Saturday, December 31, 2016

Let God Have It.

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;  in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight" (Proverbs 3:5‭-‬6, NIV).

Recently I had the privledge (or responsibility...the jury is still out on this) of putting together a loft bed for my daughter. I am certainly not a builder and do not have much confidence in myself to come up with something like that on my own, but, I can read. Not reading the directions is how I am inclined, as I like to try to figure things out on my own, usually has never led me with a finished product that I am proud of or feel safe with! Having the responsibility to put this bed together for daughter, who is definitely daddy's princess, meant that I had to trust something bigger than my own creativity and imagination to get the job done. I would have to read the directions and then trust those directions and the finished product enough to place the weight of my princess on top. When the bed was complete the night before Christmas morning, it looked like a loft bed. I had read the directions, actually used all the pieces with none leftover (except one, but I think it was extra), but the moment of truth wouldn't be reality until I was willing to lay the weight of my daughter on the bed. Only then could my trust in the directions be verified as authentic.

When Solomon wrote Proverbs 3:5-6, it was a truth he had come to know, but one in which he would certainly live in contradiction. Reading his last writing, Ecclesiastes, however, would show Solomon coming home to the truth he had once come to know. Trusting in God means NOT leaning on your own understanding, logic, abilities, or control. 

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart..." The word TRUST is one that means to place the weight of what you carry onto something else. In this context it would be to place it on God. The word HEART gives the picture of the very core your being, the center of all your will, mind, emotions, passions, desires, and inclinations. Trust God with that! Whatever you are feeling, trust God enough to lay that on Him. People may not understand how you think, what you feel, or what's going on on the inside of you. God does, but you'll never know unless you choose to stop carrying it and place it on Him. Talking about it isn't the same as doing it. Praying about it isn't the same as doing it. Saying 'amen' when the preacher says it isn't the same as doing it. Place the weight of what matters to you on God. He cares.

"...and lean not on your own understanding..." Once you have trusted God with the weight of your burden, leave it there. Why take it back and try to lean on something you already know can fail you, because it already has. If you have ever failed yourself with what you know, you have already disqualified yourself from the ability to have a perfect plan. God's track record is still perfect. Your understanding is what has gotten you into some of the fixes you've found yourself in. Don't lean on that. Lean on the God who created you, breathed life into you, spoke purpose into you, and who chooses to love and walk with you. Look to His words of truth for understanding. Allow the Holy Spirit to speak to you in widsom and guide you in all truth. Surround yourself with people you trust who are also living in dependence on God. Living as though you have a monopoly on all understanding will only expose the real truth in that you don't really understand a thing.

" all your ways submit to Him..." The word SUBMIT is actually translated from the word 'to know.' It is the same word used in the Greek in Mary's response to the angel, Gabriel, about the confusion about the news that she would be pregnant. "How can this be, for I have never KNOWN a man." The word is a Jewish idiom for sexual intercourse, but also means to know fully, perceive completely, and to come to understanding in an intimate and experiential way. Therefore, in all your ways, be intimate with God. Don't use God for what suits you, meets your needs, or until the novelty of the feeling wears off. Submit to Him. Choose to know Him. Choose to experience Him on a constant basis, regardless of the ebs and flows of the feelings. Seek to experience God despite the feelings, thoughts, and inclinations that might be vying for position in the front seat of your mind. Choose to let God be, not just number one, but the ONLY ONE who controls not the steering wheel, but the GPS of your life. Submitting to Him means 'you may be behind the will, but you've chosen to go the way He has led.'

"...and He will make your paths straight." It's a win-win every time. It may not always feel or look like a success, but when you have trusted God in all things and with all things, He will cause you to see straight when everything appeared so bent and crooked. It is much more common to act based on what you see and not on what God has said. When you respond to life based on the path YOU SEE, you will never walk in the direction God has called you on the path He has already paved. Trusting Him is the only way to see a crooked path through your eyes, but walking in faith with Him on the same path, only to find it straightening out. God sees in the future what you cannot see in the present. Trust Him. He will direct you. He will work it out for you. He will always be with you.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Real Change is Bigger than You.

"...for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth..." (Ephesians 5:9, NIV).

In a world of grocery stores and farmers markets, the idea of the process of growing fruit is lost on the busy consumer focused on aquiring for their needs. If someone wants an apple, they go and purchase the apple. They make it happen. Their want is immediately grattified by their own effort to make it happen, though they have little or no understanding of the real process of what it took for that apple to be produced. Fruit doesn't ever "just happen." It is a by-product of other systems, that once put it in place, begin to result in something that becomes what most see as something instant. 

Fruit doesn't start out as fruit. It is result, or evidence, of the tree or plant from which it originates. There is a process of all things working together and correctly for fertilization, polination, hydration, and the like for the tree to bear the fruit. the right things have to be connected to the right places for the right fruit to get into the right hands. Such is the truth of spiritual things in the lives of those that want spiritual fruit.

You cannot make spiritual things happen in your life. You can certainly manufacture what LOOKS LIKE spiritual things. You can fabricate the feelings and project the appearance to others that spiritual happenings are taking place in your life, while ilving the internal misery of emptiness, anger, and contention. There is no amount of Bible reading, on-your-knees praying, worship song singing, or church attending that can "make happen" the spiritual fruit of life God desires for you. Therefore, every attempt to make "God things" happen without fully allowing Him to transform you from the INSIDE-OUT, will only lead to the shallowness of looks without the authenticity of real change.

Real change means being CONNECTED WITH GOD. There is no substitution for personal connection with God. God created you out of relationship with the Trinity with the intention of personal relationship with Himself. You cannot rely on the closeness and intimacy of others to drag you through the stuff of life. If it's not personal, it will never produce Godly results that bring real change. 

BE REAL WITH GOD. What would seem a "no brainer" actually becomes a brain teaser, as many pray & worship with part, but not with the whole of who they are. It's like keeping that one part of your life private that you don't want anyone else to see, not even God. Even though He knows it all and sees it all, keeping it "private" means trying to have the benefit of change without the responsibility of taking personal ownership of dealing with the issue. 

BE HONEST WITH YOURSELF. It's easy to blame others for all of the ills that you experience in the every day. It's more comfortable and convenient to point out the lows and lulls in the lives of others and transferring responsibility of why you react or respond to things the way you do. Be honest with yourself. Let God show you where you lack and fall short. Pointing it for others MIGHT BE beneficial for them, but you will never experience a real change on the inside of you. Look at the things that you want to change in other people and see if God's not using that to point out the things He wants to change in you. 

LET GO OF THE FEAR THAT CONTROLS. One of the biggest blockers of real change is allowing fear to have authority over your life. Fear will cause you to believe that unless you are in total control over what's going on around you, then all will fall a part and the responsibility over the failure will be yours. Fear causes you to believe in the worst case scenarios, driving your imagination into high-gear, robbing you of living in the peace of God. Fear WILL NEVER bring the change that you want. Let go of the fear and let God have total control. You didn't create this life and there is nothing you can do greater than God to bring real change in this life.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Mental Warfare.

"We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ" (2 Corinthians 10:5, NIV).

"I just can't help it" or "I didn't mean to" is a common phrase spoken when soemone wants to excuse themselves from personal responsibility for what they have said, done, or the attitude they have projected. Paul countered this lie with truth. He was human just as those he was writing to. His emotions were incited, he faced fears and anger, yet he knew that he had been transformed with the mind of Christ. He knew that to have the mind of Christ, something he couldn't manufacture, he needed to treat it as something valuable. God had given it, but it was up to him to honor God with how he responded to it and with it. Paul challenged that it was a personal responsibility to hold your own mind accountable to God. Knowing the truth of God, yet choosing to live according to the old mindsets, is counter-prodductive to living in victory. 

"We demolish arguments...that sets itself up against the knowledge of God..." On the battlefield fo the mind, you are personally responsible. The battle is the Lord's, yes, but the responsibility of what you need to do on that battlefield is yours. When something rising up in your mind that YOU KNOW is not God's best for you, for another, or in that timing, KILL IT. Destroy it. Make it impossible for it to breathe and breed further destructive thoughts or behavior. There is nothing higher than God, and therefore should be nothing higher than the knowledge of God. You have been called to "seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness." There is a knowledge of God you are pursuing, don't get caught up in futile arguments that take your focus off of the knoweldge of God and on to something that is not going to be beneficial long after the moment has passed.

"...we take captive every thought..." In Christ, YOU have the authority to take captive the thoughts that come into YOUR mind, the mind of Christ, that contradict who you are, who God is, and the destiny He has called for you. If you give it an inch, it will take a mile. If you give it a closet, it will take the whole house. Take it captive. Recognize that it doesn't belong and that it will do nothing to bring you closer to where God has called you. Don't allow laziness to creep in your mind. And don't fall into the lie of justifying how your thoughts, actions, and words are actually Godly, when there is nothing Godly, Biblical, or Spirit-led about them. If God didn't give you divine direction on where you are in your mind, then don't attempt to give Him credit for it. Take captive those thoughts. Excercise the authority you have in Him by the power of HIS NAME. "In the Name of Jesus I know that this is a wrong thought. This thought has no place here and I'm not going to give it opportunity to have power or influence in my mind, in my mouth, or over the motivations of my heart." 

"...and make it obedient to Christ." You have more authority in regards to mental and spiritual warfare than the enemy of your soul wants you to be believe. You have the authority to demolish the strongholds, take captive the thoughts, but also to reposess the mind. It's never enough to focus on the bad thoughts and mindsets. Once they have been captured, the very next step is the most crucial. Make it obedient to Christ. Stay close and connected in Christ. It is the only place where transformation of the mind is possible. You, alone, are powerless to do this, but in Christ, your mind can be repossessed and made obedient. Train your mind. Keep it on a tight leash. Don't allow your mind to have a mind of its own. Your spirit is to be in leadership over your mind. Your spirit, which is the very essence that has been breathed by God into your being, is to have mastery over your soul, your mind, will, and emotions. So...feed your spirit. Spend time in prayerful communication with God on the regular. Let the words of His truth influence your mind so that you are transformed by the power of that truth. Be involved with people that will challenge your way of thinking. Stay teachable. Don't allow defensiveness to put you on the offense. Having the mind of Christ doesn't make it yours completely. Anything OF Christ still belongs TO Christ. Honor Him with every part of you. When challenged in the fight, let God be honored in the mind.

What goes on in the mind is not a game. It is war. When God is God over EVERY THOUGHT, the battle is won. Let Him be God over every thought.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Nothing Wasted, 2: Money Problems

The wife of a man from the company of the prophets cried out to Elisha, “Your servant my husband is dead, and you know that he revered the Lord. But now his creditor is coming to take my two boys as his slaves.” Elisha replied to her, “How can I help you? Tell me, what do you have in your house?” “Your servant has nothing there at all,” she said, “except a small jar of olive oil” (2 Kings 4:1-2, NIV).

The grief from the loss of a man of faith amounted to more than enough to challenge and overcome the faith of his wife. This newly widowed wife of a man who was in the “company of the prophets,” now found herself in an impossible situation. The bills were due and the funds had dried out. She still had responsibilities to take care of, children at home, and where exactly was God in all of this? The reality of her circumstance had clearly rocked the foundation of her faith. She had come to the prophet with a focus on what she had lost, what she didn’t have, and what would, undoubtedly become of her. When asked what she had at the house, her first reply was “nothing.” Before she said anything else, she completely discounted the fact that she had something, but being as it was enough in “her eyes” to do what she wanted, it was “nothing.” How easy it is to allow the feelings of a moment to overshadow the faith we once held to believe that God can do the impossible. Was God the same God as when her husband was alive and running with the company of the prophets? He was God when there was obvious provision. But now that it was not so obvious, His credentials of deity were being questioned, and her rip on reality had been compromised. 

When the focus is on what one DOESN’T have and ignoring what is available, it exposes the truth that faith in God is not as strong as it may have been presented or proclaimed. The fact is, God is a God who provides, no matter what is going on, and no matter how obvious or opaque His intervention appears to the naked eye. The rest of the story is that God used what she had discounted as “nothing,” to be the very avenue in which He used to get her out of debt and into prosperity. Honor God with what the enemy wants to label as “nothing,” and provision of miraculous provision is made real.

I am an optimist. It has been a part of my make up for as long as I can remember. I see the glass has half-full, I know the sun is shining on the other side of the clouds, and I’m convinced that somewhere and somehow, those same clouds DO HAVE a silver-lining. Still, I am continually faced with situations determined to challenge my belief that God will intervene at all times despite what the initial outlook appears to be. Money is a resource intended to be used to glorify God, but has been used to make the provision of God irrelevant. As a pastor of a church, I have been challenged greatly and often to look to God through eyes of faith and vision, seemingly ignoring many of the facts and figures on paper. It is not that God has called me to discount stewardship principles, but not focusing on what I don’t have, but rather trusting Him to provide for all that He has called and destined me to do and to be a part of. The same is true in my home finances. It would be easier to say “No” to anything and everything based on what is “not there.” And of course, there are many times that that IS the right and Godly response. “No”, however, should only be the response as directed by God and not by faithless feelings of fear and worry. I cannot allow fears of what might happen become a greater realitty than my faith and trust in a God who has always come through when I have leaned on His everlasting arms. 

Allowing fear over what "might" happen will rob me of being able to se, by faith, what God will do if I choose to trust. I know that the same God Who has provided for me, my family, and the ministry I serve in the past, is NO LESS GOD in the present and will continue to be the same God in the future. I will trust Him to do NO LESS than He has promised. He is God and I will honor Him as God regardless of the money problems I may face. I will choose to see each one as a testimony in the making of how God, once again, came through. What the devil uses to attempt to rock my focus, I will watching with great expectation how God uses it as an opportunity for me share the story of how “God did it again.” Nothing wasted.

Lord God, in the name of Jesus, I thank You. Forgive me for any and all of the times that I have spent more than a second in worry about money or how You were going to come through. You have always been there and I know Your faithfulness will never change. I pray that You help me to always focus on and be thankful for what I do have and that discontentment will never be the doorway that leads into the anxiety that overtakes my focus. I thank You for Your Word that calls and challenges me to financial stewardship. I will honor You in all that I do. I know that in You nothing is wasted. I will seek You despite the emotions that seek to attach themselves to my faith. Thank You for the opportunities that You have already set up for me, even though I may not know what they are, to share the story of how You brought me through with Your faithful provision. Even now, I completely surrender every financial situation that I have into Your capable and sovereign hands. Though I may not see or know how such things may be resolved, I choose to focus on You in total surrender, worship, and anticipation for how You will answer it and use it to equip and empower others with an unshakable faith. Thank You Jesus. Amen.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Nothing Wasted, 1: Family Problems

“But Joseph said to them, ‘Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives’” (Genesis 50:19‭-‬20, NIV).

Joseph’s brothers were more than anxious. They were terrified, and they had every natural right to be so. There father, who had been their safety net all of these years had died, and there was nothing or no one that was standing between them and the brother they had once scorned who now set in the second highest seat of power in a foreign land. These brothers had mocked and abused their younger brother, Joseph, for his dreams of grandeur. They allowed personal jealousy and animosity to choke out any hint of brotherly affection. Joseph, to them, had ceased being a brother, and instead, had become an inconvenient problem that needed a solution. Joseph had been beaten and left for dead, only to be rescued and sold for profit. 

God, however, had a plan for Joseph that would, in fact, use every thing that had been used against him, FOR him. God took Joseph from the pit to profit, at least was the thought of his brothers. From the profit he was sold to Potiphar, the captain of Pharaoh’s guard, where he was unduly charged with a crime he didn’t commit. Out from Potiphar and into prison, Joseph was left abandoned and still innocent. Yet from prison, God elevated Joseph to the palace where only the king was higher than he. Joseph’s response to his brothers upon their father’s death was not one of built up hurt or resentment, but one that understood that God used all he had faced in his life as a road map to bring him to where he was at that point. God was using Joseph to save the many life of Egypt and the surrounding country from a famine that was ravaging the lands, all because someone had tried to destroy him.

As I look into the past of my own life, I can see the fingerprints of God in so many places. When it felt as though I was being abandoned or abused, God was there. At moments on the timeline, I have had to make the choice of whether or not I was going to allow the pain and the bitterness to become the focus of my life, or was I going to surrender it to God and allow Him to redeem those lost moments and transform them into a purpose that would far succeed the potential destruction. The word “intended” is a Hebrew word that means to “weave” or to “fabricate.” The enemy has used many people in my life to fabricate destruction in the moments of my life. Each one of those moments carried with them a certain amount of pain, confusion, discouragement, and fear. It was in those blips on the timeline when I questioned the value or the worth of my life. Whether it was the abandonment of my father or the dysfunction in my home, here was much chaos that had the potential to lead me in a direction that God had not called me. Yet, the grace of God is my strength. 

I know that with every intention of the enemy to hijack the purpose, value, and calling that God has placed upon my life, God has repossessed and restored. God has been fabricating my destiny from before the time any human mind had conceived of my existence. He has been weaving the plan of the enemy into the fabric of my life in such a way that actually uses it for my God in order to position me right where He wants me. I know that I know that I know that God does work all things that I have faced in my life for my good, because it is according to His purpose and plan for me.

"Lord Jesus, I do thank You for all You are and for all that You have brought me through. There is nothing that is wasted in my life. Every moment that I might think doesn’t matter is a part of the greater plan that You have, not just for my life, but to work through my life to reach and to touch and to transform the pain into purpose into the lives of many others. I pray that You continue to give me the strength to face each new day with anticipation of how You will use it for my good, for Your glory, and for the benefit of those around me. I know that You have a plan and I am not afraid of what You may allow me to face in order to bring that plan into full motion. You are God, and I trust You. I have seen Your hand at work in my life, and I’m not about to get in the way, again, now. You are the masterful designer, and I am more than thrilled to see the unveiling and unfolding of your work of art in and through my life. Thank You for loving me. It’s in the name of Jesus I pray, Amen."

Monday, December 19, 2016

The Law of Love.

"...and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God" (Ephesians 3:19).

Paul had given much of his life defending the Law of Moses to the very letter of it. He was a pharisee of pharisees. To serve God, to love God, and to be loved by God depended on one's ability to maintain each line of the law to its fullest. When Paul's heart had undergone total renovation by his encounter on the road to Damascus, everything changed. He began to see the legalism of the law actually distracted him and others from seeing what God was really trying to show. Not that the Law was BAD, but that they had missed the point of it. They had missed the fact that Jesus had come to fulfill the Law in a manner that showed the world who God really was, and had always been. Love. "...and to know this love that surpasses knowledge..." is a challenge to others NOT to get lost in the details of the Law, but to see the intention of the Law.

The intent of the Law was to bring restoration to people who had lost sight of the love of God and to reconcile them to that love. There was no other, or greater, reason that Jesus came into this world than to be the bridge that closed the gap in the great divide between the created and the Creator. The intent of His entrance into the realm of humanity was never to abolish the Law, but to become the total fulfilment of it. He achieved the Law. He lived it to the letter. He accomplished everything there was to accomplish, yet in the process He established a "new" law, the Law of Love. Paul wrote to tell them it was not enough to do what the law required and miss the purpose of God. God is love. To be in authentic relationship with God, through Christ, one can't just keep rules, but receive love from God & render love to others.

Loving God means loving people. You can't claim authenticity as a believer in God and hold onto bitterness in regards to others. So many claim to love God but appear to exempt themselves from the law of love when it comes to "certain people." You have been called by the love of God, to receive and to be restored by the love of God, but also to render that love to all people. Loving people does not mean compromising standards of morality or conviction. BUT, not showing love to all people does compromise the integrity of your claimed love for God. Don't live your life focused on living out the rules of religion and fail to live the law of loving God and loving the people He created. 

Think of the people in your life or in this world that seem to be harder or impossible for you to love, or at least try to tolerate. God loves them in no less or more fashion than He loves you. With the same measure of love that took Jesus to the cross was the same for you as for those that seem difficult for you to love. Living the Law of God means living the law of love. Yes, it may seem difficult or impossible to do. Don't be intimated or overwhelmed by that fact. Love IS a fruit of the Spirit. That means that it is a superatural result of something that can only be achieved or received through abiding & dwelling IN Christ. You CAN NOT do this on your own merits. Cling to Jesus and choose to receive supernatural strength and power in Him to live out who He has called you to be. Remeber how the "Love chapter" in 1 Corinthians closes out. "These things remain. Faith, hope, and love. And the greatest of these is love." 

Lord, I thank You for how you have loved me with a love that doesn't stop. At times when I've struggled loving myself, Your love has remained. Thank You for the strength of Your love that enables & empowers me to love others that have wronged me, that are different than me, or that are even against me. I know that I CAN do all things because of the relationship You have called me to IN You. Help me to know the power & discipline of living rooted in You. For out of THAT relationship comes the supernatural result of LOVE. It's THAT love that makes it possible to love others in like authenticity of Your love for me. Thank You Jesus. Please help me to live my life in a manner that lives loud Your love for others through my life. Thank You for all in Your Name, Jesus. Amen.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Live the Integrity of Jesus' Love.

"...may have power, together with all the Lord's holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ..." (Ephesians 3:18).

The discovery of how limitless is the power of the love of Jesus was never intended to be a one-time discovery, nor was it be one accomplished in isolation. Paul wrote to the church and exhorted them to live it out the way it was designed, in togetherness and community. The Church is to be the most persuasive and convincing marketing billboard of this all-surpassing love of Jesus. "Together with all the Lord's holy people..." Paul made a case against discrimination, exclusivity, and isolation. He told them to be the Church, to love people, and to be a reflection of the limitless love of Jesus within the Church. 

This wasn't even a message to the unbelievers, but to those who had an encounter WITH the love of Jesus. It was as though Paul was saying, "Now that you have come to know this love of Jeus, it's your time to show this love of Jesus. Oh, and don't start out 'there.' Start right in here with the people that are the closest to you." Paul wanted to speak integrity and credibility into them as a church, so that when they sought to reach out to others, the picture of the love of Jesus wouldn't be compromised.

Living for Jesus is NOT something Scripture speaks of as being private, ingonito, or something in which to be shamed. On the contrary, Jesus said that "you are the light of the world..." and that a "city on the hill should not be hidden..." You can not be the Church of Jesus and not be connected, having undealt with divisions, or exhibiting behavior not seen in Jesus. For the world to believe in the integrity of the love of Jesus, they must see it in the church. And how you can you, with your own personal integrity, reach out to others when you're not living out the love of Jesus with others who share your belief? 

Perhaps the reason there is such a gap between those who believe and those who share their belief, is because those who believe have been hurt by NOT SEEING the love of Jesus in the interactions with others in the church. Don't allow the hurts you have experienced lead you to disconnect, thus further damaging the integrity of the picture of the love of Jesus. Don't wait for the change. Be the change. Don't wait for someone else to initiate doing what should have already been done. You do it. Why should you do it first? Because YOU want the world to see the REAL love of the REAL Jesus that is wider, longer, higher, and deeper than anything else they have ever encountered. Just as negative change begins with the power of one, so does positive change. And know this, there is greater power when people come together and live out the integrity of the life-changing love of Jesus.

Lord, I pray that you would continue to help me to know what it means to live the integrity of the picture of your love. You gave all to love all. I konw that is the right thing to do, but actually doing it can be such a challenge. Lord, you know that even good people can hurt others, whether intentionally or out of uneducated ingorance. Help me to always look at you even when I feel as though I have -been radar-locked within the crosshairs of someone else's weapon of attack. Help to respond as you have responded. Help me to love in the midst of hard times as you have shown and taught me to do. I thank You that the width, length, heighth, and depth of Your love is greater than every one of my hurts, failures, and disappointments. I ask You to help me live out THAT picture with great integrity with those closest to me, so that those in the distance will also believe me. I ask this in Your Name, Jesus. Amen.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Thrive. Not Just Survive.

" that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love..." (Ephesians 3:17).

In order for something to last, it has to be firmly established. Paul knew that faith wasn't faith if it were built around a moment, and emotion, or a circumstance, for any of those could change at a moment's notice. Paul taught the church at Ephesus that what they needed from God was NOT a mere visitation, but a full on indwelling in their hearts, the very core essence of their being. This would never be sustainable with this new church based on the facts of what they knew or the feelings that came & went. It would be based on a transformational faith as a result with a real encounter with Jesus. 

Paul's prayer was that they get beyond scratching the surface and get into the depths of who Jesus really is, why He came, and what He wanted to do in each of them, and through them.  He continued by emphasizing & ecouraging them to grow in the love of God that began with God showing love to each of them through the revelation of Jesus. Without growing in love, they would never grow in Jesus, and they would never truly know God. To be rooted and established means to know what is right and real, grab hold of it, and make that the standard by which all decisions are made. This was why Jesus came, why Paul did what he did, and was the catalyst that would change the world around them.

Have you ever had to live paycheck to paycheck? The idea of living only to survive is fine for a while, but begins to diminish one's sense of value, belonging, and purpose. The fact is, you weren't created to merely survive, but purposed to thrive. What God wants to do in your life is more than just a "paycheck to paycheck" relationship where you survive from Sunday to Sunday, desperate situation to desperate situation, or on the leftovers from someone else's time with God. He has called you to thrive, to know the power of God through Jesus living and dwelling on the inside of you. He wants you to know the power of faith over feeling, to walk in a confidence that He is always with you no matter what it is that you are facing in the everyday. 

To thrive is to continue to grow even when the conditions around you are not conducive to growing. When the chips are down, the attacks are coming, and the feelings are gone, you can still thrive because of a faith that God is by your side, is giving you the strength to press on, and the victory to overcome! You can thrive in the love of God and thrive by showing the love God even when love is not what you feel. Don't allow the way things look or feel to rob you of what God has begun in you. Hang on, hold on, and don't let go. You weren't created just to survive. You were called to thrive!

'Lord, there are days when the motivation to move forward has slowed down, when the "get up & go" has done got up & left. But I thank You right now, in the Name of Jesus, that I am not called to just survive on some puny paycheck to paycheck spirituality. I have been created by You and called of You to thrive in all that You have placed within me to be & to do. When I'm feeling low, help me to remember that humility is always the starting place for worship. When the enemy has me low with the intent of defeat, help me to remember that that is the place where I can grow, thrive, and look to you. I thank You that it is your love that has changed me & keeps on changing me. I thank You that in You I have purpose and peace. I pray in Jesus Name for anyone that reads this today and sets their faith in agreement with mine in this prayer, that they, too, know the call of God to thrive, not just survive. I thank You for all of this now in Jesus' Name, Amen."

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Need Him.

"I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being..." (Ephesians 3:16).

The inhabitants of the ancient city of Ephesus were at a crossroads. There was a revival on the move of those who were coming to Christ and finding the grace and the peace that only He can offer. There, however, was still such a stronghold in the area over the fascination with magic and a need to see the supernatural at work, regardless of what source or origination. There were many who were mixing the two, having a lust more for manifestation than for the majesty of God. Paul addressed this head on in his prayer for the people he had invested so much of his own life and efforts. He prayed that they would know HIS SUPPLY, HIS STRENGTH, and HIS SPIRIT. There was so much they were trying to accomplish by "any means necessary" that they were missing the greastest benefit in the pursuit of Jesus. Being changed by what they saw on the outside would never compare to the change that God wanted to see changed in them on the inside.

There are times, undoubtedly, that you want to see change, a difference made, or something happen, and you want to see it done "yesterday." Impatience can easily lead to desperation and panic when your need for immediacy overpowers your internal need for intimacy. No matter what you are going through right now, God's greatest desire is not for you to see a change on the outside, but to experience the power of transformation on the inside. 

His heart is for you to grow closer and closer in an intimate and trusting relationship with Him. That is where you begin to know HIS SUPPLY, the "power of his glorious riches." Everything you need is found in Him. Stop trying to accomplish His work in your life on your own terms. He already knows the plans He has for you and how to get you through what you're going through. Know that He is "enough." 

He wants you to know HIS STRENGTH, "that he might strengthen you..." The strength is a byproduct of His supply. The more you depend on Him in every weak area of your life, the more you will find a strength that seems unexplainable. His strength is made perfect in your weakness. His strength will give you the power to get up and go when all you want to do is sit down and quit. His strength reminds you that you don't have to do this all on your own. You are overwhelmed with not being able to fix or control all that is around you, and you're beginning to feel exhausted. Stop trying to tread water as though you are the only one keeping your head afloat. Look to Him for the strength, but know that His strength comes on His terms. 

Finally, surrender to HIS SPIRIT, "...with power through his Spirit in your inner being." This is where the transformational work begins and is completed. His Spirit is the One who will teach you what the enemy wants to overwhelm you with not knowing. His Spirit is the One who will guide you when you feel lost, comfort you will you feel overwhelmed and devalued, and will come along side you as your Divine Advocate when you feel both alone and attacked. Through His Spirit at work in your inner-being, you will be transformed, changed, unrecognizeable to your old actions, mindsets, uncontrolled outbursts, old way of doing things, and more. You will beging to trust Him who You don't see over the need to control what you do see. 

Lord Jesus, I thank YOU for the transformational power of YOUR WORD. I may not always understand the what, why, and how, but I certainly grab hold of the WHO. You are all that I need and it is YOUR GRACE that is more than enough for who I am, where I am, what's going on in my life, and how I'm getting through, going through, or breaking through. I know that I am more than a conqueror in Jesus Christ. I am continuing to learn to lean on You in every situation, because in every situation, You are STILL GOD. You are my supply. You are all that I need. You are more than enough. You are my strength. I know that I can do nothing that you have called me to do WITHOUT YOU. It's only in You and through You that I can make it through. And I know that it is your Spirit working in me that will bring the transformation that you want for me. I need You to bring the change that I have failed to make happen on my own. I trust You and know that if You know the plans You have for me, then You must know how to make those plans happen for me in my life. I thank You for all of this in the Name of Jesus. Amen.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

God Uses HERE to Get You THERE.

The Lord said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey—the home of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. (Exodus 3:7‭-‬8, NIV).

God was not blind to what the people He had called into promise were facing. Their cries did not dissipate into the nothingness of space. Their tears did not go unseen nor were they disregarded. God had had a plan that would require the useage of all they faced to get them to where He had called them. Not that God was incapable of performing miracles, because miracles would be a prominent element in God's relationship with Isreal. But the Sovereignty of God would be undeniable in how it took the life of one man, Joseph, to be betrayed, beaten, lied on, rejected, and isolated, and then elevated to the highest levels of government, to move his entire family to Egypt. When this family multiplied, they became larger than anyone expected and were imprisoned. God would use ALL of this in order to set them up, provide for them, and send them out towards the land He promised them.

God sees exactly where you are right now. There may be times when you are unsure of your purpose, your value, or even your legitimacy. If God is SO GOOD, then why are you living and experiencing what feels like the opposite of that goodness? God sees all that you are enduring and He has a plan in place to use THOSE THINGS as the fuel to propel you into a land "flowing with milk and honey." God will use where you are NOW & where you were THEN to prepare you for what He has for you LATER. Don't despise the lessons you are learning. Learn from them. Let them bring you to the bottom of what you can control so that your reliance is no longer on YOU, but soley on HIM. HE will lead you to where He has called you. Don't become overwhelmed in the desert. Continue to let your eyes of faith be focused on HIM who has called you to a land beyond anything you could ever create or achieve on your own. 

Lord God, I thank you right now for how you have shown this and CONTINUE to show this in MY LIFE. There is nothing that I have faced that you have been absent or irrelevant. You have SEEN me, STAYED WITH me, SUSTAINED me, and SHOWN me all the way through. I know I can trust You. Give me the faith to continue to believe and the strength to stand when I feel like giving in. I know that the best is still in the days to come, because as long as there is breath that keeps coming from you, there is a purpose inside of me that has been divinely crafted to point back to you. I thank You for your favor and grace in the desert times, for the strength in the wilderness, and for the perseverance to continue pressing on and pushing forward until I reach the land you have said is mine. I pray this now in the NAME OF JESUS. Amen.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Faith over Fear.

"Their hearts are secure, they will have no fear; in the end they will look in triumph on their foes" (Psalm 112:8, NIV).

Fear is a tactic the enemy uses to knock one off from trusting in the forever faithfulness of God. Fear, in a moment and without notice, can change the thoughts and the direction of one person. Fear has the power to flood the mind with worst-case scenarios, usher in doubt & confusion, or slowly cultivate an atmosphere of anxiety & worry. 

But for those who choose to study & know the truth of God and to live it out unashamedly, there is a boldnes and surety that will rise up in their hearts and be evident in their lives. 

"Their hearts are secure." The very core of their being will not be shaken by that which attempts to contradict God's truth for their lives. Their emotions will not be 'led to slaughter' by that which takes them beyond or short of their expectations. Their faith is strong and their hearts are secure for they know who holds them in the midst of every storm that rages and every battle that has been waged against them. 

"They will have no fear." For those who know the truth and choose to live out the truth, in spite of what they face, will no a supernatural strength when their faith is applied & activated. Fear will attempt to knock you off course. Faith in God is a defiant answer to the dark lies that are offered by fear. When your eyes are on His truth, you will know, in faith, that there is no tactic that has been devised against you will be successful. Fear has NO place in the life of one who puts their trust in God.

" the end they wll look in triumph on their foes." Satan is defeated, but that is something you will have to see in faith before you see it in fact.  "In the end" implies process. Sometimes process works on a time-table that doesn't comply with preference or expectation. Faith calls for perseverance. Trust is more than a moment, but a mind-set. As you continue to trust and persevere, you will see victory in the areas you have been targeted for destruction. You will see your enemy toppled. You will see the grace of God lead you to where you never thought you'd be.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Release the Dream!

We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. (2 Corinthians 10:5, NIV)

They say that every dream takes time for it to become a reality. Undoubtedly, there is great truth in that thought, yet there is also a danger and excuse that is often times used by the devil to see that reality is never impacted by the dream. Time. As long as time is given power to stand in between the start of a dream and the start of DOING the dream, there will NEVER be a finish. Time may not stand still, but the dream will never move.

I've heard it put this way. "...excuses are like a butt. Everyone has one, but are you willing to let the size of it define you." As you think about it, it's not hard to see that excuses, arguments against a dream, thoughts that would influence you of how impossible, irresponsible, or unattainable your dream really is. How many times have you entertained such thoughts that do nothing more than invite time to come in like a guest doesn't know when to leave? 

Don't allow time to be the thing that stops you from starting. Give life to the dream by DOING it. Yes, time is a part of the process. Waiting on God is essential. But when God gives you a dream, don't allow the enemy of your soul to overwhelm your mind with every reason, argument, and though as to why this will or can never happen. Take it captive in Jesus' Name! Believe that what He has called you is YOURS for the taking. Occupy where He has given you as a promise and an inheritance. 

Whatever that God-given dream is, begin to PLOT it, PREPARE for it, and PERFORM it. God's not going to do it all FOR you because He has already done it IN you. He's now waiting for others to see it accomplished THROUGH you. Don't allow your God-given dream to be held captive by demonically engineered thoughts that seek to hold you back. It's time to release the dream!

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Chase the Lion.

"Benaiah son of Jehoiada, a valiant fighter from Kabzeel, performed great exploits. He struck down Moab’s two mightiest warriors. He also went down into a pit on a snowy day and killed a lion" (2 Samuel 23:20, NIV).

Here's a personal confession. I am a dreamer. I live in a world of optimism, trying to believe in the best when the "worst" seems to win. I dream about what could be instead of wasting time moaning about what used to be or might never be. I dream about the impossible, believing that God is bigger than every obstacle that would stand in the way. I play out the dream in my mind, as though I can see it, feel it, and enjoy it as though it were already my own reality. 

But even as a dreamer, I can face the everpresent realities of discouragment and other dream-blockers. The concept of roadblocks to the dream is just as much of a reality as the dream itself. The question for me becomes, am I willing to chase down the very thing that seeks to stand in the way between me and what God has called for me to have, to own, to enjoy, and to occupy.

So was the case for the warrior, Benaiah. Though there are few words that are spoken about him, they speak volumes as to who he was, who he believed in, and his refusal to be beaten by anything that stood in the way of the task to which he was called. He chased down a lion, pursued him into a pit, and overtook him in victory. He didn't allow the intimidation of his obstacle, the elements of the climate around him, nor the darkness of his situation to stop him fom claiming his "W." 

A dream without courage is nothing more than an active imagination. There will always be obstacles to every dream. Like a lion, the looming discouragment of that obstacle will seek to pursue and overtake the dreamer and the dream. Rather than run on the defensive away from where the dream would take you, turn and chase the lion. Choose to let no obstacle stand in the way of the dream that God has placed in your heart. If it means chasing the lion, then chase the lion. If it means jumping into the darkness of a pit for a one on one attack, get ready to jump! Remember that a leap of faith in God requires a belief that you are not nor ever will be alone. If He's called you to the dream, then He will be with you in the fight with the lion that seeks to devour the dreamer and terminate the dream. Don't be distracted by the climate around you. Remember who is really in control and gives you strength in the midst of ALL you face. The God of the dream will give you the courage to chase the lion, jump into a pit, and come out victorious, and see the dream become the reality.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

The Art of Discipleship.

"Joash did what was right in the eyes of the Lord all the years Jehoiada the priest instructed him" (2 Kings 12:2, NIV).

Can you imagine be offered a job by someone who knew you didn't have the experience, the training, nor the aquired skill, and given the expectation to perform like an expert? Of course not. For the most part, it would be that someone saw potential in you, and knew that with the proper training, mentoring, and guidance, that they would be able to convert that potential into performance.

So it was with Joash. Joash had become king at the age of seven after being hidden in secret for most of his early years after a violent and hostile takeover from his grandmother. When he had become king, he had had no godly example, or any example, for how to be king. There was no prior training. However, "Joash did what was right in the eyes of the Lord ALL THE YEARS JEHOIADA THE PRIEST INSTRUCTED HIM." Joehoida knew that Joash posessed the potential to be a good king that would turn the heart of the nation back to God. He knew that he could not and would never be able to accomplish this on his own. Therefore, he commited to walking along side the king with a heart and mind to mentor and disciple him in the matters of Lord. And all the while Jehoiada did this, Joash was successful in the eyes of the Lord. 

Do you ever feel as though you the idea of serving God is like running a marathon that you realize a few hundred yards in that you were ill-trained to finish? You begin with all the excitement in the world only to find that excitement alone is not enough to endure in the "long run." So it is in life and in relationship with Jesus. God has called you to be discipled, but also for the purpose of discipling others. You can't expect to do well what you've never done unless one who been there and done that walks beside you. In the same way, you can't expect others to do well in their walk with Jesus, unless you, you have clocked some miles on the journey, choose to walk along side them as well.

What does it mean to be discipled? Get around someone who's been there, who's on the journey, who is closer to the goal that you are trying to reach. Ask them to show you how they've gotten where they are. Don't wait for them to seek you out. See what it is that you want and go for it. Be willing to be teachable, challenged, stretched uncomfortably to the limits. Be willing to develop consistent habits that will not always fit into "your schedule." 

What does it mean to disciple? Though one should never wait to be sought out, choose to seek out those you know could benefit in their walk with God through the art of discpleship. Choose to spend time. Be willing to share what you've learned, what God has shown you, and how He's kept you on the journey. Be open and transparent and willing to share how imperfect you are, but are continuing to seek Jesus in becoming more like Him. Be ready to challenge someone and hold them accountable in the disciplines and the truth of God. 

Remember, mentorship and discipleship is a two-way street. Everyone needs one and everyone should be one.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Purpose in the Forgotten Places.

"I long to dwell in your tent forever and take refuge in the shelter of your wings" (Psalm 61:4, NIV).

In a time where all he seem to be an expert on was 'flocks' and 'fighting,' David understood from where true strength and rest existed. It was during the days of being overlooked in his father's fields tending the sheep that he began to discover who he really was. Overlooked and underestimated by his family, he had been targeted and apointed by God for a greatness he could have never imagined. It was during the alone times in the field that he connected with God, his maker, his creator, and the lover of his soul in an intimacy that could never be matched by any of the accolades he would ever achieve. 

David's relationship with God was anchored in an authenticity of desire, never to be diluted by a fatiguing sense of duty. David knew that his greatest strength and rest would be found in the presence of God and in the shadow of His wings. 

There are undoubtedly times when you have felt completely disregarded, lonely, overlooked, and considered "put out to pasture" by those you had been certain were on your side. Choose not to give into fear. The One who created you is the One who has called you. He sees all that is within you, because it was His masterful hands that formed your purpose, and it was His lungs that breathed that purpose into your being. See the "alone times" as "your time" to connect with God on a level that is not diluted by duty, but is ingnited by a desire to know that One that has always known you. 

In Him you will find the strength and the rest for the journey ahead. It's in Him you will discover a "new song" when hope seems deferred. It's in Him that you will be discovered by those who once forgot you existed. The purpose God has placed in you will be revealed through you. Take the time to connect with Him. See Him as your strength and your rest. Pursue His presence and find shelter in the shadow of all He is.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Are You Defensive?

"Deliver me from enemies , O God; be my fortress against those who are attacking me" (Psalm 59:1, NIV).

Let's face it. There are times when you are faced with a situation and you are challenged by someone who speaks as though they know everything, but it becomes obvious that they know nothing about the situation in which they speak. When that situation involves your integrity or your intentions, and the challenge comes harshly, it can be very easy to become and want to respond defensively. 

David was no stranger to similar situations. He was hunted down on more than one occasion as though he was prized game by an insecure king who was set on David's elimination. David, like any one of us, certainly struggled with the feelings of wanting to defend himself. In fact, we know, at least on one occasion when in cave and Saul was sleeping, that David strategically inched closer to Saul and cut off a section of his cloak, showing how he could have killed him, but proving and defending his own innocence. He immediately felt remorse for touching the anointed of God. David had to see GOD has his defender. Becoming defensive and focusing on proving his own innocence would have meant taking his eyes off of the One who had breathed purpose into his life. Rather than focusing on the one who sought to destroy him, David chose to focus on the one who would deliver him.

There are those who will come against you. There will be those who speak quickly and challenge you. At times, your intentions, integrity, and motivation will not only be challenged, but falsley assumed as less than you know to be true. Becoming defensive will only had fuel to the fire. Know that those who are quick to accuse are generally those who are in a fight with their own insecurities. They thrive on having the upper hand and putting others on the defensive. Don't fall into the trap. Trust that God has your back. Seek Him. Worship Him. Keep your eyes on the One who delivers you, not those that can destroy you. Be secure in who God is and in who you are because of Him. Choosing to become defensive is choosing to trust in yourself more than trusting in God. Lean on the ONE who is your defense.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Compassion without Compromise

Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to your care. Turn away from godless chatter and the opposing ideas of what is falsely called knowledge, which some have professed and in so doing have departed from the faith. Grace be with you all (1 Timothy 6:20‭-‬21, NIV).

Have you noticed the growing divide that has become more apparent between the culture and the Church? Like a tug of war to the death, the two pull and tug, fighting for dominance on the playing field of "truth." The trends of culture are changing at a rate of speed that is nearly impossible to keep up with. Truth is under the scrutiny of popular opinion and pop culture in a way that it never has been before. With the loud eruption of social media, unlimited access to news & "psuedo-news," the debate has been waged in ways that have never been seen since the days of Adam & Eve and the serpent in the garden of Eden. What is the answer? How does a Church that is to be the "Body of Christ" maintain relevance to a culture without become irreverant to the Truth of God? Where is the balance between compassion and compromise? Is it still possible to hold to the unchanging truth of God in regards to sin without compromising the truth of God in "loving our neighbor?"

In a world where scriptural truths were once held sacred, there has been a great sacrifice on the altar of cultural acceptance. We have been called to the following:

GUARD. "...guard what has been entrusted to your care." What God has started in you will inevitably come under attack. Satan has been attacking the truth of God since the days of the Garden of God. When truth becomes infected with even the smallest amount of compromise or contradiction, it ceases to be truth. Truth is ABSOLUTE. It has to be. God IS truth and God never changes, therefore truth can never change. Guard the truth of God. Continue to seek Him for clarity, for confidence, and for true understanding. Stick to what the Bible says is true. In everything you do, do it with love and honor unto God. Don't compromise the guarding of truth by turning to judgment and condemnation. Guard God's truth, and He will undoubtedly guard you.

GET AWAY. "Turn away from godless chatter and the opposing ideas of what is falsely called knowledge." When those who know or have known the truth of God begin to espouse that which opposes the unchanging and unfallable truth of God, it's time to go. In a world of exremes, there seems to be a struggle to find balance. Where the Church has been to legalistic, the pendulum has swung to the side of liberalism. Both extremes are wrong and compromise the truth of God. Neither one stick to the true spirit nor the letter of what has been divinely inspired. Don't engage in fruitless arguments. Stand up for truth, but know when to go. Do it in love. Never let arrogance, pride, or defensiveness be the guiding force for what you do, even in the "name of Jesus," for by that, Jesus is never honored. Love always, but in guarding truth, sometimes you just have to go. Going allows you to pray and God to work. Sometimes YOU have to get out of the way so that HOLY SPIRIT can really speak.

GRACE. "Grace be with you all." Christians have been notoriously labeled at those who have become experts in the art & skill of judgment and condemnation. Let that label be made FALSE in your life. Let everything you think, say, and do be seasoned with the Grace of God that was modeled in and through the life of Jesus. Jesus NEVER compromised the truth of God, NOR did He ever compromise the love of God. He lived to defend both. It was the GRACE of God that enabled Him to live in compassion without it turning to compromise. Grace is showing love to those with whom you disagree or who disagree with you. It's living out the love of Jesus without judgment or condemnation. It's standing up for the truth, but without allowing pride or arrogance to get top billing. It's accepting people for who they, yet never changing who God is, and allowing HIM to be the author & perfector of all transformation that comes through faith.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

God's Amazing Reach

"He reached down from on high and took hold of me; he drew me out of deep waters" (Psalm 18:16, NIV).

God will reach down into whatever deep waters you find yourself in, and He will take hold of you. 

HIS REACH IS LONG. He "reached down from on high..." There may be times when you notice that there is a great distance between you, God, and where you used to be in relationship with God. God is not so ashamed of you that the distance disqualifies you from rescue. His love knows how to reach. Distance is not a disqualifier, nor does it overwhelm the power of God's reach. 

HIS GRIP IS TIGHT. His reach is long, and his grip is tight. Even when you feel as though you are continuing to fall, He is able to take hold of you and allow you to find the safety you've been searching for right in the palm of His hand. When life is feeling grossly unstable, His grip is tight. When you feel as though you've completly lost your own grip on reality, find strength in the power of His grip. 

HIS PULL HIS POWERFUL. God is not just able to reach you regardless of the distance, nor is He limited to just holding you in His grasp. He is able to pull you out of where you are and set you on a firm foundation, rescuing you and restoring you to relationship with Him. He can pull you out of the deep waters of your confusion, of your complacency, and of your doubt. He can draw you out of the deep waters of regret, fear, and uncertainty. 

No matter what the name of your water is, the name of your rescuer is JESUS.

Friday, January 8, 2016

A Call to Fast (...and how YOU CAN do it!)

Fasting has been a part of spiritual disciplines dating back to the times of the Bible. It is a discipline that emphasizes the importance of dependence and reliance upon God. Fasting involves the giving up of something you have grown to rely upon, for a time, and using the pangs of not having "it" to press in, dig deeper, and to hear what God is wanting to speak and to teach.

There are Biblical examples throughout Scripture, including the 3 day fast that Esther and her servants began when preparing to make a decision that would have epic impact upon her & her people. Jesus fasted for 40 days in the wilderness before calling those who would become disciples and carriers of the MESSAGE that would change the world. Daniel led his peers in a fast, now commonly called the "Daniel Fast," of not eating meats and other foods, showing that they had become stronger and were seen better in the eyes of their leaders as opposed to those who had eaten all that had been prepared and presented.

As a church, we have begun a NEW YEAR and have declared steps of faith that we are taking as a church. I know that many of you are doing the same in your own lives, whether it be marriage, family, jobs, personal economy, or the like. As the year begins, we will be honoring a 4 day period we are calling "ReFOCUS 2016" that will also serve as a CALL TO FASTING. I am encouraging all of us, as a church, and as believers in Jesus, to press in, dig deeper, and hear what God is desiring to speak to us and teach us.

THEREFORE, I wanted to equip you with Scriptures and with ideas on how to fast. Don't let the fear or the intimidation of 4 days, no food, or anything else block you from being involved.

Common Types of Fasting.
Water-only. This fast would call you to abstain from all food for a period of time between the January 10-13. Start on Sunday or wait until Monday, but the idea is that you withhold from your body something that it has survived on. The first day of water only might seem pretty fierce. Drink up. You will need it. You will NOT DIE, though you might feel it in moments. The idea is to keep your mind and heart on Jesus. Turn off the TV. Spend time in prayer. Read the Bible. Be a part of the "ReFOCUS 2016" services that week. By the way, how you prepare for ANY fast will help you to enjoy and to endure.

Modified Daniel Fast. The "Daniel Fast" is often referred to as a vegan-diet, which simply excludes meats and animal product foods. This can be a great challenge to those who are dependent upon eating certain things. Take a look online for recipes that will help you to follow this for the days of the fast.

Juice Fast. Just as it states, drink only juices for the period of the fast. Preferably, choose juices that are not full of chemicals and processed sugars that will cause more of a hunger or not be as beneficial for the  health of your body. Alternate between juice and water. You will receive some calories and taste from the juice, but you will still benefit from the denying your body the fulfillment of food.

Media Fast. Some of you, for health reasons or other concerns, will not be able to, or are not ready to engage in a "food-less" type diet. Choose to "fast" turning on the television, not getting on the internet for reasons other than work-related. Take a break from Facebook, YouTube, other other social media outlets. Let the video game system gather some dust for a few days.

Other Fast. Pray & ask God what it is that you have grown to depend on, other than Him, that He would call you to put down, even for this period, if not indefinitely. Are you a smoker? Put them down during the fast. Are you coffee-caffeine-aholic? Lay it down for the fast. Do you like your beer or glass of wine? Set it aside. Set aside SOMETHING that is like "second nature" to you and use that "loss" as a means to be reconnected and ReFOCUSED on HIM who will be your greater gain!

Scriptures on Fasting.
Matthew 6:16-18 (NIV) 16  "When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. 17  But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18  so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

Isaiah 58:3-7 (NIV) 3  'Why have we fasted,' they say, 'and you have not seen it? Why have we humbled ourselves, and you have not noticed?' "Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please and exploit all your workers. 4  Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife, and in striking each other with wicked fists. You cannot fast as you do today and expect your voice to be heard on high. 5  Is this the kind of fast I have chosen, only a day for a man to humble himself? Is it only for bowing one's head like a reed and for lying on sackcloth and ashes? Is that what you call a fast, a day acceptable to the LORD? 6  "Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? 7  Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter-- when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?

2 Samuel 12:15-17 (NIV) 15  After Nathan had gone home, the LORD struck the child that Uriah's wife had borne to David, and he became ill. 16  David pleaded with God for the child. He fasted and went into his house and spent the nights lying on the ground. 17  The elders of his household stood beside him to get him up from the ground, but he refused, and he would not eat any food with them.

Psalm 35:13-14 (NIV) 13  Yet when they were ill, I put on sackcloth and humbled myself with fasting. When my prayers returned to me unanswered, 14  I went about mourning as though for my friend or brother. I bowed my head in grief as though weeping for my mother.
 Acts 14:23 (NIV) 23  Paul and Barnabas appointed elders for them in each church and, with prayer and fasting, committed them to the Lord, in whom they had put their trust.