Archives for category: discipleship

whenGodspeaksLast night, as we concluded our time of prayer and sharing of concerns, I was led to read from Isaiah 43. By led, I mean I knew there was a scripture I was supposed to read and opened my Bible to Isaiah 43. Before I could look any further, the leader of our prayer time called on me to read, so I did.

“But now, this is what the LORD says— he who created you, Jacob, he who formed you, Israel: ‘Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior’…” (Isaiah 43: 1 – 3a)

As I read through the first 13 verses, I thought to myself, this really is a word from the Lord. How could I tell? How do we determine if the ‘word’ which impresses us is from the Lord?

  1. When God speaks, God’s unique authority is affirmed. There is no one else like God. This is why we affirm Jesus is Lord. No one can do the things He does: heal, forgive sins, have authority over nature, rise from the dead unless He shares in the unique authority of the Almighty. Jesus is the only-begotten. If you want a good translation or paraphrase for that term think – ‘the only way this can happen’.  Thus, the only begotten of the Father becomes the only way the Father is manifest among us. This is why, if God is speaking, the resurrection of Jesus and the authority of Jesus as Lord is confessed.
  2. When God speaks we are authorized for action. We will have the witness of the Holy Scripture and the witness and power of the indwelling Holy Spirit to overcome our doubts and fears.  We will be prompted to see, touch, speak, and share in some concrete way. It may not make complete sense to us but we will hear enough to take a step.  Obey in that one step and more will be revealed and that first word confirmed through some sign of the truth being revealed and received, or through some sign of healing or deliverance occurring. Don’t come up short of this evidence by failing to act in faith.
  3. When God speaks, our attitude is appraised in a way that moves us towards humility and faith.  Be wary of those ‘words’ you think are from the Lord that are all sweetness and light or blessing and favor. Without fail, when the word from God is 100% encouragement, you should already know you face trouble and tribulation in the present and in the future and God alone will save and deliver you.

beginwiththeendinmindLook to Romans 8: 28 – 30 and the first summation of God’s way of grace I ever observed. The end of all God’s work is for those whom God has called to be glorified.  What does that mean? The Apostle Paul describes it in verse 39 as being unable to be separated from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

The Lord’s Prayer describes being glorified as being delivered from evil. (Matthew 6: 13) The path of blessing describes it as receiving peace. (Numbers 6: 26)

As far as the afterlife is concerned, it is as if we are already there. Psalm 23 describes it as dwelling in the house of the Lord forever. (Psalm 23: 6)

Putting on the armor of God has us wielding the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. (Ephesians 6: 17) The picture of us matches the picture of Jesus in Revelation 1: 16, “out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword, and His countenance was like the sun shining in its strength.”  Is it any wonder now we are to be called the children of light? “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light.” (Ephesians 5: 8)

Begin with the end in mind. Repent. Align yourself with the Lord. Completely surrender to God’s call upon your life in Jesus Christ. Your life from this day forward is for God’s purpose.  God has a new prognosis for the outcome of our lives: “whoever believes in him (Jesus) shall not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3: 16)

All of God’s precious promises, the first of which is the Holy Spirit, begin to shape our lives. The Word of God instructs us how to be the handiwork of God, our lives shaped and orchestrated to conform to Jesus Christ. (Ephesians 2: 10) Then, as we cooperatively make use of all of God’s means of grace, God calls us again.  This time there’s a ministry into which God is sending us.

We represent the Lord as witnesses and ambassadors. We do not push our own agenda or look for some earthly cause to which we associate. The hand of God is upon us. The influence of the kingdom flows into everything we do and God looks to our activity and it is well pleasing in God’s sight. Otherwise, we wouldn’t be doing it.

Finally, we “dwell in the shelter of the Most High”, we “rest in the shadow of the Almighty”. (Psalm 91: 1) When we love the Lord, the Lord says, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.  He will call on me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him” (Psalm 91: 14 – 15)

Another way of translating, ‘honor’ is ‘make glorious’. Yes, that is the end of God’s work in us. Let’s begin with that end in mind.

beginendReverse engineer your way forward. This will help you focus on the things you do really well and delegate those things that would gum up your progress if you had to do them.

You’ve heard the phrase, ‘don’t reinvent the wheel’?  Don’t spin your wheels, either; resolving to do the same thing everyday that you already know you don’t know how to do.

We don’t need to fill our day with stuff to do or things to worry about. Jesus said, everyday will have its own fill of that. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. “Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.  Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.” (Ephesians 5: 15 – 17)

Is there any part of your life that you are trying to make more affordable but what you are really doing is wasting your time?

Have you identified the 20% of your work that produces the 80% of your results?

If you know what it is, do others know? Do you allow yourself to be pulled away from what you do best by the demand of others to do something which wastes your time?

Are you putting a plan in place to delegate work to others who do it more gladly and productively than you do?  Don’t assume because you don’t like to do something, no one likes to do it. For someone, what is sour to you is sweet to them. Find out with whom you can exchange work and benefit the both of you.

 

dangerWhen I was a teenager, my brother and I used to race in the pasture on the motorcycle. With but one bike between us, we raced each other and the clock. We had a fine route laid out, almost a mile long, that gave us ample opportunity to test our skill.

We had one rule to start. Since I was older and had been riding longer, and was more prone to take risks, it was determined that I had to go twice as fast in order to win. That actually worked out fine in the beginning. But, the more we raced the more Dennis’ riding improved.

I remember the last race before the rule had to change. I was flying along on the dirt bike with a few seconds to spare and still gain victory. But, I was nearing the halfway point on our course: a V-turnaround spot after which I would head for home. I realized if I slowed down much I would lose the race so I thought I would try to slide the bike into the curve and then propel my way to victory.

I knew as soon as I decided on the slide, the bike would lock up and I would go flying over the handlebars.

I lost the race.

Even though I knew it was coming, I had to try for victory anyway. Worse case scenario? I wreck and my brother wins the race.

I had this memory reading about God’s judgment in the last of days. God says through Ezekiel, “And so I will show my greatness and my holiness, and I will make myself known in the sight of many nations. Then they will know that I am the LORD.” (Ezekiel 38: 23) The prophet was speaking against those who were doing things God was against. We certainly know that activity is still going on and God is still against it.

Our way of driving along may be wrecked here soon as God shows his greatness and his holiness.  Let’s just make sure Jesus will be leading us to victory despite what happens in the world.  Even if we see it coming, let’s be ready to confess and know these three things.

Our triumph abides because of 1) the blood of the Lamb, 2) the word of our testimony, and 3) we don’t love our lives so much as to shrink from death. (Revelation 12: 11)

cycleofhopeWhen we get the PUSH we need to reach for our goals, we still need to be aware of the nature of the journey. We bump into something unexpected along the way and suddenly we’re not quite sure about our goals or the certainty of reaching them. This is why I want to lay out the cycle of hope the Apostle Paul shares in Romans, chapter 5: 1 – 5.

  1. The cycle begins with us standing in grace, rejoicing that our goals and our future can be aligned with God’s purpose for us. We begin rejoicing, acknowledging that reaching for our goal is another way of reaching for the glory of God.
  2. The second part of the cycle is tribulation. Reaching goals is hard work. Our faith is going to be tested and tried. The whole point of setting and reaching goals is to exchange our old life for the new life to which God is calling us. There is going to be friction between the old, status quo and what we’re reaching for.
  3. The third step in the cycle is patience. There is a reason why we have to build up our faith to follow the pathway of grace and to pursue our goals. There is a new burden of expectation that we are bearing, as well as the drag of inertia. At every stage of the journey, don’t stop. Tribulation is to be expected. The need for patience is to be expected. Keep on reaching for the prize.
  4. Eventually, you realize you are gaining a new experience. You begin to see some proof of progress. The scale shows some of the pounds have come off. You can tell your skill level is improving.
  5. Experience renews our hope. Our inspiration at this point of the journey is Christ crucified and his willing commitment to endure the cross for the joy set before him. At this point, we know the repetition of the steps necessary for success do not rise from our initial weakness and need for change. No, our hope now rises because we sense the strength into which we are developing.
  6. This hope elevates us to embrace the once far off goal. We rejoice again as we near and reach our goal. We love this process of transformation and now look for that next right thing that will enable us to more closely identify ourselves with Jesus Christ.

The cycle of hope is a recurring cycle as we and God work together for a miraculous life transformation.

What is that one goal right now if sought and reached would bring glory to the Lord?

What step in the cycle has been the obstacle/barrier most difficult for you to overcome in the past? How could you address that using one of the means of accountability we spoke about day before yesterday?

How does finding out all of us go through the same kind of struggle/cycle to reach our goals help you?

 

(Please forgive me for writing this then becoming proof of it instead of the other way around.)

pushWhat wisdom do we need to apply so we reach our goals. Most of us have heard of the acrostic, SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-bound.  Many times we’ve had goals that met that criteria yet went unfulfilled.

What are the means of grace that bring a greater likelihood of breakthrough and success? May I suggest we get a PUSH from the Scripture to help us with our goal setting and our goal reaching. This second acrostic I hope will help us as much as the first.

The “P” stands for priority or prioritized. Our goal, to be reached, can’t be a part of a large list of things we would like to be doing.  Jesus said, “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these other things shall be added to you.”  (Matthew 6: 33)  Note, it doesn’t equate seeking all the associative attributes of the kingdom with the one right thing we are called to seek. Prioritize your one right thing to do, your one right habit to form, your one right goal to pursue and add anything else later.

The “U” stands for unction. The Holy Spirit is making contact with our spirit in a way that gives us the power to pay attention again and again to our goal. Receiving the unction of God’s Spirit for our goals is a necessary act of consecration, where we are consecrated for the faithful fulfillment of our goals and “furnished with the necessary powers for its administration“.

The “S” stands for steps. How we pursue our goals matter. The methods we choose to use should suit how we are already bent. We customize our pursuit because this is the way God works with us. “The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD: and he delights in his way.  Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: for the LORD upholds him with his hand.” (Psalm 37: 23 – 24 KJV)

If the methods we choose to pursue our goals are out of the ordinary for us, then reaching our goals will likely be out of the ordinary for us, too.

One method I used when I reached my goal to lose weight was walking during commercials.  The average one hour program has over twenty minutes of commercial time so if I jumped up and walked during each block of commercials I could add 2,000 steps to my routine without really ‘changing’ what I was doing or missing any of the program I wanted to watch.

The “H” stands for hope. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, “we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God.”  (Romans 5: 2) We have faith that we will have the grace to reach our goals and our movements will match the Lord’s.  We rejoice in this hope. This hope kick starts our efforts and later it will confidently seize the prize.

Have you got the PUSH to reach your goals? Are your goals prioritized?  Do you have confirmation from the Holy Spirit that the goal you are pursuing is the right goal for right now?  Have you adapted your methods for reaching the goal to reflect who you are? Is hope stirred up in you to move you forward?

Tomorrow, we will walk through the cycle hope follows in reaching for our goals. Follow our blog and make sure you learn that important lesson. I’m praying for you to move forward in power and joy today!

Norman

onethingWhen God first calls us, Romans 8: 28 tells us we are called to live according to His purpose. Most just want to be energetic in their love for the Lord (and that’s important) but our will has a short shelf life. To achieve the calling of being energetic and entrepreneurial in our love, we have to undergo a shift from trying to empower ourselves to being empowered by the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit that teaches and discloses and provides the energy for living according to God’s purpose in our lives.

The way of grace 1) Begins in repentance, 2) Believes in the Lord Jesus Christ, then 3) Builds up that most holy faith through prayer in the Holy Spirit. (Jude 1: 20-21) Notice, to keep ourselves in the love of God, there has to be more than just our energy in play.

Think for a minute on the words of Gary Keller and Jay Papasan in their blog, 3 Commitments that Lead to Extraordinary Results. “It’s the difference in mindset between ‘get it done’ and ‘get it done effectively,’ and it’s important because the ‘E’ approach will bring us to our limits very quickly. We all have natural ceilings on our ability, time and energy, and when we try to push through relying just on our natural tendency, we end up burning out or bumping up against challenges we can’t solve.

Shifting to the ‘P’ approach helps us take a step back, prioritize and think outside of our normal boxes to find innovative, effective solutions that take us to the next level.”

The next level in the pathway of grace is the place of 4) Blessing, then 5) Bringing Life, then 6) Breakthrough. If you are to reach those levels of mature service to the Lord, your mindset needs to shift from self-empowerment to Spirit-empowered.

Left to our own energy, it is almost inevitable that we will fall back into the way of sin. We will 1) Betray and fall short of our calling. We will get locked into a blind, 2) Biased way of doing things. When that doesn’t hold up we will move to 3) Blame and when our energy runs out short of fulfilling our purpose we will become 4) Bitter and get stuck replicating our own limitations.

• Are there any indicators in your life right now that you need to move from “E” to “P”, from self-energizing yourself to being empowered by the Holy Spirit?

• Have you put in a child-like request to the Father to give you a fresh experience of being soaked by the Spirit?

• Can you imagine yourself having received the Gatorade® shower of grace and being carried across the field as the winner and victor God wants you to be?

• Have you committed yourself to keeping God’s call and purpose being what continues to move you forward rather than the level of energy you have available at the moment?