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The year of the Lord’s favor..Isaiah 61

“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
    because the Lord has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
    to proclaim freedom for the captives
    and release from darkness for the prisoners,
 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
    and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
   and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
    instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
    instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
    instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
    a planting of the Lord
    for the display of his splendor. “

Since the beginning of this year.. just a week ago, I have been hearing God say that this is the year of His favor. Immediately I remembered that this phrase is found in Isaiah 61. The same passage that God spoke to me 13 years ago ..here we are in 2013 and I am hearing it again. It is the passage that Jesus quoted in Luke 4.

After the temptation in the wilderness,  Jesus returned to Galilee and by the power of the Spirit He stood up and read from the scroll of Isaiah in the temple. He told everyone that today that scripture was fulfilled. He came to rescue and heal and restore the brokenhearted.  He was revealing His identity to the Jewish community, many of them would fail to believe that He was the Messiah..the one that they were waiting for.

How many of us are failing to recognize who Jesus really is? I’m not talking about people outside the church, but rather those of us who proclaim to be believers..who claim to follow Him. God is speaking to us right now..telling us that He is here among us ready to do great things. He is our both our savior and redeemer. He has come to set us free to live abundantly..to live fully..to restore us..to heal us..and to bless us beyond anything we could ask or imagine. Surely this is truly the year of the Lord’s favor.

He has great things in store for His faithful followers..rewards, blessings, gifts that will come in surprising ways. Keep your eyes open for the work of God in and around you..you will be amazed.

I will bless my people and their homes around my holy hill. And in the proper season I will send the showers they need. There will be showers of blessing.”

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Hearing His Voice

Does God speak to us? Yes..He is always speaking and revealing new things to us. Learning to hear His voice and follow His leading has been the focus of my life for the last 35 years. What better way to live than to follow Him and receive all the things He has intended for our lives. The living God who created the universe has a unique path for each of us.

Do you doubt that? I believe we all do. One of the things that has helped me is to look back on my life. If I look carefully I can see the way one thing led to another. I can see how the pieces of my life fit together like an amazing puzzle. One piece by itself does not make sense.. but put them all together and you have a picture of God’s faithfulness.

Another practice that encourages me.. is to look around my home. In every room and on every wall are gifts from God. We purchased a few things, but most of it was given to us..God’s abundance is so visible. I am very visual and love beauty..God knows that ..we have views from every window in our condo. Nothing is an accident or coincidence.. it is all part of the story that God has written for my life.

I encourage you to begin to look for the places in your life where God is speaking to you..revealing His goodness. He wants you to know that you are the apple of His eye and that He loves you more than you can ever imagine. His arms are open wide.. longing to embrace you and fill you with everything you need to continue.

He is speaking.. listen.. it is the still small voice that only says wonderful things to you!

“See! I have not forgotten you..I have carved you on the palm of my hand.”

Be Still

This is not easy to do..at least for some of us. We find it difficult to remain in one place..to wait..to stop moving.  There are times in life when we just need to be still..to stop trying to figure out our next move and to trust that God has a plan. He requires our cooperation..that can be the tricky part. Our human nature thinks that He needs our help..we will figure out the next step. We want to come up with the solution..the answer.. the plan. I am guilty of this continually.

God gets my attention through my feelings. I realize that many people discount their feelings and refuse to take them seriously..not a good idea. The Holy Spirit will direct us through them if we are praying and seeking His will. He leads us intimately..in very subtle ways. If I am moving in a direction that is not the best for me..the passion for what I am doing begins to fade..I lose the desire. Yes..the desire. Our desires are important..they tell us about ourselves..desire is foundational to our walk with God.

Desire for God leads us to Him in the first place..without that desire there would be no relationship. Desire leads people into marriage..education..careers..parenthood..missional living..personal growth..music..art..cooking.. traveling..the list is endless. Our passion is from God and He speaks to us through it every single day. The challenge is to be still and let those passions come to the surface..to keep the channel open so God can speak and lead and encourage. The other challenge is to stop second guessing the answer..to quiet our own hearts and minds.

In this short season before we come to Easter..let’s get quiet.. be still..allow Him to bring up those things that we long for..trust Him with all the uncertainty..remember His goodness..

“Be Still and know that I am God.”

Confusion

Confusion is a stop sign from God. A red flag..it says..wait..stop..pray..don’t move yet. God speaks and directs us through our feelings..not necessarily every feeling we have but definitely through some of them. He has given us His spirit and that spirit speaks to us in our hearts through our feelings and our senses. When we feel confused..there is a reason. What a great time to go back to God and pray..asking for clarity and wisdom. He wants to guide us so He will answer..maybe not right away..but soon enough.

Being a true ENFJ.. I like closure and enjoy it when things are wrapped up and put away. I even like emptying the dishwasher and folding the laundry because it feels so good to finish something. Life with God forces us to abandon some of our natural tendencies. For me that has meant learning to wait until I see what He is doing..rather than what I want to do. As this has become a bigger part of my life..I have been able to learn to stay in the gray area when I need to. I can’t say that I always enjoy it..but I understand that while I am waiting.. God is working..in me and in the situation.

Our God wants us to know His direction for our lives. He is not trying to make it difficult for us to follow Him. He does require us to stop and ask Him..to pray continually..seeking His direction..to be willing to change direction or to change our mind. Our willingness is critical and so is our ability to listen for His voice. It takes practice and He is not asking us to be perfect. The more we long for this guidance..the more it matters to us..the louder His voice will become.

He is calling to you..desiring to lead you..wanting to change you. He hears your voice and He is speaking to you..making things clear for you. His heart is for you..His desires for you are good. He is with you..holding on to you..He will never leave you.

“So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead you received God’s Spirit when He adopted you as His own children. Now we call Him, Abba Father. For His Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children.”

Lifting Weights

I have been doing this..on a small-scale and really enjoying the benefits. But this post is not about weight lifting..it is about God lifting the weight off our shoulders. We carry weight that we are not designed to carry. The cares of this world and the burdens for others weigh us down.. drain our energy..we become depleted. God has been showing me this pattern in my own life. We may believe that we are responsible for others in an unhealthy way. Our motives are good but the truth is we are not designed to carry burdens that crush us.

As believers we may confuse our desire to see others live the abundant life with our role in their lives. We can pray..wait on God..speak (if He opens the door)..trust the Lord to be working behind the scenes in their lives. We are not the Holy Spirit..we cannot change people..or force them to see the error of their ways. Our desire to help them may actually hinder the work of God in their lives. Many times in my life I have heard God say.. “get out of the way, I am working and this is between me and that other person.. the one you care so much about.”

It all sounds like another way of saying ” let go and let God.” This is a valuable concept for us to embrace. God is able to do much more than we can ever ask or imagine. He pursues those whose hearts are focused on the things of this world. His spirit is actively revealing itself in their lives. His love for the lost is unending. He does not need our help. His ways are not ours..His plan is very different from the one that we dream about or imagine. He is mysterious and we cannot understand Him with our finite minds.

Most of all.. He is faithful.. He is grace-filled..His love is amazing and He will accomplish everything that He intends to accomplish. Our part? Trust Him.

“I pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe Him.”

Understanding

We need it to survive. Understanding means everything when we are struggling. God is the source of all wisdom and He provides understanding. We have all heard that before..what exactly does that look like? One key is our desire to understand. If that is missing.. nothing will happen. God does not serve it up on a silver platter. The truth is we must seek it above all else. Our hearts and minds must crave the knowledge that only He can give.

He has answers for everything..but we must seek Him and ask for those insights. Often God will lead me to a book. A specific book will hold the key for me. Sometimes answers come from other people’s words. Of course they are found in the Bible. Then there are times when He speaks to my heart and reveals truth that I could never know any other way. His desire is to provide all the understanding I need to navigate the road of life. He wants to do the same for you. The Holy Spirit guides us into all truth..the Spirit of God..the third person of the Trinity. His purpose is to reveal things to us..insights into people..situations..problems. He does not leave us alone..asking us to do it all. We are totally dependent upon Him..our minds do not have the answers we need.

Do you crave wisdom and understanding? Is it more important than your next meal? Would you give everything you had for it? Can you live without it? Your answers reveal where you are in your walk with the Lord. Do you need to shift your priorities and start to focus on those things that truly matter? Ask God..He will be honest with you.

“I pray for you constantly, asking God, the glorious Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, to give you spiritual wisdom and insight so that you might grow in your knowledge of God. I pray that your hearts might be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope He has given to those He called — His holy people who are His rich and glorious inheritance.”

Obscurity

An online dictionary defines this word as “unknown” or “inconspicuous.” Living in obscurity means not being in the limelight..not receiving recognition..being unknown.

We live in a culture where this is very undesirable. The rich and famous are in the public eye continually..they receive attention day after day for no real reason. Their character may be terrible..they may be dysfunctional..immoral..greedy and self-centered. Yet we are enticed into believing that being a celebrity of any kind is better than living in obscurity.

In the Kingdom of God..the opposite is true. God uses people who are obscure and unimportant in the eyes of the world. Everyone who lives fully for Him has a part to play in the bigger story. There are no celebrities in the Kingdom of God..only followers. So called “Chrisitan celebrities” are only people who have in some way made a name for themselves. They are not necessarily more godly or more committed than you or me. I wonder if the whole concept of “famous pastors or teachers” is one that pleases God. Doesn’t He want us to keep our focus on Him and learn from Him and grow because we draw near to Him? Not because we learn from someone who is an “expert” on Him.

These are challenging ideas because we find it so easy to look up to people who may know more than we do and who seem to be so sure of their own views. I truly believe God is saying “be careful.. don’t depend upon man ( or woman) seek my face and I will teach you and lead and keep you safe. Trust me and remember that I am with you.”

” When the spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on His own but will tell you what He has heard…The spirit will tell you whatever He receives from me.”