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ALL

““The most important one,” answered Jesus,“ is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’”  Mark 12:29-30

Jesus was very clear here.  He was repeating the words from Deuteronomy.  I’ve read this dozens of times, but today the word ALL stuck out.  It was like they are being highlighted for emphasis.  Before I get to the weighty matter of what all means, let’s look at the four elements Jesus articulates.

Heart.  When I think of heart I think of passion.  I think of the thing or things that drive me, that compel me.  “The team with the most heart often wins.” It is more than emotion, but emotion is part of it.  Another analogy is if all our actions were a compass needle, our heart would be the point to which the compass needle consistently points.

Soul.  I struggle with distinguishing this from the other three, but I realize it is place where my will resides.  My soul is the center of my individuality and consciousness. 

Mind.  This is pretty easy, it is my cognitive, thinking self.  It is the part of me that processes data, assesses information, and makes decisions.  It is our intellect and the repository of all the data we have accumulated throughout our life.

Strength.  My strength is the resulting development of all my actions to date.  Much like a laborer muscled and toned from years of hard work, my strength is the capabilities I have now because of the life and actions I have taken.

So back to all.  Does Jesus really mean ALL?  And we are to LOVE with ALL.  If we love God with all then there won’t be anything left over for others – a spouse, children, parents or siblings, will there?  Well Jesus does say ALL and the heart, soul, mind, and strength pretty much encompasses everything about who we are.  How can this be?

It gets back to the reality that God is our creator.  He knows us better than we know ourselves.  He created us on purpose, for a purpose.  It is His desire for each person to fully fill their divinely ordained purpose.  But our purpose can only be found when we are immersed in Him and when we are filled by Him – through the in-dwelling Holy Spirit. 

By giving Him ALL of us, He is able to mold, shape, and transform us into exactly the person we are meant to be.  In some cases it is a transformation of sin habits.  At salvation the penalty for our sin is paid.  Jesus paid it on the cross and we said yes to receive it at our salvation.  We are washed clean by the blood of Jesus.  But the flesh still remembers the old habits.  Sanctification is the process of losing the old, bad habits and taking on new, good habits. 

A life verse for me is Psalm 37:4. “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.”  This verse makes perfect sense when it is aligned with Jesus admonition.  When God has our heart, soul, mind and strength, we cannot help but become aligned with His heart.  When our heart aligns with His heart it will desire what He desires.  When we desire what God desires, we become partners with Him is seeing these things come to be.  In some cases we will be moved to missions, moved to serve sacrificially, moved to go and do the things we have been prepared to do with the totality of our life experiences and under God’s anointing.  In all cases we will be moved to love more deeply and fully than we are able to without Him.

Another aspect of this is we will be moved to pray God’s prayers.  Intercession is a high and holy calling.  I’m not talking about reading through a list of names and asking God to bless family and friends.  Intercession which emanates from God’s heart to our heart is a burden to pray for specific people and needs even to the point of travail. God wants to partner with us, to pray through us.

There is one final element of Jesus’ saying that needs emphasizing.  The admonition begins with LOVE.  Love is a game changer.  We can serve.  We can honor.  We can follow.  But none of these meet the standard of loving God.  They each are manifestations of our love response, but love is deeper and richer than these alone.  Love is the deep-seated acknowledgment that God is the wholly complete other to Whom our devotion, desire, and passion is aimed.  1 John 4:16 says this.  “And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.  God is love.  Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.”

To love God with All that we are is to enter fully into the life we were created for.  Amazingly we find that our ability to love and do the things God calls us to do become the desires of our heart.  He takes our attempts to love, pray, serve, work and, through His Spirit, accomplishes His good and perfect plan in us and in those He leads us to.  As we walk the road of loving God with our All we will find that He reveals our All to be more than we knew or imagined.  But it is only in losing ourselves in Him that He is able to do this great and wonderful work in us.

Purpose today to love God with your all and bask in the joy of knowing He first loves us and He will live fully in us as we abandon ourselves into His love.

God is not fickle, but I am.

God is steadfast.  But I am too often wobbly knees and willing to consider an easier way.

God is a warrior.  Sometimes I slip into an easy chair and lose myself in Facebook posts that tell me what I want to hear.

God is persistent.  I can give up, sometimes just short of victory.

God is love.  And I am sometimes unlovely… very unlovely, but He loves me anyway.

You see He has adopted me into His family. And family is of paramount importance to God.  He will do anything for His children.  Even when we misbehave He pursues us.  Because God is persistent.

When the world, the flesh, and the devil seek to draw me away and I am losing the fight, God steps in and rescues me.  He has my back because He is a warrior and that’s what a warrior does.  He fights for those He loves.

When I am weak and exposed, when I can barely stand, it’s okay because He lifts me up.  His mighty right arm undergirds me and I know the One who is my God, my King.

And when I consider how many times I fall short of loving Him like He has loved me, when I miss out on an opportunity to demonstrate His grace to others, when I am self absorbed and fickle, I wonder how He can stand me.  But He does.

Because God’s not fickle… even if you are…

He is steadfast. He is a warrior. He is persistent.  And He loves you with an everlasting love.  Lean into His love today.

 

Hearing God

I’m taking a few moments to revisit some previous posts. I would love to hear others share how God speaks to them and guides them in living a life of faith.

areliablefaith

I had never really thought about it too much, but as I was speaking with a wonderful brother yesterday, he asked me exactly how God spoke to me.  I had related the following story to him.

When we moved to Tennessee we owned a house in Louisiana that we had purchased 4 years earlier.  The economy in Louisiana was in a decline when we moved and houses were not selling.  We had no money to purchase a home with until our house in Louisiana sold.

We looked at houses in Tennessee on our first visit to the area in January.  The realtor had our list of “needs”, our list of “wants”, and the price we could afford when our house in Louisiana sold.  He showed us 20+ homes that first visit focusing upon our needs and the price range we gave him.  None of the houses enticed us.  At the…

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This week I have had the opportunity to meet a sweet young woman who is battling cancer.  She is a single mom with three children under the age of 10.  We are partnering with her work family to take her meals, to visit with her, and pray.  Needless to say, she has been a primary topic of conversation with the Father this week.  A couple days ago as I was praying, the story of Jesus healing a woman with a chronic bleeding disorder came to mind.  The story is found in both Mark and Luke’s gospels.  Here it is from Luke.

“Luke 8:42a As Jesus went with him, he was surrounded by the crowds.  43 A woman in the crowd had suffered for twelve years with constant bleeding, and she could find no cure. 44 Coming up behind Jesus, she touched the fringe of his robe. Immediately, the bleeding stopped.  45 Who touched me?” Jesus asked. Everyone denied it, and Peter said, “Master, this whole crowd is pressing up against you.” 46 But Jesus said, Someone deliberately touched me, for I felt healing power go out from me.” 47 When the woman realized that she could not stay hidden, she began to tremble and fell to her knees in front of him. The whole crowd heard her explain why she had touched him and that she had been immediately healed. 48 Daughter, he said to her, your faith has made you well. Go in peace.””
I have prayed for healing for many people.  There have been miraculous healings.  There have been healings in other areas of lives than the physical malady we had begun praying for. There have been healings that have transpired through the efficacy of modern medicine which I take on faith the prayer helped to be effective.  There have been terminally ill patients who in prayer it became clear that ending this life well was the appropriate prayer.  And there has been a very small percentage of times when the results were not what I had hoped for.
Through today’s scripture the Lord showed me a new and crucial element of prayer for people who are ill.  Notice that the woman didn’t ask Jesus for healing.  She didn’t come to him with an elaborate petition for healing or a list of reasons she should be healed.  There was not an elaborate process followed to gain his attention and favor.  No, there was really only one thing she felt essential to be made whole.  She needed to get close to Jesus.  Close enough to touch the fringe of His clothing.  Her faith was in Jesus and proximity to Jesus brought about the flow of His healing power.
That’s it.  It is as simple as that – draw close to Jesus and let Him do what He will do.  Jesus is in the “making whole” business.  But be aware, to be made whole by Jesus will encompass much more than just healing from an illness.  He who created us body, soul, and spirit is interested in the totality of our lives.  He wants to perform a transformation in us in it’s entirety, not just on the surface.
This is liberating to me as an intercessor.  I have always known it was Jesus who heals, but I have at times taken on a degree of responsibility that I had to pray it through, that I needed to fast and intercede sufficiently, that I needed to have the right faith to see the healing happen.
I remember a fairly long season of prayer for a 20 year old son of a work friend who was diagnosed with leukemia.  We surrounded the family and prayed and he went into remission.  “Yeah God!”  It was but about 2 years later that it returned.  This time they determined he required a bone marrow transplant.  No match was found so he went through the auto marrow transplant where his own bone marrow was removed, it was radiated to kill all cancer, and then put back into his body.  He seemed to be doing fine and then he picked up an infection.  With no white blood cells to fight off the infection he slipped into a coma.  I felt guilty because I had not kept this young man high on my prayer list.  When he slipped into a coma I joined the prayer team interceding for his healing.  I remember getting daily updates and praying each and every day.  This went on for 40 days.  Amazingly he hung on in that coma.  He did not seem to deteriorate, but as the doctors began telling us, he wasn’t improving and he had to improve.
The break-through came about day 40.  I remember crying out to the Lord from my hotel room in Montreal.  It was in the evening and I looked up at the ceiling because that about how far it felt my prayers for Chase’s healing were going, bouncing off the ceiling and coming back to me.  As I looked up, spiritually worn out, I asked a different question, “Lord, what would you have me pray?”  “Pray for Chase’s mom, that she will release Chase to come home.”  Suddenly the whole prayer changed.  Instead of feeling like I was pushing against a wall, I had a real sense of being aligned with the will of the Father.  Joy and peace filled me and prayer flowed.
It was only a day or two later and the Mom’s prayer request suddenly changed.  Apparently she to had heard from the Lord because instead of the fervent plea to intercede for his healing, she asked us to pray for the Lord’s will to be done and for peace and strength for the family.  Chase passed a day or two after that.
I know the Lord heals.  The story above is one where the healing was Chase going home to be in the closer presence of the Lord.  For others He will touch them with healing as evidence of His love and power on this side of the veil.  In either case, the goal is the same, to draw us closer to Jesus and cause us to grow in our relationship with Him.
Closer to Jesus – it has become the cornerstone of my prayer for healing.
Closer to Jesus – it is the ultimate goal.
Closer to Jesus – where we live and move and have our being.
Closer to Jesus – it’s who we were created to be.
Closer to Jesus.  Close enough to touch Him.  Close enough to be touched by Him.
Be blessed today my friend.

Want of Wisdom

As I sit here sipping my morning coffee, reading this morning’s devotion, and asking the Lord for wisdom, a mental picture appeared.  This passage is from Proverbs 3:11-20 in the New Living Translation.

“My child, don’t reject the lord ’s discipline, and don’t be upset when he corrects you. For the lord corrects those he loves, just as a father corrects a child in whom he delights. Joyful is the person who finds wisdom, the one who gains understanding. For wisdom is more profitable than silver, and her wages are better than gold. Wisdom is more precious than rubies; nothing you desire can compare with her. She offers you long life in her right hand, and riches and honor in her left. She will guide you down delightful paths; all her ways are satisfying. Wisdom is a tree of life to those who embrace her; happy are those who hold her tightly. By wisdom the lord founded the earth; by understanding he created the heavens. By his knowledge the deep fountains of the earth burst forth, and the dew settles beneath the night sky.”

As I started praying I had my arms crossed, but somehow that didn’t feel right.  I relaxed, opened my arms, and held out my hands palms up.  As I did so I felt my spirit open up and I looked heavenward – expectant and ready.  I prayed, “Lord fill me with your wisdom.” and the image of my coffee cup came to mind and the thought that a covered cup cannot receive what is poured into it.

Wow, that stung a little.  How often do I let distractions, frustrations, and general busyness interfere with wisdom the Father wants to pour into me.  More often than I would care to admit.  There have been blessed times of God’s breaking through, but as I ponder this word I realize that I must be intentional to slow down, relax, and listen to what the Father wants to say, wants to show me, wants to pour into me.  I need to take the lid off and let Him pour.

Like a perfect cup of coffee wisdom feels good… smells good… tastes good.  Those who walk in wisdom from on high are a sweet, sweet savor in a world that has lost an appreciation for true wisdom.  It is the Father’s desire that His children walk in His wisdom.  That wisdom will stand out in a way that draws people to Him.  It is wisdom that embraces Jesus and cannot help but speak of His goodness and love.  It is wisdom that orders our lives in a different way – forsaking self and putting others first.  It is a wisdom that looks toward final outcomes and fulfillment of faith rather than how can I promote myself, meet my own desires, make myself happy.

God’s wisdom – the cross and all that Jesus has done and has promised to do, is described as foolishness to men, but it is the power of God unto Salvation for all who believe.  Thank you Lord for your wisdom.

I pray this day that you are able to take the lid off and let God pour into you His wisdom, power and love.  These are freely offered to any who would seek Him, who would chose Him and His way.  Take the lid off and receive.

Blessings to you today my friend.  And as you receive His blessings allow Him to pour His wisdom, power, and love through you unto others.

A very good lesson today in navigating life’s temptations, challenges, and trials.  Give it a read.

Also, if you don’t have the You Version app you might want to give it a try.  It has dozens of bible translations as well as numerous bible reading plans.  I have used about a dozen shorter plans.  I intend on tackling this one in 2017.  I recommend trying a few of the shorter plans before attempting a year long study.   Source: Bible In One Year 2017

I am a “fastest route” kind of person.  Long before GPS systems became so readily available and we are told step by step how to get from point A to point B, I was a map reader.  I may have even been a little over the top about it.  It wasn’t usually good enough to just assume I had the fastest route.  If it was a regular route I took, I would specifically look for opportunities to validate my choice by either timing all the routes at different times, or, please don’t judge me, have my wife drive a vehicle on one route while I took the other.  (Yes, I usually allowed her to go what I estimated to be the slower of the two routes.  That strategy was only partially successful though.  She happens to be as competitive as I am so I wasn’t always certain she / we observed all the traffic laws.)

Long trips early in our married life also turned into learning experiences.  My wife enjoys the travel experience and prefers not to feel rushed.  I preferred to conquer the drive.  Frequent stops for shopping, eating, and bathroom breaks were a normal part of the journey for Lisa.  In my opinion they were the enemy of a successful drive.  The tension around this rose a bit as children arrived.  We survived those challenges and we’ve grown to have a much more aligned view on our travel.  Today I still plan the trips with an estimate of the journey’s duration given to the family.  But we include time for potential stops.  We talk about it ahead of time and generally come to agreement.  And travel is much more harmonious.

The biggest difference in me is that I have realized that in my journeys, like in my life, if I make a plan seeking the Lord’s guidance and then give it to the Him, then I can let go of the need to MAKE IT HAPPEN.  I can relax and trust Him with the outcome.  This is liberating.

An illustration comes to mind.  In a way it is like having a map and having the travel app WAZE on.  I see the path to take on the map.  But as I travel, WAZE is giving me commentary on the road ahead.  It tells you of traffic ahead and reroutes you around it.  You may still encounter a bit of a slow-down, but in the end you get around it in a bit better time and you make it to your final destination.  The comparison for me is to reading the Word and listening to the Holy Spirit.  When I read the Word I am encouraged, I gain direction for my life, I see a life to live that is pleasing to the Father and something I desire.  But when I step out the door and into all the activities that make up life, I need the Holy Spirit to help take the truth of scripture and apply it to the myriad real life situations I encounter.

I used to have a problem when things interrupted my plans for the day.  I am much better (not where I know I need to be yet, but better) today about letting the interruptions play out.  I have learned that often in the interruptions God intervenes to teach me or use me in ways that wouldn’t have happened on the path I had planned.  Last night is a case in point.

We were heading home late after watching our niece and nephew’s basketball games.  While we really didn’t want to, we stopped at the store to pick up a few things.  As we were checking out I noticed the cashier let out what sounded like a tired sigh as she finished the prior customer.  I assumed she was feeling tired like I was so I casually asked, “Been a long day?”

“No.” she replied.  “Stressed.”  After a bit of a pause she said, “It’s not work.  It’s something else… not here.”  (Okay, let me just say that an opening like that is definitely a detour that a person intent on following the straightest and fastest route would say to avoid at all costs.)

I don’t remember exactly what I said in response, but we engaged in a bit of a conversation as she rang up our groceries.  It turns out we had a slightly similar experience to share and encourage her from.  It was just a few brief words of encouragement, but it seemed like they were somewhat of a help.  But I think the bigger thing was the last thing we did. As she totaled our purchases and turned to me, I knew I didn’t have a specific answer to her dilemma, but I knew Who did.  I asked if she minded if we prayed.  Well she didn’t say “No.” so I reached across, took her hand and prayed a simple prayer of faith asking the Father to give her guidance and to bless her.

As I let her hand go she asked, “Are you a preacher?”

“No,” I said.

“Are you a Minister?”

Again, “No.”

“Where do you go to church?”

I told her.  And she replied, “Well I guess Sunday I’ll have to come to visit.”

I walked away chuckling at God’s goodness.  We took a detour.  Shopping is not my thing at anytime, but especially late in the evening when I am ready for bed.  But that little detour meant a young woman was encouraged and hopefully will make it to a place where she can meet the One who loves her more than she can imagine.

When we let go and let God, He will take us to the places we need to go and allow us to experience things that fit into His perfect plan.  Just let Him navigate and you will enjoy the ride of your life.

Take care my friend and enjoy the ride.

We desperately need healing in our nation.  Historians, Statesmen, and even our Lord Jesus have pointed out that division precedes destruction.  A nation divided, like a house divided, shall soon fall.  A look back in history shows us that the greatest danger to a thriving nation is internal division and strife.  Ancient Rome was one of the greatest nations the world has known, controlling most of the civilized world of its day.  Civilization flourished and stretched its influence across Asia, Europe, and Africa.  But the soul of the nation became corrupt.  Division, strife, intrigue, assassination, and disunity weakened the resolve of the people.  Moral decay left a nation that had once been a nation of laws and nationalistic spirit a giant with a weakened will to fight.  When Rome fell, the Dark Ages ensued.

There are several touch points in our nation that should give us pause.  There is a radical element that has risen inciting protests, disobedience, violence, and even anarchy.  This has been highly publicized, perhaps even with a favorable slant in the media, to the point that the greater portion of the public has chosen sides.  Polarization has occurred and continues to do so as greater focus is given to the “protests” and little effort seems to be taking place to move in the direction of reconciliation.  This is madness.  At the very least it threatens our position in the world as a just and compassionate “leading nation”.  At the worst, and it is a plausible worst, it threatens our security as a nation founded “under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all”.

I have been praying for our nation, asking God for healing and for guidance.  It has been my experience that God will guide our prayers when we offer them up in faith.  Last week as I was seeking the Lord’s face, I sensed that I needed to pray for empathy… for myself and for people across this land.  We need to gain a perspective of the issues we are arguing about from the other side’s point of view.  As I have done so, I have seen an interesting thing happen within my heart.  Instead of perceiving all the protestors in a totally negative light, I can begin to see them as human beings with real hurts, fears, and concerns… people a lot like me.  People who have not had the same life experiences as me, therefore they do not have the same worldview.  We live in the same pluralistic nation, but we see it differently.  The only way for us to coexist is for us to have a large degree of compassion for one another that isn’t predicated upon our belief system, our political views, our skin color, our gender… upon the differences between us.

Our differences do not have to divide us.  We have always had differences in this nation.  Our nation was founded as 13 distinct and highly autonomous colonies.  They had major differences.  Our constitution is indeed a marvelous document written to forge a single nation of these distinctly different states.  It leaves significant room for the different expression of beliefs and values of the people while establishing a foundation of law and joining us as a single nation.  And we have persevered as a nation for over 240 years, through good and bad times, with strong dissention and disunity on occasion, with a civil war and many periods of internal turmoil.  But we have remained one, united nation.  Not uniform, but united.  I take four things from this high-level view of our history.  1) There is an enemy, a spiritual enemy whose tool is strife and division, who wants this nation to fall.  2) There is a spiritual protector whose tool is love and compassion, who wants this nation to exist and succeed.  3) There has been, and I believe still is, a divine reason for this nation in the world.  4) It is incumbent upon followers of God to seek His guidance, wisdom, and help in healing this land and fulfilling the purpose for this nation.  2 Chronicles 7:14 are the key verse that we, the Church should be heeding.  “if my people, who are called by my name, shall humble themselves and pray and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.”

As the Church, as people who have been rescued by Jesus’ love, as people who once were enemies of God through our sin and disobedience, we should be taking the lead in seeking reconciliation and healing.  Our first step is prayer.  Our second step is empathy.  We need to open the dialogue with people with whom we disagree.  We need to hear their perspective.  We should work toward understanding why they believe what they believe.  And we should understand why we believe what we believe as well.  The Prayer of Saint Francis is a good model.

“Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,

Where there is hatred, let me sow love;

where there is injury, pardon;

where there is doubt, faith;

where there is despair, hope;

where there is darkness, light;

where there is sadness, joy;

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;

to be understood as to understand;

to be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive;

it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;

and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.”

 

What I am proposing is not the easy thing to do.  It is counter to the current mood portrayed in images on our TV screens and computer monitors.  It is not aligned with the ever-increasing rhetoric I am seeing in social media.  But as I seek the Father’s heart, it seems to be aligned with what the Spirit is whispering to me… “Blessed are the peacemakers…”  “Love covers a multitude of sins…”  “You will know them by their love…”

Friends, please join me in praying for healing in our nation.  And follow that up by asking the Lord to provide opportunities to engage others in civil discussion.  Seek to understand their perspective.  And ask the Lord to help you understand, and when appropriate, articulate your point of view.  While the media may continue to highlight the strife, let us humbly and quietly seek the common ground, the healing, and uniting that I believe the Lord desires.  When we do, we will also see doors open for the Gospel to be shared and God will get the glory.

Be blessed today.  And be a blessing.