God’s Love for the Unloved

God’s Love for the Unloved

The love of God is the greatest force in this universe. God is love, and He has manifested His love to us in the person of Jesus. You know, when Jesus walked this earth, He was (and still is) a reflection of the Father’s heart toward us. When we look at Jesus, we see the Father. Hebrews 1:3 tells us that Jesus is the “express image of God,” and “the exact representation and perfect imprint of God’s essence.” 

I have been soaking in the love of God, and looking at and beholding Jesus, and I can tell you that there is NOTHING like it. It is a place that I never want to leave. When I look at Jesus, I see mercy and grace and truth. His actions express God’s heart. So, what is God’s heart toward the sinner? Toward the unlovely, and the unloved?

When the religious leaders of Jesus’ day took a woman caught in the very act of adultery, drug her to Jesus, and threw her at His feet I am telling you that is the safest place she could have landed! Glory to God! When every person in the crowd (stones in hand) was ready to execute justice and exact punishment for her sin, her mighty Savior, JESUS, extended mercy and provided protection from her accusers.

The truth is, Jesus attracted sinners, the unlovely, and the unloved. Why? Because He was the love of God in human flesh. He was the grace of God in human flesh. When religion said, “You are worthless,” Jesus said, “Come to me and I will make you worthy.” There is something so attractive about unconditional love – a love that still loves you when you mess up, that still loves you when you haven’t been good enough, that still loves you when you have failed. This kind of love is what makes sinners drop to their knees in total surrender – THIS LOVE is so good!

I have always identified with the story in Luke 18 that tells of a Pharisee and a tax collector. The Pharisee stood in his own self-righteous pride, looking with contempt at sinners, and thanking God that he “wasn’t like THEM.” He prided himself in his “good works,” and particularly looked with disdain at the tax collector who wouldn’t so much as enter the temple or lift his eyes toward heaven. What was this tax collector (who would have been seen as the scum of the earth in Jesus’day) – what was he feeling and thinking? “I am unworthy of any good thing. I am an outcast and a traitor to my own people. I have sold my soul for what? For some money. I don’t deserve your love.” This man beat his chest and said, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner.”

I identify with that man. I remember being a young woman – I was an unwed, teenage mother. Struggled with drugs. I was so desperate for love that I gave my body to anyone who would show me some love, even if it was very, very temporary. I remember the day that the shame of all of my foolish choices converged on me and I couldn’t bear the weight of it any longer. My heart cried out to God, knowing I had nothing to offer Him but a broken mess of a life. I had never felt more unworthy of love than at that moment – BUT GOD – Who is rich in mercy – God, like a loving Father, wiped away every tear, and removed all my shame by speaking to my spirit three simple words – I LOVE YOU. When God (love) became real to me, I fell into Love’s arms and where rejection, shame and condemnation had sought to tear me down, acceptance, love and forgiveness built me up! From that day to this, God has been faithful to me!!!

I am here to tell anyone who would read these words – society may give up on you, people may call you worthless, you may have been rejected from the womb by your mother or father, BUT GOD will never give up on you! God will never let go of His hold on you! People may throw you away, but God will never throw you away! You may not feel worthy of love, but surrender your life to Him and He will make you worthy! I am telling you, He will NEVER leave you or forsake you!

Hebrews 13:5 says this:

“for He [God] Himself has said, I will not in any way fail you, nor give you up, nor leave you without support. [I will] not, [I will] not, [I will] not in any degree leave you helpless nor forsake nor let [you] down (relax My hold on you)! [Assuredly not!]”

Ephesians 2:4-7 says this:

“But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.”

Are you a sinner? An adulterer? A drunk? An addict? A thief? Are you full of religious pride and hypocrisy?  You are a prime candidate to receive of the grace of God SO THAT in the ages to come, all would look at you and say – look at what the Lord has done!!! Where sin had abounded grace did SUPER abound! Where people forsook them, God never let them go! He NEVER gave up on them, and now look at this glorious, whole, love-filled, joy-filled, hope-filled masterpiece of a man (or woman) He has created from one that was so broken and lost! ALL the glory goes to HIM!

You see, when we don’t deserve forgiveness, or blessing, or goodness, or kindness, but we get it anyway – that’s grace. When we do deserve punishment, the curse, and hell, but don’t get it – that’s mercy. Did you know that God is full of grace and mercy? His love for the unloved, the outcast, the sinner, the rejected and the abandoned is unmatched. So what is your part? Simply believe that God is real, and receive His love gift – eternal life.

I, for one, am eternally grateful that I encountered LOVE, and LOVE saved me. I am a trophy of His exceedingly rich grace, and His loving kindness. And NOBODY can shut my mouth! I will FOREVER praise the name of my Savior, my Hero, my Lord – JESUS!!

Children of Light

Children of Light

Have you ever wondered why the grand battle between good & evil, and light & darkness dominates so many story lines and movie plots? Why are we drawn to these epic clashes between heroes and villains, ultimately hoping that the “good guy” wins and saves the day? I believe it is the internal awareness that there truly is a battle of epic proportions being carried out on the world’s stage, and it is the battle for the souls of men and women. There really is a war between light and darkness. Of course, we know that Jesus has already triumphed over evil through the cross. The Light of the World spoiled all the plans of the rulers of darkness…

“Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it [the cross].” Colossians 2:15 (NKJV)

Though the light (Jesus) came into the world and exposed the works of darkness – indeed it was His mission to undo the works of the devil by healing all that were oppressed by him (Acts 10:38) – many remain in darkness, having loved the darkness rather than light. (John 3:18-21)

For all of those that believe in Jesus and receive Him, to them He gives the right to become the children of God. When we hear the anointed truth of God’s word and faith comes, and we believe on Jesus, we become God’s children – children of light. We are called the “light of the world.” We are exhorted to “let our light so shine before men” that they may see our good works and glorify our Father in heaven. We are called “children of the light and of the day.”

On the flip side there are the “hidden works of darkness” that are carried out by those “whose minds are blinded” by the god of this world – the devil…

“…among them the god of this world [Satan] has blinded the minds of the unbelieving to prevent them from seeing the illuminating light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” 2 Corinthians 4:4 (AMP)

So what is this battle about? It is about BELIEFS. What will you believe. Notice Satan has blinded the minds of the “unbelieving.” What do these people “not believe?” It is the gospel, or the “almost too good to be true news” of the glory of Christ. The light comes to reveal and expose TRUTH, but the darkness is here to mask and hide the truth so that people believe LIES. In fact, the principalities & powers, the rulers of the darkness of this age have a commander, and he is the “father of lies.”

Have you ever wondered why it seems that some people have a supernatural stupor over their minds? It seems that they are completely blind to some things that may seem like common sense to those living in the light of truth. There is a scriptural reason! The Bible says that the whole world lies under the power or influence of the evil one:

“We know [for a fact] that we are of God, and the whole world [around us] lies in the power of the evil one [opposing God and His precepts].” 1 John 5:19 (AMP)

So how do we win this war? How do the “good guys” (God’s sons, soldiers and servants) carry out His mission to seek and save the lost, to set the captive free, to open the eyes of the blind, and heal the broken hearted?

We must be children of light! What do I mean by that? It is our mission to be ambassadors of the kingdom of God, to be “ministers of reconciliation.” We do this by “proclaiming the praises of Him who called us out of DARKNESS into His marvelous LIGHT.”

We must bring the light of God’s truth into every fiber of our being. We must live in truth, walk in truth, share the truth. We are living epistles known and read by men! Wherever we go we bring the light with us, and it only takes a tiny bit of light to chase away a whole lot of darkness. 

Now, I’m not talking about beating people over the head with your Bible, or quoting scriptures to them all the time, or telling them that they are living in darkness and sin. I am talking about being a vessel that carries around the glorious goodness of God. We proclaim God’s praises by being thankful, being kind to others, walking in love, being forgiving, and sharing God’s goodness through our words and actions. When there is an open door, we invite people to come into the light with us, and to taste and see that the Lord is good! Hallelujah!

Let’s WAKE UP, redeem the time, and be the light of the world. The souls of men & women hang in the balance!

Fight the Good Fight

Fight the Good Fight

“So in war, the way is to avoid what is strong and to strike at what is weak.” ~ Sun Tzu, Author of “The Art of War”

Whether it is widely acknowledged & accepted or not, the fact is, we are engaged in spiritual warfare on a daily basis. We are not fighting for the victory that Christ already won for us, but the Bible exhorts us to occupy until His return. We are to enforce His victory through faith in the finished work of the cross. We have been commissioned to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature, and the mission is to turn every creature from darkness to light, from the power of Satan to the power of God.

Did you know that the enemy of your soul has strategies and schemes? (Ephesians 6:11) As the war hero quoted above reminds us, the strategy of war is to avoid what is strong, and to strike at what is weak.  The devil knows this strategy all too well, and unfortunately many Christians that don’t strengthen themselves spiritually become the weak targets that the enemy looks to strike at. Even the strongest of believers have areas of inherent weakness where they must shore up their defenses so as not to get caught in a trap.

Many Christians get uncomfortable talking about the devil, and others deny that a devil even exists; however, denying that gravity is a reality won’t stop it from affecting you when you step over the ledge of a building. In the same way, denying the reality of the devil won’t stop you from becoming the target of his strategies & schemes! In order to do what we have been commissioned to do, and to lay hold of the promises of God that Jesus died for us to have, we MUST know our enemy, and we MUST become spiritually strong by exercising our faith in God’s word on a daily basis.

Let’s begin this study by first looking at knowing our enemy:

“…so that Satan will not outsmart us. For we are familiar with his evil schemes.” ~ 2 Corinthians 2:11

According to this scripture, Satan can actually gain an advantage over us when we are ignorant of his devices; it’s like giving him free ammunition. I know that you don’t want any enemy of yours getting free ammunition to shoot you with! Neither do I! One way we can find out about his devices, schemes, tactics and plans is by understanding some things about his nature and how he operates. The nature of our adversary is outlined in John 10:10:

“The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy.” ~ John 10:10a

Three words in this verse describe the nature of the thief by outlining what it is that he comes to do: steal, kill & destroy. I want to look at each of these words, not to instill fear in your heart, but to ignite faith in you to lay hold of the things God has promised you, and encourage you to NOT LET GO!

1. Steal (klepto) – this word communicates the idea of a bandit, a pick pocket, a thief that is so cunning and so strategic, he will take from you and you won’t even know you’ve been stolen from.

When I was younger I stayed in Guatemala for several weeks, and during that time I remember walking through the market with a friend. As we looked around at the trinkets and souvenirs there was a point that his Passport was stolen right out of his pocket, and he was unaware until he reach in and realized it was gone!

This is the kind of thief we are dealing with. He is subtle, crafty and he prefers that you don’t even acknowledge his existence! He attempts to steal the joy that strengthens you, the peace Jesus gave you, the love the Holy Spirit poured out in your heart, the passion in your marriage, the prosperity God blessed you with, the health Jesus purchased for you with every stripe laid on His back! DON’T LET HIM STEAL FROM YOU!! Realize that your enemy is not flesh and blood – when feelings of sadness, fear, doubt, worry, unforgiveness, sickness and the like begin to creep in with subtlety, grab that pick pocket’s hands and say, “No! You will not take what God has given me! It’s mine!”

I like to imitate my two year old. He says, “No! Dats mines!” That’s how we have to talk to the devil!

2. Kill (thuo)to sacrifice in a religious way

The killing that is spoken of here does not imply murder; it carries the meaning of sacrifice. Jesus used this word to describe the work of the thief. Whatever he has been unsuccessful in stealing from you, he will try to convince you to sacrifice. His aim is to get you to give up that which God has already blessed you with. Now listen to me closely: it is in the season of waiting that he is most successful with this strategy.

The Bible teaches us to follow after the example of those who through faith and patience have inherited the promises. (Hebrews 6:12) Faith requires a season of waiting while we do not yet see! It is during this wait that our faith is tested, and our enemy will create circumstances, use people’s words, plant seeds of doubt, bring us thoughts contrary to God’s word – he will strike, and strike, and strike, attempting to wear us down so that we finally let go of the promise, and SACRIFICE what we were believing God for! This is why the Holy Spirit exhorts us:

“And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.” ~ Galatians 6:9

There is a two letter word in that verse that Satan exploits to his advantage: IF. We will reap at the right time IF we don’t give up! SO DON’T GIVE UP! Don’t let the thief convince you to kill, cut off, abort, or sacrifice the promises and dreams God has placed inside of you! Be strong. Be courageous. Hold on until your faith becomes sight! The harvest IS GUARANTEED if we just don’t lose heart.

3. Destroy (apollymi) – to annihilate, to trash, to destroy

One Bible scholar sums up the nature of the thief in this way:

“The thief wants to get his hands into every good thing in your life, in fact this pick pocket is looking for every way to wiggle himself so deeply into your personal affairs that he can walk away with everything you hold precious and dear. And that’s not all! When he is finished stealing all your goods and possessions, he’ll take his plans to rob you blind to the next level. He’ll create conditions and situations so horrible that you’ll see no way to solve the problem except to sacrifice whatever remains from his previous attacks. The goal of this thief is to totally waste and devastate your life. If nothing stops him, he’ll leave you insolvent, cleaned out and flat broke in every area of your life. Make no mistake, the enemy’s ultimate aim is to annihilate you.”

Now remember what I said when we started: Let the awareness of the nature of your enemy ignite faith in you to never let that sorry rascal get away with stealing from you ever again! Don’t give him any place, or any access. Don’t allow him to take from you. Fight the good fight of faith!

You know, sometimes the nature of people is to let themselves get pushed around a little here and there until they get so fed up with the situation that they say, ENOUGH! Maybe that is where you are at with certain circumstances in your life right now. Let’s agree together as touching this thing, that when the enemy tries to steal, kill, or destroy us the Holy Spirit will sound the alarm in our hearts, and stir up the “fight” in us so that we stand and keep on standing until we see the victory come to pass. Amen?

I encourage you this week to use your fighting words in prayer, and to reclaim any ground that you have allowed the enemy to set foot on. Then, set your face like flint and stand until you see God’s promise come to pass!

Motives of the Heart

Motives of the Heart

Have you ever been guilty of practicing performance based Christianity?

If your answer is, “Yes,” you are not alone! Yesterday as I was vacuuming my bedroom, I thought back to all the times I had asked my son to vacuum his room. He is now 20, married and out of  the house so I like to remember when he was little – time goes too fast! He would vacuum, not because he wanted a clean floor, but because I had asked him to vacuum; sometimes he did it so fast I wondered whether the vacuum picked up much of anything! I was working slowly as I reminisced, and I was repeatedly going over certain areas to get as much dust, dirt and hair as I could off the floor. I had a different motive than my son did – I wanted a clean carpet – but more than that I wanted a nice, clean house for my husband to come home to.

We can have different motives for serving God too. We might give of our time at church because someone asked us to. We might give of our finances because it’s “the right thing to do.” We might even visit prisoners and pray for the sick in hospitals because the Bible says to do that, and we are taught to do what the Bible teaches us to do. At the root of many of these obligatory acts of service is a heart motive that is trying to earn approval from God and man by its works.

Though I was grateful that my son would do what I asked him to do, the fact that his motive was simply doing it because he had to DID have an effect on the end result. Could he check it off his list? Yes. Did he get it done? Yes, but his bedroom floor probably wasn’t much cleaner than when he started. When we do things for God simply because we feel obligated, or because we feel it is owed to Him, or that it will gain us His approval or man’s approval – it will have an effect on the end result!

I like how The Message Bible says it,

Don’t just do what you have to do to get by, but work heartily, as Christ’s servants doing what God wants you to do. And work with a smile on your face, always keeping in mind that no matter who happens to be giving the orders, you’re really serving God.” ~ Ephesians 6:6-7 ~

If we are just doing what we have to do to get by, we are serving from a works-based, performance-based, law-based heart motive – and it is self-serving rather than God-serving. Our motive is an earthly reward: people seeing our “goodness,” God accepting us, or being praised for our works. It’s all about us.

On the other hand, when we serve with joy, with a smile, and with excellence, we are serving from a LOVE-based heart motive, and it is others-centered, and it is God-honoring! Our motive is love: seeing others blessed, adding value to the businesses we work for or the clients we serve, people being healed, delivered, and set free as we prepare a place for them to come and worship. The awesome part is that when we don’t seek an earthly reward, God gives us a heavenly one:

“All good deeds are gifted back from the Lord...” ~ Ephesians 6:8 ~ (The Voice)

Good work will get you good pay from the Master…” ~ Ephesians 6:8 ~ (The Message)

You know that the Lord will reward every person who does what is right…” ~ Ephesians 6:8 ~ (CEB)

Knowing that for whatever good anyone does, he will receive his reward from the Lord…” ~ Ephesians 6:8 ~ (AMP)

This week, pay attention to why you do what you do – whether it be caring for your children, serving in your church, cleaning your house, working – whatever it is, give yourself the litmus test. Am I doing this with real joy? With a sincere smile? With excellence? If not, check your love levels! It may be that you need to spend some time basking in God’s love so you do all you do with a right heart, one that God is ready to reward!

Finding & Fulfilling Your Purpose

Finding & Fulfilling Your Purpose

Having trouble finding & fulfilling your purpose? Stick around and you’ll be one step closer to your destiny!

If you have accepted Christ, and Jesus is now your personal Lord and Savior, then you have been called & chosen for a very specific assignment from God! That is exciting news!

Not all believers are called to be pastors, teachers, evangelists and the like, but we are all called to do something! I know from my own personal experience there came a time that I wasn’t satisfied anymore to just go to church, hear a message and go home. There was something stirring inside of me, communicating to me that there were gifts, talents and abilities that God placed inside of me that were not for my benefit only, but to benefit the body of Christ!

You may be experiencing that same stirring in your heart whether you have been walking with God for a short time or for many, many years! Maybe you felt that you were walking in that divine calling for many years, but life took you in another direction for a season and now you are asking God again, “What do you want me to do?”

Wherever you are in the journey, I believe this message will help you to find and fulfill your purpose. I served under Mike Keyes Ministries International (MKMI) while overseas and consider Apostle Mike to be a spiritual father to me! He’s the real deal (and real funny too). Give God the time to speak into your life today through him, and I believe you will receive answers, direction, and insight for the “next step” in your faith walk! I pray you are as blessed as I was in hearing this word!

WBS 2-17-14 Mike Keyes from Rhema Videos on Vimeo.

Be Strong

Be Strong

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” – Joshua 1:9

This is one of my favorite pictures from my time in the Philippines. We held 3 days of meetings on the island of Camiguin off the northern coast of Mindanao. We flooded the area inviting people to come and hear the word of God, and to bring the sick because God is still the Healer today! We would preach salvation, pray with the people to receive Jesus, and then teach about healing and invite them to receive healing for their bodies. This woman came forward for prayer with her dear husband, had hands laid on her, and then came to testify of her healing.

Our pastors encouraged her, as an act of faith, to rise up out of her wheelchair, and to do something that she couldn’t do before (like standing on her legs). Her precious husband looked so terribly concerned for her. I’d even say there was some fear there that she would fall, but she chose to be strong and rise up out of that chair. As she took that step of faith and put weight on her legs, God answered that faith and strengthened her legs enough to bear her weight. Someone on our team happened to capture the heart of that moment in this picture! Glory to God!

Over 30 times we are COMMANDED to be strong in the King James Version of the Bible! We are told to be strong, be courageous, to not be afraid, to “act like men” and fight! We are told to be strong and do the work of the Lord because He will not fail us or forsake us! We are told to be strong for the battle because God has the power to help us and save us! We are told to be strong in the Lord, and to be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus! Are we getting the message??? BE STRONG!

It took strength for this woman to receive what God was ready to give her. If she had chosen to give way to fear, she may have remained bound by her infirmity forever!

God is calling each and every one of us to complete an assignment for Him. Most likely, to carry out that assignment, we will be required to be strong, to have faith, to resist the devil, to “act like men” and fight (or in my case, “fight like a girl,” and I mean that in a very GOOD way!) Why am I so passionate about this? Because I have been on both sides of the fence. There have been times when I courageously obeyed God, and times that I have given way to fear.

Recently I was giving way to fear as God has been really stretching my faith, but when I got quiet with Him I did not get a “pep talk.” I got corrected – firmly corrected. God commands us to be strong – if we choose to be cowards we are disobeying that command! He expects us to get in the word, to pray, to exercise our authority in Jesus’ name. The devil does not exit our affairs because we politely ask him to leave. We must THROW HIM OUT with great conviction – trusting that God is at our back authorizing us to do just that!

I’m telling you, when you tell fear to take a hike, and tell God you are choosing to STAND on His word until you see His promises come to pass in your life, it won’t be long until you see your faith become sight!

Since YOU are reading this, let me ask you, what are YOU afraid of? What is the greatest fear you have in your life right now? Think about it. Now, BE STRONG, take authority over that fear right now! Choose to trust God, to resist the devil, to fight the good fight of faith. Don’t lay down and cry. Rise up and rejoice! God is looking for faith in the earth because He is so eager to show Himself strong in the lives of His people.

I pray that this word today meets you right where you need it and changes your situation. Be strong my friends. Be courageous. God is with us. He is for us. Don’t be afraid. Get some backbone and fight! Ha! With God, you will win every time!

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