Welcome to my blog. It is my sincere prayer that these entries will encourage you and enable you to see how valuable you are to Jesus who is the ultimate Jewel. As children of the One True King we have been given riches that supersede our wildest imaginations! Every truth revealed to us through God's Word is more precious than the most fine and rare of gemstones. Blessings to each of you...
Much love,

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Lifting The Veil

"We are all faced with a series of great opportunities brilliantly disguised as impossible situations."
                                                    Chuck Swindoll

If we can say nothing else about this life on earth, we must say that it is definitely filled with many surprises. Some surprises are sweet and good and leave our hearts overflowing. Other surprises can be brutal and we are left reeling in our minds and emotions. And the biggest surprise of all is that not one of us really know what a day may bring, whether it is amazing or a mind-blowing kick in the gut. Thankfully, most days fall somewhere in between the two extremes and yet we become more and more cognizant of the outliers that exist around us.

When we consider the spiritual aspect of our lives, it is also true that God can surprise us in a million ways. He can have someone call us out of the blue just to encourage or comfort us. He can instantly answer a prayer that we have been praying. Or, He can wait a very long time to answer a prayer and even say "no" to us for reasons we do not understand. He can even allow evil to prevail for a season in our lives, which takes a massive toll on our hearts, minds, and emotions. It is in these times that we search for answers and a revelation of His presence in our lives in deeper ways than we have previously done.

All of these surprises, both good and bad, are all part of the human journey that make up our lives. And, if we surrender to the work that God is doing within us, we will find that each and every one of them is strengthening us and transforming us more and more into the image of God. Each of these circumstances is allowing God's glory to be revealed through us if we are submitted to His plan.

The most interesting aspect of this to me is that God often does His greatest work in the midst of what seems impossible to us. Truly, it is when He is the most glorified. Think about the Israelites when they were in the wilderness. God literally took care of their clothing, food, and needs for forty years and there were millions of them! To each of them, their situation looked impossible, as is evidenced by the fact that they grumbled and were not allowed to enter the Promised Land. But, actually, this was a lesson that God would use for every subsequent generation as a reminder that He is fully able and competent to deliver us from impossible circumstances.

In fact, many of our impossibilities are actually great doors of opportunities for those of us who genuinely believe. The reason we often fail to believe this is that too often they are disguised by the enemy. Satan takes what we see with our eyes to convince us that this is what is true and there is no other truth involved. This is completely a lie because Jesus is The Truth and whatever He says about our situations is the absolute truth.

This is exactly what happened to Peter when he was in jail (Acts 12:5-17). If we only looked at things in the natural, Peter's circumstances were indeed dire. He was imprisoned by Herod for his faith and awaiting certain death. The prison bars were real. Peter's confinement was real. And, so was Herod's history of persecuting and executing believers. There really wasn't any wiggle room for misinterpreting the facts that surrounded him... But God.

When God decides it is time to change a situation, it is definitely going to change! This is true no matter how determined Herod was to keep Peter in jail. He was so determined, in fact, that Peter was chained to two Roman guards. After all, the last time Herod had imprisoned Peter, he mysteriously escaped his fate and Herod was not about to be humiliated yet again!

Peter was not worried and could rest peacefully because he did know that there were many who were praying for him. Additionally, Peter was praying and no doubt reminding himself of God's great and precious promises that we can find today in the Bible. Also, Jesus had personally told Peter that he would die as an old man and he would be crucified on a Roman cross (John 21:18-19). It was all of these truths that lifted the veil off of Peter's eyes to see The Truth from God's perspective and not be limited only by what he could see. Peter was confident that he would ultimately be delivered, even thought there still were those pesky questions of "how ?" and "when ?".

Obviously even those questions did not keep Peter from sleeping so soundly that when the angel appeared to him, the angel had to strike him on the side just to wake him up. Peter's peace did not come from the fact that he had twice been a prisoner before and had escaped. No, this time was very different from the other times. Before, he had been able to witness to others, but that did not happen this time. This time he was all by himself and had been held captive for quite some time before God stepped in to deliver him. James had just been murdered by Herod, and Peter was no doubt still grieving the loss of his close friend and fellow sojourner.

The angel told Peter to bind his garments with his girdle and to put on his sandals, which Im sure he would have done very quietly so as to not disturb the sleeping guards. The angel freed Peter and led him out of the jail without any fanfare whatsoever. Peter ran to Mary's house where the prayer meeting was being held and despite the fact that his friends were fervently praying for him, they could not believe it was really him. At first, the maid did not even open the door!

This shows how much the disciples and followers of Jesus were also grieving about the loss of James. One of the reasons God performed this miracle in Peter's life was to encourage and strengthen His children. It was not a miracle that was necessarily for the people in the prison as much as it was for God's own people who desperately needed to see a display of His love and power. And, God used Peter's life to breathe new life into His discouraged and unbelieving children.

Peter's "impossibility" became a great door of opportunity that was used to change lives. The same can be true for the "impossible" situations in our lives. It can be true for the loved ones we have been praying for for a very long time. It can be true for people around us who do not know Jesus. It can also be true for other believers that desperately need to see a move of God and for Him to be glorified.

We will never understand all the things that happen in this world because we are not God. However, if we ask God to lift the veil and show us His perspective, He will often do that for us. He may give us a verse of assurance or a promise or the confidence to know that He really is with us in the midst of something difficult. Surprisingly, He loves to meet us in those most difficult times and shine His brightest light. That, sweet friend, is the greatest opportunity and privilege of all!

"Whenever, though, they turn to face God as Moses did, God removes the veil and there they are- face-to-face! They suddenly recognize that God is a living, personal presence, not a piece of chiseled stone. And when God is personally present, a living Spirit, that old constricting legislation is recognized as obsolete. We're free of it! All of us! Nothing between us and God, our faces shining with the brightness of His face. And so we are transfigured much like the Messiah, our lives gradually becoming brighter and more beautiful as God enters our lives and we become like Him."
                                                   2 Corinthians 3:16-18

*Please Be In Prayer For Tennessee's Heartbeat Bill Summer Study on Monday and Tuesday!

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Lord Of The Armies

"For this is what the Lord said to me: 'As a lion or young lion growls over its prey when a band of shepherds is called out against it, and is not terrified by their shouting or subdued by their noise, so the Lord of Armies will come down to fight on Mount Zion and on its hill. Like hovering birds, so the Lord of Armies will protect Jerusalem- by protecting it, He will rescue it, by sparing it, He will deliver it.'"
                                                       Isaiah 31:4-5

There are many different names of God used throughout the Bible so as to give us a better understanding of the different aspects of God's nature and character. Jehovah Sabaoth is one of those names. It literally means the Lord of Hosts or the God of the armies of heaven and is used 251 times in the Old Testament. This name of God gives us a picture of the magnitude of power that God has and the willingness He has to use that power on our behalf.

Sometimes we can lose sight of this fact when we look around and see that evil is rising up around us and sometimes seems to go unchecked. However, there will come a day when God will once and for all conquer the enemy and all its effects in our lives and world (Revelation 19:20). This ultimate victory of God will result in the pinnacle of humanity and it will be epic!

In the interim, it is so important that we remember that God is not only sovereign over all things and beings, but that He is also the ruler of all of heaven's armies which can defeat any and all foes. The first time Jehovah Sabaoth is used in the Bible is when Hannah prayed to God and asked Him to give her a son (1 Samuel 1:3). Hannah did not appeal to God's gentler, kinder nature when she sought His help. Instead, she appealed to the God who commands all the troops in heaven and has a strategy and plan for certain victory. Hannah entreated the ultimate Commander to fight on hero behalf, and God was pleased and honored her request.

This name of God not only reveals His power and victory, but it also speaks of His authority over all things and His purpose in all things. God commands His angels, has power over all demons, and has authority over all things that are both temporal and eternal. Even when we cannot visualize the battle plan or even understand things that are happening behind the scenes, there is so much that God is organizing and commanding that one day when we get to see it all we will be utterly amazed!

In the verses in Isaiah above, God is telling His people not to be afraid of their enemies. He goes on to say that if He is not afraid, then why should we be? Just as lions do not fear a flock of sheep and their shepherds, and eagles do not fear predators when they guard the nest, neither does the Lord of Armies. In one fell swoop, God will rise up and take care of them all, so there is absolutely no reason to fear. We can trust in God and rest in the fact that He will fight our battles and that He already has a plan and a strategy to do so.

The temptation that God's people had yielded to in these verses is that they had trusted in the Egyptians to help them instead of trusting in God. After all, is it not sometimes so much easier to trust in what we can see rather than in the One in whom we cannot see? This is exactly what the Israelites did, and God rebuked them for their lack of faith. We save ourselves much angst and heartache if we first search our own hearts and turn to God in faith. When we obey and surrender to His will alone, He will protect us and fight on our behalf. Not sometimes, but always.

Most people in our culture today don't ever think of things in military terms. While I personally have never served in the military, we have a son and daughter-in-law who both served in the Marine Corps. What I learned through Austin's journey through training and boot camp is that nothing happens in the military by chance. It is organized, structured, disciplined, regimented, and difficult. There is a purpose and plan involved in every aspect of the military. And, to ever become Colonel or a General, much experience and expertise is required.

People in the Old Testament understood these facts. They lived in times and cultures that were inundated by war so military terminology was commonplace to them. During the days of Isaiah, the Northern Kingdom of Israel was defeated and the Southern Kingdom was almost completely destroyed by Assyria. During Jeremiah's time, the Southern Kingdom was destroyed by Babylon. And during Malachi's time, Judah did not even have an army, which left them completely vulnerable and reliant on God's protection.

Is it surprising, then, that Malachi actually uses the name of Jehovah Sabaoth the most frequently? During the times in our lives when we realize that we are without might or resources, the most important thing that we can do is to rely on all the strength and might of the Lord of Armies. It is important to even visualize God as the General in charge over all that is both supernatural and natural and that He is leading the charge. There is a plan in play and we will see victory when we persevere.

We are comforted when we understand that the Lord of the Armies is at work and He is working on our behalf. When opposition mounts and our enemies seem to have the loudest voices, our Commander is still in charge of it all. He has power and authority over it all, and His plans are always good.

Perhaps this is the very comfort that Jesus sought in the Garden of Gethsemane when He prayed, "Do you think that I cannot appeal to My Father, and He will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels?" (Matthew 26:53). Oh, God definitely could have rescued Jesus from the cruelty and pain of the cross, but it would have been to every person's detriment and destruction, so He chose not to. Oh, that we could have peace with the times that God chooses not to interfere for a greater purpose and know that He still is The Lord of all the Armies of heaven!

Dear Heavenly Father,

Today I pray that Your will be done in my life- completely, and with total trust and confidence that You are Jehovah Sabaoth. Please help me to surrender fully and obey You in the things that You have placed before me. Please give me peace and assurance that You have it all under control and that You also have legions of angels to do Your bidding and carry this to completion. Your plans are good, and so are You, so I do not have to fear what man can say or do.

Thank you for Your love, Your care, Your protection, and plans for my life. How blessed am I to be called Your child and to be able to walk in the path that You have set before me. Remind me today and always that You are the Lord of all the armies of heaven and there is nothing that ever catches You off-guard or takes You by surprise.

In Jesus' Precious Name, I pray.

Monday, June 24, 2019

The UnNamed Hero

"Nothing whatever, whether great or small, can happen to a believer, without God's ordering and permission. There is no such thing as 'chance', 'luck' or 'accident' in the Christian's journey through this world. All is arranged and appointed by God. And all things are 'working together' for the believer's good."
                                                             J.C. Ryle

We all have times and seasons in our lives when God is seemingly silent to us.  J. Vernon McGee says that "When God is not at the steering wheel, He is the backseat. He is the coach who calls signals from the bench. He is the unseen rudder on the ship of state. God is the pilot at the wheel during the night watch." In other words, He is always sovereign and providential even when we are not aware of what He is doing behind the scenes.

Recently, Brent and I had the privilege of attending a week long seminary class on the book of Esther. The Professor who taught the course was Mark Yarbrough, who is the Dean of Students at Dallas Theological Seminary. If you ever have the opportunity to take one of his classes (there are free courses on the Seminary's website), please do so. Truly, this was one of the most amazing experiences we have ever had.

Because we were studying the book of Esther, there was much discussion on the sovereignty and providence of God. Since the book of Esther is the only book in the Bible that never mentions the name of God, the reader finds himself (or herself) looking for God behind the scenes and through a series of God-incidences that occur frequently in this story. Before we took this course, it was always my inclination to think that Esther and Mordecai were the heroes, and yet we learned that they absolutely were not.

Professor Yarbrough succinctly pointed out that both Esther and Mordecai had been given opportunities to stand against the wickedness that was occurring in Persia during this time, and yet they did not. Joseph and Daniel were two Biblical examples he gave on people who did take a risk and stand against ungodly cultural norms, but Esther and Mordecai did not. In essence, Mordecai gave Esther to be the king's prostitute, and Esther complied. It is so interesting to see that, as people, we are always yearning to find a hero and, far too often, we settle on a human one.

The real hero in this story is never even named. The real hero was working diligently behind the scenes to save His children from death and destruction. The real hero was orchestrating events with purpose to bring about His desired results. God brought Esther to Susa to live with her uncle Mordecai. Then, He moved on Queen Vashti's heart to refuse to be humiliated and abused by the king, which left an opening for the job title of Queen. Next, He allowed King Xerxes to go to war with Greece for four years, which meant that when the king returned, he was more motivated to find Vashti's replacement. Even though God was quiet, He was also very active and intentional in what He was doing.

As I thought about the fact that God was the unnamed hero in Esther's story, I began to wonder about how many times this has been true in my own life? How many times have I gotten so immersed in circumstances that I did not accurately assess what God was doing behind the scenes? How many times did I forget to name Him as the true hero that he is? How many times in my own immaturity did I not stand against the wicked forces that were relentlessly pursuing me? If I am honest, it is far more than I would like to admit.

The good news is that both Esther and Mordecai did mature in their faith. When their backs were up against a wall, they repented and fasted and prayed. They cried out to God for His help and intervention. They grew up spiritually and stood in the gap for their people. All along, God had known what was inside of Esther and Mordecai and He allowed just enough pressure in their lives to call forth the strength and loyalty that He had placed within them. He partnered with them both to bring about the results that He desired.

Not only did God accomplish his will, but He also brought about a great reversal that is still celebrated to this day. The tall stake that Haman had built to impale Mordecai upon became the same stake that was used to impale Haman. In other words, the very tool that the enemy had planned to use against God's people was instead used for his own demise. It was turned around and used to destroy the one with the evil intentions of his heart.

In similar fashion, the signet ring that had been given to Haman that gave him all authority and power was stripped from his finger and given to Mordecai. God lifted up Mordecai and honored him for his faithfulness. God also placed him in a position of power that was second only to King Xerxes. This story teaches us that one day the enemy of our souls will pay for every one of his transgressions and God's children will be honored for their faithfulness.

We may not see today all that God is doing behind the scenes, but sweet one, believe me when I say that he is actively working. He will leave no detail untouched. He may even allow things that He does not prefer in order to ultimately bring about the things that He does prefer. Today, Jews around the world still celebrate the feast of Purim, which comes from the word Pur.  Haman used the pur as essentially dice that he rolled to determine the date that the Jews would be destroyed. God took the pur that were intended for evil and turned it into the Purim that celebrates the defeat of the Jewish enemies.

God will also do the same for each of us if we trust Him for the outcome of our dilemma. It is what he longs to do for His children. He is a God of great ironies and He shows us this time and again throughout the Bible. This means that what looks like it will inevitably happen will be stayed in the hand of a mighty God. And, what does not seem like it will occur does occur when God is involved. All of this is to show us once more that His timing is perfect and so is His plan.

Each one of us will ultimately be sent out with a story of redemption that we can share with others. Our story will remind others of the covenant faithfulness of our God and the grace that He so willingly lavishes upon us. It will challenge and encourage those around us to believe, even during those seemingly silent seasons of our lives. We will name our true hero as the One, True God that He is and ascribe to Him all the glory that He is due. God never has forgotten a promise, nor does He abandon them. He didn't for Esther and Mordecai and neither will He for us! Worship and thank Him in advance and see what He will do!

             "give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."
                                                             1 Thessalonians 5:18


Tuesday, June 11, 2019

The Perfect Plan

"Jehosheba, who was King Jehoram's daughter and Ahaziah's sister, secretly rescued Joash (son of Ahaziah) from among the king's sons who were being killed and put him and the one who nursed him in a bedroom. So he was hidden from Athalia and was not killed. Joash was in hiding with her in the Lord's temple six years while Athalia reigned over the land."
                                                                2 Kings 11:2-3

There always has been and always will be two powers at play in this world in which we live. There is the Kingdom of Light  and the kingdom of darkness that continually fights against one another in an epic battle that will ultimately  reach its crescendo at the end of the Tribulation. Each kingdom has warriors that fight on its behalf. And, sometimes people unknowingly fight on the wrong side, all the while convinced that they are doing the right thing.

This is what King Jehu did. He was the King of the Northern kingdom of Israel and had twenty-eight years of experience under his belt. While he prided himself on being zealous for the Lord, he also had allowed idolatry to also be a part of his reign. Jehu did some things that were right in God's eyes but he also was the ultimate politician and did whatever he could to stay in power, even if he had to murder innocents to achieve this ambition. No one ever succeeds once they give way to the slippery slope of compromise. In the end, he succumbed to peer pressure and the worshipping of golden calves.

Because Jehu had killed King Ahaziah in the southern kingdom of Israel, the throne was now empty and ready to be occupied by evil forces. And, that is exactly what happened. Athalia had been the queen mother and was also the daughter of Jezebel and Ahab. She seized the throne and then began her sole mission to eliminate the lineage of King David because she only wanted Baal worship to be allowed in Judah. She was very fierce in what she did because she was also angry at how King Jehu had tried to eliminate both Ahab's family and Baal worship in the land.

Athalia believed that she was successful in eliminating the Davidic line, and from what she could see, she really was. However, this was not God's plan. God had made covenant promises to His people and He was not about to let one evil queen have her way. Despite the fact that their situation looked grim, God had the perfect plan and He intended to use the High Priest named Jehoiada and his wife named Jehosheba to carry it out.

Jehoiada and Jehosheba were genuine believers and followers of God. They were not influenced by ambition and deceit, and they certainly were not moved by peer pressure. Instead, they let faith and courage direct their steps as they humbly sought to only do God's will.

Jehosheba was not only the wife of the High Priest, but she also was a princess in her own right. She was a daughter to King Jehoram and a sister to King Ahaziah, who Jehu had killed. This made her the aunt of Joash who was a young child at this time. It definitely was an anomaly that this godly princess could come from such an evil lineage but God always raises up a remnant to stand against the forces of evil.

Jehosheba became aware of Athalia's evil plans and she and her husband stole baby Joash and his nurse and hid them away in a room where old bedding was stored. Later, they would move him to the temple where he could move about in an inconspicuous way. During these six years that he was hidden, he was never recognized as a legitimate heir to the throne so that his safety could be ensured.

Jehoiada and Jehosheba continued to pray and seek God's timing as the boy grew. At just the right time, God gave them wisdom in how to remove Athalia from the throne and put Joash in her stead. The plan succeeded and at age seven Joash became the new king of the southern kingdom and continued on the legacy and lineage of King David.

Athalia was executed. Baal worship was eliminated. And, the Davidic dynasty continued, just as God had planned.

When you read this story, it sounds almost like a modern day soap opera. Or, maybe even a Disney movie. And yet, these were the people of God who had been thrust right smack in the middle of a major mess. There had to have been moments and times when these believers could not understand what was happening. There had to have been times when it looked as if evil would win and God's children would be defeated. And yet, that did not happen.

God's plan prevailed just as it always does. This is because God has initiated the plan even before the problem occurs. Often, it is hid in obscurity for a while just as baby Joash was. However, at just the right moment, it will always be revealed.

Circumstances may even worsen before there is a reprieve, but God is always masterfully orchestrating His victorious plan. Just as in this story, there can be so many moving parts and people who are operating in their free wills, but God is sovereign over every part of it. We can take comfort in knowing that God is never caught off-guard. Nor, is He ever scrambling trying to keep up with what is happening. We may be, but He is not.

What Jehosheba and Jehoiada did in private mattered. It mattered in the time in which they lived and it still matters to us today. Sometimes we think that then little things we do that no one sees has no importance and yet it always does. It can affect generations.

God molded Jehosheba and Jehoiada in the secret place and He raised them up to stand against wickedness in their day. This is what he longs to do in each one of our lives today, as well. As we learn to fully surrender to Him and trust in what He is doing, we will find that He is accomplishing things that are far greater than we can even imagine. He is masterfully executing the smallest of details to finish the work He has started and present to the world His Perfect Plan!

"Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing His will, and may He work in us what is pleasing to Him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen."
                                                           Hebrews 13:20-21


Thursday, May 30, 2019

A Time To Build Up

"They will rebuild the ancient ruins; they will restore the former devastations; they will renew the ruined cities, the devastations of many generations."
                                                            Isaiah 61:4

Sometimes life can be so busy and hectic that we forget about the fact that there is a larger plan in play than what we see. Each day, as we accomplish the tasks set before us and fulfill the requirements and demands in our lives, it can be so easy and tempting to focus only on what we can physically see in the natural. And yet, there is a Master plan that is completing its' perfect work in our lives, as well as in the entire earth.

Just as there are times and seasons in the natural, so are there in the supernatural realm. What is so interesting about this is that often what God is declaring spiritually looks completely opposite from the battle at hand. For example, when God called Peter to spread the Good News of the Gospel, Herod decided to retaliate against the disciples by killing James and arresting Peter.

As Peter was bound in chains and scheduled for trial, it had to have appeared to him that God's plans were being completely thwarted. It must have appeared that evil was advancing and that good was also being tethered, without any hope of moving forward. It would have been interesting to know what thoughts Peter may have had that night, but peace prevailed in his heart, at least enough for him to fall asleep lying between two prison guards.

It was in this exact moment that an angel appeared and lit up the entire jail cell. The angel hit Peter on the side to awaken him and he said, "'Quick, get up!' And the chains fell off his wrists. 'Get dressed,' the angel told him, 'and put on your sandals'. And he did. 'Wrap your cloak around you,' he told him, 'and follow me.' So he went out and followed, and he did not know that what the angel did was really happening, but he thought he was seeing a vision. After they passed through the first and second guards, they came to the iron gate that leads into the city, which opened to them by itself. They went outside and passed one street, and suddenly the angel left him" (Acts 12:7-10).

This experience was so surreal to Peter that at first he wasn't even sure that it was really happening. When he realized what had just occurred, he understood that God had delivered him from Herod's grasp and that He had done so in such a way that the Jewish people would see God's glory and power. So, instead of the spread of the Gospel being hindered, it actually advanced exponentially because it was God's timing for it to do so.

Sometimes God will allow evil to advance for a period of time, but it is always constrained within God's perfect timetable. This is because God has a kingdom calendar that is more reliable than any smartphone in existence today. Solomon referred to God's timetable when he said that there is "a time for every activity under heaven: a time to give birth and a time to die; a time to plant and a time to uproot; a time to kill and a time to heal; a time to tear down and a time to build up; a time to weep and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance; a time to throw stones and a time to gather stones; a time to embrace and a time to avoid embracing; a time to search and a time to count as lost; a time to keep and a time to throw away; a time to tear and a time to sew; a time to be silent and a time to speak ; a time to love and a time to hate; a time for war and a time for peace" (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8).

We are currently living in a time today where God is building up and restoring His church. He is healing and birthing and planting and turning our sorrows into joys. We are gathering our stones of remembrance and finding our voices in Christ. We are learning to love our enemies and become peacemakers in the midst of the cultural wars in which we find ourselves.

God has promised us that He will rebuild the ruins and the devastations that have occurred generationally in our families and He may even do it in such a way that other believers will see and be strengthened, as well. God is so good and He is the Only One who can perform such amazing miracles as these. He is the Only One who can take our ashes and turn them into a glorious masterpiece that He has planned long ago and then implemented.

When we learn to trust Him while in the darkest cell, we will see Him illumined like never before. Our cell will light up and our chains will fall off and we will sing His praises evermore. Never again will we struggle under the weight and debt of our sin because He has purposed that we will be free and we will rejoice in His goodness.

Solomon went on to say that, "He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the heart of man and no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end"  (Ecclesiastes 3:11). God crafted His plans long before any of us were created and He will carry them all out to fruition. His kingdom calendar is set and we have so many good things in Him to look forward to.

One day, each of us will see our stories in their fullness and we will weep over the faithfulness and goodness of our God. In the interim, we can trust His heart and that He will provide for every need that we may have. His goal is to bring as many as is possible into His eternal kingdom and we are blessed and privileged to have a role in this plan.

He loves every person on this planet immeasurably, and He weeps for those who do not know Him and belong to Him. His heart is so holy and pure and He longs to gather each and every person into His fold. He is the best Father that has ever existed and He sees the potential in each and every one of us. He not only loves and sees us as we are, but He also loves and sees us as we were created to be.

Now is the time to allow The Holy Spirit to complete its' perfect work within our hearts and souls so that we will be strengthened and suited up for the battles that lie before us. We will see God move in unprecedented ways for His glory and the extension of His kingdom. We all have a part to play and no one's part is inconsequential or unimportant. Christ is the head and we are all the parts that move in synchrony with Him.

God is doing something amazing within our generation and we are truly blessed. Oh, we could focus on the negative and become discouraged. Or, we can focus on Jesus and what He is doing in our midst. If we choose to keep our eyes on Him and focus on His goodness, we will be built up and able to participate in the end-time army that God is preparing to release within the earth. His plans are good and truly we will be amazed and see the fulfillment of the restoration of all things!

"Heaven must receive Him until the time of the restoration of all things, which God spoke about through His holy prophets from the beginning."
                                                             Acts 3:21

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Perfect Protection

                "Protect me as the pupil of Your eye; Hide me in the shadow of Your wings".   
                                                                Psalm 17:8

Out of all the Psalms that David wrote, there are only three Psalms that are classified as prayers: Psalm 17, Psalm 86, and Psalm 142. In each of these Psalms, David is in a place in his life where he feels vulnerable and is desperate for God to act on his behalf. Often, he speaks of being pursued by enemies and how God is the only One who can truly rescue him from the dangers that surround him. While we do not know for sure what is happening to him, it is quite likely that these are the times when he is being pursued by King Saul. But, whatever the specific details in his life really were, we know that he understands both the potential risks as well as his own vulnerabilities and he cries out to God as a result of what he sees coming against him.

In Psalm 17, David asks God to protect him as the pupil of God's eye. This is an amazing verse because it shows us how deliberate and careful God is in His protection over our lives. The eye itself is protected by many layers. The first layer is the tear film and there are three layers within the tear film. The second layer is the cornea and there are five layers within the cornea. The third layer is the iris and the iris has three layers. The fourth layer is a transparent crystalline lens and there are four layers within the crystalline lens. The fifth layer of the eye is the retina and there are ten layers within the retina. The sixth layer of the eye is the choroid and it is filled with blood vessels to supply blood to the retina.The seventh layer of the eye is the sclera and it covers the whole eye to the cornea to allow movement of the eye.

In addition to the multiple layers within the eye, God also created the eyebrows, eyelashes, and eyelids to help protect the eye. These are the fences, if you will, that help to keep foreign objects or particles from entering the eye. So, God created barricades and fences and multiple layers of defense to keep the pupil safe.

On a larger scale, if you think about our automatic responses when we are about to fall or an object is flying in the air, it is always to shield our eyes. Instinct teaches us how valuable our eyesight is and the whole body responds with agility and dexterity when a threat is recognized. It is as if our whole body was created to shield and protect the most vulnerable of our members.

It is no coincidence that this is how David prays when he, too, feels the most vulnerable. God is showing him that no other can see the way that our omniscient God can see or can protect as our omnipotent God can protect. No matter how sever or imminent the threat may be, there is no one or nothing that will not be anticipated or averted by our mighty God. David could rely on the love, faithfulness, and mercy of God to really be there for him when he needed it the most.

The same is true for each of us. When we are in distress or feel like the enemy is coming at us in different directions, we can do as David did and cry out first to our God in prayer. We can ask for His perfect protection which includes more than just physically protecting us.

According to Merriam-Webster, the word protect means "to cover or shield from exposure, injury, damage, or destruction; to maintain the status or integrity; to defend; and to provide a guard or shield." Some synonyms of protect are: to assure, to care for, to insulate, to safeguard, to save, to secure, to shelter, to harbor, to hedge, to screen, to shade, to cover all bases, to give refuge, and to watch over.

God is faithful and "His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through the knowledge of Him who called us to His own glory and excellence" (2 Peter 1:3). When we know Jesus personally, we are "complete in Him" (Colossians 2:10) and He is the One who "supplies all our needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:19).

In Psalm 17, David asks God for vindication, protection, and salvation (or rescuing) from his enemies. Apparently, David could have taken matters into his own hand and killed King Saul himself, but, instead, he waited patiently as an exile in the wilderness for God to protect and sustain him. David understood that his enemies would not ever be able to cross any line that God had drawn and he would depend on God's goodness and surrender to the refining process that God had placed in his life. David also knew that in God's timing he would see vindication, protection, and salvation.

This did not mean that David was protected from difficult situations, but it did mean that God was with him and gave to him everything he needed not only to survive, but also to thrive and grow in strength. God was preparing David for kingship and all the privileges and responsibilities that went along with that title. The vehicle that God used in David's refining process was ungodly men, which I am sure was very hard for David to fathom, but ultimately, vindication would shine forth when David had cultivated the humility and wisdom to know how to use it only for God's glory.

Most evenings as we say our evening prayers, Christians around the globe pray for God's protection over their families and loved ones. Often, we imagine that God will insulate us from all the difficulties and dangers that this world tries to hurl in our direction. However, our knowledge is limited and incomplete because God knows that we are "sealed with the Holy Spirit who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the day of redemption" (Ephesians 1:13-14). His desire is that we feel secure in His love and in His power and not place our security in a temporary world that is not really our home.

The only security that is eternal and unshakable is God, Himself. His love is the very thing that we can be assured of everyday. And, when we are in the center of His will, we know that He will be glorified and that only His will will prevail. No "weapon formed against us will prosper"  and we will "refute every accusation" (Isaiah 54:17). This is our heritage as God's children and "our vindication will come from God" (Isaiah 54:17).

Though there are definitely days when it seems as if the enemy is advancing and evil is prevailing, in the end, we know that this is definitely not so. Jesus has already obtained our victory and we are covered by the blood of the Lamb. We will always be secure in Him and know that He will eternally protect us as the pupil of His eye. It is in this that we can rest securely, knowing that in Christ we forever are perfectly protected!

"If the Lord be with us, we have no cause of fear. His eye is upon us, His arm over us, His ear open to our prayer- His grace sufficient, His promise unchangeable. "
                                                              John Newtonthe

Sunday, April 14, 2019

The Throne Of Grace

"It is altogether right when our humiliation draws us to the Lord and our conscious need drives us to the throne of Grace."
                                                    Charles Spurgeon

As this is Easter week, churches around the globe will remember the Gospel stories of the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ. People will fill the pews of of every denomination to honor and reverence the life and story of Jesus. Sincere hearts will flock in droves to be a part of something that they know is bigger than themselves and has the utmost significance and purpose. Easter outfits will be purchased and the families will gather together to honor the Lord.

What is most often reflected upon during this time is the physical anguish that Jesus experienced during His crucifixion, followed quickly by the victory and celebration that occurred shortly thereafter.  However, often we miss the significance of the emotional suffering that He experienced in the Garden of Gethsemane. And, it was this emotional pain that vexed His soul just as much as the physical pain wracked His failing body. This was His one-two punch as He physically exited our world.

The reason I think this is especially poignant this year is that I know many people in the body of Christ who are hurting emotionally. And, I believe that it is outlined in Matthew 26 for us of how Jesus handled and stewarded these intense emotions that can be helpful for its today. He beautifully gives us an example of what we are to do when our emotions are running deep and we are not quite sure what we should do with them.

First and foremost, Jesus ran to the throne room of grace. Three times, He boldly went to His Father while He was in the Garden of Gethsemane. Even though He had taken Peter, James, and John with Him to be a support, they had fallen asleep and were no support for Him at all. The only One who was truly there for Him during His duress was His Heavenly Father. And, it was during Jesus' weakest moments that He relied the most heavily on the One who would never turn Him away or let Him down.

He stewarded His emotions in this extreme trial by using emotional wisdom in dealing with all the feelings that were in His "heart". The book of Proverbs tells us that the "heart" is the control center of our souls. Our hearts are filled with emotions because we are made in the image of God. We are not to deny them or diminish them if we are to live lives that wholly glorify our God. And yet, we are to acknowledge them and steward them well.

Our emotions are affected by our mental, physical, and spiritual well-being. Our hearts can become threatened (Proverbs 13:12) when the answers to our prayers are delayed or even denied. This is when we lose our hope and become convinced that we will never experience our deliverance or our desired blessings. This verse goes on to say that "when the desire comes [again], it is a tree of life". This desire can only be restored when we boldly go to the throne room of grace and it is there that God will give us fresh assurances and new promises for us to believe in once again.

The name of the Garden of Gethsemane literally means an "oil press". It is during these times of pressing that God brings out of us all that lies deep within our hearts. Some of it will be good, and some of it will not be so good. It is human nature to try to focus only on the good, but it is when we allow the Holy Spirit to work within us removing what is rancid that we will be fully restored. This is not an easy process. While Jesus was God and had known no sin, He even cried out in a loud voice His "soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death" (Matthew 26:38) during His pressing.

Jesus knew everything that was about to happen to Him, and yet He chose to make Himself vulnerable. That was His price of love for us that He was willing to pay. And, when we do this for the sake of others, it is likewise displaying the very love of Christ. Especially in a culture that scoffs at and mocks weakness and vulnerability. However, found embedded within this vulnerability is the ability to find our voice and passion that God has placed within us.

Even in His darkest hour, Jesus did not run from His feelings and emotions. He did not push them down. He did not deny that they existed. Instead, He learned to sit with them and become comfortable with them. Previously, Jesus had prophesied both the denial of Peter and the betrayal of Judas. It was now that He chose solitude and prayer to process all the events that had unfolded as they celebrated the Passover (Matthew 26:36).

After He approached the throne room of grace, Jesus then shared His emotions and specific prayer requests with Peter, James, and John, whom He trusted (Matthew 26:37). Note that He did not share them with anyone that He could not trust. And, even though He knew that Peter was flawed and would still deny Him, He also knew that Peter would repent and become one of His most loyal followers, even to the point of death.

Jesus continually went back to His Father and entrusted all His emotions to Him over and over. He even asked for the cup to pass to pass from Him if it was God's will (Matthew 26:39; 42). He repeated this as often as it was necessary to obtain peace and receive God's comfort.

Then, Jesus rested in the finality of God's decision and chose to move forward to accomplish God's purposes in His life. This was not an easy decision and He did not take lightly the process that was involved for Him to get to this place of unconditional trust. However, Jesus focused on the new truths that God had set before Him, and that could only be done by spending time in His Father's presence.

So today if you are feeling the weight and intensity of any emotional duress and agony, think about the way that Jesus modeled for us to steward our emotions well. While it is common in the church today for people to say that our wrestling is a lack of faith or a moral weakness, I would declare quite the opposite. In fact, I would say that it is within these seasons of wrestling and searching for our answers, that it becomes the very catalyst that God will use to catapult us into our destinies in Christ! Therefore, sweet friends, run boldly to the throne room of grace! This is where you will find mercy in your time of need!

                                           HAVE A VERY BLESSED EASTER!