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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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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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Feeling Powerless? Drink!

Like cold water to a thirsty soul, so is good news from a far country. Proverbs 25:25 ESV

The Gospel is good news.

Literally. That’s what it means.

And it is good news. The cross of Christ changed everything, offering what nothing else can. Forgiveness. Redemption. Identity. Healing. Resurrection life. Restoration. Wholeness. Power. Transformation. Grace.

But for some reason we don’t share the message of the cross like its good news. We act like we don’t want to bother people with it.

Huh? Somehow the enemy has convinced us to fear sharing the hope that will help people. That will quench their thirst. That will heal what’s broken, revive and restore.

Good news is like cold water to a thirsty soul, beloved. So why aren’t we more excited to share it?

I have a theory, based on my own experience.

While we smile and enter our churches all dressed up and ready to worship Jesus, inside we’re not at all sure the gospel offers any real power—at least not while our feet still kick up dust on this earth. Life hasn’t changed much—except that we set an alarm on Sunday—and we don’t want to look bad when the message we share doesn’t live up to their expectations.

Because we ourselves still thirst.

We’re dry. Broken. Bitter. Powerless. Weary. We sing praises to the name of Jesus, but our lives too closely resemble the lost we’re supposed to save.

And so we reason that the promises of scripture are future promises instead of now promises. And we settle for just getting by, with no real zeal for advancing a kingdom that seems to promise much but deliver little.

I get it. I’ve been there. But what if the words Jesus proclaimed to a thirsty woman at a well are actually true for us today?

“Whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”” John 4:14 ESV

Sounds pretty fabulous to me.

Jesus said that in Him it’s possible to never thirst again. Ever. Can you imagine it? To never feel dry and unsatisfied but always filled and refreshed?

Well He said it, dear one. So the question really boils down to whether or not you believe it. And if you say you believe it, will you live trusting the principle, or will you settle for less than what Jesus has promised you?

Jesus claims that the water He provides will become a spring welling up within us until life flows—both in us and from us (John 7:38). Eternal life that doesn’t fade.

Ever present refreshment that won’t permit thirst.

But Jesus also gives a condition to experiencing those promises. We must drink the water.

We can’t just talk about it. It does no good to memorize scriptures about it. We have to drink it. Consistently. Deeply.

But we haven’t drunk deeply, beloved. We’ve sipped of His Spirit on Sunday mornings. And we expect the life of God to manifest in us while we live the majority of our lives ignoring Him.

It doesn’t work that way, dear one. We must drink the water to experience the life it gives. 

We must drink the water to experience the life it gives. Click To Tweet

We have to meet with God and partake. Only then can the water within us well up to produce life.

Then we will be changed.

And that change will compel us to offer that water to everyone we care about. Because when we have drunk deeply from the living water, allowing it to do its work—reviving our own souls and restoring our own brokenness—how could we not share the resurrection life we have been given?

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

 God’s Word is true, dear one. Let’s prove it.

Drink.

Then drink more.

And keep drinking until you no longer remember how it feels to thirst.

Blessed in the Beloved

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 last year during a 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, doesn’t it? Most days we don’t feel extravagantly blessed.

If that’s you, you’re not alone. I presented Beth’s statement to the ladies in my Sunday school class shortly afterward 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 those blessings?

I think it’s safe to say that most of us live in a present reality that falls short 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.

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

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 that 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 believe God for your blessing?

The Sacred Portion

Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; bring an offering and come before him! 1 Chronicles 16:29

Last week we looked at God’s desire to be first in our lives. He deserves first place, beloved. After all, you and I wouldn’t even be here without Him. He gives life and provides every good thing.

I think you’ll find that He will never agree to be second.

And He has established by His Word that those who honor Him first will walk in the bounty of His blessing.

Is He first in your life, dear one? Does your life center around Him and His purpose?

Perhaps you’re wondering how to put God first. It’s simple, really. We put God first when we honor and trust His Word.

When you and I seek to know and understand God’s heart through His Word and choose to live by the principles He reveals, we begin to live by faith. And faith, dear one, opens the door to His marvelous grace.

Today we’ll focus on one particular principle woven throughout scripture: the sacred portion.

Let’s begin by establishing a truth I pray you already know.

The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein. Psalm 24:1

As the Creator of all things, everything belongs to God. Yet He chose to do something remarkable.

The heavens are the Lord’s heavens, but the earth he has given to the children of man. Psalm 115:16

God created a world by the breath of His mouth, and then gave it to the people He formed from the dust of its surface. He handed us authority (Genesis 1:26), allowing us to choose whether we’d walk with Him and live in His promises, or whether we would discover the hardship of life lived apart from Him.

He desperately longs for us to choose fellowship with Him and trust His Word. He wants our believing lives to become evidence of His truth. And one way He ordained that we can honor Him is by returning the sacred portion to Him.

You see, although He has given His creation to man, He has set aside a portion of everything for Himself. He allows us to live on His provision and enjoy it, but He has set apart the first of everything His hand brings forth and marked it as holy.

The sacred portion belongs to Him, dear one.

And He promises that if we will offer Him the first of everything, He will bless all the rest for our use.

Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the firstfruits of all your produce; then your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will be bursting with wine. Proverbs 3:9-10

God has also claimed the first of everything born.

“You shall set apart to the Lord all that first opens the womb.” Exodus 13:12

Mary and Joseph honored this decree when they brought Jesus to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every male who first opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord” Luke 2:22-23).

Ezekiel 44:30 reveals the benefit of living by this principle.

And the first of all the firstfruits of all kinds, and every offering of all kinds from all your offerings, shall belong to the priests. You shall also give to the priests the first of your dough, that a blessing may rest on your house.

God promises His people that if we will honor Him by returning to Him the first of all He provides, He will bless the rest.

You may be tempted to argue that these principles were a part of Jewish law that we are no longer bound to. I would challenge that thinking by pointing out that this principle shows up long before Israel or its laws had been established. We only need to venture into the fourth chapter of Genesis to find it.

Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, and Cain a worker of the ground. In the course of time Cain brought to the Lord an offering of the fruit of the ground, and Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions. And the Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his face fell. Genesis 4:2-5

I used to wonder why God seemed to regard Cain unfairly. I mean, if Cain worked the ground, isn’t it only right that his offering would come from its fruit?

Then God showed me the principle of the first.

You see, Cain brought an offering of some fruit to God in the course of time. Abel brought from the firstborn and the best portions.

Abel returned to God what was rightfully His, honoring Him with his first and best. Cain took the best for himself and offered to God what was left over. Abel received the blessing of God. Cain did not.

Perhaps we should consider God’s words in Malachi 3:6.

“For I the Lord do not change.”

You might be interested to read the context of that declaration.

“Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, ‘How have we robbed you?’ In your tithes and contributions. You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me, the whole nation of you. Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need.” Malachi 3:8-10

God’s challenge is simple. Return to God what is His, and ours will be blessed. Take from what belongs to Him, and He will remove His blessing from what is ours.

You and I are not bound to the law, dear one. But we are bound by the principles God has declared in His Word. And He has declared that the first of everything is sacred and His.

Will you trust God by returning the holy portion, full of faith that He will provide more?

Then you shall say before the Lord your God, ‘I have removed the sacred portion out of my house, . . . Look down from your holy habitation, from heaven, and bless your people. Deuteronomy 26:13a, 15a

 

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.

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?

Carry Your Cross

Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” Luke 9:23

I’m guessing that’s not one of your favorite scriptures.

I get it. Your flesh cries out in rebellion against such commands. Deny myself? We spend our lives trying to indulge the desires of our “selves.”  That goes against everything in our nature. And carrying a cross doesn’t sound very fun. No one likes a burden. So those first two make the last one seem pretty unpalatable.

Why would I want to follow Jesus if to do so I have to deny myself and carry a cross?

Why, indeed? I’d like to suggest something that perhaps you haven’t considered. What if the fact that we find those commands so unappealing confirms how very important they are to overcoming the enemy and experiencing abundant life?

Here’s the truth of the matter: The enemy of our souls likes keeping us under his thumb. He’s been governing our sin nature since man’s fall at the beginning of time, and he’s not keen on giving up control. He enjoys the chaos and destruction he generates in our lives as he bends our wills to bring about death, all the while convincing us we’re free and making our own choices.

Maybe you didn’t realize that. Yes, dear one. If you don’t choose to submit your will to God, you’re already submitting it to the prince of this world, the ruler of the kingdom of the air (Ephesians 2:2).

Your will is not your own. You only think it is.

In 2 Timothy 2, Paul challenges believers to call on the Lord out of a pure heart. He says this about opponents of truth in verses 25-26,

Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.

You see, beloved, your sin nature rebels so strongly against self-denial, because the enemy of your soul doesn’t want to lose his grip. He’s convinced you to believe that you’re free to do as you please. Meanwhile, he quietly pulls the strings. The “I” that you think is making your decisions actually has a master.

 “As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. “ Romans 7:17

Precious one, allowing sin to continue to govern your “I” eventually brings about death.

For when we were in the realm of the flesh, the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in us, so that we bore fruit for death. Romans 7:5

Because sin governs them, following our own passions and desires will always hurt us eventually. So can you understand, beloved, why the first step in following Jesus to new life must involve denying what your “self” insists you need?

When Jesus asks you to deny yourself, He isn’t trying to take away your right to choose. He wants to restore it to you! He simply wants to set your “I” free from the destructive rule of sin. Then the person He created you to be—your personality, your deep passions and sense of purpose—the real, unfettered you can emerge to step into abundant life. And your soul can soar with the joy that comes with it.

“So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” John 8:36

Not so bad, right?

But what about taking up that cross? We know what it meant for Jesus. Death.

Beloved, the only death coming to you through the cross belongs to the sin that binds you. Remember, even for Jesus, the cross became the means to resurrection life. It offers the same promise for you.

That cross represents God’s beautiful will for your life. Yes, Jesus carried an actual cross up a hill to Golgotha, bearing its shame and shedding His blood so that you and I could be free. He lived out God’s will for Him so that we could live redeemed. Now that cross remains a symbol of what God wants to see lived out in each of our lives. “ . . . not my will, but yours be done” (Luke 22:42).

But we forget what else that cross represents. What became available to us through that cross?

Love … forgiveness… the Holy Spirit… mercy… grace … freedom… sonship… power

Beloved, when Jesus asks you to take up your cross, He invites you to take up all that comes with it. He wants you to take up God’s will for your life, just like He did. He asks you to believe that He intends to prosper you and not harm you, that He means to offer you hope and a beautiful future (Jeremiah 29:11).

He also welcomes you to take up everything He poured out for you through His cross to empower you to step into the abundant life He’s planned for you.

The question is: will you believe? If so, there’s one thing left to do.

Follow.

A Gift of Grace

Today’s Word on Wednesday comes from my dear friend and partner in ministry, Juliet Sharrow. You may have read some of her testimony in recent months about God’s pursuing love. Now she shares how His gift of grace empowered her to finally respond to Him. After reading her words, you may be blessed to know she just had the privilege of watching this beloved son walk the stage to receive his high school diploma. Whatever you may be going through, know this, dear one. There is ALWAYS hope in Jesus.

A Gift of Grace by Juliet Sharrow

From the fullness of His grace we have all received one blessing after another. John 1:16

I had spent my life running from God. Desperate for love and caught in an abusive relationship, I made one destructive choice after another. Then God did something I didn’t expect. He chose to bless me with a child.

I was so excited when I found out I was pregnant.  I would love my child in all the ways I hadn’t been loved.  I would somehow make it all right.

Then I got the worst news an expectant mother could hear.  The doctor called to tell me that something was wrong with my unborn child.  The routine blood tests they had done showed that my child would have Down’s Syndrome and possibly Spina Bifida as well.  I felt like my world came crashing down.  Then the doctor said something I could scarcely believe.  They were recommending that I have an abortion.

I sunk down on my knees, horrified at what I was hearing!  How could this be? My baby was alive; I could hear the heartbeat and I could feel the kicking.  How could I destroy this precious gift I’d been given?  I did not understand what I was getting into, but I knew one thing: I couldn’t end this child’s life.  He was my hope! I told the doctor in no uncertain terms that I would never choose that for me or my child.

The next several weeks were a blur as medical personnel escorted me into private rooms to watch videos about children with these conditions, “so I would know what I was getting myself into.”  I met with doctors who tried to explain that a woman in my situation— unmarried and with no support network—could certainly not handle a child with issues of this magnitude.  They assured me I did not understand how impossible things would be. But I never wavered.  Somehow I knew that God had blessed me with this child, and I would have this baby no matter what they said.

So a month after I heard the devastating news, I underwent a sonogram to see if the doctor could see the abnormalities that are usually present with these conditions.  What happened next can only be described as a miracle.  There were NO abnormalities.  The baby was perfect in every way!

The doctor insisted there must be some mistake.  And so she checked and rechecked, and decided that the baby was too small for me to be as far along as they originally thought.  Her new measurements said I was one month behind where I should have been and so they changed my due date to one month later.  They retook the blood tests and assured me that everything had come back normal this time!  I cried as I left the doctor’s office that day.

I know now the enemy had tried to convince me to give up on my child, to destroy his precious life.  But somehow God had given me the strength to hold on. Just like He promises in 1 Corinthians 10:13,

“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.”

I believe that Satan tempted me with an easy way out.  My life was not good at the time, and bringing a child into that world was what some would call crazy!  But, I know that God provided a way out for me.  He helped me to stand up under it.  He filled me with love for my unborn child. He gave me strength to endure, and His peace soothed my soul.

A few months later my son was born. The doctors said he was 4 weeks premature.  It was 4 days after the original due date they had given me.  And he was perfect, not premature in any way, a healthy 6lb 4oz baby boy!  He was my gift from God.

Psalm 127:3 says, “See children are a gift from the Lord.  The children born to us are our special reward.” (NLV)

At that time in my life I did not deserve any special reward.  I had run from God and turned my back on Him more times than I could count!  But God in His infinite wisdom knew that what I needed was grace.  He gave me this gift instead of what I deserved.

I needed that child because I was in a pit. A pit of self-loathing and self-despair, a pit of oppression.  I was so low I could not find a way out. In fact, I did not WANT out.  I felt like I deserved everything that was happening to me.  God knew what I needed to give me the strength to get out of that pit.  I needed someone else to live for, someone else to love.  I did not love myself enough, but He knew I would love my child enough to claw my way out of that pit.  That through the love of my child, I would finally turn to Him, finally seek Him instead of running from Him. I learned that when I resist temptation and do what I know is right, God will provide the strength I need to endure.  And I would learn the greatest lesson of my life: that God’s grace isn’t based on what I’ve done. It’s about God giving me what He knows I need, even when I don’t deserve it.

Grace

Greetings from the beautiful island of Maui, Hawaii! I am vacationing this week with my husband and sons, enjoying a brief period of rest and praising God for His wondrous creation. I will be back next week!

In the meantime, I'm happy to introduce you to my dear friend, Kelly Grecco. She serves alongside her husband in ministry, loving the kids in our area through Youth For Christ. She's also the proud mother of two high school students. Today, she shares a few thoughts on grace. I pray that her words bless you.

Kelly Grecco

 

Grace by Kelly Grecco

  "For by grace you have been saved through faith.  And this is not your own doing; it is a gift from God."  Ephesians 2:8, ESV

I have heard this verse for years. I could have probably recited it for you for most of my teen and young adult years. However, I can not say that I truly "knew" this verse. I did not know it deep in my heart and soul where God wanted me to know it. While I could recite it, I never took in for myself the part about grace.

For most of my growing up years, I carried scars deep inside. If I had been different, been a better kid, been prettier or smarter, then my father would not have left. He would not have cast me aside as if I were worthless trash. He would not have made it clear that he wanted nothing to do with me.  While I would never have verbally said any of these things, the scars were deep, and I believed what I had been told and shown. I was worthless. I was not worth his time. I had no value in his mind. While I knew, intellectually, that those things were not true, I still carried them in my heart.

When I accepted Christ as my Savior, I knew He could heal me of all of those thoughts. The problem was, because I believed them, I could and would not let Him bring them into the light and expose them for what they were. Lies.

Because I did not allow God to deal with them, I tried my very best to be good enough for Him. I tried to clean myself up so I could be acceptable. The problem with that is that none of us can ever be "good enough" on our own. It is only through Jesus' sacrifice that we can even approach Him.

So, God brought me face to face with this verse. He brought me face to face with grace. What is grace? By definition, grace is favor or goodwill;   a manifestation of favor, especially by a superior; mercy, clemency, pardon; to favor, honor, exalt.

You see, because we are not worthy, God had to gift us with worthiness through Jesus. He did not owe it to us, we could never earn it, so He offered it to us freely–not because of who we are or what we have done,  but because of who He is, what He has done and because He desires a relationship with us. He had to show me that, by letting Him deal with the lies that were poured into me and that I chose to believe, His grace could truly set me free.

It is not an easy process, believe me. It hurts. It is revealing of more than we sometimes even know is there. However, it is SO worth it. In return, God pours Himself into us and fills us with truth and His spirit. A gift of grace, of relationship and freedom that we can never truly imagine until we accept it.
 

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