Words of Blessing and Wholeness

“Hey!,” was the text I sent to my best friend recently. She responded, “Hey, how are you? Do you have a few minutes to chat?” And this started an actual verbal conversation about life and catching up with each other.

Since my best friend and I are, well, best friends, we use a casual form of greeting one another. But, how would you feel if you knew that the way others greet you or you them carried more than simply the words of the greeting?

Paul was in the habit of greeting others with, “The grace of the Lord be with you, or the grace and peace of God be with you.” Whenever I read Paul’s greeting there is a certain amount of joy found in his words. I often wonder did all ancient Israelites greet one another this way? Was it a cultural thing at the time? Or, was this something Paul and a few others practiced?

Paul spoke the truth of God’s word and actually delivered the gift of a blessing through his greeting. The Greek word for grace is Charis and it is God’s favor and kindness brought to us through Jesus. It is God extending Himself and bestowing a blessing on His creation by the nearness of His presence.

Peace is God’s gift of wholeness when all essential parts are joined together. This reminds me of our wholeness in mind, body and spirit joined together in harmony with Holy Spirit as we continue to seek Him, read Him, learn about and from Him.

Could it be God’s gift of wholeness through His peace contains healing? That these two words that are not oft spoken in greeting in our current culture could be the beginning of healing?

What would our world, our spheres of influence, our communities look like if we chose to greet others in peace and grace? Would colors seem a bit brighter? Would traffic seem a bit lighter? Would our days seem a bit less laden because we speak the truth of God’s favor, kindness, blessing and wholeness to each other.

Today I say to you grace and peace in the name of Jesus. May you experience His wholeness in all that you are and all that you do. May the blessing of the nearness of His presence cause you to want to be even closer to Him.

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Doing Right or Living Righteously?

Several years ago I heard a well known Christian influencer say every word of God should be taken literally. While I presume to understand the sentiment behind this statement to be that if we believe the word of God is the inerrant truth we would then apply all of God’s word to our life.

Through the years I have reflected upon this statement and often wondered how this would look with many of God’s commands in the Old Testament. Certainly, we don’t have to offer daily sacrifices because Jesus death and shed blood took the place of this daily requirement. And not many of us have free open range where we raise sheep, rams and bulls for the sacrifices required by the ancient Israelites. Nor do we hold fast to the many festivals they were to celebrate.

So how is it we are to take the word of God, the entire word of God literally and apply it to our life practically? It is an issue of our heart. When we are staying connected to Jesus, especially through reading and studying His word, we are engaging with Him in dialogue. His word, which is literally Jesus Himself, is alive and active and if we allow Him the space He will transform us by the power of His Spirit. He begins to show us that the sacrifice is no longer what His shed blood has already covered [the sacrifices of the Old Testament] rather our sacrifice is offering our will to Him like the sweet fragrance of the perfume offered by Mary as she washed his feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair.

Do you practice righteousness? Do you know how to practice righteousness? Has anyone ever walked alongside you and modeled righteousness to you?

The words of 1 John 3:10 above can seem harsh at first glance but when we dig deeper and learn the original translation we find that anyone not practicing righteousness is not a child of God. Do you practice righteousness? Do you know how to practice righteousness? Has anyone ever walked alongside you and modeled righteousness to you? This is why choosing to be discipled and then discipling others is so important. One aspect of discipleship teaches us how to approach God’s word and begin to understand the marvelous things He wants to show us and how to apply them to our life for righteous living rather than taking His word out of context.

As a believer in Christ you are to be like Jesus [your character matching His]. The only way to be like Jesus is to spend time with Him and as you do your will becomes His will and you learn to love not only your brothers and sisters in Christ but a world population with an inherent desire to simply be known and loved.

Show His love to the world—stay connected to Him.

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Live Deeply

How do you live deeply? what are those moments that you take to refresh your soul?

Is nature where you feel most connected to God or perhaps a walk along a sandy beach at sunset looking in wonder at the deep and spectacular colors in the sky and praising God?

What are your passions? Where are the places you go and the things you do where you allow God to capture your heart and you know deep within you, you are in communion with Him?

Posing many questions today. I believe reflection is an integral part of our relationship with Him.

Whatever you choose to do today I pray you choose to live deeply with Jesus in that moment and in His presence.

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How Does Your Garden Grow?

The vines hung down like ropes with big green leafs and swayed softly in the light afternoon breeze. Some had large, deep red flowers while others were the palest of pink. Trees were tall and mighty and even fragrant. Some created a canopy along the path from here to there with just enough space to allow the sun to shine through in certain spots along the way. There was such peace there in this garden that was meant to be lived in forever.

The couple who lived in the garden took great care of it. They prepared the soil by pulling weeds, tilling, planting and watching with great anticipation as new life sprang forth from their efforts. It was as if this work they lovingly labored at was a connection to something greater than themselves.

One day they were in their garden and they sensed a subtle change. The vines had stopped swaying in the breeze, the flowers didn’t appear as vibrant and the trees weren’t giving off their fragrance. They didn’t think much of this change and continued with their daily work. That too, seemed a bit harder on that day.

The ground that once was easy to turn over had become hard like clay and took great effort to prepare. They noticed more weeds than usual and while they still watched with anticipation for new life to spring up, that appeared to happen more slowly or not at all. And their connection to something greater than themselves felt small and far away.

It wasn’t long before they started to quarrel with one another and they stopped going to their garden because they no longer felt any joy or anticipation. It had simply become a chore.

After an extremely long season filled with doubt, fear, worry and confusion, they went back to their garden which was completely overgrown and full of weeds. Weeds so tall they were choking what little life was left in their once peaceful garden that brought them so much joy. They chose to work in their garden once again and before long they cleared the weeds, tilled the soil and began to plant and something miraculous happened—their connection to something greater than themselves was restored. They decided that day, right there in the garden, that they would work a little each day tending their garden and cultivating the rich soil so it would never become hard as clay again.

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The Cost of Yes

my heart was racing with every turn of the page and I couldn’t—NO, I wouldn’t put the book down until I had read the very last word.

My husband was working the midnight shift and the kids had been in bed for hours. I was not sleepy, and as is my habit, I love to read before bed. This night I was reading a page turner that a new friend had given to me. We had moved into our new community a few months before (the same as my new friend) and our girls had become friends in their kindergarten class. My friend loves to share Jesus with whomever God causes her path to cross (she has the gift of evangelism) and when we first met she began to talk with me about Jesus. She encouraged me to read the book she handed me. It was a novel about end times and is the first book in a series that seems to never end! As I think about this now I giggle a bit because it seems a strange choice to encourage one to read but Holy Spirit had prepared my heart and knew exactly what I needed to read. I have read many of the books in the series but this night my heart was racing with every turn of the page and I couldn’t—NO, I wouldn’t put the book down until I had read the very last word. That was 17 years ago.

When I had come to the last word it was late into the night, but I somehow had more energy than when I began reading. However, since it was quite late and the next day was a school day for my children I turned out the light and began my nightly prayers. Only this time I told God I didn’t want to be left behind, I wanted to spend eternity with Him and I asked Jesus to be my Lord and Savior.

In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples

Luke 14:33

I look at these words of Jesus and wonder why we stop short in sharing the gospel message. It has been my experience over the years the message preached is of His love, grace and forgiveness. Please don’t misunderstand me this part of the gospel is an amazing gift! But Luke 14:33 and verses like it seem to be left out of teaching what it truly means to be a follower of Jesus. In Luke 14:33 Jesus says we must give up everything—surrender all to Him.

As Pastors, Elders and leaders; as the Bride of Christ are we afraid to include this part of the gospel because we think it would cause many to not want to follow Jesus? If this is the case then we have forgotten Holy Spirit’s job, Who, as a dear friend reminds me, is very good at His job! He prepares hearts to receive Jesus—to receive all of Jesus, all His words and all His teachings.

I am reminded of the parable of the sower and the farmer who drops seed on rocky places which spring up quickly but wither in the sun because the soil was shallow. This person receives the message but soon falls away. Could it be some of those who receive the message fall away quickly because they are not hearing a complete message? And could this also be a ploy of the enemy, who wanted to be God, whispering in the ear of the Bride, “Did God really say?”

Yes, God really said. We are to disciple and be discipled and as disciples we have to be willing to surrender all to Him.

Will you pay the cost of your yes?

God’s Favor Over Sullied Food

Deep red and thick with the fragrance of fresh herbs and spices with an aroma so enticing my family and I would sneak dips of french bread into its richness while it was still cooking on the stove. But she knew, my momma always knew right when we were dipping and would call out, “Put the lid down.” Every Sunday my momma made her delicious homemade spaghetti sauce with enough pasta to feed an army and we welcomed whomever stopped by to enjoy a feast with us. Most Sunday’s she made meatballs to add to her sauce but every once in a while she added freshly made Italian sausage from my cousin’s store. Her oil and vinegar salad dressing was always perfect. She didn’t measure out the oil or vinegar she just knew by taste. My momma loved to cook, she was an excellent cook and baker and loved when her table was full with others enjoying the feast she prepared.

But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way.

Daniel 1:8

While Daniel and his friends were in captivity the king had ordered they be fed from his own house; the royal food and wine. Daniel was not about to allow himself and his friends to be sullied by the king’s food that most likely included meat, fish, lamb, fowl and nuts, fruit and vegetables along with the wine to drink.

Many times other things look much tastier than what is already on our table. When what is on our table is from God nothing else compares in taste, smell, texture and satisfaction. God offers us food and drink that will never spoil regardless of how tasty something looks elsewhere.

We do have a choice to make. Will we choose what appears royally pleasing to the eye with aromas that seem delectable or will we choose the feast God has placed before us continually satiating our hunger?

I am afraid of my lord the king.

Daniel 1:10b

The chief official charged with overseeing Daniel and his friends was afraid that if he allowed them to forego the royal food and wine the king would punish him. Nonetheless, God had caused the official to show favor and sympathy to them.

God does the same for us. He causes others to show us favor and sympathy which is a beautifully tangible reminder to us that His favor rests upon us simply because we have chosen Him and we are His kids!

As we stay connected to God [remembering there is no perfect way to spend time with Him except to ask Holy Spirit what that looks like for you on any given day] we don’t need to be concerned about fear. Jesus defeated fear and as we stand in His love for us fear has no chance at all.

Royal food and drink—we have no need because the Lord directs our steps directly to where His provision waits for us.

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Wednesday Encouragement

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Fear

Fear. It can be so crippling.

As a little girl we spent many summer weekends at Santa Cruz Beach in Northern California. I loved splashing and playing in the water right at the shoreline and in view of the watchful eyes of my parents. “Don’t go too far out,” they would call to me every so often. One weekend, not heeding their instructions, I ventured out a little further than normal. Suddenly, I was caught in a small undertow that began to pull me in. I remember being so afraid. To this day I have a very strong respect for the power of the ocean.

Thankfully, my daddy was watching. He was a strong swimmer and he quickly rescued me.

Many times when we hear Holy Spirit warning us we are like a little child, venturing a little further than normal. Suddenly we can find ourselves in a situation where we feel we are about to drown.

But you have a Heavenly Father who wants to rescue you. Call out to Him for help. I promise He is closer than you think. He reaches His hand out to you. Will you grab it?

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