Take Up Your Cross, And Smile

I’ve been meditating on and praying through the “refresh” verse of the day meditation and prayer on the YouVersion Bible App each morning. Today went into following Jesus, which led my thoughts to “take up your cross daily.”

Usually in taking up the cross, most I know – including me – talk about taking our sin / sin nature up, or our sickness or whatever malady plagues us and hinders us: bearing up under it and pressing on despite it. Even just thinking about that is hard and heavy. So I asked God about that, and He brought to me a new understanding.

Jesus bore the hard and heavy of our sin, paying the penalty once and for all. He took that sin and shame to the depths of hell and left it there along with sin’s death. He now gives us freedom from it as a gift. All we need to do is receive it. We have no need to keep bearing that which is removed far from us in Christ. We need to take up our freedom in Christ and walk in it.

Jesus also bore our stripes for sin and sickness. By His stripes, we are healed. We don’t have to take that up and carry it. He bore that for us. And He helps us bear it now while we walk to full healing, whether that healing comes in this life or the next. Our health may prove a challenge, bringing opportunity to trust God and see all He will do in the midst of our struggle, but it can’t stop God’s purpose in us. There is always a way to serve and shine for Him when we seek His heart in every opportune moment.

Jesus also tells us that we should yoke ourselves with Him. Like Simon of Cyrene, Jesus is there to help bear our cross, but He does so willingly, not because He is required to by some enemy force. He says, “My yoke is wholesome (useful, good–not harsh, hard, sharp, or pressing, but comfortable, gracious, and pleasant), and My burden is light and easy to be borne.” (Matthew 11:30 AMPC)

As I think on that, I realize the view God has of the cross Jesus bore. That cross was not the sin and shame, sickness and death we look at. God sees freedom for His children. He sees the humility, selflessness, and obedient heart of Christ, which now lives in us. He sees mercy made new every morning, compassion that fails not, forgiveness made free and clear. He sees a willing heart made ready for God’s will. He sees Life, abundant and full.

Our cross to bear up under is yoked with Christ. It is freedom from sin and shame, sickness and death. It is one of willing surrender to the will of God, knowing that all He calls us to, He helps, provides for, and empowers us to do. It’s a cross set to please Him, honor Him, glorify Him. It’s a cross of eternal purpose that displays grace, mercy, forgiveness, love, selflessness, courage, strength, joy, contentment, assurance, power, and more.

The cross God left His children to take up daily and bear for all the world to see is light, easy, and an honor to His holy name. It has nothing to do with our physical strength, health, or struggles in this life. Those are simply opportunities to shine His Light and experience His power made perfect in us. Our cross has everything to do with our eternal perspective and assurance; with love for God and others that does hard things made easier in Christ.

Nothing can keep us back and hold us down when our heart is set on the eternal perspective of God’s purpose, plan, and provision. We experience God as we daily take up the heart of God, the mind of Christ, and the eternal perspective of a Life made new and easy in Him. By the understanding that God will complete and fulfill His purpose through our willing surrender, we partner in the cause of Christ to carry out our ministry to the glory of His name.

Two Plates

I was praying about this day and the need to get things done. As I did, I told the Lord how weird I feel. I see a plate before me piled so high with things I need to do and get off my plate, but I can’t find focus there to get anything done. My focus is on a second plate that is empty and peaceful. Both plates beacon my attention and seem important.

As I pray, a flash of understanding hits my mind and excites my heart as The Father sets one thing on the empty plate in my mind. He tells my heart, “You don’t have to worry about the plate piled high. Just trust Me to serve you one thing at a time in due season. Together WE will empty both plates.”

Morning Prayer: 1/22/2023

“Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe; for our God is a consuming fire.” – Hebrews 12:28-29

Thank You, Father, that I get to represent You and Our Kingdom in this life. Thank You for calling and equipping me. Fill me, Father, with the power of Your presence and with a grateful heart that serves You well. And thank You for highlighting this: that my service to You be aflame with true reverence and awe in You as I serve in the honor given me: that You choose me for the work You place in my path. Those frustrating people You give me to love in Your name from a grateful heart of reverence and awe in You as You flow through me to help them. Let true reverence and awe for You empower my patient love in those moments. That hard task You grace me to do with joy in the Lord and a life song that glorifies You. Thank You, Father. Let Your fire burn in me as grateful awe and reverent love.

Suicide: The “Why” and “What Now” – Part 3 of 3

The Ministry of Comfort

There are six examples of suicide in scripture. We’ve looked at two of them. Through these six, we see the heart behind the cause of the choice: fear, anger, depression-oppression, pride, shame, a sense of failure, helplessness, hopelessness, extreme remorse, condemnation, guilt, and the list goes on. (Samuel 31:3-6, 1 Kings 16:18-19, Matthew 27:3-5 ) We even see in scripture example of the telltale signs of one planning to take their own life, as Ahithophel set his house in order before hanging himself (2 Samuel 17:23).

Suicide has been around for as long as our need of God has been met by resistance to Him. Those of us who can’t fathom taking our own life, also can’t reconcile God allowing it. Thus we have the frequent struggle those left behind face as they come to such truths as those proclaiming the sovereignty of God.

“The mind of man plans his way, But the Lord directs his steps.” Proverbs 16:9 NASB1995

In a video devotional that went with this verse today, the teacher said our partnership with God and His participation in our lives is not a 50-50 or 70-30, our choice verses His. It is 100-100. I understand that concept, as God taught me the 100-100% principle in my married life. Successful, happy marriages are not 50-50. It’s all-in-all.

In relationship with God, He is all in our being one with Him and He with us. He is also all in for our right to choose whether we will be all in with Him and His will and way.

Right of choice is a gift from God. He does not remove our choice from us: we are allowed choice. But whatever choice we make, God is there and He causes all to accomplish His purpose, working it together for good and glory (Romans 8:28).

When we have God as our delight, we give self to His will. When we refuse Him, He does not remove our right of choice from us. He respects our boundaries against Him.

We are His delight and desire, whether or not we choose Him, for God is love, and He so loved the whole, entire world, that He gave His Son for us. He desires that none should perish, but all come to repentance: which means to align our will and desire with His will and desire for us.

God wants a loving, growing relationship with each of us. He also desires what is best for us. One of the things He sees as best for us is that we have right of choice. A love without choice is no true love at all. God wants true love relationships, so He gives us choice: God or not God, life or death, blessing or curse. God is Life and God is Blessing.

The hard thing is reconciling the fact of God’s sovereignty and His love for us with things like hard hearted Pharoah, or, closer to home, a dear friend’s family member who committed suicide. It’s hard for us to comprehend God, who is sovereign, being 100% partner with those horrendous decisions of the heart of man, and, in the case of Pharoah, even increasing his stubborn, hardened heart for God’s purpose. Our finite minds with our limited way of thinking cannot comprehend a loving God allowing, much less seemingly participating in such decisions leading to horrid outcomes. That’s where the truth stated by Joseph fits into the equation: “As for you, you meant evil…but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive” (Genesis 50:20 NASB1995 – https://bible.com/bible/100/gen.50.20.NASB1995).

But God! His thoughts and ways are so much higher than ours. He sees things beyond our comprehension. His plans reach to effect far more than our here and now. And He uses the effect of such hard things in our here and now to accomplish purposes far more eternal in nature than we can begin to realize.

Take this beloved’s suicide. I cannot even begin to think that God’s will was his suicide. What I do see is this: a long time struggle with depression-oppression and constant heartache that became unbearable for a precious man, loved by God.

I believe that, in 99.9% of suicides, there is a point where mental health loses the battle. Though he may have wanted to believe in and trust God, the constant struggle hindered him being helped by any degree of hope he managed to grasp hold of through Christ. I don’t believe God wanted his death in that way, but God did want this one He loved free from the struggle. So when this beloved of God could not grasp God and chose death, God allowed His choice and took him out of his pain. Absent from the body…home with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:6-8).

My understanding about this young man is that he wanted God and new Jesus as the way, the truth, the life, and the gateway. I believe God has him home with Jesus right now, no longer in pain, no longer struggling. He is now safe in the arms of God, freed from that mental turmoil. That is a hope I stand on, and encourage those suffering such loss to grasp hold of.

Now for those left behind suffering the aftermath. What now?

God says, “For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart. I will be found by you,’ declares the Lord, ‘and I will restore….’” (Jeremiah 29:11-14 – https://bible.com/bible/100/jer.29.11-14.NASB1995)

Those left behind have a choice now. Trust that God’s purpose in allowing their loved one’s suicide was not death, but life. They are more set free to live than ever before, never to be troubled by depression-oppression again. Their grasp on the reality and provision of God is finally firm.

Now the ball is in our court. Will we run from God to our own struggle and hardship, or will we grab His hand, get His heart for the good He wants to work through our pain, and walk with Him to the fulfillment of the future He planned for us?

It may not be an easy road. Walking a hard path we can’t understand seldom is easy. But when we grab hold of trust in God, He always leads us to an eternal good that accomplishes through us an unfathomable glory.

So the choice is to run from God in anger and grief, which is death-though-we-live. Or run to God, where healing is found in the grief, restoration to life arises, and a greater good comes out of our pain as we who are comforted by God comfort others.

I pray you grab His hand. He will help you.

Love Is Something You Do

Love is not an emotion. Emotion can accompany love, but deep, abiding love is a choice flowing from who we are that reveals itself through actions.

Rick Warren writes, “Over and over again in the Bible, God commands us to love each other, and you can’t command an emotion. If I told you right now, “Be sad!” you couldn’t be sad on cue. Just like an actor, you can fake it, but you’re not wired for your emotions to change on command.

“If love were just an emotion, then God couldn’t command it. But love is something you do. It can produce emotion, but love is an action.

“The Bible says, “Let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions” (1 John 3:18 NLT, second edition).

“We can talk a good act: “I love people.” But do we really love them? Our love is revealed in how we act toward them.” (From YouVersion’s Forty Days of Love: Day 26)

This is essentially what God and I have been talking about today. Love takes action and shows it’s sincerity. And love is not hypocritical, expecting from others what I fail to do myself.

The example that has been the topic of conversation with my Father today is this. As a new widow, facing a medical test requiring help my sweet husband usually gave, I am having to figure out how to do this without him.

In this situation, I am finding that it is hard for me to call people and seek assistance when they never call or come by to check on me. Though they say, “Call me if you need anything,” the lack of any show of caring without a cry for help calls into question their sincerity. Couple that with knowing how busy people are and how overwhelming life is these days, and I feel like a nuisance in even considering bothering people with my problem.

That is the start of a vicious cycle. Feeling like a nuisance keeps me from calling or going by to check on others, not wanting to be a bother to busy, over stressed people. Which potentially leaves them thinking I don’t really care for them and am too busy to be bothered. Here we go on the round-e-round. 🔄

“So,” I question, “what should I do, Lord?”

His response?

Call. Go by. Love actively. Don’t worry about what the other person does or doesn’t do toward me. Be what Father God tells me to be. This love journey fits into the scriptural principle of giving. As we give into the lives of others, it is returned to us.

“Give, and it will be given to you. They will pour into your lap a good measure—pressed down, shaken together, and running over. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return.” (Luke 6:38 NASB1995)

Here am I, O God. Send me.

Suicide: The “Why” and “What Now” – Part 2 of 3

Enemy: Fear

“And the Philistines pursued Saul and his sons, and slew Jonathan and Abinadab and Malchi-shua, Saul’s sons. The battle went heavily against Saul, and the archers severely wounded him. Saul said to his armor-bearer, Draw your sword and thrust me through, lest these uncircumcised come and thrust me through and abuse and mock me. But his armor-bearer would not, for he was terrified. So Saul took a sword and fell upon it.” 1 Samuel 31:2-4 AMPC

Fear of being overtaken by his enemies, only to be mocked and humiliated by them, led King Saul to a soul-death that led him to commit suicide. Many in battle commit suicide rather than face their fear. Fear is a powerful enemy against the health and wellbeing of one’s soul.

Satan loves to exploit our fears. Fear makes us vulnerable. Add to that grief and feelings such as guilt, anger, blame, inadequacy, shame, loneliness, etc., and it’s a poisonous mixture to drink. Experiencing the loss of a loved one by suicide too often mixes up a brimming cup of such poison for those left in the wake of it.

Fear of one’s own inability to trust God, struggling with thoughts and feelings of anger towards Him, are enemy arrows to one’s soul. Fear that God will leave us because of our anger toward Him, failing to trust that God understands our struggle and keeps His word to be with us in trouble furthers the assault. The assault of fear can come without warning, leaving one feeling hopeless and helpless. It often attacks family members and friends who feel they should have been able to do something to prevent a beloved’s suicide.

Some believe that suicide is “the unforgivable sin”. The struggle of a loved one that led to their suicide can cause us to question whether they had a saving relationship with God. Lack of assurance that a loved one who died by suicide will be with us for eternity can cause a fear and frustration that wreaks havoc on the soul (mind/thought life, will, and emotions). The hope I would breathe into this equation is…

One: the only “unforgivable sin” I see in scripture is blasphemy (denial and belittling) of the work of the Spirit found in the life, death, burial, resurrection, and ascension of Christ (Matthew 12:25-32). And…

Two: salvation only takes an instant and can come in the last breath (Luke 23:39-43). As long as God is, there is hope.

The counter to fear is faith – faith to BELIEVE and TRUST God. In Hebrews, we are instructed that faith to believe and trust God brings us into His peaceful rest. In the place of God’s rest we find truths that are effective weapons to thoughts that fail to consider God’s power, presence, and provision.

Fear cannot stand where faith to trust God’s unfailing love resides. When we know God is love and His love never stops or leaves us, fear leaves. Even when we can’t “feel” Him because of our pain and grief, trust in His love assures our hearts that He never leaves nor lets go of us. Trust in His love that desires none to perish, but all to come to repentance, clings to hope for the personal work of grace leading our beloved to His mercy even in their last breath. Trust in a loving God refuses to give up on Him.

As one considers suicide – whether contemplating committing it, or being forced to cope with the aftermath of it, fear is an enemy arrow to the heart of one who must realize they are on a spiritual battlefield. Unless we realize there is an enemy of God who constantly watches for opportunity to destroy the work of God in and through us, we will fail to deal with fear as a weapon against us. Like Saul, we will give up on life and fail to trust that God can and will make a way where there seems no way. Giving up on life denies God’s faithfulness and His power.

Fear is overcome by keeping focus on God with faith’s hope, trusting His unfailing love to walk us through to victory.

Suicide: The “Why” and “What Now” – Part 1 of 3

Trusting Love: the Cure for Soul Death

Yesterday Father led me to call a precious friend and ask a simple question regarding her coping with her beloved’s suicide: “How is your trust in God through this?” The answer was as I suspected: “Not good, Darlene.”

Then God led me to find a devotional series on coping after the suicide of a loved one, asking Him to use the thoughts therein to inspire my heart as to how to pray for this beloved family in this unfathomable time.

The first day was introductory and one paragraph sums up the path to healing. “There is help. There is hope. This help and hope is found only in Jesus Christ. He alone gives genuine comfort to your inward being. He alone gives healing to your heart. Only Christ can replace anguish and hopelessness with transcendent peace and enduring joy.” (Julie Gossack, Hope Beyond Despair)

Today covered the suicide of Samson after Delilah’s betrayal, and this one telling fact that opened my heart to a slew of understanding. The truth is this:

“It came about when she pressed him daily with her words and urged him, that his soul was annoyed to death.” (Judges 16:16 NASB1995)

They may try to grasp it, but the battle raging against their mind, will, and emotions weakens their grasp on truth, robbing their strength, and turning them to willingly receive the lie. Trapped in the vale of the shadow of soul death leads to an agony they cannot overcome on their own. Feelings of being unable to get out of their situations or to trust love, grace, and truth from family and friends, or even God, they choose death.

The truth God is giving me is that those who succumb to suicide first suffer soul death. Their own thoughts and desires over life situations nag them until their soul dies, making them feel useless, worthless, helpless, hopeless, and insecure to the point of seeing no sense in continuing on with life. Their nagging thoughts – influenced by the lies of fleshly comprehension, worldly desires, and demonic designs – get such a hold on them that they cannot believe the truth countering their beliefs given by loved ones, nor even by God.

Many who survived a suicide attempt bear testimony that in the instant physical death was upon them, they recognized the truth that their concerns were based on lies. That they can overcome the issues at hand because they are loved and cared for by a God who deems them worth the cost paid in full by Jesus Christ. Because of Him, they are not helpless. There is hope.

I believe that instant of life to their soul is God’s reality reaching them as a hand to pull them back. That being true, I believe that same hand reaches the heart of those who succeed at their suicide commitment, which gives hope to my heart that, though the hand of God did not pull them back to this life, it did pull them up to eternal life. As long as there is our loving God who desires that none perish, but all come to repentance, there is hope for God’s mercy and love to prevail, even in the instant of death.

For family and friends left behind in the wake of their beloveds suicide, here’s the thing to realize and watch for as you cope with the reality of a loved one’s self induced death. Feelings that God failed in preventing the death in such an unimaginable act is a weapon against our own faith to trust God, hindering our ability to perceive and receive His help for our grief. Struggling with our own inability to help our beloved and prevent their demise leads us into a depressive struggle with our own sense of failure, inadequacy, and helplessness that can produce hopelessness. Blaming self or others in the equation that look to be the straw that pushed our loved one to such an end produces hate, unforgiveness, and bitterness that can prevent our ability to help others, or to be helped in our grieving.

These issues open us to constantly struggle with the why, what, and who questions that can put us in an onslaught of our own troubled thoughts, leading us into our own soul death situation. This struggle is, at least in part, a reason we too often see suicide come to groups in multiples. It explains why many fall away from loving relationships after suicide and even leave faith in a good God. Turning from faith, family, and friends removes from our lives the very things we need for help in healing, which robs us of the support that is needed to keep us safe from a soul death battle.

My prayer for my friend and her family is that trust in God be restored and firmed up. God constantly reaches to us, offering Himself to us and placing His resources in our path to pull us back from the brink. He does not force Himself on us: trusting Him is a choice He will not remove from us. If we earnestly seek Him, taking time for a close examination will reveal His presence reaching a hand out. If you’re reading these words from God’s instruction to me, this is His hand reaching out to you, giving insight and understanding that will help if you can grasp it. And God will help your grasp if you choose to trust Him in the midst of your struggle.

Friends speaking concern and trying to connect are also God’s hand reaching out to help you find soul life. God’s word touching your life is His loving presence set to draw you to Himself. But it is our choice to grasp the hand and open up to God and those He sends to help us.

If you are one who lost a loved one to soul death leading to suicide, God’s love for them leaves hope that His hand of love pulled them into eternal life in an instant of their own realization and acceptance of His loving care. If your grief is causing a thought life and emotional onslaught of bitterness and anger leading to the beginnings of your own soul death, grasp God’s love for You. Let Him lift you from death to life. Trust in God’s unfailing love is life, abundant and full. No one and nothing can rob this truth from us who choose to rest in His grasp through believing faith.

“I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants.” — Deuteronomy 30:19

Fight the Good Fight of Faith

I stepped into a spiritual battle with a friend under siege, which, of course, placed me in line of fire. This is what God is firming up in me.

Take your stand and stand firm.

  • On The Rock of salvation.
  • In the knowledge and assurance of God’s Love.
  • In the security of His promises.
  • Fully dressed in the wedding clothes of Christ.
  • Fully suited in the armor of God with spiritual weapons in hand.
  • Constantly dressed in readiness with Lamps alight.

Stand firm in Truth – know what truth is…

  • About God.
  • About God’s Word.
  • About His power, sufficiency, faithfulness, watchful care, eternal plan, and sure purpose.
  • About the situation and circumstances.
  • About heart issues.
  • About the true battlefield and enemy forces in heavenly places.

Stand firm in Trust, earnestly and watchfully believing and expecting God to be God and do God.

  • Be stilled in quiet faith – enter His rest where peace and calm prevail.
  • Cease striving in own strength.
  • Let be and know with assurance that God is God: the good God who works good in and for each of us, according to His perfect will, plan, and purpose.

Stand firm in Thankful praise and worshipful adoration.

  • God’s throne in our lives is revealed and lifted high on the praises of His people.
  • Praise bows the heart to submit to His will.
  • Grateful submission to God resists Satanic influences, causing them to back off and flee.
  • Grateful praise draws near to God who responds by drawing nearer to us, bringing us under His wings, into His shadow, hedged in by His Presence.

Stand firm as a Testimony of a faithful servant of God: keep living Him into life.

  • Be His image bearer.
  • Be His ambassador, knowing His authority over, in, and through you.
  • Be intentional in faith, love, and action.
  • Be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.
  • Be His witness.
  • Be found faithful at His coming.
  • Be love as He is love.
  • BE real – strive to BE simply because He is.

Commit to Fellowship

I read this verse at the end of a devotional on the importance of committed church membership, and it hit me how important it is for people to have opportunity to make that commitment known by giving themselves “first to the Lord and then to us”. I know of churches who have cut out the necessity of a person coming forward to openly join the membership and work of a local church. The church I’m at now is one.

They have their reasons for that, but I also know people who come as spectators and hide in the background, never really becoming part of the fellowship because the practice makes it easier to hide. I even met one such person who said they preferred a large church because it was easier to hide in the crowd, unnoticed. That person disappeared shortly after and I’ve never seen them again.

As I think about that, I realize that one of the main reasons people I have talked with on the subject give for failing to greet someone they don’t know when they believe they may be a visitor is because of fear of welcoming someone who’s been there for years, unnoticed. So those who are visitors leave the experience feeling unnoticed and believing the church’s members are snobbish and unfriendly.

There’s great benefit to publicly joining a fellowship. It gives the members a chance to realize and acknowledge the new family member. Many members then reach out to invite that new one to get involved in the class or group or ministry they are in. Doors get opened to the new ones, making them feel a part of the whole and encouraging their involvement in the ministry called “church”. It lets the new member know they are welcome and feel there is a place for them in the body. And it gives opportunity for love bonds to form as we cuddle one another into the fold. It also destroys the lie of the enemy that there is better fellowship and acceptance at the local bar than in the house of worship.

I’m just getting back into face to face involvement with my local fellowship after several years absence while caring for my husband, doing church at home with him. The devotional read and these thoughts gleaned help me firm up my need to not only commit myself to the church ministry I am part of, but to make that commitment known. In that, I will seek guidance as to where and how I may serve alongside them.

What about you? Have you committed yourself first to the Lord and then to a local expression of His body called the Church? Won’t you join me in devoted fellowship as part of the family of God?

“They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.”
‭‭Acts‬ ‭2‬:‭42‬ ‭‬‬

Be Filled and Complete

When my husband died, we were more ONE than I ever realized we could be. When he took his last breath, all my being felt like it was ripped in half. As I cried out to God, I saw in my mind a crystalline half of a heart move in to meld together with my torn half. It lit up and became one anew, and I inhaled new life.

My God fills me up and completes me. Realizing that benefit, I seek Him wholeheartedly. He is my first, most vital need and necessity. By His grace I live, breathe, and have my being (Acts 17:24-28). I am, only because He is. He is my all in all.

I still miss Johnny, and I feel his absence deeply. But I’m not doing it alone. Ishi is with me.

“It will come about in that day,” declares the Lord, “that you will call Me Ishi (my Husband) and will no longer call Me Baali (my Master).” — Hosea 2:16

Soul Care

God wants our all to grow strong and be in good health. As I read this verse, to my understanding it is giving priority to the requirement of our soul’s health and growth. As our soul prospers, so will our body and life.

The soul is our mind, will, and emotions. The mind here indicates our thought life. The will points to our desires and passions that dictate our choices and decisions. And our emotional health indicates the dictates of our feelings in any given moment.

Our emotions are good and intended to help our lives, but not as the leading role for life. Our emotions can prosper and help us only when they are dictated by right thinking and good choices flowing from the dictates of the Spirit controlling our desires and passions.

The soul is covered in scripture as one part because, to function properly, the three aspects that make our soul must function as one. As Father, Son, and Holy Presence work as one, so must our mind, will, and emotions. When mind, will, or emotion go off in their own direction, separate from the whole, that is when struggle, dysfunction, and instability takes hold of our lives.

Give some focus to soul care today and may your entire being prosper as your soul grows stronger allegiance to God and His ways.

Tactics of Persecution

‭‭1 Peter‬ ‭4‬:‭12‬-‭13‬, ‭19‬

“Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation. …

“Therefore, those also who suffer according to the will of God shall entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right.”

Satan is the author of persecution. He tempts to the dark side. It is his goal to use the things we face in day to day life to tempt us away from faith-filled trust in God. The tempter desires to tempt us away from a life that honors God as God. He wants to ruin our testimony and rob us of peace, joy, and hope so we are ineffective as Christ’s ambassadors, the image bearers of God. In doing so, he causes us to doubt our Christian faith and walk away from God.

A man once said something ugly, condemning my Christian faith, then in one breath, quickly adding, “and no: I’m not persecuting you.” I don’t remember saying anything to him before or after. He was a passer by I did not know, nor have I seen him since. He spotted me as who I was in Christ, said whatever it was he said followed by the part I remember, and walked on, leaving me looking at him with “How rude” on my stunned face.

On one hand, he was correct. He was simply the unwitting instrument in the hands of him who was using the man to persecute Christianity. On the other hand, he was allowing himself to be that instrument, seemingly without understanding it’s source and purpose.

The same is true of a deadly diagnosis, the sudden death of a loved one, or any number of tragic events that leave us wondering where God is and how He could let such evil come upon one who loves and trusts Him. Anything that tempts us to doubt, fear, and turning from God is Satanic persecution of our Christian faith.

I believe Satan’s being the author and perfector of persecution is why God warns us to realize our battle is not against flesh and blood, but demons and principalities (Ephesians 6:10-18). Not only do we tend to focus anger toward the instruments of persecution, failing to love even our enemies and pray for those who persecute us, but we fail to realize enemy tactics of persecution through the temptation to doubt God that comes with our daily struggles.

This belief regarding tactics of persecution coming from the enemy of God has protected me from giving myself to fear, doubt, and unforgiveness. It has helped me separate the sin from the sinner so I can walk in God’s mandate regarding love and prayer. And it has kept me from allowing the fruit of God’s Spirit to be stolen and buried by the evil intent brought to life’s circumstances.

“… Trust in the Lord and do good; Dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness. Delight yourself in the Lord; And He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord, Trust also in Him, and He will do it. He will bring forth your righteousness as the light And your judgment as the noonday. Rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him; Do not fret because of him who prospers in his way, Because of the man who carries out wicked schemes. Cease from anger and forsake wrath; Do not fret; it leads only to evildoing. For evildoers will be cut off, But those who wait for the Lord, they will inherit the land.” – ‭‭Psalms‬ ‭37‬:‭1‬-‭9

“Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world. After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you. To Him be dominion forever and ever. Amen.”
‭‭1 Peter‬ ‭5‬:‭8‬-‭11‬‬‬

Morning Prayer: 12/7/22

Father, life is filled with continuum experiences, granting us understanding. I’ve been thinking a lot about that lately, mainly that You are good and we cannot fully understand Your goodness this side of glory. Evil is the opposite end of that continuum. As we do not know the fullness of Your goodness, we cannot fathom how evil bad can get.

Your call for us to overcome evil with good is vital to our days, Lord. Grant us daily to draw in closer to You so our understanding of what “good” is grows.

Out of the heart flows the wellsprings of Life. May our hearts be cleansed and made good as You are good, and may that goodness flow freely from our lives surrendered to You who are good, the source of good, and the only one who can make us truly good. In Jesus, amen.

Morning Prayer: 11/29/2022

Father, thank You that You are taking me deeper in true understanding of trust in You. Trust in You does not just look for what I want and believe should be. Trust in You realizes when things look and are going all wrong, You are still doing something awesome in the situations and circumstances of our lives and the lives of those we love. We may not understand why You allow what You allow or go about things the way You do, but we can know there is good purpose in it. Help me rest things securely in Your capable hands, pressing forward in the things You call me to without fretting while waiting on You to do what only You can do. Show me when I fall away from true trust, and grow me stronger in the wait as an ally to Your will, way, plan, and purpose. In Jesus, amen.

Call to Trust

God is calling me (and I believe He is calling all He calls “My people”) to greater trust.

I am in a spiritual battle right now that God is impressing on me as being training ground for increased trust in Him. I stand in awe of His accomplishment in this experience. You are going through something right now that is God’s call to greater trust in Him. God is getting “My people” ready. Cooperate with Him and choose to trust Him.

Believing God feeds trust. Unbelief kept Israel from entering God’s rest because it reveals a failure to trust. Our trust in God increases and releases our faith, which, in turn, strengthens our ability to believe Him. I am discerning that the strengthening of our trust is vital to our ability to stand in these days that are coming at us. I discern that an evil like this generation has never seen or imagined is coming around a blind corner, something we can’t fathom. End of days? Maybe. But for sure an evil beyond our ability to survive without trust in God for it.

We know we’re living in evil days and we know worse is coming, but this thing coming is beyond comprehension to even think. Trust in God is all that will get us through. Blind trust, that doesn’t have to see to have faith that believes God’s love and faithfulness, is the call of this hour. We cannot stand firm without it. We will fall. Proverbs 3:5-6 is vital to live out now.

‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭3‬:‭5‬-‭8‬ ‭NASB1995‬‬; ‬‬‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭3‬:‭5‬-‭8‬ ‭AMPC‬‬

Morning Prayer: 11/20/22

Father, as You know, I didn’t feel well when I woke up this morning, so I stayed home out of the cold. Watching church online this morning, the pray-er gave thanks for those who woke up wanting to worship You: wanting to see You. Father, I desire that desire in every day and all day. I cry out for a heart of true, deep, Spirit filled worship. I cry out for a heart of earnest expectation and hope filled desire to see You active in me and my life for You. You are my first love. You are my first, most vital need and necessity. I pray my heart seek You fully, all day, every day, with full recognition of Your faithful Presence and watchful care. In Jesus, amen.

Today’s Prayer Continued: 11/12/22

Father, thank You for leading us to know that recognition of our great need of You in right and true relationship is our first act of worship. Thank You for reminding us of these things. I praise You that when we seek You wholeheartedly, You keep Your word to make Yourself evident to us and cause us to know You. Father, we — I desperately need You and Your wisdom in these days. We greatly need a fresh wind of Your great vision for us in this time in history. We need You in our every breath. Please breathe on us with the freshness of Your Spirit flow. We need You in our every footfall. Please show Yourself strong as You faithfully direct our steps to paths of righteousness for Your name’s sake. Make us fervent as Your house of prayer in these days. May we be found faithful at Your return. In Jesus, amen.

Morning Prayer: 11/12/22

Lord we need You. You are our first, most vital need and necessity whether or not we recognize our deep destitution apart from You. Please sweep across this nation bringing about a mighty spiritual awakening and great revival. Open our eyes to see You, our ears to hear You, our minds to know You, and our hearts to understand You and Your ways with believing faith. Make us to know our true need and our deepest shortfalls. Cause our hearts to turn to You through earnest repentance, truly seeking Your face. Remove our heart of stone and grant us a heart that is circumcised to You and pliable in Your hands. Forgive our great sin against You and, by Your faithfulness to Your word, heal this land. Restore our strength, renew our minds, and banish everything in us that is not of You. Then glorify Yourself, granting us godly leaders and making us a light of Your goodness, grace, and might in the earth. Until Jesus comes, we seek You with earnest expectation and hope in Your mercy made new every morning and Your unfailing love and compassion toward us who believe.
In Jesus name we pray,
Amen!

God’s Light in Dark Days

I’m going through a series of devotional studies on days of darkness in life, encouraging trust in God, the knowledge that He uses such seasons to prepare us for the purpose He has for us to live out in the light. God does not take us through the deep, sunless valley without working His good will through it. I believe this season of grief in the passing of my husband from this life to the next is such a valley.

These days are filled with the grief of missing him. Giving away his clothes was hard, but it was easier than seeing them set, unused in his absence. We don’t believe in letting such needful things remain in closets and drawers, rotting, when others can get good use out of them, so giving them in his memory was a blessing in this darkness. It shined a light that helps me see the goodness of God in these days.

Reminders of Johnny are everywhere, making me smile and hurting my heart at the same time. I reach in the cabinet for a glass to find the set bought specifically for him, ones more narrow and sculpted in a way his arthritic hands could more easily grasp, and tears fill my eyes. The kids moved his chair across the room for me, because I kept looking over expecting to see him there. The heartache, eased when I see it, by this simple act of loving kindness from my kids, them being God’s light of love to me in these days.

The heartache of closing out the imprint of Johnny’s labors as he worked hard to leave me in good shape to carry on, is constant within me. Though I smile, I can only hope the Son-shine is visible, for there is no sunshine in this heartache.

Some days I feel overwhelmed and alone. But in the midst of the worst of such days, God lovingly reminds me, “Yes. Though I walk through the deep, sunless valley of the shadow of death, I fear or dread no evil for You are with me. Your rod -to protect – and Your staff – to guide, they comfort me.” And He is clearly guiding me as I deal with these financial issues. (Ps. 23:4, AMPC)

God shines His light on my next place of footfall as He uses lawyers and accountants to help me navigate the financial and property transfers. He reaches out through loving, praying friends who help bring some sunshine to my dark days. One went with me yesterday, helping me go to the clinic and tend to business there, something I was finding too hard to do on my own. Another friend called, helping gear my heart to areas of church family gatherings where I can plug in. She also asked if we can get together next week for a meal. She is an acquaintance I don’t know well, but I look forward to knowing her better. It helps when others reach out a leading, loving hand and say, “come”. It gives light in the midst of the darkness.

God is helping me: protectively leading and guiding me. I’m seeing His light peeking through the heavy cover of this deep, sunless valley, shining, ever beaconing me through the darkness, assuring me that the other side is drawing closer.

There will always be days when missing my sweet man will bring the shadow. But life abundant and full continues as I trust God to do His good work in and through me. Even in this darkness, God is faithful, who will also do it. (Ps. 37:5)

‭‭1 Thessalonians‬ ‭5‬:‭24‬ ‭AMPC‬‬

Morning Prayer: 10/9/22

Let God’s Love Transform Lives

Father, thank You. You led me through a study on patience, the fruit born by Your Spirit in us and lived out through us in Christlikeness. That led to a deep study of love, for “love is patient.” Which led me to this devotional study aid. Love lets Your love transform lives: my own and those around me. Love is patient, trusting Your transforming power and the transformation process.

Love, a bookend flavor of Spirit fruit – it with self-control, holding all other fruit together; love for You first, then for all others as one should love self; love, out of which all other fruit flavors flow. Love patiently waits for Your transforming power to accomplish it’s purpose in those around us and in oneself.

Love is patient. And because it is patient, it chooses to forgive, not holding a grudge or tallying insults, but trusting and praying for Your transformation to be fully accomplished in self and in those we patiently love. Father, I pray to love as You love, not wishing any to perish, but all to come to repentance and be transformed.

Let Love – God is love – abound in me, producing patience that practices kindness; not being jealous or arrogant. Let Your love empower me to act becomingly; not seeking my own desire, nor being easily provoked, nor taking into account a tally of wrongs suffered, but rejoicing in righteousness and truth. Fill me with that love that bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things, knowing that true, godly love never fails. This I pray in Jesus holy name, amen.

‭‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭13:4-7‬‬‬

Morning Prayer: 10/2/22

See ‭‭Matthew‬ ‭3:8‬‬‬, ‭‭Ephesians‬ ‭5:9‬‬‬, ‭‭James‬ ‭3:18‬‬‬, ‭‭John‬ ‭15:8‬‬‬, ‭‭Philippians‬ ‭1:8-11‬‬‬, ‭‭John‬ ‭15:16‬‬‬, ‭‭Matthew‬ ‭21:43‬‬‬, ‭‭Colossians‬ ‭1:9-12‬‬‬, ‭‭Luke‬ ‭8:15‬

Father, am I bearing fruit in keeping with repentance? Am I bearing the fruit of righteousness? The good fruit of Your Spirit, that honors, glorifies, and reflects You? Am I bearing fruit with perseverance? Am I setting a righteous example in my own life and living?

When people read my prayers or my ponderings shared to encourage and strengthen, are they inspired to pray for themselves and to walk in Your ways? Are they strengthened in You, in commitment to You, in true repentance that makes fertile soil in hearts seeded by You, made ready to grow strong in You and bear Your fruit in their own lives?

When I speak, do I clearly speak the truth in love? Do my actions reflect Your truth and love actively working in me? I’ve entrusted my tongue to You as a pen in the hand of The Ready Writer, that You may glorify and magnify Yourself through me. Am I in the way of that?

I have entrusted my life to You. Am I surrendering all for Your will to be done: as in heaven, so in me? If there is too much of me and not enough of You, Lord, circumcise the flesh of my heart; deaden the old; enliven the new. Let it be in me as it was in the words and practice of Paul: I have been crucified with Christ and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. The life that I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself up for me. It is my constant cry.

I can do nothing apart from You, Lord. My heart desire is to fulfill the call of Christ to accomplish Your purpose and plan in these days You give me to choose You and live life-abundant in Your name.

You are teaching me greater depths of working out of Your resurrection power that is living and active in me. Empower me, through believing faith, to trust You more. Make Yourself known to and through me, that You may be glorified and magnified, and these with me edified and strengthened for these days in which we live.

May we who are your people live You out into this world, that all may know that You are God, and we are Your people: the sheep of Your pasture, led, fed, and shielded by You. Kingdom people, representing Kingdom purpose, in the power and provision of Your Spirit in us. In Jesus and to Your glory, confirm for us the works of our hands by the good fruit produced, the evidence of Your Spirit power, amen.

Morning Prayer: 9/28/22

‭‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭13:11‬

“Finally, brethren, rejoice, be made complete, be comforted, be like-minded, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.”

Father, true joy is in You. As long as I find my joy in You, rejoicing comes easy and is not sullied by circumstances or happenstance.

You are true joy as the one who strengthens and completes me. You created me for relationship with You, to be One as You and Your Son are One. I can do nothing apart from You, but with You, who are strength and power in me, all things are possible for me. I am full and overflowing with all the Good You are, able to love and be loved because You make me whole.

As I seek You wholeheartedly, desiring this unity, You comfort me, granting me the mind of Christ, equipping me to see myself, others, and the challenges of this life as You see me and my life in You. By Your grace and the right and true thinking You supply, You grant unity with Yourself and with others having Your mindset; thus I have peace and favor with You and with humankind.

Thank You, my God of love and peace, for being with me and for me. Thank You for giving us Your Word, laying out before us these truths, clearly defining the way of life, that we may live it fully and abundantly with faith and trust in You, in whom we are one, made whole and complete.

Choose Now

Choose Now

The Message

I have a message for you:
Your sins are already forgiven.

Matthew 12:22-32

Jesus paid for all sin, past, present, and future; and God accepted His payment on our behalf.

God is not shocked or surprised by your sin. He knows it all and has seen it all before, yet He still sent His Son, loving us all enough to let His Son choose to pay the price we owe for the evils He did not do. And Jesus did so willingly out of love, delivering all who receive His gift of saving grace, delivering us from sin’s death – separation from God, desiring to give us life with God for all eternity.

There’s only one sin God will not forgive and Jesus doesn’t cover: the sin of refusing to believe and trust the truth of the work of God’s Spirit in birthing Christ to a virgin; living through Him, performing miracles and teaching truth; letting Him die on a cruel cross on our behalf so He (the Spirit Power of God) could raise Him to life again; taking Him up in ascension to sit on God’s throne as King of kings and Lord of lords. If we refuse to believe these truths of the birth, life, death, resurrection, and ascension to Lordship of Jesus Christ, only possible because of God’s work through the power of His Spirit, we cannot possess eternal life with God the Father. When we possess eternal life in Christ, He gives us the Spirit Power of God, making us a new creation, bearing the fruit of the nature and image of God in us. Eternity begins when we let God in.

Your sins are forgiven. Receive your gift by believing in Christ, receiving Him as Lord, and you will be saved to eternal Life.

Morning Prayer: 9/23/22

‭‭Matthew‬ ‭5:43-48‬ ‭‬‬

Father, thank You for teaching me that it is union with You that completes me. Being love as You are love requires we truly surrender to this oneness with Father and Son provided us in the power of the Holy Presence, living and acting in us. Jesus prayed for this unity (‭‭John‬ ‭17:20-23‬). We are perfected by this unity, for it is no longer I who live, but Christ – I am made complete in Christ.

In this vital, perfecting union, true love for all, in all seasons, and at all times is made possible for us. I thank You, Father, for revealing these things and pray to grow strong and quick in my surrendered union with You. In agreement with my Christ, amen.

John‬ ‭17:20-23‬‬‬

Trust God’s Plow

Past hurts, traumas, insults, bitterness, etc., harden us. We can let God deliver us and turn experience into a victory that ministers healing to others, or we can set in our hardened condition and use our past as excuse for being bitter, angry, hardened, untrusting, etc.. Our past can enslave us or we can walk free.

It may not be easy: bringing the ugly to the surface where it can be properly dealt with can hurt for a bit. It can take time as God works here a little, there a little to free us up. But the pain caused by the work of healing is better than sitting in our hardened state, becoming harder, and bringing others with us into a state of hard heartedness as we hurt them.

Matthew 13:18-23

Morning Prayer: 9/20/22

Father, thank You for teaching us that love is from You, through You, and for You; for You are love and You manifest Yourself through us. We cannot truly and fully love apart from You.

Thank You that You direct our paths. Thank You for the highlights in Your word today that point me to dig deep into the subject of loving as You love. Not counting searching through the scriptures for all I can find on the subject of love, You led me to 196 days worth of written daily studies to aid me in that journey. One hundred and ninty six plus days. That tells me that this focus on growth in this area is important to You. I will begin in 3-4 days time.

As I think about that, it dawns on me how this is a continuation of my study on patience, for love is necessary to one’s ability to practice patience in difficult circumstances.

One thing that grabbed my attention today is Psalm 41:1a, which says, “How blessed is He who considers the helpless…”. That grabbed me as I realized that none of us can truly do anything apart from You. We are all helpless apart from You. Yet I expect to love well and be loved well, forgetting that You are love, and You alone are good. Only You can make our love good, fulfilling its intent and purpose.

So why am I shocked by my own struggle when I try to do something in my own strength and fall short in my love walk, thus sinning against You. And why am I devastated when another person’s love actions toward me, done without thought of You, fall so very short. And if I am surrendered and filled with You – Your love, why would I give myself to feelings of insult toward any other helpless person. Shouldn’t I better understand their limitations? As Your word advises, “love covers a multitude of sin” (1 Peter 4:8).

Father, forgive me when I forget my need of You and fall short in my love toward others. I am helpless without You. Fill me with Your power filled love so that You may love through me. Empower me to love in Your name. This I pray in Jesus name, amen.

Morning Prayer: 9/18/22

Father, my heart’s cry and great desire is to live as if heaven matters, building up treasure there, being driven by eternity. Thank You that, through Christ, my flesh is crucified and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself up for me. Empower me now to love You-Him in kind, knowing that, as one belonging to You, my flesh is crucified with its ungodly passions and desires. Fill me with Your Spirit so the fruit of Your nature is born forth in me. As I live by Your Spirit, may I be found faithful to walk by Your Spirit, giving You all glory and accomplishing Your purpose and plan for my life and living. By Your gace, make it so. In Jesus, amen.

‭‭Galatians‬ ‭5:13-26‬ ‭NASB1995‬‬; ‭‭Colossians‬ ‭3:1-17‬ ‭AMPC‬‬

Morning Prayer: 9/16/22

Wow, Lord. I never thought this in this way before, but it is true. Forgiveness is a holy weapon in our hands, fighting for right relationships that You can use, protecting one’s own heart from becoming useless.

I know that bitterness and anger hinders our ability to rightly relate with others and can greatly effect our ability to trust others, which in turn fails to trust and rightly relate with You. It is a vicious cycle that must be stopped, and the weapons of war we must choose is forgiveness of hurt and harm done by flawed, broken, hurting people; love that does not take into account wrongs suffered, choosing instead to cover a multitude of sins in Christlikeness; all flowing from a love relationship with You that trusts Your faithfulness to stand in the gaps with and for us.

Father, thank You for providing spiritual weapons of war, beginning with granting us ability to take every thought captive in the obedience of Christ. I pray to have right thoughts within me when dealing with those who hurt and wound me. Thoughts that help me fight the good fight of faith, made useful to You as I relate with others. Thuoghts that help me when I must walk away from a toxic relationship to knock the dust off in testimony against them, leaving the situation in Your hands, finding healing in You that does not breed bitterness and anger in me.

Father, I pray You, make it so and grow this weapon stong in me for the glory of Your name and fulfillment of Your glorious purpose. In Jesus, amen.

Seeking Holy Habitation, seated at God's feet (Exodus 15:13).