth, I had never really given Him my heart. 

I thought I had.  I had convinced myself that saying all the right things and going through the right motions meant that I loved the Lord.  I had substituted knowing a lot about Him for truly knowing and loving Him, and then I wondered why I wasn’t experiencing any of the wonderful promises found in the Word.  I was guilty of Matthew 15:8, “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.”

Many of us have unwittingly slipped our feet into the sandals of the Pharisees, searching the Word merely to discover what we must do to please God and find ourselves in His favor.  Yet in our quest to please Him, we have missed the only thing that will.  He makes one priority petition of us in Matthew 22:37, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.”   What if, instead of offering up our lists of things we will improve upon as this new year unfolds, we set our hearts and wills on one simple resolution?  What if we resolve to fall in love with Jesus, the Savior of our souls?

You may be wondering what difference it would make.  It makes all the difference!  John 14:21 tells us, “…He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.”   As we set our hearts on loving Jesus, He promises to demonstrate His love and show Himself to us in return.  It’s in the place of intimacy, where we truly know and love Him, that we give Him opportunity to show us who He truly is.  Absent of loving Him, we’ll miss seeing Him!

The apostle Paul said of his dramatic conversion into a new creation, “The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 1:14).   Jesus wasn’t only willing to pour His grace, faith and love out on the apostle Paul.  His heart’s desire is to pour them into you.  If your Christian walk is simply about duty instead of authentic devotion, it’s as if you’ve turned your back to Him and not your face (Jeremiah 32:33).   Picture with me that as our giving and gracious God pours His abundance over you, instead of absorbing His blessings, they’re simply rolling right off your back.  But if you have turned your face toward Him with a heart set on loving Him, you will begin to see Him as He truly is.  As He pours out His grace, faith and love, you are now in a posture to drink them in.   “Taste and see that the Lord is good!”  (Psalm 34:8)

Do not settle for allowing Jesus to remain a distant God who deserves worship but is not KNOWN.  We come to the cross of Christ for its resurrection power; the lie we have believed of the enemy is that resurrection power is only meant for our eternity.  Beloved, that power is meant for today, and it’s within you.  You need only believe and push past the outer courts of the sanctuary.  Press your way into the Holy of Holies, come into the presence of the King of Kings, and fall in love.  He’ll knock your socks off!  Don’t take my word for it, take His…

“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him.”  1 Corinthians 2:9

We will never live in His promises without learning to live in His love.  Make it the cry of your heart to love Him completely, with everything that you have.  He will be faithful to “circumcise your heart to love Him” (Deut 30:6).  And as He releases the enemy’s grip on your heart, you will find that it begins to beat in tandem with the heart of Christ as the life-giving blood of His sacrifice courses through its chambers.  You will become new, and there, with the loving gaze of the Father resting on you and the strength of Christ lifting you, you will soar!

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Prince of Peace

Happy 2012! Christmas morning has come and gone, and now we rise to the dawn of a new beginning. Hope fills our hearts as we look to the potential of the year ahead, yet the uncertainty of its future reigns in our expectation to cautious optimism. We can’t allow ourselves to expect too much. Experience has left us a little gun-shy.

Dear one, when Jesus is the source of our hope, we can always expect greatness. “And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.” (Romans 5:5, NIV 1984) Let us look to the Lord of Glory with unguarded expectation and allow Him to surpass our wildest dreams! (1 Corinthians 2:9)

We have reached the final week of our Christmas series exploring the four Names of God associated with Jesus’ coming from His prophetic birth announcement in Isaiah 9:6. Let’s review the entire verse and view it in context with verse 7.

“For to us a child is born, to us a Son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing it and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.” Isaiah 9:6-7

Notice that the first thing we are told about this child to be born is that government will be on his shoulders. Our ability to experience Jesus by every one of these names will be directly linked to our choice to allow Him to rule.

Jesus came to lead His people to glory. We become His as we acknowledge His deity and His sacrifice, repent of our sin, and make a decision to follow Jesus to a new life. The moment that we put our faith in Jesus, surrendering our lives to His leadership, we are sealed as His own by the Holy Spirit—our Wonderful Counselor, the power of Mighty God comes to rest within us, and we become eternal sons (and daughters) of glory, belonging forever to the Everlasting Father.  And . . .

“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.” Romans 5:1-2

Jesus becomes our Prince of Peace as our broken relationship with Holy God is restored, our sins are forgiven, and we enter the realm of divine fellowship with our Creator. And still, He offers more! As we allow the Prince of Peace to rule and reign within our hearts, trusting Him through our obedience, some wonderful fruit begin to emerge in our lives.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13

Trusting Jesus to lead allows God to FILL us with joy, peace, and hope! Beloved, your heart is not meant to remain empty. Allow God, through the gift of His Son, to flood it with joy . . . to set it at rest with His peace . . . to heal the ache of disappointment with renewed hope and glorious life(Proverbs 13:12)!

Proverbs 14:30 teaches that, “A heart at peace gives life to the body.” The absence of peace robs us of our ability to find joy in what we have. We will not be content, even when love abounds, prosperity comes, and life is kind. The sin nature within us will always crave more and will send us in pursuit of it, even if it costs us the blessings we already have.

In Christ, our souls have the ability to finally find rest and end our destructive cycles. Jesus said in John 14:27, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

Jesus has given us His peace. So, how do we claim it? Isaiah 9:7 holds the key. The increase of His peace accompanies the increase of His government. The more we yield to the authority and leadership of the Holy Spirit, the more peace will abound. And as peace abounds, so will the life that springs from it (Proverbs 14:30). As we trust Jesus through our obedience, allowing Him to take His rightful place on the throne of our lives, joy, peace, and hope will follow in our wake.

“Peace on earth” must begin within the hearts of individuals. The kingdom of heaven is coming; in fact, it’s already here. It’s within all who have confessed Jesus as Lord. Remember,

“Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing it and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.” Isaiah 9:7

Until He returns to claim His kingdom, we are His ambassadors of peace. May we humbly surrender our wills to His authority, that His glory may be revealed!

Submit to God and be at peace with him; in this way prosperity will come to you.” Job 22:21

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Everlasting Father

“ . . . And He will be called . . . Everlasting Father . . .” Isaiah 9:6

We have spent the last couple of weeks peeling away the outer wrappings of some of the gifts God gave us in Jesus. I pray that as you discover the value of the contents, your heart will be drawn to dig even deeper! We are barely scratching the surface, but as you pursue an intimate relationship with the Son of God, His gift of the Wonderful Counselor “will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I [Jesus] have said to you” (John 14:26).

One of the Holy Spirit’s jobs as our Counselor is to teach and reveal the deep things of God to each of us. Remember,

“We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us.” 1 Corinthians 2:12

He desires you to KNOW, dear one. Our ignorance only keeps us from receiving His blessing.

Today we peer at the third name of God associated with Jesus’ birth in Isaiah 9:6. Christ opened the way for us to know and experience God as Everlasting Father. Recall the familiar words of John 14:6:

“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

Jesus is our only way to know God as Father. To belong to the Father, we must know and belong to the Son. John 14:7 adds these words, “If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well.”

God desires for you to know Him intimately as Father. Perhaps that thought doesn’t offer you much comfort. The stamp of sin on this broken world leaves many painful relationships in its wake. But regardless of the images the word father may bring to mind, allow yourself to contemplate the ideal dad.

Strong . . . Protector . . . Compassionate . . . Loving . . . Merciful . . .

Beloved, God is the Father you’ve always longed for.

“The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.” Zephaniah 3:17

Scripture paints a picture of God as the Father who will never leave, no matter how bad things get. And unlike our earthly fathers, Mighty God is always strong enough to save us from the messes we’ve made. Nothing, however, thrills my heart like the words of that last sentence, “He will take great delight in you.” Don’t we all, if we’re going to be honest, long to be the object of someone’s delight? To know that we, above all else, are their source of pleasure and joy? Dear one, Scripture teaches that God takes great delight in you.

Whether or not we can draw the image from our own childhood experience, we can all conjure up a picture of a devoted parent cradling a beloved child, quieting restless cries with loving murmurs and whispered songs. Images of a mother seem to flow more freely, yet the sight of a father assuming that role brings a special tenderness to the heart. We are moved as strength chooses to display itself through gentleness. Dear one, that’s exactly how your heavenly Father embraces you.

Has it ever occurred to you that as God holds you in His capable hands, He rejoices over YOU with singing? Longing to quiet you with His love, He has gently lifted you into His lap to still your restless heart and sing songs of joy over your life. Yet many of us squirm and pull away from Him like a rebellious toddler, refusing to allow Him the joy of simply being with us. We have stuff to do, after all. Who has time to merely sit and be held?

Yet the result of yielding to His gentle embrace is the imparting of His strength in our need. Many of us miss the blessing of God’s commandment to us in Psalm 46:10, “Be still and know that I am God.” We get so busy trying to make things happen in our own lives, we forget that He often asks for us to be still, believe, and let Him work on our behalf. Our willful rebellion keeps us from becoming recipients of His blessing.

God’s intention when He sent us Jesus was that He would be the “firstborn among many brothers” (Romans 8:29). If you have put your faith in Jesus, committing your life to follow Him, you also are a child of God. As one of His children, an inheritance awaits you.

“. . . we were in slavery under the basic principles of the world. But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons.

Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, ‘Abba, Father.’ So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir.” Galatians 4:3-7

In Christ, you are an heir to the kingdom of heaven. Take up your inheritance, dear one.

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Mighty God

“ . . . And he will be called . . . Mighty God  . . . “ Isaiah 9:6

The birthday of our Lord is quickly approaching! I pray this Christmas will open for you a new revelation of who Jesus really is. He is so much more than I ever thought He was. I hope you will also discover that Jesus is full of delightful surprises. He won’t just meet your expectations. He exceeds them!

Last week, we saw that Jesus’ birth, death, and resurrection paved the way for the Wonderful Counselor to come, the third person of the Divine Trinity. Adam’s choice to step outside of God’s will withdrew the Spirit’s presence from mankind and left us disconnected from God, but Christ’s atoning sacrifice for our sin released Him to dwell in man once more. The fellowship of the Garden has been restored! God now resides within all who believe in Jesus by His Spirit, sealing us as His own, and guiding us along the path of His will. Our obedience keeps us from quenching the Spirit and allows Him to do His job!

God’s perfect counsel in our lives isn’t the only gift Jesus gave us. The outpouring of God’s Spirit on mankind also opened up another new way we can know and experience God. Acts 1:8 teaches,

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

Dear one, the manifestation of God’s power accompanies the advent of the Holy Spirit! The might of God comes to rest within us, enabling us to become something entirely new. The ordinary becomes extraordinary as the natural meets the divine. The impossible becomes possible, and we become living, breathing witnesses of His grandeur “to the ends of the earth.”

We often gaze back at the wonders of the Old Testament with envy. How awesome it would be to see the waters of the Red Sea pile up revealing dry ground! To witness water bursting forth from a rock to quench our thirst! To experience God’s daily provision as bread literally fell from the sky . . . even to walk the desert for forty years in shoes that did not wear out.

Pretty amazing, I admit. But our longing for the days of old often ignores the great reality that accompanied the Israelites through those miracles: they were miserable. Even with the glory of God revealed before their very eyes, they doubted Him. They turned away from Him and rebelled. They grumbled against God, saying, “If only we had died by the LORD’s hand in Egypt!” (Exodus 16:3)

They saw visible evidence of His presence, and yet they still rebelled. How could they have been so callous toward God? They had a heart condition, one that Christ came to heal and restore.

God still desires to do wondrous works in the lives of His people. However, with the coming of Jesus, the focus of His power has been redirected. He has set His gaze on restoring the deceitful, human heart.

Beloved, the miracles of today are no longer limited to the external works of old—the parting of seas, or even the calming of storms witnessed in Jesus’ day. A far greater miracle awaits those who will yield to the work of the Holy Spirit. Through Jesus, God now raises the dead!

Ephesians 1:19-20 describes “his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms.”

Beloved, if you have put your faith in Jesus Christ, the same power that raised Christ from the dead now resides in you. And it’s available to you. In fact, God is just waiting for you to choose to use it so He can show Himself mighty on your behalf. He seeks to work within your very being, fixing what’s been broken and recreating you into someone completely new—the “you” He created you to be.

Most of us simply refuse to admit that we’re broken and in need of healing. Our pride convinces us that we carry no chains from our past and we have no need to seek God for His healing power. Would you open your heart to the possibility that you have been deceived? Would you consider that a miraculous work bearing your name awaits you from the hand of God? A wondrous gift that will release you from chains you can’t yet recognize you carry?

Trust Him with your heart, dear one. Offer it to Him and give Him permission to do His mighty work. You will be amazed at what He shows you.

And as the heavy chains you’ve carried fall broken to the ground, you will discover a new and wondrous joy . . . a joy you did not know you could feel. And your heart will leap in celebration as a new understanding of freedom in Christ is revealed. You will likely fall to your knees and beg His forgiveness because you waited so long.

Beloved, allow God to show Himself mighty in you!

"Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen." Ephesians 3:20-21

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Wonderful Counselor

“. . . And He will be called Wonderful Counselor . . . “ Isaiah 9:6

Have you ever wished you could have your own, personal adviser? Someone who had all the answers, could help you avoid pitfalls, and would lead you on the path to prosperity? Allow me to introduce you to one of the amazing gifts God gave us through His Son. Meet the Wonderful Counselor.

As my pastor so eloquently reminded us last Sunday, God’s gift to us in the manger cannot be separated from His purpose accomplished through the cross. Even the angels’ announcement proclaiming Jesus’ birth to the shepherds foretold His fate. “Do not be afraid, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:10-11).

Jesus came to the earth to save. He was born to die, a perfect sacrifice that would overcome the power of sin and death and unite us again in sweet fellowship with the God who made us. Not only would His death and resurrection provide for the forgiveness of our sin, but His return to the Father would usher in the release of the Wonderful Counselor.

As Jesus was nearing the end of His earthly ministry, He tried to prepare His disciples for His departure. As you may imagine, they didn’t take it well. I mean, would you? Jesus, the Son of God had lived among them. They repeatedly witnessed the miraculous as God’s power revealed itself throughout His ministry, proving Him to be the long-awaited Christ . . . chains were broken, sick were healed, water turned to wine, and loaves multiplied. It doesn’t get any better than that! Jesus could not possibly leave them now.

 But in John 16:7, Jesus spoke these words:

“But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.”

Jesus taught that what the Counselor would open up for us surpassed what Jesus could do for us if He remained. We often think how much easier the Disciples had it. They could see Jesus face to face! They could touch Him and hear His voice as He spoke. While we struggle so much with our faith, they had the assurance of His presence among them to wipe away their doubt. Yet Jesus claims that we have the greater gift!

What does the Counselor offer that the person of Jesus could not? Jesus explained further in John 14:16-18.

“And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever—the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.”

No, we don’t have the physical person of Jesus walking beside us. What we have is the presence and power of Jesus dwelling within us! We’re no longer limited by the physical boundaries of our location. He is wherever we are because He dwells inside us. And Scripture assures us that we will have Him forever. Once He’s made His home in us, He will never leave.

Jesus didn’t leave us as orphans, dear one. He abides in us as the Counselor, the Spirit of truth. Listen to what He desires to do in your life.

“But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you.” John 16:13-14

Jesus promised that the Counselor will guide us into all truth. Do you understand what that means? The Counselor will not only give us understanding of God’s Word, but He’s also available to warn us away from deception! His job is to steer us along the path of God’s will, thwarting the enemy’s plans to harm us and leading us safely through to God’s blessing. He speaks what He hears from Christ and makes it known to us. And verse 13 assures us that He will even tell us what is yet to come!

Beloved, are you listening? Are you following Him on your path to blessing?

Through the birth and death of Jesus, a priceless gift arrived, the Wonderful Counselor sent to dwell within the hearts of all who would believe. Is He guiding you? Surrender your life to His leadership and join the early disciples in witnessing the miraculous. What He has for you is beyond anything you could imagine (1 Corinthians 2:9)!

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