FRESH AND NEW

How is your day going? Did your week start off with a “BANG,” or a “FIZZLE?” Are you feeling full of the “Joy of The Lord,” after your Easter celebration, or are you feeling the exhaustion of the holiday preparations and festivities?

Regardless, God has a FRESH word for you!

Great is His faithfulness; His mercies begin AFRESH each morning.”                                                                                           Lamentations 3:2

I pray that this encourages you no matter what state you find yourself in today. But, please do not miss the power this truth holds! This does not just roll off the lips of one who is having a “bad hair day!” It is not voiced by one who’s Easter outfit didn’t make the “Best Dressed List!” It’s not spoken by one who burnt their Easter dinner or woke up on the wrong side of the bed.

This claim that the “mercies of God are new every morning,” is stated confidently by one whose “peace has been stripped away,” one who has been “rolled in the dust, with face down in the gravel! By someone who has had the “good things of this world”, and has “lost all their splendor!” One who has hoped, and has witnessed that hope squashed! One who has suffered from homelessness and careless words, one who has grieved so deeply that the grief felt endless!

Yet still, in spite of the seemingly insurmountable circumstances knew that the “faithful love of the Lord never ends!”

Do you need something fresh, something new? I know I do! God is offering it to us each and every day!

The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is His faithfulness; His mercies begin afresh each morning.”     Lamentations 3: 2223

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His mercies begin afresh each morning!

Step into this new and fresh attitude with me friend, will you? All God is asking us to do is start each new day with Him. 

Pray, read His word, and allow His mercies to fall afresh on you!

Happy New Day!

Speak Truth Love

HOLY, HOLY, HOLY

In religious circles, this week is known as ‘Holy Week.’ It is the single most important week in Christendom!

Between Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday, two world changing events happen. Both result in one supernatural phenomenon that bridges the gap between sinful mankind and Holy Perfect God.

The first event happens in Garden of Gethsemane.

Jesus finishes the Passover meal with His 12 disciples. Passover, in the Jewish tradition occurs during the full moon and represents God rescuing His people from slavery in Egypt. Jesus knew that what Isaiah had prophesied some 700 years before, was about to happen!

But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on Him, and by His wounds we are healed.”         Isaiah 53:5

So, He called His disciples to follow Him to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray to His Father in Heaven.

He prays with such intensity and such agony that He sweats drop of blood!

“…He became deeply troubled and distressed. He told them, (His disciples), “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death.” Mark 14:32,33

Jesus then pleads with His heavenly Father to take this “Cup of Suffering” away from Him.

Abba, Father’ (meaning Daddy), He cried out, ‘everything is possible for You! Please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.’”    Mark 14:3536

Jesus knows that a horrible fate awaits Him, and He asks His Father to take it away. 

What is that horrible fate? Is it the physical death that He is about to endure? True, it is a painful, excruciating death, but I do not believe that is it. Other believers before Him had suffered and died a painful physical death. Physical death alone was not the reason.

Was it the attacks of Satan? Jesus had already endured and confronted and defeated the attacks of Satan in the wilderness. He had fasted, prayed and taken Satan on, and Jesus returned after 40 days strengthened by the Holy Spirit! As hard and difficult as that was, I do not believe that was the reason.

Was it the betrayal of Judas? Judas was a close friend, a disciple, one that Jesus loved and trusted. While this surly brought Jesus pain and disappointment, I do not believe it brought Him, “anguish to the point of death!”

No,  ‘Gethsemane’s Cup’ that Jesus willing drank for you and for me was the pollution of sin mixed with the punishment of sin! It was the vile, ugly, evil sin of all mankind that Jesus took on Himself. It was also the punishment for that sin that Jesus accepted for you and for me! And, ultimately, it was the separation from His Holy perfect Father, as He turned His face away from His son who took our sin on Himself!

The first world changing event is accomplished as Jesus submits His will to the will of the Father and takes on the Sin of all mankind!

THE VICTORY WAS WON IN GETHSEMANE!

Later that week, the second world changing event occurs.

A perfect, sinless, willing lamb, was nailed to a cross and put to death for the transgressions of the world.

It was nine in the morning when they crucified Him.”  Mark 15:25

As the soldiers scourged Him and nailed Him to the cross, Jesus cries out to His Father to forgive them, “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.”

Seeing all of this and hearing the words of compassion Jesus speaks, a Roman soldier proclaims,

Surely this man was the Son of God.”

Mark 15:39

The second greatest world changing event is accomplished when Jesus pays the cost for all of mankind’s sin at Calvary!

The cross was God’s choice. In His wisdom, God decided that the cross was the way to accomplish two great world changing events at the same time: One, Sin is punished, and Two, the sinner is forgiven!

These two world changing events during Holy Week brought us the greatest gift the world has ever or will ever receive! The greatest Supernatural Phenomenon occured bridging the gap forever between sinful man and Holy perfect God, The Resurrection of Jesus Christ!

You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here!” Mark 16:6

This week we celebrate the Holy week of Jesus. Thursday night as He prayed and committed His will to the will of the Father, Friday as they scourged, beat Him and nailed Him to a cross, and finally Sunday when God raised Him from the dead!

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THE VICTORY WAS WON IN GETHSEMANE AND PAID FOR AT CALVARY.

He lives my friends! Jesus is alive! 

HALLELUJAH! WHAT A SAVIOR!

Speak Truth Love

IS YOUR HEART PREPARED FOR THE GREATEST EVENT IN HISTORY?

I know you have seen the signs of Spring beginning to pop, even through the rain.

The pink buds on the cherry trees, the white puffs of “popcorn” (we call it) on the apricot trees, and the endless fields of yellow flowers covering the new green grasses of the hillsides.

You have also seen, I’m sure, the array of Easter chocolates and Easter goodies, begging to be bought to fill your Easter baskets.

This week my eye has been drawn to the baby lambs following close beside their Mommies in the fields around us. There’s also baby goats and calves laying beside their Mamas, attempting to get up and walk on wobbly, young legs. Last week I even saw two twin colts following their mother in the corral beside the highway.

It is the season of New Life! Spring is in the air, and we are ready for lighter clothing, greater exposure to the sun, and longer walks outside in the warmer air.

Do you prepare for this? I do!

I start to panic that my over indulgence of baked items during the cold days of winter, may not make a good impression in my sleeveless spring wear. I look down at my pale arms and legs and push myself out the door to allow the sunshine to hit them. I even consider a new lotion with color in it!

But the truth is, Easter is not just the time for baskets, candy and new clothes. It also, is not just the time to go to church and sing His praises. It is the time to prepare our hearts for THE GREATEST EVENT IN HISTORY!!! 

The hard thing is, the greatest event in history begins with the saddest day in history.

Palm Sunday celebrates Jesus triumphant entry into Jerusalem, where palm branches are being waved in His honor and “Hosanna’s” are being sung to His glory. 

Hosanna to the son of David!” Blessed is He who comes in the name of The Lord. Hosanna in the highest heaven.”                                             Matthew 21:9

The people, like you and I, are not only cheering for Him, they are giving Him the recognition and honor He is due. They are calling Him Lord, but in a matter of days, they are shouting insults and demanding his death!

How do hearts that praise Him, turn so quickly to curse Him?

I have to believe that their hearts were not prepared. They were not fixed on His glory, His kingship, or His power. Their hearts were led by emotion and fooled by deception. They were hearts that were not grounded in commitment and prayer.

Granted, they did not yet have access to the Holy Spirit, but WE DO! How much more important is it that we prepare our hearts for this season? We need to connect ourselves to the power of the Holy Spirit!

I know of no better way to do that than through FASTING. Fasting calls us to sacrifice and focus on something bigger than ourselves.

Jesus gets to the heart of the matter when He expresses His disappointment with His disciples. They had a lack of preparation as they fall asleep on Him while praying.

Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?”   Matthew 26:40

The answer is No. They in and of themselves were too weak. Jesus tells them this truth,

For the spirit is willing, but the body is weak.”                              Matthew 26:41

God knows that if we do not prepare our hearts for Him, we will be too weak in our own strength to grasp the depths of what Easter is truly all about!

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When we fast, we exchange our power for God‘s power.

Fasting puts us in a posture to break our pride, and anything that holds us captive. It helps us to break bad habits in our lives and build good habits. Combined with prayer, fasting connects us to the Holy Spirit and His power.

Mark Batterson, in his book ‘Draw the Circle,’ put it this way:

“If we will live in a place of brokenness, (by fasting,) God will build us back up in the power of the Holy Spirit.”   pg.153

Are you willing to have your heart broken, so that it can be fully prepared by the Holy Spirit to receive all Immenseness of Palm Sunday and Easter?

You may already be preparing your hearts through this Lent season. But if you are not, would you consider a FAST in combination with prayer to prepare your heart this EASTER?

You will be amazed at what God will do in and through you if you do!

I am preparing my heart through a fast and I already can testify to the sensitivity I already feel coming up to Palm Sunday. I CAN’T WAIT TO SEE WHAT GOD WILL DO ON EASTER!

He is faithful friends! Fasting is not easy. Pray first about what God wants you to fast from. It can be food, it can be social media, T.V., movies…anything at all.

Fasting is an exercise in will power! But it is so worth it as we yield our personal will power to His great POWER!

You can do it! We can do it! We can be more like Jesus on Easter as we enter that day in the power of the Holy Spirit.

The Bible tells us that Jesus after fasting for 40 days, “returned to Galilee in the power of the Holy Spirit.”

My goal is to enter my church this Easter in the power of the Holy Spirit! I hope you will join me.

Blessings and prayers for strength and will power!

Speak Truth Love

 

IS IT SPRING YET?

I know the annual calendar has turned from Winter to Spring, but someone forgot to notify the weather!

“April showers bring May flowers,” but we are not having showers, we are having TORRENTIAL DOWNPOURS!

I know that we all live in different states and countries, but I live in “Sunny California!”

You can not prove that by me! We have experienced torrential rains for the better part of this winter. We have experienced flooding with closed roads, ruined highways, even the closure of one of our favorite bakery cafe’s, all due to the torrential rains in our area. The flood damage was so severe that they could not redeem their bakery!

We have witnessed the rains pouring down with such strength and with little or no pause for days on end, causing damage to our church building and filling one of our nearby churches with over 6 feet of water as the Russian River rose to alarming heights!

Now it is finally Spring and yesterday was April 1st, but I see no signs of those “showers bringing flowers!” It is forecast to rain all week long again! I am seriously considering living in a boat. I could get to places a whole lot easier!

I don’t know about you, but I have had a little too much WINTER! That is a HUGE statement coming from me!  I am a Winter Lovin’ Gal!  I am not complaining about the massive amount of snow in the mountains! Nor am I denying the blessing of the rain and water reserve that we desperately needed, but for some reason this “WINTER” seemed to seep into my soul. The cold, dry, damp mornings seemed to be accompanied by a chill in my spirit.

It is a hard condition to describe because it is foreign to me. I get up with a joyful anticipation of the day and what it will hold normally. I approach most days with high energy and drive to accomplish what lies ahead of me. In the Winter, which I love, it offers me the opportunity to slow down a bit, stay in bed a little longer while I wait for the sunlight to make it’s way to the new day. I wear warmer jammies and sip my morning coffee a bit more slowly as I spend chilly mornings wrapped in a cozy blanket with God and His Word.

Winter is a good time in our lives, a necessary time when we are prompted by the colder weather, later mornings and earlier evenings, to slow down and recharge. I love the winter and the opportunity it affords me spiritually, but this “winter” in my life has lasted too long!

I have grown a bit too sluggish. I have felt the pressure of life and it’s responsibilities pressing in on me and causing doubt and frustration. My Winter has turned into frost in my spirit and has threatened to become a routine instead of a recharging.

In Hosea it speaks about God coming to us as we draw near to Him. It uses the metaphor of rain, both the Winter rain and the Spring rain. There is a need for both.

Let us acknowledge the Lord; let us press on to acknowledge Him. As surely as the sun rises, He will appear; He will come to us like the winter rains, like the spring rains that water the earth.”                                                               Hosea 6:3

I am in need of God’s “rain” on my spirit. I need it in the winter when I quiet my spirit to meet with Him for recharge. I also need it in the spring when I am ready for renewal in my spirit. If for some reason I need a longer winter rain from God, who am I to argue? I know I need Him Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall!

My prayer now is that my spirit will accept the recharge of God’s pouring out His torrential rains on my spirit this winter, so that I may enjoy the showers of spring rain He has in store for me this next season.

The dictionary definition of showers, as a noun is; “A brief fall of rain.”

However, when used as a verb, the definition is; “to bestow liberally or lavishly.”

That is exactly what I need spiritually!

God knows what we need friends. He knows if we need a torrential downpour in our spirits, or a brief fall of rain! But regardless, I ALWAYS desire the active participation of God in my life to “bestow Himself lavishly” on my spirit!

Finally, when the word “showers” is used as an adjective it is defined as “well-showered.”

Maybe, like me, your “winter season” has lasted a bit too long. Maybe you are looking toward the beautiful, light April showers that bring those “brief falls of rain,” which cause our spirits to bloom with renewal!

Or maybe you are just sick and tired of wearing your rain boots and opening up your umbrellas! Either way, we have the opportunity to allow each and every season to recharge us and renew in us a right and good spirit that God can use for His glory and purposes.

Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.”    Psalm 51:10

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GODS RAIN RENEWS US BOTH IN WINTER AND SPRING!

So, Happy Spring! May you feel God’s refreshment as He recharges and renews you!

Speak Truth Love

COMPELLED, WEEK 4

COMPELLED TO WORSHIP

This week started out for me on a HIGH!  I mean the kind of HIGH that sends a shrill of excitement through your entire body! The kind where you could jump up and down, sending a high shrill of exuberance shooting through the air at the very thought of your excitement!
You know the kind I am talking about!
You are flooded with such great anticipation that at any moment, for absolutely no reason at all, you can break into a smile from ear to ear and shriek with hyper-excitement! Which, by the way, is a real term! You can look it up for yourself in the dictionary. I did, because I was so excited to discover it was an actual term!
I woke up last Monday morning with the strongest sense of hyper-excitement, at the anticipation of the birth of my granddaughter! It is accurate to say that my feet did not touch the ground wherever they were carrying me, from Monday through Thursday!
 
Then it happened! On Thursday evening we received the news that our daughter-in-law was in labor. Her labor had actually begun that afternoon and was beginning to progress.
My hyper-excitement elevated to a level there is no term for! Our long awaited grand baby was about to be born!
As laboring often does, it rolled into the wee hours of the morning and Mommy and Daddy checked into the hospital around 1:30 a.m. on Friday morning. Labor progressed into Friday afternoon, and our anticipation to meet this little girl grew with every passing moment!
My elation over the excitement and anticipation of the arrival of my granddaughter was creating a euphoria in my spirit. I was feeling joy from the top of my head to the bottom of my toes! I was in a state of intense happiness and self-confidence that was literally flooding my being.
Much of the time this is what I tend to call ‘Worship.’ This is the way I enter church on most Sunday mornings. I wake up with a sense of happiness just thinking about seeing people I know, receiving smiles and hugs, hearing the Word of God spoken, and more than anything, having an inner self-confidence that I am about to raise my hands in the air and sing my heart out to my God!
Suddenly, that “euphoria” was interrupted! The scene in the hospital lobby went from “happy and self-confident” laughter, smiles and joy on everyone’s face, to sober, serious, concerned looks.  We had just received the news that labor was not progressing and all signs pointed to a necessary c-section.
In the blink of an eye, the true definition of “worship”, flooded that room!
Worship is defined as “reverent honor and homage paid to God or a sacred personage, or to any object regarded as sacred.”
Our little circle of family sitting in that hospital lobby immediately joined hands and pleaded with the God we adore and love, to bless our sweet baby and her Mommy and Daddy!
We did not panic, lose hope or become anxiety-ridden like those who have no hope.
We immediately WORSHIPPED our God, adoring Him, revering Him, trusting Him and asking Him to care for our precious loved ones!
Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all He has done.”                              
Philippians 4:6
 
We worshipped, we prayed, we pleaded, we trusted, we waited…and boy did He deliver(pun intended)!
He delivered our precious, healthy granddaughter, Lucy James Swaney, at 7:07 p.m., 7 lbs. 2 oz., 20.5 inches long!
And in case you think I missed that perfect biblical number of completion…..I DIDN’T!
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My worship turned into a combination of exuberance, thankfulness, Praise and Reverence to the One True God, The Only True God, The Creator of Heaven and Earth, the Only One who creates Life, The Only One who is due my True Worship, Honor and Reverence!
Believe me, there have been many times I have found myself in stressful, difficult, and even desperate situations, when my first response was to panic, rather than worship.

There were other times when my first response was to worship, and the answer was delayed.
Regardless, as worshippers of the One True God, we are to worship Him and trust Him for the answers!
For God is Spirit, so those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”
John4:24
 
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Worship expresses how worthy God is of our devotion.
Speak Truth Love

COMPELLED, Week 3

Compelled to Sacrifice

If you asked me what I love most about going to church, my answer would be WORSHIP!

What I would mean by that, is that I love worshipping God with God’s people!  I LOVE singing along with the Worship Band at the top of my lungs! I love raising my hands in the air and moving my body to the beat. Dare I even say, I Love Dancing if the spirit moves me! I love hearing God’s word of Truth spoken, I love hearing His Word read, I love the opportunity to give back a small portion of what God has graciously given to me. I love encouraging others, sharing with others…I LOVE IT ALL!

I once had someone say that they didn’t like to blend their going to a concert with their worship experience at church! WHAT?

I do not understand the concept of going to a concert and feeling free to jump, dance, scream and sing along, while not feeling the same freedom spiritually during worship at church? In fact, dare I say, feeling greater freedom in church as you worship the One who has set you free!

Man is the one who has built the walls in-between, not God! Man is the one who puts up barriers and creates rules and regulations, not God! If I am going to look silly, feel free, and raise my hands to anyone, let it be in church and to God!

No where on my list of what I love most about church is the word SACRIFICE! Sacrifice is not the first thing we think about when we think about God and our experience with Him. The word Sacrifice, does not promote a warm and fuzzy feeling and does not cause a smile to spread across our face.

The word SACRIFICE, can actually cause the opposite reaction.

By definition, SACRIFICE is the “surrender or destruction of something prized or desirable for the sake of something considered as having higher or more pressing claim.”

By definition we are giving something up or actually getting rid of it totally by destroying it!

I believe that what God wants from us is to willingly give our lives to Him, sacrificially, and compel others to the same way of life!

In the book of Romans it says not to copy the behavior and customs of the world we live in, but to sacrifice that way of living, for God’s way of living. When we do this, God transforms our lives and we become a new person. One who lives his/her life as a “LIVING SACRIFICE,” which is good, pleasing and perfect!

The irony is that God tells us that this is “truly the way to worship Him.”

Romans 12:1 says, 

Dear Brothers and Sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all He has done for you. Let them be a living and holy SACRIFICE  – the kind He will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship Him.”

I am called to be a living sacrifice that compels others to know my Savior by the way I live my life. I am to live that life differently than the world around me. I am to not copy the behaviors and practices around me. I am to be transformed in the way I think by filling my mind with God’s TRUTH!

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My life of sacrifice can compel others to The Savior.

When my mind, heart and spirit are filled with the Truth of God’s Word, I am transformed into living a life that copies Jesus and not the behaviors and customs of this world.

That kind of lifestyle is contagious and compels others to follow.

Speak Truth Love

COMPELLED, WEEK 2

WHAT COMPELLS YOU?

If we are going to live lives that are “compelling”, then the first question we must ask ourselves is; “What Compells us?”

If we stick to the definition of compelling that we are using for this series then the question must be asked and answered according to this….

“To have a powerful and irresistible effect, to influence, to draw near.”

According to this definition, what compels you?

Embarrassingly enough I am “compelled” to cupcakes at times. The decadent icing on top of the moist, delectable cake is at times irresistible to my tastebuds. More than that, the power they can have over me to falsely sooth my sorrowful disposition, compels me more times than not to eat them!

As silly as that example was, on a more serious and important note, I am also compelled to read the Word of God for I know what it has done for me before! It is also a powerful and influential tool in my life.

I do not know what your answers to this question are, but I do know that there is no shortage of compulsions in this world we live in. Eating, drinking, spending, gambling, gaming, just to name a few!

Truly, we were created with a nature to be compelled and to compel others. The question we must face is, Is our compulsion compelling ourselves toward God, or repelling ourselves away from God?

So again, I ask, “What compels you?”

In II Corinthians 5:14-15, we read what should compel us, and WHY!

For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that One died for ALL, and therefore all died. And He died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for Him who died for them and was raised again.”                                                                                                          II Corinthians 5:1415

I do not know about you, but at times in my life this is easy, and at times in my life this is very hard!

There are some days when my first thought is to run to my Bible, open it’s pages, soak in it’s wisdom, and pour my heart out to God in prayer.

There are other days when all I want to do is sit and eat cupcakes!

The COMPELLING part is what balances me, and keeps the two in proportion!

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In order to be compelling, I must learn to be compelled toward God and His Word!

This is something I must do each and everyday!

There is no better practice I know to develop this discipline than FASTING!

Spiritual fasting is all about giving up something to focus on God! To instead of reaching for that cupcake, or cup of coffee, or diet coke, or program, or phone call with a friend, or retail therapy, or…..you fill in the blank, I reach for God. I open His word, I say a prayer to Him and I develop a compelling nature to spend time with Him alone.

While there are many scriptures on fasting and many books written on how to fast, and why you should fast, my favorite is the example set by Jesus Himself…

After fasting forty days and forty nights, He was hungry.”  Matthew 4:2

I am not telling you to fast from all food for 40 days and nights. What I am saying is that, if Jesus knew that fasting was important, then so should as well.

Tomorrow, Wednesday March 13, marks 40 days until Easter! Forty days until we celebrate the most important day on the world’s calendar. The resurrection of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior! If you would like to practice exercising your spiritual muscle, then you could join me in a 40 day Fast.  We will begin tomorrow and end on Easter Sunday!

A fast can be anything at all that you choose to give up for a time, commit that time to God, pray to Him and read His word.

It is wonderful to have a book or specific scriptures that you can read each day to help you through. I am using the book by Mark Batterson, ‘Draw the Circle.’ It is 40 days of testimonials to God and scripture. It makes it perfect for a 40 day fast.

You can find another book, or read through a book of the Bible. Daniel is a great book for fasting since Daniel himself sets a great example for us in this discipline.

Remember, fasting is not a diet! It does not even have to involve food at all. It is for the sole purpose to sacrifice something in order to draw our attention to God!

Just imagine how compelling we may become as we draw closer to the One who compels us to Himself!

Speak Truth Love