Archives for category: Grace

One of the signs that we are getting older is that we are no longer as cool as we think we are.  Nothing reminds us of that more that working with teenagers.

During the past few months, I have been volunteering with a group of youngster who remind me that my limited arsenal of “slang” words might no longer be cool.  With that said, I am going to resuscitate my 1990’s colloquial vernacular.  The title of today’s blog is, “I Am No Spiritual Punk.”  In the 90s, a punk was someone who would be considered a softie.  It was someone who shied away from conflict because of fear.  A punk could also be defined as a coward—someone who would be determined to be weaker  (spiritually, physically and/or mentally) than the average person.   Once someone was labeled a punk, they would most likely be subjected to conflict and possibly bullying.  Why do I say all of this?  As Christians, if we are not careful, the world could view us as “spiritual punks,” therefore, subjecting us to bullying and unnecessary conflict.

Let’s go off on a tangent.  Isn’t it easy to look out into the world and marvel at all the wonderful things that are happening to everyone else?  It is so easy to challenge God and ask, “Why not me?”  At first glance, the Christian life could be seen as a life riddled with failure and hardship.  Even many Christians have perpetuated the negative image of Christian life by inappropriate referencing Scriptures such as, “take up your cross daily, and follow me,” (Luke 9:23) along with many other Scriptures that when cited incorrectly and exclusively paint a hopeless Christian existence.  While Jesus did make it clear that the Christian life would be no bed of roses, the Bible also does depict a clear picture of hope, joy and prosperity.  Unfortunately, pastors who preach messages of hope such as the promise found in Proverbs 10:22 (The blessings of the Lord brings wealth, without painful toil for it, NIV) are often stereotyped as prosperity pastors, and their messages are frequently erroneous titled as motivational speaking.

Where am I going with all of this?  My point is, the world, including some Christians, is waiting to see whether God is going to show up as the Bible promises He would and like many of us Christians are believing that He would.  Many are waiting to see whether Christians are going to “punk” out before the watching world in the face of disappointment.  In response to that, my question is this: Are we as Christians going to put up our “spiritual dukes” and show the world that despite our perceived setbacks and/or shortcomings, our God is greater?  Are we going to live a life that exemplifies that greater is He who is in us than he that is in the world?  The truth is, it is NOT our reputation that is on the line.  It’s God’s.  If everything that we do is supposed to give glory and honor to God, then when we cry out to Him in faithful obedience, He MUST show up.  A non-responsive God depicts a powerless, unfaithful, dishonoring, uncaring and dishonest God. However, as Christians, we have to believe that is not the case. We have to know that if God is not a man that He should not lie (Numbers 23:19), then we must also know that His very nature dictates that He MUST fulfill His promises.  Psalms 31:19 says, “Your goodness is so great! You have stored up great blessings for those who honor you. You have done so much for those who come to you for protection, blessing them before the watching world,” (NLT).  As Christians, we have to stop behaving as though our blessings are from man, because, they are not.  Oftentimes, we fear man more than we fear our Creator.  We, as Christians, have to get into a place in our Spirit where we know that our blessings and promotions come from God ALONE.  Man does not have the ability to fire us, hire us, promote us, increase us, or define us.  We have to get out of that “Spiritual Punk” mentality and embrace the fact that we are heirs of the throne of God.  As heirs, we are entitled to our Father’s blessing and we should know that what God has blessed, no man can curse!

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Have you ever had one of those philosophical moments where even the simplest action ignited a myriad of thoughts?  Well, for me, today was one of those days.

This morning as I drove to work I began to wonder: What did Jesus mean when He said, “whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father,” (John 14:12, NIV).  What do those greater works actually look like today?  Back then, Jesus sighted the blind, healed the lame and raised the dead.  So what does greater works look like in 2013?

As I continued my drive, I reflected on the act of driving.  Could the fact that I was driving a car be an example of the greater works that Jesus mentioned?  Back in His day, travel was either by foot or by animal.  Truly, when we think about it, our technological and mechanical advances are pretty miraculous.  Through God’s grace we have been able to explore the Earth and challenge some of it laws.  Our planes challenge the laws of gravity.  Our submarines manipulates the force of buoyance.  Our miracles don’t just stop at transportation.  Modern medicine has also come a long way since Jesus’ time.  People are living longer and healthier because of human advances in medicine.  However, as wonderful as these advances are, and they are wonderful, in my heart, I wonder whether our technological advances are the “greater works” Jesus was referring to.  With that being said, I beg the question, “What are the greater works that Jesus was referring to?”

When Jesus gave us the promise of “greater works,” it was given as a conditional and not an absolute.  In order for us to see the manifestations of greater works, Jesus said we had to believe in Him.  This belief is not simply an acknowledgment of Jesus’ existence but a conviction of His might.  This belief has to be activated by our faith.  Maybe, just maybe, the reason why we haven’t seen an abundance of “greater works” is because we are limited on our faith.  In the Bible, we saw numerous examples of great faith and great works.  When the woman with the issue of blood touched the hem of Jesus’ garment, she knew that she was healed.  In fact, Jesus told her that her faith had healed her.

In 2013, there is no reason why we should not be experiencing people being raised from the dead, limbs being regenerated, diseases being cured and people walking into their Canaan. If you think that this sounds a little silly, then that’s actually part of the problem.  I think that when we begin to believe, God will do the supernatural (the impossible.)  He will either do it the old-fashion way by simply yelling, “Lazarus, get up,” or He could do it new-school by yelling, “Clear” (reference to a defibrillator in a hospital).

There is no reason why you and I should not be able to see greater works.  When Jesus died and was risen, he left us the gift of the Holy Spirit.  In Joel 2:28-29 God said, “And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people.  Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, (NIV).  In John 14, Jesus said that He would not leave us as orphans (verse 18).  Jesus left us the Holy Spirit to teach us, guide us and protect us.  With the Holy Spirit guiding us and protecting us, there is no reason why we should not be seeing our “greater works.”  My prayer is that, today, God’s people will begin to believe and do greater works.  In Jesus’ name, Amen!

EnvyA few weeks ago, we started a new series called the seven deadly sins.  Those sins are:  pride, envy, greed, wrath, gluttony, sloth and lust.  In our previous discussions, we mentioned that although the concept of the seven deadly sins is not Biblical per se, some scholars have said that the principle has a Biblical derivative, specifically Proverbs 6:16-19 and Galatians 5:19-21:

16 There are six things the Lord hates,
seven that are detestable to him:
17  haughty eyes,
a lying tongue,
hands that shed innocent blood,
18   a heart that devises wicked schemes,
feet that are quick to rush into evil,
19     a false witness who pours out lies
and a person who stirs up conflict in the community, (Proverbs 6:16-19, NIV).

19 The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God (Galatians 5:19:21, NIV).

So far, we have talked about pride and greed.  Today we will talk about envy!

Previously, we mentioned that pride was the original sin that caused man to fall.  If I were to rank the seven deadly sins in order of egregiousness, I would say that pride would be a first place contender, and envy would be a close runner up.  Of the seven deadly sins, I believe that these two are the most vile of them all.  I would even argue that pride and envy are what I would call gateway sins.  When they take root in our lives, they open the gates for other sins.  Let’s take a look at James 4:1-4 to illustrate this point.

What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.

You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. Or do you think Scripture says without reason that he jealously longs for the spirit he has caused to dwell in us? But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says:

“God opposes the proud
but shows favor to the humble.”

James 4:1-4, NIV

So, in James 4:1, the Bible says that our desires that battle inside us is what causes us to quarrel and fight.  That is pride and envy 101.  It was pride and envy that caused Adam and Eve to eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.  Their pride told them that they were entitled to God’s knowledge.  Their envy made them begrudge the fact that God possessed the knowledge that they thought they deserved.

Now, here is why I call pride and envy the gateway sin.  James 4:2 says, “You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight.”  Remember pride makes us feel entitled and envy makes us think we should have the product of our entitlement.  So what happens when someone has what we think we should have? We become envious and that envy could lead to rape, murder, adultery, lying,  greed, and any other vice we could think of.  Let’s look at some practical applications.  For example, a man cheat on his wife with another man’s wife.  Why?  Somehow, deep down inside, he has reasoned that he is entitled to the value that other man’s wife brings to her husband.  The man who is doing the cheating might have reasoned that he deserved to be respected, loved and honored.  Since he is envious of his perception of the other man’s wife’s values, he “steals” her from the other man.  His pride has told him that he is entitled, and his envy has precipitated his adultery, lying and stealing, and in some cases, killing.

Let’s use another example.  A woman shoplifts from a department store.  Why? Somewhere in her mind, she has determined that she is entitled to the items she has stolen.  She is also envious that the store owners/stock holders have move than she does.  Most of the time when we listen to the excuses of people who shoplift, they say things like: “They have enough stuff;” “They’ll never miss this;” or some variation of “I should have this stuff too.”  This is jealousy and pride.  That jealously and pride have caused them to resort to lying and stealing.  First, the individual in our shoplifting scenario has lied to herself in an effort to convince herself that she deserve someone’s miracle/destiny/blessings.  Second, she has lied to herself by trying to convince herself that she is not hurting anyone.  Lastly, she will have to lie to avoid getting caught.

The problem with envy and pride is not that they are inherently bad, even though they are.  The problem is that they set us up for failure each and every time.  It is impossible for us to have someone else’s blessings because that blessing was custom fitted for that individual.  You see, God knows each and every one of us inside out.  Just as no two people have the same fingerprints, no two people have the same spiritual DNA.  When God considered our blessings, He considered our gender, our race, our backgrounds, our personalities, our idiosyncrasies, our level of faith (or lack thereof), our maturity and so much more.  It is IMPOSSIBLE that any another person on the planet would align with us on ALL of those thousands, maybe even millions, of variables.  We could save ourselves a tremendous amount of heartache and pain if we understood that no matter how much we envied someone, we could never have what they have.  Their blessing weren’t made for us.  The other thing is this.  We do not know how much time, effort and prayer someone has put into their blessings.  The problem with many of us is we think that our story ends when God grants us our blessings.  Friends, in many cases, this is just the beginning.  God has an expectation that we will take care of what He has given us.  Let’s use another example.  We might look at our neighbor and say, “Wow, they have such good, accomplished children.  I wish mine were like theirs.”  The problem is we don’t know how they got to that point.  How many days did that mother fast for her children?  How many nights did that father pray for their success?  What about their ancestors?  Imagine how they could have prayed and planted seeds.  They truth is we just never know what people’s true circumstances are.

The final point I would like to bring home is this: James 4: 2-3 says we have not because we ask not.  It also says that sometimes the reason that we do not have is because we ask for the wrong reasons.  Friends, if God owns the cattle on a thousand hills (p.s. He owns the hills too), why aren’t we asking Him for everything.  No matter how small our requests, we should bring them to God.  If we do not get the answer we desire, we should not automatically think that we are asking with wrong motives.  Instead, we should ask God to check our heart and purify our desires.  If we have done a heart check with God and we still find ourselves with the same desire, then the answer is simple.  We have to wait and trust that His timing is perfect.  We have to know that though others might appear to be experiencing their Jordans, their timing is not ours.  We have to trust that God knows what we need and will come through when we need it.

God,

My prayer for today is that you settle the hearts of your people.  Grant us your peace that surpasses all understanding.  Thwart in us any temptation for pride and envy.  Allow us to know that you have custom-fitted blessing designed specifically for each and every single one of us that will be revealed at just the right time.  I pray blessings over all your people.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen!

Have you ever felt like God has left you hanging?  C’mon, tell the truth! Never?  Let me ask it a different way.  Have you ever experienced a time when you know within your heart that God has instructed you to do something specific, yet when you did what you thought He told you to do, the results were not what you expected?  In fact, not only were the results not what you expected, they seemed to cause you more shame and heartbreak than happiness and reward.  Still can’t relate?  What about one of the following examples:

  1. Have you ever followed God’s instruction to quit your job with the intention of starting a new business only find yourself unemployed with no business?
  2. Have you ever pursued a relationship on God’s instruction only to be rejected and humiliated?
  3. Have you ever moved to a new state (or country) on God’s command only to experience the worse loneliness you have ever experienced?
  4. Have you ever made yourself vulnerable only to be scoffed at?

If you have ever experienced any of the following, know that you are not alone.  You are probably thinking, “Great! So, now what?”  The pious thing to say would be, “Trust God and everything will work itself out.”  While this is true, it’s not always easy. 

Sometimes, pursuing what we believe to be the voice of God could lead to humiliation, exhaustion, disappointment and doubt.  Remember Joseph?  He told his family that God had revealed to him in a dream that he was going to be a great leader. Imagine how embarrassed he must have felt when he sat in jail, falsely accused of rape.  How many times did he question himself?  How many times did he question God?  How many times did he ask whether he had heard God correctly?  What about you?  You have testified to others about God’s greatness, but you have yet to see the fruit of your labor (or belief/obedience).  The business that you know that God told you to build is under water.  You poured everything you had into it.  The relationship that you thought would prosper is nonexistent or failing.  Your enemies are secretly (or publicly) triumphing over your failures.  You are exhausted.  What do you do?  You are beginning to wonder whether you heard God correctly.  You are beginning to wonder whether you would ever get it right.   How could you be so wrong?  The pain is overwhelming.  So what do you do?

The first thing I want you to do is put on your seatbelt.  What I am going to tell you will probably give you spiritual whiplash.

What might seem to us like a spiritual goose chase could actually be a divine appointment.  Know that it is not a bad thing to return to God empty-handed after you have pursued His directives.  Here’s why.  When God sent you out, He sent you out armed with a promise.  However, a promise is just the beginning of the story.  In order for the entire story to be assembled, you will need additional directive from God.  So you go off with the promise.  You have to plant the promise at your destination because you will need to return to God for further directions, and you cannot return with the promise.  Why?  The Bible says that His Word cannot return to him void.  Are you excited yet?  This is the point where most of us miss the mark.  We go back to God and quarrel with Him about being empty-handed.  However, we should be celebrating.  Instead of accusing God of disappointing us, we should be asking him how to water the seed we just planted in the place He just sent us. 

This revelation should excite us.  It might not stop the pain and the sadness, but it will give us some insight into who God is.  In Psalm 37:25, David said, “I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread,” (NIV).  According to David, the apple of God’s eyes, God will never forsake us.  If we delight in God, he will give us our heart’s desires (Psalm 37:4).  We should know that God’s thoughts are not our thoughts and our ways are not His ways (Isaiah 55:8).  Sometimes, we might have to water His planted promises for a while.  However, once they are planted THEY cannot return to Him void.  Take heart tonight and know that God will never take us somewhere that His grace would not sustain us.

The closing ceremonies for the Hillsong 2013 NY Conference was almost two days ago, and I am still savoring the glory of the experience.  There were so many amazing stories and testimonies shared.  The one that most compelled me was that of Joel Houston.  He is the lead singer of Hillsong United and co-pastor of Hillsong Church NYC.  He testified that his walk with God did not always immunize him from insecurity and loneliness.  Joel, a man of God and a pastor, stood before thousands and shared a part of himself.  The authenticity of his vulnerability was palpable.  It was raw.  How much courage that must have taken?  Surely, he must have considered what other would have thought of him.  What would his flock say?  Would they frown on him as a leader for admitting his fallibility, or would they honor him for his humility?  The answer is both!  The truth is, you could never be everything to everyone, but you could be something to someone.  When you and I are vulnerable, it allows others to embrace their own imperfections.

A lot of my confidence has evolved by experiencing other’s vulnerability.  For example, as a recently graduated dentist, I had the opportunity to work with an amazing Endodontist (Root Canal Specialist).  She had worked previously as a general dentist.  Her vulnerability and transparency gave me courage to face my insecurities.  It took great courage for her to share some of her pitfalls with me.  She stepped out on a limb and trusted that I would not use the information she shared to judge her or scale myself to her.  I have to tell you, her act of kindness boosted my confidence.

When we express vulnerability it allows the recipient to know that they are not alone.  Vulnerability allows others to know that it is possible to be victorious despite their circumstances.

When Joel shared his story, it reminded me that even those closest to God are still refined by fire.  Joel’s testimony not only renewed hope, but it created an opportunity for the development of freedom.  Unfortunately, even Christians are held captive by false ideologies.  The idea that trials are punishment for misdeeds still permeate the Christian world.  That concept is nothing new.  Look at Job.  His friends thought that his misfortune was directly correlated with his sin.  Thankfully, grace is free.  God created it in a way where we can’t earn it.  We can’t buy it, and, we definitely can’t lose it.

Today, my prayer is that you allow others to experience freedom through your vulnerability.  The notion that we always have to have it together is false and dangerous.  It creates fodder for negative spirits (e.g. insecurity, doubt, envy and fear).  Ask God to grant you the vulnerability to set someone free.  In the process, you will learn that the person who will experience the most freedom is YOU!

One of my all-time favorite pastors is Dr. Bill Winston from Living Word Christian Center in Chicago, Illinois.  His television ministry has reshaped my faith.  About a week ago, I was watching one of his archive sermons on YouTube.  The words he spoke has forever changed my thinking.  Those powerful words were:

God has turned over the authority of the Earth to man, and without man, God CANNOT act.  God needs us to step in so that He can move.

Those words stopped me in my tracks.  I had to meditate on them.  I had to research them.  What I found was that God’s transfer of authority to man occurred in the very beginning.

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”  So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them (Genesis 1:26-27, NIV).

When I heard Pastor Winston’s message, I started to think of all the Biblical miracles that I could remember.  What I started to notice was that they were all precipitated by the faith and the actions of man.  God allowed the Red Sea to part as a result of Moses’ obedience.  He allowed the sun to stand still because of Joshua’s prayers.  The wall of Jericho came crashing down because many believed that God would move in their situation.  The woman with the issue of blood was cured because of her faith.

This revelation should change your life.  Just think about it.  God, the Creator of ALL things, has given authority of Earth over to man.  So what does that mean?

God is not a man that He should lie, nor is He a human that He should change His mind (Numbers 23:19).  The fact that God CANNOT lie means that He cannot go back on His word.  Therefore, if God has given authority of the Earth to man.  He CANNOT (NOT will not) independently act in our situation because if He does, He would be going against His own authority and proving Himself a liar.   His movement has to be activated by our actions and our faith.

Jesus is the ultimate example of this truth.  In the New Testament, God gave Jesus, who was born of flesh, the authority to perform many miracles.  He healed.  He cured. He saved.  Most of all, He died.  And when He die, He said that whoever believed in Him would do greater miracles than He had ever done (John 14:12).

If you believe what I am saying to be true, then this revelation should change your life.  God has given us the power to speak life and death into our situations.  In part, the miracle/breakthrough that we so desire is in our hands.  We just have to activate God’s movement with our faith.  The Bible says that if we have faith the size of a mustard seed, we could command mountains to move (Matthew 21:21-22).  You see, many of us have been disappointed because we keep waiting for God to independently manifest in our situations.  But He CAN’T.

I can hear the naysayers now: “So what about those who don’t believe in God?  Does He show up in their situations?”  The answer is: He does!  Again, the answer is still found in people.  That atheist’s miracle might be the result of a praying grandmother, mother, or friend.  In fact, his co-worker who sits at her desk reading her Bible during her lunch break might be praying a blessing over him and the entire company, including their family.

I believe that every single person on this planet has been touched by someone’s prayer(s).  So when that unbeliever walks away with his miracle, do believe that he is the product of prayer, maybe even his own.

Today, I proclaim that you WILL activate your miracle.  COMMAND those mountains to move and jump into the sea.  In Jesus’ name. Amen!

 

Expired2

Have you ever felt like there has to be more to life than your current circumstance?

Does your Spirit scream, “This version of my life is not the same as the vision on my Spirit?”

If you answered yes, then keep reading.

Many of us are currently suffering from what I would l like to call misguided complacency.  We automatically attribute our wilderness experience to God’s will.  Somehow we have managed to convince ourselves that we are in the position we are in because God wants us to learn some colossal lesson.  The truth is, maybe we should have learned that lesson a long time ago and have moved on by now.  For example, scholars have said that it was only supposed to take the Israelites 11 days to travel through the wilderness, yet it took them 40 years.  It took them an additional 29 years to learn what should have taken them a little over one week.  How many of us are sitting in situations long past our expiration dates?  Many of us are holding the keys to cures; the keys to deliverance; the keys to inventions; and the keys to a lot more.  However, we are still trying to crawl to first-base, while God is trying to tell us to go for the homerun.  With that said, I must say that there are times when God calls us to be still, but I don’t think those moments are as frequent as we proclaim.

As children of God, we are called to be world changers.  In John 17:15, Jesus said, “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one, (NIV).  Our purpose is to affect change in the world around us.  However, we cannot impact the type of change necessary if we are not in the positions that we need to be in.  Don’t get me wrong.  God could use us where we are.  He could also transfer our assignment to someone else.  Do not be fooled.  God does not need us.  He desires us.  There is a vast difference.  The point that I am trying to make is that we don’t want to miss out on the opportunity to live up to our potential.  When we do not live up to our potential, we will always have a sense of nonfulfillment.  Our Spirits will always cry out and reach out towards that which it was created to do.

The question now becomes, how do we live up to our potential?  The only way to answer this question is to pray!  We need to ask God to reveal to us where we are and where we need to be.  We need to determine whether we are in a wilderness season and whether we are there beyond our expiration date.   If we have exceeded our expiration date, we need to ask God to reveal to us which lessons He would like us to learn in order to move on.  The Bible says, “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much,” (Luke 16:10, NIV).  If we can’t handle being a secretary, God won’t promote us to CEO.  If we can’t be honest being an employee, God will not make us a boss.  We need to evaluate our current situations and see how we respond to factors such as stress, conflict/resolution, finances, etc.  Promotion comes only after mastery of our current level.  In school, one isn’t promoted from middle school to high school until he has demonstrated that he has mastered the skills learned in middle school.  The same is true of our spiritual lives.  We have to be prepared for promotion.

The most important nugget to take away from this is that above all things else, God wants us to trust Him and only Him.  So, regardless of where we might find ourselves, God wants us to trust thatHe will guide us and take us to where we need to be.

Today’s Prayer:

Lord, please reveal areas in our lives for growth.  Help us to embrace our current situations, but not talk ourselves into complacency.  If we have exceeded our expiration date in any area of our lives, please reveal our deficits to us and allow us the wisdom, courage and strength to grow.  Open doors of opportunities and close doors that should have never been opened or no longer needs to be opened.  Thwart any plans of the enemy.  We love you.  We praise you.  In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen!!!

 

The phrase, “the Lord is my shepherd,” is the opening words of Psalms 23.  But what does that truly mean?  Before we could answer that question, we have to look at what a shepherd is.  A shepherd is a person who guides, provides and protects his flock of sheep.  Therefore, if the Lord is our shepherd, then the Lord’s role is to guide, provide and protect us.

When we scale ourselves to the creator of the universe, we are simple sheep.  We lack relative wisdom, and we require direction.  Most people who have accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior would not argue that God is indeed their shepherd.  However, what role, if any, should the Church play in shepherding God’s flock?

I grew up in the church.  As a youth, I had a personal relationship with my pastors and church elders.  However, with the emergence of the mega-churches, the position of the church has slightly shifted.  The increasing congregation sizes have made it difficult for pastors and church elders to be relational with everyone.  In many of these churches, there has been a push for the development of small groups, which are usually peer-lead.  The problem is, there is no true shepherding.  This is not to say that small groups do not provide a personal and spiritual benefit.  However, for true shepherding to occur, there has to be a leader who is learned in the Word of God.  Most pastors have spent considerable time studying the Bible’s historical, societal and cultural context so that they can effectively relay the correct message.  While I am sure that there are individuals who lead small groups who have done the same, I would argue that they are few and far in between.  Again, it brings me back to the question, “Who is shepherding God’s flock?”  One of the roles of a pastor is to be a shepherd.  Unfortunately, or should I say fortunately, there is no escaping that.  Just as doctors are responsible for the care of their patients, pastors and church elders are responsible for the spiritual well-being of their congregation.  If someone is a member of the body of Christ and in spiritual pain, where does that person go for spiritual guidance?  Yes, that person could go turn to a friend or a family member for counsel.  Again, I will draw a parallel using the doctor example.  Imagine that someone was suffering from cancer.  That person’s family and friends could treat them with home remedies, but at some point, the ailing person would need to see a doctor.  The same is true for spiritual sickness and disease.  James 5:14, says that if any of us is sick, we should call to the elders of the church, and they should pray over the sick.  In that passage, the Bible gave a clear directive.  The elders SHOULD, not could, pray over the ailing.  God is simply stating that the elders of the church have a responsibility to their sheep.

2 Timothy 1-5 says:

Don’t be naive. There are difficult times ahead. As the end approaches, people are going to be self-absorbed, money-hungry, self-promoting, stuck-up, profane, contemptuous of parents, crude, coarse, dog-eat-dog, unbending, slanderers, impulsively wild, savage, cynical, treacherous, ruthless, bloated windbags, addicted to lust, and allergic to God. They’ll make a show of religion, but behind the scenes they’re animals. Stay clear of these people. (The Message).

The Church was created to be a hospital for the spiritually dead and dying.  It is not enough to just get people in the doors of the Church.  We have to nurture them and feed them while they are there.  Salvation is beyond quotas, book deal and television appearances.  It’s about saving God’s flock.

“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for.  By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible,” (Hebrews 11:1-3, NIV).

Most of us have said at some point that we won’t believe it until we see it.  But according to the verse above, even the things we CAN see were birthed from the things we COULD NOT see.  Therefore, our beliefs in the tangible (the things that are seen) is the beginning of faith.  Basically, what God is saying is that nothing is impossible.  He made what is perceived as possible from the impossible.  This gives us the comfort to know that the absence of a promise in our lives does not preclude its manifestation.  We have to trust that God is working out the details.

It was by faith that Noah built a large boat to save his family from the flood.  He obeyed God, who warned him about things that had never happened before (Hebrews 11:7, NLT).

Not because something has never happened before does not mean that God can’t or won’t allow it to happen in the future.  However, sometimes the promise(s) made to you is not for you, but for your generation.  For example, God gave Martin Luther King Jr. a dream that he did not get to see, but his generation is experiencing the manifestation of his dreams.

All these people died still believing what God had promised them. They did not receive what was promised, but they saw it all from a distance and welcomed it. They agreed that they were foreigners and nomads here on earth (Hebrews 11:13, NLT).

On this final day of the 30-day Marriage Challenge, I want to remind you of one final point:  When Jesus died, he said, “It is finished,” (John 19:30).  Please know that the end of Jesus’ life was actually the beginning of ours.

You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body
and knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!
Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.
15 You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion,
as I was woven together in the dark of the womb.
16 You saw me before I was born.
Every day of my life was recorded in your book.
Every moment was laid out
before a single day had passed. (Psalm 139:13-16, NLT).

The above passage in Psalm says that before we were born, God had recorded every day of our lives in His book.  Before we were born, it was finished.  Every promise in our lives was finished before birth.  Every dream was finished.  Every relationship was finished.  Every soul was finished.  When Jesus gave his life, it was finished.  In other words, He finished His life so that we could begin ours.  It is finished!

I hoped you have enjoyed the 30-Day Marriage Challenge series.  This series was never intended to be solely about earthly marriages.  It was about our marriages to God.  You see, before we can commit to anyone, we must first commit to God.  Isaiah 54:5 says, “For your Creator will be your husband; the LORD of Heaven’s Armies is his name! He is your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel, the God of all the earth, (NLT).

Our spiritual marriage should supersedes our natural marriage.  God is and should be our husbands before we walk down the aisle.  If our relationships with God is faulty, then our earthly relationships WILL fail.  We will never be the right spouse.  We will never chose the right person.  Our relationships will never reach their potential because Jesus was never the center.  People cannot and should not complete us.  No person can fill the God-shaped void in our lives.  Today, wherever you find yourself, single or otherwise engaged, trust God.  Do not attempt to live a life independent of God.

Dear Father,

Today, I pray that that we will trust you.  Be our husbands, Lord.  Lord of Heaven’s Armies, please be our redeemer.  Give us the strength and the courage to trust you.  Let us place all our desires, dreams, relationships and promises in your hand knowing that, “IT IS FINISHED!”  Let us not settle for earthly counterfeits when we could have true treasures.  Let us not give in to the desires of our flesh out of desperation or out of a spirit of fear.  Let us wait on your word and trust that you will order our steps,  because Jesus has already said that, “IT IS FINISHED!”

There are moments in our lives when we will feel as though the walls are closing in around us and that we are surrounded by enemies on all side.  In those moments, it seems like there are more of them than there are of us.  That is when we are called to stand firm on the Word of God and scream the name of Jesus.  Deuteronomy 28:7 says, “The Lord will grant that the enemies who rise up against you will be defeated before you. They will come at you from one direction but flee from you in seven,” (NIV).  This morning I speak God’s words into your situation.  I pray that when your enemies comes at you in one direction, they flee in seven.  The Bible is filled with many verses for various situations.  Below are just a few:

Your enemies are attacking you and have surrounded you on all sides.                

“The Lord will grant that the enemies who rise up against you will be defeated before you. They will come at you from one direction but flee from you in seven,” (Deuteronomy 28:7, NIV).

Your faith is being tested and shaken.

“The apostles said to the Lord, ‘Show us how to increase our faith,’” (Luke 17:5, NIV).

The foundation of your marriage is being tested.

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love, (1John 4:18).

But for those who are married, I have a command that comes not from me, but from the Lord.A wife must not leave her husband. But if she does leave him, let her remain single or else be reconciled to him. And the husband must not leave his wife.  (1Corinthians 7:10-11).

Your relationships are being tested.

“But blessed are those who trust in the Lord and have made the Lord their hope and confidence, (Jeremiah 17:7, NLT).

Your finances are being attacked.

The blessing of the Lord makes a person rich, and he adds no sorrow with it, (Proverbs, 10:22).

The devil is robbing you of your peace.

 Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done, (Philippianss 4:6).

Doctors, man, have spoken death and sickness over your life.

O Lord, if you heal me, I will be truly healed; if you save me, I will be truly saved.  My praises are for you alone, (Jeremiah 17:14).

Doctors, man, have given you the news of infertility.

Isaac prayed to the LORD on behalf of his wife, because she was childless. The LORD answered his prayer, and his wife Rebekah became pregnant (Genesis 25:21, NIV).

Man has spoken failure over your life.

Do not put your trust in princes, in human beings, who cannot save.

When their spirit departs, they return to the ground; on that very day their plans come to nothing, (Psalm 146:3-4).

Man has spoken curses over you and your family.

Listen, I received a command to bless; God has blessed, and I cannot reverse it, (Numbers 23:20, NLT)!