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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.

 

You Were Made for Glory

Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. For behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the Lord will arise upon you, and his glory will be seen upon you. Isaiah 60:1-2

Glory. It’s one of those words we talk about in church but don’t fully understand. In our human experience, glory represents fame and importance. Renown. And we spend much of our time on this earth fighting for glory that belongs to God.

But glory comprises more than honor and distinction. It also reveals itself through magnificent, radiant beauty. Like the glory revealed in creation, or the dazzling, pure light emanating from our Creator Himself.

Renown. Magnificence. Radiant beauty. Glory.

So what do you think God means when He declares,

“…bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the end of the earth, everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.” Isaiah 43:6b-7

In these verses, God issues a call to gather His children—every individual who bears His Name. He reveals His purpose in verse 7: whom I created for my glory.

God formed you, beloved—knit you together in your mother’s womb (Psalm 139:13)—with a singular purpose, one the enemy of our souls works diligently to keep hidden. God created you for glory.

I imagine you’ve felt the longing for significance common to all mankind. We desire purpose. We want to be valued, to feel important. We long to be seen and understood. Whether we willingly admit it or not, our hearts long for glory.

And scripture is clear. God created you for glory. But not your glory, dear one. His. God created you to be a dwelling place for His glory.

Consider Jesus’ prayer to His Father right before His arrest and death on a cross.

“The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one.” John 17:22

Beloved, Jesus has shared His glory with you. The same glory that the Father bestowed on Christ, He gave to us.

Hebrews 1:3 describes Jesus’ glory.

He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power.

Child of God, the radiance of God’s glory—the exact imprint of His nature—now dwells within you. Jesus gave it to you when you put your faith in Him. God has given you His own glory, so that you can reveal who He is.

But look at what Jesus linked to that glory: Unity.

“The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, 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

I wonder if you caught the significance of verse 23. God gave us His glory, “… that they may become perfectly one.”

Perfect unity seems an impossible goal. I guess it’s a good thing God specializes in making impossible things possible (Matthew 19:26).

I’m going to take Jesus’ words a step further. Perfect unity within the body of Christ isn’t just possible. It’s inevitable. Why? Because Jesus always prays according to the Father’s will, so He always gets what He asks for. Christ’s church will rise in perfect unity before the end, revealing the glory Jesus gave us. The only question remaining is which generation of believers will experience that promise.

I know one thing. God’s glory won’t become evident while believers seek their own. The world will see it as individuals embrace their true purpose and commit their lives to God’s. We must stop seeking to position ourselves in prominent places and allow Jesus to position us in the place He chose for us.

Beloved, the church is God’s present dwelling place on earth,

… built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. Ephesians 2:20-22

Scripture teaches that,…your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you…” (1 Corinthians 6:19). But I need you to notice something. God’s house grows into a holy temple as it’s joined together. Each person carrying the Spirit is merely a piece of the greater structure. When we allow the Spirit to build us together into God’s dwelling place, glory will fill the temple.

Look what happened when God’s last earthly house was completed.

As soon as Solomon finished his prayer, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the Lord filled the temple. And the priests could not enter the house of the Lord, because the glory of the Lord filled the Lord’s house. When all the people of Israel saw the fire come down and the glory of the Lord on the temple, they bowed down with their faces to the ground on the pavement and worshiped and gave thanks to the Lord, saying, “For he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.” 2 Chronicles 7:1-3

When glory filled the temple, the people watching knew two things.

God is here.

God loves.

Jesus’ prayer in Gethsemane echoes that result, “that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.”

You were made for glory, beloved. God has given you His glory through your faith in His Son. Now He wants to position you in your place in His house, connected to and supporting other believers on every side. When He finishes building, His glory will once again fill His earthly temple.

And the world will know that He is God.

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.

Awake to His Purpose

So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be awake and sober. 1 Thessalonians 5:6 NIV

I have to be honest with you. I’m feeling a little lost.

You may already know from some of my recent posts that I’ve been away on vacation. I spent two glorious weeks at the beach with my husband and boys, and we enjoyed the added blessing of sharing portions of that time with extended family members from both sides. For the past two weeks, I have been caught up in the rich blessing of God, reveling in the beauty of His creation and enjoying the love and fellowship that only occurs when Christ rules the hearts of very different people.

I have to say, the food was pretty good too. Our bellies had no excuse to groan in hunger, although at times they ached from the sidesplitting laughter that erupted frequently during nightly games around the dining table.

Life is so much better when it’s shared.

But now I’m home, and my view has changed. I’m not just talking about my inability to watch the waves pound the shore or see the sunlight glistening on a seemingly endless sea. I’m talking about a subtle change, one that seems to have occurred within me. Apparently my heart so enjoyed that period of rest, it continues to long for more of it.

Have you ever noticed how easily our enjoyment of the blessings of God can take our eyes off the Giver of them?

Hang with me for a minute here. I’m not saying we forget God altogether. But sometimes we lose sight of the whole of who God is. We relish one aspect of His character and allow His other Truths to fade in significance. Not intentionally, mind you. It’s simply the nature of our fallen flesh.

I think that’s what started to happen to me. My lips uttered praise every day for His gifts. My Bible still opened with my morning coffee, the thin pages rustling in the ocean breeze. I remained extremely aware of His presence. I simply felt a strong longing to stay right where I was, basking in His love and resting in His embrace.

The trouble is, I started to lose sight of my purpose.

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”  Matthew 28:18-20

You see, God is so good, His faithfulness so sure, His love so abundant that it’s easy to get caught up thinking that our salvation is all about us. We think, “For God so loved… that He gave…” and we make our lives about seeking and receiving the rich blessings He pours out through Jesus. It becomes easy to forget that where much is given, much is also expected.

From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked. Luke 12:48

Dear one, God didn’t give to you and me simply so we could receive. He gave so that you and I could also give. He doesn’t merely want to bless us. He wants to bless the world through us.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:1-2

Jesus beckons us to follow Him, beloved. By definition, that means we can’t simply remain at rest. Let’s not get distracted by our blessings and lose sight of our purpose.

Christ is coming again, but He will not return to a sleeping church, bobbing along in a sea of grace. He will return to a church in glory, to a bride who has made herself ready (Matthew 25:10, Revelation 19:7). Let’s awaken from our rest and usher in the glory of God.

Peter and his companions were very sleepy, but when they became fully awake, they saw his glory… Luke 9:32

The Word, the Rock, and the Gates of Hell

“And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”

Matthew 16:18 ESV

I’d love to see Christ’s church prevail against the gates of hell. Wouldn’t you?

In days when we see evil advancing—where atrocities set before us in the news turn our stomachs and vulgarities have become commonplace—this promise from Jesus to His eager, bungling disciple offers hope.

But do we actually expect to see it? Do we view this promise as a present hope? Or have we relegated Jesus’ words to a future assurance we won’t see realized until His return?

Beloved, what if you and I could see that prevailing church advancing in our day? What if we really did have the power to set the kingdom of evil on its heels and smash its gates?

Jesus spoke those words to Peter on a pivotal day in history, the day he first proclaimed Jesus to be, “the Christ, the Son of the living God” (verse 16).

Well done, Peter. That day, at least, he got it right. Stumbling, precocious Peter boldly proclaimed what he knew in his heart to be true. Jesus was the Promised One heralded in the Old Testament. The Christ had come. The Kingdom had come. And things would change forever.

Indeed, they did, just not exactly in the way they had expected. The army of the Kingdom of God advanced, but not against the reigning Roman government as the people had hoped. Instead, Jesus loosed His army to victoriously trample an unseen spiritual foe, the force behind the present evils they suffered.

Dear one, Jesus offers that same invitation to us today. But like the majority of Jews in Jesus’ day, many of us have set our gaze so firmly on the final earthly kingdom Christ will establish when He returns that we’ve overlooked the current one. We mutter prayers, “Come quickly, Lord,” hiding in our homes and churches, hoping the storms will pass us by.

Beloved, we’re missing the opportunity to participate in the glory of that kingdom now.

What if we chose to believe what Jesus said in Mark 1:15,

“The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!”

Celebrate with me that the Kingdom of God has come near! It lives within the church (Luke 17:21). And that kingdom, loosed in the body of believers, will do in our day the very thing that Jesus promised Peter, “the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18).

Wouldn’t you like to witness a little victory? Wouldn’t you like to get your feet wet in the front lines at the turning of the tide?

Jesus’ words in our opening Scripture have led many to believe that God chose Peter to be the rock on whom He would build His church. Although Peter did become a leader and pillar of the early church, I’m not sure that’s what Jesus had in mind with His statement. After all, the church could only be built upon one Rock—Christ Himself. Jesus certainly knew better than to rest the future of the church in the hands of one man.

So what was Jesus saying to Peter that day? Let’s get a little context.

Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Matthew 16:16-19

One of the most significant parts of this passage often remains overlooked. Let’s read verse 17 again.

For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.

Jesus’ teaching on the rock comes in direct correlation with that statement, a continuation of the thought. “And I tell you…”

Consider with me for a moment. What if Jesus’ teaching has less to do with who Peter was and more to do with the example he set in that moment? What if the rock Jesus referred to wasn’t Peter himself but rather his ability to discern what the Father was speaking and his desire to believe and live out of what he heard?

Not convinced? Let’s tune our ears to something else Jesus said.

“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock.”  Matthew 7:24-25

Hmm… “… and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18). Sounds like a similar promise to me. A house built on the rock withstands the storm that rages against it. And what’s the rock? Hearing and living out what Jesus speaks.

Dear one, Peter had heard what the Father was speaking into his heart about His Son, and he believed. He lived out that belief by altering his life to come into agreement with what God had revealed to Him. He stood before Jesus and boldly declared Him the Christ at a time when the majority of his fellow Jews did not.

And Jesus said, “Yes Peter. Keep hearing my truth and adjust your life to it, and you become a stone, strengthened and built upon my Rock. This is how I will build my church. Keep that up, Peter, and the gates of hell will not be able to advance.”

Could it really be that simple? Could we really become empowered to overthrow hell’s gates merely by seeking what God says and adjusting our lives to what we discover?

Well, isn’t it worth a try? Consider the alternative.

And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.” Matthew 7:26-28

How far the church has fallen since the day our Lord first spoke those words to Peter. Jesus invites us to return, beloved. His Truth still speaks, and He’s looking for men and women like Peter who will allow their lives to resonate with its sound.

Let’s tune to the voice of our Shepherd, align our lives with what He speaks, and remind the world of 1 Corinthians 4:20,

For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power.

 

 

A Divine Appointment

“ . . . no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him.”                         1 Corinthians 2:9 ESV

“I opened this door.”

God whispered the words into my heart one morning in the parking lot of the YMCA. And I have to be honest with you. It wasn’t what I wanted to hear. I had other plans.

I had purchased my ticket to the Beth Moore Conference months before, and I couldn’t wait to attend. My heart longed for some rest and refreshment, and it had been years since I had been to one. Determined not to miss another, I had marked my calendar as unavailable and prepared to take some me time.

So when God brought several invitations to speak on the Saturday of that conference, I wasn’t exactly thrilled about it. Something told me He was trying to get my attention.

One particular event kept occupying my thoughts, and that day in the parking lot, I opened my heart to ask His direction. “What do you have for me, Lord? What is it you want me to do?”

“I opened this door.”

It figured. I had committed myself to walking through any door that God opens, so I immediately knew what that meant. I wouldn’t be going to see Beth Moore.

Really, Lord? I took a moment to voice my frustration. “But I just wanted to get filled up.”

His response was immediate. “I will fill you up.”

Have you ever been there? Have you ever set your heart on a particular path and then realized God was leading you in different direction?

That day I stood at a crossroads.

I knew what I wanted. In my mind, it seemed the best possible scenario, and I wanted to hold it tightly with both hands. Giving it up felt like a sacrifice.

But I also know that Jesus calls us with two, simple words. “Follow Me.” And behind those words, He offers a promise.

“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

At every crossroads along our journey, you and I must decide if we believe Him.

My logic wanted to argue against His leadership. After all, didn’t I need someone to pour into me sometimes instead of always being the one who pours out?

But Jesus had promised, “I will fill you up.”

I decided not to argue further. I’ve trusted Him often enough to know that obedience is always best.

I surrendered my heart to obey Him, and He softened the blow with an idea. I could attend the conference as planned on Friday and then drive to a hotel in Chambersburg so I’d be there for the event on Saturday.

I felt a hint of excitement. Apparently God would allow me to do both.

The weekend arrived for Living Proof Live with Beth Moore. A few of us attended the You Lead Conference beforehand and were finished up by lunchtime. Having cancelled our original hotel room in Hershey, we had lots of time to kill before heading to the Giant Center for worship. A friend who was staying at the Hershey Lodge generously offered us one of her rooms to rest before the event.

We had just parked the car and unloaded some things to take into the hotel for the afternoon. Walking the few short steps to the door near our rooms, we noticed a minivan pull up in front of it. A moment later the door slid open, and out stepped Beth Moore.

IMG_1491It took a moment for my brain to register that it was really her. She stepped toward me, taking my hand in greeting. An overwhelming sense of divine providence washed over me, filling me with emotion. God had orchestrated this appointment.

I struggled to find words at first, caught off guard by this outpouring of God’s favor. But then, as Beth graciously leaned in and listened, I found myself able to share my heart.

I told her that I’m a Bible teacher, and that ten years before, my sister-in-law had invited me for a “sisters” weekend to one of her conferences in DC. I hadn’t heard of her at the time and wasn’t sure what to expect, but when I saw her passionate love for Jesus and witnessed her devotion to His Word, it validated what I had been feeling in my own heart. That weekend released something in me, and not long afterward, I opened my home to lead my very first Bible study. That event marked the start of my journey toward ministry.

I can’t tell you what a precious moment that was to me. I never imagined I’d be able to voice my gratitude in person over the IMG_1487impact she’d had on my life.

But God wasn’t done. While we were speaking, my assistant approached carrying two copies of my Bible study. I handed them to Beth, and she gladly took them, sharing that she had self-published her first book just as I had.

Everything faded as I took in that profound moment… Beth Moore held my Bible study in her hands.

My cup overflowed.

Here’s why I share this, dear one. Had I insisted on my own plan instead of obeying God, I never would have been there. We had reserved a room at another hotel. My stubbornness would have cost me that divine appointment.

God wasn’t taking anything from me by sending me to speak that Saturday. He had a blessing He wanted to give. One that would prosper me, that fit perfectly into His plan to offer me hope and pour into my future.

Will you trust Jesus to write your story, beloved? His plans are far greater than you can imagine.

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.

Ephesians 3:20-21

 

The Power of One

“I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one:  I in them and you in me.”  John 17:22-23a

Feeling stirs my heart as I ponder the words of our opening Scripture today. They flowed from the mouth of Jesus on the night of His arrest. You just read some of the last recorded utterances of the Word made flesh before His body dangled for you from a bloody cross.

We observe an intimate moment between God the Son and God the Father, the heart of God laid bare before us in His perfect Word. Did you know Jesus’ final prayers were for you?

Jesus had just finished praying for Himself and the disciples He would leave behind. Then in verse 20 He adds, “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message.” That’s you and me.

What did He pray for, dear one?

 “… that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.”  John 17:21

Witness the Father’s revealed will spoken through the voice of His Son. His highest priority? Unity within the body of believers. Jesus prayed that believers would be one with each other in the same way that He is one with the Father. The resulting unity would cause the world to believe that Jesus did indeed come from God.

How is that possible?

Jesus and His Father are completely one in every way. Jesus declared it in John 10:30, “I and the Father are one.” They share the same thoughts and desires; their actions flow from the same perfect will. So how can men and women with very different preferences and desires, longings, and needs truly share one mind . . . one heart . . . one will?

They can’t, at least not within the realm of the natural. But those who believe in Jesus and have received the seal of His Spirit within them aren’t limited to the natural. They possess the very glory of God.

Look at Jesus’ words in our opening verse. “I have given them the glory that you gave me.” According to Jesus, that glory will enable us to become one.

John 17:23 reveals His purpose in uniting us:

 “May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”

Unity within Christ’s church will reveal two things to the world.

  1. Jesus did indeed come from God
  2. God loves them

I have to ask you to consider something, dear one. Is our generation giving Christ what He asked for? Are we allowing His Spirit within us to crucify the desires of our flesh and unite us with His glorious will so that we can become one with our brothers and sisters? Or do we hold tightly to our own desires and allow our differences to separate us?

Beloved, our unity in Christ will release the glory of God.

Let’s visit a prayer meeting that took place in the early church after Peter and John had been arrested for preaching about Jesus. Upon their release, a group of believers united together in fervent prayer with spectacular results.

Here’s how they began.

“Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”Acts 4:29-30

Do you notice anything significant about their prayer? Is that how you have prayed?

Let your thoughts settle on the words you speak when you approach God in prayer. When I did, the Spirit revealed one obvious difference about their request. Instead of asking God to rescue them, they asked God to reveal His glory.

Amazing. They didn’t ask God to take away the danger, stop the persecution, or even to protect them from the threats coming against them. Instead, they asked Him to empower them to boldly stand for Him in the midst of it. They asked for strength to speak His word with boldness in spite of the threats. They asked Him to reveal the power that comes through the name of Jesus.

These believers had one, single-minded purpose. They desired to see God reveal His glory through them. In spite of the danger, in spite of their fear, they cast aside their own desires to exalt His. And how did God respond to His humble, unified servants?

After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.  Acts 4:31

Oh, that we would once again become a body so united in heart and purpose that our prayers shake our meeting halls! Notice that God granted their request. He filled each of them with His Spirit to empower them and equipped all of them to speak His Word boldly. Not one of them was exempt from the gift.

Dear one, when you submit your heart to the Father’s will instead of your own, neither are you.

Approaching Glory

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Matthew 27:46

Do you ever have moments when darkness seems to engulf you? When it becomes so thick and heavy you find it hard to remember the warmth of the light?

I do. They don’t come frequently, but they do come. Sometimes things just don’t play out like I hoped they would. And in those moments of darkness, doubt takes over. It tries to convince me that the God who loves me has abandoned me.  Forsaken me.

Ever been there? I’m guessing you have. You and I won’t follow Jesus for very long without facing some kind of adversity.

I wish I could tell you that once you step into the Light and give your life to Jesus you’ll never feel the touch of darkness. But I can’t. Jesus doesn’t promise an end to trouble on your path to abundant life. He promises the means to overcome it (John 16:33).

Beloved, there will be moments when adversity comes against you that you will feel abandoned by God. The logic of your circumstances won’t align with what you committed to believe by faith, and the enemy will do all he can to convince you that God has forsaken you. After all, he is the deceiver and the father of lies (John 8:44).

I’d like to ask you to consider another possibility. What if, in those moments of greatest darkness, God has never been closer? What if He is so near He must shield your eyes from viewing Him to protect you from His closeness? And as you trust Him through the darkness and the first streams of light begin to filter into view, you will glimpse His glory like you’ve never seen it before.

How can I make such a statement? It happened to Moses.

“When my glory passes by, I will put you in the cleft of the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will remove my hand and you will see my back; but my face must not be seen.” Exodus 33:22-23

These words of God came in response to Moses’ bold request, “Now show me your glory” (verse 18). God responded by saying, “I will cause all of my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the LORD, in your presence.” (Verse 19)

Beloved, will you consider with me that in moments of great darkness, perhaps God has hidden you in the cleft of the Rock to shield you from His approaching glory? As He covers you with His protective hand, the darkness appears thickest, yet He is nearest. While the enemy whispers that God has forsaken you, He is actually holding you in His grasp, causing all His goodness to pass by and proclaiming His name, the LORD, in your presence.

You see, we cannot see God approaching. We can’t stare head on into the fullness of His glory and survive the experience, “you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live” (verse 20).

And so as He draws near to meet us in our need, He covers us with His hand. Darkness looms, not because it’s winning, but because in that moment, we are unable to see the light of His glory. But as it passes by and He removes His protective hand, we have the privilege of seeing His glory as it departs.

Have you ever noticed how you can’t see God’s handprint in a circumstance until after it’s over? In the midst of it, you can’t see Him anywhere, but afterward you begin to recognize His mark all over the place. When that happens, dear one, He has hidden you in the cleft of the Rock and caused His glory to pass by.

Darkness will come, beloved, but so will the glory of your God.

But now, this is what the Lord says— he who created you, Jacob, he who formed you, Israel: “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.  When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.  For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.”  Isaiah 43:1-3

Notice that this isn’t an “if” promise. Adversity will come. If you and I are going to journey with Jesus to the mountain of the Lord, we will pass through swirling rivers and raging waters. We will face the heat of blazing flames. But take heart in this truth, beloved. We will never face them alone. And as we tuck ourselves under the shelter of the Most High, committed to stand on His truth and renounce the enemy’s lies, whatever the enemy brings cannot hurt us. In fact, as we walk on in step with Jesus, trusting His will even when we don’t understand, we set the stage to witness glory.

I pray you have discovered a few truths to stand on when the darkness comes. Let me leave you with one more. Why does God promise to be with us in our difficulties? To walk with us through turbulent waters and raging fires?

I’ll let Him answer.

“Since you are precious and honored in my sight, and because I love you.” Isaiah 43:4

 

 

Strength in My Weakness

God amazes me.

Two and a half years ago, God directed me to write a Bible study, Tested by Fire. In April of this year a revised version of that study will become available for distribution to bookstores across the country. I have no idea where God will take it, but I remember well where Jesus had to take me to get here.

I recently came across this post from January 2012, written as God was preparing me to speak at my very first women’s conference outside of serving my church. I am humbled to remember the steps of the journey and where God has taken me along the way. I pray that reading it will encourage you to take your own steps of faith with Jesus, trusting that He’s with you even in the hard times. It just may be those moments of great brokenness that allow you to experience all Jesus wants to be in your life. When you let His strength overshadow your weakness, His glory surely follows.

 

More Than a Conqueror

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

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

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

  • I sat under the shelter of my covered porch watching the rain wash over the earth around me and wondered briefly if God had opened the skies to match my tears. Thunder shook the heavens, literally rattling the chair beneath me. I felt each crack shudder through me, every pounding blow echoing the ache in my own fragile heart. Doesn’t obedience bring protection and blessing, Lord? Could I have been wrong about Your will for me?
  • I swallowed hard, attempting to quiet the churning in my stomach by sheer will. It would be easier if I could just retch. Maybe then, it would at least be over. But it wasn’t over. It hadn’t been for . . . How many days, Lord? When will it end? . . . I can’t do this anymore . . . I’m not strong enough . . . forgive me . . .
  • Reeling from the sting of betrayal, I sobbed until my face hurt. Darkness hovered about me, undaunted by the break of day. Life had turned upside down. Everything would be different now, the comforting familiarity of my routine stripped away from me by one who claimed to love me. How could this happen, Lord? Of all people to do this to me . . . how could it be her?

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

They fell in worship of the One in whom I overcame.

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

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

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

His lies, dear one, come at you in those moments with such ferocity out of his own desperate fear. The enemy knows what lies on the other side of your victory: your freedom.

As you press on, taking hold of Jesus by faith, and allow Him to show you your way out (1 Cor 10:13), the enemy’s grip on your heart is broken. The oppressive chain that once bound you to him—your fear, your pride, your need for significance—falls idly to the earth with a thud. And you, dear one, will discover with elation that you are free—free to experience the all-surpassing joy of Christ’s fullness dwelling within you unfettered by the enemy’s chains.

 “Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy.” Psalm 126:5

Will you let Him turn your broken moments into a song of praise as He ushers you into the beautiful purpose He’s planned for you? Nothing compares to the wonder of living in your God-given Promised Land.

When the LORD brought back the captives to Zion, we were like men who dreamed.  Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy. Then it was said among the nations, “The LORD has done great things for them.”  The LORD has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy. Psalm 126:1-3