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.
Learn more about God and the Christian life at billyhollandministries.com
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?
Discover more about the Christian life at billyhollandministries.com
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.
Discover more about the Christian life at billyhollandministries.com
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.
Read more about the Christian life at billyhollandministries.com
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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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LIVING ON PURPOSE
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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