Tag Archives: God’s grace

Yes, Jesus loves me. It really is that simple!

Every now and then, we misapply the phrase “It don’t take all of that”. Many times, we’ll say it without understanding what it really does take. For example, my praise may seem a bit much to a person that has no idea what I’ve been through. However, there are times when the statement is apt. There are times when we make something complicated, when a straightforward explanation is all that’s needed.

When I was young, a staple song at Vacation Bible School every summer and even in Sunday School was “Yes, Jesus Loves Me”. This simple song was reassurance to young Christians, as well as old, that Jesus loved them. As we got to the end of the chorus, we sang “for the Bible tells me so”. In the most simple and direct terms, we saw that God’s love was evident through His Son, and the verification of that fact is found in His Word.

If God’s love can be outlined in such a simplistic way, why have we begun to make the work of evangelism and disciple making so complicated? I don’t know about you, but I’m still blown away when I read two particular passages in the Bible: John 3:16-17 and Romans 5:6-8. It’s in John 3:16-17 that I see just how much God loves me. So much so, that He gave His Son to save my soul, rather than sending His Son to condemn me.

However, it’s in Romans 5:6-8 that I see just what type of person God is in love with. It’s in those verses that I see that He loved me while I was rejecting Him. It’s in those verses in Romans 5:6-8 that I see that God doesn’t love me because of me, He loves me in spite of me. It’s a love that’s difficult to comprehend, but somehow, simple to explain.

As the church looks to carry out the Great Commission, we must be careful not to complicate why people need to come to Jesus and what it means to be saved. We must be mindful not to over market and over strategize what God has made simple in His Word. I know we desire to remain relevant in an ever changing world, but we must do so without sending out the wrong message.

We can’t cloud God’s love with a whole lot of minutia. After all, whatever we have to say about the Word of God is small time if Jesus never comes into the picture. As we often say in Baptist circles, if you haven’t mentioned the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, no matter what you have said, you haven’t preached the Gospel.

The message of salvation is centered around the fact that yes, Jesus loves us. Our Bible tells us just how He demonstrated that love. However, we have perverted the Gospel with prosperity preaching and our own theological aspirations. In an effort to show people how financial benevolent our God is or in our quest to get an education just so that we can appear to be the smartest and most spiritual people in the room, we walked away from the simplicity of the Gospel. We’ve taken an incredibly complicated love story, one that was made simple with just a few Bible verses, and made it hard to access for some people.

We have become as Pharisees, who harped on the law so much that the coming Messiah was no longer in their view. To those that were seeking salvation, it no doubt seemed impossible to be saved, because disobeying the law came with a curse. The Pharisees had the challenge of being face to face with Jesus, and therefore, they needed to be convinced of who He was. We, however, have the whole story. We know the outcome.

In our quest to be clever, we’ve complicated Christ. In our reach to be relevant, we’ve reduced being redeemed. If we’re not careful, we’ll weigh people down with rules, regulations, and religious activities, while causing them to miss the simple fact that we are saved by grace, and that grace comes from the fact that yes, Jesus does love us. If we’re not careful, we’ll attempt to exclude people from the Kingdom because they don’t dress like we do, worship like we do, sing like we do, minister like we do, or serve like we do. If we’re not careful, we’ll do our best to cause people to try and get saved according to our mandates, and not by simply believing that Jesus saves.

Again, in its simplest terms, God loved us so much that He sacrificed His Son. His Son then died on the cross as a sacrifice for our sins, rose on the third day, ascended to The Father, and He’s coming back again. He’s not coming back just for the rich. He’s not coming back just for those that have been to seminary. He’s not coming back just for pastors with large churches or ministries, authors with radio broadcasts, or even those that are uniquely anointed to do Kingdom work. He’s coming back for a church of believers. He’s coming back to get a people that He loves and that love Him in return. How do I know? Because the Bible tells me so. It really is just that simple.

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God is still rewarding faithfulness

Over the last month or so on the “Your Life With Purpose” radio broadcast, we’ve been discussing Abraham and faith. One of the most enduring lessons that I have relearned as I’ve gone through these shows and the pages of my Bible is that there were times when Abraham moved without questioning God, there were times when he didn’t trust God as completely as he should have, and there were even times when he thought what God was saying was so outrageous, that he laughed at God. However, the thing that stands out the most is that Abraham was ultimately faithful to God, and God was in turn faithful to Abraham.

What I often find amazing in my writing and in my ministry is that I’m often trying to encourage others with my thoughts or words, and in the end, I end up encouraging myself. I do my best to be obedient to the Holy Spirit in reference to what I speak and write, only to go back and realize that God was ministering to me. While people have often told me how they consider me strong in my faith, I always remind them that I ask God questions as well. I do my best to obey Him, and I assure you that I never doubt Him, but I will ask questions.

I do wonder why I’m put in certain positions. I do wonder at times why it seems as if I’m overlooked in certain areas of life and ministry. But what I love about God is that He doesn’t answer me in words, He answers me in action. He answers me in provisions. He answers me in protection when I feel under attack. He answers me by preparing a table for me in the presence of my enemies. Even when I have questions, God answers with faithfulness. Even when I find it challenging to serve, I feel as if I have no choice because He always rewards my faithfulness.

What we can learn from Abraham is that in the midst of doubt, fear, trepidation, concern, and all out disbelief, even when our faith is lacking, God is still a rewarded of them that diligently seek Him. If you look through the narrative of Abraham, you find him doing two things quite often: Talking to God and worshiping God. He was committed. Know that God is still blessing people just for ultimately believing in Him. God is still moving on behalf of people that hesitate when He calls them to the impossible, but will ultimately proceed anyway. God is still rewarding faithfulness!

We often find ourselves in places where we feel overwhelmed, unappreciated, unprepared, and even unqualified. The truth of the matter is some of those places are the places that God has actually called us to. We must remember that God rewards our faithfulness, not our perfection. He rewards us according to our obedience, not according to our accolades and acumen. He knows we don’t have all the answers. He knows we’ll doubt at times. He even knows we’ll fall short from time to time. But if we stay with God, He’ll stay with us. And not only will He stay with us, He will reward us.

God reminds Abraham, and even us, in Genesis 12:3 that if we remain faithful Him, He will “bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you”. This encourages those of us that are fearful of what man will do to us, and it encourages those that seek to help us along the way because they are faithful to what God is doing in our lives. All that God promised Abraham came to fruition, not because he was perfect, not because he did everything right, and not because he was the most gifted. God blessed him because he believed and because he was faithful.

Your Faith Must Match Your Vision 

God is showing some people some amazing visions these days, myself included. There are businesses that He wants to birth, ministries that He wants to bring to fruition, and dreams that He wants to fulfill. The only thing that can stop us is a lack of faith, not a lack of resources. 

The Bible tells us in Hebrews 11:6 that it is impossible to please God without faith. That tells me that impossible is where our dreams die. Impossible is what will cause us to lose when we’re born to win. Impossible is a disappointment to God. Impossible shouldn’t be in our Spiritual nature because it’s not in God’s. 

Scripture also tells us that faith the size of a grain of a mustard seed can move mountains (Matthew 17:20). Therefore, if your vision is larger than a mountain, you must increase your faith even more. At the bare minimum, we should all have mustard seed faith. Just imagine what a little boost can do for you. 

Scripture also reminds us that with God, nothing shall be impossible (Luke 1:37). Therefore, we must remove that word from our vocabulary. The struggle that we have with the gap between our vision and our faith is we’re often in moments of discomfort when the vision comes.  

God shows you the business plan when you’re broke with a mountain of bills. God shows you the plan for the ministry when people are still questioning your call and your ability. God shows you the better career when you’re barely holding on to a job that you hate, but you need for your survival! Yes, God will show you the best of life when it seems that you’re at your worst points. That’s not a time to shrink in your faith. That’s when you must grow! 

I encourage those that may be reading this to see God more clearly than you see your circumstances. You could have all the money in the world, but if you lack faith, you’ll be scared to invest it in your dreams. So see the vision more clearly than you see your lack of income and/or opportunity. God will never lead you to it without a plan to feed you through it. Trust Him more than you fear failure. He’s committed to you. Increase your faith. See the vision clearly. Watch God work!

Rejecting God: We ignore much more than we miss

Did you really miss your blessing or did you just ignore it when it came? I’m a writer by nature and by profession, so I’m a stickler for words. It’s popular for us to say things to people like “You missed your blessing” when they seem to have bypassed God’s provisions. But I want to challenge that thinking, because upon further inspection, I find that we don’t miss God with anywhere near the regularity that we actually reject Him.

It’s really very simple to me. As an example, if you miss a bus, you either weren’t there when the bus showed up or you arrived as it was pulling away and you couldn’t catch it. However, to reject a bus means that you were standing there when it arrived, you knew that it would take you where you wanted to go, but for whatever reason, you refused to get on. 

Maybe it was too crowded. Maybe you didn’t like the style of the bus because it was an older model and not a brand new bus. Maybe you didn’t like the driver. Whatever your reason for not getting on, there’s no doubt about it, the bus came. You just rejected it and now it will take you longer to get to your destination.

The truth is God is always placing blessings right in front of us. The lie is that we somehow know better than God. Often, the blessing doesn’t look like we want it to look or it doesn’t come when we expected it or from where we expected it. We fail to see that God designs the blessing to fit its purpose, not necessarily to be pleasing to our eyes or our other human sensibilities. Can He design such a gift that’s pleasing to us? Of course He can. But we’ll often only see it that way when we use our vision as opposed to our sight.

The point here is this: To suggest that you missed something from God is to suggest that God’s timing is somehow off. Now, you may be saying, “Wait Rev, if I say I missed it, how am I blaming God?” Well, let me hit you with another Christian catchphrase: “He may not come when you want Him, but He’s always on time.” That says to me that if you’re early, God will be there. If you’re running late, God will be there. You can’t miss what God has for you, but you sure can reject it trying to do things according to your own understanding. 

Even if your aim is off, God’s aim is true. And even though we may miss out on some things, we won’t miss it in its entirety. But you wanna know what else is awesome about God? Even when you reject Him, He’s so full of grace, that He’ll bring that blessing back around and give you another chance at it. However, I must warn you. You don’t wanna keep ignoring God. You may find yourself stuck with your plan instead of His, and that’s a mess you don’t want. My suggestion to you? When the bus comes, don’t outsmart yourself. Your best bet is to just get on.

In search of the Holy Ghost “push back”

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I only need three minutes of your time.

There’s a serious issue plaguing the local congregations. Because of this issue inside the church walls, we’ve become ineffective outside of them. Many of our communities are dying around us, and we in the local congregations are failing to do anything about it. Why? Because we’re too busy trying to kill one another inside the walls of the church.

This past weekend, our Sunday School lesson was on spiritual deliverance (Luke 8:26-39). When giving the minister’s remarks on the lesson, I stated that we in fact have many demonic spirits within the congregation that keep us from ministering outside of it. But they aren’t just spirits that are only in what we perceive as “hell raisers” in our local churches.

They’re also spirits in anyone that would seek to push hell raisers out of the church into the wilderness, rather than try and rid ourselves of the spirit that’s infected our church, while at the same time looking to save a brother or sister that may be under the influence (James 5:19-20).

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Here’s what we need to know: Hell raisers are always in attendance because demonic spirits transfer (study that Sunday School text I gave). They’re dedicated to their cause because the one that influences them never takes a day, hour, or minute off.

They’re always on time, they’re always together, they’re always loud, and they always state their position. And as members of the congregation, they have the right to do so. They’re at every meeting, every get together, and every function, and they make their presence known. Even if they don’t win, you will know that they were there. It’s their opposition that’s having the trouble.

Those that oppose this spirit are too meek, too passive, too quiet, and too afraid to speak in hostile situations. They’re living their lives on hope, but not a hope that produces action. They’re being pushed, but they’re unwilling to push back.

Now understand that being “holy spirit filled” is having the ability to give the benefit of the doubt. You’ll never convince me that you’re spirit filled if you can’t do two things:

  1. Not be so ready to believe the worst that you hear about people with no real proof.
  2. Even if you know that the worst is true about the individual, you believe that God can change them.

If we really and truly want to come together, at some point, we’ve got to be more willing to trust God for real change, and less willing to base all that we are on what we feel and past events. Because that’s what spirit filled people do. They accept the fact that the worst of us can be redeemed. But that requires activity. It requires prayer. It requires forgiveness. It requires restoration. And it requires resistance to those spirits that can cause us to believe that unity can only happen on our terms.

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So what is the benefit of a Holy Ghost push back? When we push back spiritually, we let the enemy know that we value unity more than we do confusion, and we show that by speaking out against what’s dividing us. We let the enemy know that we care for one another more than we do our position in the argument. We let the enemy know that we care more about being right with God than we do about winning an argument. We let the devil know that we need healing inside the congregation before we can go out into a sick world and show them what healed us.

Isaiah 54:17 tells us that no weapon formed against us shall prosper, and every tongue that rises against us in judgement, WE shall condemn. This not only means that the attacks of the enemy will fail, but it also means that we have the right to speak against the attacks. We can no longer keep silent about the dangers in the world, but we can’t help any of that if we refuse to speak against the dangers right at home.

I challenge anyone that’s being overrun by demonic spirits within your local congregation to spiritually push back. Not against the individuals that may be affected, but against the behavior. Push back against opposition that exists for the sake of opposition, and not for a defined principle or ideal, backed by Scripture. Push back against that spirit because that’s your true enemy, not the person you’re focusing on. Meek doesn’t have to mean weak. Find your push back!

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.

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!