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…

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.

Appointed Moments

There are times in our lives that are orchestrated events. It appears that time and purpose are conducting a well-choreographed waltz for all to observe. Some may call it, the right time at the right place.

I have experienced a few of these moments in life -that have been nothing short of amazing. I want to confess however, I have not been worthy of any of them. It is only God’s graciousness and unconditional love for me that any of these precious memories were created. This may not be your story, but if you stop and reflect on past times in our lives- we can trace the hand of God leading to a greater purpose. Then there are those times that just seem to appear out of nowhere, where we are left in complete amazement. Asking God, “what did You just do?” I mean literally He just blows our mind. Is there anyone else can attest to the fact? That God knows how to leave us in utter disbelief, but even in these moments God is purposely increasing our faith.

He is able to do so much when we just trust His leading and timing. He is the greatest Architect to build the perfect platform for all to see His handiwork at its best. It is literally His glory being revealed in our lives.

I know the plans that I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you to bring you to an expected end. ~Jeremiah 29:11~

God has created moments for us to experience His glory while here on earth. In fact, we can experience many moments like this when we experience the presence of Jesus. I think it is important to remember even as exciting as this can be, that these are His moments and not ours to control. The Almighty has allowed us to take part in this blessed time. When we allow God to lead us, listen to the whisper of His voice and follow His promptings, He offers us experiences that could only be orchestrated by His Sovereignty.

Perhaps you may not feel your best while reading this but do not disregard the opportunities that occur despite our condition in a moment of time. Things may not be as secure or smooth as we would like, however, if we look for the opportunity for Jesus to meet us in our condition- great things can happen. The hard times you may be experiencing now may not be ideal; but do not miss the opportunity to look from a different perspective. Maybe you are ready to give up, do not.

Amongst a pandemic, rising economic crisis, social injustice across diverse cultures, the silence of the church, political unrest, the break-down of the family unit, prejudice against the marginalized and overlooked -just to name a few of the concerns plaguing our world, do not miss the voice of Jesus, growing louder and louder daily, because of the opposition of others that do not see His truth.

I ask myself this recently and wanted to pose it to you to ponder for yourself. Are we willing to miss our opportunity to allow God to not just show up but change us? I have been reading on Blind Bartimaeus and how he was in the presence of Jesus and asked him to do something about his condition. He did not want to miss the moment in his presence so he did something bold and out the ordinary. He cried out. No one expected Blind Bartimaeus, a man identified by his condition, to do this. Here is a thought – are we defined by our condition as well? Or do we acknowledge who is in our presence, Jesus, and that He trumps our temporary condition? Not only did Bartimaeus do the unexpected, he was not concerned about the opposition in his environment. Those that were around him telling him to be quiet and not waste the Master’s time.

That helps me realize that opposition in our environment should not be our focus. It is just a distraction. All that we consume in social media, the news, our daily reports, our circle of friends should not take our eyes off the presence of Jesus. However, we find ourselves in competition with all of these at times. Bartimaeus was willing that even those around him were telling him to be quiet, he kept his focus on what he was there for, He wanted to experience Jesus. It was Bartimaeus’ appointed time and he was not willing to miss it.

I want to leave you with two thoughts. The first, persistence leads to breakthrough friend. May we never give up when things seem to be hard. We may just be on the cusp of our appointed moment. Do not stop believing and certainly do not stop trusting in the Lord’s timing.

Secondly, Jesus already knows what is needed. When our faith is exercised, Jesus steps in to help and turns our tough situations into blessings. Despite how things appear in a moment when we cry out to the Lord He can turn our situation, he is waiting for us to turn to him.

Keep the faith friend. The appointed moment is just around the corner if we do not lose hope or our spiritual sight- despite what it looks like.

Blessings

The Power in a Trial

The proverbial phrase, when life hands you lemons, make lemonade, is one I am sure we all have heard a time or two.

 It is easy to hear and even smile about but did you know it is biblical? If we follow this essential thinking. What it is saying is, instead of being victims, become victors. No matter what we face, perhaps the trial on the outside or the temptation on the inside, we can experience victory through our faith in Christ.

I will be the first to say it is a challenge to endure some tests and temptations. I believe that the Father knows this beforehand, which is part of the reason He allows the stretching. Jesus’ omniscience has no boundaries and His love for us, in the trial or when we are up against a temptation again. I don’t know about you, but I sometimes find it hard to solve problems with a smile on my face because sometimes they are hard.

The standard definition of a trial is a process of testing or investigation to prove innocence or guilt in a court of law. If anyone has ever sat through or been the center of a trial, then you know it can get intense. Just the thought of being on trial is stressful from a mental perspective but do me a favor. I want you to think about a trial from a spiritual perspective to test our faith through different ways used to build our inner man.

James 1:2-6 gives some imperatives for us to think on. If I did not know any better, it appears that James (one of the four brothers of Jesus Christ) is coming across a bit testy and so sure of himself but what he is explaining is the blueprint for how to go through the difficult times.

The truth is we are going through some tough times now as humans, a nation, and a world. There are four simple statements I want to point out that James has reminded us all of to stay encouraged through these times.

The first is to count a joyful attitude. Stop and think about this statement, Outlook determines the outcome, and attitude determines action. I had heard this statement from a professor when I was in college, and it stuck with me. Can I tell you something? We cannot expect everything to go our way. Jesus said to us in John 16:33, In the world, ye shall have tribulation. Some trials come because we are human- sickness, accidents, disappointments, even some tragedies. Sometimes this is hard to fathom and understand because God takes care of us through some pretty rough times.

This leads to my second point; some trials come because there is a test that we need to pass.

I know there were some that I failed, and I am not broadcasting or happy about these, but I might as well be transparent with you. Some of the simplest tests that the Lord placed before I failed because I did not study or thought I could handle. Such arrogance and thank God for deliverance and grace.

Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials. James is telling us the importance of thinking carefully about a thing or evaluating it correctly. Do you know we are to assess our problems in the midst of what we value? Our values determine our evaluation. In other words, if I value comfort over character or if I value material and physical over spiritual, I cannot consider it all joy because what I value is more important than what I cannot see right now.  

The second James tells us it is when you encounter various trials. I know this probably not a new revelation for us, but let us take a look one more time. What James is informing us of is we will; trials are inevitably a part of life, and they are like mosquitos; they keep coming. Some translations may say, fall into. When you least expect and want them, they will appear out of nowhere, but guess what? They are building our inner man. A trial is like lifting weights. The more weight you take on, the stronger you become; the process consists of ripping the very thing you are trying to build (from the inside) first before the growth can appear outwardly. The muscle tissue stretches, and then it repairs, but when it restores, it is that much stronger. Did you catch that?

Knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. James 1:2

“To know” means that we are to have an understanding mind. We must know faith constantly is tested. Testing helps to prove something. Remember when we take examines of various sorts, well tests are taken to approve a thing. I watch the show Gold Rush sometimes, any fans reading this? Well, the show’s premise is they are searching (excavating land for gold) and when they find what they call “pay dirt,” they run it through a dredging machine that separates it from the dirt. The separation is necessary to relinquish the gold. The process is not easy and requires endurance. They put in some serious work that sometimes appears to be for naught. After a while, the prospectors reap the benefit of their work, gold ore. The gold prospector brings his ore sample into an assayer’s office for approval. The purpose of the Assayer tests a metal to see how pure it is. 1 Peter 1:7 is the scripture reference of this testing of faith. Endurance is not attained by reading a book, listening to a sermon, or even praying. They help but only going through the difficult situation life presents for us; trusting God and obeying Him is the point. James reminds us not to waver or have any doubt in who or what our responsibility should be.

And let endurance have its perfect result so that you may be perfect and complete lacking nothing.

The word “let” means a surrendered will or to relinquish control. God cannot build character without cooperation in the trial from us. Letting go of control is hard, especially when the trial appears to be intensifying, whether Covid, political and social injustice of any kind, or perhaps individually the problems we face. This word is for all of us; let endurance have its perfect result. Say that a few times to yourself or write it down today, but remind yourself that God is building our character and strength in the trials we continuously face. I think about times before when something has come up out of nowhere (it seems), and at the moment, it breaks me, but upon closer inspection, God is with me. And he is with you too.

James gives us insider information letting us know God desires to build our character before He calls us into service for Him. That is why the surrendering of ourselves to His will is essential. Ephesians 6:6 tells us we are to be surrendered not by way of eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but as God pleasers, doing the will of God from the heart. There is the perfect and complete, lacking in nothing because when connected to our Lord, just like a caterpillar to a cocoon, we are equipped and built up for the journey ahead. The trial that we find ourselves in today, tomorrow, or yesterday is all perfecting us, friend.

Last but surely not least, James tells us But if any you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. Why did James say this? Does not he know if we are human, we lack wisdom in many areas? To some, the book of James is a guide for following the path to life, avoiding the way that leads to pain and heartache. And in doing so, it offers us something more, a consideration of the nature of faith. It can only be found in the Son of God and only when we truly desire wisdom or insight to be our goal. Insight helps us understand how to use these trials for our good and to bring God glory. Wisdom is the qualitative factor determining if we have evaluated the trial we are in, just came out, or about to enter correctly. Only when we seek God’s wisdom of handling or approaching even the trial are we able to win.

Maybe you are like me, that I have to remind myself of this very thing. James opens the book hot off the press with the power in a trial. Having to ask God for help, I believed, showed a lack of growth but no friend; that is the wisdom that Jesus wants to give when we ask. That is the accurate measure of our development- when we stop attempting to go through these circumstances alone and depend, even throw ourselves in the arms of Jesus. He knows what to do and will always bring us out more robust than when we went in.

Be encouraged.

Don’t Believe the Hype Psalms 64

Evil can and will come in many forms. Sometimes it is recognizable, and at other times it is not. It can go right up to your door, walking on the same street, in your workspace, and even in your own home. As Black History Month comes to a close and I pondered what the Lord would give me to write, I came across this psalm in the Psalter. No, this is not a post that necessarily pertains to black history; however, I believe that there are some truths that we all can learn and help us to navigate through all the evil that masquerades in our day today.  

Sometimes there is nothing we can do to prevent it from striking. I don’t know about you, but I wish I could remedy or just not even have to deal with a lot of evil. Evil can move our pity and stir our indignation at times. Perhaps we argue, and even in a moment of generous impulse, we may try addressing the problem. We have seen countless examples of various evils that we as humans have attempted to address and stamp out, but it did not happen to our disappointment. From racism, political concern, police brutality, or movements believed to further our views of oppression, evil is still here and thriving. I am not glorifying opinions, but I am attempting to find a consensus that no matter your ethnicity, gender, economic status, political beliefs, or historical backdrop-evil is not a people problem but a sin issue.

It has been said of poets that they learn in suffering what they teach in song, and this is the experience of the psalmist David.

Psalms 64 gives us the perfect backdrop to understand or provide circumstantial evidence to prove our point. King David was such a prayer warrior, but more importantly, he was wise. He knew that he could do nothing about his situation. However, he knew who could. Talk about phoning a friend or using a lifeline. David was the best that did it.

1 John 5:19 tells us, “we know that we are of God and that the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.” Evil does not always warn that it is on the way; however, we realize that we have power with a secret weapon by prayer. We are victorious, friend. When we see wrong or evil accounts on the news or daily, we can still find hope. It will take work from all of us, however. We like to address one side of a coin, but we must handle it all. Yes, our country is going through much political unrest. January 6th is a prime example of what happens when evil’s power gains a foothold. Police brutality is wrong in the black community, but so is the killing of innocent police because of some in all communities’ actions. We cannot say we are Christians, but in our mind choose what sin matters to God and us and overlook others that are just as unfortunate. We outwardly profess Christianity, but our hearts inwardly still are filled with hatred, jealousy, and entitlement as humans.   

Here is a King David talking to God about a problem. King Saul has been attempting to ruin David, even kill David. And most of Saul’s officers were involved in this conspiracy to destroy him. Why were they trying to kill David? God anointed him as king, but it had not come to fruition, but was that the real reason?

People may give us all kinds of trouble, not “good trouble” like the late Congressman John Lewis termed. We must remember our battle is not against flesh and blood, but the enemy and his hosts. And when we are aware of Who fights for us, we can get into “good trouble” and not fear or concern ourselves with what is transpiring because we have the King of Kings and Lord of Lords going before us.

Be still and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations; I will be exalted in the earth.

~ Psalms 46:10 ~

Keep hope and do not believe the hype but rest in our Lord and Savior in these times. I wish I could say they are unprecedented, but they are not. Though packaged differently we have been here before. Yet we must remember we serve a God who has given us a blueprint in His Word to meet us where we are and provide us with hope, the ability to change, and even to repent.

1) Seek the Lord’s protection. (v.1-2) David begins with “Hear my voice” – he didn’t say this because God wasn’t paying attention but because he was coming with sincere intention.

a) David did not ask God to change the circumstances but fortify his own heart and deliver him from fear. The fear of the Lord mobilizes us, but the fear of man paralyzes us.

b) Hide me from the secret counsel of the wicked, from the insurrection of the workers of iniquity. (sin)

Insurrection here is not referencing a civil revolt against authority but the people speaking evil against David and taking action to ruin Him. Let’s face it; some people will not like us. Not because we have done anything but just because of what we represent. David represented something pure and different from what was, which scared the forces in power. His commitment was only to the Lord and not to his plan, even when David fell- he admitted he was wrong and was convicted and changed. That is the difference. Groups today stand for their belief systems and are driven more by emotional stirring (how this affects me personally), but we openly say it is spiritual. Still, if it were spiritually motivated- we would address the wrong on all accounts.

My mother used to say, “the more men indulge in sin, the blinder we become.” In other words, the more persistent we break the second great commandment, the more indifferent we grow to the first. In (v.5) of Psalms 64, David says, “they hold fast to themselves an evil purpose.”  David is addressing the evil of the hearts of conspirators set to harm. How disturbing it is for David, who fears God, to be experiencing this. David grieves over the waste and, worse still, the misapplication of human power; he confesses with shame and sorrows the sin that has brought such terrible outcomes into the world. What about you today, are you grieved by all that is going on in the world? Or are we grieving over parts and turning a blind eye to the rest.     

2) Ask for the Lord’s wisdom. (v.3-6) David knew what the enemy was plotting. We need to know the strategy of our enemy when he attacks. (2 Cor 2:11) Like a lion, he comes to devour (1Peter 5:8); as a serpent, he comes to deceive (2 Cor 11:1-4). David compares his enemies’ tongues to swords and their words to poisoned arrows (v.3). One of the enemy’s main weapons is an accusation. (Rev 12:10; Zech 3) God will always lead us in what to do when we ask Him for wisdom and not just react. The evidence of a life changed by transformation and not moved by what unfolds before our eyes define wisdom.

3) Trust the Lord for Victory (v.7-8) This is not always so simple, but by trusting in the Lord and obeying the Father’s direction, David was confident that God would defeat his enemies. Don’t get caught up in what you see in the media and even what others say on social media platforms. I even found myself chiming in and feeling a bit irritated at all that has been occurring, and no, this is not necessarily a bad thing, but when I check my heart- God showed me it was more emotion than trusting in Him. Let God’s love and Word help us not allow emotions to drive us. Because let us be real, there are many incandescent with rage over all that has been occurring, and it shows no matter where we are, what or whom we believe.

These application steps seem so universal, but they really can apply to every area of our lives.

Everyone has a perspective, but the only view we should be striving to imitate is Christ’s, as disciples of Him. And when that becomes our aim, the Lord has promised to fight our battles for us. God himself will shoot arrows at our enemies (v.7). Perhaps you are saying, Lord, how long or God do you not know what they are getting away with? One thing I know from my experience-nothing or no one gets away from our God, and in His time, he will make all crooked paths straight. All we need to do is do not believe the hype.

Be encouraged today.