Tag Archives: Finding your purpose

Have you considered the tree?

FullSizeRender (4)Nobody questions the tree. How it came to be, what it endured during its growth, or what it takes for it to maintain. You just know a tree when you see one. You have no idea what it took growing from a seed to the tree you see before you. You have no idea about the storms it has endured, limbs being broken away by strong winds that would’ve taken down a lesser tree.

People carving names and symbols on it, things that don’t represent who the tree actually is, but now it’s branded forever. Cars crashing into it, damaging its bark, and yet the tree is often left to supposedly heal itself (but we know that God is the healer). Dogs doing their business on it, and yet the tree continues to stand, renewing its leaves every year.

The message here is very few people will actually witness your growth, but that doesn’t change who and what you are. Many have enough vision to know that even though they didn’t witness the growth, their eyes aren’t deceiving them. You are what you are, whether they want you to be or not.

At the same time, some people know exactly what you are, they just refuse to respect it. They will brand you with names. They’ll dump on you. They’ll mercilessly crash into you and then blame you for being where you’ve always been, doing what you’ve always done. They resent you being in your calling! They’ll even desire to cut you down and cast you into the fire.

But don’t be discouraged! You are what God called you to be. Even when people don’t understand how you came to be, even when they didn’t witness your evolution, even when they wish to uproot you in the name of new development, stand strong. Just as God created you. He planted you and He will allow you to continue producing in your season.

“He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season. Whose leaf also shall not whither; And whatever he does shall prosper.” – Psalms 1:3

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Excerpt from “Going Through to Get Through”

Read an excerpt from Rev. Kelly R. Jackson’s latest book “Going Through to Get Through: Activating your faith during life’s most trying times”.

BookCoverPreview (2)Taken from the chapter:
“The challenge of God’s timing: Working your way through the wilderness”.

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What are you waiting for?

When we’re trying to answer the question of why God brought us to a particular place, we must first examine ourselves. It’s so easy to begin questioning God and asking Him why we’re in a certain place or what we’re supposed to do now, but the first questions belong to us.

God may have in fact pointed us in a certain direction, but did we take the route that He told us to take? Did we go through the people that He told us to go through, or did our pride or our feelings about that individual cause us to use someone that God hadn’t authorized?

Did we commit to the vision that He gave us, or did we alter it? Most importantly, when we received that vision from a holy God, did we alter our living to coincide with living out the promise given to us by a holy God?

When you examine those questions for your own life before questioning, or even blaming God for why you have to wait in the wilderness, you may in fact find that it was never God’s plan for you to wait. Know that God’s blessings on your life aren’t yours no matter how you’re living.

When you ask God for a blessed destiny and He agrees to give it to you, you can’t continue on living however you want. God expects us to live up to the call and the blessings.

Also, you may find that it was God’s plan for you to go through some trials so that you might know that He delivered you, and so that you can appreciate your blessings when you reach them. All that you’re doing may have been designed for you to exercise your faith and for you to grow in that faith.

Consider again the Children of Israel. God could’ve made a way for Moses and the Israelites to escape captivity without ever having to confront Pharaoh. But by having to deal with Pharaoh head on, all were able to see that God’s power can deliver us without us ever having to cower in the face of those that wish to oppress us.

When they crossed the Red Sea, it wasn’t God’s desire for them to spend 40 years in the wilderness wandering. The journey from the wilderness to the Promised Land would’ve normally taken only a few weeks. It was their disobedience and lack of faith that kept them from reaching their destination sooner.

God’s promises to us are real, but we sometimes need to evaluate our commitment to God. There are times when we’re more committed to the promise than we are to the God of the promise. We want to go from point A to B, but God may want to add a few more letters to the equation.

God sometimes wants to refocus us on why it is we started out. So often we’re in this wilderness state looking to God and asking “What’s the holdup?” In the meantime, God is looking down at us and asking the same question.

There are times when God will slow progress because we’re moving in the wrong direction, or we’re moving in the right direction, but we’re skipping steps. There are also times when God will stop progress because we’ve stopped progressing. As we’re waiting patiently in the wilderness, we must also remember to wait FAITHfully!

We must remember to never give up on God just because traffic has momentarily stopped. There’s a plan, a path, and a purpose. But if you’re not moving, don’t always assume that God has stop working on your behalf. Sometimes, we’ve stopped working on His behalf. Sometimes, all you’re waiting on is you.

Isolation for elevation

Whether you’re in favor of the wilderness or not, you must understand that it’s all a part of God’s plan. It may not feel like it, it may not look like it, and it may be counter to what you thought God promised you, but know that it was always a part of God’s plan for us to be isolated before we’re elevated. This time of consecration is necessary if we’re to be what God would have us to be at the next level.

As God looks to shape and mold us into what He wants us to be, we must also understand that there is some reshaping that must go on as well.

So those of us that are passionate, but only passionate about sinful things, God wants to redirect our passion, not take it away from us. For those of us that are intellectuals, but only for worldly causes, God needs our intelligence, but He needs it focused on Him.

Those of us that are talented and gifted, but have used those talents and gifts for the world, God doesn’t want us to lay our talents down, He just wants us to use them for His glory.

When we come to God from the world or from a place where we weren’t in His service, we must understand that we have some things on us that must be removed. We have some habits, some ways, some addictions, and some behaviors that are not of God. Before we can truly be used for God’s purposes, these things have to be stripped away.

The easiest way to stay in a rut is to stay in the place that got you stuck. So when God calls us up and out for greater service, He’s going to call us out of the rut of former friendships, former family relationships, former jobs, former romantic relationships, and even former church relationships.

When He isolates us in the wilderness, He’s taking the time to strip us of all of our old allegiances in order to form some new alliances. When God is taking you to something new, you can’t be beholden to what’s old. Sometimes God has to break us apart in order to remake us into what He wants us to be.

When those Children of Israel had been in captivity all of those years, as much as they loved God, they had still taken on some characteristics of their oppressor Egypt. It’s been said that it took one night to get them out of Egypt, but it took 40 years to get Egypt out of them.

When we’ve been living in the world, following the edicts of the prince of darkness, we have some stuff on us. God can’t just elevate you to a Promised Land or a holy position just as you are. He’s got to have some alone time with you so that He can shape you into a vessel that He can fill, so that you may pour out into others.

Practicing what we preach: Preachers have a different set of responsibilities, not rules

FullSizeRender (1)One of the great challenges of true leadership is walking the talk. Not just giving instruction, but being willing to follow that which you’ve laid out for others. And in the event that those rules don’t apply to you, showing that you are following the ones that do apply to you. This is especially true when it comes to preaching and pastoring. In fact, we are the basis of that popular phrase “Practice what you preach”. It’s so vitally important that we’re living by that principle because people in their flesh are often unable to look beyond God’s representative and see Him for themselves.

It is through the preacher that many are introduced to God. While we can’t save, we can point people to The One who does. Because of this, our jobs are more critical than any other within the body of Christ (Note: The importance is on the job, not on the individual doing the job). While we have been blessed with such a great call, we have not been given the free pass that many, both within and outside of the ministry, think we have. We have not been given a special rules exemption by God. This responsibility is sacred and it must be treated as such. Though we throw that catch phrase around rather loosely, “Practice what you preach” is probably the most important mandate available for any minister of The Gospel.

The human side of a preacher or pastor can often affect the spiritual call that he’s under. For example, if there’s anything that bothers us on our 9 to 5 jobs, it has to be higher ups operating by a different set of rules. I mean, doesn’t the employee handbook apply to everyone? Don’t we all work for the same company? I know you’ve gotten a few promotions, but rules are rules, right? Well, not always.

If you’re working a secular job for a number of years, you get comfortable. You’ve gotten a few raises, a few promotions, and you’ve got a little seniority. Just as it is on a secular job, the longer you’ve been doing it, the more comfortable you feel cutting corners and not following all of the rules to the letter. Now, if you’re blessed enough to have a few subordinates, you won’t allow them the same latitude (unless, of course, you have some favorites, which we all do). You make sure that the people “working under you” abide by all of the rules as stated. And if you’re ever questioned by them about the obvious double standards, you remind them of how long you’ve been doing this, what your title is, who their immediate boss is, and the fact that you’re in good with the big boss, so you’re privileged. Does this sound like church to anyone yet?

A preacher or pastor can’t in good conscience stand in the pulpit and instruct the people of God in the rights and wrongs of Christian living, and then act as though he is above the law. People in church can spot a hypocrite from a mile away. Even as they say “amen”, they’re still aware when you don’t practice what you preach. In fact, they lose respect for you. Not because you’re not perfect, because they already know that and they’re not afraid to tell you. They lose respect because you’re acting as if the rules don’t apply to you. You lose credibility and the ability to correct them because if you can pick and choose what to follow, why can’t they?

Nowhere in the qualifications for a Bishop (1 Timothy 3:1-7) were we issued a different Bible. The same Bible that applies to the “layperson” applies to the pastor and preacher. We all have the same rules about adultery, fornication, gossip and backbiting, forgiveness, etc. God meant those words for all, no matter what your position in the church.

People are turned off from traditional churches because some of our pastors and preachers act as though they’re above the Bible. But it’s not God that’s behind this elevation, oh no. It’s often man’s ego, coupled with members and their hero worship/groupie mentality. When I published my book “An Understanding with God”, the original premise was dealing with preachers and pastors that behaved as though having a greater understanding of God’s Word gave them leeway that other Christians didn’t have with God concerning sin.

Now, I don’t want anyone to get this wrong. Understand that both the pastor and preacher are under a special anointing from God. They have been called to a greater work. It is a work not to be taken lightly, nor disrespected. The Bible states in both 1 Chronicles 16:22 and Psalms 105:15: “Touch not mine anointed, and do my prophets no harm”. However, those scriptures are in reference to the mistreatment of the prophets, not godly correction. None of us are above that. In truth, the fact that we’re called to a greater calling doesn’t alleviate our responsibility to live according to God’s Word. It increases that responsibility.

Preaching has enough challenges without we preachers acting as though The Word doesn’t apply to us. There’s automatically an expectation of “holier than thou” placed on us as soon as we accept the call. People believe that because we’re preachers and pastors, we’ve somehow been given some supreme ability to avoid sin. They assume that the devil won’t attack us because God is covering us. They began throwing our past around like its current events. They forget our humanity.

While there’s nothing we can do about people’s unrealistic expectations, we can do something about the idea that we don’t have to serve the same God that they do, under the same ordinances listed in His Word. We can be sure that people understand that our call doesn’t make us exempt from God’s orders for the Christian community as a whole. We can practice what we’ve been called to preach.

All of the teaching and preaching that we do on love, forgiveness, keeping God’s statutes, and overall Christian conduct should serve as a reminder to us first, before it becomes schooling or a corrective measure for those we’re charged with leading. Every word in our lessons, sermons, lectures, and Bible classes should sting us first. If we aren’t living what we’re teaching from the Bible, each word that we speak should be a bitter taste in our mouths until we’re trying our very best to do so.

We must remember that we don’t preach so that people can see how great we are, but so they can see how great our God is. We aren’t to preach a word of chastisement with a tone that suggests that we’ve somehow conquered sin. We ought to speak as though we’re beneficiaries of God’s grace and mercy, just like the people we’re speaking to.

This isn’t a call for you to be overly critical of the preachers or pastors that you know (remember 1 Chronicles 16:22 and Psalms 105:15), but you should be concerned when they’re aware of everyone else’s shortcomings, but blind to their own, particularly when they’re obvious. The easiest way to lose people is to tell them to do something that they know you should be doing to, but you’re not. We can’t be “do as I say, not as I do” preachers. We must be a living and breathing example of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and not just a shadow.

Anatomy of a dying church

KJ PreachHow is the health of your home church? Ponder that for a moment. It’s a question that we don’t often consider. We assume that because the doors open each Sunday morning, everything is alright. But the gates of the cemetery are open often and many of us go there to visit. We’re frequenting a place where no life exists, and yet we have no illusions about it.

There are plenty of bodies there, but no spiritual life. We know that, and it doesn’t stop us from coming. We even bring living flowers to a place that’s known for death. Our mere presence doesn’t change the situation. There’s no pretending and there’s no doubt about where we are. In a cemetery, people are dead. So, I ask again, how is the health of your home church?

Contrary to what many of us believe about ourselves, we aren’t bodies that possess spirits, but rather spirits that possess bodies. So a body without a spirit is dead. When we consider the state of our churches today, remember that we are called the body of Christ. However, if we have not the Spirit of the living God, we are dead. We may be moving around, we may be singing, we may be testifying, we may even be preaching and teaching, but without the Spirit of God, we are still dead.

Make no mistake about it, the Spirit may come and go in your church. There may be some parts of the service that are more energetic than others. Sometimes that’s because the Spirit is there, while other times we’ve been fooled by the emotion of the moment. What that means is just because someone got excited in church doesn’t mean that it is a Spirit-filled excitement. And if you’re serving in a place where the Spirit doesn’t abide, you are serving in a place that’s dying or already dead.

This isn’t a statement on the individual worshiper. This is a statement on the body as a collective. There may be people within the congregation that are Spirit-filled, but if the body as a whole isn’t that way, then the entire place is dead. Believe me, if there are parts of your body that are alive, but the majority of you is dying off, if you don’t get some help, it’s just a matter of time before you’re overtaken by death.

So what is the reason for the church dying off? There are two critical areas that we can examine: false prophets and a lack of nourishment. Understand that even healthy looking people can still be unhealthy (See Ananias and Sapphira in Acts Chapter 5). Understand that many men called of God have engaged in false prophecy for their own gain (See Balaam in Numbers Chapter 22-24, 31:8, 15-16). If you aren’t fed properly, you die. If you don’t have a means to get your nourishment, you die. All of this hinges on whether or not there is good leadership in place.

Let’s break this down:

There are two things that false prophets rely on from the people: Darkness and silence.

A spirit of false prophecy thrives on a people that don’t know the truth of God’s Word and what He’s called them to do. Also, they rely on the silence of those people. They count on those that know better to keep quiet about what they know, and for those that don’t know better to quietly trust them, and never ask any questions, even if it seems as though things are going the wrong way.

Individual and critical thinking is discouraged, and even looked upon as disrespect. But if you’re not thinking for yourself, you are in a vegetative state. Someone may be about to pull the plug on you. Those that God has placed in leadership can develop a God-complex when they go unchecked. This is why a pastor must have a pastor that they not only revere and respect, but will listen to and follow, because no one is always right.

A false prophet would have you to believe that they shouldn’t be questioned because their knowledge is above yours. However, the best leaders will listen to those they’re leading because when you don’t, you kill their spirit. Even if that leader feels they are right, they must at times entertain the wishes of the people, just in case they’re wrong or to allow the people to see the error of their own thinking. Even God yields to the will of man at times in order to make His point. What leader is justified in being so stubborn that they can’t do the same?

These people fear the individual in the group that will ask “Why”. But even God allows that question, so why shouldn’t man? This was something that plagued Blacks when we were slaves. There was a fear that if we learned to read, we’d gain an understanding. Once you understand, you are no longer in darkness, you are walking in the light. You’re no longer stumbling around, unsure of where you’re going or what you might bump into.

Once you have an understanding, you ask questions when something goes against that understanding. You may even choose not to participate in some things that go against your spirit. This kind of behavior is a nuisance to the false prophet or those bringing a false prophecy. But no one has ever grown mentally or spiritually without gaining an understanding, asking questions, and being skeptical when their questions go unanswered. When you have a congregation of people that’s comfortable living in darkness and afraid to speak up when something isn’t right, there can be no growth.

There are two things that will keep a flower from blooming: Lack of light and a lack of water.

If we in fact seek the light that God gives, we can grow. If we in fact drink from the living water that God provides, we shall thirst no more. The issue in many of our churches is that we don’t realize how dry things have gotten. We don’t realize how dark it really is. We have no idea that the bloom is off our rose. We assume that because we’re standing, we’re alive. But a tree can stand upright for years, rotting on the inside. Without inspection, nobody knows it’s dying until it comes crashing to the earth!

So many of our churches are functioning on ritual and habit. We’ve become inanimate objects. We’re not alive in Christ, we’re just existing. We aren’t sprouting new leaves of knowledge, we aren’t growing and reproducing, we’re just there because we’re expected to be. We’re in church because we’ve always been. We’re in the desert trusting all of the mirages (praise and responses that are emotional, not spiritual) that we see.

We must be like that tree planted by the water in Psalms 1:3, that brings forth much fruit in our season. The Word of God says that our leaves shall not whither and we will be prosperous. However, if the landscape has changed and there’s no more growth, we must be willing to be uprooted and replanted somewhere else. A church that isn’t near the water of life and being kept away from the light of God can’t bloom. That church is ready to die.

So, how can we stop this death?

There are two things that can revive the church: The truth of God’s Word, and the courage and conviction of His people.

There’s no point in Bible Class if it isn’t designed to empower God’s people. The goal isn’t to make the people dependent on the pastor. It is to teach them to be dependent on God. It is to help them to know the power of His might, not man’s. It is to make them so courageous, to convict them so deeply, that they have no choice but to stand on His word!

Our churches are dying, not only because we so often miss Bible Class, but because we don’t apply what we’re learning when we do go. We’re dying because people are more concerned with the conviction of man than they are the conviction of God. They won’t challenge the wrong in their church because they’d rather be alright with the people they see each week.

They won’t challenge false prophets and false prophecies because they’re being taught not to. They’re hungry, but they won’t cry out to be fed like a newborn baby because they don’t wanna make trouble, not really understanding that spiritual death is the most trouble any of us can be in. However, God’s Word is all the inspiration any of us should need when faced with the death of our church.

God didn’t call us to be sideline Christians. We are called to get in the game. We are called to action. He doesn’t want us to act out of order, but He doesn’t want us foolishly compliant either. Sheep are reliant on a good shepherd to lead and protect them, but they aren’t called to follow just anyone. Jesus said that His sheep know His voice. If life isn’t being spoken in your church, it’s not of God. Don’t believe that God won’t move in you in order to move in your church. It’s alright to pray, but God’s answer comes through us. Believe it or not, this is a matter of life and death.

Breaking tradition: It’s time for ministry outside of the pulpit

PhotoGrid_1432925643414Are we serving God traditionally, or according to His Word? These days, whenever we talk in the church about breaking tradition, we suggest removing some things because they’re “religious”. As though there’s something wrong with religion. My Bible tells me in James 1:27 that there is a pure and undefiled religion. Religion is only in vain when the man himself isn’t changed (James 1:26), but there’s nothing wrong with religion itself. However, when it comes to spreading the Gospel, tradition is a threat to stifle what God wanted spread to the world.

It is in fact The Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20) that tells us to go. Our ministries are called to be mobile, outside the church walls. The days of sitting still in the pulpit waiting for an opportunity to preach are past. This isn’t to suggest that anyone disrespect leadership or strike out on their own. However, it is to state that God has provided so many different avenues for ministry these days that it’s almost lazy for associate ministers or evangelists to sit still inside of a church and do nothing with their calling, and shortsighted for pastors to not allow room for those associates and evangelists to explore avenues outside of the church where the gospel can be spread.

Now, I realize that this thinking may get me in trouble with some traditionalists. I’m definitely on the radar for saying it out loud, but this has always been my nature: Think about it, pray about it, wait for confirmation, and then speak about it. Some pastors have progressed to the point of encouraging those under them to grow in their calling and go into the world and help to spread this Gospel. They keep a watchful eye to make sure that purity and context are maintained, but they’re also encouraging. But, let’s be real. There are plenty of ministers that have been trained, not to speak, but to sit still and quiet. There are still plenty of pastors that believe that those beneath them are to be seen and not heard until they’re comfortable in their own spirit. While this is wise in some cases (as some just aren’t ready), where there’s an obvious anointing on others, it’s counterproductive.

Understand that this isn’t a strike at older pastors. There are many younger pastors that hold to some of the same traditions because that’s how they were brought along (hence, tradition). However, it is a strike against holding to tradition instead of yielding to the Holy Spirit. There are times when God will anoint and ordain outside of what our traditions call for. There are times when God will elevate sooner than our timetable suggests that He should. There are times when God will break up our traditions just to make us aware that He is in fact God and that He is not beholden to the same rules that we try and hold man to.

Times are different now, and therefore, we must understand that ministry needs to be different to meet the needs of the time. There was a time when the only way the Gospel could be spread from city to city, state to state, and country to country, was through physical travel. While pastors were necessary, it was in fact evangelists that spread the Gospel beyond the church walls. However, with the advent of things like the internet, social media, cell phones, and independent publishing, along with the progression of television and radio ministries, we have a lot more avenues to reach the masses. Because of all of these advancements, we can’t allow tradition to stifle the spreading of God’s Word because “we’ve never done it like that before”.

It’s amazing that we sometimes believe that growth should stop with the invention of the thing that we excel in. What that means is we have many pulpit preachers and pastors that can’t handle the progress that ministry has made. The idea that someone could reach people using something other than just the pulpit can be intimidating to someone that only knows that model. What’s often overlooked is the fact that preaching the way that they preach was once new, different, and questioned as well.

Consider the fact that some preachers, and even pew members in the black church still don’t feel as if someone has “preached’ if they don’t get excited or “whoop” in their sermons, as if that’s the only way that God’s Word can be proclaimed. The truth is that God’s Word has prevailed through many changes in delivery over the centuries and millenniums, and there’s no reason to believe that it will stop because a minister has tapped into a new way that God has provided to spread the message.

This is not an endorsement for any and every one to start blogs, YouTube accounts and Facebook pages to spread just anything. A person still needs to be trained in the Word of God, they still need to be mentored, and they still need to be tried and proved before they embark on The Great Commission. After all, that’s what Jesus did with the disciples. But the notion that the pulpit provides some sort of validation that the truth is being spoken is shortsighted. Many a preacher, and even some pastors, have stood in the pulpit and spoken Scripture out of context, as well as given their own theology in place of what The Bible teaches.

The fact is every generation goes further than the previous, because God never downgrades His people. We can’t allow traditional ways of ministry to stifle the growth of the Kingdom. Some of God’s best preachers and evangelist are sitting in a pulpit silent because some pastors have a traditional mindset towards the Gospel. Because some of these pastors have this mindset, they’re silencing people that God has ordained to speak to the masses and to a new generation of believers, in languages and ways that they can comprehend. Some of these traditionalist are attempting to protect the sanctity of “their” pulpits, while at the same time attempting to silence many of God’s new spokesmen and women.

It’s not that God changes, because the Bible says that He doesn’t (Malachi 3:6, James 1:17). However, God always presents us with advancements. In technology, in learning, in thinking, and yes, in His servants. The idea that God hasn’t improved on the preaching, teaching, and evangelism of His Gospel is to sell God short. It is to limit God and to say that once He created all of the great preachers of years past, that He somehow became unable to top Himself. But as I’ve often mentioned while teaching Bible class, God has a replacement for all of us, and it’s an upgrade. Even if it isn’t necessarily in ability or delivery, in may be in sincerity towards the work of the Gospel.

The idea of tradition in itself is to suggest that the way it was done before and all of the years since was not only the best way, but the only way, the pinnacle, and there can be no modifications or improvements. To change anything at all is to damage it. How would that have worked out if we never improved from rotary phones to cells? From typewriters to computers? From the horse and carriage, to the Model T, to what we drive today? Some traditions are good and never need to be removed. However, every tradition should be periodically checked, and modified if necessary to reflect the times we live in now. Failing to do so will cause stagnation. The only thing worse than watching the world pass us by has to be standing still without even trying to keep up.

The church has a great many traditions. Some were meant to be oppressive, while others were there to maintain order in God’s house. But our overall mission should be that the Gospel is spread and souls are saved. We can’t get caught up in arguments about how, as long as it’s done according to God’s Word. If something is done according to the Word of God, that’s not tradition. That’s just doing things the right way. But when something is done in a way that we’re unaccustomed to and it offends our sensibilities, that’s when we are to rely on the Holy Spirit. Just because we don’t understand a way that’s new to us, doesn’t mean it isn’t God’s way.

God is not on our timetable, and He may be moving faster because the time in nigh. If we do what we’ve always done, we get what we’ve always gotten. We’re in a new level of spiritual warfare these days, as the Bible warned us we would be (2 Timothy 3:1-7). The devil has tweaked his approach (internet, cell phones, etc), but his message is still the same: death and destruction. Why can’t we do the same thing? Tweak the approach, but maintain the message (eternal life through Jesus Christ).

The blessings in “all things”

FullSizeRender(2)How thoroughly do you read your Bible? Do you skip over words that seem insignificant, but in fact, they hold some significant power in the verse? We’ve all done it before. We look for the most majestic words in a sentence, all the while overlooking the strength that God has hidden in the small and seemingly unimportant. By simply taking the Bible word for word, you can receive the fullness of what God has to say to you.

Look at Philippians 4:13: “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me”. Now, we all know that there’s power whenever Christ is mentioned in the text. However, once we get beyond Jesus, we often seek the power in the words “I can”. Yes, it’s in our human nature to focus on what we can do. However, when we do that, we often miss “all things”. Sometimes we misunderstand and misapply it, while other times we overlook its significance. We often see “all things” as an opportunity. We see it as God blessing us with gain. Also, “I can do all things” becomes a battle cry against those that oppose us or in instances where we’re trying to achieve things. But we often miss the entire blessing in the words “all things”.

These two words cover a multitude of things. We must remember that doing all things through Christ covers things beyond what we desire for our material growth. Those words also cover our healing. They cover grief when you feel like you can’t make it through. They cover broken homes and financial hardships. They cover wayward children. And yes, they cover church dysfunction and spiritual growth. Yes, when that scripture tells us that we can do all things through Christ, it really means all things!

One of my pet peeves is Scripture being taken out of context. All of us have been guilty of pulling Scripture out just to make a point, while not really considering the context in which it was spoken. Philippians 4:13 falls into this category. We see that we can do all things, but we don’t go back a few verses to find out exactly why the Apostle Paul was making this statement.

An examination of the Book of Philippians provides some insight. Paul, writing this letter to the church at Philippi from jail, is still rejoicing in The Lord. In the midst of his circumstances, he remains confidant in Christ! Sometimes we struggle to look past our circumstances to the God that controls it all, but as Christians we must always look to Christ rather than focusing on the bars that imprison us. If we aren’t trusting God in all things, we begin to focus on our limitations, and not His power.

By Philippians 4:11-12, Paul tells us in those verses that he has learned that Christ sustains him, no matter what his situation may be. Whether he’s rich or poor, hungry or full, or whether he’s high or low, he knows that Christ is his strength. This gives us the proper perspective. Does this verse apply to our various quests in life to be prosperous or to overcome our adversaries in life? Yes, it does. But we must also remember that this verse is a survivor’s verse. It’s a verse that reminds us that no matter what we may face in life, we can conquer it through Christ (also see Romans 8:35-39)!

Scripture also tells us in Philippians 2:5: “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus”. So we can’t trust God in “all things” with the mind of the unsaved. When we fail to look to Jesus in all things, when we lack the faith that God can bring us through all of the situations that we face in life, we are thinking with an unsaved mind. Not to suggest that you are unsaved if you lack confidence, but you’re engaging in unsaved thinking.

Its human nature to have fear and anxiety in certain situations, but we as saved Christians ought to have a new nature. We ought to be different. We ought to have a change in our mindset. A change that will allow us to see things in the spirit, not the flesh. Keep 2 Corinthians 5:17 in your hearts: “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new”. Not some things. Not a few things. Not the things that we thought we couldn’t outrun. No, if you’re in Christ, ALL THINGS become new!

God favored you

IMG_1486You were built for this. Before the foundation of the world, God had the design on your life. He favored you. Not because you were better than anyone else, not because you were more talented than anyone else, and not because of anything that anyone did for God on your behalf. God simply chose you to do His will and His work, so that others might come to know Him, glorify Him, and be saved by Him through Jesus Christ. It’s as simple as that.

These words of encouragement aren’t just for you, the reader. They’re words that I use to encourage myself as well. When you’re doing a work for The Lord, it’s easy to forget who called you to the work if you’re not focused. You begin looking at man and the difficulty he can often pose while you’re simply trying to walk as God has commanded. You become discouraged because they can’t see what God has put into your heart, your mind, and your being. The one thing you want everyone to accept, many (some of them close family and friends) reject.

It’s odd, but the more difficult we think something may be for us to do in the way of serving God, the more difficult we think it is for others to do. We often transfer our limitations to one another. And when we’re not doing that, we assume that if God chose someone, we’d automatically see it due to all of our time in the church, or our many years of being saved. After all of the miracles we’ve read about in our Bibles and some that we still witness today, we’re still capable of forgetting that God can still do things above our understanding. And that includes choosing people that we never suspected to do great work.

It can be quite difficult to stay focused on your call when you come face to face with people that have set out to discourage you and roadblock your success. We’re still human and in the midst of persecution, we forget that the God that’s for us is greater than any force that comes against us. And when things don’t fall into place as we expect them to, we wonder if we are in fact on the right path.

Sadly, the place where the most discouragement comes is the place where we’re first called to do the work. For Christians, that means that we’ll face some of our most difficult challenges within the church walls. There are all kinds of jealousies, cliques and agendas that will make working for The Lord the most challenging thing you’ve ever done.

I addressed this very thing once on my weekly radio broadcast. I talked about the jealousy that often exists in the preaching ministry. Preaching is a difficult and often lonely task. It seemed to me that if there was ever a time to welcome another soldier to the army, it would be in the ranks of preaching. However, there are times when other preachers don’t want to see others called into the ministry because they believe it will take something away from them. I surmise that any preacher that has a jealousy of another preacher probably hasn’t been called, because true preachers of the Gospel know that we need all the help we can get. Those of us that have been called welcome the help.

Difficulty in God’s favor also comes in the form of people that have a hard time accepting the transformation that comes in your life. They assume that everyone that God has preordained for the call simply walks out of their mother’s womb into the call. They fail to realize that the vast majority of us have to go through some sort of major transformation before we can really realize the work we’ve been called to do. As I often state, in our flesh we’re only interested in completed projects. We have no time or patience for works in progress.

Where home (the church) should be a place of reinforcement and encouragement, it often becomes a place of rejection and discouragement. People are willing to believe that God can part the Red Sea so that the children of Israel can walk over on dry land. They believe that Jesus Christ can raise a man from his grave after he’s been dead for four days. And they believe that the Son of God can be raised from the dead after 3 days. But they struggle to accept that God can transform someone that they never suspected into one of His greatest servants.

They fail to see that by not accepting God’s hands on your life, they’re not downplaying your ability to do God’s work, but they’re in fact downplaying God’s ability to transform you into a capable vessel to do His work. They’re not really selling you short. They’re selling God short!

As we look at Romans 8:28-31, we see that it is in fact God’s plan that the chosen among us do His will and His work. When you read those verses, it tells you that in His infinite wisdom, God chose. He didn’t do so based on man’s standards or expectations, because the moment He acquiesces to our standards, He ceases to be God.

So a preacher may or may not look like you envisioned. An evangelist may or may not look like someone told you they would. A pastor may or may not look like tradition has told you they would. It’s all according to God’s plan. And when you consider that scripture tells us that God will chose the foolish things of the world to confound the wise (1 Corinthians 1:27), we must understand that we may never know why or how God chooses. All we need to know is that He is a sovereign God that doesn’t need anyone’s permission, nor does He have to explain His choices.

Even in Jesus’ ministry, His life was designed in such a way that He would be able to reach out to the poor and less fortunate. The rich Pharisees of His day had no compassion for those people, nor did they know how to reach them. However, they responded to One that came from the same impoverished areas that they did.

The same is true in ministry today. God is using new, radical, and non-traditional looking people to carry the Gospel forward. People that can reach the world today. Tradition doesn’t save people. The Word of God does. So when God calls something unexpected to the forefront, rather than question it, we should see it as God using something that He had already set aside for this point in time, and for His own purposes. It may not be your cup of tea, but there’s somebody out there that’s thirsty for what God has brought forward.

If you find yourself in a position where it seems as if man is trying to prevent you from reaching your God-ordained destiny, you must remember that God is more than the world against you. He favored you before anyone could ever disapprove of you. He gave you a foundation before anyone could ever attempt to tear you down. You are already marked for greatness and man can’t prevent what God has signed off on.

We understand that the world may not receive what God has placed on our lives. However, the church hurt is often difficult to get past, and at times, can be depressing. It’s sad to say, but the church itself does more to try and kill many ministries before they get started than the world does once they’re up and running. Mostly because of tradition, but also because of the fact that many don’t approve of what God has done, and it’s easier to challenge God indirectly (attacking you) than directly. But don’t you give up on God.

If Jesus had to leave home to have an effective ministry (Matthew 13:57-58), the same may be true for you. But as Jesus went through ridicule, rejection, abandonment, torment and torture, leading to the crucifixion, remember that the grave wasn’t the end of the story. Keep doing The Lord’s work. I promise there’s a Sunday morning in your future if you do. When you have the favor of The Lord, nothing can stop you.