First Corinthians 13 —The Way of Love

What is the way of love? How do we truly love? By asking God these questions and seeking to understand love, we will continue to form a lifestyle of love.

And yet, I know I fall so far short of truly loving the people I am in contact with. Last night I fell asleep with these swirling thoughts and awoke this morning pondering them again. First Corinthians 13 echoed in my heart, reminding me that though faith, hope, and love eternally remain, the way of love is the greatest of all three.

Today instead of personal thoughts or perspectives, I offer you the pure word of God which speaks clearer than any words of my own. May the Holy Spirit highlight the portions that soothe your spirit, calm your concerns, and echo living hope to you.

I have chosen The Message Bible1 (perhaps a less common version) so that His voice would speak in a fresh tone and resonate to us in a new way.

First Corinthians 13

If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate. If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing. If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere.”
First Corinthians 13:1-3


“So, no matter what I say,

what I believe,

and what I do,

I’m bankrupt without love.”

Love In Motion

“Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut.
Doesn’t have a swelled head.
Doesn’t force itself on others.
Isn’t always, “me first.”
Doesn’t fly off the handle.
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others.
Doesn’t revel when others grovel.
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth.
Puts up with anything.
Trusts God always.
Always looks for the best.
Never looks back.
But keeps going to the end.”
First Corinthians 13:4-7

Eternal Love

“Love never dies. Inspired speech will be over some day; praying in tongues will end; understanding will reach its limit. We know only a portion of the truth, and what we say about God is always incomplete. But when the Complete arrives, our incompletes will be canceled. When I was an infant at my mother’s breast, I gurgled and cooed like an infant. When I grew up, I left those infants ways for good. We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!”
First Corinthians 13:8-12


But for right now,
until that completeness,

we have three things to do …

trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly.

And the best of the three is love.”

Such perfect love we find only in and through God. Rather than seeing our failures as a source of shame, the imperfection of our love drives us continually toward His grace, leading us to love Him, ourselves, and others in life-giving ways. May we all carefully consider His Word and grow in the way of love — God’s love!

  1. The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 2002, 2018 by Eugene H. Peterson ↩︎

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The Cheering Squad – A Huge Crowd of Witnesses

This past weekend our family gathered, forming a cheering squad for our granddaughter’s volleyball team. We were a loud and ruckus group! Dignity was cast to the wind as we applauded every good move they made — despite points scored. As it turned out, they lost most of their games. Nevertheless, we were proud of this small-town team as they faced league champions without flinching or bowing.

After two days of leaping to my feet and cheering, this grandmother felt more than a little hoarse and weary. But my heart rejoiced at my granddaughter’s accomplishments. That evening as I rested, I felt the nudge of God, “Do you think you cheer for someone you love more than I do?”

I was instantly brought to tears with the realization of how much God loves us and cheers for us. Whether we “score” points in our Christian walk or “fumble the ball,” He is for us and not against us. And when He is for us, who can stand against us?

“What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us?”
Romans 8:31

A Huge Crowd

A recent scientific study examined the effects of cheering on sports team. When crowds couldn’t gather to cheer for their teams during covid, they found that the points scored had significantly diminished.

Oh course, God knew the advantage of applauding crowds long before human studies proved the point. I’m not sure how this all works, but I believe the Bible when it says,

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.”
Hebrews 12:1

If you believe this great throng consists of negative naysayers waiting for us to fumble and fail, think again! These people have already experienced how tough life becomes. They know what it is like to fight the same battles and face off with the same enemy we fight and face every day. Because they understand our struggle and know our pain, they cheer for us all the louder.

Let’s close our eyes for a moment and open our hearts to envision this heavenly cheering squad, rising to their feet in thunderous applause as we lunge for the ball? Whether we make the save or not, they roar on our behalf. Whether we spike the ball into enemy turf or not, their hands are raised in victory.

I love the way the Message Bible describes the scene, “Do you see what this means — all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on …” (Hebrews 12:1). WOW!

Keep Going

Several times during a match, our beloved team would be down by a few points. Our frantic cheering from the sidelines kept their spirits high and hopes elevated. As a result, so many on our team demonstrated their best performances ever.

Casting aside any discouragement, they refused to quit and fought for the win!

What a wonderful example of what God calls us to do.

“It means we’d better get on with it. Strip down, start running — and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins.”
Hebrews 12:1b MSG

It’s time to give our cheering squad, that huge crowd of witnesses, reason to leap to feet. Let’s strip off everything that limits us from running our best race and effectively fighting against the enemies strategies. Is there known sin? By quickly confessing and renouncing it, we refuse to allow shame and condemnation to sideline us. Let’s shake it off and get back into action. Those things that has drag us down or hold us back don’t belong to us. We can break free for the win!

A huge crowd watches in anticipation of our victory.

The Champion

Perhaps we feel much like our small-town team facing athletic giants, who boldly display their victory banners from previous wins. We may feel weak against the strong.

The tables are about to turn! Victory is ours! How do I know? “If God is for us, who can ever be against us?

May we never forget The Champion of all champions, Jesus Christ, lives in us and stands for us. We rise victorious by keeping our eyes on Him.

 “We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne.”
Hebrews 12:1-2

Often when one of our girls missed a move, they instinctively looked toward their coaches who watched from the sidelines. Without fail, their coaches smiled, applauded, and gave them a thumbs up, while cheering, “Great job! You have the right idea! Yeah, keep going!”

Our Champion and Coach, Jesus Christ offers us far more. Yes, He points where we can and should improve. Yes, He gives us wisdom and direction. But no one cheers us on more than He does. He dwarfs the thunderous cheer of the great crowd of witnesses with His victorious roar!

We Win

As we work together, we become an unbeatable team. We have no time for backbiting and criticizing each another. Some have taken a hit to the face. Others have fallen and injured themselves. Not everyone senses the great crowd of witnesses cheering them on to victory.

Let’s be the one patting them on the back and encouraging them to the finish. Let’s step forward, helping them back to their feet. May we, like Jesus, whisper in their ears, “Great job! You have the right idea! Yeah, keep going!” By the grace of God, we can become a one-person cheering squad wherever we go.

Together we win!

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Be Fruitful and Multiply — A Promise and a Command

We read the words “be fruitful and multiply” at least seven times in God’s Word. We find a similar message many times more. Prior to each command, God first gives a promise. Included with His promise comes an invitation to act.

It is January on the Canadian prairies and we are locked in a deep freeze. While snow swirls outside, gardeners huddle inside under fluffy blankets, flipping the pages of picturesque, seed catalogues and dreaming of spring. Gardening won’t be in my foreseeable future. Nevertheless, my thoughts turn to sunny days and warmer temperatures, inviting me to remember the potential hidden within the dormant form of long-dry seeds.

In the beginning, God planted within us His seed of desire to “be fruitful and multiply” — a fruitfulness beyond fields and flowers. With His call to action, He has already provided the means to carry it out.

“So God created human beings in his own image ... Then God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and govern it …”
Genesis 1:27-28

A Seed

For many weeks, my heart has been stirring with this theme. Every blessing and promise God gives comes in the infant form of a seed. The fulfilment of His promise waits in our hands. Will we receive it to plant and nurture in our hearts — treasuring and investing in it. Or will we fail to value the seeds of promise God offers.

To Adam, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob the promise and command came.

Then God said, “I am El-Shaddai—‘God Almighty.’ Be fruitful and multiply …
Genesis 35:11

The root meaning of El Shaddai is “The Overpowerer,” meaning God will do what He purposes to do, overpowering all opposition. Many others translate shaddai as “sufficient. Throughout the ages, God has shown Himself to be more than enough — all-sufficient for every need.

As God calls us to be “fruitful and multiply,” He also promises to be with us, enabling us to fulfil the command.

In Our Hands

Think of the many promises God gives in His Word. Each one comes to us as a seed to be received by grace and intentionally planted in our hearts. There we water it by faith and nurture it through action.

Let’s ask ourselves a few questions:

  • What seed do we hold in our hands?
  • What talents, abilities, opportunities, or resources do we have?
  • More importantly, what am I doing with them?

We may believe the seed to be worthless or dead. But as we place it into the fertile ground of faith, it will grow in ways we don’t understand. Only God knows the full potential we hold in our hands.

In Matthew 25:14-30, we read the parable of the talents. The Master called his servants together and “entrusted his wealth to them.” Wow! I’m not sure I would entrust all I own to someone like me. That is exactly what God continually does.

He gave five bags of silver to one, two bags of silver to another, and one bag of silver to the last—dividing it in proportion to their abilities …”
Matthew 25:15 

With trust comes responsibility!

Fruitful and Multiply

Most of you are familiar with the story. Two of the servants invested time and energy into what was put into their hands and doubled what had been given to them. The final servant attempted to blame the Master for his failure to be fruitful and multiply what he had received.

Of course, the Master, representing God, saw through the excuses, calling the servant “wicked and lazy.” He took back the “seed” of talent the unfaithful servant had been given and offered it to those who had already proved their ability to bring increase.

I can’t help but apply this warning to my own life. What excuses and self-justification keep me from planting the seeds of promise God has given to me?

Don’t we all desire to hear the Master’s commendation to the two faithful servants?

“The master said, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!’”
Matthew 25:23

“Well done! Let’s celebrate together!”

Promise

Each seed a farmer or gardener plants he sows with expectation. Planting begins a process of tilling the soil, pulling weeds, watering, fertilizing, and protecting the crop from damage. Only a foolish gardener would plant seeds and leave them unattended but still expect to later reap a full harvest.

Yet, in the realm of spiritual fruit, are we as vigilant? Are we worthy of the title “good and faithful” with everything God has put in our hands?

Though this may feel hard-hitting to some of you, these are the challenges God presses on my heart. The window of opportunity to plant what God has entrusted to us is limited. The Master will return. He fully expects that the promises He has given and the abilities He has entrusted to us will be used to produce a bounty.

El Shaddai, God Almighty, the Overpowerer, and All-Sufficient One is with us. He breathes promise upon the seeds He places in our hands. As we move into action cooperating with Him, we will see success.

With God, we can do it! Let’s be fruitful and multiply.

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Know Which Path to Take — God Leads the Way

Are you sensing a change in direction or feeling uncertain which path to take in business, ministry, or your personal life? There is no better way to begin our search for direction than by seeking God and allowing Him to lead the way. As we do, He frees us to make those decisions with greater confidence and peace of heart and mind.

God has promised to lead us, to teach us His way, and to guide us in the right path to take. Today, let’s look at a few Bible verses to encourage each other in this season of change and transition.

Trust

Trust in the Lord with all your heart;
    do not depend on your own understanding.
Seek his will in all you do,
    and he will show you which path to take.

Proverbs 3:5-6 NLT

In the familiarity of this verse, we might easily loose the significance of the beautiful promise contained within. God calls us to purposefully reposition our hearts and minds to trust in Him rather than our own “understanding.” Human perception limits the possibilities of what can or will be.

How valuable to seek His will in everything! As we do, God promises — yes promises — to show us “which path to take” in every area of our lives. Only He knows the possibilities available to us!

Surrender

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

Psalm 32:8

I often wonder how many times I miss the leading of God because of my stubborn resistance to His voice. Perhaps, it happens more times than I would admit.

Though He promises to “instruct and teach” us, any refusal to listen will lead us down paths in direct opposition to His perfect plan for us. After this promise, God warns us not to be like a horse or mule, needing a bit to control their direction.

Do I consistently surrender my heart and mind to God’s direction even when it doesn’t make sense or feels frightening? God has been prompting me in this area. Though I am willing, He desires my willingness without conditions.

Pay Attention

This is what the Lord says—
    your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel:
“I am the Lord your God,
    who teaches you what is best for you,
    who directs you in the way you should go.”

Isaiah 48:17

The following verses remind all who will listen to “pay attention.” What signals of change should we give our attention?

  • Are doors opening that used to be closed? Or closed that were once open?
  • Where is God’s favor resting on our talents, abilities, skills, or expertise?
  • Do you feel God’s peace about a specific direction?

Allow yourself time to reflect and ask God to reveal the answers to these and other questions. The answers may reveal which path God desires you to take. He constantly speaks, teaching and directing us “in the way” we should go.

Prayer

Show me your ways, Lord, teach me your paths.
Guide me in your truth and teach me,
    for you are God my Savior,
    and my hope is in you all day long.”

Psalm 25:4-5

Without God’s help we may swing from over-confidence to insecurity while making decisions. Prayer turns our hearts and minds in tune with His heart and desires for us. Whatever decision we may be facing He promises to teach us which path to take.

The Path to Take

In the place of prayer God gives “flashes” of vision which our natural minds could never conjure. These God directed insights often ignite excitement and passion. At other times, prayer prepares us. The path He leads us toward may be difficult, requiring wisdom and strength beyond our present ability.

In whatever direction He leads, we know that He is with us, guiding us with His loving eye. We need never fear! It is only when we deliberately step away from His path that we should be concerned and make course adjustments back toward Him.

The steps of a man are established by the Lord,
    when he delights in his way;”

Psalm 37:23

“Father, we come seeking not only direction for the decisions ahead, but Your Presence above everything else. Hide us under the shelter of Your wings, near to Your heart. May we sense the fullness of the good things You have awaiting us — whether we are three- or ninety-three-years-old.
We wait for your direction. Search our hearts and examine our motives. Reveal the secret things which may attempt to lead us outside your will.
May we rest in the knowledge and security of Your promise to lead, teach, direct, and establish us in Your ways. We know and are assured that You will establish us in Your perfect path, now and always. So, we rest in the goodness of Your grace and the protection or Your love.
Amen.

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Choosing a Course Reset for the New Year

Today offers the perfect time to evaluate the past and choose a course reset for the upcoming year, intentionally seeking God’s direction. Of course, we continuously allow the Holy Spirit to monitor our progress and bring adjustments. But there is something significant about stopping, evaluating, and turning to God for wisdom ahead.

I never want to crawl out of season exhausted, dragging myself into a new one without a clear compass point from God. God’s wisdom never fails to lead us into unexpected and exciting futures. We may not see all the bumps and hurdles ahead, but He does. We don’t know what opportunities may open as He prepares the way. How much waste of time and resources might we avoid by turning to Him in advance?

Let Go

The first step in the process is to let go. Who hasn’t used a shopping cart with one worn or stuck wheel? It takes so much more effort to keep from running over innocent children or into stocked shelves. That worn cart pulls us in directions we never intend on going.

There are things we’ve tried to steer through this past season that are just as worn out as that shopping cart. Once useful, they now pull us and others into dangerous territory. Let’s recognize the right time to let go of anything unnecessary in order to embrace whatever new thing God has waiting. Then, we won’t stumble behind worn out “carts” that drag us around.

“We all stumble in many ways.”
James 3:2

I like that word “all.” We keep company with the best of people in our stumbling. Acknowledge any mistakes or failures made by ourselves or others. Then, let’s quickly forgive both us and them. It’s time to let go and leave every hindrance behind. We can’t afford to justify or legitimize carting them into a new season.

Like that worn out shopping cart, some things will keep us from following a straight and purposeful course ahead.

Apply

James offers insight on how to daily apply the principles of God’s Word. He speaks directly to another problem we “all” tend to encounter.

“Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says … But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.
James 1:25

There was only one Person who obeyed God completely. His name was Jesus. The rest of us are works in progress.

Of course this type of reset occurs daily as we meditate on and study God’s “perfect law that gives freedom, and continue in it.” How much more important is it as we end an old season to seek God’s Word for direction?

We all want to experience the full freedom and blessing of God plans for us in the season ahead. So, let’s lay aside our own agendas and pick up the faithful wisdom of God.

Just as we all stumble in many ways, we each stumble in a few predictable ways. But God desires freedom and blessing for us — especially in the greatest areas of our struggle. A course reset may be the turning point from merely listening to confidently walking.

Seek Wisdom

Wisdom stands as a key element in choosing the right course reset.

“Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.”
James 3:13

We may glean insight from knowledgeable people spattering the next trendy “plan” across the internet or from “how-to” books lining the store shelves. But true wisdom comes from God. Wisdom that supercedes all time and place bears the evidence of His divine counsel.

“But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.”
James 3:17

Seeking God’s wisdom never fails to produce positive results. He promises to lovingly guide us into whatever may await.

Jealous Love

I meditated for awhile on the next passage from James.

“… The Spirit that God breathed into our hearts is a jealous Lover who intensely desires to have more and more of us.”
James 4:5 TPT

James gives us the best reason to purposefully set aside time with God for a course reset. The Holy Spirit relentlessly pursues us. He takes it personally when we turn from Him to pursue friendship with the world systems.

Culture influences us far more than we realize, causing us to adopt ways of thinking and doing that are contrary to God’s. When we welcome Holy Spirit into our course reset, we give our greatest Lover opportunity to draw us closer to Himself — realigning our hearts with His.

Surrounded by His love, every course correction becomes easy.

Course Reset

I sense this as a personal challenge — a challenge I share with you — to designate time, focused prayer, and thought to where, or who, we desire to be in a year from now. Let’s give God room to speak into and give new direction to our lives. Let’s worship, pray, and read God’s Word, asking Him to guide the season ahead.

You might want to journal what He says through Bible verses or through God-inspired, God-directed thoughts. Then create a way to highlight those Scripture verses and key words as a reminder in the time ahead.

(Hint: I often need to be reminded of the good things God speaks over my life. So, I post them in a prominent place over my desk or create a bookmark to use in my daily reading. As an artist, I often turn His counsel into an painting, giving His words visible life.)

Change usually occurs gradually and with effort. God commits Himself to helping us as we step into new areas, ministries, business endeavors, or seasons.

Let’s celebrate every success — large or small! May we confidently and boldly choose a course reset as we let go of the things that would steer us off course, apply God’s Word to our personal lives, seek His wisdom, and fall in love with Him all over again.

Blessings my friends! May this be our greatest season yet!

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The Difference Between Zeal and Passion

The more I experience life, the more I realize the difference between zeal and passion. Zeal will lead you where only passion can keep you.

I love young people! Sometimes, I wish I was still one of them. They live “all in.” Whatever they give themselves to do, they do with contagious zeal.

At first glance, zeal and passion may look remarkably similar. But they produce considerably different results. The Bible gives us multiple examples of people who zealously began a work or entered a calling. Over time, many people lost momentum or even veered off course. Why? Let’s look at a few examples for the answer.

Elijah

Elijah became a famous prophet during the times of the kings of Israel. He performed many supernatural signs and miracles. But something shifted. Immediately after challenging the prophets of Baal to a public showdown, the entire nation appeared to turn their hearts back to God. You can read more about it in 1 Kings 18. Most prophets would consider this to be a career high point.

But the wife of the king threatened Elijah’s life. This was no idle threat, since she held the power to do exactly what she promised.

Instead of standing firm in his faith, Elijah ran in fear. That’s not the reaction we would expect from God’s great man of the hour. Elijah immediately hands in his resignation.

“I have had enough, LORD,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.”
1 Kings 19:4

We can empathize with Elijah. He had been through a lot. But then, Elijah proceeds to justify himself before God, while issuing a scathing report about the other prophets and his people.

“He replied, ‘I have been very zealous for the LORD God Almighty.”
1 Kings 19:10

God accepts Elijah’s resignation and commissions him to anoint someone else to take his place. Elijah’s ministry immediately begins to dwindle. Zeal had led Elijah to where only passion could keep him. Though he had been very zealous, his passion for God had faded with discouragement, disappointment, and disillusionment. God continued to use him and show him favor, but Elijah’s best years were now behind him.

Zeal will only carry us so far. Eventually, it will fade. Only authentic passion will stay the course.

Peter

Perhaps none of Jesus’ disciples were as zealous as Peter. He quickly rose above the others, becoming one of the top chosen three. Always ready to speak out and move into action, Peter held unquestionable zeal as he followed Jesus.

When Jesus announced He would soon be arrested and crucified, Peter responded,

… ‘Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death.‘”
Luke 22:33

And Peter meant it! But zeal took him to where only passion could keep him. Perhaps you know the story. Within hours, Peter denied his Lord — not once, but three times. He wept bitterly over his failure to faithfully stand with Jesus (Matthew 26:75).

Despite Peter’s failure, Jesus valued him immensely and had plans for Peter’s future position in the soon-to-be-formed church. So after Jesus’ resurrection, He confronted Peter, emphasizing the difference between zeal and passion.

“… Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?'”
John 21:15

That’s the question not just for Peter but for all of us. Do you love Me? Do you love Me more than this, or that, or anything?

Three times Jesus posed the same question. “Peter is your love for Me the foundation of your life? If it isn’t, zeal will always fall short. Zeal will lead you where only love can keep you. Love sustains. Love drives us forward. But only your love for Me enables you to carry out any mission. Love equips, empowers, and motivates. But My love will hold you fast. The deep tap root of passion is love — love for Me.”

Paul

One man, more than any other, fiercely stood against the progress of the early church. A man who was extremely zealous. A man who went about imprisoning and murdering every Christian he could get his hands on.

“I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers.
Galatians 1:14

Though zeal quickly led Saul up the ranks within the religious elite, God knocked him off the high horse of zeal and set him on a more humble course — the course of love and passion. Intimacy with Jesus Christ became Paul’s only pursuit. Everything else flowed from that place of love and intimacy.

‘But whatever were gain to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage that I may gain Christ.”
Philippians 3:7-8

Paul perhaps became the most passionate and devoted follower of Jesus this world has known. He recognized the difference between zeal and passion. Zeal drove him to kill many. But through passion for Jesus, many millions have found live and faith in Christ.

Zeal and Passion

As much as I appreciate the zeal of youth, passion rises strongest through maturity — not a maturity of age or faith but a maturity of deep devotion. Zeal quickly rises, is often volatile, and eventually evaporates. Passion for Jesus grows, intensifies over time, and lasts for eternity. Passion accomplishes more than zeal ever could.

 And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”
Ephesians 3:16-21

A passion for Jesus develops in the incubator of intimacy. There is no substitute. As we intimately know and remain in His unfailing love, our passion grows and deepens. God is a consuming fire. In the fire of passionate love, we will “do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.”

There is no other way! No short cuts! Intimacy fuels the true passion of infinite love that will lead us beyond anything imaginable.

Do we, or will we, love Him more than “these”?

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Procrastination — The Great Destroyer

The effects of procrastination plague like rusting relics — visible and invisible evidence of the presence of the great destroyer. Why does procrastination invade so many of our lives, paralyzing us from making decisive decisions and confident actions.

As many as one quarter of people struggle under the weight of procrastination. Often the issue is linked to depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, or an inability to focus. Perhaps, it results from a combination of many factors. Whatever the reasons, we are all affected by it in some way.

This lack of confidence in making decisions and moving into action impact us all in so many ways. God knows the root lies deep and He says much on the subject. But one of the most sobering is this:

“So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.”
James 4:17

Whatever holds us back from doing the right thing or making the right choice, God counts as sin. That alone should be enough reason to take procrastination seriously and recognize it as a great destroyer of God-given potential.

Mental Health

Just as we seek help to overcome physical health issues, we cannot afford to ignore the crippling impact of poor mental health. I’ve struggled enough in this area to realize change isn’t a simple one-two step and your done. Recovery requires time and often professional assistance. But the first step in any recovery begins with acknowledgment.

Procrastinators habitually put off for later the things that should and could be done now. Later may mean an hour, a day, a year, or a lifetime. The resulting consequences of the delay could prove to be small or devastating. To procrastinators, it all feels overwhelming.

In the wait, life falls apart around them — a fence, a house, a business, a marriage, or an entire life. The pressure of making a decision and acting upon it proves far more risky than any consequence.

“One day I passed by the field of a lazy man, and I noticed the vineyards of a slacker. I observed nothing but thorns, weeds, and broken-down walls. So I considered their lack of wisdom, and I pondered the lessons I could learn from this: Professional work habits prevent poverty from becoming your permanent business partner. And: If you put off until tomorrow the work you could do today, tomorrow never seems to come.”
Proverbs 24:30-34 TPT

Limited

Most often the areas of procrastination show up where a person feels the most vulnerable and insecure. Those times when a person feels at the greatest risk of failure or making a mistake. But it is also a sign of passive aggressive behavior — a deliberate avoidance of what needs to be done.

Little by little the walls begin to crumble. Finally, one more missed project turns into a missed grade. One more failure to step up at work turns into dismissal. One more refusal to be responsible results in a breakdown in relationship.

Several times this past week, I have heard the tell-tale comment of the great destroyer, “May I have an extension. I thought I had more time.”

The procrastinator assumes they will be granted more time, more opportunity, more grace, more tolerance, more of whatever is needed to continue dancing with the great destroyer.

Time is short! Today’s opportunity to do what is right and good will never come again! When the sun sets, today is over — never to return.

“So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise. Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days. Don’t act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do.”
Ephesians 5:15-17

Occupy

Jesus used the parable of the talents to illustrate the importance of fully using opportunities. When He handed His servants their gifts, He commanded them to “work until I come back” (Luke 19:13). Another version says “occupy until I come.” This implies immediate and consistent action.

Those who used their time and resources wisely were delegated greater authority and received a greater reward. The one who was slothful and procrastinated, delaying action and decisions on how to use the talents, ended up losing everything he had been given. How tragic! But how common!

“His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! …”
Matthew 25:26

God doesn’t take the abuse or misuse of our time lightly! Both are a precious gifts from Him. He holds us accountable for both. If God takes it seriously, we would be wise to do the same.

Healing

We might consider God’s assessment a bit harsh, but the first step toward better emotional health and healing begins with confession and prayer. God knows procrastination is self-protection, an escape from the responsibility whenever possible. But there is good news.

“If we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.”
1 John 1:9

Forgiveness is the beginning step. To overcome the great destroyer, we must redeem the time! God can and will turn things around, when we work with Him through the healing journey. He has not left us to fight any battle alone.

  • Choose to no longer put mental health on hold.
  • Seek Christian counsellors and mentors.
  • In a healing environment, confess faults to one another so we will be healed (James 5:16).
  • Identify the specific areas when we tend to procrastinate and ask others to hold us accountable in that area.
  • Don’t expect a quick rescue! Work through the healing process.

Well Done

Everyone wants to hear Jesus say, “Well done.” God cares far more about who we are than about what we accomplish for Him. He wants us free from the control of the great destroyer.

We dare not expect more time, when we are not fully using the time God has already given to us. He has given us time to receive His grace, time to share our faith, and time to love others.

God is not obligated to guarantee any of us more time or opportunity.

“For God says, ‘At just the right time, I heard you. On the day of salvation, I helped you.’ Indeed, the ‘right time’ is now. Today is the day of salvation.”
2 Corinthians 6:2

“The right time is now.” Let’s make today the day for change. Let’s not let procrastination remain as the great destroyer in our lives.

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Avoid Burnout and Overextending Yourself

Have you experienced the symptoms of burnout from overextending yourself? In a culture that applauds achievement, you aren’t alone. The more accomplished and successful one becomes, the greater the risk of overextending oneself and entering the devastating realm of burnout.

I’m dancing on such a verge right now. A little commitment here added to another, then another, and you guessed it … overextension. As my head begins to ache and stomach muscles tighten, I stare at the ceiling when I should be sleeping. Yep! It’s time to heed the warning signs and make adjustments.

At the end of August, I felt God invite me to write something I have avoided for months and even years. He also welcomed me to paint a picture a day. He knew the first would be difficult, while the later would be therapy. I agreed to a one month commitment to accomplish the tasks. If I didn’t finish by then, I would feel released from my commitment. (Pathetic, I know! But it honestly reflects the way God and I talk!)

Only October is teaching month when I have umpteen assignments to correct. It is also the month when the layout and design must be completed for FellowScript, InScribe Christian Writers’ Fellowship quarterly magazine.

And just like that I’m looking for a life raft in the ocean of overextension!

The Greats

Don’t worry if you can relate. We are in the school of learning that some of biblical history greats have passed through. Moses also found himself in a place of serious threat of burnout, at a level I cannot comprehend.

Based on the count of fighting men listed in Numbers 11:21, scholars estimate about 2.2 million people made the Exodus from Egypt. I have trouble leading myself let alone such a massive crowd. Moses assumed the position of judge for every dispute and problem among them.

The next day Moses took his seat to serve as judge for the people, and they stood around him from morning till evening.
Exodus 18:13

Moses adopted this “normal” pattern of function. It took someone from the outside to see what devastating results this way of operating would lead to. Someone who cared enough and was bold enough to confront him! Though burnout appears to sneak up slowly, it will suddenly stomp us out of commission.

Accountability

Just in time, Moses’ father-in-law Jethro came to visit. He took one look at what Moses was doing and basically said, “You’re crazy! Stop, before it’s too late!”

Oh, that God would send Jethros into each of our lives. Someone who lives outside our crazy swirls of activity, who says, “Whoa! Wait a second! Why are doing this?”

Moses was convinced he was doing God’s work in God’s way. After all, he was God’s man of the hour — the leader! Right?

Sometimes pride can lead us to overextend. We begin to think we are the best, or only, one suited for a task. Perhaps, we just don’t know any other way.

When his father-in-law saw all that Moses was doing for the people, he said, ‘What is this you are doing for the people? Why do you alone sit as judge, while all these people stand around you from morning till evening?‘”
Exodus 18:14

An accountability partner provides a safe zone to challenge our present conduct and point us to a better future. Jethro did both.

Warning

Jethro saw the warning signs of burnout and overextension. Do you hear the innocence in Moses’ response?

Moses answered him, ‘Because the people come to me to seek God’s will. Whenever they have a dispute, it is brought to me, and I decide between the parties and inform them of God’s decrees and instructions.'” Exodus 18:15-16

Moses spoke to God face-to-face. God instructed Moses. So, who else was equipped to instruct the people?

Moses’ father-in-law replied, “What you are doing is not good. You and these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out. The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone. Listen now to me and I will give you some advice, and may God be with you.'”
Exodus 18:17-19

Wait! There is a better way?

Delegate

When stretched to maximum capacity, the art of delegation allows us to achieve exponentially more together than all of us could accomplish individually.

Jethro wisely instructed Moses to choose a better way — a way avoiding burnout.

Teach them his decrees and instructions, and show them the way they are to live and how they are to behave. But select capable men from all the people—men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain—and appoint them as officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens. Have them serve as judges for the people at all times, but have them bring every difficult case to you; the simple cases they can decide themselves. That will make your load lighter, because they will share it with you. If you do this and God so commands, you will be able to stand the strain, and all these people will go home satisfied.”
Exodus 18:20-23

Jethro presented Moses with a win-win. It would ensure the responsibility was fulfilled through the help of many. Those who could help more, would be given greater authority. But even those who were only able to maintain a light load could assist.

Lessons

We may glean practical application from Jethro’s advice.

  • Seek out a mentor for a place to be vulnerable and accountable. Give them permission to ask us the tough questions and point out places we might stumble. Live transparently and honestly before them.
  • Seek counsel from others. Counselors help us overcome internal hurdles of pride, selfish ambition, perfectionism, or any of the other vises that often lead to burnout.
  • Delegate authority. Allow other the liberty and the growth opportunity to assume responsibility.
  • Train others and assume a team mentality! Harness the power of synergy — working within teams of like-spirited and like-minded people.
  • Focus on areas only we can do. Acknowledge personal points of excellence where we bring the greatest benefit for the good of all. Then, humbly carry that area of responsibility.

God promises us,

“I will refresh the weary and satisfy the faint.”
Jeremiah 31:25

Hope

No matter what the source, whether we are in the thick of burnout, or heading toward the precipice, Paul writes this sound advice:

Don’t burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master cheerfully expectant. Don’t quit in hard times, pray all the harder...”
Romans 12:11-12 MSG

God won’t put anything too heavy on us. But He draws close as we cry out to Him for help, giving us a new perspective and creative solutions going forward.

As we seek Him, He will keep us fueled and on fire, so that we can live alert and cheerful as we faithfully to the work.

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The Battle is Already Won — A Song in the Night

What struggle are you facing today? God desires us to know, beyond all doubt, He has already secured our victory through the cross. I read it in the pages of His Word. It resonates through the proverbs of the wise and pen of poets. But often, Holy Spirit confirms our victory through songs He brings in the night.

I wasn’t feeling well yesterday, so I crawled into bed a few hours early to sleep off whatever my body was fighting. Though my body ached, peace filled my mind and heart. Several times in the night, I awoke with a song on my heart, affirming my victorious position in Christ.

“You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.”
1 John 4:4

Don’t believe, for a moment, that there is a cosmic war in the heavenlies between Jesus and the citizens of darkness. Jesus Christ absolutely defeated the enemy once and for all. At the cross, Jesus crushed the head of our accuser under His heal.

He took back all the authority and power the enemy stole from humanity. Jesus holds it all. The only weapons the enemy has left are fear and lies, which he uses to manipulate and intimidate God’s children.

Songs in the Night

So, if you are facing a battle, I offer these few songs for your night watch.

“You will not have to fight the battle. Take up your positions, stand firm and see the deliverance the LORD will give you … Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Go out to face them tomorrow, and the LORD will be with you.”
2 Chronicles 20:17

Shane & Shane: The Lord Is My Salvation

“But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
1 Corinthians 15:57

Shane & Shane: Holy, Holy, Holy (We Bow Before Thee)

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Romans 8:37-39

Shane & Shane: His Mercy Is More

Greatest Weapon

Different types of music resonates more with us than other types and speak to us in different ways. Nonetheless, I intentionally pick up instruments of praise in the midst of battle. The attitude within us and the atmosphere around us will shift as we fix our eyes on Jesus, our Great Conqueror and Defender.

Shane & Shane: He Will Hold Me Fast

“What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?”
Romans 8:31

Shane & Shane: Tis So Sweet

The battle has already been won. May God give us His song in the night. Through Him, every battle has already been won.

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The Fruit of the Spirit that Keeps Producing — Longsuffering

Fruit grows from healthy root systems. The fruit of the spirit also grows from the evidence of God’s deep and often invisible working in our lives. The more liberty we allow the Holy Spirit in and with us, the more fruit He produces through us.

“But the fruit produced by the Holy Spirit within you is divine love in all its varied expressions: joy that overflows, peace that subdues, patience that endures, kindness in action, a life full of virtue, faith that prevails, gentleness of heart, and strength of spirit.”
Galatians 5:22-23 TPT

Most of us skim through this list, mentally highlighting those attributes we find most appealing while overlooking other less desirable traits. We say a loud, “Amen!” to love, joy and peace. We affirm kindness, virtue, faith, and gentleness. Yet, patience and self-control become far more difficult to applaud! Nonetheless, God works in us to produce all the fruit of the Spirit.

Yet, I have personally witnessed patience, or more accurately longsuffering, to bring the greatest transformation in both my life and in the lives of others.

Longsuffering

The Greek word for patience or longsuffering, makrothymia, is associated with mercy and more particularly patience in respect to people. It exhibits self-restraint before proceeding to action. Longsuffering is the quality of a person who is able to avenge himself yet refrains from doing so.

This fruit of the Spirit gives one both forbearance and fortitude. However, God never intends longsuffering to be a putting up with, or a tolerance of, things and circumstances that are evil or destructive. Longsuffering enables one to withstand very difficult circumstances, while having the spirit-led fortitude to bring godly transformation. Often, those changes first begin within us.

“And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end, so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.”
Hebrews 6:11-12 ESV

Longsuffering partners with the “full assurance of hope” in the driest and hardest places. Through it, we “inherit the promises” of God.

Refines

Paul captures this idea in a beautiful prayer for the Colossians.

“…We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light.”
Colossians 1:9-12 NIV

Nothing prepares us for eternal inheritance as well as forbearance, patience, and longsuffering. It’s called longsuffering because it lasts longer than we hope, takes more than we feel we have to give, and requires more than we are humanly capable of offering.

Longsuffering demands moment-by-moment, day-by-day, year-by-year trusting in Someone bigger and stronger than us. Longsuffering leans into God’s Presence and relies on His Spirit. But longsuffering refines us, producing in us a tenderness and mercy we otherwise would never obtain.

Molds

Longsuffering molds in us a reflection of God’s own heart. Because of His forbearance and patience toward us, we inherit the goodness and benefits of His Kingdom in relationship with Him.

“Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?”
Romans 2:4 NIV

While pressed through the sieve of suffering, God softens and molds us into an increased reflection of Himself. This fruit of the Spirit, longsuffering, begins to ripen and sweeten in our lives, bringing nourishment to others.

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.”
Colossians 3:12 NIV

What is your place of longsuffering? Is it robed as a difficult marriage or a sudden loss? Perhaps, it cloaks itself as mental or physical illness? Have you been contending for your faith despite addiction, abuse, abandonment, or rejection? I write this with tears, knowing we all face enduring circumstances that wring us dry of everything but God.

There we find that God is enough. Amazed, we discover the fruit of the Spirit thrives where nothing else could.

Prayer

I glean today’s prayer for you and me from James 5:7-11

“Father, I come to You in the mighty name of Jesus, interceding on behalf of all those walking through a valley of suffering. I ask that the beautiful fruit of the Spirit — patience — would blossom and grow in each of our lives until the Lord’s coming. Just like a farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop, we patiently wait for the autumn and spring rains of Your Spirit to drench us, softening us to the core. Enable us to be patient and to stand firm in whatever circumstances immerse us, because Your coming Lord is near. We quench all grumbling and judgment from our hearts and lips. May we become an example of patience in the face of suffering, being counted as blessed as we persevere. Remind us of others in the faith like the prophets and Job who also suffered. Yet You, Lord, brought about great victory and blessing in their lives. Through them we see vivid and beautiful examples of how compassionate and merciful You are and always will be. O Lord may faith rise. May strength be our portion. May forbearance, patience, and longsuffering produce in us heaven’s fruit for earth’s feast. We look beyond our grey today to the glorious tomorrow You have promised. Your love is enough! Your grace is enough! Mold us, Lord! Create in us the full fruit of Your Presence during this season of suffering.
Amen.

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