Sunday, July 5, 2015

The Cross, Carry It With a Purpose

Matthew 26:53--NIV--Do you think I cannot call my Father, and He will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels?

Jesus was not a poor little street urchin while he walked this earth. A Roman legion was approximately 6,000 fighting men. With one look and a prayerful thought, 72,000 angels could have surrounded the rag tag army that came to arrest Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane.

But, He didn't do it. He had a date with a cross. He wasn't going to TRY to bear up under the weight of His cross. He was going to carry it with a purpose. He know what it was going to be like and He did it anyway. He knew that it was the ONLY way to free mankind. He loved us that much that He dared NOT to even entertain one tiny thought of neglecting His promise to do His Father's will.

When we think of bearing our cross, we think of crying, heartache and tears. Truly, the things that we consider our cross are heavy enough to bring us to our knees. The problems we face seem to be on our minds more than anything else. We lose sleep, we lose our patience with our loved ones, and we despair of our own lives at times.

Jesus didn't have His mind set on these things although they were all around Him. Instead of broken lives, He was thinking about the broken chains that His blood would bring. Instead of watching people stumbling around in the dark, His mind was on the light of the Holy Spirit that was soon to come. Instead of broken families, He was thinking about the Holy Spirit guiding men and women into Godly choices. In other words, His mind was locked on to the answers instead of the problems He saw.

No, He didn't just ignore the problems that He saw. As a matter of fact, all through His three year ministry Jesus went about making broken things good again. The sick were healed, the dead were raised and demons were cast out of thousands. However, He was looking forward to the time when millions of men, women, boys and girls that were called by His name would take over His job after He ascended to His Father.

It was for us and our future that Jesus died on the cross, my friend. And now it's our turn to return the favor for the same reason. Don't do it just because you feel compelled to carry it for Jesus. Because you're not.

You are carrying the cross for your own good. As I've taught in the past several blogs, God has a plan to do you good (Jeremiah 29:11). There are some things you need to know from Him that can only be learned while bearing this burden. There are some good things He has planned for you and your children in your future.

Just like Jesus did, think of all the good things that God wants to do for you and your children. It will give you strength to get you through this time. A woman, when she's pregnant, is uncomfortable, always tired, sometimes given to crying, sometimes crabby, sometimes gives in to unusual cravings.....and in the last two months gets worse. But there is a great deal of strength and hope that she gets from knowing that this is just a temporary inconvenience. She knows that every day puts her close to delivering a sweet little baby. And that's what gives her the ability to endure it all. She will give birth to an abundance of joy.

If you want to think of it that way too, guys, your cross is a God-thing that hurts right now but will be over in the birthing of a miracle sometime in the future. Don't just stumble under the weight of your cross. Carry it with a hope and a purpose. Remember, there was a powerful resurrection not too long after Jesus finished carrying His cross. And there will be a powerful move of God for you when you're finished, too.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Luke 14:27--Bear The Cross, Wear The Crown

Luke 14:27--KJV--And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.

In the last blog, I likened our hurts, angers and jealousies to a flat tire on our journey to God's Promises. There are things that you can deal with by forgiving and learning how to love in a Godly manner. However, there are somethings that we just have to live with until God comes on the scene and removes them.

These are called our cross and Jesus instructs us to carry it. You may be struggling with an unsaved spouse, children or parent. It might be your job. It might be your church. It might be your financial situation. It might be a sickness or a loved one's illness.

We struggle under the load of things that have come upon us and we seemingly have no control over. I have come to believe that the things that have come to me that I don't have control over have come to me because God has control over them. He controls them when they come and I remind myself daily that He controls them when they go.

Then why does God allow them to come our way? It certainly is NOT because He hates us for some reason. God bragged on Job to the devil one day. The devil bargained that if God would take down the hedge of protection (Job 1:10) from Job that God had put around him the devil would cause Job to curse God to his face. Even though he lost his children, his crops, animals and health, Job never cursed God. The end of the story was that God restored to Job twice as much as was taken from him because he had remained faithful.

Let's learn this lesson. When things come upon us that are not in our control, remember that they ARE in God's control. That's where you put your faith. (1 Corinthians 10:13) God creates a blessing set aside for us at the same time He gives the devil the go ahead to come after us. And that blessing is much more than the pain and agony of spirit that the trial causes.

It's hard to understand sometimes until you understand God's reason for your cross. He plainly said in Luke 14:27 that if you didn't bear your cross then you couldn't be His disciple. A disciple is a student. What Jesus is saying here is that if you don't carry your cross, you'll never learn anything from Him. Oh, yes you will learn plenty from the things that you go through every day. But, Jesus said you can't learn anything from HIM if you don't carry your cross daily.

If we are constantly whining and whimpering about what we're having to go through, the only thing we'll learn about is how to whine to get your way. God doesn't lead around a bunch of whiners. He'll just let you go whatever way you want to go and do what you want to do. However, it's ONLY in learning about Him that you'll ever be able to overcome your situation.

When we submit and pick up our cross daily we come to know Him in a more personal way. Knowing Jesus in your awkward situation will give you the wisdom and strength to be an overcomer. Jesus submitted to the cross because He knew that it was the only way to bring redemption to a fallen man. It was the only way to give man back his superiority over satan and all of his forces.

Jesus didn't submit to the cross as an act of weakness, he submitted due to an act of strength and character. The same thing happens to us when we submit to our cross and follow Jesus. We find a strength and a wisdom that we never thought we had. As our relationship to Jesus grows, the cross gets lighter. A happy anticipation of good things to come begins to rise in us.

Pretty soon we begin to look forward to living a resurrected life like Paul did. In Philippians 3:10, he said he wanted to know Jesus in the power of His resurrection. That's what gave Paul the fortitude to go through the hardships that God put him through. Paul kept expecting more of God and more of God and more of God to show up. As he carried his cross daily God kept manifesting Himself in Paul's life daily.

Bear your cross. Learn about Jesus. Become more than a conqueror.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Don't Fix The Flat, Put On A New Tire

There's nothing more discouraging on a trip than to have a flat tire somewhere along the way. It's the same way in our journey by faith. We start believing God for something and we trust Him that He's guiding us in that direction. Then something comes along that stops all of our progress.

But, on our faith journey, it's not really a flat tire. It could be something much worse. Hurt, anger, distrust and jealousy can be far more devastating than any flat tire. Even though we're limping along through our daily life, our spiritual progress comes to a screeching halt.

Here's where we go dangerously wrong. Of course, we change the tire to get back on our journey. To keep from being stranded without a spare, we look for somewhere to fix the tire. Now, we're at the point hinted at by the title of this blog. Don't just patch the hole in that tire. Get a brand new one.

I know, I know it is best to get two new tires than to run an old one and a new one. Let's skip that analogy of driving and tires. Let's get on to the things that hinder us from getting to God's promised blessings.

Hurt is a big stopper. When someone purposely does something to offend us it almost stops us dead in our tracks like a flat tire will. We often lose the desire to continue our Christian journey. Our joy level drops. We become more concerned about the hurt than we do our love for Jesus Christ. The pain takes control of our thoughts. It's hard to concentrate our faith on God's Word. Every time we get down to pray, our prayers are hindered by what someone said or did to us. When that happens our journey to the blessings of God comes to a halt.

Here's why you don't try to patch that flat tire. We sometimes waste precious time on our journey trying to 'fix' something that won't fix. People's opinions of us won't change without the conviction of God. Most of the time they certainly won't change by trying to reason with the person. If they have purposely done something to hurt you, they will never see the error of their ways if you confront them. More than likely they will just look for another way to hurt you.

Don't waste your time 'fixing' the flat. Get a brand new tire. In Matthew 6:14-15, Jesus said that if you don't forgive people of their sins your Heavenly Father won't forgive you. When you harbor hurt, anger and jealousy toward someone you're not hurting them, you're hurting yourself. You are stopping your forward progress towards God's blessings in your life. Get over it. Don't try to 'fix' the flat. Forgive that person from your heart. Go to God and tank up on His love so you can love them, then put the pedal to the metal.

God has a lifetime supply of joy and blessings that He wants you to enjoy. However, when we encounter these 'hurts' we sometimes stop our Godly journey toward those blessings. Many times we start building our homes and our lives on the pain that we feel like we 'have' to endure because of what has happened to us.

God NEVER intended for you to live in the slow lane or be forced to pitch a tent by the side of the interstate and live with a flat tire the rest of your life. He intended for you to get past that little 'hittybump' and keep on trucking. He intended for you to have a life free from sin, sickness and poverty. He intended for you and has payed the way for you to live victoriously all of your life.

You may ask, "Well, why doesn't He just move this flat and carry me on this journey?" But, hey, it's not God's flat. It's yours. 1 Corinthians 10:13 tells us that everybody on the face of this earth has 'hittybumps' just like you. It's normal for these things to happen. God's not picking on you.

This verse tells us that God actually allows these things to happen to you. Why? Well it certainly wasn't because He didn't want to bless you. After purchasing these blessings with the precious blood of His Son Jesus Christ there is no way that God has any desire to keep them from you.

What God is wanting to do is make you strong. He wants to do greater things in your life than you can ever imagine. Let me use the Apostle Paul as a shining example. Paul prayed three times that God would remove the 'thorn in his flesh'. But, God told him in 2 Corinthians 12:9 that His grace, His unmerited favor, would be enough for Paul.

What is unmerited favor anyway? It is the blessing of God that you don't deserve to get. Now think about it. After all the praying and studying Paul did, he deserved the power of God to come down and save and heal people. BUT, God didn't just want to give Paul the things that he deserved. He wanted to bless Paul (Ephesians 3:20) exceedingly abundantly above all that he could ask or think. Sure Paul went through more 'junk' than any other Apostle. BUT, right now, even today, Paul is reaching more and more people through the letters that he wrote and by his testimony which lives in the New Testament. And let me add this. What are the names of the people who tried to destroy Paul? Are they written down in the history books somewhere? Absolutely not.

God's trying to get you somewhere. He's trying to get you somewhere good. He's trying to get you to the blessings that you deserve because of the blood of Jesus and God's agape love for you. He wants to pour out His unmerited favor on you in a manner that you can't even comprehend.

BUT, you're stuck beside the road to your blessings and crying over what somebody said or did. You've got a blessing waiting for you that you haven't gotten to yet. Tear up your 'pity party' costume and throw away the 'pity party' decorations. Leave them beside the road. Put on the new tire of forgiveness and truck on down the highway. Leave your sorrows behind you. Head for the unmerited favor of God and shout on your journey.


Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Why Does God Have To Make The Road So Rough?

In my last blog, I compared our walk by faith to a road trip. In Psalms 37:23, David said that the steps of a good man were ordered of God. Each day that goes by is like the mile markers on the interstate. When most of us take a trip, we pretty much know how many miles it is, how long it will take and how much gas we will use. With everything that we think we'll need, we begin our journey.

However, our walk by faith is never smooth sailing. God never promised us smooth sailing. Look closely at what Jesus said in John 16:33. He starts off by saying, "These things I have spoken to you, that in me you might have peace." Now, that's a great verse to shout about, isn't it? Yeah, Jesus, You're gonna just smooth things out for us, aren't You? U-h-h-h-h, nope.

The next part of that verse brings us back to reality. You know.....life the way it really is. "In the world ye shall have tribulation." This is more like it, isn't it? All of us have had more trouble than we really want. Sometimes it seems like we go from one bad thing to another. And, all too often, we constantly expect something bad more than we expect something good to happen. C'mon, say Amen.

Is it so hard to believe the rest of the verse? Jesus said for us to cheer up when those tribulations sideswipe and t-bone us. Now He does make a statement that we merely read and seldom heed. He told us to cheer up because He overthrew satan's power that brought the tribulation. Instead of mulling over all the tribulation we face, we should be thinking about God's power blowing every demon force in hell to smithereens.

Let's remember Paul's life and writings for a moment. If anyone ever went through enough tribulations to make you want to quit it was the Apostle Paul. Paul was beaten, jailed, cursed, stoned and left for dead and kept on going. Lots of people got saved, healed and delivered and a lots of others got together and run him out of town. So you think that God's mean to you, huh? Old Paul asked the Lord three times to remove his 'thorn in the flesh' but what did God say? God told Paul in 2 Corinthians 12:9 that His grace was sufficient for Paul because God's strength was manifested in Paul's weakness.

Did you catch that? And did you catch a glimpse of what is on God's mind when He allows us to go through tribulation? God ALWAYS put Paul in a situation that Paul had no way of getting through unless the awesome power of God came on the scene.

Paul was able to pass down to us his secret recipe for success but I bet most of you never caught it. Look at 1 Corinthians 10:13. "There hath no temptation taken you but such as common to man:" Stop right there. You are not UNcommon and you are not going through anything UNcommon. Quit thinking that God made up some special kind of hell just for you to go through. What you are going through right now is normal and you are normal. Get over whatever you have to get over. Quit wallowing around in the pig pen of self pity and act like a blood-bought, Holy Ghost filled child of the living God for once. It'll do you good.

The next thing that verse says is, "But God is faithful." Don't start with your, "Yeah, He's always faithful to let something come along and knock me down just when I got to climbing up higher. I knew something would come along like that." You know why I don't want to hear that? Because that's exactly what I USED to say. For years I celebrated my own little pity party. Thank God I finally quit and put away the balloons. They were flat anyway.

Let's read the rest of that verse before I comment. "Who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation make a way of escape, that ye may be able to bear it." God has the devil on a short chain. The devil is NOT free to do with you as he sees fit. Mr. Ugly has to have God's permission to throw some bad stuff on us. If God says 'No' then he can't.

God carefully measures every one of us before He lets the devil go after us. Just like He did with Job, God WILL NOT allow the devil to have free reign in our lives. He always has a stopping point to the torment. He draws a line and the devil can't cross it. Besides, it's only with God's permission that the schmuck can work against us anyhow.

Here's something you might not have ever seen before. "But will WITH THE TEMPTATION make a way of escape." Did you catch that? Before God gives His permission for the devil to come after us, He has already planned a blessing greater than the trial. Did you hear me?

After Job seemingly lost everything except his nagging wife and three gossiping friends, God blessed Job with TWICE as much as he lost. That was God's plan. Jeremiah said that God is planning things for our good. Yes, Job went through torment but it didn't kill him. He lived all the way through it. AND he wound up with twice as much as he had before.According to Paul, God had the blessing ready for Job before the devil ever threw the first punch.

Yeah, but what about the trouble after trouble after trouble that Paul had all of his life. Is that all you see? You must not have read your Bible. Paul reached the lost. He started churches that thrived on the power of God. He operated in the realm of healing and special miracles. How long did the beatings last? An hour? How long was the power of God poured out? Weeks, months and years. And the power of God is still moving in our lives today because of what Paul did and wrote. I would say that it was a little bit of turmoil that turned into millions upon millions of blessings.

1 Thessalonians 5:18--KJV--In every thing give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. This was Paul's secret plan of attack in the Philippian jail. They prayed and sang praises to God at midnight after they had been beaten for the cause of Christ. The praises to God IN everything was the right thing to do. It brought them joy and it brought them freedom. And, the jailer got saved and his family. No doubt some of the prisoners converted, too. The pain and embarrassment that the went through melted away at the revival and ultimate victory that God gave them.

When the devil comes after you pay as much attention to him as you would to a yapping little dog that was tied up to his owners porch. If you stand there paralyzed in fear, you will always be stopped by the incessant barking. But, if you will walk on toward the next mile marker and praise God with all of your heart, that dog will stop because he sees he can't keep you scared.

One more verse, Psalm 8:2--NIV--Through the praise of children and infants you have established a stronghold against your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger.

Now stop crying and start praising God for a new life of power, victory and joy that He's been wanting to pour out on you.

Monday, June 29, 2015

God Takes Us Step by Step

Psalm 37:23--(KJV)--The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord; and he delighteth in his way.

This past Saturday, I drove a church bus from Savannah to the Jacksonville International Airport to pick up some people who were returning from a missions trip to Chicago. While traveling down there I had my mind on this scripture. It was what I was going to teach on the next day, (Sunday).

As I watched the mile markers pass by, a different meaning began to take shape. I started my journey on I-95 at mile marker #94. Naturally the next mile marker was #93 and so on to the Florida border. These were measured steps that got me from one place, and to another, and to another, and to another, until it finally got me to my destination. And, they were all ordered.

That's when it dawned on me that God's path to our answered prayer is much the same way. When we ask in faith and believe we receive the answer when we pray, (Mark 11:24) God puts us on an orderly and measured pace to get to our destination.

Jeremiah 29:11--NLT--I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord. They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.

God has things all planned out for those of us who commit our lives to follow Him. The question is, do we want to move forward with Him and are we willing to follow the planned path He has established for us?

After we believe and start traveling on our way to our answered prayer, God leads us to and through places where it just does not look like He knows what He's doing. Sometimes it even looks like He is taking us in reverse. Sometimes it looks like He was just kidding when He said He would meet all of our needs according to His riches in glory.

Sometimes, there is pain on the journey. Sometimes people do their best to discourage us. Situations come up that we never counted on. People let us down that we thought would stand with us through anything. Of course, there are those people that watch us go through some bit of misery and encourage us to give up and declare that God is dead.

God never promised us that the way to an answered prayer would be easy, but He DID say that He would give us the things that we asked for. He never said there wouldn't be discouraging times or that you would never meet discouraging people, but He did say the He would give us the things that we asked for.

Rolling down I-95 was pretty boring. There were a lot of trees and bushes and creeks and bugs. As a matter of fact there were more trees and bushes and creeks and bugs than there was Jax International Airport. But that was the boring path that I needed to take if I ever wanted to get to that airport, pick up those homeward bound missionaries and get them back to Savannah.

If we honestly serve God, then we need to understand that He has us on a path that He understands a whole lot more than we do. He sees a lot farther down the road than we do and has it all planned out. All we need to do is patiently follow each step just like I had to go past every mile marker before my journey was over.

Sometimes we get discouraged, but we must not give up. We WILL get to the destination if we don't stop. Sometimes we meet with unexpected problems but keep on going. Every day means that you are one day closer to your miracle or your need being met.

Just like mile marker after mile marker, God takes us on our journey one step at a time. He is right there with us each step we take. He planned your trip for you and has promised you a good destination. Learn to enjoy walking with Him each day and the trip will become much shorter.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

When Will Our Land Be Healed?

2 Chronicles 7:14--(KJV)--If my people, which are called by My name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from Heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.

We've all quoted this scripture and many of us have preached it from time to time. Still our land is not healed. Sin abounds. Hatred surrounds us. Things look like they're getting worse and not better. It's that way all over the earth and not just here in the United States. There are many faithful readers of this blog from all over God's created earth that are going through the same things and even more. We could spend hours talking about the atrocious way the enemy has unleashed his ungodly demons on mankind. But, let me have a few moments of your time to help us see this scripture a little deeper.

Shall humble themselves and pray:  As I alluded to in my last blog, I firmly believe that the church has lost the Godly order of our services. Jesus put more emphasis for the need for us to pray than He did for us to sing. Yet, singing takes up a major part of our services. There would be a marked difference in our gatherings if 10-15 minutes of our singing was given over to corporate prayer.

God told us to humble OURSELVES and pray. It wouldn't take Him too long to humble any one of us. His Holy Spirit could swoop down and put a burden of prayer on us that would cause us hours of crying out to Him. So, why doesn't he? It's like the parable of the widow in Luke 18. She could have just gone on in her miserable way when she had the right to have her needs met. She could have died in poverty and unfulfilled. HOWEVER, she made up her mind that she was going to have all that the law said she could have.

So, God wants to see just how bad we want our land healed. IF we REALLY do, then we will humble OURSELVES. WE will make the effort. WE will set aside the time. We will make prayer a DAILY habit.

God has already shown just how bad He wants to heal our land. It took Him years to set up the stage for the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. He sent His only Son to die for OUR sins. Jesus went through the years of separation from Our Father. He went through the torment and the pain. He paid the debt that was ours. Not only that, His blood paved the way for mankind to be filled with all the power of Heaven. God's heart in sending Jesus to this earth was to show what a fleshly man could do under the power of the Holy Spirit. He could cast out demons. He could heal the sick. He could turn nations around.

That brings us to the next point, seeking the face of God. Most of what little prayer time we give is spent in asking God to heal, save and deliver His people. This is exactly what God wants us to do. HOWEVER, God is saying that if we want our land healed, we need to spend some time just getting to know Him. We need to spend time in His Presence just letting Him love on us.

During my sleepless hours with adrenal fatigue, I have had hours in the middle of the night to spend with Him. It has made a total difference in my relationship with Him. The things that I thought were impossible are now the things that I am expecting God to do. The thing about spending time one-on-one with God is that God begins to share His heart with you. The Word of God takes on a deeper and more powerful meaning because you begin to hear the Word from the point of view of God's Love.

And turn from our wicked ways: We don't know just how many tiny ways that the devil has a hold on us until we begin to seek the face of God. I'm not talking about murder, gambling and cussing. I'm talking about the little ugly thoughts, our talk that is grounded in doubt, our thought patterns that are centered around how God cannot do something. When we seek His face, He begins to clean up our insides. He begins to renew our thought life and His Spirit begins to empower us to believe Him for more.

When these things begin to take place in our lives, our faith in the healing of our land begins to grow exponentially. We begin to see a greater need for prayer. We see a greater need to know Him and we experience a revival of His presence down inside of us that transfers itself into actions around us.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Lessons From the Widow--Luke 18--The Lost

Jesus used the parable of the widow in Luke 18 to make the point that His people should always pray and not give up. After declaring how faithful Our Father is to answer prayer, Jesus finished the parable with this question. Luke 18:8, (KJV) "Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall He find faith on the earth?" I believe His intent in asking this question was to infer that people might not be praying as they should. He seems to equate the amount of prayer with the amount of faith we have. Assuredly, if our faith is high, so will our prayer life be high.

(Let me interrupt this blog to say something that might be a little tacky. But, think about it and I believe you'll come to the same conclusion. The word "sing" is mentioned 119 times in the Bible and only 5 times in the New Testament. Jesus never mentioned singing. Without boring you with statistics the word "pray" is mentioned 313 times in the Bible. Jesus specifically gave instructions to "pray" seventeen times in the four gospels. Yet we spend more time 'singing' in our services than we actually do 'praying'. Could we be missing something? Yes, we certainly are. And we wonder why the devil is having a field day. I don't know about you but I've changed my priorities.)

Let's look at some scripture. Peter tells us in his second letter, third chapter and ninth verse that God is NOT willing that any should perish. Of course, John 3:17 says, "For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world but that the world through Him might be saved." Are the terrorists in this world and are they an 'any'? The murderers, are they the same? How about the spouse that abandoned the marriage vows and destroyed a marriage? How about the children on drugs? How about that Christian that wronged you and everybody thinks they are right? How about the president, the members of congress and the mayor of your town? If they are in the world God's heart wants them saved.

The god of this world, satan, has blinded their minds so they can't see the truth of the gospel, 2 Corinthians 4:4. 1 John 4:4 tells us that the greater one is in us. In Luke 10:19,  Jesus gives US all power over the devil. Then let's get busy.

Father, we declare that You are the Almighty God and that Your Word is true. I believe that You want my lost loved ones to be saved. You showed how much You cared by sending Your only Son to die on a cross for all of our souls. It's because I believe these things that I take the following action according to Your Word. Devil, I demand you in the Name of Jesus to loose your hold on my unsaved loved ones. God wants them saved and I agree with Him. I want them saved, too. I command that spirit of blindness to loose their souls and minds so that they are able to see the light of God's love for them. God be just as relentless in chasing them as You were in chasing me to get me to do right. I commit them into Your heart and Your Word and ask You to do whatever it takes to turn their lives around. I believe Your Word is true and that because of my interceding on their behalf that You will honor what You said in John 14:14. You said that You would do anything that I asked You to if I asked in Your name. So I ask You to save them and I count it done in Jesus Name. Amen