“Do not love this world nor the things it offers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you.” 1John 2:15(NLT)
When you love someone and this person causes you harm, the hurt can feel like nothing else you’ve ever experienced. And yet, some have said that not loving a person with your whole heart is lonely and much more painful. We are brought up to believe that our lives should revolve around the person we fall for. Most of us want this for ourselves, and I was no exception. When I was in my twenties, I invested my everything into my relationships, but wanting to love someone and to be loved by them was followed by pain and devastating heartbreak repeatedly. I wanted so badly to break the cycle, but I didn’t have a clue how to do it.
1John 2:15 tells us not to love this world or the things it offers. We need to discern this wisdom. God wants us to know that obsession isn’t love, and when we feel the need to fill up our empty places with another person, our expectations are unreasonable. Heavenly Father didn’t create us to idolize one another. He created us to walk in His Spirit through Jesus Christ, and love others from a place of spiritual strength. Often, we meet individuals that are not good for our lives, but it’s something about them that makes our hearts swoon. We feel a connection, and we allow this person into our hearts without consulting Heavenly Father. We leap before we look, and this can be a very dangerous thing.
Someone said, “You can’t help who you fall in love with.” If that is the case, why are we all not falling madly in love with our Creator? He is the only One who deserves our whole hearts, yet, most people do not even acknowledge Him. God has given us free-will choice. We can and should help who we fall in love with. This is the piece of information that I needed to know to break the cycle of bad choices.God has made us totally responsible and capable of making good judgments and sound decisions, but our trust must always be placed in Him. We should never make a person our everything, because they can never live up to that role. They are as imperfect as we are. Instead, we should seek the kind of relationship with Heavenly Father where His love swells in our hearts. When it does, not only will we be guided by His love, but He will teach us how to discern through His Spirit, so that we love smart.
Proverbs 27:19(NLT) tells us, “As a face is reflected in water, so the heart reflects the real person.” A person will reveal to you their true essence in a short period of time. The question is whether you will have the discernment to recognize the voice of God telling you to walk away. Even if the person seems to check off the right boxes, they could be terribly bad for your life.
Love is so much more than we think. It is so much deeper than butterflies in our tummies and swooning in our hearts. That stuff can be fun and makes the heart grow fonder, but make no mistake, the love of God in Christ is the treasure we must be aiming for. When asked what the greatest commandment is, Jesus Christ responded in Mark 12:30(NLT), “And you must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’ God must be first in order for everything else in our lives to work. When we love Him the way we should, we will have all we need to love from a place of strength, courage, faith, and wisdom.
The psalmist, David, said in Psalm 56:13(NKJV), “For You have delivered my soul from death. Have You not kept my feet from falling, that I may walk before God in the light of the living?” It is believed that David was as young as thirty-years-old when he wrote this psalm under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Even at such a young age, he had many challenges, and he was confident that God had gotten him through everything he had faced and would face in the future. He knew that God had delivered him from death and kept his feet from falling. This is something all of us must pay close attention to, because many believers are falling in their faith. They are stumbling both physically and spiritually, and both of these can indicate that something is out of alignment internally.
In a very literal sense, most of us understand what it means to fall. This is why David’s words resonate with us. Not only can falling be harmful to us physically, with broken bones and bruised bodies, but it is often an embarrassing thing as well. So, we associate several not so likeable attributes to an accidental fall, and this helps to cement our understanding of what a catastrophe it can be to fall spiritually.
When I was a youngster, we played in my grandmother’s large yard, running and jumping about. Crying to her over skinned knees and elbows was a common occurrence. She’d often scold us and say, “See, you were going too fast!!! You weren’t paying attention to what you were doing.” She was right. Her scolding was not to make our fun any less, but to teach us that even when we’re having fun, we must be careful.
From the very beginning, in the Old Testament, God tells us about the first couple, Adam and Eve, and we learn about their tragic and incredibly damaging choice. Adam’s choice to bow to the devil and turn his back on the sovereignty of God is known as “The Fall of Man”. Adam’s wrong choice had dire spiritual ramifications. So, to fall in the spiritual sense is to abdicate the solid and sure standing we have in Christ.
Just as an accidental fall can be a warning sign that we’re not paying attention to our physical surrounding, a spiritual fall is a sign that we are not paying attention to our spiritual standing in Christ, and it is infinitely more harmful than a physical fall. Spiritually, a fall occurs when we’ve veered too far from the path we were destined by God to travel. It’s when mistakes, missteps, and hiccups in life come one right after the other, and many of us don’t recognize the internal misalignment and disharmony they are pointing to.
A literal fall is often a wakeup call that we’re moving too fast; we need to slow down and think about what we’re doing. We may even need to make a change. Most people don’t recognize this, and it is because they don’t see that there’s a reason for everything, and for everything the reason is spiritual. We can’t put anything in life in a separate compartment and exclude it from having a spiritual reality. Again, everything, from the smallest to the greatest, is spiritual. If we don’t wake up and smell the coffee, we might fall several times before we recognize that our stumbling is because we haven’t taken steps in the right direction.
Sometimes a wrong action can accelerate our speed towards something detrimental, and this causes our lives to spiral out of control. Sinful and negative thoughts and behaviors over a long period of time also have the potential to cause both a physical and a spiritual fall. Again, it’s a wakeup call to return to the right path. And we can’t behave as if we’re oblivious. Many of us know the difference between right and wrong. We learned it from our parents, faith community, and even our teachers in school, but as we become adults, some of us abandon what we know to be right. We think we can be independent from God, and we think our way is right for us.
Proverbs 14:12 (NLT) tells us, “There is a path before each person that seems right, but it ends in death.” Many of us are moving so fast or we’re so into our routines that we can’t see that internally, we’ve changed lanes. The remedy for this is to go to the Father through the Lord Jesus Christ.
Heavenly Father tells us in James 4:6-7(NKJV) “6 But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: “God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.” 7 Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” We must heed God’s warning and instruction in James 4:6-7, so that the devil doesn’t continue to trip us up! We must not let arrogance cancel the humility that is needed to seek God in all things. We can’t have an attitude that if it looks right, then it must be right! Only God knows the true nature of a thing, and we should seek His guidance and ask for His wisdom in our decisions and choices.
Many of us deny God this level of involvement in our lives because we’re arrogant and we think we can do this thing called ‘life’ on our own. We can’t. God’s wisdom in Proverbs 16:18 tells us that pride and arrogance go before a person’s fall. In other words, a fall is guaranteed if we’re so prideful we can’t or won’t see the Lord’s correction or direction. If it appears that you are stumbling and unsteady in life, consider that you may be moving too fast. You may be heading in the wrong direction spiritually, but you can get back on track if you humble yourself before God, make a greater commitment to the example of Christ, and allow Him to direct your path.■
In Matthew 6:33(NLT), Jesus Christ said, “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.” This is a commandment of our Lord, and every believer must seek God’s Kingdom first to become all that He wants us to be. All we have to do is look around at the condition of the world, and it shows us the results of not putting God first. Many people have turned their backs on God, but He is not punishing us. 1John 1:5(NLT) tells us, “This is the message we heard from Jesus and now declare to you: God is light, and there is no darkness in him at all.” Punishment is darkness, and God is all light. There is so much chaos and confusion in the world because the consequences of not caring for one another and not being good stewards of God’s blessings has caught up with us on a large scale. It demonstrates the degree to which we’ve neglected our Creator and neglected to do what we were placed on this earth to do.
Heavenly Father has been extremely patient with us, but we are approaching a time when we will have to make a choice. Either we are going to believe His Word and chose His love, or we are going to face the consequences of a very wrong choice. Jesus Christ said in Matthew 6:24 that we cannot serve two masters; we will either hate the one and love the other, or we will be devoted to the one and despise the other, but we cannot serve both. We are not built to do this. We are created in the image of our Heavenly Father, and our purpose is to walk in partnership with Him throughout our lives. Even with all the craziness in the world, we can still choose God and His love through the Lord Jesus Christ. This is what God wants for every person. He wants to be a Father to us all, and He wants to guide, protect, and walk with each of us every day.
Psalm 91:1(NLT) says, “Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty.” This verse conveys the closeness we can have with God. To live in His shelter is to stay in the comfort of His presence and to rest there, protected from all the cares of the world. He invites us to do this, but resting there will require us to strip away the things that take us out of His peace. Isaiah 26:3(NLT) tells us, “You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!” God requires that we take our minds and hearts out of the world, and give them to Him, because only He can bring rest to us and anyone else that desires it.
There are so many distractions in the world, and to fix our thoughts will require a great effort. Through the Apostle Paul, Heavenly Father tells us in Philippians 4:6-7(NLT), “6 Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. 7 Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” We can see from His Word that God requires our faith in Him. Worry indicates that we have doubt, and He tells us not to do it. And not only does He tell us what not to doubt, He tells us what to do instead. We are to PRAY about everything!
As followers of the Lord Jesus Christ, we must develop a habit pattern of prayer. We should have an intimate dialogue with Heavenly Father. Some people think that they have to make themselves perfect before they can pray to God. He does not require this, because we don’t have the ability to make ourselves perfect. Heavenly Father perfects us in Jesus Christ as we surrender and yield to Him. He does the work. All we need to do is give ourselves over to Him in prayer.
Prayer is not a one-way street. It is a dialogue where we talk to God, He listens, and He talks to us, and we should listen. Our listening requires us to be still in His presence. It is a spiritual communication where it’s not just talk, but transformation is taking place. He’s working some things out inside us. He’s strengthening our inner man, and we can be confident that He’s performing a good work in us. Philippians 2:13(NLT) affirms, “for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.”
One of the ways that we keep God first is to begin each day in prayer, to give our days over to the Lord when we awaken each morning. Jesus Christ did this, and we should follow his pattern. God tells us in Jeremiah 29:11(NLT), “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the LORD. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” God is the One with the plan. He knows how to maximize our days and lives, and He also knows exactly what we ought to be doing in order to become the men and women He’s destined us to be. Jesus prayed in the wee hours of the morning that God would take over his day and that he would be led by God’s Spirit. This is the kind of partnership God desires, and we will do ourselves the greatest good by obliging Him.
Brother Adam and Sister Eve got it into their heads that they could operate and manage life without the Father’s help. Boy, did they get that one wrong. It was a disaster for them, and it will turn into a disaster for us if we choose the same path. We desperately need God’s help, and He is oh so willing to give it. We should accept it. He’s our Creator, and He never intended for us to journey through life without totally leaning on Him.
God must be first because that is who God is! He’s first! He said in Revelation 21:6(NLT), “It is finished! I am the Alpha and the Omega—the Beginning and the End. To all who are thirsty I will give freely from the springs of the water of life.” God is first in every way, and we must align our thinking with the reality of His truth. Keeping God first requires us to develop a habit pattern of spending quality and quiet time with Him. We will see such a difference in our lives if we do this. It will be the highlight of our days. We must always remember that God’s number one desire is to bless us. We remain in His blessings by seeking Him first in our decisions and choices and following His lead through the example of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. This is how we make sure that we’re giving God the number one spot in our lives, and most importantly, keeping Him first in our hearts. ■
Everyone has a different definition for happiness, and for everyone, happiness is achieved in different ways by different things. There can be no doubt that we all desire it, and the quest for it is what drives many of our ambitions, but happiness is not the door to life. It’s not even a key. For many this is a tough pill to swallow. We’ve placed so much emphasis on feelings and on making ourselves happy with external things that we’ve forgotten happiness is an inside job. It’s a state of mind, which means it’s too subjective to be a foundation for life. What does this mean for our quest? Well, one of the things it means is that we need put on our trusty googles, hone our exploration tools, and get ready to search a little deeper. We may have to alter our strategy for happiness, and if we’ve not had one before, we may have to build it.
The whole reason that we exist is to have a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is our Big Brother. Romans 8:29(NLT) says, “For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.” Long before we entered our mother’s wombs, God knew us. We are not surprises to Him. He chose us to be His kids, and He wants us to model our lives after His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ. We are the brothers and sisters that Jesus Christ wanted, and we should consider this incredible, over the top good news!
God is not redundant. He doesn’t make mistakes. He never has to do a take-back or a do-over. Everything He does ends up achieving the purpose for which He created it. Heavenly Father had a plan for bringing us into His family, and there are absolutely no holes in His plan. When we give our lives to Him through Jesus Christ, a supernatural birth takes place, and we receive His seed. This seed is God’s Holy Spirit. Romans 8:15(NLT) tells us, “So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, “Abba, Father.”” Through Christ, Heavenly Father adopted us into His family, and now we call Him, “DAD!” It’s the equivalent of the term “Abba Father” that is used in Romans 8:15. It’s a term of endearment and conveys intimacy in the relationship. This is exactly what God wants with each of us, an intimate relationship.
Again, God chose us, which means that everything about us can potentially come together in such a way that we achieve His purpose for our existence. We are wired for this! Whether we realize it or not, God’s purpose is in our DNA! He predesigned and fashioned us to be in the same mold and image as His Son. And through the example of Jesus Christ, we have a pattern for walking in relationship with God every day. The life and example of Jesus Christ is the route to true happiness. He’s the foundation upon which our lives must be built, and but many of us don’t see it this way.
When I was a teenager and started my first foray into baking, I decided to make my mother a homemade German Chocolate cake for her birthday on my own. In my family, baking was more than a casual pastime. It was serious business and all the women in my family could throw down. The pressure was on, and I spent weeks imagining the “pleased as punch” look on my mother’s face once she’d tasted my prize-winning cake. I’d have a space right next to the matriarchs whose baking prowess I did my best to match. Well, instead of a ½ teaspoon of salt and ½ cup of water, guess what I did? You guessed it! Somehow, I got turned around and added a ½ cup of salt instead of the ½ teaspoon the recipe called for.
As an adult looking back on my baking disaster, I can’t help but laugh. I’ve redeemed myself, and my mother was very kind-hearted and forgiving of my mistake back then, but the lesson was clear. The right ingredients are necessary for the sweetness of the cake. Likewise, no matter what strategy we concoct for happiness in life, the right ingredients are needed to make it sweet. We are created spiritual beings, and we were designed to operate through love. The way that we operate optimally is to remain connected to the Source of love. His love is our fuel. It makes the cake sweet.
Our souls have a voice, and they have a memory that is deeper than our conscious minds can fathom. Our souls remember Romans 8:29, that God knew us before we came to the earth, and that we are the brothers and sisters of Christ. In our search for happiness, many of us look everywhere but to the One who can give it. From people, to relationships and material things, we try to receive a soul satisfaction from all those things, but it can only come from our relationship with God through His Son, Jesus Christ. Romans 8:16(NIV) tells us, “The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.” This is the internal communication we desperately need. Spirit to spirit communion is what we truly crave, and through Christ, God so freely offers this tremendous gift. It’s the key piece to the strategy of happiness, and we simply can’t be happy without it. ■
Isaiah 40:29(NLT) “He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless.”
“I’m to blame. It’s all my fault. My life is a mess!” This is what we say to ourselves sometimes. It’s negative self-talk. We need to let it go, so we can forgive ourselves and be healed through Jesus Christ!
Admittedly, running away is not always the best answer, but sometimes it is the only solution that will keep you and your family safe. For me personally, getting away from an abusive husband was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to tackle. I didn’t think I had the strength to do it, and I had no clue how I’d make it; but I don’t regret for one second my decision to run away from darkness. It’s the advice I would give any person facing domestic violence and abuse, to run towards the light and never look back.
I don’t proclaim to know it all, but I do know that God never meant for any of His children to be subjected to pain and abuse on any level. He tells us in 1Corinthians 13:4-5(NLT), “Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged.” It’s wonderful that our Heavenly Father has placed this wisdom in His Word for us. Loving others with a Christ-kind of love is God’s goal for every person, because this is a love that is real and true. We don’t have to speculate as to how a Godkind of love should operate. We have the definitive Word on the subject from our Heavenly Father.
1John 4:8 tells us that anyone that doesn’t love does not know God, because He is love. God doesn’t punish us. He’s loving, kind, and gentle. That’s His nature, and because we are His children, this should be our nature as well. 1John 1:5(NLT) tells us, “This is the message we heard from Jesus and now declare to you: God is light, and there is no darkness in him at all.”Our God is light, and we can run into His loving arms. He will rescue and protect us because He tells us in Isaiah 40:29 that He will give power to those that are weak, and He will give strength to those that are powerless. This includes every person on the planet, because whether we want to admit it or not, we are all weak and powerless to some degree, and we desperately need His help. He is so gracious and merciful, and He is willing to help us.
Those who want to control us also want to steal our power. They want us to continue feeling low and powerless, but we don’t have to succumb to this. Instead, we must put our trust and faith in God. We want so desperately to believe that the person that confesses to love us will not continue to hurt us. We go back to them time and time again, but we need to wake up and stop taking the abuser’s word over God’s Word. No one can love and protect us like Heavenly Father, and He deserves our trust, and He never fails.
No matter how you slice it, abuse is not love. It is a way for the devil to steal your power by using someone close to you. Instead of giving your power to the enemy, use your strength to get to a safe place emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and physically, so you can do what is best for you and for those who lean on you for support. Run towards the light of God’s love and power, and never look back. ■
The Bible is a spiritual book for God’s spiritual people. If a person doesn’t believe that everything is spiritual and that they are spiritual beings, they probably won’t be too interested in hearing what God says. They either will concoct their own theories about life and living or adopt the philosophies of others. The path that many have chosen is to place their intelligence in the forefront and to try to neglect, undermine, or contradict the unmatched intelligence of our Creator. He tells us in Isaiah 55:8-9(NLT), “8 My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the LORD. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. 9 For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.” Heavenly Father’s thoughts are exponentially higher than ours, and we can be so easily deceived into thinking our way is right, when it is completely opposite of the mind of Christ. It’s important that we confront this, because in order to have God’s peace, joy, love, and power, we must allow for the reality that we may need to change the way we think.
Folks are complaining like never before. They are upset with people they feel have done them wrong, they’re upset with the systems of the world, and truth be told, they are upset with themselves. Nothing is meeting their expectations, and they want to put the blame on God, when they haven’t done as God has commanded. Heavenly Father tells us in Romans 12:2(NLT), “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” Learning God’s Will for our lives is the key that opens the door to love, light, and all the other good stuff that He’s made available to us through Jesus Christ.
The choice to change the way we think is ever before us. God didn’t create us to be robots that followed His every command automatically. If that is what He had wanted, He would have created us to be just that. Our Heavenly Father wanted a family, and He created us in His image. Genesis 1:27(NLT) says, “So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” God created us to be self-governing, like Him. We decide who we’re going to serve and what we’re going to do, but make no mistake, our identity has already been established by God. No matter our choices, we are spiritual beings having an earthly experience, and earth is very definitely a temporary sojourn.
While we’re here, serving one another is integral to our purpose, and we’re to achieve this purpose in the unity, love, and compassion of Jesus Christ. This is “Faith Basics-101”. Living out our purpose in service to God and in service to His people is “God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” This is the path He has set for all His children. God’s kids are supposed to operate this way, because serving others is the way HE operates. Jesus Christ demonstrated this in his life, ministry, and sacrifice. His example leads the way to the Father and lays the path of our destinies before us.
Jesus said in John 14:6(NLT), “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.” I am completely and utterly over the moon with what Jesus Christ said in John 14:6. My biological father had issues—serious ones. He was a poor example of how a father should behave, and he did not model love, compassion, and generosity before mine and my sibling’s eyes. His addictions got in the way of him behaving as a good father should, but I can tell you very straightforwardly that if anyone had tried to come against my father in any way, I would have tried my best to make sure they never tried it again. I would have done my best to protect him, even as a child. If I felt this way about a poor example of a father, imagine how Jesus feels about an excellent One. God doesn’t need protection, but He demands holiness. It’s what He deserves. Anything glorious deserves glory, and there is none more glorious and holy than the One True God.
Through Jesus Christ, we are made righteous, we are made fit to stand before God with no sense of guilt, sin, or condemnation. Jesus accomplished this for us on the cross, and his way is the only way to connect to the Source of all good things. Romans 8:29(NLT) says, “For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.” We were created to be God’s children, and Jesus Christ has perfectly modeled for us what God’s kids should do—how we should behave, think, and govern ourselves in this world. As our Big Brother, Jesus Christ desires to guide each of us in a way that we become what we were always meant to be. This is our destiny. It wasn’t, nor could it be, determined by us. God knew us in advance, and He has already chosen us to be like our Big Brother, because our Big Brother embodies all that God is in human form.
If I tried to mow my lawn with a vacuum cleaner, I will probably be dissatisfied with the results. The same can be said when we try to live our lives outside of the purpose for which they were created. We are dissatisfied with the results. We were never intended to live disconnected from the Source of all life. We are spiritual beings having an earth experience, and the key to maximizing life is to lead it through God’s love. Most of us have our own ideas about how to accomplish this, but God warns us not to leave it to speculation.
We must not let the worries and enticement of the world choke the Word out of our minds and hearts. Ephesians 4:21-24(NLT) tells us, “Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from him, 22throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. 23Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. 24Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy.” Our responsibility is to be transformed by the renewing of our minds, to change the way we think so that we walk in God’s love and align ourselves with our purpose for being on this earth. This is the way to live a life filled with love, light, and all the other good stuff that comes from above.■
I met a very successful investment banker that is also a very faithful member of his church. Not long ago, I had a conversation with this man, and he was not exactly what I would call pleasant. I was shocked by this. Understandably, his demeanor was in part shaped and molded by years of being a consummate and confident professional, and no doubt that in some instances he was very much catered to, but I thought the example of Christ should have been more apparent in his manner. My expectation was that some element of the deep compassion, understanding, and grace of our Lord and Savior would squeak through his unfriendly exterior. Ahh, that didn’t happen. Even a casual conversation didn’t escape his condescending tone, and he claims to have been in the faith a mighty long time. What happened?
In contrast to this man’s stern exterior, I have met people that love Christ so much that his essence just oozes from their pores. They make you wonder how such beautiful people can remain that way in this harsh and cruel world. I love the Lord with all that is within me, but honey, there are some things that, if you rub me the wrong way, it’s a struggle. I have to bite my tongue and perform all kinds of internal contortions to keep myself from ripping someone to shreds with my words. Oh yeah, I can do that. It’s one of the skills you pick up from all that repressed anger resulting from domestic violence and abuse.
I’ve learned the hard way that we really must practice the spiritual and intelligent discipline of pausing to think before we speak. Our words are creative. They form a framework for our futures. God’s Word puts it this way in Proverbs 18:21(KJV), “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.” Our words are constantly and consistently giving birth to the big three Cs, consequences, conditions, and circumstances. Most of us are in the habit of putting all kinds of stuff out there without giving any thought of how that stuff will come back to us. The truth is that everything we bring forth in the form of thoughts, words, and deeds is a representation of who we are. God designed life to be a mirror. It is always going to reflect our thoughts, words, and deeds back at us.
1John 4:16(NLT) says, “We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love. God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them.” This is a beautiful verse indeed. We could attempt to explore its width and depth ten million years, and still not reach the end of its truth. Heavenly Father is not mean or angry. When He looks at Himself, love is reflected back at Him. Perfection is His reflection; therefore, He is deliriously happy within Himself, His Son, and His Holy Spirit. All the good stuff—every happiness, every blessing, every power, and every ounce of love is contained within God. With open arms, He invites us to come into Him through Christ. Our invitation isn’t merely to have a seat at His table, it is to share sonship through our Lord, Savior, and Big Brother, Jesus Christ.
The passage of Psalm 91:1-4(NLT) says, “1 Those who live in the shelter of the Most Highwill find rest in the shadow of the Almighty. 2 This I declare about the LORD: He alone is my refuge, my place of safety; he is my God, and I trust him. 3 For he will rescue you from every trap and protect you from deadly disease. 4 He will cover you with his feathers. He will shelter you with his wings. His faithful promises are your armor and protection.” Inside God’s love, there’s blessings and intimacy with Him. Traveling outside the lane of God’s love, there’s confusion, darkness, and chaos. It can make us very bitter, and this bitterness leads to yucky stuff like resenting, disrespecting, and treating others poorly. We are often surprised by how this stuff comes back to us, but we shouldn’t be. Even some who say they believe in the Lord Jesus Christ are still traveling in the wrong lane. The banker seemed to be in that wrong lane. He felt comfortable only giving himself over to the franchise of money, but not to the total surrender that God requires.
It doesn’t matter how much money we have in the bank, if demonstrating God’s love through the example of Christ in the greatest way possible isn’t our goal, we’re lost, and the temporary pleasures on earth are the only ones we’ll have. God has something infinitely better in mind for our lives.
God’s love is the creative force behind everything good and lasting. Love does its most perfect work when we think, speak, feel, and live God’s love. His love prepares us! It makes us fit into the glorious plans He has for us, not just for this life, but for eternity. Hebrews 5:9(NLT) tells us, “And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him.” Jesus Christ is perfect, and he became for us the source of eternality. He’s given us the gift of salvation, and with this is the gift of being with Heavenly Father in Christ forever. Those who cling to money and worldly pleasures also base the root of their identity in the pursuit of those things. For them, eternity is not viewed in the glory of its light; it is just another acquisition. But for those who walk in the Spirit, eternity represents a never-ending expansion in which they become in Christ all they were meant by God to be from the very beginning. It is the joy of leaving an everlasting legacy of love that continues creating out of God’s love for an eternity. This is what happens when we make the moment by moment choice to speak, think, act, and move through God’s love. What could be better than this?!■
A few years ago, a few of my friends went ‘vision board’ crazy, and some of them were over the moon when the goal listed on their boards became a reality. We were all inspired by their success, but one friend in particular was very impacted by everyone’s enthusiasm and success. She’s much younger and has a special place in my heart because her childhood was very similar to my own. Issues resulting from low self-esteem and childhood trauma had caused her to feel as though life would never deal her a fair hand. After breaking up with her last boyfriend and wondering if she would ever get married and have a happily ever after, she decided to give this vision board idea a try. She hoped it would have a positive impact on her life.
In the Old Testament times, God would speak through a few chosen individuals that were spiritually attentive enough to hear His voice. These were God’s prophets, His truth speakers and truth seekers. They were responsible for delivering the Word of the Lord to the people of God, so that everyone could remain blessed according to God’s Will. There were three extremely important pieces that had to fit together for this to happen. The first is that people had to believe that God exists and that He speaks. Secondly, they had to believe that the prophet could hear from God, and thirdly, they had to believe that the word spoken was a true and sure Word.
Faith doesn’t get down with any finicking, wishy-washy business. It’s a tool in God’s mastery kit, and He designed it to only respond when the truth is heard and obeyed. Studying God’s Word, it’s clear that many of the prophets of the Old Testament were chopping at the bits to hear from Heavenly Father, and this is a huge lesson in spiritual maturity and development for those of us living today. The prophets understood the enormous value of receiving a Word from heaven, and that nothing in all eternity could challenge or prevent it from going forth.
This is often the missing piece in the way that we think today. We are motivated chiefly by what we want to happen or the blessings we want to receive, and we expect it to take place on the double. Before, or even without knowing whether it’s in God’s plan for our lives, we get busy pursuing what we want and expect it all to take place without receiving a true and sure Word from Him.
‘Jesus, take the wheel’ has become a popular catch phase, and many use it with no idea of its heft. Jesus owns the wheel! Through his grace, he indulges our indifference to this truth. You and I don’t own anything. Everything we have is a loaner from the Almighty. Colossians 1:15-17(NLT) tells us, “15 Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation, 16 for through him God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth. He made the things we can see and the things we can’t see—such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world. Everything was created through him and for him. 17 He existed before anything else, and he holds all creation together.” The grace of God is nothing short of amazing, because even our very lives belong to God. Our bodies are His temple, but most people behave as if this isn’t true, and yet, He still loves us and wants us to love Him back.
Habakkuk was God’s prophet, and after praying to receive a Word from God, the Lord answered him in Habakkuk 2:2(NKJV) and said, “Write the vision And make it plain on tablets, that he may run who reads it.” Our God answers our questions. The answers may not always be what we expect, but He will always answer our questions in a way that reveals His Will for our individual lives. Proverbs 3:5-6 tells us to trust in the Lord with all our hearts, and don’t lean on our own understanding. We’re to acknowledge Him in all our ways, and when we do this, He promises to direct our paths.
Some of us have this a little backwards. We think we’re supposed to guide, and then tell God to follow along, doling out His resources and power for our plans. This is what my dear sweet friend thought when she set up her vision board for marriage and career goals. Not having a clear understanding that GOD is the ONE who sets the vision has led many down the path of disappointment. Many worry that He might not speak to them, or that they won’t be able to recognize His voice or discern His directives. The reality is that learning to hear His voice and learning to discern His directives is what gives our lives meaning and fulfillment; and walking the path He’s set before us is what makes life sweet. The gift of the Holy Spirit is our perfect teacher! He has no problems whatsoever teaching us to hear and discern. Our job is to be obedient and make sure we learn the lessons well.
The process of creating a vision board requires a clear vision of the goal. God knows our past, present, and future; therefore, clarity from Him regarding His vision ensures that we’ve got the right goal, so we can then have confidence and faith that it’s achievable AND pleasing to God. A vision board also uses more pictures than words, and the words should be concise and impactful. This is where truth comes in. The pictures we need are those that come from the mind of Christ. John 16:13(NLT) tells us, “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own but will tell you what he has heard. He will tell you about the future.” This is precisely the information we need to be concise, and only the Spirit of the Living God can provide it.
Rest assured that dreams come true and goals are reached when we allow Jesus Christ to take the wheel. He knows God’s plans for our lives and the purpose for which we exist. If our aim is to truly follow the call of destiny and reach the greatest level of fulfillment God has destined us to achieve, best to let Him lead the way. He’ll give us the vision for our lives, and it will not disappoint. It’s up to us to write it down, be concerned about making it clear and concise, and follow wherever Jesus Christ leads us.■
A person said to me that she couldn’t understand why salvation through Jesus Christ is necessary. She finds the bible confusing and very troubling in some areas, and one of her greatest areas of confusion is consequences and why we must face them if God’s forgiveness is granted. She has heard teachers and preachers say that the world is being punished by God with the pandemic. She is alarmed by what she sees and said, “How can a loving God do this to people?” I’ve been on the Christian journey a long time, and I’m no stranger to questions like these. We live in a world where people see the most horrible things imaginable. They blame these dark deeds on God, even refer to them as “acts of God”, and they attribute the wonderful blessings of life to themselves or the devil. 1John 1:5 declares that God is light, and there’s no darkness in Him at all. This is the truth! We’d give ourselves the greatest gift of eternity if we’d accept that God’s Word is true, that He cannot fail, and if we trust Him, He will prove His Word to us in an undeniable way.
From the very beginning of His Word, in Genesis 1, God shows us a little bit about His process of creation. This is an oversimplification of course, but in a nutshell, 1) He spoke; 2) everything cooperated, converged, and complied; then 3) everything came into being in response to His sovereign authority, glory, power and majesty. It couldn’t happen any other way. When God speaks, we have the definitive and final authority on any subject. God also spoke us into being. He created humans to be like Him and gave us free-will agency to make our own choices. Like Him, we are self-governing when it comes to how we want to live our lives. We can live them according to the example of Jesus Christ, which was always God’s plan, or we can try to come up with our own code of standards, and live as we please. Some who do this are very sincere, but sincerity is no guarantee for truth.
In Genesis, we see that God is very specific and leaves nothing to chance. That’s just the way He gets down. For instance, He didn’t create frogs to have baby elephants, or bears to have baby giraffes. Everything produces after its own kind. That’s order! Another important pattern is the order in which He went about creating. It was very systematic and intelligent. He didn’t create Adam first and then create everything around the first man. No. He created everything humans would need for habitation, and then He created Adam. The understanding that God wanted us to enter into His rest and provision could not be compromised in any way. He is a God of order, and wherever there is order, there are laws. Therefore, there will always be a price for violating the law.
God told Adam and Eve not to eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. This was His Word. It was law. He said, “Don’t do it!” and that’s exactly what He meant. Then comes the slick and dastardly evil one, who wanted to steal the dominion and authority that God had given to Adam and Eve. Jesus Christ told us in John 10:10 that the devil is in the earth to steal, kill, and destroy. It’s amazing how people will believe in many of the other truths in God’s Word, but they have a problem dealing with what Jesus said in John 10:10. All we need to do is look around at the chaos and confusion in the world today. It is the devil’s handiwork, and he has blinded people so much that they try to label what God says is wrong as right, and what God says is right as wrong.
We have crafted many of the judicial systems on earth following the pattern of God’s laws. In most of them, if you violate the law, you lose all the privileges that come with being a free citizen. That’s what happened to Brother Adam and Sister Eve. They were in paradise spiritually, because they were holy and had spiritual perfection in their relationship and fellowship with God. This allowed them to be in a physical paradise in the Garden of Eden as well. They were in bliss, but they gave it up because they chose to be separated from the sovereignty of God.
They were tricked by the devil into disobeying God’s commandment which forbid them from eating of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. They disobeyed God’s law and lost all the privileges of being a free citizen in the beautiful paradise God created for them both spiritually and physically—on this earth. Notice that God didn’t come down and slap that apple out of Eve’s hand. Heavenly Father didn’t prevent her and Adam from making a bad choice any more than He will prevent us from making them. We are free to choose who we are going to be. The problem is that humans didn’t stop making bad choices after the first couple messed up but continued to sin and do things that were outside of who God has created us to be.
People have thought throughout history that creating more laws was the way the go, that the more laws we had, the better we would become. Instead, the exact opposite was true. The more laws we had, the more we used them to sin even more. We needed to be saved from ourselves and rescued from darkness. So, God sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to accomplish the work that we could not do for ourselves. Through Jesus Christ, God orchestrated redemption’s plan. He redeemed us from the dreadful curse of the law.
God is a Righteous Judge, more righteous than any of us can fathom. He is not flexible to our whims. He said in Jeremiah 17:10(NLT), “But I, the LORD, search all hearts and examine secret motives. I give all people their due rewards, according to what their actions deserve.” Many people have lost faith in the judicial systems in governments and countries. They are ruled in some cases by people that have tremendous power but are corrupt. Because of their corruption, they administer a kind of justice that serves their political, personal, and financial gain. God can never fail. He is perfect in every way, and therefore, He can never be accused of administering justice that isn’t perfect, righteous, and fair. Everyday the sun shines on every living person. Every day, whether we are motivated by good or evil, we breathe air and enjoy a beauty that isn’t possible for us to create or reproduce. God sends the rain to water crops, and the rain doesn’t distinguish which crops enjoy its nourishment. This shows us the goodness of God.
God’s Word tells us in 1John 4:18(NLT), “Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love.” God is not punishing us. We are punishing ourselves, and many are too arrogant to see this. Fear is the opposite of faith. Jesus Christ said in Matthew 6:24 that we can’t serve two masters. We can’t have fear and faith at the same time. There are some very evil people that are possessed by satan to do some very evil things, and unfortunately, there are more of them than there are of those that love God and desire to please Him through Christ. Many of those counted on by millions to make sound judgments and good decisions do not, but God will never abandon those that love Him and are called according to His purpose. Psalm 34:10(NLT) says, “Even strong young lions sometimes go hungry, but those who trust in the LORD will lack no good thing.” God will not fail us, but we must trust in His Word!
Galatians 6:7 tells us that God is not deceived when we pretend to be something we’re not. He’s not fooled when we say we love Him but refuse to obey His Word. He tells us that the harvest will always reveal the true motive and identity of the seed. In other words, the consequence will reveal the true motive and identity of the action. That’s a big chunk of meat to swallow but swallow it we must if we want to live by God’s truth. For every action, there is a re-action. Every choice we make has a consequence. God forgives our sin, but just as a good parent desires their child to make good choices, God desires the same for us. When we don’t, we shouldn’t blame Him, but humble ourselves to seek His forgiveness and ask Him to help us right our wrongs. If everyone did this, the world would be a much different place.■
One of the worse noises in life is the sound of a human body being repeatedly thrown against a hard surface. Words can’t describe how disturbing this noise is, and when you grow up hearing it frequently, it becomes an expected and terrifying alarm. Nighttime is not sweet dreams, bedtime stories, and lullabies. Instead, you’re constantly on alert, never sleeping soundly and always primed for the abuse of verbal attacks. Some sense of relief came if it were just the verbal abuse, but even then, I had to be ready to step in the middle of a physical battle at a moment’s notice. Now far removed from the threatening circumstances of that abusive reality, the remnants of the trauma are still with me. They are ongoing reminders to guard my heart and renew my mind to God’s peace. Through the Lord’s grace, I do all that I can to protect the serenity and calmness He has taught me, but honestly, it has taken me a very long time to give “no” it’s rightful place in my life.
“NO!” can save a life or help to preserve one. It’s serious business, and this is by no means a lesson on the right time to say it. That is solely left to an individual to decide for themselves and use their judgment about what is or isn’t an eminent threat of danger. What this is, however, is my account and what I believe to be the scriptural and spiritual foundation that anchors my courage and confidence to say “no” even today. Many people that have lived in abusive homes grow up believing they have no right or authority to say “no” to abuse and expect it to stick. They accept whatever comes their way, and their judgment has not been vetted through the scrutiny of self-worth. That was certainly my experience.
Ephesians 6:12(NLT) says, “For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.” When I learned about this verse in my teen years, it was literally a game changer for me. In general, I’m motivated in life by the truth of spiritual knowledge. It is my greatest hunger, and I subscribe wholeheartedly to the reality that the right knowledge will position any person to exercise power.
As a teen, I didn’t understand why the person that had caused so much pain didn’t regard me as someone they were forbidden to hurt? Why was my childhood prematurely chiseled away? The answer to these questions lies in the spiritual realm, not in the natural realm. Everything that we see with our physical eyes is temporary, and everything we see was made of things we can’t see. Hebrews 11:3(NLT) tells us, “Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.” I had battled a physical enemy for many years, and even though I grew in physical strength as I aged, my physical strength was no match for his. But spiritually, this was not the case.
As I gained spiritual knowledge, I also gained spiritual strength. Boy did this make the devil mad, because I had exposed the lie that he wanted me to believe—the lie that I was powerless and had to continue being his punching bag. My faith in Christ unleashed God’s power in my life, and he began to do some amazing things. I had always been terrified to talk back, but the Spirit of Christ within me gave me a boldness I had never known. The truth had given me understanding, and my spiritual eyes were open. I realized that I was not fighting against a flesh and blood enemy, but the evil at work within him.
We are often tempted to take full credit for miraculous demonstrations of courage, but I am not tempted at all by that notion. On the day that I said “NO!” I was as desperate for answers and rescue as I had always been. It could have gone in a completely different direction were it not for my faith in the power of Jesus Christ. I witnessed it with my own two eyes, the person that had been my oppressor for years was muzzled and bound by a chain and restraint invisible to human eyes. He could not move against me, and although I couldn’t see the force that held him, I felt it in every way.
It amazes me even till this day, but I am under no illusions about what happened. A person cannot rise above what they don’t know or haven’t been taught. I sought the Lord, spent hours in prayer, and made Him the center of my existence. I believed 2Corinthians 3:17, “Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.” I accepted His liberty with all that was in me, and He backed my “NO!” I believe He will do this for anyone that dares to trust wholeheartedly in His awesome love and power.■