Posts

When Jesus Speaks Your Name

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

Mary Magdalene stood weeping before an empty tomb. She had come early on the first day of the week, before even the sun had risen. What she found sent her running to find the disciples. Someone had removed the stone from Jesus’ tomb.

Peter and John both ran to the site. John’s young legs made it there first, but he didn’t enter. Instead he simply stared at the empty linens that had wrapped the Lord. Peter arrived behind him and stooped to go in. John finally joined him. Bewildered, they took in the scene and returned to their homes.

But Mary couldn’t leave. She stood weeping outside, grieving yet another loss. First His life. Now His body. Finally, she entered the tomb, only to discover she wasn’t alone. Two angels in white questioned her.

They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” John 20:13

My throat catches a little as I read Mary’s words. They have taken away my Lord.

I can’t imagine how she must have felt. Jesus had been taken from her. Her Deliverer (Mark 16:9). Her Savior. Her Hope.

Turning around, she saw Jesus standing there. But she didn’t recognize Him, mistaking Him for the gardener. Jesus echoed the angels’ question.

“Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?”

Desperate, she pleaded, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take Him away” (verse 15). The next moment changed everything.

 Jesus said to her, “Mary.”

The Word made flesh spoke her name, and suddenly, she knew. He didn’t look like the Jesus she had known. He didn’t sound the same either. She hadn’t recognized His voice when He questioned her. But when He said her name, she knew Him. She knew because she belonged to Him.

Jesus said it would be so.

“The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.” John 10:3

Does He speak your name, beloved? Do you recognize Him when He speaks it?

Mary responded precisely how a sheep would.

Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher). John 20:16

Jesus spoke her name, and she turned.

Believing in Jesus isn’t religion, dear one. It’s personal. He speaks, and those who belong to Him hear and respond. They know when He calls their name. They move to the sound of His Word. They allow it to lead them, even when they have to change direction. But they follow, because they know Him. And they love Him.

They belong to Him.

It strikes me that Jesus waited for Peter and John to leave before revealing Himself to Mary. The disciples didn’t see the angels or encounter their Lord that morning.

But Mary did. A woman. An ordinary woman who offered Jesus extraordinary love. And I can’t help thinking that a God who IS love, cannot withhold Himself from one who gives it so freely.

Have you offered Jesus your love, beloved? Would you grieve like Mary at the thought of someone taking Him from you? Or have you kept Him so distant you’d hardly notice?

He notices, beloved. He calls your name, and invites you to respond. He bled and died so that you could know Him. Intimately. Many know about Him, but those who belong to Him know Him. And they follow, because they love Him.

Many people know about Jesus. But those who belong to Him, know HIM. Click To Tweet

On Sunday, we will celebrate the resurrection of our Savior. As we remember the cross and the empty tomb, let’s also remember what it bought us.

Intimacy. Love. Belonging. And the power to follow.

Oh Lord, I want to know You when You speak my name. And I want to turn to You every time. Empower me, Lord, to love You with obedience, that I may see You and proclaim like Mary, “I have seen the Lord!” (John 20:18)

In the Cleft of the Rock

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. John 1:5

Sometimes that scripture seems impossible to believe, doesn’t it?

Moments come when the darkness seems so thick you find it difficult to breathe. Your deceiving heart insists it will suffocate you. And yet your lungs fill again.

But with every breath, the darkness murmurs it will have the next one.

It won’t, beloved, unless you allow it to.

Perhaps I need to remind you who gives you breath.

The Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life. Job 33:4

The enemy doesn’t own your breath, dear one. He just wants you to think he does.

And there’s something else the enemy doesn’t want you to know. The light that defeats the darkness rests within you. Christ gave it to you. Beloved, you hold the power within you to defeat the lord of the darkness.

And he’s terrified you’ll figure that out.

So the deceiver of the whole world (Revelation 12:9) works his illusions, insisting he is stronger than you and that darkness prevails. But his schemes only work if you believe him.

This last month has brought an onslaught of darkness against my family. Serious health concerns have come out of nowhere against four of my family members. The enemy whispers the future holds the promise of more darkness. If I didn’t know my God so well, fear may have crumbled me.

But I do know my beloved Savior. So I told the enemy I would not take his fear. I belong to the Most High God, and I rest in the shadow of the Almighty. And the God I love has promised:

Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him; I will protect him, because he knows my name. When he calls to me, I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him. With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.” Psalm 91:14-16

No matter how things appear, the God I know always keeps His Word. Always. And love draws His presence. He can’t keep away from it. It’s what He created us for.

So I know that as I turn my heart toward my Savior in praise, glory approaches with Him. And I am reminded of Moses.

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

These words of God came in response to Moses’ bold request, “Now show me your glory” (verse 18). God responded by saying,

I will cause all of my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the LORD, in your presence.” (Verse 19)

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

As God covers you with His protective hand, the darkness appears thickest, yet He is nearest. Click To Tweet

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

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

Oh, how I love our Savior. He is near. Always. It’s we who continually depart.

And that, of course, remains the goal of our enemy’s illusions. Because union with God and belief in His Word sets the river of life within us flowing. And when the river flows within us, the power of God releases from us.

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. Ephesians 3:20

There it is, beloved. The power of God lies within you waiting to be released as you exercise faith.

Believe, dear one. God’s Word remains true no matter how things appear. Offer Him a heart of praise in the midst of your difficulty. Draw near and grip Him tighter than ever. And when the darkness begins to dissipate, your eyes will glimpse the light of glory—glory released by your faith.

Daring to Hope

And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. Romans 5:5 NIV 1984

I love Christmas. It’s always been my very favorite time of year.

Don’t get me wrong. If we’re talking about weather, summer wins. No question. Warm breezes, cookouts, and sunshine beat the gray winter doldrums any day.

But Christmas to me was never about the weather. It was about the feeling.

Do you know the one I’m talking about? My mother called it sugarplums. Every year the onset of Christmas carols, decorated trees, holiday smells, and overflowing trays of Christmas cookies brought inevitable excitement.

Anticipation built with each opened door on the advent calendar. Finally on the night of December 24th, I would lose the ability to sleep altogether.

Fun times.

I wish I could tell you that my childhood excitement over Christmas was rooted in something spiritual. It wasn’t. Although I marveled at the wonders surrounding Jesus’ Bethlehem story, it would be years before I understood its profound significance and opened the gift God gave me in His Son.

No, my childhood Christmas sugarplums came from the presents.

You see, for the 12 long months from one December 25th to the next, my brothers and I would hear one thing from my parents in response to asking for things we wanted. “Maybe. Put it on your Christmas list.”

So we did.

Then we’d wait. And we’d hope. And as the big day drew near, we’d wonder what treasures might actually appear beneath the Christmas tree.

Do you remember what it feels like to hope, beloved?

At some point, even if only for a few brief moments of childhood abandon, all of us have allowed the glimmer of possibility to stir our hearts.

And that stirring kindled anticipation. Perhaps that hope even inspired a step of faith.

You bought that lottery ticket.

You went after that promotion.

You opened your heart to love.

Then you waited and watched. And hoped. And you didn’t get the outcome you desired.

Unfortunately, in a world with very few guarantees, we often end up disappointed. And many of us have discovered first-hand that Proverbs 13:12 proves true.

Hope deferred makes the heart sick.

And so stories of a child Savior born in a stable with the power to redeem your life seem a bit farfetched. You can appreciate the sentimental wonder of the story, but you dare not open your heart to really believe Him for His promises.

Or maybe Jesus Himself seems to have disappointed you.

Yet Romans 5:5 makes a bold claim.

And hope does not disappoint us because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.

Beloved, biblical hope does not disappoint. But we must pay careful attention to what scripture links that hope to: love poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit.

You see, we can seek Jesus for His power. We can associate ourselves with His name to try to garner His blessing. But if we pass love by, hope in His name holds no guarantee.

The baby born in Bethlehem wasn’t the means to access God’s gifts. He is the gift.

But we can’t just stand next to Him in church on Sunday. We don’t step into His power by singing songs about Him. We’ll never find healing by owning a Bible we never open.

Love alone releases the blessings of heaven into this broken, troubled world. Love remains the only catalyst to release them in you.

And so the manger offers an incredible hope. Transforming love. Love that must first be encountered, trusted, and received. Love that can then pour out. And change the circumstances of earth.

That’s better than any shiny present under the tree.

Whatever your association with Jesus has been, beloved, will you take a chance on love? Will you open the door to your heart and invite Jesus to reveal Himself? His Spirit wants to write His Word upon your heart and transform you from the inside.

Make sure you open the gift, dear one. It costs you nothing but time and gains everything.

And it’s guaranteed not to disappoint.

The Now Power of Forgiveness

. . . just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. Romans 6:4

We’ve talked a lot over the last several weeks about the blessings of God. We’d be remiss if we didn’t zero in on our greatest blessing in Christ: forgiveness.

Sometimes I wonder if the word is tossed around so much it’s lost its potency. It’s so familiar to us in our Christian circles, we hardly appreciate the value of it anymore. We’re grateful for the ticket to heaven and we praise God for His gift to us, but beyond that, its power seems lost on us.

Beloved of God, forgiveness offers so much more than a free pass. It offers power for today.

You and I are carrying burdens we’re not meant to carry. We’ve spent our lives painfully bent under sin’s authority, and we’re still letting it rule us.

Sin still governs our thoughts. It convinces us to take offense, even when none is given. It leads us to make choices that bring us harm and even damage the people we love.

We don’t mean to. We can’t see it at the time. A veil of darkness blinds our view of consequence, dangling before us only the enticing lure of gratification. For the moment.

Then pain quickly follows, swallowing us in a tide of darkness that drags us bit by bit away from those we love.

Dear one, Jesus carried all of that sin to Calvary. He took it all. He didn’t just pay sin’s penalty. He bore the sin itself. And when they pounded the nails in His hands and feet, they nailed it with Him to that cross. It’s gone.

Jesus took our sin upon Himself and conquered its power. Do you know what that means, dear one? You no longer need to bow down to the rule of sin. You can stand in the authority of Jesus’ victory, with the power of that sin securely under your feet.

For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace. Romans 6:14

Isn’t that an amazing promise? Grace has set us free from sin’s power over us.

You see, that’s what forgiveness really means, beloved.

Release.

Not just release from sin’s penalty and consequences, but freedom from sin’s control.

For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. Romans 8:2

Do you see the present tense resting in the midst of that promise? Christ has already set us free from the law of sin and death. It’s not something He still has to accomplish. It’s already done.

You, dear one, are free from sin’s authority over you.

You may be wondering why you still struggle with sin. Let me share with you what God’s been speaking to me. You see, it comes down to faith. You and I are still struggling because we still believe we’re the person we used to be. We still view ourselves through the eyes of our old nature, the one that’s been tarnished by sin.

But Scripture is very clear that if we are in Christ, our nature has changed.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 2 Corinthians 5:17

There’s that present tense again. Do you see it, dear one? The new has already come. We don’t need to wait for Christ to make us a new creation. He’s already done it.

Now He’s asking us to believe it.

For years I’ve heard this expression tossed about within the body.

“I’m just a sinner, saved by grace.”

I’ve come to realize that phrase isn’t entirely true. Think it through with me.

If I have been saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, then I’m no longer a sinner. I was a sinner; that’s why I needed a Savior. But now I’m a redeemed child of God who has been set free from the power of sin and walks in the righteousness of Christ’s nature.

What difference does that make, dear one? You and I will always make our decisions based on what we believe.

If I still see myself as a sinner, I’m going to keep on sinning. If that’s what I believe I am, that’s what I’ll do.

But if I truly believe that I have a new nature given to me through Jesus Christ, my faith in choosing to walk that out will access the grace of God and empower me to live differently.

That’s the gift of forgiveness poured out to us through the cross, dear one. We are free. Free from sin’s destructive hold. Free to make different choices that produce life.

Will you see yourself as you are in Christ and let go of the person you used to be?

Unlimited power waits for the one who believes.

A Wolf Among the Sheep

Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. John 13:1 ESV

My heart stirred when I read that verse the other day over my morning coffee. There’s nothing quite like Jesus’ love. He poured it out on His disciples while He lived among them, and “…He loved them to the end.”

Sadly, they didn’t all love Him in return. The very next verse ushers in the unthinkable.

During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him. John 13:2-5

I wonder how Judas felt as Jesus knelt before him to wash his feet. Did his heart race as Jesus tenderly dipped them in the basin? I wonder if Jesus gazed into his face, eyes blazing with the love He felt for him.

His betrayal must have burned within his soul, and yet Judas still left the table to sell his Savior for thirty pieces of silver.

It seems impossible to us, but the truth is, any one of us could easily be him.

Dear one, I doubt that Judas set out to betray Jesus in the beginning. He probably began his journey much like the other disciples—full of hope and wonder, drawn by possibility.

So what went wrong? How could a trusted friend of Jesus stray so terribly far off course?

One thing separates the sheep from the wolf, beloved. Love. Judas may have served with Jesus, but he never offered Him his heart. He wasn’t willing to deny himself to follow Him. He wanted to use his relationship with Jesus to further himself.

How do I know that? The previous chapter invites us to view another scene where the disciples reclined around a table and a different foot washing of sorts took place. Mary, sister of Martha and Lazarus,

. . . took a pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.  John 12:3

Our friend Judas had an interesting response.

But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (he who was about to betray him), said, “Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it. John 12:4-6

Do you see it, dear one? Judas served, but he didn’t love. He couldn’t understand “wasting” expensive perfume to anoint Jesus. He didn’t love Him like Mary did. And he didn’t want to waste spending the ministry funds on the poor Jesus loved. He wanted it for himself.

Hear me, beloved. Jesus gave Judas the same power He gave the other eleven (Luke 9:1-2). He could preach the Word. He could heal the sick. If power marked the true disciple, Judas surely was one.

Yet John 17:12 reveals that Judas was doomed to destruction (NIV).

Power and authority are not the marks of salvation, dear one. God can empower anyone at any time to do His will simply because He’s God. The mark of salvation is found in a different place. It’s found within the heart. Jesus said,

“By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love . . . ” John 13:35

1 John 2:5-6 adds this:

But whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.

Jesus lived out love, and “ . . . he loved them to the end” (John 13:1).

While Judas went through all the motions of being a disciple, he wasn’t one. He looked like one. He acted like one. Jesus even empowered him like one. But he didn’t have the heart of one.

No one else could tell. The disciples had no idea who Jesus was talking about when He told them one would betray Him (John 13:22). They saw no external signs because he looked and acted just like the rest of them.

But Jesus saw. He knew the self-centered longings of Judas’ heart. He knew he never truly offered Jesus the right to rule in him. He remained his own lord, choosing to exalt his own kingdom instead of God’s. And Jesus honored Judas’ choice.

He loved him to the end, but He did not save him.

Encountering Jesus

“Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” John 17:3

On Sunday we celebrated Jesus’ resurrection. A throng of people filled our sanctuary, many dressed in pristine Easter finery. Ushers scurried to find seats, busily lining folding chairs along the walls and aisles to accommodate the overflow. It was no ordinary Sunday.

How it must have delighted God’s heart to see the crowds uniting in praise of His Son. Voices rose together in worship, a beautiful melody lifting before the throne of the King. I felt my heart swell with love and gratitude in response to what my Savior chose to suffer for me. My hands rose heavenward involuntarily.

It was a good day.

Today, sadness pricks at the edges of my heart.

You see, I wonder how many of the faithful Easter attendees flooding our churches really know the Savior they came to worship. How many went out of duty for a distant God they hoped to appease by their annual presence on resurrection day? How many others rifle into church each week from that same sense of duty, with no thought of encountering the Living God?

Please hear my heart, dear one. I don’t say this in judgment. I say it because for 26 years I was one of them. I say it because I know the emptiness of being a church attendee who had no fellowship with Jesus. I say it because I want desperately for everyone to experience the transforming power of His unfailing love.

Beloved, do you know Him?

I remember the day I finally met Him.

I wasn’t looking for it when it happened. I was simply trying to finish my homework and get my blanks filled in before our home group met the next time for Bible study.

But my relentless, loving God had plans for this lost and wandering sheep. Four words stared back at me from the page in my workbook, seeking my response: Do you love Jesus?

The question was an easy one, and I lifted my hand to answer “yes” without even thinking. I knew the right answer.

But my hand began to tremble as a fresh revelation dawned. Conviction fell over me as the Spirit of Truth invaded my thoughts and allowed me to see what He saw.

I didn’t love Him.

I had thought I did. I’m sure I’d said it a hundred times in my twenty-six years. After all, I’d grown up in church. And I wasn’t just an Easter worshiper; I worshiped every week. I could quote Scripture and tell you all about Jesus’ life.

But knowing stuff about Jesus isn’t the same as knowing Him.

And that day, the Spirit lifted the veil so I could see the truth about myself. I realized I had been a pretender, living a lie. I couldn’t love Jesus because I didn’t even know Him. But I realized something else that day that was even more important: I wanted to. And so, undone by the Holy Spirit in my living room, I confessed my sin, exited the kingdom of darkness, and gave my life to Jesus.

I have never been the same.

Have you had your encounter with Jesus, dear one? Does your Christianity bear the marks of religious chains, or a transforming work of grace?

If you’re not certain, ask the Lord of Glory to reveal Himself to you. He will never withhold Himself from a seeking heart. In fact, He’s the One stirring you to seek Him. And when you do, He promises,

“I will be found by you,” declares the LORD, “and will bring you back from captivity.” Jeremiah 29:14

He will lift the veil for you to see, piercing darkness with glory and disclosing your truth. And then, you have a choice to make. Will you step into the light and head toward Jesus? Or do you prefer the comfortable familiarity of the darkness?

Choose life, beloved. Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and you will never see heaven without Him (John 14:6). To spend eternity with Him there, you must know and trust Him here.

He beckons you to life with the same invitation He gave the Twelve, “Follow Me.”

Will you follow?

 “Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” John 17:3

Careless Words

“But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.” Matthew 12:36-37

Careless words. We’re all guilty of speaking them. On a good day we offer flippant answers. On our bad days we easily express thoughtless putdowns and let angry outbursts fly without a second thought.

But they’re only words, right?

Beloved, when Christ returns, He will hold us accountable for all of them.

Words may seem an odd thing for Jesus to judge us by. We might expect righteous works or immoral sins as a basis for judgment, but careless words?

Scripture reveals at least two reasons why God would place such high importance on the words we speak. We find the first tucked right before our opening verse in Matthew 12.

 You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him. (verses 34-35)

What we say flows from what resides within our hearts. Our words reveal our true heart condition. As believers, the words we speak will either reflect the oppressive chains of sin or the life-giving presence of Jesus.

Dear one, 2 Peter 1:3 assures us that once we put our faith in Jesus, “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him . . .”

According to Scripture, we lack nothing necessary to live a godly life, but we often neglect to draw on His power to enable us to live differently. Instead of taking on Christ’s nature, we choose to look and sound like the world He died to overcome.

Beloved, Jesus does not take that kind of misrepresentation lightly.

Ezekiel 36:26 reveals God’s desire to give us a new heart and a new Spirit. He plans to transform our hearts of stone into loving hearts of flesh that beat in communion with His. Our words indicate whether we’re cooperating to allow that change to take place. Instead of careless words, the mouth of the believer ought to build others up in keeping with Jesus’ character and presence.

TBF_bannerad_660pixels

That brings us to the second reason our words hold such importance. Consider the nature of God’s words.

  •  And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. Genesis 1:3
  • And God said, “Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear.” And it was so. Genesis 1:9
  • He [Jesus] got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. Mark 4:39

Do you notice anything significant about what happens when God speaks? In case you missed it, I’ll let God describe it for you.

 “So is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” Isaiah 55:11

God’s words are powerful; they achieve whatever He speaks. Each word God utters produces a result. His words never fall carelessly or without effect. When the Creator speaks, that which He spoke is called into being. Whatever He speaks occurs.

Dear one, you were created in the image of God.

Contemplate the implications of that statement. You and I were created in the image of a God who speaks things into being. No wonder Proverbs 18:21 teaches,

 “The tongue has the power of life and death . . .”

Please don’t misunderstand me. We don’t share God’s power to call our desires into existence simply by speaking them forth. He alone is the almighty, omnipotent, Creator God. But as vessels made in His image, our words are also powerful and shouldn’t be tossed about without thought. They hold considerable potential to build up or destroy.

 The tongue that brings healing is a tree of life, but a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit. Proverbs 15:4

I can’t help but think of the times my own careless words have hurt the people I love. The times I chose to be right instead of silent. The times I’ve thoughtlessly undermined my husband’s leadership. The times I’ve watched my sons’ countenance crumble as a result of carelessly chosen words.

Then I consider the words of my Savior. I know firsthand how His encouraging whispers lift my soul, how they fill and never empty. They breathe life into my wounded places. They offer hope.

No wonder Jesus harbors concern over the words we speak.

As we give voice to the words that flood our thoughts, we have an opportunity. We can say whatever comes to mind and hope we don’t do too much damage, or we can deliberately choose to surrender our thoughts and words to Jesus.

With the Creator behind the words we speak, we may just get to witness a few miracles.

Changing Your “Want To”

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Acts 1:8 NIV

Last week I was reading through a Bible study by Tammie Head called Duty or Delight? In it, she challenged me with this suggestion:

The basic definition for the power of the Holy Spirit means to be able. Please take this in: The “to be able” came to live in you and in me. What if we began calling Him the To-Be-Able instead of the Holy Spirit? Can you imagine how that would change our thinking? We’d no longer be ruled by I can’t because the To-Be-Able can. (p.92)

 That day I wrote in my journal: You are the To-Be-Able to change my want to.

Do you have a “want to” that you’re struggling to overcome, dear one? Is there something in your life God is asking of you that you can’t seem to do because your heart doesn’t agree?

 I think you can probably relate to what I’m talking about. God says . . .

  • Take this step . . . but I don’t want to.
  • Give this to me . . . but I don’t want to.
  • Forgive . . . but I don’t want to.
  • This relationship isn’t good for you; let it go . . . but I don’t want to.
  • Feed my sheep . . . but I don’t want to.
  • This sin is hurting you . . . but I still want it.

And the worst part is that you really want to obey God. You want to please Him, but you can’t seem to follow through. What He’s asking goes against your nature. It doesn’t feel right. So you don’t do what you know you ought to do. Instead, you keep doing what you know you shouldn’t.

I can’t help thinking of Paul’s words in Romans 7:18-20,

For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.

So many of us have good intentions. We really want to please God through obedience, but when it comes right down to it, we find that we can’t. And so we rejoice when we read Paul’s words because it makes us feel better about ourselves. Even the Apostle Paul struggled with sin! This is normal.

And it is.

Scripture makes very clear that we humans are unable to combat the stranglehold of sin’s desires in us. That’s why we need a Savior! And as Christians, we read those verses describing Paul’s struggle and breathe a sigh of relief. Then we use them to justify our own disobedience.

Perhaps we need to read further and discover what else Paul said.

 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?  Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! Romans 7:24-25

Did he say delivers me? Is it possible to end those habitual cycles of sin? To stop doing those things we know we shouldn’t do? Paul seemed to think so. Notice his use of exclamation points! He could hardly contain his excitement. Let’s read on.

 . . .through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit. Romans 8:2-4, NIV 1984

Listen, dear one. If you have put your faith in Jesus and received the gift of His Spirit, you have also received the power to do everything God asks of you. Look at those verses. God sent Jesus as a sin offering, not just to cover our sin, but to conquer the power of sin living in us. He did it so “the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us.”

He did it to give you a new nature. His nature.

Jesus didn’t just pay the penalty for your sin, beloved. He also defeated its power. You and I have been given a supernatural ability to obey God. Do you remember what John the Baptist said when he saw Jesus approaching?

 “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” John 1:29

He doesn’t just want to cover or hide it; He wants to remove it altogether.

So how do we let Jesus do what He came to do in us? Romans 8:4 provides the answer: We have to choose to surrender our desires to the Spirit we’ve been given, instead of continuing to follow the natural desires of our flesh. We have to ask our To-Be-Able to change our “want to.”

 Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:4

Precious one, the Holy Spirit wants to start changing your desires. Are you ready to give Him permission? I hope so, because He’s ready to reveal Himself in your life. You just may bear witness to God’s power “. . .to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).

Convincing You of Righteousness

“They will say of me, ‘In the LORD alone are righteousness and strength.’”  Isaiah 45:24

It wasn’t one of my better days. It began as a delightful treat—an unexpected outing with my husband to check out a piece of furniture. It ended with me telling him I felt like throwing my phone at him.

I remember walking out of the store thinking, “What just happened?” And I really had no idea. Anger erupted out of me like someone had flipped a switch. And over what . . . a phone call? A tone of voice?

Let’s face it; the flesh is just plain ugly. In our unguarded moments, we can be capable of just about anything. And unfortunately, the selfish tirades of our flesh often end up directed at those we love the most. Oh, how we need a Savior!

Ah, but we have One. His name is Jesus. And through Him, God did something wonderful.

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 5:21

Jesus bled and died so that we could become righteousness. Did you get that? Maybe you should read it again. In Christ, we have been given a divine capacity for righteousness. He doesn’t ask us to imitate His righteousness; He asks us to exchange our old nature for His own. He promises to release us from the destructive nature of our flesh, and He sent us His Spirit to do the work. Celebrate 2 Corinthians 3:18,

And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

It’s a great plan. Trouble is, we have a hard time seeing it come to light in us. We’d like to be different, but those old habits are difficult to break. The power of that sin nature seems so strong at times—too strong to overcome. So we reason that everyone slips up sometimes and resign ourselves to remaining unchanged.

Thank God for sending the Counselor, the Spirit of Truth, who “convict[s] the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment” (John 16:8).

We’re very familiar with the Spirit’s role in convicting us of our guilt over sin. At least I am; it was He who whispered into my heart that day in the furniture store, “What would people think of Me watching you right now, beloved?” His words pierced my heart, resulting in confession to both God and my husband.

But what about His role in convicting—or convincing—us of our guilt in regard to righteousness and judgment? Verses 10-11 reveal some powerful truths that can help us to walk in victory and live as overcomers. Let’s begin with John 16:10:

“in regard to righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer.”

Do you know what Jesus is doing right now before the Father, dear one? He’s interceding for us (Romans 8:34). Remember, Jesus bore our sin so we could bear His righteousness. Now when the Father looks at us, He no longer sees our sin ravaged flesh. He sees His Son.

I wish I could say the same about us. We still tend to see ourselves as we were— unrighteous sinners— rather than the pure and holy vessels we have become in Christ. So we still act like sinners.

“For as he thinks in his heart, so is he” Proverbs 23:7, NKJV

But Jesus sent us the Holy Spirit to change our view. We are already righteous! Our thoughts just need to catch up with our reality. So the Spirit of Truth works within our hearts to convince us of our righteousness in Christ. Let’s start listening to Him!

Verse 11 gets me even more excited.

and in regard to judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned.”

Look at the target of the judgment described. It isn’t you, dear one. This judgment is against the prince of this world. And notice something else. Jesus isn’t describing a judgment to come; this judgment has already taken place: the prince of this world now stands condemned.

Rejoice over Colossians 2:13, 15:

When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins . . . And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.

The enemy of your soul has been judged. He has been disarmed, beloved, and any power he exercises over you is nothing but a lie. Your sin isn’t stronger than Jesus; Jesus has already conquered your sin. What remains now is for you to believe it.

And that’s where the Spirit becomes strength in your weakness. He convinces you of your righteous standing before God and of the victory you’ve already been given. Then He provides you with the power to live like the righteousness you are.

No wonder Jesus told us He was sending the Counselor for our good. Perhaps it’s time we believed Him.