Most of us have a vision of where our journey in life will take us. We plan each step and when we will arrive at each station along the way. However, the reality is that the journey will always look different than the plan. We will always encounter surprises, detours and delays along the way. It is when we become frustrated and disappointed with our lives that we often begin to go through the motions.
We go from event to event, home to work on autopilot, and we allow our dreams to die; we begin to just exist and muddle through. However, we were never created to just exist, we were made to to reign in life (Romans 5:17).
There was a woman named Ruth whose dreams were shattered. She lived in Moab with her husband and mother-in-law, who were Israelites. Ruth faced the unthinkable when her husband passed away. Her mother-in-law Naomi was planning to return to her home where they worshipped the one true God. Now Ruth had a decision to make. She had to decide whether to go through the motions and play it safe, stay in Moab with her people and everything she knew, or to dream again and follow Naomi back to Israel, leaving everything familiar and comfortable.
Ruth chose to step out in faith and follow Naomi. Ruth vowed to never leave her and declared that Naomi’s people would be her people and Naomi’s God would be her God. The women traveled back to the land of Israel during harvest time. To feed herself and Naomi, Ruth began to glean the wheat that was left behind from the harvesters. Immediately Ruth found favor with Boaz, the owner of the field she had stumbled upon.
Boaz had heard of Ruth’s faithfulness to Naomi. He commanded his men to protect Ruth and allowed her to gather extra grains of wheat. When Naomi discovered whose field Ruth had been gleaning she praised God. Boaz was a ‘kinsman redeemer’ meaning a relative who could redeem Naomi’s land. Naomi told Ruth to approach Boaz and ask him to redeem the land by marrying Ruth.
Boaz and Ruth were married and had a child, Obed, who would later be the father of Jesse, who would become the father of King David. In leaving everything she knew and choosing to follow the God of Naomi, Ruth ended up in the lineage of Jesus Christ.
Boaz represents our Lord Jesus, the ‘kinsman redeemer’ who lovingly chooses to redeem us and bring us into His family. God’s dreams for Ruth were greater than her own dreams for herself. When we put our dreams into the hands of our beautiful Lord Jesus, we will step into our full potential, the purpose we were created for and our divine destiny in life.
Ruth 4:14 – Then the women said to Naomi, “Blessed is the Lord who has not left you without a redeemer today, and may his name become famous in Israel. “
When we hit difficult seasons in life it is easy to look for distractions. We often look to feed our souls with things that were never meant to satisfy. We overeat, work long hours, become obsessed with emotional drama, or watch hours of mindless entertainment. We even sometimes awake to find our emptiness has led to addictions and destructive behavior. We were made for an intimate walk with our creator and there is a place in us only He can fill.
When we try to replace a need in our souls with distractions and pleasures, we will find ultimately that we are still hungry. The more we try to fill ourselves, the more we realize just how empty we really are.
There was a man named Joseph who lived in Canaan with his family. He was the favorite of his father. His brothers became jealous of him and threw him in a pit, then sold him into slavery. Joseph ended up in Egypt as a slave. The Bible says that God was with Joseph and prospered him. Joseph went through many trials but God gave him favor before Pharaoh, and Pharaoh made Joseph second in command of all of Egypt. Joseph had a dream that a famine would strike Egypt and the neighboring lands; he began to store wheat so that people would not starve when the time came.
When the famine began, Joseph’s family at first refused to go to Egypt for bread. Joseph’s brothers finally relented when they were hungry enough. When they came to Egypt they found Joseph was the one over the distribution of bread. They were in dismay to discover it was their brother whom they had rejected. Joseph however completely forgave his brothers believing God had sent him ahead to ‘save lives.’ Joseph not only gave his brothers bread but brought them to Egypt to live with him as a part of his royal family.
Joseph in the Old Testament is a type or foreshadowing of Jesus. Jesus was rejected by men and yet through His death on the Cross and resurrection, He provides our forgiveness so we can have eternal bread. Jesus said “I am the bread of life; He who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst (John 6:35).”
When our soul is in famine, we can come to Jesus and receive the ‘Great Exchange.’ We can give Him our sin, failures, shortcomings, sickness, depression and pain, and receive all of God’s perfection, wholeness, restoration, well-being, health, comfort, and joy.
When we spend time with God in our devotional times of prayer, worship and reading the Word, we are feeding on the Bread of Life. When we fill ourselves with spiritual food, we will be truly filled deep down into our very being. Just like Joseph, Jesus forgives our sins and brings us into His royal family where we find true life, contentment, joy, comfort and peace; and we begin to discover the royal destiny for which we have been created.
Sometimes in life we just go through the motions, especially when we get busy. When life seems out of control we try to run faster to keep up, but the world keeps spinning faster and faster and in the midst of it all we seem to lose our joy.
When we come into a relationship with the Lord Jesus we are able to enter the ‘Great Exchange.’ In this exchange we bring to Jesus our failures for His perfection, our anxiety for His well-being, our panic for His peace, our pain for His joy.
The Bible says that the joy of the Lord is our strength (Nehemiah 8:10). This joy is not emotional. It is not a feeling. This joy is a supernatural gift that God imputes to us, and it sustains us no matter life’s circumstances.
Samson was a Judge over Israel. He was the appointed leader over the people at that time as well as a mighty warrior. Samson was not only appointed by God but he had a supernatural gift. Whenever his enemies, the Philistines, would attack him, Samson would be endowed with supernatural strength to defeat his enemies.
Samson had a secret. His strength came from his Nazarite vow to keep his hair long. If his locks were cut he would lose his strength. The Philistines hired a spy named Delilah to steal his strength. She came time after time to discover Samson’s secret and steal his strength. Samson eventually revealed his secret and allowed his strength to be stolen which sent him into captivity.
Today our enemies come daily to steal our strength too: condemnation, shame, depression, anxiety, stress, fear, anger, hate, rage, unforgiveness, bitterness, offense… thankfully Jesus conquered it all for us on the cross, and He’s given us His joy which is our strength to overcome every enemy.
So each day as we spend time with Jesus in our devotional times of prayer, reading the word and worshipping Him, we can enter that supernatural place of rest and receive the joy of the Lord which equips us to be content despite all circumstances. These times bring fulfillment, peace and refreshing and come when we enter the presence of the Lord where there is fullness of joy (Psalm 16:11).
Judges 15:17 So he told her all that was in his heart and said to her, “A razor has never come on my head, for I have been a Nazirite to God from my mother’s womb. If I am shaved, then my strength will leave me and I will become weak and be like any other man.”
In life we often make decisions that we later regret. Whether we were uninformed of all the variables or really just did not care about the consequences, we have all made choices that we later wish we could do over. Sometimes it is not one decision but little ones daily. We wake up to find ourselves wondering how we got to where we are and how will we ever get back to where we belong.
When Jesus walked the earth the multitudes followed Him. He brought life to the dead, healing to the sick, food to the hungry and acceptance to the outcast. He ate with sinners and taught ordinary people about the Kingdom of God.
Many people came to hear the words of the ‘miracle worker.’ Jesus told them a parable, a story, about a good dad. A man had two sons and the younger asked for his inheritance and left for a far away country and spent it on loose living. A famine struck that land and after the son had spent all of his money he went to live on a farm as a hired hand. As he watched the pigs eat their slop he realized that he could go back to his father’s house and eat. He could tell his father that he was sorry he had sinned against heaven and him and that he could become a servant in the house and eat bread.
While he was a far way off his father saw him and had compassion on him. The father ran to his son and began to embrace and kiss him. The son began his speech saying that he had sinned against him and heaven and he was no longer worthy to be called his son. The father ignored the speech and called his servants to bring the best robe, the signet ring, sandals for his feet, and a fattened calf and then said “let us eat and celebrate, for this son of mine was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.”
The father in this story had compassion on his son who had gone his own way and made poor choices. He was not mad at him, he actually longed to embrace him again. He saw his son a long way off, which reveals he had been looking for him all along.
The son came back to his dad because he was hungry. It was not the noblest of reasons, but the son’s hunger reminded him that there was bread in his father’s house. There is a deeper truth here. Jesus said those who hunger for truth and righteousness will be filled (Matthew 5:6). When we begin to hunger for the deeper things in life: fulfillment, contentment, peace, we will find these in the Father’s house.
Today God’s house is not a physical building. It is not steeples and stained glass. Today God’s house is His people. When we come into a relationship with our Father God through receiving Jesus Christ in our heart, we are born into the family of God. We are completely accepted in the Beloved (Ephesians 1:6) and we become the righteousness of God in Christ (1 Corinthians 1:30). We are 100% forgiven with a clean slate and we become co-heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17).
Know that your heavenly Father is not mad at you. He is running towards you to kiss and embrace you. He wants to throw a feast for you and place a robe of righteousness around your shoulders, a signet ring of authority on your finger and sandals on your feet to give you a firm foundation.
Luke 15:11-24 – (The Voice) Once there was this man who had two sons. One day the younger son came to his father and said, “Father, eventually I’m going to inherit my share of your estate. Rather than waiting until you die, I want you to give me my share now.” And so the father liquidated assets and divided them. A few days passed and this younger son gathered all his wealth and set off on a journey to a distant land. Once there he wasted everything he owned on wild living. He was broke, a terrible famine struck that land, and he felt desperately hungry and in need. He got a job with one of the locals, who sent him into the fields to feed the pigs. The young man felt so miserably hungry that he wished he could eat the slop the pigs were eating. Nobody gave him anything. So he had this moment of self-reflection: “What am I doing here? Back home, my father’s hired servants have plenty of food. Why am I here starving to death? 1I’ll get up and return to my father, and I’ll say, ‘Father, I have done wrong—wrong against God and against you. I have forfeited any right to be treated like your son, but I’m wondering if you’d treat me as one of your hired servants?’” So he got up and returned to his father. The father looked off in the distance and saw the young man returning. He felt compassion for his son and ran out to him, enfolded him in an embrace, and kissed him. The son said, “Father, I have done a terrible wrong in God’s sight and in your sight too. I have forfeited any right to be treated as your son.” But the father turned to his servants and said, “Quick! Bring the best robe we have and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and shoes on his feet. Go get the fattest calf and butcher it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate because my son was dead and is alive again. He was lost and has been found.” So they had this huge party.
Sometimes life gives us wake up calls. We wake to realize that we are nowhere we wanted to be. So we try to change our location, job, and relationships but the reality is where ever we go, there we are. Running faster is not always the answer. When we find ourselves lost, sometimes we just need to stay put until the the cavalry arrives.
We were not made to walk this path all on our own. The path is actually full of perils, pitfalls and predators. On this journey of life we were made to carry a compass or GPS. The compass is an intimate relationship with our creator who continually brings us help, strength, direction and guidance.
God loved the world so much that He sent His beloved son Jesus Christ for us (John 3:16). Jesus walked the earth and the world took notice. He was not like anyone else. Jesus healed the sick, He raised the dead, He touched the lepers and ate with sinners. He loved the broken and the hurting. Wherever Jesus went the multitude followed and He healed them all (Matthew 12:15).
The religious elite came to see Jesus the ‘miracle worker’ and found Him eating with regular folks and known sinners. They began to grumble and judge Jesus.
Jesus then told a parable, a story, about a lost coin. A woman who had ten silver coins loses one. She then lights a lamp and sweeps the house, carefully searching until she finds it. When she finds the coin she calls her friends and neighbors saying “rejoice with me for I have found the coin which I had lost.”
It is interesting to note that the coin was still valuable, it was just lost. The coin with all its beauty and worth was just hidden. Once the coin was in the right hand it could then shine again to the world. The world could recognize its beauty and the coin’s value could be used again in the purpose it was made for.
When we relinquish control of our lives and place ourselves into the hands of the one who loves us most, we will see our beauty on display. We will find that our purpose and destiny in life is restored and we will find a supernatural rest and a peace permeating our being.
Jesus is the light of the world (John 9:5), and He came to earth to seek and save that which was lost (Luke 19:10). When we receive Jesus in our hearts and abide in His love, we can be on mission with Him; shining His light (Matthew 5:14), so others can be found like this lost coin and be held in the hands of the One who loves them most.
Luke 15:8-10 “Or what woman, if she has ten silver coins and loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin which I had lost! In the same way, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
Sometimes we find ourselves in a dark place in life not knowing how we got there. It is not like we make one decision and find ourselves lost, stressed out, anxiety filled with troubles and obstacles overwhelming us. Generally, it is the subtle things that lead us off the tried and true path into dark winding roads where dangers abide and predators lurk.
It is good to remember that the Creator of universe sent His dearest most beloved son to the earth for you and me, to seek and save that which was lost (Luke 19:10). Jesus was on mission when He came to earth to restore humanity back to God and to our original design to reign in life (Romans 5:17).
When Jesus walked the earth He was like nobody else. He had so much magnetism and favor that people from every walk of life were drawn to Him. The religious elite came to see Jesus the ‘miracle worker’ and found Him eating with regular folks and known sinners. They began to grumble and judge Jesus saying He eats with ‘tax-collectors and sinners.’
It was then that Jesus began to tell a story to everyone listening. He told a parable, a story, about a good shepherd. This shepherd had 100 sheep. One of the sheep got lost along the path. This shepherd who loved all of his sheep, went looking for the one, and when he found it, he placed the sheep on his shoulders and carried the sheep home. When the shepherd arrived home, he called his friends and neighbors and they rejoiced over the one sheep that was found.
Jesus then told us how heaven rejoices when one person who is lost is found by Him. The sheep did not apologize profusely, make things right in its past, the sheep did not promise to never be lost again, the sheep simply allowed Jesus to pick him up and be placed on His shoulders. When we feel lost we can simply whisper a prayer to our Lord Jesus and be picked up by His grace and allow Him to carry us. We can simply focus our attention on Jesus alone and release all our fears and worries to God and allow His relentless, radical, and restoring love to rescue, recharge and revitalize our lives.
Luke 15: 3-7 – So He told them this parable, saying, “What man among you, if he has a hundred sheep and has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open pasture and go after the one which is lost until he finds it? When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’ I tell you that in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.
There are times when we find ourselves in a season of life where we are simply worn-out and tired. We all have full schedules, we are constantly moving from one thing to the next and it rarely seems as if we are able to get ahead. The more we work to go forward the more we seem to fall behind. We often live like the proverbial hamster on a treadmill, the faster we run the more noise we make yet we are going nowhere fast.
It is when things get busy that we find ourselves neglecting our devotional times of prayer. This is because we are focusing so much on the work and what we think needs to get done instead of focusing on God who can grace us to accomplish more than we can ever imagine. The time spent in prayer can catapult us further ahead than we could ever get on own own.
When we do come to our devotional times, we can receive a spiritual rest. This rest is like a re-boot. During these devotional times with God, we can allow His peace to invade our soul and see stress and anxiety wane. Time with God leads us to clearer thinking, our priorities aligning with His and we find answers and solutions come with ease.
As we choose daily to set apart time to spend with Him, we find that we are revitalized, restored and refreshed. God fills our weaknesses with His strength and we can sense what paths to take and what decisions to make. We can feel led by God instead of pushed by demands and deadlines.
The Bible says that the same power that conquered the grave lives in us (Ephesians 1:1-19-20). So when we feel that we are tired and worn-out, we can come to God to be recharged. He has given us His Holy Spirit so that we can live an overcoming life far above gravity and not under it.
It is good to know when we receive good things that we can praise the Father of Lights for His good and perfects gifts which come from above (James 1:17). When we are hurting or broken, it is good to know that we can come into the beautiful presence of our Heavenly Father in prayer and worship and receive comfort (Psalm 34:18).
God does not change and He is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8). The Bible says God is the “Father of lights” and that there is no variation or shifting shadow (James 1:17). God is good and He does not change whatever your situation. So, you can expect God to be constantly good and there for you (Romans 8:31).
When we come into relationship with God through receiving Jesus we become accepted children of The Kingdom (Ephesians 1:6). In the New Covenant we are not servants, we are children. We have responsibilities and roles to serve in the house, as any growing child in a household would. The more mature we become, the more we can handle those responsibilities. However, we are co-owners of the house. We are co-heirs with Jesus Christ (Romans 8:17). So our roles and responsibilities do not define us, sonship or daughtership defines us.
God is a good parent. A good parent’s love does not shift conditionally depending on a child’s behavior. A good parent does not expect to be paid back for providing food, clothing, and shelter. A good parent always protects and provides the best they can. A good parent says no when it is beneficial to the child.
A good parent unconditionally loves his or her kids, directs their steps and corrects their harmful behavior. A good parent affirms their children with encouraging words, showers them with affection, and sacrifices in order to provide them with every opportunity possible for their advancement.
God is a better parent than all of this. Jesus Himself said that even imperfect fathers know how to give good gifts to their kids. How much more will their Heavenly Father give good things to those who ask Him (Matthew 7:11)?
When we come to God in prayer, we are spending time with our perfect parent. We receive love from our Father, and return it to Him, and make any requests before Him; and then we can patiently trust our good ‘Abba’ (Papa). God will provide us in His perfect timing His beneficial gifts. The best gift that we receive when we spend time with our Heavenly Father is that we will become more like Him. As we worship Jesus, we will be transformed into His image, by the Spirit from glory to glory (2 Corinthians 3:18). There is no better gift than becoming like Jesus.
James 1:17 – Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.
In life we can find ourselves lost along the journey. It sometimes seems very hard to ask for directions because we would have to admit at some point we have taken a wrong turn. The truth is we can be back in the right direction in no time by just simply asking someone for help.
We struggle often between autonomy and dependency. We want to find our own identity yet we find after time that we cannot fulfill our life’s purpose and dreams without relationship. That is because God is relational and He created us in His image.
When it comes to our relationship with God, it is dependency that leads to destiny. We are designed for an intimate relationship with our Creator. We were never made to do life all on our own. When we come to God through Jesus Christ and His finished work on the Cross we are reconnected to the source of Life from the beginning. We are healed, restored and empowered for the adventurous life we were created to live.
In this divine relationship we can continually come to the throne room of grace to receive help in time of need (Hebrews 4:16). The more we come, the more we receive: mercy, courage, strength, power and grace for all of life’s turns and circumstances.
The Bible is full of prayers from ordinary people to an extraordinary God. David showed us how to pray. He would praise God for who He was and what He’s done. David would then spill out all of his problems. He would pour out his heart to God. Then there would be a “selah” moment, where David would be silent allowing time for God to strengthen him. David would then praise God again, because he knew that victory came from the Lord (Psalm 3:8).
Jabez prayed to God that He would bless him indeed and God granted him his request. Moses prayed that God would show him His glory, and God allowed His goodness to pass before Moses. Esther prayed and had the people pray for the deliverance of her people and God saved the people of Israel. Solomon prayed for wisdom and God gave him wisdom and wealth and influence too. Jesus stayed in constant intimate prayer with the Father saying that He did only what He saw the Father do (John 5:19). And Paul was in constant prayer for the churches, praying for grace, wisdom, revelation, strength and for the believers to be rooted and grounded in love.
Prayer is conversation with the creator of the universe, the one who continually has our backs. When we are in need of help and come to Him, we can have faith that He hears us (2 John 5:14) and that He is able to perform what He has promised (Romans 4:21). As we grow in intimacy with God, we will grow in our confidence and assurance that God is able to do exceedingly, abundantly above all we can hope, think or ask (Ephesians 3:20).
1 Thessalonians 5:17- pray without ceasing
Under the Mosaic Covenant there were 613 laws for the people to obey. Under the New Covenant the Lord Jesus said He would give us one, Love. Jesus was heading to the Cross when He spoke this about the new command to His disciples, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Jesus was about to go to the Cross and demonstrate the greatest act of love in the history of the world. He had spent three years walking, talking and doing life with His disciples. He constantly was revealing himself as love incarnate. He brought life to the dead, healing to the sick, and freedom to the captives. He fed the hungry and ate with the famous sinners. He spent time with the rejected, the outcasts and the misfits.
The disciples were first hand witnesses of the Kingdom of God’s love invasion on planet Earth. Before Jesus would go to the Cross, He wanted His disciples to get it. There were no longer 613 laws to try to obey perfectly – as if they could. Now that He had spent time loving them, with the love of the Father, He was asking them to abide in that love and allow it to flow out to one another.
Jesus said that this mark of love would identify people as His followers. This love is not something birthed out of willpower or intellect that causes us to gather with one another because it is the right thing to do. That is duty. If Jesus meant duty, He would have said they will know you are my disciples because of your dutiful behavior.
Jesus was talking about a fervent passion for one another. This passion is birthed in our devotional times with Jesus. When we spend time with the Lord we carry His beautiful fragrance. When we gather together as the local church after our individual devotional times, we will find an ease and grace to love one another.
Jesus did not say that they will know that you are my disciples because of your denominational or political affiliation. He did not say they will know you by what you wear or look like. He did not even say they will know you by how much you do, how much you give, how much you feed the poor, or how many times you gather together.
Jesus said they will know you by your love for one another. This love Jesus is talking about, this mark of His followers, is the beautiful overflow of abiding in the love of God.