Good Roots: Rooted and Grounded

Natural principles hold true for Christians as well; the development of solid foundation is essential to be rooted and grounded. Paul Keith Davis says, “Go deep in order to go high.”

Although trees and shrubs of all shapes and sizes fill the lots and parks within the city, I see only the tallest of trees from my fourth floor window. Those who roots have reached deep and wide obtain the resilience to survive the extreme Canadian prairie seasons. Without extensive root systems the gale force prairie winds would topple them.

After planting hundreds of trees over the years, I’ve learned the first five years are critical for healthy root development. In those five years upward and outward growth remains minimum, but beneath the surface a fibrous web of tenacious roots ensure long term health of the tree.

When the focus on root development takes precedence, all other growth and development will lead to greater health and fruitfulness.

God knows far better than I do about planting seeds and transplanting seedings. He created and designed the whole process.

Through trial and error, I also discovered that the right tree planted in the wrong location may survive for a season, but it will never thrive. Usually such a scenario results in death — sometimes slow, other times rapid.

Believe it or not, some trees prefer wet roots, others insist on theirs being dry; some only grow in rich loam, others prefer sandy soil. The adage “bloom where you are planted” only goes so far.

But what does becoming rooted and grounded mean?

In Love

“For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. 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.”
Ephesians 3:14-19

Paul prays for the Ephesian church to become rooted and grounded (or established) in love.

The original word translated as rooted means “to cause to take root, to fix firmly and establish.” While the word translated as established means “to lay the foundation, or to lay the basis, erect, or consolidate.”

Paul prays that “every family” — not just some or a choice few — would become rooted and grounded in love. He knows we need help! But through the power of the Holy Spirit, as Christ inhabits the core of our being through faith, our roots of love deepen and spread ever wider.

The deeper our roots of love go the more we discover how high and deep God’s love for us reaches, going far beyond our comprehension. In His love, we become like mature trees rooted and grounded, reaching the full potential of all God has for us.

In Faith

“And now there is nothing between you and Father God, for he sees you as holy, flawless, and restored, if indeed you continue to advance in faith, assured of a firm foundation to grow upon. Never be shaken from the hope of the gospel you have believed in . . .”
Colossians 1:22-23 TPT

Paul conveys the same idea to the Colossian believers. He encourages them to lay a foundation of faith that is steadfast, firm, and immovable. Those rooted and grounded in faith grow! Faith advances! Never shaken!

Isn’t that what we all desire? A steadfast foundation ensures that nothing and no one comes between us and God. Our core relationship with Him grows unhindered “if” we continue in faith.

Even the smallest tree will experience a set-back when it is transplanted. Though its root system hasn’t yet spread as deep and wide as a mature tree, it takes time to begin to thrive in new ground. We all resemble transplanted trees.

This passage begins with:

“Even though you were once distant from him, living in the shadows of your evil thoughts and actions, he reconnected you back to himself.”
Colossians 1:21

Evil actions and sin-based thinking plagued us all until God transplanted us and “reconnected” us back to Himself. He transplanted us in the fertile soil of faith and love to spread our roots ever deeper. Once rooted and grounded, we will grow to full stature, casting holy shadows of protection and provision for others.

In Truth

Jesus told a parable illustrating the importance of being rooted and grounded.

“Let me describe the one who truly follows me and does what I say: He is like a man who chooses the right place to build a house and then lays a deep and secure foundation. When the storms and floods rage against that house, it continues to stand strong and unshaken through the tempest, for he built it wisely on the right foundation.”
Luke 6:47-48 TPT

Every builder knows the indispensable value of a “deep and secure foundation.” Storms will come! Floods will rage against us! By hearing and activating the Word of God in our lives, we will stand “strong and unshaken” nonetheless.

A building’s secure foundation in many ways resembles a tree’s roots system. We choose daily where and how to build upon God’s promises. May we build wisely. May each one of our lives become firmly rooted and grounded in His Word of truth.

Remain

In Ezekiel 17, we read an allegory about a great eagle who planted a cedar beside “abundant water.” Its branches turned toward the eagle while its roots settled deep in the rich soil, allowing the tree to flourish and be fruitful. But when another eagle came, the cedar turned its roots toward the new eagle, seeking a new source.

“Will it thrive?” God asks. “Will it not be uprooted and stripped of its fruit so that it withers? All its new growth will wither” (Ezekiel 17).

God in His gentle mercy warns of the consequences of not remaining grounded in Him. He points to the real dangers of turning to other sources. The Holy Spirit does all He can, rooting and grounding us in His love and steadfast faith and nurturing us through the living water of His Word, the Bible.

Rooted and Grounded

Later in another vision, Ezekiel saw an eternal river flowing from the “threshold of the temple” (Ezekiel 47). He describes the resulting overflow of abundance!

“Fruit trees of all kinds will grow on both banks of the river. Their leaves will not wither, nor will their fruit fall. Every month they will bear fruit, because the water from the sanctuary flows to them. Their fruit will serve for food and their leaves for healing.”
Ezekiel 47:12

Everyone rooted and grounded in love, faith, and truth bears fruit that nourishes and heals. Their lives carry the capacity to influence and impact many others. It is my prayer that when the hunger and hurting come close to us they will find food that satisfies the deep longing of their souls and healing for every broken area of their lives.

May our roots of love go deep, the foundation of our faith be solid, and truth of God’s Word guide our decisions. Let’s “go deep in order to go high.”

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Making Adjustments to Stay on Course

The constant changes and transitions of life require the adjustment and tweaking of priorities and schedules to stay on course. During the last two weeks, I’ve been reminded in various ways about the importance of maintaining godly priorities. Misalignment, especially in the area of work, has been causing me to veer off course.

My daughter-in-law mentioned that during a flight the plane’s internal systems continually make adjustments to keep the plane on course. Wreckages throughout history give us ample evidence of the dangers of veering even slightly off track.

Samson blindly believed he was on course to walk out his destiny.

“Then she called, ‘Samson, the Philistines are upon your!’ He awoke from his sleep and thought, ‘I’ll go out as before and shake myself free.’ But he did not know that the LORD had left him.”
Judges 16:20

Too late, he realized his error. His spiritual blindness led to physical blindness when his enemies gouged out his eyes and turned him into a human mule to grind their grain.

Following our own life track might appear to work for a while. But when we take God’s Word and His call on our lives casually, be aware. We are heading for a crash.

Mount Erebus Tragedy

Though the crash of TE901 occurred almost fifty years ago, it remains New Zealand’s worst peacetime disaster. The air cruise over the Antarctic turned fatal because the navigation system was off by two degrees. Yes! Two degrees! In the scheme of life, we may easily dismiss two degrees as inconsequential. But if we don’t remain “on target,” we, too, may be heading for disaster.

Each person on board trusted the pilot to take them on the scenic flight to McMurdo Sound and back. The pilot trusted the navigation system to guide him as he made two familiar loops, descending through the clouds to about 2,000 feet to give his passengers a better view. He saw the ice and snow through the cockpit window; only seconds before impact did he realize it was the side of Mount Erebus.

No one was more blinded by pure zeal for God than Saul of Tarsus. Trained as a Pharisee of Pharisees, he expended immeasurable time and energy to eradicate the radical Christian sect that contradicted his understanding of God’s laws and ways. He headed straight for a crash.

“About noon as I came near Damascus, suddenly a bright light from heaven flashed around me. I fell to the ground and heard a voice say to me, ‘Saul! Saul! Why do you persecute me?’ ‘Who are you, Lord?’ I asked . . . My companions led me by the hand into Damascus, because the brilliance of the light had blinded me.”
Acts 22:6-11

Zeal counts for nothing when you are off course!

Blinding Light

Even moments before impact, tourists walked around, drank their chosen beverages, and took pictures inside the cabin and outside the window. Until . . .

Air NZ flight TE901 before it crashed into Mt Erebus. Warning: content may be upsetting.

Every one of us walks around doing life as usual. None of us know the moment of impact — that millisecond between this life and the next. It is a sobering reality waiting us all.

Thanks to previous prompting by the Holy Spirit, encouragement from my pastor, and an extra nudge from my daughter-in-law, I’ve been making adjustments to stay on course to reach the destination God desires for me. Honestly, I’ve been further off than a few degrees.

Usually, it’s the demanding pressures of work which lure me off track. For others, it might be positions of power or the praise of people. Even one of Jesus’ disciples became confused.

“Jesus turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.'”
Matthew 16:23

Jesus warns Peter and us, that whenever human concerns outweigh our concern for God, we have switched allegiance, joining enemy ranks. There is no such thing as neutral ground.

Jesus went on to explain that discipleship costs. Maintaining healthy boundaries around godly priorities will always cost.

Stay on Course

Forfeiting God’s best for a pat on the back or a few more dollars in the bank amounts to nothing in the end.

With Samson, Saul, and Peter, God gracious confronted them, redirecting their course. Their lives impacted multitudes of people. What we do today influences and affects generations as well. May we choose wisely.

The carnage from TE901 that still liters the side of Mount Erebus campares little to the painful aftermath of the crash. After many years and multiple investigations, the blame first placed upon the pilot shifted to the airlines. God won’t need further explanation or investigation. He already knows both the obvious and hidden reasons for our losing sight of what is most important. Excuses and self-justification will disintegrate and fall like ashes before Him.

To stay on course means to continue until something is finished or until we achieve something we planned to do. It means to not vary from a predetermined plan. God has a predetermined plan for every life, in which, as Brother Andrew said,

“The joy gets bigger and life gets better.”

We all plan to finish our life’s journey well. We all plan to please our Heavenly Father and hear Him say,

“. . . ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!'”
Matthew 25:23

Take Action

The deceptive blindness of this world too often pulls us from eternal perspectives. The counsel of others will forewarn us when we are shifting off track, whether by two degrees or more. Here are other steps to help us stay on course:

  • Listen to Holy Spirit.
    • Push the “Pause” button on busyness and rest.
    • Ask God to show us when and how we are getting off track.
    • Ask ourselves if we have set a godly destination?
  • Listen to wise counsel.
    • What are those who love us saying? (e.g. spouses, family, pastors, counselors)
  • Soul search.
    • What unmet need am I trying to satisfy through things other than God?
    • Why is it easier for me to trust in my own ability and efforts rather than in God?
    • Why am I willing to sacrifice the most important things for temporary satisfaction?

Ouch! Though difficult, the answers may save our lives and the lives of those around us before we crash against the mountain of our own doing.

When not corrected, small things always become big things.

God may not provide a blinding light to stop us in our deviant tracks. Failure to realign ourselves may cost us our physical and emotionally health, our closest relationships, and, more importantly, ministry effectiveness.

A minor course adjustment and a little rise in altitude would have been enough to save everyone aboard TE901. In the same way, a few simple personal course adjustments and a small rise in our spiritual altitude may be the preventative measures we need to avoid disastrous consequences.

Let’s heed the warnings and move toward a life where “the joy gets bigger and life gets better.” Blessings, my friends.

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Want More?

You might appreciate this message about setting priorities.

Godly Priorities | Pastor Rob Reimer | September 25, 2022

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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Humility — The Pathway of God’s Blessing

The selfish inclination of the natural heart instinctively bends toward pride. By humility we will experience the pathway to God’s blessing.

While in a church service yesterday, I sensed there was a spiritual opening in the ceiling. An opaque or translucent cover sealed the opening. On the cover was written the word “HUMILITY.” I knew God was showing me the church’s access to God’s blessing was the pathway of humility. Humility also protected the people within the church from any attacks the enemy would attempt to forge against this faithful body of believers.

I know I haven’t even begun to understand the power of humility. My battle to overcome pride is unrelenting. Two things stop God’s moving among us: pride and bitterness. We find the antidote by embracing the opposite: humility and forgiveness.

This familiar verse comes to mind when I think about humility.

“Pride goes before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall.”
Proverbs 16:18

Nobody approaches life intending to self-destruct (becoming crushed, broken, or fractured) or fall (to come to ruin).

With Us

God longs for us to walk in harmony with Him — working with us, in us, and through us by the Holy Spirit. Humility guarantees this synchronized ebb and flow in the Spirit.

“But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says:
‘God opposes the proud
but shows favor to the humble.'”
James 4:6

Imagine for a moment a beautiful white stallion running free and wild with mane and tail flowing in the wind. Though majestic and powerful, its potential remains unrealized. Only when the stallion willingly submits to a rider’s direction will the beauty translate into directed force and channeled potential.

We resemble that stallion. Holy Spirit is the rider. Humility allows the Spirit to flow through us as instruments of divine healing, anointed teaching and preaching, creative release, and so much more. Surrendered under the Spirit, we effortlessly move in His rhythm, directed by the whisper of His breath, without the need for bit or bridle.

Obedience contains a key aspect to consistently walking in humility.

Character and Behavior

Humility goes beyond attitude, infusing character and influencing behavior.

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

Notice how humility plays a central role within these character traits. Humbleness marks the lives of those who have conquered pride and haughtiness. Any attitude of superiority or egotism must bow for us to live in genuine humility deliberately and consistently.

“As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.”
Ephesians 4:1,2

God calls us to love in a way that stretches beyond emotion, doing whatever benefits and seeks the best for another person. The Passion Translation says, “live a life that exhibits godly character, moral courage, personal integrity, and mature behavior — a life that expresses gratitude to God.”

Holiness

One dictionary defines humility as “a state or condition of being holy, including piety, saintliness, blessedness, devoutness.” The more we choose humility, the more we resemble our Lord.

This passage illustrates it best.

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

When every natural tendency strains toward self-promotion, let’s remember Jesus’ extreme submission to the Father. He humbled himself, surrendering everything for the love of God and others.

Walking in the steps of our Master beyond question includes following the path of humility. Even when the path of humility requires us to bend uncomfortably low.

Let God Lift

Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.”
James 4:10

Just as Jesus humbled himself, God calls us to humble ourselves.

Jesus told His followers,

“Do you want to stand out? Then step down. Be a servant. If you puff yourself up, you’ll get the wind knocked out of you. but if you’re content to simply be yourself, your life will count for plenty”
Matthew 23:11-12 MSG

Every self effort to “lift” ourselves to a higher profile or position will ultimately lead to a fracture, falling or failure. But as we lower ourselves, He will ultimately lift us up making our lives “count for plenty.” Isn’t that what we all desire — our lives counting for plenty? His effortless lifting flowing with ease and filling each of us with peace?

Because Jesus lowered Himself to the extreme, God raised Him to the extreme.

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

Blessings pour through the open door of humility. Often, they are tangible and definable. More often, they come in the subtle transformational changes within and around us. A beautiful piety and devoutness to Jesus becomes increasingly evident in everything we do.

Revival

Revival naturally flows from the stream of humility — first personally and then corporately.

“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”
2 Chronicles 7:14

Wherever we find people walking in humility, praying and seeking God’s face, turning from sin, and walking in forgiveness, God moves! Revival occurs. The trickle of His Presence turns into a fire consuming everything that opposes Him.

Do you long for revival? Humility breaks through the translucent curtain, allowing God to flow freely into our midst, turning hearts radically toward Him.

It starts with me! It begins with you! May we cast aside the garments of pride and conceit, choosing instead the pure garments of God’s glorious humility. As we do, we will experience the blessing of God flowing into and through our lives in dimensions we never believed possible, making them truly count for plenty.

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Give Praise to the Lord

Expectation begins to rise when we choose to give praise to the Lord. For every difficulty we face, we have even more reasons to praise God. Many people, including myself, have learned how to spiritually press through humanly insurmountable roadblocks. Some things we continue to contend for in prayer. At other times, we have witnessed doors open before us and bridges form under our feet. Where there previously had been no way through, God made a way.

This isn’t an unusual phenomenon known only by a choice few. Every Christian who consistently prays, seeks God’s direction, and waits for His answers experiences His hand at work in inexplainable ways. Some might mistake it for coincidence. People of faith know their God!

“In that day you will say: ‘Give praise to the LORD, proclaim his name; make known among the nations what he has done.’ “
Isaiah12:4

In this single verse, the writer encourages us toward action. After looking more closely, I notice the four calls to action: say, praise, proclaim, and make known. Each action rests upon “what he (God) has done.”

May we pause our busy lives for just a moment to consider what God has done within our families, communities, and faith centers.

You Will Say

Whatever we look for, we will find. If we look for good in someone or something, we will discover it. Our attitude either negatively or positively colors our world more than we might realize.

Yesterday, my husband and I shared a bit of what God has been doing in our lives. As we spoke of God’s goodness, those listening were encouraged. Soon others shared what they also see God doing recently. A few shared about things they continue to pray for with faith.

“The goodness of God is infinitely more wonderful
than we will ever be able to comprehend.”
– A.W. Tozer

Through Holy Spirit direction, biblical authors encourage us to press beyond silent, heart-felt gratitude to verbalize our praise.

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good. His love endures forever. Give thanks to the God of gods, His love endures forever. Give thanks to the Lord of lords, His love endures forever.”
Psalm 136:1-3

When hearts overflow, praise naturally comes forward. “You will say,” Isaiah wrote. As we speak, thanksgiving and praise activates both within and around us.

Praise

Often the frequent use of a word causes us to overlook the significance of its meaning. “Praise,” or in Hebrew yadah, means to acknowledge, to praise, to give thanks, to confess, or to cast. It represents the act of acknowledging what is right about God through praise and thanksgiving. Yadah’s heavenward recognition is sometimes structured within corporate worship. Often, yadah flows as personal expression.

Someone once said, “Give praise where praise is due!” Good advice, I think.

We should publicly recognize the people and organizations among us who work hard. However, the grandest accolades belong to the LORD. He is worthy of all adoration, honor, glory, and praise.

Praising God doesn’t always come easily. Life’s pressures often weigh heavy on us. We worry. We fret. God knows, understands, and cares deeply for us in the midst of struggle. Perhaps, it is in these times more than any other, that the transformational power of praise really shines the brightest.

“Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.”
Psalm 42:11

Amidst severe oppression, the psalmist commanded himself to give God praise. He shows us that praise is a decision of the will. As we begin to praise, we welcome God into our circumstances allowing Him to shift spiritual atmospheres within and around us. The enemy quickly loses his position.

Proclaim

The word proclaim comes from the Hebrew, qara, meaning to proclaim an announcement. When we proclaim we make a verbal declaration about something. Proclaiming resembles a flashing message on a neon sign or a broadcast over a loudspeaker. Proclaiming commands everyone to pay attention.

The more we proclaim and declare His active participation in our lives, the more we see His hand at work.

Many and varied opportunities have opened for ministry over the summer — at a Bible camp, in churches, and during a city-wide gathering. In every occasion, I have witnessed God answer prayer at a level I have not seen for many years, if at all. People have powerfully experienced the presence of Holy Spirit moving through healing, deliverance, words of knowledge, and the prophetic.

Jesus quoted these words from Isaiah,

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free.”
Luke 4:18

Jesus still proclaims good news to the poor. He still proclaims freedom for prisoners. He still gives sight to the blind and sets the oppressed free. Through willing human hands and voices, He moves and speaks.

A great hunger for God is rising in our nation and in the nations around the world. God is on the move! Give praise to the Lord! Proclaim His Name!

Make Known

Isaiah combines two words for “make known.” The first word, yada, means to know, learn, perceive, discern, experience, confess, and consider. It means to be skillful at making something or someone known. I, too, easily forget even the good things God does around me.

One of the practical ways, I stir up my memory is through journaling, or keeping a record, about how I’ve seen God move in my life and in the lives of others for whom I have been praying. I want to remember! Somehow, writing things down helps to solidify them in my memory and improves my recall of them in the future.

Isaiah calls us to skillfully “make known among the nations what he has done.” At no other time in the history of mankind has this been so easy to do. Whether in person or through the internet, we have opportunity to converse with people of all nationalities. The fluid movement of people from one nation to another creates a wellspring of opportunity to make Jesus known among the nations.

In the prayer tent during a praise gathering, we had the privilege of making God known to peoples from First Nations communities and many immigrant nations. What an honor! Give praise to the Lord for what He is doing. Today, people groups from virtually every nation are being reached with the Gospel.

“Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise — the fruit of lips that openly profess his name.”
Hebrews 13:15

Fruit of our Lips

As we give praise to the Lord, it becomes the fruit of our lips. Sweet, nourishing, and enjoyable!

In every season, may we each “through Jesus . . . continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise.”

Let’s take a few moments to acknowledge God’s goodness. Let the answers to prayers already received build anticipation for those yet to come. He hears our every cry and holds every prayer precious. He is not slow to come to our aid. His ways and timing are perfect.

Through prayer or songs may the atmosphere of our homes radiate with worship. May today be a “that day” moment when . . .

“In that day you will say: ‘Give praise to the LORD, proclaim his name; make known among the nations what he has done.’ “
Isaiah 12:4

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How to Discern God’s Will

We daily face decisions — big and small. Should we wait or go? Which direction should we take? Can we even discern God’s will for our lives?

We’ve all asked these questions at one time or another. Have you ever wished handwriting would appear on the wall to remove all doubt? I have! God usually chooses more subtle means to answer us, however. He desires that we clearly sense His direction and move within the epicentre of His blessing.

Paul encourages the new believers in Rome with these words:

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is — his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
Romans 12:2

I find a few significant details here:

  1. The world cannot offer the answers we need.
  2. We should seek spiritual transformation and a renewed mind.
  3. We can discern, “test and approve,” God’s will.
  4. God’s will for us is perfect!

Be Transformed

Rather than offer a few gentle suggestions, Paul commands his listeners to change mindsets and heart attitudes — “do not conform … be transformed!” Bombardment by culturally and politically motivated thinking has become our daily norm. It infiltrates our schools, blasts through media, and asserts itself through authoritative voices.

However, the world’s views differ greatly from God’s all-knowing perspective. We choose whether to flow along the broad stream of cultural thought or look within the pages of God’s inspired Word, the Bible, for needed answers.

“Transformed” comes from the same Greek word we translate metamorphasis — the transition of a caterpillar into a butterfly. I call the process of spiritual transformation the “messy middle” between salvation and Heaven. It is the real living out of our daily lives.

Transformation requires changed patterns of living which are every bit as radical as a caterpillar’s crawling on the ground one week and the butterfly’s effortless wafting between flowers the next.

Transformational renewing comes through time spent reading and meditating on the Bible, seeking God in prayer, and trusting in the Holy Spirit’s guidance.

Test and Approve

As we look to God in these ways, we will discover the answer to many of our questions have already been clearly written for us. Other things aren’t quite so evident, however. How do we test and approve God’s will when there is no chapter and verse answers available?

I’ve found these three basic questions helpful:

First, “Is this God’s plan?” The source of inspiration will either come from ourselves, the enemy trying to lead us off course, or God directing us into His perfect will. If any aspect contradicts Scripture, we confidently know it isn’t God’s plan. God seeks to advance and promote His people, but if we sense a push for money over people, or the desire for self-glory rather than God being glorified, we again have the assurance it isn’t God’s plan.

Second, “Is this God’s plan for me?” Maybe, we tested the idea and proved it to be God’s good plan, but is it God’s plan for me? He actually might desire someone else to fulfill His plan, even though we earnestly want to step into it. It may even feel like a perfect fit for us. Yet if we lack the internal peace to proceed, God might be intending someone else to fulfill it.

Finally, “Is this God’s plan for now?” Maybe, the hesitation we sense comes from God, holding us back until we are better equipped or other circumstances are strategically moved into place. Other times, we recognize a window of opportunity opening for a brief period of time, requiring an immediate, “Yes, Lord!” on our part.

The “not now” feeling has always been the hardest for me to wrangle with. When I sense God’s leading, I want to run with it. Testing and approving God’s plan also includes evaluating the timing.

Beautiful, Satisfying, and Perfect

As we discern God’s will, we discover His wonderful plans for us. The Passion Translation records Romans 12:2 like this:

Stop imitating the ideals and opinions of the culture around you, but be inwardly transformed by the Holy Spirit through a total reformation of how you think. This will empower you to discern God’s will as you live a beautiful life, satisfying and perfect in his eyes.”

The power to discern God’s will leads to a “beautiful life, satisfying and perfect in His eyes.” Wow! Isn’t that what we all long for?

God doesn’t promise painfree ease. His plans for us include something more beautiful, more satisfying, and more perfect than we can imagine. As we consistently endeavor to discern God’s will, we will experience these qualities in ever increasing measure.

Discern God’s Will

Am I being inwardly “transformed by the Holy Spirit?” Have I experienced a “total reformation” of thinking? Am I developing an increased ability to discern God’s will for my life? How about you?

Let us commit together to daily read and meditate on God’s Word, being transformed in our thinking and renewed in our minds. May we resolve to allow the Holy Spirit to influence our viewpoints, while revealing the motivations of our hearts.

As we face decisions may we honestly answer three simple questions:

  1. Is this God’s plan?
  2. Is this God’s plan for me?
  3. Is this God’s plan for now?

When we discern God’s will, may we all have the boldness to step into His beautiful, satisfying, and perfect will. Bless you as you continue on your adventure to discern, test, and approve His perfectly perfect will!

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The Wedding at Cana — Jesus Revealed His Glory

Today we look at Jesus’ first miracle of turning water into wine at the wedding in Cana without becoming sidetracked by peripheral issues. Recently, we discussed this passage at a small home group meeting. They helped unlock some aspects of the miracle I had previously failed to notice. Hopefully, I now see a greater piece of God’s heart. Here at the wedding, Jesus revealed His glory through His first miracle.

We may easily become lost in the symbolic imagery of wedding feasts, motherly medling, water and wine. Cana means “reed,” and comes from the verb, to twist together. Even here we see symbolism of humanities fallen condition for which Jesus willingly came.

“On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee, Jesus’ mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding.”
John 2:1

Who doesn’t love a wedding? Families and friends gather to celebrate the beautiful remaking of two unique individuals into one covenant relationship. Weddings connect us with people we rarely see and help develop new relationships that otherwise would have had no opportunity to form. We leave tired, happy, stomachs full, cheeks aching from laughter, and hearts filled with thanksgiving.

A word-by-word study of the John 2:1-12 would benefit each of us, but today, rather than zoom in, we will take a panoramic view of the occasion.

New Wine

As a former alcoholic, I am all to familiar with the negative affects of liquor. When Jesus turned water into wine, He made new wine — a wine unlike any previous wine. No aging or fermentation went into this brand of wine.

Biblically, new wine prophetically speaks of the Holy Spirit. When the Holy Spirit was poured out in Acts 2:13, onlookers laughed and mocked.

“But others mocking said, ‘They are filled with new wine.'”
Acts 2:13 ESV

Inside and outside the church, people thirst for something more. They have tasted the old wine the world offers and have come away lacking. Jesus revealed His glory by offering everyone new wine — again prophetically pointing to the Holy Spirit.

Many prophets today are hearing God say, “A new era is here! This is the season of new wine. You are about to encounter Me as you never have before.”

At the wedding in Cana, Jesus revealed His glory. Through a supernatural sign, He showed the power of His worth, His weightiness, greatness, honor, and splendor. Yet few recognized Him. Most were too caught up in the events of the day to see or understand that the King of Glory came to celebrate with them, hang out among them, and bring them joy.

A Dream

Though the author of this dream remains anonymous, the dream carries a wonderful message.

Imagine you and the Lord Jesus were walking along the beach together. For much of the way, the Lord’s footprints go along steadily, consistently, rarely varying the pace. But your footprints are a disorganized stream of zigzags, starts, stops, turnarounds, circles, departures, and returns. For much of the way, it seems to go like this, but gradually your footprints come more in line with the Lord’s, soon paralleling His consistently. You and Jesus are walking as true friends!

This seems perfect, but then an interesting thing happens. Your footprints that once etched the sand next to Jesus’ are now walking precisely in His steps. Inside His large footprints are your small ones; you and Jesus are becoming one.

This goes on for many miles, but gradually you notice another change. The footprints inside the large footprints seem to grow larger. Eventually they disappear altogether. There is only one set of footprints; they have become one. This goes on for a long time, but suddenly the second set of footprints is back.

Zigzags all over the place. Stops, starts, gashes in the sand. A veritable mess of prints. This time it seems even worse! You are amazed and shocked. Your dream ends. (Tim Sheet, Planting the Heavens, Destiny, pg 33)

The Meaning

You pray, “Lord, I understand the first scene with the zigzags and fits. I was a new Christian, and I was just learning. But You walked on through the storm and helped me learn to walk with You.”

And He spoke softly, “That is correct.”

“And when the smaller footprints were inside of Yours, I was actually learning to walk in Your steps; I followed You very closely.”

And He answered, “Very good. You have understood everything so far.”

When the smaller footprints grew and filled in Yours, I suppose that I was becoming like You in every way.”

He beamed, “Precisely.”

“So Lord, was there a regression or something? The footprints separated, and this time it was worse than before. Zigzags, gashes in the sand, turns every which way, circles.”

There is a pause as the Lord answers with a smile in His voice, “You didn’t know? That was when we danced!

The Dance

In the beginning when God made humanity, He came every day, without fail, to walk with them, talk with them, laugh with them. God loved to be with them, hanging out together. God and man dancing in relationship!

For thousands of years, the gap of sin separated God from His deepest longing — to be with us! Now He came disguised as a carpenter. He came to a wedding, bringing new wine in abundance! He sat among them, listening, laughing, playing, and enjoying their face-to-face company.

Tears flow as I catch but a glimmer of the Father’s heart to be with each one of us.

Jesus came with the new wine of the Holy Spirit — not just a little, but gallons upon gallons upon gallons. More than we need! More than we could ask or hope for!

“And do not get drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life, but be filled with the Spirit.”
Ephesians 5:18 NLT

Greek scholars and Bible commentators point out that the Greek present imperative tense is used for “be filled.” It has the connotation of a continuous replenishment, an ongoing state of being filled.

“And when they had prayed, the place where they had gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak the word of God with boldness.”
Acts 4:31

Always More

As they prayed, a continuous replenishing of the Holy Spirit poured into believers. As they prayed, Jesus revealed his glory through the Holy Spirit.

Are you thirsty? Do you long for new wine of the Spirit to be poured into your life? Is your heart stirred to dance with Jesus?

For this reason Jesus revealed His glory! So that those who were empty would be empty no longer! So that all who are thirtsty would be fully satisfied.

“O Jesus, we declare our love for You! May our lives become a messy swirl of swoopes and twirls, dancing with abandon in Your presence. May our times of sitting with You become supernaturally normal, encountering the wonder and greatness of who You are in ways we never have before. Lord, stir our hearts with fresh awareness of Your delight for us and longing to just hang out with us. You need no special occasion to celebrate Your pleasure in being with us. Today, we welcome You into our reedy, twisted ordinary. Fill us! Fill us again and again and again! Pour into us the overflow of Your joyous Presence through the Holy Spirit. Captivate our hearts again, Lord. Forgive us for losing the big picture of Your love within the miniscule mundane of the now. May we celebrate You as much as You celebrate us! Oh Lord, fill our hearts with Your new wine! Saturate us! May we encounter You in new ways in this new season, discovering Your glory.”

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Learning, Growing, Teaching, Repeat

Though many of us feel incapable of teaching, life is a perpetual cycle of learning, growing, and teaching, repeated through generations. We see the pattern played out in virtually every aspect of our lives. In our homes, workplaces, educational centres, and sports arenas to name a few. In fact, every facet of understanding demands, at various levels, a willingness to learn, grow, and teach.

Most of us tend to shy away from formal teaching roles. However, we all have developed skills and obtained knowledge that others could greatly benefit from.

The sponge-like capacity for learning dominates the behavior of all children. Somehow as we grow older, we lose the inquisitiveness of childhood. If we become complacent, our knowledge base actually diminishes.

Recently someone said, “If you say you know when you don’t know, you will never know.” The statement exposes the unwillingness to learn will keep us from knowing what we desperately need to understand. Learning is the first step in all developmental processes.

“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

Learning

The capacity to learn is a gift; the ability to learn is a skill; the willingness to learn is a choice.
Brian Herbert

Because God is the Creator of all things, He knows how everything works and functions. Wisdom leads us to look to Him to guide and direct our learning process. I’m not just talking about spiritual things. One God idea proves of more worth than all human wisdom.

A few months ago, I began to hold business meeting with God. I can’t tell you how many “God ideas” He has inspired! Though previously I constantly prayed and surrendered the aspects of my business, welcoming Him into these weekly meetings has transformed it in indispensible ways.

Show me your ways, LORD, teach me your paths.”
Psalm 25:4

I believe God waits in anticipation for us to turn to Him with a hunger to learn. He desires to teach us how to parent our children, how to create artistic designs, how to produce or repair mechanical things, how to overcome obstacles in relationships or workplaces, and how to establish healthy life patterns.

Nothing is “hard” for God! He has the answer for the most difficult problems we face. Whatever we are attempting to learn, God already possesses the knowledge and understanding for us. The choice to learn, He leaves with us.

Teach me your way, LORD, that I may rely on your faithfulness; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name.”
Psalm 86:11

Growing

Every expert started as a novice.

Often, learning includes a multitude of skills and abilities stacked, like building blocks, one upon the other. The process often takes many years of experience, including successes and failures.

I chalk up far more mistakes than successes. I have also learned a great deal from my mistakes. Failing at something is often as helpful as succeeding!

A significant portion of training assists others bypass our mistakes. It builds bridges so others don’t have to fall into the same river we almost drowned in.

“Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me — put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”
Philippians 4:9

This verse clearly illustrates the learning process: learning, receiving, hearing, and putting into practice. When we willingly stay humble and teachable, we open the doors to learn, receive, hear, and watch others to grow and develop even in areas which are personal weaknesses or deficiencies.

Nothing substitutes for practice. Practice! Then practice! And practice again! Anything we desire to develop our skill in will require practice. Growth will spring from our practice ground.

Teaching

Let’s not stop here! One more step completes the cycle — teaching.

“Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.”
Colossians 3:16

Oh course, God refers directly to teaching biblical truths. However, these principles apply to every aspect of life.

Only a smidgen of teaching is performed by “experts.” Everyone possesses knowledge and skill in any one of a number of areas. We have responsibility, before God and others, to share that knowledge.

Let us each consider for moment:

  • what skill am I developing
  • how could I share that skill with others
  • who might appreciate knowing this skill

Like music flowing from the heart, sharing our knowledge can and will become a joyous activity — Spirit-led songs flowing into the hearts of others

Repeat

“The best learning I had came from teaching.”
Corrie Ten Boom

Corrie Ten Boom recognized that as we pour ourselves out into the lives of others, we learn even more. We receive encouragement and inspiration to delve in deeper, improving our skills at a greater level.

The ultimate goal in everything we do is to draw others into a deeper relationship with God. The greatest learning, growing, and teaching comes from walking with others in their life journey. This side-by-side cycle of growth and development, both personal and corporate, offers ample opportunity to share faith.

“But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.”
John 14:26

As the Holy Spirit teaches us, we teach others. Others will automatically learn from us as we learn from God. This incredible cycle of learning, growing, and teaching imparts a life-giving community of mutual benefit for everyone.

Let’s applaud where we are already successfully sharing skills. May we also seek God for knew ways to build bridges of understanding. May our greatest joy be in partnering with the Holy Spirit, leading people through ever-increasing circles of learning, growing, and teaching.

Bless you!

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Fresh Air! A Fresh Wind Is Blowing

What memory or image most clearly represents “fresh air” to you? Is it mountains, forests, or laying in a hammock beside a lake? Developers and marketers attempt to package and advertise their latest scent to entice you into buying everything from laundry detergent to shoes. Why? Our nose knows!

When I close my eyes asking God for alert spiritual senses, I “smell” a shifting aroma that excites my spirit. I smell a fresh wind blowing, swooping across the nations of the world. It is starting almost imperceptibly, building strength, riding the prayers of God’s people of all nationalities, disrespecting political boundaries or earthly terrain. Like a powerful stallion sent from heaven, it comes — unbridled and free.

Long ago, in another land, a wind blew.

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

“Suddenly” they ALL heard and saw things they had neither seen nor heard before. Perhaps, God again is repositioning us for new things previously unseen and unheard — times of refreshing, times of revival, times of awakening.

Hope

I invite you today to close your eyes for a moment and turn your heart heavenward toward the One upon His eternal throne. May you commune heart to heart with Him who loves you, knows you intimately, and sees your situation.

Neither distant nor distracted, He waits, listening for your voice. Like a loving Father, arms outstretched, welcoming you to come.

You are not abandoned! You are not forsaken! God has not forgotten your name.

“I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people.”
Ephesians 1:18

Oh, that we each may “know the hope to which (God) has called” us! Renewed hope breathes fresh air upon us. Do you smell it?

Courage

The fresh breeze blowing rides upon the wings of courage.

“But Jesus immediately said to them, ‘Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”
Matthew 14:27

We take courage, grabbing hold of it. We all possess the potential to choose courage. Courage shines strongest in the face of fierce circumstances. Courage disarms fear, exposing its faulty system.

It may be -30 degrees celsius outside, but today I unlocked the door and stepped onto my balcony with slippered feet. I shouted long and loud, laughing (literally) at fear. This simple gesture created a powerful inward move, refusing to entertain fear. The fresh air made me cough, pause, then breathe a glorious deep breath.

I smelled again the scent of newness, of God invading this earthly realm in ways my heart yearned to see.

Faith

Have you ever smelled the humusy aroma of fresh turned earth after a long winter’s rest? It is one of my favorite things, reminding me the old is gone and a new season has come. Faith smells just like that! Faith dares to turn over the moldy remnants of growth long dead, preparing for the planting of new seeds.

We enjoy the fruit of whatever we willingly sow, both in the natural and the spiritual.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-contol. Against such things there is no law.”
Galatians 5:22-23

Sow the seeds! Reap the fruit! Breathe in the aroma of the fresh air of God’s Spirit rising.

In prayer, I saw an eagle, rising, circling upon a fresh wind. It rose higher and higher until I could no longer see it, but I knew it was there — powerful, strong and free. Suddenly, the eagle swooped taking captive what needed to be taken captive. Then flaming arrows came from heaven, lighting fires all over my nation of Canada. Not destroying fire, but fire that lights and warms — inviting fires, needed fires, holy fires.

The fresh air of Holy Spirit ignites flames of passionate worship, surrendered hearts, and yielded wills. I smell it, though I don’t yet see it.

Prayer

Yes, Lord! Bring in the fresh air of Your Presence. Blow across this and all nations with hope, courage and faith. Release over the earth the wind of Your doing. May Your church be ready! May she be waiting and watching — anticipating the newness of this day and hour. Turn over and overturn all that is dead and dying. Prepare the soil for Your harvest.
May Your people unite in perfect unity and harmony, declaring Your unfailing Word, without shame, throughout the streets and roadways, to neighbors, family, friends, and strangers.
May the winds of revival and restoration come! Remove what must be removed. Ignite holy fires. Shoot Your powerful arrows restoring Your purposes and plans. Light the path for those who have wandered far to find their way safely home.
This is a season of renewed hope! A time of great courage! Unwavering faith stirs among Your church — young and old, male and female. She is beautiful and strong. She will not be diminished! Through the burning fire of oppression she comes — radiant and unashamed.
She is learning to love as You love. She carries with her the fruit of Your Spirit, scattering it abroad. Lavishly generous, she freely receives and gives with open hands.
Awaken us, Lord! Awaken our senses to know the tremendous season upon us. It smells like fresh air, turning us toward You.
Amen.”

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