Enduring Love

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As we approach the month of February, a month known for being a time for expressions of love, ask yourself what you are personally conveying to those around you. True love “Bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things” (1 Corinthians 13:7).

My heart hurts from the lack of enduring love that I am witnessing all around me. Never in my adult life have I observed the level of division and hate that I see before me in so many forms. As Christ followers, I believe we are to express something greater. I am not talking about a compromising faith, but I am referencing a love that can endure differences of opinions. I believe we can stand firmly on the promises and instructions provided for us in the Word of God and continue to express love to those who disagree with our stance.

I believe this starts within ourselves, for what is in us will eventually come out. I always like to pose this question, if you are in imminent danger, with only a few seconds to respond, what is the first thing that comes out of your mouth? I would argue that your response is an indicator of what is inside of you. When impurities are heated up, they tend to rise to the surface. I learned this watching my husband make fishing lures. He melts lead to pour into molds during this process. As the metal gets hotter, the impurities rise to the top for him to scoop off.

There are moments in our lives where things are heated up. Perhaps it is a difficult situation that you are walking through, a challenging relational issue, or even a political or ethical stance that is challenged. Regardless of the cause, what comes out when under pressure is an indicator of what is inside. If you take inventory and do not like what is coming out, there is a better way. The Bible tells us, “Greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world” (1 John 4:4). He can help us to love in unlovable times and in the most challenging of situations. He teaches us unconditional love.

In the New Testament, Paul addressed the Corinthian church, which had become full of envy, strife, and divisions. He told them that these behaviors were evidence that they were living like mere unchanged individuals. They were not living the “Greater” life they could be demonstrating as Christ followers. In fact, he even tells them that he couldn’t share all that God had for them because of their childish state. He said he had to feed them milk instead of solid food! He challenged them to realize that each of them were co-workers, who should labor together with and for God. He told them that they were God’s field and God’s building! (See 1 Corinthians 3)

Paul’s instructions to the New Testament churches are applicable to the “Church of God” or all believers. We should be not only the field, which God cultivates, but also the house, which God builds; a house in which He intends to dwell! When we take inventory, if we find that we are full of strife and division, we can learn from these instructions that there is a better way.

Later in this same book of the Bible, Paul describes enduring love.

1 Corinthians 13:4-7 NLT

Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud 5 or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. 6 It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. 7 Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.

Could we as believers strive to develop this kind of love for others? Could we instill and demonstrate this kind of love for our children, grandchildren, and all we touch? Could we imagine a world without bullying, without hate for those who look, believe, or act differently than we do? I am not suggesting that we should not have strong convictions about the clear instructions that are provided for us in the Word of God. However, we should equally have strong conviction to love those who believe differently, even while opposing what they believe in.

Jesus demonstrated the greatest love when He laid down His life for us. He did not come to bully and spew hate at those who didn’t believe as He did. He loved in such a selfless way that He endured unbelievable torment for ALL. My passionate plea is that if we call ourselves His follower, we could demonstrate His love during a time of great strife and division in our country. I am praying and asking God to invade our lives in such a way that His love is shown in and through us.

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Week of Prayer – Saturday

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SATURDAY — NO PRECEDENT

On our last day of our week of prayer, I want to share about the prayer of praise, worship, and thanksgiving. These three are closely related. A heart of thanksgiving makes you want to praise and worship.  However, I believe one of the things we have to guard against is just repeating empty words that are not heartfelt.

If someone gives me an amazing gift, I don’t just continue to say, “Thank you, thank you, thank you, praise you, praise you, praise you!” I specifically say, “Thank you for that amazing gift”. If my spouse helps me around the house, I specifically tell him, “Thank you for cleaning up the kitchen for me”.

I believe there are times that we may be saying the words, but they are not coming from our heart. We should be specific when we thank the Lord for the blessings He bestows on us. Likewise, it is important that we think about the words that we are singing when we are offering up that type of praise. Without focus and a true heart of worship, we can be singing words and not even think about what they mean. Here are some examples of heartfelt praise and thanksgiving.

Psalm 111:1-4 AMP

PRAISE THE Lord! (Hallelujah!) I will praise and give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart in the council of the upright and in the congregation. 2 The works of the Lord are great, sought out by all those who have delight in them. 3 His work is honorable and glorious, and His righteousness endures forever. 4 He has made His wonderful works to be remembered; the Lord is gracious, merciful, and full of loving compassion.

 1 Chronicles 16:8-11 AMP

O give thanks to the Lord, call on His name; make known His doings among the peoples! 9 Sing to Him, sing praises to Him; meditate on and talk of all His wondrous works and devoutly praise them! 10 Glory in His holy name; let the hearts of those rejoice who seek the Lord! 11 Seek the Lord and His strength; yearn for and seek His face and to be in His presence continually!  

The first reason we should worship, praise, and offer thanks is simply because He is worthy of it. Secondly, it releases great power. God has ordained it to be that way. After Solomon’s temple was completed, we read what happened when the people gathered to offer praise and thanksgiving.

2 Chronicles 5:13-14 AMP

And when the trumpeters and singers were joined in unison, making one sound to be heard in praising and thanking the Lord, and when they lifted up their voice with the trumpets and cymbals and other instruments for song and praised the Lord, saying, For He is good, for His mercy and loving-kindness endure forever, then the house of the Lord was filled with a cloud, 14 So that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled the house of God.

Worship, praise, and thanksgiving are so powerful, and they can be a mighty weapon when we walk through times of testing and difficulty.

 Phil 4:6-7 NASU

6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.

 What happens when we refuse to get over into fear, but we offer up our prayer with thanksgiving? If you keep reading that passage, it tells us.

7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Another Scripture that shows the power of praise during times of difficulty is when Paul and Silas were in prison. These men had been beaten badly and they were in a horrible place with their feet in chains, yet they were still praising God. That praise had a powerful result!

 Acts 16:25-27 NASU

 25 But about midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns of praise to God, and the prisoners were listening to them; 26 and suddenly there came a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison house were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were unfastened.

Because of this display of power, the jailer and his family were saved!

Praise, worship, and thanksgiving will keep your prayer life balanced. Without it you will be too concentrated on the difficulty, and give too much credit to the enemy. With it, you will be less focused on the problem and more focused on God your provider!

Prayer Focus:

  • Pray for the eyes to see and ears to hear the things God has prepared for those who love Him. (1 Cor. 9:12)
  • Pray for revelation of the bottomless things of God.
  • Pray for God to move in us and through us to do greater things than even Jesus did while on the earth, with signs and wonders following us.

Scripture Focus:

1 Corinthians 2:9-10 NKJV: 9 But as it is written: “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.” 10 But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God.

John 14:12-14 NASU :”Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father. “Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.  “If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it.”

Ephesians 3:20 NASU: “Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us,”

Jeremiah 33:3 NASU: “Call to Me and I will answer you, and I will tell you great and mighty things, which you do not know.”

Jeremiah 32:27 NASU: “Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh; is anything too difficult for Me?”

Luke 12:31-32 NASU: “But seek His kingdom, and these things will be added to you. Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has chosen gladly to give you the kingdom.”

Hebrews 10:23 KJV: “Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;)”

1 Corinthian 12:4-11 NASU: “4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. 5 And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord. 6 There are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons.  7 But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 8 For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit; 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10 and to another the effecting of miracles, and to another prophecy, and to another the distinguishing of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, and to another the interpretation of tongues. 11 But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills.”

1 Corinthians 14:12 AMP:  “12 So it is with yourselves; since you are so eager and ambitious to possess spiritual endowments and manifestations of the [Holy] Spirit, [concentrate on] striving to excel and to abound [in them] in ways that will build up the church.”

 

Week of Prayer – Friday

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FRIDAY — YOUR CHURCH

We have been providing some prayer tips each day to help your prayer life to flourish during our week of prayer. I hope you will incorporate all these different tips into your own individual prayer life after this focus week is over. Today I want to share with you about two important aspects of prayer, the prayer of agreement, and the act of listening.

One of the things we have tried to encourage this week is the prayer of agreement. We have posted specific topics to pray about and specific Scriptures to pray throughout the day. Additionally, for those who are local, we have been meeting every night for an hour to have a live event of corporate prayer.

Some may have the attitude that I can pray better on my own in the privacy of my own prayer closet. I agree that we all should certainly pray individually and our prayer life may be different when we are praying alone than it is when you are corporately praying. However, both types of prayer have an important place.

The Bible tells us in Matthew 18:19-20 NKJV:

“Again I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.”

 From a practical perspective, what might that look like? Well we have had many opportunities to practice this during our week of prayer together. When someone is praying about a focus topic, you can join in and pray in agreement instead of just listening to that person pray.

Why is this type of prayer important? One reason is that unity is a powerful force! One of the best examples of united prayer is found in Acts 4, when the religious leaders threatened to hurt Peter and John unless they stopped preaching about Jesus.  The church’s response was to go to prayer in one accord.

Acts 4:24; 31-32 KJV

And when they heard that, they lifted up their voice to God with one accord, and said, Lord, thou art God, which hast made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all that in them is:

I won’t read the whole prayer that covers the next 7 verses, but at the end of the prayer we read in Acts 4:31-32

And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness. 32 And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul:

I think it is interesting that the first verse I read says, “They lifted up their voice to God in one accord”. It doesn’t say voices. It was a united prayer that made the place literally shake!

We read a little later in Acts that Herod killed James and imprisoned Peter, and once again the Bible tells us that, “Prayer for him was being made fervently by the church to God” (Acts 12:5 NASU). If you read the whole story an angel of the Lord came and Peter’s chains fell off and he was able to walk right out of that prison. The power of their united prayer broke the chains that held Peter. There are so many chains that need broken off so many people we know. The solution is for a united church to come together and pray the prayer of faith in one accord.

The second prayer topic I want to quickly share is about listening. If I called my husband on the phone and I said, “Where are you? When are you coming home? What are you doing tonight? Did you have a good day at work? What are your plans for this weekend? By the way I need you to take the trash out. After that can you run to the store for me, I need bread. I need you to throw in a load of laundry. I have to go, I will talk to you later, good-bye!”

Can you imagine a one-sided conversation like that where I ask all these questions, make a bunch of demands, and then just end the conversation?

Can I suggest that if we are not careful, this is often what our prayer conversation sounds like to God. It is so easy to be caught up in asking God all the questions we need answered, and list all the needs we have, but forget to stop talking and position ourselves to hear His response.

Learning to “be still” in His presence is often a discipline that is hard to learn but practice and you will get better at it. I just want to encourage you to develop this practice. Listening for the voice of God is an essential part of your prayer time.

Prayer Focus:

  • Pray for your pastor.
  • Pray for increased effectiveness as your church reaches your community.
  • Pray for spiritual growth, biblical literacy, and church health.

Scripture Focus:

Matthew 16:18-19 NKJV: “And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. 19 And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”

Ephesians 2:19-22 NKJV: “Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, 22 in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.”  

Ephesians 4:11-14 NKJV: “And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, 13 till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ;”

1 Peter 4:10-11 NKJV: “As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. 11 If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God. If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.”

Ephesians 4:1-6 NKJV: “I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, 2 with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, 3 endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.”

Ephesians 1:15-23 NKJV: “Therefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, 16 do not cease to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers: 17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, 18 the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power 20 which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come. 22 And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, 23 which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.”

 

Week of Prayer – Thursday

49759142_2027278693974945_5993067695480766464_nTHURSDAY — OUR WORLD

We have been discussing the ABCs of prayer the last two days. Monday we learned that “A” stands for “Abiding”, yesterday we discusses “B” which stands for “Believe”. Today let’s consider “C”, which stands for “Continue”.  Originally, I told you that the “C” stands for “Continue to pray, but my goal is to encourage you to continue period.

  • I want you to continue to participate
  • Continue to pray
  • Continue to abide
  • Continue to fast
  • Continue to believe

Two other words that describe our teaching focus for today are perseverance and persistence. I have a sweet friend, who says some funny things at times that we are not quick to let her live down. A few years back, we were attending a prayer conference, and we went to Red Lobster during their annual “Endless Shrimp” campaign. When the server came to take our order, she said, “I will take the keep it coming shrimp please”. We all burst into laughter! I had to share this story because I believe it is a humorous way for you to never forget to “Keep it coming”! Just think of it this way…God is saying to you:

  • Keep your prayers coming
  • Keep your praise coming
  • Keep your devotion coming
  • Keep your petitions coming
  • And so on….

A familiar passage is found in the second part of verse 16 in James chapter 5.

The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much (James 5:16b NKJV).

 I love the way that passage reads in the Amplified Bible.

The earnest (heartfelt, continued) prayer of a righteous man makes tremendous power available [dynamic in its working].

 When we continue to pray, we stick with it all the way until the end. That means when God puts a person or a situation on your heart, you continue to pray about that until the prayer is totally answered or until the burden lifts and you sense victory.

Sometimes we see answers to prayer quickly and sometimes we have to continue to pray. In the passage that I shared above from James 5, if you continue to read it says:

James 5:17-18 NKJV

 17 Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months. 18 And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth produced its fruit.

If you go back and read this account about Elijah in 1 Kings 18, he went to the top of Mount Carmel and knelt down to pray for rain. He sent his servant Ahab to go look toward the sea to see if rain was coming. When he came back and reported that there was nothing, Elijah kept praying and sent him back again, in fact he sent him back again seven times!

After the seventh time, Ahab reported to Elijah, “I see a cloud as small as a man’s hand coming up from the sea!” (1 Kings 18:41-44)  Elijah prayed and he continued to pray until he saw victory. James uses this example and says about it, “The earnest (heartfelt, continued) prayer of a righteous man makes tremendous power available [dynamic in its working]”(James 5:16b AMP).

As you likely know, during Jesus’ earthly ministry, He liked to teach using parables. Depending on which version of the Bible you are looking at the one found in Luke 18 is often called either the “Parable of the Persistent Widow”, or “The Parable on Prayer”. I want to share it with you.

Luke 18:1-8 NLT

One day Jesus told his disciples a story to show that they should always pray and never give up. 2 “There was a judge in a certain city,” he said, “who neither feared God nor cared about people. 3 A widow of that city came to him repeatedly, saying, ‘Give me justice in this dispute with my enemy.’ 4 The judge ignored her for a while, but finally he said to himself, ‘I don’t fear God or care about people, 5 but this woman is driving me crazy. I’m going to see that she gets justice, because she is wearing me out with her constant requests!'” 6 Then the Lord said, “Learn a lesson from this unjust judge. 7 Even he rendered a just decision in the end. So don’t you think God will surely give justice to his chosen people who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? 8 I tell you, he will grant justice to them quickly! But when the Son of Man returns, how many will he find on the earth who have faith?”

Perseverance is important, but it is a word we don’t always like, because if you are to persevere, you must need to push through some kind of difficulty, opposition, or delay. Perseverance often makes me think of endurance, which gives me a picture of a long distance runner.

I have never enjoyed running. When I was in high school, I was on the track team for all the wrong reasons.  I liked to do the jumps or maybe the short races or relays, but I certainly wasn’t committed enough to be the one who ran the long distance races. Those races required too much perseverance. The ability to push through the pain and fatigue when you feel like your lungs are on fire and your legs cannot move another step.

Hebrews 12:1-2 NKJV

Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

This passage describes our spiritual race during times that require perseverance. We are reminded to keep our eyes on Jesus since He demonstrated for us not only how to start a race, but how to finish it!

In the middle of the race, there are times you feel all alone and you may be tempted to question if you are in the right race. We sometimes feel this way when we are in the middle of a situation in which we have been praying and believing for victory and we have not seen an answer yet.

Perseverance is needed when God SEEMS to be absent and SEEMS to be silent! Scripture tells us that He will never leave us or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). This is when we stand on the Word of God. A very familiar scripture found in Galatians 6:9 AMP reads:

“And let us not lose heart and grow weary and faint in acting nobly and doing right, for in due time and at the appointed season we shall reap, if we do not loosen and relax our courage and faint.”

Let me tell you two of the greatest enemies in certain stages of the race is doubt and disappointment. When you are in a season where you have been believing and standing in faith for a long time, and your answer has not yet manifested, it is tempting to begin to question if you really heard from God, or if this commitment to the race or to prayer is really worth it.

In some situations, the risk of disappointment is so great that people give into hopelessness instead of standing in faith and staying in the race. In these times, you must contend and persevere! You have to “Keep it coming”!

I want to encourage you today to “Continue”!

Prayer Focus:

  • Pray for the unreached.
  • Pray for missionaries throughout the world.
  • Pray that more people would hear God’s call to missions.

Scripture Focus:

Mark 16:15-16 NKJV: “And He said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. 16 He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.’”

Matthew 18:12-14 NLT: “If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them wanders away, what will he do? Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others on the hills and go out to search for the one that is lost? 13 And if he finds it, I tell you the truth, he will rejoice over it more than over the ninety-nine that didn’t wander away! 14 In the same way, it is not my heavenly Father’s will that even one of these little ones should perish.”

Luke 19:10 NKJV: “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.”

John 4:34-37 NLT: “Then Jesus explained: “My nourishment comes from doing the will of God, who sent me, and from finishing his work. 35 You know the saying, ‘Four months between planting and harvest.’ But I say, wake up and look around. The fields are already ripe for harvest. 36 The harvesters are paid good wages, and the fruit they harvest is people brought to eternal life. What joy awaits both the planter and the harvester alike! 37 You know the saying, ‘One plants and another harvests.’ And it’s true.

Matthew 9:37-38 NLT: “He said to his disciples, “The harvest is great, but the workers are few. 38 So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send more workers into his fields.”

2 Peter 3:9 NKJV: “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.”

Matthew 24:14 NLT: “And the Good News about the Kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world, so that all nations will hear it; and then the end will come.”

 

Week of Prayer – Wednesday

49759142_2027278693974945_5993067695480766464_nWEDNESDAY — YOUR WORKPLACE

Each day I have been adding some ideas for ways to enhance your prayer life. Every aspect I am covering each day will eventually all go together. It has been challenging to try to only pull one piece out at a time, but I hope you are starting to put all the different pieces together and are feeling some momentum.

We started our week talking about fasting, and those of you who are already participating in that aspect are likely starting to feel a shift today on day four. If you gave up something that takes a lot of your time, you are probably realizing just how much time you spent and are likely realizing you might need to re-prioritize some things at the end of this week.

If you gave up food, you are probably at a place where you flesh has become weaker than your spirit and you are shifting from works to grace. It is so much easier in this state to give control to God and allow him to show you things that normally you might miss. It is in our weakness that his strength is made perfect.

Yesterday, we talked about fellowship with the Lord being an important part of prayer. We need to spend time with the Lord as we long to spend time with those we love the most and as we cultivate our relationship with him, our prayer life will flourish as a result of that fellowship.

We talked about the ABCs of prayer and focused on the “A” and abiding. Today I want to move on to the “B” which stands for “Believe”. Jesus is our supreme example and I love to study the Gospels and see how He responded in different situations. He is our mentor and He had much to say about belief and unbelief.

In Matthew 9:27-30 NASU we read:

27 As Jesus went on from there, two blind men followed Him, crying out, “Have mercy on us, Son of David!” 28 When He entered the house, the blind men came up to Him, and Jesus said to them, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?” They said to Him, “Yes, Lord.” 29 Then He touched their eyes, saying, “It shall be done to you according to your faith.”

Another amazing story is found in the fifth chapter of Mark. A man named Jairus, came to Jesus, and fell at His feet asking Him to come to where his little daughter was because she was dying. He knew that if He prayed for her she would get well and live. While on the journey, a woman who desperately needed healing reached through the crowd and touched Jesus. He stopped because he felt healing virtue leave His body when she touched the hem of His garment. During this delay, someone told Jairus to leave Jesus alone because his daughter had died, however, Jesus overheard it and He said, “Do not be afraid any longer, only believe” (Mark 5:36).

I love this story because Jesus addresses both belief and unbelief. He tells this father who has just learned that his child has died to not be afraid, but only believe. Can you imagine? Put yourself in the shoes of this daddy who has just learned his little girl is dead, yet Jesus is saying turn your fear into faith! When they reached the house, what Jesus did next, further demonstrated the power of unbelief.

The Bible tells us that when they arrived at the house, there was a commotion and people were weeping and wailing, but Jesus asked them why they were acting this way because the child was only sleeping. They began to laugh at Jesus. Do you know how He responded? He had them all leave and only let the parents and His companions stay. I personally think He wanted to remove any unbelief from the room. Then he took the little girl by the hand and told her to get up, and she did! (Mark 5: 37-41)

In another passage we read:

Mark 11:21-25 NASU

Peter said to Him, “Rabbi, look, the fig tree which You cursed has withered.” 22 And Jesus answered saying to them, “Have faith in God. 23 “Truly I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says is going to happen, it will be granted him.  24 “Therefore I say to you, all things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they will be granted you.

With that thought of faith that moves a mountain in mind, I want to share something that recently happened to me. I typically spend some time entering into worship by listening to music most days during my daily devotional time. A few weeks ago when the Lord was really dealing with me about the focus for this year being “No Precedent”, I had a suggestion to listen to a new song.

When I clicked on the link, the man was sharing a testimony before the song. Apparently, someone in his church leadership had a very sick child who was fighting for his life. He shared that one night he got a text from the father and they were unsure if the child was going to live through the night. Then he said something that really resonated with me. He said, “As soon as I heard and I read the message, it was like this giant of unbelief stood in front of me!” That giant of unbelief was that this boy is going to die tonight and we are not going to see the miracle.”

When I heard him say this, I immediately thought about every time I found myself in situations like this where I felt like I was facing a giant of unbelief or maybe we could even call it a mountain of unbelief. That moment when we question if we will really see the miracle.

Today our topic is “BELIEVE”! If you are faced with a mountain of unbelief, speak to it to move. I want to close our time of teaching with one last passage. It is a bit lengthy, but I want you to read this before we introduce today’s pray focus and Scriptures.

Mark 9:17-29 NLT

 17 One of the men in the crowd spoke up and said, “Teacher, I brought my son so you could heal him. He is possessed by an evil spirit that won’t let him talk. 18 And whenever this spirit seizes him, it throws him violently to the ground. Then he foams at the mouth and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid. So I asked your disciples to cast out the evil spirit, but they couldn’t do it.”19 Jesus said to them, “You faithless people! How long must I be with you? How long must I put up with you? Bring the boy to me.” 20 So they brought the boy. But when the evil spirit saw Jesus, it threw the child into a violent convulsion, and he fell to the ground, writhing and foaming at the mouth. 21 “How long has this been happening?” Jesus asked the boy’s father. He replied, “Since he was a little boy. 22 The spirit often throws him into the fire or into water, trying to kill him. Have mercy on us and help us, if you can.” 23 “What do you mean, ‘If I can’?” Jesus asked. “Anything is possible if a person believes.” 24 The father instantly cried out, “I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief!” 25 When Jesus saw that the crowd of onlookers was growing, he rebuked the evil spirit. “Listen, you spirit that makes this boy unable to hear and speak,” he said. “I command you to come out of this child and never enter him again!” 26 Then the spirit screamed and threw the boy into another violent convulsion and left him. The boy appeared to be dead. A murmur ran through the crowd as people said, “He’s dead.” 27 But Jesus took him by the hand and helped him to his feet, and he stood up. 28 Afterward, when Jesus was alone in the house with his disciples, they asked him, “Why couldn’t we cast out that evil spirit?” 29 Jesus replied, “This kind can be cast out only by prayer.”

 Why did I include this whole story? Because I want to begin your prayer time today with these powerful thoughts:

  1. Believe again!
  2. If you are struggling with unbelief, do as this father did and ask God to help you with your unbelief!
  3. Lastly, Jesus said “This kind can be cast out only by prayer” that should reinforce to you the power of prayer.

Pray and believe today!

Prayer Focus:

  • Pray for your co-workers and your employer.
  • Pray that you would be a light to those who do not know Christ.
  • Pray that you would be a godly example.

Scripture Focus:

Colossians 3:23-24 NLT: “Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. 24 Remember that the Lord will give you an inheritance as your reward, and that the Master you are serving is Christ.”

Matthew 5:14-16 NASU: “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; 15 nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16 “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”

1 Peter 2:9-10 NLT: “But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light. 10 Once you had no identity as a people; now you are God’s people. Once you received no mercy; now you have received God’s mercy.”

Psalm 71:7-8 NLT: “My life is an example to many, because you have been my strength and protection. 8 That is why I can never stop praising you; I declare your glory all day long.

2 Timothy 1:8a;9 NLT: 8 So never be ashamed to tell others about our Lord…9 For God saved us and called us to live a holy life. He did this, not because we deserved it, but because that was his plan from before the beginning of time—to show us his grace through Christ Jesus.”

Ephesians 5:8-9 NLT: “For once you were full of darkness, but now you have light from the Lord. So live as people of light! 9 For this light within you produces only what is good and right and true.”

1 Thessalonians 4:11-12 NLT: “Make it your goal to live a quiet life, minding your own business and working with your hands, just as we instructed you before. 12 Then people who are not Christians will respect the way you live, and you will not need to depend on others.”

 

Week of Prayer – Tuesday

49759142_2027278693974945_5993067695480766464_nTUESDAY — YOUR COMMUNITY

Today I want to quickly encourage you on the topic of fellowship and your prayer life. So often, people tend to see prayer as a duty instead of a delight and I believe the key to unlocking the pleasure of prayer is fellowship with our creator and the pleasure of His company.

The first part of verse 10 in Philippians 3 from the Amplified Bible says:

[For my determined purpose is] that I may know Him [that I may progressively become more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him, perceiving and recognizing and understanding the wonders of His Person more strongly and more clearly]…

This verse is the key to a powerful prayer life, that we may know Him, progressively becoming more and more acquainted with Him!

Spending time with a stranger is very different then fellowshipping with a dear friend or loved one. Your prayer life can become a delight when you are able to develop and enjoy fellowship with your Father.

Relate this to a married couple. When they joined in marriage, they immediately had a relationship, one of husband and wife, but that does not necessarily mean they have fellowship. They must cultivate their bond by spending time communing together. In a healthy marriage, this creates a connection that is a delight not a duty.

Now relate that to your relationship with Christ. When you accepted Him as your Lord and Savior you were immediately in a relationship with Him, however, you equally must cultivate your bond with Him by spending time with Him, learning to abide in Him.

If you find your prayer life is feeling like a duty or a drudgery, check your priority level on abiding and fellowshipping with your Savior.

John 15:4-7 AMP

Dwell in Me, and I will dwell in you. [Live in Me, and I will live in you.] Just as no branch can bear fruit of itself without abiding in (being vitally united to) the vine, neither can you bear fruit unless you abide in Me.

5 I am the Vine; you are the branches. Whoever lives in Me and I in him bears much (abundant) fruit. However, apart from Me [cut off from vital union with Me] you can do nothing.

6 If a person does not dwell in Me, he is thrown out like a [broken-off] branch, and withers; such branches are gathered up and thrown into the fire, and they are burned.

7 If you live in Me [abide vitally united to Me] and My words remain in you and continue to live in your hearts, ask whatever you will, and it shall be done for you.

Think of it as the ABCs of Prayer. Prayer is more than asking seeking and knocking. Prayer is a moment-by-moment communion with God.

A= Abiding

B = Believe

C = Continue to pray

We read in James 5:16 that the “Earnest, continued prayer of a righteous man makes tremendous power available” (AMP)

Today we are focused on the “A” in the ABC’s of prayer, which is abiding. We will discuss the other two later this week. With that thought in mind, let’s start our prayer time with praise and worship today and then the prayer focus and Scriptures are listed for you below.

Prayer Focus:

  • Pray for unity in your community.
  • Pray for local government, schoolteachers and administrators, first responders, and civil servants.
  • Pray that God would use you to reach your neighbors with the message of Jesus.

Scripture Focus:

Matthew 5:14-16 NLT: “14 “You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. 15 No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.”

Proverbs 16:3 NKJV: “Commit your works to the Lord, and your thoughts will be established.  but the talk of the wicked tears it apart.”

Jeremiah 29:7 NLT: “And work for the peace and prosperity of the city where I sent you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, for its welfare will determine your welfare.”

Titus 3:1-2 NLT: “Remind the believers to submit to the government and its officers. They should be obedient, always ready to do what is good. 2 They must not slander anyone and must avoid quarreling. Instead, they should be gentle and show true humility to everyone.”

Romans 13:1-2 NLT: “Everyone must submit to governing authorities. For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God. 2 So anyone who rebels against authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and they will be punished.”

Proverbs 11:11NLT: “Upright citizens are good for a city and make it prosper,

2 Chronicles 7:14 NLT: “Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land.”

1 Timothy 2:1-3 NLT: “I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. 2 Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity. 3 This is good and pleases God our Savior,”

 

Week of Prayer – Monday

49759142_2027278693974945_5993067695480766464_nMONDAY — YOUR FAMILY

Before we look at today’s prayer focus, I just want to quickly discuss adding some component of fasting to your week’s activities. If you have not already decided what you will do, I want to encourage you to make a plan and write it down.

Jesus placed fasting on the same level as prayer and giving. You can read that in Matthew chapter 6. It says in verse 2, “When you give”, in verse 5 it says, “When you pray”, then in verse 16 it says, “When you fast”.

Notice it doesn’t say “If”, it says “When”. Jesus by His example and His teaching demonstrates that prayer and fasting are important and integral ingredients in the lives of His followers.

One purpose of prayer and fasting is to bring our hearts to a place of being filled with a sacrificial love that results in godly attitudes in our lives. True fasting will draw us closer to God and His purposes.

Let’s consider fasting food. This type of fasting brings a sharp focus to the dramatic difference between our physical and spiritual natures. Eating is one of the most fundamental things we do as physical beings.

By exercising our wills and depriving ourselves of food for spiritual purposes, we acknowledge our spiritual natures and honor our Creator-Father.

When I am fasting and I feel hunger, I like to cry out to God and say I am more hungry to see you move than I am hungry for food!

Perhaps you will choose to give up certain activities as part of your fast. It is important that we don’t just give up things, but that we spend additional time seeking the Lord during this consecrated time.

Remember fasting doesn’t change God, it changes us!

Prayer Focus:

  • Pray God’s blessing upon your family as you commit to give time to Him in prayer and in the Word.
  • Pray that God will strengthen mothers and fathers to be godly examples of Christlike character.
  • Pray that God will protect the family from the enemy’s desire to confuse and destroy.

Scripture Focus:

Ephesians 2:19-22 NLT: “19 So now you Gentiles are no longer strangers and foreigners. You are citizens along with all of God’s holy people. You are members of God’s family. 20 Together, we are his house, built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets. And the cornerstone is Christ Jesus himself. 21 We are carefully joined together in him, becoming a holy temple for the Lord.”

Joshua 24:15 NLT: “But if you refuse to serve the Lord, then choose today whom you will serve…. but as for me and my family, we will serve the Lord.”

Psalm 128:1-4 NLT: “How joyful are those who fear the Lord—all who follow his ways! 2 You will enjoy the fruit of your labor. How joyful and prosperous you will be! 3 Your wife will be like a fruitful grapevine, flourishing within your home. Your children will be like vigorous young olive trees as they sit around your table. 4 That is the Lord’s blessing for those who fear him.”

Ephesians 5:21-29 NLT: “21 And further, submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. 22 For wives, this means submit your husbands as to the Lord. 23 For a husband is the head of his wife as Christ is the head of the church. He is the Savior of his body, the church. 24 As the church submits to Christ, so you wives should submit to your husbands in everything. 25 For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her 26 to make her holy and clean, washed by the cleansing of God’s word. 27 He did this to present her to himself as a glorious church without a spot or wrinkle or any other blemish. Instead, she will be holy and without fault. 28 In the same way, husbands ought to love their wives as they love their own bodies. For a man who loves his wife actually shows love for himself. 29 No one hates his own body but feeds and cares for it, just as Christ cares for the church.”

Psalm 84:11 AMP: “For the Lord God is a Sun and Shield; the Lord bestows [present] grace and favor and [future] glory (honor, splendor, and heavenly bliss)! No good thing will He withhold from those who walk uprightly.”

Proverbs 22:6 NASU: “Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it.”

Ephesians 6:4 NASU: “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”

Proverbs 20:7 KJV: “The just man walketh in his integrity: his children are blessed after him.”

Isaiah 54:13 NKJV: “All your children shall be taught by the Lord, and great shall be the peace of your children.”

Proverbs 23:24 NLT: “The father of godly children has cause for joy. What a pleasure to have children who are wise.”

Proverbs 17:6 NLT: “Grandchildren are the crowning glory of the aged; parents are the pride of their children.

 

 

Week of Prayer – Sunday

49759142_2027278693974945_5993067695480766464_n

SUNDAY — YOUR WALK WITH GOD

As we begin our week of prayer, I want to encourage you to do something you don’t normally do. Give up something important to you this week, perhaps food, or entertainment. Take the time that you would have spent in that activity and devote it to prayer, Bible study, and devotional time with God. If you live in the Salem area, come and be a part of our live event each night at 7 p.m. as we pray together corporately at Grace Community Church. If you cannot attend, set aside time each night and join us in prayer from where you are.

Make a plan and write it down. What are you planning to do differently this week? What are you expecting? Keep a journal of all the things the Lord impresses you to pray about this week. Document the important things He reveals to you as you spend time with Him. Make sure to write down all the answered prayers too!

Each day we will have a specific prayer focus. I want to encourage you to open your time of prayer with thanksgiving and praise. Spend some time worshiping your Father for who He is before asking Him for anything. I find that when I count my blessings they always outnumber my needs!

Pray about whatever the Lord has on your heart, but also make time to pray about our specific prayer focus each day. There is great power when we pray in agreement!

Lastly, pray the Scriptures. The inspired Word of God is powerful and it doesn’t return void. Praying and declaring the truths and promises of the Bible can be a powerful part of your prayer life. I have provided some examples of Scriptures below and will do so daily to correlate with our prayer focus for each day.

Thanks for joining us this week!

Prayer Focus:

  • Pray for God’s wisdom and guidance in the coming year.
  • Pray that you would personally grow in your devotional walk with God.
  • Pray for God’s blessing on your life.

Scripture Focus:

Psalm 119:105 NASU: “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”

Romans 10:17 NASU: “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.”

Matthew 7:7-8 NASU: “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.”

Jeremiah 29:11-12 NASU: “For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.”

Psalm 37:23 NLT: “The Lord directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives.”

Proverbs 16:9 NLT: “We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps.”

Ephesians 4:11-16 NLT: “11 Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. 12 Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. 13 This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ. 14 Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth. 15 Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. 16 He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.”

Psalms 62:5 AMP: “My soul, wait only upon God and silently submit to Him; for my hope and expectation are from Him.”

 

NO PRECEDENT!

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no precedentI love a new year. It is a great time for change, a time for new priorities, a time for leaving the past behind and looking toward the future.  For 2019, I have felt to pray and believe for things for which there is “NO PRECEDENT”.

Before I explain why these two words are my focus, I want to invite everyone reading this to join with my church, Grace Community Church, and me as we start our year strong with a week of prayer and fasting starting Sunday 1/13 through Saturday 1/19.

I will be posting a daily update starting Sunday morning with the daily prayer focus topic and pertinent Scriptures, which I encourage you to pray and declare over each topic.

Additionally, I want to encourage you to add some level of fasting to the week’s activities. There are many types of fasts and there are great benefits to pairing prayer and fasting together.

Now I want to describe my focus of “No Precedent”. When I think about the word precedent, the first thing that comes to my mind is the way it is used legally. Let me share that form of the definition.

Precedent

The noun precedent means an example from the past that provides evidence for an argument. It is most commonly used in legal circles and, more specifically, can be described as a previously decided case that guides the decision of a future case.

Examples:

  • Having discovered a similar case in the past, the prosecution team used this precedent to support their argument.
  • There is precedent with last year’s Smith versus Jones case. 1

Two other ways precedent is defined in Merriam Webster Dictionary is:

“Something done or said that may serve as an example or rule to authorize or justify a subsequent act of the same or an analogous kind a verdict that had no precedent; a person or thing that serves as a model” 2

I want to share one last example I found which is…

Precedent and the Supreme Court

“A precedent is something that precedes, or comes before. The Supreme Court relies on precedents—that is, earlier laws or decisions that provide some example or rule to guide them in the case they’re actually deciding. (For example) When hostages are being held for ransom, a government may worry about setting a bad precedent if it gives in…” 3

Now that we have considered many definitions of the word precedent, I want to contemplate “NO PRECEDENT”. What happens when a case comes before the Supreme Court for which there is no precedent?  In this situation, there is no previous example to guide the decision making process.  The judges are forced to look outside of just what they have experienced or read from the past, and they must now move forward with the facts, knowledge, and wisdom they have been given.  There is no history, tradition, or precedent to guide their thought process.

Another way to consider this thought is inventions. Before something is discovered or invented, there is no precedent to guide the thought process about the discovery. Think about electricity as an example. Since electricity is a natural force that exists in our world, it didn’t have to be invented. It did however, have to be discovered and understood.

Most people give credit to Benjamin Franklin for discovering electricity, In 1752, Franklin conducted his famous kite experiment. In order to show that lightning was electricity, he flew a kite during a thunderstorm. He tied a metal key to the kite string to conduct the electricity. Building upon Franklin’s work, many other scientists studied electricity and began to understand more about how it works. For example, in 1879, Thomas Edison invented the electric light bulb and our world has been brighter ever since! 4

We have all experienced times when due to a storm or technical issue we lost our electrical power. Most can’t imagine living life long term without electricity, yet before it was discovered, there was NO PRECEDENT for electricity and all the benefits it provides us. People didn’t sit around and say, “I sure wish someone would discover electricity, it sure would be great”. They didn’t know what they were missing because there was no precedent for it at that time.

Let’s consider an example that is near and dear to most of us, the mobile phone. At one time, we thought it was great to be able to sit attached to a cord and take turns using our phone with our neighbors for whom we shared our party line. At that time, there was NO PRECEDENT for this device called a mobile phone, which is now so much more than just a means of verbal communication. This gadget is our camera, GPS, computer, video gaming system, flashlight, calculator, dictionary, video camera, weatherman, photo album, mail, Bible, and so much more!

When the Lord began to challenge me with these two words, “NO PRECEDENT”, I was reminded of three specific images from my childhood church, where I started attending when I was only 4 years old.

The first image I was reminded of was an out-house! Unbelievably, I vividly remember having to go outside to a wooden building as a small child when I first started attending that small community church.

The second image I saw was the old church fan. That device made of cardboard and a wooden stick that we used to stay cool since there wasn’t any air conditioning! Thirdly, I remembered those hard wooden pews.

When indoor plumbing, air conditioning, and padded pews were available, the church embraced and welcomed these things. Why is it then that the church, is often less likely to accept the spiritual things for which there is no precedent?

  1. There was no precedent for a women until God formed Eve from the rib of Adam
  2. When Noah spent years and years building a boat on dry land, there was no precedent of rain
  3. There was no precedent for a baby being born from a virgin until Mary delivered Jesus
  4. There was no precedent for Moses’ burning bush or Saul’s bright light on the road to Damascus, but both of these men were never the same after these experiences.

Just because there was no precedent for any of these examples, does not make them any less real. Have you ever thought about what would have happened if Mary had said to the angel, “No thank you, I won’t carry the Son of God because there is no precedent for that!”  Thankfully, she responded positively and said, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38). I don’t believe that meant that she totally understood everything, but she was willing to do something that had never been done to see God’s plan fulfilled!

Let’s consider the passage in Luke 5:36-39 from the New Living Translation.

Luke 5:36-39

36 Then Jesus gave them this illustration: “No one tears a piece of cloth from a new garment and uses it to patch an old garment. For then the new garment would be ruined, and the new patch wouldn’t even match the old garment. 37 “And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. For the new wine would burst the wineskins, spilling the wine and ruining the skins. 38 New wine must be stored in new wineskins. 39 But no one who drinks the old wine seems to want the new wine. ‘The old is just fine,’ they say.”

Jesus’ comment in this passage concerns the Pharisees who rejected the “new wine” or the gospel and held that the “old wine” which was first century Judaism was better. Up to this time, there was no precedent for the gospel that is now being preached. Jesus was very controversial and not all believed or followed Him.

I could show you many examples, but this one has always stood out to me the most. Look with me at portions of John 6:53-67 NLT

53 So Jesus said again, “I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you cannot have eternal life within you. 54 But anyone who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise that person at the last day.

60 Many of his disciples said, “This is very hard to understand. How can anyone accept it?” 61 Jesus was aware that his disciples were complaining, so he said to them, “Does this offend you? 62 Then what will you think if you see the Son of Man ascend to heaven again? 63 The Spirit alone gives eternal life. Human effort accomplishes nothing. And the very words I have spoken to you are spirit and life. 64 But some of you do not believe me.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning which ones didn’t believe, and he knew who would betray him.)

66 At this point many of his disciples turned away and deserted him. 67 Then Jesus turned to the Twelve and asked, “Are you also going to leave?”

The disciples felt that what Jesus was saying was very hard to accept. He was teaching them spiritual truths that didn’t make sense to their natural thinking. There was NO PRECEDENT for this type of teaching or believing. In fact, we read where many couldn’t accept it and they deserted Jesus.

Those who stayed had to make a decision, just because they had never seen what Jesus was doing before, just because they had never heard these teachings before, would they choose to have faith and believe or would they decide this is too hard and walk away.

I want to remind you of the verse I read earlier

“But no one who drinks the old wine seems to want the new wine. ‘The old is just fine,’ they say.” Luke 5:39 NLT

In 2019 are you content to say,

  • What I have is just fine?
  • Where I am with God is just fine?
  • All the undiscovered bottomless things of God are just fine?
  • Just getting by is just fine?

Do you remember what I said about electricity? It didn’t have to be invented, but it DID have to be discovered and understood. We need to be driven to discover and understand the bottomless things of God, EVEN THOSE FOR WHICH THERE IS NO PRECEDENT!

If you are like me, then you are not satisfied with “THIS IS JUST FINE” MENTALITY! In 2019, we have to be willing to put on some new flexible wine skins.  What that means is we may have to be willing to sacrifice our own ideas, opinions, agendas, and preferences.  We may have to sacrifice our time, our comfort zones, and our traditions!

Traditions can be a good thing; we just enjoyed a holiday season where I am sure many of you have traditions. Certain traditions can be healthy, but some can be harmful.

When tradition is doing something for the simple reason that we have always done it this way, it can inhibit growth and forward momentum. I heard the Lord speak to my spirit….this year choose ignition instead of tradition!

In that context, I am talking about tradition as doing something simply because we have always done it that way, even though God stopped directing that a long time ago.

When I think about IGNITION, it gives me the idea of a rocket ship launching. I believe God is challenging us to “Fan into flame and rekindle the fire of the spiritual gift God imparted to each of us” (2 Timothy 1:6). WE NEED TO BE IGNIGTED!

We need to dare to believe again, dream big again, and have faith to hope for the things we haven’t seen yet. Even the things for which there is NO PRECENDENT!

I opened with definitions of the word precedent, now let me take you to the Bible’s definition of “NO PRECEDENT”.

1 Corinthians 2:9-10 NKJV

9 But as it is written: “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.” 10 But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God.

I particularly love that last verse in the Amplified Bible; it says, “The bottomless things of God”! While I know that we often think this passage only pertains to heaven, I believe it also applies to earth. There are some things that eye has not seen and ear has not heard, and man has not even thought of that God wants to do for His people to advance His kingdom.

Are you someone who wants 2019 to be full of the things God has that eye has not seen and ear has not heard? If that is you, let me give you some next steps.

  1. It’s a new year and it is time for a new wine skin! We need to get alone with God and allow Him to renew our mind and transform us from unhealthy tradition to ignition.
    • We must avoid imposing past traditional structures on present renewals. We should understand that yesterday’s forms are often incapable of handling today’s dynamic of spiritual renewal
  2. Make prayer a priority! Plan now to be a part of our week of prayer and fasting starting this Sunday January 13th.
    • Ask God to show you specific things that you are to pray and believe for in 2019. Then write it down. This will keep you focused throughout the year.
    • Begin now to plan how you will participate in the fast. Write down your plan so you will be more likely to stick with it.
  3. NEW BEGINNINGS….BELIEVE AGAIN!
    • I realize that sometimes it is easier to settle, to feel like the old is good enough, but I am here to challenge you to hope and expect again.
    • It is important to inspect what you expect. Set some goals; write down what you are expecting God to do in the coming days. Have courage to believe again, even if you have been disappointed, pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and dare to believe again!
    • Stay persistent! Many people plan to change the way they eat or the way they exercise at the New Year. The reality is, the majority will not even make that change last until the end of the month. If you go back to the old ways, you never have anything new. If you want something you have never had, you are going to have to do something you have never done.

I am asking God to help me let my guard down; to not be afraid to believe for the big things. I am asking Him to change any doubt into faith, and to give me some bulldog tenacity and persistence to stay with it until the end. I want to keep on believing for the things I see with my spirit eyes regardless of what I see with my natural eyes. Will you believe with me this year?

References:

  1. Web. 1 Jan. 2019. http://www.grammar-monster.com/easily confused/precedence precedent.htm
  2. “Precedent.” Merriam-Webster Dictionary.
  3. Web. 1 Jan. 2019. http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/precedent
  4. Web. 1 Jan. 2019. wonderopolis.org/wonder/who-discovered-electricity

“For I Know the Plans I have For You,” says the Lord

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47578314_201992257356142_9114796165555027968_nWhy can others often see our gifts, talents, and God’s plan for our lives so much easier than we can? I was reminded of this truth when I was recently reading someone’s personal testimony about the struggles he had been facing. The enemy does not want us to know our worth, especially to the Kingdom of God, or the plans God has for us, because when we have that settled, we can be dangerous to the enemy’s plans!

One of Satan’s greatest weapons is to attempt to tear us down through intimidation and rejection. This can come in many forms, but one of the most common is to use the words and actions of those around us.

This was even true in the life of Jesus, during His earthly ministry. I want to take you to two different examples of this tactic in action.

Mark 6:1-3 NLT

1 Jesus left that part of the country and returned with his disciples to Nazareth, his hometown. 2 The next Sabbath he began teaching in the synagogue, and many who heard him were amazed. They asked, “Where did he get all this wisdom and the power to perform such miracles?” 3 Then they scoffed, “He’s just a carpenter, the son of Mary and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas, and Simon. And his sisters live right here among us.” They were deeply offended and refused to believe in him.

Can you hear the intimidation rage as they scoffed? Today it might sound more like, “Who do you think you are?” For many, this is the stopping point – this is the place where we back off, and rethink our stance on walking out the plan of God for our lives. It is a normal human reaction to feel the sting of rejection, and in an effort to make that pain stop, to back away from the directive God has given us. Jesus gives us a different example. I am sure He felt the intimidation and the rejection, especially since it was the people from his own hometown. However, He didn’t let their words or actions define His. We see His response as we continue reading this passage.

Mark 6:4-6 NLT

4 Then Jesus told them, “A prophet is honored everywhere except in his own hometown and among his relatives and his own family.” 5 And because of their unbelief, he couldn’t do any mighty miracles among them except to place his hands on a few sick people and heal them. 6 And he was amazed at their unbelief.

The people in this location limited Jesus, but He did not allow their intimidation and rejection to control His future and the fulfillment of the plans God had for Him. If you continue to read the next verse of this passage, it says, “Then Jesus went from village to village, teaching the people” (Mark 6:7). He realized the opposition, but didn’t allow it to stop Him. Look at this next passage for yet another example.

John 1:43-46a

43 The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Come, follow me.” 44 Philip was from Bethsaida, Andrew and Peter’s hometown. 45 Philip went to look for Nathanael and told him, “We have found the very person Moses and the prophets wrote about! His name is Jesus, the son of Joseph from Nazareth.” 46 “Nazareth!” exclaimed Nathanael. “Can anything good come from Nazareth?”

Have you ever had someone tell you that nothing good could come from your life? Maybe they didn’t actually say those words, but you certainly felt the judgement of the actions of others. This is exactly how the enemy of our soul wants us to feel! He wants us to feel devalued to the point that we stop trying to fulfill the plans God has for our lives. Again, Jesus gives us a different example. He just continues to be who He is called to be. He displays the gift of God in His life and then Nathanael believed.

John 1:46b-49

“Come and see for yourself,” Philip replied. 47 As they approached, Jesus said, “Now here is a genuine son of Israel—a man of complete integrity.” 48 “How do you know about me?” Nathanael asked. Jesus replied, “I could see you under the fig tree before Philip found you.” 49 Then Nathanael exclaimed, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God—the King of Israel!”

I want to encourage you today! Don’t allow the sting of rejection or the power of intimidation to stop you from fulfilling the plans God has for you. Don’t focus on what others say you can’t do; instead keep your aim on what God says about you! Don’t let your past failures and current shortcomings paralyze you from moving forward in the direction He guides you. Learn from the past, let God’s strength fill the gap of your own weakness, and be who He wants you to be!