The Bread of Life

O God, You are my God; I shall seek You earnestly; my soul thirsts for You, my flesh yearns for You, in a dry and weary land where there is no water.  Thus I have seen You in the sanctuary, to see Your power and Your glory.  Because Your lovingkindness is better than life, my lips will praise You.  So I will bless You as long as I live; I will lift up my hands in Your name.  Psalm 63:1-4

I have been contemplating something for a couple of weeks now.  I heard a song recently that talked about seeing I AM.  As I listened to the words, I heard a gentle whisper in my spirit, “I am the Bread of Life.”

Jesus is the Bread of Life

Jesus said to them, “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

There is so much in that sentence that I know that I cannot fully comprehend the meaning.  My understanding can only touch the tip of the iceberg.

Jesus first spoke about bread when He was being tempted in the wilderness:

Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.  And after He had fasted forty days and forty nights, He then became hungry.  And the tempter came and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.” But Jesus answered, “It is written:  Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.”  Matthew 4:1-4

Jesus had been led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.  That sentence alone is enough to cause a tremble or two, isn’t it?  You mean the Spirit leads us into the wilderness?  I don’t know about you, but being led into the wilderness doesn’t exactly sound like a good time.  Maybe for people who love camping and hiking, being led into the wilderness would seem like fun, but not to me.  But then, as if that wasn’t enough…He leads us into a place of temptation?   A time of testing, to see if we really believe what we say we believe?  How thankful I am that He promises not to allow us to be tempted beyond our endurance, and instead provides a way out.

No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.  1 Corinthians 10:13

Jesus is the Word made flesh

And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.  John 1:14

Jesus is life, the Word of God is life 

So…what have we been feeding on lately?

Jesus was born in Bethlehem, as was prophesied in the Old Testament.

But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, from the days of eternity.  Micah 5:2

Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, in order to register along with Mary, who was engaged to him, and was with child.  While they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth.  And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.  Luke 2:4-7

Did you know that Bethlehem means house of bread?  So Jesus, the Bread of Life, was born in the House of Bread.  How like God to do something so spectacular!

“I am the bread of life.  Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died.  This is the bread which comes down out of heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die.  I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread also which I will give for the life of the world is My flesh.”  John 6:45-51

Again, what have we been feeding on?

I started doing something recently that has really helped me focus on Jesus as the Bread of Life.  Maybe you already do this, but it was new for me.  At the end of 2016, a few ministries that I follow were speaking about doing communion in their quiet times with the Lord.  I’ve had communion in church, and with some home Bible study groups that I have met with, but I had never had it with only Jesus.  May I encourage you to try it if it’s not something you’ve done?

I’m reminded of a song by Michael Card, Light of the World, part of which goes like this:

You are the Bread of Life, oh Lord,

Broken to set us free

So how could there be any hunger in me

If you are the Bread of Life

You are the Bread of Life

May the Lord satisfy your every hunger for Him.

My soul is satisfied as with marrow and fatness, and my mouth offers praises with joyful lips.  When I remember You on my bed, I meditate on You in the night watches, for You have been my help, and in the shadow of Your wings I sing for joy.  My soul clings to You; Your right hand upholds me.  Psalm 63:5-8

A Reason to Rejoice

“This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Psalm 118:24

Earlier this week, I found myself in a small engine repair shop, hoping for a low repair estimate for my lawnmower.  Lawnmowers, generators and other small equipment filled the two bay units of the shop, as well as the outdoor section behind the building.  Alas, my lawnmower was beyond repair.

During my conversation with the owner, I asked if he had any inexpensive used lawnmowers for sale.  One had come in recently, he said, but he wasn’t sure of the condition.  He brought it to me, tinkered with it a little bit and said that it appeared to be fine, but that he would do a complete tune up on it if I was interested, and would have it ready the following day.  Throughout our conversation, the owner’s assistant busily went about his tasks, singing and humming as he worked.  I left the shop with plans to return the next day.

When I returned the following day, the tune up was complete, but some of the tires still needed to be replaced.  The owner walked me through the shop to the outside area behind the building to see the lawnmower, where he gave his assistant instructions regarding the mower.  I found a spot to wait while the repairs were completed.

The assistant was cheerfully working as before, quietly singing and humming in the hot sun.  When he noticed that I was standing in the sun, he kindly told me that I could wait under the shade tent that was covering some of the equipment if I wanted some shade.  I smiled, thanked him, and stood in the shade while he continued working.

“A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” Proverbs 17:22

The assistant finished up the job he was doing, walked over to the lawnmower I was purchasing, and then bent over to examine one of the rear tires.  And that’s when I noticed his shoes.  He was wearing an old pair of tennis shoes, held together with black duct tape.  The tops of both shoes had come apart from the soles, and his toes were visible.  I stood in wonder as I gazed at this man.  Here he was, happily working in the sun, concerned for my comfort, singing, smiling, and wearing duct taped shoes.

When he finished, I could barely speak, but I managed to thank him, and asked permission to walk back through the bay to the front of the store so that I could pay. He agreed, after gently cautioning me to be very careful so as not to hurt myself.  I paid, and commented to the owner that his assistant was a very cheerful man. He agreed, and told me that the man has a big heart – that he feeds and cares for approximately 40 cats in the area between his home and workplace.

I have been thinking of this unselfish, compassionate man and his shoes ever since.

I don’t know his story, but I saw his heart.  This compassionate man needed shoes, but he did without in order to feed those cats.  He considers their needs above his own.  That just floors me.

“Jesus looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the offering box, and He saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. And He said, ‘Truly, I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.’” Luke 21:1-4

We live in a culture where the norm is to want the latest and greatest technology, the newer cars, the larger homes, designer clothing and everything else that catches our eye…everything that we’re told we need to be happy.  We love our creature comforts.  But how many of us would give up what we would consider a need to provide for someone else?  What are we willing to do without, and are we willing to do it when there is no possible hope of repayment?  When there is no one there to see it?

What would Jesus do?  It’s not just a phrase on a bracelet or t-shirt, it’s a real question.  What would Jesus do?

“Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’ Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’” Matthew 25:34-40

I don’t think we set out to be self-absorbed, selfish or ungrateful people.  I think sometimes life just happens, and we trudge through it, hoping for the best, expecting the worst, and treating ourselves along the way to bring a temporary measure of satisfaction to what can sometimes seem like a very unsatisfying existence.  We’re told that this life is all there is, so we might as well get the most out of it that we can, because you only go around once, you know.  We’re told that if there’s a God at all, He just wants us to be happy.  But what happens when your idea of happy conflicts with my idea of happy?  Whose happy wins?

Throughout my life, I have heard people say that no matter what happens, we should thank God for it.  I don’t understand that thinking.  Thank You, God, for this sickness?  Thank You, God, that I lost my job?  Thank You, God, that my family is in disarray?  No!  Emphatically NO!

“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18

We can lose jobs, homes, even people, but that verse doesn’t mean that it’s good, that we should give thanks for it.  The meaning has been twisted.  The verse says to give thanks IN all circumstances, not FOR all circumstances.  His will is that we be thankful in the midst of hardship, pain and suffering.  We can be thankful that He is working all things together for our good.  All things aren’t good, but all things work together for our good.

“Our soul waits for the Lord; He is our help and our shield. For our heart rejoices in Him, because we trust in His holy name. Let Your lovingkindness, O Lord, be upon us, according as we have hoped in You.” Psalm 33:20-22

If you are going through a tough time, or find yourself being less than compassionate with those around you, may I encourage you to change your focus?  We can choose to focus on the Savior who gives us life.  We can choose to focus on others instead of ourselves.  We can step out of our comfort zones and be the answer to someone’s prayer.

Reasons to be thankful are all around us if we just open our eyes.  Sometimes the Lord will even bring people across our path with duct taped shoes to remind us of this.

God our Father, Jesus our Savior, Holy Spirit our Comforter – they are all the reason we need to rejoice.

“And Mary said, ‘My soul exalts the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior. For He has had regard for the humble state of His bondslave; for behold, from this time on all generations will count me blessed. For the Mighty One has done great things for me; and holy is His name. And His mercy is upon generation after generation toward those who fear Him. He has done mighty deeds with His arm; He has scattered those who were proud in the thoughts of their heart. He has brought down rulers from their thrones, and has exalted those who were humble. He has filled the hungry with good things; and sent away the rich empty-handed. He has given help to Israel His servant, in remembrance of His mercy, as He spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and his descendants forever.’”  Luke 1:46-55

Where the Wind Blows

“Whatever the Lord pleases, He does, in heaven and in earth, in the seas and in all deeps.  He causes the vapors to ascend from the ends of the earth; who makes lightnings for the rain, who brings forth the wind from His treasuries.” Psalm 135:6-7

A few days before Veteran’s Day, I was driving in an area where American flags were displayed on utility poles up and down the main street.  The city does this every year for this holiday as well as Independence Day.  It’s a beautiful sight, and always brings a smile to my face.

On this particular day, while stopped at a red light, I was looking at the flags and noticed something interesting.  Some of the flags were waving proudly, while others hung there limp.  Although the flags were all on the same street, some were being moved by the wind, and some were not.  It had nothing to do with the flags, but everything to do with the wind.

“He causes His wind to blow and the waters to flow.”  Psalm 147:18

We are the same way. When we are being filled and led by the Spirit, we move where the wind of the Spirit blows us.  Some will move with fierce intensity, while others will have a slower, gentler motion.  Some may not appear to be moving at all.  The Lord uses just the right amount of wind to move us into different seasons of life, and to new places within a season.  In Him we live and move and have our being.  It won’t look the same for any two of us. As long as we’re willing to be moved, we’re being used by the Lord, and the Kingdom of God advances.

“The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”  John 3:8

There have been many times where it felt like I was barely hanging in there.  No visible wind, just hot, stale air.  It’s not something I enjoy, but I believe it is necessary.  Sometimes we are in a time of waiting for the Lord to do in the background what we can’t see with our eyes, and sometimes we simply need to rest.  And then God, at just the right time, breathes on us and sets us in motion again.

“When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance.” Acts 2:1-4

Are you feeling stagnant?  Ready for a new season?  I know the Lord hears when we ask Him to breathe new life into us.  I believe He delights in it!

Sometimes a new season can seem scary.  There is so much unknown to us.  We want to see the whole staircase, but the Lord only gives us enough light for the step we’re on.  Then, at the time of His choosing, He shines the light on the next step.

“When the disciples saw Jesus walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, ‘It is a ghost!’ And they cried out in fear.  But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.’  Peter said to Him, ‘Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.’  And He said, ‘Come!’ And Peter got out of the boat, and walked on the water and came toward Jesus.  But seeing the wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’  Immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and took hold of him, and said to him, ‘You of little faith, why did you doubt?’ When they got into the boat, the wind stopped.  And those who were in the boat worshiped Him, saying, ‘You are certainly God’s Son!’” Matthew 14:26-33

I’m so struck by Peter’s courage to get out of the boat and walk on the water with Jesus.  He wanted to be with Jesus!  He wanted to do the miraculous!  And he did!  Then he took his eyes off of Jesus, and the next thing he knew, he was sinking.  As soon as he called out to the Lord, the Lord took hold of him and brought him to safety.

Are you afraid?  Afraid that if you step out of the boat, you’ll sink?  I’ve been there, too.  If you call out the Jesus, though, He will rescue you, just as He rescued Peter.  He loves you dearly, and His hands are outstretched toward you.  He is so faithful.  I have learned that it’s better to walk in the midst of a storm with Jesus than remain safely in the boat without Him.

I want to be bold like Peter.  I want to walk on the water with Jesus.  I want the Spirit to blow so strongly in my life that no one can look at me without seeing Jesus and His mighty power at work in me.  Take a step of faith.  Allow the wind of the Spirit to move you out of the boat and onto the path that God planned for you before you were even born.  His plans are good, because He is good.

He raised the dead to life.  He healed the brokenhearted and set the captives free.  He breathed new life into Israel.  He will certainly do the same for us.

“The hand of the Lord was upon me, and He brought me out by the Spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of the valley; and it was full of bones.  He caused me to pass among them round about, and behold, there were very many on the surface of the valley; and lo, they were very dry.  He said to me, ‘Son of man, can these bones live?’ And I answered, ‘O Lord God, You know.’  Again He said to me, ‘Prophesy over these bones and say to them, “O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord.”  ‘Thus says the Lord God to these bones, “Behold, I will cause breath to enter you that you may come to life. I will put sinews on you, make flesh grow back on you, cover you with skin and put breath in you that you may come alive; and you will know that I am the Lord.”’ So I prophesied as I was commanded; and as I prophesied, there was a noise, and behold, a rattling; and the bones came together, bone to its bone.  And I looked, and behold, sinews were on them, and flesh grew and skin covered them; but there was no breath in them.  Then He said to me, ‘Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, “Thus says the Lord God, ‘Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they come to life.’”’  So I prophesied as He commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they came to life and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army. Then He said to me, ‘Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel; behold, they say, “Our bones are dried up and our hope has perished. We are completely cut off.”  ‘Therefore prophesy and say to them, “Thus says the Lord God, ‘Behold, I will open your graves and cause you to come up out of your graves, My people; and I will bring you into the land of Israel. Then you will know that I am the Lord, when I have opened your graves and caused you to come up out of your graves, My people. I will put My Spirit within you and you will come to life, and I will place you on your own land. Then you will know that I, the Lord, have spoken and done it,’ declares the Lord.’”’  Ezekiel 37:1-14

Dip Your Toes In

“How precious is Your lovingkindness, O God!  And the children of men take refuge in the shadow of Your wings.  They drink their fill of the abundance of Your house; and You give them to drink of the river of Your delights.  For with You is the fountain of life; in Your light we see light.”  Psalm 36:7-9

Isn’t that passage just absolutely wonderful?  There’s so much there.  God’s merciful love, His protection, His abundant provision, His bountiful gifts, His life-giving presence, His holiness.  It shows the Lord’s involvement in our lives, His deep care and concern for all of our needs, and His great generosity with His children.  It’s enough to make you want to just jump right in, doesn’t it?

I have had a picture in my head all week that just won’t leave.  It’s a picture of the priests at the Jordan River as the Israelites were ready to cross into the Promised Land after 40 years of wandering through the wilderness.

“You shall, moreover, command the priests who are carrying the ark of the covenant, saying, ‘When you come to the edge of the waters of the Jordan, you shall stand still in the Jordan.’” Joshua 3:8

Like the Israelites, I have spent some time in the wilderness, too.  In the beginning, all I could focus on was getting through and getting out.  Many times I cried out to the Lord, begging Him to just hurry up and get the lesson over with so I could learn it and move on.  I didn’t understand then that the focus was never supposed to be on the destination, but on Who was on the journey with me.

As I attempted to navigate through that strange, unwelcomed place, I found myself reading God’s Word more and more.  I spent a lot of time in the Psalms, and grabbed onto every promise I came across.  I spent hours with Him daily, not necessarily because I wanted to at first, but because I had to – because it was the only way I could make it through the day.

During that time, I read a devotional by Amy Carmichael that spoke about the Lord turning our pain, our desert places, into something beautiful and useful.  The verse she used was for Israel, but I knew that it was for me, too, and it gave me hope.

“Indeed, the Lord will comfort Zion; He will comfort all her waste places. And her wilderness He will make like Eden, and her desert like the garden of the Lord; joy and gladness will be found in her, thanksgiving and sound of a melody.”  Isaiah 51:3

The wilderness time was finally over.  The Israelites had learned to go when God said go, and stop when God said stop.  The hope of the promise was soon to be a reality, as the Israelites were finally ready to cross the Jordan.  The Lord required something of them first, though.  It was not enough to stand there and wait for the Lord to part the water.  They knew He could do it – He had done it before.  No, this time they were required to literally step out in faith.  As the priests stepped into the water, it parted, and like before, the Israelites walked across on dry ground.

What a picture for us!

Are you walking in the wilderness right now?  May I encourage you to let the Lord comfort your waste places, too?  He can take what is dry, broken and lifeless, and nurture it back to life.  You will live again, you will laugh again, and you will sing again.  The Lord is faithful, and He always keeps His promises.  You will be able to say with Job, “My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you.”

Maybe you’ve already come out of the wilderness, feeling as if you’re standing on the bank of a swiftly moving river, wondering how you’ll ever get across.  If so, pray for direction, seek wise counsel, and then step out in faith.  Dip your toes in, and watch the Lord do the miraculous.

“The afflicted and needy are seeking water, but there is none, and their tongue is parched with thirst; I, the Lord, will answer them Myself, as the God of Israel I will not forsake them.  I will open rivers on the bare heights and springs in the midst of the valleys; I will make the wilderness a pool of water and the dry land fountains of water.” Psalm 41:17-18

People of Courage

“Wait for the Lord; be strong and let your heart take courage; yes, wait for the Lord.” Psalm 27:14

Fear. It can steal our sleep, our health, keep us in jobs that we’re not suited for or unhappy in, make us stagnant, and it can bring discord into a family. It can keep us from enjoying the life that God has given us. As Jason Gray, one of my favorite musicians, sings, “There’s no thief like fear.” Do you know that you don’t have to live in fear? I didn’t.

Growing up, and throughout nearly all of my life, fear was a constant companion. It was all I had ever known…and because it was such a part of me, I not only didn’t see it for what it was, but I didn’t know that I could be free from it.

There was nothing traumatic in my life responsible for the fear I felt, as far as I’ve been able to determine. I wish it were that way for everyone that experiences it. It began as shyness, but it grew to eventually impact every area of my life.

Then one day, while sitting in church, the Lord showed me something. God’s Word says over and over not to fear. I read somewhere that the Bible says not to fear 365 times, once for each day of the year. I don’t know if that’s true, but I do know that we’re commanded to not fear. So…if it’s a command, then that means we have a choice, right? We can choose to fear, or we can choose not to fear.

“For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline.” 2 Timothy 1:7

Every day we are bombarded with messages designed to strike fear in our hearts. Through social media, television, radio, the newspaper, and magazines in the check-out stand, our minds are inundated with these messages. The enemy of our souls uses fear to bring disunity to our homes, our cities, and our country. But there is a better way.

We have a Bible filled with God’s promises. What helps me is refusing to be afraid and choosing to speak those promises out loud. “Your Word says that You will never leave me nor forsake me, so I will not be afraid.” Or “Your Word says that I am clothed with the armor of God, so I will not be afraid.” You get the picture. I have noticed that the more I proclaim God’s Word aloud, the less often fear even tries to take over. I no longer walk in fear, and you don’t have to, either. The Bible says that perfect love casts out fear, and the more we spend time in the presence of God, the more we are filled with His love for others, the more fear loses its hold.

One of the main characters in the movie Courageous said, “Where are you men of courage?” But I also have to ask, where are you women of courage? Although the movie was about fathers accepting their God-given roles and responsibilities, women have vital roles to play as well. When we live in fear, and make our decisions based on fear, everything suffers, and our priorities get mixed up. Not only are our spiritual lives affected, but our families suffer and sometimes fall apart, and other things in our lives unravel in the process.

It is never too late to break the fear cycle. We can begin today, knowing that the Lord is faithful, that He came to heal the brokenhearted, that He can take all of our past mistakes and work everything together for good – He can turn ugliness into something beautiful. My favorite words in the song Courageous are, “The only way we’ll ever stand is on our knees with lifted hands.” Amen. May we come to Jesus and let go of our fear, and instead, find forgiveness, renewal, strength, restoration and peace. May He make us people of courage.

“Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or tremble at them, for the Lord your God is the one who goes with you. He will not fail you or forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6

Kokabee and Hurricane Matthew

“But certainly God has heard; He has given heed to the voice of my prayer. Blessed be God, who has not turned away my prayer nor His lovingkindness from me.”  Psalm 66:19-20

One day, a few months ago, I was sitting at my desk when I suddenly felt overcome with exhaustion. Now, I’m no energizer bunny, but this was very unusual for me. I must have closed my eyes, because the next thing I knew, I dreamed of a good friend of mine, a woman with a missionary heart, standing before me. She said, “Kokabee, true love.” That was it. I was jolted awake, wondering who or what a kokabee was.

It didn’t take long to discover that Omid Kokabee was an Iranian physicist who was in jail for refusing to cooperate with officials in a nuclear military program in Iran. He had studied in the United States and Spain, and traveled home to visit. He was taken into custody when attempting to return to the U.S.

Kokabee, true love. He was unwilling to use his knowledge to harm others. Instead, he was willing to give up his freedom, give up his life, for people who may never know of, much less thank him for, his sacrifice. Sounds kind of like Jesus, doesn’t it?

“This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends. You are My friends if you do what I command you.” John 15:12-14

I don’t know if he’s a believer, but we have been praying for his salvation and his freedom. If reports are to be believed, I read today that he was scheduled to be released on parole last August.

This week, Hurricane Matthew arrived off the coast of Florida, where I live. Many people were praying that this storm would not come ashore. My church alone had three prayer meetings, and I know that other churches were praying up and down the coast and in other states as well.

The projected path, within the cone, wobbled to and fro on either side of Lake Okeechobee.  I noticed that every time we had a prayer meeting, the blue cone would move to the east, but before long, it would drift back over to the west. It really seemed that it was a battle, all up and down the coast, like a great arm wrestling match.

I really believe that it was the prayers of the saints, and the Lord’s answer to those prayers, that kept the storm off land. Christians with shields raised in battle lined the coast. Then I came across these verses, in a way that only the Lord could arrange:

“Let them give glory to the Lord and declare His praise in the coastlands. The Lord will go forth like a warrior, He will arouse His zeal like a man of war. He will utter a shout, yes, He will raise a war cry. He will prevail against His enemies.” Isaiah 42:12-13

All glory, honor and praise to You, God, for delivering Your people! The Lord is good, and kind, and merciful, even when He doesn’t answer the way that we hope.

It reminded me of Kokabee. He was imprisoned for refusing to use his knowledge to harm people, many of whom would never know or thank him for his sacrifice. And how many are there here in Florida and along the east coast who are going about their business, never realizing that the prayers of the saints, and God’s answer to those prayers, have kept them safe?

We are called to stand in the gap, to be repairers of the breach. If we don’t do it, who will? We were put here for such a time as this. Let us not grow weak, let us not cease to pray for our country to turn to Him. Let us pray at all times, praying for those in authority, praying for racial unity, praying for unity within the church. Let us not grow weary in well doing. And above all, let us love well. They will know that we are His disciples when we have love for one another. Can we truly love if we’re not even willing to pray? May the love of God shine brightly in and through us as we serve one another in love.

Where is the Abundant Life?

“You will make known to me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; in Your right hand there are pleasures forever.”  Psalm 16:11

I grew up believing that God made me and loved me, and that Jesus died for my sins. That was all I knew about God. I didn’t talk to Him, and figured He was too busy running the world to talk to me.

At the age of 20, on Christmas Eve, I learned that I had been deceived and betrayed by someone I loved, and was so devastated that I really didn’t want to live anymore. I didn’t want to hurt. I didn’t see a purpose for my life. I told God that I didn’t want to live, but that I wouldn’t do anything to end my life, and said that if He wanted to do something with me, that was fine, but I didn’t want to go on.

About that time, my mother began visiting a Christian bookstore. Since I loved to read, she offered to buy me a book or two if I wanted to tag along. I began reading Christian novels, and saw something within those pages that I had never imagined, much less seen. People talked to God and Jesus like they were people! Real flesh & bone people! I was stunned to think that people could actually talk to them like they were good friends.

At that time, I was living alone in an apartment. I had an old television that had been given to me, but it rarely worked. It hadn’t even turned on for quite some time. A day or two before Easter, I turned the television on, and surprisingly, it turned on immediately. I watched in horror at the scene before me. The man portraying Jesus was on the ground, being nailed to a cross. He cried out in pain, which was hard enough to watch, but then he looked at the camera, and appeared to be looking right at me. I was shaken! The next thing I knew, I found myself face down on the floor, crying, knowing that the real Jesus had died on the cross, suffering tremendous pain, for MY sins! He was there because of me! I asked Him to forgive me for the things I had done, and I gave Him my life. That was many, many years ago, and I have not been the same since.

Fast forward to about five years ago. I had recently returned to the United States from Mongolia with two of my children, where we had been living for a year on an overseas work assignment. I was in the middle of a divorce. Like before, I was devastated. For months I read the Bible, cried, prayed, cried, questioned, cried, and then I came across this verse:

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”  John 10:7-10

I cried out to the Lord, “Where is the abundant life? Your Word says that You came to give us abundant life! This sure doesn’t look like abundant life to me!”

That was a turning point for me. My eyes were opened to many things that I hadn’t seen before. I realized that I had put God in a box, and He didn’t fit! I began to look at God’s Word through different eyes. Instead of seeing verses through the eyes of tradition, I began seeing them as they were written. I began to understand that the written words were promises for us, that they were true, and that they could be believed because God always keeps His promises. I knew that they could change my life.

He took away my pain, confusion, and fear, and He filled me with joy, peace, and love. He is so good, so loving, and more at work in us and around us than I ever knew. He has given me abundant life, and the great news is that it’s not just for me, it’s for anyone who asks. Jesus came to give us LIFE!

During the weeks leading up to Christmas last year, I found myself coming across that verse in John daily. If I opened a book, it was there. If I went on Facebook, it was there. If I turned on the radio or television, it was there. Every single day. And every time I came across it, I thought about the abundant life that had been mine for the last few years. Real abundant life, living life to the full.

Then, about a week before Christmas, thieves broke into our home. Two of my children and I had been out to dinner with my sister and her family, who were visiting us all the way from Nigeria. Afterwards, we went to a hospital to celebrate the birth of a precious baby girl, born into a wonderful family who has been on the same spiritual journey I and my family have been on. How wonderful to have companionship on this journey!

We returned to find that our home had been broken into. We lost jewelry, electronics, and even some of the Christmas presents that were wrapped under the tree. In the midst of it, though, I was not afraid. I didn’t feel violated, as many people do after a break-in. I wasn’t even really angry.  Disappointed, sure, for the gifts that I was not able to replace, and for the hearts and minds of the kids that broke into our home. But looking back, I believe the Lord was not only warning me, but preparing me by reminding me of the abundant life that He has given me. Yes, the thief does come to steal, kill, and destroy, but we have something that can never be stolen, never be taken away from us. We have the promise of living forever with God, our creator and the lover of our souls, both here and when our time on earth is done, because Jesus made it possible.

Are you experiencing abundant life? If not, do you want to? If so, ask Him for it. Jesus came to give you life, and give it to you abundantly, and He promises that if you seek Him, you’ll find Him.

“You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.”  Jeremiah 29:13