Deep

In the fall of each year, 128 NCAA Division FBS college football teams begin their journey hoping to be one of two teams competing at the National Championship game where only one team walks away with the title and trophy.

alabama-clemson-title-game-trophy

These two teams did not succeed by chance, lottery or by vote. Their teams were not selected from a bowl of names. No, their achievement was based on their commitment to go deep. Their hard work and training instilled a level of confidence and a ‘can do’ attitude.  They worked together as a team, lifting each other up and encouraging each other to push a little harder. Their strength training and emotional preparedness pushed them to this deep level.

In a previous post on Spiritual Complacency, I outlined 4 steps to get our spiritual muscles in shape:

  • Staying Hungry for God
  • Going Deeper with God
  • Getting Revelation from God
  • Living in the Overflow

Going Deeper with God

Knowing who we are in the spirit is important to our spiritual depth. God wants to give us revelation for the destiny and calling He has for our lives. The blueprint for this path can only be accessed in the spirit and understanding our identity in Christ.

Remember I told you that my youngest daughter suggested I write about what God was teaching me. She sent me a new book written by one of my favorite Christian authors, Ted Dekker. The book, titled The Forgotten Way, is a 21 day journal that leads to the discovery of who you truly are.

And interestingly, our church has begun a series entitled Focus Forward. If I am in Christ I am a son/daughter of God. My Heavenly Father approves and validates who I am and He loves me!

nlc-focus-forward

So what are some things we can do to go deeper with God?

  1. Recognize our spiritual identity. 2 Cor 5:17
    Knowing who we are in the spirit is essential to our spiritual life. God wants to show us the destiny and calling He has for our lives. This calling can only be understood by firmly know who we are in Christ. For an understanding of who you are in Christ, click Who Am I? to download 90+ Bible verses that will help you clarify who you are in Christ.
  2. Arm ourselves with God’s word. Eph 6:10-18
    
Our life should be governed by the word of God. The Bible is a spiritual sword that cuts away the false ideas and harmful things the world tries to attach to our life. How can you expect to know what God’s word says if you do not study it (or at least read it).
  3. Deny ourselves for His Kingdom. Mark 8:34-38
    Jesus says we must deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Him, if we are to be His follower (or Christian). We cannot continue in our old way of life before Christ after we become a Christian. While salvation is a free gift from God through Jesus, our lives should be different as we reflect this new relationship. One cannot be married and continue living as a single person at the same time.
  4. Maintain our inner joy and peace. Gal 5:22-24
    The fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance (tolerance), kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness and self-control. These are the characteristics that our lives should reflect daily. Initially, it may require an effort on our part to exercise these characteristics. The deeper we walk with God, the less effort it will take.
  5. Grow in wisdom. James 1:2-7
    We all make mistakes. We should learn from our mistakes so we can develop wisdom. We should pray for peaceable and pure wisdom that only comes from God.
  6. Feed our spirit daily. Heb 5:11-14
    The deeper our walk becomes with God, the more Satan will attempt to trip you up. Spiritual battles may become a daily routine. If we do not tend to our spiritual needs, we will become spiritual weak, just as our physical bodies will become weak if we neglect proper nourishment. Feed your spirit daily through prayer, fasting and reading God’s word. Make this a priority!

WOW! That’s deep. Yes it is. We would never attempt to run a marathon without proper training. These steps will prep you for a life changing marathon.

I used to see myself as a physical being with a spiritual side. Today, I see myself as a spiritual being with a physical side. My physical side will decay over time.  My spiritual being will live on forever for I know I am a child of God. Gal 3:26; 4:6. And that is pretty cool.

Next up will be Getting Revelation from God and finally Living in the Overflow.

Hope you are enjoying the journey as much as I am.

Thanks for stopping by, y’all come back.

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Hunger

When was the last time you were hungry? Perhaps last year about this time, you started a new diet. About a week into the diet, you felt hungry. Hopefully you satisfied that hunger and still reached the diet goal.

How about famished? Have you ever been famished? That is an interesting word – it means extreme hunger. Try skipping a meal. You may feel ‘hungry’ but I doubt ‘famished’ describes your physical state.

After Jesus met up with John the Baptist on the Jordan River (Mat 3:13-17), He was led by the Holy Spirit into the wilderness to be alone with God. There, away from the crowds, Jesus spent 40 days fasting – listening and talking to God. At the end of the 40 days Satan challenged Jesus by suggesting He turn stones into bread so Jesus could satisfy His famished body. Jesus responded, no thank you, man does not live by bread alone, He lives by feasting on the Word of God. (Mat 4:1-11).

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The Bread of Life

Later, Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. (John 6:35, NIV).

Nutritionists say, “You are what you eat.” Which basically means to be fit and healthy, you must eat ‘good’ food. A poor diet will result in poor nutrition. Feast on Big Macs and you will become big like Mac. The same can be said about our spiritual nature, we are what we eat. If we neglect our spiritual needs, we become spiritually famished. Jesus tells us how to avoid this when He said,

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
Mat 5:6, NIV

Before we can develop an appetite for righteousness, we must know what righteousness means. To me, it means right living. Striving to keep my focus on God daily so He may be glorified in all that I do, think and say. That is a pretty lofty goal. Here lately, I have found my self far from that ideal. I’ve been moody, angry, sometimes just not pleasant to be around.  Oh, I would always put on the ‘good self’ when in public. But in private, there are few disguises. I’ve realized I am far from who I want to be and it is time to do something about it.

How can that be? How did I lose the appetite for God’s Word? My spiritual diet changed. Rather than feast on the joy of God’s word, I began to feast on worldly things that have ravished my spiritual nature. Essentially, the Holy Spirit has convicted me that my life is not what it needs to be. I needed to make a change to my diet.

Just do it.

For a diet to be successful, you have to want it to be successful. Are you ready for a spiritual diet in 2017?

  1. Start each day with this promise –  Take delight in the Lord; And He will give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:4 (NIV)
  2. Open God’s word and ask Him to Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law (Psalm 119:8 (NIV)).
  3. With pen in hand, open notebook and record what God is telling you.
  4. Tell others what you are doing so they too may be encouraged to follow in your steps. The one who blesses others is abundantly blessed; those who help others are helped. (Prov 11:25, The Message)

I ask that you pray for me – that I will be successful in this journey of renewal that began when my daughter told me to write about what God is telling me. I will also be praying for you as you listen for God’s whisper.

Thanks for stopping by, y’all come back now.

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Abundance

Christmas has come and gone; we are in the final week of 2016. We’ve experienced an abundance of gifts, food, and family gatherings. The minds of many are held captive as they enjoy playing with their new and cool gifts. Think about a cool gift you received 5 years ago. Does it still capture your attention? Has something newer taken its place?

Think about relationships. That first kiss, or the perfect mate that captured your heart. Years later do we feel the same way? I can remember the joy of meeting Jesus. My mind was like a sponge. I wanted to learn more about Jesus so I spent hours reading the Bible, attending various Bible study classes. I remember listening to various popular and gifted Christian authors and speakers as I drove from place to place.

But then life happens. Things get in the way of the ‘honeymoon’ phase of Christianity. And eventually, the joy that was once there is dulled by things that are not important. Complacency has taken root. In chapters 2 & 3 of the book of Revelation, the Apostle Paul writes letters to 7 churches. The letter to the church at Ephesus address this complacency:

Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. Rev 2:4, NIV

So, what happened? I believe it is possible for Christians to lose the joy they once had because that is Satan’s goal.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. John 10:10 NASB

Jesus want believers to experience an abundant life, yet Satan wants to rob that from us. Satan does this by slowly attacking us in various ways. I recently read an opinion article on Chrisma News titled “8 Signs You Are Under Spiritual Attack.  The number 1 sign is a lack of spiritual passion.

“The enemy comes to steal your tenacity for the things of God. Suddenly your prayer life seems stalled. Your commitment is tested and you can’t seem to push though. You feel as though you are just going through the motions.”

While reading that article, I thought about the early Christians in Ephesus who were characterized as having lost their first love. Acts 19 tells a powerful story about the spiritual life and growth in Ephesus. Real revival was happening as the Apostle Paul ministered there. People were being saved, they were being baptized in the Holy Spirit, Paul’s preaching reached thousands, supernatural miracles were happening. The dramatic change Ephesus experienced due to the spread of Christianity impacted the businesses related to idol worship. And Satan did not like that at all.

In a letter the Apostle Paul wrote to the church at Ephesus we read how the church flourished in spite of the stronghold Satan had over the community through idol worship in the Temple of Artemis (also known as the Temple of Diana). Paul offers two prayers of encouragement for Christians in Eph 1:17-19 and Eph 3:16-19. And at the end of the letter, Paul encouraged Christians to remain strong by putting on the full Armour of God (Eph 6:10-17).

Is it possible for Christians to keep spiritual complacency out of our lives? I think it is more than possible. It will take work – and it will be worth it. What must we do to avoid spiritual complacency? I believe we must develop our spiritual muscles by:.

  • Staying Hungry for God
  • Going Deeper with God
  • Getting Revelation from God
  • Living in the Overflow

Come back to find out how we do this?

Thanks for stopping by, y’all come back now.

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The Gift

George Bailey is a man who is dissatisfied with his life and contemplates suicide by jumping off a bridge on Christmas Eve in 1943. If you ever seen “It’s A Wonderful Life”, starring Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed, you know the story line of this Christmas classic. George encounters a guardian angel, Clarence, who grants George’s wish that he had never been born. George returns to Bedford Falls where no one recognizes him. After seeing how different his home town would be without George’s influence, he returns to the bridge where Clearance explains to George that he wanted more when he had already been given the greatest gift of all: the gift of life.

Christmas is that magical time of the year filled with colorful lights, last-minute shopping, fantastic food and fun family gatherings. Routine work comes to a grinding halt for many. Children are excited that Santa Claus will visit their homes on Christmas eve and leave gifts for them. Adults also gather with their family and friends to exchange gifts.

In my previous blog, The Visitor, I explained how God gave us His Son, Jesus, as a demonstration of His love for mankind. The Bible is clear on why Jesus came.

Jesus came to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10). And Jesus came to give believers an abundant life. (John 10:10).

Lost and Found

Early in our RVing travels, Carol and I were returning from Jacksonville, North Carolina to our RV in Maysville, a short trip of less than 16 miles. We were in an unfamiliar part of Jacksonville so I trusted our GPS to lead us to “Home”. After driving for about 20 miles, I came to the town of Richlands, NC and realized that I was lost. I reprogrammed the GPS for our correct ‘Home’ address. We drove about 50 miles instead of the normal 16 miles.

So what happened? I placed my trust and faith in a device that led us astray. This is exactly what happened to me in my early life before I met Jesus in 1972. As a young adult, I had placed my trust and faith in the world and was led astray. I knew of Jesus, but I did not know Him personally.

I consider myself a ‘good person’… won’t that be enough?

  • Romans 3:23 NIV  – for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God
  • Romans 3:10 NIV  – As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not one;
  • Romans 5:12 NIV  – Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned—

Is sin really THAT big of a deal? If it is… what HOPE is there?

  • Romans 6:23 NIV  – For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

After what I’ve done to grieve God… HOW could He willingly die in my place?

  • Romans 5:8 NIV  – But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

HOW can I be saved?

  • Romans 10:9-10 NIV  – If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.

Did God HEAR me? Did He accept me?

  • Romans 10:13 NIV  – For “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.

What do I do now?

  • Romans 10:17 NIV  – Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.

Do you know Jesus personally, as a real person? Or do you know of Him? You might wonder how it is possible to know Jesus personally if He is not physically next to you where you can reach out and touch Him. I wondered that as well. Once I accepted Jesus after confessing my sinful life, He delivered a gift to me that is still the most cherished gift I could have ever received. Jesus gave me the gift of the Holy Spirit to reside with me and in me.

“If you love me, keep my commands. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth [or Holy Spirit]. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.
John 14:15-17, NIV

Are you ready to meet Jesus? Follow the instructions of Romans 10:9-10:

If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.

To know Jesus is to know God. The Bible is filled with  promises for all believers in Christ. Here are just a few of my favorites.

  1. But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus. Phil 4:19, NIV
  2. My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. 2 Cor 12:9, NIV
  3. No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. 1 Cor 10:13, NIV
  4. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Cor 15:57, NIV
  5. And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Rom 8:28, NIV
  6. Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Act 2:38, NIV
  7. My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. John 10:27-28, NIV

And if that is not enough, Jesus calls us His friend:

Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. John 15:13-15, NIV

It is my hope and prayer that you know Jesus. Thanks for stopping by, y’all come back now.

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Christmas Fluff

Today, we have a guest post. Justin is a friend of mine from way back – almost 20 years. Facebook is what keeps us connected today. I trust you find his message as appropriate for the season as I did.


“Set aside all the “fluff” on Christmas, get to real thing”
Justin Holloway

For the past several years I have not enjoyed holidays much. Last year, even putting up a tree and decorations was only in my hopes of “feeling” some type of Christmas spirit within me. I could give you a list of all the reasons I have felt this way for so very long, but I have come to the conclusion it is because of the simple word “expectations”. I could easily add the phrase “current circumstances”.

And, this day as I pen these words, the same feelings resonate within me. Last year and the year prior, I told myself “Next year will be better; just you wait and see!” NOPE. This year “circumstantially” has by far been worse. And, my expectations have been reduced to “zero”.

It begs the question I must ask myself – “What is the real purpose for celebrating Christmas?”

Is it the time spent with family aiming to replicate a Norman Rockwell painting version of yesteryear? Is it the expectant spirit of hoping to celebrate days gone by with an even bigger boom than ever before? Is it the hope of celebrating the blessings of the year that have far exceeded any other?

Well, if the answer to any of these questions is “yes”, the reality for most of is “How is that working for you?” Most likely, it is not.

So I am left to conclude for me, if not all of us, it is time to refocus! And, for me, specifically, to remember Christmas has nothing to do with me or even the ones I love on this planet. It truly is a Holy Day. The time spent with family and friends in harmonious relationships is merely an added bonus. And what about your current circumstances? For most of us there are always reasons for rejoicing and times of trial running concurrently . It is called “living in the real world”.

So, what about Jesus; the Christ child? Well, first I can clearly say the Bible does not command we celebrate the birth of Christ on this given day we call Christmas. Yet, I can also tell you it should be a reason for celebration for all Christians every day of the year. I do like the special emphasis placed on Christmas Day based on its original intent.

Obviously, commercialism and the Old Saint Nick mentality has made this day a dual celebration as secular and Christian beliefs are fused together. Santa Claus is fun and I enjoy gift giving more than anything, especially when my children were young and after the arrival of six perfect grandchildren. I find nothing wrong with this merging of tradition for, symbolically, Christ was the greatest gift we have ever received.

Often times, the expectations, especially for young married couples with children to share this holiday with in laws and outlaws has added to this “repurposing”of what a Christmas holiday should be. There is always the easily offended mother or mother-in-law who wants their kids and grandkids with them for this significant day. The stress added to the holiday is enough to drive anyone crazy. I find it comical that most Dads merely care about the football games and good grub instead.

So, you see, the purpose of holidays, especially Christmas, gets so convoluted. Watered down. Made less than intended.

I would suggest to any and all out there, including myself. “Forget about your circumstances. Forget about your personal heartaches for a moment. Forget about where your married children are spending Christmas and all the reasons you are entitled to have them. Focus on the miracle of the birth of Jesus! Focus on the eternal love of our Heavenly Daddy. “

Thanks be to God for the gift of the Savior who has made a way for each of us to be in right relationship with a Holy, merciful God. Thanks be to God for His sustaining presence through each and every circumstance we face in this life. Exalt our heavenly Father for the expectancy of hope that causes us to walk in peace each moment as we face the trials and suffering of this life. Praise be to God for the joy that is ours in Him alone!

All the rest is “fluff”. Let us join around the Christmas table this year, whether with family or friends, or even if you happen to be alone, and mediate on the beauty of Christmas. Emmanuel; God with us. This, my friends, is THE reason for celebration!

Sacred Lives Foundation is a non-profit organization  founded by Justin after his grandson Brady was born in 2008 at 22 1/2 weeks weighing 18 ounces. They distribute coffee table size books to hospitals and other places where there message of hope and encouragement will help others. Please take a moment to look at their website.


Thanks for stopping by, y’all come back now.

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