Teach Me

Teach Me

Psalm 143:10-11 (NKJV) Teach me to do Your will, for You are my God; Your Spirit is good. Lead me in the land of uprightness. Revive me, O Lord, for Your name’s sake!

“True humility is staying teachable regardless of how much you already know.” Author Unknown

A humble heart is a teachable heart. The importance of knowledge and understanding is clearly evident throughout the Word of God. Teach me to do Your Will. This should be the cry of a believer every single day. Why? Simply put – You are My God and Your Spirit is good. To believe these two statements is the mandate of remaining changeable in the Presence of God. God does not lie. He doesn’t change His Mind. His Word cannot and will not return to Him void. If it hasn’t happened, you just haven’t waited long enough. If He said it, God meant it. His Sovereignty is complete and unshakeable. He will not move so it is up to us to be moved. The Lord does not change so the process is all on us to be changed into His Image.

Isaiah 48:17 (NKJV) Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel:
“I am the Lord your God, Who teaches you to profit, Who leads you by the way you should go.”

Life is full of choices. I made the decision to turn off my alarm and get out of bed this morning. It begins the moment our eyes open continuing throughout the day. Each one has a ripple effect in our life. The current of our life is experience as our choices become consequences – good or bad. The ebb and flow of society is fate. I do not swim in the same stream. I believe that God has a prescribed plan for my life (Jeremiah 29:11) with a future and hope. I believe that all my days were recorded before I was born. (Psalm 139:16) I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God who died for my sins and was resurrected on the third day. I also believe that He ascended to sit at the Right Hand of God and will return one day. Until then, I believe that He released His Spirit to live in me as my helper and teacher in life. This is what I believe…how about you? If you answered affirmatively, then the next question is – am I teachable? That’s right. If my life is not my own and contrary to the societal portrayal of normalcy, then I must consider the source of my knowledge, understanding and wisdom. It must be from the Lord. I must humble my life to remain teachable day by day, moment by moment and breath by breath if my desired destination is to live a prospering life in the Presence of God.

Psalm 25:4-5 (NKJV) Show me Your ways, O Lord; teach me Your paths. Lead me in Your truth and teach me, for You are the God of my salvation; on You I wait all the day.

Lately, I have felt pressure to move. It is not of the Lord because wherever He sends me – I go fully equipped even into unknown areas and uncharted territory. I have felt the need to wait, watch and pray. However, people are impatient. The enemy antagonizes the waiting believer goading them to move, jump or escape the “horrendous” state of immobility and powerlessness while God does exactly what He promised to do. Seeking the Lord today, I questioned my current state of waiting. I asked the Lord to show me if I missed Him. Did I turn off course? Did I not hear Him correctly? He offered me these verses and thoughts. I desire God’s Way above my own. I want Him to show me His Ways, teach me His Paths, and lead my life in all Truth. It is the desire of my heart and the promise of the God of our salvation. He will lead everyone who is willing to follow.

Lead me in Your Truth and teach me. Since accepting Jesus Christ as Savior and later giving Him my life as Lord, I have had many experiences in trusting and believing Him to fruition. I have waiting through some mighty storms and crawled through the remains of a heart broken into a million pieces. His Faithfulness has never failed me. His Love and Kindness pursues me. His Favor shines on my life. This is my experience. But wait there is more… there is always more with the Lord. He promises to do greater than we can ask, think or even imagine if we would only trust Him with our life. (Ephesians 3:20) A commitment to Christ including living life as a follower and disciple means becoming a life-long learner. To be teachable. To desire to know His Truth by which we are all set free. Sometimes pride will get in the way of our teachability. Enough is enough is usually the cry of the hardened heart. Overburdened by waiting on a God it does not trust and Savior who is clearly never coming on their behalf. Lord, I ask you today to break off every hard part in my heart today. To give me clean hands (external) and a pure heart (internal) to receive your Word by faith and wait until it comes to pass. Give me expedient and willingness obedience to live by faith not by sight. Teach me, Lord. Keep me soft and pliant as clay in the potter’s hand. Mold me. Shape me. Create in me a clean heart and steadfast spirit willing to wait on You in all things. You are my God. Your Spirit is Good.

To have God’s Way requires God’s Word. It is not enough to read it passively but to plant it productively in our life. The seed is the Word of God sown in a soft and fertile heart ready to cultivate all the desirable first fruits produced by the Holy Spirit. This is the way of revival in the human heart that will overflow into our communities. Humble people who love and trust the Lord enough to learn His Ways and walk in them. The kind of people willing to wait for Him and watch for Him confidently until He comes. These are the same people who will shine brightly as the Light of His Love in the darkness of the world. Those who quietly and confidently seek the Lord in all things and love everyone until He comes.

“The engine of change is a teachable spirit.” Author Unknown

“In His Hands, we find solace. In His Heart, we find rest. In His Time, we find meaning. In His Eyes, we are blessed.” Beth Moore

Psalm 1:1-3 (NKJV) Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night. He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper.

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The Father’s Glory

The Father's Glory

John 15:7-8 (NIV) If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish and it will be done for you. Yet another unfathomable promise from a good, good God. The Christ in us gives power and authority to our words. This is to my Father’s Glory that you bear much fruit…showing yourselves to be my disciples. The Holy Spirit cultivates the qualities and characteristics of God in our life. To be a disciple is the glorification of God. It is exemplified by the life of Christ in living color. A life of unconditional love and incomparable compassion for all mankind. So often focusing on the Gifts of God rather than His Grace, it is easy to become caught up in the promises of God without paying attention to His Process.

I am the worst of these when it comes to trying to accomplish godly character humanly. Perhaps, you may find yourself in the very same position today. Trying to achieve the spiritual naturally is a common problem facilitated by religious tradition in many cases. Some churches still sing give me that “old-time religion”. The church needs a fresh anointing and new revelation. I need it. The sum total of my effectiveness and efficiency as a Christian is my ability to become a disciple of Jesus Christ. In the Word of God, He invited the twelve to come and follow, but not one time did Jesus invite them to be just a follower or even call them a Christian. He asked them to be My disciple. Following Christ is part of the process of becoming a disciple but it is the positioning of our entire being IN Christ that completes it. So today, let’s talk about bringing glory to the Father. We seek His Glory desiring His Presence and everything that comes when it permeates a church service or even our prayer closet at home. I don’t want just an encounter or even an experience. My heart’s desire is eternity.

God’s Word

Matthew 13:23 (NIV) “But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.”

God’s Word is the seed that produces good fruit in our life. It is the particle of faith that the Holy Spirit uses to create the life God promises those who believe. Without God’s Word, there is no point in our faith because it is illogical outside of His Provisionary Plan. The Word of God is the seed that when placed in a broken, fertile and receptive heart begins the spiritual reproductive process within us. Faith germinates the seed and the Fruit of the Spirit comes into existence and beings to grow and develop.

Fruit of the Spirit

Galatians 5:22-23 (NIV) But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

The Holy Spirit is essential in a believer’s life. He is the essence of Christ in us that identifies us as Children of God. It is the existence of Christ in us that offers power and authority of supernatural impact to live in our words and prayers. The Spirit produces fruit from the Word cultivated by faith. The fruit is clearly defined as love, joy and peace. The three substantial satisfiers of humanity. Everyone wants love, joy and peace. There are other fruits of the Spirit that are necessary for productivity in our ability to fulfill the commandment of Christ to love others. They are forbearance, kindness, goodness and gentleness. We strive for these in our relationships though not born of our natural mind, will or emotions. The Holy Spirit produces these qualities from the love, joy and peace found in Christ. Finally, there is self-control. Oh how this is vital to spiritual success as a disciple. To keep going when no one else is. To continue when quitting seems favorable. To remain uncomfortable when comfortable escapes are offered. To opt for convenience when inconvenience is required. To maintain control when God asks for our complete trust and confidence.

Be My Disciple

John 15:8 (NIV) This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

Becoming a disciple of Jesus Christ is the Father’s Glory. It exemplifies the power of His Presence to fulfill His Purpose in us. We have no possible means of doing so. It is God’s Word planted in us. The Holy Spirit’s cultivation process. The commitment to be His Disciple… not just a Christian or a follower. To abide in Christ. To live each day for the Kingdom. I am challenged today by this passage. Do I live for the Father’s Glory? Is my life bearing fruit? Spiritual fruit? Sowing and reaping will produce the blessing of God in our life. Doing what the Word says will also create prosperity. Fullness is only accomplished when our life abides in Christ. Abundance is the surplus reserved for His Children.

Discipleship is to continually Jesus Christ. To engraft our life into His Word, His Will and His Way. Every day. Every breath. Every step. Every decision. Every moment. Not everyone will decide this is the life for them. It is not a requirement for Heaven. It is a requirement to glorify the Father. The good Father and gracious God who sends every good gift to us. The One who sent His Only Son to die for us so that we could become His Children in right standing again. God has given us an opportunity to glorify Him. It is the only “thing” we can do. God did everything else. He gave His Son. His Son gave the Spirit. God has provided for us from His Riches in Glory. He has given us the strength to do all things through Christ. The Lord has given us every spiritual blessing. We have it all. We also have the freedom to choose how to use this wonderful gift.

The Promise

John 15:9-11 (NIV) “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.”

Jesus offers His Love to us. We have the opportunity to remain in His Love. Keep His Commandments. He told us these things so that “my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” Are you satisfied with your life? Are you complete in love, joy and peace? Does your life glorify the Father today? Grace is the open doorway to every bit of fulfillment found in God’s Word. No matter how we lived yesterday. The Holy Spirit wakes us up offering new mercy for the new day with new opportunities to glorify the Father, bear much fruit and be a disciple of Jesus Christ. It means I must decrease and allow Christ to increase and take over. It means fear must give way to faith. It requires doubt drowned by belief. It is the promise of fulfillment to overflowing abundance of love, joy and peace. It is a privilege. It is a promise. It is more than I can think, ask or imagine. God is good! He is a Good Father! He deserves to be glorified.

Psalm 86:11-12 (NIV) Teach me your way, Lord, that I may rely on your faithfulness; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. I will praise you, Lord my God, with all my heart; I will glorify your name forever.

In the Weeds

IN the Weeds

Matthew 5:44-45 (NKJV) But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.

Hate is a learned behavior born of insecurity and fear. As believers, the only real and true enemy is satan. Children are born with hearts of acceptance. They do not understand the inherent dangers in life and so God gives them parents to love and protect them. Being of an imperfect nature, it is easy for us to teach our children the morals and ethics of our life molded by our experience rather an encounter with God’s Love. Jesus says, “Love your enemies” and “bless those who curse you”. As if that is not enough, we are to pray for those who spitefully or intentionally use us and even those who persecute us becoming a thorn in soft flesh. Why? So we may be Kingdom Kids who live in alignment with their Father and His Kingdom. Tough one. High calling for sure.

How do we love the people who abuse, betray, hurt, and use us? Where do we find the capacity to ward off offenses, ignore bad intentions, and keep the penetrating darts of gossip and slander penetrate a heart softening in the Hand of God? God doesn’t allow us to ignore them. We are to love them. Pray for them. Accept them with forgiveness no matter how many times they continually mistreat us. I know what you are thinking today. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Or maybe, it’s God doesn’t want me to be anyone’s doormat. The all-time best is I can forgive them but it doesn’t mean I have to let them hurt me again. Well…

He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.

Evil is not a character trait of human beings. People are born with eternity in every heart. Each given a measure of faith like seeds to sow in life. Everyone. Even the person who is causing you pain and strife. God loves and desires them just as He does you. Evil is cultivated from sin and sinful desires that take over but are like a sickness or disease that can be removed by the Resurrection Power of Jesus Christ. Which means every person has potential and God is constantly showering all of us with “fresh rain” in the hope that faith would grow and eternity would break through the hardest of hearts growing into a fruitful relationship with God through His Son, Jesus Christ.

Matthew 6:12-15 (NKJV) And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the Kingdom and the Power and the Glory forever. Amen. For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

Peter asked the pointed question, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him?” I wonder if we ask the Lord the same question. The answer is more than anyone can conceive in the natural. True forgiveness as God forgives us is born of grace. Grace is enough. God’s Grace given to us is the river from which our ability to accept apologies and restore relationships come from. When our expectation is in the Lord, it becomes our profound privilege to extend to others the same grace that has been given to us. I didn’t say it was easy only that it is possible. The Kingdom of God is all about relationship. Not only a right relationship with God but all of His People even those still living in sin and darkness.

True love is unconditional. True love waits while others catch on or catch up. “Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.” Is this truly the kind of love that is required of Children of God in every situation? Yes…it is. The model of prayer presented by Jesus to His Disciples does not suggest it but requires it in order to be forgiven and fully accepting God’s Grace. God will not give us anything that does not promote generosity in us. Seed reproduces. Good seed produces a harvest of good deeds that give honor and glory to God. Love is the greatest of the Fruit of His Spirit and the first step in achieving our purpose in the Lord and prospering in this life.

Matthew 13:24-30 (NKJV) Another parable He put forth to them, saying: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field; but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat and went his way. But when the grain had sprouted and produced a crop, then the tares also appeared. So the servants of the owner came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?’ He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The servants said to him, ‘Do you want us then to go and gather them up?’ But he said, ‘No, lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest, and at the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, “First gather together the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn.”’”

We must sow good seed in our life. Seed produces of the Holy Spirit and not unmet expectation. The Kingdom is comprised of men and women who as daily disciples strive to sow and grow godliness in their life. Any seed not of God is produced from fear, insecurity and doubt that God’s Power is enough and His Authority somehow compromised. It is human nature to experience such emotions. It is the Power of God working in each one of us to remove them.

The enemy will constantly sow weeds in our field. He is a thief who comes to steal, kill and destroy every good thing that the Lord is producing in our life. He is methodical in his approach. Ruthless in every attack. There is no compassion for his victim. We are God’s People who live in His Love and Compassion for others. His Directive is clear. We are not to uproot the weeds. It is not our job to kill them. We grow right along with them. Why? It is God’s Eternal Hope that one day the rain will touch their heart and the seed of faith and promise of eternity will grow from within in them as it does in you.

John 13:34-35 (NKJV) A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

I have recently been studying the differences between followers of Jesus and disciples of Jesus. There is a marked difference. Followers are led by their feelings and disciples are led by their future. Public opinion can influence the objective of a follower and offense cause them to be distracted and detoured in life. If you desire to be a disciple of Jesus Christ, love must be the premise of your life. Not just any kind of love, but the love received from the Father through the Son. Love that sacrifices its feelings for a future hope far greater them temporary circumstances. A fruitful life that continues to cultivate grace when surrounded by weeds. The kind of life that does not walk by sight but faith continually overcoming daily assaults and attacks by the enemy in an effort to kill our faith by producing fear, anxiety, worry and the worst of them insecurity. Love is relational. To love requires interaction. It is the overwhelming compassion of Jesus Christ who tells us to there is no great love than to lay our life down for a friend. To be a friend to all who are around us unaffected by their inability to show love and kindness in return. The only root to be removed is bitterness. By this ALL WILL KNOW that you are my disciple, if you have love for one another.

I will be honest this is a challenge for me with a handful of people. I am not speaking from a place of innocence but a daily struggle to love others including those who don’t love me. Those who have hurt me. Those who talk about me. I do so with this promise from the Lord – perfect love casts out all fear. God’s Love for me is enough. His Grace is sufficient for me. I must accept His Love and Grace in full measure to extend it to those around me and be His Disciple.

I John 4:17-19 (NKJV) Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love. We love Him because He first loved us.

Eyes Front

Eyes Front

Luke 9:62 (NKJV) But Jesus said to him, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”

“Eyes front” is a military command. It is a call to attention. An important order that calls the soldier to readiness. The discipline of the military is established in drills. Exercises designed to prepare them as a unit to execute precise movements. The unit must respond by moving together on command. It is vital to their success on missions when distractions and disorder can cost them their lives. Discipline brings to a state of order and obedience by training and control. It is to behave within the rules of conduct and skill improvement. Discipline is to train. We are called to be disciples of Jesus Christ. A disciple is a follower. One who is adherent to the doctrines of another. Many desire to follow Christ but few will follow through finding the cost of discipleship more than bargained for. One must consider the cost of following Christ in order to have expert follow through and success as his disciple.

The parable in Luke 9 gives some examples of the things that keep us from living a disciplined life following Jesus Christ. He offers us insight on the very pitfalls to prosperity and shortcomings to success that will allow us to look forward and stop looking back. It is a call of “eyes front” for the believer who desires deeper faith and abiding hope as the mainstays in their life.

Luke 9:57-58 (NKJV) Now it happened as they journeyed on the road, that someone said to Him, “Lord, I will follow You wherever You go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.”

The Emotional Follower

The emotional follower impulsively decides to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. Influenced by hype and zealous to serve. Hearing the Word of the Lord and sensing His Calling, they jump in feet first without any knowledge of what they are getting themselves into. In Hosea 4:6 warns that “my people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.” It is dangerous to live by faith without God’s Word and the Holy Spirit for guidance. True worshippers do so in Spirit and in Truth. (John 4:23) Submission to God’s Righteousness is yielding our way to follow Christ that takes a level of discipline that is not based on emotionalism but steadfast commitment according to His Word, His Way, and His Will. God is greater than our feelings. To know God we must know His Word. For faith to become the logic that leads our life the Word of God must be a priority. Knowledge is used to breed understanding that produces godly wisdom in our life.

Luke 9:59-60 (NKJV) Then He said to another, “Follow Me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God.”

The Realistic Follower

The realistic follower is a responsible person. Quite dependable as the loyal person who is consumed by their current cares, worries, burdens and responsibilities in life. They want to follow Christ but are too connected to their daily duties. Their time consumed doing all the right things but not allowing God’s Righteousness to take over. Righteousness is not claimed by my performance but persistent yielding of my natural life to supernatural conduct. Faith is the key to the Kingdom. The realistic follower wants to be a disciple of Jesus Christ but cannot get past what they see to walk by faith. The world fills our plate and tells us that we must finish it all to serve Jesus Christ. He says, “I am the Bread of Life.” You don’t need all that. His Body was broken for your consumption and His Blood spilled for your freedom so that you can choose how to spend your time without care or worry for the worldly distractions designed to detour you from living a godly life. Sometimes it is not always sin that so easily besets us but the cares and worries of this life that threaten to cross forever boundaries. All lies set forth by the enemy to convince you to do what the world requires rather than releasing your time and talent to Jesus Christ. Discipleship does not leave us destitute but allows divine intervention in our natural life producing God’s Favor, His Provision, His Prosperity and Increase. The more faith becomes the reality of our life the less that is needed as Christ completes us.

Luke 9:61-62 (NKJV) And another also said, “Lord, I will follow You, but let me first go and bid them farewell who are at my house.” But Jesus said to him, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”

The Halfhearted Follower

The halfhearted follower is probably the most dangerous disciple of all. “I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth.” The Lord has not time or use for the halfhearted follower. To be a disciple of Jesus Christ requires our whole heart not just the bits and pieces of no use to us. We give God the leftovers of our life rather than giving Him our first fruits. “Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment.” (Matthew 22:37-38) Jesus goes on to tell us that second is to love others as you do yourself. Let’s be real. We cannot get to the second commandment without fully embracing the first one. How many false starts and do overs have you experienced in your walk with Christ? Too many for me to count. We want to go all out for Jesus but when it gets a little difficult, our flesh cries out for relief or we just get plain tired and worn out – we take detours and shortcuts rather than staying the course and keeping our eyes on front. Discipline is a requirement of discipleship. It defines the integrity of the calling. It is the very character that the position is produced. The first discipline in life is to love the Lord with all your heart, with all your soul, and all your mind. It is a daily binding of our life to the altar, allowing His Blood to cover our sins, His Word to wash us like water, and to give our all to Jesus again because His Mercy is there to greet us. His Grace is enough. Jesus doesn’t need us to accomplish His Work. He already did. He desires a relationship with us that increasingly leads us to freedom.

John 20:4-8 (NKJV) So they both ran together, and the other disciple outran Peter and came to the tomb first. And he, stooping down and looking in, saw the linen cloths lying there; yet he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb; and he saw the linen cloths lying there, and the handkerchief that had been around His head, not lying with the linen cloths, but folded together in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who came to the tomb first, went in also; and he saw and believed.

The Religious Follower

Two of the disciples ran to the tomb. They heard that it was empty and were intent on seeing for themselves. You know Peter was one of them. He was the most emotional, impulsive, realistic, and halfhearted of them all. When Jesus was walking on the water, he was the guy who jumped out of the boat. He was the one who told Jesus that he would die for him. He was the practical one. He also was the one who went back to fishing after Jesus died. Although the other unnamed disciple outran Peter to the tomb, it was Peter who went into the grave looking for Jesus. We are not perfect people just forgiven ones. His Grace is enough to overcome every shortcoming of the follower. However, the “other” guy couldn’t get past religion. He couldn’t go into the place of the dead. Peter was after resurrection life. He wanted a relationship with Jesus the Son of the Living God enough to get past religion.

Hebrews 12:1-2 (NKJV) Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

The heroes of faith are not spectators. This is the difference between followers and disciples. Just because you choose a life of love with Jesus becoming his disciple doesn’t mean that you will not get bogged down or fall into one of the category of followers listed above. It does mean that His Grace is enough to pull you off the sidelines and back on course. Jesus is fully aware of the sin that easily ensnares us. He is the author and finisher of our faith. He is our champion. If we can keep our eyes front and focused on the Lord enduring all the way to the end. We win. Every single time…we have victory as Christ leads us from victory to victory. We must commit our life to not just following Jesus but becoming his disciple.

Philippians 3:13-15 (NKJV) Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Therefore let us, as many as are mature, have this mind; and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal even this to you.

We are equally called and fully equipped to be disciples of Jesus Christ. It is willingness that makes all the difference. He gave us every spiritual blessing. The Lord is poised over the windows of heaven ready to release every blessing and promise that He has offered you. His Resurrection Power is ready to give new life to all the dead dreams and broken visions in your life. He is ready to heal you. He desires you more than anything. Will you reach for Jesus today? The word “reaching” in this passage is the striving and straining as a competitor in a race presses to the end running to win.

Perhaps you saw yourself in one of the follower roles listed above, but your heart is set on becoming a disciple of Christ and living in a loving relationship with Jesus Christ overstepping the bounds of religious activity to full consummation and oneness with the Lord. Well, I have good news. He promises to come when you call. The key qualities of a disciple are teachability and willingness. Are you willing to change? Are you ready to invest time into character development as the Bible sets forth for God’s People? The opportunity greets us each day as new mercy. His Word cannot return to God void. His promises are yes and amen in Jesus Christ. His Spirit lives in you ready to produce every good thing that God has placed inside of you. The plan was set before your conception. Those who seek Him wholeheartedly throwing all they are, know and desire into the cause of knowing and becoming like Jesus will have the desires of their heart, live in abundance and have a rich, satisfying life.

Psalm 139:23-24 (NKJV) Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my anxieties; and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

More Than a Follower

more-than-a-follower

Luke 14:25-27 (NLT) A large crowd was following Jesus. He turned around and said to them, “If you want to be my disciple, you must, by comparison, hate everyone else—your father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even your own life. Otherwise, you cannot be my disciple. And if you do not carry your own cross and follow me, you cannot be my disciple.”

Are you a follower of Jesus Christ? Or are you a disciple of the Lord? I am challenged by this question today that can only be examined and evaluated by one’s commitment to Christ. There were many followers in the days that Jesus walked the earth. Some curiosity seekers while others in need of a cure. If you read the account of the miracle of the fishes and loaves when Jesus made a meal for more than 5,000 out one little boy’s lunch, it is easy to see that people poured out in droves to hear His Message and receive His Word. But when it came down to those committed to serving the Lord, it was only twelve. According to the Bible account, but even all twelve did not fully believe or have true faith. How can I be certain of my commitment level to Christ?

Jesus told the people that day, “If you want to be my disciple, you must, by comparison, hate everyone else…yes, even your own life.” Well, that seems a little bit harsh, huh. How can I hate those who I am called to love? John 13:35 seems to contradict this: “Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” If you look closely at Luke 14:26 – it says, “by comparison.” It is natural to love, care for and nurture our family and even some friends. Each day is set forth to make a better life for them, meet their needs and support them any way possible. Every follower of Jesus Christ may remain committed to both serving Jesus and their family as well. However, as His Follower, there are certain things left behind in pursuit of Jesus. We must choose to go His Way and leave our old ways behind. Is this enough? This is completely and totally up to you. Many received signs, wonders and miracles simply because they followed Jesus. There were those who prospered in the natural because they successfully served Jesus with their life. But need I remind you – there were only 12 disciples.

Matthew 9:9 (NLT) As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at his tax collector’s booth. “Follow me and be my disciple,” Jesus said to him. So Matthew got up and followed him.

All disciples begin as a follower. The invitation is always the same. “Follow me.” Leave the darkness and come into this marvelous Light of Love. He will wash us in His Blood, and soothe us with His Word. Cover us in a Robe of Righteousness. Supply enough grace for every weakness and mercy for every shortcoming. We have all that we need according to His Riches in Glory. To be a follower of Christ and work the Word creates prosperity and goodness as His Favor reaches us. Is God’s Favor enough? Yes, for the follower…but not for a true disciple.

A follower is an imitator. To do what Jesus did. To apply God’s Word to life. To serve the Lord. To identify with His Spirit. It is not a bad gig and yields many spiritual blessings and success. But is it enough for you? To become a true disciple of Jesus Christ is to become a pupil. A pupil does not simply imitate or mimic the instructor. They listen, observe, take notes and prepare for the next examination. The goal is to past the test. Score high in the evaluation. To be found fit and the end of the course – enduring training and assessment. To be a disciple of Jesus Christ is a commitment to discipline that radically changes one’s heart and mind putting Him above all things including our family when necessary. It is to carve out the best portions of our time to know Him more, study and become an approved worker.

Luke 14:28-30 (NLT) “But don’t begin until you count the cost. For who would begin construction of a building without first calculating the cost to see if there is enough money to finish it? Otherwise, you might complete only the foundation before running out of money, and then everyone would laugh at you. They would say, ‘There’s the person who started that building and couldn’t afford to finish it!’

Before deciding to become a disciple, one must definitely count the cost. The transition from one role to the other will cost you more than something, it is a commitment of everything you are, own and hold dear to know Him, trust Him and seek the Lord wholeheartedly. It is to lay all of our life on the altar in surrender to the Lord and to say, “Have your way, Lord! Here is my life – all of it!” You cannot be a true disciple if you are not willing to give up this life. There is always a cost for anything of worth. Our willingness to pay for it is the only thing that keeps us from our heart’s desires a lot of times. I would like a new couch, for example, but I am not willing to pay the price because there are other things that I feel are more important right now. Where does Jesus fall on your priority list today? This will indicate your chosen role. He must move His Way to the very top to become his disciple.

Matthew 13:44-46 (NLT) “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a treasure that a man discovered hidden in a field. In his excitement, he hid it again and sold everything he owned to get enough money to buy the field. “Again, the Kingdom of Heaven is like a merchant on the lookout for choice pearls. When he discovered a pearl of great value, he sold everything he owned and bought it!

Busyness is the excuse the enemy gives us to accommodate failure. It is the snare that traps followers who desire to be disciples. Your time, talent and treasure belong to you. You are free to use it as you please. We must learn to tithe these three things and give the Lord our first fruits. Until our time is invested in the Kingdom, our talent given to the thing He called and created us to do, and our treasure in Heaven not the things (or people) of this earth – we can only follow at a distance – held back by the shackles of a need and desire for lesser things. When the Kingdom becomes our treasure – we will be given to discipleship because it becomes worth it all. When God’s Glory is our desire over His Goodness – miracles begin to happen and His Glory will produce a vast revival with the potential to be global in effect. How precious is the Kingdom to you? Enough to reprioritize your schedule? Renew your commitment to Jesus Christ? To carve out the choicest portion of your time, talent and treasure as a tithe and offering to the Lord rather than slinging yesterday’s leftovers like scraps on the floor? We are free to become disciples if we choose to pay the cost. Cost is driven by worth. Is He worth it? Yes, Jesus you are definitely worth all of me AND my life.

Luke 14:31-33 (NLT) “Or what king would go to war against another king without first sitting down with his counselors to discuss whether his army of 10,000 could defeat the 20,000 soldiers marching against him? And if he can’t, he will send a delegation to discuss terms of peace while the enemy is still far away. So you cannot become my disciple without giving up everything you own.”

“Si vis pacem, para bellum” or “If you want peace, prepare for war.” Jesus did not come to bring peace to this world. In fact, He came to set the world on fire. To start a wildlife of love and compassion that would sweep through the world and burn in the hearts of people. He came to empower us with His Power by His Grace to be overcomers. To walk in victory. To live by faith. To give us a place called hope where all things are possible for those who believe. To be a disciple is to believe that Heaven and the Kingdom requires force. (Matthew 11:12) To be willing to invest the time and energy of the “good soldier” who is willing to their families, homes, jobs and life goals to secure freedom for all people. Discipleship is fighting the good fight of faith even when it means forsaking our comfort. “Foxes have dens to live in and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to even lay his head.” They promised to follow Him “wherever you go.” Jesus said, “Follow me now.” They made excuses. (Matthew 8:19-22) Faith is ready to follow. Trust is the first step.

You must be ready to give up the “civilian” life. To fight the good fight called faith. Most of us will never endure suffering such as Jesus and the early Christians did. There are people in the world right now who must endure great oppression and even torture to be disciples of Christ. We are so tied up in civilian affairs and unwilling to give up our personal comfort, pursuits and passions to take up our cross, follow Jesus and become His Disciple. Yet, still have the audacity to demand revival and wonder where it is and why His Glory has not come.

Matthew 16:25-27 (NLT) If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul? 27 For the Son of Man will come with his angels in the glory of his Father and will judge all people according to their deeds.

Jesus will not make you follow Him. He will simply invite you. He offers you the opportunity to be His Disciple but does not force such a lifestyle on you. He has promised us a place in His Kingdom. He has even given us the keys to unlock it and unleash it here on earth. We have been given everything needed to prosper in faith, promoted by trust, and a hope that is confident. The rest is up to me. If I want to be a disciple, I must be willing to make a difference in the atmosphere of my life by committing it all to Jesus. All of it. The truth is – it all belongs to Him anyway. The test is – do I love my life more than Jesus? We all must evaluate our position – am I a follower or a disciple? If you do not like your current position – it is completely up to you to make the change necessary. He will meet you in that moment, but will never push or pull us into it. Faith. Love. Hope. Trust. Commitment. Discipline. These are the labels on the steps of discipleship. The stairway to the Kingdom is before us. His Glory is ready to descend from the Highest of Heaven to meet us right where we are if we are willing to take the first step. The moment that you and I believe it will be worth it, we will be willing to step up. Lord, make me more than a follower. I want to be your disciple. Here is my life today – take it all. I love you Jesus and want Your Glory to fill my life!

Matthew 28:19 (NLT) Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.

 

Breathless

Breathless

Matthew 16:24-26 (NLT) Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?

I love praise and worship. To begin with a simple song, and get lost in His Presence erases the burdens of the day filling the heart and mind with freedom all over again. A room full of people evaporate into a moment of just us – the Lord and I. If you haven’t experienced such a time in the Presence of God – I highly recommend it. With my eyes closed lost in His Love, the worship leader made a statement something like, “When you woke up this morning, the Lord was there with you, but what if He wasn’t?” My heart stopped. I couldn’t find another breath. It was unthinkable to comprehend a morning without Him let alone a whole day. I am too far gone in this thing called faith. Somewhere in the last few years, my life has become unmanageable without the Holy Spirit in me, filling me, holding me and keeping me. It was a defining moment. Just an ordinary midweek service in a little church in the woods, but nevertheless no less motivating than that which thrust Peter from a boat in the midst of the storm. Maybe this is what it means the deep cries out to deep.

If you want to be my follower…Jesus didn’t force us to go after Him. He invites us into His Presence but does not push or shove us to go. He just tells how to do it, and makes the way clear with unconditional love, overwhelming grace and new mercy each day to accompany us on our journey. We must decide to start. The steps are clear and uncomplicated. You must give up your own way. Take up your cross. Follow me. We are the ones who make it more difficult than it really is. With fancy religion, outdated tradition, and overrated opinions creating methods that do not lead us into the Presence of God or create a lasting relationship with Jesus Christ. In the end, there is nothing. A fathomless void of empty promises sealed with regret.

To save our life, we must lose it. What does it benefit me if I gain the whole world, but lose my soul? Is anything worth more than my soul? Not to Jesus. He died to rescue our soul, the essence of our being that makes it to eternity. My body will die. Everything I own turn to rubble. It is my soul that must prosper. As He breathes new life in me day by day, I find that I am no longer breathing on my own.

John 14:6 (NLT) Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me. 

I have a friend who grew up in the Greek Orthodox. She knew of God. Heavily immersed in the teachings of her church, it was something she did not about someone she knew. It was when the Lord heard her cries and answered, “No one can come to the Father except through me” that she finally accepted the grace that is sufficient to allow us access into God’s Presence again. The doorway opened by faith and maintained by hope can never be closed again by anyone but those who possess it. Jesus is the Way. He is the Truth (Word of God). He is the life (His Spirit). All these qualities wrapped in a love so great and inconceivable even those who receive it seldom know what to do with it.

Repentance is truly the giving up of our way to walk through life the Lord’s Way. I cannot step into right standing with God or come to Him boldly outside the covering of grace given to me by Jesus. I cannot follow another without surrendering my way. People are not given to surrender or submission. It is a sign of weakness in society but God uses such things to confuse the enemy. Jesus is the only way. I was talking to a very nice gentleman who belongs to a certain fellowship that believes that life is a journey to God. It doesn’t matter what path you choose – you will get there. Believing only that one must be a good person and give their life to others it leads to Heaven. That is not what God’s Word says, and you cannot change it without nullifying the whole thing as tainted to truth which becomes a fallacy. He missed it. They all missed it. Studying the Bible yet not surrendering one’s way leads to darkness. Compromise is of this world, a new life in Christ is bound by commitment. It is the only way that our faith become the key that unlocks His Kingdom for us.

John MacArthur defined the first step of discipleship as self-denial. He said, “Discipleship is on God’s Terms, just as coming to Him is on His Terms. The Lord here reminds us that the key discipleship principle of wining by losing involves self-denial, cross-bearing, and loyal obedience.” The word “deny” is from aparneomai which means to completely disown, to utterly separate oneself from someone. This is the kind of denial a believer is to make regarding self. To utterly disown and refuse to acknowledge one’s old self. Arthur Pink wrote, “Growth in grace is growth downward; it is the forming of a lower estimate of ourselves; it is a deepening realization of our nothingness; it is a heartfelt recognition that we are not worthy of the least of God’s mercies.” It is in the midst of such revelation that one can move on to take up our cross.

Galatians 2:20-21(NLT)My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not treat the grace of God as meaningless. For if keeping the law could make us right with God, then there was no need for Christ to die.

How do I take up my cross? John MacArthur relate that this “is simply to be willing to pay any price for Christ’s sake. It is the willingness to endure shame, embarrassment, reproach, rejection, persecution, and even martyrdom for His Sake.” Early followers understood the concept of the cross because they watched people carry the load of it all the way to their death naturally, physically and visually daily. During the lifetime of Christ alone, it is estimated that there were about 30,000 crucifixions that took place. MacArthur goes on to share to take up our cross for the Lord as His Disciple is to begin a death march through this world. In fact he sums it up quite nicely as “To come to Jesus Christ for salvation is not to raise a hand or sign a card, although such things may sometimes play a part. To come to Jesus Christ is to come to the end of self and sin and to become so desirous of Christ and His righteousness that one will make any sacrifice for Him.”

My old self is crucified with Christ. The process is complete but my transformation is not. Each day the Lord reveals more and more to be sacrificed and surrendered to His Love, Grace and Mercy. To complete this journey of genuine faith and confident hope means that I must continue to follow Christ with my cross by my side to nail every passion, desire and intent outside of His Way and keep moving as instructed. The cross represents the suffering I will face in my pursuit of Christ. Christ does not call us to His Side to make life easy and prosperous but to make us holy and productive. This will result in complete peace and satisfaction in our acquisition of the life that He planned for us.

Matthew 10:37-38 (NLT) “If you love your father or mother more than you love me, you are not worthy of being mine; or if you love your son or daughter more than me, you are not worthy of being mine. If you refuse to take up your cross and follow me, you are not worthy of being mine.

In the children’s movie, “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town”, the character known as Winter Warlock wants to leave his evil ways behind but cannot seem to find his way. Kris Kringle attempts to help him with the song, “Put One Foot in Front of the Other.” It goes like this – Put one foot in front of the other and soon you’ll be walking ‘cross the floor. Put one foot in front of the other and soon you’ll be walking out the door.” One step turns into another and another. Change of direction is formed one footstep at a time. I hope you are not offended by this analogy. But rather than making following Christ so difficult, why not keep it simple? It truly is basic. Deciding with a single footstep and continuing with each footfall to follow Jesus. That’s really all there is to it. Change is always overwhelming. Comfort is compromised when our Call is Christ. I didn’t say it wasn’t hard. In fact, it challenges me every single day in each choice I make to choose Christ, His Way and His Word. But it is worth it…oh so worth it.

To follow Christ may mean leaving others behind. It is a radical transition from death to life that some people will not embrace. Love them. Lead them. Pray for them. You have to keep moving closer in obedience each and every day to reach the full potential God placed in your life and achieve the purpose for which He has called you. So what does this have to do with anything from the worship experience? It means everything and here’s why.

Ephesians 3:17-20 (NLT) Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.

About halfway through our son’s battle with cancer, I think around the third and most heavily involved relapse, I reached the end of me. The distance between God and man became too wide to live on both sides any longer. Each conversation laced in pity. The treatment plan now involved the word “death”. In our faith and medically, just about the time it looked like we had won only to discover it was fighting back harder and stronger almost smarter each time. Just about the time, a glimmer of hope began to shine it was threatened by insurance. I don’t know what happened or exactly how it did or the precise moment of transition but somewhere in the mix of chaotic details, I detached from reality and grabbed faith with both hands. I couldn’t straddle the fence, I was forced to choose who to believe and to follow. I think we all come to that inevitable moment when we can no longer serve God and this world. In that moment a choice is made that will change our life forever…at least it did mine.

The moment of truth comes when we must answer the call to deeper things of God. Not the occasion run for the altar or shedding of some tears, but the moment that we finally disconnect from faith in anything or anyone other than Jesus. It is a traumatic event to completely surrender one’s faith and life to the Lord. However, what I found in that moment when I could not bear the details of my life any longer that His Response was unfathomable and endless love for me. He filled all the empty spaces and cavernous voids left in the process of refinement when all the worthless things in my life were burned away to reveal fresh ground for new faith.

How did it begin? Not the moment my heart was shattered along with every sense of security I had when they told me that he had cancer. It was not in the complete undoing of my perception of life to accept the reality of Christ found in our crisis. It began when I made the commitment to give up my life, take up my cross and follow Him. It was not spectacular in production just the simple choice to put one foot in front of the other again and again. When I came to the end of myself, Jesus was waiting. Diving into the depths of His Love, I still struggle to fully understand this encounter. When Christ completes us, it leaves us breathless to try imagine life without Him immersed in His Love. He wants you to experience the width, length, height, and depth of His Love for you. You must come to Jesus. Do things His Way. Take up your cross laying down your life and decide to follow Him no matter what the cost. Nothing more or less will do. In exchange for your life, He gives us His Glory. Through His Mighty Power at work in us, the Lord will accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. This is His Promise to me. This is His Promise for you. Yes, it leaves me breathless.

Job 33:4 (NLT) For the Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life.

This is the air I breathe, this is the air I breathe, Your Holy Presence living in me. This is my daily bread. This is my daily bread. Your very Word spoken to me. And I’m desperate for you, and I’m lost without you! – Breathe by Michael W. Smith

The New Thing

The New Thing

2 Corinthians 5:14-17 (NIV)

For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!

Oh, it’s about time to get this party started. Seriously, the New Year is just around the corner and oh Lord am I ready! What about you? Glad the holidays are over? Ready to take down the tree? Shed those extra pounds? Clean out the post-Christmas clutter? Or maybe you don’t see the point in such a celebration. Will you welcome the New Year as you did the one before? No preparation. Just some collard greens, black-eyed peas and cornbread with maybe a sip of champagne. What’s the big deal anyway? It will just be like every other year, right? Struggling to get ahead, but only falling farther behind. Time keeps passing, but nothing is changing. The check is definitely not in the mail but another stack of bills. Can’t go anywhere without worrying that somebody might lose their mind and start shooting up the place. Am I the only one that feels hope rising with the New Year coming? I hope not.

If anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come. Why am I a Christian but nothing ever changes? What am I doing wrong? Why am I not experiencing the Blessings of God and Benefits of His Covenant in my life? Well, if I may be so candid and not to offend, but do you believe? Do you believe that the old is gone, and the new is here? I have been saved for a very long time. I even thought I believed until I realized that there is a difference between saying I believe and living like I do. Our new life in Christ is not like a job title. For example, I go by many titles in life. I am a daughter, I am a wife. I am a mother. I am a friend. I am an employee. I am a church leader. I am a woman. I am many things in the world that I live. But notice I did not add the word “Christian” or “believer” to the list? That is because to be a true Follower of Jesus Christ and His Disciple impacts every other title that I have. It is not what I do but who I am. It is in the separation that we become frustrated. It is in our conviction that Christ died for us and set us free that we become compelled to change beginning by our love for others born of our love for Jesus.

John 15:5-8 (NIV)

 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

Our connection to Christ must be maintained to embrace our new existence in the Lord. Hope is what we cling to as the anchor of our soul. (Hebrews 6:19) Hope is not what we can see, do or attain on our own but solely and significantly found in Christ. When we put our faith in the Lord to attain naturally occurring and humanly possible things only – we limit our new life and new thing potential. God created the universe and everything in it. All things are possible for those who believe. We access God’s Power in our life through His Son, Jesus. When we become engrafted, it is not just to make this life a little better, easier or more fulfilling but rather we are building a future. We are constructing a Kingdom by filling it with souls that will live forever in perfection with God. But what about now? I need God’s Help now. I am barely making it now. I am suffering now. I am sick now. I am dying in my soul, what will God do for me today in this moment and in this place? I hear you. I feel you. I have been right where you are and wondered if I would be able to survive the process that produces those fruits we need and so strongly desire.

John 12:24-25 (NIV)

Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.

To grow every seed must die in the ground. Our hopes, dreams and aspirations must give way to godly expectation and trust. We must be willing to lay our life down to pick up our cross and follow Jesus. I know that I will never convince anyone in and of myself without His Spirit cultivating their heart, but the moment that you decide to lay your life down, become buried in His Presence, and give up your very existence to the capable cause of Christ – everything does become new. New is not comfortable. It demands total weakness to discover God’s Strength. It means humbling every facet of our being implying a terrible risk. For those who desire a new life and to have that new thing, it is a requirement.

Isaiah 42:5-9 (NIV)

This is what God the Lord says—the Creator of the heavens, who stretches them out, who spreads out the earth with all that springs from it, who gives breath to its people, and life to those who walk on it: “I, the Lord, have called you in righteousness; I will take hold of your hand. I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles, to open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness. I am the Lord; that is my name! I will not yield my glory to another or my praise to idols. See, the former things have taken place, and new things I declare; before they spring into being I announce them to you.

I will testify that our family came through the furnace of refinement over the last few years, but it was not without change. We were doing pretty well right before devastation struck our family. I think of Job. Business was good. Family was thriving. Our life was better than we had dreamed it would ever be. We were comfortable. Oh boy! When our son was diagnosed with cancer, everything fell apart. The only thing holding us together was our faith. When our heart is truly broken, the contents is revealed. Thank you Jesus – He was there. Now on the other side of the ordeal, I expected life to go back to normal. That probably would have worked but through the fire of testing something changed. It was me. I was broken. I was weary. I was traumatized. I needed Jesus. He found me and restored my soul again. Now new things are happening, at first it was scary and I was ready to run.

“See the former things have taken place and new things I declare; before they spring into being I announce them to you.” Oh, the former things of life. Some people are hindered by their past afraid that God will not use them because of it. Others are stuck in the past celebrating what God has done unsure if He can top it or do it again. There are also people like me afraid to fully trust the Lord again because I feel as though I barely made it through the fire last time. I don’t want to jump in it again. Where are you today? Just before a New Year would be the perfect time to decide. Before you make a resolution or set some kind of goal to decide where God and Jesus fit in your new plan for the New Year. If you decide that the Lord is what you desire more than anything else, it will require releasing your past and the former things to fully embrace the new thing that the Lord is doing. He will share His Secrets with those who are listening.

Isaiah 48:5-8 (NIV)

“Therefore I told you these things long ago; before they happened I announced them to you so that you could not say, ‘My images brought them about; my wooden image and metal god ordained them.’ You have heard these things; look at them all. Will you not admit them? From now on I will tell you of new things, of hidden things unknown to you. They are created now, and not long ago; you have not heard of them before today. So you cannot say, ‘Yes, I knew of them.’ You have neither heard nor understood; from of old your ears have not been open. Well do I know how treacherous you are; you were called a rebel from birth.

Oh Lord, I feel this burning in my spirit today. The Lord is constantly speaking to His People. It is up to us to listen. God has placed dreams and ideas in us according to His Plan. First, He gives us eternity in our heart. (Ecclesiastes 3:11) I believe every other plan, purpose and idea in our life will point back to that original thought. He promises that there is plan in place for our life with a future and hope. (Jeremiah 29:11) He invites us to seek Him wholeheartedly to have it. (Jeremiah 29:13) We miss that part sometimes. Every day recorded before we are born (Psalm 139:16), backs up His Promise that all things work together for the good of those who love Him. (Romans 8:28) It doesn’t matter how this year ends, but the promise of a new thing always remains as long as we are breathing. Jesus is our hope. (Isaiah 4:1-4) He makes this all possible as we connect our heart and join our life with the Vine. Now we are worthy of fruit, dying to our ways and our desires to give way to His Spirit who makes all things new. Isaiah 4:9 acknowledges that God is fully aware of the “former” things and still ready to begin the “new things” in our life. Before they come, the Lord announces them. Do we want them?

 

Isaiah 43:18-21 (NIV)

“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. The wild animals honor me, the jackals and the owls, because I provide water in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland, to give drink to my people, my chosen, the people I formed for myself that they may proclaim my praise.”

I am a firm believe that God changes our wastelands into waterfalls. I do not believe that I would be where I am ready for something new had God not allowed our whole life to be upended. He doesn’t always change our surroundings or conditions but for those willing to be changed – Jesus gives us a new heart and new mind with desires and dreams that align with His Will and Perfect Plan. It defies what we see or how the world does things and even may require a venture or two in the wilderness to find our way. To have a new thing, one must be willing to do new things. It sounds so simple yet everyday people defy the Lord but expect Him to fill their life with His Goodness and Grace. Friend, the Lord is doing just that 24 hours a day. It is our stubborn heart, closed mind, covered ears and blinded eyes that are keeping us from it. We keep hold of former things. We live in the past. We do not see, hear, or feel what God is doing and fail to respond when He calls. We are His People who He chose and are precious to God. The only thing comparable is our love for our human children. I would die for my child but would not let my child die for you. See God allowed His Child, His Only Son and Perfect One to not just die but suffer tremendously for you and me. Humbly, I stand on the verge of the coming year yielding every expectation and hope that I have to honor God’s Sacrifice and invite this new thing into my life.

 

Ezekiel 36:24-28 (NIV)

“‘For I will take you out of the nations; I will gather you from all the countries and bring you back into your own land. I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. Then you will live in the land I gave your ancestors; you will be my people, and I will be your God.’”

I do not believe that the world will get any better. In fact, I believe that the conditions of this planet called earth will become significantly worse in the coming days. I also believe that the church is doing something new in the midst of the famine. There are plenty of resources to sustain people but the evil condition of human souls is starving the nations. God is reviving the hearts of His People. The modern day church will soon suffer great loss as men and women intent on building the Kingdom and saving souls will gather to become the remnant of Christ. The mega church will become empty and those tiny buildings with a handful of people fasting, praying and hungry for God will become the safe house of sinners who want a Savior and will choose to make Him their Lord.

 

It begins not with a preacher or even a place to worship. It begins in us. You. Me. We must decide if the Kingdom is for us or here is where we want to be. We must decide if the “new thing” that God is doing is what we desire, or venture off for personal gain and prosperity outside of the Cross. This new thing is not about us but all about Jesus. I want the new thing. I want a new heart. I want a new spirit. I want to build the Kingdom of God and fill it with the souls in need of salvation and freedom. I am asking God to prepare my heart, mind, soul and body for the New Year that I will be ready for the new thing that He is doing. How about you?

Isaiah 65:17-19 (NIV)

“See, I will create new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind. But be glad and rejoice forever in what I will create, for I will create Jerusalem to be a delight and its people a joy. I will rejoice over Jerusalem and take delight in my people; the sound of weeping and of crying will be heard in it no more.”

 

Dollar Store Disciples

Dollar Store Discipleship

Proverbs 20:24-25 (TLB)

Since the Lord is directing our steps, why try to understand everything that happens along the way? It is foolish and rash to make a promise to the Lord before counting the cost.

 

With some time to kill before the football game, the kids and I decided to take a walk through the local dollar store. Too bad my husband had already gone ahead to the field because I love to walk through with him. He is amazed that everything on the overflowing shelves is only one dollar. As we walk through, he is astonished at the “value” of his money in such a place. The kids laugh at all the stuff they find within the establishments eclectic selection. However, my perspective is just a little bit different. I am the shopper in the family. The official grocery getter, pantry stocker, supply builder, clothes hoarder, and overall budget manager, I am well aware of the price of such items in other places. There are many hidden tricks in the dollar store such as reduced quantities in comparison to standard sizing which actually makes it more expensive. Many of the food items are close to or have expired. The quality of some of the items are not as good as that of other brands. For example, the wrapping paper is very thin. In order for the dollar store to truly offer the treasure trove of bargains that it boasts, one must consider the cost of each item compared to quality and quantity. Isn’t that how it is with most things? With some things in life, it’s okay to choose the off brand but there are other things that to do so limits the potential.

A dollar is a dollar. If we both have one dollar it is of equal value and worth. What we do with that dollar determines its true potential. All five of my children have very different personalities. A dollar in the hand of one versus the other has very different worth. Some are spenders, easy come easy go. Others carefully consider each purchase to make the most of that single bill. I actually have one kid that you can’t peel money out of his hand without a fight. He is a minimalist who would rather keep his money than spend it. Our life’s worth is not determined by our cash flow though some may beg to differ, but we must budget our life to know its true worth and potential. Time is the most valuable asset that we have. You are allotted only so much and once it is gone – it cannot be replenished. Do we value our time more than money?

It is foolish to promise God our time without counting the cost. This would be true of anything that we invest our life in. Without faith, it is impossible to please God. The great potential that we have is based on confident hope. It does not always produce worldly wealth and influence. Prosperity in the Kingdom is very different than here on the earth. Do we have faith the size of a mustard seed? Think about the size of a mustard seed. It could fit on the head of a pin. Yet the potential of faith is far greater than a single dollar. It is more life changing than any other thing that we could invest our life in. Have you considered the cost? Sometimes I think that we budget our money better than our faith.

Luke 14:25-27 (TLB)

Great crowds were following him. He turned around and addressed them as follows: “Anyone who wants to be my follower must love me far more than he does his own father, mother, wife, children, brothers, or sisters—yes, more than his own life—otherwise he cannot be my disciple. And no one can be my disciple who does not carry his own cross and follow me.”

 

Great crowds were following Jesus. It is the same today. There are many who call themselves Christians, but live on the fringe of faith. They do want to invest their life unless they know it is sure thing or He is someone they truly want. But who wants to go to hell? So they try to get just close enough to ride on the coattails of faith and hope with just enough grace to get by. Jesus turned to them that day and said, “Anyone who wants to be my follower must love me far more” and then he listed family members before leveling the bomb. He said that we must love Him far more than our own life. Otherwise, you cannot be a true disciple. Okay. There were twelve disciples who followed Jesus yet even one fell away into the lie of the enemy. Peter denied Christ three times as He was preparing to die for the man’s sins. We have trouble following Jesus and going the distance. The things of life are very distracting. Peter at one point asked the Lord what He was going to do for them because they had given up their “life” for Him. Oh, Peter would soon find out.

As a Christian, we are part of an organization. It is when a Christian becomes a believer that things begin to change. Disciples are disciplined. The definition of “disciple” is to be a person who is a pupil or an adherent of the doctrines of another. Faith is useless unless we do something with it. You will not seek to find it unless it is worth something. You will give up nothing for something that is of no value or use. We must be followers of Christ. True followers must make Christ the Center of their existence. They must love Christ far more than their own life, the people in it, personal goals and aspirations, giving up their time, talents and treasure to discover His Love. “Forsaking all others I choose you” is a traditional wedding vow. It must become our commitment to Christ.

Luke 14:28-30 (TLB)

“But don’t begin until you count the cost. For who would begin construction of a building without first getting estimates and then checking to see if he has enough money to pay the bills? Otherwise he might complete only the foundation before running out of funds. And then how everyone would laugh! ‘See that fellow there?’ they would mock. ‘He started that building and ran out of money before it was finished!’”

Jesus did not stop there. He went on to say, “But don’t begin until you count the cost?” What is your life worth to you? For those who are living in darkness, this life is all they have. After all, you only live once (YOLO) right? If you are not willing to make a total commitment to Christ, you might as well live by that philosophy. Grace is not a doormat to come and go from the Kingdom as one pleases. Grace is access to the Kingdom for those who make the determination that Jesus is better than anything offered in this life. We must compare the cost of true faith and confident hope with the things of this world AND make a decision. When my children hit the local dollar store, it is like a feeding frenzy. Suddenly, they want it all because after all it is only a dollar. Many people go through life the same way. Grace is not worth a dollar. It may be free but it cost Christ everything. Why wouldn’t faith demand the same? His Grace is sufficient for me. It is all that I need. But it is not to be an excuse to sin. For many, sin is a dime a dozen. Imagine the difference if we had to pay in our own blood. What if every time we told a little white lie we had to prick our finger and squeeze out some blood to make ourselves right with God again? I hate to get stuck once a year at my annual doctor visit, I cannot imagine if I had to pay for sin with my blood because I have sinned a lot. My sin is determined by the Word of God not society’s norm. A lie cost Jesus as much as murder.

With that in mind, we must budget our life more cautiously than money if our goal is discipleship. We cannot stay the same and follow Christ. We won’t make it a day if we do not find righteousness a worthwhile endeavor. We must want Christ with our whole heart to allow it to be broken for what breaks His Heart. We pay for faith with our life. The more of our life surrendered to the Lord in total weakness, the greater His Power and Potential become in our life. What is your life worth to you? Have you decided yet that there is more to life than this? Too many Christians who come to Christ are not led further to become true discipleship. There are far too many seeker sensitive churches who like dollar stores fill their shelves with substandard teaching and watered down preaching that pacifies rather than purifies. When the true test comes, people abandon their post and run back to the darkness. It happens every day because we have dollar store dreams rather than mountain moving faith.

Luke 14:31-33 (TLB)

“Or what king would ever dream of going to war without first sitting down with his counselors and discussing whether his army of 10,000 is strong enough to defeat the 20,000 men who are marching against him? If the decision is negative, then while the enemy troops are still far away, he will send a truce team to discuss terms of peace. So no one can become my disciple unless he first sits down and counts his blessings—and then renounces them all for me.

True faith and confident hope are worth fighting for. I have never experienced the loving kindness and unending faithfulness that I have found in following Jesus. I also never imagined that I would survive some of the battles that I have engaged in. We must take authority over our life. Our circumstances do not determine our outcomes. The first fight is the inner battle that we face each day. Paul talks about in Romans 7:21-25. Our human nature will always fight to control our life. Surrendering our life to Christ means dying to self each day. Why wouldn’t our inner man fight to live? We must fight for our faith. Once our heart, mind and soul are in agreement, all I can say is watch out. The thief immediately goes to work looking for any unsecured window to our soul or door to our heart. (John 10:10) He wants to take from us the rich and satisfying life that Jesus is giving us day by day and moment by moment as we give Him our life. When Jesus died, He offered us eternal life. He gave us our life back to do with as we choose. We cannot live forever if we are living for today. When we decide that we want God’s Way in our life, the enemy attacks. The harder we fight for our faith and hold on to confident hope, the greater his efforts to disconnect us from Christ. We must decide that God is for us and Christ has secured our victory in order to win this battle. The enemy is much stronger than we are in our own strength so there is no need to engage in a war without the Lord. You will lose every single time. Victory is reserved for his disciples and Children of the Living God. No one can become a disciple without waging war against the enemy. This begins by nailing every sin and passion contradictory to God’s Will, Way and Word to the Cross. This requires a commitment of our time, talent and treasure to securing our faith and confident hope that is immovable and unshakeable even when all hell breaks loose. Forsaking all others, Jesus I choose you!

Luke 14:34-35 (TLB)

“What good is salt that has lost its saltiness? Flavorless salt is fit for nothing—not even for fertilizer. It is worthless and must be thrown out. Listen well if you would understand my meaning.”

We just completed a study in church called “Salt Life.” What good is salt that is no longer salty? Is flavorless salt worth anything? I wish I had all the dollars back wasted on trying to cut corners and save a few cents. I have thrown away so many products that looked like the original but cost less and did not do the job. I have tried generic brands that end up sitting on the shelf never being used because they taste different or don’t work like the original. Where is the savings when you have to buy what works next time you go? You cannot compromise on quality. You cannot substitute for taste. This is not to say that we do not pay too much for name brands sometimes, but simply to point out that we must count the cost. We budget our dollars. Why not budget our life? Invest in something or rather someone or maybe even better the ONLY ONE who can actually satisfy us from the inside out. Dollar store faith and dime store hope are all the cheap compromises and subtle substitutions that we make rather than investing all of our time and energy following Christ. We must be disciples. This will cost us our life. We must count the cost before venturing out on the limb called faith. What is God’s Way? What is His Plan? Do I trust Him enough to forsake all others and everything else? You cannot decide when you are already out there if you will trust Him? Faith begins now in every decision you make. Carefully consider each moment of our life and every step we take compared to the Word of God and whisper of His Spirit. Our life is worthless outside of Christ. People will let us down so why not put Jesus before others. Things will wear out, break and lose their desirability over time. Why not invest in Christ instead? Sowing into the Kingdom each day with our time, talent and resources. This is the life of a disciple. This is only for those who consider the cost and determine that the life they desire is at the foot of the Cross. Those who journey there must be prepared for war. Is your faith worth fighting for? One day it may be a matter of life or death. In the end, everlasting life is dependent on how we spent our life here on earth? Have you counted the cost of becoming a disciple? Are you willing to pay the price for a satisfied life? Is your faith worth fighting for? Faith demands a persistent “yes” to all these questions with our attitude and actions following suit. This is a requirement to become a disciple. It is offered to the crowd, but only a handful will come!

Matthew 16:25-27 (TLB)

For anyone who keeps his life for himself shall lose it; and anyone who loses his life for me shall find it again. What profit is there if you gain the whole world—and lose eternal life? What can be compared with the value of eternal life? For I, the Son of Mankind, shall come with my angels in the glory of my Father and judge each person according to his deeds.

Life Estimate

LIfe Estimate

Luke 14:33 (Message)

“Simply put, if you’re not willing to take what is dearest to you, whether plans or people, and kiss it good-bye, you can’t be my disciple.”

 

In the past couple of years, our yard has shown signs of erosion. Living in this home for more than ten years, there are obviously some things that are in need of repair. We called a friend who is a professional landscaper to come and assess the problem. After wandering around the backyard for an hour, he described a solution to our problem that would be a wonderful addition to the existing pool deck. Solving the erosion issue, it would still create lovely living space for our family. We trust this young man. Not only is a long-time friend, but he has built a thriving business in his profession and his work is superb. When he left, my husband and I also departed on our nightly walk. The new renovation was obviously the main topic of our conversation. Of course, at some point, we began to consider the cost. I honestly have no idea what it will cost to do this repair and renovation. We must wait for the estimate to be completed. Like any other home improvement project, the estimate must be compared to the other priorities in our life as we budget to make the change. In life, we must constantly evaluate our priorities and determine what is most important. This will lead to a well-balanced life. When we impulsively jump from here to there, not considering the steps that we take, it can be disastrous.

I have read Luke 14 many times and rely heavily on the Words of Jesus as He tells His Disciples that in life they must count the cost to follow Him. However, there are many times that I do not fully count the cost and jump rather than waiting on God’s Direction and Guidance in my life. If I am not willing to take what is dearest to me including people and plans willing to walk away to follow Jesus – I cannot be His Disciple. Surely Jesus does not mean that I have to leave my husband and children to follow Him and be His Follower. Jesus Christ must be the highest priority in my life. (Period.) He must be the One who is dearest to me to live in proper order and experience the life that God created me to have. But I don’t always get that. What if… for just one day – I consider the price of being a true follower as I have the rebuilding of our backyard and the new renovation. How would I do that? Jesus paid the price. All I have left to give is my life. Am I doing that today?

Luke 14:28-30 (Message)

“Is there anyone here who, planning to build a new house, doesn’t first sit down and figure the cost so you’ll know if you can complete it? If you only get the foundation laid and then run out of money, you’re going to look pretty foolish. Everyone passing by will poke fun at you: ‘He started something he couldn’t finish.’  “Or can you imagine a king going into battle against another king without first deciding whether it is possible with his ten thousand troops to face the twenty thousand troops of the other? And if he decides he can’t, won’t he send an emissary and work out a truce?

I am a bargain shopper. My mother used to be an extreme bargain hunter and instilled it into me. My own children have adopted such tendencies. There was a time in my own adult life when it was a necessity. The Lord has blessed our family and although there are things we still want – God has supplied every single need. However, when I go into a store let’s say looking for a dress – I already have decided in my mind what I am willing to pay for it. I have disciplined myself over time and now if I do not find what I want at the price I am willing to pay – I will walk away. Drives my kids crazy when I do it, but I just can’t bring myself to pay full price for anything. When it comes to money, most people are quite protective of this valuable resource. In Heaven, it means nothing but to the world’s economy it is everything. Obviously, the world in which we live puts a high priority and value on money. What about our time? We tend to protect our time as valuable and consider how we use it. We plan vacations, trips and outings to use our time the way that we want. We pick and choose our battles weighing the cost of losing to determine if we are willing to absorb collateral damage in our life. So many things that we think about, stress about and worry about all day long – but when it comes to Jesus – the Lover of our Soul – our Savior – our Healer – Deliverer – Provider – Protector – I could go on and on – we seldom factor Him into our daily lives but reserve Him for Sundays, Wednesdays, certain holidays and when we are out of other options.

Matthew 16:24-26 (Message)

Then Jesus went to work on his disciples. “Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat; I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self. What kind of deal is it to get everything you want but lose yourself? What could you ever trade your soul for?

 

“Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You are not in the driver’s seat; I am.” Plain and simple. We must surrender control of our life to the Will, Way and Word of God every single day to get where Jesus is going. No longer can Jesus be our last option, He must become our top priority. All our decisions in life should be considered and compared to the Lord and His Word. We must consult with God in prayer and in connection with His Spirit on the inside of us. We must count the cost of our life not to the opinions of this world but to the longing that Jesus has placed in our heart. Our desire to follow Jesus must become greater than any manmade plan or human being who we know. The enemy will use both to distract us. He will use any method that works to keep us from following Jesus Christ.

Colossians 1:15-18 (Message)

We look at this Son and see the God who cannot be seen. We look at this Son and see God’s original purpose in everything created. For everything, absolutely everything, above and below, visible and invisible, rank after rank after rank of angels—everything got started in him and finds its purpose in him. He was there before any of it came into existence and holds it all together right up to this moment. And when it comes to the church, he organizes and holds it together, like a head does a body.

 

Those who seek to fulfill God’s Purpose for their life find that purpose in Jesus Christ. He is the Word of God wrapped in flesh. He came so that men and women could identify with that purpose and made the way for total and absolute fulfillment. You cannot be fulfilled if you do not surrender all of your life. Like a glass with a rock in it, water cannot fill every space because something else has taken its place. When we empty the glass of everything, it can be filled to the top until it overflows. We pack so many things in our life and call ourselves “Christians” but to be a true disciple and follower of Christ means emptying everything out of our life and comparing it to Christ. Every facet of our life must be reconciled to Christ to properly count the cost and make the true decision to follow Jesus.

Matthew 26:39-41 (Message)

Going a little ahead, he fell on his face, praying, “My Father, if there is any way, get me out of this. But please, not what I want. You, what do you want?” When he came back to his disciples, he found them sound asleep. He said to Peter, “Can’t you stick it out with me a single hour? Stay alert; be in prayer so you don’t wander into temptation without even knowing you’re in danger. There is a part of you that is eager, ready for anything in God. But there’s another part that’s as lazy as an old dog sleeping by the fire.”

The time had finally come. Jesus was headed to the Cross. He had gone to the garden to pray. One last uninterrupted conversation with His Father before they would be separated for a time. He asked His Followers to stay alert, on guard, and pray. As Jesus poured out His Heart to the Father, the disciples fell asleep. Unaware of the urgency or desperation in that moment, the Lord came back to find them all asleep. The Lord asked Peter, “Can’t you stick it out with me a single hour?” I find that in the midst of desperation or danger I can pray endlessly. Tirelessly I pour through His Word searching for His Way until the trouble passes, then I still love Jesus but my desperate pursuit becomes a distant wandering. Jesus went on to tell Peter look there is a part of you that is eager but another that is lazy. Is what I am missing out by not staying close to Christ worth losing? Not at all. I am counting the cost today. I am reconciling my life back to Jesus looking for the inconsistencies that have promoted compromise. I want all or nothing. How about you?

Last night as we walked and talked, I left the conversation with my husband getting lost in my own thoughts. I was counting the cost for our project in my head. I continued to think about our budget and how we would save to do it. I kept working out the plan in my head with my own timeline in mind. It was then I realized I was worried about something that in the grand scheme of things didn’t matter that much. That is how fast we get sidetracked in our thinking and begin to focus on unimportant things rather than those things that promote eternal life such as becoming close followers of Jesus Christ. No, I do not think that God wants me to struggle in life. I do not think He wants me to forget about having nice things or the things that I want. All He is asking is to take over the driver’s seat again. Jesus wants to be the number one priority in my life above all people and all things. I must count the cost of my life and see if I am willing to surrender it. I am.

All to Jesus, I surrender;
All to Him I freely give;
I will ever love and trust Him,
In His presence daily live.

I surrender all, I surrender all,
All to Thee, my blessed Savior,
I surrender all.

(I Surrender All – Judson W. Van DeVenter)

 

Unfollow – A Devotion

UnfollowPsalm 1:1-3 (NLT)

Oh, the joys of those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or stand around with sinners, or join in with mockers.  But they delight in the law of the Lord, meditating on it day and night. They are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season. Their leaves never wither, and they prosper in all they do.

 

“Unfollow” and “unfriend” are two new words not found in the Webster’s Dictionary but clearly a part of the social media craze. Twitter and Facebook are social networking sites with both positive and negative attributes. Like anything in this world, one must weigh the pros and cons making a decision as to what they will do with such media. My kids introduced me to such technology many years ago which I hesitantly agreed to allow them to join if I was added, too. Pardon me while I jump on a soapbox for a few moments. It is totally irresponsible as a parent to allow your preteen or teenage children access to social networking without some form of parental control and monitoring. It is our obligation as responsible and attentive parents to read what they post, see who they are “following” or “friending” and do something when deemed inappropriate. It is your right as a parent to limit their privacy when it comes to such things and thoroughly inspect their tweets, profiles and blogs. It is not an invasion of privacy but a commitment to love, protect and teach them. When they have a job to support themselves, a lease/mortgage for housing in their name, become self-sufficient enough to financially support their life outside of your home hopefully maturing along the way then and only then have they earned the right to privacy. Trust like respect is earned through wisdom. True story: My daughter grew up and went to school with a co-workers child. On a weekend the co-worker and spouse were away on business, their children had a huge party and bonfire on their property. There was alcohol and minors which is a lethal mix and in fact, law enforcement was called twice. I learned this on Facebook when my daughter was checking her page. She begged me not to tell. As a parent, I was thrust into a very uncomfortable position as I knew I had to share this information with the other party but did not want to put my child in a bad position. When I did share it and told them where I found out such information, I asked them if they ever considered looking at it. They emphatically said, “No, because they didn’t think that they wanted to know.” God is not like earthly dads, He makes it a point to know all your business and love you unconditionally anyway! I am now stepping down from the soapbox…

 

It is important who we follow in life. It is equally important who we “unfollow” in certain social circles. With increased availability to peer into the lives of others, there are certain times when it hinders our walk with Jesus Christ and a choice must be made. I have been in this position many times before and must decide to “unfollow” or “unfriend” the ones who compromise my walk with the Lord. You must do the same thing to not risk being pulled off course. Today as we discover the importance of who we follow, take time to consider those people on your social networking accounts and if they benefit and support you following Jesus. If not, it may be time to do some housecleaning. It is time to decide if we want God’s Best or not and live like it. Your mind is very important as well as your attitude. Things that draw you into your past including the emotions of it are no good. People who constantly cause negative and adverse responses should be eliminated from your viewing capability as they take your eyes off Jesus. The unperceived danger of social media is a silent killer of faith and righteousness as it is seemingly harmless. Just as seasons in our life change, so will our connections in this world as we seek to follow the Lord and grow in righteousness, faithfulness and holiness.

Proverbs 16:16-18 (NLT)

How much better to get wisdom than gold, and good judgment than silver!The path of the virtuous leads away from evil; whoever follows that path is safe.Pride goes before destruction,
and haughtiness before a fall.

 

Entertainment should follow the same guidelines in life. You should not allow things labeled “fiction” to be considered safe and acceptable because it is not real. You can watch anything you want to watch on television and fill your mind as you choose, that does not make it beneficial. Wisdom and good judgment go along way as we train our heart and mind to seek the Lord. The path of the righteous (virtuous) leads away from evil in all things, therefore if you would not do it then do not entertain your mind watching someone else do it. If the Lord did not give you fear, then do not pay to be scared. What you watch feeds your mind and emotions creating a desire for evil. Whoever chooses to step out in righteousness is safe. To think that you are above lust for anything is a prideful response and sin will surely find you. To be virtuous is to be morally excellent. There is no gray area here and no such thing as a little white lie or pardonable sin. There is but good and evil. Every choice that you make either leads you closer to Christ or pulls you away. Every detail of your life is considered so maybe we should start considering the very same thing.

 

Ecclesiastes 7:27-29 (NLT)

“This is my conclusion,” says the Teacher. “I discovered this after looking at the matter from every possible angle.Though I have searched repeatedly, I have not found what I was looking for. Only one out of a thousand men is virtuous, but not one woman! But I did find this: God created people to be virtuous, but they have each turned to follow their own downward path.”

 

Pride comes before the fall. Just ask Solomon, son of David, who asked God for wisdom and in His Favor it was granted. Wisdom alone was not enough to save Solomon from following the wrong path in life. God blessed Solomon and gave him this instruction. “The Lord said to him, “I have heard your prayer and your petition. I have set this Temple apart to be holy—this place you have built where my name will be honored forever. I will always watch over it, for it is dear to my heart. As for you, if you will follow me with integrity and godliness, as David your father did, obeying all my commands, decrees, and regulations, then I will establish the throne of your dynasty over Israel forever. For I made this promise to your father, David: ‘One of your descendants will always sit on the throne of Israel.’” (I Kings 9:3-5) You would think with the wisdom of God this would be no problem for the King. But in just two short chapters, the truth is revealed. “In Solomon’s old age, they turned his heart to worship other gods instead of being completely faithful to the Lord his God, as his father, David, had been.Solomon worshiped Ashtoreth, the goddess of the Sidonians, and Molech,the detestable god of the Ammonites. In this way, Solomon did what was evil in the Lord’s sight; he refused to follow the Lord completely, as his father, David, had done.” (I Kings 11:4-6) Probably the most important and relevant words for the church today that should serve as a warning are these: “he refused to follow the Lord completely…” Are you following the Lord “completely” or do you have a long friend list that is weighing you down?

 

Mark 8:34-35 (NLT)

Then, calling the crowd to join his disciples, he said, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake and for the sake of the Good News, you will save it.

 

To follow Jesus Christ means leaving some things behind and not returning to them. It is the definition of repentance. Lot’s wife was instructed not to look back at her old life as they fled Sodom and Gomorrah, but she did and was turned to a pillar of salt. (Genesis 19:26) What good is salt that’s lost its flavor maybe? (Matthew 5:13) If you secretly crave and desire your past and begin looking back eventually you will turn back.

 

Mark 10:28-30 (NLT)

Then Peter began to speak up. “We’ve given up everything to follow you,” he said. “Yes,” Jesus replied, “and I assure you that everyone who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or property, for my sake and for the Good News, will receive now in return a hundred times as many houses, brothers, sisters, mothers, children, and property—along with persecution. And in the world to come that person will have eternal life.”

 

Peter was bold enough to tell the Lord exactly what He was thinking, but people often choose to “creep” back into their past other ways. If you have left someone or something in your past that does not belong in your future, quit trying to see what they are up to, who they are with, and what they are doing. This is nothing more than a vain attempt to fill the void left by them rather than allowing the Lord to restore your life from the inside out. You will continue to desire the past until you return to it. If certain people are telling you to look back, they might need to go too. The Highway to Holiness and Narrow Road of Righteousness are traveled by few for this very reason. Not many are willing to give up their past to have God’s Best! What about you? Can you unfollow those who are not God’s Best? Jesus gives us a choice of direction. He will not force you to choose good over evil. The Lord will not make you take His Best, but instead simply offers it to those who are His People. Be very careful never to make a treaty with the people who live in the land where you are going. If you do, you will follow their evil ways and be trapped. Instead, you must break down their pagan altars, smash their sacred pillars, and cut down their Asherah poles. You must worship no other gods, for the Lord, whose very name is Jealous, is a God who is jealous about his relationship with you.” (Exodus 34:12-14)

 

Mark 13:13 (NLT)

And everyone will hate you because you are my followers.But the one who endures to the end will be saved.

 

If everyone likes you and you fit right in with the world, then there may be a problem with your walk with Christ. Jesus said, “Everyone will hate you because you are my followers.” Lost people will not always embrace you and the churches sudden need to appease everyone and high tolerance for sin is appalling to the Blood of Jesus Christ which is for the omission of sin. Now grace is nothing more than an excuse to sin in the church which is clearly not the case. Our need to do right and be right with the Lord should supersede our need to be accepted and affirmed by this world. The watered down Gospel is not what Jesus died for. Sin is sin. It has to go. Righteousness did not go out of style but in fact is the lifestyle God has chosen for His People. If you are the life of the party, watch out. Light and darkness do not mesh. Good and evil are not friends. You will turn some people off in your walk with Jesus Christ. “I’m looking for my brothers,” Joseph replied. “Do you know where they are pasturing their sheep?”“Yes,” the man told him. “They have moved on from here, but I heard them say, ‘Let’s go on to Dothan.’” So Joseph followed his brothers to Dothan and found them there. When Joseph’s brothers saw him coming, they recognized him in the distance. As he approached, they made plans to kill him.” (Genesis 37:16-18) Just ask Joseph about so-called “brotherly love”. His brothers loathed him and when he followed them, they put him in bondage to slavery only because they were afraid to kill him. All Joseph did was share with them the dreams that God had given them. It wasn’t his fault that their father favored him. Yet, still Joseph found his heart broken on the dirty floor of a pit until the slave traders came and the pit was exchanged for the shackles of slavery. It is up to you to live in the freedom Jesus Christ has given you even when that place seems a bit lonely. Do the Will of God even if you must do it all alone?

 

Luke 9:59-62 (NLT)

He said to another person, “Come, follow me.” The man agreed, but he said, “Lord, first let me return home and bury my father.” But Jesus told him, “Let the spiritually dead bury their own dead!Your duty is to go and preach about the Kingdom of God.”Another said, “Yes, Lord, I will follow you, but first let me say good-bye to my family.”But Jesus told him, “Anyone who puts a hand to the plow and then looks back is not fit for the Kingdom of God.”

 

Are you willing to follow Jesus? What is holding you back today? Who must you “unfollow” to stay close to the Lord? Who must you “unfriend” to align your heart and life in partnership with God? Are there things getting in the way? (Luke 18:22) Maybe there are some people that you are concerned about? (Luke 22:56-57) It happens to everyone. Don’t give up. Press in to have the Heavenly Prize that God is calling us to! (Philippians 3:14) Jesus made a way for us to follow Him and escape sin’s dominion in our life. (Isaiah 53:5-6) We are free to follow the Lord. Jesus will be the Light that leads you out of darkness. (John 8:12) Choose to stay in the well-lit path of holiness and righteousness by His Grace. He is our example. (John 13:15) We know the Lord through His Word (Galatians 5:7-8) so that we will know His Voice. (John 10:27) The Holy Spirit lives in us empowering us to live as God intended and Christ instructed enabling us to live a “good” and “godly” life. (Galatians 5:25) This is not a religion so do not be led astray. (I Corinthians 3:4-5) But through a thriving relationship with Jesus Christ live the life that He saved you for and God called you to! Your soul will prosper and so will your life as you unfollow the world and unfriend the adversary in your life to follow Jesus!

 

Colossians 2:6-12 (NLT)

And now, just as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord, you must continue to follow him. Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness. Don’t let anyone capture you with empty philosophies and high-sounding nonsense that come from human thinking and from the spiritual powersof this world, rather than from Christ. For in Christ lives all the fullness of God in a human body.So you also are complete through your union with Christ, who is the head over every ruler and authority. When you came to Christ, you were “circumcised,” but not by a physical procedure. Christ performed a spiritual circumcision—the cutting away of your sinful nature.For you were buried with Christ when you were baptized. And with him you were raised to new life because you trusted the mighty power of God, who raised Christ from the dead.