24/7 Praise

From the rising of the sun to it’s going down the Lord’s name is to be praised. (Psalms 113:3 NKJV)

I have always loved music … especially praise/worship music. It’s hard to explain, but when I worship the Lord, it’s like a taste of Heaven on Earth. Praise takes us into His presence.

I’ve been reading a book called, “Imagine Heaven” by John Burke. The book shares a glimpse of Heaven through the stories of people who have survived near death experiences. One of the things people consistently report is the glorious worship in Heaven through music. I can’t wait to hear it. There is nothing in this world to compare with the glory that awaits us! In Heaven everything praises the Lord, including plant life.

He is worthy to be praised! My encouragement to you today is to lift your eyes toward Heaven and embrace His presence. The things of Earth (problems, trials, heartache) dim in comparison to His glory.

Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him. (1Corinthians 2:9 NKJV)

God’s Best is in the Waiting

But those who wait on the Lord Shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint. – Isaiah 40:31 NKJV

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I don’t know about you, but if I am honest, I don’t like waiting. We live in a world of instant gratification. We want what we want, and we want it now.

I remember my Father teaching me the benefit of ‘delayed gratification’ as a young child. When the Beatles became popular in America he took me to a store to purchase one of their albums. Unfortunately, they were sold out. They did have singles available (aka 45’s). My dad gave me an option, you can have the single now, or wait until the album comes in and get that. As a preteen it was almost unbearable to think of leaving that store empty handed. In the end, I took his advice and chose well. With much anticipation I then waited for the album to be restocked. It’s a lesson I never forgot. The things we value are worth waiting for. 

There are several things I’m still waiting for in life. I’m sure you can relate. I confess, I don’t understand God’s timing, but I trust it. I trust it because I have seen the brokenness that results when I try to make things happen on my own. 

As difficult as it may seem, God has a purpose in the waiting. His timing is always perfect. I’ve often wondered how many times I missed out on God’s best because I settled for the “single” instead of waiting on the “album”. 

One way I can apply today’s verse is this … if I am weary or faint, I can examine my heart and ask myself, what is it I am trying to do in my own strength or timing instead of waiting on the Lord? Don’t misunderstand. I’m not saying we should sit around and do nothing. God calls us to GO, to be doers of the Word.

The difference is, when we flow in His timing:

  • our strength is renewed
  • we can soar like eagles above the difficulty of trying to figure everything out ourselves
  •  we can run and not grow weary
  •  we can walk and not faint

PRAYER: Father, thank You for Your perfect timing. Thank You for the promise of renewed strength when we learn to wait expectantly on You. Help me to be so sensitive to Your voice that I know when to run and when to wait. Help me to never run ahead of You. 

Lord, I may not always understand the delay in Your promise, but I trust You. I know Your Word will not return void. You are not a man that You should lie.

Forgive me for the many times I have missed Your best for my life because I tried to take matters into my own hands instead of waiting on You. Thank You for protecting me even while allowing me to reap the consequences of my actions. You are a good, good Father.

Amen

 

Overcoming Temptation

“But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’ ”” ‭‭Matthew‬ ‭4:4‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

img_1609In Matthew 4:1-12 We see Jesus being led into the wilderness, by the Holy Spirit, to be tempted by Satan. After Jesus fasted for forty day’s Satan’s first temptation was for Jesus to turn stones into bread, to satisfy His physical hunger. While Jesus certainly could have done this, I believe His response was an indication that God had not released Him from His fast. Jesus was waiting for a WORD from God.

Even though Jesus was fully man, He was also fully God and He with the Father when Satan attempted to take over the throne. He recognized His enemy. He knew how to respond to the tempter.

Here are three valuable lessons we can learn from these verses.

◾️ We do not have to fight the enemy in our own strength. Jesus did not respond to Satan out of emotion or logic. He responded with faith in God’s voice as the guiding force of His life. If we want to overcome the enemy we too have to learn to distinguish all other voices from the voice of the Father.
◾️ Satan knows The Word. Just because someone quotes scripture to you doesn’t mean they are a true messenger from God. When Jesus responded to the first temptation with, “It is written”, Satan changed his strategy. He shifted to quoting scripture out of context. He challenged Jesus to throw Himself off the pinnacle of the temple. Satan tried to bully Jesus into proving He was the Son of God. Jesus was confident in His relationship with the Father. He had nothing to prove, especially to His enemy! 2 Timothy 2:15(KJV) admonishes us … “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” It takes time to develop knowledge of the Word. As a Christian this must be a priority in our life if we want to be victorious. We cannot rely on others to spoon feed us the Word. We have to learn to feed ourselves. People can twist scripture to justify just about anything. When we know of heart of God we have a better understanding of His written Word.
◾️ The Word is a weapon. Even though Jesus was the Son of God, He responded to temptation with, “It is written”. Hebrews 4:12NKJV tells us: “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” Jesus could have rebuked Satan at the first temptation, but I believe chose to withstand the temptation to show you and I that we can overcome by following His example. Take a proactive approach to temptation instead of a reactive approach. Most of us know the things that are a struggle for us to overcome. Look up, write down, and memorize scriptures that address your issues, or encourage you to press through. Have those scriptures ready and available when you need them.
PRAYER: Father, I thank You that Your Word is more powerful than any temptation I will ever face. Thank You for the written Word, and for the voice of the Holy Spirit whom You sent to teach, lead and empower us. Give me the wisdom to discern Your voice over the voice of the enemy. As I study Your Word, Father birth spiritual insight and revelation within me. I am eternally thankful that, “greater is He that is within me, than he that is in the world”! Amen

He is Worth the Cost

When He had called the people to Himself, with His disciples also, He said to them, “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it.” 
Mark 8:34‭-‬35 NKJV

1544619082004_imageJesus didn’t pull any punches. He didn’t water down His message to attract people. He wanted them to know the cost of following Him was great; but the reward was greater.

In the verse following Jesus asks, “What shall it profit a man if he gains the whole world but loses his soul?”

The cross represents life to us, because of the resurrection of Christ, but to the crowd Jesus was addressing that day it was a symbol of death. They, like many of our brothers and sisters around the world knew that following Jesus could very well mean death to them. The fact that they were willing to remain faithful to His call in spite of the cost speaks volumes about the radical impact Jesus has on people.

I often wonder what would happen in America if following Christ became a crime punishable by death. While we enjoy the freedom to worship, this is still a reality for Christians in many nations today. The profound truth is that persecution produces purity, and purity births revival. No matter how hard the enemy tries, he cannot silence or defeat the blood of Christ!

We are living in a time predicted in 2 Timothy 4:3-4 “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.”

While it is the love of God that draws men to repentance, I also believe a time of sifting in coming. We reap what we sow – good or bad – and a time of harvest is inevitable. The sheep will be separated from the goats.

In my lifetime I have seen the acceptance of Christianity in our culture greatly decline. Unfortunately many times the church has responded by shifting from preaching the cost Jesus proclaimed in Mark 8 to a message that focuses on salvation without repentance and transformation. This only results in a powerless church!

Jesus said we would do even greater works than He did. Can you imagine the impact the church (the body of Christ) would have if we sought to minister to the world the way Jesus did? Do we truly believe in the power of God to save the lost, heal the sick, raise the dead, deliver the captive? Are we fervently seeking Him to use US to continue the ministry of Christ?    

I am challenged today by these verses to examine myself and ask, am I truly willing to take up my cross to follow Him? Am I willing to lay down my life; not just in death but in serving God and others? Why do I not see the greater works Jesus spoke of as fruit in my life?

My prayer today is that the resurrection power of Jesus would become so evident through His people that the lost would run to Him like the multitudes that followed Him in His time on Earth, and would be so convinced of the prize of Him that they (we) recognize that He is worth the cost!

 

Temporary Praise or Godly Reward?

“But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, that you charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly.” Matthew 6:3-4 (NKJV)

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Matthew 6:3-4 is an eye-opener for those of us who struggle with the need for approval and validation from others. Generally when I read about charity I think of financial giving; but this morning as I read this verse God reminded me that the motive behind what I do is just as important as the act itself. Who am I trying to please?

I am a people pleaser. I’m getting better at learning to say no, and checking my motives for what I say yes to, but it’s difficult. I want to please God and others. Clearly I cannot do both. Why? Because I have to choose between the approval of man or the reward of God. The approval of man is temporary; the reward of God eternal. It should be a simple choice … but it usually isn’t. 

If I feel the need to boast of my good deeds could it be that I don’t trust God to reward me for what I do in secret? Why settle for a ‘pat on the back’ from people when you can receive an open reward from the Lord Himself?

Motive is the key factor in determining when and what to share. Is my desire to glorify God or myself? Sometimes it isn’t pride that drives us to share our good deeds. Sometimes it is excitement over the fruit produced by that deed, especially when if it had a life changing impact on someone. Sometimes the things we share can be an encouragement to others and even a motivator to spur others to serve. Just be sure to check your motives and be honest with yourself about your intent. The reward of the Lord will far surpass any self gratification we receive from the praise of men.

 

 

 

 

 

Hidden Things

Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know. ~ ‭‭Jeremiah‬ ‭33:3‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

IMG_1602Many times as I read the attention to detail God spoke to His servants in the Bible, I find myself longing to hear God as clearly as they did. Think about the detail He gave Noah when building the ark in preparation of the flood; or the detail He gave Moses in building the ark of the covenant. These were definitely examples of “hidden” things … great and mighty things they had no foreknowledge of.

Last week I taught a message on hearing God’s voice to the female inmates at the Duval County Jail. One of the things I told them was that God often confirms what He has told us through other people. The next morning my pastor preached a message at church on hearing God’s voice. While some would consider that a coincidence, I see it as God’s confirmation to me that I was on track in sharing this topic with the inmates. I have had this happen to me repeatedly in ministry.

I seem to hear God’s voice with increased clarity when He is preparing me to share His word with others through writing or speaking. Reading Jeremiah 33:3 stirred my heart this morning to seek God’s revelation in my personal life as much as I do in ministry.

Have you ever had news you were excited to share with someone, but quickly realized they didn’t share your enthusiasm? God isn’t hiding from us. He says, “Call to me, and I will answer you.” I believe God delights in revealing His mysteries to us. Asking for His guidance needs to become our first response, not a last resort.

Could it be that friendship with God is the critical component of such intimate communication with Him? Am I quieting my spirit long enough for Him to speak, or am I simply approaching Him with my requests? What wonderful, hidden treasures have I missed because I was too focused on myself to ask God if He had something to “show” me?

PRAYER:
Lord, Your Word says if I call on You, You will answer me, and show me great and mighty things which I do not know. Thank You for this wonderful promise of intimacy. Forgive me for neglecting to seek You with the purpose of hearing Your heart. I know You are no respecter of persons, (Acts 10:34) therefore I believe You desire to communicate with me with the same level of clarity and detail You spoke to those in the Word. How exciting that You would share Your mysteries with mankind! Help me to quiet the world around me and remove the distractions that would steal my focus off of You. I don’t want to miss a single word You speak to me.

Unfailing Love

“For the LORD is good; His mercy is everlasting, And His truth endures to all generations.” ‭‭Psalms‬ ‭100:5‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

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I have been going through a difficult season for many months now. My writing has suffered as a result. Instead of using this God given gift to express my heart before God, I allowed my pain to become an excuse to draw back. I allowed busyness to replace pressing in. It became easier to shift into survival mode than to put on the armor of God and fight.

Every Sunday, inspired by my pastor’s messages, I told myself, enough is enough. It’s time to pull myself out of this hole, one.step.at.a.time. Then, Monday rolled around and each week I slipped right back into existing versus living. Each step I tried to take felt like quicksand.

Every Monday until now! Today I am shifting into warrior mode!
God has called me to be an exhorter. I’m great at encouraging others … but not so good with my self-talk. That’s why I HAVE to turn to God’s Word for strength when I am weak. HE is my source of encouragement.

As I read Psalm 100:5 today, God reminded me …
▪️He is GOOD … even when my circumstances aren’t.
▪️His mercy is EVERLASTING … my problems are not.
▪️His truth ENDURES … His Word WILL prevail.
▪️His love is UNFAILING … and UNENDING.

God has given me a vision and purpose for my life. The wilderness experiences I go through can either break me or make me stronger. Ultimately the choice is mine. I want to choose strength over brokenness. I KNOW God will use every circumstance as an opportunity to grow me AND in turn allow me to encourage others in their journey.

PRAYER: Father, thank You for the breath of life found in Your Word. Thank You for Your unfailing love, everlasting mercy and enduring truth. Regardless of what my circumstances say, I can trust the truth of Your Word. You ARE good, even when life is hard. Help me to run to You, not from You when I am weak and weary. Remind me to cast my cares on You, rather than trying to bare them in my own strength. You are my hiding place in the storm, the rock of my salvation and my shield against the arrows of the enemy. My VICTORY is certain in You.
Amen