A New Lease on Life…Eternal Life

grafting“He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all–how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things.”  Romans 8:32

Imagine how grateful you would be toward the parent who, upon his or her child’s death, has agreed to donate that child’s organs to those in need of life-saving transplants. You are on a waiting list and suddenly the very thing you need in order to live is made available to you. It’s a sobering moment when you think that your suffering is eased because someone else’s has commenced; but because that person has willed this transfer of life freely to you, you receive it with gratitude. You have a second lease on life, and the grieving parent has the solace that part of his or her child lives on in each person whose life has been saved.

So it is with the gift of Jesus to us on earth. Eternal life—God’s saving grace—came at a terrible cost. In order for you to have eternal life, someone had to die. But now, because of the sacrifice of God’s only Son, royal blood flows through your veins and you have a new heart.

A songwriter named Ellis J. Crum (no relation…smile) once penned a song, “He paid a debt He did not owe; I owed a debt I could not pay.” All of us were destitute and on spiritual death row for the sins set in order by the first man Adam. The disease of damnation was set in order by disobedience; and yet, the “second Adam” came to deliver us from that sentence through His own obedience. A wound was made on the Vine so that a branch could be grafted in. A branch that would otherwise die unattached to a life source was suddenly given a chance to become part of the Tree of Life, but only a cutting into that precious Life Source made this transplant possible.

Just as you would feel lifelong indebtedness to a benefactor who saved you from untimely demise in the natural realm, so should you also realize the weighty gift that’s been made available to you by your Heavenly Benefactor. If you haven’t yet received this gift of life, please…don’t neglect so great a salvation! Time is of essence for you to be saved…now is that moment when your life can be extended into eternity. A way is made. His wounds pay for your transgressions. His chastisement pays for your peace. His back was beaten mercilessly so that His blood might bring your healing. Receive what He suffered to make possible for YOU. Choose LIFE.

“He who reaps receives wages, and gathers fruit that leads to eternal life, that both he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together.” John 4:36 (MEV)

Displaced Horsepower

cart-horse“But seek (aim at and strive after) first of all His kingdom and His righteousness (His way of doing and being right), and then all these things taken together will be given you besides.” (Matthew 6:33 AMP)

My devotional today is about timing, right priorities, and obedience. How many times do we get ourselves into trouble by short-cutting the process of our various aspects of living? I could list some of mine, but you’d get tired of reading about ¼ of the way through. I’d venture to say that a huge proportion of the troubles in our world have to do with lack of balance, impatience, and rebellion! The speeding ticket. The unsurmountable credit card debt. The impulse buy. The whirlwind relationship. Keeping up with the Joneses. The need for power. The addiction for material things. The uncontrolled temper. Selfishness. Am I coming anywhere close to your challenges?

We will never be put to shame if we follow God’s recipe for living. With Him at the top of our priorities pyramid, we will live within the healthy parameters of our bodies, souls, and spirits. His Scriptural instructions to us aren’t meant just to keep us under His thumbnail; as the Master Designer of all things, God already knows the boundaries of each created being. He has seen every scenario before it has had time to play out. He knows the point of failure, but He also knows the point of profound success! He knows exactly how to get you to the place of joy, peace, and overflowing blessing…and He is thrilled to share that information with you if you will hear Him and obey. Are you listening and following; or, have you crowded Him out and turned the volume up on other affections so that His voice is lost in all the drama and disarray you’ve allowed into your personal space?

Kids love “cheat instructions” on video games, but we are not kids. God’s plan isn’t to cheat us around the pathway to becoming the best version of ourselves; however, obedience to His will and His Word will feel like a shortcut compared to the harrowing, long detour we have to take when we follow our own inclinations and inevitably fail. Think of various places in the Bible where it was said a variation of, “And everyone did whatever he or she wanted.” Instead of us becoming more successful, more healthy, more benevolent, humankind becomes increasingly depraved. That expression, “follow your heart?” Don’t trust your heart! It will LIE to you! Rebellion against God’s proper order and timing can even cause something which is not created to be a sin to become a sin, such as sex outside the right boundaries of marriage.

I challenge you to sit and take an honest assessment of your life, as I am doing of mine. Are you piled high with regrettable decisions and utter chaos? It’s a good indicator that you’ve followed any and everything your flesh has suggested to you. King Solomon, so full of wisdom and yet so full of fleshly longings, ran the gamut of every pleasure and every pursuit. He denied himself nothing because he had the means to acquire whatever he wanted. Gushing with excess and finding nothing but emptiness after each new toy, trinket, project, investment, and relationship, he finally concluded in hindsight—as an older man—that to fear God and to keep His commandments is our entire reason for existence. In Ecclesiastes we see that the wise man gave himself over to backslidings in the “middle” of his life and, only after enduring sin’s consequence, concluded that the right way IS the right way.  Imagine what he could have achieved if he’d chosen to remain obedient to God?  How much peace and prosperity would his nation have enjoyed had he not compromised what he knew to be true?  Instead of co-existing with utter darkness, he could’ve spared generations and generations of his posterity from the curse of idolatry.  I don’t doubt that old man Solomon looked back with regret for the wasted years…

What causes us to feel so entitled about “having it all?” We can’t do it! We just can’t. If we GET it all, we may find ourselves emptier than ever; and like a horse pushing a buggy, realize that we have been doing everything the hard way. We want so badly to be recognized for all our hard work, our ambitions, our success, our education, our wealth, that we forget it really isn’t ours at all! Not in the sense of eternity. All that labor, that striving to get what we want in life, left behind as our spirit departs either to an eternal reward or eternal suffering.   And yes, even believers in Christ can have very, very out-of-balance lives. We can still make it to heaven when we die, but what goes with us? Are there others we’ve helped to follow God and to have rich relationship with Him, or will we cross over the threshold having never influenced the lost or shared the good news?

Remember this: when you put your life in its proper priority, you share in God’s perfect alignment of circumstances. You carry His favor into your everyday life. You exhibit His nature, and your relationships will thrive. You will rest from your labor and He will bring to pass whatever you couldn’t achieve through years and years of chasing your own rainbows. If you are all about others knowing how hard you worked to get where you are, that will be your only real reward: bragging rights. If you freely acknowledge that God has enabled you to become that champion, you will see a miraculous change in proportion to your obedience to Him! You will gain recognition or promotion or talent that you did not earn! I’ve seen it time and again in my own life…underachiever by many folks’ standards, but God has given me abilities that I didn’t have to practice to gain, didn’t go to school to learn, didn’t run in the “right circles” of influence to receive.  And yes, I am still having to choose daily to follow His lead instead of my own thing.

Put Him first today. Whatever you have to set aside in order to begin and end your day in His presence, do it. Talking to Him will set the course for the rest of those upcoming moments of your life. Listening to Him will keep you from wasted efforts, failed relationships, and forfeited opportunities. Obeying Him will put the cart where it’s logically designed to be positioned—BEHIND the horse!

“Roll your works upon the Lord [commit and trust them wholly to Him; He will cause your thoughts to become agreeable to His will, and] so shall your plans be established and succeed.” (Proverbs 16:3 AMP)

Confidence—in HIM

confidence“But this beautiful treasure is contained in us—cracked pots made of earth and clay—so that the transcendent character of this power will be clearly seen as coming from God and not from us.” (2 Corinthians 4:7 VOICE) 

One of the cruelest vampires leeching the life right out of you is lack of confidence. When I think of how many years I had let the approval of people imprison me and hold me back, it just sickens me…so I try even harder NOT to think of it! Seriously, it is paralyzing when you need affirmation. The devil will use that longing as a tool against you–always putting satisfaction just beyond your reach, always keeping you self-deprecating and in a state of the fear of not being good enough. Yes, that was me. And my imagination was in overdrive…thinking people didn’t really like me, didn’t think I was good enough, thinking I was going to mess up. So I approached everything timidly. What a setup for failure and more bruising to my fragile ego! I would watch other people do things so easily (especially public speaking and singing) and think, “why can’t I be like them?” You know what this does? It makes us avoid situations where we might be asked to shine!

How funny it is, that it’s taken me hitting my mid-late forties to shake that stronghold. Sure, we tend to chill out a little more as we settle into getting older; but may I tell you that the REAL act of liberation came when I stopped keeping my eyes on others and started focusing on Jesus. When I surrendered that need for approval to Him, and learned that His was truly the only approval I needed, something changed. I began even to cast down imaginations and subdue everything to the knowledge of WHO JESUS is, and I realized that I don’t have to please anyone but Him. I also learned that when we keep our eyes on Him, He does the rest THROUGH us. I can’t rely on my own strength and ability to be there every single time…but you know what? I can always expect HIS to be!

If you are struggling with confidence issues, talk to your Papa God about it. He can heal fears, emotional/physical abuse, wounded egos, and bitter disappointment…and can free you to step out and grasp that thing He’s created you to do. Indwelling of the Holy Spirit (ask Him to fill you if you’ve not experienced this) will unleash boldness.

I love the Apostle Paul. He had an education and life experience that any man would be proud to flaunt, yet he kept it to himself. Why? Nothing to prove! He came into Christianity fully aware that he would be distrusted, rejected by many for the years prior when he’d made it his life’s work to persecute followers of Jesus. He knew some might never accept him as good enough. Did it slow him down? No! Why? Nothing to prove!

My lifelong friend Jimmy Copley, a bold carrier of the Good News, made a FB post today which really cemented this point I’m making. He likened us to pizza boxes. The box isn’t what has worth–the pizza inside is. Be filled today with the Holy Spirit. People will smell the aroma and become hungry for what’s inside. The writing on the outside of the box, the fancy construction OR LACK THEREOF…irrelevant. You ARE a fragile vessel, capable of failing, messing up, falling short…yet THE GOD has chosen to use your frail container in which to place His Spirit! He does this so that when He works through you, people will know that it’s Him and not your own ability to perform which has brought forth good things.

Today when you are about your daily routine, you will be called upon to do something greater than your ability and experience can offer. If you are relying on merely those two factors, you may set yourself up for failure. Ask God to take your container, imperfect and incomplete though you may be, and work things through you that exceed your capabilities. As He does, give Him the glory. No more fixating on the judges’ scorecards! GOD Himself endorses you! With your confidence in His ability (the One Who cannot fail) instead of your own (which may or may not succeed), you walk into your situation with the full assurance that you really CAN do all things through Christ who strengthens you. Like Paul…nothing to prove, so you can afford to be all in. Go forth empowered today, in Jesus’ name!