Archive for the ‘Walking with Jesus’ Category

The Two Paths

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If you’re like me, you are repeatedly drawn back to the very center of the Bible: the Psalms.

These ancient, inspired songs supernaturally connect our lives with the very heartbeat of our Heavenly Father. They openly express vast ranges of raw emotion, ask difficult questions and invoke intimate conversations with God. They take us on a journey from the cries of our darkest valleys to shouts of joy on the highest mountaintops. Uniting heart and head, they invite us to sing along by lifting our eyes (and emotions) to an Eternal Throne and the unchanging Truth of our Mighty God.

When we open this Hebrew hymnal to Psalm 1, we find only 6 verses. Although deceptively short, it is succinctly provocative and significant. Beginning with “blessed” and ending with “perish,” we should be quick to exclaim, “I want to be the blessed one; not the one who perishes!”

And just like that, we are shown there are only two ways: the way of the righteous/blessing and the way of the wicked/perishing.

Jesus also spoke of these same two paths when He told us about the broad way and the narrow way (Matthew 7:13-14) or when He talked about building your life on the Rock, not the Sand (Matthew 7:24-27) or as He spoke about the wheat/tares (Matthew 13:24-30) or the sheep/goats (Matthew 25:29-46) – to name a few.

But with these two ways comes the inescapable call to choose – for the path you walk will determine your eternal destiny.

The path of the blessing is initially described by what it is not. Notice the warning of a slow, downward progression: don’t walk in the counsel/advice of the wicked or you might just end up standing around in the path of sinners and ultimately find yourself sitting down in the seat of scoffers (1:1). What is at first seemingly causal ultimately becomes fixed and final.

Instead, we must cling to the Word of the Lord – and not primarily as a discipline or a duty, but as our “delight” (1:2)!

Think about that! Whatever delights you effects your entire being and gives you great pleasure! In that same sense, if you delight in His Word then you rejoice in reading it and hearing His Voice. Plus, it is Life-giving because of your relationship with the Life-Giver (Psalm 16:11).

And this blessed one “meditates” on God’s Word “day and night” (1:2). You might say, “That’s impossible.” But in the Bible, this Hebrew word is not only used in a good way like “meditate,” but also in a negative sense when someone is “plotting” or “devising” a plan. Most of us can probably recall a time when someone wronged us and, over and over, almost involuntarily, we kept thinking about them while we pondered telling them off or figuring out how to get even!

So how is it we can so easily stew over someone but find it hard to mediate on the Word of God?!

Jesus calls it “abiding” (John 15:5), but either way, we should invite the Word into our hearts every day and nurture an ongoing, delight-full conversation with God. His Word is Spirit and Truth and Life. Breathe deeply and often and allow it to flow through your whole being with its Life-giving power.

And look at the result of clinging to the Word and its Author: You will “be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water” (1:3). More accurately, you will be like a tree that was “transplanted” from one location to another. The Hebrew verb is passive.

In other words, God Himself picked up the tree (that’s you) and planted it next to His streams of Living Water!

This tree is not only firmly planted (gracious, divine intervention), but also:

by streams of water (reliable, abundant provision)
yields its fruit in its season (a timely blessing to others, impactful, a heritage)
its leaf does not wither (drought-proof, a comfort and refuge to others)
in whatever you do, you prosper (the favor of God, divine purpose/fulfillment)

Now contrast this blessed, fruitful tree with those who choose the other path – those who scoff at God and pursue their own way – the way of sin – the way of the world. They are like chaff which is quickly blown away (1:4).

In those days, the harvested wheat was manually beaten on a windy hillside (the threshing floor) to separate the grain of wheat from its husk/chaff. Then the two were thrown into the air and the inedible part (the chaff) was blown away while the good part (the grain) fell to the ground. Why?

Because the useless, weightless chaff was quickly scattered by the wind whereas the valuable, heavy grain neatly fell in place and was gathered.

So it will be in the Day of Judgment (1:5). The Lord knows, cares for and watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish like chaff on a windy day (1:6). Please note: there is no third way.

By the blood of the Lamb, you can stand before God forgiven and clothed in His glorious righteousness or go your own way only to be scattered in ruin by the guilt of your sin.

This is a call to choose. Choose wisely.

—————–

Psalm 1

1 How blessed is the man who
Does not walk in the counsel of the wicked,
Nor stand in the path of sinners,
Nor sit in the seat of scoffers!
2 But his delight is in the law of the Lord,
And in His law he meditates day and night.
3 He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water,
Which yields its fruit in its season
And its leaf does not wither;
And in whatever he does, he prospers.
4 The wicked are not so,
But they are like chaff which the wind drives away.
5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
Nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.
6 For the Lord knows the way of the righteous,
But the way of the wicked will perish.

New American Standard Bible®, Copyright ©1960, 1971, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

The Sounds of Silence

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“Be still and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10 NIV

As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for You, my God. Psalm 42:1 NIV

In the morning, O LORD, You will hear my voice; In the morning I will order my prayer to You and eagerly watch. Psalm 5:3 NASB95

I call on you, my God, for You will answer me; turn Your ear to me and hear my prayer.  Show me the wonders of Your great love…  Psalm 17:6-7a NIV

[The Lord] awakens me morning by morning, He awakens My ear to listen as a disciple. Isaiah 50:4b NASB95

Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of Your law.  Psalms 119:18 ESV

[For] Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.  Psalm 119:105 ESV

Teach me to do Your will, for You are my God; let Your good Spirit lead me on level ground. Psalm 143:10 NASB95

Make me to know Your ways, O Lord; teach me Your paths. Lead me in Your truth and teach me, for You are the God of my salvation…  Psalm 25:4-5 ESV

I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in His Word I hope; my soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning…  Psalm 130:5-6 ESV

O satisfy us in the morning with Your lovingkindness, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.  Psalm 90:14 NASB95

As for me, I will sing about Your power. Each morning I will sing with joy about Your unfailing love.   Psalm 59:16a NLT

It is good to give thanks to the Lord, to sing praises to Your Name, O Most High; to declare Your steadfast love in the morning, and Your faithfulness by night.  Psalm 92:1-2 ESV

Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless His holy name. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget none of His benefits…  Psalm 103:1-2 NASB

This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope. The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness!  Lam 3:21-23 NASB95

Search me, God, and know my heart; try me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there be any hurtful way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way.  Psalm 139:23-24 NASB95

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.

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

The Light in your Eyes

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Your eyes are a doorway to your heart and mind, and a window into your soul.

Jesus said, “The eye is the lamp of the body; so then if your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness” Matthew 6:22-23 NASB.  Since Jesus sandwiches this verse right between talking about laying up your treasure in heaven and that no one is ever able to serve two masters, He is clearly telling us how to have a “clear” eye.

Physically, light bounces off things in our field of vision and enters the eye from the outside to help us form an image on the inside. Spiritually, the same is true, but then it makes a round trip.  For what our eyes feed on eventually reflects outwardly by displaying a bright, glowing fullness or a dull, dark emptying.

What do others see when they look at your eyes? Do they see heavenly love, hope, joy, and contentment? Or do they see earthly envy, strife, fear and discontentment?

If our eyes are primarily focused on the things of this world, then they will be blind to the beauty, glory and goodness of God all around us. God’s Word helps bring our eyes and our hearts sharply back into focus much like a corrective lens. The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes Psalm 19:8 NIV.

Do you want to have a twinkle in your eyes?  A supernatural spark from within? The Light of Life? 

Turn your eyes upon Jesus. Make Him your treasure. Feed your spirit daily with the Word of God. See the unseen hand of God at work with the eyes of your heart. Gaze on the beauty and wonder of His creation, but worship the Creator and not the created.

Stare intently at the things that are praiseworthy, lovely, true and excellent. Focus on the light of grace, the glow of generosity and the brightness of the love of Jesus. Then let your heart and mind dwell on these things.

Stoke a holy fire within and the Light in your eyes will tell the story.

For at one time you were darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord. Walk as children of Light. Ephesians 5:8 ESV

 

Thirsty?

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Nothing quenches our thirst like water and every morning we begin a new quest for it. Most of us take it for granted since we don’t have to search any farther than a refrigerator or faucet, but for many worldwide it’s a daily challenge and fight for survival. Fresh water that’s free of disease and harmful chemicals is a true blessing.

Since God composed our bodies of 60% water and every single cell requires it to function properly, this quest is absolutely essential for life. Most of us need at least 2-3 liters/day and without it, we would die in less than a week.

As great as our need for physical water, our need for spiritual water is infinitely greater. Yes, our mouths are parched, and we naturally crave water to satisfy that thirst. But our souls are also designed by God to thirst, and to discover this thirst can only be satisfied in Him. We cannot drink physical water from just anywhere unless we want to risk sickness, disease or death and the same is true for us spiritually.

My people have committed two sins: they have forsaken Me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.” Jeremiah 2:13 ESV

God obviously isn’t talking about drinking water. His people no longer drank from His spring of living water but created an alternate supply of their own choosing. Surprisingly, there never seemed to be enough. They abandoned the only everlasting and soul-satisfying supply for brokenness.

What satisfies the thirst of your soul?

Remember what Jesus said to the woman at the well: “Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst…a well of water springing up to eternal life” John 4:13-14 NASB. So, if I’m still thirsty with such an unlimited supply of living water in Jesus, I wonder why?

Drench your soul every day by drinking deeply from the Fountain of Life. Be washed by His Word and bathed by His Presence! And rather than a pond, be a river of refreshment to others!

“Let anyone who is thirsty come to Me and drink. Whoever believes in Me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” Jesus, John 7:37-38 ESV

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

Shiloh

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Nestled on a grassy hillside 25 miles north of Jerusalem, you’ll find some excavated stones with lots of scattered pieces of pottery quietly paving the ground. But 3,500 years ago, Joshua made a home for the tabernacle in Shiloh and it became the center of worship of Jehovah God for the next 369 years.

As we stood on that hilltop, we imagined we were among the twelve tribes who gathered to worship as the glorious Presence of God filled the Holy of Holies. Families would bring a sacrificial meal, and once offered, would break the pot as both the meal and the vessel were considered holy unto the Lord. And so, the fragments on which we walked took on whole new meaning.

Can anything beautiful come from such brokenness?

For it was on these fragments a barren, broken and weeping Hannah walked to the door of the tabernacle to beg the Lord for a child (1 Samuel 1:20). God poured the oil of joy onto her pain, answered her prayer and blessed her with a son named Samuel.

And Shiloh had visited us before we visited Shiloh.

After the birth of her first child, our daughter-in-law experienced a miscarriage and cried out to the Lord for another child. God heard her prayer and in February of this year, Samuel was born to Mollie and Jon.

A year ago, our daughter called in tears with news the fertility specialist said her chances of pregnancy were very slim. Yes, the Lord had already blessed her with three wonderful children, but she longed for a fourth. We agreed to ignore the test results and, in faith, cling to God. Within three months, God answered her prayer and just 2 days ago, Hannah was born to Jenn and Ellis.

It’s humbling to think my wife and I were in Shiloh in April, at the very spot where Hannah prayed. Standing on the brokenness of sacrifice, we were overwhelmed with the beauty and goodness of God. How grateful we are for two daughters (and two husbands) of faith and a faithful God.

Is there brokenness you need to bring to God and ask Him to transform into something beautiful? It’s time to go to Shiloh.

“And in due time Hannah conceived and bore a son, and she called his name Samuel, for she said, “I have asked for him from the Lord.” 1 Samuel 1:20 ESV

 

Distracted Driving

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Look out! That was a close one! It’s true. I can get distracted while driving, and I’m pretty sure many of you also struggle with the same problem. Every time we get behind the wheel, we are faced with the challenge of keeping our eyes on the road. There are so many things that can pull our focus elsewhere – kids, texts, calls, music, directions or just getting lost in thought.

Somehow, we believe we are such experts that we can put driving on autopilot while we take care of these distractions. These either take our hands off the wheel, our eyes off the road or mental or emotional things can send us into a stupor as if we were intoxicated. Texting does all three and tops the naughty list according to accident statistics. Bad things can happen when we get distracted.

On the spiritual highway, we must also guard against distracted driving.

Every day, we are bombarded with so many things that can move our eyes off the Way. From the normal demands of life to worldly pride and desires, our hearts and minds can be pulled away from following Jesus. We put our calling – our faith – our love for Jesus and His purposes on autopilot while preoccupied by lesser things. The distractions are many, but each with the potential for a crash.

What is taking your eyes off the road spiritually? Earthly pursuits, popularity, pride, laziness, selfishness, disappointment, worry, fear, busyness – it doesn’t really matter what as long as it successfully pulls you and keeps you out of God’s lane.

Yes, we are human, we live in a sinful world and we are prone to swerve. That said, some of us need to wake up, disconnect the autopilot and get back on course. Name your distraction and bring it before God. He’s not some judge in a traffic court, but a merciful Father on a Throne of Grace with a compassionate Savior at His right hand. Remember, He has already made provision for whatever it is with the blood of Jesus. And since there are no expert drivers spiritually, He has given us the best driving instructor ever in the Holy Spirit.

Let’s keep our eyes on the road.

Jesus said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” Matthew 22:37

 

The Fragrance of Prayer

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Every morning and evening, Aaron would burn incense on the golden Altar of Incense located immediately before the veil separating the Holy Place from the Ark of the Covenant in Holy of Holies. Constantly burning, it was the closest object in the Tabernacle to the glorious Presence of God.

The incense was made from a unique recipe given by God in Exodus 30:34-38. This was God’s fragrance – “most holy unto the Lord” – reserved solely for this purpose. As it was consumed, it produced a sweet aroma and smoke ascending day and night. Once a year, on the Day of Atonement, the priest would cleanse the Altar of Incense with sacrificial blood.

Why am I telling you this?

Because the Altar of Incense is a picture of the prayers of God’s people. Prayers of faith reserved solely for the Lord being offered day and night – a fragrant aroma ascending like smoke to the Throne of God. David connects the dots for us, “May my prayer be set before You like incense; may the lifting up of my hands be like the evening sacrifice” Psalm 141:2.

And before you say, “But I’m not living in the Old Testament and haven’t been to the Tabernacle lately,” consider this. Having been cleansed by the blood of the Lamb, this altar can also be seen as a picture of Christ’s glorious mediation. Our Great High Priest sits at the right hand of the Throne of God always making intercession for us.

But there’s more.

What is no longer found in an earthly tabernacle or temple, now rests in a Heavenly One. At the Throne of God, Revelation 5:8 shows us “golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints” and Revelation 8:3-4 describes an angel “at the altar, holding a golden censer; and much incense was given to him, so that he might add it to the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar which was before the throne. And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, went up before God out of the angel’s hand.”

So, when you pray, why not picture this incredible scene in heaven? See your prayers ascending like a holy offering of incense from the temple of your heart to the Throne of our great God!

Pray without ceasing. 1 Thessalonians 5:17

Make Me Smile

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Looking into the face of another, there’s nothing quite like a smile. Think about the face-to-face interaction between a parent and child. Parents spend hours of face time trying to get their newborn to smile. Then finally, around 6-8 weeks old, it happens, and mom and dad rejoice! For what cannot yet be communicated with words, is so easily said with a smile. With such limited understanding and literally zero vocabulary, a baby speaks volumes by something so simple – and so do we.

As one of the very first things we learn, it stands as one of the most powerful God-given powers we possess. Intricately woven into our hearts and minds, smiles make the face shine and put light in the eyes. Some of us try to smooth out those smile lines as we age, but they really are a beautiful testimony to our outlook on life. They stand as visible evidence that things are well with our souls – that we love laughter and, as the proverb says, “smile at the future.”

Isn’t it interesting all people smile in the same language? It’s truly an expression that transcends all boundaries. It puts joy, optimism and delight on display. It radiates warmth and communicates acceptance. It makes you feel welcome and draws you in. We cannot overestimate its impact because it’s proven to be highly contagious.

The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make His face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn His face toward you and give you peace. Numbers 6:24-26 NIV

In the Hebrew, grace, often translated favor, means “to be cheerful; to bestow delight and joy.” It is highly connected to both a greeting and the face. Because of this, the Scriptures frequently couple it with the phrases “in the eyes of” or “in the sight of.”

With the eyes of your heart, look up at the face of God and one feature should be sharply in focus. Do you see it? He’s not frowning or shaking His head, He’s got a big smile and “yes” written all over His face. And oh, how He loves to shine His amazing grace on you in Jesus – not just in salvation, but throughout all your days.

You have much to smile about today. 😃

Make Your face shine on Your servant; save me in Your steadfast love! Psalm 31:16 ESV

I can’t get no satisfaction

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It’s hard to stay contented in this age of discontentment. Not long ago, people simply repaired things rather than continually replacing. Ever wonder why fashions have to change every single year – why closets were much smaller in older homes – why warranties used to be way longer – why fixer-upper shows are so popular – why private storage units are virtually a modern-day necessity?

Every day we are exposed to literally hundreds of ads telling us what we have is inadequate (not to mention the walking billboards of comparison we are to one another). We live in a land where powerful forces create and then prey on our discontentment. And when we buy into what they are selling, we are actually feeding the hand that bites us.

This vortex of discontentment has a strong pull. Envy. Entitlement. Excess. Appearances. Self. Pride. If you’ve ever had a “that’s so last year” or “I have nothing to wear” moment looking into your jam-packed closet, then you know what I mean. I cleaned out my closet the other day and was embarrassed that nothing I gave away was actually worn out!

Relax. The goal is NOT to make you feel guilty, sell all your possessions, be poorly dressed or bypass remodeling your home. Jesus has not given us a spirit of guilt, but freedom to enjoy all His blessings! But we should take note of how our hearts are prone to wander. They are so easily distracted and attracted by the things of this world, fret over so much that doesn’t truly matter and tend to confuse wants with needs.

We must protect our hearts from the spirit of the age. Walk by The Spirit. Invest in eternal things – in things that never go out of style and stand the test of time. Build the Kingdom. Love people. Hold things loosely. Guard against excess. Set personal boundaries. Be generous. Count your blessings. And be grateful. Remember Jesus told us, “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” Matthew 6:21.

The contentment we seek is found when Jesus is our treasure.

“Don’t worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Isn’t life more than food and the body more than clothing?” – Jesus in Matthew 6:25

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

In all things as we are

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For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Hebrews 4:15

We have little problem seeing Jesus as the Son of God, but we rarely think about what He felt as a man. This verse doesn’t ask us to consider if Jesus would have sinned (since He did not), but that He could have sinned – that He was truly tempted.

In the wilderness, we clearly see Jesus tempted by the devil to miraculously satisfy His hunger, to sensationally put God to the test, and to blatantly worship the Enemy – yet without sin. But to better understand “in all things as we are,” we need to widen our gaze.

Was Jesus ever tempted to summon angels to rescue Him or call down fire from heaven to destroy His enemies? Was He tempted when they mocked Him to save Himself while on the cross? Was He ever tempted by the many women He ministered to? According to the Word – yes, but without sin.

Was Jesus ever tempted by His power or popularity or when He was misunderstood, rejected or falsely accused? Was He ever tempted to lash out in anger or seek revenge because of betrayal? Was He tempted to avoid the cross altogether? Yes, but without sin.

If these temptations and many more were not real, then Jesus was merely an actor playing a role and reading from a script. Never! Being fully God, Jesus possessed all divine power, but to resist temptation, He deferred to the Father’s will precisely because He was fully man.

Jesus knows what it is like to wear flesh, to feel its limitations, to experience its desires and its disappointments – yet without sin. He sympathizes with our weaknesses. Don’t allow your temptations or your sins to keep you from Him. Don’t picture God frowning and shaking His head in disgust.

Because of Jesus, there is a fountain filled with a Savior’s cleansing blood, a Spirit within you to help fight the spiritual battles waging war against you and a merciful Father with arms open wide. Remember, the Son of God is also the Son of Man.

Therefore, let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace,
so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
Hebrews 4:16 NASB

Anchor Point

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To resist the changing tides, the wind and waves, and firmly hold its position, every ship needs a good anchor. But an anchor’s ultimate success or failure is not simply dependent on its own weight or design, but rather on the reliability of what it is anchored to.

When the Scripture speaks of shipwrecks (1 Timothy 1:19), drifting (Hebrews 2:1), hidden reefs (Jude 1:12) and being tossed by the wind and the waves (Ephesians 4:14, James 1:6), instead of referring to maritime vessels, it uses these words as warnings for you and me.

What will help us resist the strong tides of temptation or being tossed here and there by waves of doubt?  What will stabilize us when storms are threatening to wreck our lives on hidden reefs?  What will save us from ever so slowly drifting into despair?  What will keep our hearts and minds from being pulled away by the currents of fleshly desires, the pride of life and the love of this world?

To successfully navigate this vast and challenging sea of life, we’re going to need a good anchor – but more than that, we must have a faithful Anchor Point.

Jesus is the only Solid Rock, our only Saving Refuge, the only Firm Foundation.  And He has given us faithful and true promises we must cling to.  Every time we read His Word, believe it, claim it and live it out, we are holding fast to imperishable links in an unbreakable chain.  Day by day, we will begin to see and even feel that chain pulling tightly to secure us and keep us anchored to the Rock.

To help you do so, please sign up to receive an Anchor Point from me every Monday morning – an encouraging thought anchored in Scripture.  Just text the word “anchorpoint” to 31996 – it’s free.  Then, think deeply about what you receive, and anchor your heart, mind, and soul to the unshakable Truth of our faithful God.

This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil. Hebrews 6:19 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

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 Lover of your Soul

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For the shepherd in the areas surrounding Jerusalem, the care of his sheep was a full-time commitment. From the safety of the home-front to higher grounds and back again, the seasonal journeys were necessary to find new pastures and fresh waters. While on the road as night fell, the shepherd would construct a make-shift sheep pen out of available brush and he himself would bed down as the literal door to that shelter. This would ensure that his sheep could not wander nor predators attack without first crossing over him.

Periodically, a shepherd would become ill or need to take a few days off and so a rent-a-shepherd – a hired hand had to be called in. While he would go through the same basic routine, there was one huge contingency: if and when a wolf came, the hired-hand fled (John 10:12-13). Why? These weren’t his sheep. Why risk his life over a few days hourly wage?

Not so the Good Shepherd.

He knows His own and lays down His life for the sheep (John 10:11). As the Door, those that hear His voice and enter through Him, will go in and out and find pasture (John 10:9). They are saved and safe; they are free and flourish in His care. The Good Shepherd is so protective and compassionate about His sheep because He once experienced life from their point of view – our point of view. He has heard our cries and knows how desperately we need Him.

Behold, the Lamb of God is the Good Shepherd!

And on that very last Passover, He became the once-and-for-all sacrifice to take away our sin as His innocent body was broken and His precious blood poured out on a door in the shape of a cross. For the Enemy of our soul came to destroy us, but the Good Shepherd did not flee. Rather, He fought for us and triumphed over sin, hell and death. He willingly gave His life and then rose again so that we could have life, and have it abundantly (John 10:10).

This is our Good Shepherd – the Lover of our souls. He is our Passover – our Exodus – our Door. And the horror of the Cross is only overshadowed by its wonder. For Jesus loves me, this I know.

Now the God of peace, who brought up from the dead the great Shepherd of the sheep through the blood of the eternal covenant, even Jesus our Lord, equip you in every good thing to do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen. (Hebrews 13:20-21 NASB).

What did you say?

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It is nothing short of a miracle to be able to contract our diaphragm to force a compressed, invisible column of air across vocal cords that carve it into sound waves perfectly sculpted by our tongue, mouth and lips, producing intelligible sounds we call words.  In this amazing gift, God has given us the power of creation – the authority to fashion our words and to not merely communicate, but to relate.

But with this privilege comes great responsibility.  Perhaps if we understood the full power of our words, we’d be more careful about their use.  For in their deployment, we either curse or bless – tear down or encourage – wound or heal – speak death or life.

Regardless of whether they are carefully planned or carelessly spoken, as their masters, we give our words assignments with specific purposes to accomplish.  For once they reach the intended ear of another, it’s a very short distance to their heart, mind and soul.  And many of us have made agreements with harmful words spoken over us that have taken root in our lives.

In spite of repeated warnings in Scripture to keep it, restrain it, and bridle it, we can abuse our stewardship of speech.  When we do, we crush the spirit, wound like a sword, set on fire, stir up anger, tear down, slander, deceive, curse and create division.  Our tongue can be a relentless evil full of deadly poison.

BUT gracious words are sweet to the soul and health to the body.  Good and wise words make the heart glad.  They soothe, cover offenses, turn away wrath, adorn with knowledge, encourage, thank, bless, show love, build up, and impart joy and delight.  They are a tree of life.

You must never underestimate the power of a kind word – a word of encouragement – a timely word – a life-giving word.  Every time you open your mouth, remember God has given you the power to cultivate something in another.  Think!  Be quick to listen and slow to speak.  Don’t tear down what you are hoping to create.

Ask the Spirit to stand guard over the door of your mouth, and let only wise, gracious words leave the premises.  Ask the Spirit to bring to mind where you either need healing or need to bring healing.  We must break the power of any curses spoken over us and reverse the curses we have spoken over others by declaring truth and asking forgiveness.

Since death and life are in power of the tongue, choose life.

Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips. Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.  Psalm 141:3; 19:14

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

The War Zone

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If you’re like me, a trip into your heart and mind is like traveling into a battlefield. We are under constant attack – besieged by external forces and confronted by internal thoughts and feelings that wage war against our souls.

Otherwise, why would the Word command us to guard our hearts and take every thought captive? Why would the Word warn us not to be led astray and not to be deceived? Why would the Word instruct us to stand strong against the schemes of the devil and not to be ensnared by the empty lies of this world?

We are at war. Every day, we are bombarded with misinformation – propaganda designed to deceive, distract, and destroy. Like foreign operatives, it covertly infiltrates our thoughts to create confusion, discouragement and doubt. It is not accidental. Rather, it is the tactical deployment of a plan to make you forget who you are, question your Supreme Commander and abandon your mission.

However, we are not defenseless. We are not destined for destruction. “For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but have divine power to destroy strongholds.” 2 Corinthians 10:3-4 ESV.

God’s Word, energized by the Spirit of Truth, is our defense and protection. It binds and secures all the pieces of our armor. It renews our mind and clarifies our thoughts. It covers our heart and keeps our emotions on a short leash. It exposes lies and overcomes the onslaughts of the evil one.

Without it, we become prime targets as we walk blindly into the enemy’s sights. With it, we wield a powerful, offensive, supernatural weapon. Never leave the Sword of the Spirit in the corner of your room.

Pick it up. Remind yourself what you know to be true.

Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth.” ~ Jesus in John 17:17

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

From Recovery to Revival

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The rains have stopped for now, but many are afraid and living in uncertainty about what is to come.  We have all seen – and some of us have actually become – those heroes risking their own lives to save others.  Dramatic rescues.  Emotional reunions.  People leaving almost everything behind having only gratitude as they stand on dry ground.

So as blue skies appear overhead this morning and we slowly begin to move from rescue to recovery, there will be so much opportunity for the body of Christ to unite and come alongside to help in the coming months.  The recovery process in Houston will be monumental.  Many of us will take people in, care for those in shelters, help with the clean up or pick up a hammer to rebuild.

But we must not forget that our God “sits enthroned – sits as King – over the flood” (Psalm 29:10) and that He is “mightier than the thunders of many waters” (Psalm 93:4).  We must not forget that even in disaster, He has purpose.  The challenge for us now is to fully embrace that purpose.

Can you see God’s mercy even in this catastrophe?  People have been rescued literally from death, yet in His sovereignty, He granted them another day of life.  They could have perished in the flood, but they did not.  That’s mercy!   His mercy.  Can you see it?

And now that they are safe from the floodwaters of Harvey, are they truly safe?  They may have been rescued by a boat, but are they in the ark?  Jesus is our ark.  Our only place of safety.  Our only mighty refuge from the storm.  And the good news is, the Door is still open!

The body of Christ now has a tremendous opportunity to continue to lovingly meet physical needs while seeking to turn fear into faith and despair into hope.  Recovery can lead to revival!  Can you see it?

Oh Lord, by the power of Your Spirit, help us to convert the current momentum of physical rescue and provision into spiritual rescue and revival.  You are still the God of this city.  Unite the body of Christ like never before and use us to bring people to the Door of the Ark.

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.  Psalm 46:1

 

 

 

Hallelujah!

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Music is a universal language that we all speak fluently.  It makes us feel and move and sing.  We turn up the volume and sing along even if our voices are not ready for prime-time or we can’t actually hit all the notes.  And those of us who cannot play a real instrument are virtual all-stars on air guitar, drums and keyboard.

Music resonates deeply within us, easily sways our emotions and can instantly transport us to other times and places.  It’s so captivating, we unconsciously memorize lyrics and can sing-along perfectly with songs we have not heard in years.

But there is a singular type of music that is set apart above all others.  Only one that supernaturally unites heart, mind and soul.  Only one that penetrates to the very core of our being and yet resonates within the throne room of heaven.  Only one that joins the song of our heart with the song of all creation.

The praise of God.

Songs of praise – especially when they incorporate the words of Scripture – create a spiritual symphony that both honors the only One worthy of such praise and aligns our hearts to beat with His.  Orchestrated by the Spirit of God, praise produces a harmony like no earthly composition.  It is simultaneously a passionate chord, a liberating Word and a piercing sword.  Does it not cause your lips to sing, your soul to agree and your life to move in the key of God?

I’m going to venture a guess that one of your favorite parts of the Bible – a place you return to time and time again – is the Psalms.  Ever wonder why?  They are songs!  Supernatural songs!  Songs of salvation and praise.  Hymns of hope and deliverance.  Anthems of thanksgiving and joy.  And while we don’t have the original musical score, the Spirit of God supplies a worthy accompaniment as we “sing” them.

On a family trip earlier this month, our 2-year-old grandson, Graham, picked up a silent wireless speaker, shook it and kept saying “Hallelujah!”  He knew where praise usually came from and he wanted to hear it.  What’s crazy is almost no song we play has that word in it!  Think about it: he could have shaken it and said, “Music!” or “Sing!” or many other things, but he said “Hallelujah!”

Go shake your speaker today!

From the lips of children and infants You have ordained praise because of Your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger.  Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless His holy name – that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent. Come, let us sing to the Lord!  Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation.  Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises!  Psalm 8:2, 103:1, 30:12, 95:1, 98:4

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If you want to have a powerful worship experience in the Psalms, try Shane and Shane’s “Psalms Vol 2.”  

 

 

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

Chains

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It’s not a sin to live in Sodom and Gomorrah, but Sodom and Gomorrah should not live in us.  No matter the location, size or demographics of your city, the alluring pull of the world is ever-present.  And with social media and the Internet, our city’s limits have expanded to vast dimensions – and so have the rivals for our hearts.

We were created to love, but we are warned “not to love the world nor the things in the world” (1 John 2:15).  When we do, we marry our identity, purpose and affection to something other than Jesus.  It’s as though we handcraft idols to worship and grant control of our lives.  These modernized idols are usually not made of stone, wood or gold, but manifest in possessions, comfort, approval, accomplishment and control.

Regardless of how patiently and subtlety we may have been wooed – regardless of how adamantly we may deny possessing them – God is calling us to turn our back on these idols.  We must destroy them by seeing them for what they are, breaking off the power we’ve granted them and looking to Jesus to set our hearts free.  Jesus warns that we “cannot serve two masters.”  We cannot wholly serve one without “hating” the other (Matthew 6:24).

Oh, you might selectively love God, but when His way and your expectation do not align, you will rebel and cling to your idol.  God says to you, “Find contentment in Me.  I know what is best for you,” but you answer with the voice of your idol, “I must have this – I deserve this – and since You will not give it to me, I will get it for myself.”  A divided heart is always conflicted and never truly free to serve God.  Wake up!  See the chains enslaving you to these idols!

Consider Lot.  He and his family actually lived in Sodom and Gomorrah where Lot was a city elder.  And when God called them to leave before He judged those cities, He warned them to escape and “not look back” or they would also be swept away.  But Lot’s wife did look back and lost her life (Genesis 19:17-26).  Something behind her was more compelling to her heart than what lay ahead.

God has called us out.  He has commanded us to turn from idols to serve the true and living God.  By His gracious Spirit, He has empowered us to escape their lies and be set free in His truth.  Jesus died and rose again to break these chains and bind our wandering hearts to Him.  Why in the world would we look back?!  But if we waver in heeding God’s warning, Jesus has three words to bring us to our senses: “Remember Lot’s wife” (Luke 17:32).

But that should not be our story.  We are not of those who shrink back to destruction, but of those who have faith to the preserving of the soul (Hebrews 10:39). It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery (Galatians 5:1).

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

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

Spread the Word!

© 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

Just pray

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Regardless of the place or your posture
whether kneeling or standing
walking or sinking
in a church or a cell
in a car or on a cross
in public or in secret
in the quiet of the morning
or the midst of a storm

PRAY

With just a few words
or a whole chapter
with groans and tears
or praise and thanksgiving

PRAY

With a whole heart
and a pure heart
and never lose heart
at all times
and in every place
keeping alert in it
with all perseverance

PRAY

Fervently
earnestly
confidently
in faith believing
without doubting
and without ceasing
according to His will
and abiding in His Word

PRAY

In the Spirit
for the glory of God
in Name of Jesus
knowing He alone is able.

“Be joyful in hope,
patient in affliction,
faithful in prayer.”

Romans 12:12 NIV

© 2016 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

Sweet dreams

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So how did you sleep last night?
  Apparently, about 40% of us don’t usually sleep that well.  There are many reasons why ranging from an uncomfortable bed, to medical issues, to taking care of kids, to noise or light.  Sometimes it’s just beyond our control, but often it’s because we can’t unplug from technology, life or work.  Our minds are being constantly stimulated.  We wake up in the middle of the night and our to-do list begins to scroll in our heads.  Our hearts begin beating faster.  We stress.  We fear.  We worry.  We plan.  Our sleep deficit leads to decreased concentration, less creativity, lower energy, decreased effectiveness, moodiness, illness, depression, and more accidents, to name a few of the unhealthy byproducts.

God designed sleep for us to unplug and allow our bodies to rest, restore, repair, replenish and reenergize.  We need sleep.  Although not often enough, we say we “slept like a baby.”  Why?  Because a baby doesn’t have a worry or a smartphone or a to-do list.  We wish our children and grandchildren “sweet dreams,” and our prayers with them almost always include a request that God give them a good night’s sleep.  Seems like we should pursue God for the same thing?  After all, sleep is a gift from God.  Our Good Shepherd is the one who “makes us lie down” (Psalm 23:2).

God designed us to put our hands to good work, but He never intended for work to dominate our lives and push Him to the side.  “It is vain for you to rise up early, to retire late, to eat the bread of painful labors; for God gives to His beloved even in his sleep” (Psalm 127:2 NASB).  God lovingly blesses us with sleep as we rest in Him – as we “cast our cares upon Him” (1 Peter 5:7).  Pray before you close your eyes at night, give Him praise for the day, mediate upon all His faithful promises, and put your needs and cares in His loving hands.  A grateful heart is like a supernatural sleeping pill.

God gives sleep as a blessing, but He sometimes withholds sleep to get our attention.  As David testifies, “When I kept silent about my sin, my body wasted away through my groaning all day long.  For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; my vitality was drained away as with the fever heat of summer” (Psalm 32:3-4 NASB).  If you’re experiencing restless nights, maybe it’s the hand of God.  Ask Him to create in you a clean heart.  Try confessing your sins to Him.  A clear conscience is way better than counting sheep.

Fear attacks like a predator to torment our hearts and minds, but it is God alone who stands watch to defend us while we sleep.  You may lose consciousness, but God thinks about you all night long.  “In peace I will both lie down and sleep, for You alone, O Lord, make me to dwell in safety” (Psalm 4:8 NASB).  “When you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet” (Proverbs 3:24 NASB).  We fear so many other things, when “the fear of the Lord leads to life, so that one may sleep satisfied, untouched by evil” (Proverbs 19:23 NASB).  Walk with the Lord, obey Him, trust Him and fear not!  A calm assurance in our Rock is like a soft pillow.

While some of us may truly need to seek counsel from a medical doctor, the majority of us can get a great night’s sleep from regular visits with the Great Physician.  So tomorrow morning, I pray the words of Jeremiah become your waking testimony: “At this, I woke up and looked around. My sleep had been very sweet” (Jeremiah 31:26 NLT).

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

Help! I’m Surrounded!

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Say you are browsing a website and leave without making a purchase (I know for some of us that rarely happens, but just say it does). Later on, you move on to a completely different site and notice a remarkable coincidence: a banner ad appears from that first website for the exact same product(s) you were looking at! What the heck is going on?!

Welcome to “behavioral retargeting.” A technique perfected over the last few years that tracks your behavior and then follows you around on the internet with an “on-the-fly” ad to encourage you to return and make that purchase.

When this “retargeting” first happened to me, I thought it was kind of cool because it reminded me I needed to buy this or that. But when I noticed multiple banner ads all populated with stuff I had looked at on various sites, it hit me: I’m surrounded by myself! All I see mirrored are my desires and my preferences. Everything else has been eliminated from view. It’s a closed system designed to cater to self (and self likes it).

And what concerns me about this on the web, is also true in life.

Self is strong and vocal. It really doesn’t need to be fed. Using a scriptural metaphor, it’s a “noisy gong and a clanging cymbal” (1 Corinthians 13:1 NASB). “Look at me!” “Listen to me!” “Please me!” “Gimme!” Most of us call that being self-centered and retargeting gives us a glimpse in visual form.

Jesus said, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me” (Luke 9:23 NASB). Not self-neglect, but self-denial. It’s essential and it’s daily. It’s as though self must be crucified so that the Spirit of Christ may fully live in us. I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me…” (Galatians 2:20 NASB).

To accomplish this, God tells us to “clothe ourselves with humility” and lay down our lives daily at the foot of the cross as a “living sacrifice” (Romans 12:1). The Lord “opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (1Peter 5:5 NASB). Pride feeds the flesh and self grows dangerously strong, but humility nourishes the Spirit and bears much fruit.

We do not deny ourselves with willpower alone; we deny ourselves by submitting to, being filled with, and walking in the Spirit. It’s simply impossible to be full of yourself and be filled with the Spirit at the same time – there’s just not enough room in there! No wonder “SELF control” is a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23).

So don’t surround yourself with yourself. Surround yourself with godly friends who manifest the life and love of Christ. And as for you personally, “throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes.  Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy” (Ephesians 4:22-24 NLT).

Jesus around you; Jesus within you. Surround yourself with Jesus.

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…)

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