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Would You Let God Birth a Miracle Through You?

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

We all want to witness miracles.

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

So we cry out for miracles.

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

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

Faith.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Really? Is that how you would’ve responded?

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

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

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

A baby. Before her wedding day.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mary believed.

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

Have You Opened Your Gifts From Jesus?

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6

I trust by now you’ve had your fill of Thanksgiving leftovers. And now, I’m guessing that ornaments, evergreens, and sparkling lights are quickly replacing any decorative pumpkins and fall leaves. I’m excited to share that my own home has begun its holiday transformation.

December ushers in one of my very favorite seasons. Christmas has filled my heart with wonder for as long as I can remember. When we hung the lights, and holly and evergreens made their way inside our home, the joy that flickered deep within told me that this time of year was special. Christmas simply felt different than the rest of the year.

As a child I looked forward to it with great anticipation. I loved the family gatherings that accompanied Christmas, complete with caroling, special foods, and holiday smells. But nothing inspired quite as much awe as the sight of the gifts spilling out from under the tree.

Lots of extended family gathered in our home for Christmas, and large numbers of people meant a large number of gifts! Packages and ribbons beckoned our exploration, and I joined my brothers to examine the nametags, searching for the owner of each new possession. Joy would ripple through me when I found my name. This one’s for me.

And hope would rise to the surface. Perhaps this is the one I have been waiting for!

Do you remember how it felt to experience Christmas with the heart of a child, dear one? Can you recall the sensation of sugarplums dancing in your belly, a delightful mingling of anticipation and hope?

For many of us, routine has replaced much of the marvel of the holidays. And let’s be honest; the work often overshadows the wonder! Many have even lost the thrill of surprise on Christmas morning, having purchased and wrapped the gifts bearing their name beneath the tree with their own hands.

And Jesus, the One whom we gather to celebrate, is almost forgotten, worked into our festivities with brief mentions and a visit to church on Christmas Eve.

Perhaps we have been missing something.

I’d love for you to entertain this thought with me. What if Christmas still holds something worth anticipating? What if its offer of joy, hope, and wonder extends to more than just children? What if you and I could experience that child-like awe as we unwrap the gifts the Christ-child came to bring?

Consider Jesus’ words to His disciples during His earthly ministry:

He called a little child and had him stand among them. And he said: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 18:2-3

Do you have a child-like heart, beloved?

Jesus said that unless we approach Him with the heart of a child, we will miss His kingdom. He wasn’t just referring to the eternal kingdom He will establish when He returns. He was also warning us that we can miss the kingdom blessings we’re supposed to experience on this earth until He does.

Jesus came to the earth to draw us to Him in divine relationship and reveal the glory of what’s to come. He came so people like you and me could know Him and experience a foretaste of heaven.

Have you tasted it, dear one? You’re meant to!

What if we tried a new approach this Christmas? What if we choose to see Jesus as the all-surpassing gift scripture claims He is? What if we open our hearts to believe like little children and take a chance on believing God for more?

Let’s invite the wonder of Christmas to return! Gifts bearing your name await your attention under the tree. Jesus invites you to explore them so you can claim them as your own.

This one’s for me.

What gift do you need to open, beloved? Healing. Restoration. Redemption. Forgiveness. Reconciliation. Power. Purpose.

And Jesus said to him, “‘… All things are possible for one who believes.” Mark 9:23

‘Tis the season for believing, dear one.

Allow your heart to open with the wonder of an expectant child. Approach Jesus with hope and anticipation.

Beloved, Jesus holds the gifts you’ve been searching for all your life.

We Only Have One Savior

Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, to whom belong wisdom and might. He changes times and seasons; he removes kings and sets up kings; he gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding. Daniel 2:20-21

America has spoken. So has the God who holds America.

Beloved, God alone sets up and removes kings and presidents. And according to His purpose, He has positioned Donald Trump in the White House. Time will reveal whether God intends to bless our nation through this choice.

Yet my heart is filled with hope, because God’s Word rings true.

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

This nation has united in prayer this past year unlike any time I have known. God’s people have answered His call to bend the knee, and now we have an opportunity to see some real change. We must continue to pray with the same fervor.

Donald Trump is not our Savior. The God who got him elected is. And for God’s redemptive purposes to prevail, we must choose to stand united with the God who made us, boldly living His Word and proclaiming His Truth. Love must flow from our hearts instead of judgment. We must unite in the Name that is above every name. Jesus.

And pray.

The river of life must flow through His people to heal our land. Healing comes through the Healer.

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.

Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,

though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,

though its waters roar and foam,

though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Selah

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,

the holy habitation of the Most High. God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved;

God will help her when morning dawns.

The nations rage, the kingdoms totter; he utters his voice, the earth melts.

The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. …

“Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!”

Psalm 46:1-7, 10

Feed My Lambs

When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” John 21:15 ESV

Do you love Jesus, dear one?

Our opening scripture reveals what Jesus said should be evidence of your love for Him. Lovers of Jesus feed His sheep.

Jesus pressed the point with Peter, repeatedly asking him the same question.

He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.” John 21:17

God never wastes words.

Three times Jesus connected loving Him with caring for His sheep—particularly with feeding them. And when God repeats Himself, He draws our attention to the importance of His message. He wants us to understand this vital truth: We must feed and tend His sheep.

Ezekiel 34 describes what unfed sheep look like.

Thus says the Lord God: Ah, shepherds of Israel who have been feeding yourselves! Should not shepherds feed the sheep? You eat the fat, you clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fat ones, but you do not feed the sheep. The weak you have not strengthened, the sick you have not healed, the injured you have not bound up, the strayed you have not brought back, the lost you have not sought, and with force and harshness you have ruled them. So they were scattered, because there was no shepherd, and they became food for all the wild beasts. Verses 2-5

Weak. Sick. Injured. Strayed. Lost. Scattered. Devoured.

My heart burns as I consider those words, dear one. They reflect what my own eyes see. Those words describe today’s church.

What has happened that the people of God have become so down trodden?

Most feel weak and overtaken by life’s circumstances. Illness and cancers ravage them. Wounds fester unhealed, leaving a legacy of bitterness, pain, and division. Our adversary prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8).

And he succeeds. Regularly.

And God’s Word says those things result when sheep aren’t properly fed.

So what are we, the sheep, supposed to feed on that makes us strong, healthy, whole, and united?

“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” John 10:27

Sheep, dear one, are supposed to hear Jesus’ words. And then follow them.

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

The church starves on a famine of God’s words. Click To Tweet

We’ve grabbed hold of a few of them, but most we reject or ignore. Instead of aligning our lives with God’s Word, we allow the world’s voice to dictate our beliefs. We hardly know the God we profess to follow. And we ignore His Spirit’s gentle promptings to return to Him. Instead we trust the desires of our flesh while crying out for God’s blessing.

And we get angry when we don’t receive it.

Jesus doesn’t want your words, beloved. He wants you to feed on His.

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers. Psalm 1:1-3

Blessing flows when people delight in the Word of God.

It’s time we return, dear one. God calls us to seek it like treasure, and He promises to give us understanding. When we choose to let God cleanse us from sin and align ourselves with His Word, something miraculous happens.

And they will say, ‘This land that was desolate has become like the garden of Eden, and the waste and desolate and ruined cities are now fortified and inhabited.’ Then the nations that are left all around you shall know that I am the Lord; I have rebuilt the ruined places and replanted that which was desolate. I am the Lord; I have spoken, and I will do it.” Ezekiel 36:35-36

Can you imagine it? People looking upon Christ’s church and recognizing that it has become like the Garden of Eden—beautiful, fruitful, and teeming with life?

God spoke that promise in a prophesy of the new covenant He would make through His Son. Eden awaits the people of God when through the power of the Spirit we return to what Adam rejected: living our lives in agreement with God’s Word.

“I am the Lord; I have spoken, and I will do it.” Ezekiel 36:36

Do Your Words Carry God’s Power?

And Samuel grew, and the Lord was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground. 1 Samuel 3:19

Most of us are careless with our words.

We let accusations fly without thought. We put others down and call it humor. We’re often quick to say things we don’t mean.

I wonder what would have happened if Samuel had been careless with his words. After all, scripture makes an astounding statement about Samuel. God was with him, and He made sure none of his words landed without effect.

Beloved, everything Samuel spoke proved true.

Can you even imagine it? Honestly, with my track record the thought scares me a bit. Where would I be if God had worked that promise in my life? Carelessly spoken words would’ve undoubtedly wreaked havoc in the lives of people I love.

But that’s the difference between most of us and Samuel, dear one. His words weren’t careless. Samuel’s words echoed those flowing from the mouth of God Himself, and that brought about some amazing results.

… and the Lord was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground.

I wonder, dear one. What would’ve happened if Samuel had chosen not to listen when God spoke? What if Samuel had ignored God’s words, letting them fall to the ground unheeded? Surely Samuel would’ve had a very different legacy.

But Samuel didn’t make that choice. In a time when “the word of the Lord was rare in those days; there was no frequent vision” (1 Samuel 3:1), Samuel heard and lived by the word of the Lord. It wasn’t the common thing to do. No one else heard God speak. But when God spoke to him, Samuel took hold of those words, believed them and shared them.

And God moved as Samuel spoke the word of the Lord.

And all Israel from Dan to Beersheba knew that Samuel was established as a prophet of the Lord. And the Lord appeared again at Shiloh, for the Lord revealed himself to Samuel at Shiloh by the word of the Lord. 1 Samuel 3:20-21

Don’t miss it, dear one. Samuel’s willingness to hear and share God’s words allowed God to reveal Himself in a place where His presence had been absent.

And the Lord appeared again at Shiloh, for the Lord revealed himself to Samuel at Shiloh by the word of the Lord.

Perhaps you’re wondering what an Old Testament prophet has to do with you. Some things don’t change, dear one.

Let’s join Jesus and His disciples in the upper room shortly before His arrest. Jesus had just declared Himself the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Then Philip made an unusual request. He asked Him to show them the Father.

Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves.” John 14:9-11

After so much time, the disciples still asked Jesus to prove Himself. Just give us this one more thing—show us the Father—and it will be enough for us (verse 8).

Only when we make Jesus prove Himself—when we insist on sight to believe—it will never be enough. Consider what they had already seen! The lame walked and the blind could see. They saw Lazarus raised and every sickness healed. But it still wasn’t enough.

Jesus taught about faith in the unseen that leads to seeing. That’s what Samuel had. He believed God’s words, and His faith in them allowed him to witness what he had believed.

And that’s what Jesus wants to see in our day, beloved. He wants followers who hear His words (John 10:27), believe what He says, and then witness God revealing Himself as we refuse to let His words fall unheeded.

Let’s see what else Jesus told them in John 14.

“Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.” John 14:12-14

Jesus stands by His word, beloved. He means what He says, and His word proves true.

And Jesus said in John 14:12 that whoever believes in Him will do the works that He did. That’s a pretty profound statement, don’t you think? Then He follows it up with grand promises of answered prayer.

“If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.”

Apparently God doesn’t want to see our words fall to the ground either. But—just like Samuel—God Himself must be the source.

Perhaps it’s time we learned to live by His words.

Astonishing

Look at me and be astonished; Put your hand over your mouth. Job 21:5 NKJV

We love to be amazed.

Ordinary doesn’t cut it for this generation. Average barely gets a mention.

But when something really wows us, we can’t help sharing it. Cell phones and social media start buzzing, and news of the astonishing spreads like wildfire.

Unfortunately, most of what we feel compelled to share has little to do with Jesus. Somehow the One who brought us the ultimate “wow factor” has been reduced to short, encouraging Scripture quotes to help remind us that He even exists. Amazing is left to great football plays, astounding special effects, or even the ridiculously stupid.

These days, we don’t really expect Jesus to astonish us.

Perhaps we’re missing something. According to Hebrews 13:8,

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

Jesus hasn’t changed, dear one. And He specializes in the extraordinary. So why don’t we see more of Him?

Perhaps we’ve settled for less than what He wants to give.

When was the last time the glory of Christ’s presence ignited you to share your experience of Him? What happens when you meet with other believers? Do your church services and gatherings reveal the unexplainable in a way that even non-believers can’t help but talk about it?

That’s the legacy of the church handed down to us through Scripture. Church didn’t start out as orderly programming that followed a workable schedule and met expectations each week. Church began as groups of believers encountering the presence of the God they worshiped and becoming empowered beyond their abilities to reveal His glory.

Consider how these unbelievers responded to what they witnessed in the early church.

  • Utterly amazed, they asked: “Are not all these men who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in his own native language? Acts 2:7-8
  • When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus. Acts 4:13

God’s presence among His people caught the attention of the lost. They couldn’t help but take notice. What they witnessed defied what they could logically explain.

Beloved, you and I are supposed to bear witness to the glory of God.

“You are my witnesses,” declares the Lord, “and my servant whom I have chosen, that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he.” Isaiah 43:10

God's presence at work among us should astonish and amaze. #extraordinaryGod Click To Tweet

Perhaps the most astonishing miracle occurred among the believers themselves.

Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. Acts 2:43-47a

Thousands of Christians from different backgrounds, with different personalities and unique desires, united as one. With hearts full of joyous praise, they shared all they had.

Selfless love permeated the church,

And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. Acts 2:47

Come to think of it, it appears the early church fulfilled what Jesus claimed to be the greatest commandment in all of Scripture.

“’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” Luke 10:27

The early church grew because the people in it became what Jesus died to make them. They became love.

He extends the same invitation to us, dear one.

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 rises, beloved. But will ours be a generation that sees it?

That depends on you and me. You see, God reveals His glory through the faith of His people. Let’s submit our personal desires to His leadership and allow Him to once again astonish the world through us.

Jesus knocks at the door of His church, dear one. I think it’s time we let Him back in.

A Matter of Life and Death

“I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days . . .” Deuteronomy 30:19-20 (ESV)

All choices have consequences.

Do you believe that, dear one? We often like to think that when we belong to God, our choices don’t really matter so much. We assume that He’ll cover our bad decisions and work it all out for our good. After all, God forgives.

True. God forgives and redeems. But redemption from sin always carries a cost. Just ask Jesus.

Beloved, Moses spoke our opening scripture to God’s own people.

“I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life . . .”

Like it or not, every decision we make carries the potential to bless or curse. And according to our opening scripture, those blessings and curses don’t just affect us; they affect our offspring.

David learned that lesson the hard way.

You may be familiar with David—God’s chosen king over Israel—described by God Himself as “a man after my heart, who will do all my will” (Acts 13:22).

And he was. Well, most of the time. David loved the Lord and desired to serve Him wholeheartedly. But there came a time when David distanced himself from God’s presence. And only strength drawn from God’s presence can make us victorious when the tempter comes.

David should have stayed close to the Lord.

In the spring of the year, the time when kings go out to battle, David sent Joab, and his servants with him, and all Israel. And they ravaged the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah. But David remained at Jerusalem. 2 Samuel 11:1

At the time when kings go off to war, David stayed at home. Bad decision. He wasn’t where he should’ve been.

Beloved, every choice we make opens a door to life or death.

David did not accompany his men to fight a war God appointed. He chose his own desires over his kingdom purpose.

Neglecting our kingdom purpose makes us vulnerable to sin. Click To Tweet

God Himself had established David on that throne. Yet when God led Israel to war against the Ammonites, David opted to stay home. That choice slipped him out of God’s will and separated him from His presence.

But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God. Isaiah 59:2a

David’s separation was more than spiritual. It was literal. God’s presence rested over the Ark of the Covenant, and David’s army carried that ark with them to the battlefield (2 Samuel 11:11).

Do you see the danger, dear one? David didn’t go with God when He moved. That separation left him open and vulnerable to the schemes of the tempter.

It happened, late one afternoon, when David arose from his couch and was walking on the roof of the king’s house, that he saw from the roof a woman bathing; and the woman was very beautiful. And David sent and inquired about the woman. 2 Samuel 11:2-3

David discovered Bathsheba was married to one of his own warriors. That should’ve stopped the man after God’s own heart. But David had distanced himself from God. So instead of God’s Spirit stirring his heart and equipping him to do right, the hiss of the serpent convinced him the woman was a prize he deserved.

So David sent messengers and took her, and she came to him, and he lay with her. 2 Samuel 11:4

Beloved, when we distance ourselves from God’s presence, we take on the nature of our enemy. What does that nature look like?

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

David didn’t just steal what didn’t belong to him. When he found out Bathsheba was pregnant, he killed to cover it up.

In the morning David wrote a letter to Joab and sent it by the hand of Uriah. In the letter he wrote, “Set Uriah in the forefront of the hardest fighting, and then draw back from him, that he may be struck down, and die.” 2 Samuel 11:14-15

Beloved, any one of us is capable of anything when we distance ourselves from God. That’s the nature of sin. It takes over. And it’s never idle. It’s strength and appetite will always increase.

The man after God’s own heart became an adulterer, a thief, and a murder simply because he got complacent about his relationship with the God he loved.

We must be diligent, dear one, or sin will take us too.

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 1 Peter 5:8

Without seeking God’s presence to stir up His truth in our hearts and minds continually, we will fall into sin. Sin we never thought we could be capable of. Sin that will carry great cost.

Next week we’ll explore the cost of David’s choices. We’ll also discover the beauty a God of grace will bring from the ashes when a heart returns to Him.

Choose life, dear one.

…that you and your offspring may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days . . .” Deuteronomy 30:19-20

 

The Measure You Use

And he said to them, “Pay attention to what you hear: with the measure you use, it will be measured to you, and still more will be added to you. For to the one who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.” Mark 4:24-25

Jesus had a way with words.

He never wasted them. And each word He spoke still carries life and power within it.

So it should cause us to press in close when He prefaces His Words with, “Pay attention to what you hear.” All of Jesus’ words hold great significance. But these He wants to make sure we don’t miss.

“With the measure you use, it will be measured to you, and still more will be added to you. For to the one who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.”

Here’s the truth, beloved. God gives to us according to the measure that we use.

If you and I don’t acknowledge and use what we have for His glory, it can never grow. We will only experience increase when we use whatever portion He’s given.

And Jesus reveals another uncomfortable truth in those verses, dear one. If we don’t use the measures of grace He’s given us to multiply them, He will take them away.

I can’t help thinking of Jesus’ parable about the talents.

For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property. To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away.” Matthew 25:14-15

You may be familiar with the story. The man who had been given five talents traded with them and returned ten to the Lord.

“His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’” Matthew 25:21

The servant who had been given two talents also used and doubled what he’d been given, receiving the same blessing.

The third servant, however, simply returned the one talent he’d been given to the Master.

According to the principle we discovered in Mark 4, God will measure back to us the same measure that we use. Yet instead of using the talent he’d been given, this servant buried it.

So the Lord measured back to him the measure that he had used. Listen to what the master said about the one who saw no increase.

“So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’” Matthew 25:28-30

Are you using what you’ve been given, beloved? Do you even know what you have?

Perhaps you struggle to relate to the parable because you don’t see what “talents” He’s given you. I recently read something from Pastor Rick Joyner that I feel compelled to share with you. Perhaps God will whisper His truth into your heart the way He did in mine.

In the vision I saw a man who was zealously serving the Lord. He was continually witnessing to people, teaching the Bible, and visiting the sick to pray for them. He was very zealous for the Lord and had a genuine love for people. Then I saw another man, named Angelo, who was obviously a tramp or a homeless person. When a small kitten wandered onto his path, he started to kick it but restrained himself, though he still shoved it out of the way rather harshly with his foot. Then the Lord asked me which of these men pleased Him the most.

“The first,” I said without hesitating.

“No, the second,” He responded, and began to tell me their stories.

He shared that the first man had been raised in a wonderful family, which had always known the Lord. He grew up in a thriving church and then attended one of the best Bible colleges in the country. He had been given one hundred portions of His love, but he was using only seventy-five.

The second man had been born deaf. He was abused and kept in a dark, cold attic until he was found by the authorities when he was eight years old. He had then been shifted from one institution to another, where the abuse continued. Finally, he was turned out onto the streets. The Lord had only given him three portions of His love to help him overcome all of this, but he had mustered every bit of it to fight the rage in his heart and keep from hurting the kitten.

Excerpt From: Joyner, Rick. “The Final Quest.” MorningStar Publications, 2006. iBooks.

I confess when I first read the story I felt the same surprise you’re probably feeling. Wouldn’t the man who appeared to be serving God faithfully please Him more?

But almost immediately, wisdom pierced my heart and penetrated my soul.

Nothing matters more to God than love.

Beloved, God cares far more about what’s happening within our hearts than He cares about our good deeds. And as Jesus sought to fulfill the will of the Father by conquering sin through the cross, He had a single-minded purpose: to make love abound again.

God desires to see love increase on this earth, dear one. Nothing matters more to Him than that. You see, God is love (1 John 4:8). And the people He created to fill this earth were designed to reflect His image. Those who are His should increase and abound in love.

And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. Philippians 1:9-11

Paul repeats the concept in 1 Thessalonians 3:12.

… may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all…

There’s no way around it, dear one. God wants to see love increase in us. Staying the same isn’t an option. And according to Mark 4:24, that can only happen one way. We must exercise love to the full extent of the portion He’s given us. When we do, He will return it to us with that measure and more.

Love must increase in us. It can only grow when we use the love He's already given. Click To Tweet

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. 1 Corinthians 13:1-3

Love is all that matters, beloved. Let’s use whatever portion we’ve been given and allow God to make it grow.

A Perfect Promise

“You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Matthew 5:48

I realize I may have already lost you with our opening scripture. Perfect is a far too potent word. We’re comfortable using it to describe our Savior and what awaits us in heaven, but we certainly don’t want to apply it to us in the here and now.

And yet, the words before us emerged from Jesus’ lips during His Sermon on the Mount.

You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Matthew 5:48, emphasis mine

Yep. Jesus said it. Right after He instructed us to love our enemies.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. … For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?” Matthew 5:43-46, emphasis mine

According to Jesus, anyone can love those who love in return. Sons and daughters of God, however, will also love their enemies. And not just love them, but advocate for them through prayer. Then He sums up His teaching with a charge to be perfect, in the same way that our heavenly Father is perfect.

That’s a pretty tall order, don’t you think? Jesus couldn’t possibly have meant perfect. After all, perfection is impossible, an unattainable goal.

Perhaps this is a good time to ponder another of Jesus’ statements.

“All things are possible for one who believes.” Mark 9:23

Beloved, what we find impossible, Jesus makes possible.

What we find impossible, Jesus makes possible. Mark 9:23 Click To Tweet

And He commands us to love perfectly—not just our friends, but our enemies—just like the Father does. Impossible?

I can’t help wondering, dear one. Have you and I limited the power of the cross in our lives through unbelief? Have we set boundaries on what we’ll believe Jesus can accomplish here?

What if a church perfected in love is the very thing He’s waiting for to herald His return?

I know. It sounds crazy. But let’s at least entertain the thought a moment. The word translated “perfect” in Matthew 5:48 is teleios in Greek, and it means perfect, mature, finished (#5046, Strong’s). Paul used the same word in Colossians 1:28.

Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. 29 For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.

Paul wrote that his goal—his reason for toiling in ministry—was to present everyone mature in Christ. According to the Greek, we could also say it this way. To present everyone finished. Perfect.

 “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Matthew 5:48

This I know for certain, dear one. Jesus would not command something of us that He did not provide the power to accomplish. What if He’s simply waiting for a generation who will believe He’s able to do it?

Our word teleios also appears in Ephesians 4:13.

 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood (unto a perfect man, KJV), to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. Ephesians 4:11-13

You may need to read it again to let it sink in.

All that Jesus provided through His grace for the work of ministry centers on one purpose: building up the body until we attain the unity of faith that flows from intimate knowledge of Him. That unity will take place as individuals mature—or become perfected—attaining the full measure of Christ’s stature.

Beloved, Jesus desires to reveal the full measure of who He is through you and me. He gave us His nature. Now He wants His church to mature, stop fighting one another, and reveal it.

And He will accomplish it before the end.

You see, Jesus always prays according to His Father’s will, so He always gets what He asks for (1 John 5:14-15). And before He allowed an angry mob to nail Him to that cross, He prayed these words.

“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

There’s that word perfect again. This word comes from the same root but carries the verb form, teleioō (#5048, Strong’s). It means, “to perfect, complete, finish, to reach a goal, be fulfilled, completed, made perfect.”

Jesus prayed for His body—you and me— to be made perfect, to mature to such a level that we would all be one with each other in the same way that He and the Father are. Perfectly one. Can you imagine it, dear one?

When it happens—and it will happen—the world will recognize that Jesus really did come from the Father. And they will know that God loves.

“You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Matthew 5:48

One question remains, beloved. Will ours be the generation that sees it accomplished? Will we grow up in Him to maturity, attaining the full measure of His stature so that we can reveal His love?

I choose to believe, dear one, not in my own will or ability, but in the power of my God. He is able to do far beyond all we could ask or think, according to His power at work within us (Ephesians 3:20).

Let’s tear down the boundaries we have set up, lose ourselves in His perfect love, and let Jesus loose a little glory.

I pray,beloved,

that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of GodEphesians 3:17-19

Salty Streams

Don’t you know that the Lord, the God of Israel, has given the kingship of Israel to David and his descendants forever by a covenant of salt? 2 Chronicles 13:5 NIV

I recently enjoyed a sweet time with Jesus in this very spot. Beautiful, isn’t it? I always somehow feel especially close to Him by the sea.

And this particular morning, a gentle but steady breeze blew the hair from my face while the sun cast its warmth upon it. I couldn’t help but close my eyes and lift my face toward heaven.

Blessings of praise soared from my lips to God’s ears, followed by fervent intercession. You may not have realized it at the time, but you were there with me. Unseen faces filled my thoughts with urgent need.

God means to awaken His church, dear one. And you and I are the church.

Something occurred to me as I sat there with Jesus inviting Him to merge my heart with His. You see, while I cried out to Him for you and His kingdom purpose, tears fell. Many tears.

Eventually I tasted them. And a new thought emerged about what’s found in them.

Salt.

“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.” Matthew 5:13

Jesus declared that you and I are salt, dear one. And He cared a great deal about whether we reveal and display our saltiness. In fact without saltiness, He said we have no use except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.

Are you feeling trampled, beloved? Perhaps it’s symptomatic of an absence of salt.

I wonder. Have you and I become the salt Jesus described? What if one way we’ve lost our saltiness is that our hearts don’t feel what God feels?

It occurred to me that day by the sea that our tears—or lack of them—might indicate our level of saltiness.

I’m not talking about the tears we cry for ourselves. Most of us can easily shed a tear over our own losses and disappointments. But what about shedding tears for our brothers and sisters in Christ? What about feeling another’s pain so intensely that our own heart hurts? Or what about anguish over a stranger’s poor choices that makes salty tears fall?

It sounds crazy, I know. But it’s Jesus. He offered a prime example of it as He looked out over the city sheltering the mob that would crucify Him.

As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes.” Luke 19:41-42 NIV

The words strike me every time I read them. Jesus knew exactly what the people of Jerusalem were about to do to Him. Yet He wept for them, because He knew their rejection of Him would cost them dearly. And He loved them.

You see, that’s what God’s heart does, dear one. It loves. Deeply. Sacrificially.

And that’s the salt He means to put in you and me, beloved. Love. That’s what makes us different from everyone else, what keeps us from tasting just like the world.

Love is the salt Jesus wants in you and me. Love keeps us from tasting like the world. Matt 5:13 Click To Tweet

Jesus feels. He weeps when people suffer and celebrates their blessings. He calls us to do the same.

Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Romans 12:15

You and I are supposed to cry when others experience pain. We’re supposed to long to see blessings released in the lives of people around us so we can rejoice with them.

But often rejoicing isn’t what we do when we see blessing poured out on someone else, is it? Bitterness more readily rears its head. After all, how can we rejoice for them if we lack what they received? And we can’t be expected to weep over someone else’s sorrow when we have so much of our own.

I’m going to tell you the truth, beloved. Those responses reflect a calloused heart. A heart centered on self instead of others. One that doesn’t resemble God’s.

But here’s the good news. Hard hearts happen to be God’s specialty. We just need to offer it to Jesus—no strings attached—and invite Him to make it like His. That is, after all, why He went to the cross.

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. Ezekiel 36:26

Perhaps that’s how you and I become the salt of the earth, dear one. We repent of our self-centeredness and allow Jesus to give us that new heart. We invite Him to make us feel what He feels and start letting His tears flow through us.

There’s nothing to fear, dear one. I’d rather taste a few salty tears than find myself useless to Jesus and trampled underfoot. Wouldn’t you?