vivid beauty

“And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming.”

1 John 2:28

I was out at a coffee shop with my friend Laura last weekend; the last weekend that the world felt safe.

As we sipped our overpriced almond milk iced coffees in West Midtown Atlanta, a young man approached us. Immediately, I assumed he was coming over to ask for money. I felt myself tense up.

He didn’t. Instead, he gave us a word.

He said, “Hey guys, I felt like I needed to come over to tell you that the Lord is leading you into a season of vivid beauty.”

Wow. Okay. I’ll take it!

As the days since then have quickly spiraled into uncertainty, I have held onto that word.

“Vivid Beauty.”

What does it mean? And how could that be possible in times like these?

Beloved, what is impossible with man is possible with God.

After spending some time in God’s presence, I believe He has given me further revelation; as this word is not just for me & Laura. This word is for the Beloved Daughters of God.

Daughter, believe this word.

The Vivid Beauty is the Beauty of His presence. In this season of uncertainty, we have been granted incredible, abundant access to the throne room of grace. Please, please, please – meet with Jesus. He is waiting to meet with you!

Get on your knees and surrender to His presence. As the verse in 1 John implores, “…abide in Him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming.”

I believe that in this season, the Lord is teaching his daughters to abide. Abiding in Him is so crucial because as we are seeing now – He is all we have. 

Psalms 90: 1-2 says, “Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.”

For people of faith, the Lord has always been our dwelling place. That has never changed; and it never will change. I believe the Lord is stripping away our comforts so that this will be abundantly clear and so that we will be found in Him. Please, don’t forget – Jesus will one day come back. When He does, will we be shrink back in shame? Or will we run into His open arms, full of grace and glory, with lamps full of oil and hearts full of love?

Please, abide in Him. Make time to pray. Make time to worship. Get in the secret place. He is blessing us insurmountably with an overabundance of joy, strength, peace, faith, gentleness, holiness, love, wisdom, and HOPE. Romans 15:13 says, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.”

And, with the promise of His presence, we have the beautiful words of our Savior Jesus in John 15:7-11,

“If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.”

We will not be in this season forever. But while we are in it, we have the choice to either lean into the refining fire of His presence, or lean into fear, anxiety, fantasies, pornography, overeating, Netflix, you name it.

Please, please, please – let us choose to let Him love us. If we do, we will emerge from this refining fire a purified, powerful people! Let it be so!

 

favor goes both ways

“Do not remember against us our former iniquities;
let your compassion come speedily to meet us,
for we are brought very low.
Help us, O God of our salvation,
for the glory of your name;
deliver us, and atone for our sins,
for your name’s sake!
Why should the nations say,
“Where is their God?”
Let the avenging of the outpoured blood of your servants
be known among the nations before our eyes!”

Psalm 79:8-10

The more I read scripture, the more I realize the importance of context.

Take this scripture, for example. Psalm 79 is not one of those “feel-good” scriptures. According to the ESV Study Bible commentary, it is a “community lament, which was occasioned by a great disaster that fell upon Jerusalem.” It is the peoples’ plea for mercy, penned by the psalmist Asaph.

Picture it in your mind: A great disaster, most likely a wartime invasion. The holy temple laid in ruins. The blood of the saints poured out like water. God’s people are taunted; they are mocked. They are no longer regarded as God’s people. They no longer bear His mark.

In rage and despair, the Israelites cry out: You love us more than this, God. Save us! We are your people! What happened to favor? What happened to protection, anointing, calling? What happened, God?

Well, well, well. Sound familiar, doesn’t it?

We must be very careful how we read this text. Like going grocery shopping when we’re hungry, we might put more into the cart than we should. Reading this from a place of hurt or pride might led us to blame God for this tragedy. But if we read with a humble and contrite heart, we notice a teensy very important detail in verse 8.

The people of Israel aren’t so innocent after all.

“Do not remember against us our former iniquities; let your compassion come speedily to meet us, for we are brought very low.”

The ESV Study Bible elaborates:

“Running through the psalm is a recognition that, just as by reason of the covenant, Israel expects God to treat them differently than he treats the other nations, so too Israel should live faithfully to that covenant. The disaster came because Israel did not embrace the covenant in true faith; the psalm confesses that, asks for forgiveness, and pledges renewed faithfulness.”

How many times have we done this? How often do we live as friends of the world, yet expect to be treated as a friend of God? We adulterous people! Do we not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God?

Friends, favor goes both ways. If we want the favor of the Lord, we must also favor the Lord. We must favor Him above everything else. We must follow the law of the New Testament: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself.

But…what if we just, don’t?

What if we want to love the Lord our God with all we are, but we find ourselves continuing to fall in a particular area? What if, like Paul in Romans 7, we do not do the good that we want, but the evil we do not want is what we keep on doing?

If so, we are not alone.

What might be this evil we keep on doing?

It might be a secret habitual sin. It might be a dangerous thought pattern. It might be hurtful words we say or actions we inflect upon ourselves or others.

Whatever it is – you know.

May I suggest that you let someone else know, too?

Accountability is a gift. It is not chains – is freedom. As my dear friend says, the narrow road leads to wide open spaces. We won’t learn to favor the Lord above all else without the help of our sisters in Christ. We must cut off our pride and let others in.

Beloved, there is no shame in needing an increased level of support in a particular area. He loves you just the same, no matter what sin you struggle with. But when you passionately pursue freedom, it reveals just how much you love Him.

For…“God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

Father, we need You. We need your favor, your grace, your anointing, your blessing. Let us live in the light of your love in obedience to all that You command. Bring the appropriate accountability partner into our lives, and protect those relationships by the power of your spirit. You are worthy of all that we are. We love you. In Jesus’ name, AMEN!

 

trial by fire

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.”

James 1:2-6 NIV

I once heard a sermon preached on this passage that stressed the importance of understanding the difference between trials and temptations. Temptations…those, we run from. But trials, we run through.

Today, I want to talk about trials. I want to talk about this: I know what God’s word says about trials…but why can’t I surrender to God’s perspective?

Many of us have heard this passage in passing. We know what it says. But in order to progress, we need to not merely listen to the word, and so deceive ourselves – we must do what it says.What action steps does this passage direct us to take?

First things first:

1. “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds…”

Pure joy? What is that?

It’s the sweet-smelling smoke emanating from a refining fire. It’s a nourishing meal cooked by the heat. It’s the warmth felt from the flames.

The Expositor’s Greek Testament elaborates: “The writer is not to be understood as meaning that these trials are joyful in themselves, but that as a means to beneficial results they are to be rejoiced in.”

Plainly, beneficial results that bring tomorrow’s joy can only come through the trials of today. We must consider them in this way – and thus, rejoice. What is one of those results? “…because you know that the testing of your faith producesperseverance.”

Just as only the blood of Jesus can bring redemption, only the Lord our God can produce perseverance through a test of faith. We know this about our God.

We also know that we need perseverance. We need it. Jesus said it himself: “In this world, you will have tribulation.” How could we ever stand against inevitable tribulation without perseverance?

Furthermore, this perseverance is bred, not born. We have a part to play. James teaches us:

2. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” 

To let perseverance finish its work means to stop opposing it. Let it happen. Let the Lord carry you through tonight, and tomorrow night, and tomorrow’s tomorrow night. Let Him dry your tears. Let Him strengthen you. Let Him pray through you. Let Him help you rest. Let Him.

We often pray, “Lord, let your will be done,” without actually letting Him do what He wants to do. Let perseverance finish its work. Get out of the way.

Now, it gets good:

3. “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.”

What does this have anything to do with the trial?

We cannot consider our trials as pure joy without God’s wisdom.

Are you stuck in a victim mindset? Are you bound by bitterness? Ask the Lord for wisdom. He will give it to you.

4. “But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.”

We must ask from a place of confidence in the goodness of our God. We must echo the prayer of the distressed father in Mark 9, pleading with Christ to deliver his demon-possessed son, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!”

Do you need God’s wisdom to illuminate your trials as the things that will one day bring pure joy?

Let’s go before the Father now.

Father, thank you for this word. Thank you for Your word that cuts between bone and marrow – for Your word that never fails, that never returns void. We commit ourselves entirely to what You say. We ask for more Heavenly wisdom – give us more, give us more, give us more. You give it generously to all. Let us begin to consider our trials as pure joy. Help us to let perseverance finish its work, that we may be mature and complete. Let our faith grow stronger and stronger as we trust in You. We love you. In Jesus’ name, AMEN! 

 

a gem in jeremiah

12 Go, proclaim this message toward the north:

“‘Return, faithless Israel,’ declares the Lord,
    ‘I will frown on you no longer,
for I am faithful,’ declares the Lord,
    ‘I will not be angry forever.
13 Only acknowledge your guilt—
    you have rebelled against the Lord your God,
you have scattered your favors to foreign gods
    under every spreading tree,
    and have not obeyed me,’”
declares the Lord.

 

Jeremiah 3:12-13

I am beginning to love the Old Testament.

It’s taken me some time to read it, mainly because I haven’t really tried. The thickest section of the book is also the heaviest. I always figured I’d get to it eventually – for now, I’ll just reread the rest of the Bible.

I’ll sit cross-legged with Mary while Jesus feasts on Martha’s famous lamb, over and over again. I’ll harmonize with Silas to hymns about Christ as Paul prays in prison. I’ll even listen to crazy old Uncle James as he stares straight into my soul and speaks words of wisdom that both cut and heal.

But the Old Testament? I don’t even know where to start.

For one, the books that comprise the first three quarters of the Word are far lengthier than the letters and gospels of the New Testament, making them harder to digest. I often listen to the Bible app on my phone to fall asleep; and the number of books read differs drastically depending on where I first push play. If I start at Psalm 1, we’ll wake up somewhere in the middle of Ecclesiastes. But if I start at 1 Corinthians 1, we’ll plow straight through to Revelation – a fairly disorienting first discourse for the morning.

Anyways.

We all have excuses. We just have to admit them.

Recently, I asked my small group for advice on how to chew on the meatiest part of life’s manual. They gave me a few great pointers I’d love to share, in case you relate to anything I’ve written thus far:

  • Keep the overarching narrative in mind – God creates, man sins, God pleads with man to return to Him, God restores. Repeat.
  • As you read, ask the Holy Spirit to reveal the following: “What does this passage teach me about who God is?”
  • Get an ESV Study Bible. Helps tremendously with understanding historical and cultural context.
  • Camp out in one book for a while to really let it soak in your spirit.
  • Read Old Testament laws in tandem with New Testament letters. Enlightening to see the way Christ truly fulfilled it all.

Why do we do all this? Because it’s worth it.

As I’ve begun walking through the Old Testament, I know I’ll continue. It’s wonderful. There’s a gem in Jeremiah that has brought me more life than I thought it could. Here are the verses once more:

12 Go, proclaim this message toward the north:

“‘Return, faithless Israel,’ declares the Lord,
    ‘I will frown on you no longer,
for I am faithful,’ declares the Lord,
    ‘I will not be angry forever.
13 Only acknowledge your guilt—
    you have rebelled against the Lord your God,
you have scattered your favors to foreign gods
    under every spreading tree,
    and have not obeyed me,’”
declares the Lord.

 

Jeremiah 3:12-13

When I read this, its simplicity strikes me. What does God require for Israel’s restoration?

Only acknowledge your guilt – you have rebelled against the Lord your God.

The Lord’s words remind me of the moment I first believed in the beauty of the gospel. I confessed my sin and believed that I had been fully justified by faith. Yet, now, in the name of knowledge and maturity, I seek to understand the complexities of my sin as an attempt to rationalize my falls. This will not please the Lord.

While healthy self reflection is great, we must not neglect to reflect on who we’ve sinned against. In Psalm 51, David writes:

“Against you, you only, have I sinned
    and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you may be justified in your words
    and blameless in your judgment.”

When we sin, we sin against God. Sometimes, we sin against other people, too. But the Word is clear – when we sin, we’ve sinned against God.

Here’s the good news: He asks us to only acknowledge our guilt and return to Him – that’s it. Doesn’t matter what we did. He’s faithful; we’re not.

And the beauty of being an A.D. believer is that all our past, present, and future sins have been atoned for by Jesus. We don’t need to wait for God to speak words of life through a prophet. We can walk daily with the living Word.

The Word who’s blood speaks a better Word than the blood of Abel. The Word who is our great High Priest, who enables us to draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.

Jesus Christ, our Savior, bore the guilt we must acknowledge. Jesus grants true repentance when we allow His spirit to completely change our mindset about sin – for at its core, sin is a rebellion against the Lord; the Lord who loves you. And once we believe this, through Jesus, we return to the Father.

Do y’all realize what this means? When we sin, acknowledge it, and return to Him, we can be completely free from that sin forever. 

Our guilt is gone, our minds are changed, and we are free. So free. Freer than free.

And He is faithful. Faithful forever.

Let’s let His word continue to wash over us as we delve into its depths more and more.

Lord, thank you for your Holy Word. Thank you for all of it – even the parts that are hard to read. Holy Spirit, illuminate your Word so that we may truly know the one true God. Let us not return to our sin – let us return to you. You are faithful. We love you. In Jesus’ name, AMEN!

 

i hope so

24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because[g] the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

Romans 8:24-27

The first time I visited 1775 Water Place, I felt like I had been there before.

I recall standing in the carpet-covered corridor feeling kind of creeped out. Something strange stirred in my Spirit as Pastor Léonce stood in the archway of the children’s wing entrance and spoke. The sound and sights of my surroundings seemed to flow in slow-motion as I cautiously attempted to comprehend this conundrum.

“Where do I remember this from?” I asked myself.

Once we got to the stairs, it hit me.

“I saw this place in a dream.”

When you first walk into the building, there are two ways to get downstairs – a staircase on your left, and one on your right. The one in my left was in my dream.

I know this because in the car on the way back to 120 Ralph McGill, riding with two of my worship team brothers, I curiously scrolled through the notes app on my phone to find the moment my tired fingers typed out the contents of the dream I thought I had.

Sure enough, on August 11th, 2018, I wrote this:

“Renovation was in a new building. It was a combination of a gym, theatre, and church.”

And now, after arriving for worship team rehearsal on Saturday mornings, I deliberately take the stairs on the left. They’re my favorite. They feel familiar. They remind me of God’s faithfulness. They are proof of His prophetic promises.

But while walking and praying throughout the building on the last Saturday of our fast, the Lord convicted me.

As I anointed the beloved bannister of my favorite staircase and began to thank Him for His faithfulness, He stopped me. I felt His spirit speak:

“Gina, if you stay fixated only on what I have done, You’ll never get to see what I will do.”

In that moment, I believe the Lord illuminated my eyes to see the two staircases in a new light: one as the things He’s done, and one as the things He will do. For just as we remind ourselves of the ways we’ve seen His faithfulness, we must also maintain hope in the new things He is doing – things we have not yet seen. This is where hope is born.

For, as the above scripture reads, who hopes for what he sees?

But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

I begrudgingly walked over to the bannister not of my dreams. Praying over the staircase I always avoid, I wanted to cry.

Father, I don’t know how to pray for what I haven’t yet seen. I think I know what You have in store, but maybe I don’t. You’ve spoken over me before, but now, barely believing in the balance, will it ever come to pass? Will I be able to one day say that the burdens bared by this bannister have become the blessings of the other one?

26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because[g] the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

Holy Spirit, thank you for interceding for us in the places where we struggle to believe, the places where we we must stand & believe in hope and faith of what You will do. Thank you for interceding for us according to the will of God. We let You take over. Speak through us. Pray through us. Give us faith from Heaven that enables us to maintain hope, confidence, and expectancy in your promises. Father, give us eyes to see that both staircases never end – for the staircase of your faithfulness extends beyond the clouds, and the staircase of your promises are all “yes & amen” in Jesus Christ. Let hope overflow in our hearts by the power of the Holy Spirit. In Jesus’ name, AMEN!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

safe pasture

“Do not fret because of those who are evil
or be envious of those who do wrong;
2 for like the grass they will soon wither,
like green plants they will soon die away.

3 Trust in the Lord and do good;
dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.
4 Take delight in the Lord,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.

5 Commit your way to the Lord;
trust in him and he will do this:
6 He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn,
your vindication like the noonday sun.”

Psalm 37: 1-6

What would you say is the most popular verse in this passage?

If you’ve been around church for any length of time, particularly if you’ve been involved in women’s ministry, the most familiar verse to you is probably verse 4 – “Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” It’s one of those scriptures that we love to read, one that makes us feel good. I’ll admit it – I own a lovely calligraphy painting of this very scripture, created by a dear friend of mine at my request.

You’ve also probably encountered several sermons and devotionals that expound on this verse. In their expository, the teacher or writer will present the notion that this verse does not equate God as a gentle genie who will grant us our wishes, but rather a divine gardener who will implant our desires within our hearts as we delight in Him.

While that is right and true, it is incomplete. Yes, God implants within us new desires as we delight in Him – but He doesn’t let those desires go unfulfilled. He doesn’t leave us longing forever. He fills them, too.

He just might not fill them in our desired timing.

So, what should we do in the meantime? “Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.”

Today, let’s examine this verse. While we wait for the Lord to fulfill our new, godly desires, we can wait with joy. We can enjoy safe pasture in the waiting. We would do well to ask the following questions: what is “safe pasture”, and what is it not?

Here are three spiritual, emotional, and mental states that are not safe pasture:

  • Comparison is not safe pasture.

The first verse in this chapter directs the reader to not envy the wicked. There is no need to envy them, for their reward is an illusion. It will not last. Ours will.

However, one of the biggest temptations for the follower of Jesus is to envy the woman sitting next to us who walks with the Lord. The one who got married young. The one who never takes off her smile. The one who works out regularly. The one who’s never struggled with what we’ve struggled with.

Why is this dangerous? Let’s go to the New Testament:

“14 But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. 15 Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.”

James 3:14-16

How tragic to get to the place where our desires are aligned with God’s will for our life, then never see these desired fulfilled – but instead, to let evil win by way of envy. We won’t allow it! We must confess of any lurking comparison and let the Lord heal our hearts so that we may enjoy the beautiful land He’s specifically given each one of us.

  • Fantasies are not safe pasture.

Real talk? This is my biggest struggle. My mind is a manic mock memory-making machine! Rather than dwelling in the land that the Lord has graciously given me, I will retreat to a fantasy land where my worship is wasted on my wants. It takes strict discipline to keep my mind, spirit, and emotions focused on safe pasture.

One of the most powerful passages on this is in 2 Corinthians, Chapter 10:

3 For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. 4 The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. 5 We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

2 Corinthians 10:3-5

My fantasy is a pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God because it directly challenges His words in Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you.” God’s knowledge of my life is not sufficient for me; and I don’t want to inquire of Him because I’m afraid of what He’s going to say – I’d rather not know the truth. I want what I want; so rather than wait patiently for His promises to come to pass, I choose to travel to the place in my mind where I always get my way.

Oh, what a wretched woman I am!

In Christ, we’ve been given the spiritual weapons we need to refute fantastical thoughts from creating discontentment and distracting us from God’s love and favor. But if we take captive every thought and make it obedient to ourselves, we’re not really doing much. Think of it this way – what if I was my own accountability partner? That wouldn’t make much sense, would it?

Instead, I must make every thought obedient to Christ. 

Christ is the power and the wisdom of God. Christ is the key to obtaining the truth in our inward being that the Father desires. If we submit our thoughts to Him, Christ will be faithful to lord over our hearts and minds and to demolish the stronghold of fantasy that so often holds His daughters captive.

We just need to let Him.

  • Regrets are not safe pasture.

When the Lord transforms our desires, then seems to leave us desiring, I wonder if our thoughts sound like the Israelites’ grumbles while wandering in the wilderness.

Why did we leave? The Egyptians fed us steak. Now, we’re hungry.

Why did I break up with him? He made me feel loved. Now, I’m longing.

Why did I decide to go to counseling? This is hard. Now, I’m more depressed.

Here’s some encouragement for you:

20 When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. 21 What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death! 22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in[b] Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 6: 20-23

Before the Lord changed our desires, we were able to get what we wanted without worrying about the controls or demands of righteousness. But, dear sister, what benefit did you reap in your sin and shame? How much more alive are you now delighting in the Lord, and allowing Him to craft your desires for your good and for His glory!

Let us remind ourselves of the blessing it is to dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Safe pasture is to rejoice in the specific calling the Lord has given you. Safe pasture is to allow Christ to reign in your heart, your mind, and your spirit. Safe pasture is to strive toward the prize, forgetting what’s behind and pressing forward and onward in Christ Jesus. Safe pasture is ours, now!

With it, we have a promise of what’s to come. To quote Psalm 37 once more:

5 Commit your way to the Lord;
trust in him and he will do this:
6 He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn,
your vindication like the noonday sun.”

Father, help us commit our way to you. Help us trust you. Help us repent of any comparison. Help us to rebuke any fantastical thought that exalts itself above the knowledge of you, and to submit it to the obedience of Christ. Remind us of the gracious gift of eternal life that we now have in you. Open our eyes to the land of beauty and safety that we get to enjoy while under the secure covering of obedience and calling. We love you. Help us to love you even more. In Jesus’ name, Amen!

this is your answer

“Why, God…why? Why do I have to wait?!

Sound familiar?

“Why are you telling me so much about this when it hasn’t even happened yet? Why do I have to wait so long for this?”

“Here is your answer…so that you will know that He who is promised is faithful.”

At the beginning of 2019, you were positive – that thing that God had promised you would happen that year. You were so sure…until it didn’t.

And now, you are losing the faith and hope to believe that you will see it come to pass in 2020.

Don’t.

Why not, you ask?

Because He who has promised is faithful. If you didn’t see it come to pass last year, that doesn’t mean it’s not happening.

It means you are now closer to it than you were a year ago.

So rejoice always, pray continually, and give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

Trust and believe that He who has promised is faithful.

And that is why He is making you wait.

So that you will see His faithfulness.

Amen.

same oven, same grave

Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self[a] was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free[b] from sin.

Romans 6:3-7

I love this passage.

I remember distinctly the first time it made an impact on me.

Unlike what you’d expect, it didn’t come from a sermon. It came from a book – a $2 torn paperback found at Hodgepodge Coffee Shop in East Atlanta, back when they were in their old space. I loved that space.

One sunny afternoon during my first Atlanta autumn, (not first Atlanta fall – that was something else…think “slip”…), I felt like reading something. So, feelin’ real cool, I casually let my eyes gaze across the stocked bookshelves propped up against the wall in the room where they had the toys and the trains for kids. One hand on my hip, one hand wrapped around an overpriced “Oh, Honey” latte, I let my eyes fall on the book that would change my life.

“The Normal Christian Life” by Watchman Nee.

“Hm,” I thought to myself, “this looks good.”

And so, I grabbed it and began reading one of the most challenging yet liberating theses on what a “normal” Christian existence should be – according to the Word of God, the power of the Holy Spirit, the reality of what Jesus accomplished for us, and this incredible minister’s real-life experience.

Several times throughout the book, Nee stressed the importance of this Romans 6 passage in our understanding of our “death” – and thus, our understanding of this “normal life”.

If we believe we have been united in Christ’s death, then we have died to sin.

Now, I know what you’re thinking – what’s the difference between “dying to ourselves daily” and “being united in Christ’s death”?

One is made possible by the other – being united in Christ’s death gives us the power of new life needed to be able to deny our desires and die to ourselves. The body of sin is too strong, too powerful to allow us walk in obedience. The Word says it is hostile to God. It needed to die.

Confused?

Here’s a somewhat silly visual that I hope will help you:

Imagine that you desire to cook a meal. Your sustenance of choice is a frozen pizza and a bag of frozen green beans. Both require a rather hot oven at 475 degrees Fahrenheit. Because both items can successfully cook at the same temperature, and for the same amount of time, you don’t think twice about putting them both in the oven simultaneously. Green beans on the bottom rack, pizza on the top.

What happens?

The same heat that cooks the pizza cooks the green beans.

Now, imagine that oven as the grave.

In the same grave that Jesus was buried in…so were we.

Sticking with the visual, let’s pretend we’re the green beans and Jesus is the pizza…well, um, yeah…Jesus is definitely the pizza.

When we come to believe that Jesus is the son of God who bore our sins and rose from the dead with all power in His hands, we spiritually enter the same oven, er..grave..that Jesus entered.

Verse 4 says, “We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

Just as“. Both are equally real. You can’t have one death or resurrection without the other.

Listen – you would never question whether both the pizza and the green beans would successfully cook. If the oven is working properly, you can confidently believe that both foods will cook.

Guess what? The grave worked.

You cannot say you believe that Jesus died, and yet you did not. 

You cannot say you believe that Jesus was raised from the dead, and yet you are not.

After all, Jesus didn’t die for himself! He had no business dying if it were not for us.

He died for us! While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us – so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin, but raised to new life in Him.

Please, please…do not worship Him for raising from the dead without also worshipping Him for raising you to new life.

For that is why He died.

Oh, one more thing.

Once the pizza cooked, it was cooked. No need to cook it again.

Once the green beans cooked, they were cooked. No need to cook them again.

Once we died with Him, we died. No need to die to sin over and over.

It happened once and for all.

Now, believe that – and live!

perspective shift

When Jesus came down from the mountainside, large crowds followed him. A man with leprosy came and knelt before him and said, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.”

Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” Immediately he was cleansed of his leprosy.

Matthew 8:1-3

I lead a song this past weekend at church called “Refiner”. It’s on the Maverick City Music album, Volume 2. It’s incredibly convicting.

Here is a snippet of the chorus:

“I wanna be tried by fire, purified

You take whatever You desire,

Lord, here’s my life.”

And here’s a snippet of the bridge:

“Clean my hands, Purify my heart

I wanna burn for you, Only for You”

As I meditated on these words this week, I asked myself: When I ask the Lord to “take whatever You desire”…what does He take?

This week, as I continually prayed this prayer through song, the Lord took my perspective. He took my limited understanding of His grace and power and brought me up to His higher ways. His higher thoughts replaced mine.

I saw my situation in a new way.

Picture this with me for a moment: Imagine you are standing up straight, facing one direction, when someone comes from behind you and puts their hands around your face and neck. They gently swivel your head to the right, so that your head now runs perpendicular to the rest of your body.

What is left to do? Surely, you cannot stay in this contradictory position. In order to move forward, you must align your body with your new perspective.

That’s what God does.

When we answers our prayers for wisdom, He gently turns our heads on a swivel to be able to see our situation the way He sees it. This leaves us with no other choice but to align all other aspects of our life to match His heavenly perspective.

How did my perspective shift this week? Well, let’s look at the scripture mentioned above.

The leper traveled a long and painful road to get to Jesus. Once he arrived, notice what he did not say.

He did not say, “If You are able, You can make me clean.”

He said, “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.”

The leper came with full confidence in God’s ability to heal. He just wanted to know if the Lord was willing.

Let’s take it a step further.

Some read this line as, “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean,” as if the leper is giving the Lord permission to heal his body and his soul.

I prefer to see this as a declarative statement of sound theology.

“Lord, If You are willing, You can make me clean.” That’s what God can do.

He can make us clean. Period.

And that’s the perspective shift we need. When we come to Jesus in confidence, we must come knowing that He is able to do exceedingly and abundantly all that we can ask, think, or imagine. He sees that faith – and He responds in kind.

Hear the Lord say to you today:

“I am willing – be clean.”

 

new faith

New mercies.

New faith.

I know your ways are higher,

But they’re also wider

And deeper

And don’t always look like what I’ve seen before.

Now faith is the evidence of things not yet seen…things that are new.

I’ve seen you physically heal me and others miraculously.

I haven’t seen myself make regular doctors appointments.

I’ve seen you make manna out of nothing.

I haven’t seen myself budget my money responsibly.

I’ve seen a demon flee at sound of the the name that is above every name.

I haven’t let you teach me to lean into others’ pain.

Let me see the glory of God in new ways.

And let my faith

Be seen.

Amen.