Resolutions

The Lord is the one who goes ahead of you. He will be with you. He will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.

~ Deuteronomy 31:8 NASB  ~

Even before accepting Christ as my personal Lord and Savior – I had a problem with resolutions. Some believe they are gateways to new horizons and a plumbline to keep us on the straight and narrow. I never felt disciplined enough to keep them on my own for an entire year unless it was something I enjoyed. Here’s a question. What describes a resolution? Webster says many things but a few stuck out to me. The act or process of reducing to a simpler form; the act of analyzing a complex notion into simpler ones;  A mended way or firmness to a thing; a formal expression of opinion, will, or intent. Most of us think of them as just a promise to do something different in the new year.

Maybe you are like me, asking where the thought of a New Year’s Resolution began. Is it just a tradition we often attempt to but fail to maintain? New Year is not a Western tradition but began in Eastern culture. Around 2000 B.C., the Babylonians celebrated a twelve-day festival called Akitu- though for them, the year began not in January but in mid-march. This festival was the start of the farming season when crops were grown. The Babylonians crowned a new king to reaffirm their loyalty to the reigning king. Also, promises are made to the gods to pay debts and return borrowed farm equipment. The Babylonians believed if they kept their word, their (pagan) gods would bestow favor on them for the coming year. The ancient Romans adopted this same theme with resolutions. The Julian calendar in 46 B.C. declared January 1st as the start of the New Year, and changes to the god Janus were promised during this time. (whom January is named)

No matter how hard we attempt to keep these partial promises, we often fall short, whether your resolution involves a new workout routine, new diet, new relationships, new outlooks on life, career, or success. Resolutions are great, but there has to be something more driving us to want to change behaviors, habits, character, and even our outlook. It is good to have resolved as if in a debate with myself to change directions or come to a finalized conclusion, but honestly, I discipline for a little while, but I can become weary. Have you ever found yourself in similar thoughts regarding new year plans and things you want to be different or change?

Our intentions are good, but I would like you to consider whether this is enough. Friends, we cannot maintain these promises in our power and skill but with the help of a loving Lord. Our Lord has made the greatest resolution for us all, one that will never fall short, change or disappoint. He has promised that his resolve will last longer than two weeks or six months; in fact, he desires us to trust Him with our best resolutions. Meaning we must put them in His hands and leave them there. It does not require lip service and mental preparation as much as surrender, but surrendering our best attempts to a gracious, loving Lord, who takes a little bit and creates fantastic outcomes.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding, seek His will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.

~ Proverbs 3:5-6 NASB ~

Former President Kim B. Clark of BYU- Idaho was quoted in a 2006 devotional as saying, Well doing occurs through small things; great things come from small things. It is natural to grow weary in doing small things; but if we give our hearts and minds to the Lord, we will not grow weary, we will do the small things that make great things happen, and we will build Zion.

Perhaps you have become weary in this season- give Christ a try. I challenge you to allow His resolution to become yours this January. Take faith, weave it into daily life practicality and see the beauty that it creates. Let the Lord teach you in this season how to stick with the commitments we profess. Trust him to be your strength and the fulfillment of all we set out to change, create or cultivate in this New Year.

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.

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.

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.

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.

The Gift that Keeps on Giving

It’s one of the most wonderful times of the year, Christmas – a season I have loved since childhood. For some, this is the best time of the year to show love to family and friends, giving gifts, Christmas carols, and much more. It is a time to receive the items they have asked for and the excitement of Christmas cookies, cakes, and pies to children. In our household, Christmas was special because we knew it was a time for the family to come and celebrate together. I looked forward to seeing my cousins and favorite aunts and uncles under one roof. Although those years have come and gone, I can remember the anticipation of waking up and unwrapping gifts that I had asked for earlier that year. I appreciated the presents for a few months, but soon they would lose their luster, eventually ending up pushed to the side or put in the toy box and forgotten about. I know what you are thinking, how unappreciative. These gifts that I anticipated and talked about all year, in a few months, are forgotten. I was grateful to have parents that did not get upset with us for not appreciating the gifts that they purchased for us those many years ago. Not that we didn’t appreciate the gift, but after the moment had gone, the season had changed, or something new had come along- we no longer felt the value.   

May God, our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you grace and peace.

Philippians 1:2 NLT

I am so thankful for my parent’s patience with us. Even now, with my children, this same behavior has been passed down through the years. Am I the only one? Sometimes we get upset with our children when they fail to appreciate small gifts; however, we too undervalue God’s gifts of grace and peace. Compared to the bold and bright packages of the world that are constantly seen and given, we may not know the package’s value. We may overlook them when nestled next to the worldly gifts that we can feel and see. Sad to say, we seek the tangible gifts that this world offers and overlook the intangible packages marked grace and peace.

When the Father places these gifts in our lives, what a blessing we gain. If only we knew what hides in these seemingly small gifts. Although the Apostle Paul prayed this for Philippi’s people, the value seen carries the same weight today. Once unwrapped, the treasure in a small package will always find significance in our lives, young or old. I don’t know about you, but these are priceless things that I have come to appreciate over the years. Christmas gifts may cost a fortune at one time, but we find ourselves replacing them later on; in my life, the gifts of grace and peace have proven priceless.

My appreciation has grown daily over the years to appreciate the Father’s gifts. Just think, waking up every day expecting to unwrap new grace and peace.  This package trumps the best Christmas gift you could ever possibly have received. Grace is the goodwill of God and Christ exercised towards humanity, that continues to have a purpose no matter where we find ourselves in life. God has given this freedom to all of us who want to accept this gift. That is the blessing of the present, that once we receive it, we can always possess it.

For by grace, you have been saved through faith. And this is not your doing; it is the gift of God.

Ephesians 2:8 ESV

What a perfect gift. When we realize that God loved us enough to send His son, Jesus Christ, to be the ransom for what we could not afford, the only thing we need to open this gift is to accept it. We gladly accept the ones that our loved ones give us during this holiday season. So even more, we should receive the well-thought gift of a loving Lord’s grace expressing how much we mean to Him, daily. The peace we experience by reconciliation.  I realize that God has been with me in some of the darkest moments of my life; that is the real gift. When I stop and think, it is the presence of God in my life that gives me joy. What about for you?

Do you want to experience the greatest gifts that bring the greatest joy every day? Do you have a desire to live every day in peace with our Lord?   

Father, Help us receive the most generous gift daily, which we experience when we accept you as Lord. Thank you for the reminder of how your gifts of grace and peace bring continuous joy. Let us not forget the true gifts that can bring us the greatest joy daily. Help us to remember in this season that you give the greatest gifts for all to receive and not just for a day but a lifetime.

In Jesus Name, Amen