LIVING ON PURPOSE
A Perfect Time To Begin Brand New
The New Year is here and I’m excited to see what 2022 has for us! My hope is this coming year will be a season of abundance not just with material prosperity and success, but of love, health, and spiritual awareness. As we plant seeds of faith, may we have the patience and expectation to witness the harvest of God’s blessings. One of my personal resolutions is to be more generous and joyful even when things are not going well. I’m reminded of a quote by Mother Teresa who said, “Not all of us can do great things, but we can all do small things with great love.”
January means “beginning” and as we plan our resolutions this is the perfect occasion to consider developing physical, emotional, and spiritual lifestyle changes. You notice I used the word developing because our goals are often a lengthy process. For example, eating a salad today is not going to automatically make us healthy, but it’s a positive first step that will pay off if we can embrace that little secret weapon called perseverance. Today let us believe that anything is possible and just like everything else in life, being diligent and determined are important aspects of personal transformation.
There have been many adaptations from the original Al-anon credo that encourages everyone to be realistic about trying to change everything all at once as it’s important to realize that changing who we are is a lifestyle and not just a whim. No one else can do this for us. We must see our need to change and be willing to do whatever it takes to be victorious. There is nothing wrong with having long-term goals and we should release our faith into accomplishing our destiny, but it’s also important to focus on our mission one day at a time. It would be better to take it slow with permanent results than to go through the motions and become overwhelmed with frustration and eventually give up.
Our world has changed and facing our fears and uncertainties is now a normal way of living. I’m very sorry for what many of you have gone through these past two years as God brings comfort times of sorrow. I encourage us to be brave in this New Year as we consider the old saying, “a ship in the harbor is safe, but that’s not what a ship is built for.” May we live in the moment and begin each day with gratitude. Let’s laugh more and take the time to consider those around us and how much they mean to us. We have the choice to see the glass half-full and to use our voice to bring hope and love at a time when the world needs it the most. John Bunyan is quoted as saying, “You have not lived today until you have done something for someone who can never repay you.”
Let us not forget that while we are advancing in our own journey, that we have a responsibility to demonstrate and teach wisdom and truth to the younger ones. Children may outgrow their shoes, but they will never outgrow the positive and encouraging messages we leave with them. Most of the time we are so busy that we rarely consider how easy it is to ignore what is truly important. Realizing that optimism is a learned behavior allows us to know that personal awareness and transformation is hard work. It’s not about how smart we are or how much we can achieve but our motive should be to allow God to empower us and work through us to accomplish His plans.
Finally, let’s make a sincere decision to exonerate those who have wronged us and allow forgiveness to cleanse our conscience. When we hold grudges it’s like an infection within our soul, but when we choose to forgive, we will experience a refreshing that will flood our soul with joy and peace. If we have wronged someone, may we have the courage to step forward in honesty and tell them we are sorry. “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” Ephesians 4:32. Edith Lovejoy Pierce is quoted as saying, “We will open the book. The pages are blank. We are going to write the words ourselves. The book is called Opportunity and its first chapter is New Year’s Day.” I wish you all a very blessed New Year!
Read more about the Christian life at billyhollandministries.com
LIVING ON PURPOSE
Come Let us Adore Him – Christ the Lord!
The holiday season is called the most wonderful time of the year but between buying gifts, hosting parties, trying not to break your healthy habits (or the bank), and attending family gatherings, it can also be the most stressful time of the year. Once again, we are trying to figure out what to give people who already have everything they need. Come to think of it, I’m trying to understand how we went from the wise men bringing gifts to Christ as an act of worship to the ritual of giving gifts to each other? I don’t remember Mary and Joseph exchanging presents with the shepherds, or Bethlehem being decorated with tinsel and ribbons. Yes, there is widespread affection for the magical stories and traditions that we are accustomed to, but we also understand that much of our holiday festivities have little to do with Christ. Not to mention that children are taught that Santa has the same abilities as God. Nonetheless, for those who would rather focus on a more spiritual meaning, we are reminded of the angel’s message to Mary in Luke 1:35, “The holy child that you will give birth to will be called the Son of God.”
This has been a sad Christmas especially for those who live in our state. On December 10th we were on stage ready to perform our annual Christmas production with our local theater, when suddenly people’s phones started lighting up. A plane had crashed just a few miles away as the pilot and his passenger were a part of our community that were dearly loved. Early the next morning, a powerful tornado stayed on the ground for over 100 miles and devastated the Western part of our state. As of this writing, 77 people lost their lives, and many lost everything they had. Let us keep these families in our prayers and may we remember to appreciate every moment we have. We are reminded that in all things God is absolutely good and from the words of a popular Christmas song, we humbly bow and proclaim, “O come let us adore Him – Christ the Lord.”
If there was ever a reason to celebrate, it would be to tell the world that Jesus Christ is the Savior who came to deliver us from sin and a doomed eternity. He is the Master of the universe, the Creator of all things, and is forever the way, the truth, and the life. It would have been much easier for the Almighty to send us a Hallmark card expressing how much He cares about us, but instead, He wanted to demonstrate and prove His love by sending His Son to be our Redeemer. He is now patiently waiting for people to decide if they will live for Him or themselves. It’s no secret the temptation to become entangled in commercialism can distract us from the true reason for the season, and I suppose this qualifies people like me as being a Grinch. However, in my defense, if you’ve read, “The gift of the Magi” we see there is a significant difference between wisdom and being impulsive and that love is the real meaning of life – not materialism. Anyway, there is genuine peace and comfort in knowing that Christ is filled with endless mercy and compassion for everyone. Because of His humble entrance into this realm to save those who believe, we can sing His praises, “Joy to the world, the Lord has come.”
So what does Christ want for Christmas? Among the flying reindeer, the abominable snowman, and magical elves, may we humbly realize that all God has ever wanted is our heart. Galatians 4:19 is not usually considered a Christmas text, but the Apostle Paul makes a very interesting statement, “My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you.” Is this not an appropriate time to declare our need for Jesus to be born into our lives? A holy truth that never becomes old or outdated and is as life-changing today as it was the moment Jesus appeared. The greatest Christmas miracle would be for Christ to be born in all of us. Do you have room for Him in your life? May we consider the familiar lines of, O Little Town of Bethlehem, “O holy Child of Bethlehem, descend on us we pray, cast out our sins and enter in, be born in us today.”
LIVING ON PURPOSE
The earthly parents of the Son of God
This is the time of year when we display our nativity sets and it’s common to see depictions on the front of Christmas cards that have Mary and Joseph in a stable with the baby Jesus who is lying in a feeding trough commonly referred to as a manger. The word nativity comes from the Latin term, which simply means born. Technically, we’ve all experienced a nativity, but in today’s world, the term is primarily used in connection with the birth of Jesus Christ the Redeemer. We also hear the word incarnation at this time of year and within the Christian faith, this is referring to the Son of God and how He willingly came down from heaven and took on the human form of a man to save us from our sin. He is Emmanuel which means “God with us” as His mission was to rescue and restore us and because of His sacrifice we can now have an eternal relationship with Him.
There are several interesting details about the earthly parents of Jesus and of course, His mother Mary becoming pregnant with Him while still being a virgin is a great place to begin. Our heavenly Father sent His Son Jesus to earth, but as we know, Christ also had an earthly dad by the name of Joseph. History reveals it was common in those days for an older man to be engaged to a younger woman and many scholars are convinced that Mary was much younger than Joseph, probably being in her early teens. Being betrothed means the couple was to be celibate until they were married. However, when Joseph discovered she was pregnant, he did not want to publicly disgrace her but rather decided to just privately cancel the marriage. We can only imagine the agony and disappointment he was feeling as he realized she had been unfaithful. As he was making plans to deal with the situation, an angel appeared to him in a dream saying, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins” Matthew 1:20-21.
We know that Mary is adored and rightfully so, but we must consider this was also a huge step of faith for Joseph and he is seldom given the respect he deserves. There is not much information given about Joseph except that he was a carpenter and an honest man who upheld the law. We notice he was present when Jesus was found teaching in the temple at 12-years-old, but it’s presumed he had passed away when Christ was crucified as Jesus asked John from the cross to take care of His mother.
We’ve all seen the images of Mary riding a donkey into Bethlehem as the scriptures reveal they were on their way to register with the tax collectors. When they arrived, Mary immediately needed to find a place to deliver the baby as Luke chapter two describes the scene. “And Joseph went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be taxed with Mary his promised wife, being great with child. And so, it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.” Imagine a young girl being approached by the Creator of Heaven and Earth, and given a mission that would shape the course of human history. Humbly submitting to give birth to the Savior of the world? So, why did The Almighty choose her for the task of raising the Son of God? Because He knew she would hold strong in her faith. And what about those today who still declare they have no room for Jesus or the individuals who only celebrate the most significant event of all time during the Christmas season? He is still patiently waiting. Never before or since have the heavens declared the glory of God with more hope and excitement than when the Lamb of God was born and willingly gave His life as a ransom for all who would believe in Him.
LIVING ON PURPOSE
Nevertheless, not my will but thine be done
God’s will is His Word and knowing the wisdom of His knowledge reveals who He is and what He demands from us. You see, no matter what we have been taught, abandoning our will to God is not an option for those who seek to be an overcomer for His glory. I sense a burden this week to talk about the danger of living however we want instead of obeying what God is saying. Jesus is quoted in Luke 22:42, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine be done.” Many fail to understand the Bible is not just a dialogue between real people who lived many years ago, but it is also a living revelation meant to speak to the heart of the listener today. The topic of the human will being surrendered to God is the foundation of the Christian life and yet there has never been a more unpopular subject. It’s not a secret that most people want all that God has, but rarely consider what God demands from us.
Though rarely mentioned, our carnal nature is so deceptive and rebellious that it’s common for people to believe that God is not paying attention to what we say or do. The few who become serious and take the time to fast and pray for discernment will discover the sobering truth that our depravity defends disobedience with denial. Our emotions couldn’t care less if we are spiritually wandering out in left field wearing a blindfold as long as our will can remain in control of our decisions. Adam and Eve chose to live according to their ideas despite God’s warnings and sadly this rebellious attitude is alive and well today and can only be harnessed through continuous spiritual warfare.
We pray that God will have mercy on us, but many invest no effort to be transformed by the renewing of their mind. We want Him to help us and deliver us from our problems, but we are not willing to lay down our will so that we can embrace His. We want to live independently while proclaiming to be a Christian but many do not comprehend we cannot manage both successfully. In Matthew 6:24 Jesus plainly said, “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” A master is anything that enslaves us and when it comes to worldly worship, and He uses money here as an example of anything that we love more than God. Christ in Luke 6:24 relays a sobering statement about those who refuse to listen to His voice or live by His demands and yet still call Him their Lord. I passed someone on the side of the road yesterday holding a sign that said, “Jesus wants to be your Savior and your Lord.”
Each child of God has been called to do many things and has a unique role to play in His Kingdom. Our gifts, talents, anointing, and personalities are all different and He desires to use each one to accomplish His perfect plan. With those who are born again, life has been drastically changed because we are now building from a brand new spiritual blueprint. The plans and desires that we had in our old life may not look anything like what God has chosen for us to do now. The Christian’s call has certain responsibilities and for the rest of our days it is up to us to discover what they mean and how to accomplish them. The beginning of wisdom is the fear of God which means we must operate in His strength and attitude for His plans to be successful. Those who attempt to compromise by combining their will with God’s will or to allow denial to lead them into a seemingly innocent rebellion will discover that no matter how excited or diligent they are to execute their goals, things never seem to pan out. Even if they forcefully push them through until they are exhausted from their labors, they are left empty and extremely dissatisfied. Why? Because they have yet to learn that God does not accept or bless our sacrificial offerings if they are given on our terms. Until we remove ourselves from our throne of control, we have not truly yielded our will to Him.
Learn more about the Christian life at billyhollandministries.com
LIVING ON PURPOSE
Desiring God more than anything in the world
For those who ponder about the requirements for developing and maintaining a deeper relationship with God, we must include some vital components and one of the most critical is desire. Ask any business person or athlete about what it takes to accomplish a goal and they will always testify about the importance of vision, perseverance, and determination. Likewise, when it comes to drawing nearer to the Lord we must begin with old-fashioned enthusiasm. The next question is where does this passion come from? Most Christians will agree that Christ draws people to Himself and if you are having thoughts about your spiritual life, this is evidence that you are being stirred by His grace. One thing we can be sure of whether we embrace the Calvinist or Armenian theology is that God created us so that He could have a close personal relationship with us.
The New Year is a couple of weeks away and it’s common to think about rededicating our commitment to our Creator and making new resolutions that bring us peace and joy. So, how do we intensify our awareness of His presence? Fire in the Bible is often used to describe spiritual adoration for the Lord. A raging blaze within a heart for God describes a stronger faith and excitement while being lukewarm is related to discouragement, apathy and defeat. Ask Him to rekindle your embers.
An important nugget of wisdom is to know that we can be as close to God as we want. Nothing is preventing us from walking with Him except our resistance. We’ve heard the passage in Romans 12:2 that talks about not being conformed to the world but being transformed by the renewing of our mind. This means we worship the things we love and until our mind is changed we will not change our behavior. God’s warning that in order for anyone to advance with Him, we must make Him our highest priority. There are levels of spiritual commitment and unfortunately it’s common to live however we want while using Him as a backup plan in case our arrangements do not work out. This is not what God had in mind when He sent His Son to the cross to restore us back to Him. Many do not understand what it means to surrender their will to God while others have no intention to yield under His control. Whatever the reasons or excuses people make to refuse Christ as their Lord and King, each person will be held accountable for the way they lived. When it comes to our opportunities to choose whom we will serve, He is either Lord of all or He is not our Lord at all.
I appreciate all of you who read this column each week and for the encouraging emails and cards. I spend much of my time studying and writing and enjoy the blessings of being able to share God’s word and my thoughts. I earnestly pray for the Lord to draw us all closer to Him and I believe He is willing to help anyone come into the secret place of His presence if that is what they really want. I remember the old hymn, “turn your eyes upon Jesus” and I can honestly say these words are more meaningful to me now than ever before. As we continue to focus on what is truly important in this life, we will notice how the things of this world will grow strangely dim.“I surrender all” is another convicting challenge and as I dwell on this invitation, I realize how easy it is to sing but how difficult it is to live.
Let’s look at some practical actions we can take that will make an immediate improvement in our personal intimacy with God. Before we build we must have a blueprint and changing our lifestyle will require a fresh agenda. Find a quiet place where you can read a certain portion of the Bible every day. Begin a prayer journal and in this time of meditation, express your deepest thoughts to Him, ask Him to fill you with His Spirit, and begin to think about others and pray for them. Do not be surprised if those around you begin to think you are weird. This is a good thing because it’s exactly what He intended. If you desire to go even deeper, you can read about the power of fasting which increases your spiritual discernment and proves that you desire to know Him more than anything in the world.
LIVING ON PURPOSE
The unthankful heart overlooks life’s blessings
I’ve always enjoyed Thanksgiving but many times I become distracted from the intended purpose. I confess that between football, conversations, and the delicious meals I often forget how much I have to be grateful for. Let us once again be reminded of the history of human suffering that is associated with the Pilgrims. It’s been recorded that the new colony gave thanks to God for His blessings and protection as William Bradford is quoted as saying, “Being thus arrived in a good harbor, and brought safely to land, they fell upon their knees and blessed the God of Heaven who had brought them over the vast and furious ocean, and delivered them from all the perils and miseries thereof, again to set their feet on the firm and stable earth, their proper element. Thus, out of small beginnings greater things have been produced by His hand that made all things of nothing, and gives being to all things that are; and, as one small candle may light a thousand, so the light here kindled hath shone unto many, yea in some sort to our whole nation; let the glorious name of God have all the praise.” Clearly, the pilgrims of the Plymouth colony worshiped God and honored Him for all they had, but today the meaning of Thanksgiving is nearly lost under an endless avalanche of media hype, sales advertisements, marketing gimmicks, and aggressive commercialism.
Like the Pilgrims, this week we give thanks to the Lord for His blessings. I know in my own life, I am thankful for the opportunities to learn and grow in my relationship with the Lord and to help others. I realize there are hard times and difficult situations, but all in all we are fortunate to receive God’s love and to know He longs to surround us in His peace. I published a book a couple of years ago called, “A Lifestyle of Worship” and it’s about developing an awareness of God’s presence so that we can have a better understanding of who He is. Thanksgiving is more than a day off from work, a celebration ritual, or a black Friday sale, it’s a state of mind where we can take a moment to appreciate the Creator for intervening every moment. It’s wonderful to have a roof over our heads, good health, and a long list of divine benefits but I’m especially grateful for His infinite love and mercy. We can train our minds to wake up every morning and meditate about His grace as we ask Him to help us in our daily walk. It will take perseverance and serious determination to continually concentrate on how worthy He is of our gratitude and praise. “O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His name together”Psalm 34:3.
So, we understand the real reason for the holiday is to express our love to God not just for what He can do but just for who He is. Above my fireplace at home, there’s a log engraved with Matthew 22:37-38 and I ask the Lord regularly to please show me the depths of this spiritual truth. “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and greatest commandment.”Every word that has ever been spoken can only scratch the surface in describing God’s endless generosity and glorious Majesty. Brother Lawrence, whose seventeenth-century work, “The Practice of the Presence of God,” details his discipline and determination to become so focused on everything around him that he might consider every situation as an opportunity to serve Christ and be thankful for His goodness. It’s my prayer today, that I may never take God’s grace for granted or allow myself to become spoiled or selfish with His blessings, but to demonstrate His endless love, generosity, and compassion to others.
When obedience and appreciation become a way of life, we will abandon our will and be more focused on His. “Heavenly Father, we thank you for this harvest season, a time set aside to remember your goodness toward us. We thank you for security, protection, our health, and our daily provisions. We appreciate the relationship we have with you and the love we share with our family and friends. Thank you for healing us through our trials and difficulties this past year, we love you, amen.”
LIVING ON PURPOSE
Land of the free and home of the brave
As a chaplain for a Veterans health care facility and an honor guard that recognizes military personnel, I’m devoted to respecting those who were willing to give their lives for our freedom and it’s truly a privilege to spend quality time with the many fine men and women of our nation’s armed forces. In this month of remembrance, I believe it’s important to not only record and preserve their amazing accomplishments in battle but to also appreciate who they are as individuals. I remember visiting a man named Edward Hicks who willingly stepped forward when his country needed him the most. He was only 22-years-old and had just married his lovely bride, Mary Lou, four months earlier. He received the call to join the front-line and bravely responded to what would be known around the world as “Operation Overlord.”
In 1918, at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, a ceasefire was declared as the signing of the Armistice ended World War One. A year later, President Wilson declared Armistice Day as the soldiers who survived marched in hometown parades. In 1938 Armistice Day became a national holiday and then in 1971 under president Nixon it was established as Veterans Day, honoring all veterans. Though I did not serve in the military, I’m very proud of my son, who is a marine and served with the Department of Homeland Security. He is now a police officer at a Veterans Hospital. Neither my father nor my grandfather served but on my mother’s side of the family, it’s quite a different story.
My maternal grandfather Alvin fought in WWI and was in France. He was injured in the war and according to my mother; he was never the same. They had seven children, three boys, and four girls, and my mother was the baby. Like many families, all three sons eventually enlisted into the military. However, I thought it was even more unique how my grandfather and each of my uncles served in a different war. The father was in World War I, his oldest son, was in Japan during WWII, the second son was killed in Korea in 1950, and the youngest son served in the Vietnam era. I vaguely remember two of these uncles and now realize they both suffered terribly from PTSD.
My mom was very close to her brother who died in Korea. His nickname was Kenny and after he graduated High School, he worked a little part-time job before he was drafted. She remembers that he would give her ten cents every Saturday to buy some candy, which she looked forward to. He would also buy his mother flowers every week and she would set them on the kitchen table. My mom recalls the terrible day when military representatives knocked on their door and told her mother that they were sorry to inform her that her son had been killed. He was only 20-years-old. Her mother ran through the house wailing and screaming, “No God, please no.” Everyone was devastated as her mother went to bed and stayed there for weeks.
The 24-note melancholy bugle call known as “Taps” is played at military funerals and memorial services to accompany the lowering of the flag and to signal the lights out command at day’s end. Here is a portion of the lyrics, “Day is done, gone the sun, from the lake, from the hill, from the sky. All is well, safely rest, God is nigh. Put out the lights, go to sleep, go to sleep.” We live only a few miles from Camp Nelson National Cemetery and from the highway you can see rows of the over twelve thousand perfectly lined white marble tombstones. When I drive past this sacred ground, I think how each of these individuals at one time or another accepted the call of duty. And what is that call? To fight against human injustice and the evil governments and philosophies of tyrannical dictators. Patrick Henry is quoted as saying, “I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty or give me death.” The heart’s cry of a soldier is to defend and protect our freedom whatever the cost. Howard Osterkamp is quoted as saying, “All gave some – but some gave all” as we will never forget not only those who were willing to make the ultimate sacrifice but especially for the ones who did.
LIVING ON PURPOSE
Published – 11/8/21
MAKING THE EFFORT TO DO WHAT IS RIGHT
In Luke 10:30-37, a certain lawyer approaches Jesus with a spiritual question: “What shall I do to inherit eternal life?” How fitting that a legal expert would ask Jesus about a subject he was trained to understand. Jesus points this man and the rest of us to the law of heaven, “Whoever loves God with all their heart, soul, strength, and mind, and whoever loves their neighbor as themselves will have eternal life.” This arrogant attorney was only pretending to make sure he understood clearly whom he is obligated to love, and continued another attempt to justify his prejudice. “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus responds to this second query with the story of the Good Samaritan.
The Good Samaritan was obviously a sensitive and caring person who at significant cost to himself, stopped to help a wounded stranger that had been beaten and robbed and was being ignored by everyone passing by. Making his rescue attempt even more remarkable is the fact that he was a Samaritan and the man who was hurt was his Jewish neighbor. You see, traditionally Jews and Samaritans despised each other. It’s true the Samaritan is the hero of the story and a model of Biblical compassion, but his actions should not be seen as extraordinary. This is the standard attitude of Christian love that God expects or more accurately He demands from all of His followers as a normal lifestyle. Some of the villains in this true account are surprisingly the religious leaders who turned their heads and their hearts away and acted as if they did not see the crisis. It’s easy to heap scorn on such callous disregard, but there is also a good chance we may have fared no better. These respected figures within the community might have felt pity for the victim and may have even said a silent prayer for him as they passed by, however, refusing to become involved was sadly based on racial bigotry and political correctness.
We have also driven past those who hold signs begging for help which leaves us with countless opinions. We’ve heard stories about those who are professional scammers and how they play on people’s emotions. There are always reasons and excuses why we do not pick up hitchhikers or help those who sleep under bridges and mostly it’s because we would rather not be involved. We know it’s critical to use our spiritual discernment, but should we try to help everyone? We can imagine what the people in our story were thinking for example, “I’m not comfortable or trained to treat wounds, and I’m afraid he might have a disease.” “What if he dies, I will be blamed.” Maybe they justified their decision with the idea they should not be expected to be responsible for everyone else’s problems. Others might have been suspicious this person was a criminal and deserved what happened and this was his punishment. Or maybe they were just really busy that day or were late for a lunch date or an important meeting. Whatever reasons these individuals deemed it either too costly or insignificant, Jesus condemns them. To love their neighbor at that moment required stopping what they were focused on and deciding to do what was right.
Jesus continues to teach these spiritual principles as He declares in Matthew chapter 25, that whatever we refuse to do for others, we are also ignoring to consider Him. This includes our love. So, how crucial is it to be sensitive to the voice of the Holy Spirit and be ready to serve? The people in this Matthew passage are sent into eternal damnation because they failed to care for the needy. Remember the rich man and Lazarus. Romans chapter 12 speaks directly to believers about the practical and often painful ministry of being a living sacrifice. This means we should be prepared to act when a divine appointment presents itself as having a higher level of spiritual discernment is why we talk so much about walking in the awareness of God’s presence. Being sympathetic is not enough as James says in 2:15-16, “If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, go in peace, be warmed and filled, without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?” How is feeling sorry for someone helping anything? Until our minds are renewed to resist our carnal selfish nature, we will never be like Jesus.
LIVING ON PURPOSE
God has a wonderful plan for you
If we do not learn from our trials, then our distress has been a missed opportunity. Crisis situations are occasions to put our faith and patience to work and may we always remember that we cannot be defeated as God is for us and is constantly working on our behalf. There are times when we will suffer trauma, discouragement, or even persecution, and no doubt it will be uncomfortable but we must eventually get back up and dust ourselves off and get back into the race. God has always known all the fine details about you and has every intention to use you now more than ever before! He is trying to get your attention that He might polish you and challenge you to be a strong and effective instrument to accomplish his purposes. When the blacksmith is working on his vision, he does not toss it in the corner and forget about it. He has invested much effort because he intends to use his creation for a specific purpose.
This is not a time to throw in the towel, but to be inspired and encouraged by God’s infinite mercy and grace. Unforgiveness and bitterness can make us vulnerable and powerless to spiritual attacks. The Bible says in Mark 3:27, “No man can enter into a strong man’s house, and spoil his goods, except he will first bind the strong man; and then he will spoil his house.” You and I represent the strong man that occasionally lets down our guard and whenever we become discouraged, our feelings can help bind and hold us captive to the enemy that desires to control our lives. Whenever we allow a circumstance to dominate our emotions, we have lost the ability to manage the direction of our life. Remember, Jesus has already conquered the kingdom of darkness, so there is no need to fear what has already been defeated. We are to pray for spiritual discernment so that we can recognize when deception is trying to distract us. God wants to heal our emotional wounds and this can begin when we demonstrate forgiveness, sincerely let go of resentment, and continue moving forward in faith and obedience.
To remain offended is to be plagued with the ongoing torture of emotional and spiritual infection. The Greek word for stumbling block is skandalon and is often used to describe a snare trap where bait is attached to entice the victim to be held captive. This term is used for anything that causes resentment to arise which can hold us captive. It’s easy to fall for the temptation to be offended and this unforgiveness prevents us from living in the joy, peace, and contentment of God’s presence. The deeper the pain the more valuable the lesson and as you learn from your trials, allow them to build your character and wisdom so you can teach and help others from your experiences. If we have sinned, then it is time to ask God to forgive us and be restored. We do not need to live in the agony of anger and rebellion any longer.
It’s not popular, but occasionally we go through severe trials that are a chastisement from the Lord. This is a blessing for those who are truly His children to know that God loves us so much He will intervene and bring discipline if we refuse to listen to His instructions. We are reminded in Proverbs 3:11, “My son, despise not the chastening of the Lord; neither be weary of His correction.” As soon as we repent with sincere sorrow and humility, He is gracious to cleanse and restore the joy of our salvation. To God, you are a masterpiece! Pray for the awareness of His presence as you watch carefully for His unseen hand and listen intently for His still small voice. Some may ask, how can the God of all things have time to care about circumstances that have hurt me? Does He understand how I feel and does He have a solution for helping me overcome these afflictions? Absolutely my dear one, this is why He promised in Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans and thoughts that I have for you, says the Lord, plans for peace and well-being and not for ruin, but to give you a future and a hope.” He is all things to all people as His merciful and endless love is the greatest authority in the universe.
LIVING ON PURPOSE
Being prepared when it’s time to stand
In our modern world, we can agree there is no shortage of information. We are constantly surrounded by voices wanting to help us understand every subject under the sun, however, in our quest for gathering accurate information, we also realize that most of what we listen to, especially political news, is sprinkled with half-truths, speculations, and biased observations. The bottom line is that we actually know very little about facts and depend heavily on outside sources to relay to us what they have heard. Imagine what we would know if there were no television, radio, newspaper, telephone, internet, or any type of media communication. Knowing about state, national, or world events would be comparable to those who lived 200 years ago. Yes, we have certain convictions about social and spiritual issues, but for the most part, our views are shaped not by what we positively know to be a fact, but rather by trusting what someone has told us.
When it comes to our spiritual perspectives, Christians have God’s Word and His Spirit that speaks directly to us, along with pastors and teachers who give us their interpretations, but again we must be discerning with the knowledge we gather. I have a friend who is in his eighties and is known for saying that he listens to everything, but when it comes to politics and religion, he keeps his opinions to himself. He believes that political and spiritual views are deeply personal and a sure way to cause arguments, divisions, and make enemies. This is true, but I also believe especially from an evangelical perspective we should not be intimidated when God provides an opportunity to share our faith. When it comes to divine appointments, we are reminded of St. Francis who said that we should, “preach everywhere and only use words if necessary” which emphasizes the need to demonstrate Christ instead of just talking about Him. Christians are not secret agents but are called to be ready and equipped to explain what we believe and why even when it’s not popular.
We are emotional beings but we cannot afford to be controlled by them and one of the most difficult challenges is to develop our spiritual discernment to the point where we know the difference between God’s voice and everyone else’s including our own. Have you noticed when you sense the Holy Spirit beckoning for you to say or do something, immediately there are resisting persuasions trying to talk you out of it? No doubt, there are powerful forces at work attacking our thoughts and trying to distort and control our attitudes, emotions, and especially our obedience to Christ. Fear wants to manipulate, but we have the choice to allow it to dominate us or we can resist it. Our trust in Jesus as our Lord includes inviting Him to rule and reign within our mind and conscience. He wants to literally possess us, but without surrendering our will to Him, we are not able to walk in covenant with Him. This is why we study God’s Word every day and are constantly asking the Lord for wisdom and determination to execute self-discipline. Our spiritual destiny can be accomplished, but He is not going to do it for us.
I sense we are moving into a time where the Christian can no longer use immaturity as an excuse to live in sin. I’m not just talking about blatant wickedness, but rather the subtle apathy of neglecting to walk with God. The sins of omission are refusing to do what God is saying and there are many who are hiding in the shadows as they refuse to learn and ask God for the courage to represent His truth. How can anyone say they love Him if they do not invest their time into knowing Him? How can we live in the light of His love if we are choosing to serve the darkness? We cannot dwell in the life of His truth if we are absorbing sin which are the wages of death. Our flesh will argue we are too busy to concentrate on our relationship with the Lord but we always make time for what we love. For those who are satisfied with living in lukewarmness, they will suffer great loss, but for the ones who are dedicated to abiding in the secret place of the Most High, they will stand when it comes time to stand.
LIVING ON PURPOSE
WHEREVER YOU ARE GOD IS WITH YOU
For those who try to live for the Lord and want to please Him, I’m sure you know what I mean when I say there are times when the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. When it comes to maintaining a red-hot enthusiasm for the Christian life, we are not robots, but rather we are emotional humans that have good days along with other times that are clouded with feelings of melancholy. It does the heart good to quietly sit alone as we search within our soul trying to figure out what is wrong. It could be a nagging sin where we should have stood strong against it but instead we gave it control. God promises that in the midst of our misery there is nothing we can do that will make Him love us any less. Or maybe our hearts are weighed down with heaviness for a world that has turned away from God. Whatever our burden, we can rest assured that He knows our thoughts and exactly what we are going through. Romans 8:39 is a wonderful reminder, “Neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
The gospel is often called the good news and rightly so as there is nowhere in this world that God cannot hear our cries or feel the weight of our worries. There is no point in our lives where He turns away from us or sees us as undeserving or unworthy of His love. So today, if you are having difficulty sensing His presence and feel like you are drifting on an open sea, God wants you to know that He has never left your side. There is strength, confidence, and hope in His name as He is waiting to lead you into the healing light of His glorious presence. II Samuel 22:3-4 declares, “My God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold and my refuge, my savior; you save me from violence. I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies.” The Lord promises that we can always run to Him when we are afraid and anxious, when we are having health issues, confused or sad, or overwhelmed with discouragement. Wherever you are, He is always there to protect and comfort you.
As I sit here seeking God’s guidance, I just received a text from a dear friend asking for prayer. He said he is struggling with a sense that he has been abandoned by God. I’m sure you will agree it’s not a coincidence that I would be writing about the very thing that he just contacted me about. It hurts me to see others discouraged as we are living in difficult times but there will be seasons when we are convinced He is not concerned about what we are going through. This happens to all of us because our emotions namely what we see, hear, and feel are so strong, however, these natural feelings can be misleading and often prove that things are not always the way they seem. Divine truth is found in the spiritual realm with God and is based on His nature and character which is an extension of what He has promised in His Word. “So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the Lord your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you. And the Lord, He is the One who goes before you. He will be with you, He will never leave you nor forsake you; do not fear nor be dismayed” (Deuteronomy 31:6,8).
The desert is a hot and dry environment and we read in the Bible that many of God’s people including Jesus Himself spent some agonizing times there. But let us remember that for whatever reason we may go through these wilderness experiences, God is not only with us every step of the way, but He also promises after a certain amount of time to lead us back into the cool refreshing waters of His joy, peace, and restoration. Ask Jesus to forgive and cleanse your heart, trust in His endless grace, and as sure as the sun will rise tomorrow, you will find yourself back in His everlasting arms of love.
LIVING ON PURPOSE
Our decisions determine our destiny
For those who occasionally think about how to maintain and increase the spiritual aspects of your life, we must consider that our decisions are directly associated with accomplishing our destiny. I have thought about this for many years and have come to the conclusion that desire is one of the most critical steps for knowing God. If we have a passionate and unwavering dedication to accomplish something, we have built a solid foundation for the other steps that will follow. However, without fervent enthusiasm, our vision will remain a whim. When it comes to drawing nearer to our Creator, we will discover this is the most difficult challenge we will ever face. Why is it so hard to walk with Christ? One reason is that having a personal relationship with him includes surrendering our control so that he can possess and control us. It’s one thing to work toward such things as weight loss, exercise, or training for a sport as we are only in a battle against our bodies to succeed. Granted, these are serious challenges but when we become obsessed with advancing into God, we will face resistance from our old nature, the need to renew our mind, and a hostile devil who hates us and does not want us to be victorious.
There is no doubt that many people are lukewarm in their spiritual life. It’s true, we all have times when we drift a little or become distracted from the Lord, however, there is a serious problem when we are satisfied with a mediocre relationship with God. I have discovered in my own life that it is much easier to live in the outer courts than to be a cup-bearer for the king. Honestly, it’s simply a case of not wanting to sacrifice our time or our pleasures just to have a more intimate connection with him and we are all guilty. Our rebellion refuses to pay the price that is required for a sanctified lifestyle. I was talking to a friend the other day, and he was telling me about a new diet he had been following for the last few months. He was proud of his accomplishments and went on to explain that when he started out, some of his family and friends scoffed and said he could never do it because of his reputation for being a foodaholic. Then he mentioned something that caught my attention. He said, “I became so focused and my determination became so strong, I demanded my body to obey my will. In the last three months, I have lost 32 pounds and I’m only getting started.”
I am very impressed with this level of infatuation and congratulated him for finding such relentless perseverance. At the same time, I thought about how spiritually mature every Christian could be if we decided to become this serious about concentrating on the awareness of God’s presence. One of the greatest revelations I have discovered is that we can live as close to God as we want, and this brings us back to our desperate need for desire. So, if failing to achieve our goals is caused by a shortage of fervency and self-discipline, where can we find it? God gives it to those who ask for it. It’s true, with certain situations there are other factors that can make a difference, but when it comes to developing a personal relationship with God, the opportunity is available and nothing is preventing us from knowing and loving him except our will. In Matthew chapter 5, one of the beatitudes says, “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.” For each person, questions remain: “Do you have a relentless craving to walk with God and how important is it for you to know him?” I was watching a football game the other night, and the coaches were fiercely challenging their team to dig deep within themselves and find the raging fires of desire. They were looking at each player in the eyes and asking how much do you want to be victorious? Have you ever sensed the Holy Spirit convicting you with the same question? We can inspire others but the intriguing reality about motivation is that no one can force another person to change their mind. Most people only want enough of God to go to heaven but do not love him enough to become who He has called them to be.
LIVING ON PURPOSE
Choosing to become more aware of God
The Bible refers to a joy that is unspeakable and full of glory but what does this mean? I believe one answer would be the contentment of the conscience for those who know God and have decided to live in the awareness of His presence. How can we do this? We can train our minds to think about God the same as we learn and become skilled to do anything else. Repetition and commitment are the building blocks of being proficient and in the Christian faith, self-discipline is the path to spiritual transformation. It’s important to awaken each day with prayers of thanksgiving for having the opportunity to communicate with the one who loves us and created us. We can approach Him boldly in faith, asking and seeking His wisdom and understanding.
Entering into a deeper relationship with Him requires as the Bible mentions in I Thessalonians 5:17 to pray without ceasing. The previous verse encourages us to rejoice always as our human nature finds these demands to be somewhat unrealistic. However, the Lord is saying relationship has everything to do with staying focused on Him. Every moment can plead for spiritual sensitivity as we realize the moment we take our eyes away from the prize, we begin to fall away and become lukewarm. This sense of urgency is a vital component for the mind to be renewed and conformed to the mind of Christ. Many have not taken the opportunity to ask for His divine appointments and His discernment that we might know His thoughts as we comprehend the critical importance of developing a higher level of spiritual sensitivity. Without this passionate craving to be close to God, we will be unable to walk in His Spirit. We must become one with Him for Him to move through us. Without this revelation, our hope for an intimate relationship with Him will not exist. Constantly reminding ourselves to concentrate on Christ is the path which leads to the secret place of the Most High. Within our free will, we must demonstrate a fierce and fervent determination and relentless perseverance to absorb and be possessed by Him. “That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; And to know the love of Christ, which passes knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fullness of God. Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that is at work in us” (Ephesians 3:16-20).
We realize this message is not for the casual religious person. It is for those who pant after God like the deer that pants for water. “As the deer pants after the water brooks, so pants my soul after thee, O God. My soul thirst for God, for the living God: when shall I come and appear before God?” Psalm 42:1-2. This is the way of holiness for those who have a passion to be purified by the refiner’s fire. Those who have decided to take up their cross no matter what pain and rejection it will bring are the ones who are nauseated with their sin and have turned away from the temptations and love for the world. They have chosen the path of the overcomer and have become a member of a radical and extreme remnant. “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” (Romans 12:1-2).
So if spiritual joy is available, then why does it seem that very few have it? Because only a small number of individuals have allowed God to be their shepherd. Those who refuse to surrender the control of their decisions cannot enter into the deeper chambers of spiritual intimacy which is the foundation of our covenant relationship with Him. You see, whoever sits on the throne of our heart is the Lord our conscience. May the Lord continue to give you His wisdom and understanding.
LIVING ON PURPOSE
Placing our hope and trust in God alone
Hope is one of those dynamic words that deserves the title of catalyst when it comes to change. It is a spiritual attribute that God’s people should use regularly as it is filled with life, excitement, and positive energy. Your first reaction to the idea of hope may be one of skepticism because you are thinking, it’s easy for someone to talk about hope when they do not understand what a terrible condition my life is in. Well, I may not have walked in your shoes, but I know that being negative and giving up will not make the situation better. It’s true that health and financial problems, discouragement, fear, and family and marital issues are very serious problems but the Lord has a special word for you today found in Romans 8:31, “If God be for us, who can be against us?” He knows everything that is happening in your life today and is waiting for you to place all of your hope and trust in Him alone. He is the God that cannot fail!
Faith is believing in what we cannot see and we need hope in order to visualize the solution. The world is a fearful and unsatisfying place without the hope of knowing that Jesus is our refuge and security. Apart from the joyful expectation that comes from the hope of heaven, our world cannot provide spiritual peace or contentment. Hope gives purpose and meaning to our lives and inspires our decisions, emotions, and pursuits. Hope fills us with joy in the midst of our trials and fuels our perseverance as we press forward in God’s strength. Listen to Romans 8:24-25, “For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.” It gives us confidence to know that God not only has the power to help us but also desires to intervene into our circumstances. Knowing that Christ is faithful to respond to our prayers is a step toward being released from the bondage of our doubts. Hebrews 6:18 reminds us, “That by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us.”
When we look up the world’s definition of hope, it is described as, “an expectation for a certain thing to happen.” Many associate hope with wishing, but fantasizing is a half-hearted whim that changes from day to day. However, spiritual hope is associated with the reality of divine truth! This God kind of hope is more than waiting to see who wins the ballgame or if the casserole will taste good. It is spiritual nourishment that empowers the attributes of Christ within us and is based on who God is and what He has promised. Hope and faith work together as we see in Hebrews Chapter 11 and verse 1, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Believing is having a vision and a dream of anticipation which literally moves the heart of God.
Listen to these words from Dr. Norman Vincent Peale. “Hope is a dynamic force, a reality filled with power. It can bring the weak back to strength. It can bring the sick back to health. It can turn failure into success. No wonder St. Paul included it as one of the three great principals of Christianity: faith, hope and love. What’s the condition of hope in your life at this very moment? Does it get up with you every morning? Does it carry you confidently through the day? Is it still there, soothing and sustaining you, as you fall asleep? That’s what God intended when he created this shining quality and poured it into us at birth. If cares, worries, fears and discouragement have gained a stronghold in your mind, then you need to open the windows of your soul and allow a strong, fresh current of hope to come surging through.” Yes, sometimes our journey takes us through the dark nights of the soul where we battle against anxiety and discouragement, but we are reminded in Romans 15:13, “Now may God, the source of hope, fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that through the power of the Holy Spirit, you may abound in hope.”
LIVING ON PURPOSE
Christians are called to live God’s way
Everyone wants a Savior especially if it’s free. The Biblical concept of crucifying our carnal nature and becoming a living sacrifice for Christ has never been popular. The martyrs and everyone who faces persecution for Christ understand there is a cost to love God with all our heart, soul, and mind. In the Old Testament God wanted to know who He could send and who would go for Him. What was He talking about? He was asking if there was anyone who would lay down their will and obey His. And in the New Testament, we find the wealthy young ruler asking Jesus about what he needed to do to have eternal life and Jesus simply said to give me your heart and follow Me. We know that abandoning our will is honoring our end of the covenant agreement and we are deceived if we think that He will accept any other type of generic life we try to throw together.
Years before I started writing books, newspaper columns, and weekly blog articles, I penned Christian music lyrics that are painful to our old nature. Those of you who have listened to these songs know what I mean. Many have told me over the years that the music was so candid and convicting that only a small remnant of seekers would want to hear them. This has been true. I cannot count the number of times I have given them to someone, and they never mentioned them again. It is intimidating when we hear Christ beckoning for us to come to His refining fire and crawl upon the hot coals. Nonetheless, sacrifice is at the core of the Christian faith. I admit I would much rather hear a message about blessings instead of how I need to pray as much as I play on my phone. It’s like everything else in life, when we are passionate about what we enjoy, we cannot get enough of it, but when we are trying to avoid something uncomfortable, we cannot run fast enough to get away from it. Sadly, this is often how we respond when it comes to what God desires for our lives.
Do you think about your spiritual destiny? I realize we cannot see the future but we can at least make sure we are on the right path. We understand that abiding in the constant awareness of His presence and being obedient to His voice is essential, but do we ever plan to give Him complete control of our life? Well, for us to let go of our old life and become a new creation, we must invite Christ to sit on the throne of our heart or we will never trust or comprehend a personal revelation of who He is. We are reminded about the true meaning of life and it is loving God with all of our heart, mind, and strength, being filled with His Spirit, and knowing Him in the power of His resurrection.
God’s children are members of His body working together, developing and learning how to live for Him. Being changed into His image through a steady progression of surrendering our will is the spiritual reality of growing and advancing into God’s perfect will. We know that God is not pleased with many things happening around us today, but we must keep trusting Him and allowing His love and forgiveness to flow through us. When we read about certain individuals that had extraordinary experiences with the Lord, we notice they spent time with God in the secret places of isolation away from the voices of chaos. Remnant followers are drawn into the depths of His presence because they want to know His truth. They desire to go deeper into His endless sea of wisdom and revelation and are overwhelmed with His authority and His majestic power. Raising their hands and hearts to heaven, He touches them and fills them with the glory of His endless love. “But we all with open face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord” (II Corinthians 3:18). Help us Oh God to have your discernment and agape love as we continue to fight on our knees in this spiritual war against evil principalities and rulers of darkness. We repent of our sins and bow down before you in humility and reverential fear of who you are. We love you and worship you. Amen.
LIVING ON PURPOSE
Becoming what Christ died for us to be
The idea of not being spiritually prepared to trust Christ because of a lack of interest is like being told that you have been scheduled to box a champion fighter this coming Friday night, even though you have no boxing experience and are in terrible physical condition. It’s too late to start training and you will easily be knocked out with one punch. Another scenario would be that you have been given one week to compete in a body-building contest against other contenders that have been lifting weights for years. You have never lifted weights, are overweight. It will be obvious to everyone that you did not take this seriously. The same is true with knowing God and His Word and today is the day to start building faith so that we will be ready to stand strong when trials and tribulations come. I remember the song, “Wasted days and wasted nights” and this could not be a more clear explanation of our lives if we refuse to invest our time seeking God’s presence. Solomon told the Almighty that above all things he wanted more wisdom and understanding and the Lord was very pleased. How would you respond to God if He were to ask you what you would want more than anything in the world?
No person is called to speak for God who has not first listened to Him. We do not serve, write, nor speak because we want to say something: we communicate because we have something to say. God’s conviction is a stirring of the soul like burning coals and the flames of intensity are measured by our love. Do we have a passion for His refining fire and to be purified as a servant and messenger for His glory? Do not expect to grow in holiness if you spend little time alone with the Lord and do not take your covenant vow with Him seriously. One of the greatest revelations of wisdom is that we can be as close to Him as we want. Another is learning how to be quiet long enough to get acquainted with our soul and to listen in the silence for His still small voice. Do you desire to be alone with God? He longs to reveal His mysteries and one of these is the beauty of silence. The Lord speaks, “Be still and know that I am God” in Psalm 46:10. It is in the secret place of the Most High where we learn to have ears to hear what His Spirit has to say. When is the last time you closed yourself away with God to pray and listen? This is the most effective home remedy for fear and anxiety in existence.
If you’ve ever tried to explain the Bible with someone who has never been a seeker of spiritual knowledge and is without the sensitivity of the Holy Spirit, you have witnessed how difficult it is for the natural mind to grasp an understanding of the Christian life. Those who do not know Christ are unable to comprehend divine truth because they have a strong delusion over their conscience. Most people live in the natural default system of their emotions and guided by their fallen human nature. Our discernment is crucial for leading someone to God’s love, but we can only tell them, we cannot make anyone believe. William Wilberforce is quoted as saying, “You may choose to look the other way, but you can never say again that you did not know.”
Following God’s directions is one of the most difficult goals we will ever try to reach in our lives, but it is the meaning and purpose of this life. Let us keep praying that eyes will be opened and hearts will be changed in the name of Jesus. Satan’s domain is called a kingdom of darkness because his number one goal is to keep everyone from being able to see the light of God’s truth. We are all groping in the darkness until the Lord illuminates our conscience. Once we see His light, we have the choice to embrace it or walk away. If we choose to receive the reality of who He is and what He demands, we can begin to walk in His perfect peace and joy. We realize the warfare will continue to increase as our understanding and faith increases, however, as we trust Him with all of our hearts, He empowers us to become what He died for us to be.
LIVING ON PURPOSE
God did not give us a spirit of fear
Soon after Jesus had resurrected, we find a beautiful passage found in John chapter 20 that is a wonderful example of how much God loves us and wants to encourage us. The friends and family of Christ were gathered together after his horrific crucifixion and were still grieving over his death when all of a sudden, he appears in their midst! Even though they remembered how he had promised to return I’m sure they were still awestruck. Jesus stretches out His hands and reveals his previous wounds, and of course, they are overjoyed to see him again. He spoke peace and breathed on them and before he left, he filled them with the Holy Spirit. Thomas was not there that night and later when he returned verse 25 says, “The other disciples, therefore, said to him, we have seen the Lord, but Thomas replied, unless I see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into His side, I will not believe.”
After eight days the group came together again and like last time Jesus miraculously appeared except this time Thomas was present. Christ looked at Thomas and told him to reach out and touch the scars, and he did. Jesus said, “Be not faithless, but believing,” as Thomas replied, “My Lord and my God.” When we are discouraged and struggling to believe, we can know that God will always make the extra effort to prove how much he loves us and wants us to believe. He is encouraging us today to know that his presence is all around us. You see, Thomas represents everyone when it comes to doubt as believing without seeing is truly difficult. This is where faith becomes essential within our understanding that just because we cannot see God, it does not mean he is not there. In verse 29 we read, “Jesus said unto him, Thomas because you have seen me, you believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.”
Faith is having an optimistic attitude even when it seems the situation is hopeless. If our lives were filled with happiness with no problems at all, we would not sense the urgency to pray in faith. Those who read the Bible are well aware of what is coming in the future and the time to build faith is now. Walls of faith are built one brick at a time, which means if we do not develop faith every day we cannot instantly generate faith when tragedy comes. We know that global principalities and evil strongholds will become more aggressive as the return of Christ draws near. This is because Satan has been given temporary permission by God to be a puppet master for the leaders of the world. I Peter 5:8 warns, “Be sober, be vigilant, because your adversary the devil walks around like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.” We should not be shocked to witness wars, violence, hatred, division, and oppressive governments but we are reminded in God’s word 365 times to “fear not.” It’s clear the virus has caused widespread panic and I believe we are facing one of the most aggressive attacks from Satan that I have seen in my lifetime. “Pray without ceasing” I Thessalonians 5:17.
Anxiety and stress can negatively affect our spiritual joy, our conscience and our physical bodies as we cannot allow our emotions to distract us from our relationship with Christ. Walking with Jesus allows us to live in his peace even in the midst of the storm. Spiritual confidence is activated when the determination to trust God becomes stronger than the temptation to be afraid. We cannot live in faith and fear at the same time. If we choose to feed our faith, our fears will starve. Thomas Aquinas is quoted as saying, “To the one who has faith, no explanation is necessary. To those without faith, no explanation is possible.” Whatever trial we are going through today, we have the opportunity to fill our hearts with God’s promises or be drowned in a sea of confusion and doubt. Our natural senses desire to control us, but faith is spiritual and declares that we will hope and trust in the Lord no matter the circumstances. Remember, God did not give us a spirit of fear. “I prayed to the Lord, and he answered me. He freed me from all of my fears” Psalm 34:4.
Read more about the Christian life at billyhollandministries.com
LIVING ON PURPOSE
God is near, and he is listening
Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and he desires to spend quiet time with you. Our heavenly Father beckons us to draw near to him as he longs to be with his children. As we go about our busy day, many times we do not realize his presence but nevertheless, he is there. May we listen with our ears, watch with our eyes, and be aware of our thoughts as God is always trying to communicate with us. The Lord of compassion gives us breath and every heartbeat as a gift of his endless mercy and grace. He cares about our disappointments and heartaches because he loves us more than anything.
Time on earth is short, here today gone tomorrow, but eternity will last forever. Each person has a spirit, and every spirit will either live forever with God or forever without him. Jesus was born into this world, was crucified, and rose from the dead so that whoever believes in him can be spiritually born again. His blood paid our ransom and forgives our sins. Christ, the spotless lamb of God willingly gave his life and now is waiting for someone to give their heart to him. Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life and those who embrace him as Lord, are transformed and prepared to be a vessel of honor. As our heavenly Father is preparing our home in heaven, as we live, love, and trust in Christ, the solid Rock of our salvation.
God created you as a unique, one-of-a-kind individual. There is not another person like you. He drew a blueprint for each person to follow and wants to intervene, inspire and empower us to accomplish his plans. It is not about our will, but his will be done. The question is who will do what he says and love him for who he is? In this journey, you will have tribulations and trials, but do not be afraid because greater is he that lives in you, than he who lives in the world. Our heavenly Father is in total control and has complete authority over all powers and principalities. His angels are all around you and he never takes His eyes away from you.
Within our mission and calling, there are two great commandments above all others; love God, and love one another as ourselves. If we choose to take up our cross and follow the Savior, we will live in the peace and joy of his presence. He is holy and desires that we have a clean heart so that we can walk closely with him. Forgive those who have trespassed against you and sincerely pray for them as this will set you free. Holding on to resentment and hatred is a snare trap and will make our hearts hard and cold. Be humble, give your anxieties and fears to Jesus and he will give you rest. Demonstrate his light of forgiveness and compassion that you may dwell in the secret place of the Most High.
God knows our pain and sees every tear. You are his precious child. Trade your bitterness and sorrow for his joy that is unspeakable and filled with his glory. It is in loving and giving that you will find true contentment. Offer up your fervent prayers and burdens for the souls that are lost and hurting. When you reach out to help those in need, you are reaching out to the Lord. Jesus is the Bread of Life and he is the living water. Those who come to Christ will never be spiritually hungry or thirsty again.
Always know that God’s promises cannot fail. Lean not on your own understanding but believe that your steps are ordered by the Lord. There are times the way will grow dark and will seem as though you are walking through the valley of death, but fear no evil. Remember, you are fighting in a war that has already been won. His word is a lamp unto your feet and a light unto your path. Run into the name of the Lord and rejoice that you are safe and secure. Jesus is the King of kings and the Lord of lords. He is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. He is the Almighty God that considers you his highest treasure. He will never leave you or forsake you, he has engraved you on the palms of his hands.
Read more about the Christian life at billyhollandministries.com
LIVING ON PURPOSE
Apologies are empty without forgiveness
We acknowledge God’s blessings in our own life as well as those around us. Of course, we have our share of problems and struggles, but for the most part, the Lord has provided for our basic needs, and to be honest, he has also given us a lot of luxuries. Our seasons of difficulty might be with a relationship, financial hardships, issues with our health, the loss of a loved one, or the occasional internal suffering associated with rejection, but God promises that he is with us in whatever we are going through.
In the hard times, we are tempted to deny the situation or hide from the agony, which we all know is like putting a band-aid on a broken arm. Discouragement is real and unfortunately, a lot of people live with a smile on the outside but are crying on the inside. There are several keys that can help us overcome discouragement and one of them is instead of asking God to change everyone’s view of us, let us pray that we might see ourselves the way he sees us. Examining our conscience involves analyzing what we believe and why. This will allow us to find the real cause of our disappointments and help us discover a deeper understanding of why we feel the way we do. When we comprehend how our personal trigger mechanisms and response buttons operate, this is a huge step toward knowing that the way we think controls our emotions.
Sometimes our rejection is associated with our gifts and talents and how we believe that no one cares about what we enjoy. When it comes to our spiritual well-being, an important key to consider is that whatever we do for God, it’s wise to be sure that God told us to do it. It’s much better to listen and follow God’s directions than to do something on our own and then ask him to bless it. The idea of patience is to prevent putting the cart before the horse. It’s easy to forget that obedience is up to us, but the results of our labors are up to him and are solely based on his intentions. If we really believe this, we would never be upset because we would know that everything is being accomplished according to his will. If we are dissatisfied with the results, then we are probably focusing on our own projections and expectations instead of trusting that God is guiding our life with his divine sovereignty. For example, by the mercy of God when we are allowed to create something and it’s used to help encourage one person, then maybe that was God’s original objective. In this light, just because we are not world-famous or making millions does not mean we have failed to be a success in God’s view. Being popular with the world has nothing to do with how much God loves you and is pleased with you.
Misery and sadness are many times caused when we assume something is one way when it’s actually something else. It’s not always true that others do not like us or respect us. We seldom consider that others might feel that we are angry and offended at them. When we surrender our pain and allow God to heal us, we can freely and sincerely forgive others. Sometimes we decide that someone does not deserve our forgiveness for what they have said or done. We feel justified in withholding forgiveness from them but in reality; we are only storing up more anger, bitterness, and sadness which keeps us in the bondage of misery. This can become an infection within our soul that can make us calloused and unable to see clearly. When we realize those around us are wounded and have a tendency to wound others, we will not see them as the enemy just because they disagree with us. We can begin to recognize that something in their past causes them to act out of their pain. This is why God encourages us to live as close to Him as we can. Christ is the healer of our hearts and our only hope of eternal salvation. Many times the focus is on apologies and this is good in order to help with restoration, but more importantly there must be forgiveness or we are still in bondage. Apologies are empty without forgiveness. It’s the enemy of our soul (not each other) who is trying to destroy our joy, peace, and relationships.
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LIVING ON PURPOSE
Knowing when to stand and when to be silent
Each week I spend a portion of my days writing and preparing messages. I pray and seek the Lord’s voice as I strain my spiritual ear to hear the direction He is leading me. We know that thousands of men and women write and speak for audiences regularly and they enjoy it. However, when it comes to the ministry and representing God, relaying what we believe is His truth is one of the most serious assignments I can think of and is rarely comfortable. Some have been serving as a watchman on the wall for many years and are familiar with the reverence and responsibility that comes with the assignment. I spend a lot of time looking closely at the words I write as I seek wisdom and discernment before I release them and often after I have presented the message I will evaluate if I spoke what the Lord wanted me to say.
Many assume the office of the five-fold ministry is pursued by the individual because they are equipped and prepared with education or personality. This actually has very little to do with it. In reality, God does not always call the qualified, He qualifies the called as we notice with His disciples. Delivering God’s message is not a natural demonstration but is one of the most supernatural task anyone can have. It requires an imperfect vessel to yield themselves in humility, brokenness, spiritual sensitivity and most importantly a reverential fear of His holiness.
Many preachers and prophets in the Bible were reluctant to accept God’s call. Moses made excuses about stuttering, Gideon tried to disqualify himself, and Jeremiah complained about the responsibility of carrying a prophetic burden. In the case of Jonah, he was told to relay a warning from the Almighty for the city of Nineveh to repent of their sins and turn back to the Lord. Jonah did not want to deliver what he considered an unpopular message and instead bought a one-way ticket to the other side of the Mediterranean Sea. Often the man or woman who feels apprehensive and groans when called upon to share God’s word, who does not want to be there, who feels awkward, uncomfortable and inadequate is the very one that He chooses. If we attempt to serve Him in our flesh, the results are miserable, but with obedience and trust, the power and prophetic anointing of the Holy Spirit is unleashed. The apostle Paul, who was a silver-tongued Pharisee before he met Christ, was stripped of his eloquence before he preached throughout the Roman Empire and states in first Corinthians 2:3-5, “I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling, and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith would NOT rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God.”
No one is perfect except God and I have made mistakes like everyone else. Sometimes I’ve said things when I should have been silent and other times I hesitate when I need to be bold and unafraid of confrontation. It’s a big world out there and people have their own opinions about everything. I’ve learned the more general and passive I am, the fewer attacks will come my way, but if I choose to bare my soul and share my thoughts and convictions, I will need to raise my shield. We all want to be respected and loved, but if we choose to be God’s representative and witness, the world will never accept us. I’ve received my share of rejection as its just part of the territory. Everyone has the right to express their thoughts and to disagree. If we hide and refuse to stand for what we know is true, we are being ashamed of the gospel and are failing in our mission to relay God’s love and light. Remember the martyrs. Christians are called to be a gatekeeper of God’s truth and this includes never compromising in order to please others. God’s truth can set us free, but I also realize that not everyone wants to obey His demands and requirements. If you have a divine appointment from the Lord, I encourage you to conquer your fears, doubts and excuses, and willingly drink the cup of suffering that accompanies being his messenger. The question I have for myself is will I deliver His truth even if it cost me everything?
LIVING ON PURPOSE
The devil is on the end of God’s leash
For those who are followers of Jesus, I want to encourage you today. There is nothing to fear because God loves you and has promised that He will be with you forever. Have you ever seen those retractable dog leashes that extend several feet? Picture in your mind that God is out taking His dog Satan out for a walk and this allows us to understand the spirit realm. The Lord has a tight collar on the devil and He allows him to run around roaring like a lion causing all this chaos and confusion. A key point in this analogy is that we must realize that God is in total control and Satan can only do what God allows. This means the creator of all things is using him as a part of His perfect plan. So, what could possibly be God’s purpose and reason for allowing the dark side to harass and attack His people? He desires for us to trust and depend on Him completely. Have you ever considered how we would think and act if there were no temptations, dangers, or discouragements? If the world was a paradise without any problems or disappointments, we would be so busy enjoying ourselves we would never think about God. Why would we need to pray or have faith if we had everything we needed and our lives were filled with pleasure and contentment?
When we realize the meaning of this spiritual covenant, we will understand that our heavenly Father loved us with all of His heart and He desires that we love Him with all of our heart. He wants to enjoy an intimate personal relationship with us and this can only happen when come to know Him for who He is. He wants us to know today that when we are facing the storms of worry, stress, and sadness that we can run to Him and find peace and hope. Psalm 18:16 reminds us, “The name of the Lord is a strong tower; The righteous run into it and are safe.” Jesus is the only perfect sacrifice that could redeem us from sin and restore us into God’s presence. He wants us to know today there is no need to live in fear because when we are afraid this means we are not trusting Him. May we turn our anxieties into praise and excitement as we know God is perfect, He cannot fail, He is the King of kings and we will live with Him forever. We must allow our minds to be transformed from thinking that the fate of the world is anyone’s guess because this is just another deception of Satan’s agenda. It might seem that evil is winning, but we have already read the end of the story and we know there has never been a doubt as to the total dominance and control of the Alpha and the Omega. God is never surprised, and everything is going perfectly according to His plan.
You see, many people see life as a battle between good and evil and this is true when it comes to making decisions about whom we will serve. However, when we step back and comprehend the big picture, we notice there is no way that Satan can ever defeat God, and the war was never in question. Darkness can never overcome the light and as Christians we have the security of knowing we are on the winning side. Satan was defeated when he was thrown out of heaven and he will always be defeated. The devil knows his dreadful fate and that his time here on earth is limited which is why he is working as hard as he can against God’s kingdom. I was ministering in music the other night and sharing about where we need to be placing our trust. We see all the terrible things that are happening and many are saying that certain political leaders can fix all of our problems and if this or that is changed we can stop the evil and so on. Yes, we can pray but let us realize our hope is not in government or even the church, our hope is in God alone. Again, He has designed tribulations and trials to draw His people to Himself as this is the hour to repent and make sure our heart is pure. So, if you feel anxious and worried today just remember God is walking His dog walk and is the eternal master of heaven and earth.
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LIVING ON PURPOSE
Precious memories will last forever
There are different seasons in life and now in my retirement, I’m enjoying this opportunity where my daily schedule is not as demanding as it once was. I’m not saying there are not plenty of things to do, but I can plan my days instead of obligations controlling me. In this season where most everyone hopes to reach eventually, I’ve discovered that having more “me time” also allows me to think about things that maybe I would normally be too busy to ponder. As a writer, I can express this endless flow of thoughts and considerations and for that I am grateful. I usually have at least 10 articles going at the same time and when a thought comes to me, I will add it to ideas I’ve already started. I know it sounds strange, but it works for me. I rarely had the chance to contemplate when I was younger because I always had a lot to do. I would try to relax in my backyard and would usually notice some weeds that needed to be pulled or a fence plank that could use an extra nail and before I knew it I was up and working again. I’m finally coming to a place where my internal peace is more important than digging up a dandelion.
I am sitting here in my office writing today and I see it is 3:00 in the afternoon and I’ve not even thought about lunch. This is not unusual as some days in the winter I will write until 7 or 8 in the evening and then join my wife for one of our ministry programs or survival reality shows. She is also retired and stays perfectly content during the day with cooking, gardening, Bible study, and watching her YouTube videos about people who are trying to live off the grid. We are satisfied to have our own quiet space which keeps us from driving each other crazy. For those of you who are not retired yet, these are important issues you will also learn to adapt and deal with. This morning as I was deep in thought about the significance of John 3:16, for some reason I started thinking about my dad. There is no actual connection with this but my mind just drifted off to a time long ago and I was reminded how much I miss him. He was a great father and I often wonder how his life and our family’s lives would have been different if he had not spent the second half of his journey battling a devastating kidney disease and being on dialysis. It just seems he was so focused on staying alive that he forgot how to live.
Our past is filled with memories, and the good ones are precious. I remember the times when my dad and I would go fishing and mom would pack us lunch in an old picnic basket. We would be out on the lake and I can still recall all these years later the calm water, the sun shining, and a light summer breeze. It was so much fun to see who could catch the most and the largest fish. These were special times where it seemed that he and I stepped out of the normal world of daily routines and into a personal realm that only we shared. He would get excited with childlike joy and these moments I store in a secret chamber within the corridors of my mind. When I grew up, I started my own family and then he became very sick. Not only did I not have the time to go places with him, but he also did not feel like doing anything. As the years went by his condition deteriorated and in 2016 he went to be with the Lord. I believe the enthusiasm and compassion he had in this life cannot compare to the happiness he enjoys today. Of course, I am sad he is not here, but at the same time, I rejoice with him in knowing that all is well and I will see him again. I also think about my children and now that I have the time to do things with them, they are busy with families of their own. I encourage you today whether you are a parent or a child, to take the time and spend some special moments with each other. These are the precious memories that will last forever.
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LIVING ON PURPOSE
Our blueprint, compass, and instruction manual
When it comes to finding our place in this world, let’s consider two categories. The first one let’s call, floating down the river. Imagine someone napping in a small boat without a compass or a paddle and not caring about where they are going. Having a spectator mentality, they have no map or intentional direction but rather are just hoping for the best. It’s also common for these individuals to throw pity parties from time to time, as their happy-go-lucky lifestyle includes serious disappointments. Often haunted with thoughts of being left behind, they are caught in a vicious cycle of confusion and discouragement. As a Christian counselor, I’ve had conversations with those who are stuck in this drifting mindset and certainly have compassion for them, but we all have to do our share of searching and praying. No doubt it’s extremely difficult to know our calling, but it does not help the situation by living in denial and blaming everyone else for our problems.
It’s always scary to move out of our comfort zone and face reality because sometimes life can seem like a huge mountain that’s impossible to climb. If you’ve ever tried to help someone find their destiny, you understand when I say we cannot force anyone to do anything, and neither can we help those who are not willing to help themselves. In every area of life, those who desire a healthy state of being must see the truth about their circumstances and be willing to do something about it. Since God’s character and nature are based on divine order, we can agree there are no mandates or divine commissions for drifting aimlessly through life. The good news is that God is patiently waiting to help us whenever our passion to change becomes stronger than our excuses.
The second category includes those who realize that life is to be lived with a specific purpose. I believe that having Jesus Christ as the commander of our life is the meaning and reason for everything we do. As the author and finisher of our faith, God’s word reminds us that He’s drawn a specific one-of-a-kind blueprint for everyone’s life according to His perfect plans. It’s true, He rarely writes for example, “John Smith will be a plumber” on the wall, but the basic concept of the Christian life is to become aware of our calling and determined to accomplish it. This spiritual reality encourages and motivates us, but another aspect of this challenge is to realize we have certain conditions and responsibilities on our part in order for this vision to be manifested. It will require surrendering our will to Him. You see, with God being the Potter and us being the clay, it’s critical to accept the fact that we do not conveniently ask God to bless the dreams and ambitions of our own making, but rather we allow Him to transform us into what He wants us to be. Yes, it’s painful to yield control, however, this must happen if we want to have a genuine relationship with our maker. He desires to be more than a Savior, He demands to be our Lord.
Transforming our mind is not easy and anyone who advertises how wonderful it is to sacrifice, suffer and be uncomfortable, probably has a degree in marketing. There’s nothing wrong with learning how others have accomplished their goals, but even if we become experts on personal change, this does not automatically mean we will. Besides, beyond the motivational seminars and the achievement formulas that are available, like we said before, you are a unique individual and God has arranged a special path for you to take. Allow me to include, there is also no substitute for prayer and perseverance if we are to become all that Jesus died for us to be. Christians that have experienced even a modest amount of success had to not only discover their spiritual blueprint but demonstrated the value of hard work. Obedience requires faith and determination, but without allowing God to build us His way along with our complete cooperation, we will most likely never fulfill our true destiny. May we remember, the story of our life is being written and if we choose to follow God’s plans, we are already on the road to pleasing Him and will never be disappointed or ashamed.
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LIVING ON PURPOSE
At his voice, the storm became a whisper
I spend a lot of time writing, and I try to present a balance of optimism and reality. This is becoming more difficult as we are constantly bombarded with so many things we do not understand. Even more disturbing is to consider how much negativity is going on that we are not aware of. I’m not implying that we anticipate evil behind every bush or under every rock, but my convictions accept our need to pray for spiritual discernment. I’ve had conversations with individuals who believe that more information is depressing and brings them into a higher level of anxiety. I understand. The idea of knowing less is an attitude that many are choosing to embrace for the sake of their health and well-being. As a minister, I certainly do not want to add more burdens to the worries and concerns we already struggle with, but learning how to process and manage our thoughts is a key to walking in a stronger faith. Whether we decide to face it or not, we are in a deadly spiritual war and God’s people are called to be His front-line soldiers.
We’ve all had our share of disappointments and it’s painful, to say the least. Personal problems with finances, health issues, and stressful relationships take a heavy toll on us. Many try to escape from the suffering with temporary distractions but they are just instruments of denial. We can hide behind our fantasies and pleasures for a while but eventually, we are forced to return to the reality of our situation. The good news is these cycles can be broken when the desire to be set free becomes greater than the desire to stay on the emotional merry-go-round. So, how can we overcome and claim victory? The first step to walking in the peace that passes all understanding is to make sure our relationship with Christ is where it should be. Each person lives on a unique spiritual level when it comes to being in love with Jesus and I pray that all will come to know God while there is an open window of His grace. If we ask Him to save us He will, and if we are saved we can repent and be restored into a glorious fellowship with Him. “For he says, in the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you. I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation” II Corinthians 6:2.
I’m not trying to be a bearer of gloom, but I believe many things are coming that will be very disturbing. Sadly, there has been much deception and we have only seen the tip of the iceberg. The more truth that is revealed the more we need to be careful about who we trust. We are told in II Timothy chapter 4 there are seducing spirits and doctrines of devils that are attempting to sear our conscience like a hot iron. Matthew chapter 24 warns us about false prophets and how sin will increase and love will decrease. Luke chapter 21 also mentions shocking events that will come upon the earth and how people’s hearts will fail them from fear. We look around today and ask ourselves; what did we think the end times would look like? Listen, my brothers and sisters, the perfect love that cast out fear is centered in our passionate love for God. How can we love God with all of our hearts if we do not know Him? When we truly know Him, we can place our trust in Him completely and will be able in His strength to endure whatever happens.
I encourage you today to invest more time with God. We can be as close to Him as we want. Turn your attention away from the voices of chaos and confusion and allow Him to prepare your heart and renew your mind with His thoughts. In our search for truth, remember He is the way, the truth, and the life. May we allow His personal instructions to bring protection, wisdom, purity, hope, and encouragement into our lives so that we can abide in the peace and joy of knowing that all is well with our soul. “Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble, and he brought them out of their distress. He stilled the storm to a whisper; the waves of the sea were hushed” Psalm 107:28-29.
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LIVING ON PURPOSE
Learning to see as God sees
The life of David in the Bible is one of the more popular stories in the Christian faith. Of all the individuals other than Christ, I would guess there have been more messages about him than any other character within the word of God. I want to share how there is a huge difference between the way we observe and judge with our natural senses and the way God discerns everything through His perfect spiritual wisdom. We begin our story in I Samuel where Samuel is a powerful prophet and is told by the Lord to select a new king to replace Saul who had disappointed God. There was a man named Jesse who had eight sons and God told Samuel that one of Jesse’s sons would be the new king and to listen carefully to God’s voice. When Samuel looked upon the oldest son Eliab, he reasoned within himself that surely this is the one whom God would want. Eliab was physically strong and impressive, and the passage also mentions that he was very tall. However, the Lord warned Samuel against being emotionally persuaded by stature for God does not see as man sees. “For man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart” I Samuel 16:7.
Jesse called seven of his sons and had each one stand before Samuel, but the Lord rejected them. Samuel asked if there were any other sons and Jesse said there was the youngest boy, and he was out herding the sheep. Samuel said that he needed to see him immediately. When David stood before Samuel, he was just a teenager, and the Bible implies he had a beautiful countenance and was a very handsome young man. The Lord instructed Samuel to anoint David with oil, for he was the one. Even though David was not officially pronounced king until a couple of years later, we realize God was planning ahead and desired that Israel would have a leader who would love Him and obey His voice.
Notice that David was out taking care of the sheep and the isolation of being alone with God is where he developed a personal relationship with Him. Acts chapter 13 says that God found David to be a man after His own heart and who shall fulfill His will. Being powerful in God’s kingdom has everything to do with how passionate we are about doing what He says. We can look impressive in the world of religion, but this is not what God is looking for. Becoming more like Christ means we abandon our plans and ideas and surrender our will to Him. We must develop our spiritual sensitivity to where we understand that God’s true vessels of honor are not always the ones, we would consider giants in the faith. Speaking of giants, let us continue to realize that things are not the way they seem. In chapter 17 we read where the armies of Israel and Philistine were camped on different mountains and were preparing for war. The Philistines had a champion warrior called Goliath who would step forward each day and dare any man of the opposing army to come and fight him. He stated that if he won the fight, Israel would have to bow down and serve the Philistines, but if they defeated him, the Philistines would surrender. The soldiers of Israel were terrified of this giant as the Bible declares he was nearly 10 feet tall and was amazingly strong.
One day David was bringing food and supplies to his older brothers who were soldiers, and he heard Goliath make his fierce challenge as he mocked and laughed. David was shocked to see how everyone was afraid and he spoke boldly saying that he would fight as this battle was the Lord’s and He will surely deliver this giant into their hands. The soldiers were looking at David as a kid who did not know what he was talking about and scolded him and told him to go home. Our point continues that we must never judge a situation by what it looks like in the natural. As we all know, David finally convinced Saul to let him face the giant, and the rest is history. Notice how Samuel looked to human stature, Saul and his army saw themselves defeated against Goliath, and Goliath underestimated David. Everyone in this story trusted their natural reasoning except David who could see through the eyes of God. In your spiritual warfare today, what do you see?
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LIVING ON PURPOSE
Forever an optimist in an imperfect world
I watch my little grandson who is almost 3-years-old, and it’s amazing how fast he is learning about life. He’s happy when he has his way, but when he’s told no or stop, he bows his head and sticks out his lower lip. How many of us are like this? Ha! All of us! I often think about the many situations and experiences this little fellow will face in his journey and how he will eventually learn there is more to life than watching cartoons and playing with toys. There will be times when he will need an anchor for his soul like all of us and I pray His hope will be in Christ. The Bible declares Jesus is the way the truth and the life but He never promised this would be a perfect world. First Corinthians 13:11 says, “When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became an adult, I put away childish things.” The context reveals that in this temporary life it’s difficult to understand the spiritual realm but one day we will see God face to face and know as we are known.
God’s plan is for all of us is to not only grow up physically but to mature emotionally and spiritually in Him. I’ve been through some hard times but have also enjoyed many blessings and I’ve learned that we can either be bitter or better. What I mean is that within our ups and downs we always have the choice to be negative and give up, or we can be positive and filled with faith even when our sky is dark and dreary. Optimism is contagious and is a personal decision to embrace hope and to reject all that teaches otherwise. No one ever damaged their eyesight looking on the bright side. When we discover that God can be the center of all we are and everything we do, we can live in the joy and peace that passes all understanding. Choosing to see our glass half full instead of half empty helps us to stand boldly with an unwavering expectation that our loving God is working behind the scenes in every situation for our good. Positive thinking is choosing to live above negativity and despair. This confidence includes knowing the Lord loves us and is always watching over us.
Like most of you, I desire to be informed about what is going on in the world. I listen to many sources of news and then I’m faced with trying to sort out what is true from opinions and speculation. When it comes to theology and spiritual prophecy, there is much disagreement there as well. Some say the future is going to get better and evil will be exposed, while others believe the world will continue growing worse until Christ returns. Whatever your convictions and views, I just want to encourage you today and remind you that no matter what happens from here forward, God is never surprised or worried. The Almighty’s desires will be fulfilled exactly as He planned and nothing can change them. Yes, there is an enemy that can attack us with anxiety and fear, but Deuteronomy 20:3-4 gives us this promise, “Let not your hearts faint, fear not, and do not tremble, neither be ye terrified for the Lord your God is He that goes with you, to fight for you against your enemies, to save you.” Exodus 14:14 also declares that He will fight for us and protect us. When we know that it’s impossible for God to fail, we are filled with trust and security.
Followers of Christ are not optimistic because they trust in man’s abilities to solve the world’s problems, or hope that somehow everything is going to turn out alright. We are optimistic simply because we believe that God is who He says He is. When we observe circumstances without including God we base our thoughts on fear which is pessimistic. However, true faith is seeing circumstances through the eyes of God. My contribution is to help edify the body of Christ and I invite you to visit my website where you will find Christian articles, songs, and videos to encourage, inspire and motivate your mind and spirit. I am blessed by all of you who read this column and stirred by your commitment to God, your willingness to serve, and your excitement to follow Him.
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LIVING ON PURPOSE
How much does God love you?
As our spiritual values become more centered on God, it’s normal to start looking forward to our eternal existence. For those who are in Christ, how exciting it is to know that our heavenly Father and His Son Jesus, our loved ones, our new name, our glorified body, inheritance, citizenship, and crowns and rewards are all a part of our glorious future. We are briefly passing through this world and the only thing we will take with us when we depart is an account of how we lived and loved. How wonderful to know that heaven will be filled with endless praise, everlasting joy, perfect peace, and contentment without darkness, suffering, worries, or sorrow. It’s true that God loves everyone, but we will not enter heaven just because we are good or deserve it. We are given eternal life when we repent, confess, believe, and accept by faith that within God’s grace, the blood of Jesus is the only price that can pay the ransom for our sins. Redemption is all about God’s plan that was accomplished on the cross. Listen to these lyrics from the song, East to the West by Casting Crowns,“In the arms of your mercy, I find rest… You know just how far the east is from the west… from one scarred hand to the other.”
I cannot imagine a more optimistic and exciting thought than going to heaven and spending an eternity in God’s presence. For the Christian, this promise should be a wellspring of joy reminding us that our trials cannot be compared to the glory that awaits us. May we tape this to our bathroom mirror to remind us every morning of how God’s amazing grace provided a way for us to live with Him forever. The fundamentals of our salvation can be basically described as God’s love intervened as a rescue mission of mercy in order to save those who were hopelessly lost. I Peter 1:3-4 promises, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born-again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you.”
Our busy schedule is filled with distractions and for most of us, it’s exhausting to keep up. As our daily routines weigh us down with stress and frustration, it’s important to be aware of a much higher reality. If we only consider eternity when we attend funerals, we are missing a vital component of our relationship with God that can keep us excited and rejuvenated with His joy and hope. I’m giving the eulogy for my Aunt this week, and it’s truly going to be a celebration as we rejoice that her eternal life is just beginning. She loved the Lord and always said that spending time alone with Him was never intended to be a last resort but rather a daily privilege. She was always happy and loved to laugh. She had her share of struggles, but we can live in a positive state of mind and stand strong in our faith no matter what trials we are going through as Titus 2:13 reminds us, “Looking for that blessed hope and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ.”
Do you have a happy place when facing a crisis? In Psalm chapter 91, there is actually a secret place under the shadow of the Almighty where we can be filled with His peace and safety. This awareness of His presence is a state of mind that can be attained for those who enjoy having a personal relationship with Him. God desires to abide in the conscience of His children and this, in turn, allows Him to be our Lord and King. Being attentive to His voice will not come without serious determination. He must be our highest priority or the distractions of this life will slowly turn our eyes away from His promises. Many do not realize that as Christians our allegiance is to King Jesus and our citizenship has been transferred from this world to the spiritual reality of His glorious eternal kingdom. The concept of abandoning our independence has everything to do with trusting His plans for our lives. How much does God love you? How far is the East from the West?
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LIVING ON PURPOSE
Being less critical and more forgiving
There is nothing wrong with gaining earthly knowledge until it becomes more important and trustworthy than God’s will. In this life, arrogance and selfishness is the result of our fallen and depraved nature. The carnal mind controls our conscience until it is renewed through the power of the Holy Spirit. God commands that we not be conformed to the world, but to be transformed. This happens when our original spirit is changed into a new spirit which allows us to see everything the way God sees it. This is called being born again and is a gift of salvation from the one who loves us and wants to give us eternal life.
Every Christian will face spiritual warfare and we must become determined to never compromise God’s truth. We can share our convictions but since each person has free will, only God can change a heart. Instead of trying to tell everyone else how to live, maybe we should spend more time examining our hearts. We learn many things throughout our lives, but not everything we believe is true. Most of our information comes from what others have told us, and the rest from what we’ve learned through the failures and triumphs of personal experiences. The more I research, the more I discover the world is filled with deception and things are not always what they seem. I just want to make sure that my views are not distorted. Some people do not care about right and wrong as long as they have what they need to survive. Asking God for discernment also applies to family and friends and how we have formed destructive thoughts about them. It makes the situation even worse when we gossip and share our stories with others.
We have all done things good and bad that people will associate with our character. Unfortunately, many times we have also been guilty of wrongly misjudging people. Maybe we observed someone in a weak moment or heard a story about them that was skewed which caused us to form our opinions in error. Yes, we indeed need to watch how we act and what we say, as we remember not to form our views about an individual based on a few glimpses of their actions. Jesus calls for us to forgive everyone and have more understanding and compassion because we all have our times of weakness and make a lot of mistakes. How many times have we acted ugly and given someone a bad first impression of us? The consequences we all must be accountable for is that even when we ask God to help us forgive, it is nearly impossible to forget.
We are quick to make our case when someone offends us and wanting revenge is common. Many are more than willing to discard a relationship and in some cases even if it’s nothing more than a rumor. We seldom consider that as we are burning bridges, others are doing the same to us. The wounded soul must be repaired like a fractured bone. We cannot proceed in our inner healing without spiritual realignment and as God heals us we must also forgive ourselves. Everyone is born needing to be rescued from sin and the blood of Jesus is the only ransom. Until we receive God’s love and forgiveness, we are unable to know the true meaning and purpose of life. God is truth and the only way for us to know God’s truth is to know Him. I have seen many who have everything life can offer and yet are miserable because they did not have the presence of Jesus dwelling within their heart and mind.
As adults, we are convinced we can handle our negative emotions. We learn to hide the pain as we try to heal ourselves and manage our hatred for all the bad things we have experienced. The agony of enduring the daily grind can twist in knots and is not a place of joy or contentment. It’s heartbreaking to know that many individuals live as a prisoner because they refuse to forgive. Bitterness can take root within the heart and cause us to be incarcerated with misery and depression. However, there is good news when we accept the love of Jesus as the key to genuine peace and happiness. We are reminded in John 8:31-32, where Jesus said, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
This is an excerpt from Dr. Holland’s new book, “Receiving our healing.” To learn more visit billyhollandministries.com
LIVING ON PURPOSE
The turning point of World War II
Every year in early June, we observe the anniversary of the Normandy invasion of World War II commonly called D-day. By the way, the “D” simply stands for whatever day a military assault is planned. For example; D-3 meant three days before a D-Day, while D+7 meant seven days after a D-Day. On June 6th, 1944, America and its allies engaged in one of the most significant military operations of the 20th century. I have personally suffered loss from war and have a deep appreciation for the service and sacrifice that men and women give to protect our country. My mother’s youngest brother, Kenny Maye was killed in Korea and I have his dog tag, casket flag, and a rare picture of him. He was only 20 years old in 1950. Sadly, his existence is nearly unknown and I often wonder about the life he could have had. For everyone that has sacrificed for this great nation, thank you for your service.
I live a couple of miles from a National military cemetery and from the highway, you can see many of the over twelve thousand perfectly lined white marble tombstones. I admit I’ve often driven past without hardly thinking about how each of these individuals at one time or another accepted the call of duty. And what is that call? To defend and protect our freedom whatever the cost! These brave soldiers were willing to give their life for their country and I cannot help but wonder how many of us have convictions that strong? The First Amendment was not only signed into existence with ink but with the blood of over 1.1 million Americans that have died in US wars along with even more that have suffered from physical and mental difficulties. The privilege and freedom we have to share what is on our mind are liberties that have come at a great price and we should always remember the cost of this blessing.
As a volunteer chaplain for a Veteran health care facility, I have the opportunity and honor to sit and talk with many fine men and women that have served in our nation’s military. The second world war veterans who are still alive are now in their eighties and nineties and I believe it’s important to not only record and preserve their amazing war stories but to sincerely listen and respect who they are as individuals. One of these residents is a man named Edward Hicks who willingly stepped forward when his country needed him the most. He was only 22 years old and had just married his lovely bride Mary Lou 4 months earlier. He received the call to join the front-line and bravely responded to what would be known around the world as “Operation Overlord.” The American soldiers knew the difference between right and wrong and they refused to allow a world in which wrong prevailed.
Edward and his company were assigned to six miles of beach that was code-named “Omaha” which has been recorded as one of the bloodiest first wave battles of Normandy. Only 600 men survived out of 2600 that came ashore. He recalls when he jumped out of the amphibious vehicle, how the water was up to his neck and icy cold. With being loaded down with full gear that was now water-logged, he said it was very difficult to keep from drowning. As bullets were splashing the water and whizzing past his head, all he knew to do was to stay as low as possible. Using floating bodies as shields, he was numb with fear. As he slowly crawled upon the sand, he immediately began to dig a hole where he could partially avoid the onslaught of constant machine gunfire. Somehow throughout the day and thankfully with the Germans running out of ammunition, the small group managed to slowly make their way inland, and went on to accomplish the mission. Edward received several medals for bravery including a silver star and 4 bronze stars but there is much more to being a hero than human fortitude and earning awards. It is recognizing the depth of spiritual love. The love that Jesus demonstrated on the cross is the type of compassion that inspires individuals to love and protect others as much as they love themselves. John 15:13 reminds us that, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”
LIVING ON PURPOSE
I am the God that healeth thee
Can God heal us? Of course! We do not need to speculate or wonder about His ability to provide miracles and bring restoration even in the most difficult situations. Jeremiah 17:14 says, “Heal me, O Lord, and I shall be healed. Save me, and I shall be saved: for Thou art my praise.” Whatever the case, we can believe and know with all of our heart that our heavenly Father desires to help us in our time of need whatever it might be, and yet, we look around and notice that many have not received their answer. When we begin to investigate the realm of healing and miracles, it does not take long to discover this is a complicated subject that includes conditions that must be taken into consideration. I realize that some people do not believe in the blood covenant of Christ or the gifts of the Spirit found in I Corinthians chapter 12 or that Jesus is still providing miracles today, but what are we to do with verses like Mark 16:17-18, and James 5:14-15 just to name a few? Old and New Testament scriptures such as these are relevant the same as every command and requirement within the Christian faith.
God’s word is a light unto your path and a lamp unto your feet. Our Lord Jesus wants us to follow Him without stress and anxiety and to trust that He is in control. Our existence is not an accident or the result of a random chance but rather our life is a deliberate act of intensive planning and divine order by the one who created us. God has known you before the foundation of the world and considers you one of His priceless possessions. He is not going to design us in His image and then abandon us, but rather the Bible promises in Philippians 1:6, “And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” Yes, we do have responsibilities and there are certain conditions, but as we rest in the palm of His hand, His peace covers us like a soft and warm blanket. To the children of Israel, it was the mighty Egyptians who were holding them in bondage, to David it was an intimidating giant that was trying to destroy him, and with us, it might be a negative test result that has paralyzed us with fear. Whatever we are facing today, we like all the others who have gone before us can choose to shout from the housetops, “What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?” Romans 8:31.
The purpose and meaning of life are knowing and loving God as our journey is an opportunity to experience an exciting adventure with the Holy Spirit as our guide. The key to being filled with His contentment is to hold tightly to His hand, and when our path becomes steep and treacherous, we must be willing to believe that God is who He says He is, and to know without a shadow of a doubt that He will help us and keep us safe as we continue climbing higher with Him. When you come to a resting place, breathe deeply, embrace the moment, and be refreshed in the glory and beauty of His presence. If we are to know God, we must spend time with Him, How can we love someone we do not know? We must know before we can trust.
Let us accept the call to respond to His voice, to love Him with all of our heart, mind, and strength. Let us honor Him, and in faith, we will press forward in His name one step at a time. There is much that I do not know, but He promised to heal His people. If not in this life, we will be healed with a brand-new body in the resurrection and we are promised that we will continue to live in perfect health with Him forever. May we receive encouragement from the words of this beautiful hymn, “God moves in a mysterious way” written by William Cowper in 1773. “God moves in a mysterious way His wonders to perform; He plants his footsteps in the sea, and rides upon the storm. Blind unbelief is sure to err, and scan his work in vain: God is His own interpreter, and he will make it plain.”
This is an excerpt from Dr. Holland’s new book, “Receiving our healing.” To learn more visit billyhollandministries.com
LIVING ON PURPOSE
An attitude of gratitude leads to contentment
Over a 12-year span at UCLA, American college basketball coach John Wooden won ten National Championships and their total of 11 remains a record today. Wooden is regarded as one of the most successful coaches in sports history, and more importantly an even greater person. He was a man of integrity and character and was highly respected on and off the court. He believed in discipline and felt strongly about teamwork and demonstrating appreciation for those around him. This attitude of being outwardly gracious became the foundation of his coaching philosophy and played a huge part in his team’s accomplishments.
Wooden taught that each time a player scored, they were to congratulate whoever helped make the play. At first, this seemed sissy and awkward to the arrogant players, but the coach explained that even the slightest gesture of recognition would encourage the individual and create a stronger unity within the entire team. This awareness is now openly seen in every sport with high-fives and the various gestures of open acknowledgment. This reminds us of how powerful our attitude can be as it has the potential to motivate or deflate those around us. Inspiring words can build self-esteem, confidence, and hope but they only have a chance to be effective when they are released. Imagine what a difference we could make by simply developing a determination to show our gratitude and be an inspiration to everyone we meet.
I once heard a story about a man who dreamed he was in a beautiful palace and was escorted into a huge and elegant dining room. The man noticed an enormous round table with bowls of delicious food in the middle and sitting around the table were people who were holding spoons that were three feet long. These individuals looked like skeletons and were starving. The spoons were long enough to reach the food but too long to put the food in their mouths. In anger and frustration, they kept trying desperately to feed themselves and it was truly a pitiful sight. Then, he was taken to another dining room where saw a similar table and likewise the mouth-watering bowls of food in the center. These people also were using the extremely long spoons except, they were all glowing with health and vitality. The room was filled with light and laughter and everyone was having such a wonderful time and then he noticed the difference. With joy and compassion, they were using the spoons to feed one another.
May we always be kind and remember that everyone we meet is fighting a battle. As we choose to speak hope to the disheartened and offer a helping hand to those who are struggling, we can bring comfort to those who feel discouraged. Relaying a kind word is easy, yet to someone who could use a pick-me-up, these small acts of empathy can make a huge difference. It would be wonderful to relay to our family and friends, and especially our spouse how grateful we are for them. As a light in this world, we have the opportunity to develop a habit of recognizing the contributions of those around us and express how proud we are of their accomplishments if we desire. Fred Van Amburgh is quoted as saying, “None is more impoverished than the one who has no gratitude. Gratitude is a currency that we can mint for ourselves, and spend without fear of bankruptcy.” Every day we decide to listen to God’s voice and obey His instructions or ignore Him and live selfishly. Only our attitude is preventing us from being respectful, appreciative, encouraging, and generous. The choice is ours.
You have unlimited potential. God has drawn an amazing blueprint for your future and longs to help you succeed. You are unique, a one-of-a-kind masterpiece that He adores more than anything in the universe. He is aware of your situation and is working behind the scenes on your behalf. Jesus not only said He loved you, but He also suffered and died on the cross to prove it! You were created and called to bring hope into the world and as you reach out to help others, this gives Him honor and glory. We show our gratitude to the Lord when we worship and praise Him. We show how much we love Him with our obedience. Never give up on your dreams, and be encouraged to know that since God is for you – who can be against you?
For information about Dr. Holland’s new book, “Receiving our Healing” visit billyhollandministries.com
LIVING ON PURPOSE
The way we live is our message
I was raised going to church like many of you and fell into the habit of thinking that an hour on Sunday was fulfilling my duty and earning points with God. What I did not understand until I grew older, was that going to church does make us a Christian, but we go because we are a Christian. It’s good to assemble with other believers to worship the Lord and receive His instructions about how to live because we love Him, not as an intelligent idea that somehow we can earn our way to heaven. I’ve been born again now for nearly 50 years and with God’s mercy, I’ve learned a few things along the way. When I become distracted and start thinking about worldly things or my selfish desires, it does not take very long for me to become spiritually lukewarm. How long does this take, a few weeks? No, it can happen in minutes. Sometimes I’m attacked with aggravations and conflicts or even certain television programs, movies, images, and worldly music can negatively influence my attitude and pull me away from focusing on Jesus rather quickly.
If we as Christians could only develop a constant awareness of God’s presence, we would be able to recognize spiritual warfare more clearly. I must include the reality of concentrating on God is a learned lifestyle and does not just happen naturally. This lack of self-discipline explains how carnality can rule our emotions so easily. It’s worth considering that many who believe it’s normal to only meet with God for an hour each week in church have missed the point of salvation. For example, a wife does not only talk and interact with her husband for a few minutes once a week but rather both spouses are constantly communicating in their love relationship. This is the same type of spiritual intimacy that Christ wants to have with His bride. When we hear the gospel and become convicted to surrender our life to Jesus, we have the opportunity to accept His marriage proposal. When we say yes, we have committed our heart to love, serve and obey Him as our Lord and Savior.
So how can a Christian live a victorious life that is pleasing to God? Surrendering our will to Him allows His nature and character to be seen in us. Matthew chapter five talks about us being like salt which is metaphorically to signify permanence, loyalty, durability, and purification. As Christians receive the grace of God through the sacrifice of Jesus, our words and even more importantly graciousness and a life-giving spirit should mark our behavior. Verse 16 says, “Let your light so shine before everyone, and that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” There is a story about a monk named St. Francis of Assisi and one day he told a young man who had just entered the ministry, “Let’s go to town and preach God’s message.” He put on a coarse wool tunic and they started walking toward town. They did not speak on the way and neither did they converse with anyone as they passed by or in the marketplace. After walking through the town in silence, they headed back the same way they had come and returned home. The younger man was very curious as to what had just happened and after waiting into the evening, he finally broke the silence, “Francis, I thought you said we were going to town to preach the gospel?” Francis replied, “We did! As we walked, we were observed; people watched our manners, gestures, expressions, our behavior, our appearance, and all of this contributed to the impression we made.” Of course, we know the explanation of the gospel of Christ is proclaimed through words, but the idea is to practice what we preach. In this context, the way we live is our message.
It is hardly a popular thought but the priorities we place on being like Christ are constantly being made known whether we recognize it or not. Fervent prayer and daily repentance allow our mind and heart to be purified as we maintain a close relationship with Him. We do not lack a quantity of those who profess to be a Christian, but sadly many are not demonstrating the lifestyle of someone who has taken a covenant oath of obedience and has made a holy vow to be a reflection of the character of Christ.
Read more about the Christian life at billyhollandministries
LIVING ON PURPOSE
The relentless compassion of God
I notice when talking with certain people about Christian living, it’s common for them to lose eye contact as they start searching for a way to change the subject. Actually, this is perfectly understandable. Why? Because if someone, even if they are somewhat religious has never given their heart to Jesus Christ or made the commitment to follow him, they feel uncomfortable thinking and talking about it. Our natural mind and the Spirit of the Lord are like oil and water as the old nature wants nothing to do with being held accountable or surrendering our will to anyone, especially to God. Conviction from the Holy Spirit is a sense of guilt and remorse that graciously reminds us we are heading down the wrong path and of our need for God and His forgiveness. God’s word is the truth that can set us free and is the means which he has chosen for gathering the lost to himself.
The average non-Christian does not mind listening to a Bible story, and might even enjoy a cute Christmas play where the children dress up and re-enact the account of when baby Jesus was born but when the subject turns to abandoning and yielding our will to the King of glory, this is when they head for the door. We know there is quite a bit of religious activity around because churches are everywhere, but our personal relationship with Jesus is what life is really about. It’s good to attend church, but sitting in a church service does not necessarily mean someone is committed to Christ. We do not like to admit this but it’s much easier to custom design our association with God instead of surrendering our control and allowing the Lord to change us into his image. We, humans, are experts with deception and denial which explains why many live in a world that is affiliated with a form of religion without the responsibility of doing what He says. Matthew 15:8 puts it this way, “These people draw near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.”
The plan of salvation is for Jesus to rescue us from a depraved and hopeless existence. Every human is born lost in their sin because when Adam and Eve disobeyed in the garden mankind became spiritually separated from God. There was only one way that anyone could be saved from spending a miserable life on earth and most importantly suffering forever in the next life and that was to be redeemed and ransomed. The only payment that has the power and authority to save us was the blood of a perfect lamb and this sacrifice was Jesus Christ – The Lamb of God. We can now understand why this gospel is called the good news. It’s the greatest love story of all time that describes how Jesus willingly embraced the cross, was crucified, tortured, suffered, died, and rose from the dead. His infinite love for you and I provide the invitation for us to accept his amazing grace so that we can be born again and live with him forever. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life” John 3:16. As we call upon him to save us, he transforms our lost spiritual condition into a brand new spirit so we can become a member of His family and live in heaven after this life. If you choose him to be your Lord and repent of your sins, he promises that he will save you.
Godly sorrow and repentance are major pillars of this transition along with an ongoing awareness of His presence. If we truly ask Jesus to forgive us, he will hear our cry. All we have to offer Him is our heart which is exactly all he has ever wanted. This is the deepest part of our free will that makes every decision right or wrong and the very place we have been called to give Him total control. When our old spirit is replaced by our new spirit, there is an agreement, a holy covenant vow to God where we pledge to serve and follow him as the Lord of our life which means we are no longer living according to our desires but instead we are agreeing for Christ to be our personal Lord and King.
Learn more about the Christian life at: billyhollandministries.com
LIVING ON PURPOSE
HOT SAUCE SPIRITUALITY
It’s easy to find people who can express their opinions about the Bible while at the same time having a tight grip on the amount of their will they surrender to God. Sound familiar? In a controlled environment and at a comfortable distance many live their lives keeping God in a box and only letting Him out when they want something or have a crisis. I can write from my own experiences as I’ve lived much of my life this way. It’s only after spending years researching about the war between our carnality and God’s Spirit, have I been graciously given a glimpse of the difference between Christianity and religiosity. We could say that being a disciple of Jesus Christ is accepting God to be our master, but religion is attempting to be the master of God. Instead of trying to create our concept of the way we hope He is, it would be wise to embrace Him the way He really is.
Included within the blessings of being human, we’ve been given what is called free will. This means each of us has the opportunity to believe whatever we want. The one who created us does not force us to love or serve Him however, He does convict and draws people to Himself but ultimately it’s up to the individual to choose whom they will serve. Some might respond and say they serve no one, but in reality, they are still serving themselves. For those who proclaim to be Christians, we are reminded that we have just as much God as we want which again is controlled by our will. We have the invitation and freedom to decide how serious we are and where to draw the line in our commitment to follow Christ. Let’s say that all we regard as important in this life is like a plate of food and religion squirts two drops of hot sauce which represents God into the mix and then we justify it all as being satisfactorily flavored. This might be alright on our enchilada but Jesus did not die on the cross to be a part of our life, He wants to be our entire life! We are not to add God to how we are already living but to be transformed and build our lives around Him. This is the hour where followers of Christ need to examine where God is on their priority list. Religion talks about taking up their cross, but being an overcomer for Jesus carries it.
Building our relationship with God uses some of the same principles as building the mind and the body. We study to build the mind and to build the body we begin with light weights and after regular workouts; we increase the resistance to become stronger. Those who are legitimately interested in sacrifice and self-discipline have come to a point in their vision and determination where they cannot be stopped. Likewise, Christians have plenty of chances to advance in their spirituality as we are constantly being tested with difficult situations and opportunities to display God’s nature and character. God’s idea is for us to comprehend and succeed in the less difficult situations before we move on to more complicated responsibilities. Our covenant vow within our salvation is more than just a membership or a worldview but rather a life that is hidden in the heart of God. The question is how devoted are we to develop this needed level of spiritual awareness?
Believing we can live however we want and that God accepts that it is perfectly fine is a popular subject. However, this is a form of intentional deception and denial where the mind allows us to imagine that our behavior has nothing to do with eternity, completely nullifies the purpose of having a God at all. We will never rise above our carnality and disobedience until we learn that our mind and free will must be united together in their dedication to God. Without this decision to be consumed with Him, we will never be under His control. Knowing what we should do without surrendering our will to God’s will is why many live in a cycle of defeat and disappointment. If we believe in a divine creator who wrote the Bible, we know His intention is for us to love and worship Him in Spirit and in truth. Luke 6:46 is a sobering reminder that if we do not follow and obey what He says He is not our Lord.
Read more about the Christian life at billyhollandministries.com
LIVING ON PURPOSE
Being happy never grows old
I remember as a kid how the days seemed so long. In the Summer after breakfast, I would shoot basketball until the sun became too hot, and then I would ride my bike to cool off. Our neighbors had five children and we would play kickball until it was too dark to see. Life was fun, and I was always excited to do it all over again the next day. I can still recall the simple joys of running through clover as fast as I could for no reason except to feel the wind on my face. I made sure to wear shoes because being stung by a honeybee was not pleasant. I loved to lie down on our picnic table in the backyard and watch the clouds pass by. It was interesting to see them transform into amazing images that looked so real and always wondered if anyone else was noticing this awesome display. On those lazy summer days when the temperature would soar, I would turn on the garden hose and run through the water sprinkler and then play with my trucks and bulldozers under the cool shade of the trees. I can still hear the sound of a lone airplane and I would run out into the yard and try to locate it within an endless blue sky. I remember climbing our cherry trees and sitting high in the branches sharing the delicious fruit with the numerous birds that had the same idea. I would pick cherries and my mother would bake pies that were so delicious. I cannot recall being stressed or anxious about how life would eventually change, I just believed everything would always stay this way.
Well, we all grow up and discover that our journey has seasons and is always moving forward. I’ve had a blessed life and I’m learning that of all the things we can do, living in the awareness of God’s glorious presence will provide the courage and faith we need to endure whatever may come. As we grow older, it seems that time passes more quickly and maybe this is because we are spending too much of it watching others instead of focusing on what we need to do. When we allow ourselves to become overly absorbed and entangled with problems we cannot change, this can overwhelm us with sadness and discouragement. However, learning to live a productive yet uncomplicated lifestyle can help us rediscover the simplicity and contentment we once enjoyed as children. When is the last time you went hiking and enjoyed the beauty of God’s creation? It would be fun to play in the snow and feel the rain on our faces and maybe in the evenings we could turn off the television and take a quiet walk as being in His presence always brings peace and calm into our soul. Maybe if we realize that age has more to do with attitude than years, we could experience life on a higher level and have more joy and contentment. It is said that we are as young as our faith and as old as our despair.
I was in a restaurant the other day and noticed an elderly couple sitting together in a booth. The woman’s hands were shaking and her food would not stay on the fork. After several attempts, she put the fork down and her husband being aware of the problem also put his fork down. He quietly reached over and took her fork, cut the pancake, and gently started toward her mouth with a bite. She opened her mouth and accepted without even changing facial expressions. He returned to his plate and then began the compassionate process of taking turns. My eyes welled up as this scene touched me deeply and reminded me of how life seems to return full circle. Choosing to live in a disposition of childlike trust and hope in God allows us to remain happy and in His favor. Matthew chapter 18 talks about obedience and humility as a result of being spiritually converted and restored into the way we observed and contemplated life through our conscience as a young child. The innocence of children is precious in God’s sight and He desires that we maintain this attitude and perspective of purity and a character of forgiveness, sincerity, and love no matter what age we are.
Dr. Holland lives in Central Kentucky with his wife Cheryl, where he is a Christian minister, author, and community chaplain. To learn more visit: billyhollandministries.com
LIVING ON PURPOSE
Staying focused on our mission
For many years I’ve had the privilege to visit nursing homes as I truly enjoy spending time with the elderly. I sing and teach Bible studies and appreciate hearing about their former lives. The Lord has allowed me to make some precious friendships and I want to share with you about a lovely lady who after a devastating stroke was no longer able to be independent and is now in a comfortable setting where she is well taken care of. I love talking with Barbara and a while back in the middle of one of her stories we discovered that long ago she was actually my mother’s next-door neighbor and they played together as children. What were the odds of that? Anyway, I love her positive and upbeat personality and how kind and thoughtful she is. She never married and lived a simple life of working and being a devoted member of her church which she sang in the choir for over fifty years.
Barbara is intelligent with a clever sense of humor, and it warms my heart to watch her laugh. Recently she experienced a life-changing event that has caused me to do some serious thinking about the mission of every Christian. Within our conversations about God, it had not crossed my mind to be concerned about her spiritual condition. I felt confident she was a Christian and was ready to live with Jesus forever. A couple of weeks ago, another minister visited this facility and brought a salvation message and in closing, he simply asked if anyone would like to accept Christ as their personal Savior and be born again. Barbara said a strange feeling of concern and guilt washed over her and later that evening she began to cry. After a week of sorrow and conviction, the minister returned and prayed with her, and through God’s mercy he led her to receive Jesus as her Lord.
When I came to see her, she was glowing with joy and excitement and said with all those years of going to church she could not remember anyone ever mentioning how Jesus came to redeem and save us. She told about being sprinkled when she was 12-years-old with more of a traditional formality instead of a spiritual encounter as a result of hearing the gospel and had never seriously felt the Holy Spirit revealing her need to accept Christ into her heart. So at 78-years-old, she responded to God’s invitation and with childlike faith, her spiritual eyes have now been opened. I’m so happy and grateful to the Lord that she received Christ before it was too late. At the same time, I was deeply convicted of my lack of discernment and for not recognizing her need to be born again, and today I wonder how many individuals are living the same emotional pretense?
We read in the New Testament about the Pharisees and notice they were highly respected for keeping the law, going to church, and having religious knowledge, and yet in John chapter eight, Jesus told them they did not know God at all. There are several accounts where Christ confronted the religious leaders and explained that good works mean nothing unless a person becomes born again through God’s gift of salvation. We all want to hear about going to heaven but many refuse to associate eternal life with being in covenant with God Himself. Yes, salvation is free because of God’s grace but it’s also our responsibility to realize that we can only enjoy a personal relationship with God when we are redeemed by the blood of Jesus. Those of us who have been declared righteous are commissioned to boldly tell others about why Jesus went to the cross and to share the entire process of how God invites everyone to be spiritually transformed into a new creation.
I am learning that encouraging and comforting others is truly a much-needed blessing but let us pray for spiritual sensitivity so that we might be an alert messenger who is not presumptuous or embarrassed to witness to someone even if they have been a church member all their life. It’s never too late to be forgiven, delivered, and transformed into a child of God as He is always drawing people to Him because He loves everyone and does not want to see anyone perish. I encourage you to read the third chapter of John, and to examine your heart to make sure that all is well with your soul.
Read more about the Christian life at billyhollandministries.com
LIVING ON PURPOSE
Trusting God in times of uncertainty
Like you, I’ve been afraid a few times in my life. There are different types of fear and one is being afraid of something we believe is going to harm us. This is a paralyzing and dreadful feeling and one that I would like to stay away from if at all possible. Having a fear of the unknown is common, but this is a great opportunity to believe that God will take care of us. The second type is called a reverential fear of God which is respecting Him for knowing everything and having authority over all things. The Bible compels us to study and learn about the reality of faith and how to place our trust in God alone. With the holy scriptures containing the phrases, “fear not” and “do not be afraid” more than 300 times, the Lord wants us to know that we can live in confidence when we trust Him with all of our heart. Alexander Maclaren is quoted as saying, “Only he who can say, the Lord is the strength of my life, can declare of whom shall I be afraid?”
I recall as a young boy, my dad remodeled one side of our attic and made a really neat place for my bedroom while the other half of the attic remained dark and scary. You see, I was convinced terrifying creatures lived on the other side of the door, and sometimes in the middle of the night that door would mysteriously come open. When this occurred I became a seven-year-old Olympian who could fly down a staircase in two steps. I remember another unnerving situation from my childhood when our family went on a fishing trip. Dad had a nice bass boat, and we loaded up for a fun day of fishing and a picnic lunch. My little sister was there and my mom was very pregnant. We traveled a long way from the dock and everything seemed fine until we noticed some dark clouds in the distance. Suddenly a bolt of lightning struck with an explosion of thunder so loud that we about jumped out of our seats. We took off, and I had never seen that boat go so fast. It started to rain so hard the drops were stinging our skin. Even as a kid I knew this was serious. Lighting was flashing, and the wind seemed like a typhoon as I covered my head and tried not to think about sinking and drowning. Thankfully, we made it back safe and later laughed about it.
As adults, we may not be afraid of the dark anymore, but anxiety and worries are now felt in more mature forms like managing finances, dealing with health issues, the fear of viruses, relationships, security systems, and concerns with our government and the globalist agenda. I believe many would agree that our country is currently experiencing an overload of dissension and apprehension. No matter our political flavor, there are many questions about the future and this can take a stressful toll on our emotions. Let us consider that much of what we hear is an opinion, and often what we hear and see is a perspective, not necessarily a fact. It’s God’s word when interpreted through the discernment of the Holy Spirit which can be embraced as truth. Our social and legal system has clever policies and ideas, but from a Christian perspective, our highest priority should always be to ask Almighty God for the solutions. My friends, He is the only one that knows the future with the perfect wisdom and plan to save us. “I sought the Lord, and He heard me and delivered me from all my fears” Psalm 34:4.
There is nothing in this life we should be terrified of, it is only to be understood. May we take the time to comprehend more, so that we might fear less. May we take the time to repent, pray and invite Christ to lead us and bless us with His peace, hope, and security. The world cannot offer spiritual contentment and to find spiritual joy, we must decide to humble ourselves with reverential respect before God in the secret place of His presence. This is not a geographic location, but rather a spiritual attitude within our conscience where we can be honest with the one who made us and who loves us more than anything. Turn to Him today and He will fill you with His compassion and encouragement.
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LIVING ON PURPOSE
Why do we want to know God?
The Christian life is difficult to understand. Generally speaking, the masses are satisfied with receiving a spiritual fish instead of becoming a fisherman as refusing to learn what God requires becomes an easy way to avoid responsibility. The motto of the default system is, “The less we know – the less we worry about.” The opportunity to walk with God is given to everyone but the development of our potential is rare to say the least. Understanding spiritual wisdom can be attained for those who apply themselves to diligent study, meditation, and prayer, but I struggle like everyone else and often fail. It’s not that we have an inability to learn about God, but we have a serious lack of interest.
When I released my first book a few years ago, it was about worship, spiritual intimacy with God, and living in the awareness of His presence. I have lots of family and friends who love to read huge novels, so I thought they would enjoy it. Well, let’s just say the reception was not what I had envisioned. I realize there is quite a difference between reading something entertaining and a book about how God wants to transform us into His image. I concluded the lack of enthusiasm had everything to do with the subject matter. Can you imagine the response if I wrote a book called, “How to make a million dollars in 7 days?” I agree we are all different in our tastes and attractions but only excited about what is important to us. Nonetheless, the Lord’s words are eternal and the true purpose and meaning of life.
Many have heard this simple yet provoking invitation found in Matthew chapter 7 and verse 7, “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: Those who ask will receive, and the one that seeks shall find, and to those who knock it shall be opened.” This promise sounds like God is giving us a signed blank check for whatever we can dream about, but it’s actually a spiritual blueprint for us to know Him and discover His desires which is what He dreams about. The conditions to researching God’s word have much to do with context and not only selecting verses that appeal to us. If we only see this passage as a way to receive earthly and natural blessings we are only scratching the surface and have actually missed the point. However, if we are seeking the Lord’s spiritual mysteries, we have found a key of revelation wisdom that can open a glorious opportunity to know God and be as close to Him as we choose. Using the above passage creates a larger context of our responsibility when we include, “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled” Matthew 5:6, and “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you” Matthew 6:33. The motives and intentions of our hearts are always in question concerning what are we seeking and why.
What if the average person spent as much time and effort learning how to be filled with God’s truth as they do following their own desires? When it comes to spiritual comprehension and obedience, there is a wall of invisible resistance that surrounds us constantly. We have a spiritual enemy and we also struggle against our own human nature, but what are these two forces trying to prevent us from knowing? In Proverbs 29:18 the writer mentions a vision, “Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keeps the law, happy is he.” This vision must be very important since not having it causes death but what is it? The NIV puts it this way: “Where there is no revelation, people cast off restraint; but blessed is the one who heeds wisdom’s instruction.” The same Hebrew word vision is used in other passages within the context of divine communication from God speaking through His holy word. And so we understand this particular enlightenment refers to God’s revelatory truth. This vision is spiritual and can only be seen and comprehended by those who have been redeemed and who seek God diligently. Most people agree that God’s ways are the best way to live, but how many are passionate about knowing and loving God just for who He is instead of only wanting what He can give?
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LIVING ON PURPOSE
Faith is more than knowledge
Have you ever made plans to do something, but it did not work out? I’m sure that most of us have. Disappointment is not a stranger, especially to those who are ambitious. Many people say the more a person tries to accomplish something, the more failures they will encounter. This does not mean that all the doors are locked forever but included within the process of advancement, it’s necessary to learn discipline and self-control while experiencing frustration and distress. Sometimes our diligence brings success while on other occasions we discover that our imaginations are not going to be immediately fulfilled. Even though this is deeply painful, it does not imply that we should go to bed and cover up our heads. On the contrary! We do not have time to waste feeling sorry for ourselves because there is much work to do. It’s prophesied about Jesus in Isaiah chapter 50 that His face would be set hard as a flint despite knowing the agony awaiting Him. The Messiah had a steadfast determination to obey His Father and nothing would deter Him.
There are many intersections in our journey and sometimes it’s difficult how to know which way to go. Instead of being determined to proceed up the mountain, many end up building their house on the side of the path and living there. A crossroad is a place of decision that requires spiritual wisdom and discernment from the Lord to keep us from making bad decisions. Staying active with a positive attitude even if we miss the mark is better than lying on the couch and hoping that opportunity will fall on our head. Being honest with ourselves and trusting God can adjust our view and this will go a long way toward making sure we are on the same page with Him. Sometimes our failures are trying to reveal that our dreams are not a part of God’s original plan for our lives. When our visions are not lined up with His will, we are responsible to change our direction. However, if we are convinced we’ve heard His voice but are still waiting for our breakthrough, be patient, it’s only a matter of time before we will receive what He promised.
We’ve read the account of one of the most successful inventors of all time, Thomas Edison. He was responsible for over one thousand patents and became famous for his ideas but he is equally respected for his perseverance and his perspective on failure. Humans indeed have variations when it comes to their mental “wiring” and, in Edison’s brain, there was a bulldog determination with the ability to view consistent failure as simply another stepping stone on the pathway to success. In general, most individuals after several valiant attempts, are more than willing to throw in the towel but unlike the average person, disappointment did not quench Edison’s burning passion to succeed. With several years of research and experimenting, it took 10,000 failures before Edison finally perfected the light-bulb. Nonetheless, rather than accepting failure the other 9,999 times, he is quoted as saying, “I did not fail, I merely discovered 9,999 ways that do not work!” In simple terms, he made up his mind that he was never going to give up.
Today, there may be something you are sensing in your heart that God has called you to do and I want to encourage you that it can be done! Jesus said, “The things which are impossible with men are possible with God.” Is there anything that God cannot accomplish through you? When we have the opportunity to obey God, it reminds me of when our dad would tell us to jump and he would promise to catch us. When we grow up and are faced with jumping into the unknown, it’s common to be more afraid of falling than being confident that God wants to see us fly. Yes, there are short seasons where we can feel sorry for ourselves, but whatever is keeping you from being what Jesus died for you to be is the obstacle that only you can conquer. To succeed, one must come to the point where fear cannot prevent and discouragement cannot persuade. Many are disappointed with their lives but the answer is always the same. We can choose to surrender and remain the same or we can become an unstoppable instrument in God’s hands and accomplish our destiny for His glory.
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LIVING ON PURPOSE
JESUS – the name above all names
Throughout history, no one has made a greater impact on this earth than Jesus Christ, yet many still do not understand who He is. During December, Christians around the world acknowledge His birth was over 2000 years ago but actually He existed long before that. As the Son of God, Jesus is the Alpha and Omega which means He is from the beginning and has no end. This truth of being infinite is beyond our comprehension and trying to figure it out may over-heat our brain but nonetheless this spiritual reality places Him in a unique category all by Himself. Jesus said in John chapter eight and verse fifty- eight, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, before Abraham was, I am” as he was trying to teach all who would listen that His virgin birth in Bethlehem, and His ministry of miracles was a carefully calculated mission to rescue and redeem all who would believe in his father’s plan of salvation.
In the spring, Christians also celebrate another major spiritual event that declares how Christ was innocent yet willingly went to the cross, was brutally crucified, died, and then resurrected from the grave as his blood sacrifice was the only power and authority that could spiritually save those who are hopelessly lost. As he ascended back to heaven, he sent the Holy Spirit which is the third member of the trinity to comfort, guide, empower, and fill us with God’s presence. Since this miracle of love and mercy was given, whosoever believes his holy truth and accepts his offer of eternal life by faith can be adopted into His royal family based on this perfect blood covenant between God and man. We realize the gospel of Christ appears to be relatively simple as Romans 10:13 declares, “Whosoever calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” but the concept of free grace does not excuse or eliminate the conditions of human accountability. May we never allow a religious formality to become a substitution for our obedience to God because the true definition of covenant requires both parties to honor their vows. To believe that God compromises his word is to live in the false security of denial and deception.
It’s wonderful to be positive minded and appreciate that God is good all the time because He is! But it’s also important that we research God’s word carefully so we can know what we believe and why we believe it. When we subconsciously ignore vital information and replace it with emotional happy thoughts, we are vulnerable to falling prey to the dangers of creating our own concept of God. Yes, we are glad to have Jesus as a Savior, but this does not mean we are justified to ignore his requirement to accept him as our Lord. He will help us overcome our fears and weaknesses, but he is waiting for someone to embrace what it means to be spiritually transformed into Christ. Jesus is no longer a baby in a manger, and he is not a magic genie or a cosmic vending machine. He is the Almighty Creator who expects and demands for his children to be spiritually developing and maturing. The book of Hebrews reveals a deeper explanation about our personal relationship with him.
Our culture is unfortunately moving away from a reverential fear concerning our accountability to God, into a more lenient and casual way of thinking. The modernized gospel message is now being presented as a smooth, painless opportunity for those who want to go to heaven, but it seems that many are only shown the front cover of deliverance and do not see the need to open the table of contents. Most people know the basics of what Jesus has done but all who declare to be a follower would benefit spending more time getting to know him intimately and to discover what He is expecting from them. Becoming born-again does not mean we will have an easy life without self-discipline and even persecution, but God promises that we can have his joy and peace within our personal relationship with him. There is more good news! We have the opportunity to love and worship him today because the stone was rolled away! Jesus rose from the grave and longs to sit on the throne of our heart. He laid down his life for us, and now the least we can do is to live for him.
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LIVING ON PURPOSE
God is still in the miracle business
Many people around the world have heard of the Moron Brothers, (Michael Carr and Michael Hammond) who live in my hometown. Mike Carr is a good friend and I’ve actually performed music with him in church events and we are also members of a gospel quartet. As a dedicated Christian, he’s had some amazing spiritual experiences and I want to share one of these true accounts with you.
It was around 6:00 am on a rainy morning in September 1999, when the fire station where Mike was serving received an emergency call saying there had been a serious accident out on a country road. A young couple was driving into town where they both worked, when tragically a drunk driver that was heading home after partying all night, crossed into their lane and hit them head-on. Mike and his crew were the first to reach the scene, and it was a horrible sight. The driver who had hit the couple had died instantly, then immediately they began to work feverishly to help the couple. The wife was behind the steering wheel and was very pregnant. The terrible news was the front end of their car had been crushed toward them and the steering wheel was squeezing her to where she could hardly breathe. Mike ran to get the jaws of life and began trying to cut the steering wheel so they could pull her free. Her husband was unconscious and Mike heard his partner say that among other problems, he had a ruptured aorta and that he could not stop the internal bleeding. The wife had been screaming the entire time and through the chaos and the roaring sound of cutting metal, Mike looked at the other paramedic and saw him shake his head as the husband now had no pulse.
Suddenly, Mike said he clearly heard the voice of God within his conscience. The Lord told him to relay to the wife that everything was going to be fine with her, the baby, and her husband. This went against what he was seeing and thinking in the natural, but he stopped the machine, took her by the hand, and calmly said, “God told me that everything is going to be alright with all three of you.” As the rain continued to fall, an indescribable peace came over her and as she stared at him through her tears, she simply said thank you. He went back to work and freed her and in a flash, they were in the ambulance and gone. Mike said he would have never said that on his own because he thought they were all going to die, but he knew the Lord wanted him to reassure her that God was going to save them. Three months later on Christmas Eve, Mike was on his shift at the station and this family walked in holding a beautiful little baby. God had miraculously healed each of them and everything was alright just like God had promised. They were excited to tell Mike how much they appreciated him being there and listening to the Lord when it looked like there was no hope. Mike got on his knees and they all gave thanks to God and said they would never forget this miracle from heaven.
Yes, God still speaks and gives miracles! The sea of darkness and hopelessness wants to drown all of us, but the Almighty is saying for us to reach out to Him as Peter did when he began to sink and God will not only save us from our sins but also from fear, worries, and sadness. For those who have never committed their lives to God, He is inviting you today to call upon Him and to ask Him to come into your life and save you. Christ died on the cross for you and rose from the dead to spiritually redeem and rescue all who would believe in Him. “Seek the Lord while he may be found, call upon him while he is near. Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, and God will have mercy on him; for He will abundantly pardon” Isaiah 55:6-7. We can encourage ourselves in the Lord as David did, just tell Jesus how you feel and He will fill your heart with His joy, hope, and peace. If you do not believe or expect a miracle, how will you ever receive one?
This is an excerpt from Billy’s new book, “Receiving our Healing” billyhollandministries.com
LIVING ON PURPOSE
Whose account are you going to believe?
It is not enough to know that God exists as the realm of darkness also believes that God is true. If we choose to live in the awareness of spiritual truth, we must go beyond historical knowledge and embrace the Creator personally. God is a living Spirit, and He desires that we join together with Him in a tangible covenant relationship. Today is the day to draw near to the Jesus while He may be found. It’s an exciting time to be alive as God is waiting to anoint and empower someone to accomplish His will.
Christian! This is not a time to hang our harps on the willows and weep! It is the enemy of our souls that loves to whisper his lies of discouragement and tell us we are defeated. Listen, my brothers and sisters, has Jesus Christ ever said that you are defeated? Has He ever told you to curl up in a fetal position and give up? Absolutely not! It’s the devil who tries to convince us to see the world with a glass half-empty attitude. As a member of God’s end-time army, we are called to research God’s word and put on our spiritual armor that we might go to war on our knees against evil. There is so much to accomplish before Jesus returns and we have no time to waste arguing about politics and social issues. Everyone makes their own decisions and we must stay focused on what God is telling us to do.
With so much negativity all around us, it’s time that we realize the sea of voices are a distraction to our relationship with Christ, and it is wise to develop a determination to turn away from the chaos and tune into God’s inspiring message of hope and life. Everyone will choose to either follow the light or to remain in the darkness. For those who are stepping forward in their love for God, He is saying to stand up, set your face as flint, and know that according to His infinite authority, the enemy is under your feet! This spiritual reality is not because of human power, but it’s by His Spirit say’s the Lord! I John 4:4 declares, “You are of God, little children and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you than he that is in the world!” We are also reminded in Colossians chapter 2 that we are in covenant with Christ and that He is the ultimate judge over everything including Satan and has always been in total control! “For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and in Christ you have been brought to fullness. He is the head over every power and authority. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross” Colossians: 9,10,14,15.Jesus willingly gave His life and delivered us from a hopeless spiritual condition so that you and I could be set free from sin and be empowered to live victoriously forever.
I want to remind you of the story of Gideon and how the Lord told him to only take 300 men to fight a war against an army of 135,000 soldiers. Does it seem your situation today also appears to be that hopeless? This is exactly what the Lord wants because if you and I could fight and win our own battles, we would not need God’s help at all. Gideon obeyed the Lord and trusted Him completely and the enemy ended up destroying themselves without Gideon even having to raise his sword. When it seems the problems are impossible, this is when the Lord will manifest the greatest miracles! I know that Satan and God are both speaking to us, but I want to ask, “whose account are you going to believe?” Do you need the Sun to move backward or the Red Sea parted? Do you feel like you are in a lion’s den or in a fiery furnace? Is there a giant laughing and threatening to crush you? Listen my friends, the same God that brought deliverance in all of these trials, desires to do the same for you today. You might believe He can, but He is waiting for you to believe He will.
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LIVING ON PURPOSE
Looking forward to a glorious reunion
I went for a quiet walk the other day, to relax and sort my thoughts like the stacks of messages and notes on my desk. While gazing at the clear sky and breathing in the cool air, it dawned on me that it’s been almost five years since my dad passed away. Honestly, it seems like yesterday. I realize that many people grew up without a father and I’m very sympathetic about that. Thank God, there are great stepdads and stepmoms that have stepped into difficult situations and have been a much-needed tower of strength and stability in the life of a child. We realize that everyone who manages to enjoy a normal life expectancy will eventually outlive their parents. This means that most of us will be required to go through the heartbreak of saying goodbye to those who were always the center of our universe. Whether you have already walked through this valley or if this event has not yet happened, we will most likely be left to continue in our winter years without our mom and dad.
When my wife Cheryl and I were married, our parents were in their early forties and everyone seemed so young and filled with dreams and expectations. We were in shock when her dad passed away four years later from cancer at the age of 48. She remembers as a tom-boy, crawling under cars and watching him work on them as she had no brothers. She did not have a clue what he was doing but just enjoyed spending quality time alone with him. Working on an old car was probably aggravating to him, but to her, it was exciting as she was like a nurse trying to figure out what type of wrench to hand him next or more than likely what size hammer he needed. Soon after we married, we rented a little house in town and on Saturday mornings after I left for work, her dad would stop by with donuts, and they would have some coffee and talk. Through the years I’ve listened to her mention about how much she misses him and what a large part of her security and safety disappeared and I can definitely relate.
It seems so strange when I think that my dad is no longer here. I remember the first few months after he passed that sometimes in the evenings, I would pick up the phone to call him. When I would come to my senses, I not only realized he’s not there, but he’s never coming back. These are the moments we begin to understand how fragile life is and how we take our blessings for granted. As we grow older, we begin to accept the reality that our parents will not always be with us along with being reminded of our own mortality. Though many other dads and moms are listed in the obituary every day, our pain is unique because these are not our parents, and we are more closely connected to them than anyone else in the world. Maybe we should call and visit our parents more because one day they may not be there.
It’s only natural to feel a sense of loneliness and miss hearing their voice and listening to their thoughts. You will eventually notice that you have some of your parent’s traits and quirks but that’s alright because it makes you feel closer to them and appreciate them more than ever. You will always be filled with their memories and they will continue to mean more to you as time marches on. Even the simple things like your dad mowing the yard and watching his favorite team or your mom putting the food on the table and giving you a big hug becomes like one of the greatest movies you will ever see. There is a poem by Diana Der-Hovanessian called, “Shifting the sun” and she expresses so beautifully about losing a parent. Here is one of the lines, “When a parent dies, you lose your umbrella against bad weather, they take your childhood with them and your sun shifts forever.” I cannot communicate as eloquently as she, but just as we will follow in the natural cycles and seasons of life and death, we are also filled with hope and joy to know this life is not the end of our journey. For those who are born again in Christ, our salvation includes the exciting and encouraging promise that one day we will be reunited with our parents forever.
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LIVING ON PURPOSE
Our future is being decided today
The greatest life-changing story ever told is that Jesus died for you which proves he loved you more than anything in the world. He knows your every thought and intention, listens to every word, and sees every act and deed. He has never taken His eyes from you, nor has he ever been distracted or too busy to listen to your concerns. More than anything he wants us to stop living for ourselves and begin to live for him so that he can renew our mind and revitalize our life for his glory. Nothing is impossible with Jesus and the most wonderful revelation that can be comprehended is that he desires to live inside of us and guide us in all our decisions. What dream or imagination could be higher than to know that God has opened the door for us to live with him now and forever? “And the Lord shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought, and make fat thy bones: and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not” Isaiah 58:11.
When we subconsciously adopt negative ideas and attitudes, the enemy uses these as building materials to construct a despairing fortress within our mind to discourage and disengage us from Christ. If we choose to accept this negative direction, sadness and frustration will lead us into even lower levels of depression and misery. If you have experienced these difficult places in the past and the Lord delivered you, you have an understanding of God’s grace and his compassion to leave the ninety-nine, and rescue the one. Have you ever become so desperate for God’s presence that you have fallen across your bed and wept as your repentance released His floodgates of cleansing within your heart? The Lord is holy and the continual desire to see our desperate need for humility and brokenness is critical within our personal relationship with him. Developing a spiritual awareness of his presence will remind us that we will never have his peace until we deal with our issues as the longer we carry them the heavier they become.
God uses clay to describe the human conscience and explains how important it is for us to be pliable as the potter cannot mold a vessel that is hard, dry, and stubborn. Our Creator’s solution is to break the vessel, crush it to powder, add water, and make it soft so that it can be re-shaped and transformed into what he has envisioned us to be. There is much symbolism in the miracle of being born-again, but to make a long story short, the Bible says in II Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” Within this process of spiritual transformation is the opportunity to refuse or to embrace honesty and obedience. Meekness is not pity but rather comprehending that a power much higher than our own desires to change us into His image. Yielding our will sounds simple, yet it is the most difficult path we will ever follow.
No matter the challenges you are facing today, God is with you every step of the way. Dale Carnegie is quoted as saying, “Most of the important things in the world have been accomplished by people who have kept on trying when there seemed to be no hope at all.” In the times of doubt and fear you can know that God has never forsaken you and never will. As you walk through trials which are a part of this temporary existence, you can trust without a doubt that His loving presence is surrounding you. In fact, He promises that He is watching over us and wants to comfort us with His mercy which endures forever. Deuteronomy 31:8 declares, “And the Lord, He is the One who goes before you. He will be with you, He will not leave you nor forsake you; do not fear nor be dismayed.” If we have allowed Christ to purify our heart, our eyes are opened to see His truth, and this is the power that sets us free from sin and the dark negative influences which try to defeat us. Learning to have confidence in the Lord and embracing the endless commitment of His love is a revelation of His unfailing covenant to be with us even to the end of the world.
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Seeing the glass half-full
The older we are, the more we can see how the world has changed. The Bible reveals the human race is born with a corrupt nature and also has a lot to say about an evil spiritual enemy that is trying as hard as he can to influence us over to the dark-side. Whatever your political or theological views, we can agree there is much strife within our nation about what is happening and where we are headed. The interesting aspect within many people’s disagreements is how they base their opinions on what someone else has told them. Since God knows everything, the best answers to all of our problems would be to listen to him, but rarely is this mentioned.
In the midst of our worries and concerns for this country and our family’s future, God is moving and miracles are being seen all around us. Like you, I read the editorial sections and listen to what others have to say, and mostly what I gather is someone repeating over and over how bad everything is. Do we really need to be bombarded with negativity about how the world is falling apart at the seams? It would be refreshing to hear that all is not lost and we can be as bright of a light for Jesus as we choose. Perspective is a key word to consider because it allows us to discern and think carefully about what has been said. When someone relays a story, we should remember they are relaying a view of what they personally believe. For example, when we hear that no one can be trusted in our government and how society is evolving into a mass of mindless zombies, we should realize this is a “glass half empty” view. In reality, there are many kindhearted and loving individuals that are demonstrating what Christ died for them to be. This is not the hour to give up and hang our harps on the willow trees.
Each day we maneuver our way through the daily grind while trying to maintain our sanity at the same time. However, let us be reminded that if we are going to allow ourselves to be an information sponge, we should be careful how we interpret what we absorb. I’m not saying the culture does not have serious problems, but we should also not burn down the forest as a way to get rid of the poison ivy. Everyone is not evil and corrupt and neither is every member of the next generation brainwashed with humanism. No matter what is deemed politically correct, as Christians we still have a spiritual mission to accomplish as our hands fit the hammer and shovel today just as they always did. There is a huge difference between spectators that do a lot of talking and participators that spend their time and energy trying to make a positive difference.
Another word is discernment. There are so many different ideas, but we have been commanded to be sensitive enough to know what is right and wrong. Let us stop and consider the danger of being controlled with negativity. God is not confused, deceptive, a manipulator, or a liar and He cannot fail. He is perfect absolute truth, and the closer we are to Him the more we will all walk in one accord. I recently read a story about a nurse who serves in a Veteran Healthcare facility and how passionate she is about helping those who cannot help themselves. What about our first responders who risk their lives everyday trying to save others, or the many soldiers who willingly fight in combat so that we can enjoy our freedoms? Maybe instead of pointing out all the people that do not care, we could start identifying and appreciating those who do. Seeing the glass half-full is the result of embracing, learning, and demonstrating the attitude of an optimist. There have always been corrupt and despicable people but be encouraged, the darkness of sin will never overcome the eternal light of God’s compassion and mercy. Self-discipline is associated with the decision-making process within our mind as changing the way we think, transforms who we are. May we examine our convictions carefully and be willing to accept and follow God’s truth. Hope and joy are never lost for those who know and trust the Lord.
Dr. Holland lives in Central Kentucky with his wife Cheryl, where he is a Christian author, ordained minister, and community chaplain. To read more visit: billyhollandministries.com
LIVING ON PURPOSE
Resist the devil and he will flee
Someone sent me a text the other day about all the trash-talking during the Super Bowl and how it seemed to bother some players. As a sports fan, I’ve watched the power of words throughout the years and remember that Muhammad Ali and Michael Jordan just to name a couple of athletes, also used this tactic to intimidate and frustrate the opposition. The idea is to lure someone you are battling against into listening to what you are saying in order to distract and confuse them. This attempt to rattle our competitor is associated with words such as; discredit, mock, slander, belittle, discount, diminish, taunt, and disrespect. As I thought about this, the Lord reminded me how the demonic world operates in our lives every moment as the devil is the ultimate trash talker. He is always looking to attack us with false accusations with the intention of making us miserable by damaging our self-esteem.
I’m sure that most of you have experienced times of discouragement and have willingly accepted an invitation to a pity party given in your honor. Trust me, I’ve been there plenty of times and during these seasons it’s difficult to even fake a smile. As a result of my past struggles and failures, I am learning that my attitude and outlook about who I am has everything to do with what I believe about myself. For example, if my enemy is laughing and mocking me about my inadequacy, I’m going to struggle with guilt and it will take everything I can do to keep from drowning in a sea of depression. However, if I go to God and ask Him to reveal the reality of the situation, He can open my eyes for me to see that we all make mistakes and I can simply ask Him to forgive me. When we ask God to help us and forgive us, His truth then sets us free from the agony of judgment and criticism and we can move forward in confidence and joy. The light of God’s truth and love releases us from the bondage of deception.
An important factor in discovering why we feel discouraged is to recognize who is speaking to us and what is their intention. Christ did not come to berate us, but rather He gave His life to forgive and redeem us. He wants to bring restoration and encourages us to believe that all things are possible with Him. The dark side is completely the opposite as demonic forces are relentlessly tempting us to give up and curl up in a fetal position. This is the objective of a trash talker. In Revelation 12:10, we find that one of Satan’s titles is, “accuser of the brethren” which is associated with being a prosecutor. However, Satan has no literal authority to condemn, all he can do is incriminate and the best thing we can do is ignore him. In John Chapter 8, Christ talks about how he was a murderer from the beginning and there is no truth in him. In verse 44 Jesus declares, “When the devil speaks a lie, he speaks of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.”
Words good and bad are like seeds and we are required to take extreme caution with not only what we say but what we listen to and allow to take root in our conscience. Let us remember the enemy of our soul has literally come to steal, kill, and destroy and is most effective when he whispers his poisonous allegations. Satan will not only target us physically but is also focused on our conscience which is directly related to our spiritual well-being. If we take the bait and allow his lies to become an infection within our thinking, we are spiritually ensnared and defeated. When we realize that we are in a spiritual war and the battle is being fought within our mind, we can clearly see the vision of who we are in Christ depends on us filtering out the evil oppression and accepting the responsibility to only listen to God’s infinite truth. We can study God’s word and ask Him for stronger spiritual discernment as we are called to put on our spiritual armor and become a wise soldier for His glory. It is said, the best offense is a good defense, and we are reminded in James 4:7, “Submit yourselves therefore to God, Resist the devil and he will flee from you.”
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LIVING ON PURPOSE
Then sings my soul
I remember as a young boy, sitting in the living room with my parents and occasionally when my grandparents would visit, we would all listen to a Billy Graham crusade on television. It was common to see my grandmother wiping her eyes with a Kleenex during the message when Cliff Barrows would lead the choir, but I also noticed how everything became quiet when George Beverly Shea would step up to the podium and begin to sing. A resonant bass-baritone characterized his vocal style and contained such a sincere and humble delivery that conveyed his passionate conviction. He did not consider himself an entertainer or a showman, but rather simply wanted to tell the world about the love of Jesus and His salvation. When asked about his faith and service for God, he would always point toward Heaven and say, “I do it for Jesus, it’s all for His glory.”
One of eight children, his father was a Methodist minister, and he sang in the church choir. In the late 1930s Mr. Shea moved to Chicago to join the radio station of the Moody Bible Institute, as a staff announcer and singer. One day in 1943 a young man knocked on the studio door. The visitor was a Wheaton College student named William Franklin Graham Jr., who had stopped by to tell him how much he loved his singing. Before long Mr. Graham, who had become a minister in Western Springs, Illinois, had recruited Mr. Shea to sing on his own religious radio program, “Songs in the Night.” From 1944 to the early 1950s. In 1947 Mr. Shea joined the Graham team and remained until his death in 2013. When they joined forces, Mr. Shea was already a nationally known voice in Christian music, while Mr. Graham was still gaining in popularity. Their early revival meetings were often advertised with George Beverly Shea singing as the headline and Billy Graham preaching in smaller print. It is estimated that throughout his ministry, Mr. Shea sang to over 200 million as the powerful revival meetings would fill stadiums and was televised around the world. He would often laugh and say that Billy would not allow him to retire as the Bible says nothing about retiring from the Lord’s work.
As the Billy Graham crusades were so popular and still watched today, and with singing on radio programs such as “The Hour of Decision” George Shea was perhaps at one time the most widely heard gospel artist in the world. He was a recording artist with RCA and WORD and has recorded approximately 500 vocal solos on more than 70 albums. including, “In Times Like These” (1962), “Every Time I Feel The Spirit” (1972), and “The Old Rugged Cross” (1978). In 1966 he won the Grammy Award for best religious recording for the album, “Southland Favorites” with the Anita Kerr singers. He was the author of several books, including the memoir “How Sweet the Sound” (2004) and the recipient of numerous awards such as being a member of the Nashville Gospel Music Hall of Fame, the Religious Broadcasting Hall of Fame, and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Recording Academy in 2011. On a more intimate scale he sang at the prayer breakfasts of a series of United States presidents, including Dwight D. Eisenhower, Lyndon B. Johnson, and George Bush Sr.
Of the hundreds of hymns he sang, Mr. Shea was most closely identified with “How Great Thou Art”
that became the signature anthem of his ministry. In 1957, at a crusade in New York City, Mr. Shea, by popular demand, sang it on 108 consecutive nights. Other songs for which he was known include, “I’d Rather Have Jesus” for which he composed the music, and “The Wonder of it All” to which he wrote the lyrics and music. While having a conversation with a passenger on his way to Scotland to join Graham, Mr. Shea was asked to describe what these revival crusades were like and he replied, “I found myself at a loss for words, and finally said, if you could only see the wonder of it all.” Later that evening in his room Shea wrote the song. He often declared the crowds did not come to hear him, they came to hear Billy Graham and that his favorite part of a crusade was watching the waves of people stream forward during the altar call. Shea is quoted as saying, “The truth is, no man can ever ﬁnd true peace or happiness apart from Jesus Christ.”
LIVING ON PURPOSE
Returning to our first love
The word revival is from the Hebrew word “chayah” and it means to bring back to life, to restore, rejuvenate, and renew. In the context of spiritual revival it is often referred to as the great exchange where man is shown his need to rededicate his life back to God and through repentance he yields his will to God’s will. Jesus then restores the personal relationship that was lost and floods the conscience with His joy and peace. There have been many of these outpourings of God’s Spirit throughout the world which were driven by fervent compassion and prayer. History records one of these such movements in Wales or as some call it Welsh which borders England. This revival started in 1904 and was the largest Christian awakening in Europe during the 20th century. Many eyewitness events were noted such as there being an overwhelming sense of God’s presence at homes, at work, in the public marketplace and even in the bars and nightclubs. The conviction of sin was so powerful, it was widely recorded that many were seen laying flat on the ground in the agony of guilt and repentance, while countless others were seen falling on their knees crying out for God’s mercy.
Church members and spiritual leaders confessing their secret sins were coming forth as a flood of honesty and humility resulted in long-standing debts being paid, stolen goods returned, church and family feuds healed and enemies being reconciled. As sin was being dealt with, the presence of God began to release an overwhelming sense of joy, peace, and praise! It was common to see gatherings last for eight hours and were filled with testimonies, worship, healing, and excitement. As these services would last all night, men would arrive in their work clothes with their lunches and in the morning they would leave and go to work. Prayer meetings were held in schools, train terminals, businesses, and in open fields. Book stores sold out of Bibles as people were consumed with the desire to study God’s Word and to share the gospel everywhere they went. It was estimated that 100,000 people accepted Christ in six months and at its peak, a staggering 90 percent of the people were attending church. Remarkably much of the nation began to embrace and demonstrate the nature and character of God.
With being involved in ministry most of my adult life, I have never seen a public display of the Holy Spirit at this level of intensity. Such an outpouring is recognized as a spiritual awakening and many saints are praying today that God will send His refining fire to our nation soon. When a person is convicted of their lukewarmness, they will make a decision to surrender to their heart to Christ or resist. For the ones who choose to allow the Lord to break their heart of stone and fill them with His hope and security, this is the miracle of personal revival. True confessions from the depths of the human soul are the most costly and yet are also the most rewarding. Henry Blackaby is quoted as saying, “Revival is when God’s people return to Him and He returns to them, and everyone sees the difference.”
When we consider how much Jesus loves us and how He draws us by His grace, let us rejoice that it does not please Him to condemn anyone, but rather He longs to deliver and set everyone free and proved it when He died for us on the cross. We are reminded in 2 Chronicles 7:14, “If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” We notice here in this wonderful promise that when God’s people cry out to Him, He will listen and intervene. Moral decline brings judgment and God can use this to arouse the human conscience as this holy connection with the Almighty can rekindle the life-changing fires of spiritual transformation. I encourage you today to repent and ask the Lord to wash away your sins, as you return to your first love. Romans 10:9-10 promises, “If you will confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart, one believes unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”
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LIVING ON PURPOSE
Finding God’s expectation for our lives
How many times will it need to be declared that we can have as much of God as we want? And how many tears will we shed from the sadness of knowing that most people only want enough to get by? How often we find ourselves being so overwhelmed with problems, worries, and stress that we are just too exhausted to invest time with the Lord, and its sad but common that many of us are guilty of basing our attitude toward Him according to what type of mood we are in. In Jeremiah 33:3, the Lord invites us to seek His face regardless of our emotional state. “Call unto Me, and I will answer thee, and show you great and mighty things which you have never known.” It’s worth considering that not having a passion to communicate with God could be the reason why many people are anxious and fearful about their future.
The battle between following how we feel and obeying what God is saying is not to be taken lightly. To choose which side we will accept has everything to do with our destiny and the joy we experience in the journey. When our mind and conscience agree that we can steer our ship according to our own compass, we have failed to comprehend the true meaning and purpose of our lives. Our creator brought everyone into His world and offers them an opportunity to be redeemed and spiritually transformed in order that they might live with Him forever. “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil” John 3:18-19. Those who would rather be the manager of their personal affairs and not accept this invitation of salvation will not only suffer loss in this life but possibly the next one as well.
Maybe some of you today are discouraged and frustrated for whatever reason and we know that being in the wilderness is a challenging and difficult place to be. Sometimes it feels like we have been dealt a terrible hand of cards and within the sadness we are not sure what to do or have anyone we can talk to about it. I have listened to others share about their bitterness and pain from life’s disappointments that can become so heavy in our soul that it’s difficult to envision ever having hope and joy again. Allow me to say, these attacks on our heart and mind can be defeated when we give them to Jesus and allow Him to be our Lord. Aside from the mocking and relentless accusations from the devil, or the painful consequences of our decisions, we have been designed to meditate about our discouragement and suffer through our grief in order to learn from our experiences and advance in our wisdom and grow stronger in our spiritual maturity. We are given the choice to learn how to overcome or keep going around in circles. “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you” James 1:19-20.
Within our human nature, we are vulnerable to physical and emotional affliction and there is nothing wrong or sinful with going through these experiences. We are not robots that cannot feel rejection and we are not immune to the despair of loneliness or the agony of being betrayed. Many of us have walked through severe trials and tribulations, yet let us not forget that Christ in His infinite wisdom and His own personal sufferings can relate to everything we have endured. James 1:12 says, “Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.” Be encouraged today and know that God has always loved you and is waiting to reveal your destiny. We are a work in progress and our life is to be a continual classroom dedicated to learning who God is and who we are in Him.
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LIVING ON PURPOSE
Our determination to change
We are deep into January and I hope the resolutions and decrees you made are still going strong. The most popular declarations usually involve better eating habits and exercise into our daily routines. For those of you that have been doing this for a while, my hat is off to you because you have something in your conscience that is very powerful called willpower! There are several impressive keywords associated with willpower like, perseverance, determination, and dedication which reveals the evidence that you do not allow your feelings to dictate how you live. It’s admirable when anyone chooses to put in the hard work necessary to have a healthier body and even more amazing to see a person surrender their will in order to make a stronger spiritual connection with God.
When contemplating lifestyle changes, it’s crucial to have a clear vision as to who we want to be and what we will need to do. The passage in Luke 14:28-30 comes to mind when planning to do something that will have a major impact on who we are. Jesus said, “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, saying, this person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.” Whether physical or spiritual, personal transformation is possible, but no one has ever said it will be easy. Resolutions and decrees do not cost us anything and are nothing more than a whim until the sacrificial process has been accepted and embraced within our conscience. Likewise, just talking about being religious is also painless as true spiritual transformation begins with an internal conviction from God and then demonstrating what it means to take up our cross. Whatever the case, the evidence of progress is always noticed. God changes caterpillars into butterflies, coal into diamonds, and sand into pearls, using time and pressure and this is exactly what He wants to do within us in order to produce an image of His glory.
As we study the Lord’s prayer in Matthew 6:10, Jesus is talking to His Father and says, “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” We may not think about it often, but understanding what He wants from us and choosing to do it is the purpose and meaning of life. It’s His world and by His grace we are given a chance to know and love Him. This is also where we see a separation of the talkers and walkers when it comes to inviting Christ to be our king and leading us in all that we think and in everything we do. You see, there is a striking difference between drawing our own blueprints and following the ones He has already made. Obedience is not a popular word because no one wants to be told what to do and yet submitting to His vision is at the heart of what it means to have a personal relationship with Him. We have a lot of ideas and ask for many things, but it’s wise to make sure we recognize the difference between our imaginations and His instructions.
Maybe the reason we struggle in our spiritual life is that we are fighting God for the steering wheel. If we let Him drive I believe we would be more likely to enjoy the ride, don’t you? Is there such a thing as counting it all joy when the blacksmith is holding us to the fire and shaping us with His hammer? I’m not saying it’s pleasant, but I believe this is possible when we realize that Jesus is making us into what He died for us to be. When the blacksmith is finished with his piece he does not throw it in the corner and forget about it. He has worked hard to produce his vision and intends to use it for his specific purpose. Likewise, God is calling us and wanting to shape us into a strong and effective instrument. He has known you before the foundation of the world and has every intention to use you as a vessel of honor. The Lord loves you more than anything and is patiently waiting, but He will never be able to build your life from His plans until your determination to change becomes stronger than your desire to remain the same.
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LIVING ON PURPOSE
Seeing opportunity in every difficulty
Moods are a very real part of our daily lives but also an area we need to discern carefully. We seldom think about human behavior and why we fall into certain attitudes but I believe it would be worth our time to examine our thoughts on a regular basis. The Bible and psychology has much to say about the ups and downs of our emotions and it’s critical to understand how our human nature can resist and oppose our relationship with God. The fine line between our mental impulses and our spiritual line of communication with the Lord are difficult to understand, however this battlefield of the mind has everything to do with whether God or our feelings are controlling us. Whether you are beaming with happiness today or walking around in a melancholy fog, may you embrace the Lord’s goodness and recognize His mercy and love is all around you. Yes, much of the world is saturated with hatred and confusion but there is always perfect peace in His presence. I enjoy taking long walks where I can quietly talk with Him. I know He loves us and wants us to live in His spiritual freedom.
Have you ever been around people that were downcast and always negative about what they are doing and how bad their life is in general? If we allow our feelings to dictate us, our life is going to be a manic roller coaster that will prevent God from filling us with His consistent hope and joy. His desire is that we learn how to know the difference between His voice and all the other voices in the world including our own. Depression and discouragement is like being in a deep hole and as you look up to the sky, there seems to be no way out. Emotional negativity can come from being offended, disappointed, wounded, neglected, betrayed, deceived, and unappreciated just to name a few. I’ve been to the valley of despair and do not enjoy anything about being attacked with thoughts of failure and sadness. I realize that many have suffered a great deal, nonetheless Jesus has promised that He will help all those who call on Him. “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” Isaiah 41:10. “The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble” Psalm 9:9.
When we find ourselves in the valley of despair, the last thing we desire to do is to worship God, but praising and trusting Him is exactly what we need to do. There is no place so hopeless that God cannot deliver you! He is never distracted or too busy to hear your cries and there is no darkness where God’s light cannot find and save you! Jesus wants you and I to be filled with His confidence and reassurance but this includes ignoring the opinions of our emotions and embracing His truth. Be encouraged today in knowing that God desires to hold you in His arms of love but is waiting for you to trust Him. Yes, the three Hebrew children were in the fiery furnace but remember that Christ was also in there with them. Winston Churchill is quoted as saying, “The pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity, while the optimist sees opportunity in every difficulty.”
We realize that life is filled with disappointments but we cannot remain curled up in a fetal position with the blanket over our head. After a season of prayer and receiving a more clear understanding, we are to arise, wash our face, put our armor back on and return to the battlefield in the faith that God will continue to heal, guide, and empower us. The apostle Paul wrote, “It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery” Galatians 5:1. This verse might sound confusing, but when a person is born again, they are delivered spiritually and are given the opportunity to be set free from mental and emotional deception. As Christians, let us remember our bodies and our minds are to be our servant not our master. We are an eternal spirit and have the opportunity to live victorious no matter how we feel or what is going on around us.
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LIVING ON PURPOSE
Love lifted me
Our lives are filled with activity and hectic schedules and we have only been given a certain amount of days to accomplish what God wants us to do. Since Adam and Eve, history has provided a probationary period to determine who will embrace and who will reject an eternal covenant relationship with the Lord. In the end, there will only be those who say yes to God’s invitation and those who say no and thereby choose to eternally separate themselves from Him. Hopefully, there will come a point when we examine our priorities and realize that how we lived was more important than how well we landscaped our lawn, or how much money we made. I was driving past a cemetery the other day and I noticed someone placing flowers on a grave. I started thinking about what a powerful and positive influence these individuals must have lived for their loved ones to honor them. When it comes to those you have known that have passed on, what do you remember the most about them? To take this thought even further, what would you want everyone to remember about you? The fictitious story, “A Christmas Carol” reminds us that in the end we will be remembered for our love or the lack of it.
In Luke chapter 6, Jesus makes some profound statements concerning how important it is to learn the difference between being courteous and someone that is governed by genuine compassion. These are difficult life lessons which include being sincerely generous, loving our enemies, blessing those that curse us, and doing good to those who hate us. Included in these instructions is what is called the golden rule which is treating others the same way you want them to treat you. By the way, reading these passages reveal how little I have learned in my life and how much further I need to develop my spiritual walk with Christ. Nonetheless, let us take a close look at three words that are important to our spiritual understanding and progress. Our first word is reflection. It’s encouraging to think about how God has blessed us throughout our life. If there are difficult and painful events in our past that still trouble us today, we can simply ask Him to heal us and give us strength to keep pressing forward. Forgiveness and restoration is His specialty, and He is always ready to fill us with His love, hope, faith, joy, and peace. “It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassion’s fail not.They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness. The Lord is my portion, saith my soul; therefore, will I hope in him” Lamentations 3:22-24.
Examination is our next word and we can all agree that experience is an excellent teacher. It’s true, we are sinners and all of us have made mistakes, but when we think about our blessings, we can also see the mighty hand of God intervening and delivering us from many harmful situations. The point of conducting a constant personal inventory is to live within an awareness of God’s mercy and discover ways to improve who we are in Him. Direction is our last word, and it’s associated with God having a plan for everyone. We have been given a destiny, a unique blueprint that is custom designed for us to follow. However, His will is not automatically accomplished as we have also been given a free will to choose how we will live. Each moment we make decisions to obey His desires or our own and only when we make the choice to yield and surrender our will can He truly become our Lord and Master.
In closing, I hope you will always remember to never give up on your prayers! God can change us if that is what we really desire. Daniel prayed for three weeks and heard nothing but later discovered through an angel that God heard the first words of his petition and had been working behind the scenes on his behalf the entire time. A person who refuses to quit is one whom Satan cannot defeat! When we declare that we are hopeless or that God does not care, we have come into a powerful agreement that has sadly given us what we believe. God is faithful, and it is our commitment and confidence in Him that gives us the strength and courage to embrace the victory. Keep praying – keep seeking – keep obeying. His Word is true and He cannot fail!
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