Archive for the ‘Faith, Hope & Love’ Category

The Wonders of His Love

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Opting out, privacy mode, incognito windows and do-not-track requests! We live in a crazy world where I’m not sure anything is truly private unless it’s in a shoebox under your bed with a rubber band on it. So much personal information from our digital footprint is being collected and disseminated that it’s kind of scary. Technology is watching us.

On a relational level, experience has taught us to be a bit more selective – deciding who, when and how much is made known. There are so very few we can trust with full disclosure – with the innermost part of our being – without being judged, exploited or exposed. To be known is simultaneously one of our deepest needs and greatest fears.

But there is One who knows everything about us – who knows us better than we know ourselves – and still loves us. Our great God is intimately acquainted with all our ways. He is completely aware of all we do, sifts our thoughts and knows what we will say before we even form a word. He knows us on our best days and worst days – and still loves us.

Where can we go from His Spirit? Where can we flee from His Presence? From the heights of heaven to the depths of death, we are not only pursued, but awaited by Him. On our darkest nights and in our greatest fears, His song will be with us as the light of His Presence banishes anything that would separate us from His love.

We can get no closer to or further from His Presence. He encloses us behind and before and tenderly lays His hand upon us. His Presence is in the present in the midst of our every heartbeat. If we look in the rearview mirror, He is there. If we lift our eyes beyond the horizon, our future is full of Him.

Fear not. The God who knitted you together in your mother’s womb, who adorned you with beauty and purpose, who established your days before you took a breath, can be trusted. Since there is no way to hide from God, perhaps we should simply hide in God. He alone is our Hiding Place. We are safe and protected. We are accepted and valued. We are fully known and fully loved.

Is this kind of love too wonderful?  Yes, especially for those of us who aren’t very lovable. But it is more real than anything we can touch and truer than anything we’ve ever seen. It’s the love of our good, good Father indescribably full of wonder and that’s where we must leave it. Praise Him today for the wonders of His love.

I will give thanks to You,
For I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Wonderful are Your works,
And my soul knows it very well.
Psalm 139:14 NASB

Devotional based on Psalm 139. Please read it!

Just another day?

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Since Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year, shouldn’t we be astounded that the Eternal Son of God would willingly clothe His divine glory with flesh?

Shouldn’t we be speechless at the One who spoke everything into existence by the power of His Word willingly reduced to unintelligible sounds in the arms of His mother?

Shouldn’t we stand in awe as we consider His long and humbling journey from the right hand of the Father to the womb of a virgin as Creator became creature?

Jesus. Immanuel. God with us. The Promised One. The perfect Lamb of God born to die for our sins. His birthday was the day in the fullness of time when God’s Incarnate Love could no longer be restrained. It was that perfect day when the dawn of redeeming grace pierced our sinful darkness and heaven’s joy could not be contained.

Yes, Jesus came that holy night long ago and that’s good news, but the best news is that He is still coming for you. This Christmas, may Jesus be born anew in our hearts as we fall on our knees in worship – unable to describe the indescribable. But where words fall short, wonder says it all.

By common confession, great is the mystery of godliness: He who was revealed in the flesh, was vindicated in the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory. Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift! 1 Timothy 3:16 & 2 Corinthians 9:15

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Drifting

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My eyes are open,
But it’s so dark I cannot see.
Weary, empty, thirsty,
I only feel the rolling of the waves.

The current moves me further from
Where I thought I’d be
Where I need to be
Where I should be.

I am drifting
My feet hang over the depths of the abyss
My failures surround me like a vast ocean
I am immersed in a sea of regret.

Yet I am strangely content.
I deserve this.
Unfit for the land of the living
Unworthy of the safety of dry ground.

Broken.
Forgotten.
Preserved by only an old wooden beam,
Unsure how I continue to cling.

“You are not alone.
I am near — here.
That beam is stronger than you know,
And it bears more weight than your own.

Feel the power of My grip
Making sure you never let go.
My love is far deeper than any abyss,
My grace much stronger than any current.

You are Mine and your life is in My hands.
I am your Rock and your Redeemer.
Though you cannot see shore, I can.
Believe.”

If the Lord had not been my help,
My soul would soon have lived in the land of silence.
When I thought, “My foot is slipping,”
Your steadfast love, O Lord, held me up.
Psalm 94:17-18

Holy Ground

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Lord, You alone are my portion and my cup; You make my lot secure.  The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance. Psalm 16:5-6 NIV/ESV

As David hikes up to a higher vantage point and looks out on the landscape of his life, he compares the many blessings he has received from the Lord to a choice piece of land with spacious boundaries – the sight of which he warmly describes as a beautiful inheritance.  With the eyes of his heart, he sees God as both his portion (present) and his lot (future).

Lands, whether an entire nation or your own home-sweet-home, are almost always fixed – limited in size and clearly defined.  But the wonders of God’s love and abundance of His blessings are boundless and without borders – something graciously given as a present possession, yet something we expectantly long for as a future inheritance.  There is both joy now and joy to come for “in His Presence, there is always fullness of joy” Psalm 16:11.

And it seems rather fitting that David’s son, Solomon, is the one who writes a song about another kind of inheritance from the Lord: “Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward” Psalm 127:3 ESV.  As parents, we tend to think about leaving our children an inheritance, but God says that, in Him and through Him, they are our inheritance.  As the lines of His love intersect in marriage, our boundaries branch out into an acreage of endless possibilities and infinite impact through His giving of children.

Since I recently celebrated a fairly significant birthday, both David and Solomon encouraged me to rejoice in the Lord as my portion and my lot, to give thanks for the blessings of a faithful and godly wife, and to gaze upon our beautiful inheritance of children and grandchildren.  Indeed, the lines have fallen in pleasant places and I have no greater joy than to see my children walking with the Lord.  For as they faithfully follow the Lamb wherever He goes, the lines expand exponentially and the borders of the property entrusted to us ever increases.

I guess I’m writing this to tell my children, including my favorite son-in-law and favorite daughter-in-law, and my grandchildren how much I love them, believe in them, value them and long to see God’s plan continue to unfold in their lives.  You are my inheritance from the Lord.  As we keep our hands to the plow by the power of the Spirit, may our land be fertile ground for the seed of His Word, be marked by the well-worn paths of His love and bear much fruit for His glory.

Perhaps today is a good day to value your priceless inheritance?

I will sing the Lord’s praise, for He has been good to me.  Psalm 13:6 NIV

If you only knew

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If you only knew

How often I doubt
How little I pray
How quickly I despair
How weak I am

If you only knew

How I struggle with sin
How I cling to control
How much I complain
How selfish I am

If you only knew

How much I worry
How often I fail
How much I compare
How ashamed I am

If you only knew

How quickly I quit
How much I hurt
How often I cry
How lonely I am

If you only knew

How much I regret
How often I fear
How much I hide
How heavy I am

If you only knew
If you only knew

How intimately I know you
How deeply I care for you
How fully you can trust Me
How good I am

If you only knew

How My joy can fill you
How My peace can calm you
How My Presence can satisfy you
How near I am

If you only knew

How My plan is to prosper you
How My strength renews you
How My touch can heal you
How merciful I am

If you only knew

How wonderful is My Spirit
How amazing is My Grace
How redeeming is My Forgiveness
How unfathomable is My Love

If you only knew

How great is My faithfulness
How precious are My promises
How powerful is My Word
How I’ve come to set you free

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me,
for He has anointed Me
to bring Good News to the poor.
He has sent Me to proclaim
that captives will be released,
that the blind will see,
that the oppressed
will be set free.”
Jesus

Luke 4:18 NLT

The Lord of Hosts

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You and I seek stability.  Stable foundations.  Stable relationships.  Stable employment.  Stable finances.  Stable health.  Most of us work very hard to establish and maintain a reasonable level of predictable outcomes and a future that unfolds according to our plan.  We like calm seas, sure footing and world peace.

But in spite our best efforts, we live and learn that life is inherently unstable and this is unsettling.  For those who like control, there is simply so much beyond our control.  The earth gives way.  Things crumble.  Mountains quake.  Oceans roar.  Enemies rise up.  Fear grips us.

Yet amid all of life’s uncertainty and turmoil, we are invited to find refuge – a stronghold – a place of safety – in God.  Not in some distant, impersonal heavenly being, but the One who is “a very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1).  Near.  Aware.  Available.  Able.

For He is “The Lord of Hosts” – “Jehovah Sabaoth” – “The God of Heaven’s Armies.”  Able to change the face of the earth or subdue raging enemies by His Word alone, He is also Supreme Commander-in-Chief over multitudes of angels ready to execute His command.  Everything in all creation bows the knee to His divine authority.  And from His unshakable and immovable throne in heaven, this Sovereign of the Universe tenderly speaks to our hearts: “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).

There’s only one problem with accepting this amazing invitation, we must “be still” – literally “cease striving.”  Ha!  You know very well that we excel at striving.  And striving means we trust in our plan and our ways rather than His.  Admit it.  We’d rather act than wait.  We’d rather worry than rest.  We’d rather fear than trust.  The crazy thing is that as we seek refuge in Him, a peace that passes all understanding comes even though nothing else may yet have changed.

For the kind of ceasing commanded here is not passive, but calls forth a faith that actively clings to God and His Word just as you would cling to a rock in a storm.  It’s the kind of faith that rests in both His Power and His Presence.  In the God who is able to deliver and able to protect.  In the God who rules nations and melts mountains, but also knows the ever-diminishing number of hairs on my head.  The God of unlimited power and unfathomable, intimate love.

Who is this King of Glory?  The Lord of Hosts is His Name.

“Cease striving and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” The Lord of Hosts is with us; The God of Jacob is our stronghold.  Psalm 46:10-11

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© 2017 Tim McKenzie
On Every Word Ministries
www.OnEveryWord.com

 

Crossroads

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Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls” – Jeremiah 6:16

As we travel the road of life, we pass through many intersections.  The most significant one is located at Broad Way and Narrow Way –  the way of life and the way of death – the way of joy everlasting and the way of eternal separation.  Since these roads lead in opposite directions, an intentional decision must be made – we must choose which way to turn.

You and I flew by this intersection time after time like it wasn’t even there (Proverbs 14:12).  We continued cruising down the many, spacious lanes of the Broad Way not even noticing that narrow, one-lane road. Then Jesus opened our eyes and we saw the street sign for the first time.  Now we see – it’s not a man-made road, but a divine one – one bought and paid for by Jesus Himself and paved with His precious blood.  This is no mere intersection, but a Crossroad.

Having seen His sign and made that turn, we head down a new road – His Road – and that road ultimately leads to heaven in the Presence of our Savior.  Until that day, our journey is filled with both great opportunities and great challenges – divine purpose and earthly temptation – the upward call of heaven and the alluring sound of the Broad Way.

Although we have a heavenly destination in our eternal GPS, we still come to various intersections and we still have choices to make.  Some intersections are clearly marked by Scripture that we must not turn down that road, but others reveal the gracious choices God sovereignly allows us to make while on the journey.  But how and when do we turn?  How do we know which way is best?  What if we make the “wrong” choice and have a head-on collision with failure or hardship?     

Here are few key points to remember from the Owner’s Manual:

  1. Stay on God’s path – sin is a dead-end street; confess it and turn around quickly – 1 John 1:9
  2. Ask for directions – God is listening and ready to answer our prayers for wisdom – James 1:5
  3. Look for signs – God’s will is often marked by visible signs both to guide and to warn – Matt 7:7
  4. Fasten your seatbelt – it’s a cross country trip so expect ups and downs – John 16:33
  5. Keep your eyes on the road – comparing yourself to others leads to envy or pride – Gal 1:10
  6. God knows the way – He is not only with you, but goes before you – Psalm 139:5
  7. Drive friendly – watch for those with car trouble, flat tires or who are out of gas – John 13:34
  8. Fill up with premium – you can’t be both full of yourself and the Holy Spirit – Gal 5:16
  9. Don’t speed – God numbers our days and has plenty for us to do along the way – Psalm 90:12
  10. Enjoy the drive – God makes known to us the path of life and it’s full of joy! – Psalm 16:11

I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you should go; I will counsel you with My eye upon you”  – Psalm 32:8

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© 2017 Tim McKenzie
On Every Word Ministries
www.OnEveryWord.com

The Lion King

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While I’ve never been in the wild and heard a lion roar, I know I couldn’t sleep through it – unmistakable and terrifying, I would be wide-eyed with my heart pounding.  The scriptures warn us, “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” 1 Peter 5:8.

A lion usually does not roar when stalking because that would warn the unsuspecting prey of its whereabouts.  (“Does a lion roar in the forest when he has no prey?” Amos 3:4).  Lions roar to communicate a message – especially at night – to intimidate and lay claim over their territory and their victims.

Satan is no different.  He seeks to drive us into the darkness of doubt by fear and intimidation – fear of missing out, fear of not getting what we want or think we deserve, fear that God is holding out on us, fear of loss or pain or unhappiness, fear of the future, fear of rejection, fear of ________.   These fears exploit “the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and the pride of life” 1 John 2:16.  And like a lion, “sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you” Genesis 4:7.

I’m fairly certain I wouldn’t want to be eaten by a lion – especially if he ate me one bite at a time.  But that’s how I think the devil feeds on most of us.  It’s usually not one big bite and it’s over – it’s more like one bite at a time as he comes to devour our hearts and minds.  Slowly, but surely, we are consumed.  So, when we retreat into these fears, we lose life, joy and relationship one bite at a time as we are pulled into the grip of our adversary.

But there is another Lion in the jungle who has “overcome.”  He is the Lamb who bore our sin on the cross, triumphed over Satan, conquered death, and rose in victory as the “Lion of the tribe of Judah” (Revelation 5:5).  And this Lion is greater than the one who is prowling around seeking to devour you (1 John 4:4).

The question is not which lion is greater; the question is whose roar do you hear?

The devil roars to drive you into sin –  to steal, kill and destroy.  The Lion of the tribe of Judah roars to proclaim His victory over sin and call you to walk with Him by faith in strength, security and fullness of joy.  And as the Lover of our soul, His mighty roar drives the enemy of our soul back into the darkness of defeat empty-handed.

Straying from Jesus’ side, we are vulnerable, but staying near Him, we are invincible – for He is both the Lamb of God and the Lion King.

Do not fear, for I am with you; do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.”
– Isaiah 41:10

Spread the Word!

© 2017 Tim McKenzie
On Every Word Ministries
www.OnEveryWord.com

Stepping on the scale

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The time between Thanksgiving and New Year’s is, as the song says, the most wonderful time of the year, but it is also fraught with peril.  Having been buried alive by a blizzard of endless food and tasty treats, many of us begin to dig out with a New Year’s resolution to drop a few pounds.  Although we tried our best to ignore the tighter-fitting clothes and the last notch we’d moved to on our belts, our worst fears were confirmed when we finally stepped on the scale.  Sadly, the numbers don’t lie.

After swearing to never do that again, we stepped off the scales promising to do better.  Establishing and maintaining a healthy lifestyle is certainly a worthy pursuit.  After all, carrying around too much extra baggage is not only frustrating, but can also put unnecessary stress on your body.  So, if you’ve taken a 2017 “do better” oath, please don’t overdo it, but stick with it.

However, there’s another weight that cannot be measured by our waistline, seen in a mirror or captured as a number on a scale, but is far more deadly.  It is the weight of sin – a burden we were never designed to bear.  When we do, we ultimately cry out like David, “my guilt overwhelms me — it is a burden too heavy to bear.  I am exhausted and completely crushed” (Psalm 38:4 NLT).  All of us can identify with David’s diagnosis.  And right now, some of us may also be enduring the heavy burden of sin.  We’ve been avoiding the spiritual scales, but we know it’s true.

But I have good news – there is a cure!  Jesus “bore our griefs and carried our sorrows” (Isaiah 53:4 ESV).  “He was pierced through for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities” (Isaiah 53:5 NASB).  “He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness” (1 Peter 2:24 NASB).

If you are tired of carrying around this oppressive weight, listen to Jesus calling, “Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28 NIV).  That’s the voice of the sin-bearer – the Lamb of God who takes away all our sins (John 1:29) – past, present and future – those sins that once eternally separated us from Him and those which ensnare us each day.

All we must do is come to Him.  And because of His great love for us, “if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9 ESV).  Then your cry will not be one of weariness or despair, but a testimony of glory and praise, “Blessed be the Lord, who daily bears our burden, the God who is our salvation!” (Psalm 68:19 NASB).  This is the joyful shout of renewed fellowship with Jesus.

And when our hearts are lighter, we are free to fulfill the law of Christ and “bear one another’s burdens” (Galatians 6:2 NASB).  You see, when we are weighted down with sins, we lose our Holy Spirit-given capacity to help others – to lighten their load – to share their burdens – to not allow them to be crushed by a hostile world – to put our arms around them and bring them to the healing arms of Jesus.  Jesus stretched out on a cross and laid down His life to show us that loving means bearing.  After all, “love bears all things” (1 Corinthians 13:7).  Now go lose some weight.

“Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” – Jesus
Matthew 11:28-30 ESV

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© 2017 Tim McKenzie
On Every Word Ministries
www.OnEveryWord.com

The Shadow of the Almighty

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Every Christmas, choirs of angels call us to kneel once again in worship at the manger in Bethlehem and behold His glory.  It is a journey we should never grow tired of making.  For the birth of Jesus is a story so simple children love to hear it, yet one so profound wise men cannot fathom it.  Such is the miracle of the incarnation of Christ.

In foretelling this glorious event 700 years in advance, Isaiah proclaims both Jesus’ divinity and humanity: “For unto us a child is born and unto us a son is given.”  Notice the child is “born” at a moment in time (His humanity), but the son is “given” because He has existed for all eternity with the Father (His divinity).  Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!

And Dr. Luke gives us a glimpse of this wonder of all wonders as Gabriel addresses Mary’s bewilderment (“How can this be since I am a virgin?”), “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God” (Luke 1:35 ESV).  Incredible.

The Spirit will “overshadow” her (this is the same Greek word used as the bright cloud covers those with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration).  Yet this metaphor is deeply rooted in the Old Testament as we are often invited to find rest, to abide, to dwell, and to take refuge in the “shadow of the Almighty” as we are hidden beneath His “wings” (Psa 91:1-6).

It is the same picture found in creation as we witness the Spirit of God “hovering” over the darkness of the earth (Gen 1:2).  That Hebrew word is also used to describe an eagle “hovering” over the young in her nest (Deut 32:11).  How beautiful is the work of the Trinity in creation as God speaks everything into existence through His Word (the Son – John 1:1-3) in divine partnership with the gentle moving of the Holy Spirit!

Now this God of all creation, sends His Spirit to move over the womb of a virgin to divinely implant the holy Child – His only begotten Son – Immanuel – Jesus.  Fully God.  Fully man.  Great is the mystery of godliness!  And to encourage Mary (as well as us) before he departs, Gabriel reminds her that “nothing will be impossible with God” (Luke 1: 37).

This Christmas, as we celebrate the Christ-child, may our worship and wonder at the manager compel us to arise and abide in the shadow of the Almighty.  And if we listen carefully as we go, we will hear a voice reassuring us that with God, all things are possible.  Cling to Jesus – our Blessed Hope – and fear not.

By common confession,
great is the mystery of godliness:
He who was revealed in the flesh,
was vindicated in the Spirit,
seen by angels,
proclaimed among the nations,
believed on in the world,
taken up in glory.

1 Timothy 3:16 NASB

© 2016 Tim McKenzie
On Every Word Ministries
www.OnEveryWord.com

Home

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As you look forward to opening yours or maybe heading back that way for Thanksgiving, I know “home” is a place that stirs up a variety of emotions and expectations.  More than a location, a collection of possessions or a structure, it is a unique place of safety, identity and belonging – it’s family.  Sitting at the crossroads of cozy familiarity and sweet memory, it tugs on our heart to always draw us back to that intersection.  It has an uncanny ability to overcome time and distance and bend all roads so that they gently slope toward its front door.  It is both the launching pad for incredible possibility and a welcome sanctuary for renewal.

However powerful the attraction in this life, we who are in Christ, know that this world is not our home.  What began in the heart of God will, one day, see the safe return of His sons and daughters to their eternal home in heaven.  If we are honest, this present reality and our future hope creates a holy tension between our deep sense of belonging here and the knowledge that “here” is only the starting point, not our final destination.  The beauty is found when we see the divine purpose and eternal significance God bestows on our earthly homes and families which heaven makes possible.

Perhaps we can all benefit from the apostle Paul wrestling in the Spirit with this same tension and writing down his convictions for us:

For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better. But if I live, I can do more fruitful work for Christ. So I really don’t know which is better. I’m torn between two desires: I long to go and be with Christ, which would be far better for me. But for your sakes, it is better that I continue to live. Knowing this, I am convinced that I will remain alive so I can continue to help all of you grow and experience the joy of your faith” (Philippians 1:21-25 NLT).

Shouldn’t this be both our heartbeat and that of our homes?  Shouldn’t we choose to live for Jesus for all the days He gives us here in our earthly home and yet be driven by a holy homesickness to see Jesus face to face?  Shouldn’t we no longer live for ourselves, but for Jesus, and by His design, help others flourish in faith and joy?!

Yes, one glorious day, we will open our eyes to a sight we’ve never seen and yet one that will be more familiar than any place we’ve ever known.  Listen to the voice of hope growing clearer day by day and you’ll hear Jesus saying, “Welcome home!  Come and see the place I’ve prepared for you!”  But for now, as we open the door of our home, may all those who enter be welcomed by Jesus in us and feel the embrace of a love with endless possibility.

Spread the Word!

© 2016 Tim McKenzie
On Every Word Ministries
www.OnEveryWord.com

Poiema

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“For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb. I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; wonderful are Your works, and my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from You, when I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth; Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; and in Your book were all written, the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them”
(Psalm 139:13-16 NASB).

“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we we would walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10 NASB).

I cannot think about one of these passages without being drawn to the other. The first speaks of creation – the first birth; the second, re-creation – the new birth. The first begins the Potter’s work; the second completes it in Christ Jesus. The days are inscribed in the first, but unfold in the second. But both proclaim the amazing truth that we are His masterpiece.

How beautifully this psalm of David describes the precious mystery of life as our Creator gently knits us together like a fine, colorful tapestry. Our souls should sing, “How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How vast is the sum of them!” (Psalm 139:17 NASB).

All our translations fall incredibly short of describing the indescribable – of attempting to put such vast wonders to words. Perhaps the Greek word used here for “workmanship” captures it best: we are His “poiema” – in English, His “poem.”

We are all unique creations of God – handcrafted works of art – individual masterpieces. Like a beautifully written poem, we are not just casually thrown together, but something arising from deep within the heart of God – intimate and intricate; overflowing with purpose and brimming with promise.

We know that God’s Word always accomplishes its purposes. And since God never wastes words, then surely He has something significant to say in and through our lives. As living letters penned by God’s own hand, we are strategically composed to convey a message – His message. And when people read us, they should read a great poetic work to God’s glory and long to know more about our Author.

But what if you’re questioning your purpose, struggling with identity, living in regret or wondering if you are truly loved? Read over the letter of your life – start from the very beginning – remember what it says about you and about your Savior – refocus on why He created you and what He re-created you for — and rejoice.

You should find it to be a beautifully authentic work of how the threads of God’s amazing grace are tenderly woven into the fabric of a life that’s far from perfect, yet perfectly being perfected in Jesus. You are His Poiema. Now walk in the Spirit as He writes the next verse.

Spread the Word!

© 2016 Tim McKenzie
On Every Word Ministries
www.OnEveryWord.com

Dare to hope

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As the stone rolled over the tomb of Jesus, a deafening silence also rolled over Scripture. We are left to retreat into hiding with the disciples to only imagine the horror, grief and anguish they were experiencing. They had literally walked away from everything and followed this amazing man for the past three years. Although Jesus told them many times, the disciples did not understand that He would rise again (Luke 18:34; John 20:9).  Now, He was truly dead and so was their seemingly misplaced hope. Sunday was coming, but they did not see it. The fullness of life with Jesus suddenly collapsed around them into a dark, empty cavern. What now?

Most of us are familiar with this cavern, and some of us are in one right now. That in which you had placed your full weight has caved into despair. Your hopes have been crushed and you cannot see beyond the walls of disappointment surrounding you. It’s pretty dark down there and your earthly vision is incredibly restricted. What now?

The interesting thing about caverns is that while you are in them, there’s only one way out – there’s only one exit strategy – upward toward the light. The tricky part is to remember to look up.

Jeremiah knows something about these caverns. He was called by God to preach an urgent message of impending judgment to a nation immersed in sin, and yet a simultaneous word of hope of future restoration by God’s grace. He spoke over 40 years to a nation that ultimately would not listen and was greatly persecuted by those he came to save. He is known as the “weeping prophet” because of the tears he shed as he sought to remain true to his calling.

But like lowering a strong rope down to us, listen to the voice of experience and cling to these words, “I will never forget this awful time, as I grieve over my loss. Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this…” (Lam 3:20-21 NLT). Clearly, he is in a desolate cavern and yet his eye is somehow attracted upward toward the light. On one hand he feels as though he will never forget his pain and loss while on the other hand, he is strangely moved to “dare to hope.” Don’t you love that phrase?  In the Hebrew, it literally reads “make to return my heart to hope.”

Trust me, I realize how difficult it can be to “make your heart return to hope.” It’s way easier to allow your heart to be swiftly carried downstream by the prevailing current of disappointment and despair. It’s a struggle to resist the flow and turn back upstream toward hope. But it can be done – it must be done. Otherwise, where will your current course carry you? That journey does not end well. So what’s the secret? Surely, this is not an arbitrary “come on, you can do it” kind of hope?

Let’s read on: “The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is His faithfulness; His mercies begin afresh each morning” (Lam 3:22-23 NLT).

Perhaps we are being asked to see just where our hope really lies – in what we want or in God? You and I can and should hope again by trusting in God’s heart for us and the faithfulness of His Word. In fact, Jeremiah likens His unending love, His compassion, and His mercies to the morning dew which falls anew every day. Yes, “weeping may last for the night, but a shout of joy comes in the morning” (Psalm 30:5).

If you believe that Life itself sprang forth from a sealed tomb as the angel of the Lord rolled away the stone to show us what was not there, then surely you can believe that God can resurrect your hope in Him? Search the Scriptures for fresh dew, recall what He has promised, and dare to hope. Then believe in His Word and cling to it. For it is strong and He is faithful. Everyday with Jesus is Sunday.

After Jesus was raised from the dead, His disciples recalled what He had said. Then they believed the Scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken (John 2:22 NIV).

Spread the Word!

© 2016 Tim McKenzie
On Every Word Ministries
www.OnEveryWord.com

Scars

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When you cut yourself, you bleed.  But in that same blood, there are antibodies and rebuilding materials already on location.  Sticky blood cells called platelets begin to clump together to form a clot and later a scab – the body’s built-in Band-Aid.  Bleeding is controlled and a fibrous framework of collagen is laid down in the wound.  Then, repair and rebuilding can begin around this miraculous scaffolding.  Once the wound is sealed by a scab, the actual healing occurs from the inside out.  That’s why a scab eventually falls off to reveal a new layer of skin beneath it.  Sometimes if a wound is deep enough or if the site keeps getting disturbed or reinjured, then a scar will form.

We all have scars.  Some are visible and some are not, but they all tell a story. The visible ones – particularly for men – are more like glorious medals of honor about the time when I….  You can look at any scar on your body right now and instantly talk about when whatever happened happened.  It’s the not so visible ones that seem to convey a different story.

Think about the scars you have in your spirit.  Perhaps some deep wounds of the past.  Painful memories that somehow can still seem so fresh.  If the body can quiet our cries, soothe our pain, close ours wounds, and rebuild the broken, why not the spirit?

“Heal me, Jesus!” is the physical cry He hears so often, but the Great Physician also sees the deeper wounds in us – the wounds of sin – both your sin and the sin of others inflicted on you.  Jesus bore your griefs and He carried your sorrows (Isaiah 53:4).  He was wounded so that our wounds might be healed (1 Peter 2:24).  He came to bind up the brokenhearted and save those who are crushed in spirit (Isaiah 61:1; Psalm 34:18).

Like the skin, spiritual wounds are healed from the inside out.  Your spiritual scars should not be sorrowful tales of self-woe, but powerful reminders about the time when God….  Not everlasting memorials to our pain, but declarations of His amazing grace.  Not tombstones for our failures, but stones of remembrance of His forgiveness.  Not the dirge of casualties, but the song of conquerors.

Since the Word assures us “by His wounds we are healed” (1 Peter 2:24), we must not allow the Enemy to repeatedly reopen our wounds.  Jesus died to bring complete healing – mind, body, and spirit – so we can get our eyes off ourselves and our bodies and our wounds and onto Him and His Body and His wounds – off our scars and onto His.  Otherwise, we remain spiritually bedridden when we should be on the battlefield.

Should there not be more of us who testify to the wholeness Jesus brought to our lives and less of us who are content just to talk about our wounds?  Jesus raises up victors, not victims.  And since God created your blood to be so inherently powerful, imagine the power of the blood of Jesus!

We need a holy transfusion – the power of His blood at work in our innermost being.  The joy of healing is truly far greater than the pain of the injury.  Bring your wounds to Jesus and let Him restore you from the inside out.

The Lord heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds (Psalm 147:3 NASB).

Spread the Word!

© 2016 Tim McKenzie
On Every Word Ministries
www.OnEveryWord.com

Jubilee

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From the very beginning, God claimed the number 7 as His own – a number of completion and perfection – His number.  Creation, as detailed in Genesis, is not only the account of how God spoke everything into existence, but also how He created an entity called a “day” and packaged 7 of them into a week.  Interestingly, both of these are measurements of time by which all people on earth continue to shape their lives and mark their existence.

God set apart the 7th day as a holy day called the “Shabbath” (Sabbath) – a day “to cease and rest” and focus on the Lord.  Similarly, every 7 years, God decreed that there would be a Sabbath Year – a “shemitah” or “release” in which the land would be given rest and all outstanding debts would be forgiven (Deuteronomy 15:1-2; Leviticus 25:3-6).  Our very own Liberty Bell bears the words from Leviticus 25:5.  And up until 2005 when it was modified, our modern bankruptcy code was based on this principle and 7-year pattern.

Then God decreed after 7 cycles of 7 Sabbath Years (49 years), the very next year, the 50th year, would be called the “Yovel” or “Jubal” (also known as “The Favorable Year of the Lord”).  On the Day of Atonement, trumpets would blow and usher in the Year of Jubilee – a year when not only the land would be given rest and debts forgiven, but also in which any land or property offered as collateral would be returned to the original owner and all slaves would be set free (Leviticus 25:8-13).  A release.  A rest.  A return.  A restoration.

Keeping this in mind, let’s fast forward to a day, early in His ministry, when Jesus stood up in the temple to read from the Scriptures.  The book of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him, and He read these words: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are oppressed, to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord” (Luke 4:18-19 NASB).

Then Jesus made a most remarkable declaration: “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:21 NABS).

The Year of Jubilee was celebrated every 50 years, and according to the Jewish calendar, it was not even time for this event.  You can’t just stand up and declare it, but Jesus did.  For the words of Isaiah looked to a time when this good news would not be fixed to the calendar, but to the Messiah (“Me”).  Jesus came as God’s only Son who was anointed to preach the gospel of the Kingdom, to set people free, and to open blind eyes to the Truth.  “This is the Year of Jubilee because I have come.”  “Every year is the Year of Jubilee because I have come – even 2016.”

And if you took a look at what Jesus read from Isaiah 61:1-2, you would note that He stopped short of reading the last part of verse 2: “…and the day of vengeance of our God.”  Why?  For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him” (John 3:17 NASB).  Oh, that last part of Isaiah 61:2 is very true and one day Jesus will come again as Judge – as King of Kings and Lord of Lords, but today He comes as Savior – your Savior.

Right now, hear His voice speaking these words from Isaiah over you.  Cling to the knowledge that He alone has the power to fulfill them.  Listen to His good news, His words of hope and His promises of rest, release, return, and restoration.  How can He open your eyes?  What is holding you captive?  How are you living in oppression?  From what can He set you free?!

This is the Favorable Year of the Lord.  This is His Year.  And according to Jesus, it’s your Year of Jubilee in Him.  Rest in Him, receive, and rejoice.

Spread the Word!

© 2016 Tim McKenzie
On Every Word Ministries
www.OnEveryWord.com

Jesus love me! This I know?

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“Jesus loves me! This I know…” – we’ve sung this simple song since childhood, but if we are honest, many of us are yet to truly believe it. Look around. What does experience teach us? Love is fleeting. Love is a feeling. Love must be earned. Love is conditional. Our résumé must be constantly updated. So we struggle to love ourselves, to love and to be loved.

Consider the prodigal son. After demanding his future inheritance be paid out immediately, he traveled abroad, partied like there was no tomorrow, and ended up destitute, desperate, hungry and alone. “But when he came to his senses…” (Luke 15:17 NASB), he remembered home, headed that direction and rehearsed the apology to his father ending with: “I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me as one of your hired men.” Sounds reasonable.

But the story takes an unexpected turn: “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and kissed him” (Luke 15:20 NASB). For this to happen, it meant that the father was waiting at the window…and watching. He ran, embraced a filthy kid, interrupted his son’s speech halfway through, and, as the imperfect tense of the Greek word indicates, he “kept on kissing him.” Then the father called for the best robe, the finest ring, and the fattened calf to celebrate: “For this son of mine was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found” (Luke 15:24 NASB).

Some of us are moved to tears at this scene, but some of us think – perhaps most of us think, “How can that be?! It doesn’t make any sense. That’s just not the way it works in real life. This guy owed his dad an apology. He was unworthy. He needed to re-earn his father’s trust. He deserved to work it off and repay his debt.”

And you know why we say that? Because we are the older brother. When he learned what just happened, he became angry and rebuked his father, “Look! For so many years I have been serving you and I have never neglected a command of yours, but you never gave me…” (Luke 15:29 NASB).

The truth is neither son understood their father’s love. One thought he must earn it, and the other thought he had earned it. One took the father’s goodness and wasted it. The other always had the father’s goodness and wasted it.

If you look up the definition of “prodigal,” it can either mean: 1) spending money or resources freely, recklessly or wastefully or 2) having or giving something on a lavish scale; extravagant.

We see a prodigal son when we are meant to see a Prodigal Father.

We are definition #1 – wasteful and wayward in one way or another, but our Father is #2 – lavish and extravagant in pouring out His love. We are sinful, but we are embraced and covered by the incomparable love of our Father. We may be Gomer, but God is Hosea – pursuing us with a steadfast love in spite of our unworthiness and unfaithfulness. We do not deserve nor could we ever earn His love, but He clothes us in the righteousness of His Son, showers us with His goodness and then celebrates with us.

This Thanksgiving, let’s rejoice and give thanks for God is good! Thank Him for a love so amazing words cannot describe it. Thank Him for a love in which the greatest dimensions of measurement fall woefully short (Ephesians 3:17-19). For His is a love that can only be shown, not spoken – a love that is only accurately measured by Jesus’ outstretched arms on a cross and only truly seen in a Prodigal Father running to embrace his wayward sons.

Yes! Jesus loves me!

In love, He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace which He LAVISHED on us (Ephesians 1:5-8 NASB).

Spread the Word!

© 2015 Tim McKenzie
On Every Word Ministries
www.OnEveryWord.com

The hand of God

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When you hear the phrase “the hand of God,” what comes to mind?

Many times people invoke that expression when they are referring to some terrible disaster or devastating turn of events.  There is no doubt that God is powerfully present in His creation, is actively judging the affairs of men, and is strategically orchestrating the movement of history toward the glorious return of His Son.  Still, we must be cautious in what we attribute to God, and yet not be blind either, “O Lord, Your hand is lifted up yet they do not see it” (Isaiah 26:11 NASB).

Others are unquestionably feeling the weight of God’s hand just like David, “When I refused to confess my sin, my body wasted away, and I groaned all day long. Day and night your hand of discipline was heavy on me. My strength evaporated like water in the summer heat” (Psalm 32:3-4 NLT).  We can be certain that the love of God will not leave us alone to hide in our sin.  Unless your conscience has been seared and your heart is hardened against Him, the Spirit will relentlessly pursue you with a heavy and restless conviction until you move toward confession and cleansing.  Been there.

But focus on this aspect of His hands for a minute: “You have enclosed me behind and before, and laid Your hand upon me” (Psalm 139:5 NASB).  I love the way the NLT phrases it, “You go before me and follow me. You place Your hand of blessing on my head.”  How amazing is this truth?!  Hands that powerfully sculpted the universe, tenderly hold you.  Hands that sovereignly move the very course of history, lovingly encompass the path of your life.  And where the Shepherd leads, goodness and lovingkindness surely follow (Psalm 23).

I believe the New Testament equivalent of this thought is found in Jesus’ words, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of My hand.  My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one” (John 10:27-30 ESV).  Do you see it?  You are twice blessed.  Encircled by both the hands of the Father and the Son!  What a vivid picture of God’s loving protection and eternal security!

In one of Israel’s darkest times, the Lord spoke these beautiful words of comfort and assurance to Zion (Jerusalem), “Behold, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands, your walls are ever before Me.”  Don’t you wish the Lord said that to you?!

Rather than simply saying it, He showed it.  Jesus literally inscribed us on the palms of His hands.  Not with a pen, but a nail.  Not with ink, but with blood.  For the hands that embrace your life, also bear your name.  And because it was written with His precious blood, Jesus will never let you go.

For You, O Lord, have made me glad by what You have done, I will sing for joy at the works of Your hands” (Psalm 92:4 NASB).

 

Matters of the heart

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About the size of your fist, weighing only 8-10 ounces, comprised of 4 chambers and 4 valves, with an inherently rhythmic electrical supply that is in continuous operation and constantly adjusts to the body’s ever-changing demands, this amazing organ automatically beats 100,000 times/day as it pumps 2,000 gallons of life-giving blood to the body’s 75 trillion cells through a vast network of 60,000 miles of blood vessels.

It first begins to beat about 4-5 weeks after conception.  Why it begins to beat remains a scientific mystery.  Doctors and researchers alike use words like “intrinsic,” “spontaneous,” “a biological question,” and “no definitive answer” to avoid giving praise and glory to the One whose “eyes saw our unformed substance” and “knitted us together in our mothers’ wombs” (Psalm 139:13-16 NASB).  The god of science reluctantly must bow and worship the God of all Creation and Giver of Life.  For God alone causes a heart to beat.

The heart is the universal symbol of love, compassion, and emotion.  We use words like heartbroken, tender-hearted, heartache, big-hearted, half-hearted, whole-hearted, hard-hearted, lighthearted, cold-hearted, kind-hearted, and sweetheart.

The Bible has much to say about the heart. It uses that word about 900 times to describe how the heart can be comforted, filled, troubled, hardened, anxious, joyful, fearful, evil, dull, grieved, pure, foolish, strengthened, divided, steadfast, courageous, sinful, sincere, deceitful, or broken.  It speaks of how it can love, reason, doubt, believe, be made whole, and be made new.

We are told repeatedly to “take heart” and “not lose heart.” Jesus said that out of the heart’s vast resources, the mouth makes withdrawals (Matthew 12:34-35).  “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matthew 6:21).  Since the heart has “eyes” that must keep us focused on the right things (Ephesians 1:18-19), we are instructed to “hide God’s Word in our hearts that we might not sin against Him” (Psalm 119:11).

Even greater than the circulatory reach and significance of its biological namesake, the biblical heart is truly the center of life.  It connects our whole being in word, intent, character, thought, emotion, desire, passion, will, and belief.  God has also “set eternity in our hearts” (Ecclesiastes 3:11).  No wonder we are told to “watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life” (Proverbs 4:23 NASB).

When your biological heart is healthy, your whole body benefits and rejoices.  Most of us at least annually, visit a doctor who uses a stethoscope to listen to the beating of your heart to diagnose, prevent, and correct problems.

What would a spiritual stethoscope reveal?  For what or who does your heart beat? “The word of God is sharper than any two-edged sword…able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12 NASB).  “Search me, O God, and know my heart, try me and know my anxious thoughts.  And see if there be any hurtful way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way” (Psalm 139:23-24 NASB).

Whether your heart remains tender from daily check-ups or you need divine CPR to revive your heart of stone, God is able to “create in you a clean heart” (Psalm 51:10) – a “heart that believes unto righteousness” (Romans 10:9-10), and then “pour His love out within your heart through the Holy Spirit” (Romans 5:5) so that you will be able to “love Him with all of your heart” (Matt 22:37).

How miraculous is it that God makes all this possible through the precious blood of Jesus!  Blood, the very life-giving force of our natural existence, is also the supernatural means by which we truly live the abundant life to the glory of God throughout all eternity.  Make sure your heart still beats for Him.

“I will give thanks to You, O Lord my God, with all my heart, and will glorify Your name forever” (Psalm 86:12 NASB).

Spread the Word!

© 2015 Tim McKenzie
On Every Word Ministries
www.OnEveryWord.com

“I believe in you”

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“I believe in you.”

Those might just be the most powerful words you can say to someone.

Belief is an amazing thing.  When you believe in someone, you actually believe in something that hasn’t happened – something yet to be.  You see it whether they do or not. You see not only their potential (for we all have potential), but you see the end result of that potential.  You are far less an idealist and much more a realist. And the certainty of your hope helps instill the courage necessary for them to step into that reality. To achieve.  To realize.  To become.

When hope becomes belief, belief drives you toward destiny.  For when we believe in a future expectation, we are motivated to act on it in the present.

Oftentimes, you will believe in someone more than they believe in themselves.  Perhaps their vision is clouded by doubt or past failures, but you see what God sees. He knows what He has planned for our lives and is excited about who we are becoming in His Son.  “For those God foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son…” (Romans 8:29a). God believes in us. And His belief is not only the basis, but also the catalyst to move us steadily into His plans for us.

Both to assure and ensure, He has deposited His Spirit within us. The Spirit anchors us in one sense and propels us in another.  We simultaneously stand firmly in Him and yet are carried along by Him. For the Holy Spirit is The Encourager.

Jesus spoke belief into almost every person He encountered, but it sounded like this, “Go and sin no more,” “Feed my sheep,” “Follow Me.” A challenge. A call. An invitation. But each with a promise of things yet to be – of someone yet to be.

Jesus says to us, “I believe in you!” so that we can echo His words into the lives of others. Those words make a difference. They boldly declare, “I’m on your team.” Think about the impact words like that have had on you. You truly never forget them for they are woven into the fabric of your being and your becoming.

By the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, we can partner with the Spirit in this holy pursuit by simply encouraging one another. Who needs to hear you say, “I believe in you”?

“Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing” (1 Thessalonians 5:11 ESV).

© 2015 Tim McKenzie
On Every Word Ministries
www.OnEveryWord.com

Hope

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Hope is truly amazing.  With it, anything is possible.  It encourages us to look beyond the horizon to another day – a better day, and then empowers us to live in light of that expectation.  While hope points to something in the future seen only by faith, it also swings the needle on the compass of our heart to guide our present steps.  Certain in our uncertainty, it is both an anchor and a promise.

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Stretch yourself

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Stretching is practically a reflex when you wake up. After a good night’s sleep, you just can’t help yourself…it feels so good to stretch. Then the rest of the day, the challenge for most of us is to live a stretched out life. Far too often, we tend to shrink back and turn inward to our own concerns. Self prefers to drive and let service ride in the back seat.

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“Doctor, my eyes!”

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Years ago, Jackson Browne wrote a song called Doctor, My Eyes to ask some very penetrating questions:

Doctor, my eyes have seen the years and the slow parade of fears without crying…now I want to understand.  I have done all that I could to see the evil and the good without hiding…you must help me if you can.

Doctor, my eyes…tell me what is wrong!  Was I unwise to leave them open for so long? (more…)

Big God, Big Things

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Most of us don’t have any problem imagining a big God who does big things. In fact, we prefer it that way. Our problem seems to be believing in a big God who does big things for us.

The Scriptures reveal much about God…a BIG God. (more…)

Speak it!

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Looking at this sunset over Camp Life, Zambia brings to remembrance all the amazing ways God is moving there. But one truth Greer Kendall, President and CEO of Family Legacy (http://familylegacy.com/), taught us at camp rises to the top:

It’s not enough to hear.
It’s not enough to understand.
It’s not even enough to believe.
You must speak it.

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Above all else

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We place great significance on someone’s last words.  We lean in and hang on every syllable.  Given the opportunity, what would yours be?

It’s only been a week since we celebrated the glory of the empty tomb, but stand with me again at the foot of the cross.  In those final agonizing hours as He bore the sins of the world – our sins, Jesus’ seven last words from the cross are worth drawing close to.

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Fear not

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What is your greatest fear?  Now I know we’re afraid of stuff like public speaking, spiders, snakes, needles, and heights.  But on a more destructive note, fear of rejection, shame, loneliness, the unknown, pain, loss of freedom, failure, and death (#1) top most lists.

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Smiling at the future

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Wouldn’t you love to be able to predict the future?  The fact is we pretty much already do just by our attitude.

What comes into your mind when you hear those words “the future”?  Hope?  Fear?  Optimism?  Excitement?  Concern?  Regret?  Yes, regret.  Even though the future has not yet occurred, many of us experience regret because we don’t like where we are, conclude that nothing will ever change, and then project that into the future as an inevitable certainty.

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Do not worry

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It’s kind of amazing when you do what Jesus says to do.  Imagine that.

A few weeks ago, I was really stressed out about some major financial decisions my wife and I had to make. Coincidentally, I was also in the middle of preparing to teach on Matthew 6:19-34. After breezing through where’s your treasure (6:19-21), how’s your vision (6:22-23), and whom do you serve (6:24), I had a head-on collision with Jesus’ words, “For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life…” (6:25).

But I was worried about my life. Reading on, Jesus said to, “Look at the birds of the air…” (6:26) and “Observe how the lilies of the field grow…” (6:28). Since my computer speaks Greek, in just a few clicks I discovered that “look” means “to consider fixedly; to look at with the mind; to discern clearly” and “observe” means to “to learn thoroughly; to examine carefully, to consider well.” Neither of these words had anything to do with a casual glance. And though I had read and even took comfort in these verses many times before, I had NEVER done what Jesus actually said to do.

The Spirit prompted me to get up and go outside to look and observe.

As it would happen, it was one of those rare spring mornings in Houston. Clear. Crisp. Gorgeous. And with paper and pen in hand, I spent well over an hour just looking at birds and observing flowers. Two very accessible things yet so common that I pretty much ignore them every day. Here’s what I wrote:

Birds – I had to look at them from a distance. They flew with great skill and ease. They were busy and worked hard as they gathered food and building materials. Sometimes they flew just because they could – soaring and free. They were joyful. They sang. They were full of life.

Flowers – I got to observe them up close. They were incredibly beautiful and diverse in both color and design. Amazingly intricate. Delicate. Textured. Seemingly woven. They flourished as they painted the landscape. Fully opened, they were joyfully pointing toward the sun…basking in its life-giving light.

Jesus seemed to say, “So what did you learn? Do they worry? Does not your heavenly Father care for them in amazing ways? Wouldn’t you like to be joyful again just like them? How much more does God love you? Do you trust Him?”

Jesus is showing all of us that worry is a symptom of a greater problem. It’s like a warning light that our eyes and our hearts are preoccupied with the wrong things. Our faith shrinks. Our fear grows. Worry is all about the future, but it chokes out the present.

There’s no denying that “each day has enough trouble of its own” (6:34). Indeed, flowers fade and birds fall, but “not apart from the will of your Father” (10:29-31). He is faithful! “Cast all your anxiety upon Him because He cares for you” (1Peter 5:7)!

A cure for worry? Jesus gives us the prescription: “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (6:33).

Stop looking down and in. Start looking up and out.

Make the priority and focus of your life seeing God crowned with the glory and honor of which He alone is worthy. Our King has great treasure and He is more than willing to share it.

Note: the painting of the “Two Sparrows” was a gift from a dear friend, Jamie Vance, and its image is used with her blessing. Thank you Jamie for encouraging me to “look.”

© 2013 Tim McKenzie – www.OnEveryWord.com 

Cotton Candy Faith

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I’m not really sure what it is, but it’s pretty interesting stuff.  I think it’s mostly air and sugar.  It’s always a cool color, fun to eat, and tastes really sweet.  However, you soon discover it’s much smaller than it appears as it suddenly dissolves to nothingness in your mouth.

Let’s review: Looks good and tastes good, but quickly vanishes.

Do we have a cotton candy faith?  One that looks pretty when times are good, but rapidly fades when the wind and the waves kick up.  A faith that is dependent upon sight rather than firmly rooted in an unwavering trust in Jesus.  A faith that appears big and sweet when God acts the way we expect, but rapidly dissipates when times are tough or heaven is silent.

Jesus said, “Unless you people see signs and wonders, you simply will not believe” (John 4:48 NASB).

There’s certainly nothing wrong with “signs and wonders.”  Our God is a miraculous God so ask Him to work wonders!  But right in the middle of a carnival-like atmosphere where folks were coming from miles around to see this miracle-worker do His thing, Jesus’ statement goes to the heart of true belief.  To look at it another way, Jesus is asking, “What if I didn’t work these signs and wonders, would you believe in Me then?”  “Come one, come all – miracles galore!” and who wouldn’t believe?  Wind and waves…not so much.

After His resurrection, Jesus appeared to His disciples saying, “Because you have seen Me, have you believed?  Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed” (John 20:29 NASB).

Seeing Jesus clearly and true belief have much more to do with the eyes of your heart – a 20/20 vision that rests and abides in Jesus and His Word no matter what.  An enduring faith that clings to a God who has revealed so much of Himself yet whose ways are not our ways and thoughts are not our thoughts (Isaiah 55:8-9).  Finite creatures.  Infinite God.  Don’t try to do the math.  Put down the pencil and believe.

Sweet fellowship with Jesus doesn’t have to dissolve like cotton candy.  He offers a fullness of joy that is firmly tied to His very Presence. Feelings cannot always be trusted and appearances can be deceptive.  So don’t lose faith.  Jesus will never leave you or forsake you.  Trust in who He is.

…and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory…” (1Peter 1:8 NASB).

© 2013 Tim McKenzie – www.OnEveryWord.com

Childlike faith

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Abraham is 100, Sarah 90. Years into their journey to the Promised Land, they are still living in a tent, still have no son, and are still chasing the seemingly far-fetched promises of God. Sarah has become disillusioned so God pays them a personal visit in Genesis 18 to announce that she would soon bear a son.  Sarah “laughs” in her heart and thinks, “after I have become old, shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also?” And yep, that means exactly what you’re thinking.

In response to her laughter, God Himself poses this question, “Is there anything too difficult for the Lord?” (Genesis 18:14 NASB). Literally in the Hebrew, “Is there anything too pala for Yahweh?” (‘marvelous, amazing, wonderful’ – to get a true sense of the word, see how “pala” is used in verses like Psalm 107:8, Psalm 119:18, Isaiah 29:14, Job 5:9, Psalm 86:10, and Psalm 139:14). But God had them right where He wanted them – “no way” – “that’s impossible!” Now, He will give birth to an entire nation from a dead womb.

What about you? Ever laugh in unbelief at the promise or ability of God? Sure we have…maybe not out loud, but we’ve doubted, we’ve scoffed, and we’ve done it our way. Some of us are fearful of boxing God in so as to demand a miracle, but many more turn away in doubt without even asking.

Most of us are so capable, so blessed, and/or so self-sufficient we do not depend on the pala’s of God. We live in the realm of reasonable possibilities. Our faith is constricted by our vision of and dependence on God and we have prayers to match. But it was not always so.

As a one or two year-old, we were never concerned if dad was able, we just believed he could and asked. We thought he could do anything and he did: protection, power, authority, ability, knowledge…he had it all. Too heavy for me, but not for him. Too high for me to reach, but not for him. We asked because we weren’t able. Little did we know that we were asking these “miracles” from a limited, imperfect father…even so, we did it with all our hearts.

The other day I was with my 1½ year-old grandson, Noah, when a dog started to jump up on him and I firmly said, “Sit!” With just one word, this wild beast obeyed my command. Seriously, what do you think that taught Noah about my power and authority?

So what about our Heavenly Father? A Father who said, “Let there be,” “Be still,” “Be healed,” “Be forgiven,” “Be cleansed.” The same One who conquered death, has the power to save, and sovereignly reigns over all.

Now, we know a perfect Father who has no limitations. We’re all grown up and far more capable, but with far less faith. Maybe a part of us should never grow up? Maybe that’s why Jesus often hung out with children? Maybe they have as much to teach us as we do them?

Is your Father calling you to believe again in the pala’s of God just like He did Abraham and Sarah? As it was for them (see Hebrews 11:11 and Romans 4:19-21), could this be a turning point in your faith?

What do you need the Lord to do for you? While I’m not promising God will always give you what you want (we knew what was best for our kids), maybe we “have not because we ask not” (James 4:3 NASB). Is He calling you to remember what it was like to simply reach up in childlike faith and ask of your father?

Is there anything too marvelous, too amazing, too wonderful, too pala for the Lord?

Ask.

© 2012 Tim McKenzie – www.OnEveryWord.com

Through the eyes of a child

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My wife and I are really enjoying the blessing of our one-year-old grandson, Noah. To look at the world through the eyes of a child is to restore the wonder of it all. Everything is new and fresh, wondrous and amazing. Even the simplest things – a twig, a leaf, a bird, a squirrel – compel a wonder all their own.

I’ll say, “What’s that?” or “Look!” and though he cannot fully express himself in words, there’s no doubt he’s in awe. You can see it and hear it. His eyes grow wide and bright and he begins to chirp, “Oooh, Oooh, Oooh!”

The Word of God frequently uses the word “behold” as if to say, “What’s that! Look! Prepare to be amazed!” From “Behold, it was very good” to “Behold, a virgin will be with child,” there is a certain sense of exclamation and swiftness in the original Hebrew word – almost like something meant to leave you wide-eyed and singing a chorus of “oooh’s.”

What about “beholding” the wonder of the Lord?  “Michael” the archangel’s name literally poses the rhetorical question, “Who is like God?” The psalmist unwaveringly answers, “There is no one like You among the gods, O Lord, nor are there any works like Yours” Psalm 86:8 NASB.

Be in awe of the majesty and glory of God and proclaim, “Who is like You among the gods, O Lord? Who is like You, majestic in holiness, awesome in praises, working wonders.” Exodus 15:11 NASB

Stand amazed at the Lord “who does great things, unfathomable, and wondrous works without number.” Job 9:10 NASB

Draw near to the Light of His Word and pray, “open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of Your law.” Psalm 119:18 ESV

Be captivated by the beauty of Jesus, our “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6 NASB

Expectantly pursue the Word of the Lord to, “Look among the nations! Observe! Be astonished! Wonder! Because I am doing something in your days you would not believe if you were told.” Habakkuk 1:5 NASB

So with childlike faith, let us welcome this day with a renewed sense of awe and wonder at the Lord our God. Why? Because worship follows wonder.

© 2012 Tim McKenzie – www.OnEveryWord.com

What are you waiting for?

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We hate to wait.  Whether sitting in traffic, holding for a customer service representative, sitting in a crowded waiting room, or standing in a long line, we hate to wait.  What a waste of time!  We much prefer now to later.  Most of us would agree that waiting is both passive and negative.  Its byproduct is often impatience, frustration, and even anger.  We end up muttering things like, “Who hired this idiot?” or “Don’t they know my time is valuable too!”

What about waiting on God?  Do we experience the same range of emotions?  If so, these verses might just help transform your next trip to God’s waiting room.

Even youths shall faint and be weary,
 and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength;
 they shall mount up with wings like eagles; 
they shall run and not be weary.  Isaiah 40:30-31 ESV

Did you see our favorite word sandwiched in there?  It’s important since it’s the very “action” that leads us to where we want to go.  That word “wait” is translated from the Hebrew word qavah that literally means to “to collect or bind together; to twist or weave.”

So how do the weak grow strong?  How do the fallen begin to soar?  How do the prayerful endure?  By “waiting” on the Lord.  By twisting and weaving your life around the Lord like the braiding of a rope – like the uniting of multiple strands of fiber to create strength.

Unlike our customary earthly experience, biblical waiting is highly active and positively charged.  It flourishes in expectancy, hope, faith, and dependence.  It perseveres in prayer, remembers God’s faithfulness, and clings to His unwavering promises.  It rests in the very sovereignty of God and rejoices in what He is doing during the time of waiting as much as in the anticipated outcome.  It knows that the joy of the Lord is our strength.  It senses the abiding Presence of God and hears the reassuring voice of the Good Shepherd.

Easy?  Hardly.  We don’t like to wait, remember?  But if you will keep putting the fragile strands of your life into the hands of the One who wove you in your mother’s womb (Psalm 139:13), you will discover the miracle that awaits in God’s waiting room.

© 2012 Tim McKenzie – www.OnEveryWord.com

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