Trust is the Greatest Compliment We Give Each Other

Trust is the greatest compliment we can give each other. Trust securely glues every kind of relationship we experience together: parent and child, husband and wife, teacher and student, friend to friend, leader and disciple, employer to employee. We know the security of trust when it is present. Yet, trust is difficult to define. 

Every newborn baby comes explicitly trusting others to care selflessly for its needs. Yet, broken trust requires extra measures of responsibility, grace and time to restore.  

Love, honour, servanthood, and humility are just a few of the non-optional attributes we owe to each other. But not trust! In fact, Jesus didn’t trust everyone!

“Now while he was in Jerusalem
at the Passover Festival,
many people saw the signs
he was performing and believed in his name.
But Jesus would not entrust himself to them,
for he knew all people.”
John 2:23-24

What is this valuable asset, we call trust, in relationships? What allows trust to thrive? How can trust be restored once broken?

Five key elements must exist to create trust: empathy, motivation, ability, character, and history. 

Empathy

The dictionary defines empathy as an “ability to understand and share the feelings of another”. Far too often, our need to be understood exceeds our desire to truly understand others. 

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition
or vain conceit.
Rather, in humility
value others above yourselves,
not looking to your own interests
but each of you to the interests of the others.”
Philippians 2:3-4

Instinctively, we sense when people are more concerned with themselves than with others. Developing positive communication skills, including listening well, has been a process for me. We can learn to hear beyond people’s words to their hearts.

I honestly have to ask myself, “Do I listen well?” So far, the response is “Not good enough!” I am learning, albeit slowly, how to listen with more than my ears. 

Often words mask the real message of the heart. Will I look into people’s eyes and honour their unspoken longing — taking the risk, though messy and uncomfortable? Will I focus on their circumstances, their struggles, and their needs?

“Nobody cares how much you know
until they know how much you care.”
– Theodore Roosevelt

Motivation

Motivation, the reason why someone acts or behaves in a certain way, usually conceals itself in wounded caverns of the soul. We may be ignorant of our own “real” motivation behind our words or actions. 

Dr. Henry Cloud says, “Whenever we meet someone — especially a stranger but also a friend, a boss we see every day, or even a family member — we unconsciously scan the face, read the body language, and assess the tone of voice to determine whether the person is with us or against us. It is just what humans do.” 

“But I, the Lord, search all hearts
and examine secret motives.
I give all people their due rewards,
according to what their actions deserve.”
Jeremiah 17:10

By allowing God to search our hearts, we become people others can trust. The only way to effectively invest in the lives of others, championing their causes and helping them to succeed, is through pure motives.

When someone has “dropped the ball”, failing us in some way, will vengeance cloud our vision of them? Do we value them and the relationship enough to seek restoration? Will we stand by them until they walk strong again?

Restoring trust is the greatest compliment we can offer. Trust says, “I want you to succeed.”

Ability

It is amazing to me, how Jesus drew His incompetent disciples into ever increasing levels of ability. They floundered and fought. Yet Jesus trusted them enough (after only three years of training) to launch the Christian Church off their backs. Astounding!

Ability unlocks trust.
Trust empowers ability.

We often chose people for positions of trust based on credentials, certification or even the recommendation of others. Jesus chose The Twelve in a different way.

“One of those days
Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray,
and spent the night praying to God.
When morning came,
he called his disciples to him
and chose twelve of them,
whom he also designated apostles.”
Luke 6:12-13

Would any of us have chosen to trust this team? Would we have considered any of them upper level leadership? As Jesus sought the wisdom of God, He saw in each of them potential. 

Relationships require trusting the ability of others to bring what is needed into the situation. Trust says, “This is no gamble! I know that you can do it. You will do well.”

Trust is the greatest compliment we can offer someone who questions their own ability.

Character

Character resembles the steel structure in a skyscraper. It is the invisible strength that sustains a person through time and adversity. As fire forms steel, suffering molds godly character.

“Not only so but we also
glory in our suffering,
because we know that suffering
produces perseverance;
perseverance, character; and character, hope.”
Romans 5:3-4

Character includes far more than the moral aspects required to be trustworthy. Trust grows best among those 

who are optimistic,
know how to persevere through trial,
refuse to act impulsively or defensively,
are unstoppable by fear,
secure and tenacious.

People with these attributes possess character mature enough to trust.

“Character inspires others to trust them.”
– Dr. Henry Cloud

History

Past successes and failures historically map our lives. Paul and Barnabas, after much prayer and fasting, were sent off to preach the gospel. I’m not sure anyone was at fault, but soon we see the team divided over John Mark. 

“They had such a sharp disagreement
that they parted company.
Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus,
but Paul chose Silas and left,
commended by the believers
to the grace of the Lord.”
Acts 15:39-41

Paul’s impression of John Mark was clouded by previous experience — “history.” Mark once deserted him “in the work.” Barnabas, the Son of Encouragement, embraced Mark in spite of past failure. Paul refused to trust again.

 

Later, Paul considered him a valuable brother. Obviously something changed, either in Paul’s heart or in Mark’s attitude.

“The best predictor of the future is the past,
unless there is something new.”
– Dr. Henry Cloud

Broken trust necessitates change before it can be restored — often on the part of both parties. Such restoration develops over time, forming a new history. Trust is the greatest compliment we can extend to each other. It is the confidence to say, “I believe in you!”

Only One

Trust varies depending on the relationship. God is the only One we can completely trust all the time.

“Trust in him at all times, you people;
pour out your hearts to him,
for God is our refuge.”
Psalms 62:8

For people, trust is a work in progress through grace and vulnerability. 

Though we might struggle to move past times of broken trust, it is far more beneficial to focus on how we can become trustworthy ourselves. Let’s allow God to reveal our empathy and inner motivation. May we increase in our ability to facilitate trust with strength of character. Then, over the duration of our lives, we will develop a “history” of trust.

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Recommended Read:
Dr. Henry Cloud – “The Power of the Other” 

 

Reputation – What Do I Want to Be Remembered For

One of the most valuable things we can obtain is a good reputation. Call me a little crazy, but sometimes I wonder what people will say in memory of me, when I am dead and gone. Perhaps it is a good thing to keep in mind while I’m still alive and have an opportunity to make life-style adjustments.

Awhile back, I attended a funeral that had been entirely pre-orchestrated by the deceased, from the floral arrangements, to the pictorial history, right down to the obituary and eulogy. This concerned person wasn’t leaving anything to chance.

I don’t enjoy going to funerals, but I do enjoy listening to the revelations of those who knew the individual the best. Usually a person’s life is abbreviated into a few short paragraphs of humorous stories, positive attributes, and outstanding accomplishments.

Amazing, isn’t it? Decades of living condensed into a “Reader’s Digest” version. What is even more interesting is that within a few short years, we begin to remember loved ones not by paragraphs but in single sentences.

“She was a stubborn as the day is long!”
“He was the best teacher I ever had.”
“That man could make anything work.”
“I felt sorry for anyone who tried to stand in her way!”

Oddly enough even the one liners quickly evaporate into single words that capture an entire lifetime: kind or mean, generous or cheap, caring or selfish, thankful or complaining.

Reputation

Reputation deserves more thought than we perhaps give it.

“Choose a good reputation over great riches;
being held in high esteem
is better than silver and gold.”
Proverbs 22:1

It is often the daily things, the little things, in life that blend the colours forming the full picture of our character. From front row seats, our spouse and family witness it all. They watch us navigate the highs and lows of life. They know how we respond when the kids are sick, we hit our thumb with a hammer, get cut off in traffic or stress pulls us like an elastic band to breaking point.

Solomon points out that reputation matters. How God evaluates our life, however, counts the most.

Paul advised Timothy to carefully examine the lives of people before choosing his leadership team. Positive attributes like “faithful … temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, and able to teach” started the long list. Negative qualities to be avoided included “not violent, not quarrelsome” and “not a lover of money.

“He must also have a good reputation with outsiders,
so that he will not fall into disgrace
and into the devil’s trap.”
1 Timothy 3:7

God is looking for the evidence of exemplary character at home, church, work and in the community.

“You can fool all the people some of the time,
and some of the people all the time,
but you cannot fool all the people all of the time.”
– Abraham Lincoln.

God’s View

I must admit I have trouble with God’s viewpoint on a few biblical personalities. But then, a broad gap separates human perspective and God’s.

The church in Sardis had “a reputation of being alive,” but God called them dead. (Rev 3:1) How is that for differing viewpoints?

When a worshipper decided to break an expensive flask of perfume and dump it on Jesus head, everyone in the room turned on her in anger and screamed, “Why this waste?”  Jesus saw the gesture as beautiful.

“Truly I tell you,
whereever this gospel is preached
throughout the world,
what she has done will also be told,
in memory of her.”
Matthew 26:13

Did you catch that? Her act of worship would never, ever, be reduced to a single line or word. Her reputation as a lavish worshipper would be told, in full, throughout time.

God says, “Solomon’s wisdom was greater than the wisdom of all the people of the East, and greater than all the wisdom of Egypt.” (1 Kings 4:30) Anyone who thinks he needs 1000 wives and concubines (who by the way turned him away from God) isn’t all that wise, to my way of thinking. Anybody could predict trouble in that scenario. Actually God and I agree on that one!

Too quickly, we summarize King David’s life to a single word — adultery. God expands it to

“…I have found David son of Jesse,
a man after my own heart;
he will do everything I want him to do.”
Acts 13:22

The Challenge

So here is my challenge. People have identified me with some surprisingly good attributes and many equally not-so-good ones. You probably have experienced the same. How do we live in a consistently honouring and godly way to develop a reputation that is above reproach with God and man?

I know it is possible.

“And the boy Samuel continued to grow
in stature and in favor with
the LORD and with people.”
1 Samuel 2:26

Jesus also “grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.” (Luke 2:52) I don’t know about you, but I consider Jesus in a class all His own, even though he was fully man.

Solomon offeres concrete advise for us, however.

“My son, do not forget my teaching,
but keep my commands in your heart,
for they will prolong your life many years
and bring you peace and prosperity.
Let love and faithfulness never leave you;
bind them around your neck,
write them on the tablet of your heart.
Then you will win favor and a good name
in the sight of God and man.”
Proverbs 3:1-4 

In one of Solomon’s smarter seasons, he recognized the connection between following not just the “commands” but also the heart of God. This reproduces a godly character that wins “favor and a good name” on earth and in heaven.

In Memory

Those who diminish the bible to a long list of “dos” and “don’ts” miss the mark. The bible reveals God and His great love for people. Yet, reality exists. In our own ability, we are powerless to create good and godly reputations. We need help!

As we commit our lives to Jesus Christ and cooperate with Holy Spirit to re-form us, change happens. The Word of God is powerful to transform lives. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is redemptive, creates hope and opens our destiny to lives well lived.

We identify Peter as the “rock” who helped establish the fledgling church. Rarely do we remember him for his betrayal of Jesus. We remember Paul for being the great apostle to the Gentiles and writer of much of the New Testament, not his persecution of the church. Everyone remembers John as “the beloved”, not as a son of thunder.

By the grace of God, a reputation can change! Perhaps Paul said it best,

“But by the grace of God I am what I am,
and his grace to me
was not without effect.”
1 Corinthians 15:10

I know that I have a long way to go to build that godly reputation. I also know God is improving on the original version of who I once was. If there is hope for me, honestly, there is hope for everyone.

God is an amazing Master Builder, Redeemer, Re-Creator, and Restorer. He is ready and willing to lead us into that new reputation.

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Your Promise is Waiting – Do Something!

Earth’s resources may be diminishing, but heaven’s never do. Your promise is waiting, but you may have to do something illogical to receive it. However, these God opportunities sometimes have expiration dates.

I read the other day that over $800 million remains in unclaimed bank accounts in Canada alone. A $60 million lottery ticket currently sits unclaimed in Alberta. That sounds ridiculous to me. Somebody do something!

How many even more valuable promises sit in God’s hand waiting for somebody — anybody — to do something? God’s prompting to motivate us may hit a road block in my over-rationalizing mind or carry a risk I’m unprepared to take. Possessing our promise may take courage.

“And without faith living within us,
it would be impossible to please God.
For we come to God in faith knowing
that he is real and that he rewards the faith
of those who give all their
passion and strength into seeking him.”
Hebrews 11:6 TPT

Courage requires faith. Faith demands courage.

Risky Faith

Peter had given up everything to follow Jesus, including his family, business and security. So when the tax collectors came knocking Peter’s pockets were empty. Jesus instructed,

“…go to the lake and throw out your line.
Take the first fish you catch;
open its mouth and you will find
a four-drachma coin.
Take it and give it to them for my tax and your.”
Matthew 17:27
 

Sounds little “fishy” to me! (That’s Canadian for unbelievable.) I like fishing, but the most unusal thing I have found in a fish’s mouth is another fish. Peter trusted Jesus’ words and took a risk. He did something perhaps no one else would have done. He obeyed.

You would think everyone who saw the day’s catch would go fishing. But they knew God gives a specific word to a seeking heart that is unique to that time and situation. 

What if Peter chose not to listen? What if he failed to respond? Frankly, I don’t know why God often relies on the obedience of people. 

It’s Absurd

Familiarity gives the absurd directives within bible stories almost a “normal” appearance. The way of us earth-walking humans and our infinitely minded God present distinct and contradictory opposites

God recruits Moses, Egypt’s most wanted criminal and fugitive. When an entire nation cries out in panic as a fierce army corners them against the Red Sea, God tells Moses to point a stick at the water. Seriously?

“Why are you crying out to me?
Tell the Israelites to move on.
Raise your staff and stretch out your hand
over the sea to divide the water
so that the Israelites can go through
the sea on dry ground.”
Exodus 14:15-16

Who would you rather be? Moses or the first person stepping into the ominous depths? As absurd as the instructions appeared, victory came as everyone moved forward in obedience. Moses knew the voice of God. His confidence rested not in himself, but in the faithfulness of the One speaking.

A promise is waiting for all who will obey.

Hearing Well

Rebellion blocked Israel’s ability to hear God. Twisted attitudes and calloused hearts continue to affect our ability to hear clearly and respond fully to God’s leading.

“Whether you turn to the right or to the left,
your ears will hear
a voice behind you, saying,
‘This is the way; walk in it.'”
Isaiah 30:21

Responding bridges hearing with receiving:

  • Wash seven times in the dirty Jordan River and the leprosy will disappear. (2 Kings 5:10)
  • Step out of the boat and you will walk on water. (Matt 14:29)
  • After we make mud from spit and put it into blind eyes, go wash for healing. (John 9:6-7)
  • Feed the starving crowd of thousands with a boy’s bag lunch. (Luke 9:13)
  • Throw your nets on the other side. A great catch was waiting! (Luke 5:4)

If we ignore the prompting of the Lord, insisting on doing things like we have always done them, we will miss many miracles and divine encounters. Perhaps a promise is waiting today. Is anyone willing to move in a radical way to find out? Will we hold back looking for a risk-free formula to claim the blessing?

Obeying

Though the bible is filled with such illustrations, none of these men or women moved in presumption. A sure word from God preceded each miracle.

“I will instruct you and teach you
in the way you should go;
I will counsel you
with my loving eye on you.”
Psalms 32:8

Biblical examples abound of those who “presumed” they heard God and missed the mark. Others hesitated and decided too late to respond, with disastrous results. 

Maintaining close relationship with God (through prayer and bible reading), while being in authentic relationships with mature Christians, creates a safe guard helping us discern God’s voice and respond appropriately. Having a mentor, coach or accountability partner will help us access God’s best for our lives.

But ultimately, the choice is ours. Will we trust God and risk?

Trust in the Lord
with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight.”
Proverbs 3:5-6
 

I have this verse etched on the wall at the foot of my bed. I need a constant reminder to resist the tendency to trust in my own strength, ability or wisdom. 

Promise

When my husband and I took over the family farm, my father responded, “What a relief! I never liked farmer.”

It was sobering to think that my father continued, for over 50 years, to do a job that he didn’t find fulfilling. As I questioned him further, I discovered that he kept doing what he always did because he lacked the confidence to risk change. His creative ingenuity remained largely untapped.

It can be the same with us. It isn’t easy to trust God in the unknown. Fear held my father back. Fear paralyzes many.

The psalmist declared, 

“I will hurry, without delay,
to obey your commands.”
Psalm 119:60

Those who accessed the promises and miracles of God hurried “without delay.”  Those who say “Yes!” to God, continually and radically create pathways for the supernatural. They may leave families, businesses, securities and predictable lives in their obedience. These aren’t absent minded decisions. They have

sought God with all their hearts,
listened intently to His voice,
tested and weighed the word against scripture,
and listened to the counsel of others,
before moving toward God in obedience,
knowing a promise is waiting.

Who Knows

God alone knows the result. Will we shake cultural norms? Will we allow His Kingdom to come to earth in surprising ways?

“But when he,
the Spirit of truth, comes,
he will guide you into all the truth.
He will not speak on his own;
but he will speak only what he hears,
and he will tell you what is yet to come.”
John 16:13

So if you ask me what I’m doing these days, don’t be surprised if I answer, “I’m walking with a stick.” “Going fishing.”  or “Making mud with spit.” God alone knows the outcome. I don’t intend on holding back. A promise is waiting! Hopefully, there will be no unclaimed balances left in any of my spiritual bank account.

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Security – Safe in Our Father’s Hands – Never Lost

Sometimes we are given reminders that everything is safe in our Father’s hands. Whatever we commit to our Heavenly Father remains secure — never lost. Security ranks among humanities highest needs.

Although fathers are worthy of honour everyday, we set aside a specific day each year to honour both natural and spiritual fathers for the influence and impact they have. God used this Father’s Day to demonstrate how vast His father heart is for us.

One of my favourite verses declares the security we have in God, our Father.

“I will not in any way fail you
nor give you up nor leave you without support.
I will not. No, I will not.
I will not in any degree leave you helpless
nor forsake nor let you down,
relax My hold on you.
Assuredly not!”
Hebrews 13:5b AMP

Now that is security!

Never Lost

My father passed away 24 years ago. Shortly after, I inherited a necklace he had given my mother untold years before. The delicate gold chain suspended a small heart with the letter “V” nestled at the base. Since my father had accepted Jesus Christ as Saviour a short time before his death, that little necklace became a personal reminder of God’s faithfulness. The “V” symbolized both the power of prayer and the victory we have in Jesus.

Whenever pressures, disappointments or discouragement clouded my life, I would wear that little necklace as a prophetic prayer act, declaring God’s victory over my situation.

In October 2017, I travelled to Calgary, Alberta to receive accreditation for ministry — a significant step in my spiritual calling. But somehow that necklace and a pair of gold earings went missing in the hotel room. 

To no avail, I searched through every pocket and fold trying to find my keepsake. Several times over these last 20 months, I have released my loss to God, but confessed, “Lord, I really want my necklace back.” 

On Father’s Day, I had prepared for church adding a pair of butterfly earrings as a final touch. Just before leaving the house, I felt compelled to return to the little jewellery box. When I opened the lid, I noticed a fine gold chain looped across the top of the contents. 

“What is this?” I asked as I reached for the chain. Gasping through tears of disbelief, I held again my “lost” keepsake in my hand.

“Of Daddy,” I said to my Heavenly Father, “You have given back what was lost.”

Kept Safe

Was it lost? Or was it kept safe just out of sight? I have no idea how that little chain appeared in my jewellery box. Was it always there? Concealed, waiting to be revealed? If so, how did I miss seeing it for so long? I may never know the answers.

One thing I know for sure, God used this little token of my earthly father’s love, to touch my heart in a new way. I became immediately aware that nothing is ever lost, but rather kept safe in our Father’s hands.

God who holds all creation by the power of His Word, on Father’s Day, gave His little child back a special gift inherited from her father. Everything is held secure by God. Everything!

God’s greatest gift came in the form of a baby, Jesus Christ. He was given to live holy and blameless, to die for sins He never committed, and to rise again to give life to all who would believe.

“For God so loved the world
that he gave his one and only Son
that whoever believes in him
shall not perish but have eternal life.”
John 3:16

Later when the Jews attempted to discredit and slander Jesus, He said about those who would follow Him, 

I give them eternal life,
and they shall never perish;
no one will snatch them out of my hand.
My Father, who has given them to me,
is greater than all;
no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.”
John 10:28-29

What security! We are safe in our Father’s hands!

Security

The most precious thing of all is the human soul. Gold or silver holds no value in comparison. Wealth and power are meaningless in contrast.

Yet this little incident reminded me how great and amazing God is. How He sees us — knows us so intimately, caring about even the simplest and most insignificant aspects of our lives. Why did He choose Father’s Day to return this little treasure that holds little value to anyone but me? 

In it He revealed something deeper about His character. I have known Him as

Protector and Provider,
 my Refuge in the storm
the One who sustains and delivers,
the Shepherd who leads me,
my Healer and Restorer,
the Strength of my life.

But in a fresh way, I see and know Him as the One who loves personally and cares deeply about every “lost” part of our lives: lost years or opportunities, lost love or relationship, lost hope or purpose, lost dreams or desires.

“I keep my eyes always on the LORD.
With him at my right hand,
I will not be shaken.
Therefore my heart is glad
and my tongue rejoices;
my body also will rest secure.”
Psalm 16:8-9

Safe in our Father’s hands.

Safe

Real safety cannot be found in this twisted, shaking world. Yet, God offers us the assurance that our security is sealed in Him.

“…When you believed,
you were marked in him with a seal,
the promised Holy Spirit.”
Ephesians 1:13

“Marked in him with a seal!” A seal verifies and validates authentic identity. It figuratively means to secure to someone, make sure, and deliver to safety.” 

Safe, secure and protected! Nothing remains lost with God. All that we entrust to Him is kept infinitely secure. 

Psalm 91 begins with a declaration of dwelling, resting and trusting in God. The last half of this psalm is God’s response to such confidence in Him.

“Because he loves me,” says the LORD,
“I will rescue him; I will protect him,
for he acknowledges my name.
He will call on me, and I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble,
I will deliver him and honour him.
With long life I will satisfy him and
show him my salvation.”
Psalm 91:14-16

An unusual word for “love” appears here. It presents the idea of “holding close to or hugging tightly in love.”

Holding Close

These promises are for those who “hold close” to God, “hugging” Him tightly in love. His love for us is incomparably more than any holding close or hugging tightly we may offer. Yet, He sees, values and rewards our reach toward Him — reaching even in loss.

The return of my little heart necklace symbolizes many “losses” I continue to pray will some day be restored in my life or the lives of others:

lost health while battling cancer and disease;
lost trust through adultery or betrayal;
sons and daughters lost to addictions;
dreams lost through unforeseen circumstance;
lost innocence or hope.

At the same time, the return of my necklace reminds us that nothing is ever fully lost, but kept safe in our Father’s hands. He waits for the perfect time, the exact day, the premise moment to restore to each of us all that was lost.

But now, we position ourselves,holding closely to Him, hugging tightly in His love” and praying, “God, I want my lost back.”

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Giving Thanks – Sustaining an Attitude of Gratitude

Sustaining an attitude of gratitude may seem difficult for many people. However, it is an attribute that we can develop no matter what our circumstances.

In my limited travels to developing nations ministering to the very poor, I have noticed thankfulness in the midst of great lack. Here is North America, we often struggle with being thankful while accumulating “more”, “better than we had before”, or “different than what someone else has.”

Consumerism pervades not just closets but hearts. If we aren’t careful, a sense of entitlement creeps in. “I’ve earned it!” or “I deserve better!” becomes the unspoken but underlying thought pattern.

Paul encourages us,

Rejoice always,
pray continually,
give thanks in all circumstances;
for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

The Passion translation says, “in the midst of everything be always giving thanks.” It is impossible to sustain an attitude of gratitude in all circumstances” if we haven’t developed a prayerful lifestyle of giving thanks.

People

An assignment recently required me to write a few notes to those who have inspired, motivated or encouraged me along my spiritual or occupational journey. I had no trouble thinking of multiple people who

taught me new skills,
created opportunity for growth,
advocated for promotion,
allowed me to be vulnerable and authentic,
or picked me up after a major setback.

I am blessed! Does that mean life has been easy or people always treat me fairly, with honour and respect? Absolutely not!

“Healthy cultures embrace people where they are
but they also nudge them
and sometimes even push them to get better.”
– Dr. Henry Cloud

I am thankful for those who have “nudged” and “pushed” me “to get better” even if it wasn’t comfortable at the time.

Paul wrote to a very unhealthy congregation at Corinth, yet he said,

“I always thank my God for you
because of his grace given you
in Christ Jesus.”
1 Corinthians 1:4

As I mentor women living under high-pressure, dysfunctional and even abusive situations, I exhort them to search for the “straws of good” in others. I’m not expecting them to ignore the reality, but rather inspire an attitude of gratitude.

Gratitude includes displaying thankfulness through words and actions. It isn’t long before these women come up with several things they can genuinely give thanks for.

Circumstances

It is unreasonable to give thanks “for” everything that is thrown our way, but completely possible to maintain an attitude of gratitude “in” everything we are facing.

I have never experienced extreme persecution for my faith, like millions of others. Paul did. He gives a brief summary: “hard pressed, crushed, perplexed, in despair, persecuted and struck down” (2 Cor 4:7-9). Add to that, in prison, flogged, exposed to death, lashed, beaten with rods, stoned, shipwrecked, and constantly in danger (2 Cor 11:23-28)

My life looks easy in comparison. Yours probably does too. Yet, listen to his perspective.

“All this is for your benefit,
so that the grace that is reaching
more and more people may cause thanksgiving
to overflow to the glory of God.”
2 Corinthians 4:15

God’s grace works through every circumstance for His glory. That alone is reason enough for overflowing thankfulness.

I have enough years behind me to view life’s hazards through the lens of grace and thanksgiving. The tough times exposed ungodly attitudes and tendencies in me that otherwise would have continued to cloud my character. God uses the pressures of life to reveal and then refine. For that I am thankful.

God

A true attitude of gratitude rests in thankfulness toward God. The writer’s of scripture continually penned their recognition and appreciation for God and His great mercy and kindness.

“Praise the LORD.
Give thank to the LORD,
for he is good; his love endures forever.”
Psalm 106:1

Thankfulness naturally flows out of relationship with God. Yet, even though God gives us ample reason to sustain an attitude of gratitude, David knew thankfulness comes from a decision of the will.

I will give thanks to you, LORD,
with all my heart;
and tell of all your wonderful deed.
I will be glad and rejoice in you;
I will sing the praises of your name,
O Most High.”
Psalm 9:1-2

The people of Israel experienced God’s blessing yet they adopted an “entitlement” culture as well. Paul encouraged the Colossians to remember it is all about Christ.

“… Be thankful.
Let the message of Christ dwell among you
richly as you teach and admonish one another
with all wisdom and through
psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit,
singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.
And whatever you do, whether in word or deed,
do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus,
giving thanks to God the Father through Him.”
Colossians 3:15-17

Sowing and Reaping

Sowing and reaping works in every dimension of our lives — natural and spiritual. If I want to reap thankfulness, I must plant seeds of gratitude in the ordinary activities of my day. Here are a few examples:

  • Speak – Tell people how thankful you are for them and the impact they are having on your life. Don’t assume they know.
  • Journal – Challenge yourself to journal one thing you appreciate every day for a hundred days.
  • Pray – Like David, make the decision to praise and thank God for His goodness and grace. Don’t let your prayer time slip into a list of selfish wants. Recognize God’s presence and His grace in your life.
  • Memorize – Search out key verses of scripture about thankfulness and “hide them in your heart” through memorization.
  • Rethink – It only takes 3 seconds to change a negative thought into a positive one. So lighten the gloom by re-programing your mind toward appreciation.
  • Accountability – Ask two or three friends to hold you accountable as you reshape your character into one of gratitude.

Even small steps go a long way in creating an attitude of gratitude. The reward will be a new perspective on how you view people, circumstances and even God. As you plant the seeds of gratitude in your own life, don’t be surprised if you hear those around you express their appreciation more freely as well.

“…Express your thankfulness regularly.
If you pray, offer prayers of gratitude.
Second fall more in love with the Giver
than you ever do with his gifts.
Third, never claim full credit for your story.
Acknowledge the role of grace and providence
publicly when you talk.”
– Carey Nieuwhof

Thankful

My paternal grandmother died of cancer leaving her young children behind. My grandfather was a rough man who found it difficult to express kindness. Yet my father and all his siblings developed a contagious sense of humour and an ease in conveying appreciation. Living with a mean-spirited father in the absence of a nurturing mother did not hinder them from creating and sustaining an attitude of gratitude.

My father generously passed on the heritage of thanksgiving to his children, of which I am a beneficiary. Though giving “thanks in all circumstances” is not always easy, I am thankful for the example he established.

Those seeds of thankfulness my father planted in me, I now want to invest in my children, grandchildren, and those I influence. Let’s pass it forward!

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Two Options! Win or Lose, Which One Will You Choose?

In a world packed with almost unlimited opportunities, at the basest level we are left with two options, win or lose. Which one will you choose? Whether we realize it or not, the multitude of choices we make each day determines the final outcome.

What one thing will you give your life for? What one thing will you expend you energies, your time, and your resources to pursue? That one thing will dominate, dictate, and determine the course of your life both now and for eternity?

My sons enjoyed drag racing. Wins and losses were often determined in milliseconds. Warming tires, response time to the light tree, multiple smooth shifts, conscious and subconscious adjustments through the short course, all played a huge role in wins or losses. Literally thousands of decisions preceded a single race.

Competitors don’t go through training and preparation to lose. They prepare to win.

Dominate

The thrill of a win, bragging rights and a bit of cash, propels many to the short term glory of drag racing and a multitude of other endeavors. As a Christian, the target we aim for is much smaller but far more critical.

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run,
but only one gets the prize?
Run in such a way as to get the prize.
Everyone who competes in the games
goes into strict training.
They do it to get a crown that will not last,
but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.
Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly;
I do not fight like a boxer beating the air.”
I Corinthians 9:24-26

Corinth, an extremely wealthy city, consistently hosted a huge international athletic festival called the Isthmus Games. It ranked second only to the Olympics. The Corinthians clearly understood Paul’s illustration of running and competing.

Though running to improve one’s health is beneficial, Paul wanted Christian’s to know faith is no casual run. “Isn’t it obvious that runners run to win? Run that kind of race.” Paul says, “I don’t run just for exercise. I train like a champion athlete.” Paul’s goal was to dominate.

Serious competitors know you either win or lose. Rather than seeing two options, however, winning dominates their focus. Champions set their target to win. Losses become learning mechanisms to gain traction for the next win.

To train and compete for a loreal wreath that would soon fade was applauded in Corinth. Yet a frail endeavour in comparison to the rewards of living all in for Christ.

Dictate

Hebrews Chapter 11 lists the alumni of great men and women of faith. Few if any compare to the high standard of their legacy.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded
by such a great cloud of witnesses,
let us throw off everything that hinders
and the sin that so easily entangles.
And let us run with perseverance
the race marked out for us,
fixing our eyes on Jesus,
the pioneer and perfecter of faith.
For the joy set before him he endured the cross,
scorning its shame, and sat down
at the right hand of the throne of God.
Consider him who endured
such opposition from sinners,
so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”
Hebrews 12;1-3

The athletes in Corinth were willing to press themselves beyond normal human capacity for something temporal and fleeting. That propensity to excel resides in us all to some degree.

There is a “race marked out for us” bearing more significance than any Olympic gold medal, a president’s chair, or celebrity status. The choices we make will dictate the outcome.

Those who have gone ahead of us into eternity watch our “race.” If only we could see and hear that great throng standing in joyous anticipation — applauding, fist pumping, cheering, and urging us on to the finish line.

Determine

Unfortunately, we too often wander aimlessly, unaware of the choices — the two options — that stand before us. Rather than regarding the Christian life as a strategic and high stakes athletic event, we sloth through days with ambivalence.

Just as in a race, milliseconds matter, so in our lives. Today holds a whopping 86,400 seconds. Seems like a lot right? But what if this was our last day? Then milliseconds matter!

I, and probably you with the same awareness, would treasure those milliseconds determining what matters most.

The applause of multitudes,
or the company of loved ones;
selfish indulgence or legacy building;
accumulating more or giving what I have;
reaching for the top or sharing success;
checking investments or talking with God;
temporal or eternal;
death or life.

A drag race from start to finish occurs in less than 10 seconds.The Christian race also passes far quicker than we realize. Compared to eternity, time here is short. Everything we see and know today will soon be gone. All will pass away.

Two Options

Short and long term goals may or may not be fulfilled. The planned meetings, events, and family celebrations that fill our calendars may or may not occur. Each are minute choices in a much larger canvas of time — a canvas too broad and high for narrow human view.

“Since everything will be destroyed in this way,
what kind of people ought you to be?
You ought to live holy and godly lives
as you look forward to the day of God
and speed its coming…”
2 Peter 3:11-12

I hope you are not discouraged thinking our feeble efforts are futile. Quite the contrary! Even little moments potentially carry eternal significance. The way we spend our milliseconds determines eternity, both for us and many others we have the opportunity to influence.

For which of the two options, the temporal or the eternal, are we in strict training for? Focusing on eternity, with Jesus Christ as Lord, is the one thing worth giving our lives for. Expending energy, time and resources for that pursuit will gain eternal reward. 

When the one thing that dominates, dictates and determines the course of our lives is Jesus Christ, the disciplines of running the Christian race will fall into rhythm. Winners keep eternity in focus.

Only Two

I wish there were more than two options and that there wasn’t so much to lose. Eternity is just that — eternal! The stakes are high. The consequences broad.  The little choices, those millisecond decisions, carry serious repercussions.

There is eternal heaven and eternal hell. The only way to heaven is through Jesus Christ. He said that eternal life is to know Him. (John 17:3)

“Jesus answered, “I am the way
and the truth and the life.
No one comes to the Father
except through me.”
John 14:6

Strict rules and regulations govern the parameters of any race. The spiritual race we have entered is much the same. We all run. But how will we run? We all compete. But are we competing by God’s parameters or are we attempting to run this race by our own faulty set of rules.

The choices we make in our milliseconds reveal the eternity we are presently living in and aiming for. They are critical not just for the “by-and-by” when we die, but for the now in which we live.

Champions weigh both options and choose wisely!

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Pentecost, The Outpouring of Holy Spirit and The Feast of Harvest

Pentecost and the outpouring of Holy Spirit, that occurred during the Feast of the Harvest, is a subject I am continually seeking to understand. God’s Word holds a rich reservoir of significance and truth worth searching out and discovering.

Jesus “gave many convincing proofs that he was alive.” (Acts 1:3)  

“… he appeared to Cephas,
and then to the Twelve.
After that, he appeared to more than
five hundred of the brothers and sisters
at the same time…”
1 Corinthians 15:5-6

 

Jesus showed Himself

Ascension

Forty days after His resurrection, Jesus visited His disciples for the last time. He instructed them to wait for “the gift” from the Father.

“… Do not leave Jerusalem,
but wait for the gift my Father promised,
which you have heard me speak about.
For John baptized with water,
but in a few days you will be baptized
with the Holy Spirit.”
Acts 1:4,5

I’ve never been good at waiting, especially when I know something good is about to happen. Waiting creates room for God.  

The disciples waited. They returned to Jerusalem together, “to the room where they were staying.” (Acts 1:13) “They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.” Anticipation grew as they waited together in unity.

Pentecost

Ten days later, they continued to press in together in prayer waiting for the promise  the outpouring of Holy Spirit.

“When the day of Pentecost came,
they were all together in one place.
Suddenly a sound like the blowing
of a violent wind came from heaven
and filled the whole house
where they were sitting.
They saw what seemed to be
tongues of fire that separated
and came to rest on each of them.
All of them were filled
with the Holy Spirit
and began to speak in other tongues
as the Spirit enabled them.”
Acts 2:1-4

The Feast of Weeks, or the Feast of Harvest, was rooted in Moses’ receiving the Law. Many similarities mark the Presence of God both here in Jerusalem and on Mt. Sinai.

Gods Presence in the fire and cloud

  • God’s appeared with fire, smoke and thunder on Mt. Sinai. Wind, fire and the loud noise of speaking in other tongues confirmed God’s presence at Pentecost.
  • The Law taught the people how to live. Holy Spirit now became the Teacher and Counselor.
  • While Moses was on the mountain receiving the Ten Commandments, the people were worshipping the golden calf. As a result, 3,000 people died. At Pentecost 3,000 people received new life by believing in Jesus.

“… for the letter kills,
but the Spirit gives life.”
2 Corinthians 3:6

God’s presence covered Mt. Sinai. His presence filled the Tabernacle of Moses, and then later Solomon’s temple. With the outpouring of Holy Spirit, God came to dwell “in” His people with power.

Joel

At Pentecost, people were “amazed and perplexed” to hear their own language spoken by foreigners. They were convinced something significant was occurring. Others laughed and mocked, calling them drunk!

Peter rose up with boldness and authority pointing everyone to Joel’s prophecy,

“In the last days, God says,
I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
 your young men will see visions,
 … old men will dream dreams.
Even on my servants, both men and women,
I will pour out my Spirit in those days,
and they will prophesy.”
Acts 2:17-18

Pentecost, the Outpouring of Holy Spirit

Every Jew recognized these words as a small portion of a much larger text. The preceding verses in Joel speak of abundant harvest — relevant to both the Feast of Harvest and Pentecost.

“Be glad, people of Zion,
rejoice in the LORD your God,
for he has given you
the autumn rains of righteousness.
He sends you abundant showers
both autumn and spring rains, as before.”
Joel 2:23

The autumn rains in righteousness can also be translatedteacher of righteousness.” The religious sect of Qumran, which produced most of the Dead Sea Scrolls, claimed that its most revered teacher of the law … the “Teacher of Righteousness” was the fulfillment of this prophecy.”

Jesus Christ, Teacher of Righteousness, fulfilled all He promised, including the outpouring of Holy Spirit.

The Harvest

As important as timely rains are, one shower never produces a bumper crop. Joel declares the evidence of the outpouring of Holy Spirit is overflowing harvest,

“The threshing floor
will be filled with grain;
the vats will overflow
with new wine and oil.”
Joel 2:24

Joel’s prophesy included both physical and spiritual overflow. Worship and praise of the Lord accompanied the feasting of the harvest. Joyous celebration and thanksgiving accompanied the festivities. 

Twice Joel repeats, 

never again will my people be shamed.”
Joel 2:26,27

Peter, who once bore the shame of denying Jesus, stood strong, now filled with Holy Spirit. “Never again” would shame make his life! “Never again” would lack fill his soul. The harvest would “never again” fail. From this moment on, the new wine and oil of Holy Spirit poured through his life in overflowing measure.

Pentecost, Holy Spirit

Christ may have left, but the outpouring of Holy Spirit had come!

In

Peter used the historical record of Israel to prove Christ’s validity. Without mincing words, he boldly talked about the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, to explain this visible work of Father, Son and Holy Spirit evidenced among them.

Exalted to the right hand of God,
he (Jesus) has received from the Father
the promised Holy Spirit
and has poured out what you now see and hear.”
Acts 2:33

Joel spoke of God dwelling in the midst of His people.

“Then you will know that I am in Israel,
that I am the LORD your God,
and that there is no other;
never again will my people be shamed.”
Joel 2:27

That little phrase “I am in” means “in the midst, present in the center or middle.” Though Joel may not have comprehended the meaning of his words, the imagery of the outpouring of Holy Spirit living “in the center” of believers is clear.

God, not wine, made the people stagger with His Presence. He came to live “in the center” of their beings. “Never again” would shame (disappointment, delay, or the pale of death) oppress them.

Respond

Peter challenged his listeners to respond to the outpouring of Holy Spirit,

“Peter replied, ‘Repent and be baptized,
every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ
for the forgiveness of your sins.
And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
Acts 2:38

Fire of Holy Spirit

The only prerequisite to receiving the outpouring of the Holy Spirit is repentance. Repenting means confessing and turning from sin, accepting Jesus’ death as the all-sufficient sacrifice as payment before God. Then believing Jesus destroyed death through His resurrection and confessing Him as Lord. 

Peter calls them to publicly demonstrate their death to sin and life in Christ through baptism in the name of Jesus Christ.

“Those who accepted his message were baptized,
and about three thousand were added
to their number that day.”
Acts 2:41

What joy in the harvest of souls!

For Today

The outpouring of Holy Spirit began at Pentecost, but it didn’t end there. A few days later, we see it continued.

“After they prayed,
the place where they were meeting was shaken.
And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit
and spoke the word of God boldly.”
Acts 4:31

Oil of Holy Spirit

Paul told believers to “not get drunk on wine…instead be filled with the Spirit.” (Eph 5:18) He encourages them tokeep being filled, to cram in more, to level up the supply.”

God intends the outpouring of Holy Spirit to be a continuous action in every Christian.

Just like an oil lamp needs a constant supply of oil to produce light, believers require constant filling of Holy Spirit to bring light to the world. Pentecost was the initiation into an unending supply available to all

Joel said, “In the last days“, making it clear he wasn’t referring to a single one-time activity. In Acts, they “all” received. Even now, Holy Spirit continues to be poured out on those hungry and ready to welcome Him.

Perhaps, today will be the beginning of your personal Pentecost, as you receive Holy Spirit. 

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The Sovereign LORD is My Strength – Habakkuk 3:19

Habakkuk anchored his life in Yahweh, the Sovereign LORD. God forms the solid foundation upon which he stands firm in strength and walks in power.

I’m not sure what it is like in other parts of the world, but in North America people of all ages spend countless hours and dollars at the gym in the effort to increase their strength. At one time, I was physically strong. Age has faded youthful vigor somewhat.

Yahweh never fades. Habakkuk teaches us that any authority, power or strength we possess comes from God alone. He illustrates this reminder for us in a single sentence.

“The Sovereign LORD is my strength;
he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
he enables me to tread on the heights.”
Habakkuk 3:19

Yahweh

Yahweh is a proper name for God, like Susan or Michael. This Hebrew word emphatically declares “I AM”. His name presents to us a consistent reminder God is. He always was and He always will be!

God first identified Himself as Yahweh when He commissioned Moses to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. Suddenly and unexpectedly, God interrupted Moses’ quiet shepherding career. He introduced Himself as “the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” (Ex 3:6)

God’s Voice trumpeted from a burning bush giving Moses seemingly impossible directive. Moses questioned God’s identity,

“God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM.”
This is what you are to say to the Israelites:
I AM has sent me to you.'”
Exodus 3:14

“I AM” the infinite God, without beginning and end. Yahweh, unchangeable God, self-existent and independent of all others God. “I AM”, absolute God — absolute truth, purity, beauty, power, wisdom and so much more.

Habakkuk acknowledged, “I AM” is all I need. The Sovereign LORD is more than enough.” Through multiple interviews I have conducted with people, who are powerful and effective in prayer, this constant theme is voiced, “God is enough!” He is sufficient!

My Strength

Listen to the Amplified Bible translation,

“The LORD God is my strength,
my personal bravery,
and my invincible army.”
Habakkuk 3:19

The Hebrew word Habakkuk uses is a “first person singular” noun  —my strength.” It is one thing to know that God is the “I AM.” It is completely another thing to know the “I AM” personally — to understand that all He is, He is for me.

This kind of assurance and faith flows within secure, confident hearts. The “I AM” is mine! I am His! Divinely orchestrated relationship, fellowship and communion!

The Sovereign LORD is “my strength” and more. That word represents not just personal strength and force, but also personal wealth, virtue and valor. The “I AM”, Yahweh, provides.

My Feet

I don’t typically draw attention to my twisted, dusty, calloused feet. Yet, God uses a beautiful analogy to describe feet yielded to His leading

“…he makes my feet
like the feet of a deer…”
Habakkuk 3:19

I have always enjoyed viewing wildlife. So from very young, I would walk alone through the prairie bluffs and woods surrounding my home. Once, I came across a large herd of white-tail deer in rutting season. Even though I knew it was quite dangerous to be so close, I hid downwind hiding behind a clump of willows. I hoped to watch them without being noticed.

A large buck, sensing danger, approached my location snorting and flinging dust in the air with his sharp hooves. He shook his broad antlers aggressively challenging my presence. Mesmerized by his strength and beauty, I held my breath, sure he could hear the pounding of my heart.

Suddenly, with the slightest flick of his tail, he gave the warning signal. The entire herd turned, leaping over fences with ease. The lightness with which they carried themselves in great smooth strides captivated my heart. Their speed and agility stunning!

Though I have had many encounters with white-tail deer since that time, this memory has been seared into my mind forever.

Habakkuk’s heart and mind were imprinted with many memories of God’s working in his life. “He makes my feet like the deer” paraphrased says, “God has made me, put within me, and positioned me with agility, strength, ease to maneuver the times and seasons I am walking in.”

He unashamedly gave all credit and glory to God.

Enables Me

There are many opportunities before me that I feel competent, equipped and able to accomplish. Others feel overwhelming!

“…he enables me to tread on the heights.”
Habakkuk 3:19

Let’s back up a bit to get a clearer picture of the ground Habakkuk was treading on. Among the long list, we find violence, injustice, destruction, strife, and conflict.

“Therefore the law is paralyzed,
and justice never prevails.
The wicked hem in the righteous,
so that justice is perverted.”
Habakkuk 1:4

The situation surrounding Habakkuk caused him to cry out for God’s intervention, raising the trumpet sound of warning to the nation. The conditions within Israel appeared hopelessly impossible.

But God! The presence of Yahweh, the “I AM”, enabled Habakkuk to rise, “up, over and against” any opposition, any “height”, or high thing, that might stand in his way.

Tread on the Heights

Read in the Amplified Version again,

“He…will make me walk
(not to stand in terror, but to walk)
and make (spiritual) progress,
upon my high places
(of trouble, suffering or responsibility).”
Habakkuk 3:19

Honestly, some days just getting out of bed and choosing joy, feels like a great accomplishment. Leaping like deer and mountain climbing are unfathomable. But when the Sovereign LORD is present, nothing — absolutely nothing — can stop or impede our progress.

Habakkuk says,
“When conflict and strife raise their ugly head,
when destruction seems inevitable,
or violence and injustice overwhelm,
the Sovereign LORD
‘makes me walk’!”

The mountains of trouble, suffering and overwhelming responsibility become the training ground for “height” walkers. This is perfect ground for spiritual progress.

As I look back over my life, I see that it was in the darkest moments, the most difficult circumstances, that God was the closest and doing His greatest work in my life.

Sovereign LORD

Yahweh, the “I AM”, remains true to His character and faithful to His Word. What He has done for others, He is present to do for each of us.

Joshua declared at the end of his life, “The Sovereign LORD, Yahweh, kept every one of the promises He made.” (Josh 21:45) I could certainly echo both these and David’s words,

“The LORD directs the steps of the godly.
He delights in every detail of their lives.
Though they stumble,
they will never fall,
for the LORD holds them by the hand.
Once I was young, and now I am old.
Yet I have never seen the godly abandoned
or their children begging for bread.”
Psalm 37:23-25

In a single sentence Habakkuk articulates the strength and agility God provides for us to be able to move from under-dog to overcomer. No matter what we are facing, God is enough. The “I AM” is present in every situation equipping us with power to prevail.

“The Sovereign LORD is my strength;
he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
he enables me to tread on the heights.”
Habakkuk 3:19

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Responsiveness! God Responds to Us. How Will We Respond to God?

Being responsive may be easy for some people, but it is difficult for me. Responsiveness forms the foundation for any thriving relationship. God responds as we look toward Him. But how will we respond to God’s invitation to come into a mutual relationship with Him?

The dictionary meaning of “responsive” is “to react quickly and positively, to respond readily and with enthusiasm.”

Here is my present reality. I want God to respond “quickly and positively” to my cries for help, yet expect His grace allowing me to hesitate, to evaluate, or even procrastinate in my response to Him.

“Do two walk together
unless they agreed to do so?”
Amos 3:3

Responsiveness gives agreement to each other.

Difficulty Responding

Disappointment, betrayal, rejection or brokenness form wounds within relationships, Wounds create callouses, a hardness of heart, that often makes responding difficult.

God gave Hosea the overwhelming task of marrying a prostitute, knowing she would be unfaithful. He had to overcome personal pain to woo her back.

God asked this humble prophet to live in a way that visibly demonstrated Israel’s betrayal of their God — the Bride’s betrayal of the Bridegroom.

“Therefore I am now going to allure her;
I will lead her into the wilderness
and speak tenderly to her.
There I will give her back her vineyards,
and will make the Valley of Achor
a door of hope.
There she will respond
as in the days of her youth.”
Hosea 2:14-15

Broken bruised hearts struggle to respond to love. But God leads — even in “the wilderness”, in “the Valley of Achor” (Valley of Trouble). God turns this dry place of trouble into “a door of hope.” Even when hope vanishes, God leads the way!

Here beyond hope, “she will respond.”

Rebellion Blocks

Hosea speaks of Israel’s stubborn refusal to respond “quickly and positively” to God.

Israel’s arrogance testifies against them;
the Israelites, even Ephraim,
stumble in their sin;
Judah also stumbles with them.”
Hosea 5:5

The phrase “testifies against” translates from the same word for “respond.” Refusal to respond epitomizes defiance against our Redeemer and Lord.

Even our faintest response to God’s open “door of hope” releases a transformational change.

“‘In that day I will respond,’
declares the LORD —
I will respond to the skies,
and they will respond to the earth;
and the earth will respond to the grain,
the new wine and the olive oil,
and they will respond to Jezreel.'”
Hosea 2:21-22

Envision it! Our little response to God releases a supernatural reproduction. Creation breaks forth on the wings of human responsiveness to God!

Love Initiates

Jezreel means “God plants.” The seeds of responsiveness bloom and grow, producing a love that initiates — fully and continuously responding.

“I will plant her for myself in the land;
I will show my love to the one I called
‘Not my loved one.’
I will say to those called
‘Not my people,’
You are my people‘;
and they will say, ‘You are my God.‘”
Hosea 2:23

This same word “respond” weaves through the Song of Songs, veiling the responsiveness between the Lover and His Beloved

“My beloved spoke and said to me,
arise, my darling, my beautiful one,
come with me.'”
Songs 2:10

Singing and Shouting Erupts

Some versions translate Hosea 2:15 as she will sing there” in “Valley of Trouble.” The Psalms often express this way of responding.

“May my tongue sing of your word,
for all your commands are righteous.”
Psalm 119:172

Such joyous response of singing or triumphant shouts over our enemies, represent quick, positive response. Listen to God’s decree over Babylon.

“The LORD Almighty has sworn by himself;
I will surely fill you with troops,
as with a swarm of locust,
and they will shout in triumph over you.”
Jeremiah 51:14

Here “shout in triumph” is translated from the Hebrew word for respond.

Covenant Facilitates

Responsiveness refers mainly within the context of covenant relationship. Perhaps that is why I appreciate Hosea so much. He experienced the deepest breach of covenant — the pain of adultery.

The Valley of Trouble leaves enduring scars — visible remnants of broken trust. Everyone faces the sting of betrayal to some degree. Recovery cannot be forced. How does a bruised and wounded heart respond again?

By God’s grace alone! David’s says, “I call out to the LORD, and he answers me.” (Ps 3:4) He assures us, “God will respond to your need.”

“May the LORD answer you
when you are in distress;
may the name of the God of Jacob protect you.
May he send you help
and grant you support.
Psalm 20:1-2

The word “respond” is hidden within Psalm 20 multiple times — responsiveness between God and His children in need. “Help” and “support” are essential to restoring trust. The decision to respond, not just to God, but to those around us, rests upon our security in the Lord’s Presence rather than trusting people to show value and dignity.

I sought the LORD, and he answered me;
he delivered me from all my fears.
Those who look to him are radiant;
their faces are never covered with shame.
Psalm 34:4-5

God delivers and covers the bruised one from fear and the betrayed one from shame within the responsiveness of covenant love.

Responding

Jonah avoided responding by running and hiding.

“But Jonah ran away from the LORD…
he went down to Joppa…
After paying the fare, he went aboard…
to flee from the LORD…
Jonah had gone below deck,
where he lay down and fell into a deep sleep.”
Jonah 1:3-4

Refusal to respond “quickly and positively” to God’s voice carries a heavy price. The journey leads ever downward into deepening disengagement from God, others and even ourselves. “The fare” costs far more than any realize.

Though Jonah eventually did what God asked, his heart never turned fully to God. He remained hard within the crusty shell of self-sufficiency (4:5), self-pity (4:8), and self-righteousness (4:9). Nineveh repented. Jonah refused.

There is only one man known for his responsiveness to God’s voice.

“Because your heart was responsive
and you humbled yourself before the LORD
when you heard what I have spoken…
and because you tore your robes
and wept in my presence,
I also have heard you, declares the LORD.”
2 Kings 22:19

Josiah was the man! Though imperfect, Josiah responded to God’s voice with humility and repentance.

Positive Outcome

The bible is filled with examples of those who responded well and those who didn’t. They either received a blessing or ended life as a faint shadow of their potential.

God responds to our slightest movement in His direction. How will we respond to His leading, timing and call? Any slowness in our responsiveness delays

God’s presence and power,
intimacy and communion,
and the supernatural results of living
in fellowship with Him.

God waits patiently, but hopes intensely, for us to “quickly and positively” respond to the whisper of His voice. As difficult as responding often is for me, my heart truly wants to leave hesitation, evaluation and procrastination behind. I’m sure you do too.

I want the grace of responsiveness to permeate my life, both with God and with those around me. Every day requires choice. Will I shrink back or move into responsiveness?

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The Lord Who Heals – Is Jesus Still the Healer?

Is Jesus still the Healer? Is He the Lord who heals, or is healing coincidence? Many people believe that divine healing ended with the Acts of the Apostles. Personal belief is often based on personal experience.

Moses led the people of Israel through the Red Sea and into the “Desert of Shur.” After three sweltering days without water, they came to Marah. Here they found water enough to satisfy everyone’s thirst, but it was “bitter.”

God’s Name, God’s Nature

Bitter water formed the perfect backdrop for God to demonstrate His character,

“He said, “If you listen carefully
to the LORD your God
and do what is right in his eyes,
if you pay attention to his commands
and keep all his decrees,
I will not bring on you
any of the diseases I brought on the Egyptians,
for I am the LORD, who heals you.”
Exodus 15:26

Bitter water healed

Under God’s instruction, Moses threw a piece of wood into the water. The water instantly became pure and life-giving, complements of the “Lord who heals” — Jehovah Rapha. God’s nature is to not just to heal, but to keep us from disease.

Healing in The Cross

Jesus displayed the perfect image of the Father (Heb 1:3). Healing was and is part of the ministry of Christ,

“Jesus went through all the towns and villages,
teaching in their synagogues,
proclaiming the good news of the kingdom
and healing every disease and sickness.”
Matthew 9:36

The word “every” leaves no room for exclusion or doubt. Peter refers to Isaiah’s prophecy (Is 53:5) being fulfilled through Jesus when he says, 

“‘He himself bore our sins
in his body on the cross,
so that we might die to sins
and live for righteousness;
By his wounds you have been healed.'”
1 Peter 2:24

Peter witnessed Jesus heal multitudes before His crucifixion. God later used Peter powerfully as an instrument of healing.

Jesus didn’t have to be brutally beaten to save us from our sins. Such cruel treatment, “his wounds”, made healing available for every condition, however.

Confident

How can I be so confident Jesus still heals? Though my faith rests in God’s Word, not in experience, my experience validates that Word. God has taught me aspects of healing using my body as an example.

The first healing I experienced occurred shortly after I became a Christian. Even though the bible was relatively new to me, I approached it with childlike faith believing every word to be true — including healing.

Believe bible childlike faith

I had suffered from ulcers since my early teens. It wasn’t uncommon for me to vomit blood during painful flare ups. As a young twenty-three year old, I was bent over the toilet vomiting when a verse of Scripture came to mind:

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ,
the new creation has come:
The old has gone,
the new is here!”
2 Corinthians 5:17

Though this verse doesn’t refer to healing, Holy Spirit amplified the word enough for my faith to grab. I stood up declaring, “Wait a minute! That means I have a brand new stomach.” You may laugh but I walked away, never to have any further trouble with my stomach. Ever!

In that instant, God became my Lord who heals! Not all healings are instant, however.

Slow Road

Some healings are more like a slow road to recovery. At fifteen years old, I was admitted to a psychiatric centre for treatment as a suicidal alcoholic. The journey out of that dark valley took decades, as God replaced truth for lies.

“Then you will know the truth
and the truth will set you free.”
John 8:32

I have witnessed many others escape mental illness through Jesus Christ, The Truth.

Set free from pain

 

Lung disease plagued my father’s family resulting in many deaths. When I was diagnosed with emphysema, the doctor proclaimed it a life long condition.

A word of knowledge led me to “cut off” the generational “curse” over myself and my family by renouncing the spirit of abandonment. In prayer, I agreed that I have been adopted by God into His family. Any sickness entering through natural genetic lines was eradicated through my new “bloodline” in Jesus Christ.

Was it a coincidence, or the Lord who heals, that further investigation revealed clear lungs?

“Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law
by becoming a curse for us…”
Galatians 3:13

The cross is enough!

Not Done Yet

God’s healing continued:

  • the connection between severe allergies and a broken heart was revealed through another word of knowledge. I claimed healing for my heart and renounced the side effects of allergies as I watched them disappear
  • painful arthritic hip was healed by the laying on of hands
  • ovarian cysts dissolved through forgiving of offenses
  • severely deformed hands were brought into alignment by speaking blessing over them in Jesus Name
  • restoration of movement and feeling to legs after an accident causing a 75% displacement of the spine, healed through active worship and much prayer
  • migraine headaches instantly left never to return through speaking the Name of Jesus
  • torn ligaments and a frozen shoulder instantaneously healed by rebuking the spirit of infirmity and commanding it to go.

Free from sickness and disease

 

These were all medically diagnosed. After the healing, specialists responded, “astounding”, “a miracle” and “unbelievable”. Even without God’s redemptive healing power, I believe Jesus remains the Lord who heals. These testimonies continue to elevate hope in the lives of others to also believe.

“Jesus Christ is the same
yesterday, today and forever.”
Hebrews 13:8

God never changes. He remains the same. What He has done for me He continues to do for multitudes.

Faith

Some people came to Jesus with unquestionable faith. While others came with wavering faith. Some, perhaps, lived “worthy” of such healing grace. Others became social outcasts, despised and rejected, yet bravely approached Jesus for healing.

Healing draws us to The Healer, filling us with awe for Jesus Christ.

“The apostles performed many
signs and wonders among the people…
Nevertheless, more and more men and women
believed in the Lord and were added to their number.”
Acts 12:12-14

Faith and healing

Healing demonstrates Christ’s presence and power among us.

“As a result people brought the sick into the streets
and laid them on beds and mats
so that at least Peter’s shadow
might fall on some of them as he passed by.
Crowds gathered also from the towns around Jerusalem,
bringing their sick and those tormented by impure spirits,
and all of them were healed.”
Acts 12:15-16

As you read this, may faith increase in your heart. God loves you! He is still the Lord who heals.

Receive

I seize every opportunity to pray for people. Many have also experienced healing — some instantaneous, others progressively still others have not been healed. Honestly, I don’t understand healing, but I know the more I pray for healing, the more I see healing happen.

I have faith to pursue healing for those who dare not hope themselves. Whatever the outcome, I trust God and want Jesus to get the full benefit of what He paid for on the cross.

“Therefore God exalted him (Jesus)
to the highest place and
gave him the name
that is above every name.”
Philippians 2:8

The Lord who heals

Whatever your diagnosis, may I agree with you today for healing? Would you trust to receive healing today from the Lord who heals? 

Lord Jesus, I thank You. You are the Lord who heals.
I bring this precious reader to you today.
In Jesus Name, I command all sickness and infirmity to go
from this person’s whole body, mind and soul.
I command every part to come
into complete alignment —
restored, healed and delivered.
In The Name above the name of every disease,
I declare, “Today is a new beginning!”
May the blood of Jesus
cleans and make every part new.
I thank You Lord Jesus for Your healing power,
in Your precious Name.

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