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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.

Loved and Lavished in Grace

For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. John 1:16 ESV

“There is no one on this planet more blessed than you.”

Beth Moore spoke those words during a recent taping of “Wednesdays in the Word” for Life Today TV. At the time, I joked with a friend who attended with me. “I’ve been telling you this for months. Will you believe it now that you’ve heard it from Beth Moore?”

Somehow it seems impossible to believe. Most days we don’t feel extravagantly blessed.

If that’s you, you’re not alone. I presented that same truth to the ladies in my Sunday school class a few days ago and asked if they believed it. You should’ve seen the eyes darting from my gaze, heads shaking in disagreement around the room.

I think we believe in a God of blessing. We just have trouble believing those blessings belong to us.

We easily assure others that God loves them desperately and has great things in store. But that same truth doesn’t seem to apply when we look in the mirror. We carefully guard our list of reasons that prove what our thoughts convey: most of God’s blessings aren’t meant for me.

The Apostle Paul begs to differ with you, dear one. So does the God who inspired his words.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places. Ephesians 1:3

Whether or not you feel blessed at this particular moment, if you have put your faith in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, God’s Word says that you are. According to Ephesians 1:3, you have already been blessed with every spiritual blessing available to you in Christ.

Think about that truth for a minute. The God who speaks things into being has spoken blessings over your life. Already. You’re not going to be blessed someday, dear one. You are already blessed.

I have to ask, beloved. Are you living out that blessing?

I think it’s safe to say that most of us live in the reality of who we’ve always been rather than the blessings of who we’ve become in Christ. We don’t walk as though we’re already blessed. We live still seeking the blessing.

Paul offers the key to unlocking God’s blessings over us in verse 6:

. . . his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.

Just so we’re clear, Jesus is the Beloved. And what has He blessed us with? Grace. Glorious grace.

That word grace in the original Greek means, “the state of kindness and favor toward someone, often with a focus on benefit given to the object; by extension: gift, benefit . . . blessing.” (Strong’s Concordance, Greek #5485, p.1653)

You, dear one, are blessed with the favor of God—favor that gives benefit. Favor you can’t earn. Favor you already have.

Do you believe God favors you, dear one? Do you know what His favor offers you? Perhaps you should read 2 Corinthians 9:8.

And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.

Grace provides whatever we need at whatever time to succeed. And we’re swimming in it.

I’ll be honest with you. I have always struggled a bit with the concept of grace. This logical mind has difficulty grasping the idea that God’s love and favor doesn’t have to be earned. In fact, it can’t be. But the thought doesn’t sit quite right under the umbrella of reason.

And yet, that’s what scripture claims. For God so loves, that He gave (John 3:16). Freely. He poured out grace that provides all sufficiency in all things at all times. And if you are His, nobody has more blessing and favor from God than you.

Whether you believe it yet or not, Christ has lavished the riches of His grace upon you “in all wisdom and insight” (Ephesians 1:7-8). That means He didn’t make a mistake speaking it over you. He thought it through. He had insight into who you are, and He chose to favor you anyway.

So how do we learn to live in that favor? How do those blessings spoken over us in the heavenly places become our new reality on this earth?

The answer actually isn’t complicated, although we do our best to make it so. You and I need to return to where we began in Christ at the moment of our salvation.

We believe.

You see, one thing ushers us into the flow of grace poured out on us. Faith.

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

Dear one, you are loved and lavished in grace. One thing alone can stop the realization of God’s favor in your life. Unbelief.

Will you see yourself as you really are and step into your blessing?

Are You God’s Friend?

I am a friend of God.

You’ve probably heard songs making that bold claim. You may have even sung them in worship on Sunday morning. It’s a wonderful concept, and I love the reminder that God is approachable and seeking relationship. But I wonder if God’s definition of friendship matches ours.

Are you really living as God’s friend?

Only a handful of people received the distinction of being called God’s friend in Scripture. Abraham earned the recognition first, followed by Moses. You’ll notice that God used both in mighty ways to bring about His plan for this earth.

Through Abraham God created a nation, a people group He called out from the world to become His own. Through Moses, God delivered that people from slavery in Egypt and led them to the banks of their promised inheritance. God revealed His miraculous power through each of them, their faith in what God told them becoming a catalyst to release His glory.

And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend. James 2:23 NIV

Along with their amazing exploits of faith, both of them share the distinction of having direct communication with God. Exodus 33:11 tells us, “The Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend.” God consistently spoke to both of them, and they each responded to what they heard with faithful obedience.

I have to ask, dear one. How does the description fit so far? Are you allowing God to use you in mighty ways to further His Kingdom? Do you speak with Him face to face and allow Him to whisper direction into your life? When you hear from Him, do you trust Him through your obedience so that His perfect will comes to pass?

Another group also earned the title of friend in Jesus’ day. Eleven men who left everything to follow Him received His invitation to friendship in an upper room right before He gave His life for them. The twelfth had already left to sell his “friend” for 30 pieces of silver. Here’s what Jesus said to them.

Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. John 15:13-15

Did you catch it, dear one? Do you see God’s definition of who His friends are? In case you didn’t pick up on it, I’ll repeat it for you. Jesus’ friends are those who do what He asks of them.

Perhaps we have been throwing the word around a little too flippantly.

You see, according to Scripture, friends of God live with Kingdom purpose. They draw near to Him, pressing in close to hear what He has to say. And when He speaks, they follow, even if it means heading in a different direction than they had intended to go.

Beloved, Christ delights in sharing His Father’s business with His friends. He longs for eager Kingdom builders to come alongside Him and boldly exercise the faith they profess. Why? Friends of God living in faithful obedience release kingdom power that changes things.

Unfortunately, while we love to sing songs about friendship with God, most of us actually live as friends of the world. We embrace its principles and found our plans on its beliefs. We tune into all its channels to hear how the world defines who we are or who we should be. Then we eagerly align our lives to what it speaks.

Here’s the thing about that, dear one. We cannot live as friends of both God and the world.

You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. Or do you think Scripture says without reason that he jealously longs for the spirit he has caused to dwell in us? James 4:4-5

You see, biblically, what unites us in friendship is purpose. Look at what Scripture reveals in Luke 23:12, right after Herod and his soldiers had mocked Jesus and sent Him back to Pilate during His trials:

That day Herod and Pilate became friends—before this they had been enemies.

It is our common ground that unites us. Our friendships are built on what we believe, on our goals and motivations, on the principles we live by.

Dear one, we’ve been trying to claim friendship with God while standing on the world’s principles. In doing so, we’ve inadvertently made ourselves God’s enemies. Then we wonder why He doesn’t seem to want to bless.

Hear Jesus’ heart for you, beloved.

. . . As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world . . . John 15:19

What if you and I determined to live according to the biblical definition of friend of Jesus? What if we took up His cause as our own? What if we pressed in close to hear what He desires to speak to us? What if we determined to realign our lives with what He speaks?

I’ll tell you what we’d see, beloved. We’d see the glory of God poured out on this earth. We’d see power that changes circumstances. We’d see life that heals and resurrects. Is that not worth the risk?

I am a friend of God.

 

 

Have You Heard Your Word From God?

Then the word of the Lord came to him: “This man will not be your heir, but a son who is your own flesh and blood will be your heir.” Genesis 15:4 NIV

I imagine you’ve probably experienced the dull ache of a longing unfulfilled. Life disappoints all of us at some point or another. Some things just hurt worse than others.

Scripture describes the result of those unfulfilled longings in Proverbs 13:12.

 Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.

God spoke our opening Scripture to Abraham at a time when his heart ached over a hope that burned within him but hadn’t been realized. He had longed for an heir, and he was starting to have a few doubts about God’ plan for him.

Perhaps you’re familiar with Abraham’s story. The God of glory had appeared to him years before and made a request.

 “Leave your country and your people,” God said, “and go to the land I will show you.” So he left . . . Acts 7:3-4

I wonder how many of us would have been willing to give up everything to follow a God no one else believed in or served. Abraham remained completely alone in his allegiance, and yet he left the life he knew to follow the God he had met.

God must have made quite an impression on him.

As is always the case, God’s command to Abraham came with the promise of blessing.

 “I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you;

I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.

I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse;

and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”

Genesis 12:2-3

Not a bad promise! Only Abraham couldn’t quite figure out how it was going to happen. How would he become a great nation when he had no heir? He was already an old man.

In Genesis 15 he begins to voice his concerns to his God. Notice the doubt rising, his heart ailing over having his hope for an heir long deferred.

But Abram said, “Sovereign Lord, what can you give me since I remain childless and the one who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus?” And Abram said, “You have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir.” Genesis 15:2-3

Don’t you love the freedom he feels to get honest with God? God loves it too. And in a tender moment, He whispers hope into Abraham’s aching heart.

 Then the word of the Lord came to him: “This man will not be your heir, but a son who is your own flesh and blood will be your heir.” He took him outside and said, “Look up at the sky and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” Genesis 15:4-5

Can you imagine it? God tells Abraham, “I want to show you something.” Then he challenges him to count the stars and tells him, “That’s how many offspring I’m giving you. And it won’t be coming through your servant. Your heir will be your own flesh and blood.”

God’s plans for us generally surpass what we can dream up. The problem is, many of us don’t let Him whisper His dreams into our hearts. We set our hearts on our own plans, our own dreams, and expect God to meet them. Then our deferred hope shatters our hearts.

Beloved, let me remind you of a biblical truth on which you and I need to establish our faith.

Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ. Romans 10:17

The most significant part of Abraham’s story can be summed up from Genesis 15:4.

Then the word of the Lord came to him: . . .

At every turning point in Abraham’s journey, God spoke. And each time, Abraham chose to believe Him.

I wonder if some of us are frustrated because we’re trying to believe God for things He hasn’t spoken over our lives. We’re trying to claim promises because we believe that’s what God should do for us, but we haven’t bothered to ask Him if it’s in His plan.

Beloved, faith comes from hearing. We cannot fully express faith to follow Jesus without seeking Him to hear His Word for our lives.

I encourage you to ask Him, dear one. Perhaps, like Abraham, you’ll receive the word you longed for. If so, hold onto His promise with both hands until you see it come to pass.

Or perhaps you’ll discover that the hope you’ve held onto isn’t part of His plan for your life. If so, He wants to minister to your wounded heart and turn your attention to the blessing He has set aside for you.

In case you’re wondering, you won’t have to worry if you’ll like the blessing. It will be a perfect fit for you because it’s what you were made for. And your soul will sing with elation that far surpasses what would have come from what you once hoped for.

You may even discover what Abraham did about the God you serve.

“. . . I am . . . your very great reward.” Genesis 15:1

Death: The Door to Life

“I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” John 12:24

Death scares most of us. We spend the majority of our lives trying to avoid it. And no wonder. Death represents an end, ceasing to exist in the way we’ve known. What follows is unfamiliar territory. And most of us prefer the comfort of familiarity, even when what’s familiar to us isn’t all that great.

Like the way we feel about our sinful nature.

We don’t want to let go of it; it’s what we know.

It deceives us. It hurts us. It even harms the people we love. But we can’t fathom life without it. We fear the death of it more than we fear the pain it causes. So we rebel against Jesus’ command to crucify it.

Yet Jesus forever changed what death means for us as believers. He came to the earth and shared in our humanity,

. . . so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. Hebrews 2:14-15

In Christ, we should no longer fear death. Jesus has conquered its power! Instead, He asks us to embrace it. Even seek it.

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.” Matthew 16:24-25

Jesus challenges us to lose our lives for Him.

We read those words and our flesh kicks up. We don’t want to lose our lives. That’s death, and we’ve always been afraid of death.

But Jesus has freed us from that fear. In Christ, death isn’t an end, dear one. It offers a new beginning.

And Matthew 16:25 extends a clear promise: When you lose your life for Him, you will find it.

You will find your true life, beloved, when you’re willing to lose the one you have.

It doesn’t make sense to us. Logic wars against it. Everything in us screams to hold onto who we’ve always been. After all, it’s what we know.

But when you and I fear the death of our old nature and try to protect and preserve it, we settle for a less than life.

How can I say that? Jesus said it first.

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” John 10:10

Jesus wants you to experience life to its fullest extent. That happens when you stop living from your old nature and allow Christ to live through you.

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:20

When you and I cease to live—when we put to death our sinful nature—Christ lives in its place. And that scares the enemy of our souls, because he knows he can walk all over us as long as we still live through our old nature. He governs that nature and can easily manipulate us.

But the enemy can’t do anything against the power of the living Christ. Jesus need only utter a word, and he’s undone. He’s powerless… feeble… nothing. And so he does all he can to convince you to remain in your own weakness. He whispers that you should fear death.

Beloved, Jesus has released you from that fear. It’s time to walk in the fullness of life Christ offers. Death has become your catalyst to abundant life!

Imagine it for a moment. What if you crucified your insecurity and let Christ’s assurance of who He Is reign in its place? What if you let go of bitterness and experienced the flooding of His love equipping your heart to feel joy again? What if you buried your self-centeredness so Jesus could replace your impatience and agitation with His perfect peace?

Abundant life awaits, dear one. You need only trust His Word.

We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. Romans 6:4

Will you walk through that door and trust Jesus for your new life?