Saturday, January 25, 2014

Willfully Follow

 Let’s look at Genesis 12:1.
12 Now the Lord had said to Abram:
“Get out of your country,
From your family
And from your father’s house,
To a land that I will show you.
I will make you a great nation;
I will bless you
And make your name great;
And you shall be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you,
And I will curse him who curses you;
And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
God spoke to Abram and said, “I want you to leave the place where you are; leave your house and your family” (paraphrased). Some of you can identify with that type of calling. God said that He wanted Abram to leave where he was in order to get to where He wanted to take him.
Now, this is going to sound oversimplified, but we can never get to where we’re going if we’re not willing to leave where we are. That’s an amazing truth. Man, that’s deep, eh? We can’t become what God wants us to become if we’re determined to stay the way we are. Even in regard to our behavior, if we are more attached to the way we currently are than we are attracted to what God wants us to be, then we’ll never change. The thing that needs to take place is that we need to become miserable with the way we are.
As long as we’re content with our “normal,” then we’ll never be determined to move in a new direction! Are you getting that? This is important! Some people are content being miserable, go figure. How do I know? Because they never change! All it takes is a simple adjustment. My wife and I sometimes just want to shake people and say, “If you’d just make this little change, you will see a significant difference.”
Many times they want to hold on to the old dry bone when God has fresh meat for them. It takes an element of faith. Change requires faith; fear keeps us locked into where we are. Why do the majority of people whom God has called to a foreign land not go? Many times it’s because they’re afraid, or sometimes it’s because they’re in such financial bondage that they feel they could never do it. I’m here to tell you that if you’re determined to go, God will provide the mechanism, the method, and the means, and you’ll end up with the result that God wants you to have! It may not happen the way we think it should.
Basically, in order to experience this greater level of grace that Abraham exemplified, we have to learn to willfully follow. Abraham willfully followed! By the way, as far as I can tell, Abraham was the first person in the Bible to whom God truly revealed Himself. He had obviously spoken and revealed Himself in various ways to others, but Abraham’s was a fuller revelation of God Almighty. Whew! That’s pretty cool. What would have happened if Abraham had chosen not to willfully follow? I want you to understand that there’s a seven-fold blessing that is attached to Abraham’s obedience, and you can read it in the passage above.
Today, we are here as Abraham’s seed. What qualifies us to be a son or daughter of Abraham? I’ll tell you what: FAITH! Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness. He had to be willing to exit his former lifestyle in order to enter into the blessing that God had prepared for him. There were challenges! We’re all familiar with some of the challenges in Abraham’s life from Pharaoh to Sodom and Gomorrah.
Think it not strange; there are going to be situations that seem very difficult! God never promised that there wouldn’t be any trials and tribulations. He said to count it all joy! Why? You can count it all joy because He is with you, and He’s called you to be more than a conqueror in Christ Jesus!
Grace and peace,

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Greater Grace

If we will dare to believe God, we will experience new levels of grace. You do not experience new levels of grace or glory by laboring harder. There’s this mentality that Christians have to press into God. I know because I used to be one who “pressed in” and preached about it. Thank God, the longer I have walked with Him, the more I have learned! If I feel like I have to work harder to experience a greater grace, then I have lost the true definition of it.

Experiencing a greater grace comes one way: a greater “willingness” on my part. That’s it! There has to be a more complete yielding. It is not the result of my pressing in harder; it is the result of my “letting go.” A greater measure of grace will be experienced in my life as I have a greater willingness to follow and to let go.

I’m not advocating that you should minimize your work for the Kingdom of God or become slack in providing sustenance. I believe in work, but I believe in grace even more! We can obtain the blessing of God through grace. I also believe that the slothful, lazy hand will lead to poverty; the diligent hand will be fruitful.

However, when we’re talking about experiencing a greater grace, we need to go back to the first principles. How were we saved? We were saved by grace and not by works lest anyone should boast. We don’t experience a greater grace because we’ve served God for a long time, worked harder, or spit and sweat more. We may try to cry out, pray in tongues, or scream and stomp. Noooo! See, many folks who think that deceive themselves. They believe they’re receiving a greater grace based upon their own efforts. As mentioned previously, that belief defies the definition of grace.

We will experience a greater grace as we demonstrate a greater willingness to follow. Jesus’ commands were very cut and clear that in order to follow, it’s going to require something of us. What it requires is letting go of that which is old in order to grab hold of something that is new. It requires leaving where we are in order to get to where God wants us to be.

We’re going to have to exit where we are in order to enter where we’re going. How we exit oftentimes determines how we enter. As one who’s been involved in church life for a number of years and in pastoral ministry for over twenty-five years, I’ve discovered more about people’s character in how they left than how they came in. How we leave or exit oftentimes determines how we enter.

We could apply this to relationships. Let’s say you’re single, not married, and you were engaged to someone, and it gets called off. Your heart was broken (even though maybe you kept the ring). If you’re not careful, your heart could get hardened and become closed. You might say, “I will never let another man into my heart again.” I’m just using that as an example.

Some people have a bad relationship with their earthly father. They might have had an abusive, hard, alcoholic parent who beat them and didn’t treat them right and know how to love, etc. As a result, when the “injured” individual enters into a relationship with God the Father, it may seem difficult to develop a deep trust because they could never trust their earthly dad.

Another example of exiting and entering might include going to church on any given Sunday. You may even fight all the way there, but once you step over that threshold, the holy smile and attitude comes on. All the while, there may be an undercurrent of, “All Hades is going to break loose when we get back in that car, honey. Isn’t God good? Hallelujah.” Then we resume the “discussion” when we get back in the car.

Considering all of the things that we’ve looked at today, let’s determine to be decisive in making some changes for the start of this new year. Hopefully, we will make a decision to leave some things in the past in order to enter into a more glorious, grace-filled future. That part of it is up to us!

Grace and peace,

Monday, January 6, 2014

Out With The Old, In With The New

This season we’re in right now is very exciting and one of my favorite times of the year. I love it because it is a time of reflection and projection. It’s great to be able to look back on the past year and reflect on things that we have accomplished or maybe things that we have failed to do. It’s also a time of projecting by looking ahead and considering what we hope to accomplish in the New Year.

This message will have somewhat of a prophetic edge in the respect that I believe it will be a clearly defined word for you.

There is a Roman pagan god—Janus—which was a two-faced figure with one face looking into the past and the other looking into the future. Now, I’m certainly not in favor of false, pagan gods! I am stating that it is good for us to occasionally look back and see where we’ve been, and then in turn, look ahead so we can see where we’re going.

During this season, it is a good thing for us to reflect on the past year and to also project and look into the future. Let’s make some decisions! I’m not into New Year’s resolutions because frankly, I do not keep them. I am one of those guys that the Sports Center back in Fayetteville, NC, used to love. I’m the person who committed, “I’m gonna get in shape and lose weight. Bless the Lord, I’m going to do this, and I’m going to do that.” Oftentimes, I have fell miserably short in those resolutions. So I quit making New Years’ resolutions a long time ago.

How many people will join the gym this week? I think most fitness centers could apply the 20/80 rule to this. Out of the hundred that will sign up, about eighty of them will fall away within the first ninety days. Twenty percent might continue for a little longer than that, but they would really be fortunate if they kept the equivalent of the tithe (ten percent) for a year or longer.

It is a time of year when people will typically make all sorts of commitments that they really don’t intend to fulfill. If they really intended to do it, they would carry through with their actions. They think about doing it, and they think that since they’ve made a decision to accomplish something, that they are doing it.

It would certainly behoove us to look at some of the issues in our lives, and this is the prophetic point. Everyone needs to look at his or her own life because there are so many people going in a multitude of directions and confusing movement with progress. They think that because they’re busy and on the go that they’re making progress towards the goal of God’s destiny for their lives. There’s a big difference between busyness and productivity! There’s also a vast gulf between movement and progress. This is a time for us to reevaluate what we need to throw off and what we need to put on. It is a time to consider the saying, “Out with the old and in with the new!” We need to do more than simply think about it. Rather, let’s set the intent of our heart on accomplishing some new things this year.

God is opening doors before us; He is doing some new things. We are going to see some new doors of opportunity open up before us, and if we will recognize them, they will lead to further blessing in our lives. I’m not here to try and tell you what that blessing will be. I am here to tell you that what I see when I pray is expansion in the Kingdom of God and redirection in the lives of many. God is going to allow you to reorder your steps and redirect some affairs in your life—whether it’s business, ministry, or financial—the direction is going to be adjusted. While that isn’t always comfortable, it’s always needful when God is orchestrating it!

The new things that God does are not necessarily new to Him. I know the Scripture says that there’s nothing new under the sun. That does not mean that everything will stay the same in our lives! I believe that the Holy Spirit is an “agent of newness” in God’s people, and He is continually revealing new things to us—things we have not yet discovered or uncovered—so that we can better understand what God wants us to do or the direction He is leading us in.

A lot of God’s people are wandering aimlessly. We know the Proverb that says, “Without vision the people perish.” God has not called us to wander aimlessly!  He has goals, a destiny, and a destination for us. Our destination is not simply heaven; He has a purpose! He has created us to produce fruit. Part of Jesus’ command and commission in our lives is to go forth, be fruitful, and multiply. In John 15, it says that the Father is glorified when we produce lasting fruit. We are to imitate Christ.

We, as the people of God, can expect some mighty things to take place in our lives throughout this year if we will be willing to yield and be led by His Spirit. During the month of January, I’ll write more regarding what I believe the Holy Spirit has been speaking to my heart concerning this upcoming year.

Grace and peace,