Sunday, January 20, 2019

Our Word for 2019

"Thou hast granted me life and favor, and Thy visitation hath preserved my spirit."
Job 10:12
(KJV)

During the first month of every year, Kevin, Zach, and I earnestly seek God's will concerning the one word that corresponds with the way He is currently leading us.
(If you would like to read about our words for previous years, please click the following links.)
2014 ~ RESTORATION
2015 ~ PREPARE
2016 ~ TRUST
2017 ~ PEACE
2018 ~ CLARITY
It always amazes me how all three of us come to God as individuals, and collectively He points all three of us in the same direction.  This year was no different.  As we all sought God's will, we all three came to the same conclusion.  


God has been teaching us so many things, and one of the lessons is that our obedience absolutely unlocks His blessings in our lives.  I wrote more extensively about this in this blog post, and as I re-read it today, over four months later, I see this truth with even more clarity.

In Christian circles, I often hear things said about how we Christians live so far beneath our privileges.  I know I'm stepping into "touchy" subject matter here, but I believe one of the main reasons we live so far below the abundant life God intends and has for us is that we withhold certain parts of ourselves from Him.  We prefer sin over holiness.  We want to cling to safety nets, unChristlike behavior, and certain things and relationships that are not pleasing to Him and because of that, we block the channel of God's blessings.  We refuse to relinquish ourselves and fully surrender to His authority, and therefore, we live on the outside parameters of His approval.  As conflicting and contrary as it sounds,
a surrendered life is an abundant life.

If you've read here for very long, you are aware of the way God began to shake our comfort zone nest back in early 2015.  Looking back, it really started before that—somewhere around 2013 on a riding lawnmower is when the gentle rustling began, (you can read about it HERE), and over time, it became more of an underlying pressured restlessness, growing until He had our full-blown attention in January of 2015.  Since that time, He has led us to downsize about 95% of our possessions, sell our home of nearly 15 years, make an out-of-state move, and brought about many other changes.

I'll be honest.  It hasn't been easy on our flesh to follow such a radical path, nor is it my intention to suggest that He will require the same of anyone else.  God leads each of His children in the path best suited to fit them, individually, and to mold them into the vessels He needs them to be.  Nor am I, in any way, intending to imply that our salvation is by works or that we can EVER hope to earn God's GRACE.  Nothing we ever do will ever come close to earning His forgiveness.  Jesus' atonement is the only one powerful enough to ever pay the price for our redemption with His own blood shed on the cross of Calvary, and through His all-sufficient, sacrificial death, He purchased our salvation and eternal life.  What I am referring to in this post is the abundant life of FAVOR He wants us all, as His redeemed children, to enjoy and live out during our time on earth.  Disobedience to Him, in any part of our lives, absolutely blocks us from living in the fullness of His Divine favor.

For too long, I lived life as a Christian, mostly surrendered to God, yet rebelling against Him in certain areas of my spiritual walk.  Due to my own determined pride and spirit of independence, I inadvertently shut God out, only surrendering selective parts and reserving others to myself.  Can anyone relate?

 As my family and I have come to deepening degrees of consecration to His call upon our lives and willingly laid down what He asked in obedience to Him, we have found corresponding levels of blessings, provision, and favor we had never before tapped into.  We would never have found these unexplored places in Christ and His unending supply, had we rebelled against His perfect will.
We have learned that the abundance of His provision is directly contingent upon the extent of our availability to Him.
The more we open ourselves up to completely trusting Him, the more fully we allow His favor to flow.  The cry of John the Baptist has become the longing of our hearts,
"He must increase, but I must decrease.”  John 3:30  (ESV)

God wants to bless His people in greater ways and pour out His favor in a far more abundant capacity, but how often we hinder Him by bucking against doing the things He is asking us to do!   The pure, unadulterated Gospel of Jesus Christ is not a prosperity Gospel where we all get to live any way we choose and still lay claim to what is reserved for those who are entirely sold out to following Him.  All through God's Word, there is a demand for holiness and unreserved obedience in order to walk in the favor He longs to bestow.

"If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land:  but if ye refuse and rebel, ye shall be devoured with the sword: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it."  Isaiah 1:19,20


We can't live haphazard, slipshod, half-hearted Christian lives, insistent upon straddling the fence and allowing carnality and self to fun its free course while loosely endeavoring to hold to God's hand and professing to be a Jesus follower all at the same time expecting God to overlook the sin we are allowing to control certain parts of us.  God is a holy God.  He asks for holiness from us, in return.

"Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips."  Colossians 3:5-8  (NIV)

"Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as He who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: "Be holy, because I am holy."  I Peter 1:13-16  (NIV)

We can't live holy lives in our own strength.  It is only through our abiding in Him, the Vine, that we are able to allow His lifeblood and indwelling presence of His Holy Spirit to flow through us, enabling us to walk in full obedience to His Word and will.

Jesus said, "Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in MeI am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abides in Me, and I in him, the same brings forth much fruit: for without Me ye can do nothing."  John 15:4-5  

How badly do we want God's favor on our lives?  Are we willing to follow Him wholeheartedly, without reserve?  Will we follow Him part of the way, but draw back when His will conflicts with our own?  Will we stop sinning in most areas, but insist upon clinging to certain habits that are in opposition to His Word?  Oh, how He longs to endow us with Divine favor, if only we will surrender to His Lordship over every single part of us, putting Him first and making Him King of all we are!

 "But rather seek ye the kingdom of God; and all these things shall be added unto you. Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom."
Luke 12:31-32


To abide and remain under the umbrella of God's F.A.V.O.R. means
Faithfully
Abiding
Victorious
Over
Rebellion

As long as God's children walk in full, unreserved obedience to Him, they are promised His favor.

"Whoso despises the Word shall be destroyed: but he that fears the commandment shall be rewarded." Proverbs 13:13

"Fools make a mock at sin: but among the righteous there is favor."  Proverbs 14:9

"Now therefore hearken, O Israel, unto the statutes and unto the judgments, which I teach you, for to do them, that ye may live, and go in and possess the land which the LORD God of your fathers giveth you. Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you." Deuteronomy 4:1-2

"A good man obtaineth favor of the LORD: but a man of wicked devices will He condemn."  Proverbs 12:2

Jesus replied, "But even more blessed are all who hear the word of God and put it into practice."  Luke 11:28  (NLT)

"He that diligently seeketh good procureth favor: but he that seeketh mischief, it shall come unto him."  Proverbs 11:27

God's Word provides very specific instructions on how to obtain and retain His Divine favor, and it all hinges on our full obedience and has everything to do with one, small, two-letter word.
"And it shall come to pass, if thou shalt hearken diligently unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to observe and to do all His commandments which I command thee this day, that the LORD thy God will set thee on high above all nations of the earth:  and all these blessings shall come on thee, and overtake thee, if thou shalt hearken unto the voice of the LORD thy God.
Blessed shalt thou be in the city, and blessed shalt thou be in the field.
Blessed shall be the fruit of thy body, and the fruit of thy ground, and the fruit of thy cattle, the increase of thy kine, and the flocks of thy sheep.
Blessed shall be thy basket and thy store.
Blessed shalt thou be when thou comest in, and blessed shalt thou be when thou goest out.
The LORD shall cause thine enemies that rise up against thee to be smitten before thy face: they shall come out against thee one way, and flee before thee seven ways. The LORD shall command the blessing upon thee in thy storehouses, and in all that thou settest thine hand unto; and He shall bless thee in the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee. The LORD shall establish thee an holy people unto Himself, as He hath sworn unto thee, if thou shalt keep the commandments of the LORD thy God, and walk in his ways. And all people of the earth shall see that thou art called by the name of the LORD; and they shall be afraid of thee. And the LORD shall make thee plenteous in goods, in the fruit of thy body, and in the fruit of thy cattle, and in the fruit of thy ground, in the land which the LORD sware unto thy fathers to give thee. The LORD shall open unto thee his good treasure, the heaven to give the rain unto thy land in his season, and to bless all the work of thine hand: and thou shalt lend unto many nations, and thou shalt not borrow. And the LORD shall make thee the head, and not the tail; and thou shalt be above only, and thou shalt not be beneath; if that thou hearken unto the commandments of the LORD thy God, which I command thee this day, to observe and to do them: And thou shalt not go aside from any of the words which I command thee this day, to the right hand, or to the left, to go after other gods to serve them."  Deuteronomy 28:1-14

Having God's favor does not mean life is free from trials, but walking in full obedience to Him enables us to lay claim to everyone of His promises mentioned above.  To think we will walk through life without difficulty is contrary to Jesus' words in John 16:33,
"These things I have spoken unto you, that in Me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world."


We have many examples to read about in God's Word of those who sold completely out to God, in spite of what the world around them was doing, and because of their total, unreserved obedience, they obtained God's favor and were protected and blessed abundantly right in the midst of life's most perplexing and challenging circumstances.

Remember Joseph?
He was sold into slavery by his own brothers, yet God's blessing remained upon him, causing him to find favor in the eyes of Potiphar, the man who bought him as a slave, and "he made him overseer over his house, and all that he had he put into his hand. And Joseph was a goodly person, and well favored."  (Genesis 39:1-6)
Later, when he remained steadfast in living a holy life, only to be falsely accused and thrown into prison, even there, God's blessing remained upon him.  "But the LORD was with Joseph, and shewed him mercy, and gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison. And the keeper of the prison committed to Joseph's hand all the prisoners that were in the prison; and whatsoever they did there, he was the doer of it. The keeper of the prison looked not to any thing that was under his hand; because the LORD was with him, and that which he did, the LORD made it to prosper."  (Genesis 39:21-23)

Remember Noah?
In the midst of untold evil and complete rebellion against God, Noah stood firm in full obedience to God's Word, and "Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD."  Genesis 6:8
As a result of his obedience, he obtained God's Divine favor and Noah and his family were the only eight people spared when God destroyed the whole world by means of a flood.

Remember Daniel?
After being kidnapped and taken to a foreign land against his will, Daniel walked in full obedience to God and obtained God's favor.  In spite of the threat of severe repercussions and certain penalty of death, he walked holy before God, only to be thrown into a den of hungry lions.  God closed the lions' mouths, rendering them incapable of harming His servant, faithfully spared His life, and blessed him with a position of favor with the king.  (Daniel 6:1-28)

Remember Daniel's friends, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego?
They refused to worship anyone other than the one true God, and as a result, they ended up being thrown into a burning, fiery furnace heated seven times hotter than usual.  Nevertheless, the Divine favor of the God they served remained upon them, and He walked through the fire with them!  When they came out, the only thing different about them was that the fire had burned off the ropes that held them bound!  The smell of smoke was not even upon their garments!  (Daniel 3:1-28)

Remember Paul and Silas?
They stood firm for God, in spite of severe persecution and were thrown into the inner prison.  At midnight, they prayed and sang praises to God, and God sent an earthquake that shook the prison's foundation so hard, their bands were loosed!  (Acts 16:16-35)

I could go on and on telling of Esther and the special favor God granted her as she followed Him, stepped out in faith, and interceded for the lives of her/God's chosen people.  And, of righteous Lot and how God refused to give His angels power to destroy two cities until Lot and his family were given the opportunity to get out of harm's way.  And, of Abraham, Moses, Joshua, and so many others, many of whom are talked about in "the faith chapter" of Hebrews 11.

No, God's favor does not mean we will not be tried and tested in this life.  What it does mean is that, as we walk in full surrender and obedience to Him, we can lay claim to every, single promise contained in His Word, knowing with full assurance He cannot lie, He cannot change, and He cannot fail.

"He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty."
Psalm 91:1

Life lived in the secret place under a special canopy of favor of Almighty God.   
What better way to live life?
Whatever God is asking us to do, nothing is harder than living in disobedience, fighting against Him, and battling for control over what He paid such a price to redeem!

If you read the entire 16 verses of Psalm 91, you will find many ensuing promises that are made to those who choose to perpetually walk in obedience and dwell in that secret place.  It is all contingent upon verse one, what we choose to do, and how we live our lives.
My prayer for 2019 is one the Psalmist David prayed all those years ago.
"I intreated Thy favor with my whole heart: be merciful unto me according to Thy word."
Psalm 119:58

I hope it will become your prayer and commitment this year, too!

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

When You're Handed A Clean Slate

"And He that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new."
Revelation 21:5
(KJV)
HAPPY NEW YEAR!!
Due to our being without internet for an extended period of time, I didn't get to do a Christmas post this year.  I missed doing that, so I want to take this opportunity to say that I hope all of you dear readers had a blessed and peaceful Christmas season!  Now, it is one week later, and we are all being handed an amazing and precious gift.

It happens every January 1st.
A fresh start.
A chance for a redo.
A time to reflect on what went right and what went wrong in the previous year.
A moment of introspect.
Time to assess where the heart is and where God is leading in this brand-new season of life.

There is just something about knowing the clock has struck 12 on New Year's Eve that feels like the reset button has been pushed.
In that moment, the slate is clean.
So, what do you do when you are handed a clean slate?

If you're anything like me, the slate doesn't stay clean for long.
I can get up in the morning with the very best of intentions, and before I know it, I have messed up in one way or another.  No matter how hard I try, I fall short time after time, and I consistently feel like the Apostle Paul must have felt when he said this,
"For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin."
Romans 7:15, 18,19,24-25

I am SO thankful God's grace applies not only on New Year's Day, but every new day of the year, aren't you?  How I praise Him for the truths found in Lamentations 3:21-23,
"This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope. It is of the LORD'S mercies that we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is Thy faithfulness. The LORD is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in Him."

This New Years Day reminds me of the beautiful 16 1/2 inches of snow that covered the ground several days ago.  As the day wore on, these are the scenes I saw through the back screen door.

 
Zach built a snow dome that you can barely see in the deep snow.

View from the kitchen window...

And the front porch...

Believe it or not, that is the main road you see winding between the two barns.

 Let it snow, indeed!

As I basked in the beautiful untaintedness of the freshly fallen snow, I knew that far too soon the innocent newness and purity would become sullied by the tire tracks and traffic that comes with daily living.  Then, it occurred to me that this is the very thing that happens in the human heart.  We start the day with Jesus fresh and new, walking away transformed by the sheer experience of being anywhere near His presence, then, life starts happening, things ruffle our feathers and rob our peace, and we find ourselves far removed from that early morning clarity.

Aren't you glad His mercies are new every morning? It is so amazing that He never tires of hearing us pray the words David recorded in Psalm 51:10, "Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me."

While I wish the "whiteness" of this New Year's Day clean slate could remain so all throughout this new year, I embrace the reality that resolutions will end up being broken and kicked to the curb, my best intentions will end up being overwhelmed by circumstances beyond my control, and the best thing for me to do is accept the unmerited favor Jesus Christ so lavishly bestows to cover all of my shortcomings and failures. It is truly my utmost desire to please Him, to never let Him down, and to live perfectly before Him every moment. Sadly, my track record of failure proves my own insufficiency. My own ability and strongest effort could never be enough, and praise His name, it doesn't have to be.

"For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust." Psalm 103:14 (ESV)

"And He said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for My strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me." 2 Corinthians 12:9

Recently, as I sat in an ER waiting room, physically drained, dog-tired, and emotionally weary beyond words, I opened my laptop to find an email from my dear brother. Some of his words to me were these.
"Cheryl,
Just had you on my mind this morning. I just watched the attached video on YouTube and hope it is an inspiration to you as you are going through some tough times.  Love You !! David."

I sat there and cried, as I watched this video, listened to the words of this song, and felt so touched by my brother's words and thoughtfulness.


He Knows My Name - The Rochesters

One of my favorite parts of this song says,
"He knew who I was when He carried my cross
He knew that I would fail Him but He took the loss."
How I love Him for that!

Praise Jesus, He does know my name.
He knows yours, too, my friend.
He loves us with an unchanging, undying, unconditional love.
Though we don't deserve it, He hands us a new, clean slate, time after time.
He stands ready to forgive each time we fail.

"For thou, Lord, art good, and ready to forgive; and plenteous in mercy unto all them that call upon Thee."  Psalm 86:5
"My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous:  and He is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world."  I John 2:1,2
"If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."  I John 1:9

My prayer is that 2019 will hold many special blessings for you, that you will live every moment in abundant health, and that each day will find you at the feet of Jesus.  May you draw closer to Him than ever before this year, and when the year comes to a close, may you look back upon it with much gratitude and many happy memories.

I encourage you to do each of these things this year...
Enjoy each day.
Cherish each breath of life.
Forgive all.
Let yesterday go.
Exhale the bad.
Love unconditionally.
Give bountifully.
Hug much.
Take care of yourself.
Share your testimonies with all who will listen.
Tell what God has done for you.
Offer hope.
Speak LIFE only.
Look for joy.
Focus on the cross.
Keep Heaven in view.
Don't forget the widows, widowers, fatherless, motherless, cold, hungry, thirsty, and homeless.
Meet every need you possibly can.
Put God first in everything.
Keep the faith.
Do something for someone else every, single day.
Declutter, downsize, minimize, and give away your excess.
Visit HERE for more inspiration.
Defuse tension.
Be a peacemaker.
Love God with your whole heart, mind, soul, and strength.
Stand firm for Biblical principles.
Speak the truth unreservedly in the spirit of love.
Encourage others every chance you get.
Be kind.

Make the decision to make the most of 2019!!!
Thank you ever so much for coming here to visit and read what God places upon my heart.
I love and appreciate every reader and am praying for all who will ever read these words.
God bless you all abundantly.