The Gift in Giving

We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters. If someone has enough money to live well and sees a brother or sister in need but shows no compassion – how can God’s love be in that person?

~ 1 John 3:16-17 NASB ~

This time of year brings joy and laughter for many reasons. For children, it is exciting because it means new toys and clothes. For us adults, it is a time of reflection, getting together with family, and (if blessed to do so) taking off from work for a few weeks. But for others, this time of year brings sadness and highlights them being alone and less fortunate.

A few years ago, while driving home from work. I encountered a homeless man while stopped at a red light. He wore a tattered, brown trench coat and dusty black sweatpants. From the looks of him, he appeared to be handicapped as well. I began to see him more consistently. I began to give him a dollar or two when I traveled that way. This day around Christmas, I felt the Holy Spirit tell me to ask him his name. I obeyed. One thing led to another, and I told him I was going to bring him some items for him to have. What stood out was that he had one foot covered in newspaper clippings wrapped with rubber bands; on the other, he wore a cardboard box. Immediately, I asked him what size he wore in shoes and where did he stay? He obliged and gave me an address. I was so excited and went straight home and believed the Lord had told me to put a package together for this man. I still remember what I gave him – three bags of chips, three peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, a jacket I barely wore, and a pair of black Jordans. I was elated to bless someone who appeared to be in need

I jumped back in my SUV and headed to the address he had given. When I turned on the street, I was a bit confused because the house address he provided was nonexistent. I thought I misunderstood what he said for a second, and then I saw him. However, “the him” I saw was almost unrecognizable. The person I saw with the unkept brown trench coat, black sweatpants, and distinct shuffle was now moving with a more pronounced stride. He had a baby blue shirt, blue jean shorts with a small tear in the left pocket, with a new pair of grey New Balance on his feet. I was shocked and confused. This scenario did not end as I thought. And for a while, I asked the Lord where the purpose was. It tested my heart’s condition to see if I was giving with the right intentions and God’s love. He took the items I brought for him ashamed, but I genuinely believe it was not about him… but me. I never saw him again.

1 John gives us a blueprint of a true example of selfless love in one sentence. “We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us” (16). This scripture is a perfect depiction of Agape’ or unconditional love. Strong’s dictionary of Bible Words defines Agape’ as this, Christian love, whether exercised toward the brethren or toward men generally. It is not an impulse from the feelings; it does not always run with the natural inclinations, nor does it spend itself only upon those for whom some affinity is discovered. In short, real love expresses action, not just a feeling. And Christ showed the world love in motion when he took on our sin. I am thankful for His love for me daily. When I reflect – to be honest, it overwhelms me at times. Because when I see those that are less fortunate or perhaps have lost a loved one, I may not always take a moment to think about how I can show love for another human, but Christ did. That is so powerful to me. Love in action is the gift that we all can give during this season. Jesus gave it all up for us so let us consider what we can provide for someone else.  

For I testify that according to their ability, and beyond their ability, they gave of their own accord.

~ 2 Corinthians 8:5 NASB ~

Apostle John wants us to know without a doubt what it means to live as a Child of God and how we, as his Children, should love one another. It requires two words selfless and sacrifice. We have a choice to make. Here is a closing thought. The gift of giving is not contingent upon whether the person we decide to give to is in need; it is based on our heart’s condition.

During this season, will you represent as a child of God? Do you know someone that is in need? If so, what are you willing to give up for them?

Lord, thank you for the person reading this at this very moment. Reveal to them someone who is in need of your love and allow them to be a blessing and share the Gift in Giving. Thank you for your son, Jesus Christ, loving us enough to show in Action. Help us to imitate and show others in our community, workspaces, and the World the gift that you give so freely – If we would just embrace it. Thank you for this Christmas season and thank you again for the gift of your Son, Jesus Christ.

In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Spilled Milk

I am a die-hard Washington Commanders fan. Growing up in the Washington Metropolitan area, fans knew them by a different name. I began the season believing this year would be different from the last. Most fans of the iconic hogs would state the same. No matter how bad last season was for the NFC contenders – I shake it off and believe this year will be different. Beyond the taunting and sarcasm as the season gets underway – I turn my gaze forward. Whether they win by ten or lose by twenty, I look to see who is the next team they will face. Usually, I can catch ESPN highlights from the previous game on Monday morning in case I missed something. Even then, there is no going back and running plays to change the outcome of that particular game. The only thing we can do is review where our team went wrong and pray the coaches will make proper adjustments to try and win the next game. But some fans can’t let it go and are still talking about particular game weeks (even years) later. It may have been a win or a loss, nevertheless, they still reference the game and give a play-by-play of what took place. For me I try to let it go, prepare for next week’s fun, and not cry over spilled milk.

Now the Lord said to Samuel; you have mourned long enough for Saul.

~ 1 Samuel 16:1 NLT ~

King Saul was Israel’s choice for King, and Samuel was the prophetic voice of that day, giving Godly counsel to Saul. Most kings had a prophetic voice during the monarchical era to help guide them. The prophets, appointed by the Lord, were a plumbline for the kingdom if they followed in obedience or disobeyed the commands of the Lord. Saul became disobedient and defiant of the laws and authorities of the Lord (1 Samuel 15). Samuel grieved when Saul lost the kingdom, but the Lord had moved on.

I know what you are thinking – that sounds harsh, but in essence, this was Saul’s consequence. If only he had done things the Lord’s way. I am reflecting on some of my own decisions and the consequences of those decisions. I, perhaps like you, tend to dwell on them too long, causing me sadness or grief, but I am learning that we must not focus on what we cannot change. Because if we stay there, very seldom is it for our benefit. These are moments of prudence. I am not talking about if we learn from the lesson and do better. Like Samuel, we can focus on the past, and the Lord says I am moving on. Have you ever felt like Samuel? Mourning for something that there is nothing we can do to fix, change or re-create.

Friend, here are two perspectives. One is regret, and the other is a new beginning. Remember, spilled milk cannot be poured back into the container once it is out. We can decide to clean it up and move on from there. Some decisions are costly, and sometimes we wish we could go back and do better. That is not always available to us.

Consider this – the Lord knows what is best. Do we believe this? I know we react with lip service but are we convinced by faith that this is true? I always say this, but I do not always exercise it. We must know unequivocally that the Lord knows what is best. He knows that if we dwell somewhere too long, we risk becoming stuck, unable to see past the embarrassment, the regret, the pain, or our pride. At times, I can find myself drifting to a pastime and replaying a scenario involving my children, my church, or just life – that leaves me sad because of the outcome. Then the Lord gently whispers, I know what is best. When we follow His promptings, we do not miss His promises.

The Lord will work out His plans for my life, for your faithful love, O Lord, endures forever. Don’t abandon me, for you made me.

~ Psalms 138:8 NLT ~

Secondly, when the Lord speaks, we must move on. Regret can keep our minds tied to the past while our eyes see a glimpse of the future. So you missed the opportunity because of fear, anxiety, uncertainty, or maybe just sheer disobedience. The Lord knows and tells us we have dwelt here long enough that it is time to move our thoughts, behavior, and attitude forward. Moving on is different for many of us; it may require us to ask for repentance, seek forgiveness from another or truly make peace with ourselves and understand the Lord has spoken. Friend, you are not able to fix some situations. Sometimes, we can only seek true repentance from the Father, make up our minds that we will respond better, and purpose our hearts toward change.

And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart.

~ Ezekiel 36:26 NLT ~

No matter where you find yourself, you can start fresh and receive the blessings from the life the Lord wants us to live. A fulfilled life – the new life that only He can offer when we surrender our pain, regrets, mourning, and sinfulness to Him. The Lord gives us a fresh start by washing our sins away, just like spilled milk.

Storm Survivor

On October 12, 1979, one of the earth’s (if not the strongest) most massive storms ever, named Typhoon Tip, formed off the coast of southern Japan in the Western pacific. Typhoon Tip had the lowest sea level pressure ever observed on the earth. Peak wind gusts reached 190 mph while the storm churned and decimated the western pacific. This massive typhoon holds the record for the most enormous storm on earth. The diameter of circulation spanned approximately 1,380 miles. The diameter was the distance from New York City to Dallas, Texas. It weakened just before landfall in southern Japan on October 19, 1979. Extensive flooding destroyed more than 20,000 homes in Japan, and eighty-six people lost their lives.  

He threw stones at David and all the servants of King David; and all the people and all the mighty men were at his right hand and at his left. (v.6)

~ 2 Samuel 16:6-12 NASB ~

The world has been facing storms since the beginning of time. Some of us can attest that we have either been in a storm, survived a storm, or will endure a storm. Storms are not a respecter of persons; they are equal opportunists. You never know where a storm will occur. We can say in one’s lifetime, we will experience a few. Do you remember a time when you went through a physical storm? And how did you respond? Were you cool, calm, and collected; were you the anxious type; were you the take charge type, or perhaps you can remember becoming paralyzed with fear?

Once while driving, a storm raged, and I observed all types of reactions in those few moments. Some continued traveling as they had been, regardless of the torrential downpour. Others put their hazards on and slowed what seemed to be a slow idle. You had also those that pulled over completely under bridges and decided to wait for the storm to pass. Last but not least, we have those who appear careless and speed up as if to challenge the storm to prove who is more dangerous.

King David found himself in many storms, but the Lord was always with him to carry him through. From sinning with Bathsheba, murdering her husband Uriah, and losing a love child. To the rebuke by the prophet Nathan causing the penning of the Fifty-first division of Psalms, considered a penitential psalm to the Lord. From his son Absalom organizing a coup against his daddy and taking over Jerusalem. Stemming from anger by a family tragedy in the rape of Tamar, David’s daughter, by her brother Amnon. David had to flee and found himself in the town of Bahurim. Shimei, son of Gera (from the clan of Saul’s family), is here tormenting and berating David. Talk about storms going from bad to worse.    

Can I propose how we view a physical storm; it will affect how we go through a spiritual one. I am not saying just tense up and act willy-nilly, but I believe there are lessons we can learn from King David about surviving storms. First, remember they are inevitable and that our God is invincible while going through them. There is purpose in a storm.

In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

~ 1 Peter 1:6-7 NASB ~

We must remember a storm can appear anywhere, and sometimes the only thing we can do is ride it out. Shimei was tormenting David as he traveled. Let me ask you, have you ever faced a Shimei, perhaps a situation that bothers you or maybe an individual that constantly creates situational anxiousness? The intentional stones others cast around or at us can cause damage if we allow them to.

We must search for the high road or the best action to take. Friend, running is not always the best strategy, but there are times that we must. David did not fall into the trap of attempting to prove who he was, and we must not allow a few haters to take us out of character. Stand tall and know who you are. Then David said…let him alone and let him curse, for the Lord has told him too. Perhaps the Lord will look on my affliction and return good to me instead of his cursing this day (v.11-12).  The king knew his place, and his strength and validation came from God, not what Shimei was attempting to control. Why? Because David was standing on sure footing.

Let me encourage you not to believe all the hype but validate the storm by your weatherman. Growing up, we listened to our local weatherman in the morning before school to get the play-by-play of the day’s forecast. The physical weatherman’s job is to try to give accurate information about the storm that is on the horizon, upon us, or about to be over. The spiritual weatherman is the Lord for those facing storms – He is never wrong about His forecast.

And we know that God causes all things to work together for our good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.

~ Romans 8:28 NASB ~

Sometimes we may not understand why we are going through a storm, but with the proper perspective, there is a distinct discerning of the will of God while there. Friend, Jesus Christ is with us, and he knows how to help us navigate the rushing winds at our back and the torrential rain of others’ words that can take our visibility from us and leave us afraid, or so it seems.

I challenge you next time while going through a storm, no matter how difficult or nasty; allow the Lord to whisper to your spirit– it is only for a moment, and He is with you every step of the way.

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.

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.

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