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.”

 

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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!

The Garden

43687639_563672060718899_5948384938792321024_nEven in the crazy paced society we all live in, many still make a commitment to gardening. When you ask most of those individuals why they go to all the work and effort to garden, the most popular answer is usually about the harvest.  They want the reward of the fresh food that the effort reaps.

My husband and I have had different commitments to a garden over the years. I remember the first year we were married and lived by his mom and dad and we helped them with a huge garden, but the reality was, his parents really did the hard work.

In recent years, we have started doing a small garden in our back yard, but we really weren’t too serious or dedicated to it, until this year. This year we decided to make a brand new commitment to gardening and my husband built this amazing raised bed for us.

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Now the stakes had changed. When we used to just plant a few things out by the fence, there wasn’t much of an investment, so if we didn’t feel like protecting it to see if it would grow, there wasn’t much to lose.

This new garden was expensive to build, and it certainly cost us much time and effort to maintain, but we decided that if we wanted something we had never had, we would need to do something we had never done!

Many could make this relate this same analogy to their spiritual lives. There are seasons in our journey where our devotional lives become stagnant, and our relationship with our Savior becomes a bit cold.  It is during these moments that we stand at a crossroads and we determine, “If we want something we haven’t ever had, we are going to have to do something we have never done!” This decision most likely will cost you something; it may be an investment of your time and energy, or some other kind of sacrifice.

Let me be the first to say this is easier said than done….especially for the long term. I vividly remember one Sunday afternoon during our gardening season, I was tired and wanted to go crash in my recliner, but I had to travel for work that coming week and there were all of these green beans to work through and preserve.  I remember standing at my kitchen sink and asking myself “IS IT WORTH IT?” I could buy a bag of these at Walmart for $1.44!  It was during this moment of weakness that I kept reminding myself about the investment, and I tried to focus on the reward. If you want something different, you have to do something different!

The problem is, we want different without a commitment! We want different without it costing us anything. We do not want it to be INCONVENIENT!

I love the story of the blind man named Bartimaeus that is found in Mark 10:46-52. You know why I love this guy?  He decided if he wanted something he didn’t have, he was going to have to do something he had never done and that was crying out with all his might, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”

He was committed! When the crowd told him to be quiet, he just yelled even louder, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” Jesus saw his determination, He saw his investment, and He responded, “Your faith has made you well.”

What about the woman with the issue of blood? We read about her in Mark 5:25-34.  This woman is another great example of someone who said, If I want something I don’t have, I have to do something I haven’t done! She had seen many doctors, she suffered much, but when she risked everything to touch Jesus, she was made whole!

There is one more example from the Old Testament that shows us a different situation. Let me give you the background because this is a lengthy passage.  There was a great man who was highly respected and the captain of the army of the king of Aram named Naaman. He was a valiant warrior but he was a leper. There was a little girl from Israel who knew the prophet Elisha, and she told Naaman’s wife that if he went there he would cure him of his leprosy.  Naaman went and told his master what the girl had said, and he sent him with a letter and payment to the king of Israel to cure him of his leprosy.  The king got upset and tore his clothes at the request, but Elisha heard about it and said, “Let him come to me.” Let us pick up reading the story from there:

2 Kings 5:9-14 NASU

9 So Naaman came with his horses and his chariots and stood at the doorway of the house of Elisha. 10 Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, “Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh will be restored to you and you will be clean.” 11 But Naaman was furious and went away and said, “Behold, I thought, ‘He will surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, and wave his hand over the place and cure the leper.’ 12 “Are not Abanah and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them and be clean?” So he turned and went away in a rage. 13 Then his servants came near and spoke to him and said, “My father, had the prophet told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more then, when he says to you, ‘Wash, and be clean’?” 14 So he went down and dipped himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God; and his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child and he was clean.

We see a very different example here. I wanted to use this example because if we are honest we often have the same attitude that Naaman had.  We want the preacher to pray for us, and the problem to just go away.  While sometimes that is certainly the case, often it is a process.

Naaman didn’t want the process, he just wanted the prophet to wave his hand and pray to God and it be healed. He was mad when he told him he had to go dip in the Jordan, he even asked why he couldn’t go to one of the other two rivers…..IT WAS INCONVENIENT! Naaman had to do something different to get a different result.

I could give you many more examples, but I just want to remind you that when your commitment seems difficult to keep, remind yourself of your investment and focus on the reward.

Let’s consider more about the commitment. Revival is a time where we stir up the gifts God has inside of us. It is a time that we fan the flames and renew our passion for the things God has planned for us, and our corporate bodies we are a part of. With that thought in mind, I want to encourage you to keep pressing forward and to not allow your momentum to slow or your fire to go out by sharing some of the lessons I learned in my garden this year.

Lesson #1: Sowing and Reaping

Sometimes we plant seeds and nothing seems to happen! I felt like it would take forever before I had my first tomato this year!  On the other hand, there are some things that grow really fast, but burn out fast, this was the case with my lettuce…we produced two good crops but then it was gone.

There are other things that take more than a long time; they also require patience and hard work. This was the case with my husband’s strawberries!  He wanted to get a good base crop, so he focused on reproducing more plants this year instead of producing the crop.

What is the point I am making with all these examples? Some things will produce fast in your life.  I believe God wants us to have those things to help us to persevere for the things that might take a little longer.  Scripture tells us in Galatians 6:7-9 NASU

7 Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. 8 For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. 9 Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.

Don’t get weary, and quit! If you sow in the spirit, you WILL reap in the spirit!  Remember you can’t have different without commitment!

Lesson #2: Guard against Distractions

Just like weeds in a garden, distractions will choke the progress of growth. While I think we all understand the concept of weeds, I want to give you a very different visual.  Using our raised bed for the first time this year, we didn’t know the challenge of planting our zucchini and yellow squash in the first section.  Talk about a distraction! The large leaves overtook the entrance to the walkway and made it difficult to manage the rest of the crop.  They also reproduced at a rate that there simply was not enough room for them to be housed in one section together.  This picture shows the end result.

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This is what distractions will do to you! You will be divided, not fully engaged in the plan God has for your life. Not fully committed or invested in growing spiritually. One day you are yellow the next day you are green!  One day hot the next day cold, distractions will do that to you!

Let me tell you about distractions, they are often used as a tactic of the devil to take away your TRACTION for forward momentum! As soon as you start making some spiritual progress, the enemy wants you to be focused on something else to slow you down or detour you. He wants you to become DIVIDED!

We learned some lessons this year; we are NOT going to plant our zucchini and yellow squash there next year! We are going to put them in our barrels where there are boundaries!  Sometimes we need to place some boundaries in our lives to stop the distractions the enemy brings our way!

Lesson #3 is about Preservation

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We had such an abundance of tomatoes this year that I decided I was going to preserve some crushed tomatoes for cooking. Recently, I had to buy tomatoes for the first time in a few months and they just didn’t taste the same.  Then later that same week, I decided to pull out a jar of the crushed tomatoes I preserved to make some chili, and I quickly remembered the difference in how these taste. Remember, if you want something different, you have to do something different!

This is just one of the things we preserved this year and we continue to benefit from the commitment even after the season is over. My point is, during a season of revival when you are making a new commitment, when you are fanning the flames, when you are stirring up the gifts, you will often get fresh revelation, new direction, a Word from God…you have to preserve it!

Don’t let what God is doing in you die with the first cold spell!

For some preserving it might be continuing to do something different and continuing to go after God with a completely new passion and energy. For others preserving it might be documenting some things you can go back and read at a later time.  I am a real advocate of a spiritual journal.  The reality is, if you don’t write it down, you will eventually forget it.

God will commune with you every day; He will meet you at your point of need and will give you direction. Those who are faithful with little, He will give much.  If you will be faithful to do something with what He gives you, He will trust you with more!

I can take you to the day on July 9th in my journal when the Lord first spoke to me about my garden.  On that particular day, I was calling out to God about prayers I had been praying and answers that seem are never coming.

He said to me, “You planted the seeds, now keep watering them…” In that moment of communing with the Lord, I continued to write. “We are learning first hand this year the work of gardening. It was such an investment to build, we will definitely stick with it. It requires daily watering and weeding and even when it produces – it is messy, so much work to do before the harvest is usable….It is not convenient, but the reward is worth it!”

Doing something different is NOT ALWAYS CONVENIENT, BUT IT WILL BE WORTH IT!!

In closing, recently my grandson gave up on completing a difficult puzzle and it stayed unfinished on my dining room table for a few days. During that week, I was having my prayer time and I was telling God how so many things felt so BIG right then.  He immediately reminded me of that unfinished puzzle sitting on my table with a gentle reminder, “if you just tackle one piece at a time, it won’t feel so big, and the puzzle will eventually be complete!”

That unfinished puzzle on my table now became my picture reminder to me that with God all things are possible and I needed to remember that when your commitment seems difficult to keep, remind yourself of your investment and focus on the reward. I needed that picture reminder that when you plant a seed, sometimes it doesn’t feel like or look like anything is happening on the surface, but if you will keep watering it, keep exposing it to the sunlight, something is eventually going to spring forth.

I needed that picture reminder that I couldn’t let the distraction of doubt, or feeling overwhelmed by the circumstances cause me to become double minded….I needed that picture reminder to put some boundaries up to guard against those things that would cause me to be distracted and lose traction.

That puzzle on my table became more than a silly challenge; it became a faith builder. Every time I walked by the table, I would stop and find a piece, put it in its place, and go on about what I was doing.  I would remind myself that no matter how BIG the circumstances seemed, I would just take it one piece at a time. IF I WANT DIFFERENT, IT TAKES COMMITMENT!  Before I knew it the picture was complete! Stay committed, when it seems tough, remember the investment, and focus on the reward.

 

Under the Influence

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Have you ever watched any of the funny videos of people who are waking up from anesthesia? I found several by searching YouTube.

  • There is one, where the person just loves everyone, and even proposes to the health care provider
  • I found one where two brothers actually convince their poor sister, who wakes up from having her wisdom teeth pulled, that there is a zombie apocalypse happening!
  • There is a girl who is convinced that they took her lips off
  • And a white boy who is convinced he is now Mexican

I can tell you I have had the opportunity to witness this very phenomenon more than a few times with my husband. The problem is you never know which version of him, he will wake up to be….one time he was a comedian, the next a wild man, and then usually he just loves everyone and tells them what an amazing job they are doing.

The point I am making is that many people who are under the influence of anesthesia will say and do things that they would not normally say or do! We also know of negative examples of things people do differently when under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

  1. In general, these individual’s judgment is impaired. They often make decisions that they would not otherwise make, and they may go places where they normally would not go.
  2. Often their speech is impacted; they may slur their speech, or say things that they normally would not say, and my later regret.
  3. The way they walk may also be effected. They may fail the field sobriety tests where law enforcement asks them to walk in a straight line, turn on one foot, and walk back on the straight line.
  4. Someone under the influence is often more emotional and expresses love in a more open way. Some people marry strangers when they are under the influence!
  5. Many also have an unusual level of bravery or boldness. Some people actually refer to alcohol as liquid courage.

Normally when we consider people being “under the influence”, we think of it in negative terms. For example, someone driving while “under the influence”.  I want you to expand your thought process and consider it a different way. If most people were different when under the influence of anesthesia, drugs, or alcohol, would you agree that people could also be different when they are under the influence of an all-powerful God?

Romans 8:5 AMP

For those who are according to the flesh and are controlled by its unholy desires set their minds on and pursue those things which gratify the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit and are controlled by the desires of the Spirit set their minds on and seek those things which gratify the [Holy] Spirit.

I believe that those who are controlled by and under the influence of an all-mighty and all-powerful God also do things they would not normally do too!

  1. In general, these individual’s judgment is not impaired but heightened. They often make decisions that they would not otherwise make. Let me give you an example. Recently I dropped some friends off at a store to pick up something, while I went down the street for fuel. When I got back, two of them came out carrying the boxes, but said my other friend would be a minute….she was in there praying for a woman who has a bad back! When you are under the influence of an all-powerful God, you do things like pray for hurting people in the store, even if they are a perfect stranger!
  2. Just like the first group, people under the influence of God will also have their speech impacted; they may say things that they normally would not say. When we are controlled by an all-powerful God, we can speak with words that are not taught by human wisdom, but words taught by the Spirit! (1 Corinthians 2:13)There have been countless times in my life, when someone being influenced by God has spoken words of encouragement to me, when there is no way except through God they could have known I needed those words!
  3. When we are under the influence of God, it isn’t just our speech that is effected, but also the way we walk.Ps 119:1-3 NKJV …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. If we are under the influence of an all-powerful God, the way we walk should be effected. 

    Ephesians 4:1b-3 NKJV

    1 Blessed are the undefiled in the way, who walk in the law of the Lord! 2 Blessed are those who keep His testimonies, who seek Him with the whole heart! 3 They also do no iniquity; they walk in His ways.

    • We should walk in love (Ephesians 5:1-2)
    • We should walk as children of light (Ephesians 5:8-12)
    • We should walk wisely and not as fools (Ephesians 5:15)

    1 John 2:6 NKJV

    He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked.

  4. One other thing I said about people under the influence of anesthesia or even other drugs/alcohol is that they are often more emotional and express love in a more open way. There is no love like God’s love. The influence of God in our lives gives us the ability to love the unlovable in ways that would normally be humanly impossible.
  5. The last attribute I mentioned about those under the influence is a heightened level of bravery or boldness. I am here to tell you that when an all-powerful God influences you, you will have opportunities for great boldness and bravery.

We see many examples of boldness and bravery in Scripture, but one that immediately comes to mind is Peter. This man had just recently denied knowing Jesus when they came to take Him for crucifixion.  Then we see this same man not long after Jesus’ resurrection, under the influence of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2, stand up boldly proclaiming the gospel and preaching his first sermon.  The people responded asking, “What must we do to be saved?” He saw about 3000 souls come to the Kingdom that day!

We have seen all these examples of how things can change under the influence of an all-powerful God, but how do we tap into that? To answer that question, we first must consider the influences around us.

The word “Influence” can be defined as a powerful legacy, something passed on to you from family. It can also mean to sway, or effect or alter by indirect or intangible means.

The reality is that we have people and many forms of information, media, and communication that influence us each day. Sometimes that influence can be positive and sometimes it is negative.  Look at these two examples from the Bible.

Romans 7:24-25 Message Bible

24 I’ve tried everything and nothing helps. I’m at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn’t that the real question? 25 The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does. He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different.

James 2:1 Message Bible

My dear friends, don’t let public opinion influence how you live out our glorious, Christ-originated faith.

Not only do forces of influence surround us, but also we as individuals, have an opportunity to influence those in our own circles. Take a moment and consider who have been the most influential people in your life. Perhaps you are thinking of a parent or grandparent, maybe a teacher or a pastor, maybe a friend or coworker.

I did a Google search for the most influential people of all time1.  According to one survey that named the top 100 most influential people, Jesus Christ was number one, but in that very same survey, Muhammad was number six!  Moses was #18 but Hitler was #17!  We have an opportunity every day to be an influential person; the question we should consider is if our influence is positive or negative?

There are benefits of being a positive influence.

Proverbs 11:11 AMP

By the blessing of the influence of the upright and God’s favor the city is exalted, but it is overthrown by the mouth of the wicked.

Psalm 112:1-9 NLT

1 Praise the Lord!  How joyful are those who fear the Lord and delight in obeying his commands.2 Their children will be successful everywhere; an entire generation of godly people will be blessed.3 They themselves will be wealthy, and their good deeds will last forever.4 Light shines in the darkness for the godly. They are generous, compassionate, and righteous.5 Good comes to those who lend money generously and conduct their business fairly.6 Such people will not be overcome by evil. Those who are righteous will be long remembered.7 They do not fear bad news; they confidently trust the Lord to care for them.8 They are confident and fearless and can face their foes triumphantly.9 They share freely and give generously to those in need. Their good deeds will be remembered forever. They will have influence and honor.

On the other hand, we can also see in Scripture those who were negative influencers. Here is just one example.

1 Kings 21:25-26 NLT

No one else so completely sold himself to what was evil in the Lord’s sight as Ahab did under the influence of his wife Jezebel.

Every person has opportunities to be either a positive or a negative influence on the lives of those we touch. This picture speaks of influence…

It says “I thought about quitting, then I noticed who was watching”. You can put a blank there instead of the word quitting and fill it with many things that would apply to your ability to influence others.  Here are some examples:

  • I thought about HATING then I noticed who was watching
  • I thought about SINNING then I noticed who was watching
  • I thought about GOSSIPING then I noticed who was listening

YOU FILL IN THE BLANK! You can fill it with whatever your greatest struggles are. NONE OF US ARE EXEMPT! Now let’s turn those words around.

  • I thought about showing kindness….because I noticed who was watching
  • I thought about praying….because I noticed who was watching
  • I thought about turning the other cheek….because I noticed who was watching
  • I thought about being generous…because I noticed who was watching
  • I thought about leading….because I noticed who was following!

OH, THE POWER OF POSITIVE INFLUENCE!

We live in a world that is all about self-gratification….but if we are under the influence of an all-powerful God we can live differently than that. He empowers us to live self-less lives being His hands, feet, and voice extended to this world.

In closing, consider this passage. The prophet Jeremiah is crying out to the Lord and look at how He responds.

Jeremiah 15:19 NLT

19 This is how the Lord responds: “If you return to me, I will restore you so you can continue to serve me. If you speak good words rather than worthless ones, you will be my spokesman. You must influence them; do not let them influence you!

Our world is desperate for those, under the influence of an all-mighty God, to become the most influential people with voices and actions that are louder than all the destructive influences around us!

WE MUST INFLUENCE THIS WORLD MORE THAN IT INFLUENCES US!

 

  1. https://www.ranker.com/crowdranked-list/the-most-influential-people-of-all-time–

The Roundabout

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IMG_0292.PNGIt was February of 2015 when the image you see above was planted in my brain because of a dream that I had. It was a dream that was so vivid, that I woke up thinking it had really happened.

In my dream, I was driving a big truck, in a lot of traffic with other vehicles, trucks, and buses around me. I kept coming to a strange two-lane roundabout that had six road exit options. I was lost and kept taking the wrong turn at this roundabout and I would travel that road and end up right back at the roundabout again. Each time I would try to concentrate and take the next option, only to end up back at the roundabout again and again.  At the very end of my dream, I had a realization that if I had only taken the exit to my direct left, it would have been the correct turn.

Recently, during my normal daily Bible reading one morning, I read something that reminded me of the image of this dream. Below is the passage I was reading at the time.

Deuteronomy 2:1-3; 7a; 18a NKJV

1 Then we turned and journeyed into the wilderness of the Way of the Red Sea, as the Lord spoke to me, and we skirted Mount Seir for many days. 2 And the Lord spoke to me, saying: 3 “You have skirted this mountain long enough; turn northward.”

7 For the Lord your God has blessed you in all the work of your hand. He knows your trudging through this great wilderness…

18 This day you are to cross over…

In this version of the Bible, which I was reading that morning, the word “skirted” jumped out at me. If you read it in many versions, it will say, “circled…you have circled this mountain long enough.”

The Living Bible says, “You have stayed here long enough.”

The New Living Translations says, “You have been wandering around in this hill country long enough; turn to the North”.

On that particular morning, I heard the Lord say, “Tell them they have circled this mountain long enough, I have seen their trudging through this wilderness…it is time to look up and cross over!”

I’m not sure how many will read this and relate to that statement, but I feel confident there will be some. Sometimes this type of change comes with your own decision and sometimes it starts with God’s command…”IT IS TIME!”

Regardless of which of those two it is for you personally, it will begin with trust. Sometimes we get confused with faith and trust. For that reason, let me give you an example to consider.

I am a pretty strong swimmer. My dear friend likes to spend time with me at the lake, but her preference is to be in water no deeper than her height. If it is deeper than that, she prefers a life jacket.

I asked her to consider a question. If I had a large body of water separating me from safety, and my life literally depended on me being able to swim across with no life jacket, did she have faith in my ability to swim to safety? She immediately responded, “Yes!”

In order to demonstrate the difference in faith and trust, I asked her a second question. If you were there with me, same scenario, would you TRUST me to climb on my back and let me swim us both across to safety?

Do you see the difference in faith and trust in this scenario? She should have said “No” to the second question, because while I feel confident I could swim myself to safety, I don’t think I am strong enough anymore to swim two people to safety. This demonstrates a good point.

If we are honest, sometimes we have faith in God’s ability, but we don’t really trust Him to carry us. While I may not be able to carry my friend, I can assure you God can carry her or any one of us.

Here is the reality. WE HAVE TO TRUST HIM WITH ALL THAT WE ARE…..AND ALL THAT WE ARE NOT!

If God is saying you have trudged through this situation long enough to stop circling it and look up, He is telling you to not only have faith in His ability to do anything, but He is asking you to trust Him to help you too.

Now if you go back to the passage I started with, and read the whole thing in context, you will see there were some directions for them along the way. He didn’t just tell them to stop circling, He gave them some specific instructions for their path forward.

He told them when you get to Moab, do not harass them, or provoke them to war, because I have not given you that land to possess. (Vs. 9) Then if you keep reading, He tells them when you come opposite of the sons of Ammon, do not harass them or provoke them, for I will not give you any of the land of the sons of Ammon as a possession. (Vs. 18)

Now look at what happens when we get down to verse 24.

Deuteronomy 2:24 NKJV

Rise, take your journey, and cross over the River Arnon. Look, I have given into your hand Sihon the Amorite, king of Heshbon, and his land. Begin to possess it, and engage him in battle.

Look also a few more verses down…

Deuteronomy 2:31-34 NKJV

31 And the Lord said to me, “See, I have begun to give Sihon and his land over to you. Begin to possess it, that you may inherit his land.” 32 Then Sihon and all his people came out against us to fight at Jahaz. 33 And the Lord our God delivered him over to us; so we defeated him, his sons, and all his people. 34 We took all his cities at that time, and we utterly destroyed the men, women, and little ones of every city; we left none remaining.

When we read things like this, it seems cruel that they were to destroy even the women and the children, but what we have to realize is the Lord’s command was directly related to destroying future temptation.

Let me show you an example a few chapters later.

Deuteronomy 12:1-4 NKJV

1 These are the statutes and judgments which you shall be careful to observe in the land which the Lord God of your fathers is giving you to possess, all the days that you live on the earth. 2 You shall utterly destroy all the places where the nations which you shall dispossess served their gods, on the high mountains and on the hills and under every green tree. 3 And you shall destroy their altars, break their sacred pillars, and burn their wooden images with fire; you shall cut down the carved images of their gods and destroy their names from that place. 4 You shall not worship the Lord your God with such things.

See the Lord instructed them to destroy the people and places who worshiped other gods. By doing this they removed the temptation of future idolatry.

If you are someone who has been trudging around in circles long enough, I want you to consider what the Lord is speaking to you in this message.

They were instructed to look north. In this context, it is time to look up! You make the decision that it is time to stop trudging through this situation and you look up because your help with come from the Lord!

You need to address your fear or your unbelief. Do you have faith but are lacking trust? There are consequences to unbelief. Most of the original group of the Children of Israel did not get to see the Promised Land because of their unbelief. Joshua and Caleb had a different spirit; they were able to focus on God’s promises more than the seemingly impossible circumstances that they were faced with. We read in the Gospels where Jesus visited certain places and He did not perform many miracles there because of the people’s unbelief. There are consequences to unbelief and we need to ask for help. (Matt 13:58)

Maybe you are not struggling with fear or unbelief but you need to address your cynicism. If you have circled a mountain 40 years, it is easy to stay stuck in that way of thinking. Just like the man who was at the Gate Beautiful, this man was lame from his mother’s womb. Someone carried him to the gate every day to beg. He was stuck in this way of thinking that this was the best it was ever going to be.

Then one day….he begged alms from someone who was full of the Holy Spirit and power and he said,

Acts 3:6-9 NKJV

…. “Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.” 7 And he took him by the right hand and lifted him up, and immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength. 8 So he, leaping up, stood and walked and entered the temple with them — walking, leaping, and praising God.

LOOK UP, LET GOD HELP YOU DEAL WITH THE FEAR, THE UNBELIEF, THE LACK OF TRUST, AND THE CYNICISM!

You have to cross over and possess. I will actually take that thought a step farther, you need to go beyond just possessing and occupy!

When you read about the journey of the Children of Israel, there are some parts that just seem difficult to understand. When they were instructed to wipe out certain people that seems harsh, but the Lord knew that in order to totally possess all that He had for them, those things needed to go. You can read example after example in the Old Testament where the Children of Israel did not comply, they would partially obey, and then there would be future consequences because of that lack of obedience.

If there is something in your life that needs to go in order for you to cross over and possess, let it go!

The example I want to close with is the life of Elisha. If you know the background of the story, the Lord directed Elijah to anoint Elisha to take his place as prophet.

1 Kings 19:19-21 NKJV

19 So he departed from there, and found Elisha the son of Shaphat, who was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen before him, and he was with the twelfth. Then Elijah passed by him and threw his mantle on him. 20 And he left the oxen and ran after Elijah, and said, “Please let me kiss my father and my mother, and then I will follow you.” And he said to him, “Go back again, for what have I done to you?” 21 So Elisha turned back from him, and took a yoke of oxen and slaughtered them and boiled their flesh, using the oxen’s equipment, and gave it to the people, and they ate. Then he arose and followed Elijah, and became his servant.

Why am I using this example? Because Elisha did exactly what the Lord instructed the Children of Israel to do so many times. He totally destroyed what might tempt him to look back or go back. His oxen and his equipment was his profession and he was being called to a new profession.

I am certain that there were times of questioning, and difficulties that Elisha faced in this new position, but he made a decision, “I’M ALL IN!” He destroyed the possibility of being tempted to go back.

In my dream, I kept taking the wrong turns, similar to the way the Children of Israel took wrong turns. If you have been trudging around in circles long enough, I want to encourage you to look up! Your help will come from the Lord. He will direct your path and give you direction to cross over. Turn loose of the things that will tempt you to go back to your old way of thinking and living. Move forward with confidence that what God has for you in your future is far better than circling this same old mountain!

 

The “I AM” of the Storm

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I AMThis is that time of the year in Missouri when the weather patterns begin to change too quickly, and we find our TV shows are constantly being interrupted with storm warnings. We sometimes hear the meteorologist tell us we need to seek shelter immediately.

When I think about storms and shelter, I often envision the eye of a storm. Did you know that in the center of a tropical cyclone you can find a region of calm weather and sunshine as much as 20-40 miles in diameter?  It is called the eye of the storm.

In this life, we are often faced with other types of storms. We get bad news, negative reports, face difficult obstacles.  Read below one of my favorite passages of Scripture, which talks about the shelter that is available to the believer.

Psalm 91:1-2; 9-16 NKJV

1 He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. 2 I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in Him I will trust…..”

9 Because you have made the Lord, who is my refuge, Even the Most High, your dwelling place, 10 No evil shall befall you, Nor shall any plague come near your dwelling; 11 For He shall give His angels charge over you, To keep you in all your ways. 12 In their hands they shall bear you up, Lest you dash your foot against a stone. 13 You shall tread upon the lion and the cobra, The young lion and the serpent you shall trample underfoot. 14 “Because he has set his love upon Me, therefore I will deliver him; I will set him on high, because he has known My name. 15 He shall call upon Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him and honor him. 16 With long life I will satisfy him, And show him My salvation.”

If you are facing a storm in your life, I want you to remember that no matter what kind of storm you encounter, He is the “I AM” of the storm!

Eye of the storm verses “I AM” of the storm 

  1. He said to Abram, “Do not be afraid, Abram. I AM your shield, your exceedingly great reward” (Gen 15:1 NKJV).
  2. He said to Jacob after he wrestled with Him all night. “I AM God Almighty!” (Gen 35:11) He changed his name from Jacob meaning supplanter to Israel “may God prevail”.
  3. He said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM” (Ex 3:14).
  4. He said to the prophet Isaiah, “I AM the First and I am the Last; Besides Me there is no God” (Isa 44:6).
  5. He told the disciples:
    • I AM the bread of life” (John 6:35).
    • I AM the light of the orld” (John 8:12).
    • I AM the door” (John 10:9).
    • I AM the good shepherd” (John 10:11).
    • I AM the true vine” (John 15:1)
  6. He told Martha, “I AM the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25).
  7. He told Thomas, I AM the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6).
  8. He told John the Revelator:
    • I AM the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last” (Rev 1:11).
    • I AM He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore” (Rev 1:18).
    • I AM He who searches the minds and hearts” (Rev 2:23).
    • I AM the Root and the Offspring of David, the Bright and Morning Star” (Rev 22:16).
    • “Surely I AM coming quickly” (Rev 22:20).

One of the most famous “Peace” Scriptures is about Jesus being the “I AM” of the storm.

Mark 4:35-40 NKJV

35 On the same day, when evening had come, He said to them, “Let us cross over to the other side.” 36 Now when they had left the multitude, they took Him along in the boat as He was. And other little boats were also with Him. 37 And a great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that it was already filling. 38 But He was in the stern, asleep on a pillow. And they awoke Him and said to Him, “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?” 39 Then He arose and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace, be still!” And the wind ceased and there was a great calm.

In this passage we not only see Jesus demonstrate speaking peace to a literal storm, but we see Jesus show us what perfect peace looks like when He can sleep while the others were so overcome with fear.

I have heard it said, “Sometimes God calms the storm. Sometimes He lets the storm rage and calms His Child”.  Our peace is often a result of our ability to cast our care over on Him and trust that He has us.  I will be the first to admit; this is easier said, than done at times, but I want to encourage you today to do that.

We can be confident that He is our great I AM, He will be what we need Him to be at each moment in our lives, and we can find the shelter that we need in the Great “I AM”!