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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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Do You Know What You Have?

“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 4:25

Recently God captured my attention with a portion of scripture from Acts 3.

It begins with Peter and John heading to the temple at the hour of prayer. As they were about to enter, a man who had been lame from birth asked them for money. Peter responded with something the man did not expect.

And Peter directed his gaze at him, as did John, and said, “Look at us.” And he fixed his attention on them, expecting to receive something from them. Acts 3:4-5

I wonder how many times this man had lived this very scene. Verse 2 reveals that he was carried and laid daily at the temple gate to ask for alms. I imagine the monotony of the routine left him with little expectation. I wonder how many temple visitors passed by pretending not to see him. Still others may have tossed him a coin without ever actually looking at his face.

And yet this day, Peter and John gazed right at him and asked him to do the same. “Look at us.” Their response got his attention, stirring the lame man’s heart with hopeful expectation. These two would surely provide him something.

But Peter said, “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!” And he took him by the right hand and raised him up, and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. Acts 3:6-7

I can only imagine what the man must have thought in that life-changing moment. He extended his hand to receive coins from a stranger. Instead a hand raised him to his feet. And immediately his feet and ankles were made strong.

Most of us can’t remember our first steps. This man, lame from birth, would never forget his.

And leaping up he stood and began to walk, and entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God. And all the people saw him walking and praising God, and recognized him as the one who sat at the Beautiful Gate of the temple, asking for alms. And they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him. Acts 3:8-10

Are you desperate to experience wonder and amazement at the hand of God, dear one? I am. I long to see God reveal Himself again in our midst. And I believe what I desire is something God longs to give.

You see, Hebrews 13:8 declares simply,

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

Jesus hasn’t changed, dear one. If our experience of Him has changed since He first birthed His church, that only leaves one explanation. We’ve changed.

What’s different now? Take a look at Peter’s words when he addressed the crowd to reveal the power behind this miraculous healing.

And his name [Jesus]—by faith in his name—has made this man strong whom you see and know, and the faith that is through Jesus has given the man this perfect health in the presence of you all. Acts 3:16

Faith in the name of Jesus gave a lame man perfect health. Legs that had never stood before lifted him to his feet. Muscles that should have atrophied from years without use carried him into the temple. And he didn’t just walk. He leapt.

What had been dead came alive, all because of faith. Sounds like the Gospel message to me.

But whose faith, dear one?

This is the part of the story that intrigues me most. You see, it wasn’t the faith of the lame man that ushered in his miracle. It was Peter’s faith that produced a work of God on his behalf.

I can’t seem to let go of Peter’s words to the lame beggar.

“I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!”

Peter knew what he had. He knew exactly what was available to him through Jesus. And he knew he was free to give it. He believed, and his belief poured out blessing on a man who had no faith.

I wonder, dear one. Do we miss seeing Jesus reveal His glory in our midst because we don’t know what we have to give? Do we simply no longer believe?

Perhaps it’s a good time to revisit our opening scripture.

“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 4:25

Jesus repeats those words five times in the four gospels. [See Matthew 13:12, Matthew 25:29, Mark 4:25, Luke 8:18, and Luke 19:26] I think He may be trying to get our attention.

At first glance Jesus’ words appear confusing. How can God take something from someone with nothing?

Take a look at His words again.

From the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.”

What if Jesus’ words reveal that this man’s problem isn’t really that he didn’t have, but rather that he didn’t acknowledge and use what he had? The consequences are clear. If we don’t use it, we lose it.

You and I need to know what we have, dear one.

Let’s not allow unbelief to quench the Spirit of God in our day. It’s not our place to tell God how He should move. He manifests His Spirit through each of us as He chooses (1 Corinthians 12:11). But if He’s going to release His work through you, He will require something of you.

A little faith.

The Word, the Rock, and the Gates of Hell

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

Matthew 16:18 ESV

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

The Power of One

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

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

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

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

What did He pray for, dear one?

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

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

How is that possible?

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

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

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

John 17:23 reveals His purpose in uniting us:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s how they began.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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