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Thursday, December 31, 2015

A Believer's Repentant Heart

Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God--this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer 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” (Romans 12:1-2,NIV).

As a believer I don't have a choice to ignore what the Holy Spirit wishes to mold in my life. I do not have the option to refuse His power that can transform my heart attitude. My life should be an act of spiritual worship to the Savior who became a living sacrifice for me. Spirit and truth are inseparable. If I worship God in spirit and truth (John 4:23-24), I offer a yielded heart and mind to His transforming power. Spiritual change which yearns to live a holy life that honors God–which yearns to spiritually believe God's promise of unending possibilities–which yields my life to His will and purpose –is discovered in the spiritual renewing of my mind.

You were taught,” Paul also wrote,” with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:23-23, NIV). I am created to be holy as God is holy (I Peter 1:15), but I cannot be like Him until my attitudes and desires are what He wishes. In repentance I turn from that which has sinfully controlled my life, and in sanctification I yield to the ongoing process of renewal that the Holy Spirit imparts. When my heart and mind are constantly renewed, I live with a believer's repentant heart–one that is easily molded and shaped. This kind of heart attitude creates the ability to put off the old self and put on the new one. As I grow in faith I realize that with daily surrender to His will I am brought closer to my ultimate goal. In heaven when I stand in the presence of God, holiness shall be a goal completely realized. No longer will I see Him through a glass darkly, but then I shall see Him face to face (I Corinthians 13:12).

God seeks the whole earth for those whose hearts totally belong to Him (I Chronicles 16: 9). To such a person God gives His strength which empowers personal change. Believers, who constantly experience the renewing power of the Holy Spirit, humbly seek God’s power to transform their lives and respect His authority with absolute surrender. When David’s sin with Bathsheba was brought to his attention by Nathan, David hit the ground in repentance. There was no hesitation in his humble heart. If his heart had been calloused, He would never have experienced God's conviction. David's example teaches that even those with a heart that love the Lord, need to be spiritually open to the convicting presence of the Holy Spirit. David experienced God’s immediate forgiveness because of his repentant heart.

I will give you a clean heart and put a new spirit in you, “God promises. “I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 36: 26, NIV). Where once my heart was as hard and unyielding as stone now He promises it shall beat with the pulsating blood of His living sacrifice. Where once personal calloused inner pain kept God’s power to change my life from reaching me, I now shall be energized by His living presence. A new heart and the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit fills me with the desire to keep His laws and commandments–not because they are rules to be followed, but because I love Him above all else. His law shall be my delight, and in every way He shall be my God and I shall belong only to Him (Ezekiel 26: 27-28).

Holiness is the result of a “Holy Spirit” transformed heart, and is not the result of any legalistic-type rule. It is the outward expression of inward renewal and heart change. Because the sacrifice of Christ's blood has made me clean, holiness requires absolute surrender to the will of God. Christ’s blood flows easily and fully into a repentant heart. Repentance is a life-altering. It means that I have been halted in my tracks, and made a complete turn around. True repentance comes from knowing the convicting power of the Holy Spirit that changes my heart attitude. It is not measured in personal outward change as the Pharisees instructed. It is measured in the change of my heart. It calls for a transformation that inspires vulnerability to a Holy God and the transforming power of His Spirit. Lord, help me, always to have a believer's repentant heart.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Exercising Faith

Lord, you will give perfect peace to those who commit themselves to be faithful to you. That’s because they trust in you” (Isaiah 26:3, NIRV).

Commitment to trust in God's faithfulness is a decision. Commitment to act on that trust and be faithful to Him is another decision. These are both conscious acts of the mind that will eventually result in a faith that cannot be shaken. The NIV version of this verse says that “you will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.” You can have a steady mind that trusts! You can “be made new in the attitude of your mind” (Ephesians 4:23, NIV). You can get off the roller coaster ride filled with emotional hazards that wreck havoc in your life. Consciously “put on your new self” and allow the Holy Spirit to change your attitude–the way you think, live, and act (Ephesians 4:24 and Romans 12:1). Begin to exercise faith, and before long His peace will guard your heart and mind.

Think about what you are thinking about,” Joyce Meyer writes. Instead of obsessing over and analyzing what is wrong in your life or the lies Satan throws at you or a promise that you haven't yet received, dwell on what Christ has done for you. Dwell on His love that gave His life for you. Dwell on the fact that He loved you enough to take your failures and your sins to the cross so you can be free. Stay in His Word, and learn of His constant and abiding presence. Think continually about the strong omnipotent power that God promises for your life, and ask Him for it. Think constantly about laying your heart before Him, and seeking open heart-felt prayer with Him. Seek Him without ceasing. Focus your heart and mind and all your attention on the Almighty God who brings you new life. With a steadfast mind and heart, you will know His peace and receive greater faith.

Without faith it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6). Pray for greater faith. Think about the positive changes that will come in your life from having greater faith. Get into the Word and learn that faith comes by hearing and understanding the Word of God (Romans 10:17). Read and pray for wisdom to discern the Word. He does not withhold it from you. He gives it generously (James 1:5). That wisdom helps you discern the author of your thoughts, and offers you God's power to bring your thoughts under His control (2 Corinthians 10:5). He extends the power to you, but by faith you choose to exercise it. When you exercise your faith, it grows stronger.

Faith in God—faith in the truth of His Word—faith in His promises—faith in the fact He will never leave or forsake you—faith in who He says He is—all these enable you to receive His power in your life. As you give Him the gift of your determined and mustard-seed faith, He gives His faith back to you with increasing power to believe. But never forget that faith and power must be exercised! Determine to overcome Satan's lies or your own fearful thoughts, and determine to believe in God's truth. His power and your faith go hand-in-hand. God's power in your life is realized by the faith you exercise.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Uncertainty at the Edge

Uncertainty at the Edge

He gave a command to the Red Sea, and it dried up; he led his people across on dry land” (Psalm 106:9, GNT).

Each of us at some point will face a Red Sea. It will be something harder than we ever imagined. There will appear to be no way through or around it. It will appear that there is no answer. But just as the Lord parted the Red Sea for His people fleeing Egypt–just as He dried it up so they could move safely forward–just as He provided what was necessary at their most desperate moment, He parts the Red Sea and makes a path for His children now.

Moses never failed in trusting God. With the Red Sea in front of him and the Egyptians advancing from behind, he stood with the Israelites at the very edge of what appeared destruction. He had followed the Lord's leading, and now there seemed to be no hope. There was no visible escape. There was nothing but his faith in the Lord who had brought them to this place. “'Do not be afraid,' Moses told the Israelites. 'Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still'” (Exodus 14:13-14, NIV). When Moses told the Israelites to be still and wait for the Lord to fight, God told them something different. “Then the Lord said to Moses, 'Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to move on. Raise your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea to divide the water so that the Israelites can go through the sea on dry ground'” (Exodus 14:15-16, NIV). He told Moses to raise His staff and the waters would part, and He told the people to keep moving forward in faith. There at the edge, the decision had to be made. They moved forward trusting God to hold back the walls of water. They moved forward trusting God to take care of the enemy behind them. The promise of deliverance came with their obedience to step forward into the uncertainty of the what was ahead.

When faced with our Red Sea, we sometimes try to pull back. Perhaps we see it rising in the distance, and we turn from its imposing presence. But the army of life presses us closer, and we cannot turn back. Suddenly we stand the edge. We believe that there is no way to go further, and there is obviously no retreat; we give up and are paralyzed by our fear. To experience freedom, we must move into our Red Sea. It is at that moment when circumstances allow no retreat, that we must go forward into the unknown for God to part the waters and make a way through it. That imposing Red Sea presents the greatest fear. But without facing the fear and moving right through it with God's help, we will never overcome that which has driven us to the very edge of ourselves.

Our Red Sea lies ahead. Circumstances press from behind. We know that we must face our Red Sea. There is no escape. We can either allow it to paralyze, or we can step forward in faith and allow God to part the waters. We can either try to control what we cannot control, or we can release our fear to God and move forward in faith. At the very edge, we make our decision. It is not only the edge of our Red Sea; it is the edge of ourselves. We know that there is nothing that we can do. If we step into the unknown, we will discover the power of God to strengthen and deliver. Believing and trusting that the waters will part, we will go forward through what otherwise might destroy us. It is there in what appears sure destruction that we experience His power to deliver and even change the circumstances which have brought us to the edge. We find in the depths of what we have feared the most that when we have been obedient, we have His peace and the pure joy of victory.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Launch into the Unknown

Whoever watches the wind will not plant; whoever looks at the clouds will not reap” (Ecclesiastes 11:4, NIV).

I first discovered this verse at the Southern Christian Writer's Conference years ago. It became a verse to inspire me to keep on pushing myself to write no matter how I feel. Yesterday I was excited to hear that my pastor had chosen it to inspire us to “Leap into 2016”. He chose the first letter in “Leap” to represent the fact that we are to “live uncertain”. We are to live by faith. If I “watch the wind” and “look at the clouds” instead of disciplining myself to write, I will reap nothing in return. If I never attempt a word, I will never write a sentence. And if I never risk the comfortable certainty of my life, I will never grow in my personal faith.

This new year can be a great year of growth in our faith if we step out of the certainty of the place where we have settled–if we risk something new that pushes us to believe in what our eyes cannot see. How many times have we heard that we need to move forward in Jesus Christ, and let go of the comfortable place where we have settled?  We need to get out of the safety of the boat, and launch out into the depths of the unknown with Him. “Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me” (Psalm 42:7). The depth of the Holy Spirit calls to the depth of man and bids him, “Come. Step out of the boat, and launch out into the deep with me!” Do I long for His waves and breakers to sweep over me carrying me to new heights? If I truly long for these unknown depths of complete surrender, I must let go of all that has defined who I am. I must risk believing in what He has chosen for my life. I must risk, plant, and invest in the unknown.

How many of us allow our failures, pains, attitudes, and even sins that were crucified with Christ to hold us back? Christ calls us to let go of all that has defined who we have been. I must let go of what I consider the certain security of the boat. There is no certainty in the boat I have constructed. There is no certain security in false hopes and dreams that offer nothing in the end. That boat is subject to the waves and storms of life. That boat can sink. But I will discover when I let go of my self-constructed identity, and step out into the depths of the unknown in Christ, I am at last standing strong upon faith in Him, and not sinking into the depths of my own despair.  When I step out of that boat into what is uncertain, I am no longer the person who could not quite get things together, or a person who has been crushed by circumstance. I am no longer someone who lets feelings of rejection, whether imagined or real, define who I am. I am no longer one who needs the world to approve of me. I am no longer a person ruled by fear. I have found my worth in Christ. I am a new person.

I love this pictorial expression from the book, The Shack by William Young, Mack stands on the end of a dock with Jesus, and stares at the surface of the lake. Jesus asks Mack to take his hand, and step off the dock, but Mack can't let go of the certain security of the dock. “So, why do I have so much fear in my life?” he asks. Jesus' answer cuts to the core of the issue. “Because you don't believe. You don't know that I love you. The person who lives by his fear will not find freedom in my love.” We must not be afraid to move forward into the unknown of 2016. Fear will hold us in our own self-constructed boat. But there is freedom from all that has defined us when we step out into the unknown in faith.

Do you want to find freedom in His love? If you plant your life, you will reap greater faith. Each day step out of the boat and discover your newness in Him again and again. The old will fail you. The new in Christ will never fail. Launch into the depths of what has been your uncertainty. You will find it the most certain thing you have ever done. 

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Rest Until You Receive His Strength

When Paul wrote, "I can do everything through Christ who gives me strength," (Philippians 4:13), he did not mean that he was to do all things and then rely on the Lord to find strength. He meant that for all he was told to do he could rely on the Lord for supplying the strength. God's work in the world has been hindered by self-strengthened work. Self-driven work finally wears us thin, and we burn out. Self drives out the Spirit, and the strength that is offered. The Holy Spirit should not only be our direction, but our strength. We are to yield to Him, and wait for the strength He supplies.

We are to be still and know He is God (Psalm 46:10). We are to rest in Him until we understand spiritually what His power means. That is when we are strengthened. What does it mean to rest in Him? To be still and know that He is God? Those that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength. They shall mount up as eagles (Isaiah 40:31). The Lord shall be the wind beneath their wings. That wind is constant, never wavering or faltering. It is as sure as He is the Cornerstone–our foundation. The Holy Spirit supports all that He has brought forth in our lives, and in every way supplies strength for His calling, for our need, for every moment, every concern. The strength He imparts is our heartbeat, and we cannot exist without it.

What does this mean for me? For you? When you are tired or fear suddenly closes around your heart, rest in the Lord until you are joyful again. Until His strength has become your own. Work only with Him, and let the time of rest be one where His strength is renewed. Never seek to work for Him with your own strength. You will never discover that constant wind that carries you in the height of the Spirit. Live with Him, and for Him, and He will open doors of His own desire. It is at the moment you realize that without Him you can do nothing that you have surrendered yourself to His power.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

A New Day and a New Hope

"This is the day the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it" (Psalm 118:24, NLT).

“Another day another dollar” is an old saying which, if said in a discouraging way, speaks of the futile repetition of each day. Does life feel like futile repetition? Does the thought of a new day bring discouragement? Each new day is not meant to discourage, but to inspire and lift you above what has brought despair and clouded your mind. A new day is God's gift to you. He offers you a new perspective and hope. Christ gave His life so you might experience His peace in the midst of suffering and His hope in the midst of despair. Whatever you face His power carries you safely through it. Whatever the world tells you is only what the world tells you. It is not what God tries to impart to your mind and heart. You are not alone. He is with you through each day ahead.

Rise in each new day, and say “He is with me.” Give him a sacrifice of praise that you have been extended His opportunity of another day. Pray. Read His Word. Seek His presence. Lay your heart before Him completely exposed and with nothing held back. Be honest about your feelings and fear of what the day might bring. Give those feelings to Him. Trust Him. This day will be the best when you allow Him to carry you through it. Daily things accomplished in His strength impart greater faith.

Let “another day another hope” be your perspective on this new day day. Expect His presence. Expect His help in His Word. Expect His peace which comes as you give Him your heart's struggle. Open your heart and mind. It is His new day, and whatever it brings, you will receive all that you need. Rejoice that He is with you. You have a new day and a new hope.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Always With You

"For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future" (Jeremiah 29:11, NIV).
You are not alone. I am with you. I have all the concerns of your life in my grasp. Don't worry about what is ahead. Don't worry about what tomorrow holds. Today is enough for you. Don't dwell on what may happen or what may come. Your faith is precious, and it cost my life. I will not sacrifice your heart. I am here with you in this torment. Give me your fear and your raging thoughts. You know me. Your life is in my hand. Your future is safe and secure in me. No weapon that forms against you will succeed. No problem will be too great or horrible for you to handle. You will rise above whatever might come because you have waited on me . You have sought me. You have learned from me. You have taken my Word, and it has become your very life. No matter what your future might hold, it is secure in me. I am your unassailable defense, your fortress, your strong tower, and I will never leave you or forsake you. Believe me–not just believe in me, and nothing shall break the faith you have in my plans for your life. You are my love, and I am always with you.”

Monday, December 21, 2015

Morning Comes

Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning” (Psalm 30:5b, NLT).

Whatever I face, I am not alone. He is my warrior. Whatever my personal struggle, I know He is my rock. He stands strong for me. Whatever oppresses, I know that He is my deliverer. He lifts the heavy burden. He redeems all that I have been, and His payment takes care of all of my life. This is my hope. Whatever pain might come my way, it will not last forever. The promise of His peace is real. The sadness I might feel now anticipates the joy to come. Hope comes to His children who believe that after the night of weeping His joy will come.

“Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope. Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:21-23, NIV). I will never give up trusting the Lord through any dark night of despair. He is faithful to take care of my heart through all that I face. He is able, and He will guard my heart because His compassion never fails. Morning will come.

Friday, December 18, 2015

The Truth in Love

On the contrary, we speak as men approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please men but God, who tests our hearts” (1 Thessalonians 2:4, NIV).

“What will Miranda think of me?” Gladys thought. For weeks she had felt a spiritual unease about Miranda's need to always be the center of attention. She felt concerned about Miranda's need for recognition. Gladys thought the feeling might go away, but the pressure only grew. In today’s passage Paul tells the Thessalonians that he must tell them the truth—no matter how difficult it might be for them to hear. Telling another person God’s truth is one of the hardest, yet greatest gifts you can impart. It is hard because it places your personal relationship with someone in unknown waters. It is great because it has the potential to reap a great reward.

Before ever approaching a friend about your concern, humbly examine your motive. Be sure it is from the Lord. Don’t have any thing in your personal life which doesn’t support what you say. Most importantly, always speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). Your love or lack of it will be felt in your approach, choice of words and the tone of your voice. Gladys humbly and lovingly spoke with Miranda. In the beginning Miranda was hurt, but through constant loving care from Gladys, she blossomed. Speaking the truth in love means you are willing to invest your time. Gladys helped Miranda realize that low self-esteem made her constantly seek the approval of others. Through time Miranda came to understand that the need to feel the love of God was what she really sought. His was the acceptance she had sought all along.

What if you are like Miranda, and are on the receiving end? If your friend comes to you “speaking the truth in love”, listen with the love of Jesus in your heart. Realize that what you hear might not be pleasant to your ears, but it also might be necessary to make a difference in your life. Do not take it as a judgment of your character. Listen to what your friend says and ask for the Lord to reveal if it is something that needs to be addressed. Yes, there may be emotional feelings of hurt at first, but take the time and pray about what has been said to you. God will use it to make a difference in your life. The advice will either inspire you to change something in your life or teach you how to respond without hurt to advice which, though you feel is not needed, has been offered in love.

Whether you are called to speak the truth in love or to be the person that receives it, remember this. The sacrifice which is the hardest is often the one that brings the greatest blessing. 

Thursday, December 17, 2015

This Christmas Reach for Him

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11, KJV).

For unto us a child is born, but not just any child. He is a child born to save the world. He is a child born to save you and me. He is a child born to change our hearts. This child speaks hope where the world speaks discouragement. This child gives joy where the world offers despair. He imparts what the world can never impart–His peace. For “all who mourn in Israel, he will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair. In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks that the Lord has planted for his own glory” (Isaiah 61:3, NLT).

Jesus Christ came into the world to lay down his life for our sin. He was not forced to give up His life, but He gave it freely for you and me. Because of His willing sacrificial love for us, we can go into the presence of an almighty God and find help in our times of need (Hebrews 4:16). There is hope in the midst of discouragement and despair. There is the promise of eternal life, joy, and peace. His name is the name above all other names. He is the one who is your answer.

This Christmas ask Him into your heart, and experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything you can understand. His peace will guard your heart and mind (Philippians 4:7). His joy will claim you. His purpose will guide you. His power will sustain you. His promise will fill you. He offers a beautiful life for the ashes of a burned-out one. He offers a life of joyous blessing and praise instead of a heart of despair. He offers hope and an abundant life. Just ask Him. This is what it takes...your surrender of all that has burdened you. Give it all up so you can gain His peace. This Christmas reach for Him.

Give Him a Surrendered Heart

“Give me understanding and I will obey your instructions; I will put them into practice with all my heart. Make me walk along the path of your commands for that is where my happiness is found” (Psalm 119:34-35, NLT).

Do you know that you have been called to a great work? Mary, the mother of Jesus, was called to a great work. The angel, Gabriel, came to her and said, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.” Mary trembled at the news, but she replied, “I am the Lord's servant.” (Matthew 1:36-38).

Mary had a heart to obey. She never walked away from God's calling. Don't walk away from what God has called you to do for the sake of time or personal need or even fear. The desire of His heart is for you to know Him completely, to be fulfilled in your calling, to have a pliable heart, to know the power of His presence, and to receive what He has promised. The promise is realized when you allow Him to work in your life, and you give Him the gift of a surrendered and obedient heart. What God has promised you is true, and He will bring it to pass in His time.

Jesus is the reason for this wonderful season. Christ was born for you and me, and He died for us. It came at the greatest cost─His pure life for our sinful one─His perfect love for our rejection─His pain for our stubbornness. And what will it cost? A repentant, and obedient heart. His will instead of our own. Perhaps you were once wandering, longing to be used by the Lord, longing to be fulfilled in His purpose. The Holy Spirit opened a door; you walked obediently through it and knew the joy of His promise and His purpose. His will is your anchor which sustains through all the trials and hardships. Never let go of it.

Have you made a decision about your life which has placed His will on the shelf? Have you let go of the precious gift of His calling for the sake of your own personal need or because of fear? Long ago I did. There was no joy in placing my desire before His calling. I knew great loneliness and pain. At the time my decision seemed so right, because my need seemed so great, but I learned later I had lost so much of what He had promised. And my greatest loss was in failing Him. I lost so much believing I was making the best decision, when all He wanted was for me to allow Him to be in control. He just wanted my obedient heart. He longed for me to trust Him to bring about what He had promised. And what it cost was the loss of His purpose and presence. Never again will I turn from His will for my life.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9, NIV). Mary realized the omnipotence of a great God, and the importance of what He asked. She realized that He was higher in every way than she could ever be─that His purpose and vision in every way surpassed Her own. If He has promised you something allow Him to bring it to pass in His time. His vision is sometimes beyond your human understanding and comprehension, but trust Him for His purpose. He will give you a heart of understanding. If you will obey His instructions–following the path He has created just for you, you will discover a happiness you never thought possible.

Give Him the gift of a surrendered and obedient heart this Christmas. Give Him all of you.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Feast and Be Satistifed

“God blesses you who are hungry now, for you will be satisfied. ” (Luke 6:21a, NLT).

On Christmas Day you are usually too excited opening presents to eat very much in the morning. You also may not have eaten much in anticipation of what you are going to be offered for your holiday meal. You have waited expectantly for that feast, and you can't wait to be filled with it riches. This is just an earthly feast. Its riches do not last. It is there at one moment filling you to overflowing and then leaving you hungry the next. You have partaken of its earthly bounty, but it has offered no lasting sustenance. Its riches have left you deflated and without purpose. You are empty once more. Like Esau you have filled yourself with the immediate satisfaction of a rich blessing, but unlike Esau, you do not have to miss the promise of a lasting one.

Jesus' feast is like no earthly one. He prepares a table of spiritual riches that satisfies the deepest spiritual void in your life. His feast isn't devoured in an instant and then gone the next. His feast is everlasting, and the richness of its offering is constant. When you come spiritually hunger to His table for the spiritual feast he has prepared for you, your emptiness is satisfied. Sometimes you come in desperation. Feasting hungrily on His riches, you discover sustenance and help for your time of need. Other times you come with a deep hunger for the life-changing richness that offers joy and peace no matter what you earthly circumstance. Other times you come to just bask in the richness of His glory. But you come. You ingest the richness of His truth, and its nutrition fuels and nurtures your life. Each morsel of His love fills you with what earthly riches could never give. You feast on the unshakeable Kingdom of God―His feast that never ends.

This Christmas come hungry to His table. Feast upon His bounty and grace. Feast upon His purpose and promise in His Word. Feast upon His presence. Feast upon His forgiveness. Feast upon the One who created you and delights in you....His creation. Feast upon the amazing gift of His life given in unconditional love so that you might partake of all He has for you. Feast upon the Father who calls you His child. If you are in Christ, God looks at you and says “You are my beloved son. You are my beloved daughter. Come and be filled. Feast and never hunger again.”

It is His promise.

Monday, December 14, 2015

This Soldier Has Gone Home

“God blesses you who weep now, for in due time you will laugh” (Luke 6:21b, NLT).

A soldier with great merit has gone home. He had three purple hearts for being wounded. He had two bronze stars and a silver star for heroism. He did three tours in Vietnam. Yesterday, at his memorial service, we heard of a rich and vibrant life of service to country, his family, his church, and to God. Jim Landingham might have suffered physically through the years as a result of service to his country, but he always fought to live. He fought to return. He fought to survive. Several times through the years he returned from the brinks of death to walk again through the doors of the church with that sweet smile on his face. Illness did not keep him away. He might have been struggling to breathe or to walk, but he always came. He always pushed himself to climb the steps to his Sunday school class. He pushed himself to do what was painful because overcoming is what a soldier does.

This time the Lord had different plans for Jim. As our pastor shared yesterday, Jim indicated in ICU that he knew the battle would soon be ended. A few days before Jim's death, Joyce felt three tingling shocks as she held Jim's hand while a hospital volunteer prayed. She was amazed and in wonder at the Holy Spirit's presence. God encouraged Joyce with that experience that he was with Jim through the ordeal. She prayed that it was a sign that the Holy Spirit meant to heal Jim. Many thought that Jim would survive once more. After all, he was a survivor, a fighter, a soldier. We had no idea that it would be different this time. This last battle would not be won on earth, but in heaven. The Lord decided that he would no longer struggle with heart issues, breathing issues, and blood sugar issues. His war is won, and he now lives illness-free with the Lord. It is something that we believe in–the joys and wonders of the promise of that place of eternal healing and peace prepared for us.

Joyce is an amazing woman. She has been faithful caregiver, wife, and fighter. She has fought hard for Jim's very survival, and stood in the gap for his needs through many years. Joyce has been the Aaron that held up Moses' arm while the battle raged. (Exodus 17:11-13). As long as she held up Jim's arms the battles were won. So she kept Jim's arms raised high through encouragement and pure determination. Even in the thick of battle, her laugh would suddenly ring out. Even in the midst of all the turmoil of hospital stays with sudden problems, she would always find a reason to laugh. When I think of Joyce, I see a woman of strong Christian character who believes in God's faithfulness, and has taken on whatever life has presented her with God's strength. She has loved and fought for Jim, and now the very one she loved and supported is no longer here for her to encourage. Now she needs our love and encouragement. Now she needs us to care for her heart.

This morning I discovered this verse, and it make me think of Joyce. “God blesses you who weep now, for in due time you will laugh.” Joyce, we love you. We weep with you. God does bless you. He holds you and comforts you. We know you miss your soldier with all your heart. Right now let our love and Jesus' arms comfort you. Just know that we are here for you, and are praying for you, for Tony, Bridget, Nicholas, Hunter, and Raygen. Times of laughter have brought you through so much that you have faced in life. God will bless you with His love through the days that are ahead. In due time you will discover joy again.

Edgewood Church loves you, Joyce, and we are here for you.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Keep Your Mind On Him

You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you! ” (Isaiah 26:3, NLT).

Never dwell on your problems that seem insurmountable, your circumstances that seem unending, or your worry about a future that you don't know. The enemy loves to take you there every moment of your life. He is the master of “what seems”. Instead dwell on God's enduring faithfulness. He never changes, and He will never fail or forsake you. Think more of Him, and less of what you face in this life. He is your healer. He is your strength. He is your provider. He is the greatest problem-solver. Don't analyze your problem until fear immobilizes you. Dwell upon Him and remember what He has done for you through the years. Remember how He has brought you through the struggles, the terrors, and the storms of life. He is your rock no matter what comes against you. Keep your mind steadfastly grounded in Him, and stand firmly anchored in the strong and sure foundation of His Word. He is your power to overcome any adversity. He is all you need at any moment.

Even those who are His most faithful children get so discouraged they forget to always claim His healing and strength! Claim healing for your body, your mind, and your spirit. Claim His strength for all that comes against you. Love Him completely, and always dwell on Him. Where your mind focuses, your heart follows. Release to Him the thoughts that rise to destroy you. He will be your strength for every weakness, and the shepherd who protects at all cost. He will handle what you are unable to handle. Keep your thoughts focused on Him. Then no weapon that rises against you will harm you. You will know His peace no matter what happens in this life. Think about that promise, and remember that those who hope in Him always renew their strength. They mount up to take on the problems of life with His vigor. They don't faint from all that comes against them, but wait for His strength to carry them.

Keep your thoughts upon Him today. Keep your mind focused on Isaiah 26:3 instead of the fear that has consumed your heart and mind. Read Philippians 4:6-7 and dwell on those words to help release your fear to Him. Dwell on the truth that God has not given you a spirit of fear, but of love, power, and a sound mind (1 Timothy 1:7). And the God of peace shall claim your heart and your mind.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

God Became Personal

“But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all” Isaiah 53:5-6, NIV).

Many know the sadness of a lonely Christmas. For others Christmas is a time of joyous celebration. But how often, when we celebrate His birth, do we dwell on the reason He was born? If we did, perhaps the gift of His life would change our hearts. God became personal when Jesus came into the world. God, who was not human, became human for us. He, who was born an innocent child, knew no sin. He came into the world to take our sin upon himself so that we might have abundant life now, and eternal life forever.

The gift of His life at Calvary is what offers us a personal God, but it is our “yes” in absolute surrender that gives us a personal relationship with Him. It is the only thing really makes God personal. He, who knew no sin, became sin in order that each person could be set free from sin's control in our lives. God laid on Jesus Christ all of our sins, and He took them to the cross for you and for me. You can't get much more personal than that! He absolutely surrendered himself for mankind. He gave his life and bore our sins so we might be healed and made whole. He surrendered his life for us. Such love calls for a response from you and me. We can't ignore such a sacrifice. We either accept it or reject it. If we accept it and surrender to Him, we discover the incredible depth of His love that gave all for us. If we reject it, we lose the greatest love ever offered.

What is your response? What is mine? Do we allow Him just a little of ourselves, and reserve our total commitment? We want to approach Him. We want to come boldly before Him in our time of need, but we don’t want to give our own absolute surrender and sacrifice. Perhaps we want to hold on to a gift or even a calling, but He asks us to lay everything down for His sake–just as He laid all down for our sake. Sometimes we must lose the gift or the calling or whatever is important to us to understand that those things are not what really matter. He is what really matters. He is what is important.

If we turn away from the gift of His life, we lose everything. If we say “no” we lose everything. But if we lay down all that we have and all that we are, and place Him above everything else, we discover a personal God beyond human imagination. No one has a greater love than that he gives his life for another. When we know in our hearts that this innocent child was born just to save us, Christmas becomes more real than ever before. None of us need ever be lonely again. This was the greatest and will always be the greatest love story every told.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Ending Debt-Collecting! Freedom to Forgive!

The Parable of the Unmerciful Servant
Matthew 18:23-28, 30, 34-35

Not everyone deals with unforgiveness that defines their every waking moment, but some people are consumed with it. They can't offer forgiveness to others because they haven't allowed the grace of Jesus to transform their minds and soften their stony hearts. “When we fail to accept and receive God's grace and forgiveness,” David Seamands writes, “we also fail to give unconditional love, forgiveness, and grace to other people.” When we can't forgive, we don't have healthy relationships. We end up in emotional conflicts that tear our lives apart. When we can't receive and give God's grace our lives end up in a vicious cycle of unforgiveness. It is so sad that the servant in the parable did not realize that his debt was completely canceled, and in his misunderstanding thought he still had to collect money in order to pay it off.

What if that servant had heard his master correctly? What if the knowledge of his new debt-free state had penetrated his mind and heart? Joy would have seized his heart. Peace would have settled fear in his mind. The exorbitant amount owed to the master could have never been repaid anyway, and that debt weighed constantly upon him. If only that servant had received the message that the master had wiped his slate clean! Jesus, our Master, wipes our slates clean. A miracle happens when the grace of Jesus seeps into the depths of our very being. The vicious cycle of unforgiveness ends. The unaccepted become the accepting. The unforgiven become the forgiving. The ungraced become gracious to others. Emotional conflicts that result from hardened hearts are healed. The Holy Spirit flows reviving and healing when we don't live with the heart of a debt-collector. If the servant had received his master's forgiveness, he would have also forgiven the servant who owed him money. He would have received the grace of the master, and easily passed it on.

When we completely allow the grace of Jesus to set us free, we are free to give His love away freely and easily with no reservations. We just love because He first loved us. However, those who refuse the forgiving grace of Jesus continue on debt-collecting like the unmerciful servant in the parable. Others “owe” them affection, love, security and affirmation, but since they feel indebted, guilty, resentful, insecure, and anxious–since they see themselves as being unforgiven and unacceptable, they become unforgiving and unaccepting.

Will I honestly assess myself this morning? Has His grace totally transformed my heart to the place when I realize that I am debt-free, and that I can pass along that freedom to others? Is there someone I resent–someone I can't let off the hook? Am I willing to accept responsibility for my own life and not blame anyone else for who I am? Or do I believe in my heart that someone caused my life to be the way that it is, and they “owe” me for what they have done to me? Do I really believe that if they had “paid” me I could have paid off what I owe? Do I really believe that would have freed me from the debt I could never repay? What I “owe” has already been paid by the grace of Jesus Christ! I don't have to I strive to pay off that which He has already paid in full.

God offers us freedom from the debt of our sin through the sacrifice of His son. At the cross Jesus took our sins, failures, and hurts into himself so that we might be free of sin's guilt. “God took what was the worst injustice,” Seamands writes, “and turned it into the most sublime gift man has ever known: the gift of salvation.” You can see an illustration of the complete forgiveness the cross offers in the life of Joseph who was treated so brutally and sold into slavery by his brothers. When his brothers were before Joseph needing help for their very survival, Joseph wasn't concerned about collecting a debt. He wasn't concerned about what they “owed” him. He knew that they were going to find it hard to forgive themselves so he said, “Don’t be afraid of me. Am I God, that I can punish you?  You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people” (Genesis 50:19-20, NLT).

Jesus was brought to the position of the cross so He could save our lives! He has torn up our debt. We are meant to live debt-free! Where we love each other because we are loved! Where we accept because we are accepted! Where we grace each other because we are graced! Where, because we have freely received forgiveness, we freely give.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Debt-Collecting: Not Receiving His Forgiveness

(Matthew 18:23-28,30,34-35)
Parable of the Unmerciful Servant

In the parable of the unmerciful servant Jesus shared His teaching about forgiveness. Filled with great spiritual insight this parable explains the consequences of forgiveness and unforgiveness with a depth that only Jesus could impart. Jesus knows what is in each one of us at the very deepest level. “So,” David Seamands writes, “we should expect His truth, His teachings, to contain the most penetrating psychological truths” (Healing of Damaged Emotions).

Debt-collecting (unforgiveness) causes emotional problems that result in feelings of guilt that tear us apart–resentment that hardens our heart–striving that keeps us on the treadmill of never being or doing quite enough, and anxiety that robs us of peace. If we believe in Jesus Christ as our Savior, we have NO debt in our life. But until we are able to receive and live out God's unconditional forgiving grace and until we are able to impart His forgiving grace, we will forever be striving to collect payment to pay debts we don't owe.

“May of us are like that servant in the parable,” Seamands writes. “Because he misunderstood the offer the lord gave him, he pled for an extension of time. And what happened? The lord in his mercy gave him far more than he asked for, more than he could ever dream about or pray for. He released him and forgave him all his debts.” Guess what? The servant never heard what his master said. He didn't understand his debt had been totally forgiven. He believed he still owed the debt and had only been given more time to pay. So he tried to collect a debt from someone who owed him so he could pay his master a debt he no longer owed.

Are some of us like that? Do we say we believe in God's grace and that we are forgiven, but that is not how we live? We might say that grace is God's undeserved favor, but if we don't feel it down in our innermost being then we are caught on the treadmill of constantly striving to be better. So many Christians try to get rid of their guilt by trying to work harder at it. The terrible tormentors of resentment, striving, and anxiety take their toll. These Christians end up punishing themselves by creating more suffering for themselves and others. They find that they are unable to atone for that which only God can atone. So many know in their minds that they are forgiven, but can't feel His forgiveness and love in their hearts. They don't get it in their spiritual “gut” that grace is free and can never be repaid.

“If you refuse to forgive others,” Jesus said, “your Father will not forgive you of your sins” (Matthew 6:15, NLT). “There is no forgiveness from God,” Seamands writes, “unless you freely forgive your brother from your heart. And I wonder if we have been too narrow in thinking that brother only applies to someone else. What if you are the brother or sister that needs to be forgiven, and you need to forgive yourself? Does it not apply to you, too? The Lord says to forgive your enemies. What if you are your own worst enemy? Anger and resentment against yourself–a refusal to forgive–these are just as damaging when directed at yourself as when they are directed against other people.”

If you are unable to experience God's forgiveness, then you may be on this treadmill of striving, and achieving what you believe will make God love you more. If you want to experience God's unmerited grace in your deepest being, quit trying so hard to atone for what only God's grace can take care of. Be sure you have not only asked Him into your heart, but that you also seek Him as Lord of your life. Choose to believe that He can change you. Only He can reveal His grace in your deepest being. Slow down and quit striving mentally and emotionally. Tell Him you want to forgive yourself so that you will no longer live in a perpetual state of debt-collecting. You can only choose to forgive. You can't make yourself emotionally feel it. But He can. Don't analyze. Don't strive. Allow Him to seep into the depths of your soul. Ask Him to set you free from the “I'm not worthy" mindset that keeps you from receiving His forgiveness. One day you will not only know that you are debt-free. You will feel His forgiveness and give it unreservedly to others with a love and freedom that only He can impart.

Monday, December 7, 2015


“The Kingdom of Heaven can be compared to a king who decided to bring his accounts up to date with servants who had borrowed money from him. In the process, one of his debtors was brought in who owed him millions of dollars. He couldn’t pay, so his master ordered that he be sold—along with his wife, his children, and everything he owned—to pay the debt. But the man fell down before his master and begged him, ‘Please, be patient with me, and I will pay it all.’ His master was filled with pity for him, and he released him and forgave his debt. But when the man left the king, he went to a fellow servant who owed him a few thousand dollars. He grabbed him by the throat and demanded instant payment. His fellow servant fell down before him and begged for a little more time. ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it,’ he pleaded. But his creditor wouldn’t wait. He had the man arrested and put in prison until the debt could be paid in full. The king called in the man he had forgiven and said, ‘You evil servant! I forgave you that tremendous debt because you pleaded with me. Shouldn’t you have mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you?’Then the angry king sent the man to prison to be tortured until he had paid his entire debt. That’s what my heavenly Father will do to you if you refuse to forgive your brothers and sisters from your heart” (Matthew 18:23-28, 30, 34-35, NLT).

Forgiveness. It is necessary for our very survival. But we don't get it. Just like the servant in this parable we don't get the fact that we have no more debt. Because we don't understand that we are fully forgiven of all that we owe, we have trouble forgiving others. We don't get the fact that Jesus knew there was no way that we could pay our enormous debt so He paid the whole thing. We continue to try to collect “payment” from others who have hurt us by not forgiving them. In his book, “Healing of Damaged Emotions”, David Seamands calls this debt-collecting. We can't forgive because we can't grasp the fact that we are completely forgiven. So we hold on to a hurt or a grudge, and in the process our emotions are in debt to a debt we no longer owe because it has been paid in full.

“This whole debt system” Seamands imparts, “has been built into the human personality in the most incredible fashion. There is a sense of owing a debt, an automatic mechanism by which our built-in debt-collectors go to work. We seek to atone for those wrongs, to pay the debt we owe or collect the debt someone else owes us. If we feel anger at ourselves, we say 'I must pay in full.' Or if we feel anger at someone else, he or she must pay.” Jesus taught us to pray “forgive us our debts as we forgive those who owe us debts.” And that is what He did upon the cross. He forgave us our debts so that we can forgive those who have hurt us, and so that we can be free to understand that we were created for grace.

What happened in the last statement in the parable is the “shocker”, and it is what will happen to us if we don't forgive. We will be thrown into our own prison of hate and bitterness. “To the unforgiven and the unforgiving,” Semands writes, “God will be like a harsh and stern debt-collector.” Because we can't forgive, we will find ourselves in bondage to what Seamands calls the “Fearsome Foursome”–those inner tormentors of guilt, resentment, striving, and anxiety. Until we are able to receive, and live out God's unconditional forgiving grace and also impart that unconditional forgiving grace, we will be in bondage to debt-collecting and to those inner tormentors.

Over the next several days, I would like to explore the incredible fact of how His grace sets us free to be forgiven and to also forgive–to understand spiritually and emotionally that because He has set us free, we can set others free in grace and love. If in the depths of your heart you know that unforgiveness is something that you fight against–if you deal with those “Fearsome Four” inner tormentors that the enemy uses to keep you in bondage, God offers the grace and promise of His healing freedom.

“Owe nothing to anyone,” Paul wrote, “except for your obligation to love one another” (Romans 13:8a, NLT). “Give as freely as you have received,” Jesus taught (Matthew 10:8b, NLT). Owe nothing and be free! You shall give as freely as you have received. This is grace received and given. There is nothing better than living in its freedom!

Friday, December 4, 2015

Her Last Wish

For a child is born to us, a son is given to us...He will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6, NLT).

Christmas will be here before we realize it. This will be our third Christmas without Mama. Life has moved on since Mama passed. Daddy is happily remarried. Mama has a new great-grand baby, Addy. My oldest granddaughter is expecting a baby girl, Kinsley, in a few weeks. My other granddaughter has her learner's license, and the two younger “grand-boys” are right behind her. Life always marches on, but this morning I'd like to stop and dwell on the think of those memories that seem to claim my mind much more often now as I get older. I can't help but remember what life was like with Mama at Christmas.

Life to Mama was all about loving and sharing, and Christmas was the time to “get that done”. Her family was her mission field, and so many others through life became her mission field, too. When I was a child, Christmas was an exciting time. My grandparents, Big Tom and Gigi, always came Christmas morning to share in the joy of the day. When I had young children, we often traveled to Mama and Daddy's house in Georgia for a time with all of our family—my brother and his wife and two children and my sister would be there, too. Sometimes other people would come just to be a part of our family—friends that were lonely and needed love. God always brought those who had needs into Mama's life. As the years passed, Christmas remained the greatest time to love family and friends.

Christmas was a time to share the Christmas story, and learn about the miracle of the Christ child who was born to save us. Christmas was a time of games and music. We learned not to play Trivial Pursuits with Pat. He knew all the answers. We played fictionary and other games that took a lot of imagination. Often two folding tables would be set up in the family room, and different games would be going on at the same time. Laughter filled the room. My brother played the guitar, and we sang. The Hampton's always sang. When the house was full, some of the younger ones slept on a bed in the garage. There was always a place to sleep, and a place to share, and be loved. There was always a place of acceptance, and a place where you were inspired to be more than you thought you could be. There was always room. 

Through the years Mama saw our potential, and she not only reminded us of it, but continually pushed us to achieve it. She believed in who we could be when we had little belief in ourselves. Even up to the time of her death, she always inspired and reminded us of our potential. Daddy had always taken her to church every Sunday, but in early December of 2012, she was unable to go anymore. Two weeks later I knew she needed to come home from Autumn Cove for a special Christmas Eve. It was a wonderful time I will never forget. Mama prayed in her quivering voice. It was the last time she would come home.

I still miss her. I miss her laugh. I miss her look that said “you need to think that one through.” I miss the look that could see right through me. I miss watching Bonanza, Andy Griffith, and Matlock with her. I miss holding her hand, straightening her room, and hearing her say, “aren't you about ready to quit fussing so much?” I miss her loving concern for everyone in her life. A week before her death she was still asking staff at Autumn Cove about their families, and sharing her love with them.

Mama's greatest wishher wish that last Christmas Eve she came homewas for us to love each other unconditionally, and for us to know her Savior. It was on her mind a lot before she passed. The greatest promise I have is that I will see her again. I pray each one who has lost a loved one will remember the good times and the good memories. Bring the memory of who they were into your home this Christmas. Love your family completely and unconditionally. Mama prayed that her family would all know God's unfailing love through the love of Jesus Christ. To each one of us a son is who has come to bring counsel empower us, and to impart peace. Mama may be gone, but her legacy lives on forever in this last Christmas wish.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Never Forsaken

He will never leave you nor forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31:6b, NIV).

Christmas can be a painful time for those who grieve a loss. It can be a sad time for those who do not have a loving family. It can be a lonesome time for those who have no one in their lives to encourage them and offer hope. Even if you are in a loving church that brings joy to your life, Christmas can still be a sad time when those church friends gather with their own families. The season brings joy to so many, but it is also the time of year when so many feel deserted and alone.

If you are someone who feels alone, you can experience an acceptance and love that brings joy to your life. You have the promise of the very best family. You can have one who is closer than a brother or a sister. He is Jesus, your Savior. It you have asked Him into your heart, He is your family. The Lord will never leave you. He will never forsake you or abandon you. When it seems the rest of the world is too busy for you, He is not. When your own family does not love or accept you, He does. Your own father might have abandoned you, but Jesus never does. Your own father didn't choose you. You were born to be his child. God chooses you to be His child. He wants to adopt you into His family, and give you all the benefits of His love. You are worthy of His love that died just for you. Perhaps you haven't really experienced this kind of love that loves you unconditionally―that looks beyond your hurt and pain and sees forgiveness changing your heart. The promise of this love is so real and for the asking. Ask and reach out to Him. When you feel abandoned and rejected, you are not. He accepts you. When you feel accused, you are not. He declares you free of all charges. When you are depressed, He brings hope to your troubled mind. When you feel forsaken, He is your constant and abiding Savior. Give Him your broken heart, your troubled mind, and your lost life. When you cry out “heal me, Lord, and I will be healed; save me and I will be saved, for you are the one I praise” (Jeremiah 17:14, NIV), He pours healing of your soul and peace of spirit into your life. You will know you are not alone.

If you are someone who has a loving family and friends, then share your Christmas with others who don't. Open your hearts and share the love of Christ with others who have no one this season. Love with the love He has given you. There is someone in your life that feels alone. There is someone who needs a touch from a loving hand. There is someone who needs to experience the words “He will never leave you or forsake you.” He extended mercy and grace to you. Extend His mercy and grace to those He brings into your life. Experience for yourself the joy of giving your life away for someone else―so that they might experience His love that sets them free.

Grow in His Grace

And as He spoke, a certain Pharisee asked Him to dine with him. So He went in and sat down to eat. When the Pharisee saw it, he marveled tha...