Unblemished

“As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.” ‭‭1 Peter‬ ‭1:14-19‬ ‭ESV‬‬

I posted pictures recently and someone commented, “everything is brown.” I mean it is winter, so most areas are brown. The pictures were of my first trip to New Mexico, we had went for a walk up the dormant volcano next to our new home.

I admit I have always like brown, but being my first trip I was easily captured by the scenery. Most everything was one shade or another of brown that I captured in the photos. I still love the contrast of the sky, the mountains that enclose me on every side it seems, and even the brush and cactus that are new sights for this girl from Arkansas. So yea, I’m gonna keep taking pictures of things that are brown.

Today I was out with my camera again. I am still learning all the tools and tricks that are available with my camera. I love taking photos but I have never moved past the auto snap and shoot mode. I can take thousands of pictures, and only come out with a handful that I feel like are worth sharing, and even those are going to at least be cropped if not edited. I know I need to practice with other settings, and that is what I have decided to spend some time doing.

I was trying to capture this bee that kept buzzing around me. I am fascinated with photographers who capture animals up close. I was kind of chasing after him with my camera, the bee eluded me, but maybe the bee was on assignment to take me to something deeper. As I tried to focus in on the bee, something else in all the brown caught my attention. It was a single white rock, untouched by all the dirt that surrounded it. It was in the dirt, but the dirt was not on it.

Similarly, we are in this world but not of it (John 17:16). We are surrounded by the dirt of this world, but are not meant to let the dirt get on us. We are to remain unblemished by the world. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:2

I have no idea how long this rock had been in this spot, how it got there or where it came from. I only know that I was in the middle of a large open area, surrounded by all things brown (And a few cactus); yet, it was white. It was a stark contract from its surroundings. It is easy to allow myself to be tainted by the anger in the world around me, instead of staying purified by obedience to God’s truth and loving other with a pure heart (I Peter 1:22-23). It is easy to start to focus on the problems instead of the One who holds the solutions (Isaiah 65:24). It is easy to be consumed by the circumstances that are screaming loudly from every direction, and miss the discomfort that comes from beings still and knowing that He is God (Psalms 46:10).

We are called to be a stark contrast to the world around us. This passage tells us to stay unblemished we must:

  • Be obedient
  • Not be conformed to our former passions before we were believers
  • Be holy in our conduct
  • Call on God as Father
  • Operate in reverential fear of the Lord
  • Remember that we were ransomed by the precious blood of Christ

I feel like it is that last one, remembering that it is not in our own standing that we are holy and unblemished but the completed work of Christ’s blood on Calvary that needs to be in the forefront of our mind. I know there will be times that I disobey; but the price Christ paid to ransom, never changes. I know sometimes I may give in to a former passion; the price Christ paid to ransom, never changes. I know sometimes my conduct is less than holy; the price Christ paid to ransom, never changes. I know sometimes I go to God as a last resort instead of calling on Him immediately; the price Christ paid to ransom, never changes. Sometimes my fear is less than reverential; the price Christ paid to ransom, never changes. We can only be unblemished by this world because of the completed work of Christ, and that never changes.

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Signs

Maybe it is just me, but I feel like we all want a full on sign from God, like Moses and the burning bush, about the direction we should be headed in our lives. I find that God speaks to me in more subtle ways. I find confirmation from scriptures, the words of others, and sometimes signs. It doesn’t mean I still wouldn’t like that burning bush encounter.

That was my thought as I walked through the desert today. My husband had taken me out to a gold claim in the middle of no-where. He walked down into the dry river bank, and I stayed up in the high ground. His instructions were to watch out for snakes. Thank the Lord I didn’t see any!

I had mountain ranges on both sides, and desert brush as far as the eye could see. There was literally nothing around, except a rogue car every now and then and a lone bicyclist. It was so silent, except the noise from my husband shoveling dirt and at times the faint noise of a car driving out on the road we turned off of. I also heard two birds fly over.

As I walked along the dirt trail that we drove in on, I was taking pictures of the mountains and cactus, looking for a road runner or something other to practice my photography on. My attention was drawn to the silence all around me and then down to dried out brush tree.

I thought about how this would have been similar to the terrain that Moses was tending to his sheep. Although he might have had noise from his flock, it still would have been pretty silent. It gave me pause about my desire to have a burning bush experience.

I realize I might be a little taken back if there was a fire in the middle of the desert. I would likely be more taken aback if I heard someone speaking when no one else was around. I would probably be a little more than scared. I probably would not feel that it was the sign I was looking for in my direction for the future. I might not get close enough to hear what was being said or feel sure enough to stick around even if I could.

I realize that God has a way of getting our attention when He needs to, even when we might not be looking for a sign. This past week, I was walking around my new neighborhood. With the pandemic, we have quarantined since we arrived. In the afternoon, I try to take a walk for my health and sanity. I have the ability to throw on a mask if someone is coming near me, but for the most part am alone.

Even before the pandemic, I have a tendency to take in my environment but not really be observant. I know that sounds contradictory, but I am aware for my safety, but unless an alarm goes off inside I would not be able to tell you if the people I just passed were man, woman or child. I will generally say hello or nod, but I don’t really pay attention.

This day I was walking around the block, and was talking on the phone with my daughter and grandchildren. I was also texting a couple friends and looking at the calendar as we were planning a visit. I should have been more distracted. I was walking a different path than I previously took. I started to cross the street and passed a couple with four kids. I immediately recognized them and spoke to them. I didn’t mean to interrupt their family time, but I had tried to reach out online without success.

They were pastors of a church I had found online in my new community. What is the odds in a town of over 16,000 people of our paths crossing over a walk around the neighborhood? The church is across town. They took time to answer my questions and tell me more about their church. Then we went on our separate ways. I couldn’t tell you how many more people I passed, I went back to talking on my phone and finished my walk.

That is how God works, He puts the right people in our path at the right time. He gives a timely word, or uses someone to speak something that they couldn’t possibly know that we need to hear. He is all knowing, He knows what we need. He knows when we need it, even if His timing is not our timing. He knows how we need it, for us to receive it. I have seen Him do it time and time again, and always right on time. He is even willing to interrupt us, if we allow Him, to meet the need.

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Seeking Him

At the end of the year, I left my childhood town in Arkansas and moved to New Mexico. I have been surprised at how the temperatures may be similar on the thermometer but my body has felt warmer since I arrived in New Mexico, except the cold nights. When the sun drops, I feel like the temperatures plummet. I enjoy the sun, and am grateful to be able to work on getting some natural vitamin D even in the winter. Yesterday, I enjoyed the bright sun as I walked the perimeter of my new neighborhood. I was just amazed that I could be outside for an hour without a jacket when it was below sixty degrees. Usually I need something covering my hands and ears if it is below sixty.

Today I was looking forward to the same experience; it was a little later as I headed on my walk and cooler than yesterday. I grabbed a lite jacket thinking as I got moving I would warm up. As I passed the first house and the sun fell behind it, the temperature dropped considerably. My jacket was not sufficient. My ears and hands started getting cold. Even my feet, despite the walking were cold. It was a little better when I was out of the shadows, but walking in a neighborhood today, the shadows were more frequent.

I love how God can reveal things to me, even when I am just out for an afternoon stroll. I was impacted by the coolness each time something came between me and the sun. It is much the same way in our lives spiritually when we allow things to come between us and God. Even if it is just briefly, it impacts us. Maybe that is why the Scriptures tell us to seek Him first.

Matthew 6:33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.

I know in my own life, not only can I tell if I have allowed things to come before my time alone with God, others can too. My touch becomes a little bit colder. My compassion a little less passionate. My love a lot less loving. It doesn’t take a lot, missing a day of time with God, and I notice the difference. A couple days, and my fuse becomes a lot shorter in reaching frustration.

During the days leading up to my move, I was consistent in my Bible app devotion and Bible reading, but I missed several weeks of sitting down and journaling, which I typically do on my lunch break or after I get off work. I would talk to God throughout the day, but I didn’t have my set time with Him. I didn’t take the time to sit in His presence and just enjoy His Word and how it applies to my life.

I realized God was just giving me a glimpse in the natural of what goes on in my life spiritually when I let other things come between us. Yes, His grace covers me because He does not want me to spend time with Him legalistic. However, I enjoy the warmth of His presence more than the coolness that comes in my life when I too many things, or too much time comes between us. He wants me to desire those times when there is nothing between us, and let that be what I seek, just as I wanted to soak in the sun today walking.

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First Words

My pastor used to always ask “What is the first thing that God created?” I would always answer “the Heavens and the Earth.” His response was the first thing God created was sound. He spoke things into being.

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good; and God divided the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night. So the evening and the morning were the first day. Genesis 1:1-5

Maybe sound was the second thing, but as I read these scriptures again what stood out to me was the first sounds that were made by each of those in the garden. God’s voice was creative, which is important because we were made in His image. It got me thinking out the other people in thinking about the first sounds after creation. I am sure the animals made sounds, but what where the first sounds that are recorded from to man from God, from man, from woman and even the snake in the garden.

The first words God spoke to man were about his job and then boundaries. We need purpose and boundaries in our lives. Then the Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it. And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” Genesis 2:15-16

The first sound that man made, was Adam naming of the animals. Made in God’s image, Adam’s voice was also creative. He creatively names every living creature on earth. (I have to wonder what he thinks about the names given by scientists now to their discoveries of things they think are new.) Out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to Adam to see what he would call them. And whatever Adam called each living creature, that was its name. So Adam gave names to all cattle, to the birds of the air, and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper comparable to him. Genesis 2:19-20

The first words And Adam said: “This is now bone of my bones
And flesh of my flesh; She shall be called Woman, Because she was taken out of Man.”
Genesis 2:23

So basically “yeah, she’s like me.” It wasn’t “thank you God” or “she reflects you God” it was about her in relation to him. We still tend to see things in relation to ourselves. I know I have to pray “let me see them as you do Lord.” I need His perspective.

The first words by the snake were words of deception. That has not changed, the enemy still only speaks deception. Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?” Genesis 3:1

The first words by the woman was an embellished truth. And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.’ ” Genesis 3:2-3 God said “don’t eat it”, Eve added “don’t touch it.” We have to be careful of what we speak.

Our words are creative, because we were made in the image of God and He is The Creator.

Our words should be spoken carefully. But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. Matthew 12:36

Our words should point towards God., not ourselves. Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers through whom you believed, as the Lord gave to each one? I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase. I Corinthians 3:5-7

Our words should be 100% truth. Therefore, putting away lying, “Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor,” for we are members of one another. Ephesians 4:25

Our words should be spoken without deception. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Ephesians 5:6

We should not embellish our words. Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ. Colossians 2:8

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The Light of the World

Go therefore and make disciples of every nation, teaching them all things, baptizing them in the name of the Father the Son and the Holy Spirit. Matthew 18:19

I love city lights. There is something magical about lights to me. The sparking white, yellow and orange glow mesmerize me every time I have the opportunity to gaze upon the beauty. Although I admit, there is even some magic in the small town city lights. I especially love to see lights from a higher vantage point.

Today, as I was flying out of Houston, our plane was small. It didn’t travel at the higher altitudes. As we climbed higher and higher, the lights remained in view. We never lost sight of the lights on the ground throughout the flight. Not only the large city clusters, but the smaller cities, the trail of car lights on the massive highways and even some lone bright lights shining in the darkness.

I remembered that as the Church we are called to be the light of the world. I felt like what I was seeing was a clear picture of the Church today. A picture of what seems to be the latest fade in the church. A picture of where many believers stand as part of the church. And a picture of what we should be as followers of Christ, as the Church.

I could see clearly the clusters of light that shine brightly together, yet had no impact on the massive darkness that surrounds them. They light up a large spot, there is a deep darkness that engulfs everything surrounding the bright lights. It may make small ripples as it adds to its territory, but only in the area directly surrounding it.

There are a lot of groups in the Church that are focused on drawing people to their theology, their congregations, their programming. They are building a name, but the name is not always associated with Christ. Mainstream media has no problem sharing parts of them, because the focus on The Kingdom is left out of much of the attention they draw. They brand a person, music, or specific group, in the name of Christ often, but they do not generally have the primary focus of drawing people to Christ of demonstrating the Spirit and power of God. People follow the brand, until the brand fails or they move on, they often miss Christ on the message.

The Bible warns of this in I Corinthians 2:4, “And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power.

We need the power to that comes from the Spirit in order to be His witness to carry forth our purpose here on earth. But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth. Acts 1:8

Then the car lights, traveling on the highways caught my attention. In some spots that trail of lights were constant. Congested highways I saw our call to go in Matthew 28:19-20 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.

We are called to be His witnesses, to carry His light out into the world. The local Church was called to train the saints to carry out the work of the ministry. Our lights should be moving. They should not be stationary. They should be carried into our neighborhoods, our work places, our communities.

In other areas there were multiple small clusters of lights. Towns that were far enough apart to show their separation; yet bright enough to light up more of the darkness collectively in the area surrounding it.

I pictured the multiple groups that cross geographical lines, cross denominational lines, and combine well known groups or leaders to meet the needs of a community. Much like the New Testament Church of Acts these groups focus on building the Kingdom, agreeing on what they can and setting aside those things they don’t agree on to meet the needs of those around them. You get enough of these together, and the darkness disperses in the cluster of their light.

At times, there were some really bright lone lights. It was dark, I don’t know what they really were. I thought about the believer that feels like they are all alone in the darkness. Maybe the only believer in their workplace, which feels so dark and lonely. Or the only one in the family that is willing to take a stand in Christ against family norms and traditions, feeling isolated even in a group. Or the one labeled a “Holier than Thou” even by other believers, that isn’t quite sure where they fit in with others.

Yet lights like these, often shine brightest in the darkness. They illuminate the area immediately around them, and maybe a little farther. Yet their light is something others take notice of because everything else around them is so dark. There is value in being that lone light.

There were other lights that one could faintly see in the darkness, but were still visible. Maybe small well lit neighborhoods, maybe small city street lights, again I am not sure.

I think most a Christians feel like they are these lights. They want to shine bright in the darkness, but they don’t feel like their light makes an impact. Here is the truth, if I can faintly see the light from the sky, they are still shining bright. They are light to those around them, even if they don’t realize it yet. We have to hold onto that truth. The enemy wants nothing more than for use to believe the lie and hide our light from others thinking we have nothing to give.

Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.” John 8:12

You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Matthew 5:14

As believers, we carry the light of Christ in us. We do not walk in darkness, we are called to be the light of the world. We are not called to keep the light in the four walls of a building. We are meant to let it shine and carry Him with us in all that we do. We were made to connect with other believers and allow our lights to drive out the darkness. We are called to shine brightly where we are in life and not allow the enemy to convince us that we don’t shine enough so we might as well hide our light. We have His light in us!

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No weapon

No weapon formed against you shall prosper,
And every tongue which rises against you in judgment
You shall condemn.
This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord,
And their righteousness is from Me,”
Says the Lord.
Isaiah 54:17

I have quoted “No weapon formed against you shall prosper” more times than I can count. Anytime I feel an attack from the enemy, whether spiritual or through the hands of someone known to me, this scripture is my go to warfare. Yet I suppose I was not ready to hear the rest of the scripture, because when I looked this passage up, it was the second part of the scripture that stood out to me.

No weapon fashioned – the word for fashioned is Yatsar – Strong’S H3335. I can’t claim to be a Greek or Hebrew scholar, but when I looked this scripture up on Blue Letter Bible, this passage comes up under the definition “to form in the mind, to create, to plan“.

As a child, I remember the little rhyme, “Sticks and Stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” As a therapist, I understand the power of words. People heal from physicals wounds over time, even if scars remain. The thoughts that are planted in the mind, through verbal abuse or just careless talk are harder to heal, especially since those thoughts tend to fester in one’s mind as facts for far too many years. Often times, the exact words are forgotten, but the feeling becomes engrained in how we respond to others.

Yet scripture offers the key “No weapon formed in your mind against you will prosper, every tongue that rises up in judgement against you, you shall condemn.” It is not enough to take the thoughts captive and recognize they are lies. The weapons must be condemned. Christians have the power to overcome, but they must replace the words of judgement that have settled in their souls with the truth of God’s word. We have to verbally replace the lies, because our words have creative power. It is not enough to think them, we must hear the truth. We must speak out the truth over ourselves to condemn the lies.

The ability to overcome, the lies and the words that have hurt us, is part of our inheritance from the Lord. It is not just physical protection that the Lord offers us, but mental and emotional protection, as well. It is not just a promise for the future, it is our inheritance now, if we take hold of it. Our role is to condemn the words that are spoken again us.

As I typed those words, the thought popped into my head, “Yeah, but some of those words were true.” It is just like the enemy to try to come against a revelation. There have been a lot of bad things said about me, and sometimes those words were facts at the time. However, I am not who I used to be, those words are no longer true. And truth always trumps facts. If God, who is perfect can forgive me and wash my sins away as far as the east is to the west, then I need to take on the new identity that Christ provided and walk in the knowledge of who He says that I am. Old things are passed away, behold all things have become new.

Maybe it will take some time to defeat the lies that I have believed for years, not all battles are won in a day. Some might be. Regardless of how long it takes, I can stand on this promise in God’s Word. I can declare it because God’s Word does not return void. It will come to pass.

I can continue to declare His truth over myself.

No weapon formed against me shall prosper,
And every tongue which rises against me in judgment
I shall condemn.
This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord,
And my righteousness is from the Lord,”

I can continue to declare His truth over my family.

No weapon formed against my family shall prosper,
And every tongue which rises against my family in judgment
I shall condemn.
This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord,
And our righteousness is from the Lord,”
Says the Lord.

I can continue to declare His truth over my city and country.

No weapon formed against this city and country shall prosper,
And every tongue which rises against this city and country in judgment
We shall condemn.
This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord,
And our righteousness is from the Lord.

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Lay the Weight Down

I try to pay attention when something is repeated at me several times throughout the day or in a short period of time. I recognize that generally, God is trying to get my attention. He knows me well enough (really better than I know myself) to know, that sometimes I need things repeated multiple times to recognize He is speaking to me. I always find it interesting in where those messages come from in general.

As I was getting ready for work, the fictional book I was listening to on Audible mentioned the the Murph Challenge. I was only halfway listening when I heard the description, something about a crazy workout in weighted vest or body armor in memory of a Navy Seal. I didn’t give it much thought as I completed the chapter of the book I was listening to that morning and I went about my day.

As I sat down for my lunchtime devotion, I was reading from the Book of Mysteries by Jonathan Cahn, Day 304 The Power of Apoluo. The student shared the lesson of completing his daily activities with a backpack filled with stones. At the end of the day he was asked if he was ready to let it go, or if he wanted to keep going with it. It was a picture of how many choose to walk through life carrying things they were not meant to carry.

Later that same evening, I was reminded of an illustrated message I heard. I do not remember who preached the message, but they had a back pack filled with stones labeled with doubt, worry, unforgiveness, etc. It was then that I realized the reoccurring theme that I was seeing throughout the day.

That night I did an internet search of what I remembered from that morning to find the name of The Murph Challenge (assuming that it must be real). For those, like me, who are not familiar with The Murph Challenge, it was created in honor of a fallen Navy seal back in 2005. It is done worldwide, and now funds a scholarship. The challenge includes a one mile run, 100 pull-ups, 200 pushups, 300 squats and then another mile run. This is all completed in a 20 lb weighted vest or full body armor. Certainly not something that would interest me, although honoring fallen soldiers would be right up my ally.

While people do the Murph Challenge to honor a fallen soldier, I immediately thought, “we do not honor the Lord when we carry things that we are not called to carry.” My thoughts immediately went to the extra weight I am physically carrying. I know this is truth; one that I have felt convicted of recently to change. I know it is likely at the front of my mind as I just started a new journey in that area of my life. Yet, I felt like God was trying to show me something more than just the natural path that I am on. I was brought back to the scripture that I journaled with my lunch devotion: For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. Galatians 5:1

I wrote about how I have been praying lately that The Church, myself, my family, and those in my sphere of influence would have a true revelation of the finished work of the cross. I go back to Isaiah 53 as I pray. I ask that we would release the sorrows, the grief, the worry, the transgressions, the iniquities, the sickness, the disease, the oppression, and the guilt that weighs us down. Sometimes God lays specific people and needs on my heart to stand in the gap as I pray this, other times it is for “us” in general. We are set free from those things that so often weigh people down. We were not meant to carry them, despite the lies we believe.

Knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. Romans 6:6 Like the student from my devotion, we have the choice to lay it down or to continue to carry the added weight. The enemy likes nothing more than to bring up our sin. But sin lost its power at the cross. Sin was done away with. Christ paid the price for our freedom. We make a choice to walk enslaved to our sin.

In addition to sin, the world tells us that we must do more, be more, and have more. We get weighed down with obligations that have little value, afraid to say no for a variety or reasons. We carry worries about needless things. We take on labels that bind us to sickness, oppression, and sorrows. We must learn to lay these things back down at the foot of the cross any time we chose to pick them up. Some days I walk in that truth, other times it is a minute by minute decision to remind myself of this truth and to apply it not only to my life but to those I influence.

I also pray regularly that we would see ourselves as God sees us. I pray that we would walk in the complete power of what was done at the cross. I love looking at Ephesians 1. Just a few of the things that are written about God’s children: blessed, holy, chosen, blameless, redeemed, forgiven, and redeemed because of the blood of Christ. That is the freedom that Christ as given us. We need a revelation of who we are in Christ to walk it out. I know that it is easy to see myself as God does when things are going good, but when your walking through the valley, the vision often needs some fine tuning. I know that is true of myself, and for those I influence.

As I thought about the extra things that we choose to carry, this scripture came to mind: For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:30 ESV We are not called to carry the extra weight that are in each of the examples that came to mind. We are called to work together with Christ, to be yoked to Him. We are strengthened through Him because He carries the weight.

For whatever reason I was also reminded of Elisha, when Elijah found him, he was ploughing the field with a team of twelve oxen. When you have more people, you have less weight to carry, the work is done more efficiently. God has called us to work together as a body, when we work together with Him and each other, the burden is lighter. We were not meant to carry the load alone. Galatians 6:2 say Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

When God gets my attention, He generally really gets my attention. Whether it is physical weight, emotional baggage, sin, or obligations, we are not meant to carry what does not belong to us. If Jesus paid the price for it, we can choose to leave it at the foot of the cross. It is okay to tell others no and not take on added responsibilities that God has not called us to. And when we are being weighed down by the cares of the world, it is important that we ask God to help us carry them, and that we seek the support of our community of believers, friends, and family. We do not honor God when we carry weight He has already taken from us. We honor Him in laying it down.

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The Secret of the Garden

In my devotion today, from The Book of Mysteries by Jonathan Cahn, “Into the Garden” Day 282, I read how God placed man (Adam) into the garden (Genesis 2:15 Then the Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it.), a place of His blessings.

The garden then became a place of the curse (Genesis 3:17 Then to Adam He said, “Because you have heeded the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree of which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat of it’: “Cursed is the ground for your sake; In toil you shall eat of it All the days of your life.).

Then Jonathan Cahn contrasted man placing Jesus in the garden tomb (John 19:41 Now in the place where He was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid.), a place of sorrow.  He wrote, “God allowed Himself to be brought to the place of our curse to give us the power to leave that place, that He might once more bring us to a place of life, and to a life of His blessings.”

The Secret of the GardenI have been pondering on the garden all day.  I am used to hearing talk about the wilderness.  A place where Jesus faced trials, and to describe the place of trials that we walk through in our own life.  I have not heard much about the garden. As I thought about gardens the following is what came to me:

Death entered the world in the garden through Adam and Eve’s disobedience (Genesis 3:19 Till you return to the ground, For out of it you were  taken; For dust you are, And to dust you shall return.”).  Christ, in His obedience, overcame death at the garden tomb (Romans 6:9 knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him.).

I also thought about the Garden of Gethsemane, it was there that Christ died to His own will and surrendered His life for us.  From the account in  Matthew 26: 38-44 Then He said to them, “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch with Me.”  He went a little farther and fell on His face, and prayed, saying, “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.”  Then He came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, “What! Could you not watch with Me one hour? Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Again, a second time, He went away and prayed, saying, “O My Father, if this cup cannot pass away from Me unless I drink it, Your will be done.”  And He came and found them asleep again, for their eyes were heavy. So He left them, went away again, and prayed the third time, saying the same words.

It is just like Satan to pollute something that God created as a blessing.  He thought he won in the garden of Eden, instead God provided a way of redemption through Christ. Satan thought he had victory as Jesus wept in the garden, but God strengthened Jesus for the job ahead of Him.  Satan thought he won that day as Jesus died on the cross and was placed in the tomb.  Instead, Jesus rose from the grave.  God redeemed what looked like defeat every time.  He turned sorrow into joy.  He took what the enemy meant to destroy into victory.  What was mean to be a sign of final defeat, the garden tomb, became the hope of every believer.

The empty tomb became the first place that the gospel was shared (Matthew 28:5-7But the angel answered and said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay.  And go quickly and tell His disciples that He is risen from the dead, and indeed He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him. Behold, I have told you.”), and to women  none the less.  I guess someone forgot to tell the angels that women aren’t suppose to share the gospel with men.  It is probably a good thing or they would have continued fishing instead of going to Galilee to seek Him.

As I thought about the garden in the natural sense, it is a place where seeds go to die.  It is a place where things fall to the ground, and ultimately die as well.  However, the garden is also a place of life, of fruitfulness, of growth, and purpose.  It depends on what part of the cycle we put our focus what we will see as we look at a garden.

I realize Adam could have made a choice not to cultivate the land and died after being evicted from the Garden of Eden.  Jesus could have said “Nah, I think I will pass on the beating and death on the cross.  They can pay for their own sins.”  And Jesus could have chosen to succumb to death and not risen again.  The cycles could have stopped if they had not refocused their attention to what God wanted in and through their lives.

In order to move into life, Adam had to move forward through hard work and effort.  In order to see the fruit bore, Jesus had to go to the cross.  In order to see growth, the women and then the disciples had to put their trust in something bigger than themselves.  In order to fulfill their purpose, they all had to lay everything on the line, and step forward even when death was all they could see.

I often I allow the enemy to cloud my vision and keep me focused on what has died in front of me.  I stay in that moment of defeat instead of allowing Christ to  move me into the redemptive cycle that will follow.  I stand looking and the dying seed that I planted, and fail to use the time to cultivate it’s growth realizing that it must die to bear fruit.  Or I stand looking at the wilted plant or even what is left after the harvest, instead of preparing the ground for the next cycle of planting.

How many seeds in my own life have gone uncultivated because I have given up on them?  How much land is still waiting for preparation so that the harvest can continue?  I am so grateful that I serve a God who can redeem the lost time, who has protected the seed and the land, because His plans didn’t change just because I was stalled by the enemy.

The Lord will guide you continually,
And satisfy your soul in drought,
And strengthen your bones;
You shall be like a watered garden,
And like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.

Isaiah 58:11

My part is choosing to let go of what I thought it would look like, to let go of the dead things.  I must realize the secret of the garden is that the things that appear dead, they are just fertilizer for what is coming next.  I must start cultivating where I have been called.  I have to go back and tend to the seeds that have been planted, watering those that others have not come to tend in my failure.  I have to go back to the garden, and start preparing the land for whatever God is going to do next in and through me.

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Forgiveness of Sins

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  I John 1:9 

As I read this scripture my mind went in four different directions.  Such a familiar passage, and yet I was seeing it with a fresh perspective and an inquiring mind.

  • We have to CONFESS our sin

I am not sure why confession is so hard.   Even as children, it is much easier to accept the discipline than it is to confess what was done.  Children will receive time out or spanking with boldness.  Ask a child to tell you what he/she did wrong, and when he/she finally gets down to it, the confession is coupled with tears.

Confession brings us to repentance.  It shows our vulnerability, our imperfections.  Bringing those vulnerabilities and imperfections to a perfect God, feels intimidating.  So often, instead of wanting to confess my sins to God, I try to justify my sin, deny my sin, or hide my sin.  God KNOWS our sins, He just wants us to confess them.

When I try to justify my sins, God has to work on my heart condition.  When I justify something that I am doing, I am making the excuse that it is okay.  If what I am doing is really a sin, I need a heart change.

When I deny my sin, it is usually because I don’t see my thought or action as sin.  I need a change in my thinking; so that I can see it as sin, as God does.

When  I hide my sins, I am just adding sin, on top of sin, on top of sin.  I know what I am doing is wrong, but I just don’t want to stop it.  I have the original sin. I have the disobedience (from not just confessing it).  I have the sin of lying about it.

Regardless of my initial response, confession is what is needed.  God will with mercy show us the error of our heart, thoughts, or actions.  Plain and simple, we just need to confess our sins.  He will hear our confession.  He does forgive us.  He will not condemn us.

Confess our sinsWe just need to say “God, I confess my sin (And be specific).  I want to change.  I need Your help.  Thank You for forgiving me.”

And then, we need to work on the heart change.  With a heart change comes a thought change.  And with a thought change will be a behavioral change.    When we try to change the behavior first, the struggle is much harder.  Without a heart and mind change, we will often find we go back to the sinful behavior eventually.

  • He is FAITHFUL to forgive our sins

God is faithful to forgive our sins.  He is consistent.  He doesn’t roll the dice or ask the eight-ball if He should forgive us this time or not.  He is not a sometimes “I will” and sometimes “I won’t” God.  He is always listening.  He always hears our confessions.  He is always available.  We can rely on Him.  We can fully trust Him.  He will forgive our sins if we confess them.

  • He is JUST in forgiving our sins

The word “just” stuck out to me.  Faithful I understand, but what does it mean that God is just in forgiving our sins?

From Blue Letter BibleJustdikaios Strong’s G1342 observant of righteous, observing divine and human laws; one who is such as he ought to be; 2. In a narrower sense, rendering to each his due; and that in a judicial sense, passing just judgment on others, whether expressed in words or shown by the manner of dealing with them:  (who executes the laws of his government, and therefore also the law concerning the pardon of sins)

I take all that to understand that God is bound in the legal sense to forgive us because the price was paid in full by Christ.  He is just to forgive us because He does so under the law.  We are pardoned because Jesus paid the price.  He is just in applying it to us when we confess our sin.

  • He CLEANSES from ALL unrighteousness

It is not some, but ALL unrighteousness we are cleansed from when we confess our sins.

From Blue Letter Bible:  All – pâs πᾶς STRONGS NT 3956:  individually, each, every, any, all, the whole, everyone, all things, everything

From Blue Letter Bible: to Cleanse – katharizō Strong’s G2511 to make clean, to cleanse, in a moral sense; to free from the guilt of sin, to purify

Jesus made a way for us to be purified and free from the guilt of sin.  When we confess our sin, we  are cleansed from ALL sin.  That means after confession, any guilt that we feel is self-imposed.  God freed us from the guilt when we made the confession.

As I thought about being purified I was reminded of an old soap commercial that claimed to be 99.9% pure.  A friend used to say (not sure if it was jokingly or serious, as she had knowledge of the factory), that the 0.1% was because of  the mouse that dropped in the mixture.  The company could not say their product was 100% pure.

Yet with Christ, we are 100% purified.  There is nothing left that the enemy can use to condemn us.  Christ blood purified us. He freed us from the guilt of our sin!

~~~~~~

Lord, thank You that all I need to do is confess what You already know, my sins.  Thank You that the finished work of Christ allows Your complete, faithful, and just, forgiveness of all my unrighteousness.  Thank you that I am purified by the Blood of the Lamb.

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One Size too Big or too Small?

This year I felt that my focus word needed to be intentional.  It is a work in progress, but I have focused on being intentional on a few areas of my life.  I have looked for tips and tools that help me to be intentional in those areas.  Earlier this month I started listening to Intentional Living by John Maxwell.  From listening to many of his trainings and books, I know that he is a man that lives intentionally.

This book Intentional Living has so much knowledge and wisdom in it.  He encourages people to dream and live bigger than themselves.  He shares about the difference between success and significance.  He talks about the trade-offs that we have to make to live a life of significance.  He talks about living beyond our fears, and trusting God to help us fulfill the dreams He has given us.  He talks about walking in faith for the resources we need for our God given purpose.

He talks about passionate people and their intentional pursuit of dreams bigger than themselves.  He shares about the importance of being surrounded by like-minded people, staying on the path of the true why behind the dream, and keeping the right attitude.   He talked about the different responses to dreams: survival, success, and significance.

What caught my attention though, and stopped me from going further in his train of thought in the moment, was when he shared the following story:  “Dreams often come one size too big, so that we can grow into them.” He shared about how as a child his parents would buy a size bigger shoes for him, because he was a growing young man.  They would tell him “You will grow into these in no time.”  He said that is what he tells people now as they step into their significant shoes, “It may feel a little too big for you right now, but don’t worry as you start taking steps, you will grow into them and become the significant person you were created to be.”

Too Big or too smallI quickly thought about how many times, I have stopped my pursuit because I feel like it is bigger than me.  I never considered it was something I would grow into as I moved forward.    Even in small things, I have allowed myself to doubt and refused to step out of my comfort zone.

My mind immediately went back to shoes.  When I worked at the hospital, we would often have shoes sales.  The shoes were specific brands designed for nurses who were on their feet all day. While there would be some American shoes, the majority were European shoes.  The sizes were much different than what I was used to, instead of a size 8 or 9, I would wear anywhere from a 39 to 41.  As one of the salespersons helped me, I told her there was a little slip in the heal when I walked.  She explained that it was indeed the right size as there was suppose to be a little room.  She told me that Americans actually where their shoes too small.

That message screamed at me, as I contrasted it with John Maxwell’s comment about growing in to who you are created to be.  I realized not only have I not been willing to consider growing in to my calling, I have been content to wear a calling that is even smaller than what I am created for right now.

The dream that has been in me for over two decades is to see the Church be the Church.  Daily I see the hurting world around me.  I see the tangible needs of people, and want nothing more than to see God’s hands reach down and and minister to the need.  I remember coming to the realization that God did not call the government or the non-profits to meet the needs, He called the Church.  My repentant heart broke before the Lord and He created in me a new heart.  I began to see things differently and want to see a change in how I helped others.

At first, I didn’t see that my dream was in operation.  I knew what I wanted to see happen, and what I was doing did not look like I thought it would.  Yet, I distinctly remember the day that God showed me I was in fact living out that dream.  It was at a smaller scale than the dream I have, but God was growing it, and I was walking it out.

Somewhere along the way,  I know almost the exact point, I stopped expanding and instead shrunk back from the dream that has been within me for decades.  I allowed my vision to get blurred by hurt and rejection.  I recognized it, and attempted to adjust and refocus.  Eventually though, I pulled back from all but my professional role.  Now here I stand in shoes that are too small for the dream inside of them.

We bought some shoes for our grandkids a few years ago.  They always came in flip flops, and we thought it would be safer for them to have enclosed shoes when they were riding the bicycles they kept at our house.  So the shoes stayed at our house, and when they wanted to ride they would put their shoes on.  Eventually their shoes became too small, yet I know for a while they would still squeeze their feet in the shoes because they wanted to ride their bicycles.  It wasn’t until they needed some assistance in getting on, I realized how small the shoes were compared to their feet.  We went and bought new shoes.  Yet, four years later, as I was cleaning up their room the other day and I still found one of the size 9 Minnie Mouse shoes and the size 7 Turtle shoes.

I have to let go the past.  I have to reclaim the dream that is inside of me.  I have to step out of the shoes that are too small, and go ahead and embrace the shoes that I can grow into.  I have to look ahead and not behind.  I have to stop just trying to survive, there is so much more inside of me than mere survival.   It is time that I ask God for new shoes, allow Him to show me the size and trust that I will not only find success as I walk in them, but that they will leave a trail of significance as He leads.

 

 

 

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