Happy Maundy Thursday: A Holy Week Reflection

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The word, Maundy comes from the Latin word for commandment. Jesus said, “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you should also love one another” (John 13:34). This how Jesus concluded his last supper where he celebrated Passover with His disciples. Just a few hours later, Jesus would be arrested. A trial would follow early the next morning, and by the afternoon He would hang on the cross.

Over two thousand years ago today, Jesus inaugurated communion (Lk.22:19-20). The early church celebrated communion daily, with joyful and humble hearts, and a feast laid out before them (Acts 2:46). They saw this time of fellowship together as foreshadowing the messianic feast described in Isaiah 25:6 and Revelation 19:9.

I wonder… why do we often solemnly remember our sin, but don’t also joyfully celebrate what Christ accomplished on the cross when taking communion? He gave us freedom and a new identity. No longer are we bound by sin; we are completely free and right with God–let’s rejoice!

I often hear people site 1 Corinthians 11:27 as the basis for such a somber communion. In this passage, Paul warns us not to irreverently participate in the Lord’s Supper. I looked further into the context of this verse and learned Paul was referring to church members who were not waiting for the poor before eating, as well as those who were getting drunk.

Today I remember His sacrifice and my sinfulness, and I receive and celebrate that I’m restored by His crucifixion and resurrection. Because He lives, I live. I dance. I celebrate. I love like He loves.

 

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Heart Check: A Holy Week Reflection​

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IMG_0465The first event we read about after Jesus makes His triumphal entry into Jerusalem is the cleansing of the Temple. Jesus is clearly angry and rightly so. It was customary for local merchants to sell animals to those traveling to celebrate Passover, but Jesus knew they were taking advantage of people by over-charging them.

I wonder…was this a foreshadowing of what was yet to come? Dishonesty, greed, and power-hungry hearts were about to send Jesus to the cross where He would become the ultimate sacrifice for sinful humanity.

The old covenant was about to end, and a new covenant would begin in five days. That dark Friday, Jesus cleansed His temple once again: man’s heart. He did it humbly and willingly because He saw the joy on the other side: a people made in His image, powerfully living out His life.

Take time to sit quietly before him today. Ask Him to break your heart for what breaks His. Examine your heart and ask Him to reveal any heart attitude that needs cleansing.

This is Us: A Short Reflection

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Dirt and debris float upon the pool’s surface, eventually settling at the bottom. The cleaner slithers across the floor, and the water returns to an inviting crystal-clear refreshing oasis; only beauty remains.

God loves to speak through nature. This picture closely resembles us. Let’s face it. Life hands us a lot of junk, but often we only skim the surface of what’s buried deep within our soul. We settle for less than God’s best for us because we’re too afraid to venture down deep where our wounds and scars await the healing touch of Jesus.

However, the power of His Holy Spirit unleashes deep healing in our lives when we vulnerably come before God–raw and real. He meets us where we are and turns our pain into joy: our dirt into beauty. These are times of refreshing, my beloved. Won’t you come?

Come to the water! Drink!

When Pain becomes Gain

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43958991764_00b6116d65_bI caught pneumonia as a young mother. It hit me fast and furious. Every time I took a breath, I felt as though I’d been hit by a truck. My husband wheeled me into x-ray at the ER because I was too weak to walk. I felt like I was dying. 

I haven’t felt that sick since then. Let’s face it— Physical ailments affect our emotional and mental state.  When I’m not feeling well, I can barely think straight much less pray. But that’s exactly what scripture calls us to do. 

Jesus spent a long period in solitude praying in the Garden of Gethsemane. His emotional pain and mental anguish ran so deep that blood tinged the sweat dripping from His face (Lk 22:44). Overcome with grief, he threw himself face down on the ground and prayed, “My Father, if there is any way you can deliver me from this suffering, please take it from me” (Matt. 26:39, TPT).

I think it’s safe to say, Jesus felt like He was dying. But then an angel appeared to strengthen him so He could live long enough to carry out the Father’s will. 

A loss is the root of pain and usually leads to grief. Nothing in this world lasts forever. Jobs come and go. Our health deteriorates. Relationships change and often dissolve altogether.

Consider taking these steps as you process your grief:

  1. Acknowledge your pain. Don’t run from it. Face it head-on. Talk. Shout. Complain. Cry. Pray. Let it all out. Consider also telling your closest friends how you feel. Jesus told Peter, James, and John his heart was overwhelmed and crushed with grief (Matt. 26:38). Find healthy and creative ways to emotionally express yourself ie: journaling, singing, dancing, drawing, painting…
  1. Seek God’s Perspective. This involves surrender, patience, and trust. I believe this helped Jesus tremendously. He kept pressing into His Father’s presence where He saw the joy on the other side of the cross, therefore; He was able to endure the pain. It’s possible He saw us in His image, powerfully living out our lives (Heb.12:2; Is. 53:10).
  1. Accept what you can’t change; change what you can. This involves humility, courage, wisdom, love and often forgiveness. Jesus didn’t deny, minimize, rationalize, or blame anyone. He humbly and courageously accepted His fate because His love was greater than His pain.

The Holy Spirit, our comforter, helps heal our grief-stricken heart when we aren’t afraid to bear our soul. He will strengthen us in our weakness just as he did for Jesus.  

I recently heard an amazing testimony from Dr. Larry Eddings. During some of his darkest hours following the death of his wife, the Lord gave him several visions. The Lord woke him up and showed him a picture of his wife peacefully laying on the floor where she died. He saw her spirit rise and go to heaven. Later, he saw a vision of his wife again in the glory of the Lord, young and beautiful. His perspective changed, transforming a place of sadness into a place of hope. 

The next time your heart feels heavy, instead of asking God why ask him what He wants you to gain from the experience. Through our suffering, we acquire a greater dependence on God who carries our burdens and gives us new life.

 

 

All You Need is Love

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The Beatles released one of the most popular songs to hit the charts in 1967, All You Need is Love. On Valentines Day, retailers make billions on chocolate, cards, flowers, and jewelry. And men are said to spend twice as much as women all in the name of love. 

I have come to believe love and grace are two sides of the same coin.  We were created in love and by love, wired for love. 

“It’s not about what you deserve. It’s about what you believe. And I believe in love. Only love can save the world,” said Wonder Woman. People want to believe in a power greater than themselves. Driven by her belief in the power of love, she boldly fought the darkness that surrounded her and won. 

I don’t know about you, but Love is all I need. Love isn’t only an emotion; It’s a spirit—God (1Jn. 4:8). Jesus made His home in the depths of my heart and crowned me with His courage, beauty, strength, power, and love when I made Him Lord of my life. In a sense, I am Wonder Woman. 

I know it’s hard to fathom, but it’s true. God’s nature resides in Christ, and His being lives in me (Col. 2:9-10). Scripture says it; I believe it. How does this work? First, His love fuels and releases His compassion in me for others. 

I was with a women’s bible study group ministering to the homeless last fall.  No, I wasn’t standing on the corner preaching hell and damnation or waving a Bible around and reading scripture.  I simply was being me.  

We brought some snacks, coffee, water, and soda. I noticed an older Hispanic man with callouses on his hands. Compassion flooded my heart. This man obviously was a hard worker, but he now found himself without a job and living on the street.  To encourage this man, I casually shared the gospel with him without using a Bible.  At one point, I asked him if he had a relationship with Jesus.  He replied, “I’m working on it,” Then I asked him, “Have you accepted Christ as your Lord and Savior?”  He answered, “No, not yet.” I asked, “Do you want to?” He answered, “Yes, with all my heart.”

I humbly share this story with you as a testimony of the power of love when we’re living through Christ’s grace. I had no agenda that morning other than to share the love of Christ with others. I had no idea what I would say to this man; the words just came.

When I’m relaxed and confident in my union with Christ, I naturally act in faith. I don’t have to think about it because it’s Him moving through me. Faith in Christ then releases His power and boom—restoration happens!

Love always wins! Whether it’s a person’s salvation, a heart-healing word of encouragement, a physical healing or a simple hug shared with a prayer, love triumphs. After all, Jesus said, ‘For love completes the laws of God. All of the law can be summarized in one grand statement: “Demonstrate love to your neighbor, even as you care for and love yourself. (Gal.5:14, TPT)”

The Nutcracker and His Kingdom

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The battle was over. Toys and glittering ornaments littered the floor. Clara and the Nutcracker were relieved. However, Nutcracker’s injuries proved to be fatal, and he collapsed. Clara wept. She had never quite loved anything as much as she loved Nutcracker.

Then she saw him stir. He leaned on one arm, pulled himself up and opened his eyes to find his appearance had changed; instead of a warring soldier, he was a  peaceful prince with a beautiful magical kingdom awaiting him.

Clara asks, “Nutcracker, your kingdom must be far away. Do you have to leave?”

“I’ll always be with you.  My kingdom is only as far as you think it is. In reality, it’s only a few steps away. Come and see.”

 Like the Nativity Story, The Nutcracker emulates love, hope, peace, and joy. Clara’s story demonstrates the triumph of love over fear.

Her evening began with the excitement and anticipation of receiving a gift from her mysterious and dearly loved Godfather, who always gave the children homemade unique and fascinating gifts.  When Nutcracker gets wounded during the festivities of the evening, Godfather is there to restore him.  

Our loving heavenly father is the giver of good gifts (James 1:17), and fills us with awe and wonder with his generosity.  He loves us so much he gave us the gift of Jesus so we could live restored (John 3:16). He also was wounded, beaten and died a horrific death, but rose on the third day from the grave. 

When Jesus appeared to Mary at the garden tomb, two men on the road to Emmaus, and the disciples on the beach of Galilee, they did not recognize him immediately because he looked different in all his glory (Jn 20:14-16, Luke 24:16, Jn 21:4).

Jesus now lives in the hearts of believers; He is always with us. When we rest in His extravagant love (the Bible calls this abiding), we too can step into the realm of His Kingdom where the impossible becomes possible.  

I look forward to the return of Jesus Christ, our Savior; our storm will pass, and the world will be restored! “He will wipe away every tear from our eyes and eliminate death entirely. No one will mourn any longer. The pain of wounds will no longer exist, for the old order will have ceased”(Rev. 21:4, TPT).

 Heaven on earth! I can see it now. The spiritual and natural realm will become one again. We will sit down to feast with the King and join people of all nations to celebrate the wedding of the Lamb.  I feel sure there will be dancing!

Oh, what a day that will be! Come, Lord Jesus, come! 

Further Still

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Jesus…

You have taken me from infancy to maturity,

From fantasy to reality.

But take me further still,

And set this captive free!

You have taken me from valleys to mountaintops,

From raging storms to calm seas.

You look inside of me,

And set this captive free!

Layer by layer, inch by inch,

You strip away idols in my life,

And give me your identity.

But take me further still

Reveal to me my destiny.

If Only For A Little While

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I close my eyes to rest,

If only for a little while…

He beckons me to come with him,

If only for a little while…

I embrace his lovely face,

If only for a little while…

He spreads a quilt under the canopy of a tall tree,

And holds me in his tender arms,

If only for a little while…

I drink deeply of his presence and peace prevails,

If only for a little while…

He reaches for the basket filled with mouth-watering, fresh cool fruit,

And feeds me sweet chocolate covered cherries,

If only for a little while…

I cherish and savor each piece,

If only for a little while…

This is love,

This is beauty,

This is life,

If only for a little while…

Doctor Your Soul and Watch Others Grow

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imagesThere are various factors that make up a great leader: personality, skills, and gifts to name a few. Various leadership assessments are abundantly available to help us understand how God created us. Awareness of these is good, but have you considered a soul assessment?

If you want to be an effective leader for the God’s Kingdom, you”ll have to evaluate your soul too. This is a scary thought to some. We tend to shy away from anything involving our emotions. 

The world tells us to be a strong leader we must have it all together.  Transparency is viewed as weakness. But Jesus said when we’re weak, He’s strong. We experience His strength through His truth and grace. This is the place of soul rest Jesus talks about in Matthew 11.

Our soul is comprised of our mind, will, and emotions. We filter our world through our life experiences. How we think and feel about these things determine our beliefs about God, ourselves and others. Our beliefs affect our ability to lead others in a healthy and constructive manner that produce disciples who positively impact the world. Everybody has a sphere of influence for God. Your sphere may be education, media, government, business, family or arts and entertainment.

Consider this scenario:  a leader who has been criticized most of their life may seek approval of their co-workers and, therefore, make poor decisions instead of doing what’s best for their department. He may not tell those he oversees the truth about a matter; instead, he tells them what they want to hear or nothing at all.  This hinders the growth of both the company and the individual.

Recently, I was celebrating what God was doing in a person’s life when someone approached me and told me to settle down and stop pretending. This pierced my thoughts, emotions, and will. My wounded soul wondered will I be able to be me and free again or will I cower and be silent? 

Bill Johnson says he can’t afford to have any thoughts His Father God doesn’t have about Him. Neither can I. He loves my passion, enthusiasm and my authenticity because they’re an expression of Him. How do I know? Well…because He told me.

Most of us see a doctor for our physical health. Attending worship and small groups help keep us spiritually in check.  But when’s the last time you invited Jesus into your heart for a soul check?

Freedom is like a peeling an onion. It happens one layer at a time, but you have to come ready to get raw and real with God. In that place of vulnerability, He’ll speak beautiful truths to your heart that set you free. The joy far outweighs any pain.

I leave you with this thought….And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul (Matt. 16:26)? Spiritually healthy leaders take care of their soul and know who they are in Christ.

Prayer for the soul: Father God,  I recognize that I’m made in your image. I am a spirit with a soul who lives in a body. Holy Spirit, bring an event to my mind and show me where Jesus was at the time.  Reveal to me any thoughts and corresponding emotions that aren’t in line with your Word. What lie am I believing?  What is the truth? Is there anybody I need to forgive because of the lie or circumstances surrounding it?

As an act of my will, I choose to forgive__________________ (others, myself, you) for _________________(offense).  When that happened, I thought________________ and I felt __________________.  I come out of agreement with ____________(the lie), and I replace it with _______________(the truth). I choose to believe you and receive your forgiveness. Thank you Jesus. You are mighty to save! Continue to give me a fresh revelation of my identity and purpose. Amen.

 

It Takes Two

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imagesA puzzle comes with the all the pieces needed to make a whole picture. Without all the pieces, it’s incomplete.  A writer needs an intro that invites the reader into their world, a plot twist to keep them engaged and a hope-filled ending to complete a novel. Man needs a woman to reproduce. Everything needs something to be complete and fulfill their God-given purpose.  It’s God’s blueprint for life. He created us to be in relationship with Him and each other. Then He gave us dominion over the earth. That’s the beginning of His story (Gen. 1:28).

Enter in—the crafty serpent who seduces and entices man with a lie. Sin is born and a chasm is created between God and mankind. Everything that was right went wrong. We lost our identity and destiny because man chose to disconnect from the source of life: our creator. Darkness and doom surround us.

Until—God stepped down into humanity to destroy the works of the devil and restore the life that was stolen from us. Jesus died not only for us but as us. He who knew no sin became our sin so we could become His righteousness (2 Cor. 5:21).

Here’s the plot twist: the tomb is empty! Jesus lives! He died as a sacrificial lamb but rose as a victorious lion. That’s great news!

If you have invited Jesus Christ into your life as Lord and Savior, then you were buried and resurrected with Christ. The old has gone; the new has come. Hallelujah! Sin is no longer your nature. You have a new DNA: Christ’s nature. This doesn’t mean you don’t sin; It’s just not who you are. You’re a finished work of the cross. Flawless. Beautiful. Did you catch that? You have 100% of God’s approval.

We have access to everything God is and has as His heirs. We are fully in Christ. He is fully in us. We’re His hands and feet, and he’s deposited His Holy Spirit in us to live empowered.

The Lamb (crucifixion) completes the Lion (resurrection). The Lion completes the Lamb, and both complete us. Behold the Lamb and the Lion who conquer death and restore creation.

God’s calling His children to rise up in their true identity and again take dominion over the earth. You’re an important piece of God’s puzzle, and God’s story is not over. One day, all of creation will see Jesus return in all His glory—every knee will bow and every tongue confess Jesus is Lord and King! Blessed is His coming Kingdom. Hosanna!