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Afraid of the Dark?

Most of us can relate to being afraid of the dark.  When I was young, I remember the comfort I felt when my parents turned on the night light.  In fact, for the better part of a year, I also insisted that they put a certain favorite record on their record player; I maintained that I could not go to sleep without that particular music.  I also remember labeling the side of my bed nearest the wall as “the devil’s side.”  I thought somehow the devil lived under the bed by the wall and would attack me if I got too close to the edge of the bed on that side.  Although my childish fears were unreasonable, given the fact that my parents assured me of their love and care for me, I still felt a distinct dread of dark places.  Somehow, children instinctively understand that evil lurks in darkness.

The good news is that God is NOT afraid of the dark!  He promised to deliver us from darkness — from sin, fear, torment, and blindness.  Isaiah explains God’s entrance into our dark world as follows:  “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, upon them a light has shined.”  (Isaiah 9:6)  In verse 9 of that same chapter is the famous description of the promised Messiah, our deliverer:  “For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder, and His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”     John assures us that “God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all.” (I John 1:5b)  James also assures us that “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.”  (James 1:17)  God Himself IS the light that dispels all darkness.  John explains that Jesus is “the light of men.”  “And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it” [overcome it, understand it, or extinguish it].  (John 1:4b-5)

It is truly amazing that God, the Creator of the universe, sent a part of His very own Self to the earth in human form to be light to us and to deliver us forever from our sin and our fears.  Jesus said in John 8:12, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.”   Just THINK about that:   Jesus gives us His Presence, which illuminates our hearts and minds and gives us light! Paul reminds us that Jesus “has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love.”  (Colossians 1:13)

I pray that God will help me understand the power of what He has done for me by sending Jesus to pay for my sin and bring light and life to me.  We still live in a world that seems riddled with darkness, and I often feel discouraged and overwhelmed.   However, I am trying to remember that the Light of the world literally dwells in me by His Spirit, and that the darkness has no long-term power over me.   I am asking God to help me refuse to focus on the apparent power of the dark places and to bask instead in His Presence, His light.   He has already delivered me, and He will continue to deliver me from the dark places of my circumstances, and even from the dark places in my own soul.   He truly IS light and life, for all eternity.   He is teaching me to sing in the darkness and not be afraid.   Ask Him this Christmas season to say to your heart once again, “Let there be light.”  (Genesis 1:3)  He is faithful.

Barren? Useless? A Waste of Time? That’s What YOU Think!

How quick we are to scrutinize, label, and condemn our own effectiveness!  In a culture that thrives on branding and labeling anything and everything, we hasten to assess and label ourselves before the rest of the world can do so.  We announce that we are fat, ugly, inept, uncoordinated, ignorant, incapable, or unintelligent — often before anyone has even considered viewing us as such.  That way, we reason, we beat everyone else to the punch!  We proclaim as truth the things we are certain that other people will think about us — regardless of whether or not our proclamations are valid.

Perhaps we even believe that God has called us to be involved in certain relationships for the purpose of showing them His love, kindness, support, or generosity.   Perhaps we are trying hard to simply be gracious to a difficult family member or to be helpful to a less-than-receptive neighbor.  After a few attempts to muster our courage and do what we feel called to do, we sense our efforts are fruitless, ineffective, and even ridiculous.  We lose heart and decide that we are useless to God and everybody else.  All our efforts are futile, and we see no change in our situation or anyone else’s attitudes.  There you have it:  we brand ourselves as barren and useless and our efforts as fruitless.

Think about it, though . . . moments after planting a seed in the ground, do we run back outside and yell at that seed?  Do we scream that it is a stupid, worthless, good-for-nothing seed because it has not sprouted ten minutes after being planted?  When there is no seedling visible the next day, do we continue reviling it as barren and hopelessly unproductive the next day?  I, for one, have not done that (yet!), and I do not know anyone who has.  Calling a seed barren before it has a chance to even sprout would be ridiculous!  It is a fact that some of the most significant creative growth happens to that seed before it ever shows signs of sprouting up through the soil.  Similarly, a baby experiences the most miraculous and mysterious phase of development before his or her presence is even visible on an ultrasound screen.  Much of God’s creative work is accomplished in secret — in the places we cannot see with our human eyes or comprehend with our limited understanding.  In fact, God knows that we lack skill in perceiving His work.  He declares: “See, I am doing a new thing!  Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?” (Isaiah 43:19a)

Moreover, even if we COULD accurately and consistently perceive the work and fruit of God’s hand in our lives, God never assigned us the job of Holy Fruit Inspector!  We need to repent of our haste in pronouncing ourselves barren and useless and instead embrace His life.   He is faithful to finish what He has begun in us (Philippians 1:6), and His life in us WILL produce fruit that remains (John 15:16).


The Person in the Mirror

When most of us look at ourselves in the mirror, we are quick to spot our flaws and take pains to conceal them.  In fact, in our makeover-obsessed society, I often feel that my outward appearance is hopelessly flawed, despite my best efforts to make myself presentable!  My recognition of my physical flaws is analogous to God’s view of my spiritual condition prior to redemption:  “…all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,..” (Romans 3:23).

The analogy, however, ends there, for what I lack in physical beauty can never be fully redeemed here on earth, not even by the most highly skilled plastic surgeons (so I have not even bothered with that!).  However, my flawed human nature, full of sin and inadequacies, CAN be redeemed and HAS been redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ.  That very fact CHANGES me and thereby changes the person I see in the mirror!  God PROMISES to transform me!

Paul tells us in I Corinthians 15:49:  “And as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly Man.”  That means that we will look like Jesus, that we will reflect the likeness, character, and nature of God Himself, in Whose image we were made (Genesis 1:27). As we cultivate our relationship with the Lover of our souls, He transforms us into the image of Himself and reveals His personality and character in and through us.  II Corinthians 3:18 describes this process beautifully: “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.”

What amazing news!  What a promise!  Lord Jesus, transform me so completely that I will reflect Your glory to all around me.  Help me to fix my eyes on YOU rather than on my physical reflection in the mirror.  Help me to see YOU rather than myself.   Help me to bear the image of You, the heavenly Man.  Amen!

Rivers of Living Water

Ezekiel 47 describes a prophetic picture of God’s river of life:  it begins with a trickle of water flowing out from under the east side of the temple.  As the water flows, it expands in volume and strength, until it becomes a deep river that cannot be crossed (verse 5).  These waters are unusual, in that they convey healing wherever they flow; moreover, trees grow along the banks of the river — trees that bear fruit every month, trees whose leaves also bring healing.  What a picture of abundance, provision, and wholeness!  For Ezekiel, this picture forecasts God’s presence and provision for His people.  For us, as New Testament believers in Jesus, this scene represents the Kingdom work God longs to accomplish in and through us on a daily basis.

Paul makes it very clear that our physical bodies now serve as the temple of the Holy Spirit, the residence of God’s Spirit. In I Corinthians 3:16, he asks:  “Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?”  In I Corinthians 6:19, he repeats the same question with slightly different words: “…do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?”  Later, in II Corinthians 6:16, Paul declares, “You are the temple of the living God.”  Since the Presence of the Living God dwells in us by His Spirit, His Presence should flow out from us, just as the river of life flowed from under the side of the temple in Ezekiel’s vision.  In fact, Jesus Himself declared this fact to be true when He stood up on the final day of the Feast of Tabernacles, the day when the celebration ceremony involved the pouring out of water.  He cried out: “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink.  He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.”  (John 7:37-38)

Sometimes I forget the power of His Presence within me.  I forget that the King of all Creation literally dwells in me by His Spirit.  I fail to call upon His healing water to flow in and through me, and I try to solve my problems and meet my challenges in my own strength.  Instead, I need to remember the One Who longs to pour Himself increasingly into me and out through me and allow Him free rein in my heart and mind.  He is more than able to provide “fruit for food and leaves for healing” on a daily basis.  His waters are too deep to run dry.  He is the God of more than enough!  He is after a river, not just a trickle! Father, may the living waters of your Holy Spirit fill me to overflowing!  Be honored and glorified, Lord Jesus!

In Our Mouths and in Our Hearts: the Living Word

In the book of Deuteronomy, God tells Moses that the things He has commanded him to do are not too hard to obey. “Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach.” (Deut. 30:11) God Himself enabled Moses to follow Him. How? By His Word. A few verses later, God declares to Moses that His Word is “very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it.” (Deut. 30:14)  In other words, God supplied Moses with the tools to obey His directions. Thousands of years later, this principle remains true for us.  The Lord clearly does not expect us to figure out on our own how to do what He asks us to do.  He promises to be with us and equip us.  In fact, in Jesus, the Father has fulfilled that promise in a most dramatic way. John tells us that “the Word was God,” and that “the Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us.  We have seen His glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”  (John 1:1, 1:14)   God Himself came to earth in the form of the Word incarnate, Jesus Christ.  Moreover, the Word incarnate was physically birthed in Bethlehem.  The Hebrew word “bethlehem” means “house of bread.”  Jesus was laid in a manger, a feeding trough.  In fact, the word “manger” is a French word for the verb “to eat.”  Furthermore, when Jesus celebrated the Passover meal for the last time with His disciples, He instructed them to remember Him as they shared the bread and wine, symbols of His body and blood.  They were to feed on Him, the Bread of Life. getty_rf_photo_of_whole_grain_bread Jesus literally lived the ongoing metaphor of God’s Word dwelling in our mouth.  He came to us in the form of human flesh and became our Bread of Life.  Paul reiterates this concept in Romans 10.  He quotes the Deuteronomy 30 passage and affirms: “‘The Word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart.'”  He further explains: “if you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.  For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.”  (Romans 10:8-9)  The reason we CAN declare with our mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in our heart that God raised Him from the dead is that HE, the Living Word of God, dwells in us.   He came to this earth, died for our sin, rose again, and literally dwells in us by His Spirit.  He, the WORD, the God of heaven and earth, dwells in our mouth and lives in our heart!  He literally has fulfilled His promise to Moses; He, the living Word, lives in us.  Remember that He is as close as your very heartbeat, your every breath.  Feed on Him, the Bread of Life.  Call upon Him.  He will be faithful to express Himself in and through you.

Scriptures quoted from Today’s New International Version

PASSION Is Not a Dirty Word!

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Passion has acquired a somewhat negative connotation in our culture.  It is a word used to describe an excess of emotion directed at a specific object, person, or issue.  However, if I could give you ONE thing, it would be passion.  In an age of indifference, passivity, numbness, self-indulgence, and de-sensitization to the things that should stir our hearts, GOD Himself longs for you to receive His passion.  God is passionate about YOU!  He is passionate about the ones He loves, and that includes you and me!  The Holy Spirit desires to imbue us with passion for God and for the things that He is passionate about.

The question is:  are we willing to be gloriously, irrevocably disturbed from our preferred status quo?  Will we give God permission to overwhelm us? — or do we prefer to keep Him in check and allow Him to take over only when we find ourselves in a desperate position?

If I could impart to my children one, and only one, quality to inherit — I would choose to give them an eternal passion for Jesus.  I would gladly pour it into them to overflowing.  Nothing else in life really matters, and nothing else will make a permanent difference in the course of their lives.  However, God Himself is the Source of that passion — it didn’t originate in my heart.  He gave it to me when He gave me Himself.  I will be forever grateful!  My children may hunger for what they see in me in this regard, but they must ask the Lord for it themselves!  He is their Source, not I.  He is their inheritance and their reward, as well as mine.

Do you yearn to discover who you are?  Are you on a quest to find the real you?  I can assure you that you will never truly “find yourself” until you allow the great “I AM” to invade your heart.  When you get to know Him and give Him full permission — free rein — to do with you whatever He wishes, you will discover your true self, the self that is more delightful than any other version of yourself that you could invent on your own.  I know that from experience, as I spent years trying to be somebody other than myself, somebody better than myself, somebody more acceptable than myself — and I ended up only despising myself more as the years wore on.  Jesus set me free from my own fruitless quest for self-discovery.  I AM is now in charge of who I am.   What a relief!

I pray that the Lord Himself will meet you in the place of your deepest insecurity.  He loves you and longs to fill you with passion for Himself — a passion that never dies, a passion that brings with it inexplicable joy.  Jesus is not just the ticket to a reserved seat in heaven — He is our life NOW.  He longs to flood you with His living water NOW.  He alone is your life, your hopes, your dreams, your destiny, your very breath!  He is passionate about you and wants to fill you with passion for Himself.  Dare Him to do just that!

“He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.”  John 7:38

Swimming in the New Gene Pool

istockphoto_6593984-dna-double-helixFor years, I thought I wanted to escape the genetic code of my forebears (only in certain areas, mind you!).  Although I was thrilled that my family tended to succeed in school and even had a certain degree of musical talent, I desperately wanted to break out of the genetic box in other ways.  I longed to be tall, willowy, and lovely.  That never did happen and apparently never will!  I wanted to appear more easy-going and less black-and-white about everything.  That never happened, either!

Of course, all families carry prevailing tendencies and weaknesses that are more disturbing than a person’s physical height or basic personality. No human being is without sin (Romans 3:23).  When Adam and Eve sinned, God’s image and likeness in them became marred, or degenerate.  However, the Blood of Jesus has the power to regenerate, or  “re-gene” us!  God Himself sent His Son to regenerate repentant sinners in His very own image and likeness.  “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:  The old has gone, the new is here!.”  (2 Cor. 5:17)  The power of the indwelling Holy Spirit is engaged in a process of transforming us into the image of Jesus Himself.  “And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into His image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”  (2 Cor. 3:18)

Sometimes, however, we ourselves limit the power of God to transform us by not allowing Him to do so.   Why would we not allow Him to change us?  First, because we may not realize that He actually WANTS to or is truly ABLE to change some qualities we view as “givens.”  We dismiss the Lord’s desire and capacity to intervene because we don’t believe He really will do it!   We assume that muddling through life in spite of our prevailing flaws is part of our “cross to bear.”  In fact, quite the opposite is true:  we are to bear the truth of the Cross — take up our cross daily — not our sin, as Jesus already bore those on the cross — but the truth that Jesus DIED for the sins, weaknesses, flaws, and failings that have characterized us in the past.  We can call upon His life-giving, transforming power to flow in and through us every day.

God’s desire is to release us from bondages and unholy patterns from our past, no matter how deep-seated or longstanding they may be.  He wants to flow in and through us with His Presence and Life!  In Luke 4: 18-19, Jesus Himself quoted the passage from Isaiah 61: 1-3 to speak of the work He was sent to do:  “The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me [Jesus] to proclaim good news to the poor.  He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion — to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.  They will be called mighty oaks, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.”  Verse 4 of that same chapter continues:  “They will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated; they will renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations.”    It makes no difference how long a pattern of anger, bitterness, addiction, idolatry, despair, negativity, or other affliction has been directing your family — God’s desire is that the devastations of many generations be restored and the ruins be rebuilt.  Dare to ask God for the vision and assurance you need to pray along this line.  Ask Him to regenerate (re-gene) your family.  Then dive in and enjoy a refreshing dip in the new gene pool of Life!

Give What Is in Your Hand

In John 6: 5-13, Jesus fed over five thousand people with a little boy’s lunch:

When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do. Philip answered him, “Eight months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!” Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up, “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?” Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” There was plenty of grass in that place, and the men sat down, about five thousand of them. Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish. When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.” So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten.

How often we undervalue our own personal resources.  We assume that what we have in the way of talent, ability, intelligence, financial assets, material possessions, and spiritual acumen would NEVER be enough for Jesus to even have anything of substance to work with!  However, God already knows ahead of time what He plans to do with what we give Him.  We need only give it to Him.  In fact, rather than trying to meet needs on our own, we should take what we have, no matter how inadequate it may be, and give it to Him.  God will then return it to us transformed and multiplied.  It will then be more than enough to meet whatever need is confronting us.  Rather than focusing on what we DON’T have, we should ask God to reveal to us what we DO have.  Then we need His help to see what we have and release it to Him.  He will help us.  He loves us and is waiting for us to respond to His urging.  He longs for us to acknowledge the needs we face, release what we have to Him and participate in the miracles He has already planned!

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Minimizing God’s Power?

box053The trend in our culture is to compartmentalize the various aspects of our lives. We tend to think of physical, spiritual, intellectual, and emotional activities as separate categories that all need to be cultivated in order to be a whole or healthy person. Perhaps without really intending to do so, we thereby place God in a “spiritual” box. When we do that, we (perhaps inadvertently) deny Him access to other parts of our lives. He is confined to His proper domain, we think. However, this way of “handling” the spiritual part of life, in fact, limits God. He is the One who has made us (fearfully and wonderfully, according to Psalm 139:14), and He longs to be a part of every thought and every emotion. He is our very life and breath. “In Him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). Let us ask Him today for revelation of the fullness of His Presence and allow Him to give us His perspective on ourselves. His interest in and involvement with us will never cease to delight us. He longs for us to invite Him to maximize Himself in us rather than minimizing or limiting Him. He loves us passionately and boundlessly. “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen (Ephesians 3:20-21, NIV) Give God your permission to climb out of the box in which you have confined Him!

God Will Fulfill His Promises

Philippians 1:6 (Amplified Bible)

And I am convinced and sure of this very thing, that He Who began a good work in you will continue until the day of Jesus Christ [right up to the time of His return], developing [that good work] and perfecting and bringing it to full completion in you.

What amazing, foolproof, ironclad assurance God gives us!  He can be trusted to complete everything He has started.  With God, there are no abandoned projects or half-finished books.  He finishes every project He begins, and He leaves no goal unreached.  When He sets His heart on us, He never gives up!   You can be confident that the Seed of Himself, the Word of Truth, that He has planted in you will, in fact, produce fruit.  There WILL be a harvest, for the Lord of the Harvest Himself guarantees it.

Isaiah 55:10-13 (Amplified Bible)

10For as the rain and snow come down from the heavens, and return not there again, but water the earth and make it bring forth and sprout, that it may give seed to the sower and bread to the eater,

11So shall My word be that goes forth out of My mouth: it shall not return to Me void [without producing any effect, useless], but it shall accomplish that which I please and purpose, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.

12For you shall go out [from the spiritual exile caused by sin and evil into the homeland] with joy and be led forth [by your Leader, the Lord Himself, and His word] with peace; the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.

13Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress tree, and instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle tree; and it shall be to the Lord for a name of renown, for an everlasting sign [of jubilant exaltation] and memorial [to His praise], which shall not be cut off.images1