Archive for the ‘Testimony & Purpose’ Category

Jars of Clay

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Isn’t it interesting one of the things Scripture calls us is “jars of clay” 2 Corinthians 4:7. Not long ago, I was broken and defeated from the relentless personal attacks of the enemy – you might call it spiritual identity theft as a result of agreeing with the lies spoken over me. And the more I talked about what I was going through with others, the more I found out I was not alone.

Remember only God has the right to do the commentary on your life. Satan is the author of death and wants you to question God’s goodness, doubt the Truth of His promises and walk around with spiritual amnesia. But God is the Author of Life and in the Name of Jesus, any lies we’ve believed – any agreements we’ve made – any ground we’ve surrendered must be repossessed one Truth at a time.

So, Jars of Clay was borne out of brokenness to proclaim the truth of who we are in Jesus – to overcome the lies of the enemy – to help restore fullness and wholeness in Jesus – and to declare THIS IS WHO YOU ARE.

How fitting God made us like fragile jars of clay. Yes, we are prone to crack and break in many ways, but oh how He puts us together again and then continues to use us! Can you believe He gives us the privilege of housing His priceless treasure – His glory inside of us?

And His repairs don’t diminish His glory, rather they allow it to be seen all the more. For the glory of God we carry inside shines through our cracks as a testimony to all He has done. Far from shameful imperfection to be hidden from view, these are undeniable declarations of the power and depth of His love for us. In Jesus, we are uncommonly common! We are gloriously cracked! Be not ashamed, but shine.

Will you join me in confident, expectant prayer asking God to multiply what we now hold in our hands and use Jars of Clay to speak His Truth into the lives of many?  And if you haven’t already, please take 5 minutes to watch it here.

THIS IS WHO YOU ARE – 40 Day Journey

Coming in January to further the impact of this presentation, we will be offering 40 days of short devotionals anchored to 40 truths in Jars of Clay called “This Is Who You Are.” You will clearly hear the Words of Life our heavenly Father is speaking over us in the Name of Jesus!  Day by day and truth by truth, we will walk through, remember, meditate on, fight for, claim and celebrate the incredible fullness and joy of our spiritual identity in Christ.

We are like common jars of clay that carry this glorious treasure within, so that the extraordinary overflow of power will be seen as God’s, not ours.  2 Corinthians 4:7 TPT

Please sign up and ask others to join the This is Who You Are journey by using the form right under the Jars of Clay video on our site. Please note: even if you are currently signed up to receive our monthly devotional, you must also choose to sign up for the 40 Day Journey.

What Does Scripture Say?

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What does Scripture say? Rom 4:3 NIV

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. 1 John 4:1 ESV

I am afraid that just as the serpent deceived Eve by his treachery, your minds may be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ. 2 Cor 11:3 NLT

The devil was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies. John 8:44 NET

For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions. 2 Ti 4:3 ESV

The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron. 1 Ti 4:1-2 NIV

Therefore, dear friends, since you have been forewarned, be on your guard that you do not get led astray by the error of these unprincipled people and fall from your firm grasp on the truth. 2 Pe 3:17 NET

What does Scripture say? Rom 4:3 NIV

So we are no longer to be children, tossed back and forth by waves and carried about by every wind of teaching by the trickery of people who craftily carry out their deceitful schemes. Eph 4:14 NET

See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. Col 2:8 ESV

You have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; 1 Pe 1:23 ESV

For this is no idle word for you—it is your life! Deut 32:47 NET

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. Rom 12:2 ESV

What does Scripture say? Rom 4:3 NIV

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. 2 Ti 3:16-17 NIV

Through the power of the Holy Spirit who lives within us, carefully guard the precious truth that has been entrusted to you. 2 Ti 1:14 NLT

Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. Eph 6:10-11 ESV

…and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Eph 6:17 NLT

For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. Rom 15:4 NASB

A voice said, “Shout!” I asked, “What should I shout?” “Shout that people are like the grass. Their beauty fades as quickly as the flowers in a field. The grass withers and the flowers fade, but the word of our God stands forever.” Isa 40:6,8 NLT

What does Scripture say? Rom 4:3 NIV

 

 

 

The King of Glory

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Lift up your heads, O gates!  And be lifted up, O ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. Who is this King of glory? The Lord, strong and mighty, the Lord, mighty in battle!  Psalm 24:7-8 ESV

The Lord reigns, He is robed in majesty; the Lord is robed in majesty and armed with strength; Psalm 93:1 NIV

Splendor and majesty are before Him, strength and joy are in His place. 1 Chronicles 16:27 NASB

Who is like You O Lord? — majestic in holiness, awesome in praises, working wonders?  Exodus 15:11 NASB

Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is Yours. Yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and You are exalted as head above all. 1 Chronicles 29:11 NIV

Righteousness and justice are the foundation of Your throne; love and faithfulness go before You. Psalm 89:14 ESV

Worthy are You, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for You created all things, and by Your will they existed and were created. Revelation 4:11 ESV

O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is Your name in all the earth! You have set Your glory above the heavens. Psalm 8:1 ESV

Let all the earth fear the LORD; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him. Psalm 33:8 NASB

To whom, then, will we compare God? Or who is His equal? Isaiah 40:25 NIV

You answer us with awesome deeds of righteousness, O God our Savior, the hope of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest seas, Psalm 65:5 NIV

You alone are the LORD. You made the heavens, even the highest heavens, and all their starry host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them. You give life to everything, and the multitudes of heaven worship You. Nehemiah 9:6 NIV

Let them praise the name of the LORD, for His name alone is exalted; His splendor is above the earth and the heavens. Psalm 148:13 NIV

They raise their voices, they shout for joy; from the west they acclaim the Lord’s majesty. Therefore in the east give glory to the Lord; exalt the name of the Lord, the God of Israel, in the islands of the sea. From the ends of the earth we hear singing: “Glory to the Righteous One.” Isaiah 24:14-16 NIV

Lift up your heads, O gates! And lift them up, O ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. Who is this King of glory? The Lord of hosts, He is the King of glory! Psalm 24: 9-10 ESV

A Sure Foundation

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When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do? Psalm 11:3 NIV

“Violence is everywhere!” I cry, but You do not come to save. Must I see these evil deeds forever? Why must I watch all this misery? Wherever I look, I see destruction and violence. I am surrounded by people who love to argue and fight. The law has become paralyzed, and there is no justice in the courts. Indeed, the wicked intimidate the innocent. For this reason, justice is perverted. Habakkuk 1:2-4 NLT/NET

Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! Isaiah 5:20 NASB

Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people. Proverbs 14:34 NASB

The way of the wicked is like deep darkness; they do not know over what they stumble. Proverbs 4:19 ESV

For the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. James 1:20 ESV

My soul is in deep anguish. How long, O Lord, how long? Psalm 6:3 NIV

I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My HELP comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. Psalm 121:1-2 ESV

God is our REFUGE and STRENGTH, a very present HELP in trouble. Psalm 46:1 ESV

I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the GOODNESS of the Lord In the land of the living. WAIT for the Lord; be STRONG and let your heart take COURAGE; yes, wait for the Lord. Psalm 27:13-14 NASB

The Lord has ESTABLISHED His throne in the heavens, and HIS SOVEREIGNTY RULES over all. Psalm 103:19 NASB

For KINGSHIP belongs to the Lord, and HE RULES over the nations. Psalm 22:28 ESV

“BE STILL, and KNOW that I am God. I will be EXALTED among the nations, I will be EXALTED in the earth!” Psalm 46:10 ESV

“If My people who are called by My Name HUMBLE themselves, and PRAY and SEEK My face and TURN from their wicked ways, then I will HEAR from heaven and will FORGIVE their sin and HEAL their land.” 2 Chronicles 7:14 NASB

“When the earth quakes and its people live in turmoil, I am the One who KEEPS its foundations FIRM.” Psalm 75:3 NLT

“[And] for you who fear My Name, the sun of righteousness shall RISE with HEALING in its wings.” Malachi 4:2 ESV

REND your heart and not your garments. RETURN to the Lord your God, for He is GRACIOUS and COMPASSIONATE, slow to anger and ABOUNDING in LOVE. Joel 2:13 NIV

Even in darkness LIGHT DAWNS for the upright, for those who are gracious and compassionate and righteous. Psalm 112:4 NIV

If we walk in the LIGHT, as He is in the LIGHT, we have fellowship with one another, and the BLOOD of JESUS His Son CLEANSES us from all sin. 1 John 1:7 ESV

REJOICE with those who rejoice, WEEP with those who weep. LIVE in HARMONY with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is HONORABLE in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live PEACEABLY with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God… Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with GOOD. Romans 12:15-19, 21 ESV

Then shall your LIGHT break forth like the dawn, and your HEALING shall spring up speedily; your RIGHTEOUSNESS shall go before you; the GLORY of the Lord shall be your rear guard. Isaiah 58:8 ESV

Lord, I stand in AWE of your deeds. Repeat them in our day, in our time make them known; in wrath REMEMBER MERCY. Habakkuk 3:2 NIV

Land of the Free and Home of the Brave?

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Each Memorial Day we pause to honor those who died in the military service of our country.  We honor them by remembering what they died for. And we who live on because of their sacrifice not only enjoy freedom, but are also called to defend it here at home.

“At what point then is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer, if it ever reach us, it must spring up among us. It cannot come from abroad.  If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time, or die by suicide.” – Abraham Lincoln

Think for a moment about what you have been witnessing. Consider how quickly and easily freedoms vanished. In a flash, our right to gather to worship, to provide for our families, to privacy, to bury our dead, to access basic services and care, to leave our homes or speak freely disappeared. Some will say it was necessary, but the discerning eye will see we were unlawfully forced to do so, and we obeyed mostly out of fear.

The Constitution was trampled on. Law unequally applied. Truth censored. Thought suppressed. Power grabbed. Due process denied. Protest forbidden. Misinformation disseminated. Workers deemed “non-essential.” Lives and livelihoods destroyed. Citizens trying to work jailed while convicted criminals freed. Official orders and even arbitrary whims magically transformed into enforceable laws without any true legislative action or constitutionality. In short, freedom was enslaved.

We must wake up! Is this what those we honor on Memorial Day died to preserve? Since this assault on freedom is not over, here are a few things to remember:

  • – Don’t be enslaved
  • – Freedom is still worth fighting for
  • – Think for yourself
  • – Truth matters
  • – You do have a choice
  • – Follow the Good Shepherd
  • – Don’t be deceived
  • – Test the spirits at work
  • – Dare to risk
  • – Look for divine opportunities
  • – Encourage one another
  • – Remain grateful
  • – Proclaim the Word
  • – Show the love of Christ
  • – Keep your eyes on Jesus
  • – Pray for revival
  • – Fear not
  • – Be brave
  • – Be free

John 8:32 ESV “And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” – Jesus

You’ve Got a Friend

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We have become the most connected disconnected people in history. Thanks to technology, we are wired to anything and everything worldwide 24/7. The whitewater of social media, all-access information, endless group texts, stores that never close and on-demand entertainment can create the illusion that digital “relationships” are all we need.

However, recent surveys capture the turbulence. 25% of us on a normal day are lonely and depressed, and with the imposition of COVID-19 restrictions, that number has dramatically increased to 44%. The majority of us only have a few friends, find it hard to make new ones and, at most, have only one close friend. We long to belong, yet we are digitally sequestered. We want to be known, but deeply fear the same. Many desperately need a true friend.

In James Taylor’s autobiography, he recalls a broken, desperate time when the promised escape of drugs instead locked him in a prison. Hitting rock bottom, he checked into a rehab hospital. Strung out, depressed and alone, he wrote these words, “I’ve seen sunny days I thought would never end, and I’ve seen lonely times when I could not find a friend” – a key line in a stirring song he would soon call Fire and Rain.

After completing the program, he left to record it and other songs with a studio band his producer recently put together. In particular, the pianist was very moved by James and this new song. So, as an answer to the cries of his heart in Fire and Rain, Carole King wrote You’ve Got a Friend. They each recorded and released her amazing song the same year. The two remain lifelong friends.

Jesus always had such compassion for the lonely, the isolated, the outcast. His friends included a beggar, a leper, a blind man, a woman at a well, a thief on a cross, a prostitute, a tax collector, a child, a widow and a woman issuing blood. What a friend we have in Jesus!

I’m thinking someone you know could really use a friend – a voice of encouragement – a touch of truth – a healing Word of Life. Be like Jesus and reach out your hand and your heart today.

Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of Mine, you did for Me.” Matthew 25:40 NIV

What will that glory be?

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If eye has not seen, ear heard
or mind conceived
what God has prepared
for those who love Him,

WHAT WILL THAT GLORY BE?

If the splendor of this creation
so incredible to behold
is anxiously longing
to be set free,

WHAT WILL THAT GLORY BE?

To know only in part
and see dimly in this mirror,
but soon face to face
with joy inexpressible,

WHAT WILL THAT GLORY BE?

If this body so fearfully
and wonderfully made
is a seed sown in weakness,
but raised in power,

WHAT WILL THAT GLORY BE?

When our tent wears out
and we breathe our last,
and faith becomes sight
as hope bows to possession,

WHAT WILL THAT GLORY BE?

In the twinkling of an eye
when there’s no more death,
no more sin, and
no more crying or pain,

WHAT WILL THAT GLORY BE?

To long for a home
as yet unseen,
an eternal dwelling
He prepared for me,

WHAT WILL THAT GLORY BE?

When our veil of sufferings
lifts to reveal
an eternal weight of glory
far beyond all comparison,

WHAT WILL THAT GLORY BE?

When the Morning Star arises,
splits the sky like a scroll,
and darkness pierced
by the coming of our King,

WHAT WILL THAT GLORY BE?

When God dwells among us,
wipes away every tear
and by His Word
makes all things new,

WHAT WILL THAT GLORY BE?

To stand before the Lamb of God
with saints from
every tribe and tongue,
in mighty song of praise,

WHAT WILL THAT GLORY BE?

To look upon the King of Glory,
Exalted Majesty,
Beautiful Savior,
the One who died for me,

WHAT WILL THAT GLORY BE?

But to walk with Jesus here and now,
to love Him we have not seen,
and to shine His light
before all men,

WHAT WILL THAT GLORY BE?

 

when the rooster crows

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Guilty  
Cold 
Alone 
Accused
Ashamed
“What have you done?”
And the rooster crows 
 
Running 
Denying 
Justifying 
Hiding
Sewing fig leaves 
“Where are you?”
And the rooster crows 
 
The weight, heavy
The voices, condemning 
The burden, unbearable
The fear, enslaving  
The lie, empty
“Who told you?”
And the rooster crows 
 
Truth arises
Blood shed
Debt paid 
Grace flows
Chains broken
Free indeed
“Where are your accusers?”
 
No more shame
No more condemnation 
No more guilt 
No more fear
No more darkness 
No more running 
“Come to Me”
 
 For from His fullness
we have all received,
grace upon grace.
John 1:16 NASB

Will they tell your story?

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My wife and I recently had the opportunity to see the Broadway production of Hamilton in NYC with some great friends. Wow! What an incredibly powerful musical that retells the life of Alexander Hamilton – immigrant, statesman, politician, lawyer and economist. As one of America’s Founding Fathers, he was a zealous promoter of the U.S. Constitution and served as the first Secretary of the Treasury under President George Washington.

Hamilton’s songs range from forceful shouts to “rise up and take your shot” in joining the fight for freedom to tenderhearted melodies of forgiveness and healing while learning “to live with the unimaginable” by “a grace too powerful to name. Forgiveness. Can you imagine?” But the song that really stuck with me was the last one in which Alexander’s widow asks, “And when you’re gone, who remembers your name? And when my time is up, have I done enough? Will they tell your story?”

A lasting and meaningful legacy is a universal desire. Will I be remembered – and for what? Will the recap of my life be a mere recitation of activities and accomplishments or something more? The temptation for some is to think too much about themselves and live like they are writing an autobiography with thrilling accounts of their kingdoms. But let me suggest a better way…

Could it be as we become more and more consumed with helping co-author the biographies of others by pouring ourselves out for them, our legacy will take care of itself? Could it be in giving ourselves away by loving well and often, we engrave words of eternal grace into the lives of others? Could it be in living out the words of Jesus, we compose enduring impact?

And as His Name is proclaimed in generations to come, we share in a lasting legacy as joint heirs with Jesus. So perhaps the question worth considering is not “Will they tell your story? but “Will they tell His story?”

Less of us. More of Jesus. Start writing.

2 Corinthians 3:2-3 NET You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everyone, revealing that you are a letter of Christ…written not with ink but by the Spirit of the living God, not on stone tablets but on tablets of human hearts.

Fire!

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Imagine you are quietly working at your desk in a high-rise office building. Suddenly, you hear that really annoying sound as the fire alarm starts to screech. But very soon, reality sets in as you smell smoke and a voice announces, “This is not a drill, please exit the building immediately.” Co-workers hastily grab a few personal belongings, cover their faces and rush for the stairwell.

As you start to join the quest for freedom, you see smoke bellowing up from a lower floor outside the windows. Shouting, crying and panic only briefly distract you from one overwhelming thought: the fire is below us – what if we can’t make it out?

Yet in this surreal moment where most people are reflexively rushing to save themselves, something compels you to remain and help others as many are gasping for air, others are paralyzed by fear and some are unable to walk without assistance. Driven solely by compassion, you risk your life to save others.

Through the thickening smoke, you repeatedly help others navigate the danger and find the way to safety. Nothing else matters except precious lives are being saved – and rightfully so.  But one thing’s for sure: you would never just sit there, shrug your shoulders and go back to working on your spreadsheet, would you?

And yet spiritually, we do this almost daily.

For all around us, people’s lives are in jeopardy – people we work with, socialize with, live near – even some in our own family. Their eternal destinies are at stake while the Enemy slowly fans the flames consuming them. But many of us just ignore the smoke and complacently return to our daily pursuits. While we possess the very Living Water necessary to extinguish the flames, we have no sense of urgency. While we know the only Way to safety, we do not lead.

With the compassion of Jesus, it’s time to act. You are perfectly equipped by the Holy Spirit for this assignment so fear not! See the smoke, quench the flames and show the Way!

Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one can come to the Father except through Me.” Rescue others by snatching them from the flames of judgment…  John 14:6 & Jude 1:23 NLT

One Small Step

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Imagine a time when T.V.’s had rabbit ears, rotary phones made sparks to dial out and people listened to music on record players. In that day, people were called “computers” until IBM introduced a data processing system for NASA filling an entire room but far less powerful than your iPhone. Now, go to the Moon!

As we recently celebrated the anniversary of men walking on the Moon, whether for the first time or the 50th time, the accomplishment is no less amazing and awe-inspiring today than in 1969. Embracing the dream President Kennedy planted in the hearts and minds of Americans in 1962, we rallied as a nation to overcome incredible obstacles to see this dream come true. What was once only imagined in stories and movies became a reality.

Although men stepped onto the Moon 5 more times over the next 3 years, there has not been a lunar mission since 1972. Recently, we have been challenged to return to the Moon and even Mars – but more than that, we have been challenged to dare to dream again as a nation.

Growing up in the 60’s, I was captivated by the quest of going to the Moon and wanted to be an astronaut. Since I get dizzy on a merry-go-round, that dream never quite became a reality, but I was still very passionate about it.

Revisiting the exhilaration I felt watching Neil Armstrong take that one small step has been bitter-sweet. I’ve experienced a sense of renewed wonder, but it’s been accompanied by some waves of regret – not only because I didn’t travel into space, but because I was also reminded that this dream, along with others in my life, never came true. And so, as history taught me, dreams are risky and can end in disappointment.

But the courage to dream is always risky. God created us to dream and we involuntarily do so every night while sleeping. I guess the trick is to do it voluntarily while we’re awake! Maybe you and I need to risk dreaming again? And perhaps this time, we should ask God to give us a dream – a heavenly dream. That may seem like a small step, but it might just result in a giant leap that impacts generations to come.

Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but desire fulfilled is a tree of life. Proverbs 13:12 NASB

Image courtesy of NASA

O Jerusalem, Jerusalem

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My wife and I recently had the incredible blessing to travel to Israel for the first time. What a unique country! So resilient and fruitful. Such geographic, political and religious diversity. Modern yet ancient. Historic yet prophetic. Painful reminders of disobedience and glorious testaments to perfect obedience.

The eyes of the world are fixed on this tiny nation. So small yet so significant. The world’s three major religions intersect at its capital city. Surrounded by its enemies, there are many signs of both war and peace; hatred and love. Navigating its complexity is only overshadowed by the undeniable truth that it exists because God wills it to be. It is a modern-day miracle and testimony to the faithfulness of God.

People from every nation come to seek Him there. As in ancient times, they seek the glory and Presence of the Lord – the visible Glory that once dwelt in a tabernacle and then in a temple. With its destruction in 70 A.D., many now default to the Western Wall – the closest remaining point to where the Holy of Holies used to be.

Zion said, “The LORD has forsaken me, and the Lord has forgotten me.” But the Lord answered, “Can a woman forget her nursing child and have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, but I will not forget you.” “Behold, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands; Your walls are continually before Me” Isaiah 49:14-16 NASB.

But there is no Temple, no high priest, no sacrifice. How could the Lord’s promise to Israel still be true?

Ah, but the Lord did not forget. He sent His one and only Son and inscribed their names (and ours) on the palms of Jesus’ hands – not with ink, but with precious blood. Then He displayed His full Glory – a greater glory than ever before through the power of the resurrection! Rejoice O Jerusalem! Rejoice all the earth! The Lamb has become our great High Priest and has sat down at the right hand of the Throne of God!

Put your finger here, and see My hands…and believe!” – Jesus, John 20:27 NASB

A planting of the Lord

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Holding a seed in your hand, it’s not much to look at. But don’t be deceived, an incredible miracle lies quietly waiting to happen – for life is found just beneath its tiny, unimpressive shell. So full of potential, it must patiently wait to fulfill its purpose.

And those who dare to plant, who courageously look beyond appearances with eyes of faith – for sowing takes both belief and patience. Yes, there will be life, but later. Yes, there will be a harvest, but in due season. And through the miracle of multiplication, the reward inherent in the harvest is fruit containing more seed which, in turn, bears more fruit.

The Scriptural principle is clear: “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone, but if it dies, it bears much fruit” John 12:24 NASB.

In other words, don’t be afraid to be planted. In Jesus, it is your calling. For your earthly covering – your shell contains the incredible Life of Jesus – the imperishable seed of His Word. And like seeds, we remain alone and unfruitful unless we are sown.

Remember this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously” 2 Corinthians 9:6 NASB.

Everyone is sowing something. As sons and daughters of the Lord of the Harvest, we are so full of potential. The question is not if you are sowing, but what will the harvest be? We are His seed and are called to be sowers. And those who give themselves away – who freely sow the Life and love of Jesus – will bear a great harvest of the fruit of righteousness.

So do not hoard the seed nor fear being sown. Rather, fear not being sown. And even if the world stomps you into the ground, remember that’s not a bad place for a seed.

“We shall be called ‘oaks of righteousness’ – a planting of the Lord for the display of His splendor” Isaiah 61:3 NIV.

Rise and Shine

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The dictionary defines it by what it is not.  But much more than the physical absence of light, darkness is a supernaturally powerful force.  It’s all around us – lying in wait – longing to consume every void.  It is militant and invasive; proud and aggressive.  Accepting no compromise, it seeks to dominate, divide and rule.

Laying claim to every unguarded heart and mind, it is a master of doubt and deception.  Under the command of a relentless ruler, its cloak of lies conceals what truly abides there.  Consuming its captives, it oppresses them with distorted vision, false illusions and fear.  Whether enslaving a single soul or entire nation, the daily news of its destructive march makes its kingdom appear hopelessly invincible.

And without light, it is.

But God has not left us to blindly grope in darkness!  “The people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned” Matthew 4:16. Darkness does not overcome the light; it is light that instantly sends the darkness into full retreat and conquers it!

How fast does darkness flee? At the speed of light!

Radiant and beautiful, penetrating and revealing, purifying and liberating, light restores sight and gives life.  More than a mere form of electromagnetic radiation, light is supernaturally bestowed by a gracious Lord: King Jesus, the Glory of the Father, the Light of the World, the Bright Morning Star. “For He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son He loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sin” Colossians 1:13-14.

Our world is a dark place and people desperately need line of sight to beacons of hope.  If the Son has risen on your darkness and made His light to shine in your heart, then it’s time to for you to rise and shine.

For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made His Light shine in our hearts to give us the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.  For you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light.  2 Corinthians 4:6 NIV, Ephesians 5:9 NASB

Are you listening?

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Ding. Ring. Better check. Must like. Have to reply. Follow. Must know. Any updates? Click. Swipe. Post. Next. Watch now or it will be gone. Don’t miss out. Repeat often.

Taking every thought captive” (2 Corinthians 10:5) is getting more and more challenging. No longer just a sifting of good and bad thoughts, we are being inundated with a tidal wave of information 24/7. Torrents of media. Downpours of updates. A deluge of group texts. Monsoons of emails.

And like water running down a mountainside, many of us are taking the path of least resistance.  Once fully immersed, the current moves us swiftly downstream toward more, more, more – and we haven’t even addressed the demands of the workplace that follow us around.

I’m certainly not against media, work, learning, staying connected or devices, but I believe most would agree we are more distracted than ever before. It’s a wonder we can finish a sentence or have a conversation – mind if I reply to this real quick? – without interruption. Our minds are constantly busy, often far away from the present moment and present company.

Today’s technology is teaching us impatience (which I don’t think is a fruit of the Spirit) so that we are not very content with being with one thing for too long – even Jesus. I may be the only one, but when you pray, does your mind jump from one thought to the next? Imagine how disjointed some of our prayers might sound if they were transcribed into actual audible conversations!

So, what’s the answer?  STOP IT. Withdraw and then draw near. Meditate on the beauty of our Lord and His Word. Think deeply. Jot down notes. Talk out loud. Stare in awe. Be still. Wonder. Worship. Enjoy. Abide. Rest. Devote more time to feeding on His Word than checking your feeds. Spend more time staring into His face than into your device.

Jesus has so much to say to us and that’s why many times in Scripture we are cautioned, “He who has ears, let him hear.” Translation: “You may have ears, but are you really listening?” Ears don’t work very well unless the heart and mind are focused and engaged. Let’s commit to doing something different for Jesus’ sake and swim upstream against the prevailing current of media overload.

He awakens Me morning by morning, He awakens My ear to listen as a disciple. Isaiah 50:4b NASB

Good Day Sunshine

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Endowed by God with power and glory, the sun’s reach and impact are inescapable. Its entrance and exit are timed to the minute as it marks our seasons, days and years.

While its energy output has never varied more than 0.1%, a mere 1% increase or decrease would destroy all life on earth. Commanding the center of attention, its immense gravitational force holds our solar system together while providing life-giving light and heat for our little blue planet.

Sunrise. Sunset. Morning. Evening. Day after day. Year after year. Proud. Glorious. Captivating. Because of its precious light, we can use our gift of sight and we have air to breathe and food to eat. Never tiring, never failing – “there is nothing hidden from its heat” Psalm 19:6. Its scorching presence can make us cry for relief and its sustained absence can drive us to depression.

Yes, the sun has plenty to boast about as it majestically sets the rhythm of life. But instead of boasting in itself, it faithfully proclaims the greatness of God. In the beginning, God said, “Let there be light” and the Light of His Presence banished the darkness over the earth. But on the fourth day, God created the sun and endowed it with a portion of His power and glory to continue His work.

The sun shines because God told it to shine. We cannot escape its radiance no more than we can escape His Presence. We have a hard time looking at it without squinting to remind us of His glory and His power. When we call a day “beautiful” because we see it rise, we actually proclaim His beauty. “God is like the sun; you cannot look at it, but without it, you cannot look at anything else” G.K. Chesterton.

So, every time you put them on, remember sunglasses
are actually a testimony to the greatness of God.

In the heavens God has pitched a tent for the sun. It is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, like a champion rejoicing to run his course. So that from the rising of the sun to the place of its setting we may know there is none besides Him. He is the Lord, and there is no other” Psalm 19:4-5; Isaiah 45:6 NIV.

 

a glory that never fades

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Is that a gray hair?  Another wrinkle!  Where did that line come from?  Not as flexible as you used to be?  Lost a step or two?  Feeling more soreness?  Hair thinning?  Stuff sagging?  Eyes not as sharp?  Putting on LB’s?

After we’ve awakened from our collegiate invincibility stupor, it usually doesn’t take long to notice we’re not getting any younger.  Damage control: color, creams, classes, glasses, gizmos, exercise, doctors, diets and fashion concealment techniques.  It’s a battle worth fighting, but the trend line is relentless.

And so “while we are still in this tent, we groan…” 2 Corinthians 5:4.  Did I hear an amen?  Yes, God gave us amazingly beautiful earthly tents we call bodies, but these tents are exposed to the elements, and over time, inevitably show signs of wear and tear.  Every day, we are given these pesky reminders.  But in addition to all our other efforts in search of the fountain of youth, we should firmly drive our tent stakes into these words of wisdom:

Therefore, we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 NIV.

Did you hear that?  Outward decay, inward renewal.  How is that possible?  It’s a transformational, paradoxical miracle, of course.  It’s an incredible redemptive and restorative work of the Holy Spirit of Jesus that doesn’t focus on polishing or patching up the outside, but is wholly committed to complete what He started on the inside.  “And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue His work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns” Philippians 1:6 NLT.

Don’t lose heart!  Why not?  Because the mirror on your wall tells one story, but the mirror into your spirit should tell another.  If our eyes focus only on the first mirror, we may not always like what we see when we look at what is temporary.  But fixing our eyes on the mirror of the unseen reveals an eternal, inner beauty and glory that never fades.  And this truth calls us to make sure our focus is rightfully placed on what is truly worth the investment.

So as the miles on your odometer increase, make sure the wear is only external.

That according to the riches of His glory He may grant you to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in your inner being. Ephesians 3:16

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!

Confessions of a sheep

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Hello. I’m a sheep. I was born that way. I’m really not very good at taking care of myself. You see, I’m not all that smart, get lots of stuff caught in my wool I can’t reach due to flexibility issues and don’t have any defensive skills worth bragging about. I’ve also discovered my “baaaah” is not really threatening to almost anything – especially predators.

Consequently, I tend to live in fear and will run like crazy with the rest of the flock without even knowing why. When you’re at the lower end of the food chain, it’s usually better to run than to be the last one standing around waiting to get picked off. Still, blindly following the crowd has gotten me into some unforeseen trouble on more than one occasion and I don’t recommend it.

I’m not on meds, but I am easily distracted, prone to wander and have a tendency to get lost. I can’t tell you how many wrong paths I’ve been down. I also have such short legs and fluffy coat that if I lie down and roll over, I can’t turn myself over again without outside intervention. I know, it’s quite embarrassing, but true. In short, I’m not very lovable and quite needy – you might say I’m “high-maintenance.”

I’ve followed a number of shepherds over the years and, let me tell you, it matters. I’ve been led astray many times by those who didn’t really care about me. Yep, a Good Shepherd makes all the difference. It’s taken me some time to come to grips with who I am and be able to talk openly about myself, but it’s actually kind of freeing. You see, life is way better when I keep my eyes on the Shepherd who knows everything about me and still loves me.

While there are days I think I want to be a shepherd, experience has taught me I’m not very good at that either. Truth is, I need to follow someone I can trust – someone who will lead me in the right paths – and there’s only one Good Shepherd. Weird, but just being in His Presence calms me down. It’s actually become a source of great comfort for me to keep His staff and the hem of His robe in view since looking elsewhere for what only He can provide is never a good idea.

So, I guess I’m learning to be comfortable in my own wool. My Shepherd actually seems to know how hard it is to be a sheep. And as humbling as it is to admit, I’m pretty much helpless without Him. After all, He is the One who leads me into green pastures and beside still waters. He is my Restorer, my Comforter and my Defender. Surrounded by His goodness and mercy, He is the One who always brings me safely home. And as much as He loves me, it is for His Name’s sake that He is so faithful.

You see, I’m a sheep, and the Lord is my Shepherd.

He tends His flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in His arms and carries them close to His heart. Isaiah 40:11 NIV

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

Spread the Word!

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

Spread the Word!

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

The Challenge Flag

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“Yep, he just threw out the red flag so he’s definitely challenging the call” is a familiar soundbite heard during NFL games when the head coach wants to question the ruling made on the field by the officiating crew.  In the crew’s defense, these full-speed, split-second decisions can be very difficult and they do seem to get it right most of the time.

But once the red flag is deployed, the game screeches to a halt while the lead official watches various replays from many different angles in super slow motion to determine if the original call was accurate (“stands” or “is confirmed”) or needs to be completely reversed.  The moment of truth arrives as the official emerges from the hood, faces the camera, and declares the verdict, “Upon further review…”

We know our culture is refusing to accept more and more of God’s calls, but have you ever thrown out the challenge flag on the Lord?  Guilty.  “God, you really missed that one.”  “That’s not what I expected.”  “I don’t believe that’s true.”  “That’s not fair and I won’t accept it.”  And so out comes the red flag.

Statistics show, on average, coaches win their challenges just about 50% of the time.  How often have you won your challenges against God? Thought so.  Oh, God’s calls are frequently disputed by us on the playing field, but they cannot be reversed because they need not be reversed. We can view them from any angle we wish, argue until we have no more words left to say and replay them over and over in our minds, but God’s rulings are always perfect.

Job didn’t like several of God’s calls and threw out the red flag, “I wish there was an umpire between us, who could lay his hand upon us both!” (Job 9:33).  Been there.  But like each one of us who has questioned the Lord’s accuracy or fairness, He asks, “Will you discredit My justice and condemn Me just to prove you are right?” (Job 40:8 NLT).

Even when we don’t fully understand, we must believe and accept God’s calls as the infallible, indisputable, perfect, good and wise Word and Will for our lives. “I [now] know that You can do all things; no purpose of Yours can be thwarted. You asked, ‘Who is this that questions My wisdom with such ignorance?’ It is I—and I was talking about things I knew nothing about, things far too wonderful for me. I am unworthy—how can I reply to you?  I put my hand over my mouth” (Job 42:1-3; 40:4). Like brother Job, perhaps we aren’t nearly as brilliant as we think we are.

Some of us expend far too much energy challenging God’s calls when we’d be way better off simply obeying His call.  Perhaps a worthy 2017 resolution might be to keep the red flag in our pockets because, upon further review, God’s Word and Will are confirmed.

The law of the Lord is perfect, refreshing the soul. The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple. The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes. The fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever. The decrees of the Lord are firm, and all of them are righteous. They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the honeycomb. By them your servant is warned; in keeping them there is great reward.  Psalm 19:7-11 NIV

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

Let’s save the world

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One of today’s most prevailing mantras has to be the cry to “save the world.”  Impassioned campaigns are urgently championed across the globe to basically save the planet from ourselves.  People are frequently viewed as invasive parasites feeding off and injuring the host – a pandemic that must be neutralized.  Battle lines are drawn and aggressive agendas often consume more vital resources than the actual target of their alarmism.

But while it’s easy to point out examples of overreaching environmental extremism and faulty science, there are also many initiatives which clearly do help protect and preserve our home.  After all, it is God’s garden.  He did give mankind authority over it and charged us with a stewardship to cultivate it and keep it.  We definitely should be wise about such an amazing gift from God.

But God’s love for the planet He created cannot be compared to His passion for people.  In fact, His love could not be expressed through edicts or legislation.  The only way to fully implement His plan was to send Jesus on a personal mission to save the world.  There truly is a global pandemic to be eradicated, but it’s a pandemic of sin – waging war not on the environment, but on our very souls.

Jesus came as the Light of the World to show us the way out.  He spoke powerful words of truth to shine on our path, but words alone would never save us.  The magnitude of this kind of love bound Him to the agony of the cross to willingly bear our sins, but it also pierced the darkness of death and the grave with a victorious resurrection glory.

Like the bird we found in our garage that remained confused and trapped even when we fully opened the main door to let it escape.  It was as though it could not see how to get out when there was no distinct path.  However, after closing the main door and opening a smaller side door, we created a bold light shining into a dark place that clearly showed it the way to freedom.

Jesus boldly opened the door of eternal salvation into the darkness of our world.  As His light-bearers, we have both the power and the privilege to point the way to those trapped in sin.  No matter how dark, there is a path to freedom, and Jesus is The Door.  The best way to help save the world is to shine!

The people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned (Matthew 4:16 NIV).

Spread the Word!

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

The intolerance of tolerance

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Truth is never afraid of a challenge because it withstands the test, but today’s brand of tolerance has retreated into blatant censure and, paradoxically, intolerance.

For centuries, tolerance meant respect for other people who disagreed with you or vice-versa.  It was an attitude allowing freedom of expression and healthy, truth-seeking discussion.  However, the number of those who prefer to suppress conversation about truth in the name of tolerance is increasing exponentially.  Driven by fear, modern tolerance seeks to destroy disagreement by aggressively mischaracterizing any opposing view as “offensive” and then marginalizing those who hold to it – particularly God’s truth.

Even though our nation was founded on biblical principles and religious tolerance, increasingly and ironically, Christians are being targeted and mislabeled as intolerant bigots by a society intent on systematically silencing anyone and eliminating anything that questions its lifestyle or moral choices.  It grieves me deeply to witness this widespread mistreatment and aggression.

God’s truth is, by nature, offensive as it holds error up to the light and pierces deeply into the heart to convict and reveal.  But if we will allow it to work within us, God’s truth is also powerfully transformative as it rescues, corrects, changes and restores.  In spite of all the craziness we see around us, the firm foundation of the Lord stands.  God’s throne is set in heaven.  His Kingdom is unshakable.  His Word is alive.  His-story is not yet finished.

So what are we to do?  We stand firm on the eternal truth of God’s Word – even when ridiculed or persecuted.  We speak the truth in love – even in the face of hate.  We continue to be salt and light in a world becoming increasingly dark and distasteful.  We show grace and mercy.  We remember what it was like to be trapped in darkness.  We proclaim the Good News.  We love our enemies.  We go the second mile.  We pray for our leaders.  We seek to live in peace with everyone.  We fear God rather than man or the punishment of man.  We never ever forget that Jesus is the answer and, if we remain silent, the Enemy will gladly fill in the blanks.

“Violating God’s Word only ends up proving it, not destroying it; and those who have tried to bury it, find that the Bible always rises up to outlive her pallbearers” (Ravi Zacharias).

The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever (Isaiah 40:8 NASB).

Spread the Word!

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

Generations

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As my wife and I watch our children have children, we are even more aware of the impact we have on our family – the ripple that moves across one generation to the next. We look upstream and see great faithfulness to one another and to the Lord – in my parents, who celebrate their 60th anniversary this year, and in my wife’s parents had been married 55 years when the Lord called her mother home. I look around and see my godly wife, and wonderful mother of three, who has been faithfully by my side throughout many blessings and trials for 35 years (as of June 6th). We glance downstream and see God’s plan unfolding in the lives of our three children, the blessing of an amazing son-in-law and daughter-in-law, and the incredible potential and promise in the eyes of our three grandchildren (with hopefully more on the way).

But as a father and grandfather, this verse forces me to look again at the ripple of my life with even a greater sense of accountability and urgency:

All that generation also were gathered to their fathers; and there arose another generation after them who did not know the Lord, nor yet the work which He had done for Israel (Judges 2:10 NASB).

How could that be?!  This was Joshua’s generation. This generation was borne out of the exodus whom God resurrected from the ashes of unbelief to enter the Land of Promise. This generation watched their parents die in the wilderness even as they ate miraculous manna from heaven. This generation walked through the waters of the Jordan River as God parted them at flood stage, saw the walls of Jericho fall, and rejoiced in the Lord giving them the land of milk and honey by the power of His hand. This was the generation that Joshua challenged to “choose this day whom you will serve…but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15 ESV). How could this generation fail to speak of the mighty deeds of the Lord to their own sons and daughters and fail to proclaim His incredible love for His people?

Here is another sobering quote: “To our forefathers, their Christianity was an experience; to our fathers, it was an inheritance; if to us, it is a convenience; then to our children, it will be a nuisance.”

We must not remain silent! Though complacency begets contempt, it is not too late. As parents and grandparents and great-grandparents, we must boldly turn directly into the fierce headwind of a hostile culture that seeks to destroy the very definition of family as well as obliterate any remnant of godly legacy. We must, by the power of the Spirit, reject the love of self, the love of money and the love of pleasure and be lovers of God.

Oh yes, thankfully, God can redeem even those borne out of faithless generations, but that is not His calling on our lives. We are called to faithfulness. We are called to obedience. We are called to truth. We are called to embrace this promise, “From everlasting to everlasting the Lord’s love is with those who fear Him, and His righteousness with their children’s children (Psalm 103:17 NIV).

Each of us has passed through some form of the Red Sea and been rescued by His mighty hand of deliverance. We have been supernaturally fed with His manna from heaven and seen walls fall. We have experienced wandering, unbelief, heartache and despair, but we also have seen the power of forgiveness, the splendor of hope, and given thanks as joy came in the morning. We have rejoiced in God’s faithfulness, seen His promises fulfilled, and been sustained day after day by His amazing grace in Jesus. We have been hidden in the cleft of the rock and seen His glory revealed so many times in our lives. Why would we – how could we remain silent?

Generations are in our hands. Go and tell.

But as for me, I will hope continually, and will praise You yet more and more. My mouth shall tell of Your righteousness and of Your salvation all day long; for I do not know the sum of them. I will come with the mighty deeds of the Lord God; I will make mention of Your righteousness, Yours alone. O God, You have taught me from my youth, and I still declare Your wondrous deeds. And even when I am old and gray, O God, do not forsake me, until I declare Your strength to this generation, Your power to all who are to come (Psalm 71:14-18 NASB).

© 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

The Way Out

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At his birth, a king tried to kill him, but he was hidden and protected by God. Though raised in Egypt for a season, he always knew his identity. He appeared as the long-awaited deliverer proclaiming, “Thus says the Lord, let My people go, that they may serve Me” (Exodus 8:1). After the final atoning act of God through the blood of the Passover lamb, he led God’s people out of slavery to freedom to know and serve Him, and then destroyed their enemies in the waters of the Red Sea. He was the instrument for the Law of God, talked face to face to God, reflected the glory of God, and shepherded God’s people to the land of Promise. Are we talking about Moses or Jesus? Yes.

Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, Jesus explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures. Now He said to them, “These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled” (Luke 24: 27, 44 NASB).

To fully understand Exodus, we must see Jesus. And to fully understand Jesus, we must understand Exodus.

For at His birth, a king tried to kill Him, but He was hidden and protected by God. Though raised in Egypt for a season, He always knew His identity. He appeared as the long-awaited Deliverer proclaiming to the Enemy, “Thus says the Lord, let My people go, that they may serve Me.” As The Passover Lamb, He shed His precious blood as the perfect sacrifice on the cross, He rose from the dead, and He led His people out of slavery to sin, death, and hell to freedom to know and serve God.

For Jesus is our EXODUS, which literally means “the way out.” By His cross and empty tomb, He has parted the waters of judgment to show us the way out, and used those same waters to destroy the Enemy of our souls. He was the complete fulfillment of all the Law, prophecies and promises of God, talked to God face to face, and perfectly reflected the glory of God – a glory, unlike Moses, that will never fade. And as our Good Shepherd, He is leading us to the Land of Promise.

There are so many in our world crying for a way out – for a Deliverer who is already here. His Name is Jesus. Go tell it on the mountain that Jesus Christ is born!

She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21 NASB).

Merry Christmas! Spread the Word!

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

Right-side up

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Yep, you’ve been doing it all wrong.  You know you gamble every time you grab the stem (the bottom of a banana) and try to open it.  It’s like 50/50 that part of the good stuff will break off and you’ll have a dangling mess on your hands. Why not eat a banana like a monkey? God made them banana-peeling experts!  If you watch them, they hold the banana by the stem, pinch the top and then perfectly peel it back.  It’s a beautiful thing and a testimony to us to try the top-down approach next time!

The world is doing it all wrong as well.  Living and seeing life upside down, there are many who distort and capsize the truth.  Calling “evil good, and good evil,” they “substitute darkness for light and light for darkness,” and “substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!” (Isa 5:20 NASB).  Creation, marriage, sexuality, gender, morality, faith, law, and even the miracle of life itself have all been flipped.  Deceived in their thinking, it seems to make sense, but it’s inverted and perverted. “There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death” (Proverbs 14:12 NIV). Wise in their own eyes, they have become fools (Isaiah 5:21).

Jesus came to open our eyes and heart to experience life from a whole new perspective – His.  He said provocative things like love your enemies, bless those who persecute you, go the second mile, forgive those who hurt you, the humble will be exalted, you must be born again, the first will be last and the last will be first, you live by dying, you gain by losing, there’s power in weakness, you receive by giving, there’s freedom in serving, and you find your life by actually giving it away.  What?!  That’s crazy talk…or is it?

We were doing it all wrong.  Sin had flipped us upside down, but Jesus came to save us and set us back on our feet with a new heart, new eyes, and a new song.  In Acts 17, Paul and Silas were preaching the good news about Jesus in Thessalonica and people were being saved.  When an angry, jealous mob attacked the home where Paul and Silas were staying (but couldn’t find them), “they dragged Jason and some of the brothers before the city authorities, shouting, ‘These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also!’” (Acts 17:6 ESV).

May the same be said about us! Like Paul, Silas, Jason and the other believers, we should be on a mission to upright the world.  The world thinks we are turning everything upside down, but in reality, we are turning it right-side up.  We might be seen as threats, but being countercultural is not the goal.  We need to engage culture and captivate it one life at a time.  True, some will dig in and defend their inverted ways, but others will be converted.  As Christ-followers, we need to be living life in remarkable and unexpected ways so people are moved toward the Light and begin to see the Way.

Now, go turn the world “upside down” – Jesus style.

A pupil is not above his teacher; but everyone, after he has been fully trained, will be like his teacher” (Jesus in Luke 6:40 NASB).

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

Trend Line

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If you’ve ever taken a step back to look at a company’s stock chart over a 10 or 20-year time period, you’ve probably seen a graph with a bunch of peaks and valleys that look a lot like a mountain range. These digital highs and lows capture moments in a company’s history – market forces, economic conditions, world events, earnings, innovation, competition, negative and positive news, etc. – all working together to drive its stock price up or down as investors react to short-term events and make judgments about how those events might impact future performance. But through it all, solid, resilient companies weather the volatility and display an upward trend line over time that points toward steady, upward growth and profitability.

So what if you graphed a life like a stock? What would that chart reveal?

If you’re like me, it contains many ups and downs over the years. Such great joys, successes, and blessings from God woven together with difficult defeat, pain, heartache and loss as a result of either my sinful choices or simply by the circumstances of life thrust upon me. Both mountaintops and valleys of the shadow of death. Cries and songs. So what happens when you and I hit a new low? What stops the downward plunge into an even deeper valley?

For me, it’s all about remembering four things:

1) God’s Sovereignty – there is a throne in heaven and our God is on it; life is not out of control; He knew our chart would look like this and His plan for our lives is a good one; He can be trusted; He’s yet to make His first mistake.

2) God’s Word – His promises are faithful and true; they bring hope, healing, and light; they are set in eternal, unchangeable, stone right before our eyes when our hearts are failing and our feelings cannot be trusted; they are life itself for they contain His very breath.

3) God’s Presence – oh how good it is to be near to God; He has adopted us into His family and we belong; He loves us with an everlasting, incomprehensible love; He will never leave us nor forsake us; His Spirit is our assurance, our Comforter, our Encourager; His Presence alone transforms our present into something beautiful.

4) God’s Purpose – He has called us to great purpose in His kingdom and for His glory; loss of a sense of purpose completely shifts the focus on to our pain or sacrifice, but embracing God’s purpose calls us back again and again to look up with line-of-sight to eternity and rejoice. God is with us in our deepest, darkest valleys and His purposes for good are continually at work even in our pain.

While we should not minimize the pain of our lows as we cling to our Rock, neither should we maximize them nor give them the power over us to hinder God’s purposes. We must remain humble in the highs, and hopeful in the lows. Remember that fidelity to His purpose is an anchor of the soul. And by the grace of God and the enabling power of His Spirit, our lives are designed to display an upward and resilient trend line over time ever pointing toward our heavenly calling.

Forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14 NASB).

Spread the Word!

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

“Follow Me”

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Consider the power and implication those words possessed as Jesus spoke them. So compelling was His call that men and women left everything to follow Him.  Looking intently into their eyes – His hand outstretched – a smile on His face, “Follow Me.” Like lost sheep, they rejoiced to hear the voice of the Good Shepherd inviting them into His flock to something greater – to green pastures, quiet waters, and paths of righteousness – behind His loving leadership.

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Presence

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There are many gifts you can give someone, but your presence may be the greatest gift. To enjoy the company of another person – conversation, connection, relationship, face-to-face, eye-to-eye – the mutual sharing of a unique moment in time. While there have always been things that compete for these moments, the competition seems to have intensified. (more…)

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…)

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 (https://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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What will your verse be?

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The Winter Olympics gave us another opportunity to vicariously join in the quest for a place in history – years of hard work, dedication and sacrifice for both personal and national glory – fidelity to a lifelong goal that defines success in hundredths of a second or tenths of a point.  Stories are told that draw us into journeys often overcoming great adversity from across the globe, but all which intersect in one place: Going for the Gold.

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No Room in the Inn?

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Santa’s advent is a done deal, but Jesus’ arrival this year may be as challenging as it was during the Roman census.  Political and cultural correctness are putting up so many barriers that, once again, there’s no room in the inn. With all the hatred of Herod, the spirit of the age seeks to destroy this would-be King.  Corporate America has decorated accordingly in the name of tolerance, but increasingly capitalizes on and commercializes the day.  The hollow ring of “Happy Holidays” has euthanized the decrepit and distasteful “Merry Christmas.” It appears the Grinch stole Christmas again.

What now?  Get angry and revolt?  Give up and withdraw?  Give in and go with the flow?

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Stay Sharp

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Have you ever tried using a dull knife?  You may have been chopping up celery or trying to cut through some rope, but either way, it was difficult. One of my sons owns a custom knife-making company called Gulf Coast Native so I asked what he could tell me about knives. Hoping to hear something profound from someone with insider knowledge, here’s what he said:

1)    A dull knife is practically useless as well as dangerous.
2)    A sharp knife needs attention to remain sharp.

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# your days

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Yesterday, I was praying and God put these words on my heart, “Number your days.”  I always keep a notepad next to me on my commute into the office so I scribbled them down.  It wasn’t an ominous, foreboding word, but more of an affirmation of making the most of each day…and so I let that Word begin to marinate.

But later that same day as a close friend and I were having lunch, my wife called to say that one of our good friends had died.  He was a great man.  A generous man.  A godly man.  A warrior.  Intense and intentional.  He loved life, his family, his Lord and was perpetually on a mission to live life with such passion and purpose.  Heaven’s gain is certainly our loss.

The apostle Paul declared (but I’m sure these same words are also written in Stacy’s journal somewhere), “according to my earnest expectation and hope, that I will not be put to shame in anything, but that with all boldness, Christ will even now, as always, be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death” (Philippians 1:20 NASB).

I completely understand how Jesus can be glorified in our lives, but by our death?   We rejoice that Jesus will be exalted when we see Him face to face as He fully redeems in glory those He purchased by His precious blood.  But I believe the Word here is as much earthly as it is heavenly.

Why does it take the death of someone…especially someone greatly loved and highly respected for His love of Jesus to make us say, “Now what were we arguing about?”  “What was I worried about?”  “What am I doing with my life?”  Exactly.  Oh what forgetful creatures we are!  But as in life, so in death, Stacy is exalting Christ.  The ripple of a life well-lived impacts us, doesn’t it?  Those closest to it feel a greater wave rush over them, but even those standing at a distance are touched.

Moses prayed, “So teach us to number our days, that we may present to You a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12 NASB).  Paul declared, “Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise,making the most of your time, because the days are evil.  So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is(Ephesians 5:15-17 NASB).

Making the most of your time” in the Greek literally means to “redeem or buy up” the time.  We purchase time with our priorities, our choices, and our actions.  Each day is a gift from God of amazing opportunities.  All this is crying out, “If God has so graciously numbered my days, how am I spending my time?”

Stacy’s death is really a call to life.  To wake up and walk wisely.  To reevaluate and make course corrections.  To set aside what is holding you down and push forward to what lies ahead.  To find purpose and passion.  To breathe deeply and smile.  To love life, love Jesus, and love others.  To live for the glory of God and to die with a sword in your hand.

© 2013 Tim McKenzie – www.OnEveryWord.com 

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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The Good Shepherd

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I’ve always been amazed when the Scriptures tell us how Jesus looked at someone and said, “Follow Me.”  Regardless of prior contact or what they’d heard about Him, I believe there was something powerfully attractive in His eyes.  Take the call of Matthew.  One minute Matthew was sitting in his booth collecting taxes for Rome, and the next he “left everything behind” (Luke 5:28) to follow Jesus.

To fully appreciate Matthew’s calling, you have to understand his profession.  The Jews of that day considered tax collectors to be legalized thieves, traitors, the worst of sinners, and moral lepers.  They were excluded from any religious fellowship and were considered to be justifiably condemned by God.  We have no modern-day equivalent that even comes close.  So despised, they were not even lumped in with all the “normal” sinners like prostitutes, drunkards, murderers and thieves.  No, they had a special category all their own as the Bible often records the expression: “tax collectors and sinners” (Matt 9:11; Matt 11:19; Luke 5:30).

But Matthew found favor in the eyes of Jesus and walked away from his old life to pursue a new one.  His first impulse: throw a big party at his house and invite all his friends to meet Jesus!  Matthew, as he remembers that day, writes, …and behold, many tax collectors and sinners came” (Matt 9:10).

When you read the word “behold” in Scripture, you are meant to inhale rapidly and make a gasping sound like something took your breath away.  Try it now to make sure you get it – “and GASP, many tax collectors and sinners came.”  Now, look around the room and picture the crowd at the party – the sinner, the outcast, the hurting, the rejected, the abused, the scorned, the damaged, the needy, the sick.  Keep looking until you find Jesus.  What do you see?  Is Jesus standing in the corner hoping no one comes near Him?  No, Jesus is hanging out and “dining” with them.  He’s having a good time – laughing – listening – building bridges.  Hmmm.

Why am I telling you this story?  Because unlike the Pharisees that came there only to lecture Him (Matt 9:11), Jesus was comfortable being at this party with these people.  More than that, Matthew’s friends felt welcome around Jesus!  I’m not suggesting Jesus shrugged His shoulders at their sins.  Hardly!  He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!  Rather, I’m saying the only ones who felt uncomfortable in Jesus’ presence were the self-righteous Pharisees.  Ask yourself, “do I make others feel welcome in my presence?  What do others see when they look in my eyes?”

Jesus answered their grumblings with, “It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’ for I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (Matt 9:12-13 NASB).  In other words, “Think about what you’re saying.  Would you go to a doctor’s office and complain about all the sick people sitting in his waiting room?”

If we are going to learn what it means to follow Jesus…if we are going learn to look through the eyes of the Savior, we must learn mercy.   Just a few verses later Jesus says, “Seeing the crowds, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd” (Matt 9:36 NASB).  Other versions say “harassed and helpless.”  Literally, Jesus saw them as “downcast.”  If sheep lie down in the grass and accidentally roll over on their backs, a shepherd calls them “cast” sheep.  Like a turtle on its back, they become totally helpless, fully exposed to the scorching sun, and even more vulnerable to predators.  They are doomed to die without the intervention of a shepherd.

Do you get it?  When Jesus looked out at people, He saw them for what they truly were: cast sheep lying helplessly on their backs unable to save themselves – and He was moved to act with deep compassion.  Such is the heart of the Good Shepherd.

Jesus is still calling, “Follow Me.”  But He’s training shepherds, not Pharisees.

© 2013 Tim McKenzie – www.OnEveryWord.com 

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