Home Alone

What do you do when you’ve lost everything that matters to you in life and you’re left all alone? What happens when everything meaningful in your life is taken, ripped, or stolen away? What do you do?

Well in 1 Samuel 30, we find David in a similar situation. Let me set the scene up for you. David is running for his life from the person he’s fighting for, him and his men are fighting the Philistines, while they are fighting the Philistines, the Amalakites come, take away their wives and children, and now the very men David is fighting with want to stone him. I think I would call that a bad day. David does something in this moment that I haven’t seen anyone else do. The Bible says that David strengthened and encouraged himself in the Lord (See 1 Samuel 30:6).

Have you ever had to just encourage yourself? Nobody else was on your side, everyone had abandoned you, and you just had to look at yourself in the mirror and tell yourself everything is going to be alright, you are going to make it, you can do it.

Or have you ever had to strengthen yourself? When was the last time you strengthened yourself in the Lord? When you started preaching to yourself and saying, I’m more than a conqueror in Christ, God always leads me to triumph in Jesus name, no weapon formed against me will prosper, if God is for me who can be against me, greater is He that is in me than he that is in the world, Jesus has overcome the world, God did not give me a spirit of fear but of power, love and a sound mind, I can do all things through Him who gives me strength.

When you’ve lost everything and it seems like all hope is gone, remember that Jesus is always with you, He will never leave you or forsake you, and encourage yourself and strengthen yourself in Him.

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Epic Fail

What do you do when what you put so much time, effort, energy, resources, and even money into in order to make it happen or bring it forth fails? What happens when you do everything you know how to do to the best of your ability and nothing works?

This happened to me recently. The other night there was an event a friend of mine was putting together. I had invited, promoted, spent my time, energy, and effort. It finally came to the time of the event and no one I had invited showed up. It was an epic fail. I immediately became depressed, distressed, and discouraged. All my efforts seemed to have been in vain. I asked the question “what do I do now?”

God quickly pointed out to me an example of the same situation in the Bible found in Luke 5:1-11. Peter had been out fishing all night and he didn’t catch a thing. After Jesus was done speaking to the crowd, He told Peter to go out fishing again. Peter didn’t want to go fishing in the same place he had just been, but he did it anyways because Jesus said to.

Just a little side note. We always get on Peter for blowing it all the time. We mention how he always puts his foot in his mouth, how he cuts off the guys ear, how he denied knowing Jesus, and how he took his eyes off Jesus. We never mention how Peter was the only one out of the 12 to walk on water, how Peter answered Jesus correctly when Jesus asked who they thought He was, and how Jesus said that Peter would build His church. I want to know how many of us would have said to Jesus “because you say so, I’ll do it.” How many times do we want to hold a debate with God, try to understand why He wants us to do something, or give God excuses why we can’t do what He told us to do. How many Peters do I have out there that will say “I don’t care if I already have tried it, if it’s the same place where I got hurt, disappointed, or failed before, if I don’t think I can do it, if it’s going to make me step out of my comfort zone, or if everyone else is telling me not too; but because you said to Jesus, I’ll do it.” How many of those people do I have that are reading this? How many Peters do I have out there?

Ok now back to what you do when everything you’ve tried has failed. Peter went back out, did what Jesus told him to do, let down his nets, and caught so many fish that they almost broke his nets. Looking at this situation with Peter in Luke 5, the only thing I can see that Peter did was that he kept throwing out his nets. God told me you got to keep throwing out your nets. I don’t care what you’ve done before, keep throwing out your nets. If you’ve tried everything and it’s failed, keep throwing out your nets. If you’re exhausted, depressed, disappointed, or discouraged, keep throwing out your nets. Don’t give up, don’t give in, don’t give out, keep throwing out your nets. Paul tells us not to grow weary in well doing for in due season we will reap if we don’t give up (See Galatians 6:9). Bishop Dale Bronner, Senior Pastor of Word of Faith Family Worship Cathedral, said “True success involves failure, brokenness, and humility. Don’t count yourself out because you have failed. Failure pre-qualifies you for success!” Sooner or later, eventually, you’re going to catch something if you don’t give up.

Please and Thank You

With Thanksgiving being only a few days ago and re-listening to a message by Steven Furtick, Senior Pastor of Elevation Church, on gratitude that he gave at this years NewSpring Leadership Conference, I was inspired to write this post.

We are taught when we grow up to say “Please” when we want someone to give us something and then to say “Thank You” when they give it to us. That is just common courtesy, common protocol, and the way we were all brought up to follow.

God, however, has a different protocol. David writes in Psalms 100:4 “Enter His gates with thanksgiving and enter into His courts with praise.” Before we start to ask God for something, we need to thank Him and give Him praise. David goes on to write that the person who thanks God honors Him and prepares the way for the salvation of God (See Psalm 50:23). In other words, when you give God thanksgiving and praise, you prepare the way for God to move on your behalf. If you’re waiting on God to do something in your life, start making a way for Him by giving Him praise and thanksgiving. Start thanking God in your today for what you want to see in your tomorrow. Start praising God in your now for what you want to see in your later. Start preparing the way.

Paul and Silas were in the worst and toughest situation in their life, they were in the darkest hour of the night, they had been beat up, and chained down, but when they started to thank God and give Him praise, that’s when they were set free (See Acts 16:25). This is why Paul wrote in Philippians 4:6 “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Some of you who are reading this might be in the darkest hour of your life, the world has probably beat you up, life has got you chained down, and you are looking for a breakthrough. Start lifting up your voice, giving God thanksgiving and praise, and see if you’re not set free. 

You have to thank God before you see whatever it is you’re believing for to happen. The prophet Joel writes “Let the weak say ‘I am strong!'” (See Joel 3:10). If you are weak, start thanking God that you are strong. If you are in debt, start thanking God that He has made you debt free. If you are afraid, start thanking God that He has not given you a spirit of fear but of power, love, and a sound mind. If you are captive, start thanking God that Jesus has set you free. Romans 4:17 tells us that God gives life to the dead and calls things that are not as though they were. In other words, if something is dead in your life, start thanking God that He has brought it back to life. If you don’t see the thing that you’re hoping for in your life, start thanking God that He is going to bring whatever it is into existence.

The cripple at the temple gate in Acts 3 was begging, saying “Please,” everyday and it got Him nowhere. Each day he begged and each day he was still stuck in the same place he was always in. It wasn’t until he started to praise, say “Thank You,” that he entered into the temple (See Acts 3:8). Some of you have been begging God and saying “Please” your whole life and you are still stuck in the same place. Never seeing any change, never walking through the gate, and never receiving your breakthrough. You need to start thanking God and lifting up a shout of praise, so that those walls in your life will come crashing down, so that you will be set free from the chains that are holding you back, in order that you might walk, jump, and run through the doors, gates, and opportunities that God has set before you in your life.

The power of your tomorrow is in the seeds of “Thank You” and praise you sow today. So quit begging and start thanking God today.

Take Heart

In our world today, it is easy to just quit, give up, or lose heart. With everything we see on the news, experience at our jobs, or go through in our daily lives you just want to throw in the towel. Jesus, however, gives us three reasons why we can not lose heart, be of good cheer, or take heart.

The first is found in Matthew 14:27, the disciples are caught in a storm, the wind and the waves are tossing the boat back and forth, and here comes Jesus walking on the water. He cries out to the disciples “Take heart! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” When storms of life come crashing in and everything that has been holding you up is being shaken, tossed back and forth, remember that Jesus has your situation, circumstance, problem under His feet. When family members let you down, when your friends abandon you, when you are having trouble at your job, when your money starts dwindling away, and when your possessions start to dissipate don’t lose heart because Jesus is still there. David starts Psalm 23 with the statement “The Lord is ….” you can fill in the blank. Judah Smith, Senior Pastor of the City Church, is in the middle of a sermon series entitled “Jesus is …” he mentions in John 4:26 where Jesus tells the woman at the well, whose world is falling apart and is searching for the answer “You don’t have to wait any longer or look any further.” Some of you who are reading this; your world is falling apart, what has been holding you up and sustaining you is being shaken, you’re about to give up, throw in the towel, lose heart, and you’re searching for the answer. I want to let you know that you don’t have to wait any longer or  look any further, Jesus is the one you have been looking for, He’s got your situation under His feet, and He holds your world in the palm of His hand.

The next time Jesus tells someone to take heart is found in Luke 8:48. The woman with the issue of blood has just reached out, touched the tip of Jesus’ robe, and has been healed. But because she is an outcast, a law-breaker, and had an embarrassing disease; she hides in fear. Jesus tells her “Daughter, take heart; your faith has made you well. Go in peace.” This woman was afraid, did not feel accepted and the first thing Jesus says to her is “Daughter.” Jesus immediately shows that she is accepted and pleasing to Him. Some of you don’t feel accepted. You feel like God is out to get you because of what you said or did. I want to let you know that Jesus loves you and that you are accepted and pleasing in His sight and that’s all that matters. Jesus tells this woman to take heart; your faith has … Some of you are weak in your faith, you’re about to lose faith, or you have already lost it. I want to encourage you so that your faith may arise. With faith you can move the mountains in your life. Hebrews 11 tells us numerous stories about what people were able to do through faith. One of the three things Paul said to Timothy that he did was that he kept the faith (See 2 Timothy 4:7). If you can keep your faith, you can get everything back that you may have lost. So hold on, stand firm, keep the faith!

Lastly in John 14-16, Jesus tells the disciples that He is going to die, that He is going to leave them, and that they are going to face persecution, hardship, and trouble in this life. After saying all this, He tells them “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but take heart, I have overcome the world” (See John 16:33). Whatever it is that you are going through in your life, Jesus has overcome it. Whether it’s sickness, Jesus has overcome it. Whether it’s despair, Jesus has overcome it. Whether it’s depression, Jesus has overcome it. Whether it’s fear, Jesus has overcome it. Whether it’s hopelessness, Jesus has overcome it. Whether it is sin, Jesus has overcome it. Whether it is loss, Jesus has overcome it. Jesus has overcome it!

In a previous post, “To Him Who Overcome” you can check it out here https://atoj247.com/2011/8/22/to-him-who-overcomes/, I mentioned how Hillsong United has a song called “Take Heart.” Listen to it here http://youtu.be/xMxKrwqp_4Y  and be encouraged.

Opportunity is Knocking

I remember a while back watching a car sales commercial and they had a computer animated character acting as one of the sales persons. At the end of the commercial the character would always say “I’m Mr. Opportunity and I’m knocking.” I believe that this is so true today, that opportunity is knocking at our door.

Jesus said to the church in Philadelphia that He has put an open door in front of them (See Revelation 3:7-8). It’s great to have an open door, opportunity, put right in front of us but you got to walk through the door in order to take advantage of that window of opportunity. I believe that we have many open doors put in front of us but we fail to walk through them. It does us no good to have opportunities if we never use them.

Paul told us twice to make the most out of every opportunity we have in life (See Ephesians 5:15-16 and Colossians 4:5-6). I love the Amplified Bible’s translation of Colossians 4:5 it says “Making the very most of the time and seizing the opportunity.” You have to go out there and take it. You can’t lay back hoping that the opportunity will come around. You got to “Carpe Diem,” “Seize the Day.” Don’t wait back and let opportunity after opportunity pass you by. Go out and take it!

Unfortunately, we don’t take advantage of every opportunity, chance, and open door we have in life. So why is this? Well we see a story of this particular situation in Judges 3:15-30. God raised up a man named Ehud to deliver the Israelites from the Moabites. Now Ehud was left-handed. Perry Noble, Senior Pastor of NewSpring Church, calls him “Ehud, the left-handed dude.” Being left-handed doesn’t really mean too much for us but when we put it in the context that Ehud came from the tribe of Benjamin, who were all right-handed, then it sort of sticks out. Because Ehud was left-handed, he didn’t fit in with the rest of his tribe, he was the outcast, he was looked down upon; but he also had an opportunities in life that no one else in his tribe had. How many times do we let our differences, our short-comings, or disadvantages get in the way of seizing the opportunities set in front of us? We try to fit in with everyone else, listen to what everyone tells us who we are supposed to be, think that we can’t be used by God because of our differences and , therefore, don’t walk through the door that Jesus has placed right in front of us. God made you the way you are for a reason. Perry Noble always says “You were made on purpose, with a purpose, for a purpose.” Because the way God made you, you have opportunities that no one else has. You were designed specifically the way you are to fulfill God’s plan for your life. Ehud didn’t let being left-handed hold him back from seizing the opportunity put in front of him. He used what everyone else said was a disadvantage as an advantage to do something no one else could. He used his difference to make a difference in the world he lived in.

So whats holding you back from walking through the door that Jesus has put in front of you? What is it that is keeping you from making the most of every opportunity in your life? Take what everyone is telling you is a disadvantage and use it as an advantage to change the world. Use your differences to make a difference in the people’s lives around you in order to advance the kingdom of God. Take hold of your opportunities today!

Greater

The inspiration behind this post comes from Steven Furtick, Senior Pastor of Elevation Church, who is coming out with a new book on the subject of greater things. On his blog, stevenfurtick.com, he gave a little peek into what his new book is all about.

Jesus said in John 14:12 “Very truly I tell you, 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.” Why did Jesus say that we would do what He did and even greater things than He did? Jesus was the Spirit of God wrapped up in flesh. At the time Jesus was on the earth, He was the only person filled with the Spirit. Jesus came in order that He might get the sin out of us so that we could be the Spirit of God wrapped up in flesh. So instead of just one person filled with the Spirit, Jesus, there could be hundreds, thousands, and even millions of people filled with the Spirit. Paul tells us that we are the temple of the Holy Spirit (See 1 Corinthians 6:19) and that the same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead lives in us (See Romans 8:11).  So it went from one person filled with the Spirit, Jesus, to 120 people filled with the Spirit, the disciples in the upper room, to thousands of people filled with the Spirit, the day of Pentecost and at the time of the early church in Acts, to millions of people filled with the Spirit, in the church today. Jesus could only be in one place at a time therefore the Spirit could only be in one place at a time. Now the Spirit can be in multiple places at the same time because the Spirit is wherever we are. This is the very reason why Jesus said that greater things we will do.

But why don’t we see these greater things? We read the Gospels and see what Jesus did, we read the book of Acts and see what the disciples and early apostles did, but we seem not to see even those things today let alone greater things. I believe the main reason why we don’t see greater things in the world today is because we tend to settle for a mediocre lifestyle instead of the abundant life that Jesus has provided for us (See John 10:10). A good friend of mine gave me some great advice recently that I have taken to heart. He said “You will have many opportunities come up in your life, but don’t settle for the good and miss out on the great.” We see this happen is our lives today, but we also see it happen in the Bible thousands of years earlier.

Elisha was content with plowing a field for the rest of his life. It wasn’t until Elijah came along, got him out of the good thing he was in, and showed him the greater things that God had in store for him (See 1 Kings 19:19-21). The cripple at the temple gate became content with the way he was until Peter and John came along and showed him that it did not have to be like that (See Acts 3:1-8). The disciples were content in living their mediocre life styles until Jesus came along and told them to deny themselves, take up their cross, and follow Him (See Luke 9:23). Most of us, including myself, have been content with the life we were living until Jesus came and showed us the greater things that God has for us.

So are you settling for the good in life and missing out on the great? Are you satisfied with the life you are presently living? Or do you want Jesus to come along and show you the full potential God has for you? Believe in Jesus today, trust in God, step out in faith, and start seeing and doing the greater things that you were born to do.

7 Aspects of a Great Leader

Seems like everyone now a day is coming out with a new book about leadership. I personally have two books on leadership that I highly recommend: “Leaders Who Last” by Dave Kraft and “The 5 Levels of Leadership” by John C. Maxwell. However, if we really want to know what leadership should look like, we need to examine the life of the greatest man and leader to ever live, Jesus Christ. As I have studied the life of Jesus, I have gathered 7 qualities of a great leader. Here they are.

1) A Great Leader Serves

Jesus did not come to be served, but to serve (See Matthew 20:28 and Mark 10:45). When the disciples were arguing about who is the greatest, Jesus told them in order to be great you must serve (See Mark 10:43-44). So if you want to be a great leader you must first serve others.

2) A Great Leader Leads by Example

Jesus always demonstrated what to do for the disciples before He told them to do it. He performed miracles, He washed their feet, and He went to the cross. He never told the disciples to do something before He showed them how to do whatever He was asking.

3) A Great Leader Does not Expect Something from Someone Else that They don’t Expect from Themselves

Jesus told the disciples to deny themselves and take up their cross (See Mark 8:34). After this Jesus denied Himself and went to the cross for us. Jesus never asked the disciples to do something that He wasn’t willing to do Himself. Jesus will never ask you to do something that He hasn’t already done Himself for you.

4) A Great Leader Recognizes other Leaders

The main reason why Jesus went back to reinstate Peter is because He recognized Peter as a leader. Peter always took charge, always spoke out, always stepped out of the boat. After Jesus’ death, Peter says to the other disciples that he was going fishing and they followed him (See John 21:1-3). Jesus knew if He could get Peter then He would get the rest of the disciples.

5) A Great Leader Develops other Leaders

Jesus put His disciples in different situations and circumstances in order to develop them and grow them. He sent them out in a boat into a storm, the first time was with Him then the second time was without Him. He told them to split the 5,000 into groups of 50 and had the disciples feed the multitude. He taught them constantly through parables and demonstrations.

6) A Great Leader Sends out other Leaders

Jesus sent out the 12 disciples (See Matthew 10:1-5, Mark 6:7, Luke 9:1-2). He sent out 72 others (See Luke 10:1-3). He sent out all of us (See Matthew 28:18-20). Great leaders don’t hold other leaders back. After they recognize them and develop them, they send them out.

7) A Great Leader is Led

You can’t just be led by anything, but a great leader is led by the Spirit. Jesus was anointed by the Spirit (See Luke 4:18-19), He was filled with the Spirit (See Luke 4:1), and He was led by the Spirit (See Matthew 4:1, Luke 4:1). You can’t be a great leader if you are not anointed, filled, and led by the Spirit.

 

Jack in the Box

Most of us probably had a “Jack in the Box” toy growing up. You would wind the crank on the side of the box, music would play as you were winding, and then a clown, Jack, would pop out of the top of the box when the music ended. Whenever we wanted the clown to come out of the box, we would just turn the crank until he popped out.

Sometimes that’s how we treat God. We put Him in a box or on a shelf until we need Him. Then we take the box down, dust it off, and wind it up until God pops out. The children of Israel were the same way. God wanted to speak to them directly but they were afraid and wanted Moses to speak to them on behalf of God. Because of this God told Moses to build the ark of the covenant. Thus they limited all powerful God to a box (See Exodus 20:19-21 and Exodus 25:10-22).

Other times we put limits on God with our foolish criteria. The woman with the issue of blood had to touch the edge of Jesus’ cloak to be healed (See Matthew 9:18-21). Thomas had to put his fingers in the holes of Jesus’ nailed scared hands and put his hand in Jesus’ pierced side before he would believe Jesus was alive (See John 20:24-29). We put finite limitations on an infinite God. I heard Apostle Ron Carpenter, Senior pastor of Redemption World Outreach Center, say “Instead of having God bring us up to Him, we bring God down to our level.” He went on to say that God’s level is whatever and all but we never seem to get to that level because of our limits, criteria, and doubt.

Jesus said that if we believe, we will receive whatever we ask for (See Matthew 21:22). He also said that with God all things are possible (See Matthew 19:26). Paul tells us that God can do above and beyond all we could ever ask or imagine (See Ephesians 3:20). Can you have the audacity to believe God for the whatever and all? If what you’re asking or imagining is not scary or challenging to you, then you’re probably limiting the potential of what God can do in your life.

So what box do you have God in? What finite limits or foolish criteria have you set for God? Let God out of the box and start believing He is able to do whatever it is He said He would do.

Try it Again

We are all familiar with the phrase “If at first you don’t succeed; try, try again.” So many times in life we give up after the first try when nothing seems to work. It took Thomas Edison over 10,000 times to invent the light bulb. Talk about determination. Because he didn’t quit, we have light today. Wayne Gretzky, the Great One, said “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” Most of the time we are so afraid of failure that we don’t even attempt anything great in our lives. Take a shot, if you miss, reload and try again.

In 2 Kings 4:25-37, we see the story of Elisha raising from the dead the promised son of the Shunammite woman. Now Elisha attempts to raise the boy from the dead five different times. On the third and the fifth attempt, Elisha stretches himself out on the boy and lies on top of him. The first time Elisha does this the boy doesn’t come back to life, but his body becomes warm. So Elisha tries it again and the boy comes back from the dead. Sometimes, like in this example, we try something and it seems to be working but we give up on it too soon. There might be something in your life that you are attempting to accomplish and you feel like giving up. Don’t quit. Keep at it until you accomplish what you set out to do. Maybe you’re like Elisha and you stopped doing the only thing that seemed to work. Go back to it, try it again, and see what happens.

Elijah told his servant to do something seven times before the servant saw results (See 1 Kings 18:43-44). Peter was out all night, caught absolutely nothing and Jesus told him to let down his nets one more time (See Luke 5:4-11). The children of Israel had to walk around the walls of Jericho 13 times before the walls came crashing down (See Joshua 6:1-20). Naaman had to dip seven times in the Jordan before he was healed (See 2 Kings 5:14).

So if you have ever tried something and at first you didn’t succeed, dust yourself off and try again.

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