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Monday, February 29, 2016

If I Allow

“Those who plant in tears will harvest with shouts of joy” (Psalm 126:5, NLT).

How often have I looked at this verse about my prayers being for others?  Yes, it is His promise that those prayers I cry out for others will one day bring the promise of joy. It is also His promise about me. When I get to the point where I allow the Holy Spirit total access to my selfish heart is the moment He can change me. Tears shed in brokenness bring the joy of freedom from whatever has controlled my life. Only the Holy Spirit knows what really controls my heart. Only He knows where to take me on this journey of spiritual honesty—if I allow.

Spiritual surrender in the life of one person can spark a revival of heart that can spread like wildfire, but one person can also hold back the Holy Spirit from moving at all. Grudges halt His presence. Bad attitudes remove His anointing. Unforgiveness sparks rebellion and not revival. Do I have a bad attitude that I haven’t released to Him? Do I hold a grudge against someone that inhibits the flow of His love in my life? For all the years that I have attended our church, intertwined within each message has always been the truth that I need to allow the Holy Spirit to transform my life. I need to allow the Holy Spirit to change me to be more like Him. I need to allow Him to control my attitudes, and allow Him to spiritually grow me into what He desires. He calls me to live a righteous life not as an outward appearance that others see, but from a changed heart that only I know. To have this deepest intimacy with Him means that I allow Him privilege to every part of who I am.

David allowed God into the dark places of his life. “Have mercy on me, O God,” David cried, “because of your unfailing love. Because of your great compassion, blot out the stain of my sins. Wash me clean from my guilt. Purify me from my sin. For I recognize my rebellion; it haunts me day and night. Against you, and you alone, have I sinned; I have done what is evil in your sight. Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. Oh, give me back my joy again; you have broken me—now let me rejoice” (Psalm 51:1-4a, 7-8, NLT). These verses reveal the heart of a man convicted by the Holy Spirit. The thought of his sins separating Him from God was overwhelming. All He could do was surrender that which was controlling and destroying his life.

This is what the Lord wishes for me–to be convicted when there is something wrong in my life. I may not have done murder or adultery as David did, but perhaps I have murdered someone’s hope by holding on to unforgiveness. Perhaps I have longed for something that is not my own. Perhaps I have allowed the things that keep me from His presence to control my life instead of His love that can transform me. God disciplines the child that He loves. It is proof of His love for me (Hebrews 12:6). My response to His loving discipline is repentance. If my heart is truly broken, my attitude will change. Whatever God might ask me to yield to Him will not be done because I “have to”, but because I “yearn to”.

If I never want to lose the intimate heart fellowship of His presence, I will allow Him to reveal my heart to me every day. I may not like what I hear or what I need to face in my life, but it is in my surrender that I am changed by His grace. “Give me back my joy again; you have broken me—now let me rejoice,” David prayed. My joy will not only be for what He has done within my heart. It will be for those for whom I have sown in tears. It is in my surrender that He can do more than I can imagine.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Peace on Life's Roller Coaster

“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:12-13, NIV).
Without God in your life, you will never know real contentment and peace. Nothing on this earth can offer such peaceno possession, no person, no joyful anticipation. Only God promises the deepest peace which come from abiding trust in His faithfulness. It is a peace that surpasses circumstantial contentment when all feels right with the world. God's peace is the peace you experience when all is not right in your world. When the circumstances of your life should only speak despair and pain, you can know the greatest peace in spite of it all. 
Paul said that he had learned to be content in every circumstance. He didn't want to be in prison, and he certainly didn't want to be dependent on others to provide for his needs. But, no matter what he faced, he was content.  Nothing in the world made Paul content. His contentment came from his deep personal relationship with Jesus Christ. God gave him peace, and with that peace a purpose to fulfill. His incarceration could not stop him from trusting in God to meet all his needs. His prison chains could not keep him from writing of God's great goodness. He had learned the secret of being content in every circumstance. In allowing the Lord to encourage Him instead of allowing His surroundings to discourage Him–in allowing the Lord to use Him no matter what His circumstance, Paul discovered the power which accompanies complete surrender and the joy of a spiritual fulfillment that nothing in the world offers.
Life means change. Life has problems. Many things you face seem impossible, and you have no peace because of your circumstances. Struggling doesn't help. Being angry at your circumstance doesn't help. It only makes your feelings about it worse, and creates fear. Dwelling on your problem is not the answer. Dwelling on Him is. He will keep you in His peace when you focus your thoughts on Him instead of your circumstance (Isaiah 26:3). He gives a spiritual peace that passes your human understanding (Philippians 4:6-7). You, too, can know God as intimately as Paul, and give Him all that rages in your life. He becomes your refuge and your sanctuary. When you discover this inner peace and contentment, your roller coaster life loses its ability to control your feelings. He imparts peace instead of fear. You know that nothing can come against you, and nothing is impossible for Him. You know that you can do anything through Jesus who gives you the strength to accomplish it.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

He Became the Least for Me

“Whoever is the least among you is the greatest” (Luke 9:48b, NLT).

Sometimes the last thing I understand in my Christian life is the importance of taking care of small things. In my heart and mind I may tell myself I am ready to die for Christ, but then I don't live for Him in the small details. A real disciple takes care of every area of his life. He obediently surrenders all the things in his life which separate Him from God's love–his actions, his thoughts, his motives—and, yes, the small details. He makes himself least so that Jesus might become more.

Christ became the least for me. He made himself the least in His father's eyes when He took on my sin. He was perfect in every way. Spotless without deceit or jealousy or hate or bitterness or greed or His own agenda, He said “yes” to His father's plan for saving my life. That acceptance meant the perfect love Jesus had with His own father would be broken, and His father would be unable to look upon the ugliness of my sin in His own son. But Jesus made himself least and gave His life so that sin's ability to destroy my life would be broken. Sin that had forever separated me from God's perfect love was crucified on that cross–once and for all. From the least He became the greatest. He was raised from the dead into newness of life for me. He lives with His father in heaven forever exalted for His obedience that promises abundant life now and eternal life forever. He may be with His father, but I am not alone here on earth. I have the promise of the Holy Spirit to lead, guide, and empower my life. Daily He asks me to be least so that he might be the greatest in my life. All I must do is accept His love and obediently follow Him.

“Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself,” Paul wrote. “He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion” (Philippians 2:5-8, MSG). Jesus regarded himself as being no greater than anyone else, and He gave His life for me. He had a servant's heart. I am called to have a servant’s heart, and to serve with His humility of heart.
Jesus asks me to lay down all that I am so that I can receive all that He is. Just as Jesus did for me, I am called to make myself least for the sake of others. I am called to learn sacrifice of my own desires. I am called to overcome prideful wants, agendas, plans, and purposes. It is my decision to lay all of these down. I will never forget that I belong to Him, and it is only by His mercy and grace that I have found new life. I will never forget to always become less so that He can be more. I will never forget that His power in my life is His gift, and it is only at its greatest when all of self is completely surrendered to Him. I choose His will above my own. I will learn to be His servant in the least thing because He became the least for me. Perhaps then I may learn the humility to be His servant in the greatest.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Draw Close

Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know” (Jeremiah 33:3, NIV)

What is your hurry?  What draws you away from intimate prayer time with Him? This verse in Jeremiah reveals a great promise about prayer. If you rush into your day without taking time to pray, you will miss something the Lord wishes to share with you. “I send it out,” God says of His Word, “and it always produces fruit. It will accomplish all I want it to, and it will prosper everywhere I send it” (Isaiah 55:11, NLT). This verse in Jeremiah about prayer is an absolute truth and produces fruit. If you call to Him, He will answer and change your life. You ask the omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient God. You ask the creator of the universe. You ask your loving God who knows you better than you know yourself. You seek your Father, and He gives His time willingly and unsparingly because you are precious to Him. You ask the Lord who is everywhere at the same time, and yet He is there for you. You ask an all-powerful God who is there for all who believe. He brings the same power to your prayer need that He used to raise Jesus from the dead (Ephesians 1:19). There is no other name that you need, but that of Jesus Christ.

He answers you with great and unsearchable things which you do not know. You may not understand the purpose of all He imparts after He reveals them to you, but you believe because He is your God. He only imparts truth. You believe them by faith, and you trust by faith. One day you may understand what He has shown you, and one day you may not understand. It is alright either way. You have His peace either way. Because you love Him deeply and intimately as He has loved you, there is peace in either knowing or not knowing–in understanding or not understanding. You accept that He knows best so there is no struggle against His will. He speaks to your longing spirit and heart because you have inner peace and joy no matter what happens. You receive powerfully and completely and trustingly from His bountiful grace.

This is a glimpse of how your life can be with Him. Cry out to Him. Pray to Him, and He will answer you. It is when you seek all of Him and have given up all of your own desires—your control—your rights, that the things he imparts fall behind the miraculous wonder of just being in His presence. The unsearchable truths come from His heart to encourage you, but being in His presence is beyond any description. Seek Him. Call to Him. If you draw close to Him, He draws close to you (James 4:8). He is just there and He is all you need.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Make Me Gold

“The eyes of the Lord watch over those who do right; his ears are open to their cries for help. The Lord hears his people when they call to him for help. He rescues them from all their troubles” (Psalm 34:15, 17, (NLT).

No one is perfect. But I am called to live a righteous life. It is a journey of obedience. It is a lifetime commitment, and forever a surrender of my personal desires to the Savior who sacrificed His life for me. Will I ever be completely righteous? In His eyes I am, because He sees me through the eyes of His redeeming grace. In my own eyes, I can never be. Whatever lies before me, I surrender all that I believe I can never be for all He believes that I am. I try to live a life that is worthy of His sacrifice, but so very often I fail. It is in my failure that I realize how little I am without Him. It is in my weakness that I realize His strength will carry me. I know His forgiveness the minute that I ask. I know His redeeming love the moment I cry out.

He attentively awaits my prayer, and constantly guards my life. Always listening for my cry for help. He rescues me from my trouble in the way He has chosen to rescue me‒not the way that I decide is best to be rescued. Sometimes I don't understand His choice of rescue, but I know it is for my best. When I cry out to Him in prayer, He either delivers me from trouble or He gives me the strength to overcome what I face. Although it might not seem true at the time, His powerful strength to overcome what I face is also a great deliverance. I learn the real meaning of “no weapon turned against you will succeed” (Isaiah 54:17, NLT), when my will and my heart are totally surrendered.

“He knows where I am going,” Job declared, “and when he tests me, I will come out as pure as gold” (Job 23:10, NLT). God knows my path. He listens and watches, but He more than listens and watches. He is involved in every aspect of my life molding me. He tests me. He grows me. He refines me. The Lord changes me until His righteousness anchors my life. Because He is greater than anything that comes against me, I am delivered from all that tries to destroy me. In prayer I surrender to the Savior who changes my heart and my life. I cry out because if I don’t, I am lost in my own need to control my life and circumstance. His redeeming love sets me free to grow in His righteousness and grace. So I cry to Him who has the power to make me gold..

Monday, February 22, 2016

Prayer and More Prayer

God weeps for His people to love Him and to serve Him. All He asks is for us to come to Him and seek His heart. He calls us to pray, but we are so busy. Our lives are on the fast-track of a world demanding more and more. He offers a love that holds nothing back. He offers a love that takes our struggles, sins, and heartaches to the cross. But so many of us go our own way and ignore the redeeming, renewing, and reviving love of the Savior.

“My people are fools; they do not know me,” God spoke to Jeremiah. “They are senseless children; they have no understanding. They are skilled in doing evil; they know not how to do good” (Jeremiah 4:22, NIV). Jeremiah weeps for God’s people, and the disaster he knows is coming because of their sin. He cries out to the Lord asking how long this must continue. How long must he see death and the coming destruction? And this is God's answer. His children don't really know Him. They have never grown up to be responsible spiritual adults. They are senseless, and have no understanding of what it means to live a righteous life. They selfishly live for themselves, and in doing so they epitomize what is evil. Life is all about what they want. His children have become fools because they have refused to live in integrity and honesty.

What about you and what about me? Do we live foolish lives as if nothing matters? Do we sometimes shake our fists in God's face demanding our own way? Are honesty and integrity two virtues that have become foreign to us? Do we live as if there will be no accountability for our actions?  God calls each of us daily to repent and turn from selfish and sinful ways. He longs for each of us to be revived by His Spirit again and again until we become the people He has designed and destined.

If we don’t repent and seek His face, we will be spiritually ruined. “The whole land will be ruined,” the Lord says, “though I will not destroy it completely. Therefore the earth will mourn and the heavens above grow dark, because I have spoken and will not relent, I have decided and will not turn back” (Jeremiah 4:27-28, NIV). Jeremiah speaks of the marching armies that will come against God's children, and how pretending they have pure hearts will not save them from the approaching destruction. They can't make themselves look good for God; He looks for repentant hearts that have been made clean and changed by His grace. Our church can’t make itself “pure” either. Hearts in the body of Christ must be changed and renewed by His Spirit. If we don’t repent and seek His face, our church will also be spiritually ruined and ineffective; it shall lose its passion and His power for ministry.

There is hope!  “Go up and down the streets of Jerusalem,” God declares to Jeremiah, “look around and consider, search through her squares. If you can find but one person who deals honestly and seeks the truth, I will forgive this city” (Jeremiah 5:1, NIV). Just as God looked for that one person in Jerusalem, He looks today for people who are faithful to Him—who seek Him and pray for revival—who are obedient and love Him above all else. “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14, NIV). God looks on the heart, and that is where He makes His assessment. That is where change occurs. Prayer is what changes us, and moves God to heal and forgive.

The answer for revival in our hearts is prayer and more prayer.  Pray to have a repentant heart and pray for a consuming need to know Him more. “Call to me”, the Lord says, “and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know” (Jeremiah 33:3, NIV). He is the answer. When we seek Him, we shall find Him. His power and His love will erase all that has kept us from knowing His heart.  At His feet in true repentance we shall discover a new heart. His heart will continually reach to mold ours, and we will respond with a hunger that can’t be contained. “I will give them singleness of heart,” says the Lord, “and put a new spirit within them. I will take away their stony, stubborn heart and give them a tender, responsive heart. Then they will truly be my people, and I will be their God” (Ezekiel 11:19, 20b, NLT). 

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Our Response

What is our response when His Spirit brings others to our heart and mind?
“My response,” Paul wrote, “is to get down on my knees before the Father, this magnificent Father who parcels out all heaven and earth. I ask him to strengthen you by his Spirit—not a brute strength but a glorious inner strength—that Christ will live in you as you open the door and invite him in. And I ask him that with both feet planted firmly on love, you’ll be able to take in with all followers of Jesus the extravagant dimensions of Christ’s love. Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights! Live full lives, full in the fullness of God.  God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us” (Ephesians 3:14-21, MSG).
It is His Spirit working deeply and gently within us that molds and transforms. Pray for each other to experience the fullness of God that comes from a heart which has been broken and rendered helpless, yet is miraculously reborn in power and grace through His redeeming love. God can do more than we ever imagine!

Thursday, February 11, 2016

I Push On

“Each of us will give a personal account to God” (Romans 14:12, NLT).

Personal accountability is not an option. God has standards for our actions in this life. If we break those standards, there are consequences. It is time that we take responsibility for who we are, what we believe, what we say, and how we act. We are not responsible for circumstances over which we have no control, but we are responsible for what we do or say and how we respond to circumstances, our failures, our mistakes, and our problems in life. We are totally responsible for our actions and our reactions.

You have been believers so long now that you ought to be teaching others,” the writer to the Hebrews declares. “Instead, you need someone to teach you again the basic things about God’s word. You are like babies who need milk and cannot eat solid food” (Hebrews 5:12, NLT). If I never make an effort to grow up, then I shall remain an infant in my actions and attitudes, and will not understand what God requires of me. Spiritual growth in Christ is a requirement, and it does not allow me to make excuses. It instructs that I must take responsibility for my bad attitude or any fly-off-the-handle reaction. It requires that I should learn from my failure, and if I am responsible for a problem, I should make every effort to not create that circumstance again. It also tells me that the next time I am faced with circumstances either of my own making or not of my own making, I should react in a way which honors God. Spiritual maturity instructs that I can speak humbly and not be consumed with worry over the reactions of others. To do these things I need to have matured spiritually until knowledge of His will pervades my life. “We ask God to give you complete knowledge of his will,” Paul writes, “and to give you spiritual wisdom and understanding. Then the way you live will always honor and please the Lord, and your lives will produce every kind of good fruit. All the while, you will grow as you learn to know God better and better” (Colossians 1:9b-10, NLT).

Without spiritual wisdom and understanding to control my attitude and my reactions, I cannot live a life that pleases God. As I grow to know Him better, it is easier to surrender to His will. My actions and reactions are more easily controlled by the Holy Spirit. A life controlled by the Spirit exhibits the fruit of the Spirit—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). The only way that I can have the fruit of the Spirit alive in my life is to allow all my selfishness and “me” attitude to be taken to be crucified so I can be raised in newness of life in Christ (Romans 6:4). I must surrender all that I believe I own or feel I deserve. When I am willing to be crucified with Him and make this selfless journey
when I am willing to accept my responsibility for all that I amwhen I am ready to realize that without Him I cannot become my true selfthen I have begun the journey to grow spiritually mature.

One day I pray that I will be able to say as Paul said, “Lord, all my selfishness has been crucified with you, and you have lived within me. I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection, but I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us” (Philippians 3:12-14, NLT). No, just as Paul, I have not achieved it, but I want to grow up to become who God knows I can be. Spiritual growth is a process. Process means that I am headed somewhere. It means that I can never remain stagnant, stale, or negative. It means that I have been bought with the most precious gift of His love. I push on to have the attitude of my Savior who gave Himself unselfishly for me. I push on toward the goal to which God has called me. I push on. 

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

At His Altar

So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most” (Hebrews 4:16, NLT). “In my distress I prayed to the Lord, and the Lord answered me and set me free” (Psalm 188:5, NLT).

There is a Savior. There is a throne of grace—a grace which looks beyond my failure and my sin, and recognizes my real need—a grace so forgiving and so complete, that nothing can destroy its power to change my life. My soul cries out for His mercy when my life is broken. My spirit thirsts for His grace when my heart is strained. His mercy forgives, and His grace lifts me up when I have fallen down. I come to His altar—to the all-powerful, infinite, and sovereign God who can move mountains and change circumstances and lives. There He waits for me to come to Him, this great God of the universe, who yearns to love me intimately and wants to call me His child. There, on my knees in complete surrender, I receive His mercy and His forgiveness. He lifts my head, and in that wonder, my anxious heart is lost in the love of His sacrifice for me. I receive His grace to meet my real need. At His altar I find Him.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Change is a Process

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9, NIV).

His grace is not a “thing”. It is not a something to be used. His grace is the presence of the Holy Spirit empowering us in our weakness. His grace meets us right where we are, and He loves us right where we are. His change is a spiritual healing, and it is a process. If we yield to this spiritual transformation, He is with us each step of the way. “Not only will God and His grace be with you in every step of the healing process, but God will be pleased with you at every step of the process,” David Seamands writes in Healing of Damaged Emotions. “Grace is not a commodity but our Lord Himself coming to us in His graciousness. A loving gracious God accepts us as we are, offers Himself lovingly to us right here and now, not when we shape up.” When we yield to His grace, He is with us in our weakness. Our weakness invites His power to empower and bring change.

We can become so frustrated when we don’t change fast enough. “God is as pleased with you in this process as loving parents when their child starts to walk,” Seamands continues. “Those are exciting days in a home, especially with the first child–the child stumbles, knocks over the furniture. But do the parents scold him, tell him how displeased they are because he isn’t doing a perfect job? Does Dad shout ‘You ought to do better than that, kid’? Does Mother chime in with, ‘That sure was a stupid step you took; no wonder you fell and hurt yourself’? Do you see how we so often have made God into a neurotic parent? If Jesus were preaching His Sermon on the mount, He might paraphrase this idea. ‘If you being evil, know how to do that well when teaching your child to walk, how much more will the heavenly Father be pleased with every step in your healing process?’ (Matthew 7:11). God will be pleased with you every step of the way.”

We are a reflection of all that surrounds us. As children we learned to see ourselves through our parents’ eyes, and reached to meet their expectations. As we grew we learned our identity from the relationships we had with other people. We reflected what other people thought of us. Now God wants us to reflect who He says we are, and not what we have perceived others think we should be. Yes, God calls us to live a holy life. Yes, He gives power when we are weak. He knows change is a process, and He is with us in it!  That is the living breathing grace of His presence.

Some of us strive to live up to what we feel God wants for us, and are actually reaching to meet expectations that are not from Him. Perhaps they are misconceptions of that reflection of our childhood, and God is attempting to breathe His grace into our strife. We can never live up to the impossible expectation that He has not placed upon us. He wipes off the false expectations of our lives, and offer us a new slate to begin the process.

David Seamands suggests a prayer. “’Thank you, Lord, that you are healing me according to your perfect schedule.’ You can turn the process of change not into another failure or anger at your slow progress, but into a prayer of thanksgiving for His graciousness every step of the way! Be committed and be diligent to seek God and grow in His grace. Never despair when you climb two steps, and slide back one step. Remember it is a process, and He is healing and transforming you according to His perfect schedule. Here is your promise. “Let perseverance finish its work,” James writes, “so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:4, NIV). His grace will destroy the false reflections that have defined who you are, and you will see His reflection of the person He has destined you to be.

Monday, February 8, 2016

The Real Need

(Inspired by yesterday’s service)

Four men bring their paralytic friend to a house where Jesus is teaching, but can’t get through the mass of people surrounding Him. Fully determined they climb to the roof of the house by an outside stairway. After removing roof tiles and prying up the mud and wattle, they lower the paralytic’s pallet through the opening. Jesus looks up through falling debris to see a pallet being lowered, and observes the faces of four men filled with stark hungering need for their friend’s healing. Instead of saying “you are healed” to the paralytic, Jesus announces, “friend, your sins are forgiven. Rise up, and pick up your mat. Go home” (Luke 5:17-24).

Just as our pastor preached yesterday morning those four friends brought their friend to Jesus for healing, but that was not their friend’s real need. Because their friend couldn’t walk or take himself to Jesus, they moved heaven and earth to get him to this man who could heal him. But Jesus looked beyond what those four friends perceived the man’s need to be and saw his real need instead. The paralytic needed forgiveness, and a renewed heart. So Jesus spoke the very thing that the man really needed to hear–that his sins were forgiven. Then the physical miracle happened. He stood up, and picked up his mat and walked.

What you perceive is the real need of your heart is not always what God perceives it to be. A dear friend picked up her mat and walked yesterday. She did what only God could have done as a result of meeting a real need in her life. Just weeks previously God had revived her heart following the death of her son, and she knew it was time to share with the church the love of God which had brought her from the deepest despair to the greatest peace. Just as life was too much for the paralytic it might have been too much for her if she had not discovered her real need at the feet of Jesus. Praise was the very thing that God knew she needed. His direction came to her in 1 Thessalonians 5:18.  “Give thanks in all circumstances for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” She began to praise God for the gift of her child, and prayed that his death would not be in vain. A miracle happened. Her real need was met, and she stood up, walked, and shared the message God had burned in her heart. She has been miraculously revived with the life of the Holy Spirit. Joy has returned. Power and purpose have claimed her life.

What do you believe is your real need?  He knows what you really need. Our agenda and our plans become important to us, but He knows they don’t really matter. My friend discovered what really matters. She knows the value that God has added to her life. When we lose our life for Him, we really find who we can become in Him.  Do you want to have His peace that passes human understanding? Do you want His joy which gives you strength in all circumstances? Do you seek healing of heart and mind? You must seek Him to know what your real need is. Seeking God means you are preparing your heart for His love to change you. It means you are ready to receive His need as your own. If you seek you shall find it. Focus on your real need as my friend focused on hers, and He will take care of the lesser needs in your life. He will also lift you from your mat, and you will also walk in His love and power.

The paralytic whose sins were forgiven got up praising God and walked. He had a renewed life with purpose. My friend who shared God’s heart yesterday has renewed life with His purpose. Each time our pastor burns with God’s message he is a vessel of renewed purpose that inspires us to open our hearts to the refining fire of the Holy Spirit. He shared a quote from John Wesley. “I set myself on fire and people just come to see me burn.” Do we burn with His love as much as His love burns for us?  Have we broken through that roof seeking Him to discover our real need? He looks through all the falling debris of our attempts to reach Him, and with loving grace reveals our suffering, our sins, and our failures. Then He bids us come to Him. His altar awaits for each heart to seek their real heart’s need. His altar awaits to draw each of us to a deeper experience of prayer and purpose. His grace is not a commodity to be used. His grace is His living presence that changes you and changes me. Our real need is Him–alive and well and reviving our hearts. Then we shall pick up our mat and walk in His miracle.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Examining Our Motive

People may be pure in their own eyes, but the Lord examines their motives” (Proverbs 16:2, NLT).

Has the Holy Spirit ever shown you that something you thought you did out of love was actually done for another reason? Perhaps the appearance of an act was loving, but the motive behind it was for less than a loving reason. Something that we do to help another person may appear to be inspired by love, but God examines the heart and knows what really inspired us. We can't escape the fact that the Holy Spirit knows the motive behind our actions. If we are open to His revelation and obedient to His conviction, His power can purify our hearts.

Guilt can be a motive behind an action. We may try to help someone for what we believe is a good reason, but what we do actually becomes an attempt to appease a guilt. God wishes what we do to come from a heart that has been cleansed of guilt and shame. We might also feel forced by circumstance or others to do something that appears totally unselfish and giving. However, deep within we know our motive does not come from a heart that has been broken of selfishness. If we give expecting something in return, then we also give in selfishness. God wishes us to have a cleansed heart with pure motives. “You must each decide in your heart how much to give,” Paul wrote, “and don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure–for God loves a person who gives cheerfully” (2 Corinthians 9:7, NLT). If we give freely in love without weighing our personal cost, our giving comes from a heart that understands the cost of what Christ gave. Freely He gave so that we might freely give. His motive was pure and unrestrained love. Ours should be the same.

Once more I ask the Holy Spirit to reveal the motives of my heart–if my actions are inspired by His love or by any guilt or selfishness. If the least bit of guilt or selfishness is involved, I ask Him to continually expose it and cleanse my heart. “Continually create in me a pure heart, O God,” David prayed, “and always renew a steadfast spirit within me” (Psalm 51:10). I want no guilty chains that bind. He removes the stain of my guilt (Psalm 51:9) that inspires selfish motive. I want no selfishness that seeks for something in return or places conditional expectations. I must daily examine and allow Him to renew my heart. If I am faithful to seek Him, He is faithful to purify my life. And I will then give cheerfully with pure love and forgiveness, because that is what He has done for me.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

My Life-Not About Me

Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others” (Philippians 2:2-4, NIV).

Is my life one of promise? Do I offer hope? Do I encourage others when they are unable to encourage themselvesAm I sensitive to someone's pain, or do I unconsciously throw fuel on the fire of their pain by casual words that have not been inspired by God? Do I put the needs of others before my own or do I find a way to “just do enough”? In my words or actions, I speak either encouragement or defeat to another person. I speak life or death to another heart.

As much as each one of us might like it to be, His life in us is not about what we want or how we might prosper. It is all about what He desires for us to sacrificially become for the sake of someone else. His desire is for me to love others as He loves meto tenderly and compassionately give my life away expecting nothing in return. Freely He gave. Freely I should give. He desires for me to encourage and speak life where there has been death, and to bless those who are down-trodden and hurting with the healing presence of Jesus Christ.

What is my life? I pray that He makes my life one that is not about me. I pray that I always see with His eyes, hears with His eyes, and understand with His Spirit in order to help someone else realize their potential in Him. I pray that I put another life before my own. I pray that I always love and encourage with His grace and truth. I pray that I never let go of believing in His promise for someone else. I pray that my life becomes broken and spilled out as He was broken and spilled out for me. I want no masks that veil my heart. Revival of heart never holds back. It is always seen in loving action. May I bring Him joy by encouraging with the love and grace He has brought to me.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

A Prayer Prescription for Revival

Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them” (Matthew 18:19-20, (NIV).

If you are seeking revival, prayer is the most intimate part of the prescription for it. This Scripture in Matthew reveals an incredible promise about its power. When two or more of His disciples agree in prayer, He is there with them. He meets with them in prayer. He connects their souls in prayer. When they focus on Him, He joins their minds and hearts in purpose. As they allow the Holy Spirit to direct their prayers, something miraculous begins to happen. Their desires become one with His will, and He binds them together to achieve this most powerful promise–that if two agree about what they ask for, it shall be done.

A disciple of Jesus is one whose loyalty and love for Him is greater than anything else. A disciple is called to sacrificially follow Jesus, share the truth of His saving grace, and deny his own self. Prayer can be one of the greatest of self-denials. The prayer of one who seeks His will banishes self and seeks His deepest intimacy. There is a hunger–a longing–a yearning of heart that can only be satisfied with His living presence. “As the deer longs for streams of water,” David cried, “so I long for you, O God. I thirst for God, the living God” (Psalm 42:1-2a, NLT). Just a few verses later David rejoiced, “Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me” (Psalm 42:7, NIV). Not only is there a hunger for the overcoming waters of His Spirit, there is a deep thirst for His heart-changing presence. The unfathomable depth of the Spirit of God calls to the depth of the Holy Spirit within a man, and bids that man come. When the Holy Spirit is the caller, then it is the man surrendered to the Holy Spirit, who accepts. The Holy Spirit becomes the lover of that soul.

When two of His lovers come into His presence in agreement seeking His face, two wills are surrendered instead of one. Not only are two wills surrendered, they are linked together in petition, and His power is unleashed to achieve His greatest purpose. When He becomes our total desire–when we seek His heart agreeing in faith–our prayers become His prayer. We limit God when we hesitate to believe. We limit the power of agreement when we do not come together believing, trusting, and applying faith. We have not because we ask not. If two disciples are truly surrendered to the Holy Spirit together in prayer, what they ask shall be in His will, and their prayers will be answered.

Two or more repentant hearts seeking the Lord together can pray down a heaven-sent great awakening. If we hunger for revival and want to be changed by His power, we will seek His face. We will hunger to pray with other believers who yearn for the same. We shall become one in prayer with Him, and nothing can hinder the power with which God answers. The Holy Spirit which has called us to pray hears our response and our call for Him to come. Let's seek Him together and surrender to His call, and He will surrender to ours. Nothing will limit His power or His promise. 

Monday, February 1, 2016

A Sign for Revival

Let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up” (Hebrews 12:1, NLT).
Just let a few Christians get thoroughly right with God, and the church is set for a great awakening. This was one of the points in our pastor's sermon detailing a prescription for revival in a spiritually hungry church. Revival begins in you and it begins in me when we are ready for a heart change. God pours Himself into the lives of those who yearn and ache to live for Him–who seek His purity of heart and purpose. Such a believer is easily convicted and moved by the power of God. Such a Christian hears God's voice and responds not only on His knees at an altar, but in his heart with repentance. What do we do when we fail God? Do we go to Him and confess or do we try to ignore our sin and make excuses? This verse in Hebrews tells us that we are to strip off very weight of sin that trips us up. If we think we are perfect, then we need to look again. We have all failed. Not one of us is perfect. I am the woman who has failed Him, and who are you? Have you failed Him, too?
Do we need a road sign to turn from what is wrong in our lives? If we ever want to finish this race of life well, then we are going to have to let go of the things that keep us from running a good race. What holds me back? What is the thing that holds you back? What in your life weighs you down? What is hindering your progress? If you and I ever needed a sign or a wake-up call, then this verse in Hebrews is for us. Two words hit us in the face–weight and sin. Sin will not only weigh us down. It will destroy us and hold us back from discovering God's potential. We will miss the promise of His blessing that lies within the grasp of a repentant heart. We will miss the glory of what He can do in our hearts and lives when we seek revival.
What is in your life that weighs you down and holds you back from His promise of a new life? It can be anything from a sinful habit to a relationship you are in that is not healthy. It can be a negative or unforgiving attitude that keeps you from reaching for God's grace. Perhaps you are allowing a hurt from your past to dictate your life, and hold you in emotional bondage. But whatever your sin–whatever your unhealthy relationship–whatever your emotional pain, you are weighed down by its oppressive yoke. Jesus Christ wants to take it away if you will let it go. There is freedom in Him. He has extended an offer of a new heart and life to you.

Allow the road signs that Jesus brings into your life to point you in the right direction–toward His altar and a hunger of heart for more of Him. The weight of sin–the weight of an unhealthy relationship–the weight of emotional bondage that has defined your life–the weight of oppression...take these burdens to His altar and leave each one there. Never settle for less than the best that He has for you. Seek to be right with Him. Let go of the weight, and leap into His arms of freedom. Seek His revival of heart. It will be the most certain thing you have ever done. You will blaze with new life that shall spread like wildfire, and from the flames will arise the promise of heaven-sent change.

Get That Monkey Off Your Back

    An offended friend is harder to win back than a fortified city. Arguments separate friends like a gate locked with bars. Sensible people...