Spring Cleaning

Spring cleaning is a familiar chore many are not thrilled to begin. It might be safe to say many do not look forward to annually cleaning out anything. Spring cleaning is done in houses, churches, and even offices. Some may in fact become anxious weeks before it happens. Some attribute the anxiety to things that we believe are important being inventoried and thrown out. When asked spring cleaning normally consists of methodically getting rid of useless things long forgotten, or so we say. Old toys that children no longer use; clothes that we have outgrown or perhaps anything that seems to not have a place anymore. It can deal with actually cleaning, wiping down, and removing the dust off forgotten items.

Growing up, there is only one problem that I believe is valid with spring cleaning. I did not see the purpose in getting rid of stuff that I still believed had value. In my feeble attempt to rationalize why there is significance in the things I want to keep, the end goal should be to reduce junk and gain space for what was important.

And to those who were selling the doves, He said, “Take these things away; stop making My Father’s house a place of business.”

~ John 2:16 NASB ~

The temple clearing is a familiar passage and not only expresses the power and boldness of Jesus in a moment but also his anger. The Messiah expresses anger fueled by love and respect for the Father.

Jerusalem was both the religious and political seat of Palestine and was believed to be the place where Christ was expected to come since the temple was located there. The temple area was always crowded during Passover with thousands of visitors. The religious leaders crowded it further by allowing money changers and merchants to set up shop in the Court of the Gentiles, outside the temple. They rationalized this practice as a convenience for the worshipers and as a way to make money for temple upkeep. When in reality, the religious leaders were using the services of the holy temple to cover up their sins. They were not concerned that the Court of Gentiles was full of merchants and visitors were finding it difficult to worship because of the distractions that were consuming the house.

When you come to appear before Me, who requires of you this trampling of My courts?

~ Isaiah 1:12 NASB ~

Jesus was angry when he came to the temple. The purpose of the temple was a gathering place for those who needed help but this selling distracted from the real purposes being fulfilled. In fact, the Court of Gentiles was the only place in the temple that was available to the Gentiles. There the Jews could witness to their pagan neighbors and tell them about their true and living God. These activities were preventing the message of the forgiveness of sin and the possibility for salvation by those that entered in the Temple. A true encounter with the Lord was missed by many due to the neglect of a few.

Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me and know my anxious thoughts; and see if there be any hurtful way in me, And lead me in the everlasting way.

~ Psalms 139:23-24 NASB ~

Have we taken an introspection look into our own lives? Have we missed encounters with the Savior due to things we have preventing Jesus from reaching the heart of who we are? Has he been in the vicinity but maybe our unwillingness to move the distractions (unhealthy relationships, stressful careers, pornographic addiction, selfishness) kept Him from reaching us the way He desires? Maybe we have never sold merchandise in God’s house but have we ever participated in “religious” worship to give the people the impression that we were godly? Secretly, having our own motives for coming to church. Singing in the choir to have the solo, giving a large offering for the Christmas holiday to make up for the entire year of not bringing the tithes. Or perhaps coming to the early service only to not miss kickoff in the afternoon. 

Just like spring cleaning, I encourage you to get rid of the junk and make space for Jesus Christ to be able to enter in and dwell with you. What could we consider junk? Old attitudes, habits, and ways of thinking may need to be removed- to make room for new ways. Perhaps old friendships and relationships that are just taking up space may need to be forgotten. For many, this may be a hard decision to make to physically remove someone from our lives. Remember the goal is to always make room for Christ to dwell within. Allow Him in all parts and see how He can change you for the better.

You will be grateful you did.

Time to Move

When we were at Mount Sinai, the Lord our God said to us, “You have stayed at this mountain long enough. It is time to break camp and move on.

~ Deuteronomy 1:6-7 NLT ~

In November, it will be two years since I moved from my home state. Just sitting here thinking about where the time has gone and how home was where I was comfortable. Where all my immediate family and friends still are. In fact, both of my sons are still back there too. As I am reflecting it makes me think about when the thought was presented to consider moving – it really was not on the table.

A few things happened before I moved that definitely would give anyone pause and make the decision to move difficult. The most difficult decision, (let me just reiterate again) was leaving my family behind. There were dynamics before me that had not been ironed out, however, it felt like the Lord was orchestrating every move, even the difficult ones.

If I can be honest. There were still two problems, I could not see where I was going and second, I was not sure if I wanted to go. Neither of these matters to the creator of all things but still. Have you ever felt that way – you believe the Lord is calling you to some place, task, or person but you are not certain it lines up with your plans?

I recently read the book of Deuteronomy when I stumbled across this passage of scripture about the children of Israel and Mount Sinai. And this time it stopped me long enough to reflect back to when I had to move. Amazing how God in his infinite wisdom will bring us to a passage to create a moment of reflection. I think of other times past when the Lord has directed me or told me to stop something and I have disobeyed. I wonder in those moments of reflection, what did I miss or if I had listened and obeyed what would life look like?

I think about the Israelites at that moment when an imperative is spoken and the Lord seems to almost say I am tired of waiting for you to do something. Just like an awesome God, to remind us that there is more, do not settle for where you currently are. In this case, Israel has embraced and left Egypt behind, it has been about three months and they are in transition camped at the base of Mount Sinai. (Exodus 19:1) And now the Lord is calling them to leave transition.

I would like to just leave you with a few thoughts to hopefully encourage you to not stay in a place of transition (Mount Sinai) but move to the place of promise. We may not have an actual Mount Sinai today, but it represents where the preparation took place, where promises were given/spoken based on obedience and it provided temporal provision for a purposed people. In other words, it was comfort for that season. I have found myself here and honestly, am quite content staying in this place, can you relate?   

I am learning that faith is fundamentally formed by fear not only being forgotten but forsaken. The Apostle Paul tells us, to forget those things behind and reach forward to what lies ahead. (Phil 3:13) The older I get the more I realize there is no easy way to grow in faith except by a willingness to surrender control to the Father. Sometimes the Lord requires us to leave comfort to gain confidence and sometimes to gain confidence we must move quickly. Just get up and do it!  

You have stayed at this mountain long enough.

~ Deuteronomy 1:6 NLT ~

What, where, or who is your Mount Sinai? Physically this may represent a relationship, a career, or a health move. Spiritually it may be a habit or perspective, a way of thinking that we need to change to reach true fulfillment.

We have to leave our comfort zones and keep traveling. The Lord has already told them where they were headed so why did it seem as if his words, through Moses were a surprise? In Exodus six, Yahweh tells Moses to tell Israel he will bring them into a land promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. And the same message applies today, the Lord moves us in a direction that seems unclear but with His encouragement, we can make it.  

Second, the Lord tells them, It is time to break camp. (Exodus 1:7) The camp represents a temporary dwelling that we erect and tear down before moving. It could be in our minds, emotionally, or physical things that we put together. If you have ever been hiking, camp is considered the place with temporary accommodations, that we do not stay in. We may have to tear down some stuff that has been erected temporarily that we are attempting to make permanent. “Break camp” with insecurity, poor self-image, nasty mouths, attitudes, laziness, selfish living, too serious (laughter is good for the soul), and demonic appetites that are robbing us of God’s best (pornography, lustful behavior). We make excuses for tolerating our sin condition or behavior instead of leaving guilt for repentance. We are living in a time when we need to break camp with religion and seek a relationship with more than the name God, but Jesus Christ. Relationships birth intimate knowledge of not only who Christ is but who we are in Christ. And what He desires for us.

Jesus told him, I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me. If you had really known me, you would know who my Father is.

~ John 14:6,7 NLT  ~

Lastly, action is required friend. It is not enough to hear and be motivated to move but do nothing different. This is the hard part. The Lord can have much in store for us but if we will not believe and trust His leading, we will stay hindered, never meeting our purpose.

So here is the question, what does Action look like to you? What has the Lord been reminding or speaking to you in reference to action? Whatever it looks like, I would encourage and challenge you to get moving.

Do not Let It Linger

A weed had grown adjacent to our fence in the back of our home. It was growing so tall that it looked like a plant. I did not see it as a real threat, so I pulled it up at the point where it appeared to begin. A few weeks later, that weed was back, but this time it had spread across the back of our fence in every direction. I ended up pulling it out beneath the root and cutting it off – so that that problem was dealt with not just at the surface level but at the source.

There is a valuable lesson in this that often gets overlooked in our everyday lives. It never gets better when we don’t deal with nuisances at the root and allow them to linger. God instructed Israel to attack Midian causing them to become consumed with sexual sin and idolatrous behavior. (Numbers 31) The Lord wanted them to be free of the things that appeared harmless on the surface but kept them in bondage. Instead, Israel began to mingle with the Midianites leading them to Baal worship and entertaining sexual immorality.

Why have you let all the women live? These are the very ones who followed Balaam’s advice.”

~ Numbers 31:15 NASB ~

Moses was asking if they had gotten rid of the problem at the core. The same question can be asked of us today. I wonder at that moment what Moses was seeing. Outwardly did they get to the core of the issue in their lives, or just put a band-aid over it. We must be careful of our feelings that may lead to acceptance of corruption. In the past, I have known what needed to take place but just ignored it. Truthfully this broke the Lord’s heart and pushed me further away.

Here is a thought, what things do we allow to linger in our lives? Israel attacked Midian and killed the men but allowed the women to live even though God said to destroy all. What things have we justified keeping?  Have we dealt with the lingering stuff that we think is not that bad? Have we acknowledged not only that gossiping is wrong but why do we find joy in passing information about others? Do we recognize that pornography is wrong and examine why we are looking for impure satisfaction? Perhaps this is a season of singleness and it is hard to embrace for some. Learning to not be selfish or learning to discipline one’s finances, thoughts, or home, before we bring another into our lives is sacrifice.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up.

~ Hebrews 12:1 LASB ~

I am thankful for the reminder not to allow sinful behaviors and habits to linger. The challenge is normally the overcoming lesson used to stretch us. When we obey God, in some capacity we are blessed.  

Partial obedience is not obedience. It is not enough to obey partially what God has confidently and consistently told us as Christians to do. We can only receive His best and embrace His love for us when we follow His instruction. Obedience is the ultimate gesture of love that we can show to our Lord. I thought partial obedience was better than no obedience. I am thankful for the revelation that Jesus desires us all to receive.

 “Love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. “This is the first and great commandment.

~ Mark 12:30 NASB ~

The challenge is not in the knowing but in the doing. We must deal with it all. In other words, we have to look in the mirror and do the work. In Numbers 31, v.17 reads, So kill all the boys and all the women who had intercourse with a man. God gives a command that seems harsh. I pondered why does God command the boys and a specific group of women to be slaughtered? In ancient culture, the boys would have grown up to avenge their father’s legacy. The command to kill the women because they had turned the hearts of the entire kingdom away from their first love, God.

It is not the women or the boys that the Lord was addressing (on the surface it seemed to be). It was the allowance of something that should be removed to change the trajectory of our destiny. We all can think back to a time or situation that created conflict, but by the grace of God, we are still here. Do not let it linger.

Lord, thank you for your grace and unconditional love. Help me to remove anything that prevents me from continued growth or change in my life. When you show me things that need to be removed that hinder my growth let me not hesitate to take action. I ask that you will allow me to go beneath the surface and get to the root of those things that keep me from becoming more like Christ.

In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Invited or Not?

God, I invite your searching gaze into my heart. Examine me through and through; find out everything that may be hidden within me. Put me to the test and sift through all my anxious cares.

~ Psalms 139:23 TPT ~

Imagine getting the call, a family member wanting to see you is making an impromptu visit to your home.  You quickly begin to straighten up (hopefully) because we want them to see the neat and tidy version and not the messy, day-to-day us. I do not know about you but the truth is I am not always neat and tidy. No, my house is never messy but sometimes we leave things out of place because we believe no one will see what’s inside unless we let them in.

However, as we look at our key verse, we see this is not what David is saying, in fact, it is the opposite. He desires the Lord to come inside and visit.

For me, this can be a challenge from day to day. I know it is a crucial element to make sure that I am allowing openly for the Holy Spirit to take a look (not a peek) inside my heart. This is a sign of surrender and a declaration of transparency that we, just like David, have to relinquish to the Lord. I can say this is not always easy for me? What about you?

The Passion translation emphasizes “gaze”, meaning almost a steady, intent look for a long time, in curiosity or wonder. The Lord wants to know what is going on inside of us, as He looks with a searching gaze. He wants to know those things that are not revealed in a moment but take a studying over. Like an art critic looking over a masterpiece in the gallery, to see intricate details missed by the naked eye.

I ask myself sometimes, “Why Lord?, I am not that interesting”, in fact, from where I stand, I feel like I embarrass him. But even in these moments of uncertainty or inadequacy, I especially need Him to come in. This verse in the Psalter is asking God to come over and look around. To see what is really going on behind closed doors “as is” because we want and need His presence to help us do better.

David says something interesting after he prays for the initial invite. Examine me through and through. To Examine means to inspect in detail and determine the nature and condition of a thing. David invited God’s searching gaze into his deepest, sensitive parts. He wants the Lord to look at his thoughts and feelings. David was saying, what do my actions convey? David wanted the Lord to check his outward motives first and then take another gaze.

In the Mosaic law, the priests were to come into God’s presence, without the blemish of sin or disobedience. If sin is committed and not confessed before the time they entered the tabernacle, they were struck down by the Almighty. If they were found to be unclean, the priests could not proceed and they were pulled out of the presence of God.

The actions may have changed but the principle of coming into the presence of the Lord pure is still the goal today. Now we confess our sins directly to the Father. Let us not be afraid to come into the presence of the Lord, like David. And not only just come in but allow Him to look around and stay awhile. I know from my own encounters with the Lord, though challenging, they have truly left me with more joy, more purpose, and more fulfillment in the end. Take a moment today and ask yourself how would a visit from the Lord leave you feeling? And if He stopped by today what would He find?

Continue to stay encouraged friends.

Refined

“Forged In Fire” is a popular show that consists of four bladesmiths competing in three rounds of elimination contests that test their skills with steel and/or other metals. The four contestants must compete in an area known as “the Forge” to create a blade (or another weapon) of the judges choosing. After the smith’s blades are put through a series of tests to demonstrate their durability, sharpness, and endurance. The judges critique and give the Smiths back their blades to address any refining issues, consisting of addressing the blemishes or issues pointed out by the judges.

Refined in Hebrew is Zaqaq, meaning to strain, extract or clarify. The word refined, according to Webster, means impurities or unwanted elements having been removed by processing. The process of refinement is necessary for this Christian walk.

For you have tried us, O God; You have refined us as silver is refined. You brought us into the net; You laid an oppressive burden upon our loins. You made men ride over our heads; We went through fire and through water, Yet you brought us out into a place of abundance.

Psalms 66:10-12 NASB

We have a tendency to forget that process does not always feel good and just like the refinement of the blades created on “Forged in Fire, ” there is a price. I have disappointed the Lord more than a few times and have caused some of the dearest, closest people in my life much pain. I am not proud of it at all. When I think of the actions and people I have hurt, I am grateful for God’s grace. I reminds me how imperfect I am without His touch. I am thankful for His compassion and love. Yes, we suffer for our disobedience and sometimes we carry the scars of that disobedience for the rest of our lives. However, I am thankful for Him looking beyond our blemishes and dark spots allowing us a spot at the Master’s table to be refined and not discarded. The truth is without Him there can be no refinement.

Like a careful craftsman, the Lord put Israel through the furnace and removes the impurities plaguing them. Israel has disobeyed God and the Lord has punished them for their sin. The Jews had turned and departed from the instruction of God. They fell in a backslidden state and instead of pursuing the right relationship with God- the Lord turns from His chosen people, leaving them to their own consequences for a moment. But when they turned back to the Lord (wholeheartedly), He transformed their shortcomings into abundant blessings.

This was encouraging because God’s punishment for Israel is only a moment but His mercy is everlasting. Mercy is compassion or forgiveness shown toward someone whom it is within one’s power to punish or harm.

But because of his great love for us, God who is rich in mercy made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions-it is by grace you have been saved.

Ephesians 2:4-5 NASB

Here is the gift that the Lord gives each and every one of us to experience when we allow Him to reign in our lives. Jerusalem experienced suffering for their disobedience but the Lord’s mercy prevailed in the end. He removed their punishment, he defeated their enemies, and Jew and Gentile were accepted by the Almighty. This is the refining work that we are promised that sin will be removed and our repentance leads to salvation.

Even when I reflect or feel regret for past mistakes and disobedience. Even when I do not deserve mercy, The Lord whispers in my thoughts that He has refined me. There is no need to walk back down the road of rebuke. It is a new day, a new mindset, and a new season. This is what we tell ourselves but often we find ourselves looking back down that road. I do not know about you friend, but I am striving daily to walk in the will of the Lord (even when I am bombarded with thoughts of failure). This is when we must allow “the mighty Warrior” to battle for us – battle against our thoughts, our insecurities, and our doubt. So that we are victorious.

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; A broken and contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.

Psalms 51:17

The practical for me is that if we have strayed away from the Lord’s will and experienced His discipline. When we turn in repentance with a broken and contrite heart, confessing our wrongdoing then the Lord will receive us again and make us stronger than ever before.

Thank you, Lord, for rejoicing over me because I can remember a time when you did not and were not pleased. We pray for those of us that are going through refining now, let us feel your presence and hope. I ask you to delight in each and every person reading this prayer. You are the “Mighty warrior that saves”. What I deserve is nothing but you have offered me redemption. I am grateful for your love and for forgiving me. Please Lord remind us of this truth daily- that you are with us daily, moment by moment, in dark and dry seasons. Give us a fresh perspective and let us appreciate the refining you are doing in us. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

New Focus, New Mindset

Remember ye, not the former things, neither consider the things of old. Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.

Isaiah 43:18-19

Well, Christmas is over, and we are on the horizon of a new year. 2021 has been everything short of unpredictable. There have been some tragedies, some hurdles we had to cross while others we did not. Nevertheless, we are still here. Even through hardships, we have had some victories, friends. This year for me has been constant testing of my Faith. It has been a lot to handle, but we are still here by the grace of God.  

This scripture spoke to me a few days ago. God reminded me of the new thing he wants to do for us if we just allow Him. I am not referring to something that brings us more finances, friends, or fame. I am talking about a new mindset.

Changing our mindset is not always easy or without work, yet here we are on the brink of 2022, and I believe that better is coming- the better that God desires for our future.

“Remember not the former things,” neither consider the things of old.” 

Sometimes we have a tendency to think of God as the God who was and the God who will be but not God who is. We focus on things he has done previously, but what about now? He is the great I AM- God of the present, and HE is relevant now. He does not want us to focus on the things that were. This is your opportunity for God to let you know that He cares about the now and He is telling us, not asking us (as he told the children of Israel) to forget the previous and look forward to the future.

The Lord is explicitly concerned about you. Yes, You! It is time to move out and not stay stuck in the past’s failure, sin, and discouragement. No matter what this year has brought to your doorstep that appeared to overwhelm you, there is a new day coming. If we constantly are stuck in the past, we cannot reach our potential.

Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before,

Philippians 3:13

“Behold, I will do a new thing”

Behold means to look up and pay attention. God desires our focus today as we prepare for the new thing, the new year, and the new mindset. The background of this text was God desired to free Israel from being stuck in the discouragement and seduction of Babylon; they would never be free from Babylon if they did not lookup. If they did not look ahead and see what could be theirs to embrace. Will we stay connected to the Lord for the new thing? Will we stay in tune with His Spirit and free ourselves from what is holding us hostage? That could be past friendships, relationships, attitudes, habits, hurts, or former ways of thinking.

“I will even make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert,”

The Lord desires us to trust him so that He will make a way out of what appears difficult. When God makes a promise, often we worry about the details or what is to come. The Lord turns what looks like problems into blessings. His resources and ways are above our ways. We

Will we trust Him as we go into the new year and new territory? Yes, some things are still unchanged, but will we grasp the new focus for the New Year. Make a choice to see what is ahead from God’s perspective of Faith instead of looking back to what was. No matter what last year did or did not bring, turn your focus to what is to come and see the Lord work on your behalf.

Be Encouraged…

A Different Lender

Hey friends, some of you may not know I have the pleasure of serving as a contributing writer for Vinewords Devotions and more. This month check out my recent post published on their page below. Happy Reading.

X marked the spot. The townhouse was the perfect size for me, considering I had lived in an apartment for the last few months. A calmness fell over me as I took a pen out from my left jacket pocket. The closing agent slid page after page of documents across the table, saying, “sign here.”

As I signed, a sense of apprehension suddenly came over me. The lender discussed the policies and rules for the mortgage. I realized I had a place to stay, but it was not yet mine to own. I was an occupant, with limited control, until payments to the lender were fulfilled. If I missed a payment, I would have to make it up; there were no free passes.

My first home purchase brought a sense of nervousness and excitement at the same time. This new space provided me conditions based on my actions. If I followed my lender’s policies and made monthly payments on time, there would be no problem. Even though the lender was excellent at explaining their policies, the bottom line remained the same; until I made all the payments, the lender owned the deed to the property.

I reflected for a moment, that this was totally different from allowing the Lord Jesus Christ to be our lender.

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore, glorify God in your body.

~1 Corinthians 6:19-20 NLT

Let’s define our term. A “lender” is an individual, a public or private group, or a financial institution that makes funds available to a person or business with the expectation that the funds will be repaid.

There is no comparison with what God did when He sent Jesus. When we accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, we have full rights to what He has purchased with a price we could not possibly pay. Our life has been purchased by the shed blood of Jesus Christ. That is a reason to be thankful!

God desires Jesus Christ to be your lender, and that with all of the benefits in our favor. The bank offers to purchase property for us by way of a loan, generally with interests. In other words, the bank will buy or put up the money for you to live in the home, but with more funds than you initially needed to purchase the home. Until the time you pay off principal and interests, you are making payments on what they gave to you, and they–not you–own the deed to your home. I am so glad that we serve a God who is not like that. He takes ownership of our lives but He allows us to live in His abundance. The only requirement is that we accept Him as Lord. We need to sign the deed, so to speak, by agreeing to Jesus Christ’s Lordship, and when we take Him as our Lord, He gives us eternal life, and a life well lived here.

Some believe the requirements found in the Word of God are too stringent for us to follow, yet we sign on the dotted line with the bank’s stipulations. We understand the terms and conditions, and the goal is not to default on those terms. Here is a question I ask you today, why don’t we treat the Lord the same way? He is the lender that sends His terms and conditions through His Word, and all He asks is that we would trust and obey Him. In return, we can enjoy the benefits of that which He has purchased for us.

When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in His love.

~John 15:10 NLT

Who doesn’t enjoy the benefit of a home to call their own? We appreciate the peace and joy of our sacred space.

More importantly, would you be willing to accept what was purchased for you by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ? To enjoy and rest in the daily comfort of knowing there are no other terms and conditions, except that we know He has ownership. I know this may sound counterintuitive, but it is true, my friend. As the perfect lender, Jesus Christ’s terms and conditions of ownership free us from the control of sin. In return for following Jesus, we sign over the deed of our lives to God, giving us access to benefits that He has ready for us to receive, and the love of the Father manifests on our behalf daily.

As the perfect lender, Jesus Christ’s terms and conditions of ownership free us from the control of sin. In return for following Jesus, we sign over the deed of our lives to God.

Charles E. Maldon, author of In the Beginning: Godliness through Marriage

The debt we owed has been purchased by a Savior that has the deed of our freedom in His care. No longer do we need to make payments of costly choices but enjoy the comfort of living for Him. He has redeemed us from death, and there is no fear of default when we go with this lender because the debt has already been paid.

There is no fear of failure because we have the best terms to enjoy what He entrusts us with. We no longer have to fear death, and not only physical death but spiritual death, of trying to live in a world where all around is sadness and the chasing of more. Just like with the bank, the more you borrow, the more you have to pay back. There is always a payment required when purchasing more, but when we accept and rest in the price that has already been paid through Jesus Christ and His fulfillment plan, we reap a lifetime in return (Hebrews 10:12). This gives us true fulfillment in this life, and the life to come in heaven, face-to-face with the One who is our Lender.

Have you allowed Jesus Christ to purchase your life in full today?

Lord God, I thank You for Your son Jesus Christ, coming to save me from a price a could not pay. I recognize my need for Your Holy Spirit to guide me and continue to live in me daily. Allow me never to forget the benefits that You have given freely for me to live in Your peace. Help me appreciate You sending Your Son to purchase me in full and sending Your Holy Spirit to live in me always.

In Jesus’s name, Amen

Take Nothing for the Journey

The show “Naked and Afraid” is a popular television series. Not only because of the unknown, but also the level of competition between the contestant and the unknown. It consists of two individuals (male and female) dropped in a remote location for twenty-one days to survive in the wild. Combatting elements and nature, each individual without food, water, clothing and only one survival item is left to fend for themselves. Those that make the twenty-one-day trek receive a grand prize of five thousand dollars for their troubles. That does not seem like very much money to put yourself through such a grueling obstacle course with a stranger for almost a month. The participants do this not for the tangible compensation of cash, but for the challenge.

Over these twenty-one days, I can only imagine what they endure and the level of mental toughness necessary to make it. I don’t mind camping out in my backyard for a night, but we are talking about three weeks in the wild. I wonder where along the journey they realize, it will take more than just physical strength, mental toughness or experience to get them through. There is a level of preparation that they must have before embarking on such a challenge.

I have never watched an entire season of the show, but I have seen a few episodes. A lot of what they are up against is a mystery until they find themselves face to face with nature. Just like in the Gospel of Mark, where Jesus is preparing the disciples for a journey. The disciples have no idea what they will encounter. However, he tells them to take nothing for the journey and they obey. The difference between the show and disciples is that one is dependent on self and the latter is dependent on an Omnipresent God.

Calling the twelve to Him, he began to send them out two by two and gave them authority over impure spirits. These were his instructions, Take nothing for the journey except a staff – no bread, no bag, no money in your belts. Wear sandals but not an extra shirt. Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you leave that town. And if any place will not welcome or listen to you, leave that place and shake the dust of your feet as a testimony against them.

~ Mark 6:7-12 NIV~

Preparation for any journey is hard work and requires much discipline. It will require their faith and trust. The Messiah is not only summoning but is commissioning them with purpose.  Today, we also have been commissioned and purposed with a challenge to reach places and people we have never seen before.

To reach these accomplishments there are a few things that we can learn from Jesus and the disciples.  First, the commandments of God always lead to stretching moments. Stretching means learning how to be bendable, flexible and refined in the hands of God. This does not always feel good. I can imagine the disciples as Christ is summoning them. Jesus never asked them their qualifications. He just sent them out in pairs and gave them authority. This encourages us to be ready to step out into new territory if the Lord is calling.

Unlike the contestants on the show who prepare for the twenty-one-day challenge, we must rely on Jesus Christ as our guide. I wonder, are we prepared? Do we follow the commandments? There have been times where I have said, God what is the point of this? The Lord leaves us to ourselves only to realize our dependency is solely on Him. And only when we are willing to do it His way, do we find and fulfill purpose.

But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness and all these things will be added to you.

~ Matthew 6:33 NASB ~

As I reflect on the disciples and how they lived their lives, I see that they weren’t concerned with the latest cellphone or the how many followers they had on social media. They were not worried with their 401(k), account status or if they were aggressive enough or too conservative with their portfolio. They lived focused lives. I wonder is it safe to say living by faith means leaving the extra behind? Including our thoughts, concerns, anxieties, worries and fears. I think about what Jesus gave the disciples. He freed them to go forward without anything holding them back. He told them take nothing for the journey except a mere staff. (v.8) Here is a question for us. How are we living? Have we exchanged faith for the familiar or fancy?

In Christ we learn the importance of provision on the journey. This begins when we accept the Lord leading us in a faith-based life. The disciples took nothing for where they were going. They simply rely on provision as they enter the nearby towns. There was no salary or benefits package, just the lifetime guarantee of heaven and the gratification of becoming a vessel for Jesus Christ. Talk about crazy faith at work.  Provision in the natural is what most live for, but the disciples relied solely on those whom they testified too.

It is recorded in Matthew’s gospel, when the disciples left a home if it was worthy, they were instructed to give it a peace blessing in Hebrew, Shalom. Shalom was a sign of peace but not just any peace. This peace represents a sense of wholeness and well-being. It identifies all in one’s life balanced and working as should. This peace was not constructed from outward things but internal priority. This was learned behavior and we too can experience this inner peace-no matter what occurs around us. I would say this is one of the priceless gifts we obtain on this journey with Jesus that unless you experience it – we won’t understand the blessing.

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace that surpasses all understanding will guard your heart and mind in Christ Jesus.

~ Philippians 4:8 NASB ~

Friends, significance is not in things that feed our flesh, but in the things that fulfill the plan for our lives. Can we stop looking for stuff to gratify us in the moment and look for our purpose in Jesus? Make the choice to accept the best life that one can only find in Jesus Christ. Not in things that excite for the moment or the latest challenge to be conquered. But when we take the step to take nothing for the journey, except Christ – we open ourselves to the greatest and most rewarding challenges ever.

Is there a Broken Vessel in the Room?

In times past, I can recall how my limited perspective and personal bias in situations of prejudice, racism, or ways in our world skewed my view. It was not until I stepped outside of myself that I could truly see. Friend, we live in a world filled with hatred, envy, and jealousy for one another; but on the other hand, there are glimpses of love and hope that we miss. We encounter selfishness over selflessness. Those stepping over some, the weaker, as opposed to helping to lift one another. The attacking of some because we may disagree personally instead of finding what Christ says about an issue. Let me call it as it is, SIN. As long as we water down the truth or cover it up with band-aids, we will never deal with the source of pain. We will continue to make statements such as, “well, we all have something,” or false justification of right and wrong. With this thinking, we can never operate in humility. This may be why we can see the church and church denominations divided on issues – focusing on some but overlooking others that are just as important. Or we see the government concentrate on some and ignoring others. If we say we are followers of Jesus Christ operating with the leading of the Holy Spirit in humility then our actions should demonstrate this truth. Why preach to those outside of the church if we are not acting within the church as we should?

If we want to see the presence of Jesus released in a dying world, then we all need to be broken. I am not talking about a physical breaking of body parts, but the surrender of our mind, body, and soul. We all need to consider what we are willing to surrender in the presence of Jesus? Again, are our motives selfless or selfish? An excellent example of this is nestled away in the Gospel of John.

Then Mary took a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet, wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.

~ John 12:3 NASB ~

There are so many thoughts found in this passage of scripture that is applicable in our lives. I love this scripture for so many reasons, but one is the heart of Mary. She had developed a relationship with Jesus. Mary was so grateful and she desired to express that through her actions. In this chapter, Jesus is preparing to be crucified and endure much suffering and death within days. So there is a desire for Mary to spend time out of selfless love for Jesus. She is operating from a space of humility and wanting to be with Jesus. It was not about what she can get from Him or learn but just being there- a good reminder of an essential truth for us today. We all can get so busy in our day to day lives that we forget to enjoy Jesus. There have been times where I have found myself studying the Word, spending time in prayer or worship –just because I am trying to finish a blog post or hear a word from the Lord. I am caught in the doing and forget about just being in His presence. Not trying to get anything from Him. Not attempting to complete a task but simply communing with a loving Father in a relationship. Mary’s heart helps me reflect on where I am with Christ and areas where I still need work.   

Secondly, Mary operates in humility. At this moment, she gives Jesus her best by serving Him wholeheartedly. Jesus had her undivided attention, and Mary expressed her love for Jesus in those few moments with him. Do we give Christ our attention as we should or when we have time? Such a loving Father, He never complains but trusts and believes that we will get better. Like a Father to an immature son or daughter, He patiently waits for us to catch the lesson. In our world today, the Father desires us to be broken in humility, to place Him above our wants and desires. He is waiting patiently for the world to acknowledge who He is in the room. Have we put science, church edifices, our titles, careers, and needs above the Father? I wonder what would happen if the world ever stopped to acknowledged Jesus Christ wholeheartedly. Not because of what we can gain from Him but just because of who He is in the room. Perhaps Covid-19 would cease, or violence and hatred would subside? If we wholeheartedly served because we would learn to seek the Father first and everything else after that.

But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

~ Matthew 6:33 NASB ~

Our commitment to Jesus is a sign of our brokenness before Him. I thought about Mary and how she was unwilling to give to Jesus what did not cost her much.A sign of being broken is the level of sacrifice we are willing to make for others. Some commentaries explain, the perfume she gathered required a year’s wages from a common laborer to purchase that ointment. Her sacrifice was great. Some would consider it a sign of disrespect for Jewish women to let their hair down in public, but Mary humbled herself and laid her glory at His feet. (1 Cor 11:15) She laid her best in the presence of Jesus. Those in the room misunderstood her sacrifice, but the One who mattered most felt her commitment. My prayer is that we don’t let people take us away from doing what is most important for the Kingdom of God. It may seem strange or unpopular to the masses, but let us continue to keep our focus and trust on the Lord, no matter what.

Finally, Mary took what she had and put it to use, not just to be seen but felt. Unless the alabaster flask breaks, the worth on the inside (the ointment of pure nard) is not released. Many appreciate the alabaster flask, “the packaging ” – i.e., their career, the appearances of having it together, popularity, financial gain, etc. If Mary only focuses on the beauty of the flask but never releasing or experience what is inside; then she would miss Jesus in all of it. He should be the focus not what appears costly or lavish. Friend, we must be broken for the Lord’s Spirit to come alive. Only then can we truly live on this earth and realize that nothing else in the room matters except Jesus.

Here is food for thought: We are not antique collectors; we are not admirers of the alabaster flask (the packaging). The Lord wants us to release that which is inside – to see the value.

When we allow what is on the inside to be in the presence of Jesus – transformation occurs. I am concerned about those who may never experience being introduced to a Father who desires to transform our lives from hardened pots to broken vessels.

May we remember to encourage all we meet to get to know Jesus Christ. Not only get to know Him but build a relationship with Him. And may those who already know Him never forget the sheer power of His presence in the Room.

Insurmountable Odds

I do not know about you, but I tend to root for the underdog in many cases. Whether in sports, movies or even in real-life situations – I tend to have a soft spot for the one that seems they will not be the victor. Growing up, I use to love to watch cartoons and how it seems that the superhero was losing to the villain, but in the end, I knew the superhero would come out on top. I love watching a good basketball game (especially around the playoffs) when the losing team seems counted out, and they make a final come back in the last minute of the game. But the most remarkable example of an underdog that I can think of is that of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who went to a cross and died. He looked defeated by death, but victory came in three days when he arose. Oh yes, the story appeared to be defeat, but that is not the end of the story.

Recently I was studying the book of Second Chronicles and was revisiting the story of King Jehoshaphat. Here is another occurrence that seems to face insurmountable odds.

You need not fight in this battle, station yourselves, stand and see the salvation of the Lord on your behalf, O Judah and Jerusalem, Do not fear or be dismayed; tomorrow go out to face them, for the Lord is with you.

~ 2 Chronicles 20:17 ~

King Jehoshaphat is facing an impossible situation that is out of his control. An army has risen against him because he decides to do what was right in the Lord’s eyes. Things are so bad that in the story, it says that Jehoshaphat was afraid, but then it says he turned his attention to seek the Lord. How about that, talking about an underdog. This army consists of various tribes, but they have one thing in common, King Jehoshaphat is their enemy. Sometimes the thing we face is not because of what we have done wrong, but because we have stood up for what is right. Deciding to stand for the right thing often comes with a price that is worth being paid. Did you catch that?

This King that was on a mission from the Lord is afraid. Have you ever been there? Or maybe not scared, but perhaps emotions are running rampant, and we forget that God is with us. This underdog is going through, and it appears that he will lose the battle, but Jehoshaphat fixes his eyes on something more significant than what is surrounding him, His God.

When we stand for what is right, God’s eyes are upon us, and He has proven time and time again that He will fight for us. No matter if your boss is threatening to fire you for standing up against corruption, or maybe taking a stand for being a Christ-follower with friends and family, or perhaps expressing Christian beliefs in a blog and standing for God’s way and not the world’s way. Maybe this is not your story, but if it is, be encouraged by the thought that you are not alone.

It took me a while to learn this, but we will always come out better pleasing God than trying to appease those around us. Do not get me wrong; there is nothing wrong with making folks feel happy and making them feel special, but when this becomes the focus of our lives, we can miss God’s best. There have been numerous times I have missed God in a moment. But I am so grateful for God’s redemptive love and how He redeems the time. When I think about past times I attempted to circumvent God and please people, how far off I ended. It saddens me just thinking about it. God is like a parent watching a child make one wrong decision after another, and it just breaks the heart, knowing that there is a better way if only we would listen. In society today, we have plenty following their way of thinking and making their own decisions breaking God’s heart. From government to community to our households, we have gotten away from listening to the voice of God and turned to what we believe is right, individually. Well, let me say, God is looking for a remnant that is not afraid to stand for what is considered unpopular and not be moved.

Let’s face it, we will encounter situations, but we can prevail as long as we keep our trust in the Lord. Friend, let us remember the example of Jehosophat and the children of Israel. It was not popular, but he did what was right in the Lord’s eyes. I wonder what the king thought when he heard about the multitude that gathered against him? Now put yourself in the king’s shoes. Think about it, you take a stand on your job for being a Christ-follower and decide not to go along with the norm, and the whole office comes against you. They go against you, and they threaten to remove you because you are against what they believe.

I will lead the blind by a way they do not know, in paths they do not know, I will guide them. I will make darkness into light before them and rugged places into plains. These are the things I will do.

Isaiah 42:16

I want to encourage us to realize that, like King Jehosophat, confidence in God trumps whatever we are facing. We can meet some pretty tough situations at times, and they can leave us asking, “God, where are you?” But I encourage us that even if we do not see God working, we can always know He is. Remember that God desires to change us, and often that comes through us going through the tough times because standing for Christ is not always easy, but it is purposed. Jehosophat found his purpose through fasting and prayer corporately. With Jehosophat and Judah telling God with transparency, they do not know what to do.

For we are powerless against this great multitude who are coming against us; nor do we know what to do, but our eyes are on you.

2 Chronicles 20:12

After reading this passage initially, I had to ask myself, Charles, what do you see? Am I focused on what I see, or am I looking up to the Lord? It is easy to get caught up on what we are going through to the point where it can deafen the Holy Spirit’s whisper that I am here and fighting for you. Dr. Tony Evans often says, If all you see is what you see, then you do not see all there is to be seen. There is much more to focus on, friend. Don’t focus so much on the impossible, but keep your eyes on the Father. Don’t focus on the naysayers and the odds stacked against you; focus on the Father. Don’t focus on the likes or shares (or lack of) on social media posts, but focus on the Father. The Lord loves the underdog because He can do his best work when all appears to be lost. Or when we seem to be standing alone, find solace in the fact, we are not alone. We can find comfort in knowing that when we serve the God that provides, protects, and promises to be with us in every situation. We come out victorious.

Yes, the insurmountable odds are pretty cool.