His Banner Over Me Is Love

It is probably safe to say we have all learned something about ourselves during this quarantine. One friend posted a funny meme that said, “I never had time to clean my house.” “Now I know that wasn’t the problem.” The joke is on us. Now we have the time to do things we “didn’t have time for” before and we still aren’t doing them.

Do you have something you blamed on not having enough time for? More specifically, did you blame not reading your Bible, spending time with the Lord and praying on time? That is not meant to be a rebuke but simply a real question of introspection. Are we really where we think we are in our walk with the Lord? Titus 2 teaches us to live soberly in this present world while we look for the blessed hope of Christ’s return.

Just a month ago my son and daughter-in-law had their first child. Jane is a healthy, happy and beautiful little girl. For now, we love how small she is, but she is growing every day.  Growth is healthy. As much as we love babies and puppies, something would be very wrong if they remained small and did not grow. We would take them to the doctor to find out why their growth is stunted. According to google, “the most direct causes are inadequate nutrition (not eating enough or eating foods that lack growth-promoting nutrients) and recurrent infections or chronic diseases which cause poor nutrient intake, absorption or utilization.”

Now if you had a child whose growth was stunted, would you still love them? Of course you would. You would love that child no matter what condition they were in. But what would your desire for that child be? To be healthy. You would want them to grow and to flourish into a strong adult. You would want them to live to their fullest potential.

This is us.

Our heavenly Father has many children who are called by his name. But this incubation time has shown many to be stunted in their growth. If you have a baby who can only live on milk because they have no means to chew food, you are happy to give them milk. If, however you have a child who doesn’t want to eat, you have to intervene. If you don’t you will stunt their growth and harm them. It would not be love to let them do as they pleased. They may want to eat only junk or not eat at all. Out of love you would not allow this. You would prepare healthy options that would help supply what they need. Our Father has done this for us. We are a people, a nation in need.

I’m not saying that God brought this virus. I’m also not saying that He isn’t in it. We as a church have entered into a new era. We can’t have church as usual. We are now forced to feed ourselves and see what we are really made of. Every excuse has been taken away for those who are at home. I think I can safely say everyone has a phone or computer which means everyone has access to the Bible and great teaching. To top it off you now have an abundance of the costliest commodity. Time. It can’t be bought and it always run out.

Song of Solomon 2:4 says, “He brought me to the banqueting house, and his banner over me is love.” Will we eat? Will you sit with him and take the time to dine with him to feed your soul and nourish your relationship? He shows you He loves you by feeding you and meeting that need. Revelation 3:20 says, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.” He doesn’t want to force feed you but instead he has desired to come to you and spend some time with you. 3 John 1:2 says, “Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers.” We can affect our health in this present chaos by feeding our souls. Romans 10:17 tells us “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” He won’t force feed you but He does invite you. He wants you well and nourished, growing and flourishing even if you’ve not eaten this way before.

After Jesus’ crucifixion, the disciples put themselves into a quarantine of sorts. They hid in fear in an upper room with the door locked. Once Jesus had made himself known to them on several occasions Jesus had a conversation with Peter in John 21:15, “So when they had eaten breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Feed My lambs.”

Jesus will question our love. And I can assume we would quickly say Yes Lord, we love you, just like Peter did. But Jesus asked again and again cutting Peter to the quick. Here in lies the teaching moment. We know Jesus was not trying to wound Peter. He was wanting to enlarge Peter.

To help us understand, I’d like to highlight two phrases. The first is “More than these.” When left to ourselves we must ask, do we love him more than these? “These” are all the things we put before him. In the aftermath of Jesus’ crucifixion, Peter said he was going fishing. His “these” could have been the boat, the nets, the fish or the act of fishing. It could have been “the guys.” He was surrounded by fellow fishermen and friends. Whether “these” are distractions or idols, they take our time and our love.

Who do you love? I challenge you right now to stop and think about what you have said is the one thing you wish you could hurry up and do as soon as the quarantine is over. What is the true love of you your life that you would give your time too? What have you complained about not getting to do the most? What have you neglected to do right now that you easily could do? You will know because out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth will speak. 2 Corinthians 13:5 tells us to examine ourselves because it is possible to deceive ourselves.

Do we really love Him?

I know this is a simple example but it is true none the less. When you love someone, you are eager to spend time with them. You will ditch your other friends to be with them. Even your closest friends. If you can’t physically be together you are on the phone. You know how we do. We won’t be the first one to hang up. You hang up. No, you hang up. Then we fall asleep holding the phone. And if you don’t have a phone you write a beautiful gushing love letter. What ever it takes we make a way. Do you ever get creative to be with Jesus?

The second phrase is “Feed my lambs.” When Jesus questioned Peter’s love, He followed it with a “than do.” We are to be doers of the Word and not hearers only. If you really love Him, you will do something about it. It will affect your decisions and choices. Jesus asked him to “feed” the others. He knew they would look to Peter.  This was a pivotal point. They would either rise to their call and purpose or they would shrink back and become stunted. They needed to grow. Peter had been chosen to lead this band of men once Jesus ascended. It was time to mature. It was going to take someone feeding them and giving them nourishment. They could not remain lambs. These men were to become the fathers of the faith. It was time for Peter to live what he had learned.

Now it’s our turn.

Let’s use this gift of time, this Selah moment in history, to make sure we are ready for what comes next. We may never have this opportunity again. The commodity of time will run out. We need to be feeding ourselves and helping to feed others.

I can’t help but think of the underground church who never have a building to go to. They never have freedom to worship yet they are close to the Father’s heart. They put at risk life and limb to read his word and worship. We are still the most blessed nation. We can still serve the Lord in freedom and gladness.

Earlier I quoted from John 21:15. Let’s back up now to vs.1-14 and see this beautiful truth displayed.

21 After these things Jesus showed Himself again to the disciples at the Sea of Tiberias, and in this way He showed Himself: Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of His disciples were together. Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.”

They said to him, “We are going with you also.” They went out and [a]immediately got into the boat, and that night they caught nothing. But when the morning had now come, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Then Jesus said to them, “Children, have you any food?”

They answered Him, “No.”

And He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast, and now they were not able to draw it in because of the multitude of fish.

Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” Now when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment (for he had removed it), and plunged into the sea. But the other disciples came in the little boat (for they were not far from land, but about two hundred cubits), dragging the net with fish. Then, as soon as they had come to land, they saw a fire of coals there, and fish laid on it, and bread. 10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish which you have just caught.”

11 Simon Peter went up and dragged the net to land, full of large fish, one hundred and fifty-three; and although there were so many, the net was not broken. 12 Jesus said to them, “Come and eat breakfast.” Yet none of the disciples dared ask Him, “Who are You?”—knowing that it was the Lord. 13 Jesus then came and took the bread and gave it to them, and likewise the fish.

14 This is now the third time Jesus showed Himself to His disciples after He was raised from the dead.

You may feel you fished all night and caught nothing. You can’t go to church to get your fish. Jesus is saying throw your net on the other side. Do it at home. You will catch a huge catch. Or if you have found that you have left your first love without realizing it, or you gave up and said, “I’m going fishing,” don’t fret. Simply confess it. Like Peter you can plunge into the water. Rejoice and come to the table. Can you smell it? Jesus has a meal He’s cooking especially for you.

Blessings to you and yours,

Jaime Luce

 

Photo:  iStock by Getty

 

 

 

 

 

Raising A Child King

A boy becoming a king is the stuff great stories are made of. It isn’t just a fairytale. World history and Scripture record this many times over. Fulin, the Shunzhi Emperor was 5-years old. Elagabalus, the Roman emperor was 15-years old. Tutankhamen, better known as King Tut, was 10-years old. Josiah, King of Judah, was 8-years old and 2 Kings 11 tells the story of the child king Jehoash. After reading this account I couldn’t help but think of the weight of raising our children with kingship in mind.

Revelation 1:5-6 says, “and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler over the kings of the earth. To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and has made us kings and priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.” We find no discrimination of age put on these appointments. 

We are living in a world where adult life is hurled through the screens at our children at a pace we can’t seem to keep up with. It is shields up 24/7/365 if you are a parent. It is alarming to realize at the same time, so many are not grounded in a church home. I grew up in the church and I can’t imagine where I would be had that not been the case. We attended church Sunday morning, evening and Wednesday nights. These were just the regular services. Then there were all the children’s and youth activities or special services and events. My best friends were those from my youth group. Life revolved around the house of God.

The Federalist posted and article entitled “Is It Baby Boomers’ Fault Millennials Are Leaving Religion And Less Likely To Go Back?” by Joy Pullmann. Near its end she gave a statistic that said, “Americas with very high levels of religious involvement during their childhood are about 10 times more likely to pray or read with their children (87 percent), attend worship services with them (84 percent), or send them to Sunday school (80 percent).” I could not help but see the validity and power of raising our children in the house of God faithfully as it correlates to this topic.

The age of technology has encroached on all boundaries of our lives changing how we do everything. It has even resulted in changing how church is attended. Many never darken the doors of a church building. Instead we have EChurch. Bibles were books we opened to read. Now its Bible apps on our phone or tablet that never look at us beaconing us to pick it up and read it or show us the proverbial dust indicating we haven’t read it.

Don’t misunderstand me. I’m glad we have them. It gives us the ability to watch online when we are unable to attend for travel or illness and have a bible no matter where we go. We can watch services from all over the globe that we could never attend. It is truly a blessed time with no shortage of bread for the hungry but it doesn’t come without a trade off. It begs the question.

How does this affect our children?

To my knowledge there aren’t any online kids services. Even if there were, kids need the interaction and participation you can’t get through a TV screen. You don’t learn what a pastor is and how he cares for his people. You don’t learn what it is to serve the Lord by serving his people. You miss out on the scripture contests and games that made learning about the Lord so fun. Let’s face it. We all need that personal touch after a week of living counter culture. There is a palpable difference in worshiping and praying in agreement with others of like faith for both adults and children.

2 Kings 11 gives us a great pattern. To paraphrase, the mother of the reigning king of Judah had been killed. His mother decided to kill all other heirs and take over herself. The half-sister of the former king took the youngest heir Jehoash and hid him with his nurse in the house of the Lord for six years. This entire time he was being taught by the priest Jehoiada who put a plan in action to protect the heir and crown him king. His plan was successful and Jehoash was crowned king at the tender age of seven.

Three things jumped off the pages to me.

One, if you want your children to rule and reign then raise them in the house of the Lord!

Our identity is found in Christ so if we want our children to know who they are and what their purpose is, then by all means get them into church where they can meet the one who formed them, called them and purposed them.

Second, do not discount or look down on the children just because they are children.

They are valuable and the enemy knows it. Why do we fail so many times to see it? Children have the capacity to be kings. Jeremiah 1:7 says, “But the Lord said to me, ‘Do not say, ‘I am only a youth’; for to all whom I send you, you shall go, and whatever I command you, you shall speak.'” Then in Psalm 8:2 it says, “Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants You have ordained strength, Because of Your enemies, that you may silence the enemy and the avenger.” Proverbs 22:6, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.”

If we don’t go to be trained how do will we train our children?

Thirdly, in 2 Kings 12:2 it said this. “Jehoash did what was right in the sight of the Lord all the days in which Jehoiada the priest instructed him.”

This child turned man reigned, pleasing God all the days he was instructed and taught by the man of God. I want my children and grandchildren to do well all their days as I am sure you do. Our children are kings in training. Some of them will rule at delicate ages with difficult life circumstances to navigate through. They will need what the church has deposited into them. If they don’t have it they will look to the culture that shifts with the wind for guidance.

Instead of ruling they will be ruled.

The sad commentary is that after the priest died king Jehoash was turned away from following the Lord. It does not matter how old we get. We still need to find ourselves in the house of the Lord learning and leaning on what we are taught. We don’t outgrow our need for the church and His Word. It isn’t just an institution. It’s the family of God. It’s a stronghold of safety.

No house is perfect and no family is without flaws. But the good news is Jesus is the sinless one. He is without blemish or error. He is the rock we build our lives on. Don’t be fooled by the propaganda. Church is not old fashioned, outdated or irrelevant. We need it more than ever. Our child kings need it more than ever.

Make no mistake. There is an enemy who wants to kill the king in them.

Hide them away in the house of the Lord.

 

Blessings to you and yours,

Jaime Luce

 

Photo by Pixabay

From faith to faith

Photo by Joshua Earle on Unsplash

Faith is a common word used by both believers and unbelievers alike. It may or may not be related to anything spiritual. We have somehow taken it’s power and relegated it to a fancy word for hope. I however am of the mindset that faith is far more potent than that.

Jesus never said “Where is your hope?” or “Oh ye of little hope.” I can hope without having any faith so I have often mulled over the possible meaning of the phrase “faith to faith” in Romans 1:17 many times. It is commonly accepted as a phrase about how we grow our faith like a muscle to which I agree though it always seemed lacking in weight to me. No pun intended. We know that the Word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword (Heb. 4:12), so there seemed to be more here. Something with more grit or substance than stepping up a proverbial latter of Christiendom.

I don’t have the corner on this subject but as I read the verse today I unintentionally had put a pause in the phrase and something happened. I saw it from a different angle. I heard it in a different tone. The scripure reads “For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.”(KJV) Paul is making an intense declaration of how we are to live as Christ followers. This is no puny summation. The ending of this verse demands that the beginning carry the same strength.

God’s righteousness is revealed from a place of faith. The beginning of faith is to understand that God is righteous. If you do not believe in his righteousness you have not yet begun your race. Paul ended his journey on this earth saying, “I have fought a good fight. I have finished my course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.”(2 Tim. 4:7-8) God is Righteous. This is the principle thing.

Our current culture declares loudly that the righteousness of God and his Holy Word are not righteous. Politicians and news media are replete with those who stand in its opposition and call evil good and good evil. This position is not a position of faith and without faith it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6). It is dangerous to adopt the worlds definitions and in particular when they are related to Christianity. Faith at it’s root is believing in the righteousness of our Maker. If you had any doubt, He is right. Psalm 145:17 says, “The Lord is righteous in all his ways, and holy in all his works.” The NRS puts it this way. “The Lord is just in all His ways, and kind in all His doings.” In other words, He’s good all the time and in everything. He’s not wrong.

If you still have doubts all you have to do is look to all that He created. Psalm 19:1 tells us that the heavens declare the glory of God; the skies declare the work of His hands. There is nothing but perfection in every kingdom He made. The vastness and grandeur of space that cannot be found out. The earth and all it’s resources. The sky and oceans and all their expanse. The way all plant life grows and multiplies in it’s season. The animal kingdom and it’s grand diversity. There is nothing made that was made that did not come from Him and it is all good. Every bit of it is right. If anything is wrong it comes from our fallen state.

His righteousness rules supreme. Understanding this is real faith. It is from this spring board that we then go from faith to faith. What is this second faith? This is the journey. You and I will face every kind of afront that will scream “THIS is not right!” And when we find ourselves in this place we have a choice. We must ask ourselves is God righteous? Do we believe in who He is and what He is able to do? Do we have faith?If He can hold the sun, the moon and the stars in their orbit, if He can feed the sparrow when she’s hungry, and if the flower continues to bloom with each new spring then I know He can care for me. He will be righteous and take me through this storm. He will not leave me alone. “He will perfect that which concerns me.” (Psalm 138:8)

I know we face immensely difficult and seemingly impossible situations but this one thing I know. My God is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us.(Eph. 3:20) What is that power? Christ in us! He who is righteous is in us working. Romans 8:28 says He takes what the enemy meant for evil and uses it for our good when we love Him and are called according to His purpose. It is by this truth then that we can confidently say with Paul, “The just shall live by faith.”

2 Peter 11:8 tells us that we have obtained “like precious faith” through the righteusness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ. Let faith be your footstool for leaping into the righteousness of a just and good God. Let Him give you His peace to do the impossible like Peter and walk on the storm. If we keep our eyes on Jesus we will make it safely to the other side. Don’t have faith in faith. Have faith in God!

Blessings to you and yours,

Jaime Luce

THE VALLEY OF DECISION

man wearing red hoodie standing near body of water with view of mountains
Photo by Simon Migaj on Pexels.com

Decisions, decisions. In the words of Joel the prophet, “Multitudes, Multitudes in the valley of decision.” Most decisions are small and are made every day almost without thought. Then there are those that we find ourselves running from or wrestling with that keep us up at night. These are the “valley decisions.” A valley is either the place where you are caught between a rock and a hard place with mountains on every side or a lost place. A place of confusion and disorientation.

The first time I read this passage in Joel 3 my heart sank at the thought of multitudes in a valley of decision. What will they do with Jesus? It both horrifies and compels me. The truth of that still sits with me but today to Lord showed me this passage from a different perspective. This does not nullify its meaning but opens another revelation.

Those who have already made the decision to follow Christ will still find themselves in valleys of decision. These decisions must be made but we see mountains on every side. Fear of the unknown hangs over us like a looming shadow. I have been in this valley several times and as I look back, I see two things it took to move out of the valley which are noted in Joel 3:10. He says, “Beat your plowshares into swords and your pruning hooks into spears; Let the weak say, “I am strong.’”

This picture expresses going from the daily routine to a posture of war. First, change your usual tools from routine to a weapon of purpose. You cannot continue as if nothing is different. There is a season for plowing and pruning back. Then there is a season of advancing and taking new ground where you aren’t just plowing the same old ground over and over. Second, while in the valley you may feel small, weak and ill-equipped but you are not to make decisions based on how you feel. You must say “I am strong.” We must not let fear lead. Faith must lead the charge. Gideon, in Judges 6 is a great example. He was threshing wheat in fear, but the angel called him a mighty man of valor signifying he was a warrior not a thresher. He needed different tools and faith instead of fear.

Once we have warred for direction we must charge forward in faith. The just shall live by faith. We cannot remain in a valley of decision. Our indecision is a decision and double mindedness will only take you in circles. This was the case for the children of Israel in the wilderness. They said they wanted to go to the promised land but feared and had no faith seeing themselves as grasshoppers against giants. This led to a 40-year journey of going in circles until Joshua led the faith charge forward.

The good news for those who belong to Jesus is that every valley has a river running through it. He is our source of strength and refreshing. If we will get in the river his current will carry us to the right destination.

Scripture references:

Joel 1-3

Judges 6

Psalm 23 explains this. “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Jaime Luce

Lessons from Joseph… Part 4 The key to your dream

Joseph didn’t go to prison because someone lied about him. Joseph went to prison to interpret a dream for Pharaoh. He had to be there for that exact day. It was the day his own dream had waited on. Can you see it? Joseph had to help someone else with their dream so God could give Joseph his. Joseph now had to serve again but this time his service put him second in command only to Pharaoh. Our dreams are not “get out of jail free cards.” They don’t mean it can finally be all about us, at least not when they are from the Lord. The key to your dream may simply be to serve others. God fulfilled Joseph’s dream by Joseph living to serve another man’s dream.

If your dream doesn’t serve anyone but you it isn’t a dream from God. When Joseph had his dreams as a young man he saw people serving him. This began the test of his character. Could Joseph steward his authority in the way God intended it? Can you? Has God given you a dream? If he has, the dream will test you. Jesus commanded that we love one another and prayed that we would be one as he and the father were. Our assignments, dreams and purpose will always include others. Joseph was lifted to the highest pinnacle, yet his job was to solve Pharaohs problem. He was to make sure everyone else could eat and at the same time build a kingdom not his own. Self-service was nowhere to be found. Joseph knew how to live favored and be held in high regard. His dream didn’t have to teach him that. But being a slave taught him how to serve. Being a prisoner taught him the value of bread and water to those with no means. Being lied on taught him how to handle power with character for he would be in a position that would allow him to take vengeance. Being sold taught him what it was to be a stranger and an outcast. Joseph may have known how to prosper but his dream tested his ability to steward how his dream affected others. Do not be discouraged if you are in your testing time. Keep serving. It will keep you positioned for promise.

Jaime Luce

Lessons from Joseph… Part 3 Timing is everything!

Joseph’s life reveals the power behind timing. When left in a trial that is thrust upon us and not of our own doing, we can become desperate. We begin grasping at things and people we think can change our circumstance. I don’t think Joseph was wrong or let his character lapse, when he asked the butler to remember him. I think he was pushing on every door looking for the one that would open. Wanting out of trouble is never a bad thing. When you are overwhelmed and drowning you will grab hold of anything that floats. But Joseph didn’t get out even one day early for good behavior even though he was running the prison. What’s surprising is that Joseph waited an extra two long years to get out because of incredible favor. Before you quit reading let me explain. Timing is everything. It isn’t just a cliché. I can go to the airport and hold a ticket but if I arrive to early I will sit a wait until the scheduled time. If I arrive to late I have missed my opportunity and have to wait again for the next. I have to arrive prepared and wait for the announcement to board. Even while on the plane, it will not take off until the pilot hears, “You have been cleared for take-off.” Joseph wasn’t late. He was at the airport waiting for a flight out. To him it seemed the flight had been delayed but the truth was that it was right on time. If Joseph would have gotten out of prison even one day earlier, he would have simply remained a slave in a foreign country. He may have been out but his life largely unchanged. His dreams would never have come to pass. Instead of boarding another Boeing, Joseph was about to board Air Force One.

Galatians 6:9 tells us not to become weary of doing good because we will reap if we don’t faint. If you are still in the prison, then work to run it like Joseph did. Don’t waste your testing time. Use it. Show yourself faithful. I know God will. You’re not late and there is a reason. His timing is perfect so don’t grow weary in your well doing. He is faithful who promised.

Jaime Luce

Lessons from Joseph… Part 2 The value of favor

Joseph had his coat stripped twice. His brothers took the first and Potiphar’s wife took the second. The first was taken because of jealousy, and the second was taken because of entitlement. Both reveal envy. If she could not have Joseph she would strip him of his favor again. False accounts were given in both instances. This was done in order to hide the sin inside both the brothers and Potiphar’s wife. Envy lies. Envy steals. Potiphar’s wife thought she could have whatever she wanted. She didn’t earn her position but was close to the one who gave the favor. She relied on her position to demand favors. By her willingness to be unfaithful to her husband who gave her position she showed she did not value her favor from him. But Joseph valued the favor he received and would not abuse it. We’ve heard it said that favor isn’t fair. This was true for both Potiphar’s wife and for Joseph. It wasn’t fair that she received it unworthily and it wasn’t fair that Joseph was punished for valuing it. What we must remember was that even though is wasn’t fair and Potiphar’s wife got away with deception, Joseph’s future was unaltered. Paul said, “The Lord is my helper, I will not fear; what can man do to me?” Heb. 13:6

We must not get caught in the snare of entitlement nor be deterred by it. We press toward our dreams expected end knowing that he who promised is faithful.

Jaime Luce