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You’re Not Who You Think You Are

He Himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By His wounds you have been healed. 1 Peter 2:24

I wept today.

In case you’re picturing gentle tears of joy or wistful tender memories, it wasn’t. Quite the opposite. Wrenching sobs erupted from someplace deep.

You know the kind. Unguarded vulnerability releasing decades of pain that sent the dog hiding under the desk.

I’m not even certain what triggered it, exactly, except that Jesus has invited me to explore the crimson-stained gifts His cross unleashed for us. And for more than a year, He has repeatedly drawn my gaze back to this promise sprinkled over us through His shed blood.

By His wounds you have been healed. 

I hope you noticed the tense encasing that promise. You have been healed. It isn’t something you’re striving toward, dear one. It’s already happened. You received perfect healing as a gift of grace poured out through the blood of your Savior.

Healing is a gift of grace poured out to us through the blood of our Savior. Click To Tweet

That truth prompts me to ask the question: Am I living as one who has been healed? Do I live out the reality of that promise? Because I don’t feel like it a lot of the time. I seem to vacillate between moments of glorious celebration over God’s faithfulness and ravaging self-doubt.

And I’m tired. Aren’t you?

I’m tired of settling for a theoretical version of the Gospel. Jesus came as a flesh and blood man. He felt real pain and endured real suffering. He shed actual blood. And that blood redeems what the enemy has stolen. It unleashed divine power, not doctrinal theory.

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

I think it’s time we learned to live in that power, don’t you? I’d like to invite you to open your heart and step into this truth with me.

Christ’s blood makes impossible things possible.

Are you living out impossible promises, dear one? You should be, and so should I.  

What if the pain surrounding us in these dark days offers an invitation to raise our expectations and believe God for the more we’ve settled for living without? What if He’s simply waiting for us to exercise the faith that ushers in His impossible promises?

Let’s take a moment to contemplate what God sent Jesus to the earth to do.

God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him. Acts 10:38

Do you see it, dear one? The good that Jesus came to accomplish—what God anointed Him to do—was heal all who were oppressed by the devil. If you’re a human being, you fall under that promise. But don’t miss what enabled Jesus to fulfill His calling. For God was with Him. That detail also allows us full access to God’s promises.

Isaiah 61:1 describes Jesus’ job description with a few more details.

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound.

Today we celebrate the good news of the Gospel: Jesus came to set captives free! But I need you to notice what precedes experiencing that freedom in this verse. Healing. Jesus must bind up our broken hearts, enabling us to leave our captivity and live free from oppression.

Consider this thought with me, based on my own experiences. How can a woman celebrate God’s work with overwhelming joy and clarity, yet find herself ravaged by doubt and fear in the very same day? How can a person surrounded by loving community find herself feeling completely alone and crushed under the weight of isolation?

Wounds are how. Tender places where the enemy has bitten us and left his mark. Painful experiences linger that have allowed the deceiver to whisper messages into our souls that defy God’s truth about us and rob our identity. So just as we start to move forward into God’s promises, the enemy digs into that old pain to draw fresh blood.

But here’s the thing about wounds, dear one. The Physician can’t bind them if we aren’t willing to expose them. Jesus will never heal a wound we pretend not to have.

You and I need to let Jesus lift the veil on our brokenness. Not to shame us, dear one. We need to expose the wounds we carry so He can heal and restore us, freeing us from the enemy’s influence.

Remember the promise we started with in 1 Peter 2:24,

By His wounds you have been healed.”  

The enemy wounds us by whispering messages into our souls that defy God's truth. Jesus' blood brings healing to all wounds. Click To Tweet

You received that gift of healing the moment you put your faith in Jesus. But, if you find yourself perpetually tormented by darkness, that pain reveals areas where you haven’t yet realized your divine identity. Wounds exist that you have not exchanged for the healing Christ has given you.

Lies remain in your belief system, denying the Truth that sets you free.

Deep down, we already know. The lingering ache in our hearts reveals our need. A longing deep within cries out for more. Let’s stop settling for the lie that this is as good as it gets. Don’t waver between the darkness and the Light. Let’s press into Jesus and let Him reveal His healing in our lives. You’re not who the enemy says you are. Fear and doubt have no business oppressing you. Jesus speaks the final Word.

And His blood declares you healed.

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Are You Rooted or Held?

Let your roots grow down into Him, and let your lives be built on Him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness. Colossians 2:7 NLT

Appearances can be deceiving.

This morning while watering my outdoor plants, I noticed a withering vine. I couldn’t tell anything was wrong with it until I stood right next to it. From a distance, the entire plant appeared to be thriving, the little shoot disappearing into beautiful cascades of green blooming with bright pink flowers. But when I got close, a cluster of withered leaves drew my attention.

They hung there—limp—entwined and hiding among the healthy leaves.

A little investigation uncovered the cause. Strong winds from a recent storm had broken the vine at the top, disconnecting it from its life source. True to their climbing nature, leaves from the healthy shoots had wound around it, holding the broken piece in place, but their grip couldn’t offer the life it needed.

Being held in proximity to the root system is no substitute for being rooted yourself.

As I looked at the little broken piece, my heart began to stir for the church. I saw how the enemy has sent storms, strategically designed to sever our connection to Jesus. He has succeeded in more ways than we have realized.

Hidden within our churches, detached hearts languish and wither. From a distance, they appear to be growing and thriving alongside everyone else, but their prosperity is an illusion.

They are held, not rooted.

Instead of connecting to Jesus themselves, the arms of rooted believers hold them close to Him. They receive some level of strength from the people supporting them, their corporate experience of worship and fellowship offering periodic comfort to their wounded souls.

But it can’t restore them.

So, although they’re held close by loving members of the body, they continue to wither. Without personally connecting to Jesus, they will never thrive, no matter how entwined they are with the people who know Him.  

Unless we are rooted in Jesus ourselves, we forfeit our ability to bloom. Click To Tweet

Jesus said in John 15:4, “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.”

Jesus wants you rooted, dear one. He wants you to personally experience the depth of His great love for you. Only knowing that love becomes an anchor that sustains His life in you, even in difficult times. In Christ’s kingdom, storms shouldn’t destroy and deplete us. When we draw from the Life Giver, they only serve to strengthen us and establish victories over the enemy we didn’t know were possible.

Open your heart to the reality of God’s desires for you, beloved.

…that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Ephesians 3:17-18

God wants to fill you with the complete expression of who He is. It begins when you personally encounter His love for you and dare to return it. In that place of unbroken fellowship—rooted in His vast love expressed toward you—the Life He brings will begin to revive and restore what pain has left dead and broken in you.

Oh, dear one. Regardless of the condition you presently find yourself in, you can take hold of this miraculous promise. In Christ’ kingdom, broken and detached branches can be grafted back in!

And even they, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God has the power to graft them in again. Romans 11:23

Precious one, don’t settle for earthly expressions of divine fellowship. Go to the Source. Dare to surrender your heart to the One who made it. Offer it to Him freely, and He will give you His in return. Confess your unbelief and invite Jesus to lead you.

And experience the love that will leave you overflowing with thankfulness.

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My Journey into Glory, Part 2

Through Him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Romans 5:2

Grace can be a tricky thing.

We toss the word around a lot in Christian circles, but most of us don’t really know how to live in it. We don’t even really understand it, but we want it. Desperately. So, we keep striving to attain what we’ve already been given. Then we end up frustrated, because we never seem to reach the thing we’re striving for.

Can you relate, dear one? I can.

According to Scripture, only two things give us access to God’s grace and manifest the power of His promises: faith (Romans 5:2) and humility (James 4:6). No amount of striving can acquire it, only faith that submits our hearts to believe in what God has already done.

Faith and humility give us access to God's grace. #graceandglory Click To Tweet

But here’s the real root of our struggle. The deceiver tricks us into believing that we’re trusting God, while underneath, hidden from our own awareness, our faith remains firmly established in a lie that he fed us. That lie—anchored to a painful life experience or old wound—serves as a dam, blocking the flow of power that grace provides to manifest God’s promise. And while our hearts still hold onto that lie, we’ll never believe the truth we’re reaching for—and never realize the fulfillment of that promise. Beloved, your heart can’t believe two opposing things at the same time.

We always reject one to make room for the other.

That’s where I got stuck. Thinking I was leaning into the glorious image of myself God had revealed to me (see My Journey into Glory), while actually resisting it. And I couldn’t understand why I felt this growing distance from God.

I began to cry out in prayer, asking Him to reveal the obstacle I felt between us, and again I saw the image He had shown me. Only this time, I saw cracks fracturing the image, like seeing my reflection in a cracked mirror. When I asked Jesus about it, I heard, “You still pass judgment on what I’ve forgiven. Your slate is clean. The image I showed you is true. The cracked glass is a deception.”

I believe that’s a lie that many of us get caught in. We know what Jesus says about us, but we see it as a “someday” promise.

I’ll be that someday…when I get my act together.

I’ll be that someday…when I get past…

Beloved, the truth is, Jesus already did everything that needs to be done. The only thing left for you and me to do is believe He did what He says He did. And He made that pretty clear in 2 Corinthians 5:17,

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

According to Scripture, you and I have already been made new. We are presently new creations in Christ. The old version of us has passed away, and the new one is already here. I knew those Scriptures—and I thought I believed them—but this nagging feeling of separation from God continued to rob me of peace.

Eventually, I attended an intimate weekend retreat to set apart time with the Lord. After dinner the first evening, I discovered that a believer in another state had been praying over my name and had received a word from God for me. I’d never met her or even heard of her, yet God met me profoundly through her as the retreat hostess shared what God had given her for me.

She began by saying, “Welcome to your healing.” Those words alone set my heart beating with fresh hope. She went on to say that when she asked the Lord about me, she saw my hard-working hands bandaged and wrapped. Then she told me the Lord wanted to “heal the scars, swollenness, and open wounds one by one to reveal unblemished hands.”

Tears surfaced as I listened to these words and other encouragements spoken over my life by this precious stranger, relating to many of them. But I didn’t understand it’s full meaning until the following morning in worship when God showed me another vision.

This time I saw Jesus holding my limp body in His arms, my head leaning against His chest. And I saw my bloody hands, red streams trickling down my forearms from the torn flesh of my knuckles. Then the image of my cracked reflection appeared again, and I knew. I had bloodied my own fists smashing the glass, rejecting God’s image of me for a lesser one.

That’s how the enemy works, dear one. He deceives. He binds our hearts with his lies so we can’t believe the truth of what God says, and only truth sets us free. I realized I had been held so long by his lie of rejection that I had become it, pushing away the very thing I believed I was reaching for.

What happened next still astonishes me. Jesus set me down and knelt before me, preparing to dress my wounds. Only before He washed and bandaged my bloodied hands, He took them in His own and did something unthinkable. He kissed them.

Can you imagine it? My Jesus—King of Kings and Lord of Lords—sullied His own lips on the blood of my rejection. He had every right to be impatient with me, to judge my heart for rejecting His provision for me. After all, I’ve been serving in ministry for 11 years, leading others into His promises. I should’ve seen it. Should’ve known.

But He didn’t choose any of that. Instead, He simply loved me. Right where I was. In the mess. In the pain. I didn’t need to clean myself up to receive that love. He was right there, willing to give it. Kissing me in my brokenness, before He ever washed my hands.

Jesus never judges our brokenness. He restores even our self-inflicted wounds. #KnowHisHeart Click To Tweet

That’s the real Jesus, beloved. Kind, merciful, loving, and yours—if you’ll have Him. He is a King with authority to command. He brings victory in His wake. And He loves like no other. But you and I won’t experience that victorious power if we never experience Him.

We need to know Him, dear one. Not just His words, but His heart.

Love makes all the difference.

 

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My Journey into Glory

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. 2 Corinthians 3:18

Hello, beloved.

It’s been a while. I’ve been on a journey with the Lord that shifted my attention from writing for a season. In the midst of building our ministry and discipling people, God has been revealing Himself personally to me in profound and beautiful ways—ways I long for you to experience too. He still heals hearts, you know, and He dearly wants to heal yours.

But I wonder if you even recognize that you need healing. Do you, dear one? I only ask because I didn’t, at least not to the depth that Jesus saw I needed. And you and I will never invite Jesus in to restore what we don’t recognize we need.

So, I’m about to get vulnerable with you. Because we NEED vulnerability. Desperately. Our hiding has kept the enemy powerful, and we need to learn the glory of stepping into the light.

Two years ago in healing prayer, I had a powerful encounter with Jesus. He led me back to a pivotal memory as a small child that had shifted my understanding of who I was supposed to be, and there, my precious Jesus redeemed it. I literally saw Him exchange the influence of that moment with a crisp, clean, white page—a new beginning as He wiped my slate clean.

As our prayer came to a close, my friend sensed in the Spirit, “He wants to show you His glory. Ask Him to show it to you.”

I made the request, unprepared for what I was about to see. The image caught my breath and left me sobbing before my King.

It was me.

Part of me still hesitates to share the moment with you. Even now, the false humility much of the church calls “spiritual” wants to apologize for it. But understanding truth is what sets Kingdom sons and daughters free, so I’m sharing it anyway. I saw myself shining in dazzling splendor. Regal. Crowned. Radiant with light. Glorious!

Instantly, unbelief began to discredit the vision, until the Spirit reminded me of Jesus’ words to His Father on the night He gave His life for us.

The glory that You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one even as We are one, 23 I in them and You in Me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that You sent Me and loved them even as You loved Me.” John 17:22-23

Did you know that you carry His glory, dear one? Jesus poured His glory into you the moment you put your faith in Him. He poured it into me, too. He created us to be His image bearers, reflecting the beauty of His own nature and filling the earth with the glory of who He is. But when we shape our identity around our own life experience and the enemy’s deceptions instead of this truth, that glory remains hidden. And you and I will never live out the full potential of what we carry.

I almost didn’t.

What should’ve unleashed fresh anointing and victorious power in my life set off a war within my soul. My mind understood the truth that Scripture was declaring, and my heart joyfully leapt at the knowledge! But underneath, hidden within the deep wounds of my past, my heart couldn’t believe it for myself. And I didn’t know I couldn’t. I honestly thought that I was leaning into that beautiful promise! But then I began to experience a feeling of separation from God.

It doesn't matter what you know. What matters is what you believe. #onlyFaithAccessesGrace Click To Tweet

Can you relate, dear one? Have you ever felt a shift in your relationship with Jesus that leaves you longing for what you had? Yet no matter what you do, you just can’t seem to get there?

That was me. Loving Jesus. Serving Him. Yet feeling a growing chasm between my heart and His.

This happens, dear one, when our hearts reject the truth He declares over us, when something inside us denies Him by refusing to believe what He says. We can’t experience the intimate fellowship He longs for while we disagree with Him. Amos 3:3 (NKJV) says, “Can two walk together, unless they are agreed?” The answer, child of God, remains “no.”

Beloved, when we reject His words, we reject Jesus.

I will share more of my story next time, but for now, let’s establish the foundational truth I believe God wants to anchor our hearts in. You are a glory carrier. If you have put your faith in Jesus, His glory lies within you. And above all else, He wants to reveal it through you. Not by asking you to perform good works, but by teaching you who you truly are as He shows you who He is.

Take a moment to reflect on our opening Scripture:

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. 2 Corinthians 3:18

Did you see it, dear one? The same image. Not a lesser version. Not an imperfect replica of the true. God desires to transform us into the same image that He Himself bears. Righteous. Regal. Radiant. Pure. Glorious.

Let’s stop allowing the enemy to convince us to settle for less than promises. He schemes to limit the revelation of God’s power on earth by convincing His people that we are less than who we are. Our God is calling us higher, so let’s raise the bar. Jesus accomplished an incredible miracle on that old rugged cross. He made us much more than we think we are. He made us who He is.

Perhaps it’s time we believed Him.

 

Would You Let God Birth a Miracle Through You?

And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her. Luke 1:38

We all want to witness miracles.

We want God to wow us with wonder like He did so many times in scripture. And let’s be honest. We really just wish God would show up and prove Himself.

So we cry out for miracles.

Lord, I have heard of your fame; I stand in awe of your deeds, Lord. Repeat them in our day, in our time make them known; in wrath remember mercy. Habakkuk 3:2 NIV

Yes, we want the miracles. We just don’t want what God requires of us to release them.

Faith.

I’m not talking about a theory of faith. We’ll grab hold of that easily enough.

No, I’m talking about hitting the pavement with it. Living faith that defies difficulty. That stretches and grows us. Faith that believes an unbelievable promise, then holds onto it no matter what.

Do you have that kind of faith, beloved? Do you take God at His Word, no matter how crazy it sounds? Because that’s the only way you and I will ever witness miracles.

We need to trust God’s Word more than we value our comfort.

We need to trust God’s Word more than we value our comfort. #Heplanstoprosperyou Click To Tweet

I wonder if you’ve thought much about Mary’s response to the angel who had just informed her she would give birth to God’s own son. “Let it be to me according to your word.”

 Really? Is that how you would’ve responded?

Let’s forget for a moment that we know how it all works out and slip our feet into Mary’s sandals. She was just an ordinary girl, planning a wedding with the man of her dreams.

I wonder how many times she had imagined her wedding day. Would she wear flowers in her hair? Did she help her mother design her dress? I imagine she dreamed of a beautiful gathering with family and friends offering warm smiles and supportive hugs.

Then a messenger appeared with news of a very different dream.

A baby. Before her wedding day.

In this new dream, her husband wouldn’t father her firstborn child. She would face ridicule and judgment. She might even lose the husband her dreams encircled.

Yet when an angel of the Lord appeared to her declaring that God had chosen her to mother the Son of God Himself, she said,

“Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.”

Amazing. Mary simply believed God, and that was enough for her. She was an ordinary woman who set her heart toward godly purpose. God’s Word became more important than her comfort and ease. More powerful than doubt, ridicule, shame, or loneliness.

She believed God, and trusted that His plan was the very best for her.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11 NIV

Mary’s belief invited God’s seed to create life in her womb. And God would use this ordinary girl as a vessel through whom He would bring about His plan of redemption for the world.

Do you think she found it worth it, beloved? When she finally looked into the face of the miracle she had carried within her for nine long months, do you think she felt regret?

I don’t, dear one. My guess is one emotion consumed her. Love. She gazed into Love’s face and held Him in her arms. I imagine she wept with wonder.

But then her miracle asked more of her. More surrender. More sacrifice.

One day hatred would tear her Son from her. The man He would become would hang before her, bloodied and beaten on a wooden cross.

Her child that kings had worshipped with gifts of gold would become the sacrificial Lamb. And Mary would receive her greatest miracle. Eternal life.

Will you trust God to work miracles through your life, beloved? Will you trust even when you don’t understand? Would you believe the blessing overshadows the cost?

Mary believed.

And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord. Luke 1:45

Despairing of Hope, or Living With It

But when I hoped for good, evil came, and when I waited for light, darkness came. Job 30:26

I wonder if you’ve ever felt the heavy weight of our opening scripture.

Perhaps you allowed your heart to hope for good—believed God for something good—but the good you hoped for didn’t appear. Instead evil leered at you, taunting you with a darkness that overwhelmed.

And you were tempted to disbelieve John 1:5.

 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

I faced that temptation last week, beloved. Pain has a way of casting a shadow that seems impossible to escape. Especially pain evoked from loss.

And I recently lost someone I love to glory. The frail tent of my dear aunt’s body gave way to the cancer she battled. Now my mother grieves the loss of her beloved sister while facing another three months of chemo herself. Chemo she didn’t anticipate. Her doctors and faithful prayer had projected remission.

It didn’t come.

Now faith is tested while hope dwindles. Darkness approaches, proclaiming a message of hopelessness, sucking away life like a vacuum. Only the emptiness isn’t a void. Fear fills it. Unimaginable pain. Sorrow. Despair.

We so easily allow the darkness to rob our hope, beloved.

But what if we refuse to let the darkness win? What if we recognize that we are the light that overcomes darkness? What if we choose to believe what God says despite what circumstances declare?

I know my God, dear one, and I know His goodness. He is incorruptible. Perfect. Kind. And He always keeps His Word. Always.

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28

It seems impossible to believe. Can God really bring a great good from death and suffering?

Yes, beloved. Just look at Jesus. What appeared to be humanity’s darkest hour became its brightest. Jesus’ suffering unleashed life and blessing that still produces a harvest.

And now He challenges us to follow His example.

But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. 1 Peter 4:13

Glory looms on the horizon for the heart infused with faith. And hope for a future joy that waits beyond the darkness.

Remember your word to your servant, in which you have made me hope. This is my comfort in my affliction, that your promise gives me life. Psalm 119:49-50

Life flows into the hearts of the afflicted when we choose to believe God’s promises. I am living proof of the miracle faith produces when we yield our hearts to the will of our good, good Father. My heart hurts for the people I love. But I do not despair. Hope in my Father’s Word engulfs my heart with peace. It beats with purpose, anticipating a harvest we cannot yet conceive.

Joy released through suffering.

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. James 1:2-4

Beloved, God loves us too much to allow us to live lacking. He wants us perfect and complete, and He will do whatever it requires. He gave His Son to remove our lack. Will we also trust Him by surrendering our loved ones?

The Holy Spirit recently gripped my heart with Jesus’ words in Mark 10:29-30.

Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life.”

What are you willing to leave for Jesus’ sake, beloved? Will you relinquish your suffering loved ones? Will you entrust them to God’s will, feeling the sorrow but releasing all bitterness?

No one who has surrendered a loved one for Jesus’ sake and for the sake of the gospel will fail to receive a hundredfold blessing, now in this time. This isn’t just about heavenly crowns. It represents an earthly harvest. But the fulfillment of that blessing will be released through persecutions. Pain. Suffering. Loss.

And faith.

What is that harvest worth to you, beloved?

Surrender your heart to your Father’s will. Find hope as you believe His Word. And experience His resurrection life.

You were wearied with the length of your way, but you did not say, “It is hopeless”; you found new life for your strength, and so you were not faint. Isaiah 57:10

I believe, Lord Jesus. Bring life.

Releasing the River

Righteousness will go before Him and make His footsteps a way. Psalm 85:13 (ESV)

It’s that time again. January rolls around each year with an invitation to take stock of our lives. And the same question raises a hopeful challenge. What can I do differently this year that will make my life better?

We have great intentions . . . and usually less than great results.

Not this year. Not for me, anyway. This year I have high expectations, because I’m basing my resolutions on believing God, not on my own works. And faith—real, present, active, living faith—ushers us into the grace and power of God.

Through him [Jesus] we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Romans 5:2

I could stand to witness a little glory, couldn’t you?

Last week we looked at God’s promise to pour out water on a thirsty land. My heart leapt to see so many people acknowledge their thirst! We desperately need God to release the river of life.

As we join together to pray for His outpouring, I challenge you to consider another important truth revealed in our opening scripture.

Righteousness will go before Him and make His footsteps a way. Psalm 85:13

It reminds me of Hebrews 12:14 (NIV).

Make every effort . . . to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.

Whether we desire to embrace it or not, righteousness marks the path of glory. If we want to see God pour out on our thirsty land, we’ve got to get on with the business of letting Him sanctify us.

Perhaps you’ll be a little more excited about it when I show you why. You, dear one, carry the power within you that you long to see poured out.

Consider Jesus’ promises to His followers before He ascended into heaven.

“And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” Luke 24:49 (ESV)

And what about Acts 1:8?

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

Look at how Jesus described that power.

“Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. John 7:38-39

Do you see it, dear one? The very outpouring we desire from God is already here! It dwells within us waiting to be released. And it promises more than we could even think to ask or imagine of God.

Revel in Ephesians 3:20-21, asking God to penetrate your heart with its truth.

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

Take it in, beloved.

God is able to do far beyond what you could ask or think. He does it according to the power at work within you.

We’re not waiting for an outpouring from on high, dear one. God has already poured it out through the cross. Now we’re waiting to see the river released from within you and me.

And that’s why righteousness remains so important. The outpouring will come as the people of God embrace their new nature in Christ and become “filled to the measure of all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:19 NIV).

Every sin we hold onto or habit we justify acts as a dam blocking the flow of God’s power on this earth. It’s time we awaken to our true calling, dear one.

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 5:2

When you and I decide to comply, there’s no telling what God will do. Only one thing is certain. It will be more than we can imagine.

Free to Choose

But if you will not listen, my soul will weep in secret for your pride; my eyes will weep bitterly and run down with tears, because the Lord’s flock has been taken captive. Jeremiah 13:17

For reasons beyond our understanding, God chose to hand the earth He created over to the dominion of man (Genesis 1:28). It pleased Him to give us a say in what happens here rather than force us to cooperate with His desires. You see, love is only love when it’s offered freely.

So He set His perfect will in place over His creation, and He gave man the authority to choose whether he’d walk in those blessings or live according to his own plans.

He chose poorly.

I sure wish Adam had taken hold of the truth revealed in last week’s opening scripture.

“For the simple are killed by their turning away… but whoever listens to me will dwell secure and will be at ease, without dread of disaster.” Proverbs 1:32-33

Adam turned away from the protective counsel of His Creator and walked straight into disaster for us all. Why did He do it? He followed the wrong voice. He chose to trust the serpent instead of trusting God and found himself caught by the terrifying reality of Romans 6:16.

Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?

The moment Adam did what the serpent desired of him and bit into that forbidden fruit, he became a slave to the one he obeyed. Sin entered his heart and took control of his will, tainting his desires with a bent toward destruction.

I can only imagine his horror as the tide of emotions brought on by his sudden knowledge of evil flooded his mind. Shame, guilt, fear, blame—all of which he’d never known—tumbled into his heart like a torrent.

I wonder if the realization even hit him in that moment that he’d lost his God-given position. One moment—one choice—diminished him from ruler over the earth to slave of the evil one, shattering his perfect world and altering the course of history.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. John 10:10

Indeed. The thief stole man’s dominion and claimed it as his own. There’s a reason evil increases with each generation. The reigning prince of this world manipulates mankind to see his agenda played out here instead of God’s.

And most of mankind blindly cooperates, powerless to stop it. Until Jesus . . .

God could’ve left us here to rot in our sin, dear one. After all, we chose it. But that isn’t what love does, and God is love (1 John 4:8).

So He sent Jesus—destined in God’s foreknowledge to become a perfect, sinless sacrifice— to bear our sin and conquer its power so that you and I could live free.

Do you see it, beloved? Jesus restored our right to choose. We don’t have to be carried away by the encroaching tide of evil. Instead, we have the ability to do what Adam failed to do. Set free by the blood of Christ, we can choose to embrace and loose the will of God.

That’s really what prayer is, dear one.

Prayer is the heart of a human vessel coming into agreement with the will of God and choosing to release it on this earth by faith.

That’s why Jesus instructed His disciples,

“This, then, is how you should pray: “‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” Matthew 6:9-10

According to Jesus, the primary objective of all prayer is to glorify the name of the Father and release His will on this earth as He has already prepared it in heaven. That’s why scripture can make so many extravagant promises about prayer, dear one. True prayer finds its source in Christ itself,

For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. Romans 8:14

So let’s review. God gave dominion of the earth to man. Man handed it over to Satan. Jesus gave it back to the church. The only thing that can presently thwart the will of the enemy on this planet is the body of Christ releasing the will of God through prayer. That’s where you and I come in.

You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. 1 John 4:4

And when you and I submit ourselves fully to the leadership of the Spirit, trusting God for His best for us instead of insisting on our own, miracles happen. When we willingly choose to agree with God and let loose His desires through prayer, blessings flow in Jesus’ name.

“If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” 2 Chronicles 7:14

I’m game. Are you?

 

The Now Power of Forgiveness

. . . just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. Romans 6:4

We’ve talked a lot over the last several weeks about the blessings of God. We’d be remiss if we didn’t zero in on our greatest blessing in Christ: forgiveness.

Sometimes I wonder if the word is tossed around so much it’s lost its potency. It’s so familiar to us in our Christian circles, we hardly appreciate the value of it anymore. We’re grateful for the ticket to heaven and we praise God for His gift to us, but beyond that, its power seems lost on us.

Beloved of God, forgiveness offers so much more than a free pass. It offers power for today.

You and I are carrying burdens we’re not meant to carry. We’ve spent our lives painfully bent under sin’s authority, and we’re still letting it rule us.

Sin still governs our thoughts. It convinces us to take offense, even when none is given. It leads us to make choices that bring us harm and even damage the people we love.

We don’t mean to. We can’t see it at the time. A veil of darkness blinds our view of consequence, dangling before us only the enticing lure of gratification. For the moment.

Then pain quickly follows, swallowing us in a tide of darkness that drags us bit by bit away from those we love.

Dear one, Jesus carried all of that sin to Calvary. He took it all. He didn’t just pay sin’s penalty. He bore the sin itself. And when they pounded the nails in His hands and feet, they nailed it with Him to that cross. It’s gone.

Jesus took our sin upon Himself and conquered its power. Do you know what that means, dear one? You no longer need to bow down to the rule of sin. You can stand in the authority of Jesus’ victory, with the power of that sin securely under your feet.

For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace. Romans 6:14

Isn’t that an amazing promise? Grace has set us free from sin’s power over us.

You see, that’s what forgiveness really means, beloved.

Release.

Not just release from sin’s penalty and consequences, but freedom from sin’s control.

For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. Romans 8:2

Do you see the present tense resting in the midst of that promise? Christ has already set us free from the law of sin and death. It’s not something He still has to accomplish. It’s already done.

You, dear one, are free from sin’s authority over you.

You may be wondering why you still struggle with sin. Let me share with you what God’s been speaking to me. You see, it comes down to faith. You and I are still struggling because we still believe we’re the person we used to be. We still view ourselves through the eyes of our old nature, the one that’s been tarnished by sin.

But Scripture is very clear that if we are in Christ, our nature has changed.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 2 Corinthians 5:17

There’s that present tense again. Do you see it, dear one? The new has already come. We don’t need to wait for Christ to make us a new creation. He’s already done it.

Now He’s asking us to believe it.

For years I’ve heard this expression tossed about within the body.

“I’m just a sinner, saved by grace.”

I’ve come to realize that phrase isn’t entirely true. Think it through with me.

If I have been saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, then I’m no longer a sinner. I was a sinner; that’s why I needed a Savior. But now I’m a redeemed child of God who has been set free from the power of sin and walks in the righteousness of Christ’s nature.

What difference does that make, dear one? You and I will always make our decisions based on what we believe.

If I still see myself as a sinner, I’m going to keep on sinning. If that’s what I believe I am, that’s what I’ll do.

But if I truly believe that I have a new nature given to me through Jesus Christ, my faith in choosing to walk that out will access the grace of God and empower me to live differently.

That’s the gift of forgiveness poured out to us through the cross, dear one. We are free. Free from sin’s destructive hold. Free to make different choices that produce life.

Will you see yourself as you are in Christ and let go of the person you used to be?

Unlimited power waits for the one who believes.

Something Better

These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect. Hebrews 11:39-40 NIV

The verses you just read close out the Hebrews 11 “Hall of Faith,” where God took care to remind us of the courageous exploits of some of the faithful. Yet as much as devoted men like Noah, Moses, and Abraham got to experience God, scripture reveals this amazing truth: none of them received what had been promised. There was more.

With all that they got to know and witness of God on this earth, with what they have seen and understood of God’s plan of redemption even now in His presence, something waits. Something better. Something they can only experience together with us.

Can you imagine what that moment will bring, dear one?

All time moves toward the great revelation, the wondrous Day of the Lord when Christ returns to reveal Himself in all His glory, flooding darkness with light and erasing all mystery. Only then will we understand all things fully as we are made perfect together.

Yet many of us live as though that’s already taken place. We often act as though we grasp God completely and have unraveled all the mystery. We assume our understanding of God and His Word is correct and absolute, so we close off our hearts to the possibility that Jesus could be even more than what we’ve perceived Him to be.

The people of Nazareth did that very thing centuries ago when Jesus began to reveal His true nature.

Coming to his hometown he taught them in their synagogue, so that they were astonished, and said, “Where did this man get this wisdom and these mighty works? Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother called Mary? And are not his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? And are not all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all these things?” Matthew 13:54-56 ESV

Sometimes our perceived familiarity with Jesus becomes the very thing that holds us back from experiencing His other aspects that He still desires to show us. We think we know Him, and we’ve neatly wrapped our understanding of who He is in a nice little package we can grasp. Then we encounter something that doesn’t quite fit into that package, and it makes us uncomfortable. So we reject the possibility that it might be true.

The people of Nazareth saw Jesus as the carpenter’s son with a mother named Mary. They watched Him grow up. They knew His brothers and sisters. And that familiarity caused them to bristle when they saw Him doing something that didn’t line up with their understanding. They couldn’t believe that Jesus could be more than what they already knew Him to be.

And they took offense at him. But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and in his own household.” Matthew 13:57

I wonder. Does Jesus once again find Himself without honor in His own household? Does His heart break as He watches His churches refuse to acknowledge certain aspects of His character? Has our unbelief quenched the work of His Spirit and hidden His glory?

That’s what happened in Nazareth.

And he did not do many mighty works there, because of their unbelief. Matthew 13:58

I pray we never discover that our own unbelief held back the works Jesus desired to do among us in our day.

What if each of us chose to humbly offer our hearts to our Lord as teachable? What if we opened ourselves to the possibility that Jesus still has greater things to reveal?

Consider Jesus’ words to His disciples in John 16:12-14.

“I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you.”

Jesus flat out told His followers that they had much to learn, but they couldn’t handle it all at once. He would reveal it to them over time as they became ready to receive it.

You and I are no different, dear one. Jesus has much to teach us, but we cannot bear it all at once. Some become ready to receive certain truths before others. Yet like those first disciples, He has given us His Spirit to “guide you into all the truth” (John 16:13).

We can’t just stick with the truths we’re comfortable with. We need to humbly allow Jesus to reveal all of His truth to us in His time. And just because my heart may not be ready to receive something, doesn’t mean it isn’t true. It just means I’m not yet a witness to it.

“You are my witnesses,” declares the Lord, “and my servant whom I have chosen, that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed, nor shall there be any after me. Isaiah 43:10

Isaiah 43:10 speaks a profound truth. We are many witnesses, but together we are His one servant. Perhaps only together, as each of us brings our limited understanding of our unlimited God, can we fully reveal who Jesus is.

Let’s invite the Holy Spirit to open our minds and guide us into all truth,

. . . until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Ephesians 4:13

Something better, indeed.

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