I wanted to share the Easter message broadcast this week from Jentzen Franklin. Listen to it when you get the chance. It will bless and encourage you and help you be ready to receive more of the word when we get together this Sunday, April 23rd.
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When I was growing up we were told, “Practice makes perfect.” It wasn’t until later when my band director then my preaching professor told me, “Practice makes permanent. Only perfect practice makes perfect.” So what did I learn from that? Don’t be sloppy in my practice unless I want to be permanently sloppy in my performance. Don’t limit yourself by how or what you practice. Make sure, as the great golfer Ben Hogan said, practice always leads to improvement.
Now, take that wisdom and apply it to your general approach to things instead of learning a specific skill. Are you well practiced at being patient? Do you have faith and grace enough to trust God to work everything together for your good? Do you have enough to trust others and be a part of a process, be a part of a conversation, to improve things?
Or, are you well practiced at being paranoid? Jumping to conclusions? Prejudging and then planting seeds of betrayal and bias into any process or conversation of which you are a part?
Unfortunately, I’ve practiced both in my lifetime but I am asking God for both me and you to stand ready from this moment forward to, as the New King James version of Luke 22: 19 puts it, “By your patience, possess your souls.” Or, as the NIV reads, “Stand firm and you will win life.” Yes, let’s be well practiced in the things that lead us to share in Christ’s victory!
Who have you encouraged, today? Another person? Yourself?
Were your eyes open wide enough to see that moment when you could show mercy and act with kindness toward someone?
To the one you cut short or cut off, did you go back and apologize? Did it occur to you that they were already disappointed in themselves for what they missed? Was it a help for you to double the impact of their disappointment?
Correction can rise from two different roots: the law or grace. We all try to avoid being corrected by the law. I mean, the last thing anyone wants to see are those flashing blue lights in your rear view mirror.
But, when someone brings correction out of love there is no lasting grief or regret. We are pulled closer to where we need to be together.
The law drives a wedge between the one correcting and the one being corrected. Grace drops an anchor that allows us both to be steadfast no matter how stormy it gets.
Again, just checking, who have you encouraged, today?
Last 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?
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
I woke up this morning thinking on the principal of lift. Don’t ask me why. So, I looked it up on the internet and found more than I could digest at a single reading. Does lift overcome gravity like grace overcomes sin? I do know the Bible says ‘where the pressure of sin abounds, grace much more abounds’. (Romans 5:20) I also know when the Apostle Paul talks about how we become and act as a new creation, it is due to the ‘pressure of the Holy Spirit’. (Titus 3: 5)
When Jesus says, “You must be born again”, (John 3: 7) He is alluding to the need for force to be applied from above, perhaps the “everlasting arms” (Deuteronomy 33: 27) of God to lift us and enable us to be changed from non-ascending creations to ascending creations in Jesus Christ.
I appreciate your forbearance with me this morning as I think out loud. No matter what we’ve done or been through or what we are experiencing at this moment, I know God is able to lift us up and carry us forward. Do we have a part to play? Yes, we do. “For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” (Luke 18: 14) “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.” (1 Peter 5: 6)
Lifting us up is one of the key works of God. Often mistranslated, John 15: 2 should really say, “He
cuts off lifts or raises up every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, so that it will be even more fruitful.” New Christians, take heart, Jesus is committed to helping you grow and He will lift you up!
I think this is a good place to stop, today. I’ll come back tomorrow and explain more about John 15: 2. I ask to you leave a comment and let me know if you want to learn more about the great power of grace by which God will lift you up.
To follow my own advice, posted January 13th, I want to invite you to join me for a brief mini-concert on Facebook live Tuesday, January 24th at 7:00 PM EST where I’ll share a couple of the songs I recorded at Serenade Studios with Joey Gore. Tune in for the mini-concert plus a word of grace that will encourage you.
Please pray, as this is the first time I will try to do something like this.