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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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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The Perfection of Love: Unfailing, Unconditional, Infinite Love

A longing for the perfection of love — unfailing, unconditional, infinite love — drives us to seek beyond what anything earthly provides. The quest for love often leads us into places of pain and disappointment. Though we might find temporary and alluring counterfeits, they will ultimately leave us empty and wanting.

True love comes only from God. He fills our love vacuum to capacity, enabling us to reflect His love to others.

“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.”
1 John 4:7-8

Even the best human effort proves tainted and inadequate in comparison.

God is Love

Only God loves in a way that continuously seeks the ultimate best for the object of His love.

We will never fully understand how far sin caused humanity to fall — at least not until we witness heaven’s full restoration. We have no comparison with which to measure the Father’s ultimate love. In the perfection of love, He sent Jesus Christ to pay the penalty for all sin and failure.

“Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were sinners, Christ died for us.”
Romans 5:7-8

We all begin life looking for others to love us in a way that meets our need. Personal brokenness renders us ineffective to love fully, however. Our efforts often result in frustration, disillusionment, and disappointment.

Unfailing Love

We are inspired when by a couple celebrating decades of married love together. For most of us, marriage is hard work! So, we applaud love that weathers the challenges and ever-changing seasons of life. But even the best earthly example of love ends.

Only God can make a claim to the perfection of love — enduring, unfailing love.

“Give thanks to the LORD; for he is good; his love endures forever.”
1 Chronicles 16:34

We often look to 1 Corinthians chapter 13 to discover the essence of love. But Romans chapter 8 makes the most triumphant declarations about the unfailing nature of God’s love.

“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height 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 8:38-39

Oh, what assurance! What confidence rests in the unfailing love of God — the perfection of love!

Unconditional Love

If we move even slightly from the conviction of being loved by our Abba Father, we begin to attempt to earn His love through service or sacrifice. How foolish! Since God so unconditionally loved us when we were alienated from Him, how much more now that He has adopted us as His sons and daughters? If we could do nothing to merit His love as sinners far from Him, must we now work to merit His love?

No! God loves unconditionally! He loves not because of how wonderful we are, but because of how wonderful He is!

“See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!”
1 John 3:1

Love is too precious to be purchased, too valuable to be earned, too rare to be merited. What price could we ever place on the perfection of love?

“Many waters cannot quench love; rivers cannot sweep it away. If one were to give all the wealth of one’s house for love, it would be utterly scorned.”
Song of Songs 8:7

We rest as humble recipients. No other posture suffices.

Infinite Love

Song writers and preachers tell of God’s unfailing and unconditional love. But, seldom, if ever, do they speak of God’s limitless infinitude.

“But you, O lord, your mercy-seat love is limitless, reaching higher than the highest heavens. Your great faithfulness is infinite, stretching over the whole earth.”
Psalm 36:5 TPT

God, and everything about Him, is limitless — beyond confines of time or space. Everything that flows from Him also comes in limitless measure. Though boundaries limit our capacity to receive, God knows no limit to His capacity to demonstrate love.

I may become too preoccupied, too tired, or even too uncaring to love well. God never suffers such deficiencies.

He loves each one with limitless capacity. God loves you and me with infinite measure. How wonderful that we don’t need to understand the perfection of love to receive it.

Perfection of Love

The enemy’s greatest attacks attempt to cause us to see God as anything but perfectly loving. If he succeeds in his deception, fear grips our hearts and plagues our minds.

We all fight this battle both to receive and respond to God’s love.

“The Spirit your received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.'”
Romans 8:15

The perfection of love flows from our Abba, Father. “Abba” refers to the most intimate name given for a father, similar to Dad. “Father” is more of a formal term. God loves us deeply and intimately.

Because we are the objects of such lavish love, satan hates us even more. He is powerless to stop God’s love, so he tries to convince us that we are still slaves, alienated from God’s love. Nothing could be further from the truth! We never need to fear again. God adopted us into His family. We are loved and secure.

“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”
1 John 4:18

May we each take a moment to appreciate and thank God for His unfailing, unconditional, infinite love.

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Overcome Prayerlessness — The Struggle to Pray

Before we develop strategies to overcome prayerlessness, we must first understand why we face such a struggle to pray. Why does prayer sometimes seem so difficult? For many Christians, the struggle to develop a consistent prayer routine feels insurmountable. Why does prayer appear easy for some and difficult for others?

Perhaps you’ve noticed how new Christians blubber and flounder through prayer and yet often see immediate and incredible answers? Yet, mature faith-filled Christians may labor in prayer intensely without seeing such immediate results. Why?

The foundation of all prayer is based upon relationship — our relationship with God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. When we talk to God, we call it prayer. It embodies worship and thanksgiving, petition and request, soul sharing and questioning, or even stillness. For each of us, prayer will look slightly different, because we are uniquely made.

My relationship with God will not duplicate yours. God loves us uniquely and perfectly, but never forces Himself upon us. He patiently waits for us to communicate with Him.

“And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.”
Ephesians 6:18

An Enemy

Satan knows all to well how powerful prayer is against him and his demonic agendas. He makes stopping our prayers one of his primary focuses. When he keeps us from prayer, he keeps us from one of the main avenues of relational growth between God and us. Prayerlessness keeps our primary weapon sheathed and unused against him.

Without prayer we become weak and ineffective. We remain powerless in and of ourselves. Everything worthwhile flows from God. Jesus used the illustration of a vine connected to the main branch to demonstrate the point.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”
John 15:5

But even after knowing this truth, we struggle to pray. Why?

Perceived Failure

I believe one of the greatest reasons we hesitate to pray is because of perceived failure. We look around at other Christians who tell of incredible results through prayer — healing, financial provision, relationships restored, and more. Our own prayers seem meager in comparison.

This discouragement is called Learned Helplessness. When we face a difficulty and experience continued pain in spite of our efforts, Learned Helplessness takes over. We often refer to the condition as resulting from abuse or neglect, where the victim stops trying. But I believe we can develop a type of Learned Helplessness in prayer.

Perhaps we tried prayer. God appeared silent. When we tried to pray again, the answers remained illusive. So we ask others to pray for us. We call the pastor or priest, the prayer line — anyone we believe might have a direct connection to God. This prayer helplessness blinds us to the reality that we all have a direct prayer connection.

“This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us — whatever we ask — we know that we have what we asked of him.”
1 John 5:14-15

That one word, confidence, unlocks the door to prayer. Learned Helplessness robs us of all confidence.

Overcome

God offers solutions to anyone who identifies with this common struggle to pray.

  • Return to the basics of our love relationship with God. Notice how Jesus taught His disciples to pray within relationship to the Father,

“Jesus told them, “When you pray, say, ‘Father….'”
Luke 11:2

  • Punt any guilt or shame to the curb. Ask a close friend to hold you accountable to daily times of prayer. It may feel like a struggle at first, but celebrate every success.
  • Focus on personal improvement not on answers to prayer. If five minutes is a struggle, then press through for five minutes. As you gain confidence, stretch it to ten minutes, increasing gradually.
  • Include worship and gratitude in prayer. God doesn’t need to hear how great He is, but we need to remember.

By starting simple and keeping our focus on relationship with God, prayer will become more joyous. It takes forty days to create a habit. Don’t be hard on yourself, if you don’t immediately achieve success.

Other Reasons

Perhaps you don’t identify with Learned Helplessness in prayer. Maybe one or more of these other obstacles relate more to your situation. These are common ones for me.

  • Busyness and distraction:
    • Do I place work and other obligations before God?
    • Do I take prayer for granted because it is always available?
  • Santa List:
    • Do I value what God does for me more than I value who God is?
    • Have I begun to focus on results rather than relationship?
  • Impatience:
    • When God doesn’t respond when or how I desire, do I become impatient?

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
Matthew 6:33

Prayer Power

We all face seasons when either prayer becomes a struggle or flows as easy as water from a cup. You are in good company either way. God keeps the doorway to prayer wide open for each of us, but He waits for us to take the initiative to walk through the doorway into His Presence. Indescribable power awaits those who come to Him.

I encourage each of us to take a few moments to discover ways to improve and grow in the discipline of prayer. God desires prayer to be a joy rather than a losing battle for us.

To step into a greater level of prayer power:

  • First, let’s ask God to help us discover any prayer blocks hindering us.
  • Then, let’s verbally renounce or reject any hindrance Holy Spirit reveals.
  • Next, ask God for one step to overcome the obstacle He has shown us.
  • Finally, let’s move step by step into prayer action from inaction.

Congratulations! If you have followed these four steps you have already begun your victoriour prayer walk from Learned Helplessness to prayer power. Celebrate your first win!

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9

God alone knows the great harvest that awaits each of us when we overcome the struggle to pray!

Resources

I have written two books on developing and increasing in prayer potential:

Unmasking Myths: Is This Prayer?

and

Unlocking Legacy: Taking Your God-Given Territory Through Prayer

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Causes of Forgetfulness — Remember

Whether I forget something by my door or hundreds of miles away, every lapse of memory frustrates me. What are the causes of forgetfulness? Actually, I’m more concerned about discovering the cure than the causes.

This week I forgot my Bible. I can easily replace a Bible. But the personal notes I have scribbled in the margins and the special bookmarks my grandchildren made for me can’t be replaced. After reading from the same Bible for a few years, I grow accustomed not only to the written Word of God printed upon the pages, but also to the feel of the worn pages and twisted edges. Sometimes, I underline a verse that Holy Spirit seems to bring to my attention, dating it so that years later I can reference it again.

Before shopping, I meticulously go through the cupboard and make a list of items I need from the grocery store. Unfortunately, I’ve frequently left the list on the counter. Then shopping becomes a test of memory to remember each item.

God

My uncle reminded my husband and me at our wedding to beware of the good and easy times we would face. With wisdom, he cautioned us about the tendency we may have to forget the most valuable things during affluent times. God reminds us of something similar.

“Make sure you don’t forget God, your God, by not keeping his commandments, his rules and regulations that I command you today. Make sure that when you eat and are satisfied, build pleasant houses and settle in, see your herds and flocks flourish and more and more money come in, watch your standard of living going up and up — make sure you don’t become so full of yourself and your things that you forget God, your God.”
Deuteronomy 8:11-16 MSG

Trouble and hard times often drive us to our knees before God and show us our inadequacy and inability. We can never trust our own ability or genius. Our trust always rests in God. I know that leaving a Bible behind isn’t like forgetting God, but it almost feels like it.

The good things God blesses us with are never meant to replace His Presence or lure us from time spent with Him and in His Word. But it might!

He speaks, directs, encourages, instructs, and even reprimands through His Word. We need Him to do all these things and even more so that we won’t forget Him.

God’s Covenant

God never forgets His covenant love for us. Never! Our inattention and busyness with lesser things often cause us to forget, be He always remembers.

“He provides food for those who fear him; he remembers his covenant forever.”
Psalm 111:5

Forgetting God’s goodness and His faithfulness comes all too easily when we are surrounded by evil and uncertainty. God remains “other than” this world, totally above and over it all.

One of the causes of forgetfulness toward His love comes from the painful and recurring wounds we face day after day. After awhile we may begin to falsely believe that God has forgotten or abandoned us.

“I will remember the deeds of the LORD; yes, I will remember your wonders of old.”
Psalm 77:11

Remember my grocery list? Even without my list, I often remember everything on it, because I purposely took stock of what I had, and made special note of what was needed. The psalmist affirmed that he would always consider and choose to remember God’s love and goodness. Will we do the same?

Jesus’ Sacrifice

Because Jesus knew the causes of forgetfulness, He left us with an unforgettable reminder of His life and purpose.

” . . . The same night in which he was handed over, he took bread and gave thanks. Then he distributed it to the disciples and said, ‘Take it and eat your fill. It is my body, which is given for you. Do this to remember me.’ He did the same with the cup of wine after supper and said, ‘This cup seals the new covenant with my blood. Drink it — and whenever you drink this, do it to remember me.'”
1 Corinthians 11:23-25 TPT

Whatever we call this remembering — communion, sacraments, or something else — it stands as a reminder of the price He paid to guarantee our freedom and eternal security. A failure to engage in purposeful acts of remembrance may be one of the causes of forgetfulness. Because Jesus wants us to recall the most important concepts of our faith, He leaves us with more than a grocery list of rituals, but a significant act of remembering.

Biblical Instruction

Have you ever listened intently to a wonderful sermon or biblical teaching? And then a few minutes or hours later asked, “What did they say again?” I have! I have quickly forgotten what I was sure I would remember!

At times like this, how grateful I am for the Holy Spirit!

“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.”
John 14:26 NKJV

And oh, how often He does that for us! God created our minds as incredible retrieval systems. The Holy Spirit comes perfectly equipped to open hidden memory files at the perfect moment and bring back bits of important instruction.

Though the causes of forgetfulness may be many, the Holy Spirit reminds us of important concepts. When I step away from busy activity and take a moment to ask, He consistently answers with exactly what I need.

God also expects us to do our part to absorb the instruction we receive. Taking notes helps me to remember. For others, notes become distracting. Holy Spirit will even assist us to discover the best method of remembering the biblical insights of our spiritual teachers, pastors, and mentors.

Causes of Forgetfulness

I have only scratched the surface of a few important things we try to always remember. Here are some familiar things which contribute to my forgetfulness:

  • Distractions caused by work and possessions. God gives us the ability to work, as well as the blessing of family and possessions. Sometimes our blessings consume our thinking and become distractions, however.
  • Fatigue caused by over-commitment. Some seasons of life, like being a mother of a newborn, allow little opportunity for rest. However, continuous fatigue affects our memory and ability to fully function. Perhaps re-evaluation of time commitments might be necessary to alleviate the problem of forgetfulness.
  • Emotional health also affects our memory capacity. Able Christian counsellors and mentors assist people to begin to recover emotionally from trauma and abuse. I have had to seek help in this area many times. Mental health seriously affects our ability to remember.
  • Poor nutrition also causes forgetfulness. Maintaining a balanced diet and refraining from substance abuse (like drugs, alcohol, and smoking) will also assist our memory to stay sharp and active.
  • Another key area often not talked about is the enemy’s spiritual attack against our minds. He often attempts to cloud our minds with confusion to keep us from remembering God’s goodness and faithfulness.

“We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”
2 Corinthians 10:5 (NIV)

I welcome you to take a moment and consider each one of these areas. Do any apply to you? How might you reclaim your memory and ability to remember the things that matter the most? Are there other things that cause forgetfulness for you?

I often place my hand on my head and simply pray, declaring the truth of Scripture, “I have the mind of Christ,” (1 Corinthians 2:16). “My mind is sharp and my thinking clear. The Holy Spirit is with me to recall to my remembrance His Word and His truth. Thank You, Lord!”

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Be A Lightning Rod

This week someone called me a lightning rod! What!!!!

I remember the lightning rod fastened to the corner of our farm home. Most days, we forgot this skinny unassuming piece of metal existed. Other than the skinny part, I hang around largely unnoticed as well.

But a lightning rod has purpose! It is positioned with function. Don’t we all hope to fulfill our purpose while holding our position and function for God?

Instead of going into detail here, I’ve created a little video for you. God calls each of us to a different position in God’s Kingdom. He equips us with various gifts, both natural and spiritual. But while we are doing the things God calls us to do, I pray we will resemble a lightning rod for God.

Have a blessed week!

I am heading off to the Inscribe Christian Writer’s Conference in Edmonton, and truly looking forward to time with fellow authors, poets, publishers, and illustrators.

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