An Interesting Dream

Jesus comingWhen something seems like a “coincidence,” this is usually when I pay special attention because it is often God speaking something I need to know.

I was listening to a podcast where Carl Gallups was sharing a dream. First, the stars seemed to shake in the dream. Then, they began to fall from the sky. Immediately, he felt himself being swept up into heaven. Without telling others about his dream, years later, he learned that his grandson had the same dream…the stars shook and fell from heaven; then he was whisked away in a chariot.

Sometime later, at a meeting, Carl met a lady “by chance” in Minnesota.  She was from Peru and felt God direct her to ask Carl about a dream she had experienced, that Carl would explain it to her. Hesitantly, she told him her dream. It was the same dream he had experienced years before, the same dream that had occurred to his grandson, the stars shaking and falling. He was able to encourage her that it was about the rapture of Christians when we will go to be with the Lord forever.

Right after I watched the podcast, I picked up my Bible to read that day’s chapters as I was reading through the Bible in a year. My reading for that day was Revelation 4-9. Guess what it says in Rev. 6:12-17. It’s talking about the breaking of the 6th seal. Rev. 6:12-13 “And I looked when He broke the sixth seal, and there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth made of hair, and the whole moon became like blood; and the stars of the sky fell to the earth, as a fig tree casts its unripe figs when shaken by a great wind.”

Many people believe the rapture will happen at that point, before the outpouring of God’s wrath. The beginning of the outpouring of God’s wrath on the earth is found in Rev. 6:17 “for the great day of their wrath has come; and who is able to stand?”  When this time comes, the Bible is very clear that believers will not undergo the wrath of God. Therefore, Christians must be raptured before the events starting at the end of the 6th seal. Romans 5:9 says, “Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him.” And again in I Thess. 5:9, “For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.” We won’t be on earth during that time of judgment. Is God warning of that approaching time through dreams?

In I Thess. 4:16-18, we read, “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.” To be comforted is to be strengthened. There is power in God’s comfort.

Do you ever have a verse you haven’t been thinking about pop into your mind? Pay attention when that happens. As I listened to the podcast, I Cor. 2:9-10a came to mind. “…No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit….”

I believe God is preparing His people for His soon coming. Many people are experiencing dreams and visions, especially in Muslim countries. Joel Richardson interviewed a missionary in Afghanistan (which has the second fastest growing church in the world) about this and she confirmed with many stories of Muslims having dreams of Jesus. You can listen to this remarkable interview at: https://youtu.be/JlBh7wmgdTo  We will soon see things we can’t imagine. An amazing move of God is on the horizon. Are we focused on the Lord to be ready?

You can also listen to Carl Gallup’s whole testimony at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1JaMzdZv6b0

Butterfly Lesson

ButterflyOne day a boy found a multicolored caterpillar. Its colors, wiggly body, and numerous legs fascinated him. He gently picked it up and took it home. At home the boy placed it in a box. He added a stick for it to climb and brought leaves for the caterpillar to eat. Every day he studied the caterpillar and built a strong bond with it.

Eventually the caterpillar began to build a cocoon. The boy was excited, knowing the caterpillar would soon turn into a butterfly. He checked on his pet several times a day but became concerned the caterpillar was taking too long to emerge from its cocoon.

Finally, about a week into the process, something happened. A small hole appeared in the cocoon, and the boy expected the butterfly to quickly surface. But as he watched, his pet seemed to struggle to break free from the shell. The boy was disappointed there was very little progress.

Hours passed. The butterfly was working its hardest, but it just could not break out. Heartbroken at the sight of this struggle, the boy decided to help.

With a pair of scissors the boy cut a small opening in the cocoon to make it easier for the butterfly to emerge. Almost immediately the butterfly exited without any more struggling. But when it appeared, the boy was surprised. Instead of being the beautiful butterfly he anticipated it would be, it was grotesque. It had a swollen body and short, shriveled wings.

He watched the butterfly over the next few days, hoping the wings would dry out, enlarge, and expand. But that never happened. The butterfly crawled around with its withered wings and huge body for the rest of its life. It never flew and soon died.

The boy was heartbroken and told his mom about the dead, misshapen butterfly. His mother took him to a science teacher to find out what happened.

The teacher taught the boy a very important life lesson. He explained it was essential for the butterfly to struggle out of its cocoon. As it pressed its way through the tiny opening, the pressure would force excess fluids out of its body and into its wings. It was this struggle that allowed butterflies to fly.

Your struggle today, as hard as it may be, is God helping you to develop the strength He knows you will need tomorrow. God sees what we need but His timing is important to what He is trying to build in us. We can’t rush the process.

(Excerpt from: “When God Stops,” by Derek Grier, Kindle edition, pgs. 60-61.)

Rom. 8:25 “But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it.”

Ps. 27:14 “Wait for the Lord; Be strong, and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the Lord.”

 

The Sign of the Manger

MangerI posted this a few years ago but felt it was a great reminder once again. We’re in the Christmas season and what could be more appropriate than the Holy Spirit revealing something interesting about Jesus? You are probably familiar with the Christmas story in Luke 2. You remember how the shepherds were watching their flocks and an angel appeared telling them of the good news of Jesus birth. Then the angel said in verse 12, “And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.” Notice the word “sign”. Have you wondered why the idea of Jesus being wrapped in swaddling clothes in a manger would be a sign?

Have you heard of Migdal Eder, the Tower of the Flock? Probably not.

First some background…From Micah 5:2 we know that Jesus would be born in Bethlehem Ephratah. The word Bethlehem means, “house of bread” and the word Ephratah means “fruitfulness.” When we think of fruit in Israel, we think of grapevines. Jesus said, “I am the bread of life” and “I am the vine.” The very place Jesus was born represented communion, the bread and the wine.

From Micah 4:8 Jesus is announced at the “Tower of the Flock,” Migdal Eder. This was a two story tower located in a field in Bethlehem Ephratah. Archaeologists have found the remains of this structure. It was built of rocks piled two stories high and it was from the windows on the second story that shepherds watched over the flocks.

An interesting fact is that the shepherds who worked in the fields were not the lowly shepherds we usually think of. Actually, they were shepherd priests, priests from the temple where sacrifices took place. The tower, called Migdal Eder, was the location for birthing sacrificial lambs. Priests were involved to be sure the lambs were unblemished. So, while shepherds watched over the flock from the second story of the tower, shepherd priests would bring the pregnant sheep to the lower level to deliver the lambs.

As soon as a lamb was born, it was swaddled, wrapped in strips of cloth made from priestly undergarments in order to keep the lamb unblemished. Then the lamb was placed in a manger so it wouldn’t be trampled.

“And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.”

When the shepherd priests heard the angel’s announcement while they were watching over the flock and then went into Bethlehem and saw baby Jesus wrapped in swaddling cloths lying in a manger, they must have exclaimed, “This is the lamb of God, unblemished, prepared for sacrifice. This is Christ, our Messiah, our Savior!” These shepherd priests were the only ones who would understand the sign. It was a word from God through angels to them alone.

Further, is it possible that Jesus swaddling cloths were from the same source as the lamb’s cloths? Were they from a priest? Remember, Zechariah? He was Mary’s cousin, Elizabeth’s, husband and John the Baptist’s father. He was likely the priest on duty whose clothes may have been used to wrap baby Jesus. This would mean that Jesus, our High Priest, first clothes were those of a priest!

Jesus is our High Priest and I love what Hebrews 4:15, 16 says of Him. “For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

So, as you celebrate the birth of Jesus this Christmas, remember the revealed background of this babe in a manger.

(“Unlocking the Secrets of the Feasts,” by Michael Norton. It should be noted that the above information has been documented by Messianic Rabbi’s and archeological findings.)

 

 

 

Justice from a New Angle

Bob Sorge’s voice was reduced to a raspy whisper due to a devastating injury to his vocal chords 20 years ago. Being a pastor, this was an overwhelming loss. How could he preach when his voice was diminished to a mere whisper, almost too soft to hear? Bob is an overcomer, who has continued to preach and teach even in the face of excruciating pain with each word.

What I’ve noticed is that God often uses people to the fullest of their potential when they are in the midst of the direst of circumstances. Bob’s messages and books continue to touch the heart of God. With his latest video, Bob tackles the subject of justice in a way that is so refreshing. I’ve listened to it several times because the concept is so compelling and encouraging for anyone waiting for God to act on their behalf. I believe this message is a revelation word from God to enlighten the eyes of our heart. It has definitely proven true in my life. It’s only 7+ minutes and well worth the listen.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QoqW3bfwDAw&t=6s&mc_cid=840700f280&mc_eid=279660749c

Identity in Christ

One of the most important issues that a Christian must have in place is his or her identity in Christ. Every human being has formed an identity of some sort. There are things that we have been told about ourselves that stick with us, and we assume that is who we are.

Sometimes we take the labels that have been put on us from childhood, and we determine our worth and value by words spoken over us as youngsters. These could involve physical, personality or behavioral labels. A child could hear such things as: “You’re stupid; You’re such a slob; You’re too fat; You’re too thin; You’re such a  bully; You’re so shy; Cry baby, cry baby; Can’t you do anything right?” Or we may have heard positive things that puff us up, such as: “You’re the pretty one in the family; or You’re such a brain.”

Any of these kinds of things can go deep into the soul and become an identity carried throughout life. A person may form their entire identity by a weakness or negative aspect.

In the book, “The Bondage Breaker”, Neil Anderson has said: “No person can consistently behave in a way that’s inconsistent with the way he perceives himself. If you think you’re a no-good bum, you’ll probably live like a no-good bum. But if you see yourself as a child of God who is spiritually alive in Christ, you’ll begin to live in victory and freedom as He lived.  After years of working with people who are in deep spiritual conflict, I found one common denominator: None of them knew who they were in Christ.  Satan can do nothing to damage your position in Christ. But if he can deceive you into believing his lie—that you are not acceptable to God and that you’ll never amount to anything as a Christian—then you will live as if you have no position or identity in Christ.”

When you received Christ as your Lord and Savior, and He came by His Holy Spirit to take up residence in you, He made you a new creature. Therefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold new things have come.” (2 Corinthians 5:1) When we came to Christ, our old way of identifying who we were passed away. Whatever names or brands we or someone else had attached to us were removed at the cross. You are now a new person “in Christ.”

We no longer have to identify ourselves by our weaknesses or labels. That is not who we are. None of us need to carry a label — because we are new and clean in Christ – and our identity is now in Him and everything He stands for and who He says we are. He made the exchange of all our filthy rags for His clean white garment. So we are not only forgiven, but we are righteous. Why? Because He is righteous and we identify with who He is. So when we think of ourselves, we think of a righteous person.

Who we used to be has been “crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and delivered Himself up for me.” (Galatians 2:20)

It’s incredible to think about, isn’t it? He sees us as clean and whole and righteous, because He has made us that way in Him.He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (2 Corinthians 5:21)  I am holy because He is holy, and He dwells in me.

This means that Christ took all our filthy rags of identification and exchanged them for His pure, holy righteousness. When Christ went to the cross, it says that He became sin.  The Living Bible puts it this way: “For God took the sinless Christ and poured into Him our sins. Then, in exchange, He poured God’s goodness into us.” The King James version says, “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.

This means that on the cross, the sinless Christ, although He never personally sinned himself, actually became a drug addict, bitter, angry, jealous, a homosexual, abusive, a liar, a prostitute, greedy, an idolater, drunk with a party spirit, lawless, factious (quarrelsome or self-seeking), a fool, a glutton, a slanderer and more. By taking all our sin on Himself, He made an exchange so that we might become righteous in compassion, humility, gentleness, patience, purity, forgiveness, love, peace, forbearance, thankfulness, self control, faithfulness, goodness, desiring to worship and more.

With this monumental exchange, we gained a completely new identity. Our old fleshly identity with its passions and desires was crucified with Christ. We can now come before His throne of grace confidently because He sympathizes with our weaknesses. (Hebrews 4:15-16)

Knowing who we are in Christ frees us to make right choices in life. The way it works is this: When our identity is settled, we choose actions that line up with our identity. Whatever weaknesses of soul we formerly identified with (that may have been behind our former behaviors), we can now choose not to act on, because they do not line up with who we are in Christ. Life then is a series of Spirit-controlled decisions to become more and more like Christ in our words, attitudes, and actions — so that what we DO lines up with who we ARE. As we understand more clearly who we are, then our actions and thoughts will line up more easily.

It might be an interesting exercise for you to prayerfully make a list of things that identify you. For example: “I am righteous and holy.”  “I am forgiven,” “I am a new creation,” “I am a temple for the Holy Spirit.” “I am a child of light, not of darkness.”  As you read your Bible, you can add other things to this list.

In the movie, “Overcomer,” Priscilla Shirer gave an assignment to a struggling young girl. She asked her to read Eph. 1 and 2 and write out everything that defined who she was. She began with Eph. 1:4, “I am chosen.” This might be something you could also do. It will be a “life giving” list concerning your identity.

We have seen that there are many distortions and lies that we have believed about ourselves. How we view these lies will determine our relationship with God and other people. There is a revolving cycle that we go through in the course of a lifetime. It looks something like this:

—valued child—truth is mirrored to child—

child accepts the mirrored image and says “I am valued”—

the person gains a true sense of who they are and feels wholeness—

the outward expression is that they can then extend that value to others—

gain a sense of life—value is internalized, I am valued—

(cycle repeats generationally)

For many people, the following is more accurate, a life where value was stolen.  It also is a revolving cycle (until the lies are exposed):

—child is born with God-given value—false “truth” is mirrored to child—

that “truth” is accepted, the child has no skills to sort or sift the so called “truth” they receive—this creates a void—symptoms appear as to how the person can fill that void

(i.e. promiscuity, performance, achievements, beliefs, relationships, substances)—person experiences guilt—person says: I am worthless, I have no value—

lies have become internalized— (cycle repeats.)

GOD IS SO GOOD.  He gives us a process to regain our lost value.  This is also a revolving cycle:

—Adult devalued by lifelong process—

confusion results, unable to sort the truth and lies—

EXPOSURE TO GOD’S TRUTH says “I am valued”

Adult now has the ability to sort and sift the truth—

cognitive thinking is impacted, the void is beginning to be

partially filled in relationship to the truth that is accepted—

the outward expression of internal truth is exhibited in relationships—

a sense of life begins to spring up—value is internalized,

I really start to believe I have value—> (cycle repeats)

Often as children we experienced rejection or even abandonment and have a skewed identity as a result. Satan is a master deceiver and is adept at “identity theft.” He rejoices when he can convince a person of a false identity, one that is not our true God given self. The good news is: Our value and connectedness can be re-claimed. It starts when we believe God’s truth about ourselves.

A good Biblical perspective concerning identity in Christ is found in John 15, where we learn about the vine and the branches.  Jesus said, “I am the vine and you are the branches.” A branch is connected to the vine. It is a part of the vine. Jesus’ “sap” flows through us because we are “in” Him, just as a branch is “in” the vine. We produce fruit because He energizes and controls us. We are nothing without Him. He is in us and we are in Him. This is intimacy…connectedness at its finest. This is our identity.

Sometimes we forget that we are continually connected to the Author of life itself. That connection is probably the only firm and sure connection we have…and it is sure indeed. Jesus said, “I and the Father are one.”  They are connected. And He invites us into that unity, that oneness…that connectedness. Jesus said of His relationship with us, “I in them and Thou in Me..” Jesus is “in” the Father and the Father is “in” Jesus. You and I are also “in” Christ and He is “in” us…”Christ in us, the hope of glory.” (Colossians 1:27)

So to change our identity, we must change who and what we identify with.

As I think about my relationship to Christ and how thankful I am that I am secure in my identity in Him, I have a picture in mind:

If I am rooted in Christ, and He Himself is actually the root of my life, then everything that springs from that root has to be holy, good, right, loving, and pure – because there is no unrighteousness in Him. A branch of a tree is dependent on the root system of the tree, and whatever comes up into the branch flows up from the root. Because Christ is completely righteous, His flow of nourishment into my life is continually and only righteous.

Romans 11:16 says: “…if the root be holy, the branches are too.

Colossians 2:7 also talks about roots: “…having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith…”  My roots and therefore my identity are firmly grounded and rooted in who He is, and all the attributes and character of Christ are at my disposal. I am “in Him” and He is “in me”. This is intimacy at its finest, and this identifies who I am. This is the closeness of relationship that the Lord offers me — even to the point of identity.

Webster’s Dictionary says identity means: “the condition or fact of being the same in all qualities under consideration; sameness; oneness.”

In John 17:11 Jesus prays…”…Holy Father, keep them in Thy name, the name which Thou hast given Me, that they may be one, even as We are.” I believe Jesus was praying about our identity here, that our identity be in His name, that we be one with Him and the Father. Then in verse 21, “that they may all be one, even as Thou, Father, art in Me and I in Thee, that they also may be in Us…”  and vs. 23 “I in them, and Thou in Me, that they may be perfected in unity…

In all this, I see Jesus praying fervently that we know who we are, that we be clear about our identity in Him…that we are one with Him, in Him, in His Name. Securely attached – this is His will for us, and He cried out to the Father that it would be so.

Knowing that my true identity is in Christ, there is NO WAY I can say that weak tendencies whether mental or emotional, or fleshly thoughts are my identity. They don’t fit in with the identity I have in Christ. Yes, we all have weaknesses associated with our flesh nature, but we are new creatures in Christ, and our identity is not associated with our flesh. Our identity is in the Spirit. I am righteous because He is righteous, and He has imputed His righteousness to me. I am rooted in righteousness.  I am holy because He is holy. I love because He is love.

In reality, there are times I choose to act or think away from the context of my true identity. I sometimes choose to walk in the flesh, but my deeds do not change the fact of who I am in Christ. My flesh can rise up and do or say unloving things, hurt people, hurt God, but that is out of my flesh, not out of my God-given identity.

It’s important to remember that for every Christian, there is a “condition” and a “position.” Our “condition” is that we were born with a flesh nature and that we will have it until our bodies are glorified. But in Christ, we have a new “position”, and that is in the heavenlies, seated on the throne “in Christ.” Our lives now optimally operate out of our new position. (Ephesians 2:6)

WHO AM I?   (MY TRUE IDENTITY IN CHRIST)

I am a child of God.  (John. 1:12)

I am chosen (Eph. 1:4)

I am forgiven (Eph. 1:7)

I am redeemed (Eph. 1:7)

I am the salt of the earth.  (Matthew 5:13)

I am the light of the world.  (Matthew 5:14)

I am part of the true vine, a channel of Christ’s life.  (John 15:1,5)

I am Christ’s friend.  (John 15:15)

I am appointed by Christ to bear His fruit.  (John 15:16)

I am a joint heir with Christ, sharing His inheritance with Him. (Romans 8:17)

I am a temple-a dwelling place-of the Holy Spirit. (I Corinthians 3:16 and 6:19)

I am a member of Christ’s Body.  (I Corinthians 12:27, Ephesians 5:30)

I am a new creation.  (II Corinthians 5:17)

I am reconciled to God & a minister of reconciliation.  (II Corinthians 5:18-19)

I am a saint.  (Ephesians 1:1, I Corinthians 1:2, Philippians 1:1)

I am God’s workmanship, created for good works.  (Ephesians 2:10)

I am born again.  (John 3:3,7)

I am righteous and holy. (Ephesians 4:24)

I am a citizen of heaven, seated in heaven now.  (Philippians 3:20, Ephesians 2:6)

I am hidden with Christ in God.  (Colossians 3:3)

I am chosen of God, holy and dearly loved. (Colossians 3:12, I Thessalonians 1:4)

I am a son of light and not of darkness.  (I Thessalonians 5:5)

I am one of God’s living stones, being built up in Christ as a spiritual house. (I Peter 2:5)

I am a member of a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession. (I Peter 2:9-10)

I am an alien and stranger in this world in which I temporarily live. (I Peter 2:11)

I am an enemy of the devil. (I Peter 5:8)

I am what I am by the grace of God.  (I Corinthians 15:10)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reversal of Destiny

Have you ever made a decision that changed the course of your destiny? Whether big or small, most people have made decisions that move them onto a road they have not yet traveled, sometimes requiring profound changes.

Beth Moore talked about her dog, Beanie, a pointer who, when on a walk in the woods would see a squirrel and go into full point with her paw. The only way to get her back on the walk was to pick her up, still in full point, and set her down in a different direction.

I’m reminded of Esther in the Bible and how Haman was on a mission to kill all the Jews but because Esther revealed this information to the king, the Jews were saved and Haman was hung. Reversal of destiny for Haman and for the Jewish nation.

On my second trip to China, I met a lady who asked me if I would teach her the Bible through Skype when I returned home. On our third lesson in John 3, as we talked about being born again, she cried out, “This Jesus is amazing. I want Him in my heart right now!” A reversal of her spiritual destiny took place with that decision.

But what led up to that? I always find it interesting to think about how God leads us right to where He wants us to be so He can accomplish His purposes and at the same time bless us. First, I had to have met a Chinese person on my first visit, then later be invited to visit her mother’s home. Then I had to make the decision to fly across the ocean to see her. Upon arrival, she just happened to have a friend who needed Jesus and was hungry to hear about Him. Then, I had to decide to teach her when I returned home. All the while, God was wooing her.

I could have stayed home and missed this opportunity but God used a reversal of destiny to bless us both.

“The mind of man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.” Prov. 16:9 “For He performs what is appointed for me….” Job 23:14 “The steps of a man are established by the Lord; and He delights in his way.” Ps. 37:23

Video of my book!

Here’s a better way to view a video where I recently, I spoke at the Yahweh Book Club in Fort Wayne, IN. It was a fun evening with some sweet ladies as I shared from my book, “Come Walk the Narrow Path with Me.” This book is composed of close to 40 stories God has given me opportunities to share my faith. You can see the video at: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCVkvmCic2EsCQEXUEiK_02A?view_as=subscriber

Compassion

Jesus Smiling3Sometimes God uses a sermon to speak a life changing word into our hearts. Last Sunday we visited our daughter’s church, Maple City Chapel in Goshen, IN. What an amazing sermon we heard as the associate pastor, Gary Miller, talked about Lamentations 3:22 -23, “The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; Great is Thy faithfulness.”

If Jesus is faithful to extend compassion to us every morning, then that means we never run out. God’s compassion is renewed to us each and every day in the morning. So, when we get up, we are immediately endowed and filled with all the compassion we will need for that day. It is a continual, renewable asset that God makes sure we receive every day of our lives.

Since we have never ending compassion poured into our lives, does that mean there is an expectation that we will then use it to pour out onto others? Are we like David who, though he didn’t have to, chose to seek out someone to show compassion to? In II Samuel 9:1, David said, “Is there yet anyone left of the house of Saul, that I may show him kindness for Jonathan’s sake?” David was the king. He didn’t have to reach out with compassion but he chose to.

Mephibosheth, Jonathan’s son was crippled yet was shown great favor by David as he invited him to his house to live and restored his land to him. What motivated David? Compassion.

In the New Testament, we could ask, “What motivated the good Samaritan to help out the man along the road while others passed him by? Why did the Samaritan offer help? What was in it for him? Nothing, except the opportunity to show compassion.

Interestingly, neither David nor the Samaritan counted the cost before they offered compassion yet both paid a price for their kindness. Nevertheless, the motivation to show mercy was strong.

I guess the question for us is: Since God promises to fill us with compassion each morning, how are we using it in practical ways to serve others? Jesus’ exhortation to His listeners as He told the Samaritan story was, “Go and do the same.” Maybe we could start off our days by asking, “God, who would you like me to show compassion to today?”

 

A Word about Grace

Grace Requires Nothing of Me

“The list goes on forever
of all the ways I could better
in my mind.
As if I could earn God’s favor given time
or at least ‘congratulations.’

Now I have learned my lesson
the price of this so-called perfection
is everything.
I’ve spent my whole life searching desperately
to find out that grace requires nothing of me.”
– “Atlas: One” by Sleeping at Last

(A young friend, Kat Lovell, shares a clear word from God regarding grace.)

The words of this song brought a serious, much-needed perspective shift to my life last week. They were first read aloud to me by a friend while I sat on her bed and cried as I shared the frustrations sitting on my heart. Throughout the week I continued to pull the lyrics up, quietly considering them again and again.These are the words that stuck out to me, that really hit home: “Grace requires nothing of me.”

Hearing those words felt like remembering something that I had almost forgotten––something very important. It felt like waking up. So, some context: I have been a self-proclaimed perfectionist for years. I used to think that I simply had high expectations for myself, and that it was a good thing (and don’t get me wrong, that can be a good thing). However, there is a major pitfall to all those expectations, and it really sneaks up on you.

Here’s what happened, as a result of my perfectionism: I developed this image of who I thought I should be, and whenever I didn’t live up to that image, I criticized myself relentlessly. I was always trying to be “enough.” Kind enough, smart enough, thoughtful enough, good enough. To be the perfect teacher, friend, student––everything. And when I didn’t feel “enough,” I berated myself and tried harder. But that didn’t make me better––it just made me a tired, striving, burnt-out girl.

By beating myself up for perceived imperfections, I had become subconsciously convinced that God would not really love me unless I was perfect. But oh, how far that is from the truth.

We say “comparison is the thief of joy” a lot. It’s easy to notice comparison when you’re comparing yourself to another person and judging your qualities against theirs. But a more subtle type of comparison comes when we are judging ourselves against the person we’re convinced that we should be. But grace does not require us to be perfect in order to receive it. It is so good to recognize weaknesses, and to seek growth in those areas. But when your full focus is on your own weakness, that can so easily become how you define yourself.

Habbakuk 3 says:
“Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines,
the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food,
the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls,
YET I will rejoice in the LORD;
I will take joy in the God of my salvation.”

Worth does not come from success.
Value does not come from accomplishments.
Purpose does not come from a completed to-do list.

There will still be crappy days, low grades, cranky moods, gloomy skies. And if you and I are trying to glean satisfaction from ourselves and what we can do on our own––we’re going to feel like straight-up failures. But when our worth/value/purpose/joy comes from knowing that there is a God who is with us and doing such great, wonderful things in us, even when we don’t feel it? THAT brings a sweet relief and a calm that whispers into the gloom: “It’s okay. I AM enough. Trust Me.”

To live a life that speaks a message of grace, we must first have grace with ourselves. Self-betterment is a good goal––but that doesn’t mean pushing yourself down whenever you mess up. It means looking at your messy places with compassion. It means seeing yourself exactly as you are, and saying: “I am not all that I think I should be. But I am also not who I once was. I am growing. I’ve spent my whole life searching desperately,
to find out that grace requires nothing of me.”

 

A Seldom Discussed Easter Subject

With Easter coming up and our thoughts on Jesus’ death and resurrection, there is something else said about Jesus that we often overlook and seldom, if ever, talk about. It’s something that, if noticed, could bring profound comfort and freedom. Can you find it in Isa. 53:4, 5?

“He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.”

Have you ever considered that Jesus not only carried our sin to the cross, but He also carried our sorrow and grief? Read the verses again. Do you see it? Jesus is acquainted with our emotions. Who has not felt the darkness of sorrow or grief, alone in loss, regret or disappointment?

What comfort to recognize Jesus not only understands but actually bore our mourning, our heartache and anguish on the cross just as surely as He bore our sin. This is a beautiful, seldom recognized benefit that we must not trivialize.

It’s not just the sudden tragedies that produce profound darkness. Sometimes grief and sorrow stretch out over years or even an entire lifetime. A dying marriage, the silence from a prodigal child, the paralyzing fear of a son or daughter on drugs, the pain of failure, or financial loss of a job …. Darkness produced by a deep and terrifying sorrow.

The Suffering Servant, Jesus, was Himself “a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief…,” the One who willfully embraced our sorrow and grief on the cross just as surely as He carried our sins.

Jesus bore the burden of our grief’s and sorrows every bit as much as He bore the full weight of our sins and iniquities!  If Isaiah got it right that, “He was pierced for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities …and with his wounds we are healed”, then he was also right about Jesus bearing our grief’s and carrying our sorrows!  And if sin shall not have dominion over the believer because He healed us of our sins, then neither shall sorrow and grief continue to have the power to bury us in darkness. That is a thought worth celebrating. What joy to contemplate what Jesus did to set us free!

Yes, there is a way out from the prison cell of sorrow! Praise God! It’s the same cross that sets us free from the consequence of our sins. And it’s also the same faith that does it. If you let Jesus bear your sins on Calvary’s cross then you must let Him bear your sorrow and grief as well.

“Restore to me the joy of Thy salvation, And sustain me with a willing spirit” (Psalm 51:12). 

Adapted from: https://www.afa.net/the-stand/faith/2017/04/sin-isnt-the-only-thing-jesus-bore-on-the-cross/