Life is Like a Garden — What Fruit Grows There

Life is like a garden — planted, tended, and watered. Let’s consider what kind of fruit grows in the garden which God has planted in us.

This morning while driving through snow-slush streets, my random thoughts turned to warmer days and the work it takes to produce garden fruits and vegetables. Many times, I have planted seeds in faith, believing they would grow and bring abundance. I consistently rejuvenated the soil with well-rotted compost and diligently worked to keep the weeds away.

Even though I know that daily efforts produces the best results in the natural realm, I often grow impatient when spiritual fruit doesn’t instantly appear in my life.

I love the way Jesus explained spiritual truths through parables of land and crops. He even repeated a parable that Isaiah had told centuries earlier.

A Vineyard of the Lord

It amazes me who God chooses to invest spiritual seed into. — often the least likely and most unconducive to bear anything of value. He sees fertile ground even amongst the stones!

“…My loved one had a vineyard on a fertile hillside. He dug it up and cleared it of stones and planted it with the choicest of vines.”
Isaiah 5:1-2

Oh, how much work God pours into our stony lives. hoping for the potential returns. Lovingly, He chooses each one of us. Looking beneath our rough exterior, He sees value and worth.

Like in the parable, He digs out what needs to be exposed. He clears the rocky debris of rebellion and disobedience. Often, the hardened soil of our hearts resists His efforts rather than yielding to the pressure of His process. If life is like a garden, what kind of fruit will be produced in us?

How many rocks of offense must first be removed? How much of His grace will it take to soften hard-hearted attitudes and stoney selfishness? What type of gifts, or the “choicest of vines,” will He plant in us, hoping to see the fruit of His efforts?

Protect Potential

Though we may feel abandoned during the growth process, nothing could be further from the truth.

“…He built a watchtower in it and cut out a winepress as well…”
Isaiah 5:2

After planting the vineyard, our Lord takes every precaution to protect the tender vines from harm. He stands in His heavenly watchtower. His eye is upon us, protecting and keeping us from and through enemy attack, while always promising to never abandon us.

As I look back, I remember many times of snaring gophers, chasing rabbits away, and ridding my little garden from pesky bugs? Weeds were quickly dug out by the roots to prevent them from sapping the garden of strength. Do you think for a moment that my garden was more valuable to me than we are to God? Hardly!

He faithfully guards the eternal seed He has invested in us, expecting to see an abundance of fruit flowing from our lives. The seedlings, once frail, lacked any potential for immediate increase, but He “cut out a winepress.” He sees ahead to what we can’t comprehend — the full result of His working in our lives.

Life is Like a Garden

Because life is like a garden, we remember that not every patch of ground produces equally. Some years an abundance of fresh fruit and vegetables kept our family fed until the next year’s harvest. Other years, the produce grew sparse.

We find in Isaiah’s parable the saddest response to God’s loving efforts.

“…Then he looked for a crop of good grapes, but it yielded only bad fruit.”
Isaiah 5:2

I openly weep as I read this passage. God did everything God could do for us. He even sent Jesus, His Precious Son, to pay the ultimate price for our sins and to die in our place so that we might have abundant life.

Though we were nothing but specks of dust, He chose us to bear fruit. He lovingly planted the best seeds in our lives, and then nurtured and protected them.

But sadly, when it came time for a harvest, He found “only bad fruit.” Life is like a garden. Any bad fruit in our lives never results from God’s flawed efforts. “Bad fruit” in this passage literally means stinking things or be’ushim — a fungus that stunted growth and caused the fruit to shrivel and die prematurely.

Good or Bad

While God came expecting to find vitality and a bountiful harvest, He found fermented, shriveled fruit. How incredibly sad!

What more could have been done for my vineyard than I have done for it? When I looked for good grapes, why did it yield only bad?”
Isaiah 5:4

As we read this passage it causes us to solemnly consider the eternal significance of what we allow in our lives. No one desires to hear Jesus speak these words. Yet when we meet Him face-to-face, He alone will assess the outflow of our lives as either good or bad.

Invisible to the natural eye, tiny but deadly spiritual fungus spores float around us. We, too, must carefully keep watch over the garden of our lives so that we may correct anything potentially damaging to God’s good intention for us.

Many invasive things attempt to rob us of fruit. Upon closer look, we may find critical judgments, pride, slothfulness, selfishness, or even a passive acceptance of thoughts and attitudes contrary to God. Whether our spiritual be’ushim is long or short, the implications of such invasion loom large.

For Us All

Jesus repeated Isaiah’s parable in Matthew 21, to remind His listeners, then and now, of potential harm.

Fungus can live in the soil for generations but, praise be to God, so does good seed. Life is like a garden — a garden that will produce eternal benefits as we cooperate with the Holy Spirit, tending it with daily consistency.

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Self-Identification — Realigning to our God Identity

Biblically, self-identification comes through realigning to our God identity and coming into agreement with what He says is true about us.

While the western world has perhaps created confusion around self-identification, the concept of recognizing and acknowledging who we are goes beyond the realms of governments and social correctness. How we view ourselves and who we verbally declare ourselves to be forms the grid upon which we make life choices and decisions.

The Bible offers a clear view of who God declares us to be in Christ. Adopting His viewpoint becomes pivotal to our success and reaching our full potential.

I constantly remind myself of these basic principles, introducing them to the people I mentor. I ask them to daily repeat (out loud) God’s identifying truth for several weeks to solidify them in their hearts and minds.

The first step to realigning to our God identity begins as we experience His love for and acceptance of us — welcoming us into a personal and ongoing relationship with Himself. From that beginning, God calls us to steward His truth. This includes His truth about ourselves.

If we don’t allow God to “label” us, the world will.

Set your mind and keep focused habitually on the things above [the heavenly things], not on things that are on the earth [which have only temporal value].”
Colossians 3:2 AMP

Our words repeat heavenly realities, and our lives reflect our beliefs.

Who I Am

Realigning to our God identity falls under three main categories: who God says I am, what God says I can do, and what He says I can have. I don’t believe in a “name-it-and-claim-it” philosophy, but I do believe God’s Word to be infallibly true. As a result, whatever He says I believe.

That faith-hold on His Word comes by hearing it again and again. Just as an abused child believes their worthlessness through repeated actions and verbal declarations, the reverse holds true. The lies and judgments we have heard and come to believe break away as we steward God’s truth over ourselves.

Though this list is far from exhaustive, I include a few main points below.

I am

  • a Son (Daughter), a child of God and not an orphan (John 1:12)
  • God’s adopted child (Ephesians 1:5)
  • in Christ and He is in me (Ephesians 1:7; 1 Corinthians 1:30)
  • holy and blameless through the finished work of Jesus on the cross (Ephesians 1:4)
  • a citizen of heaven (Philippians 3:20)
  • secure in my relationship with God (John 10:28-29)
  • fearfully and wonderfully made by God (Psalm 139:14)
  • a friend of Jesus (John 15:15)
  • rooted and grounded in love (Ephesians 3:17)
  • chosen, holy, and dearly loved by God (Colossians 3:12)
  • more than a conqueror through Christ (Romans 8:37)
  • a new creation in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17)

What I Can Do

Everyone encounters discouragement and failure. We have given our best and somehow fallen short. However, God’s declaration over us destroys the twisted delusion of previous experience. Here is a snippet of what God says we can do.

I can

  • stand firm because God has anointed and stamped me with the seal of His love (2 Corinthians 1:21-22)
  • accomplish anything in cooperation with God — even the impossible (Mark 9:23)
  • grow and mature spiritually as God’s child (Ephesians 4:15)
  • understand what God’s will is for my life (Ephesians 5:17; Romans 12:2)
  • be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power (Ephesians 6:10)
  • approach God with confidence and freedom through Christ (Ephesians 3:12)
  • overcome any obstacle that stands in my way (Mark 11:23)
  • have the ability to create wealth and glorify God through it (Deuteronomy 8:18; Proverbs 8:17-21)
  • forgive others as Christ has forgiven me (Ephesians 4:32)
  • be kind and compassionate toward others (Ephesians 4:32)
  • choose to give thanks for everything (Ephesians 5:20)
  • stand firm in my faith clothed in God’s armor when troubles come (Ephesians 6:13)

What I Have

Every time we declare God’s truth over ourselves, we are realigning to our God identity. We fix our eyes on Him, while refusing to allow the past to define us. God points our gaze to the future and the fullness of our God-potential.

The Bible says a lot about who we are and what we can do in and through God’s abiding presence. But it also makes powerful declarations about what we have in Him.

I have

  • everything I need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3)
  • received God’s grace poured out on me (Ephesians 1:5-8)
  • a fruitful and productive life (John 15:1-5)
  • the spirit of power, love, and a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7)
  • the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16)
  • an eternal hope through Christ (Ephesians 1:12)
  • everything I need according to God’s riches through Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19)
  • a hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11)
  • treasure and riches stored for me in secret places (Isaiah 45:3)
  • supernatural peace in Christ (Ephesians 2:14)
  • fresh opportunities and a new beginning in Christ (Isaiah 43:18-19)
  • unhindered access to the Father through Jesus (Ephesians 2:18)

Realignment

May we receive our true self-identification, receiving biblical truth and realigning to our God identity. For most of us, realignment comes as a life-long process, allowing what God says about us to become our standard.

As I walked through inner healing and the Steps to Freedom these truths began to develop strong roots in my life. Rather than a leap of faith, each truth grounded me in the soil of God’s love, allowing enduring growth and spiritual fruit.

May the same be true for you. May each truth become life-giving nourishment. And most of all, may what God says about us become our self-identification.

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The Cheering Squad – A Huge Crowd of Witnesses

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

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

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

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

A Huge Crowd

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

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

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

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

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

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

Keep Going

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

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

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

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

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

A huge crowd watches in anticipation of our victory.

The Champion

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

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

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

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

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

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

We Win

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

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

Together we win!

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This Christmas Celebrate the Ordinary

Even as Christians we can easily become caught up in the busy swirl of the season. But this year may we slow down to celebrate the ordinary.

Many lesser things allure us: $700,000,000 signing contracts, massive stadiums and empires, luxury this, and luxury that. As the spotlight shifts from one elaborate story to another, we might extend our applause here or there. Whether intentional or not, we are tempted to ignore, or even scoff at, the ordinary.

How often do we applaud the mother sacrificially caring for her children? Do we acknowledge the father who consistently wakes up each morning and works to provide for his family/ What about the quiet caregiver who lovingly supports and provides for the infirm or vulnerable? These and many others may not rank high in the list of those worthy of celebrating. However, in God’s record book I think they do.

As we take a brief look at the Christmas story, we quickly discover those whom God celebrates. May it inspire us to also celebrate the ordinary.

An Ordinary Woman

Mary, by all appearances, led an unassuming life of quiet obedience to God. She was just one among many young virgin women, awaiting their wedding day. Engaged to a handsome and righteous young man, she anticipated the time when they would soon consummate their marriage, set up their own home, and begin a family together.

Her life portrayed a vibrant example of how to celebrate the ordinary, like generations of women before her. Until the day when everything changed!

The angel went to her and said, ‘Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you!”
Luke 1:28

The angel explained how God had chosen her to become the mother of the awaited Messiah — the King who would rule and reign forever. Questions flooded her mind.

“‘How will this be; Mary asked the angel, ‘since I am a virgin?'”
Luke 1:34

The angel reminded Mary that “no word from God will ever fail” (Luke 1:37).

Until now, Mary appeared completely ordinary. But, we see the extraordinary character and godly integrity of this young woman as she gives God her complete, “Yes!” And with that she laid her reputation, and quite possibly her future marriage, on the line. She risked losing everything, choosing to celebrate the ordinary so we could one day receive Jesus as Savior.

No Ordinary Baby

Mary, through the Holy Spirit, conceived no ordinary Baby. This Baby — fully God and yet fully man — would save people from their sins.

“So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.
Luke 1:35

Jesus gave up the splendor of Heaven to be wrapped in swaddling cloths and laid in a manger. He set aside all His power and authority to become robed in frail humanity.

“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 2:7-8

Jesus willingly chose the suffering of human life for our good, not His. He came as no ordinary baby to cancel a debt which we owed but could never pay.

Too often, we end our remembrance of the first Christmas here. And when we do, we miss the opportunity to celebrate the ordinary in another key figure involved.

An Ordinary Man

Joseph, like any ordinary man, busied himself in preparation for his future bride and family. The day was fast approaching when he and Mary would finally become man and wife. As a typical young couple, they held great hope and anticipation for their future together.

The news of Mary’s pregnancy shattered all that! How could Mary betray him? And in the worst possible way? He considered every option. But because he was righteous, he decided to quietly divorce her. Until an angel spoke to him through a dream.

“…’Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.'”
Matthew 1:20

Without hesitation, he took Mary into his home as his wife.

Joseph’s ready response should cause us to celebrate the ordinary who became extraordinary. This one ordinary Joe obeyed God completely and sacrificed himself fully for the sake, not only of his family, but ultimately for you and me.

Celebrate the Ordinary

Yes, Jesus, this no ordinary Baby, should be the central focus of the Christmas season. Yes, Mary deserves full recognition for the humble part she played in the birth of the Messiah. But this Christmas may we also celebrate the radical willingness of ordinary Joseph.

Ordinary Joe said “Yes!” to the commitment of marriage when divorce would have been the easier option. He said “Yes!” to adopting, loving, and raising a son not his own. Ordinary Joe said “Yes!” to sacrificial living for the sake of Jesus. He also said “No!’ to social status and the acceptance of his peers. Ordinary Joe said “No!” to defining his life by the expectations of others.

When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.”
Matthew 1:24-25

This Christmas may we consider ordinary Joe who allowed God to change his mind, to shift his focus, to soften his heart, and to bring Jesus home. Joseph gave God room for whatever He desired even when it cost, even when it hurt, even when he didn’t understand, and it went against the grain of all human desire.

Value the Ordinary

God has a perfect plan for each one of us. We may feel our lives are far too ordinary to be used by Him. But let’s allow this beautiful and incredible reminder of two ordinary people, Joseph and Mary, to give us fresh vision and assurance that God is able to use our ordinary lives for His extraordinary purposes.

May we be inspired to put God first, to walk in radical obedience to God’s Word, to love sacrificially, to give up our reputation for the sake of Kingdom worth, to live by our convictions not circumstances, and to place the good of others over ourselves. But most of all, may we welcome the living Christ into our hearts and homes.

God calls each of us to lay aside personal agendas and expectations. He calls us to enter a life of divine purpose. He asks us to trust him — not blindly but faithfully. God promises us that no sacrifice will ever be wasted. And He welcomes us to live our extraordinary calling through ordinary lives in unity with Him.

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A Little Kindness Goes a Long Way

I am thankful my parents taught me that a little kindness goes a long way. That was a long time ago when life seemed simpler. But their advice continues to serve me well these many years later.

Recently, my husband and I witnessed the impact of even the smallest demonstration of this attribute. As owners of a rental house, we were privileged to have a wonderful family from India rent our home. When they became more established, they later purchased that home. We continued to maintain a relationship with this lovely immigrant family. We supported and encouraged each other in the things that mattered the most to us.

Prior to opening their second business, they invited us to celebrate this new enterprise along with their family and friends. We were surprised to be the only non-immigrant people present. They genuinely welcomed us into their midst with open arms. We were humbled by such undeserved kindness and generosity.

What extra kind-heartedness had we shown? None, that we could remember. Yet, somehow we had made a impact on their lives. We were astounded!

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude.”
1 Corinthians 13:4

Kindness of God

Yes, a little kindness goes a long way. But God’s great kindness transformed us from foreigners to His chosen sons and daughters. Our best efforts demonstrate a miniscule portion of His immense kindness. Something He offers to us all!

Do the riches of his extraordinary kindness make you take him for granted and despise him? Haven’t you experienced how kind and understanding he has been to you? Don’t mistake his tolerance for acceptance. Do you realize that all the wealth of his extravagant kindness is meant to melt your heart and lead you into repentance?”
Romans 2:4 TPT

Whether we realize it or not, every kind act reflects God’s extravagant kindness — a kind-heartedness this world desperately needs. Too many people believe God to be cruel and distant. Nothing could be further from the truth.

“… with everlasting kindness I will have compassion on you,” says the LORD your Redeemer.”
Isaiah 54:8

Fruit of the Spirit

God desires that we water the seed of kind-heartedness which He has planted in us so it may produce an increased abundance.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”
Galatians 5:22-23

Every word of Scripture is significant. The word order also holds purpose. Here, kindness occupies the central position of all the fruit of Holy Spirit in us. Four attributes precede and four attributes follow. It is central to all other fruit.

Kindness to All

Sometimes, kindness comes with a cost. God calls us to show kind-heartedness to everyone — even our enemies. He calls us to more than an outward display, but rather to an inner attitude of generosity that comes only from the pure kindness God has shown to us.

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”
Ephesians 4:32

Perhaps such basic courtesy shines the brightest in the darkest places and at the most difficult times. I only need to be reminded of the desperate condition God pulled me from to understand what incredible kindness He offers. Perhaps the most unworthy of candidates, I too once lived as an enemy of all He represented.

Is there anyone to whom we find it difficult to show kindness? Does anything compare with how far God reached for us? Hardly! But kind-heartedness doesn’t always come easily. However, even a little kind-heartedness contains the potential to grow, impacting many people in our spheres of influence.

But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.”
Luke 6:35

A Little Kindness

Everything we choose to excel in takes practice — lots of practice. Today, let’s look for opportunities to practice a little kindness. Who knows what God might do with it!

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.”
Colossians 3:12-13

Perhaps, you have experienced the abuse of those who withheld even a little kind-heartedness. It is interesting how many verses connect forgiveness with kindness. Perhaps forgiveness stands as the grandest form of kindness — God’s and ours.

May this prayer form a starting point for our forgiveness.

Father, please forgive me, and us, for withholding your kindness from others. We repent for ignoring, judging, or neglecting the people who have needed a simple act of courtesy to encourage them. Whether out of ignorance or pride, forgive me, and us, for failing to give to others what You have so extravagantly given to us. Heal the pain our lack has cause in their lives.
Lord, help us to see everyone through Your generous heart of love and courtesy. May kindness not just be a self-inflating act we do, but may it flow from a sincere love and compassion for our neighbors — near and far. And may the immeasurable riches of Your grace through kindness toward us be revealed in Christ Jesus in our day (Ephesians 2:7). May the kindness and love of God, our Savior, appear through our own little demonstration of kind-heartedness to others (Titus 3:4).
Father may Your kind-heartedness spread like wild-fire throughout our land, impacting many more lives.
Amen.

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The Difference Between Zeal and Passion

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

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

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

Elijah

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Peter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Paul

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

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

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

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

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

Zeal and Passion

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

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

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

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

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

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Know Your Call! Stay in the Right Lane!

Perhaps the most difficult thing to discover is the call of God on our lives. Next most difficult is to stay in the right lane of our calling.

Like many vehicles, my car beeps a warning when I veer out of my lane. Why? Because veering off lane creates a dangerous situation for me and everyone else. Of course, if I use the signal indicator before changing lanes, I provide everyone with adequate warning of my intentions.

I’ve lived several decades and made more than a few lane changes in my life. Some changes occurred abruptly — the sudden swerves to avoid danger or navigate a sharp corner. For the most part, however, I perceive these changes a long time in advance, allowing for minor or consistent corrections in choices or shifts in priorities.

As annoying as the warning beeper is in my car, I appreciate the safety feature. I want to know how to stay in the right lane.

The apostle Paul knew his call. He provides an excellent example of how he faithfully stayed in his lane.

“Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God.”
Romans 1:1

By God’s Grace

Whatever the call on our lives, we remember that it is all by God’s grace!

“God is faithful, who has called you into fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.”
1 Corinthians 1:9

By God’s grace, He has called each of us to Himself — not so that we could do more for Him, but so that we could be united with Him in fellowship.

He honestly doesn’t need us to do anything. He purely loves us and wants us to know and enjoy an intimate relationship with Him.

But part of our calling to Him does include a calling to serve Him. Those He calls He also equips.

“Just think — you don’t need a thing, you’ve got it all. All God’s gifts are right in front of you as you wait expectantly for our Master Jesus to arrive on the scene for the Finale. And not only that but God himself is right alongside to keep you steady and on track until things are all wrapped up by Jesus. God, who got you started in this spiritual adventure, shares with us the life of his Son and our Master Jesus. He will never give up on you. Never forget that.”
1 Corinthians 1:7-9 MSG

Isn’t that amazing! God makes His call known to us and He helps us to stay in the right lane by keeping us steady and on the right track.

Know Your Call

The Corinthian church experienced more than a few problems. They became known for disputes and disruptions. Paul makes his call clear to them.

“For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel — not with wisdom and eloquence, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.”
1 Corinthians 1:17

Ministry, and life in general, carry many responsibilities of things that could be done, should be done, or ought to be done. It’s a constant battle to focus on the essentials. We may not feel our calling is significant, but it is. Every act of kindness and everything done out of love has immeasurable impact on those around you. Then that love will flow from them to others and to still others more.

Never underestimate or minimize your call. Own it! Walk in it! Foster it!

God called Paul to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Obedience to the Call

Obedience resembles not just getting into our car but driving it. You will have no opportunity to stay in the right lane while parked in the garage. We use vehicles to take us from one place to another. Obedience turns on the engine, pulls our lives into motion, and moves us into our lane of ministry and service.

Paul placed concentrated effort into extensive learning. Then he walked in the misguided authority of human wisdom and position. The results proved devastating to those whom he imprisoned and murdered for their faith.

After God called and equipped Paul, everything changed. Paul immediately shifted into the right lane.

“My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power. so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.”
1 Corinthians 2:4-5

Paul’s pre-Christian influence came through “wise and persuasive words.” But now in obedience to God’s call and the anointing of the Holy Spirit everything flowed through God’s power.

Stay in the Right Lane

Because Paul obeyed God to stay in the right lane, the impact of his life probably comes second only to Jesus Christ. Through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Paul wrote about twenty-eight percent of the New Testament. He is perhaps the most quoted writer of New Testament scripture.

His in-person preaching reached tens or even hundreds of thousands of people. His writings have turned untold millions to confess their faith in Jesus Christ.

How could one man impact so many people through the centuries?

  • First, Paul received and responded to God’s grace confessing Jesus Christ as Lord.
  • Second, Paul committed himself to full obedience to God’s call.
  • Third, Paul continually demonstrated through his life how to stay in the right lane.

“But we preach Christ crucified … Christ the power of God and wisdom of God.”
1 Corinthians 1:23-24

Prayer

Father God, we receive the grace to know You, the One true God and Savior, Jesus Christ. Thank you for welcoming us into fellowship with You and for calling and equipping us to share the gospel with others.
Whether our sharing takes place in our homes, with friends, in the marketplace, or from behind a pulpit doesn’t matter. We desire to walk out our calling in full obedience. Keep us steady, Lord, and on the right track. Help us to stay in the right lane. May the Holy Spirit “beep” a warning whenever we veer from the path You have called us to walk.
I ask for boldness and faithfulness to love as You have called us to love and to serve as You have called us to serve. Fill us with contentment to stay in the right lane.
And Lord, may our lives become a “demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.”
Amen.

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Procrastination — The Great Destroyer

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

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

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

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

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

Mental Health

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

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

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

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

Limited

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

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

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

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

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

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

Occupy

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

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

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

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

Healing

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

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

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

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

Well Done

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

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

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

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

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

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The Lord is Peace — Jehovah Shalom

Our King still reigns over all the kingdoms of the Earth. He is the Lord Almighty, the Ancient of Day, Jehovah Shalom, the Lord is Peace. Despite the uncertainty of our time, He welcomes us to seek refuge in His everlasting peace. Throughout the ages, His affirming words have kept the sails of many faltering ships steady as oceans rage.

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

Jesus left His followers in the same wicked world we now inhabit. They faced oppression and persecution at levels most of us cannot comprehend. Ripped from their peacefully homes, they were cast into prisons and exposed to atrocities. Yet, they held to the words of Jesus. His promise gave them peace despite anything demonic elements threw at them.

May we find equal courage and strength in the sure Word of our Lord.

Go in Strength

Our God gives us peace out of the essence of His character and name – The Lord is Peace. Israel had walked away from God, facing their self-made destruction at the hands of enemy forces. Deprived of safety, they hid in mountain caves and strongholds while their enemies invaded like swarms of locusts. Impoverished, they finally cried out to the Lord for help (Judges 6).

God raised up the most unlikely candidate as His instrument of deliverance — Gideon. Filled with fear and intimidated by life circumstances, Gideon hid in a winepress threshing out a few grains wheat.

I’ve had plenty of my own hide-out moments — reluctant to take a stand or speak up against injustice. Like Gideon, I have argued with God about assignments He has given to me.

“Who me? I’m the littlest, the least competent, too old, too insignificant, ill equipped, untrained …” My excuses trail endlessly along. Arguing with God never turns out well. Not for Gideon, and certainly not for me.

“The LORD turned to him and said, ‘Go in the strength you have … am I not sending you?”
Judges 6:14

When God is with us, nothing else matters. Despite any personal limitations, God always proves Himself more than enough.

The Lord is Peace

Enough faith in God rises in Gideon to give God his shaky “Yes!” Before he confronts the enemy, Gideon first builds an altar of sacrifice to God. What an example! Every victory begins at the place of worship and thankfulness.

“So Gideon built an altar to the LORD there and called it The Lord is Peace.”
Judges 6:24

Though Israel’s condition remained the same, Gideon’s heart had changed. Instead of focusing on the enemy’s strategies, he knelt before the King of all kings and the Lord of all lords. He declared the Lord is Peace. Peace exists only through Jehovah Shalom, the Lord our Peace.

Jehovah Shalom

Shalom means to be complete, sound, or absent of strife. It represents a peace of mind, heart, and life. We can only experience the peace of God by first experiencing peace with God. Such peace comes as we relinquish control and yield by faith to God’s grace.

“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Romans 5:1

God’s peace implies much more than freedom from conflict. It includes prosperity, health, well-being, and faith in the face of conflict. Gideon began to believe more in the invisible God than in the visible danger surrounding him.

The pictographic symbols for shalom would read “to destroy the authority that binds to chaos.” What a powerful image! Let me say that again.

Peace means to destroy the authority that binds us to chaos.

Restoration

Our great redeemer, the Lord is Peace, comes to not only save our souls from eternal destruction but to give us His supernatural peace.

“And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Philippians 4:7

What is at work to bind us to chaos? What is causing complete disorder and confusion to your life? Are there thought patterns, body habits, or toxic environments?

God didn’t suddenly snatch Gideon out of his situation. Rather, He gave Gideon strategies to overcome in the midst of chaotic circumstances. The Lord is Peace, coming beside us in a similar way. As He spoke to Gideon, He speaks to us, “Peace! Do not be afraid” (Judges 6:23).

Do you feel anxious over present circumstances? Or fear?

God again speaks, “I AM with you. I AM Jehovah Shalom, the Lord is Peace.”

“(I) will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in (Me).”
Isaiah 26:3

Prayer for Peace

Thank You, Lord! We come before You, laying down our chaotic patterns of thinking and functioning. We receive Your supernatural, divine peace. Fill our hearts and minds with the comfort and knowledge of knowing You alone sit on the throne. All dominions, powers, and authorities must bow before You.
Come, Lord. Give us the faith and confidence to trust in the assurance of Your character and Word. You are Jehovah Shalom, the Lord is Peace. Bind and destroy any and every authority that holds us and those around us to chaos. Surround Your children with Your “perfect peace.” May our minds be steadfast, trusting in You.
There is none like You, O God! We worship You before our situation changes. We set our hearts to thank You, giving glory and honor to Your Name. Be exalted in our day, O God.
Amen.

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Becoming — Reaching for Purpose and Meaning

Whether we acknowledge it or not, each one of us is reaching for some kind of purpose and meaning behind our existence. We all subconsciously ask, “Why am I here? What am I supposed to be doing with my life?” We all want our lives to matter.

Recently, I had the tremendous privilege of talking with a group of young adults. They are living centre in the age of pursuit. Some attended university. Other entrepreneurs had begun new businesses. Yet others pursued relationships they hoped would lead to life-long commitment and fulfillment.

One of the young men asked me, “Who do you want to be like?” He explained that keeping someone we desired to emulate in our focus would help us change our lives for the better.

I surprised him with me answer. “I want to be like me. No one in all the world carries the potential to be me. So, I aim to be fully me — the idea God had in mind when He first thought of me.”

“Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.”
1 John 3:2

At first glance, my answer sounds arrogant. But two things have incited the greatest transformation in my life. The first is coming to know God more fully. As I grow to know Him and His heart better, even in the smallest ways, my desire increases to live a reflection of who He is. The second pursues to discover the unique creation God had in mind when He formed me.

Knowing God

Human minds will never comprehend the immensity of glorious God. He is too awesome, too wonderful, too magnificent, too glorious … for us to understand. Yet, He desires to be known. He looks for those curious enough to seek Him.

“‘Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom. Let not the might man glory in his might. Nor let the rich man glory in his riches. But let him who glories glory in this. That he understands and knows Me. That I am the LORD, exercising lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth. For in these I delight,’ says the LORD.”
Jeremiah 9:23-23 NKJV

God makes Himself clearly visible to those hungry to know Him.

“For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made.”
Romans 1:18-20

As we read the Bible, we find these recurring words, “So you may know that I am your God.” I brought you out of bondage so that you may know. It was Me who healed your bodies so that you may know. I gave you this land and established you so that you may know. I continuously make Myself known to you. He is a mystery. Yet, He reveals Himself to us.

The First Steps

So, the first steps come through an awareness of knowing God’s character through His love, faithfulness, grace, and goodness. God awareness inspires so to reach for genuine purpose and meaning. All true purpose and meaning are found in Christ.

We were created in God’s image for divine purpose and meaning. The wise teacher of Ecclesiastes concluded that all the opulence the world could offer stands meaningless in comparison.

“‘Meaningless! Meaningless!’
says the Teacher.
‘Everything is meaningless!’ …
Now all has been heard;
hear is the conclusion of the matter:
Fear God and keep his commandments,
for this is the duty of all mankind.”

Ecclesiastes 12:8,13

Are there powerful and successful men and women worth emulating? Yes, of course. Paul invited others, to “imitate me, as I imitate Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1). But the greatest One to emulate and imitate is God Himself. As we do, we will find ultimate purpose and calling.

The Second Steps

To walk out the second steps in fulfilling our purpose and calling requires us to discover God’s personal plan for our lives — our God-given identity. However, we can’t turn to biblical reference points for this.

Of all the billions of people only you can be you. You, and I, owe it to God and to each other to be that one. God had his best idea when He created you. No matter how far off that path you may feel you have wandered, you will forever be God’s good idea.

So, who am I? Who are you? Not the present you or me! But the you and me God had in mind before the creation of the world. And yes, He thought of us even then!

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

As we walk in relationship with Christ and in obedience to Holy Spirit, we begin to see ourselves through His eyes. As we live with and through Him, He begins to reveal things about ourselves we previously didn’t understand or even know.

It is in His Presence that we become — that we reach our full purpose and meaning. The divine Architect slowly reveals His plans. With each passing season, He desires us to discover a freedom in being and a fulfillment in living. Giftings and passions slowly rise to the surface.

You Fit

We weren’t created for the world, so we will never “fit” in it. But the skin we live in will begin to fit and form around the image He created us to be the closer we walk with Him. Our full purpose comes with eternal design.

As we begin to live with eternity in mind, we will automatically fulfill our earthly calling. This short life stands as a mere preparation for the eternal one to come. Our lives are too short to waste by imitating even the best people around us.

May we each see God in previously unrealized dimensions. May we also grasp in a fuller way, all He designed us to be. Then may we set our hearts to fully reach our God-given purpose and meaning.

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead.
Philippians 3:12-13

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