Back to the Basics — Humility

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To reach our full potential, we return to the basics — applying and mastering the foundational principles to our pursuits. No matter our field of study or area of expertise, we strive to understand the essential facts or concepts of a subject or skill.

In school, I excelled in mathematics and sciences. I knew that once the basic principles were established, every future aspect would securely be positioned upon it. I never achieved much success in other more vague and subjective studies.

Acclaimed UCLA basketball coach, John Wooden, began every new coaching season by teaching his players how to put on their socks. Doesn’t that sound foolish? Wouldn’t these accomplished athletes already know how to put on their socks? Had all their mothers neglected to teach them this basic skill? Coach Wooden knew that if his players put on their socks improperly, they would develop blisters, which would impede their speed and maneuverability. So, he took them back to the basics, teaching his college players how to put on their socks.

Basics are important!

Back to the Basics

People may generally be divided into two distinct groups:

  • The first group proudly wears their credentials, denying any need for instruction or correction and ensuring their superficial masks remain in tack behind busy lives. They consistently avoid situations which may expose personal weakness..
  • The second group humbly receives correction and acknowledges deficiencies. They take personal responsibility for change. With humility, they return to the basics, again and again, seeking authentic transformation — even when it becomes obvious they need to relearn how “to put on their socks.”
Back to the Basics

Pride brings a person low, but the lowly in spirit gain honor.
Proverbs 29:23

To go back to the basics of humility, I present three case studies: Peter, Moses, and Jesus. Each walked a similar, yet unique, path of humility. Each learned that by willingly going “low,” God brought them great honor. Of course, there are many other men and women we could add to this list.

Peter

Of all the disciples, I relate to Peter the most. Words like overconfident, proud, or presumptuous accurately describe this zealous leader. Often in the same breath, we find Peter speaking with divine understanding and with grotesque error. His encounter with the Holy Spirit we read about in Acts 2 changes Peter forever.

I believe a prior turning point proved equally significant for Peter, however. His failure to stand faithfully with Jesus when it mattered most caused Peter to question everything about being a disciple. His life’s direction stood in jeopardy. Confused and discouraged, he went back to what he knew — fishing.

“I’m going out to fish,” Simon Peter told them, and they said, “We’ll go with you.” So they went out . . .”
John 21:3

Of course, their fishing expedition proved unsuccessful. After Jesus fed them from His own catch, He confronted the heart of Peter’s dilemma.

” . . . Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me . . .”
John 21:15

Three times Jesus asked Peter the same question. Twice Peter responded, “You know that I love you.” But the third time, we see Peter adjusting “his socks,” as he surrenders in complete humility. Deeply saddened and distressed, he acknowledges that he doesn’t even know his own capacity to love fully.

” . . . He said, ‘Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”
John 21:17

Because Peter humbly lowering himself, Jesus granted him the honor of launching the infant church into the first century. Jesus brought Peter back to the basics of humility so that pride would never impede his spiritual growth or the effectiveness of his calling.

Moses

We find a capsulized version of Moses’ biography in Hebrews.

“By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt because he was looking ahead to his reward.”
Hebrews 11:24-26

Moses abandoned the reputation and privilege of a king’s palace to becoming a foreigner and shepherd in the back side of the wilderness.

“Moses was educated in all the wisdom of the Egyptians and was powerful in speech and action.”
Acts 7:22

Yet when God called him to lead His people out of slavery, Moses claimed no such credentials. In his younger years, Moses, like many of us, acted with pride and presumption. We see no evidence of either in his later years. In fact, this is written of him,

“(Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth.)”
Numbers 12:3

What an amazing declaration. In the wilderness, Moses learned how to “put on his socks” and walk with complete humility. Because Moses willingly turned back to the basics, God used him powerfully.

Jesus

No other person humbled themself to the degree that Jesus did. Leaving the throne room of Heaven, He chose the way of the cross — to be despised and rejected. He didn’t just learn the basics; He became the basics, taking on the form of humanity.

For man to humble himself before God is one thing; for the Second Person of the Holy Trinity to humble himself to such a level is beyond comprehension.

“Who being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death — even death on a cross!”
Philippians 2:6-8

And because of such great obedience,

“Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name . . .”
Philippians 2:9

Perfect Examples

What examples these men are for us all! The greater the level of humility, in receiving instruction and correction, the greater the level of honor bestowed.

To know their example and follow it are two different things. Often, the process for them and for us is painful. It is uncomfortable to discover we might have to relearn the right way to “put on our socks” — to do the very things we once thought we excelled at.

Like Peter, we might be asked to get out of the boat of familiarity and risk failing again. Like Moses, we might to called to speak up, face our greatest nemesis, and give God our radical “Yes!” Or in lesser ways, like Jesus, we might be asked to lay aside every privilege with a willingness to give even our lives for the sake of God and others.

One thing is assured. God calls us all to

“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.”
Ephesians 4:2

This is a new season. The greatest Coach ever, Jesus Christ again teaches us the basics. Whether His instruction comes direct through the Bible, the Holy Spirit revelation, or if He chooses to speak through others, it’s time to go back to the basics. Let’s learn to “put on our socks.”

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Come Now! The Parable of the Great Banquet

Have you ever received an invitation to “Come Now!” to a function? In many cultures, it is rude to refuse such an invite. Perhaps, you were already committed to other plans, were exhausted from work, or it was poor timing for you. There could be many reasons to decline an impromptu engagement.

We might request a rain check from the host or hostess, hoping to meet at a later date when it is more convenient. Sometimes, the delay may be justified. Other times, we create excuses for having other priorities — even misplaced priorities. Although a similar opportunity may come again, we must carefully consider each offer.

Jesus told a parable, a simple story revealing spiritual truth, about a great banquet. In the parable, the host offered no rain checks. “Come now!” he announced to his chosen guests.

Jesus replied: “A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’”
Luke 14:17

Excuses

Without even considering the gravity of their response, they “all alike began to make excuses.

What? Everyone invited declined? Sadly, their excuses sounded strangely familiar to those we might use.

“But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said, ‘I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it. Please excuse me.’ “Another said, ‘I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I’m on my way to try them out. Please excuse me.’ “Still another said, ‘I just got married, so I can’t come.’
Luke 14:18-20

Politely, they all requested a rain check on the dinner engagement. Preoccupied with newly purchased property, the potential of owning his own land flooded the thoughts of the first guest. The second, an obviously wealthy man to buy five yoke of oxen, felt secure in his possessions and wealth. He wanted to try out his latest and greatest investment. Besides, he could prepare a banquet for himself whenever he wanted. The third could think of nothing but the pleasure of being with his lovely bride.

Most of us can relate to at least one of these fine gentlemen. Just like them, things, money, and people occupy much of our time, energy, and focus too. We easily justify how much time and effort we place in these areas of our lives.

The Master

The host planned for months. He prepared for weeks. All his servants worked diligently to present the choicest delicacies for the master’s guests. Elaborate decorations adorned the great banquet hall. Everything was ready.

The master of the banquet saw through the feeble excuses of his chosen guests. At great expense, he had prepared his best, freely and liberally offering it to others without any expectations in return. Their refusal would not stop the banquet.

Then the owner of the house became angry and ordered his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.’”
Luke 14:21

The servants obeyed. Up and down the city streets the servants ran, beckoning the outcasts and neglected to come now to the great banquet.

Still Room

The wealthy elite who rejected the master’s invitation went about their personal pursuits, enjoying their luxuries and pleasures. The most unlikely of guests flocked into the great banquet hall. They sat around tables overflowing with delicacies. Their eyes bulged in disbelief and bellies rumbled with hunger as they gazed upon the abundance of provision. But there was still room for more.

 “‘Sir,’ the servant said, ‘what you ordered has been done, but there is still room.’  “Then the master told his servant, ‘Go out to the roads and country lanes and compel them to come in, so that my house will be full.”
Luke 14:22-23

Can you hear the heart of the master? Can you feel his generosity? His compassion? The intent of his purpose? “My house will be full!”

The servants ran with haste into the countryside, beckoning everyone they saw to come now. The master desired every seat to be full. He had prepared for maximum capacity.

No Rain Checks

Jesus spoke not just to the listeners of His day. He speaks just as clearly to us — whoever and wherever we might be. The invitation of the Father, the Master of the house, reaches to you and me. It extends to our family, neighbours, and friends. Everything has been made ready.

The banquet points directly to the future marriage supper of the Lamb, Jesus Christ (Rev 19:9). It cost Him everything. It costs us nothing to accept His invitation. He waits for our, “Yes!”

One way or another, the banquet will be filled. Those who decline will miss out. Those who are ready will feast with Him. For some who delay, their place will be given to others.

There will be no rain checks — no opportunity for a change of heart once the seats are full. The Master commands His servants with an urgency, “Compel them to come in!” Then, He gives this warning,

“I say to you all, no one who receives an invitation to feast with me and makes excuses will ever enjoy my banquet.”
Luke 14:24

No More Excuses

How many excuses have we spoken or heard from others. Either verbally or through our actions, we tell God, “Later! When it is more convenient, I will follow You. When business isn’t going so well, I’ll come to You. If my relationships fall apart, then I’ll call on You.”

God’s invitation is to “Come now!” Jesus warned that there will be no room for those who refuse. And there will be no grounds for excuses then.

I weep as I consider all the Master has done for us. I also weep as I consider the consequences of those who decline His invitation.

The parable tells a true story — one lived out daily and being fulfilled throughout eternity. May the parable inspire each of us as God’s servants through the streets of our cities and down the roadways of our countryside, inviting others to come to the Master. May we each sense the Holy Spirit compelling us to come now.

Lord, like the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame, we accept Your gracious invitation. We come without excuse to sit at Your table. We thank You for the great preparation You have made for us. With humble hearts, we say, “Yes!” to You. And with urgency, we invite others to join us. As unworthy beggars, we feast of Your goodness and mercy. Thank You, Lord.

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Unleashed! You are Free!

During prayer, I clearly heard the word, “Unleashed!” I felt a strong sense of God releasing people from things that hold them captive. It wasn’t an audible voice, but a certain knowing in my spirit. God was extending a personal invitation to respond — an invitation open to others. I believe we are entering a season in which God is throwing open gates and pushing open doors that have been closed for a long time.

The image of cattle being released from wintering pens came to my mind as I thought of the word “unleashed.” What joyous imagery!

During the long cold winters, we confined cattle in small paddocks to feed and bed them. All winter they ate baled hay and slept on heaping beds of straw. When the snow melted in spring, the pens became mucky. But then came the day when we opened the gates. The cattle dashed through the open gate, leaping and jumping, jostling and playing. Age didn’t matter! They were delighted to taste fresh grass and romp in open pastures.

But for you who fear my name, the Sun of Righteousness will rise with healing in his wings. And you will go free, leaping with joy like calves let out to pasture.”
Malachi 4:2

Unleashing contains a sense of sudden even violent action that cannot be controlled — even to throw, shoot, or set in motion forcefully.

Once those cattle were unleashed from the pen, they would not easily return. They experienced open spaces and tasted fresh pasture. Limited confines no longer contained them. Dead grass no longer satisfied them.

This represents a frail example of how God unleashes His people.

Remember

As a result, God commands us to remember on a weekly basis His unleashing power. Enslaved by Egypt for over 400 years, Israel knew nothing of rest or freedom. Until God came. Suddenly, with violent force, God set in motion, with irreversible power, a taking of one nation out of another.

“You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the LORD your God commands you to keep the Sabbath day.”
Deuteronomy 5:15

Lois Tverberg writes,

“All of life’s rhythms were to revolve around celebrating the indescribable joy of the day when the whips ceased cracking, the shackles fell off, and the cell doors swung open toward freedom. Week after week, season after season, year after year God commanded Israel to remember his extravagant, rescuing love . . .”
Reading the Bible with Rabbi Jesus

God called them to remember, and never forget, His powerful act of grace and redemptive love.

Unleashed

Yet, this was only a foreshadowing of what would one day take place. In the most violent act in history, God sent his Son, Jesus, to die the cruelest of deaths to unleash His greatest act of rescuing love. With one mighty blow, He crushed the enemy’s hand forever. Through Jesus, God redeemed not just a nation, but people from all nations freeing them forever from the slavery of sin and death.

Who but God could do such a thing? No one!

When God spoke the word “unleashed” to me, He wanted me to remember, too. My shackles are off! I now have the ability to walk free — a slave no more. I often find this truth more viable for others, struggling to fully identify with what He has done.

Yes, we contend from what is ours. Yes, standing in freedom takes grit and perseverance. But freedom is ours! We must not forget.

And from the days of John the Baptist until now, the Kingdom of Heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force.” Matthew 11:12 KJV

Live Free

God directs our gaze toward open gates. He leads us through open doors. But it is up to us to walk (or even run), taking our freedom. Perhaps it will take a violent or forceful act on our part to solidify that freedom.

So, I ask, where do I still feel the crack of the whip of other slave masters? Where am I living more bound than free? We all have areas awaiting God’s redemptive grace to move in. What is mine? What is yours?

He speaks His word, “unleashed,” over each of us. May we sense the freshness of what stands open before us. Today, may we drink the fresh water of His Spirit and eat from His open meadow of provision. May we hunger and thirst for His Presence like never before.

Now unleashed, He grants us freedom to either run to Him or away from Him. Only in Him will we taste true freedom, however.

Faithfulness And Kindness

God heard the cries of His people under the yoke of slavery in Egypt. He responded, unleashing them and setting them free. While His strong arm held back their enemies, His gentle compassion guided His people toward safety.

Centuries later, out of His faithfulness and kindness, God sent Jesus to again delivery, unleashing us from sin’s cruel bondage. I’m not sure we could ever comprehend such love and mercy.

“I don’t keep it a secret or hide the truth. I preach of your faithfulness and kindness, proclaiming your extravagant love to the largest crowd I can find!”
Psalm 40:10 TPT

May we tell of God’s great unleashing everywhere we go, to anyone who will listen. May we not hold such good news to ourselves. Like calves released from their pen, may we romp in the goodness of God’s vast pasture, never looking back.

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Choose Joy! 20 Bible Verses About Joy

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As we step into a new season, may we have the wisdom and courage to lay aside the things that weigh us down. Let’s lighten our load and choose joy. Could it be that simple? Yes, and no!

Long before mechanization transformed the industry, my husband owned a seed cleaning plant. At that time, the export market preferred pulse crops bagged in one-hundred-pound grain bags. Often, our children and I joined in the labor. During the frigid cold of winter or the sweltering heat of summer, we toted and stacked those heavy bags. Our bodies ached under the load. My collar bone arched permanently outward from the repetitive pressure and overexertion.

Most often the weights we carry damage our hearts rather than our bodies. Burdens come unannounced. Tragedies strike without warning — a sudden death, financial collapse, marriage breakup, and more. The scenarios seem endless. Hearts easily become bent and scarred under the pressure.

Over 430 times, the Bible encourages us to choose joy. In contrast, the words “happy” or “happiness” only appear ten times. Joy refers to an inner settledness that sustains someone through hardship and trials. It is no wonder that when the Bible speaks of joy there is a direct connection to personal or corporate struggle. Feelings of happiness may quickly come and go, but joy endures.

20 Bible Verses

Let God’s Word inspire you as read and meditate on these verses:

Joy is an offering of praise to God — singing, shouting, and thanking Him. Psalm 95:1-2

Even the most difficult circumstances cause us to rejoice, knowing God will produce perseverance in us through them. James 1:2-3

God’s greatness inspires joyous celebration in people of every nation. Psalm 47:1

Because of who You are, O Most High God, joy will fill us! We will sing praises to You! Psalm 9:2

God loves and protects us. So, we will sing and praise Him with “shouts of joy.” Psalm 27:5-6

When sleep evades us, it presents a perfect opportunity to think about God with joyous praise. Psalm 63:6-7

Joy celebrates God’s goodness and kindness. Psalm 32:11

One day every source of sorrow will disappear. Joy and gladness will be our continuous portion. Isaiah 35:10

God, Himself, sings and shouts joyously over us, bringing breakthrough and victory. Psalm 32:7

“Ecstatic joy, indescribably sublime and immersed in glory” belongs to everyone who believes in Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 1:8-9

Joy, prayer, and thanksgiving lead us into God’s perfect plan. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

No matter how dark the time of sorrow may be, it will give way to “shouts of ecstatic joy.” Psalm 30:5

God shows us the path to complete joy in His Word, the Bible. John 15:10-12

Even when everything seems to fall apart, we may still rejoice in who God is! Habakkuk 3:18

The Holy Spirit produces joy in those who believe in God. Galatians 5:22-23

Every new day give us a reason for joy! Psalm 118:24

We find the greatest source of joy in God’s Presence. Psalm 16:11

The joy God gives becomes our strength — like a walled fortress, protecting and supporting us. Nehemiah 8:10

God welcomes us to experience His joy, in every season. Philippians 4:4

Prayer

Singing, shouting, praising, and thanking God through life’s trials and pressures induce a joy-filled life. God intends joy to become our spiritual normal. Is it easy? Not always! Is it possible? Absolutely!

Father, I ask that Your Word would settle deep within us, and that hope would arise. Many people reading this are facing tremendous opposition and enduring severe trials. Restore them and renew them, Lord. Give them fresh faith to choose the joy of Your Presence. May the fruit of joy produce spiritual maturity in each life. Father, even in the watches of the night, may joy and hope begin to spring up again. May everything that has been bent under the pressures of the past be made straight and whole. May Your joy become life and strength to each one. Thank You, Father, for your gift and provision of joy. We choose joy, receiving it today.

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Boxing Week — That’s a Wrap!

In North American, Boxing Week inspires shopping sprees as people seek post-Christmas discounts. For others, it’s a time to give to the poor. For many, it represents time to wrap up gifts that don’t quite fit or don’t serve them well to exchange for something more appropriate.

This may be an opportune time to perform a deeper, internal clean. Before we leap into a new year with hopeful resolutions and lofty goals, let’s take a look at the year that was.

Maintaining Christ as the focus, let’s bravely and boldly assess these past few months.

What Worked

First, let’s consider what worked well. I know from previous farming experience that often crops do better when they have undergone stress. Was there unexpected pressure this past season that served to refine or teach you? What efforts and investments of time and devotion proved successful? Let’s take a few moments to thank God for our successes and celebrate each one.

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.
James 1:17

Yes, celebrate the successes despite difficulties. Rejoice in the harvest of God’s grace and goodness which you have received, recognizing that everything good ultimately comes from God. He gives us the wisdom and ability to accomplish everything we do.

“For the Lord gives wisdom;
    from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.

Proverbs 2:6

What Didn’t Work

As an artist of sorts, I prefer the medium of watercolor. The paint soaks deep into the fibres of the paper. Often, errors are irreversible. Oil and acrylic paints are far more easily repaired. Mistakes can be hidden under new colorful and glossy layers.

Life resembles painting. Sometimes the things that didn’t bring the outcome we expected can be easily remedied. Others are not as forgiving.

“It is better to fail in a cause that will ultimately succeed than to succeed in a cause that will ultimately fail.”
– Peter Marshall

Failure is only final when we stop trying. Honestly, I invested a considerable amount into some areas that have reaped little or no benefit. I can relate to the old prophet’s assessment.

“You expected much, but see, it turned out to be little. What you brought home, I blew away . . .”
Haggai 1:9

This boxing week, let’s carefully consider these areas. What can we learn? What can we redeem from our effort? Are there some aspects we need to “box up,” refusing to expend further resources or energy? Let’s not let any past failure linger, marring the blank canvas of the approaching new year.

What Can be Improved

Most of our efforts land in the “long haul” category. Tangible results won’t be achieved in the short term. Perseverance (not my favorite word) and continuous effort will pay off if we don’t quit. Try again, test the results, and tweak where necessary!

Farmers don’t plant seed one day and then continually turn the soil checking for growth. They know the viability lies anchored within the seed.

Jesus told a simple parable in one of my favorite passages of Scripture.

“Then Jesus said, “God’s kingdom is like seed thrown on a field by a man who then goes to bed and forgets about it. The seed sprouts and grows—he has no idea how it happens. The earth does it all without his help: first a green stem of grass, then a bud, then the ripened grain. When the grain is fully formed, he reaps—harvest time!”
Mark 4:26-29

Jesus makes it clear that success didn’t result from the man’s careful planting, faithful watering, and application of the right amount of weeding and fertilizer. He threw the seed out there and went to bed. Huh! I could take a lesson from this one on how to stress less and trust more!

This boxing week let’s examine which seeds of effort we need to leave to germinate a little longer, confident God will bring the growth in some future time. Which seeds should I water with a little more effort or investment? How can I improve or improvise to produce the greatest potential?

“Our greatest fear should not be of failure but of succeeding at things in life that don’t really matter.”
Francis Chan

What Has to Go

Some things will never serve a truly useful purpose. Allowing shame to cloud our perspective, blaming others for things we need to be responsible for, unforgiveness toward those who have wronged us, and casting shadows of judgment all lead us to bitterness rather than to betterment.

Let’s be honest! We all face things the enemy desires to use to disrupt our progress and stall us into ineffectiveness. This past year held painful disappointments, misunderstandings, and points of rejection. But God made a way for us to overcome.

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

Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.
2 Corinthians 7:10

Be confident that God’s grace works powerfully in and through us. He works at changing and transforming us into all He intends for us. Let’s honor God’s process in our lives and in the lives of others. As we repent for whatever part we play in negative circumstances, no residue of shame or regret remains.

Obey the Call

Perhaps the most important aspect of looking back over the past year, considers the question, “Am I obeying God’s call?” God calls each one of us for His purpose and His glory.

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”
Ephesians 2:10

Time remains our most precious commodity. Are we living it to full potential? Whatever the “good works” includes — as a husband or wife, father or mother, servant or leader — let’s do it well! Let’s continue to obey the call. Whether we feel like we are succeeding or utterly failing, stay the course! God will remain faithful.

“When God calls you to something, He is not always calling you to succeed, He’s calling you to obey! The success of the calling is up to Him; the obedience is up to you.”
David Wilkerson

Obedience remains far more important to God than any measure of worldly success. Let’s not fall into the trap of comparing ourselves to others but stay true to the call of God over our lives. To love God with every part of our being and love others sincerely and deeply stands as the greatest and perhaps most difficult call — although, one worthy of all our effort.

Boxing Week

This boxing week, let’s “box up” every ill-fitting, purposeless thing to prepare for what awaits. Let’s not allow our perceived successes or failures to hinder us from stepping into what God has ahead.

Forget the former things;
    do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing!
    Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
    and streams in the wasteland.”

Isaiah 43:18-19

Past successes may lead to inflated egos and pride. Failures easily lead to feelings of defeat. God instructs us for “forget the former things.” The word for “forget” doesn’t mean to not remember, but rather to no longer respond or react to them. After examining this past year, let’s box them both up and move forward.

“See, I am doing a new thing!” God promises.

Lord, grant us eyes to see and a heart to perceive the new thing awaiting us. Give us the strength and courage to walk into this new year with a confident assurance that You are with us. You know every twist and turn ahead, and You are making a way for us. There will be moments of refreshing awaiting, even in the “wasteland” — in those places we thought were hopeless. We box up what was. We put our hands in Your hands and our rest our feet upon Your feet as we move into what is ahead. Thank You, Lord, for Your faithfulness as You teach us to love more and well.

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The Best Gift — Reconciliation

During the Christmas season, we consider the best gift for those we love. When God sent His Son, Jesus, He sent His best gift for us. What made this gift so perfect?

For a moment, consider the best gift you have received. It probably never came from a store and could never have been purchased with money. Was it the birth of child? Or special occasions with someone you loved? A friendship?

This may seem odd for most of you, but one of my most cherished gifts has been the last ten days of my mother’s life. Our relationship had always been rocky. We never seemed to mesh on anything, although we both tried. There were many misunderstandings, painful words, and harsh judgments. But during the last ten days of her life, when moments mattered most, God showed us great mercy and brought reconciliation. We talked, prayed, laughed, and loved. Those ten days proved richer than all the previous sixty years combined. I will be eternally grateful for that sweet gift.

Reconciliation. How deep the chasms of indifference, apathy, and misunderstanding grow! How humanly impossible to restore relationships so deeply severed!

But God! But God through His only Son, came to reconcile. First, to reconcile us to Himself. Then, to reconcile us to each other. Both necessary. Both impossible apart from Him.

“For God so [greatly] loved and dearly prized the world, that He [even] gave His [One and] only begotten Son, so that whoever believes and trusts in Him [as Savior] shall not perish, but have eternal life.
John 3:16 AMP

Reconciliation

We find it difficult to comprehend just how much “God so greatly loved and dearly prized” you and me. He would not rest until we were reconciled back to Him. The Oxford Dictionary defines reconciliation as the restoration of friendly relations, or the action of making one view or belief compatible with another.

You see, we all begin life alienated from God — enemies in fact. We arrive bent, broken, and turned away from Him. Though He loves us deeply and desires a personal and intimate relationship with us, we carry on preoccupied, self-absorbed, and consumed by temporary things. Though He calls, we choose not to respond to Him.

It took something drastic to get our attention. It required extreme measures to bridge the gap between us. When reconciliation seemed impossible, He alone made the way.

“For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!”
Romans 5:10

A Savior

Many outside the Christian faith live contented and unaware of their need for a Savior, believing that doing good is enough. Surprisingly, many within the faith maintain a false sense of security based upon the same reasoning. They go to church, serve faithfully, and even give financially.

If doing good was enough, there would be no need for Jesus, the cross, or the resurrection. But, doing good will never be enough to bridge the gap between holy God and broken humanity.

” . . . He has also set eternity in the human heart . . .”
Ecclesiastes 3:11

We all have an inner knowing that there is something more to life than what we now see. Though we live bound by the temporary and limited by time, God created us for eternity — an eternity with Him.

But why do “good” people need a Savior? Paul explained it this way,

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
Romans 3:23

We all sinned in some way. Whether intentionally or unintentionally, we lie, steal, gossip, hurt others, live selfishly, disobey authorities, and a long list of other moral failures. No one meets God’s perfect standard. We all fall short.

“The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Romans 6:23

Separation

Not only does sin separate us from God, it results in more than a physical death, but an eternal separation from God. Therefore, we need a reconciler. We need someone to restore relationship and compatibility with God.

Each Christmas, we celebrate the coming of that One — the One who arrived as an innocent baby, lived a sinless life, died a cruel death as payment for our sins, and rose again to offer hope of an eternity. The innocent paid the price for the guilty.

The Bible tells us how.

” . . . For if you publicly declare with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will experience salvation. The heart that believes in him receives the gift of the righteousness of God—and then the mouth confesses, resulting in salvation.
Romans 10:9,10 TPT

When we declare Jesus Christ as our Lord, believing that God accepts his death as penalty for us, we receive salvation. How unbelievably amazing is that? Jesus closes the gaps between God and us, reconciling us to the Father. The best gift becomes ours. Through Jesus, we become righteous before God.

The Best Gift

Many gifts will be shared this Christmas season — gifts expressing friendship, love, and family. But my greatest desire is that we would receive the best gift of all, the gift of reconciliation. I pray that we would receive the gift of eternal life which God offers us today.

Jesus already paid the full price! We cannot earn what He has already made available for us.

“So turn away from your sins. Turn to God. Then your sins will be wiped away. The time will come when the Lord will make everything new.”
Acts 3:19 NIRV

I anticipate the reaction of those I prepare gifts for. The giving only becomes complete as the recipient accepts my gift. The gift of salvation, the best gift of all, waits for each of us to receive it. To accept God’s perfect gift, we verbally declare our faith in Jesus from a believing heart. It is a simple but profound action.

The Savior waits for our response.

Jesus, thank You for Your salvation. I confess that I have sinned and could never meet God’s standard of perfection. I need a Savior. Forgive me, Lord, of my sins and failures. I believe that You died to save me and set me free. I believe that You were raised from the dead to give me eternal life. Come Jesus. I invite You to be my Lord and Savior. I thank You that You have become my best gift.

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Healing Broken Hearts

We often limit the importance of healing to restoring physical bodies and easing troubled minds, but Jesus also came to heal broken hearts. Without diminishing the need for the first two, may we also not ignore the last one.

Several years ago, a young hockey player, who we knew very well, received a sharp blow to his chest by a fast-moving hockey puck. The impact instantly stopped his heart, depriving his brain of oxygen. At twenty-years of age and in his prime, he died.

We have all faced sudden blows that have caused damage to otherwise healthy hearts. Most of us, have never fully recovered. We all live with broken hearts — wounds of sorrow from the death of a loved one, wounds of rejection or betrayal, wounds of abandonment or separation. Brokenness results mainly from harmful things done to us or unmet needs which others failed to offer us.

There is good news, however. Jesus came to heal the broken hearted.

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, and he has anointed me to be hope for the poor, healing for the brokenhearted, and new eyes for the blind, and to preach to prisoners, ‘You are set free!’ I have come to share the message of Jubilee, for the time of God’s great acceptance has begun.”
Luke 4:18 TPT

Brokenness

Out of brokenness we hide, self-protect, and live artificial lives. We adjust, improvise, and normalize what Jesus desires to heal. Many of us adapt to our fragmented condition, emotionally pushing people away while pacifying our pain through addictions or other artificial means. But God loves us too much to leave us in permanent denial and pain.

Luke records Jesus reading from the scroll of Isaiah, making this declaration about Himself.

” … He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted …”
Isaiah 61:1

The Hebrew words Isaiah used here mean “to wrap firmly the break, or to stop the breaking in pieces.” Jesus intends to do for us what we cannot accomplish through self-effort.. He came to wrap our broken hearts with His healing love and to stop them from breaking.

Using the same words as Isaiah, the psalmist understood this deeply personal ministry of God’s restorative love.

“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.”
Psalm 147:3

“Praise the Lord,” the psalmist says, “God heals. He has the cure! He mends even the deepest recesses of our being, bringing us to complete wholeness.”

Closer Than You Think

As I flip through the tattered pages of my life, I now see what I missed then — God’s consistent nearness. In my brokenness, feeling distant from Him, He came close. Like a skilled surgeon, He gently and compassionately removed each numbed layer of scar tissue, softening my heart little by little and bit by bit.

Over an extended period of time, I prayed for God to soften my heart. He did. He does. And He continues to do His miraculous healing.

“The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.”
Psalm 34:18

We can all identify, at a certain level, with broken hearts and crushed spirits. Jesus Christ, our hope and our help, comes low to where we are. He bends down to our level and breathes life, restoring and renewing.

God Speaks

Through the Bible and by His Spirit, God speaks His message of hope and assurance to each of us.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”
John 14:27

Today, let’s welcome the peace He offers. Whatever the “trouble” imposed upon us, today let’s choose to yield it to Jesus and welcome His healing. Perhaps, we will need to seek the help of a pastor or Christian counsellor. Often, the healing of broken hearts requires a process (similar to mine) of allowing God to expose and mend hearts — piece by piece and little by little.

But that process can begin right now through prayer. The sudden impacts we have endured don’t need to rob us of life, love, and hope. Jesus came to heal and restore no matter how deep the blow or how extensive the damage to our broken hearts.

“Lord Jesus, I recognize areas of brokenness in my inability to love as You love. I confess that I find it difficult to live honestly and openly before others because of my broken heart. As I acknowledge my need for healing, I welcome You to come and touch those deep fragmented areas of my heart. I ask You to reverse every level of brokenness and restore wholeness. Please soften the layers where I have become calloused and uncaring. Mend and heal every area where I have been crushed in spirit so that I may live fully and freely. Thank You, Lord Jesus for beginning to heal my broken heart. Amen.”

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Mark 11:24 — Believing Prayer: Pray With Faith

Believing prayer forms a rock-solid foundation for every vibrant Christian. Jesus has already made provision for everything we need. We pray with faith, not in the power of our words, but rather faith in what Jesus already made available to us.

With the approaching Christmas season, I have been considering again the significance of Jesus’ coming. He fulfilled every requirement of the law and the Old Covenant, implementing the New Covenant. Jesus made a way for all those who believe in Him to come to the Father without sacrifice or religious ceremony.

What does this mean regarding believing prayer? Everything!

Let’s look at an incredible promise Jesus gave to each of us.

” ‘Have faith in God,’ Jesus answered. ‘Truly I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, “Go, throw yourself into the sea,” and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.”
Mark 11:22-24

Say It!

Although faith makes room for silent prayer, Jesus taught His disciples to “say,” or speak, their prayers out loud. He emphasized disdain for anyone who used loud, long-winded, public prayer, attempting to inflate egos or elevate religious status. God knows our hearts, but we inform the enemy through our words.

In verse 23, Jesus uses two different Greek words for “say”:

  • The first comes from the Greek word epo, which means “to speak with authority, to command or order as a king or general.”
  • The next word “say” comes from the Greek word lego, meaning “to speak by linking together or expressing the heart and mind with words.”

A king doesn’t need to raise his voice to issue a command. Our humble voices carry the authority of Jesus Christ to bring God’s will into effect around us.

Jesus emphasized to His disciples that a person’s confident faith combined with God’s power could produce amazing results. When the request is in harmony with God’s will, God is fully capable of doing that which man regards as impossible.

“Jesus responded, ‘What appears humanly impossible is more than possible with God. For God can do what man cannot.”
Luke 18:27

So, we pray spoken, authoritative words, with a united heart and mind.

Does Not Doubt

Jesus calls us to combine authoritative voice with an undivided heart. The Aramaic word for “doubt” means “to be divided or undecided in your heart.”

Let’s reject the whispers of condemnation regarding why some prayers appear to go unanswered. Prayer will always contain an element of mystery. Through believing prayer, we bring our requests to the Father and allow our hearts to leave the results to His ways and wisdom. Sometimes the healing comes; sometimes it doesn’t. Often, provision unfolds, but sometimes it doesn’t.

Nevertheless, may all of our prayers be void of doubt! May believing prayer, birthed and immersed in faith, flow from a united heart of mind.

“But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.”
James 1:6

James calls anyone who doubts “double-minded,” or literally having “two souls” — one of faith and one without.

Believe You Have Received It

Do I drench my prayers in the faith that God has already answered? Sometimes yes, but sadly not always.

Here rests the heart of Jesus’ promise to us.

“Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.”
Mark 11:24

“You have received it!” Jesus declares! What? When? How? Everything we could every ask from God has already been provided through Jesus Christ. Everything!

Let’s take a quick look at the example of prayer Jesus gave His disciples and us.

“…Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one,
for yours is the kingdom
and the power and the glory forever.
Amen.”
Matthew 6:9-13

Every aspect of this model prayer, we have already received! We approach God not as some distant cruel tyrant, but as our loving Father. Through the authority of Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit, heaven already invades earth’s corrupt domain. We already feast on daily manna, the Living Word. Every sin (past, present, and future) Jesus already dealt with through His shed blood. Jesus already broke all the enemy’s authority over our lives. We already live under the protection and provision of our King of kings and Lord of lords.

So as we pray, we do so with complete confidence.

One Condition

Both Matthew and Mark speak about one condition — our willingness to forgive others.

“That’s why I urge you to pray for absolutely everything, ranging from small to large. Include everything as you embrace this God-life, and you’ll get God’s everything. And when you assume the posture of prayer, remember that it’s not all asking. If you have anything against someone, forgive — only then will your heavenly Father be inclined to also wipe your slate clean of sins.”
Mark 11:24-26 MSG

Several months ago, God challenged me to refuse to entertain any negative thoughts toward anyone. Too easily, we allow critical thinking or judgments to swirl in our hearts and minds. Jesus makes it clear that it is impossible to have a pure heart in prayer while holding a polluted heart toward others. By freely and willingly forgiving every hurtful thing against us, we align our hearts with His.

May nothing stand in the way of us receiving His full promise. May believing prayer rise from knowing that we “have received” whatever we ask for according to God’s will. Through the prayer of faith, we reach into the treasure trove of God’s storehouse of provision already waiting for us.

Today, may we each grasp a greater awareness of all that God has made available.

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The Beautiful and Bountiful Discipline of God

Although painful, the discipline of God brings comfort and reassurance. Often His discipline comes through hardship or suffering. Biblical discipline includes the concepts of training, teaching, instruction, and correction. In the strongest form, it comes with chastening and warning.

Let’s make one thing clear, no one likes discipline in the moment. We all find it difficult, but we need God’s discipline to become all He created us to be.

A key life verse for me comes from Isaiah.

“Indeed, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tested and chosen you in the furnace of affliction.”
Isaiah 48:10

The refining of silver occurs at a relatively low temperature. However, God says that our refining requires more extreme measures. He purifies us through the blazing “furnace of affliction”. Silver never resists the process. We, on the other hand, often do! As we recognize the beauty of discipline, we find peace in the process. We may even begin to anticipate the bountiful results of discipline.

God’s Love

True discipline flows from the depth of loving relationship. The discipline of God demonstrates the Father’s deep love for His own.

My son, do not despise the LORD’s discipline or be weary of his reproof, for the LORD reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights.”
Proverbs 3:11-12

Because God loves perfectly, He brings correction into our lives perfectly — with perfect timing and in perfect ways. Many people perceive God as harsh, judgmental, and uncaring. Nothing could be further from the truth! “My son,” He whispers, “I delight in you! I want you to be all you can be!”

” . . . My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.”
Hebrews 12:5-6

The discipline of God proves our value and position as His sons or daughters. How wonderfully reassuring!

God’s Word

As a parent, I wanted my children to listen to my instruction and obey. Discipline only became necessary when my words were ignored. God responds in a similar fashion. He desires for us to hear and heed His Word, willingly responding to His direction.

“For the commandment is a lamp and the teaching a light, and the reproofs of discipline are the way of life.”
Proverbs 6:23

Those who never experience corrective influence become a hazard to themselves and those around them. We thrive within healthy boundaries, productive routines, and predictable parameters. God’s Word, the Bible, offers all these things to us and more.

Through His commandments and instruction, we discovery to path to a fulfilling life. When we stray from His sure ways, He graciously draws us back. He loves us too much to leave us to our own destruction.

“To learn the truth you must long to be teachable, or you can despise correction and remain ignorant.”
Proverbs 12:1 TPT

The psalmist wrote under divine inspiration,

Blessed is the one you discipline, LORD, the one you teach from your law.”
Psalms 94:12

God’s Purpose

I find a repetitive pattern both in God’s Word and in my own life. During affluent times, it becomes easy to take our eyes off God, to become complacent about our relationship with Him, or even drift away. The greatest spiritual dangers come with wealth, power, and privilege, giving room for pride and presumption.

God uses hardships to refine us, setting us back on course.

“Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.”
Revelation 3:19

In other words, we must take the discipline of God seriously, learn from the struggles we go through, and quickly align ourselves with His heart and His ways.

What if we welcomed difficult seasons as God’s purest blessing toward us and validation of His love? What if we approached hardships with tender responsive hearts, desiring to learn, grow, and mature?

“Now all discipline seems to be painful at the time, yet later it will produce a transformation of character, bringing a harvest of righteousness and peace to those who yield to it.”
Hebrews 12:11

As we yield to God’s instruction, correction, and training, He transforms us to bring righteousness and peace.

Discipline of God

Only God can transform trials into triumphs. Only God then uses them to refine us.

“And now, isn’t it wonderful all the ways in which this distress has goaded you closer to God? You’re more alive, more concerned, more sensitive, more reverent, more human, more passionate, more responsible. Looked at from any angle, you’ve come out of this with purity of heart. And that is what I was hoping for in the first place . . . ”
2 Corinthians 7:11 MSG

Oh, that we would come through discipline, “more alive, more concerned, more sensitive, more reverent, more human, more passionate, and more responsible.” With God, we can!

May we determine to not waste a moment of God’s instruction, correction, and discipline. Let’s become better, stronger, and more fruitful.

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Releasing Christian Creative Artisans

Twenty years ago, a cluster of women prayed together, calling forth and releasing Christian creative artisans to their God-given destiny. Multiple other clusters were doing the same. Since that time, an explosion of Christian artists in multiple streams have risen to fame. They are surging to the forefront, using their gifts and talents to bring glory to God.

Though it might appear new, the Bible, which was written centuries ago, applauds the value of artisans. We find the most famous accounts during the building of the Tabernacle in the wilderness and Solomon’s temple in Jerusalem.

Creation

God set the ultimate example of creativity when He spoke all creation into existence. In six days, God created the most magnificent of diversity — from the expansive heavens to the most intricate of organisms. Each functioning in perfect harmony and design with all others.

“Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array.”
Genesis 2:1

It took Leonardo da Vinci sixteen years to paint the Mona Lisa. The construction of the Notre Dame Cathedral spanned two hundred years, beginning in the 12th century.

Creative artisans the world over understand the painstaking labor of transferring internal imagery to tangible results. Yet, our Creator God released each element with ease in spectacular fashion.

How daunting, as creative artisans, to reflect our Creator through architecture, sculpture, music, poetry, paint, and more.

Oh, how I wish I could have witnessed His awesome splendor expressed in every detail of creation — to watch as heaven and earth exploded with brilliant light and vibrant color and as life streamed out the darkness.

The Tabernacle

On Mount Sinai, God instructed Moses to release creative artisans: perfumers, weavers, tentmakers, metal and wood workers, jewellers, and more — each skilled to work in intricate designs.

“All who are skilled among you are to come and make everything the LORD has commanded:”
Exodus 35:10

Bible versions express this passage in different ways calling these workers “gifted craftsmen,” “skilled and talented,” “gifted artisans,” and even “wise hearted.” Moses called out artisans from within the vast community of several million people — young and old, male and female — releasing creative artisans into active service.

Even today, the complexity of the design would be difficult for craftsmen and artists to replicate even with modern technology. These sandalled artists came with meager tools. Yet, their creative genius pulsed within them to create a worthy dwelling for the LORD Most High.

Two men led the troop of creative artisans, Bezalel and Oholiab.

“So Bezalel, Oholiab and every skilled person to whom the LORD has given skill and ability to know how to carry out all the work of constructing the sanctuary are to do the work just as the LORD has commanded.”
Exodus 36:1

Every artist possesses the God-given “skill and ability to know how to carry out all” the creative processes. Yes, artists train and hone skills. They collaborate and construct. However, God imparts the “know how” to get it done.

The Temple

David desired to build a temple for God — a place where God would permanently dwell. He possessed the right heart. However, his son, Solomon, would be the one to carry out the plans. David designed the details and gathered the material, making massive preparations. He commanded Solomon,

“You have many workers: stonecutters, masons and carpenters, as well as those skilled in every kind of work in gold and silver, bronze and iron — craftsmen beyond number. Now begin the work, and the LORD be with you.”
1 Chronicles 22:15-16

Early in the process, Solomon sent a letter to the king of Tyre requesting cedar logs for the temple. The king responded generously!

“I am sending you Huram-Abi a man of great skill . . . He is trained to work in gold and silver, bronze and iron, stone and wood, and with purple and blue and crimson yarn and fine linen. He is experienced in all kinds of engraving and can execute any design given to him. He will work with your skilled workers . . .”
2 Chronicles 2:13-14

A foreign king sent his very best craftsman to oversee the work of the temple — a man “of great skill” or “endowed with understanding” who could “execute any design given to him.” Amazing! Huram-Abi, an otherwise unknown man, came prepared, trained, experienced, and ready to be released as one of God’s creative artisans.

Musicians

The magnitude of the task was incredible. Tens of thousands of workers achieved the goal in seven years, building and preparing the temple for God’s habitation.

Finally, when all was ready, the musicians stepped forward, “dressed in fine linen and playing cymbals, harps and lyres . . . accompanied by 120 priests sounding trumpets” (2 Chronicles 5:12) Can you imagine? I can’t! But there was more!

“Accompanied by trumpets, cymbals and other instruments, the singers raised their voices in praise to the LORD and sang: ‘He is good; His love endures forever.’ Then the temple of the LORD was filled with the cloud . . . for the glory of the LORD filled the temple.”
2 Chronicles 5:13

God refused to listen from far away. He joined the celebration, filling the temple with His Presence!

High Value

The solitary work of creative artisans gives the impression that their impact may be insignificant. I cannot image a world without music and the amazing diversity of creative expression.

Throughout the ages, victorious armies often confiscated works of art, stripping defeated nations of literature, paintings, sculptures, and artistry embedded in precious metals. Palaces, museums, and even private homes were ransacked of valuables.

The Bible tells how Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, went even further.

“The king of Babylon also deported to Babylon the entire force of seven thousand fighting men, strong and fit for war, and a thousand skilled workers and artisans.”
2 Kings 24:16

Nebuchadnezzar considered the skilled workers and creative artisans to be too valuable to leave behind. He wanted them working for him. He knew the incredible value and influence these creatives possessed.

Release of Creative Artisans

Babylon means “gate of god” (notice the small “g”). It represents a system opposed to the true God. The enticements of counterfeit systems hold many skilled workers and creative artisans captive. But we have passed the threshold of release of Christian artists in every creative domain. Their talents are exploding on to the scene, having a dynamic impact as they use their gifts and talents to bring glory to God.

Those bound too long under domes of silence are being released and finding their voice. They are being promoted to stages and platforms. Their God-honoring expressions are being amplified across the globe.

Creative artisans arise! Sing the new songs of the Lord to this generation. Write like you have never written before. Sculpt and design! Be released! This is your hour to shine, reflecting the creative genius of God. Pray together. Work together. Build together. Train together.

God calls your name, bringing you to the forefront. He equips and prepares you. Though you may have been a captive of “Babylon,” you are free! God has set you free from your captivity.

When Ezra returned from Babylon to rebuild the destroyed temple, he brought back the creative artisans. When Nehemiah returned to rebuild the walls around Jerusalem, he, too, brought along skilled workers. The captivity in Babylon was a season.

The season of captivity has ended!

Arise artisans! Take your place for God’s glory, stepping into your true purpose.

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