Believe!

iStock_000016759123SmallWhen we try to live up to society’s ideals and standards we can either become extremely prideful, because we have strived to reach the goal, or incredibly disappointed because we have failed to measure up.

The reality is society’s ideals are unrealistic and nearly impossible to sustain. When we try to attain them, we have to strive, push and control every variable in the process. Society tells us what we need to look like, what we need to wear, how much money we should make, what car we should drive so that we can finally be enough to receive the proverbial pat on the back.

The truth is we can come to God just as we are, and all of the pressure can come off. We can find acceptance through Jesus Christ and His sacrifice on the Cross alone. He was perfect for us, died for us and was raised from the dead for us; and now we can rest in His perfection.

When we come to our devotional times of prayer we can have confidence that God sees us perfect in Jesus. As we simply receive Jesus Christ into our hearts, we receive His abundant supply of grace and His gift of righteousness that causes us to reign in life (Romans 5:17).

The Kingdom of God is counter to society’s demands. Society demands that we go to extreme lengths to measure up to its standards: extreme dieting, plastic surgery, endless work hours, debt and competition. The Kingdom of God is righteousness, joy and peace in the Holy Spirit (Romans 14:17). It has nothing to do with the external life and everything to do with the internal life. There is a peace that comes from resting in Jesus and His righteousness. This peace transcends understanding so that we can have joy despite outside circumstances.  It is in receiving His righteousness on the inside that we begin to see changes on the outside.

When we turn from society for our acceptance, and to God, we find rest for our souls. Our righteousness does not depend on our doing, buying or competing, it depends entirely on our believing (Romans 1:17).

Romans 1:17 – For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “But the righteous man shall live by faith.”

Advertisements

Made Strong!

grass and sunsetWe often feel that we have to have it all together. We are told to suck it up and be strong. We don’t cry, we don’t ask for help. Sometimes it seems that if we were to be transparent or vulnerable the whole world would fall apart.

Paul, the Chief Apostle, knew times of weakness. In his life he had been imprisoned, beaten, stoned, shipwrecked, and flogged many times. Paul faced constant danger and persecution. He came to a place where he was able not only to say that he was weak but to boast of his weakness.

Paul was able to do this because he knew that when he came to the end of himself, he would find supernatural strength in Christ Jesus. Life has some seriously good seasons and some seriously bad ones. If we try to put up a pretense or a mask so that everyone will think we are fine, we will find ourselves alone and hopeless.

When we come to God through simply receiving Jesus we can begin to let down the facade. It is through vulnerability and transparency that our relationship with Him can grow to true intimacy. In this genuine friendship we will see our hearts align to His will, our purpose discovered and our destiny defined.

When we begin to embrace and even boast in our shortcomings we will see God begin to fill our weaknesses with His strength. We are made strong in Him. Then we are able to let our guard down with others as well. Through His love for us we can begin to love others with authenticity and vulnerability, which will produce friendships that serve one another in love.

2 Corinthians 12:10 – Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.

 

Fully Accepted!

Magic pink rhododendron flowers in the mountains. Summer sunriseHave you ever felt like a misfit or an outcast? Sometimes we go through life trying so hard to fit in. We try to impress people by being everyone but ourselves. Even when we look like everyone else and sound like everyone else we can feel completely rejected and alone. In truth after striving so hard to fit in we often find that we stick out even more.

God loves misfits. He always has a plan for those who accept their unique identity. Moses was a Hebrew who grew up in the Egyptian Pharaoh’s Household. He rejected his people’s oppressors and gave up his inheritance. Sadly Moses found that the Hebrews did not accept him. However, God accepted Moses, and called him to rescue his people from oppression. Moses stopped trying to fit in and stepped in to His destiny.

There are so many people in the Bible that God chose for greatness who could be considered outcasts. Joseph was hated by his brothers and sold into slavery and he became second in command of all of Egypt. Esther was an orphan in a country not her own and she eventually became queen over that country. Ruth was a Moabite widow in a strange land. Her loyalty and kindness became famous in Israel and she married the sought after bachelor, Boaz. And Ruth received a place in the genealogy of Christ.

Jesus spent most of His time with ordinary people, outcasts and misfits, as well as known sinners. He touched lepers, healed the sick, and set the captives free. He loved the hurting and broken and served humanity.

Jesus looked past gender, race, religion, economic status and any and every possible label. Jesus did not see labels. He simply loved people and people loved Him. Where Jesus went people followed. Jesus did not repel anyone except for the religious elite who were bound by their rules. Everyone came to Him to receive life, miracles, healing, wholeness and restoration.

You are not rejected. God has made a way for us all to be accepted. When we simply receive Jesus into our hearts, we become God’s beloved child. Beloved means cared for, highly valued, cherished, adored, doted on, dear to the heart and greatly loved. Be rooted in God’s unfailing love and step into your unique identity and God-designed destiny.


Eph 1:6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.

Light & Free!

Lacy phacelia fieldWe were designed to live life light and free. The truth is however, we often go through our day-to-day life trying to take care of everything ourselves, which causes us to be worried and heavily burdened. If we carry our sins, unforgiveness, shame, bitterness, worries and pain we will eventually lose all our joy and become very unhappy people.

We were designed to be in close relationship with God. The truth however is we often try to perform for God and people. We become perfectionists, so that when we follow all the rules we are elated and when we fail we become despondent. Performance keeps us from intimacy with God and we will eventually lose our joy and become very unhappy people.

Under the Old Covenant God offered the people a choice; obey His commands and live, or disobey and die (Deuteronomy 28). However in the New Covenant  Paul said it is through the abundant supply of grace and the gift of righteousness that we reign in life (Romans 5:17).  When we receive Jesus, we receive life, the life from the beginning. We receive God’s wisdom, righteousness, sanctification and redemption (1 Corinthians 1:30).

Before, our righteousness depended on our performance; now, our righteousness depends on Jesus’s performance at the Cross which was perfect. That is why the writer of the Book of Hebrews in the New Testament said that Jesus has obtained a more excellent ministry, a better covenant (Hebrews 8:6).

It is not that we stop facing obstacles and challenges, we are now able to soar over them. We know that we have an advocate with the Father (1 John 2:1). We can come boldly to the throne room of God in time of need (Hebrews 4:16) and receive His grace, mercy, power, peace, comfort, and the joy of the Lord which is our strength (Psalm 28:7).

Jesus said “Come unto Me”. He did not say “go figure it out yourself”, “ask everyone else” or “try harder.” Jesus said “Come unto Me.” He said “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life (Matthew 11:28, The Message).”

Jesus promises when we come to Him He will cause us to rest. When we walk with Him and work with Him, we learn ‘the unforced rhythms of grace.’ Jesus promises that He will show us how to live freely and lightly (Matthew 11:29-30).

When we simply believe and receive Jesus and His finished work at the Cross, we can come to a place of supernatural rest. It is in this rest on the inside that we receive everything that Jesus’s death and resurrection has won for us. We will live lightly and freely, and flourish in every area of life.

Romans 5:17 –  “For if by the one man’s offense death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.”

Lean into Him!

iStock_000034449374SmallWhen we enter into relationship with Jesus, we gain full access to our Heavenly Father. Through our times of prayer, worship, and reading of the Word we get Heaven’s answer to life’s problems. Sometimes we find ourselves in seasons where there just seems like there is no answer. It is in these seasons that we can lean into God in worship to receive the peace that transcends all understanding and the comfort of the Holy Spirit. The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are of a crushed spirit (Psalm 34:18).

There are many examples of people in the Bible who worshipped God through the darkest seasons of their soul. Jonah had experienced war, tragedy and devastation at the hands of the Ninevites. When God called him to preach repentance to them, he was terrified that they would receive God’s Word and be spared any impeding judgements. He ran as far away as he could and took refuge in a boat heading in the opposite direction. Jonah was trapped in bitterness and unforgiveness from the traumatic situations he had faced in war.

While on the boat a storm came and the crew mates feared they would drown. Jonah told them that it was his fault and to throw him overboard. The crew reluctantly obliged. Jonah would have drowned but God made a way for a rescue. He sent a big fish to swallow Jonah. From the belly of the whale, the Bible records Jonah’s prayer. This prayer in Hebrew is written in prose form as were the Psalms. So this prayer was a psalm to God. After days in a confined dark miserable place, Jonah worshiped God and he was Immediately vomited on to the beach of Nineveh, exactly in the place of Jonah’s calling and destiny (Jonah 1:1 – 3:1).

Jonah had been through the tragedies of war, he experienced some of the worst things in life which led him to step off track and give up. God still had a future for Jonah. God wanted Jonah to be a part of saving lives this time. When Jonah worshipped God it brought him out of that dark season and onto the path of the call of God.

David was a worshipper. He worshipped through every season of the soul.  He worshipped and danced before God so passionately when the Arc was returned to Jerusalem that his outer garments fell off (2 Samuel 6). David also worshipped God through all of his darkest circumstances. David’s ability to seek God in worship sustained him through every difficult season. Through his most painful moment, when his child went on to be with the Lord, David went to the House to worship (2 Samuel 12:20). God stayed faithful to David. David died happy and married to his wife Bathsheba. He was of a good old age, still ruling over his Kingdom with his son Solomon succeeding him. God brought David to a bright and prosperous future and honored his lineage with a place in the genealogy of Christ.

One of the reasons Jesus came to earth was so that He could carry our pains and sorrows. Jesus suffered in every way possible so that He would know our pain (Hebrews 2:18). When we worship Jesus we can exchange our pain, sorrow and despair for His comfort, peace, and joy. When we worship God, He sustains us, re-establishes our path, fulfills His purpose in us and He pours out His unfailing inconceivable love that fills and restores our full being, body, spirit and soul.

Isaiah 61:3 – To grant those who mourn in Zion, Giving them a garland instead of ashes, The oil of gladness instead of mourning, The mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting. 

 

Peace & Comfort!

Magic pink rhododendron flowers in the mountains. Summer sunriseWhen we receive Jesus into our hearts we enter into a divine relationship with God as our Heavenly Father. We have been designed since the beginning of time to receive His unfailing love and through this love, in return love Him back while allowing that love to flow to others as well. When we spend time in worship singing love songs and hymns to God, we commune with Him and our hearts are filled with this great love.

When we go through difficult seasons, it is important for us to continue to draw near to God in worship. We can go to God to receive help, hope and healing. During these difficult times we can bring our sorrow, anxiety, fear, pain, and depression and receive peace, freedom, joy, comfort and hope. It is in worship that this supernatural exchange takes place.

King David was a worshipper. During his life he was a shepherd, musician, warrior, worship leader and King. David experienced some of the highest heights and lowest depths in his life. Through out it all David worshipped God. David wrote that God was near the brokenhearted and that He would save those who are of a crushed spirit (Psalm 34:18).

David knew that God inhabits the praises of His people (Psalm 22:3) and that in His presence there is fullness of joy (Psalm 16:11). Whenever we are hurting, the Bible says that we can boldly come before the throne room of God and receive grace in time of need (Hebrews 4:16), comfort from the Holy Spirit (Acts 9:31) and the peace of God that transcends all understanding that guards both our hearts and our minds through Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:7).

Psalm 34:1 – I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth.

Invisible Kingdom!

An image of beautiful field of poppiesFrequently when we find ourselves bothered by other people and certain circumstances we come to our prayer time wanting God to fix everything besides ourselves. However, God generally begins to work on our heart first. When Jesus walked the earth, many people demanded many things from Him. The religious elite wanted Him to condemn people, the disciples wanted Him to take up arms against an oppressive government, and the self-righteous wanted Him to affirm their self-efforts. Jesus however chose to love the unlovable, heal the sick, set the captive free; and spent time teaching and preaching about the deeper things of the heart.

When the religious elite brought to Jesus a woman caught in adultery to stone her to death, at first He simply ignored the crowd’s accusations. He eventually said to them that the one without sin could cast the first stone. After everyone was convicted of their own sin and left, Jesus told the woman “I do not condemn you either, go and sin no more”. Jesus offered her no condemnation. He offered her grace, which is the power to live a life above the gravitational pull of sin (John 8:1-11).

Before Jesus ascended to heaven, His disciples were still asking when He was going to restore Israel and remove the Romans. Jesus had spent three years discussing an Invisible Kingdom and they still were not getting it (Acts 1-6). Jesus said the Kingdom of God is within you (Luke 17:21). This Kingdom starts from the inside out. When we receive Jesus we are restored to the King and the Kingdom that existed from the beginning. In this Kingdom the meek inherit the earth, the merciful receive mercy and the pure of heart see God (Matt 5:1-11).

When a rich young ruler approached Jesus, he informed Jesus how righteous he was. He was expecting Jesus to reward his self-efforts, but Jesus pointed out where he still lacked. Jesus asked him to give away his money to the poor and the young ruler went away sad (Matt 19:16-22). When Jesus encountered Zacchaeus the “tax collector”, Jesus told him they would eat together. After this known sinner spent time with Jesus he offered to return all the money he stole and half of what was left to the poor. Jesus did not ask him to, just time with Jesus changed his heart (Luke 19:1-10). Time with Jesus always changes our heart.

Jesus responded to the religious elite by extending compassion and grace to the hurting and broken, He responded to the disciples with the good news of the Invisible Kingdom and to the self-righteous He pointed out that they still were not perfect.

When we come to Jesus in prayer empty handed, free of control and demands, God can transform our heart and will take care of our external circumstances (Matt 6:33). When we spend time with Jesus, we allow God’s unconditional love for us to change us effortlessly from the inside out. When our inside circumstances change we often find that the outside circumstances cease to bother us, and we allow His peace to rule and reign in our lives.

Matt 6:10 – Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

 

Love Wins!

sunset over hillThere is a famous song that goes “All you need is Love”. When we hear it, as simple and as naive as it sounds, the song resonates in our soul. We sing it from the top of our lungs because we know deep down inside that there is a truth there. We were created to be loved and in return, love.

When we enter into relationship with Jesus, we are connected back to God, our Heavenly Father. We can receive His unfailing love. God not only pours out His unfailing love to us, He is love (1 John 4:8). When we connect to God, we connect to love.

When life gets busy and we begin to ignore our devotional times, we start to feel empty. It is during these times we begin to fill ourselves with substitutes for God’s love. These substitutes do not have to be bad things such as addictions and destructive behavior, though they can be that. The substitutes can actually seem harmless: comfort food, mindless entertainment, people’s approval, romantic infatuations, or workaholism.

The problem is, good or bad, none of these things can fulfill us. That is why none of those things are ever enough. We were created to receive love and in response return that love to God. When Jesus walked the earth, people could not help but love Him. He brought compassion, not condemnation (John 8:11). He brought life, miracles, healing, freedom, and hope. He brought the love of the Father. He brought the Kingdom of God.

Jesus said “abide in my love.” When we spend time with Jesus we spend time with love incarnate. in those moments of prayer, worship, and reading the Word we sense His presence. He fills our hearts to overflow with the Holy Spirit. We feel peace and we can rest in His joy.

The love of God is unparalleled. It is relentless, extravagant, intoxicating, contagious, unfailing and transformative. When we remain in His love we can go throughout our day steady and strong despite any circumstance or obstacle we face.

John 15:9 – Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love. 

Search & Rescue!

seaWhen Jesus walked the earth He spent time with people from all walks of life. He valued everyone, even when the culture or society declared a person or people unworthy. People were not an interruption to Jesus, they were the purpose He came to earth for.

Jesus spent time with known sinners such as Zacchaeus and Mary Magdalene, He touched the leper and healed the sick, and He sought to seek and save that which was lost, you and me.

In John 4 when Jesus and the disciples traveled to Galilee, they went through Samaria. At that time Samaria was considered the ‘bad part of town.’ There was much animosity between the Jews and the Samaritans, none of which made any difference to Jesus. While the disciples were looking for food, Jesus encountered a woman at the well, who was gathering water in the middle of the day.

Jesus began to speak to this woman, breaking every cultural barrier: a Galilean speaking to a Samaritan, a man speaking to a woman. Jesus spoke to her because He came to earth for her and for all of us. She was there to gather water at midday to avoid the townspeople who all came in the early morning. This woman had a checkered past and she was an outcast among outcasts.

Of all the people in Samaria whom Jesus could speak to, He spoke to her. He spoke to her natural need for water and through this conversation, He offered her living waters that would spring up to everlasting life. He offered her a relationship with God, the source of all life.

This woman who had so isolated herself was standing in front of the one who could change everything. And after time with Jesus she knew He was the answer. The woman left her water bucket, ran to town and told everyone  that she had encountered the Christ.

Moments with Jesus change us forever. When we spend time with Jesus, we are refreshed and restored in His presence. His Spirit fills us and we experience life. When Jesus walked the earth, he was on a search and rescue mission. Jesus is still at work to save, restore and reconcile us back to our Heavenly Father, no matter what we have done or where we are from. When we simply receive Jesus and His atoning work on the Cross we experience holistic salvation inside and out.

John 4:13-14 – Jesus answered and said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.”

100% Forgiven!

iStock_000026100334SmallSometimes when we do not live up to others’ or our own expectations we can become very discouraged. Under the Old Covenant we were made righteous by our actions. If we obeyed all of God’s law, then we could be pleased with ourselves and if we failed we would be despondent for falling short.

The Bible said that God found fault with the people and that He would make a new covenant (Hebrews 8:8). He did this through Jesus Christ’s perfect life, death on the cross and resurrection from the dead. Now we become righteous through our believing, not our actions (Romans 3:30). We can enter into this great exchange and give Jesus our sin, failure, sickness and pain and receive His righteousness, joy, health and well-being. We also remain righteous through believing and not through our actions (Galatians 3:3).

When we enter this relationship with the our Heavenly Father through simply receiving Jesus, God imputes the Kingdom to us. We receive the Holy Spirit as our guarantee (Eph 1:13) and we are connected to the source of life. As we spend time with Him, beholding Jesus, in our devotional time, prayer, worship and reading the Word, we are transformed by the Spirit from glory to glory (2 Corinthians 3:17).

We do not have to stress, worry or strive to know God’s will and purposes. We can relax and enter His rest (Hebrews 4:4). God gives us a heart to know Him (Jeremiah 24:7) and when we spend time with Jesus we effortlessly become like Jesus (Romans 12:2). Jesus’s arms are open to us. He is not mad at us. Nothing separates us from His love (Romans 8:39). God said in Hebrews 8:12, “ …I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more”. God is perfect and thankfully He chooses not to remember, and that is not a memory problem but a memory solution paid for by the blood of Jesus.

When Jesus walked the planet He spent time with ordinary people, known sinners, the sick and the oppressed. He spent time with outcasts, He touched lepers and broke every social and religious norm by hanging out with people society forbade. The only people He rebuked were the religious elite, who lorded their rules over the people and boasted in their self-righteousness.

Jesus desires for an intimate and organic relationship with us where our lives are connected to the Life from the beginning, like a flourishing tree connected to its healthy roots that go down deep into the earth. In this life we receive the fullness of God. We become fully awake and we walk in joy, peace and righteousness which are the marks of the Kingdom.

Hebrews 8:12 – “For I will be merciful to their iniquities, And I will remember their sins no more.”