“…in it, not of it…”

18 If the world hates you, remember that it hated me first. 19 The world would love you as one of its own if you belonged to it, but you are no longer part of the world. I chose you to come out of the world, so it hates you. 20 Do you remember what I told you? “A slave is not greater than the master.” Since they persecuted me, naturally they will persecute you. And if they had listened to me, they would listen to you. 21 They will do all this to you because of me, for they have rejected the one who sent me.  (John 15: 18-22, NLT)

It really is simple.  The world is rejecting God more and more, and as such, those who love and follow Christ will also be rejected and hated.  We have to stop trying to please others.  Love them, yes, but we can’t change not even one syllable of God’s word to suit the whims of this world.  Jesus gave his life to free us from the bondages of sin and death, but He made it very clear that when we do choose Him, we also choose to be separated from the world.  There isn’t a gray area where we can hover between the two.  It’s hot or cold, friends.  We’re either in or we’re out.  Pick a side.  You may not like that, but it is reality.

I tend to be a people pleaser.  I want everyone to be at peace with one another.  I don’t like to make waves, and I prefer to avoid confrontations as much as I possibly can.  And though I do have a deep desire to be loved and accepted, there is this part of me that is okay with being different and set apart.  I like to be myself, and I am comforted by relationships with people who take the time to know and love me as I am.

I share that to make the point that we all (myself included) make adjustments in order to have a sense of peace in our lives, but where do we draw that line?  How much are we truly willing to compromise?  The time is coming when we will have to answer these questions.

So we are always confident, even though we know that as long as we live in these bodies we are not at home with the Lord. For we live by believing and not by seeing. Yes, we are fully confident, and we would rather be away from these earthly bodies, for then we will be at home with the Lord. So whether we are here in this body or away from this body, our goal is to please him. 10 For we must all stand before Christ to be judged. We will each receive whatever we deserve for the good or evil we have done in this earthly body.  (2 Corinthians 5:6-10, NLT)

Our lives are but timelines filled with checkpoints and choices.  We may not see the beginning and end points, but those points are there.  Everything in between is choice, but that end point is where we will find ourselves standing in front of Christ.  Are you willing to look at Him and say that His blood was not good enough for you to choose Him?

Friends, life is a battle.  We are fighting daily, and we can be the victors, but we have to stop compromising.  Turn away from the evil of this world, and say proudly why.  There is power in the name of Jesus.  When we speak it, when we love Him without regret or shame, we are victorious.  And the reward of that earthly victory is a heavenly prize unlike any other.

21 Those who are victorious will sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat with my Father on his throne. (Revelation 3: 21, NLT)

Prayer:  Jesus, I recognize that I need You in my life.  I love You, Lord, and it is truly my desire to follow you and to share Your love by my words and actions.  Thank You for your blood.  May I live in such a way that I am never ashamed of You.  Amen.

“I’d Rather Have Jesus”

(Luke 23: 18-21) 18 Then a mighty roar rose from the crowd, and with one voice they shouted, “Kill him, and release Barabbas to us!” 19 (Barabbas was in prison for taking part in an insurrection in Jerusalem against the government, and for murder.) 20 Pilate argued with them, because he wanted to release Jesus. 21 But they kept shouting, “Crucify him! Crucify him!”

What is your Barabbas?  What’s the thing in your life that represents your willingness to trade just about anything to replace Jesus?  What do you continually release into your life that pushes Him into the corners of your heart and mind?  What is it…the thing that crucifies Him time and again?   

You already know what it is.  I am guessing it popped up in your mind almost immediately.  That’s the thing about sin…it’s a problem that we know we have in our lives.  Everyone has a Barabbas or two.  We’ve all compromised at some point.  Romans 3:23 says, “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.”  All.  That means every person — you…me…your parents and grandparents…even Mother Teresa and the Pope!  By our very nature, humankind has a sin problem. 

Jesus said (in Luke 9:23-25), “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross daily, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it.  And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but are yourself lost or destroyed?”  He hadn’t even been crucified yet, but Jesus knew what was to come, and He also knew the burden that would sometimes come upon us as a result of following Him.  He knew the weight of the cross before He ever carried it, and He knew that in our human weakness we would at times get sick of that weight and drop the cross in the middle of the road.  That’s why He said to take it up daily.  Every day is a fresh start. 

22 Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,  for his compassions never fail. 23 They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. (Lamentations 3: 22-23)

We don’t have to start over from the beginning.  God is merciful.  We are able to pick up where we left off, never looking back at what we left behind.  His mercies are new every morning.  Each time the sun rises, both literally and figuratively, we have a clean piece of paper on which to begin writing the next chapter…brand new…but we still have to carry that cross.  Serving Christ requires a sacrifice of self…of sinful nature and the desires of our flesh.  We have to start crucifying our own selves…putting that “Barabbas” on the cross where it belongs…and stop sending Jesus back to His cross.  He’s already made that sacrifice, and once was enough to cover every sin…ever.  We have to stop trading Him in for what we desire in the moment.  Romans 12: 1-2 tells us, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” 

The choice is completely in our hands.  Because of God’s love and grace, we have been given the freedom to choose Him, or to keep Him at arm’s length with our sin.  So think about your own Barabbas, and you decide. 

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, when my cross gets heavy, I know that you will help me carry it.  When I drop it, You will right there beside me…to help me pick it back up and keep moving forward.  I see my “Barabbas” for what it is.  Give me the strength and courage to choose You every single time.  Amen. 

It’s like sugar…

(Deuteronomy 15:7-11) 7 If anyone is poor among your fellow Israelites in any of the towns of the land the Lord your God is giving you, do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward them. 8 Rather, be openhanded and freely lend them whatever they need. 9 Be careful not to harbor this wicked thought: “The seventh year, the year for canceling debts, is near,” so that you do not show ill will toward the needy among your fellow Israelites and give them nothing. They may then appeal to the Lord against you, and you will be found guilty of sin. 10 Give generously to them and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to. 11 There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your fellow Israelites who are poor and needy in your land.

If you work hard, and you still have very little, it can be truly difficult to give.  Generosity is not always a natural tendency.  It’s hard to let go of hard-earned money and resources, especially when our society tells us that the under-privileged are constantly looking for a handout. 

However, beyond what any media plays into our minds, past all of our fears and misgivings about the intentions of people who say they are in need, we are called to love.  Does love not encompass provision and care in times of hardship?  We are so quick to jump up and fix a meal for our church family member who is sick or the family who has just had a baby.  We readily make pies, cakes, casseroles and whatever else is needed for the church potluck.  We support fundraisers for the youth group and children’s department, and we give toward projects that better our facilities.  Please understand…these things are wonderful and we should continue to support such efforts, but I am also suggesting that it should be just as easy for us to respond to the need of a stranger. 

We can do more.  I can do more. 

In Jefferson County Public Schools alone, there are approximately 7,000 homeless students.  These students rely on SCHOOL to have shelter and food throughout the day.  They are the children who never miss a day because they have the guarantee of a full belly and safety.  I’m sorry, but when did this become the responsibility of the government?  Do we dare even wonder why so many look down on the church when, in the grand scheme of it all, we do so little?

Why do you think so many people were willing to listen to Christ, follow Him, face persecution possibly unto death for Him, and loved Him without question or condition?  It wasn’t because of a beautiful facility He was able to speak in, or because He put on fun social events…it was because He responded to the needs of people who were cast away.  He healed, fed, loved and nurtured the hurt, sick and poor people.  He responded.  If we are to truly be His hands and feet, His representation, His church, then we have to do better.  We can’t worry any longer about tomorrow.  Our faith tells us that tomorrow will worry about itself.

Matthew 6: 38 says, “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” 

It’s like sugar…

This passage always makes me think about when you are using brown sugar in a recipe and you have to pack it down into the measuring cup.  You may be measuring it with the exact same cup that you use to measure white sugar, but that brown sugar is able to be pressed down to the point that it far surpasses the amount of white sugar that you are able to get into that vessel.  When you give, maybe what you are able to do only amounts to a cup of plain white sugar, but if you give it in love and in good faith, expecting the best, God returns that cup with a packed down double blessing.  Just like that brown sugar, He will surprise you by packing your life with a more abundant blessing, and the sweetness of what He has ready to give, you can’t possibly understand. 

And remember…all that you’ve acquired, or hope to obtain…it’s all just stuff that you can’t take with you when you’re gone…stuff that was never truly yours to begin with…so you might as well give a little…or a lot…if you dare.

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, help me to have open hands and a softer heart when it comes to those in need.  Give me the opportunity and desire to respond accordingly.  I know that You will never leave me forsaken, as I endeavor to do Your work.  Amen.

“Giving My Best”

(John 12: 3-8, NLT) 3 Then Mary took a twelve-ounce jar of expensive perfume made from essence of nard, and she anointed Jesus’ feet with it, wiping his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance. 4 But Judas Iscariot, the disciple who would soon betray him, said, 5 “That perfume was worth a year’s wages. It should have been sold and the money given to the poor.” 6 Not that he cared for the poor—he was a thief, and since he was in charge of the disciples’ money, he often stole some for himself. 7 Jesus replied, “Leave her alone. She did this in preparation for my burial. 8 You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.”

Perspective is such an important part of our spiritual growth.  The goal is that we can and will eventually see things through the lens of our faith in Christ and our devotion to that faith, yet our vision tends to get easily skewed.  It is very easy to get caught up in the habits and motions of the things that we do for the cause of Christ.  We have these ideas in our minds about all of the things that we should be doing — all of which are good and righteous deeds…worthy causes indeed — but if we are not careful, something momentous gets lost among the bustle of our church business.  When we are constantly in motion, we begin to miss out on moments of intimacy — opportunities to just sit in the presence of Christ and just love on Him…to bless Him with the sacrifice of our time…giving Him the best part of ourselves first. 

Christianity is most definitely intended to be a life of service to others.  We should give of our time and resources to help support those who are needy and lost.  We should be creative in our programming and events…making sure that we put forth our very best…in an effort to reach people who might otherwise be unreachable.  We should work hard in all ways to better and further the Kingdom of God.  It is, after all, our Great Commission.  However…what good is any of that if we lose sight of the most important part of who we are in Christ…love…our first love…the greatest commandment of all?  It is only then, when we have taken the time from our busy work, that we are able to reset and rest in that place of freedom and peace that is only found at His feet.  Before we ever attempt to love others, we must make sure that we have first given Jesus the time and consideration that he so deserves.  We simply cannot not love others adequately if we are constantly missing out on these invaluable opportunities with our Lord.    

(Matthew 22: 37-39, NLT) 37 Jesus replied, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.” 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 A second is equally important: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

It truly is all about perspective.  We desperately need to see this world through the eyes of Christ, and in order to do so, we desperately need to spend time with Him…to better know His word, His heart, and His will.  It is very similar to a marriage, actually!  When you get too busy and start to simply co-exist parallel with your spouse, things start to fall apart.  You may say you love your husband or wife, you may do all of the things you’re supposed to do for him or her, but if you never take the time to sit and share your heart with that person, it all just seems pretty pointless. 

Perspective.  Don’t let your work for Jesus overshadow your love for Him.  Give Him the best part of your day, and the biggest part of your heart.  He will, in turn, fill you with all of the time, resources, and anointing that you need…to the point of overflowing…in order to do His work.  All things for, through, and by Christ…He’s the only way.

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, I get distracted so easily by my busy schedule.  My heart is always in a good place, but not necessarily always in the best or right place, because when I am neglecting my time with You, I become misguided and I begin to see things through my own perspective rather than through Your eyes.  Help me to stay focused on You.  You deserve my best, and that is only accomplished when I love You first…before anyone or anything else.  Amen.

“What a Powerful Name It Is”

(Proverbs 30:4)

Who but God goes up to heaven and comes back down?

    Who holds the wind in his fists?

Who wraps up the oceans in his cloak?

    Who has created the whole wide world?

What is his name—and his son’s name?

    Tell me if you know!

I know!  I know!  That’s my God!!!  He has many names, one for every part of our lives — for every time of need, every hardship, every victory, and every joy. 

He is:

  1. Alpha and Omega:  “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.” (Revelation 22:13)
  2. Bread of Life:  “Jesus replied, I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again. Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.  (John 6:35)
  3. Creator:  “Christ is the visible image of the invisible God.  He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation, for through him God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth. He made the things we can see, and the things we can’t see…” (Colossians 1:15-16)
  4. Good Shepherd:  I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd sacrifices his life for the sheep.  (John 10:11)
  5. I Am:  “The people said, You aren’t even fifty years old. How can you say you have seen Abraham?  Jesus answered, I tell you the truth, before Abraham was even born, I am!  (John 8:57-58)
  6. Immanuel:  Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel (which means ‘God is with us’).  (Isaiah 7:14)
  7. King of Kings:  Together they will go to war against the Lamb, but the Lamb will defeat them because he is Lord of all lords and King of all kings. And his called and chosen and faithful ones will be with him.  (Revelation 17:14)
  8. Lamb of God:  “The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, Look! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!  (John 1:29)
  9. Light of the World:  “Jesus spoke to the people once more and said, I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.”  (John 8:12)
  10. Lion of Judah:  “But one of the twenty-four elders said to me, Stop weeping! Look, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the heir to David’s throne, has won the victory.”  (Revelation 5:5)
  11. Lord of All:  “Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2: 9-11)
  12. Messiah:  “But these are written so that you may continue to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing in him you will have life by the power of his name.”  (John 20:31)
  13. Redeemer:  But as for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, and he will stand upon the earth at last.”  (Job 19:25)
  14. Risen Lord:  “Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said. 4 He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said.”  (1 Corinthians 15: 3-4)
  15. Savior:  “ The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David!”  (Luke 2:11)
  16. Son of Man:  For the Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost.”  (Luke 19:10)
  17. Son of The Most High God:  He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David.”  (Luke 1: 32)
  18. The Resurrection and The Life:  “Jesus told her, I am the resurrection and the life.[e] Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying.”  (John 11: 25)
  19. The Door:  I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture.”  (John 10: 9)
  20. The Way:  “Jesus told him, I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.”  (John 14:6)
  21. The Word:  “In the beginning the Word already existed.  The Word was with God, and the Word was God.”  (John 1:1)
  22. Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace:  “For a child is born to us, a son is given to us.  The government will rest on his shoulders.  And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”  (Isaiah 9:6)

It doesn’t matter which name you choose to call Him, because He’s the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow.  The power that we wield when we speak His name is not in the name itself…it’s in the all-encompassing character of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit!  Without HIM, they would just be words…commonplace titles.  Yet at the mention of His name, because of who He is to us, we call upon the character of God Himself.  That is what breaks the bondage of sin, crushes the power of death, and forever loosens the grip of darkness!

He is all of that…and SO MUCH MORE!

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, Your name is a strong and mighty tower to which I run in times of need.  Your name is peace over the storms that come my way.  Your name is greater, more beautiful, and more powerful than any other name, and I know that it doesn’t matter which name I choose to say, as long as I am calling on YOU.  Amen.

“You Satisfy Me”

(Matthew 15: 32) Then Jesus called his disciples and told them, “I feel sorry for these people. They have been here with me for three days, and they have nothing left to eat. I don’t want to send them away hungry, or they will faint along the way.”

Have you ever been so engrossed in what you were doing in the moment that you just forgot to eat?  I certainly have.  When it is something that’s interesting, important to me, or something that I just absolutely love, eating doesn’t really even cross my mind — nor does much else, for that matter.  That’s the way our passions work.  They completely engulf our lives.

Now, let’s translate that over into our spiritual lives.  Have you ever been so immersed in Jesus, that you just forgot about yourself?  Have you ever gotten so lost in His presence that all of your needs, every burden, all of the stuff just seemed to melt away from you? 

Well, that’s what was happening with the multitudes of people who had come to see and listen to Jesus — to sit at His feet — simply because they wanted more of His presence!  He had healed many of them from every sort of disease and affliction, and they were in such awe of His power and grace that they just wanted to continue to soak up every bit of His presence.

How much time do you spend just taking in His goodness?  Is your prayer life a rushed spewing of needs, wants, burdens, and the general stuff of life?  It’s time to get engrossed in Him — forget everything else for a while — never worrying about what you need to do tomorrow, or how your needs will be met.  Sometimes pursuing Jesus means letting go of everything else for a time.  It means trusting that He will provide — that He will minister to your needs before you ever even think to ask. 

This crowd, no less than 4,000 people, did not have to ask Jesus for sustenance — He took pity on them and was overcome with compassion for their needs…and where there seemed to be no solution, He made a way. 

Likewise, Jesus will never send you on your way hungry or lacking.  When you have given yourself over to Him, when you have lost yourself in His presence — abandoning all other needs and desires just to be with Him and experience His glory — you will NOT walk away empty-handed. 

(Luke 12: 29-31) 29 “And don’t be concerned about what to eat and what to drink. Don’t worry about such things. 30 These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers all over the world, but your Father already knows your needs. 31 Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and he will give you everything you need.

Prayer:  *Oh so sweet, to sit at Your feet, and tell You I love You so.  Just to hear You say to me, “I’ll never, never leave You alone.”  Jesus, my Jesus, Your love means so much to me.  Jesus, my Jesus, Your love is all that I need.  Amen.

* “Jesus, My Jesus” by The Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir

It’s Already Yours!

Revelation 3:9-12 – “… I have loved you. Because you have kept my word about patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming to the whole world, to try those who dwell on the earth. I am coming soon. Hold fast what you have, so that no one may seize your crown.”

Your crown.

Think about that for two seconds.

YOUR crown.

That’s right. Jesus came to this earth, bled and died, rose again, and intercedes on our behalf to make it possible for us to say those two words. When we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us of them. He clothes us with His righteousness so that we can be qualified to be joint-heirs with Him. (Romans 8:1-17- There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. 3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son… … 14 all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.)

When we allow Him to be Lord of our life, He truly does adopt us into His family… His blood flows through our veins. We become children of the King. And what do children of the King get to wear? Crowns.

They don’t have to wait until they get everything together. It doesn’t take complete and utter perfection for them to be recognized for what they are; for whose children they are. They were given that honor at birth.

What a generous and merciful God we serve! While so many in positions of authority make “promotion” difficult for those under them, He does the opposite. While we humans tend to want special recognition for our achievements and hard work; and we expect only others who work just as hard as we did to share in our reward, His selfless and loving character does not! He took care of everything. Yet, He wants us to reap the benefits! The moment we become saved- born again- we are viewed by our Creator as His child, somehow unworthily worthy to bear His name and receive His blessings. When we submit ourselves to the will of the Father, we walk in the power and authority of Jesus Christ, because His spirit takes residence in our hearts. God sees us as flawless, righteous, beautiful individuals and sets aside a crown just for us.

All we have to do is make sure nothing and no one takes it from us. And that’s simple! No one can! Only we could cause ourselves to lose out- by walking away from the family. And, we’re not going to do that, are we?

No!

So, rejoice today! Thank Christ for making this so simple for us. He took the shame and guilt for us. He suffered the punishment that we deserved. Because He loves us! So much so, He wanted to share His everything with us. We are so special to Him. In spite of our every downfall, failure, and shortcoming… He makes us perfect in the sight of God. He makes us eligible to wear a crown. Not just any crown… Not a hand-me-down, not a borrowed one… No. He had one made especially for each one of us.

My crown. Your crown.

What an honor to be a child of the one true, selfless and loving, powerful and sovereign King of Kings!

Prayer: Jesus, thank You for loving me like You do! Thank You for the sacrifice You willingly made for us all. There is nothing we could have done to make ourselves worthy enough for Heaven. But, that didn’t stop You. You took it all upon Yourself to make it so simple for us! All we have to do is ask You to become the One Who leads us. And the journey You take us on is nothing short of amazing. Give me strength and determination to holdfast to You. I know that if I endure to the end… if I conquer… you will have a crown waiting for me. I love You, Jesus. Amen.

Blinded By The Light

[Luke 24:13-16 NLT] 13 That same day two of Jesus’ followers were walking to the village of Emmaus, seven miles from Jerusalem. 14 As they walked along they were talking about everything that had happened. 15 As they talked and discussed these things, Jesus himself suddenly came and began walking with them. 16 But God kept them from recognizing him.

Not long ago, Donna and I were having a meal together in a local restaurant. I was looking forward to spending time visiting with her in a quiet place, with good conversation and a delicious meal. Instead, it turned into a frustrating and uncomfortable time because they seated us in a place where the sun was in my eyes. It was so bright that I couldn’t even see Donna’s face. All I could see was the form of her body and the extremely bright sun behind her. Even pulling the blinds did not help remedy the problem.

In our scripture text for today, Luke reports the appearance of Jesus to two of his followers while they were walking on the Emmaus road. They were engaged in a lively conversation about the recent activities surrounding the resurrection of Jesus. Luke writes, “As they talked and discussed these things, Jesus himself suddenly came and began walking with them.”

To this point, things seem pretty ordinary. But then Luke adds, “But God kept them from recognizing him.” Now, that just doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me! You would think that God would want everyone to know that Jesus was alive. This wasn’t supposed to happen! People didn’t rise from the dead! But, here he was, alive and well. And God kept them from recognizing Him.

As my mom would say, “Reckon why He would do that?” Scripture doesn’t really say why God kept them from knowing Him so we must speculate as to His motive. The conversation reveals some important details. Jesus opened the conversation by asking them what they had been talking about. From this, we can know that Jesus had walked silently with them for a while, just listening as they carried on the conversation. Jesus wanted to know from them what He wants to know from us today: can we believe without seeing with our own eyes? 

Sometimes we can’t see the glory of the Lord in spite of His nearness. He may be bringing blessing into our lives, but we can’t see it because we are blinded by our circumstances. Thankfully, He patiently walks with us and reveals Himself at precisely the right moment. And when He does, joy is restored to our weary souls.

PRAYER: Father, open the eyes of my heart so I may clearly see Your glory. May I daily recognize Your nearness. Amen.

Just Jesus!

(Mark 9:2-8 HCSB) 2 After six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John and led them up on a high mountain by themselves to be alone. He was transformed in front of them, 3 and His clothes became dazzling — extremely white as no launderer on earth could whiten them. 4 Elijah appeared to them with Moses, and they were talking with Jesus. 5 Then Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it’s good for us to be here! Let us make three tabernacles: one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah” — 6 because he did not know what he should say, since they were terrified. 7 A cloud appeared, overshadowing them, and a voice came from the cloud: This is My beloved Son; listen to Him! 8 Then suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone with them except Jesus alone.

Lanny Wolfe penned the words of the beautiful song entitled, “Only Jesus Can Satisfy Your Soul.” It says…

The world may try to satisfy

That longing in your soul.

You may search the wide world over

But you’ll be just as before.

You’ll never find true satisfaction

Until you’ve found the Lord,

For only Jesus can satisfy your soul.

Only Jesus can satisfy your soul.

Yes, only He can change your heart

And make you whole.

He’ll give you peace you never knew,

Sweet joy and love and Heaven, too.

For only Jesus can satisfy your soul.

It’s true you know! This world, with all its beauty offers so many satisfying experiences. I have been blessed to see many of them. I have traveled to various countries, and experienced most of the landscape known as the United States of America. I have witnessed the migration of the animals of the African plain, grazing buffalo in Yellowstone, and hummingbirds feeding in my own backyard.

I have stood in awe at the sound of Bridal Veil Falls in Yosemite National Park; witnessed Old Faithful as she spouted off in her natural rhythm. Mt. Rushmore, The Grande Canyon, The Giant Redwoods of Sequoia, Mackinac Island, the country roads of West Virginia, and good ol’ Rocky Top Tennessee!

I have worshipped with French speaking Haitians, Jamaicans, and the Navajo Indians of Gallup, New Mexico. I’ve removed my shoes before entering churches in Korea, prayed in mud huts with Ghanains, and had orphans in Kenya lay their hands on me and pray that I would be blessed. I’ve sung hymns with the people of Ecuador, and prayed at churches  in Belgium.

Please don’t read this and feel that I’m bragging. I am humbled that God would allow me to experience so much of His creation. The truth is, there will be people who read this who have experienced MUCH more than I have. My reason for writing is to simply acknowledge that, although God has given me these opportunities, none of them can compare to the glory of His presence.

Mark 9:2-8 records an amazing account known as the transfiguration of Christ. Peter, James, and John watch as Jesus transforms before their very eyes! His clothes started glowing, clouds surrounded them, and if that wasn’t enough, Moses and Elijah showed up! Can you say WOW?

But, the next few words tell the greatest story… “Then suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone with them except Jesus alone.” There was so much to see and experience. But, when it was all stripped away, only Jesus remained! That’s all that mattered. And, that’s all that matters in our lives as well. With all the many blessings that I recounted earlier, none of them satisfies like Jesus does. The old song of the church declares, “Take this whole world, but give me Jesus!” I concur!

PRAYER: Jesus, know my heart today! It is filled with adoration for You. Truly, this world has nothing that compares to You. Allow your glory to be evident in such a way that the world can know You as I do. Help me to make much of You at all times. Amen.

They Ate And Were Satisfied!

(Mark 8:1-8 ESV) 1 In those days, when again a great crowd had gathered, and they had nothing to eat, he called his disciples to him and said to them, 2 “I have compassion on the crowd, because they have been with me now three days and have nothing to eat. 3 And if I send them away hungry to their homes, they will faint on the way. And some of them have come from far away.” 4 And his disciples answered him, “How can one feed these people with bread here in this desolate place?” 5 And he asked them, “How many loaves do you have?” They said, “Seven.” 6 And he directed the crowd to sit down on the ground. And he took the seven loaves, and having given thanks, he broke them and gave them to his disciples to set before the people; and they set them before the crowd. 7 And they had a few small fish. And having blessed them, he said that these also should be set before them. 8 And they ate and were satisfied. And they took up the broken pieces left over, seven baskets full.

August 7, 2016 was a banner day at the SpiritLife Church! From the very first song of worship, the preached word, the response at the altar as individuals moved by faith into a new season of victory, and the back-to-school anointing service on behalf of the children of the congregation. It was a very satisfying day!

The older I get and the more comfortable I am in my relationship with the Lord, the more satisfied I am with Him! Waking everyday to the realization that I am His child is one of the best blessings of life.

As I read this very familiar passage of Scripture, I was reminded of how compassionate Jesus was. A large crowd of people had followed him for three days. They were so excited to hear the powerful words he spoke that they didn’t even make provision for eating. Before sending them away, Jesus decided to feed them. You know the story… He took 7 loaves of bread and a few small fish, blessed them and distributed them to those who were hungry.

The next words excited my soul! “They ate and were satisfied!” The word satisfied means, “contented; pleased–meet the expectations, needs, or desires of someone.” At a time when these people could have been tired, exhausted, and dreading their return trip home–they were completely satisfied with the time spent in the presence of Jesus.

Today, regardless of the things that could sap your energy; regardless of the schedule looming before you… enjoy your relationship with Jesus! Celebrate who He is! Think about His goodness. And as you focus your thoughts on Him, you will discover a deep and abiding sense of satisfaction!

PRAYER: Jesus, I’m completely and totally satisfied with you. You have blessed me so abundantly and I’m forever grateful for Your great love! Amen.

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