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ROYALTY By Mary Ellen Lively

Here is another treasure from the pen of my friend, Mary Ellen Lively. Enjoy!
As I was leaving my favorite local grocery store recently, I saw a family of four. (No doubt they too were armed with coupons and a budget that some specialty item or unadvertised bargain would try to derail.)  The father carried his young son as the mother walked with purpose slightly ahead of them. However, it was the daughter who caught my attention. She was about five years old and unlike her rather casually clad relatives, she was dressed like a Disney princess.  I had found yet another kindred spirit. As I drove off, I laughed and said, “Sometimes you have to wear your princess costume and mingle with the commoners!”
When the King of Kings and Lord of Lords came to earth, He “mingled with the commoners.” Their lives and subsequently, our lives, were changed forever.  His royalty and His majesty are undeniable. And as joint-heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17), we have a perspective and an inheritance like none other. Yes, there are some days when we may feel like we are sitting among the ashes waiting for our circumstances to change, but we know that our victorious Redeemer lives and that He gives beauty for those ashes (Isaiah 61:3). Glass slippers, robes and scepters may not be our style, but we are royalty nonetheless. And one day, the crowns we receive will be given back to Him as an act of worship!
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Legacy

Everybody has received a legacy. Whether for good or for bad, we’ve all been taught things by those who went before us! In recent years Christians have been encouraged to sever or cut off the spiritual links that tie us to ungodly patterns in our family history. That’s good advice. But have you also considered that there may be some GOOD THINGS in your family line that should be embraced and even cherished? Don’t be too quick to throw such a suggestion away!

The Bible tells us that God made a plan for each of His children before He created the universe. In Psalm 139:15-16, David declares,

My frame was not hidden from You, when I was made in secret and skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth; Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; and in Your book were all written the days that were ordained for me when as yet there was not one of them.” 

If God planned me (and you) before creation, then there was some powerful DNA being set-up when He made Adam and Eve! God must have foreseen all the generations of  people that would proceed from that first couple right down to my own parents who conceived me. So what did God purposefully put in the generations that preceded me to bless me? What equipment for advancing the purposes of God is offered to me through the genetics of my ancestors? What are the good things in my heritage, deposits of God-given blessing intended to advance God’s Kingdom in the earth?

If you study the genealogy of Jesus you find a prostitute, some drunkards, several adulterers, and a long list of ungodly kings along with some people we all greatly respect. Have you considered that none of the sins of Jesus’ ancestors was able to thwart God’s purposes for His life? What about you and me — surely the sins of our families are not too difficult for God to redeem in our lives as well! Sometimes, in our zeal to cut off the sins of our ancestors, we forget to look for the blessings we have inherited. What is your legacy? Is any of it worth saving?

Here are the two major thoughts we will be exploring at the Legacy Conference September 28-30, 2012: What have you received? and What will you leave behind? What is your legacy?

Why not prayerfully consider joining us in the beautiful mountains of North Carolina. Find out more at

http:/www.legacyconference.net

 

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MARY vs MARTHA by Mary Ellen Lively

My good friend, Mary Ellen Lively, is guest blogger for this post. She writes on a condition all too familiar to many of us! Enjoy!

 

My “Mary” and my “Martha” are in conflict! I mean some days they are just slugging it out, no holds barred and no referee! When will this be over so that someone can yell, “Yo, Adrian! I did it!”   “Mary” wants to turn up the worship music and get lost in God’s Presence. She wants to sit at the feet of Jesus and soak up every word, every breath and every nuance of what He is teaching. She wants to bask in the glow of His glory. If there were a Mountain of Transfiguration in Fayetteville, NC, she would find it and be there to hear God speak. She wants to be at each intercessory prayer meeting and sing to His glory long after each worship practice is over.   

However, “Martha” knows that there are things that must get done. (And who else is going to do them and do them right the first time?) This house really needs to be cleaned. Some of the dust bunnies look like they knew Methuselah personally. There are meals to prepare and groceries would be essential to this process. Apparently, laundry was also given the command to, “Be fruitful and multiply!” Someone needs me to listen to a problem and then solve it. Perhaps the bills should get paid. Oh no! One of my adult “children” just called. He needs “Mom time!”

How will I ever survive this battle of a lifetime? Mary and Martha can peacefully co-exist when I invite Jesus into every aspect of my life. He is Lord of All and the greatest Mediator of all time!
Prayer
Lord, I confess that sometimes I think I am a superwoman who can do all things. I am not!  You alone can do all things. So, have your way in me this and every day.
Action
Make a “To Do” list. Examine it, with the help of the Holy Spirit, in light of true priorities. Let Him organize your days.

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Pattern of the Kingdom

I’ve been talking here about exchanging the negative, destructive patterns in our lives for the grace-filled patterns of the Kingdom of God. When we are born again we all enter our new relationship with Jesus carrying excess baggage we’ve hung onto from our old life before we knew Him. We learned certain ways of getting along in the world, many of those based on painful experiences.  Rejection produces patterns of self-protection, fear of failure produces patterns self-promotion, and so on. Jesus offers to exchange those patterns based on self-effort for new patterns founded in His grace.

Discipleship is the basic grace-pattern of the Kingdom of God. We see it first in the relationship between the first couple and God. God could have created Adam and Eve with full knowledge of what they were called to do and  how to do it. Instead, God gave them a general overview of their assignment at the start, but the kind of guidance that would enable their success was dependent upon daily talks with God in the garden.   Adam was told to tend the garden, but how far apart do you plant the cabbages? and how deep do you plant the tulip bulbs? and how many watermelon plants can you grow in a single mound? That time every day when God visited them in the garden was pretty important! Adam and Eve were given the opportunity to be discipled by God, and then to make disciples of their own children. 

Adam and Eve were not obedient disciples, but that does not negate the truth that God designed men and women to be discipled and to make disciples. Down through the ages, men and women who walked out the plan of God for their lives, made disciples and trained them to fulfill their own God-given plan. Consider Moses with Joshua, and  Elijah with Elisha. These were mighty men of God who raised up their successors to go even further than they did in advancing God’s Kingdom in the earth.

Then came Jesus, the greatest disciple and the most effective discipler of all time. Jesus said, “I can do nothing of Myself, unless it is something I see the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner” (John 5:19-20). Jesus broke the pattern of rebellion established for man by Adam and Eve and chose to follow instead the pattern of the Father. He embraced the discipleship of the Father rather than going His own way as Adam and Eve had done. When Satan tempted Him, Jesus relied upon the Father and His word. When people had needs, He relied upon the Father to heal, deliver, comfort, teach, confront, correct, and exhort through Him. When He had needs, He relied upon the Father, drew aside to hear from and talk to the Father.  To know what to do and where to go every minute of every day, Jesus was totally dependent upon the Father.

And Jesus made disciples. For three years, twelve men plus the “ministering women” followed Him and watched Him. They saw how He lived, they soaked up His presence and His way of life daily, they were taught by Him, had the scriptures explained by Him, and they gradually came to imitate Him as He imitated the Father. Through Jesus they came to realize that they too could “do nothing of themselves”, so, after Jesus was resurrected and ascended into heaven, they waited obediently in Jerusalem to receive the promised Holy Spirit. They knew they needed the power of God and intimate, daily communion with Him through the Holy Spirit in order to see what God was doing in their day and to allow Him to work through them.

And those disciples, as they walked out their lives, made more disciples. They repeated the pattern of  Jesus and took people with them wherever they went, allowing those companions to get to know them, to see how they lived, to see their relationship with Jesus, to see their dependence upon the Holy Spirit. They preached and taught publicly, but they also had disciples to whom they privately explained the ways of God more thoroughly.

Paul and Timothy’s relationship is the most talked about discipling relationship in the New Testament. We don’t know exactly how Timothy first became a disciple of Paul, but we do know that Timothy was with Paul to follow his “teaching, conduct, purpose, faith, patience, love, perseverance, persecutions, and suffering, such as happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium and at Lystra; what persecutions I endured, and out of them all the Lord rescued me!” (2 Timothy 3:10-11). Timothy was allowed to come in close and get to  know Paul and to see how he responded under pressure. Paul’s life and ministry discipled Timothy to become a man of God himself.

I hope you will join me at Living Way Church in Greensboro at the Wellspring Day Seminar on June 23 where we will be talking about some of these discipling relationships and what they mean to us today. Jesus commanded us to “go and make disciples …” so it would seem that His is a pattern worth repeating! The seminar will begin at 10:00 AM with worship led by Jessica Cotten followed by my teaching. Then we will have lunch together (bring your own bag lunch and the ladies of Living Way Church will provide drinks for us). After lunch, we’ll divide into small groups where we will discuss how to implement the pattern of Jesus in our own lives. At the end of the day we will regather the full group for a question and answer time, worship, and personal ministry, all ending by 4:00 PM. All the details may be accessed by clicking on the RSVP button below. You can also register there (www.wellspringwomen.com), which will help us with planning. The $25 registration fee will be collected at the door and may be paid by cash, check, or credit card. I hope to see you there. It’s going to be a great day!

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IMITATION Written by Michael Cotten

(This post was contributed by my husband, Michael Cotten. lt first appeared on his personal blog, www.macotten.com, on May 24. I hope it blesses you as much as it did me!)

Have you ever noticed how little children mimic and imitate their parents? It’s how they learn to talk, walk and relate to the world. God puts it in their hearts to do that. Even after all these years, I still see my Father in the walk and mannerisms of my brother, Wes. It’s an unconscious gift, this imitation and has the effect of creating a living remembrance of our Fathers and Mothers.

Even as this is true in the natural, it’s also true in the spiritual realm. Paul said “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 11:1 ESV) This is a bold statement and at first glance seems to be prideful and a little egotistic. I certainly reacted that way the first time I read it! But there’s more.

“For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel. I urge you, then, be imitators of me.” (1 Corinthians 4:15–16 ESV)

“So Jesus said to them,Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise.'” (John 5:19 ESV)

This is true imitation! Jesus said He only did what He saw the Father doing. In this statement, He also sets the pattern we’re to follow with Him. As I see Him only doing what the Father is doing, so I desire to only do what I see Jesus doing. And so Paul says to the Corinthians, “Be imitators of me . . . “

Then we are drawn to the conclusion that we have to get integrity — that means the inside life matches and is in unity with the outside picture. That is, what is on the inside is true to my words. There are multitudes of people in this world who are crying out for someone to believe in — just somebody who is not going to fall by the wayside; who is not going to sell out their life, ministry and integrity for a bit of momentary passion.

If we are not saying to someone, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ,” we have not yet seen the fullness of our call to Disciple the Nations.

Michael and I will be hosting The Legacy Conference September 28-30, 2012 at Ridgecrest Conference Center. Registration goes live June 18. Check back here for details.

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Patterns of Grace

All of us enter into the Kingdom of God with patterns of living and responding to life we have learned from living in the world. These destructive patterns are the logical conclusions of life lived without Jesus. We experience rejection so we adopt patterns of self-protection to keep from suffering that pain

again. We are attacked so we develop patterns of self-defense to insure that we always feel safe. We are threatened so we retreat into patterns of self-preservation to make sure no one gets the upper hand over us. We are betrayed or undermined in some way so we adopt patterns of self-promotion to insure our personal success. All of these patterns are ultimately self-destructive because they form an armor that no one is allowed to penetrate. We hide inside this armor, distrustful, lonely, afraid, and feeling vulnerable. Miserable.

Those who are born again have experienced the infiltration of the Holy Spirit, Who manages to get inside our armor to the place where the “real me” hides. He comforts and confronts and coaxes us, using the powerful revelation of the Love that Jesus has for us, to come out and meet the Savior and to relinquish control of our lives to Him. As soon as we listen to the Holy Spirit and accept Jesus into our hearts and lives, He begins to replace those old negative patterns of our lives without Christ into the life- giving patterns of the Kingdom of God. We are set free to be ourselves as our focus of concern gradually shifts away from our own safety and promotion and onto a desire to  glorify God with our lives and to see other people blessed. This is transformation and it happens from the inside out.

Some transformations happen quickly and suddenly. I have a friend who was instantly delivered of a 15 year addiction to cigarettes when she was born again. Another friend stopped cursing and drinking alcohol instantly when she accepted Jesus as her Lord and Savior. And yet there are others for whom freedom from these same bondages took years to attain. I don’t have easy or simple answers to these dissimilar methods of the Holy Spirit, but I have noticed that when a mature Christian takes an interest and spends time with a young one, the spiritual development of both is enhanced. When someone else thinks my life is worth her commitment to see me through to maturity, then hope is quickened in my own heart and I begin to value my life enough to persevere.

Jesus told His disciples to “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all I commanded you … ” (Matthew 28:19-20Becoming a disciple and making disciples was commanded by Jesus as the life pattern of His  Kingdom. Making a disciple involves more than introducing someone to Jesus. Making disciples involves teaching and shepherding people, holding them accountable and modeling obedience for them  so that they, in turn, become makers of disciples themselves

My life is being consumed by this concept of discipleship, and here at Wellspring we are excited to teach and impart, with the help of the Holy Spirit, what we are learning to any who will listen. We are holding our second Wellspring Day Seminar on Saturday, June 23, 10 AM until 4 PM, at Living Way Church, 4433 Rehobeth Church Road, Greensboro, NC 27406. There will be teaching, fellowship, small group discussions, and time for questions and answers. I am hoping to see you there!

It would help us if you would RSVP by clicking on the link below. Complete details are on the registration page as well.

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Set-up for Glory

“But Moses said to the people, ‘Do not fear! Stand by and see the salvation of the Lord which He will accomplish for you today; for the Egyptians whom you have seen today, you will never see them again forever.'” Exodus 14:13

There they were, caught between the devil and the deep blue sea, so to speak. Pharaoh’s army was chasing them and the Red Sea blocked their escape — no place to run, no place to hide. And everything they loved and all they owned was with them — they had everything to lose.

It looked bad, but it was a set-up for God to be glorified.

You know the story: Just at the last moment, God parted the Red Sea and the Children of Israel walked across on dry land. Then, as Pharaoh and his army tried to follow them, God released the sea and all the Egyptian army was drowned in the crashing waters. God not only rescued His people but He also destroyed their enemy. It was a set-up for the glory of God!

More information on modern exploration of the Red Sea, what we today know as the Sea of Aqaba, can be seen at this websitehttp://www.discoverynews.us/DISCOVERY%20MUSEUM/BibleLandsDisplay/Red_Sea_Chariot_Wheels/Red_Sea_Chariot_Wheels_1.html

The circumstances of life, daunting for us in the moment, are often divine set-ups for His glory to be manifested. Like the Children of Israel, we are, each of us, in the middle of a story written by God. We cannot see the end yet,  but God has told us that He has arranged our lives to bring glory to Himself.

It is so easy to lose faith in the middle of the story. When all we can see is the painful details of the set-up, we are tempted become angry at God and discouraged. We forget the promise and fall into fear, just like the Israelites.

God is honored and glorified in His supernatural rescues. As Christians we know the truth of that statement,  and most of us have experienced a rescue or two! God is exalted when, against all odds and when all of our attempts to rescue ourselves have failed, God saves us.  But we sometimes forget that in order for there to be a supernatural rescue, there must be a catastrophe! God is glorified when we receive His offered grace to persevere in faith as we wait for His rescue.

Our ultimate, bottom-line purpose is to glorify God in our lives here on earth. God is the One Who chooses and sets up the circumstances that will honor Him. Our part is to keep our eyes on Him and follow Him through to the end, trusting Him and obeying His every command.

Sometimes God’s set-ups are for a quick and dramatic resolution, like with the Children of Israel at the Red Sea. Other times they are more long term, as when a baby is born with permanent disabilities or when unrelenting illness strikes. But these persistent circumstances are also set-ups for God’s glory, worked out in the lives of everyone in the family. Whether it comes in healing or in grace to endure, God’s presence and intervention is powerful and personal and testifies to His faithfulness and love. No matter the circumstances of our lives, the prayer on our lips must be, “Let my life bring glory to Your name!”

Whatever the storm, we are covered by His grace and our lives are always a set-up for His glory. Remember: God gets glory from giving us grace.

Quiche Lorraine

Quiche Lorraine

Hospitality is one gift of the Holy Spirit I covet. I love it when I visit the home of someone who is given to hospitality. You don’t feel that they “fixed up” because they knew you were coming, but rather that there is a place in their heart and in their home where guests are always welcome. Personally, if I know you are coming I will probably pick up a bit, but I do want my guests to feel that they are welcome any time.

I like having people over for a meal, especially when the atmosphere is casual and the guests are congenial. There is something about sharing good food that makes for good conversation and feeds long lasting relationships. I’ve found that the best rule of thumb, as a hostess, is to keep it simple. The food should be tasty, but not necessarily the center of attention. After all, the food is the excuse for getting together, not the main point! Therefore, with only rare exceptions, I keep it simple.

I recently posted a blog about a luncheon I hosted for two good friends who did not know one another.  I  hoped that they would like one another as much as I liked each of them, so I wanted the atmosphere to be relaxed and comfortable. I planned Quiche Lorraine as the main dish. I have a wonderful recipe, which I will share with you, that I have used for a many years. It is easy to prepare, never fails, and it can be made a day ahead if necessary. For that lunch, I bought a lovely loaf of  whole grain bread from the bakery and planned to serve fresh asparagus as a side dish along with a relish tray of homemade pickles.

For the quiche, I used a refrigerated pie crust. I like to use the kind that come rolled up in a box rather than the frozen ones in aluminum pie plates. I can bring the boxed shell to room temperature, place it in my own pretty pie pan, and it looks like I made it from scratch! I also like to use aged Swiss cheese in this recipe, if possible, instead of the more readily available natural Swiss cheese. And please don’t use  “processed Swiss Cheese” as its flavor is completely unsuitable. The difference in taste for the aged natural Swiss cheese is worth the extra time to find and a few extra pennies to purchase.

Another tip for success with this pie is to pre-cook the crust a bit before adding the filling. I preheat the oven to 450 degrees, place the crust in a pie pan, and crimp the edges to make a rim around the top. Then I pierce the crust lightly all over with a fork and cook it for only 7 minutes. This will allow the surface of the crust to begin to brown so that the filling will not make the crust soggy.

Here is the recipe and directions for making Quiche Lorraine.

Ingredients

  • 1 9-10″ unbaked pastry shell
  • 8 slices bacon
  • 8 oz natural Swiss Cheese, shredded (2 cups, preferably aged Swiss)
  • 1 Tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 1 3/4 cups milk
  • Dash nutmeg

Bake pastry shell in very hot (450 degrees) oven for only 7 minutes. Remove from oven and cool. Reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees.

Cook bacon til crisp; drain and crumble. Set aside 2 tablespoons bacon for later and sprinkle the remaining pieces in the bottom of the pie shell. Add the shredded cheese. Combine remaining ingredients; pour over cheese in pie shell. Scatter reserved bacon crumbles on top.

Bake in 375 degree oven for about 35 – 40 minutes or until almost set in the center. Let cool 10 – 15 minutes before serving.

 

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The Women in My Life

There are LOTS of women in my life. But it has not always been this way. You see, God gave me sons, no daughters. The only other females in our house when the boys were growing up were the dogs and cats. My husband and sons always treated me like a queen. If anything, I was treated with more respect because of the absence of daughters. Being the only woman in the house can have advantages!

Here we are on vacation when the boys were 9, 13, and 16.

As my sons grew up and especially as Sam, the oldest, began to look for a wife, I began to seek the Lord from a different perspective about a subject that is painful for so many women: “the mother-in-law.” I had had a mother-in-law, but I had never been one! All I had heard about the role was negative, but surely there must be some way to have a POSITIVE relationship with a daughter-in-law! The more I listened to people, both men and women, the more discouraged I became. So I went to the Bible.

The first verse the Holy Spirit led me to was Genesis 2:24, and it has become the cornerstone of my relationship with my sons’ wives. 

For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.

God said that when a man gets married, he must LEAVE the home of his birth and, in union with his wife, establish their home and family. I had heard a little ditty all my life, “A daughter’s a daughter for all of her life, but a son is a son ‘til he takes a wife.” Like a lot of folk-sayings, this one had some truth in it! 

As I prayed over this verse and asked the Holy Spirit to impart the wisdom contained in it to my heart, I began to see that, like the mother of Jesus, I had treasured things in my heart concerning my sons since their birth. (see Luke 2:19 and Luke 2:51) There were things God had spoken to us about them, prophetic words that had been released over them, there were insights I had cherished about their individual personalities as they grew up, both strengths and weaknesses. All of these things and more I had treasured in my heart and prayed over since they were born. I was a kind of “keeper of the vision” for them, looking for ways to feed the things God had put in them and thwart the attempts of the enemy (and their own flesh) to derail them. I believe that this is part of the God-given mantle entrusted to mothers, and Mary is a good example for us. 

But when sons get married, the role of the mother changes. She ceases to the “keeper of the vision” for her son as soon as he says, “I do,” and that role is passed by the Holy Spirit to his wife. If mom doesn’t understand this essential change and tries to hold on to her old role, tension between mother- and daughter-in-law is inevitable.  

With each of our three sons, there was a place in the wedding ceremony where I had an opportunity to communicate release to my son and a passing of the baton of vision keeping to my new daughter-in-law. In all three weddings something powerful happened then, and a freedom to form a loving relationship with my son’s wife was secured. Competition was deleted from our relationship because God did a work our hearts. I am so very grateful.

I am blessed that my sons have done me the HUGE favor of marrying 3 beautiful, intelligent, strong, independent women. My three daughters-in-law I love as if I had birthed them myself — but I am so glad I didn’t because then they could not be the tremendous blessings they are to my sons! I love spending time with them and I think they enjoy me too. We are very good friends. They love Jesus the way I do and we love one another. They enrich my life. Let me introduce you to them. 

Martha Margaret (married to Sam) looks like a Southern Belle — beautiful, gracious, and with a charming smile. On the inside, she has a great capacity for friendships that is combined with the opinions and debating skills of a defense attorney. Awesome! She is an accomplished dancer and dance teacher, a skilled and creative maker of STACKS of photo albums, and mother to four kids who include both the oldest and the youngest of our grandchildren. I think she can organize anything and make it run efficiently, even, at holiday gatherings, our family! She has stood beside Sam as he pursued a seminary education over the last 4+ years — what faith for a vision! And she has persevered through the multiple traumas and surgeries of our precious Ethan, her third son, now 8, who was born with life-threatening heart defects. If she has struggled with bitterness, it has never shown, but instead we’ve seen her choose to trust God and declare Him good at every turn. Martha Margaret is one of my heroes. 

Heather CottenHeather (married to Ben) is a beautiful redhead, called by her lovely mother “my strong-willed child”, with a singing voice as big as all outdoors, an incredible talent for organization (boy do we need that in this family!), a leader and discipler of women who is fast becoming my right arm at Wellspring Women’s Ministry, and mother to the other three of our grandchildren. She is a creative song-writer and vocalist, a pastor’s wife who is LOVED by their congregation (especially the women!), an encourager with faith especially for the most-unlikely, and an incredible baker. In addition, we watched her endure several long seasons of unemployment for Ben when she kept her faith in both God and Ben! Heather has a blog too (www.heathercotten.com) where she is boldly transparent about the things God is talking to her about and generous with the wisdom God gives her about all the areas of her life, especially parenting. 

And then there is Jessica (married to Joseph) who has more creativity in her little finger than I do in all of me. Every time you go to Joseph and Jessica’s house it looks different. That’s because Jessica is constantly tweaking things, adding art work that she creates and photos that she or Joseph have taken, rearranging the furniture, changing the wall color, because she seems to live in a state of constantly exploding inspiration. I love to talk on the phone to her (I think she is the only person in the world I can say that about because I generally hate talking to people I can’t see) because she always challenges me to get outside of my box. She sings like a bird, leads worship at her church, and writes songs, music, and beautiful prose. She has a blog (www.jessicacotten.com) where she posts beautiful and inspiring thoughts that will grip your soul. She has a new album out, all her own songs, all her own vocals, all her own accompaniment (except for one song where Joseph plays guitar), and it expresses the burden God put on her heart for the persecuted church. (The album is called Space of Brightness and you can buy it on iTunes.) She is amazing. 

I am a blessed woman to have such women in my life. And the fact that these three are my daughters-in-law is a particularly precious blessing. I am grateful beyond words that God showed me that essential principle of the mother role that some call “cutting the apron strings” but Michael and I refer to as “leaving and cleaving” — leaving father and mother and cleaving to a wife. 

Flame

Introductions

I have two friends who didn’t know one another until recently. I have long thought that they reminded me of one another and that it would be a great idea to introduce them to one another. Last week I finally did something about it. I made lunch for the three of us. 

In the interim, I thought and prayed about what to tell them about one another. I wanted them to like each other and, knowing that they wouldn’t have but a few hours to talk, I wanted to give them the best chance to get to know one another quickly. So, after praying about it, I told each of them this truth about the other one: she has a deep commitment to Jesus, has learned to hear His voice, hungers for the Presence of the Holy Spirit, and strives to obey Him with her life

The lunch was a success. They did instantly like one another and conversation was rich. We even prayed for one another before they left. What a joy! 

The next day I was reading in my Bible during my devotional time and came upon John the Baptist’s introduction of Jesus in Matthew 3:11. “As for Me, I baptize you with water for repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, and I am not fit to remove His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” In every gospel, John’s introduction is quoted again. (Mark 1:8, Luke 3:16, John 1:26-34) Every gospel introduces Jesus as the One Who would baptize with the Holy Spirit. 

John was the cousin of Jesus. They had grown up together and knew one another. John wanted people to know Jesus. He wanted them to have a relationship with Jesus, and John knew that Jesus would not be around very long. So I’m sure He considered carefully and prayed about what the people would need to know about Jesus in order to want to get to know Him. What was the most important thing they needed to know in the beginning about Jesus? 

At the end of Jesus’ time on earth, after his crucifixion and resurrection, He told His followers to go and “make disciples of all nations”; but He also told them “but you are to stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” (Luke 24:49) He told them, “to wait for what the Father had promised, ‘Which,’ He said, ‘you heard of from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the HolySpirit, not many days from now.’” (Acts 1:4-5) Jesus quoted John the Baptist’s introduction again so that the first thing that was said about Jesus after He began His public ministry and the last thing that Jesus said about Himself as He was being taken up into heaven were the same: Jesus came to baptize believers in the Holy Spirit. Wait for it. That fact and exhortation must have great importance!   

John the Baptist and Jesus, knew something that we need to be continually reminded of: we can do nothing of any value, accomplish nothing of any lasting consequence, without the enabling power of the Holy Spirit. Put simply, we need God. We need God to save us from hell, to heal us, protect us, deliver us from evil, and guide us through the maze of our personal lives. But we also need God to enable us to live for Him, to have a part in advancing His Kingdom, to effectively touch the lives of others.

Jesus Himself said, “I can do nothing on My own initiative …” (John 5:30). He told the first disciples, “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing…” (John 6:63). It would seem, then, that the healthiest, most effective Christians are the ones who live their lives in the most dependence upon the Holy Spirit. 

Jesus’ followers gathered obediently in Jerusalem to wait for the Holy Spirit. They waited and prayed for 40 days. Then the Holy Spirit came. (Acts 2 tells the story in detail.) After that, whenever people accepted Jesus, they were also given opportunity to receive the baptism in the Holy Spirit. (See Acts 8:17, Acts 10:44-46, Acts 19:1-6) Disciples of Jesus knew that they needed the power of God working in their lives by the Holy Spirt in order to live for God.

The same is true for us today. I don’t need to be smart, creative, intelligent, persuasive, competent, skillful, or articulate. What I need is the Holy Spirit indwelling my body! All of those things will be accomplished through me by the Holy Spirit, as needed, as I walk in obedient dependence on Him. May the cry of our hearts in 2012 be, “Come, Holy Spirit!” 

Cultivate the Presence of the Holy Spirit. Introduce someone to Jesus today.