buildingbodies4christ

building on the foundation of Jesus Christ

If Then Statement

Have you noticed lately there has been an emphasis on prayer? Priscilla Shirer wrote the Armor of God Bible Study a couple of years ago, which begins with prayer as the first step to putting on the armor. The movie War Room came out about that same time, which is about getting on our knees before God; crying out to Him. Anne Graham Lotz just recently released a book called The Daniel Prayer; again about getting on our knees before God. There must be something to this that we need to understand for these times. I think we are at a crossroads in our culture today. I think God is preparing us to be battle ready for whatever is coming next.

I also think in order to be ready; our hearts have to be right before God. In James 5:16 we are told that the prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. James goes on to write in the following verses that Elijah was a man just like us. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops.

Pastor James MacDonald is currently preaching a series on Breakthrough Prayer. Pastor James pointed out a few things in the Book of James that needs to be considered. In James 4:16 we are told to confess our sins to one another so that we will be healed – spiritually. Sin is a blockage to prayer. Elijah was in the midst of a battle. He didn’t pray for Ahab and Jezebel to be struck by lightning – he could have – they were a thorn in his side to his effective ministry. He prayed so that the people would be humbled. Pastor James mentioned that “Elijah prayed a little step on a long journey to bring God’s Kingdom purpose.”

We get caught up in our lives and forget this is a long journey in God’s Kingdom. We have just a small part while we are here for this short amount of time. But God has the long range view. We get messed up with this short life with all the complications, thorns in our side and our panties in a twist. It’s hard not to. But if our hearts are lined with God’s; we would pray like Elijah and ask for God’s Kingdom purpose to be fulfilled in our time. We could be instruments that God uses that would change kingdoms and nations just like Elijah.

I am currently reading Beth Moore’s Audacious. There is a chapter titled “You would ask me.” In this chapter, Beth writes about Jesus’ encounter at the well with the Samaritan woman (John 4:4-54). Beth points out this small statement in verse ten “If you only knew” (NLT). The next phrase that stands out to Beth is “You would ask me.” If we only knew then we would ask Jesus.” There’s a promise in this passage as well. “I would give you.” If we only knew then we would ask Jesus and He would give it to you.

If we don’t know, then how are we supposed to ask for it? There’s a catch in the belief system. The prayer of a righteous person; He gives us the desires of our hearts (Psalm 37:4); when we are aligned with God’s heart and know His will. Beth wrote: “The axis of our approach shifts dramatically when we know beyond a doubt that we’re perfectly aligned, asking God for something He is more than anxious to give than we are to receive.” There are some things that God is only going to do through prayer. He would do it if only we would ask.

It all starts with us. Our hearts have to be right. We can have confidence in prayer because of God’s character. He is a good Father and loves His children more than we could ever know or understand. Understand this – God answers, but sometimes it may take a while before the answer comes. Pastor Dhariaus Daniels recently pointed out in a message during Code Orange Revival at Elevation Church that the Israelites cried out to God; God talked to Moses. There was no message back to the people of God. The Israelites continued to cry out and God continued to work on Moses to take the assignment. Sometimes the prayer isn’t being answered immediately because God is working on something or someone behind the scenes. Our call is to persist in prayer until the answer is received or we get an assurance from God that He has heard and the answer is coming. The prayer of the righteous is heard and in God’s time and in God’s way; it will be done. Have confidence in God’s character and His love.

If you only knew + you would ask Me = I would give you. This is the formula for fervent prayer that will change things. Pastor James pointed out in his recent message: “Great prayers come from people like us who choose to pursue God in fervent prayer.”

“Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. Matthew 7:7-8 (NLT)

Source: Elizabeth Moore, Audacious (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing, 2015) pages 124-129.
James MacDonald, Harvest Bible Chapel, message series Breakthrough Prayer.

Rain and Frogs

After hearing the messages from last week’s Code Orange Revival from Elevation Church, I want to reflect a bit on what I heard. As I sit here at my table this early morning, I hear the rain coming down. Levi Lesko said that rain was a symbol of God’s blessing. Rain is a precious commodity especially in a dry season. Elijah prayed for a drought because of the sinful condition of the nation of Israel. And God sent a drought for three and half years. At the end of the drought, Elijah sent for the people to gather at Mount Carmel to see the One true God. The message is found in 1 Kings 18:20-46.

The people watched as Elijah dug a trench around the altar that he repaired. The people were told to fill four large jars with water. Where did they get the water? Did they go to the sea to get it? Or did they use what they had brought with them? Whether they had to use what they had or they had to go a distance to find water, it cost them something to see a miracle happen. Elijah poured out the water jars on the altar and then asked the people to fill them a second time; then a third time. The water was running over the altar and into the trench. Elijah prayed and fire fell down on the altar and licked up every drop of that precious commodity.

The story didn’t end there. Drought was still on the land. Before there was a cloud formed, Elijah told the King Ahab to “go, eat and drink for there is the sound of a heavy rain.” Elijah went to the top of the mountain and prayed. Seven times he asked his servant to go and see if there was anything on the horizon. The seventh time the servant reported a small cloud rose from the sea. And with that small cloud, a blessing of rain came.

Elijah was persistent in praying. He continued in his efforts until a small cloud formed. He heard the sound of rain before the cloud appeared; actually before he started to pray. He knew that God would hear his prayer and knew that God would answer his prayer; he just didn’t know how long it would take. He kept praying until he received the answer. Persistence and belief go hand in hand to receive those answered prayers.

John Gray said that the sound of heaven brings things together for miracles to happen. God’s voice spoke creation into existence. Particles come together to form the earth and everything in it. God spoke and light separated darkness. The sound from heaven begins the process. Sometimes we just don’t hear the sound; sometimes we are too busy to hear the voice of God speak. But sometimes God sends a burning bush to get our attention.

Christine Caine spoke about the frog plague found in Exodus 8:1-14. God sent plagues on the land of Egypt in order to release Israel from the bondage of slavery. Moses was his instrument that He used to bring about these miracles. Dharius Daniels mentioned that the people cried out to God; God spoke to Moses. But the people didn’t know God was working on the problem. The people may have thought God didn’t hear their prayers cause nothing seemed to change. They were still in slavery, yet God was working on Moses. Moses had a few doubts about his ability to handle this God-sized task. We are never adequate for God-sized tasks; but God is, and He asks the most unlikely people to do the job so that He gets the glory.

So the frogs came and the people of Egypt had frogs everywhere – in their houses, in their kitchens, in their bedrooms and even in their beds. Yuck! Can you imagine? Pharaoh summons Moses to pray to remove the frogs. Moses told him to set the time of the removal. Pharaoh said tomorrow. God could have removed them immediately, but Pharaoh chose another night with the problem. When the prayer was answered, the people were left with the consequences of the plague. The people had to remove the dead frogs from their houses. The stench filled the air.

The plague of frogs is a bit like our sins. Sin is a stench to God. The only way we can remove the stench is to seek forgiveness from God. But we have to do it today, not tomorrow. Sin is removed immediately upon forgiveness, but we have to deal with the consequences of our sins. Whatever is causing our distress, our sin or someone else’s; when we cry out to God, He will hear our cries. An answer is coming but sometimes it may take a while to see the results. God may be dealing with another Moses to answer our prayers. In the meantime, God is working on our hearts.

Persistence and belief in our gracious Father brings about a change in our hearts not a circumstance, but ultimately God will answer according to His time and in His way. God will send the rain, and the dry season will end. Wait for it. Persist and believe!

Let us go right into the presence of God with sincere hearts fully trusting him. For our guilty consciences have been sprinkled with Christ’s blood to make us clean, and our bodies have been washed with pure water. Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. Hebrews 10:22-23 (NLT)

Preach It!

Over the last few days, I have been listening to the Code Orange Revival from Elevation church in Charlotte, NC. There have been some great speakers with an inspired word given. However, it doesn’t remind me of the old revivals I went to as a child. The preaching I remember in those old revivals got into my business. It stirred up in me a great confession and a cleansing spirit. There were many times the altar would be filled with people coming before the Lord confessing their sins; asking for the cleansing spirit to wash them white as snow. At least, that was my prayer back in those days. Different time; different message.

On some Sunday’s, my pastor will speak a message that will mess with my heart. When he gets into that meddlin’ mood, we have a man in our midst that will shout out “Preach It!” and that just encourages the pastor to go deeper into my mess. When this happens, I know it’s time for confession and cleansing. It’s good to have an inspiring word to encourage, but we should also have a word that meddles in our business. We need to have our toes stepped on every once in a while.

One comment that was made last night that has left me a bit unsettled. The two pastors were kidding one another about their text messages back and forth to each other. The comment was that if their congregations saw their messages, the members would leave their churches. And they chuckled as well as the audience. It reminded me of a saying I have heard too many times lately “boys will be boys.” That too leaves me unsettled. It’s an excuse for anything that is done that would not be done before the Lord. And that’s what it’s all about.

Everything that we do as Christ followers should hold up in front of the Lord. I am reminded over and over Christ could be here at any time. If we are doing anything that would not be good when Christ returns, then we have some things to get right before that Day. If a text message is sent and Christ showed up right after we hit “send” would we face Him ashamed or confident that we were right before Him at that moment? Is our language God honoring or is it something that needs to be changed to reflect our true nature in Him? What about our actions? Are we doing anything that would not be good when Jesus shows up in His glory to take us home? Will we shrink back in that moment? We may not have time to confess those sinful actions when Jesus calls to us in those clouds.

James MacDonald is preaching about prayer breakthrough in his current series. One of the reasons we may not be experiencing breakthrough prayers is because of our hearts. The story is from Luke 18:9-14 about the Pharisee and the tax collector offering prayers in the temple courts. Pastor James points out two things that the Pharisee was showing that the tax collector wasn’t. The Pharisee was self-righteous and self-important. Pharisees were all about keeping the rules but their hearts weren’t right before God. Whereas the tax collector, knew his heart wasn’t right and had true heartfelt confession. He beat his breast showing his sorrow before the Lord. Pastor James point was that “True contrition results in a change of direction, which proves a change of heart – that person is ready for a breakthrough.”

When we have a true heartfelt change, that’s when revival begins. The rah-rah of revival will only get us so far. Once the revival is over and we’re back into the rhythm of life, the only thing that holds true is the word that made us beat our breasts and drop to our knees in confession before the Lord. We are to be committed to become who we are meant to be in Christ. Alive. Forgiven. Righteous. Holy. Living with the power of the Holy Spirit dwelling in us to do what is right in God’s eyes. No shrinking back for His people. And the breakthrough happens when confession is real.

But that’s no life for you. You learned Christ! My assumption is that you have paid careful attention to him, been well instructed in the truth precisely as we have it in Jesus. Since, then, we do not have the excuse of ignorance, everything—and I do mean everything—connected with that old way of life has to go. It’s rotten through and through. Get rid of it! And then take on an entirely new way of life—a God-fashioned life, a life renewed from the inside and working itself into your conduct as God accurately reproduces his character in you. Ephesians 4:20-24 (MSG)

Who Needs a Miracle?

Three sermons converged this week to give me a greater sense of what God is doing in us every day. Pastor Jimmy Carroll at my home church is in the Miracles of Jesus series. Pastor James MacDonald at Harvest Bible Chapel is working through Prayer Breakthroughs sermon series. Pastor Andy Stanley at North Point Community Church is asking the question in his series “Who Needs God.” All of these messages seemed to come together this week because I need a miracle.

I have had a few occasions when I have seen God work a miracle in my circumstance, but it’s been a long time since I have recognized His work. After listening to my Pastor on Sunday, I had the opportunity to pray for someone who needed a miracle for his son. I was able to encourage him with a few points from the sermon and offer a prayer for healing. One of Pastor Jimmy’s points from his sermon was that “it’s always in God’s power to heal but not always in God’s purpose to heal.” Sometimes there is a work that needs to be done in us before the healing takes place. However, healing may not be in God’s plan – at least on earth, healing will take place in heaven regardless of what happens here on earth. When we are in His presence, we will be whole. Praise the Lord!

Pastor James made the point that a breakthrough prayer needs persistence. I have heard over the years that we are to persist in prayer until we have an answer from God. In the Greatest Salesman in the World, the author Og Mandino wrote we are to persist until we succeed. Sometimes we fail to see an answer so we quit before the breakthrough. Pastor James had a point as well to share on persistence. “People who persist in prayer don’t lose heart – people who lose heart don’t persist in prayer.” Sometimes the delay in an answer is to fix the Pray-er; the Pray-er needs a breakthrough before we see the answer. Another point Pastor James made was this: “As I pray, God is making me spiritually fit to receive what He is already willing to do.”

Pastor Andy tells us that sometimes our views of God don’t mature as we age. We may have grown up knowing about God, but as we get older that view doesn’t change. When we face adult problems, our childhood image doesn’t fit our adult problem. Many walk away from the faith because the expectations were not met. We have that image of a “genie” god who will grant our wishes. When God doesn’t come through, we get disillusioned and walk away. God’s business is maturing disciples. He is into building our faith muscles. It’s okay to start out with little faith; but at some point, it has to mature. We have to grow up spiritually just as we grow up physically.

Luke 18 gives an account of one of Jesus’ stories about the persistent widow. Pastor James points out that the scenario is a worst case problem – a widow, a jerk for a judge and a plea for justice. It’s through persistence that the widow gets the judgment; not because of the righteousness of the judge, but because of her persistence. She kept going to the judge most likely with more passion each time she returned. The judge decided to grant her the request. He realized she would not give up – she wasn’t going to wear out, he was.

God is looking for faithfulness, but He is also looking for emotion. When we are moved, He is moved. It’s our heart that needs the breakthrough. Praying is the vehicle to get us there. Pastor James last point concerned the question Jesus asked at the end of the parable: “when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” We are seeking something from Him; He is seeking something from us.

Persist until faith becomes sight. As I learn these lessons, I have opportunities to pray for someone else. I get the opportunity to see the miracle to happen for someone else. I think that’s what it’s all about. When we pray for others, we get the miracle too. And we learn a greater lesson about God; He is bigger than we can imagine, and He gives us a glimpse of Himself in the answer.

When Jesus heard this, he was astonished and said to those following him, “I tell you the truth, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith.” Then Jesus said to the centurion, “Go! It will be done just as you believed it would.” And his servant was healed at that very hour. Matthew 8:10, 13

Revival is Now!

I like to listen to prophecy experts. I’m not sure if they are prophets or just teachers who pay attention to what’s going on in the world. Either way, I find it very interesting. One of the things I hear from a variety of sources is a possibility of a great revival happening here in the US. There are many who believe Jesus will be returning for His church in the near future. There are many who think there will be a revival before that day of Jesus’ return. Someone mentioned that the revival will come as a result of this political craziness that we are experiencing. Many talk about martial law going into effect and there will be no “changing of the guard” for the presidential seat. Many visions have been seen revealing devastating earthquakes, tsunamis happening on both coasts, and even a great divide splitting the US at the Mississippi. Only God knows what’s really coming. I do believe judgment is coming one day.

People come back to church when their world has been shaken. But as it was with 9/11 with only a few weeks of returning, will it be a true revival or just a stepping back to family traditions? What will it take for a true revival?

Many times, Jesus spoke of persecution happening because of Him. In John 15, He said that if He was persecuted, then His disciples would be as well. As we have seen in the Book of Acts, the church body grew with persecution. Today, there are many who are being persecuted in different parts of the world. They ask us not to pray for the persecution to end, but for them to be bold and strengthened during persecution; to stand firm in their commitment to Jesus.

Recently, I read a couple of books concerning the persecution of the church. It’s difficult to read about what people have experienced, but what faith they exhibit in the face of persecution. As one who has never experienced such a trial, I cannot imagine how they endured it all. If persecution grows the church, then this could explain why the American branch of the church is showing signs of decline. Our population is increasing exponentially, but our churches are not seeing the same increase. In other parts of the world, the church is increasing even in the midst of great persecution. At the beginning of the church age, found in the Book of Acts – persecution brought the scattering of the church. As persecution continued throughout the next couple of centuries, the growth of the church exploded.

From 120 to 3000 to 5000, then persecution began. My pastor said recently that by the end of the first century there were approximately 25,000 believers. By the time that the Roman Empire “legalized” Christianity around the middle of the third century, 33 million were believed to have been Jesus followers.

So what would it take for us to have a revival today that would show this kind of increase? Do I dare say it? One of the speakers I listen to fairly regularly is a pastor in Hawaii. He gives a prophecy update every Sunday. This past Sunday, he spoke of a revival as well. He said on Sunday that we may have to face persecution like we’ve never experienced it here in the US. The revival may come not of the natural disasters or the man-made disaster from the political fallout; it may come at the expense of what we believe. Because of Jesus and His teaching, we may find ourselves in a position to either stand up for Him or deny Him.

At times, I have wondered if my faith is strong enough. Could I withstand persecution? Would I deny Christ as Peter did at his first persecution? Of course, that was before the Holy Spirit took hold of him and radically changed him. The Holy Spirit gave him such boldness that nothing deterred him from proclaiming the name of Jesus. That’s what the ones who are facing persecution are asking for today. Boldness. Maybe that’s what we all need to be asking for regardless if we are under persecution or trying to reach our friends and neighbors.

Suffering for the sake of the message of Jesus is considered a joy to those who experience it. Suffering helps us identify with Christ. He suffered for us. Jesus said the greatest gift of friendship is dying for one’s friends. If we consider ourselves a friend of Jesus, then we should be willing to die for Him – physically as well as just die to ourselves; losing those things that we hold on to that have no eternal value. So whatever happens in the future, my revival begins now. It starts with me ready to face whatever is in store, with boldness and with the strength God gives me through the Holy Spirit living in me. My revival is now – how about yours? Are you ready?

“I’ve told you these things to prepare you for rough times ahead. They are going to throw you out of the meeting places. There will even come a time when anyone who kills you will think he’s doing God a favor. They will do these things because they never really understood the Father. I’ve told you these things so that when the time comes and they start in on you, you’ll be well-warned and ready for them.” John 16:1-4 (MSG)

Becoming Great Again

I just can’t figure out what the Lord is up to. I have tried to come up with scenarios with this political season. I mean, there has to be a reason why we have these two particular candidates. But what is God up to? I have heard some speak of a great revival coming with this political season. I have heard many say that there is disaster just around the corner for our nation. I have heard of tsunamis and earthquakes that will destroy the east and/or the west coast; economic collapse; a number of things that would cause us to seek God once again.

Right after 9/11, there was a surge of people who came back to church seeking God. But it didn’t last. The numbers fell off again after a few weeks. Some stayed, but the majority went right back to doing what they had always done. In this country, we have been blessed with success. With success though, we don’t need God. We don’t really depend on Him for anything anymore. We have grown so independent that we have removed Him from our public places. I have heard of this separation of church and state all my life, but I didn’t understand what that really meant. It’s gradually become something that was not intended by our forefathers.

Our forefathers came from places where church was dictated by the government. The church in England was run by the King of England. He was considered the head of the church. Many countries today have that mandate that if you live there, then this is what you will practice as a religion. That’s not how we run things in this country. The separation of church and state was to keep the state from running our religious practices. We have a freedom to choose what we believe and what we practice.

I think we have forgotten where we came from and what freedom really means. The church was instrumental in developing this country – whether we like to admit it or not. But slowly through time, we have lost our footing. The further we’re away from the foundation, the further we have fallen away from the principles that made this nation great and the freedoms we enjoy. Many around the world hate us because of our arrogance that comes from our greatness. But let one thing happen, and they are begging us to come to the rescue. And we go, because that’s who we are. We have been blessed so that we can be a blessing to others. God’s hand has been on this nation from the start.

On that first day of office, George Washington dedicated our nation to the Lord. He understood the importance of keeping God at the forefront of the government. The Lord has worked through our leaders as He used us for His plan. I believe His main use for this nation was to be a light to the other nations. I think one of our main blessings was to help Israel as a nation, first to become a nation, then eventually to become the greatest light of the world. Israel is the epicenter and will be instrumental in future events to play out in God’s plan.

The leadership that we chose in this political season is pivotal for the future of our nation – whether we will remain as a nation who blesses or a nation who continues to fall away from our foundation. These next few months will be interesting to see what God has in mind for us. The plan may mean that we have to decrease so that Israel can increase. It may be that we have to decrease so that we will once again get back to our foundation of relying on God instead of our success.

I don’t know what’s coming. God hasn’t given me a vision. I just know that God has a plan, and we are a part of it. He raised us up for a purpose. Has our purpose been fulfilled? Only God knows. God is up to something. I just can’t figure it out, and it drives me crazy not knowing the outcome before it happens. I hear that’s what faith is all about. Faith means we believe God is still on His throne no matter what happens here. I trust God to work it out for His greatness not ours!

If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land. 2 Chronicles 7:14

The Message of Hope

On Sunday, we had a guest speaker deliver a message about hope. He is a person on a life-long mission to deliver hope to the world. He has visited many countries around the world and has many stories to tell of the adventure of delivering hope to the hopeless. He wrote a book which was sold on Sunday. But the book wasn’t to provide for his financial gain. Matter of fact, he was going to give the book away, but my pastor said the money would be donated to provide Bibles to a people in a closed nation. The opportunity has arisen to send one million Bibles to this closed nation, so we were tasked with filling one freight container filled with boxes of Bibles.

I am reminded every now and then how privilege we are in this country. I have grown up with a Bible in my hand. I was given my first copy as a baby at dedication Sunday. Throughout the years, I have owned many different translations. For much of my life, my Bible sat on my shelf unread. At first, it wasn’t very easy to understand. There were too many “thees” and “thous” and such. Secondly, it made no sense to me.

There were many things that just seemed wrong – all the people who were wiped out so that Israel could have their Promised Land. The teachings too seemed wrong for this day and time. A woman’s role is taught to be submissive – I grew up with “woman power” and burning bras – being empowered to do anything we set our mind to. It just seemed wrong. However, what was wrong was my reasoning. I viewed the Word through my “worldly” perspective and not through God’s eyes. God actually elevated women from a man’s property to being man’s helper. God used women throughout history just as He did with men. And we’re all equal in God’s eyes.

The things that I questioned in the past were by my own standards – what I thought was right by my own reasoning. But that’s not the right interpretation. God’s Word is God’s word. It is right in all circumstances; for the past, the present and the future. It never changes, and it stands forever. Sure, it was writing in a time when things were vastly different from today. But its life-giving message stands forever.

Written over a period of 1600 years by many different writers but it is the same message throughout. It is the story of God’s pursuit of man and His extent to redeem mankind from the eternal destiny apart from Him. We all stand condemn until a Savior has risen to redeem us to eternal glory with God in heaven. In God’s eyes, we are the same – lost until we find redemption through Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection. It is the message of hope. God wants no one to die apart from Him. But many do – either because they have never heard this word of hope or they have rejected it because of their wrong reasoning.

Since my time in the Word has grown deeper, there are many passages that stand out to me. One of those is the passage where Philip takes a trip down a desert road to find a eunuch from Ethiopia studying God’s Word (found in Acts 8). The Holy Spirit led Philip to a man who needed help to understand what he read. As Philip explained to the eunuch a message of hope through Jesus Christ, Philip essentially opened up God’s Word to a nation. Because all it takes is one person to change their perspective, and they will share the message with others. That’s the power of hope. It’s meant to be shared.

After Sunday, I realized what a difference we can make by giving God’s Word to someone who needs hope. It is a treasure. And it should be seen as such. I hope I will never take it for granted anymore. There are many pastors throughout the world who do not even have a full copy of the Word. There are stories of people passing around bits and pieces to share and memorize before passing it along to others. It amazes me the lengths to which many will go to obtain a copy. I have read story after story about people who were desperate for a copy of a Bible to receive it in unusual ways – all by the hand of God. God’s Word is a treasure we need to remember and appreciate, but most of all, we need to read it and share it. It is the message of hope for a hopeless world.

And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering. We, too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children, including the new bodies he has promised us. We were given this hope when we were saved. (If we already have something, we don’t need to hope for it. But if we look forward to something we don’t yet have, we must wait patiently and confidently.) Romans 8:23-25 (NLT)

The Butterfly

I am feeling a bit uninspired lately. I am in between projects with no motivation to move onto something new. You ever feel that way? I know there are things I should be doing. There are multiple projects around my house that I could be doing. But nothing seems to be creating an interest for me. In the meantime, I’m thinking.

Andy Andrews threw down a challenge a few weeks ago that has me contemplating my future. He asked his blog readers to come up with a personal mission statement. Sounded like a good idea at the time, but as I read over his questions to consider for my mission statement, the more I withdrew from pressing into the project. I got overwhelmed with the task. I started then stopped.

Andy tells of the “butterfly effect” that what we do or don’t do matters. Each person creates a ripple effect that affects generations with the things done or not done. An example he gives is a person winning a noble prize for an agriculture breakthrough that changed crop outputs. That person won the prize, but really it could have gone to the one who inspired the winner to go into the field in the first place. Andy went on to tell how the winner was ultimately connected to George Washington Carver who began the whole process with all he did for agriculture progress. Each person contributed a small piece of the pie all the way back to Carver through the ripple or butterfly effect. Each person had an impact on another person through their actions even though they didn’t know it at the time. What we do or don’t do matters.

Andy gave me another thought about intention. Intention doesn’t do anything but convince the thinker they are doing something – their intention was good. But their follow through didn’t make it into an action. I am a good thinker, but my follow through has a lot to be desired. I can think of all the things I should be doing, but until I actually do something, intention gets me nowhere. There is no prize for intention.

In The Greatest Salesman in the World (Og Madino), there is a sentence in this month’s reflection that has been drawing my attention (pg 64). “The prizes of life are at the end of each journey, not near the beginning; and it is not given to me to know how many steps are necessary in order to reach my goal.” We are told “to persist until we succeed.” My pastor keeps telling our Church Body to take the next step. I am reminded that if I am still breathing, then there will always be a next step to take. But the thing is we have to know where we’re going in order to get there; hence, why we need a personal mission statement.

The personal mission statement sets boundaries for the future. We understand who we are, what inspires us, who we want to become and what stamp we want to leave as our legacy – ultimately – what is the butterfly effect for our lives. It’s the vision we want to cast for the future. It helps define our next steps and keeps us on the right path to get to our destination. It helps with making decisions that will lead us where we want to go without getting off course.

Andy got me thinking; but I haven’t come to the conclusion. I haven’t finalized the mission statement. I got stuck in the big picture. I know what I should be doing, but I haven’t found the right motivation to do it. I haven’t been given a next step to move forward. I am stuck in the process of thinking. Sometimes we just need help getting unstuck. Sometimes mud floods the road, and we can’t move forward without a little help. It’s not bad to ask for a little help.

Actually, involving others in our lives is a very good thing. It takes a willingness to open up and share where we are. But involving the right people to speak into our lives is the key. Just as we all need a personal mission statement, we all need a team of people as our “board” members like a corporation would have to evaluate company progress and make course corrections to stay on mission.

I need to get these things in place. Thinking about it won’t get it done, but it is essential in the process. To go forward, I need to fix my eyes on the prize, get my intentions and my actions working together and just do it. My new word is PERSIST until I am done with this life. Do you feel the wind shifting? The butterfly will take flight.

I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.

Let all who are spiritually mature agree on these things. If you disagree on some point, I believe God will make it plain to you. But we must hold on to the progress we have already made. Philippians 3:13b-16 NLT

Persist with Joy!

So the message this past weekend was to count it all joy. All the struggles, trials and tribulations are for a reason. God wants to take us from Point A to B – from where we are to where we need to be. He is developing in us a greater faith. Faith always has to be put to the test. Heaven is for the faith-filled believers; the ones who endured to the end. We never like to go through the storms in life. We are so anxious to get out of them before we learn the lessons. But Book of James tells us to stay the course and count it as joy. The testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything (James 1:3-4).

In my readings this past week, I learned of the Wright Brothers tenacity. I read of the struggles in Auschwitz through Viktor E. Frankel’s Man’s Search for Meaning. And in The Greatest Salesman in the World, I am contemplating “persist until you succeed.” The theme this week is persistence or perseverance. You never know when the next step will lead you to the promise. It’s always right before you. The trouble is we give up before we find the answer. It’s always just around the bend.

I was intrigued by the Wright brothers’ determination to fly. It was all they thought about. They persisted until they succeeded. They went through many years of tweaking their design until it proved right through all their experiments. Time after time, they focused on getting it right. If this worked this time, how can it be made better for the next version? During that same time, many others tried to develop plans for an airplane. Some were close, but they weren’t close enough; they never sustained flight. The Wright brothers focused on the birds. They saw how a bird used their wings to fly. The brothers worked their designs in accordance to how nature works, and the airplane came to be in a very simplistic manner.

Viktor E. Frankel’s book gives his account of the struggles behind the walls of the concentration camp. As I was reading about his fight to live, I wondered if the lucky ones were the ones who were taken to the gas chamber right away. They didn’t have to endure the harshness and horrendous circumstances in the camp. In his account, Viktor wrote about the ones who lost hope and gave up. They died right before liberation came. Viktor lived for three years behind those walls; barely surviving on very little food – a small bit of bread and watery “soup” each day. They worked in snow and ice with no gloves or coats to keep them warm. Some had shoes with no laces or no shoes at all. I am reminded of the depravity of man when man has no soul. But Viktor survived; he made it to the end of the war and saw liberation day.

We are told in 2 Timothy 4:7, Paul fought the good fight; he finished his race and kept the faith until the end. Paul lived a life of testing. He endured the beatings, the shipwrecks, and various hardships. He stayed the course. After his conversion, Paul was told all that he must suffer for the sake of the Gospel. And he did it. He was the man for that hour – to get the message rolling through the known world. His tenacity brought the message to you and me. He introduced the Gospel message to the Middle East, Asia and Europe. And it spread like fire. He fought the fight so that we could keep it to ourselves. No, that’s not right. He did his work so that we could do ours.

We have our own battles to fight. We have our own hour to shine for Jesus. Our faith needs to be pure. It has to be tested and made sure. Like the refiners fire, the dross needs to be removed so that our faith is purified. When we suffer, we actually identify with Jesus. He took on our sin and shame and endured the cross for us. He suffered for us. So we shouldn’t be surprised when we too have to suffer in this life. It will either draw us closer to Him or it will drive us away. This is the testing of our “soils” to see if we have good soil or the word was sown in rocky soil; when persecution comes, we fall away. Faith has to be sifted. The rocks have to be removed. It’s the only way to know for sure where we stand. When we endure until the end, we succeed in obtaining the crown of righteousness. When we count our trials as joy, we keep the end in mind – the crown will one day be ours, if we persist. So, persist; it builds character in us and gives us the hope for liberation day. It’s coming – count it as joy!

Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance, perseverance, character; and character, hope. Romans 5:3-4

Becoming Successful

I listen to Andy Andrews’ podcast on a weekly basis. On one podcast recently, Andy mentioned this little book that had a major impact on his life. It is called The Greatest Salesman of the World by Og Mandino. I was curious, and I had to check it out. The book is small and has much to say about how to live a life with success. There are ten “scrolls” in this book that give guidance on how to become successful. I don’t see myself as a salesperson, so I didn’t know if it would be relevant to me. However, as I read through it the first time, there are many things that I could incorporate in my life to be a better witness for Jesus.

The book mentions that in order to incorporate these tips in one’s life, the reader needs them to become a habit. A habit is something that is done with regularity. The suggestion is to read one “scroll” a month. Read that one every day; morning, noon, and night; for 30 days. As the reader sits with it daily, it seeps into the subconscious; it starts to shape how we think and also gives us a different perspective about how to live our lives. Andy suggested doing it, so I started the journey to become successful!

I began with the second scroll instead of the first. The second is how to become successful by using love as the tool. As I sit with this one “scroll” this month, it is a reminder that this is what I am supposed to be doing as a follower of Jesus. As I stated earlier, I don’t see myself as a salesperson. Although I have written two books, I don’t necessarily want to go out and sell them. I would like for them to sell without my actual effort in doing so. My focus isn’t on writing or selling books but, how to live out this life as a follower of Jesus. The books are what I have experienced in life. What’s that have to do with selling though? We all sell something at some point in our lives. Whether we are “selling” the Gospel message to our friends and family or have an actual product we believe is worth selling.

The love chapter starts with this: “I will greet this day with love in my heart.” The author believes this is the “greatest secret to success.” Nobody will pay attention to our words until they feel the love directed toward them. The world is looking for love – mostly in the wrong places. One sentence stands out to me in this section: “Always will I dig for reasons to applaud; never will I scratch for excuses to gossip.” Digging is always more work than scratching, wouldn’t you agree? We may have to look deeper for the ways to love someone, but there is always something there to love. God said we are all made in His image. If that is the case, then that is the reason to love each and every person on this earth. (And yes, even the political ones!)

The world is in turmoil and no government official is going to turn the tide. It’s going to take a move of love to change people’s perception – not only of us, but of God the Father and Jesus the Son as it’s done through God’s Spirit leading the way. People are looking for something. They just don’t know what they are actually seeking. We are told in Holy Scripture that we will be known for our love. If we love God, then God’s love is in us, and we love through His love. It’s who we are as the Body of Christ. We are to reflect His character. But really, it feels impossible! People are so difficult to love!

Yet, Jesus said this is the second greatest suggestion – I mean, commandment – love others. The greatest commandment of all is to love God with all our being. As I contemplate this little book; and as I see our nation falling apart at the seams, it reminds me that this move to love starts with me. I have to change the way I look at people. Yes, they are difficult, but there is something God put in them to love. We may have to dig it out, but it can change a person when we represent love well. No one can withstand the force of love. It’s up to me to take the first step toward this change. Will you join me in becoming successful?

If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. 1 John 4:15-17

Source: Og Mandino, The Greatest Salesman in the World (originally published by Frederick Fell, January 1968; Bantam edition March 1974; Bantam Trade edition February 1985) pages 58-62

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