Grace – Simply Amazing

by Rick
Grace – Simply Amazing

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Grace that is Simply Amazing

(Eph 2:4-10 PHI)  But even though we were dead in our sins God, who is rich in mercy, because of the great love he had for us, gave us life together with Christ—it is, remember, by grace and not by achievement that you are saved—and has lifted us right out of the old life to take our place with him in Christ in the Heavens. Thus he shows for all time the tremendous generosity of the grace and kindness he has expressed towards us in Christ Jesus. It was nothing you could or did achieve—it was God’s gift to you. No one can pride himself upon earning the love of God. The fact is that what we are we owe to the hand of God upon us. We are born afresh in Christ, and born to do those good deeds which God planned for us to do.

I trust you were blessed by the “Faith and Patience VOL III – Never Give Up!” series.  It was a blessing to me and I received many testimonies about how the series helped people persevere through the many challenges of life.  I was not sure how long the series was going to last, and up until this past weekend, I was not sure if I was supposed to go back to teaching in Proverbs.  I preached in Williamsburg, VA this weekend and while there the Father gave me the green light to teach a series about His Amazing Grace.  I don’t know how long this series is going to last and I don’t know all the scriptures we will cover (I never know until the Father shows me), but I am genuinely excited about this series.  I have learned more about the Grace of God this year than any other year of my walk with Christ.  I humbly submit to the Father to be the vessel through which He teaches you about His immeasurable grace and as we go on this journey together, it is my prayer that we both grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus the Christ.

I was raised in the Catholic Church, licensed in the Methodist and Baptist Churches, and then ordained in a Non-Denominational Church.  I have been walking with Christ for 17 years and in that time span I have heard lots of doctrine, theory, dogma, and theology.  I have studied in Bible College and under the tutelage of great mentors.  However, it was not until this past year, while focusing more and more on God’s grace, that I truly realized how amazing grace is.  I have been getting up early to write Today’s Word, five days a week, for 15 years.  I spend countless hours preparing to teach, preach, blog, email, and etc. and without realizing it, over the years I built up a subtle tendency to think that I was earning things in Christ; that because I keep a busy schedule for God – and I have for years – that I somehow earned the blessings I have been enjoying.  However, the more and more I study God’s grace the more I realize that I have not earned a thing.  I am honored that God would use me to do anything; because if I would be honest, I know am not worthy of anything He has given me.  None of us are.  Earlier this year the Father pulled me out of a trap that many Christians have fallen into; the trap of believing that they are working to attain whatever they are receiving in God.  When you think that way the emphasis is too much on you and too little on God.  In this series it is my prayer that the Father would help us all to redirect our focus back towards Him and to what He desires to do in and through us.  Without question… it’s all about Him!

Please read the passage I have provided for you.  Tomorrow we will discuss it.

So what does this mean to you today?  A few quick things:
1.  You are who you are by the grace of God.
2.  Salvation, just like everything else God gives you, is given to you by God’s grace.  You have not been able to earn it and there is no way you ever could.
3.  Your life is not about you, it is all about Him (God).  God should be the central character in your life’s story.
4.  You are not worthy… get over it; none of us are!  God bless you, not because of what you do, but because of what Jesus already did.  Jesus paid it all for you!

Closing Confession:  Father, I thank You for Your grace.  I am who I am by Your grace.  You loved me when I was dead in my transgressions and sins.  You opened the door of salvation to me; even though I had turned my back on You countless times.  You have blessed me richly, in spite of the fact that I have messed up more times than I can remember.  Your goodness, mercy, and grace have kept me, even when in my own estimation I was not worth keeping.  Thank You Father for loving me that way that You have and for bestowing Your goodness upon me when I clearly did not deserve it.  As I learn about Your immeasurable and incredibly amazing grace, I seek to do my best to honor You and to bring glory to Your name.  You put Your treasure in me, an earthen and flawed vessel, and I will now freely tell everyone that the excellence is from You and not from me!  In Jesus’ name. Amen.

This is Today’s Word!  Apply it and Prosper!

 

 

Salvation By Grace
(Eph 2:4-10 PHI)  But even though we were dead in our sins God, who is rich in mercy, because of the great love he had for us, gave us life together with Christ—it is, remember, by grace and not by achievement that you are saved—and has lifted us right out of the old life to take our place with him in Christ in the Heavens. Thus he shows for all time the tremendous generosity of the grace and kindness he has expressed towards us in Christ Jesus. It was nothing you could or did achieve—it was God’s gift to you. No one can pride himself upon earning the love of God. The fact is that what we are we owe to the hand of God upon us. We are born afresh in Christ, and born to do those good deeds which God planned for us to do.

This morning we continue our series “Grace that is Simply Amazing.”  I introduced both the series and this passage in yesterday’s message; however, I did not get to address the passage.  Let’s do that today.

Paul teaches us that we all (every last human on the planet) we born dead in our trespasses and sins.  We were dead-men-walking.  Our sin nature led us to sin regularly.  Some of us were experts at it.  Others attempted to do their best to live right before God, but without repentance, remission of sin, and divine forgiveness all human efforts would fall short.  As much as any human could try, no one could ever live sinless.  Jesus was the only pure human to walk the planet.  Outside of Jesus, we all were sinners in need of a savior.  We were born with reservations to hell and with no way to cancel them.  Our reservations were confirmed and our doom seemed inevitable.  Furthermore, the Law could not save, but only magnify the need for a savior.  Under the Law we are all condemned, found guilty, and we would have been convicted.  But praise God for Jesus!  The Father, rich in mercy and motivated by His great love, sent Jesus to die in our place.  Jesus, thinking of us and not His own well being, took a debt He did not owe and paid a price we could not pay.  Jesus traded His righteousness for our sin, so that we could trade our sin for His righteousness.  That is the great exchange!

Where does that leave us?  After Jesus paid the ultimate price, all that was left for us to do was accept Him as Lord.  The Father freely gave His only Son as a ransom for us, the Son freely gave His life as payment for our sin, and when we receive Jesus as Lord the Holy Spirit freely takes us residence in our heart in order to lead and guide us into all truth.  God did all the work; all we must do is receive His free gift.  Now, when we do, should we take credit for it?  Accepting a gift is nothing to boast about.  The fullness of the Godhead (Father, Son, and Spirit) earned our salvation, all we do is receive it.  Paul says, “…it is, remember, by grace and not by achievement… It was nothing you could or did achieve—it was God’s gift to you… what we are we owe to the hand of God upon us.”

If a man is drowning in the ocean and calls out for the help of a lifeguard, only to gave the lifeguard run into the waters and save him from imminent death, does the man have anything to boast about?  Of course not.  All he did was call and the lifeguard did all the work.  All we did was call upon the name of the Lord, because Jesus had already paid it all.

So what does this mean to you today?  A few quick things:
1.  Salvation is a free gift, paid for IN FULL by Jesus the Christ.
2.  While we had a part in our salvation (calling upon the name of the Lord), our part is nothing to boast about.  Our boast should be in Jesus and what He did.
3.  Everything we are (both before and after salvation) we owe to the hand of God upon us.
4.  If it were not for the grace of God we would be undeniably lost.

Closing Confession:  Father, I will never cease to give You praise for Jesus.  I may experience many earthly victories, You may open many supernatural doors for me that lead to success and accolades, but no matter how far I go and no matter how much You bless me to do in the earth, the single most important event of my life was the day I accepted Jesus as Lord.  Every other day pales in comparison.  I am eternally thankful and grateful that You saved me, covered me with the blood of Jesus, washed me from my sin, filled me with Your Spirit, called me according to Your purpose, and now use me daily for Your glory.  Outside of You I am nothing.  That is why I seek – every day and in every way – to give You the glory.  I declare this with all sincerity and faith.  In Jesus’ name. Amen.

This is Today’s Word!  Apply it and Prosper!

 

 

You Would be Nothing Without the Grace of God
(Romans 12:3 NIV)  For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.

This morning we continue our series “Grace that is Simply Amazing.”  In “The Jesus I Never Knew” Phillip Yancey tells a true story of something a friend of his encountered as he worked with the down-and-out in Chicago.  He friend said, “A prostitute came to me in wretched straits, homeless, sick, unable to buy food for her two-year-old daughter.  Through sobs and tears, she told me she had been renting out her daughter— two years old!—to men interested in kinky sex.  She made more renting out her daughter for an hour than she could earn on her own in a night.  She had to do it, she said, to support her own drug habit.  I could hardly bear hearing her sordid story.  For one thing, it made me legally liable—I’m required to report cases of child abuse.  I had no idea what to say to this woman.  At last I asked if she had ever thought of going to a church for help.  I will never forget the look of pure, naive shock that crossed her face.  “Church!” she cried. “Why would I ever go there?  I was already feeling terrible about myself.  They’d just make me feel worse.”  Yancey then makes this statement, “What struck me about my friend’s story is that women much like this prostitute fled toward Jesus, not away from him.  The worse a person felt about herself, the more likely she saw Jesus as a refuge.  Has the church lost that gift?”

Like Yancey’s friend, the story of the woman renting out her two-year-old daughter for kinky sex is hard to even think about.  But it is a sad commentary that the woman did not see the church as a place of unconditional love, reconciliation, and restoration.  Why is that?  I believe it is because we have not placed enough emphasis on grace.  The more I think and meditate on this (and it’s all I’ve been doing lately), the more I understand how easy it is to avoid the thought of grace.  Our children are graded for their accomplishments in school and the teachers highlight what they got wrong, not what they got right.  Every grade they make must be earned.  After school our kids participate in sports and they must earn their spot on the team, and then earn the right to start.   The grading does not stop when we step into the workplace.  As a matter of fact, it is amplified.  As soon as someone does not seem to be earning their position they are asked to find employment somewhere else.  So it is easy to understand why a Christian in his/her 30s, 40s, or 50s can turn down their nose at someone.  The woman who was selling herself and her baby to feed a drug habit already had run-ins with Christians who made her feel worse, and not better, about herself.  The Christians, without knowing it, immediately judged the woman’s life against theirs.  When we encounter a person like this woman, if we do a quick self-inventory and think of the grades we earned in school, the work we put in to get through college, and the long hours we invested to climb the corporate ladder, it’s far too easy to look down and her.  Even if that is not your intent and even if you wanted to share the love of God with her, if you don’t first check her heart and remind yourself that only are who you are by the grace of God, then you will not be able to share God’s love with the woman without offending her.

Paul, when writing to the believers in Rome, thought about the awesome privilege he had been given to write letters to the churches.  Paul recognized the fact that he was only saying what he said by the grace of God.  Paul had been to the best schools of his day and he had been mentored by the elite of his time, but he still acknowledged that he was only able to do what he did by God’s grace.  Flowing in that same vein Paul said, “Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought.”

So what does this mean to you today?  A few quick things:
1.  In a society that focuses on earning everything you get, you must resist the temptation to attribute all the credit in your life to your own accomplishments and human effort.
2.  If you don’t remember and acknowledge God’s grace you will subconsciously look down on those who have not lived up to your internal standard.
3.  As much as you have accomplished, you would be nothing if it were not for the grace of God.

Closing Confession:  Father, I thank You for this reminder.  You sent people to reach me when I was dead in my trespasses and sin.  I now ask You to use me to reach the lost.  As You do, I declare by faith that I keep a sober estimation of who I am and who You have made me to be.  You help me to remain humble in Your sight.  While I am committed to excellence and to maximizing my purpose and potential, I am careful to keep my heart humble and pure.  As You setup divine appointments for me with people who truly need Your love, I will resist every internal temptation to look down on them and I will become the conduit through which Your unconditional love can flow to them.  Send people to me like You sent them to Jesus.  I am ready to be used to make a difference, because I acknowledge the fact that I would be nothing without Your grace!  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

This is Today’s Word!  Apply it and Prosper!

 

 

It’s All By Grace
(1 Cor 15:9,10 NLT)  For I am the least of all the apostles.  In fact, I’m not even worthy to be called an apostle after the way I persecuted God’s church.  But whatever I am now, it is all because God poured out his special favor on me—and not without results.  For I have worked harder than any of the other apostles; yet it was not I but God who was working through me by his grace.

This morning we continue our series “Grace that is Simply Amazing.”  If you have subscribed to Today’s Word for any length of time you know how fond I am of Paul.  One can make the argument that Paul was the most influential Christian of the first century.  Paul went on four missionary journeys throughout Asia Minor, he helped establish churches, he mentored pastors, and he wrote half the New Testament.  Without question Paul was submitted to and in sync with God’s Kingdom plans and purposes for his life.  I believe one of the things that truly helped Paul do what he did was his understanding of grace.

Paul was not there when Jesus healed a man who had been lame for 38 years.  He was not there when Jesus healed a blind man who had been blind from birth.  He was not there when Jesus took a little boy’s lunch (two sardines and five biscuits) and fed 5,000 with it.  He was not there when Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead.  What was Paul doing during this time?  He was studying the Law and developing a zeal that led to him becoming the worst enemy of the church.  When Stephen (the first Christian martyr) was stoned to death, Paul was too young to throw a stone, but he held the coats of the men who did.  Later Paul led the charge against Christianity and he terrorized all those who named the name of Christ.  It was only by God’s grace that Paul came to Christ, was Born-Again, and he then spent three years in pseudo-isolation in order to get ready for his true life’s assignment.

Thinking about all of this Paul says, “For I am the least of all the apostles.  In fact, I’m not even worthy to be called an apostle after the way I persecuted God’s church.”  Paul knew he had not earned his assignment.  Paul made a greater impact than the 11 disciples-turned-apostles who actually walked with Jesus, but Paul knew he could not take the credit.  Did Paul work hard?  Absolutely.  Was Paul persecuted for what he was attempting to accomplish for Christ?  Without question.  Did Paul make a tremendous personal sacrifice?  You bet.  But Paul still acknowledged that both the assignment and the empowerment to carry it out came by the grace of God.  I know this is somewhat difficult to receive today, because we live in a society where everything must be earned, but Paul was clear that he did not earn it; it was freely given to him.  Later Paul wrote, “I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of his power” (Eph 3:7).  In the last words of the passage I have provided for you today, Paul, while reflecting on his life and his accomplishments, said, “Yet it was not I but God who was working through me by his grace.”

So what does this mean to you today?  A few quick things:
1.  Grace is amazing because through it God looks past our failures and flaws in order to focus on His Kingdom plans and purposes for our life.
2.  Through His grace God is able to take flawed material and make Holy Garments.
3.  In a society that believes you must work hard and earn everything you get, the message of grace is often rejected, because it is not understood.  With grace God freely gives you both the assignment and the empowerment to fulfill it.  You did not (nor will you ever be able to) earn it.

Closing Confession:  Father, like Paul, I too am not worthy of the assignment You have given me.  When I look back over my life I acknowledge the fact that I have failed too many times, I have violated Your Word and Your ways more times than I can remember, and in my own estimation I would have already disqualified myself from my life’s assignment.  However, through grace I realize that I cannot disqualify myself from what Jesus qualified me for.  I know I don’t deserve it, because I do receive both Your assignment and the empowerment to accomplishment it, by Your grace.  You freely give me everything I need in order to accomplish Your Kingdom plans and purposes for my life.  When I mess up – which is more often that I would like – I simply repent, I receive forgiveness from You, I forgive myself, and I keep going.  I was saved by Your grace and it is Your grace that keeps me going when I feel like giving up.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

This is Today’s Word!  Apply it and Prosper!

 

 

The Law vs. Grace
(1 Cor 6:9,10 NIV)  Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.  And that is what some of you were.  But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

This morning we continue our series “Grace that is Simply Amazing.”  Let’s say someone walked up to me on the street and asked, “Rick, have you ever lied?”  My response would be, “Yes.”  If he continued, “Have you ever cheated?”  My response would be, “Yes.”  If he went on and said, “Jesus said that as a married man, if you simply looked at another woman and lusted for her, then you have already committed adultery in your heart.  Rick, have you ever done that?”  My response would be, “Yes.”  What if the man said, “Well Rick, then by your own admission you are a lying, cheating, adulterer.”  Guess what?  He would be right, if it were not for the grace of God and the forgiveness of sin through Jesus Christ our Lord.  But wait… before you judge me, think about yourself.  How would you answer those same questions?  Can you say that you have never broken any of the 10 Commandments?  If you have (and I know you have), then you are guilty and without grace you would be condemned to hell.

I have heard many condemning messages from the passage I have provided for you today.  Countless fiery preachers focus on verse 9 and say that no idolater, adulterer, whoremonger, homosexual, drunk, or liar will make it into the Kingdom of God.  But those preachers forgot to preach verse 10.  In the very next verse we find grace.  Paul goes on to say that we were washed, sanctified, and justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.  So while it is true that no idolater, adulterer, whoremonger, and etc. will enter the Kingdom, we are no longer those things once we accept Jesus as Lord.  The same man who wrote this letter, Paul, was clearly guilty of sin before God and transgression before man.  Paul knew he had done wrong, but in his second letter to this very same church Paul wrote, “Make room for us in your hearts.  We have wronged no one, we have corrupted no one, we have exploited no one” (2 Cor 7:2).  For Paul to say that he had wronged no one, when he clearly had, was an admission that he had received forgiveness of sin through the grace of God.  Have you?  Have you accepted Jesus as Lord?  Have you been washed of Your sin by the Blood of Jesus?  Have you accepted God’s free gift of eternal life, given to you by His grace?  If you have, then don’t live your life in condemnation.  God has forgiven you, so forgive yourself and live in the freedom wherewith Christ Jesus died to make you free!

So what does this mean to you today?  A few quick things:
1.  No sinner will make it to heaven, period.
2.  Once you have accepted Jesus as Lord and have received the forgiveness of sin by His grace, then you are no longer a sinner.  You are a child of the Most High God and you will go to heaven, not because of anything you do (as if you earned it), but because of what Jesus did.
3.  Without grace I would be a lying, cheating, adulterer, and you would be something similar, but with grace we can walk in the freedom of knowing that we are not perfect, but we are forgiven!

Closing Confession:  Father, I thank You for Your grace.  Your grace is truly amazing.  Your Law condemned me.  If I were judged by Your Law alone, then there is no way I could make it into Your heaven and there is no way I would be worthy of walking in Your best here in the earth.  However, because of what Jesus did and because of the grace extended towards me when I accepted Jesus as Lord, I can now walk in the liberty of knowing that I am a free man.  I am not perfect, but I have been forgiven and I walk in the fullness of my heavenly and holy calling by Your immeasurable grace.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

This is Today’s Word!  Apply it and Prosper!

 

 

A Modern spin on an Old Story
(Read Luke 15:11-32)

This morning we continue our series “Grace that is Simply Amazing.”  Most people are familiar with the story of the Prodigal Son.  Author Phillip Yancey put a modern twist on this story in his book, “What’s So Amazing About Grace?”  When I read it I was brought to tears, thinking about God’s amazing grace.  I will share it with you.  I pray it blesses you.

“A young girl grows up on a cherry orchard just above Traverse City, Michigan. Her parents, a bit old-fashioned, tend to overreact to her nose ring, the music she listens to, and the length of her skirts. They ground her a few times, and she seethes inside. “I hate you!” she screams at her father when he knocks on the door of her room after an argument, and that night she acts on a plan she has mentally rehearsed scores of times. She runs away. She has visited Detroit only once before, on a bus trip with her church youth group to watch the Tigers play… Her second day there she meets a man who drives the biggest car she’s ever seen. He offers her a ride, buys her lunch, arranges a place for her to stay. He gives her some pills that make her feel better than she’s ever felt before. She was right all along, she decides: her parents were keeping her from all the fun. The good life continues for a month, two months, a year. The man with the big car—she calls him “Boss”—teaches her a few things that men like. Since she’s underage, men pay a premium for her. She lives in a penthouse, and orders room service whenever she wants. Occasionally she thinks about the folks back home, but their lives now seem so boring and provincial that she can hardly believe she grew up there. She has a brief scare when she sees her picture printed on the back of a milk carton with the headline “Have you seen this child?” But by now she has blond hair, and with all the makeup and body-piercing jewelry she wears, nobody would mistake her for a child. Besides, most of her friends are runaways, and nobody squeals in Detroit.

After a year the first sallow signs of illness appear, and it amazes her how fast the boss turns mean. “These days, we can’t mess around,” he growls, and before she knows it she’s out on the street without a penny to her name. She still turns a couple of tricks a night, but they don’t pay much, and all the money goes to support her habit. When winter blows in she finds herself sleeping on metal grates outside the big department stores. “Sleeping” is the wrong word—a teenage girl at night in downtown Detroit can never relax her guard. Dark bands circle her eyes. Her cough worsens. One night as she lies awake listening for footsteps, all of a sudden everything about her life looks different. She no longer feels like a woman of the world. She feels like a little girl, lost in a cold and frightening city. She begins to whimper. Her pockets are empty and she’s hungry. She needs a fix… Something jolts a synapse of memory and a single image fills her mind: of May in Traverse City, when a million cherry trees bloom at once, with her golden retriever dashing through the rows and rows of blossomy trees in chase of a tennis ball. God, why did I leave, she says to herself, and pain stabs at her heart. My dog back home eats better than I do now. She’s sobbing, and she knows in a flash that more than anything else in the world she wants to go home. Three straight phone calls, three straight connections with the answering machine. She hangs up without leaving a message the first two times, but the third time she says, “Dad, Mom, it’s me. I was wondering about maybe coming home. I’m catching a bus up your way, and it’ll get there about midnight tomorrow. If you’re not there, well, I guess I’ll just stay on the bus until it hits Canada.” It takes about seven hours for a bus to make all the stops between Detroit and Traverse City, and during that time she realizes the flaws in her plan. What if her parents are out of town and miss the message? Shouldn’t she have waited another day or so until she could talk to them? And even if they are home, they probably wrote her off as dead long ago. She should have given them some time to overcome the shock. Her thoughts bounce back and forth between those worries and the speech she is preparing for her father. “Dad, I’m sorry. I know I was wrong. It’s not your fault; it’s all mine. Dad, can you forgive me?” She says the words over and over, her throat tightening even as she rehearses them… When the bus finally rolls into the station, its air brakes hissing in protest, the driver announces in a crackly voice over the microphone, “Fifteen minutes, folks. That’s all we have here.” Fifteen minutes to decide her life. She checks herself in a compact mirror, smoothes her hair, and licks the lipstick off her teeth. She looks at the tobacco stains on her fingertips, and wonders if her parents will notice. If they’re there. She walks into the terminal not knowing what to expect. Not one of the thousand scenes that have played out in her mind prepare her for what she sees. There, in the concrete-walls-and-plastic-chairs bus terminal in Traverse City, Michigan, stands a group of forty brothers and sisters and great-aunts and uncles and cousins and a grandmother and great-grandmother to boot. They’re all wearing goofy party hats and blowing noise-makers, and taped across the entire wall of the terminal is a computer-generated banner that reads “Welcome home!” Out of the crowd of well-wishers breaks her dad. She stares out through the tears quivering in her eyes like hot mercury and begins the memorized speech, “Dad, I’m sorry. I know …” He interrupts her. “Hush, child. We’ve got no time for that. No time for apologies. You’ll be late for the party. A banquet’s waiting for you at home.”

So what does this mean to you today?  It simply means that God loves you with unyielding love and He extends to you His immeasurable grace.  Like the girl in the story, we don’t deserve what God gives us, but He does it because of His grace.  Grace can never be earned, it can only be received.

Closing Confession:  Father, I Thank You for looking past my flaws and failures countless times.  I have been unfaithful to You more times than I want to admit.  You have always loved me, even when I did not love you.  You have always been there for me, even when I disregarded and disrespected You.  The more I learn of Your grace the more I realize how amazing it is and the more I learn to love You back.  I want to please You, not because I am afraid of going to hell or because I am afraid of not being blessed; no, I want to please You because I love You and it is the least I can do for a God who loves me by grace and not my works.  Thank You Father for Your amazing grace.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

This is Today’s Word!  Apply it and Prosper!

 

 

A Modern spin on an Old Story – 2nd Example
(Luke 7:41-43 NLT)  Then Jesus told him this story: “A man loaned money to two people—500 pieces of silver to one and 50 pieces to the other.  But neither of them could repay him, so he kindly forgave them both, canceling their debts. Who do you suppose loved him more after that?”  Simon answered, “I suppose the one for whom he canceled the larger debt.”

This morning we continue our series “Grace that is Simply Amazing.”  I received great feedback from the story I shared with you, from Phillip Yancey’s book, “What’s So Amazing About Grace?”  This morning I feel led to share with you another, a story of forgiveness by grace.  But first let me get your heart ready to receive.  In Luke 7 Jesus had dinner with a Pharisee.  While resting in the Pharisee’s home an immoral woman from that city entered with a beautiful alabaster jar filled with expensive perfume.  She knelt at Jesus’ feet, weeping.  Her tears fell on his feet and she wiped them off with her hair.  She then kissed Jesus’ feet and anointed them with the perfume.  When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know what kind of woman is touching him. She’s a sinner!”  Jesus, knowing his thoughts, went on to teach the lesson I shared with you in the passage provided.  Jesus’ point was that those of us who have been forgiven of much, simply by grace, should be overwhelmingly thankful.  Now let’s get to Yancey’s story.

“An entrepreneur in Los Angeles decides to cash in on the boom in adventure travel. Not all Americans sleep in Holiday Inns and eat at McDonald’s when traveling overseas; some prefer to stray from the beaten path. He gets the idea of touring the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Most of the ancient wonders, he finds, have left no trace. But there is a move underway to restore the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, and after a lot of legwork the entrepreneur lines up a charter plane, a bus, accommodations, and a guide who promises to let tourists work alongside the professional archeologists. Just the kind of thing adventure tourists love. He orders up an expensive series of television ads and schedules them during golf tournaments, when well-heeled tourists might be watching.  To finance his dream the entrepreneur has arranged a million-dollar loan from a venture capitalist, calculating that after the fourth trip he can cover operating expenses and start paying back the loan. One thing he has not calculated, however: two weeks before his inaugural trip, Saddam Hussein invades Kuwait and the State Department bans all travel to Iraq, which happens to be the site of the ancient Hanging Gardens of Babylon. He agonizes for three weeks over how to break the news to the venture capitalist. He visits banks and gets nowhere. He investigates a home-equity loan, which would net him only two hundred thousand dollars, one-fifth of what he needs. Finally, he puts together a plan that commits him to repay five thousand dollars a month the rest of his life. He draws up a contract, and even as he does so, the folly sinks in. Five thousand a month will not even cover the interest on a million-dollar loan. Besides, where will he get the five thousand a month? But the alternative, bankruptcy, would ruin his credit. He visits his backer’s office on Sunset Boulevard, nervously fumbles through an apology, and then pulls out the paperwork for his ridiculous repayment plan. He breaks out in sweat in the air-conditioned office. The venture capitalist holds up a hand to interrupt him. “Wait. What nonsense are you talking about? Repayment?” He laughs. “Don’t be silly. I’m a speculator. I win some, I lose some. I knew your plan had risks. It was a good idea, though, and it’s hardly your fault that a war broke out. Just forget it.” He takes the contract, rips it in two, and tosses it in the paper shredder.”  That’s what God did for us!

So what does this mean to you today?  A few quick things:
1.  You could never get out of the mess Adam got you into (sin and death).
2.  You could never repay God for your sins.  Even if you came up with a plan, it would never work.
3.  God forgave you of your debt by grace and grace alone.  You did not (nor could you) ever earn it.
4.  The more you have been forgiven of, the more thankful you should be!

Closing Confession:  Father, I should be like the woman at Jesus’ feet – because I know how much You have forgiven me of – and I declare that I will.  There is no way I could repay You for my sin and the debt my sin created hung over my head until I received Your Son as Lord and it was forgiven by Your grace.  I did not earn it and I realize I never could.  So now I don’t live my life attempting to earn Your salvation, as if I could somehow work for it.  But I do live my life as a forgiven child, extremely thankful, grateful, and dedicated to honoring You in all I do.  Thank You Father for loving me when I did not deserve it and for forgiving me of a debt I could never repay.  I speak this with sincere gratitude.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

This is Today’s Word!  Apply it and Prosper!

 

 

Forgiven People Forgive People
(Read Matthew 18:21-35)

This morning we continue our series “Grace that is Simply Amazing.”  Yesterday we looked at a passage in Luke where Jesus talked of two men who received forgiveness of their debts by grace.  The point of that lesson was to highlight the fact that the one who had the bigger debt would and should be more thankful.  In Matthew 18:21-35 Jesus told another story of a person’s debt being forgiven.  This time the story was not meant to compare the size of the debt with another indebted person, but rather to teach on the act of forgiveness itself.

What led to the story was something Peter asked.  Since Peter was so meticulous he sought a mathematical formula for grace.  Peter asked, “How many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me?” he asked Jesus. “Up to seven times?” Peter continued, erring on the side of generosity, because the rabbis of his day had suggested three as the maximum number of times one might be expected to forgive.  I am sure some of us would like that rule today… “three strikes and your out” would be our reply to a bothersome friend.  However, Jesus did not approve of three or the seven, Jesus said, “Not seven times, but seventy times seven”.  Jesus was not teaching us to keep a tally of wrongs done to us, only to expend our grace at 490 times.  No, forgiveness, as Jesus implied, is not the kind of thing you keep track of and it cannot be earned.  Forgiveness is given by grace and grace alone.

Peter’s question prompted Jesus to tell a story and instead of giving you what Jesus said straight from the Bible, I will give you Phillip Yancey’s version from, “What’s So Amazing About Grace?”  “There was a servant who somehow piled up a debt of several million dollars.  The fact that realistically no servant could accumulate a debt so huge underscores Jesus’ point: confiscating the man’s family, children, and all his property would not make a dent in repaying the debt.  It is unforgivable.  Nevertheless the king, touched with pity, abruptly cancels the debt and lets the servant off scot-free.  Suddenly, the plot twists. The servant who has just been forgiven seizes a colleague who owes him a few dollars and begins to choke him. “Pay back what you owe me!” he demands, and throws the man into jail. In a word, the greedy servant is an ingrate. Why Jesus draws the parable with such exaggerated strokes comes clear when he reveals that the king represents God. This above all should determine our attitude toward others: a humble awareness that God has already forgiven us a debt so mountainous that beside it any person’s wrongs against us shrink to the size of ant hills. How can we not forgive each other in light of all God has forgiven us? As C. S. Lewis put it, “To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable, because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.”

So what does this mean to you today?  A few quick things:
1.  Recipients of grace are expected to become extenders of grace.
2.  Forgiven people are to forgive people.  The more you realize how much God has forgiven you; the more you should be inclined to forgive others.
3.  The more you grow in Christ the less you think of yourself and the more grateful you become of the God in you.  Judgmental Christians are showing how immature they are in Christ, because the more you mature in Christ the more you realize the fact that you are only saved by grace.

Closing Confession:  Father, like the man in the story today I realize that I had a debt I could not pay.  Jesus willingly paid the price I could not pay for a debt He did not owe.  However, unlike the man in the story I will not practice un-grace.  Since I have been forgiven of much I will forgive much.  Since I have received grace, I will become a conduit of grace.  Since You have forgiven the inexcusable in me, I will, through Your love, forgive the inexcusable in others.  And the more I walk with You the more I realize how much I need Your grace.  I will never look down on someone else – for his or her flaws or failures – because I now realize how much I have failed and how much I need Your grace.  Thank You Father for extending Your grace to me and since Your grace has come TO me, I now ask You to flow Your grace THROUGH me!  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

 

 

Don’t Resent God’s Generosity and Grace Towards Others
(Read Matthew 20:1-16)

This morning we continue our series “Grace that is Simply Amazing.”  I will continue in the vein of putting modern twists on old stories.  Today, instead of sharing something from Phillip Yancey, I will attempt to come up with the modern twist myself.

It was 2010 and the economy had taken a turn for the worse.  Many people were out of jobs, the real estate bubble busted, and most real estate developers had to slow down on their construction projects; some had to stop altogether.  However, one developer had a diverse portfolio and he knew he could easily ride out the financial storm.  Instead of slowing down his projects and laying off his construction workers, he decided to ramp up a few projects in order to higher day laborers who needed the work.  He got the idea by looking at the crowd of day laborers who gathered the 7/11 he passed every morning on his way to his office.  He thought to himself, “I am going to help these people out.”

The owner asked his foreman to meet him at the 7/11 at 6am the next morning where they offered everyone there an honest day’s pay for an honest day’s work.  The men, 9 in all, were glad to get work and were thankful for the opportunity.  The going rate for a day worker on a construction site was $80.00.  Most of the men there were so much in need of money that the $80.00 would immediately go to groceries for their families.  At 9am the owner and his foreman took a drive to another 7/11 where they picked up 22 workers.  At noon they picked up 11 more at gas station close to the construction site.  At 3pm the team went to the local UHAUL store, because they knew day laborers congregated outside of the location.  Sure enough, they found 12 men there and offered them an honest day’s pay for an honest day’s work.  The day was almost over, but the owner felt led of God to go back to the first 7/11 and there he found 3 men still standing around.  It was 5pm and quitting time was 6pm.  The owner asked the men why they had not found work and the 3 men gave him all sorts of excuses.  The owner thought, “These men are probably lazy.  If they had been here at 6am when I came through they could have been working today.”  But, out of the goodness of his heart, he still offered them an honest day’s pay for an honest day’s work.

At 6pm the owner called his foreman in and said, “Call the workers in and give them their wages.  Start with the last, and end with the first.”  Those who had come in at 5pm were called in first and to their surprise, they were given $80.00 for their few minutes of work.  Then those who came in at 3pm were called and they received their $80.00.  The same happened for those who came in at noon, then 9am, and then finally, those who had come in at 6am received their $80.00.  The men who came in at 6am and 9am began to protest to the owner.  They said, “Wait a minute!  These last workers only worked for one hour, yet you’ve treated us all the same.  We have been in the blazing sun all day long and besides, we know the last three men and they are lazy.  They were sleeping while we were working.  They don’t deserve the same pay as us!”  The owner said, “Friend, I’m not treating you unfairly.  Didn’t you agree with me on a day’s wages?”  “Yes” was their replay.  The owner said, “Then that is exactly what I have given you.  Take your wages and go!  I want to give this last worker as much as I gave you.  Can’t I do what I want with my own money?  Why do you resent my generosity towards others?”

So what does this mean to you today?  It means God’s grace goes against our culture and our natural tendencies.  It’s easy to look down on those you think you are better than or those you know you work harder than.  It’s not hard to imagine yourself receiving more from God than the person who received Christ in the last seconds of their life, while you have been working for God all your life.  But at the end of the day, remember, you are not God.  If God wants to give someone access to the same heaven you will receive, even though they were a Christian for a few minutes, while were have been a Christian for decades, then why should you be upset?  Would you get upset with God because of His goodness and grace?  No.  Don’t look down on others, because none of us are perfect.  Don’t get upset with God because of His grace, because His goodness towards you is immeasurable.  At the end of the day, thank God for His goodness, kindness, mercy and grace towards you; and then seek to extend that same grace to others.  You are not the judge, God is, so let Him do the judging.

Closing Confession:  Father, I thank You for Your goodness, kindness, mercy and grace towards me.  I acknowledge the fact that I am only able to do what I seek to do for You, because of Your grace.  I can’t earn Your salvation, Jesus earned it for me.  If it were not for Jesus I would be lost and condemned to hell.  This helps me to keep a proper opinion of myself, I don’t think of myself more highly than I ought to think, and I refuse to look down on others.  If You want to shower others with Your goodness, I am in no position to question your grace.  If anything, I will celebrate with others because none of us are deserving of Your goodness in our lives.  I declare this with sincere gratitude.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

This is Today’s Word!  Apply it and Prosper!

 

 

Beware of Self-Righteousness
(Luke 5:27-32 GW)  After that, Jesus left.  He saw a tax collector named Levi sitting in a tax office. Jesus said to him, “Follow me!”  So Levi got up, left everything, and followed him.  Levi held a large reception at his home for Jesus.  A huge crowd of tax collectors and others were eating with them.  The Pharisees and their scribes complained to Jesus’ disciples.  They asked, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?”  Jesus answered them, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor; those who are sick do.  I’ve come to call sinners to change the way they think and act, not to call people who think they have God’s approval.”

This morning we continue our series “Grace that is Simply Amazing.”  Let’s close this week out with a reminder that we all need God.  The passage I have provided for you is the story of Jesus calling Matthew to become a disciple.  This passage calls him “Levi.”  Both names are right.  Matthew was his Greek name and Levi was his Hebrew name.  As a tax collector Matthew worked for Greek-speaking Romans and he gathered taxes from Hebrew-speaking Jews.  As you know, IRS tax collectors are not very liked today, but back then it was worse.  The Israelites were under the rule of the Romans and any Jew who willingly worked for the Romans was considered both a traitor and a sinner.  Additionally, tax collectors were rumored to skim a portion of the money for themselves.  So not only were Jewish tax collectors who worked for the Romans considered ‘sell-outs,’ but they were also considered thieves.  That being context isn’t it amazing that Jesus selected Matthew to be one of his 12 journeymen?  The common mind would think that when considering the 12 men he would spend his days and night with – mentoring, teaching, and pouring into them – that Jesus would have been more selective; that He would have picked 12 upright, outstanding, exceptional men of flawless character.  But that type of thinking does not consider grace.

After his selection Matthew was so excited that he threw a big party in his big house.  Matthew invited his friends and sure enough, the house filled with tax collectors and sinners.  Matthew had just been selected by the Son of God for the greatest internship program every available and the only people he knew to invite were people that we were nothing like Jesus, but exactly like him.  Somehow a few Pharisees made their way into the party.  As the Pharisees looked around they were amazed.  They would never associate with this crowd.  They considered themselves righteous and there was no way (in their minds) that righteous people were to associate with the scum of the earth.  When the question was posed “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?”  Jesus’ response was simple, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor; those who are sick do.  I’ve come to call sinners to change the way they think and act, not to call people who think they have God’s approval.”  Jesus’ statement was both a free offer of God’s grace to the lost and an indictment of the self-righteousness and pride of the Pharisees.

So what does this mean to you today?  Two things:
1.  God can make Holy garments from flawed material.  The 12 men Jesus picked did not earn their assignment, because none of them were ‘good enough’ for an internship with Jesus.  These men were selected by Gods immeasurable grace.  Guess what?  The same can be said of you!
2.  Never fall into the trap of self-righteousness.  The Pharisees thought they were righteous by their own works.  They were working for their salvation with their own effort and by their own merit.  People like this don’t need God because they are the god of their own lives.  But people who know they are sick go to the doctor.  Those who know they are lost call upon a Savior, and when they do don’t look down on others who are lost because they realize they never earned their place in God’s kingdom… Jesus earned it for them!  That’s grace!

Closing Confession:  Father, I thank You for this reminder.  I refuse to be like the Pharisees in this story who thought they were better than the sinners.  I acknowledge the fact that I was lost without You.  I was a sinner in need of a Savior and You saved me by Your grace, not by my own works.  I could have never earned Your salvation.  Even if I focused my heart and mind to live right before You every waking moment of every day, I know I would have still fallen short.  The Law condemned me and there was no way I could ever live up to Your standard.  However, Jesus did.  Jesus fulfilled the Law, He lived a sinless life, and by Your grace You imputed Jesus’ righteousness on me when I accepted Him as Lord of my life.  Thank You Father for making a way for me when I had no way.  I could never earn it, but You gave me salvation by grace.  Since I know I did not earn it I will never look down on those who are still sinners and who have yet to receive Your salvation by grace.  Instead of looking down on them I ask You to use me to reach them with Your grace and Your love.  I ask this by faith.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

This is Today’s Word!  Apply it and Prosper!

 

 

No Equivalent For Grace
(Read John 8:1-11)

This morning we continue our series “Grace that is Simply Amazing.”  The passage I have asked you to read this morning (John 8:1-11) deals with the woman caught in the very act of adultery.  We know she was caught red-handed and she deserved whatever the law allowed, but when the issue was brought to Jesus, instead of giving the woman what she deserved, Jesus extended to her God’s amazing grace.  We will deal with this story tomorrow.  For this morning I want to share with you something from Andy Stanley’s book “The Grace of God.”

“Grace.  What I crave most when my guilt is exposed. The very thing I’m hesitant to extend when I’m confronted with the guilt of others—especially when their guilt has robbed me of something I consider valuable. Therein is the struggle, the struggle for grace. It’s this struggle that makes grace more story than doctrine. It’s the struggle that reminds us that grace is bigger than compassion or forgiveness. That struggle is the context for both. When we are on the receiving end, grace is refreshing. When it is required of us, it is often disturbing. But when correctly applied, it seems to solve just about everything…

To say that someone deserves grace is a contradiction in terms. You can no more deserve grace than you can plan your own surprise party. In the same way that planning voids the idea of surprise, so claiming to deserve voids the idea of grace. You can ask for it. You can plead for it. But the minute you think you deserve it, the it you think you deserve is no longer grace. It is something you have earned. But grace can’t be earned. To earn something is to find an equivalent. There is no equivalent where grace is concerned. Grace is birthed from hopeless inequity. Grace is the offer of exactly what we do not deserve. Thus, it cannot be recognized or received until we are aware of precisely how undeserving we really are. It is the knowledge of what we do not deserve that allows us to receive grace for what it is. Unmerited. Unearned. Undeserved. For that reason, grace can only be experienced by those who acknowledge they are undeserving.

From the beginning, the church has had an uneasy relationship with grace. Yet history has shown that the church and Christianity in general fare best when characterized by grace. The church is most appealing when the message of grace is most apparent. Yet grace is often an early casualty in the world of organized religion. The gravitational pull is always toward graceless religion. Instead of defining itself in terms of what it stands for, the church often takes the less imaginative and easier path of defining itself in terms of what it is against…

The odd thing is that when you read the New Testament, the only thing Jesus stood against consistently was graceless religion… in Jesus we get as clear and as close a look as we will ever get of what grace looks like in an otherwise graceless world… It is our misunderstanding of grace, as modeled and taught by Jesus, that leaves us feeling as if grace allows people to “get by” with things. But grace doesn’t dumb down sin to make it more palatable. Grace doesn’t have to. Grace acknowledges the full implication of sin and yet does not condemn. But not just any grace. The grace of God.”

So what does this mean to you today?  Two quick things:
1.  You are a recipient of God’s grace.  You know you don’t deserve eternal life or the life the Father has worked in, with, and through you to experience.  You are who you are by God’s grace.
2.  You should be a conduit of God’s grace.  Since God’s grace has come TO you, your prayer should be to allow it to flow THROUGH you.  Ask the Father to touch someone today, through You, with His amazing grace.

Closing Confession:  Father, I thank You for loving me even though I don’t deserve it.  I have not earned Your salvation, nor could I ever do it, but You still loved me enough to give your Son to die in my place.  Jesus loved me enough to take on my sin, even though He was sinless.  The Holy Spirit loves me enough to live inside of me, even though I often make mistakes and disregard His instructions.  Your love is amazing, Your grace is astounding, and Your mercy is astonishing.  I will never cease to thank You for Your grace.  Your grace has come TO me and I now ask You to allow it to flow THROUGH me.  Use me as a conduit of Your love, grace, and mercy today and every day.  I ask this in all humility, because I know I don’t deserve it.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

This is Today’s Word!  Apply it and Prosper!

 

 

Don’t Be Judgmental
(Read John 8:1-11)

This morning we continue our series “Grace that is Simply Amazing.”  I mentioned this passage in yesterday’s message, but let’s deal with it today.

John 8 opens with Jesus returning to the Mount of Olives.  Early the next morning Jesus returned to the Temple.  Before long a crowd gathered and Jesus took the opportunity to teach them.  As Jesus was speaking the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery.  These men were upset at the success of Jesus’ ministry and they were looking for a reason to stop it.  They put the woman in front of the crowd and said, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery.  The law of Moses says to stone her.  What do you say?”  They wanted Jesus to contradict the law of Moses so they could accuse him of blasphemy.  It’s sad that they were so insecure with their own calling that they had to attempt to bring down someone else who was successfully walking in His calling.  This is an example of the graceless religion that often permeates through our churches today.  These men were so consumed with jealousy and pride that they were willing to expose and embarrass a woman who had made a mistake, as if they were perfect.  They mentioned nothing about the man (or men) involved in the act.  They mentioned nothing about their own flaws and imperfections.  They mentioned nothing about love, grace, forgiveness or mercy.  No, they were graceless and heartless.  Unfortunately, the spirit these men operated in is not foreign to the church today.  That’s why we need to learn of and develop in God’s grace.

Instead of answering the men Jesus stooped down and wrote on the ground with his finger.  We don’t know what he wrote, but we know the religious leaders were running out of patience.  They kept demanding an answer, so Jesus stood up and said, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!”  With that, Jesus stooped down again and continued to write on the ground.

Jesus was not saying that the woman was not guilty, because she clearly was.  Jesus was not saying that what she did was not a sin, because it most certainly is.  But what Jesus was saying was that everyone in the crowd (the Pharisees and teachers of the Law included) were as guilty as she was.  They might not have committed adultery, but they were sinners nonetheless.  They might have considered themselves better, but before God they were still in need of grace.  So every person in the crowd, as they began to internalize their own faults and flaws, walked away one by one.  The graceless atmosphere turned to a grace-filled one as Jesus looked at the woman and asked, “Where are your accusers?  Didn’t even one of them condemn you?”  “No, Lord,” she said.  So Jesus said, “Neither do I.  Go and sin no more.”  To be clear, it is not that she did not deserve punishment, because if she were not guilty then she would not need grace.  No, this woman was clearly wrong, she violated a law that was cut-and-dry, and Jesus extended a grace that she did not deserve.  Guess what?  He did the same for you!

So what does this mean to you today?  A few things:
1.  We are all as guilty as the woman in the text.  Our sin might not be adultery and our trial might not be public, but we are guilty nonetheless and we deserve punishment.
2.  The same grace that was extended to the woman in this text is extended to us.  Not that we deserve it, because we don’t, but then again, if we deserved it, it would not be grace.
3.  Don’t be like the Pharisees in the text (judgmental, condemning and prideful), be like Jesus in the text (loving, compassionate and full of grace).  Forgiven people forgive people.

Closing Confession:  Father, I thank You for this Word.  I could never deserve what You have done for me.  You loved me while I ignored You.  Your Son died for humanity, when we had nothing to do with You.  You overlooked my faults and flaws.  You acknowledged the fact that I was wrong, but You accepted me as Your own anyway, because of what Jesus did on Calvary’s cross.  I will forever be thankful for what You have done for me and I will never cease to give You the glory.  As a forgiven person I forgive others.  As a recipient of grace I become a conduit of it.  You did not look down on me so I refuse to look down on others.  If I believe I am saved – and I know how messed up I am – then I will never be judgmental towards others.  Instead, I will be an ambassador of Your grace everywhere I go.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

This is Today’s Word!  Apply it and Prosper!

 

 

Relationship vs. Religion

(Read John 5:1-16)

This morning we continue our series “Grace that is Simply Amazing.”  John 5 opens with Jesus heading to Jerusalem for a Jewish festival.  He entered the city through the Sheep Gate.  This was the gate people brought their animals in through, because there was a market nearby.  This being the case I could imagine it was a smelly and filthy place.  Near the gate was a pool with five porches called “Bethesda”.  Interestingly enough Bethesda means, “House of mercy.”  At this place of mercy a large number of sick people – many who were blind, lame, or paralyzed – came and sat under the porches.  They were there because an angel, from time to time, would come and stir the water in the pool.  Once the water was stirred it was believed to hold healing power and the first person that got in the pool was healed.  The sick were sitting around the pool waiting for the water to be stirred, hoping to get a breakthrough.  So imagine the scene for a minute.  Jerusalem had many gates but Jesus chose to enter the city through the gate which was near a market, full of live animals, and with a congregation of sick people lying next to a pool.  This does not sound like the ideal place, but remember, Jesus did not do anything without being led of the Father.  So it was no coincidence that Jesus came through this gate.

Sure enough, as to be expected, Jesus gravitated toward the sick and was led to address a man who had been paralyzed for 38 years.  When Jesus saw the man lying there and knew that he had been sick for a long time.  Jesus asked the man, “Would you like to get well?”  This is an interesting question.  One would think that everyone there wanted to get well.  But I believe Jesus wanted to see where his resolve was and it was clear from the man’s response that he was not determined at all.  The man said, “Sir, I don’t have anyone to put me into the pool when the water is stirred.  While I’m trying to get there, someone else steps into the pool ahead of me.”  I know he was sick, but that is an excuse.  However, Jesus ignored the poor excuse and said, “Get up, pick up your cot, and walk.”  The man immediately became well, picked up his cot, and walked.  Notice that the man did not earn it.  He did not beat anyone to the pool.  He did not exhibit exceptional faith.  He did not even have a good answer for Jesus.  However, Jesus healed the man simply because of God’s grace.

The healing took place on the Sabbath and when the religious leaders of the day saw the man who had just been healed of 38 years of paralysis, instead of rejoicing with him and giving praise to God, the graceless leaders focused on the fact that he was carrying his cot on the Sabbath.  They said, “This is a day of worship.  You’re not allowed to carry your cot today.”  The man did not want to get in trouble so he said, “The man who healed me told me to pick up my cot and walk.”  So the graceless religious leaders said, “You’re well now.  Stop sinning so that something worse doesn’t happen to you.”  Wow.  They did not get it at all; and to make it worse, when they found out Jesus was responsible for the healing they began to persecute Him.

So what does this mean to you today?  A few things:
1.  Never allow the rules of religious activity to cancel out the love and grace of God.
2.  You can fail to the do the work OF the church by being so busy doing what you believe is work FOR the church.
3.  Religion is about repetition and routine.  Relationship is about intimacy and confidence.  Seek a relationship with God, not religion.
4.  Don’t berate people in the name of a loving God.  God is love and if He is IN you, then His love should flow through you.

Closing Confession:  Father, I thank You for this Word.  This Word reminds me that I must maintain and intimate relationship with You.  I have to admit that there have been times when I focused too much on rules and rituals and it came at the expense of my relationship with You and others.  I will never allow a rule to keep me from loving You or loving others.  You loved me by grace and I will seek to do the same for others.  I can love You because You first loved me; and my love for You in exemplified in my love towards others.  Use me Father to reach others today with Your love, grace, compassion, and mercy.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

This is Today’s Word!  Apply it and Prosper!

 

 

An Unqualified Messenger

(Read John 4:1-30)

This morning we continue our series “Grace that is Simply Amazing.”  John 4 opens with a debate about the number of baptisms people were performing.  The legalistic and graceless Pharisees kept count and posted the score that Jesus was ahead of John, as if the number of baptisms was a competition.  In that climate Jesus decided to leave the Judean countryside and head back to Galilee.  This time, however, he would take an interesting route and pass through Samaria.  This land was Taboo for Jews because the racial divide between Jews and Gentiles, especially Samaritans, was deep.  But Jesus went that way nonetheless.  They group stopped in Sychar, a little town near the historic plot of land Jacob gave to his son, Joseph, and “Jacob’s Well” was there.  Jesus, worn out from the journey, sat down beside the well.  It was about noon and His disciples went into town to buy food for lunch.  A Samaritan woman arrived to draw some water and Jesus asked, “Would you give me a drink of water?”  The Samaritan woman, taken aback, asked, “Why are you, a Jew, asking me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?”  The racial tension between the groups was so bad that a Jew would not be caught dead talking to a Samaritan, much less a Jewish man talking to a Samaritan woman in public.  But Jesus was no ordinary man and He refused to confine Himself to legalistic and graceless laws.

Jesus went on to have a lengthy conversation with the woman about natural water (that she could offer Him) vs. living water (that He could offer her).  The woman wanted this living water, but when she asked for it Jesus said, “Go call your husband and then come back.”  The woman, without hesitating, said, “I have no husband.”  Jesus then said, in what some might consider to be a rude approach, “That’s nicely put: ‘I have no husband.’  You’ve had five husbands, and the man you’re living with now isn’t even your husband.  You spoke the truth there, sure enough.”  You would think the woman would be offended, but this woman was quick on her feet.  She responded, “Oh, so you’re a prophet!  Well, tell me this: Our ancestors worshiped God at this mountain, but you Jews insist that Jerusalem is the only place for worship, right?”  This woman was amazing.  She did not back down at all and she was ready for a Theological debate with a Jewish man in public; one who had just been somewhat rude to her.

The conversation touched on ancestry and it was clear that this Samaritan woman saw herself as a descendant of Jacob, with every right to worship Jehovah, waiting on the Messiah to come.  She said, “When the Messiah comes, we’ll get the whole story.”  Jesus had not yet revealed to anyone that He was the Messiah.  But this was the day.  Jesus said, “I am He, you don’t have to wait any longer or look any further.”  Just then His disciples came back and they were shocked at what they saw.  They couldn’t believe Jesus was talking with a Samaritan woman, especially in public.  No one said what they were all thinking, but their faces showed it.  So the woman quickly decided to leave.  But back in the village she told the people, “Come see a man who knew all about the things I did, who knows me inside and out.  Do you think this could be the Messiah?”  And they went out to see for themselves.

So what does this mean to you today?  It means that when you are motivated by grace you don’t get demotivated by race, rules, or religion.  This woman, rejected by the Jews on account of her race, rejected by her neighbors on account of her serial marriages, became the first “missionary” appointed by Jesus and the first person to whom He openly revealed his identity as Messiah.  Was she worthy of this honor?  No.  Did she earn this assignment?  Of course not.  Jesus revealed Himself to her by grace, during a divine appointment on His calendar, and her life was changed forever.  Moreover, God used this woman – a loose living, non-Jew, divorcée – to reach countless people in her town.  That is grace, and yes, it is amazing!

Closing Confession:  Father, I thank You for all the Biblical examples of You using people whom the world considered to be unworthy.  I acknowledge the fact that I am unworthy and I have gotten over it.  Jesus made me worthy and that is good enough for me.  Like the woman in the text, I am unqualified to share Your gospel and I could never earn the right to share such righteous truths from my unrighteous lips.  However, I ask You to send me to help reach others, not because I earned the assignment, but because of Your grace.  I receive the assignment by grace and I will openly share Your love and light with a dark, dying, and decaying world.  Use me Father to reach the lost today.  I will be Your legs to walk.  I will be Your mouth to talk.  Here I am Father, send me!  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

This is Today’s Word!  Apply it and Prosper!

 

 

The Praise of a Half-Breed

(Read Luke 17:11-19)

This morning we continue our series “Grace that is Simply Amazing.”  Since we dealt with a Samaritan woman yesterday, I thought it fitting to close out the week looking at what Jesus did with a Samaritan man.

In Luke 17 Jesus encounters 10 men who formed a coalition of outcasts; they were all lepers.  Leprosy is an infectious disease that attacks the skin and central nervous system and it causes multiple legions on the skin that produce a terrible smell.  Lepers, for obvious reasons, were social outcasts.  Lepers were considered unclean and since there was no cure, they were condemned to live the rest of their lives in leper colonies.  Beyond the obvious physical damage, the treatment of lepers could easily cause psychological harm.  They died a slow physical, mental, and social death.

So they were, 10 lepers, dying a slow death together, and one of them was a Samaritan.  Under normal circumstances you would never see a Samaritan in the company of 9 Jews.  Samaritans were considered half-breeds whose ancestors had deserted the faith and polluted the racial purity of the Jews by taking foreign wives.  But racial and social stigmas took a bad seat to the leprosy.  The 10 lepers kept together and kept the law as best they could, even following the commands from the scriptures that demanded they keep a safe distance between themselves and the non-lepers.  That’s why they hollered at Jesus from across the way, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.”  They were looking for mercy, compassion… grace.  Jesus complied without fanfare.  He did not walk towards the lepers, He did not touch them, and He did not look up to heaven and pray.  All Jesus said was, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.”  Under the law of Leviticus you were not considered cured from leprosy and allowed to reenter mainstream society until a priest pronounced you leprosy free.

Healing flooded their bodies when Jesus made the statement and they all took off in a hurry, looking for the first priest they could find.  But wait!  There was a problem.  One of the 10 was a Samaritan.  There was no way on God’s green earth that a priest would even talk to the man.  The Samaritan could have been leprosy free from birth and a Jewish priest would never pronounce him clean.  He was a half-breed, making him unclean, and there was nothing any priest would do about that.  No amount of healing could change his race.  So he did the only thing he could do and it was what his heart was yearning for him to do.  The Samaritan went back and prostrated himself before the only Jewish religious leader who had compassion and mercy on him.  This man laid at Jesus’ feet because Jesus extended to him an amazing grace that no one else would.  For years I thought this story was one of gratitude, and it is, but there are layers of grace here that must highlighted.  Jesus looked down at what He called a “foreigner” and pronounced him whole.  In-so-doing Jesus performed an act of grace the man would not have received from the Jewish priests.  And with that, the man got up and reentered mainstream society.

So what does this mean to you today?  A few things:
1.  God’s grace is freely available to all men, regardless of race, creed, gender, age, or etc.
2.  Be careful not to look down on others because of some perceived imperfection, because upon closer review, you are not perfect either.
3.  God looks past the stigmas the world has placed on us in order to meet our true needs.
4.  We could never earn what God freely gives us; all we can do is receive it by grace.
5.  Adoration and praise is the proper response to God’s amazing grace.

Closing Confession:  Father, I thank You for this Word.  As I learn of the treatment the Samaritans were given by the Jews I take self-inventory to consider the treatment I give others.  I never want to disregard, deject, disqualify, or devalue anyone, because I know You can use us all.  The reason I am convinced of this fact is because You use me.  If I know me the way I know me, and You still use me, then I know You can use anyone for Your glory.  Help me Father to build people up and to never tear them down.  Help me to release any stigmas I have in my heart towards others, because of race, religion, creed, age, gender, or anything that will hinder Your love from flowing through me.  You extended Your grace to me and for that I will forever give You glory, honor, and praise!  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

This is Today’s Word!  Apply it and Prosper!

 

 

Jesus: Love Personified and Grace Exemplified

(Mark 1:40-42 NIV)  A man with leprosy came to him and begged him on his knees, “If you are willing, you can make me clean.”  Filled with compassion, Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!”  Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cured.

This morning we continue our series “Grace that is Simply Amazing.”  We closed out last week with a look at the praise of a half-breed (Samaritan) leper.  Let’s start off this week with a look at the healing of another leper, but this time a Jewish one.  This leper, like the one we discussed last week, had an infectious and highly contagious disease that attacked his skin and central nervous system.  The same laws he observed as a child – the laws he loved for making him different from the Gentiles – became laws he grew to hate as they kept him from his loved ones.  Once tainted with leprosy he was no longer clean.  Once branded as a leper he was no longer welcome… not even in the homes of his family members.  He was a prisoner in his own dying and decaying body.  As his flesh ate away at itself his heart ate away at his soul.  I am sure he longed for the normalcy most loathe.  He wanted so badly to be normal, to be clean, to be considered human again, to be allowed back into society.  Can you picture him?  Can you see him?  His muscles have atrophied from the harrowing effects of the disease.  His eyes have dark circles around them because he can’t remember the last time he had a good night’s sleep.  All his hope is gone, most of his energy is gone, and when he heard about a miracle worker it took all he had to raise his desire for what could be his last chance for a breakthrough.

When the leper made it to Jesus he fell at his feet and begged for help.  His statement exposes the fact that he had already resolved within his heart that Jesus was bigger than his problem.  The leper was convinced that Jesus had the power to heal leprosy, so he did not have to ask Jesus if He could, but his inferiority complex wondered if he would.  The leper had been rejected by everyone he loved and written-off by everyone he knew.  His self-esteem was so low that he was not even sure if Jesus would love him enough to heal him.  But the leper did not know that Jesus was motivated by love and operated in grace.  Unlike the graceless religion of the man’s youth, this Jewish religious leader was operating under a different anointing and flowing in a different vein.  Jesus was love personified and grace exemplified.  So Jesus, filled with compassion, looked down and saw someone hurting more on the inside than the outside.  This is why He reached out His hand and touched the leper before He healed him.  He did what no other human had done since this disease had befallen him.  He gave the man what he so eagerly longed for – a human touch.  Jesus did the unthinkable and touched the untouchable.  And with that Jesus said, “I am willing, Be clean!”  This statement contains both His character and His power.  His character said, “Yes” to the man, His power said, “Go” to the disease.  In one fell swoop Jesus became both miracle worker and priest, as he pronounced the man clean enough to reenter society.

So what does this mean to you today?  Two things:
1.  Religion can be cold and callous.  The same law that made the Pharisees feel right made this leper feel wrong.  In both cases the law was in error.  God loves us enough to look past the self-righteousness of people like the Pharisees and low self-esteem of people like this leper.  Both need grace, both need healing, both need love and God freely provides it to all who accept it.

2.  Love and grace find a way.  The leper did nothing to earn his healing.  The law prohibited Jesus (a Jewish man) from touching the leper.  But Jesus – love personified and grace exemplified – loved the man just the way he was, but He loved him too much to leave him that way!  So if you feel condemned this morning, unworthy of God’s blessing, look up towards a God who will look down at you long enough to look past your pain and meet your true need.

Closing Confession:  Father, I cast my cares and concerns upon You this morning.  You know what I secretly struggle with and I lay it at your feet.  I ask You to look beyond my outward appearance long enough to see my true need.  Reach out to me this morning, even while I am in front of this computer, and touch me.  Cleanse me.  Wash me.  Make me whole.  Not because I deserve it, because I don’t, but because You love me and You willingly offer me Your best by Your grace.  I thank You for it in advance.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen!

This is Today’s Word!  Apply it and Prosper!

 

 

Tell Your Story!

(Read Mark 4:35 – 5:20)

This morning we continue our series “Grace that is Simply Amazing.”  Mark chapters four and five describe a very busy day for Jesus.  After teaching most of the day Jesus was led to spontaneously head across the lake.  Let’s find out why.

Jesus said to His disciples, “Let’s go across to the other side.”  As Jesus and His disciples got into a boat others followed after Jesus in other boats.  A tremendous storm formed, waves poured into the boat, threatening to sink it, and the disciples (some of whom had made their living on the water as fishermen), thought they were going to die.  All the while Jesus was fast asleep in the stern, with His head on a pillow.  The disciples woke Jesus up, scared to death.  Jesus rebuked the wind and spoke peace to the waters.  All of a sudden the storm was gone and the people were left amazed.

The boat touched seashore in the land of Gad.  When Jesus got out of the boat a demon possessed man emerged from the tombs to meet Him.  This man was why Jesus made the journey that threatened their lives.  He was also why the enemy wanted so badly to keep Jesus from arriving in Gad.  This man was being used of satan and satan knew Jesus would set him free.  Not because the man deserved it, or because he did something to earn his deliverance.  No, Jesus was motivated by grace and love.  Jesus went out of his way – putting his disciples and all those who followed in harm’s way – all because He loved this man enough to meet him where he was.

The man was in His element.  He roamed through the tombs day and night crying out and cutting himself with stones.  Every time someone attempted to chain him down the man would simply (and supernaturally) break through the chains.  This supposed lunatic, clearly oppressed of the devil, ran and kneeled himself before Jesus shouting, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God?”  Jesus looked passed the erratic behavior, the outward façade, and the awkward declaration; and saw a man who was hurting.  Jesus perceived the man was demon possessed.  The title the man used for Jesus was the title that satan attempted to elevate himself to – El Elyon (the Most High God).  Jesus said, “Come out of this man, you evil spirit!  What is your name?”  “My name is Legion,” he replied, “for we are many!”  The demons then begged Jesus to send them into a nearby heard of pigs.  Jesus granted their wish and the demons traveled into 2,000 pigs and the herd rushed into the nearby water and drowned.  The people tending to the pigs ran off to report the event in town.  Soon the town members gathered and asked Jesus to leave.  But before He left Jesus looked at the man He made the trip for, the man no one understood, the man no one could restrain, the man no one could free, and this man was now clothed in his right mind.  The man was so grateful that he wanted to go with Jesus and follow Him, but Jesus forbade it.  Jesus said, “Go home to your family and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.”  The man went and told everyone he knew how much Jesus had done for him.

So what does this mean to you today?  A few things:
1.  God will go to great lengths to meet you where you are.  Jesus stopped what He was doing, got into a boat, and traveled through a storm, just to minister a man no one understood.
2.  You can’t earn all God gives you.  If you had to put a price on it, how much would deliverance from 2,000 demons cost?  The man did not, nor could he, earn his deliverance.  It came to him by grace.
3.  You have a story.  You may not wear a preacher’s collar, or have a title, or ever stand behind a pulpit, but you have a story to tell.  What has God done in your life?  Whatever it is, God has been too good to you to keep it to yourself!

Closing Confession:  Father, I thank You for ministering to me.  You have met me, time and time again, where I was and reached me when no one else would.  When I felt all alone, without hope, and without help, You manifested Yourself to me and for that I will always thank You.  You went out of Your way to bless me, even when I know I did not deserve it.  I now have a story to tell.  I will not sit down on my story.  I am available to You today and every day.  Use me to share Your goodness with others for Your glory.  Help me to have the confidence to tell my story.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen!

This is Today’s Word!  Apply it and Prosper!

 

 

Don’t Look for ways to say “No”

(Mark 5:21-43)

This morning we continue our series “Grace that is Simply Amazing.”  After Jesus delivered the demon-possessed man in the land of Gad, He got back into the boat with His disciples and crossed back over the lake.  He left a large crowd behind when He took off for Gad and sure enough, a large crowd awaited His return.  When the boat arrived at the shore and Jesus started heading toward the people, someone broke through the crowd.  This was no ordinary man, his name was Jairus and he was a ruler of the synagogue, part of the religious leadership.  This man knew the local priests, Pharisees, and Sadducees, and no doubt he knew they were not happy with Jesus’ methods.  The way Jesus went around interacting with known sinners and routinely breaking laws they considered sacred (all in the name of helping people), did not sit well with them.  Jairus now, for some reason, was approaching the man his friends hated.

Jairus positioned himself before Jesus and fell at his feet.  He stripped himself of his position, his reputation, and his affiliation; and humbled himself before Jesus before He said anything.  When he finally spoke, his issue was exposed.  His little daughter was dying and he could do nothing about it.  His religious friends (Priests, Pharisees, Sadducees), with all their rules, could not help Jairus.  So right there, in front on everyone, on his knees, after admitting that his little girl was dying, Jairus said,  “I pray thee, come and lay thy hands on her, that she may be healed; and she shall live.”  Jesus accepted and they all took off for Jairus’ house.  The crowd followed and before they got far Jesus stopped, claiming that someone had touched Him.  I could just imagine Jairus looking back at Jesus, with anxious anticipation, with his patience running out, as Jesus held a lengthy conversation with a woman who was ceremonially unclean.  Once the woman touched Jesus, the law required Him to go home and wash himself.  If Jesus did that, then surely Jairus would be in trouble.  His little daughter was dying and time was of the essence.

So what would Jesus do?  Would He observe the law and let the little girl die or would He place the life of the girl above the law?  I am sure that Jairus (a strict observer of the law to that point in his life) hoped for the latter, but before Jesus could make the decision Jairus received the news that his little girl was dead.  While he was crushed and his hope fleeted, Jesus told Jairus to continue to believe.  Jesus was not disturbed by the news.  The bigger the problem, the bigger the testimony.  But there was one major problem, at least where the religious minded were concerned, and that is that no Jew could touch a corpse without becoming unclean.  But once again, that did not bother Jesus.  Jesus arrived at the house, asked everyone to leave, and then, right in front of Jairus and his religious background, He did what Jairus originally asked Him to do.  Jesus touched the cadaver of the little girl and she came back to life.  Jairus no doubt grabbed his little girl and praised God, not for a second thinking about the rules of the law.  Grace and love had visited his home; his little girl who was dead, was now alive again!

So what does this mean to you today?  A few things:
1.  Don’t become so legalistic that you fail to hear from God or reach people.
2.  Jesus never allowed the rules of religion to keep Him from ministering to the people the religion was designed for.
3.  Law-minded believers look for reasons to say “No” and to point out how others have missed the mark.  Grace-minded believers look for ways to say “Yes” and point out how we all have missed the mark!

Closing Confession:  Father, I thank You for helping me to see the heart of Jesus.  He did not come to abolish the Law, but He did fulfill it.  I am thankful that I don’t live under the Law, because there is no way I could ever abide by it.  The Law would condemn me, but Your grace has set me free.  I walk in the liberty wherewith Christ Jesus died to make me free.  I am free today.  I am free to love.  I am free to share Your grace with the world.  I am free to see others the way You see them.  I am free, not because of what I have done, but because of what Jesus did.  I could never earn Your best.  You freely give it to me by grace and I now freely share it with others as I become a conduit of Your grace in a seemingly graceless world.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen!

This is Today’s Word!  Apply it and Prosper!

 

 

A Pause for Self-Reflection

This morning we continue our series “Grace that is Simply Amazing.”  We are a few weeks into this series and while I provide a few points of application in every message, this Friday morning I think it is important for us to close out the week thinking about some of the things we have learned thus far.  I have been dealing with Jesus quite a bit lately; so let’s talk about Him.  Jesus is, after all, the greatest example of humanity synchronized with divinity.  Jesus personified what we should all strive after.

While Jesus was a Jew and He understood the Law, He was more spirit-led than Law-governed.  John tells us that Jesus was full of both grace and truth (John 1:14).  Jesus’ heart and mind were unquestionably full of truth (the Word), but He balanced the truth with grace.  Jesus did not study the Word of God in order to point out faults in others, or to feel better about Himself.  Jesus studied the truth, but He did so in order to live a life full of grace.  This is what made Jesus different from the Pharisees and Sadducees.  The Pharisees and Sadducees studied the truth, but they walked away from the Word feeling worthy, righteous, and somewhat indignant towards those who were not as outwardly righteous as they.  Jesus teaches us that when we study the Word we should walk away with the understanding that none of us could be righteous outside of the grace of God.

This helps us understand Jesus’ modus operandi (M.O.).  When presented with a woman caught in adultery by an angry mob of supposedly righteous people, Jesus did not see the two categories of people the Pharisees did.  The Pharisees saw: 1) righteous (them) and 2) unrighteous (the woman).  Jesus saw: 1) unworthy who know they are unworthy (the woman), and 2) unworthy who have fooled themselves into thinking they are worthy (the Pharisees).  This mistake is made over and over again throughout scripture and in modern times.  Would Jesus protest a gay parade with signs telling gays they are going to hell?  Would Jesus picket an abortion clinic with signs telling young girls they are murderers?  Now, you might be thinking, “Wait a minute Rick.  Are you supporting homosexuality and abortion?”  Of course not, but I am pointing out that individuals who consider themselves gay and those who have chosen to perform an abortion are people just like us.  We are no better than they are and our sin is no smaller than theirs.  Sin is sin and we are all unrighteous outside of Jesus.  My point is that we will never reach someone by sticking our finger in his or her face.  Jesus hated the sin, but loved the sinner.  We preach that today, but it is much more easily preached than practiced.

Jesus cared more about the heart of a prostitute than about her practices, and because He loved her she walked away from prostitution.  Jesus cared more about the heart of the adulteress woman than about her promiscuous ways.  After showing the woman the love of God, He then asked her to sin no more.  In Jesus’ day divorces were initiated by men and Jesus cared more about a woman who had been dumped by five husbands and who was shacking-up with a man who was not her husband, than about her loose living.  Jesus gave her living water and she became the first missionary to preach the arrival of the Messiah.  Today many Christians would not have even talked to her.

So what does this mean to you today?  It means that you should take the time to compare yourself to Jesus.  Don’t compare yourself to other people, because we are all flawed.  You might compare yourself to some you consider great and it could lead to low self-esteem.  Or, you might compare yourself to some you consider yourself better than and it could lead to a feeling of self-righteousness.  The only person you should truly compare yourself to is Jesus.  Every time you compare yourself to Jesus you will see where you are walking in the love of God and where you are not.  At the end of the day, you are called to be a Christian.  This words means “like Christ.”  If you want to be like Christ then you must walk in love and operate in grace.  Anything less is missing the mark.

Closing Confession:  Father, I thank You for this Word.  I take the time to reflect on this series and what I have learned from it thus far.  In the life of Jesus I see an example of how I am supposed to live.  Jesus was full of grace and truth.  I must admit that I have been more full of truth than grace.  I thank You for Your Word and I am committed to studying it all the days of my life, but the goal of my reading and study is to allow my learning to turn into living.  I want to live what I read and I declare, by faith, that I will.  I will walk in love all the days of my life and I will be the conduit of Your grace You have called me to be.  Use me Father to touch someone today with Your grace, mercy, kindness and goodness.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen!

This is Today’s Word!  Apply it and Prosper!

 

 

Slow Down

(Read Mark 5:24-34)

This morning we continue our series “Grace that is Simply Amazing.”  In last Thursday’s message we dealt with Jairus and his little girl.  I highlighted the fact that Jesus ignored the Law in order to touch the little girl’s cadaver and raise her back to life.  On the way to see the girl I briefly mentioned Jesus’ encounter with a woman who had an issue that also made her unclean.  Let’s take a closer look at that encounter this morning.

The woman who broke through the crowd in order to touch Jesus (both physically and spiritually) was actually breaking the Law in the process.  The Bible says that she had “an issue of blood” for 12 years.  In short, her menstrual cycle had literally not stopped in 12 years.  Physically, this would be bad enough for any woman, but from a spiritual aspect the Judaic Law made this woman’s life miserable during this time.  The Judaic Law stipulates that a woman is unclean during menstruation (see Lev 15:19-31).  Further, during the menstruation cycle the woman defiles everyone and everything she touches.  She may not have sexual intercourse with her husband.  If she does, he is subject to arrest and perhaps even the death penalty.  Dealing with this once a month was hard enough, but for 12 years straight it is enough to drive anyone crazy.  This woman had tried everything she could think of.  In addition to going to the religious leaders, who had no power to heal her condition, she spent all her money doctors and it yielded her nothing but bankruptcy.

I can’t imagine what it would feel like to bleed for 12 years straight.  This woman was financially bankrupt, physically debilitated, socially ostracized, and legally bound as a prisoner in her own body.  Instead of being a help, her Jewish faith was actually a hindrance.  The religious leaders wanted nothing to do with her, because she was unclean.  If anyone needed grace and a supernatural touch from God, it was her.  Amazingly enough, this woman heard of a miracle worker who had the audacity heal people on the Sabbath, to touch lepers, and to care more about people than stipulations.  So she mustered up enough courage to go out and meet the man.  She formulated an internal mantra and she kept saying to her herself, “If I can touch but His clothes, I shall be made whole.  If I can touch but His clothes, I shall be made whole.”  I am sure she imagined herself touching Jesus and somehow something happening for her bleeding to stop.  She developed an image and she kept the image before her as she made her way through the crowd.  The woman knew that what she was doing was illegal.  If anyone recognized her and her situation, and realized that she was making everyone she touched unclean, the punishment would be severe.  But the Law did not matter to her anymore.  She was at her wit’s-end and this was her lance chance.  She broke through the crowd, touched Jesus’ clothes, and she immediately felt the power of God flow through her body.  She knew she was healed from that very moment.  Her vision came to pass.  Instead of chastising her for making Him unclean, Jesus took the time to listen to her story.  With Jairus anxiously waiting in the wings, Jesus focused all His attention on this woman and He spoke healing and wholeness into her weary body.  This woman left changed by grace and she would never be the same.

So what does this mean to you today?  A few things:
1.  Don’t be so busy that you miss God.  Jesus had to stop long enough to minister to the woman and He gave her His undivided attention.

2.  You won’t reach those you don’t have compassion for.  If Jesus had looked at the woman through the lens of the LAW, He would have dismissed her as unclean.  But Jesus chose to look at the woman through the lens of LOVE.  Make sure you do the same!

3.  Never underestimate the power of a few minutes well spent.  You will encounter people today who need a kind word, a soft shoulder, a listening ear, or a prayer partner.  If you feel a nudge in your heart to offer any of these to someone today, please take the time to do so.  God will be pleased, they will be touched, and grace will be released!

Closing Confession:  Father, I thank You for this Word.  I thank You for always having the time and taking the time to minister to me.  When You look at me You don’t see someone who is unclean and You don’t see someone who is righteous because of their own works.  You see a child who has been forgiven by grace, covered by the Blood of Your Son, filled with Your Spirit, and called according to Your divine plans and purposes.  As a forgiven child I ask You Father to use me today to reach someone who is in need.  Set me up with a divine appointment and give me the discernment to know what to say and how to say it.  I am a recipient of Your grace and I now offer myself up to become a conduit of it.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen!

This is Today’s Word!  Apply it and Prosper!

 

 

Expose Your Withered Hand to God

(Read Matthew 12:1-14)

This morning we continue our series “Grace that is Simply Amazing.”  For the last couple of weeks we have been looking at the way Jesus dealt with people day-to-day and I hope you can see the difference between His grace-filled methods and the graceless religion of the Pharisees.  It is sad to admit, but I would have to say that modern day Christianity might resemble the Pharisees more than Jesus.  This is not an indictment against the entire universal church, because many churches are preaching the gospel of grace and reaching the hurting, but it has been my experience that some churches are filled with people who, with good intentions, have attempted to “live right before God,” while at the same time looking down at those who are not living up to their standard.  Grace is easy to welcome when you are on the receiving end, but not always easy to dish out when you are on the distribution end.

Let’s get into the lesson for this morning.  Matthew 12 opens with Jesus and His disciples traveling through grain fields on the Sabbath.  His disciples were hungry so they picked heads of grain, cracked them open, and ate the grain.  I guess once could accuse the disciples of stealing someone else’s grain, but a group of Pharisees watching what happened instead accused them of working on the Sabbath.  To me they were not working, they were eating.  The Father did not require people to starve on the Sabbath.  But for whatever reason, the Pharisees accused the disciples of breaking the Judaic Law.  Jesus, their leader, spoke up for the disciples and claimed to be “The Lord of the Sabbath” (v.8).  The Pharisees, of course, did not like that statement.  In their eyes Jesus was adding Blasphemy to their charge sheet and they decided to follow Jesus into town.

Since it was the Sabbath, once they arrived in town Jesus and his gang went to worship.  There Jesus noticed a man with a withered hand.  The Pharisees who had followed the group into the temple immediately knew what Jesus was thinking, so they asked, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?”  Jesus replied, “If any of you has a sheep and it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will you not take hold of it and lift it out?  How much more valuable is a man than a sheep!  Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.”  While this theological debate was going on there was still a man with a withered hand.  So Jesus diverted His focus from the Pharisees to the man and said, “Hold out your hand.”  The man did and it became as healthy as the other one.  This was a mighty miracle, but because it was performed on the Sabbath, sadly the Pharisees left the synagogue and began to plot how they might kill Jesus.

So what does this mean to you today?  A few things:
1.  As you grow in God you should develop in many areas, but you should never develop self-piety.
2.  The closer you truly get to God the less you will think of yourself and the more gracious you will be towards others.
3.  Never put ritual or tradition above people.  Your love for God is proven in your love for people.
4.  Be willing to expose your issue to Jesus.  Think about the man with the withered hand for a moment.  What if the man was so self-conscious about his withered hand that he kept it hidden?  Or, when asked to hold out his hand, what if he held out the good one?  If we fail to expose our issue to God, whatever the issue might be, we will fail to receive our breakthrough.  We like to show our ‘good hand’ to people, but we must be willing to expose our ‘withered hand’ to God!  When we do, His grace and power are manifested.

Closing Confession:  Father, I know You are a God of compassion.  You love me and care for me more than I can comprehend.  It is because of Your love that I continually come to You and trust You to move in my life in ways I don’t deserve.  I release my faith over my family and me today.  I believe that You can and will empower us to succeed in every plan, meeting, conversation, and activity we engage in today; not because we are perfect – because we are far from that – but because of Your goodness, grace, and mercy towards us.  I am also willing to expose myself completely to You.  I open up every issue, every hurt, every pain, every sin, and I ask You to cleanse me afresh.  Once again, not because I deserve it, but because You are so good!  Thank You Father for Your grace and help me to never look down on others in self-righteousness.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen!

This is Today’s Word!  Apply it and Prosper!

 

 

God is SO Goo

(Read Luke 7:11-16)

This morning we continue our series “Grace that is Simply Amazing.”  This story truly touched me.  You will be hard pressed to find a better story of grace than this one.  Get your heart ready to receive.

In Luke 7 we find Jesus traveling into the town of Nain.  Jesus disciples and the usual large crowd followed.  As Jesus approached the town gate He came in contact with a funeral precession.  The precession was for a dead man that happened to be the only son of his mother.  This would be bad enough, but to make a bad situation worse, the mother was also a widow.  So she was husbandless and sonless.  Talk about a bad situation.  This would be bad enough today, but in her day this was terrible.  Under the Law of Moses (see Duet 25:5,6), if a woman’s husband died she would be left to live with her children, in most cases, grown sons.  If a woman’s husband died and they did not have any children, she would have to marry one of her deceased husband’s brothers.  Her brother-in-law would become her husband.  A woman with a dead husband and a dead son was in a difficult situation.  The text makes no mention of a brother-in-law.  This woman was basically on her own and in the culture of the time, that meant she would more then likely struggle.  Women had very little public interaction with men outside of their family.

With all of that in mind, take a minute now to picture this woman.  Her husband had already died and she had transitioned her life into becoming comfortable with living with her grown son.  Her son had become her source of security, stability and strength.  Her son was her interface with the community.  Her son was also a perpetual reminder of her dead husband.  In many ways, her son was her source of sanity.  But now even her son was dead and her life was in disarray.

This woman did not know what she would do.  She was following the casket of her dead son while grieving the loss of her husband, her son, and her life as she knew it.  It was at this point, at her lowest of lows, at her worst of times, that Jesus showed up in her life.  Jesus saw her and His heart immediately rang with compassion.  Jesus initiated the contact.  He walked up to her and said, “Don’t cry.”  But how could she stop?  The people she cared for the most were gone.  Jesus knew how grave her situation was, but He also knew He had the power to change it.  Not because she deserved it, not because she exhibited exceptional faith, not because she did anything to gain God’s approval.  No, Jesus was motivated by love and full of grace.  He walked over to the coffin, touched it and said, “Young man, I say to you, get up!”  The dead man sat up and began to talk.  The son was alive again.  If the focus of the miracle was the young man, then Jesus would have left at that point.  But the focus of the miracle was not so much the man, but his mother.  Jesus took the man and led him back to his mother, as if to restore her broken heart and to resurrect her life and hope.  That, my friends, is a picture of grace.  Not just any grace; the Grace of God, and yes, it is amazing!

So what does this mean to you today?  It means that you should thank God for grace.  Grace is completely unmerited.  We know faith moves God, but this woman did not exhibit faith.  She did not say anything to Jesus, nor did she say anything at all.  Her tears spoke the language of pain and Jesus’ love spoke the language of grace.  This message is a reminder that our God is a good God who wants to heal our hurt, remove our pain, recover us from brokenness, and rejuvenate our joy!  So no matter where you are this morning – physically, spiritually, emotionally, or mentally – know that God is there with you, He cares, and because of His grace He wants to touch your heart and fill you with His supernatural peace.

Closing Confession:  Father, I thank You for Your overwhelming goodness and grace.  You have been, are now, and will always be good to me.  Your goodness motivates You to move in my life at the times where I am incapable of doing anything but weep.  Thank You for loving me when I needed You the most and for showing up in my life on those occasions where I could not muster up any faith or conjure up any hope.  Knowing that You love me enough to bless me by Your grace keeps me going when I feel like giving up.  Thank You Father for being so good!  In Jesus’ name.  Amen!

This is Today’s Word!  Apply it and Prosper!

 

 

Thou Art Loosed… By Grace

(Read Luke 13: 10-17)

This morning we continue our series “Grace that is Simply Amazing.”  In Luke 13 we find Jesus in a synagogue ministering the Word of God.  John said Jesus was “full of grace and truth” (1:14).  Jesus knew the Word, but so did the Pharisees.  What distinguished Jesus from them was that Jesus was full of grace and He followed His teaching of the Word with demonstration and power.  Jesus taught with authority and He operated in love.  So it’s no mystery why a certain woman caught Jesus’ eye while He was teaching.  This woman wanted to hear the Word, but she was clearly uncomfortable.  She was bent over and she had been in this awkward position for 18 years.  Pause for a minute to straighten up your back.  Please do it now.  Now imagine NOT being able to do that for 18 years straight.  This woman was in a bad situation, but amazingly enough she did not allow her condition to keep her from going to church.  She was in the right place, to hear the Word of God, and I am sure she had no idea that God would visit her that day.  That’s grace!

I consider myself a teacher of faith and for years I highlighted how faith normally preceded miracles.  However, as you can see in this series, there are many times where Jesus moved on grace alone.  This was one of those times.  When Jesus looked at the woman He discerned the root of the problem.  This woman was not bent over because of a back spasm, a slipped disk, or a spinal irregularity.  Jesus looked at the ‘force behind the scene.’  This woman was crippled by an evil spirit.  So, in the middle of His teaching, Jesus called her forward and He provided the faith.  Jesus did not speak what He saw, He spoke what He wanted.  Jesus said, “Woman, you are freed from your disability.”  The traditional King James Version says, “Woman, thou art loosed from thine infirmity,” which is where Bishop T.D.Jakes got the title for his women’s conferences.  Jesus then put His hands on the woman and she was immediately able to straighten up her back and she gave God the praise for her breakthrough!

The local ruler of the synagogue was highly upset because Jesus performed this miracle on the Sabbath.  This is quite sad.  No doubt this man saw the woman faithfully and painfully make her way to the temple for worship.  She continued to worship and praise God, for 18 long years, in spite of her condition and when she received her breakthrough all those who knew her should have joined her in the praise.  However, this graceless religious leader opted to focus more on a rule than a person.  Jesus explained how hypocritical the man was.  The same people who had problems with Jesus ministering on the Sabbath would lead their animals to water on the Sabbath.  Could an animal be more important than humans?

So what does this mean to you today?  A few things:

1.  Pray for discernment to see the ‘forces behind the scene’ when confronted with a situation.

2.  The enemy desires to keep you bound – physically, spiritually, psychologically, and socially – because that is part of his purpose.  He comes to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10).

3.  Jesus desires that you be free and full in every area, because that was part of His purpose.  Jesus came that we might have life and that we might have it to the full (John 10:10).

4.  There are times when God beats us to the punch, where without any exhibition of faith; when the Father manifests His glory in our lives by grace alone because He loves us!

Closing Confession:  Father, I thank You for giving me spiritual discernment to see the root issue of anything coming against me.  Jesus came that I might have life and have it more abundantly.  That is Your desire for me and I accept it to the full.  I make every attempt to live by faith every day.  I live, walk, pray, fight, and overcome by faith, but on those occasions where I don’t have the faith or the discernment, I thank You for stepping in and blessing me anyway, by grace, because You love me.  I have been “bent over” by situations in life and I can testify that You have come in and delivered me from what had me bound.  I enter this day free, full, happy, blessed, and with great expectations that You will manifest You best in my life today.  Not because I deserve, but because You love me!  I declare this by faith.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen!

This is Today’s Word!  Apply it and Prosper!

 

 

A Pause for Self-Reflection (#2)
This morning we continue our series “Grace that is Simply Amazing.”  Let’s close out this week like we did last week, with a pause for self-reflection.  This week we looked at four miracles, learning how Jesus dealt with people who needed a breakthrough, and how the Pharisees reacted to Jesus’ compassion and grace.  Last night I had a long conversation with the man God used to lead me to Christ.  His name is Leo Jacobs.  Leo and I have been friends from the time we met in 1995 and while I was clearly drawn to Christ by the God I saw in Leo, last night we were talking about the fact that back then our mentality was much closer to the mentality of the Pharisees than Jesus’, in the way we thought of others.  If we are not careful, the church can teach us to be so dogmatic that we place ourselves on a pedestal of righteousness and place everyone else – who we consider to be unrighteous because they are not living up to the standard we have set for ourselves based upon our understanding of the Word – to be unrighteous.

Jesus cared more about the woman with the bleeding condition, than the rules which said He could not touch her and that she could not touch Him.  Jesus cared more about the man with the withered hand, than Pharisees who had stalked Him into the temple, on a fault-finding mission.  Jesus cared more about the widow in Nain, whose life had been turned upside down, than the rules which said He could not come in contact with a dead body.  Jesus cared more about the woman who had been bent over for 18 years, but still faithfully came to worship, than the fact that it was a Saturday and that the Pharisees did not want to see miracles on their day of worship.  The point is that Jesus cared then and He cares today.  I hope you can see from this series that God cares for you more than you can ever comprehend.  The Father loves you with an unfailing, unyielding, and inexhaustible love.

Leo and I talked about this love last night.  While the woman with the blood condition sought Jesus out, the other three we learned of this week did not.  The man with the withered hand was minding his own business, in worship, loving God, when His breakthrough came in a beautifully unexpected way.  The widow in Nain was follow the casket of her dead son, with tears flowing down her face, when Jesus interrupted the funeral precession long enough to resurrect her son and her hope from the dead.  The woman who was bent over was in worship, like she had been for years, when all of a sudden a man she did not know spoke deliverance into her body in a way she could immediately feel.  Her breakthrough came when she least expected it.  None of these three people exhibited faith.  They did not speak faith-filled words.  As a matter of fact, they did speak any words.  These people were going on with the business of their daily lives, dealing with their issues as best as they could, when heaven, hope, and healing visited them.  What they received was unmerited, unexpected, unearned and unbelievable.  It was grace.  Not just any grace, this was the grace of God, and yes, it is amazing!

So what does this mean to you today?  The proper response to receiving grace from God is twofold.
1.  You ought to thank God for giving you what you did not deserve.  God chased you down.  He sought you out.  He sent people your way to talk to you.  He pursued you when you had nothing to do with Him and His pursuit was relentless.  God never gave up on You and even now, He consistently gives you what you do not deserve.  Make sure you thank Him!

2.  You should in turn extend grace towards others.  Don’t look down on others because you think they are not living up to your standard.  Love on them and extend grace to them.  Don’t wait for them to initiate the contact.  God did not wait on you.  God pursued you, so you should pursue others.  You should initiate the extension of love and grace towards them, so you can be the conduit God uses to touch them like you have been touched.  If you do this, others will be blessed, God will be pleased, and your life will be enriched.

Closing Confession:  Father, I thank You for this Word.  I take the time to reflect on this series and what I have learned from it thus far.  In the life of Jesus I see an example of how I am supposed to live.  Jesus was full of grace and truth.  I must admit that I have been more full of truth than grace.  I thank You for Your Word and I am committed to studying it all the days of my life, but the goal of my reading and study is to allow my learning to turn into living.  I want to live what I read and I declare, by faith, that I will.  I will walk in love all the days of my life and I will be the conduit of Your grace You have called me to be.  Use me Father to touch someone today with Your grace, mercy, kindness and goodness.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen!

This is Today’s Word!  Apply it and Prosper!

Faith and Grace

(Read Mark 9:14-29 and Matthew 17:14-23)

This morning we continue our series “Grace that is Simply Amazing.”  One day Jesus took His inner circle (Peter, James and John) up to a high mountain and there they had a supernatural experience commonly referred to as the “Transfiguration.”  They returned to the other disciples and found them surrounded by a large crowd.  Some teachers of religious law argued with the disciples and Jesus asked, “What’s all this arguing about?” One of the men in the crowd spoke up and said, “Teacher, I brought my son so you could heal him. He is possessed by an evil spirit that won’t let him talk.  And whenever this spirit seizes him, it throws him violently to the ground.  Then he foams at the mouth and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid.  So I asked your disciples to cast out the evil spirit, but they couldn’t do it.”  Jesus said to the disciples who were posed with the situation, “You faithless people!  How long must I be with you?  How long must I put up with you?  Bring the boy to me.”  It is clear that Jesus expected His disciples to be able to do what He was doing.  He expected them to operate in the same level of faith that He was operating in.  So, Jesus did not chastise the Father for not having enough faith for the deliverance of his son.  No, Jesus chastised His disciples for not having enough faith to deliver the boy.

When the boy was brought to Jesus the father said, “Have mercy on us and help us, if you can.”  Jesus retorted, “What do you mean, ‘If I can’?  Anything is possible for him who believes.”  To this the father replied, “I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief!”  We can all identify with this man.  We have all had issues we needed God to resolve and we all know what it is like to waver in our faith.  This man had faith, but it was not consistent.  He doubted, his faith wavered, and he drifted in-and-out of unbelief.  Now, those that look at this story through the lens of faith will say that the man does not qualify for the breakthrough.  He did not provide the faith and his wavering should disqualify him.  However, if you look at this story through the lens of grace you will see how Jesus expected His disciples to provide the faith.  When they did not, He was ready to.  The man’s faith was inconsistent, but Jesus’ faith was steady.  Jesus looked at the boy and spoke to the spirit in him, saying, “I command you, deaf and dumb spirit, come out of this boy, and never go into him again!”  The spirit gave a loud shriek and after a dreadful convulsion left him. The boy lay there like a corpse.  The bystanders thought he was dead, but Jesus helped him to his feet and he and his father went home free.  When everything died down the disciples humbly asked, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?”  Jesus told them that it was because of their unbelief.  This word “unbelief” is also translated “lack of faith.”  Their failure was a faith failure more than anything else.  Jesus went on to explain that if they had even as much as a mustard seed’s amount of faith, they could speak to any obstacle (mountain) and the obstacle would have to move.  The last statement in our text is very powerful.  Jesus wrapped it up by saying, “and nothing shall be impossible unto you.”

So what does this mean to you today? There is a lot here, but let’s glean a few golden nuggets as we look at this story through two lens:

Through the lens of faith:
1.  Jesus expects us to operate like Him in the earth (John 14:12).
2.  Doubt, fear, and unbelief cancel faith.  But faith also cancels doubt, fear, and unbelief.
3.  Faith sees no impossibilities.  There is absolutely nothing God is incapable of doing and He has delegated His supernatural authority to overcome impossibilities to us.

Through the lens of grace:
1.  There are times when we don’t have the faith and God, motivated by love, steps in and provides us the breakthrough anyway!
2.  We are not perfect and while the Word instructs us to live, walk, pray, fight, and overcome by faith, there are many times when we simply need grace, because our faith is too weak.
3.  We serve a God who loves us enough to see past our imperfections in order to bless us in spite of our failures.  That’s grace!

Closing Confession:  Father, You released Kingdom Dominion to mankind.  Adam lost that authority, but Jesus died that we might regain it.  Jesus restored the Kingdom to mankind and I declare that I walk in Kingdom Dominion today, through the vehicle of faith.  My faith cancels every fear, doubt, and unbelief.  I speak the language of faith.  I speak to every obstacle, in faith, and know that it will move.  I speak to every hindrance, in faith, and know that it will dissipate.  I see no impossibilities, because I look at my life through the lens of faith.  However, on those occasions where my faith is weak and I waver, I thank You for Your overwhelming grace.  Your grace steps in where my faith falters.  You are much better to me than my faith warrants and for that I will always give You the glory, honor and praise!  You are a God of grace and I surely need it.  Like the father in the story i say, “I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief!”  In Jesus’ name.  Amen!

This is Today’s Word!  Apply it and Prosper!

 

 

Faith and Grace (Part 2)
(Read Matthew 9:27-34)

This morning we continue our series “Grace that is Simply Amazing.”  Yesterday we looked at both faith and grace.  Let’s do the same today.  After Jesus raised Jairus’ little daughter back to life He left Jairus’ house and two blind men followed Him.  The blind men were determined to get their breakthrough and they followed Jesus shouting, “Son of David, have mercy on us!”  Jesus seemingly ignored the men and He traveled to the home He planned on spending the night in.  These blind men were relentless and they followed Jesus into the home.  Once Jesus saw them in the home He asked, “Do you believe I can make you see?”  They replied, “Yes, Lord, we do.”  Jesus then touched their eyes and said, “Because of your faith, it will happen.”  Their eyes were opened and they could see!

It is clear that the two blind men exhibited faith and Jesus responded to their faith.  However, the next miracle was purely grace.  As soon as the blind men left a demon-possessed man who couldn’t speak was brought to Jesus.  Unlike the two blind men, Jesus did not ask the man to speak – one of the reasons why is because he could not – and Jesus did not put the man through any tests of faith.  When Jesus was presented with the man He immediately cast the demon out.  As soon as the demon was gone the man began to speak.

The people were amazed. “Nothing like this has ever happened in Israel!” they exclaimed.  But therein lies the problem.  The people were appreciating the work of God through Jesus, but they were also acknowledging the fact that miracles had not been happening through the Pharisees or Sadducees.  The religious leadership of the time had a lot of rhetoric, but they did not have any power.  They did not display any real manifestations of God and the true needs of people were not being met.  Once they began to be exposed, they fired back.  The Pharisees were not sure what to say, but they knew they needed to act fast.  Jesus was supernaturally meeting the needs of people.  The dead were made to live, the blind could see, the mute could talk.  What could they say?  The Pharisees chose to say, “It is by the prince of demons that he drives out demons.”  This was a ridiculous accusation.  They wanted to attribute the acts of God to satan.  Why?  Because they did not have anything else to say and they were losing people faster than they could count.  Jesus said, “Any kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and a house divided against itself will fall.  If satan is divided against himself, how can his kingdom stand?” (Luke 11:17,18).

So what does this mean to you today? A few things:
1.  There is nothing too hard for God.  Being blind or mute, having Cancer or AIDS, etc., are big problems, but not bigger than God.  There is nothing God cannot do!
2.  God always goes to the root of the issue.  In this case the root was a demon, so He dealt with that.  In other cases the root may be an unresolved pain, or unforgiveness, or etc.; whatever it is, God wants to deal with the root of your issue.  Let Him.
3.  Sometimes God looks for faith, sometimes He just moves by grace.  Thank God for honoring your faith when you have it and for giving you grace when you don’t!
4.  A divided Kingdom cannot stand.  Unity brings strength, division brings weakness.  Satan divided Eve from Adam and he uses the same tactic today.  The Pharisees could have embraced Jesus, but instead they alienated themselves from Him.  Satan will always attempt to bring division in the body of Christ.
5.  There will always be nay-sayers who attempt to discredit what you are doing.  Jesus did not give them much attention and neither should you.  Pray for them and move on!  They cannot stop what God is doing in your life!  Their poison can’t stop your purpose!

Closing Confession:  Father, I understand that You can meet every need in my life.  I come to You and declare by faith that my every need is met.  There is nothing missing, nothing lacking, nothing broken in my life.  I am whole and healed!  I seek to live by faith and I thank You for honoring my faith when I have it.  I also thank You for extending me grace when my faith is weak.  And Father, I understand a kingdom divided against itself cannot stand.  I speak unity over my family, my relationships, my local church body, and the universal Body of Christ.  Greatness is too great of a task for one person.  I am not in this alone.  I am connected to brothers and sisters in the Body and together we are stronger than we are apart!  I face this day with the strength of unity and the encouragement of a great cloud of witnesses!  In Jesus’ name.  Amen!

This is Today’s Word!  Apply it and Prosper!

There is Nothing Too Small For Go

(Matthew 8:14,15 NLT)  When Jesus arrived at Peter’s house, Peter’s mother-in-law was sick in bed with a high fever.  But when Jesus touched her hand, the fever left her. Then she got up and prepared a meal for him.

This morning we continue our series “Grace that is Simply Amazing.”  I don’t know how many times I have preached about the fact that there is nothing too hard for God.  I routinely say, “There is nothing God can’t do.”  However, most of the time, the emphasis is on God doing something big.  But this morning I will share a story that shows the grace of God, even in things we might consider small.

This account is barely mentioned from the pulpit and seems to be overshadowed by the many great works of Jesus in the earth, but it is nonetheless noteworthy.  As part of Jesus’ itinerant ministry He arrived at Peter’s house for a respite.  When He got there Peter’s mother-in-law was lying in bed with a fever.  Most people think prayer, healing, miracles, and the such are reserved for cancer, AIDS, and terminal illnesses; but God is as much interested in removing a headache as He is removing cancer.  Anything that is keeping you from walking in the fullness God has for your life is a hindrance and the Father is willing to remove it.  Without question, the Father wants you to maximize your purpose and potential in the earth.  This being the case, Jesus did not overlook the fever.  A fever may not seem like a big deal, but it was keeping Peter’s mother-in-law from doing what she wanted to do.  It was not God’s will that she be bedridden.

Before we get to the healing I need to highlight the fact that this was another grace case.  Peter did not ask Jesus to heal his mother-in-law.  She did not beg Him or fall at His feet for a breakthrough.  No, this was Jesus motivated by love again.  Jesus walked over the bed and touched her without anyone asking Him to.  The fever left her body as quickly as His hand left her skin.  She was restored to health and fully capable of operating in Gods’ best for her life.  So what did she do?  Did she get up and run to church?  Did she go to her prayer room and have a worship service?  Did she fall down and cry tears of joy over Jesus’ feet?  NO!  Jesus got up and prepared a meal for her guests.  Once she was no longer bound she did what she would have done if the fever had never touched her body.  She waited on her guests like any honorable person would.

So what does this mean to you today? A few things:
1.  It is the will of God that every hindrance to His best be removed.  The only exceptions are those things that seem like hindrances, but that are actually helping propel you into His best.

2.  God is just as interested in removing a headache or a fever as He is any other hindrance.  So it is OK to pray about anything that is keeping you from God’s best.

3.  Sometimes you are down and out, without any expectation of a breakthrough, and God sweeps in to give you a turnaround by grace.  That’s amazing!

4.  The Father wants you to maximize the purpose and potential He has placed in you.

5.  You were not saved to sit, you were saved to serve.

6.  God wants you healed, healthy, blessed, and prosperous; so you can make the maximum impact in this world He wants to make through you.

What has God blessed you to do that you are not doing?  What has God called you to do that you are sitting down on?  Make up your mind today to go for it!

Closing Confession:  Father, I thank You for Your loving grace.  I thank You for honoring my faith.  But I also thank You for moving in my life by grace.  I can’t count the times when my expectations were not up, but You stepped in and blessed me anyway.  There is nothing too small for You.  I don’t worry about anything, but rather pray about everything!  I am healed, healthy, blessed and prosperous.  I have been saved to serve, not sit, and i will do just that.  I repent for sitting down on the gifts that You have blessed me with and I declare that I will step out in faith today and every day to seek to be used of You.  I shall maximize my purpose and potential while I am in the land of the living!  In Jesus’ name.  Amen!

This is Today’s Word!  Apply it and Prosper!

 

 

You Are a Grace Case
(Galatians 1:15,16 NLT) But even before I was born, God chose me and called me by his marvelous grace. Then it pleased him to reveal his Son to me so that I would proclaim the Good News about Jesus to the Gentiles.

This morning we continue our series “Grace that is Simply Amazing.”  We have been looking at case after case where it is evident that God’s amazing grace motivated Him to do what He did.  The more I study and think about God’s grace the more thankful I am for my own life.  If it were not for the grace of God I would not be anywhere near where I am today.  When I get emails, letters, tweets, FaceBook posts, and phone calls from people telling me how much God has blessed them through me, I can only go back to the grace of God.  I am a grace case and I am sure you are as well.

Years ago I preached a message entitled, “Don’t Judge My Future By My Past.”  I wish I could find the notes to that message.  In the message I went through the lineage of Jesus, as outlined by Matthew (chapter one), and I highlighted person after person whom God used for His glory; poiting out how none of them were seemingly qualified.  In that lineage you will find liars, adulterers, murderers, and a prostitute.  But they are still listed in the lineage and they were used of God for His glory.  Not because they were perfect, not because they deserved it, but because of God’s grace.

We all know how amazing the Bible is.  Smith Wigglesworth said, “The Bible is the Word of God: Supernatural in origin, eternal in duration.  Inexpressible in valor, infinite in scope.  Regenerative in power, infallible in authority.  Universal in interest, personal in application, and inspired in totality.  Read it through, write it down, pray it in, work it out, and then pass it on.”  The mere fact that ~40 authors wrote 66 books over a 1500 year span and they all come together as one sacred text for us to live by today is another act of God’s grace.  He did not have to do it, but He did.  And the three major authors (Moses, David and Paul) were all murderers.  Well, Paul never killed anyone with his own hands, but he was behind the deaths of many Christians and since he was too young to stone Stephen (the first Christian martyr), he held the coats of the men who did.  It is this same Paul who wrote in our text for this morning that God called him by His marvelous grace before he was ever born.  If that is true of Paul, then it is true of you.

So what does this mean to you today? It means that you are a grace case; accept it.  You were not worthy of God’s blessing before you accepted Christ, you are not worthy right now, and you will never be worthy.  You are righteous, not because of what you did, but because of what Jesus did.  Jesus paid for your sin – past, present and future.  You are saved by grace and grace alone.  Let’s close with a few golden nuggets we can glean from this lesson:

1.  God is in the business of making holy garments from flawed material.  This puts the emphasis on Him, and not us.

2.  God knew you were going to mess up before you messed up, and He called you anyway.  The Father factored OUT your mistakes when He factored IN His grace.  So don’t try to factor back in what He already factored out.

3.  As one of my mentors, Dr. Charlie Palmer, put it, “You are alive by Promise, dead by Purpose, Resurrected by (God’s) Power, and reigning for His good Measure and Pleasure!”  That my friends is grace.  Not just any grace, it is the grace of God, and yes… it is amazing!

Closing Confession:  Father, I have gotten over the fact that I am not worthy.  I was not worthy of Your best yesterday, I am not worthy now, and I will never be worthy.  I receive Your best by grace.  I AM A GRACE CASE.  The people who knew me growing up know that I am who I am today by Your grace and Your grace alone.  Apart from Your grace I would have been lost and condemned.  But by Your grace I have been redeemed, restored, revived, repurposed, and redirected.  Your grace is amazing and I will never cease to give You praise for it.  I now enter every day knowing that I am not perfect, but I am forgiven.  So I freely seek to maximize my purpose and potential and I never allow the devil to get me over into condemnation.  When I mess up, I quickly repent, receive forgiveness, forgive myself, and I move on by grace.  With this mindset I shall arrive at Your desired destination for my life.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen!

This is Today’s Word!  Apply it and Prosper!

 

 

A Grace Case: Moses (Part 1)
(Read Exodus chapters 1 and 2)

This morning we continue our series “Grace that is Simply Amazing.”   In yesterday’s message I told you that the three major authors of the Bible (Moses, David and Paul) were all murderers.  I am led to take a “deep dive” into the lives of each of these men and I will highlight how each is a grace case.

The Israelites did well in Egypt while Joseph had favor with Pharaoh.  But eventually a new Pharaoh took over who disregarded what Joseph had done for Egypt and he turned the Israelites into slaves.  However, since the Blessing of the Lord was still on them, the Israelites kept growing in number, even as slaves.  The Egyptian leadership grew concerned about the number of Israelites and they wanted to thwart the growth.  So the king called in Shiphrah and Puah, the two women who helped the Hebrew mothers give birth and he instructed them to kill every Hebrew boy at birth.  The women were too faithful to the God of the Hebrews to do it.  When they were called on the carpet, for not killing the male babies, the women said, “The Hebrew women have their babies much quicker than Egyptian women. By the time we arrive, their babies are already born.”  It was a lie, but it kept them alive.  Because they stood in faith for the Hebrews the Lord blessed these two women to have children of their own.  But the king was still upset and he gave a command to everyone in the nation, saying, “As soon as a Hebrew boy is born, throw him into the Nile River!  But you can let the girls live.”  This is the setting in which Moses was born.

I can only imagine what Moses’ parents, Amram (father) and Jochebed (mother), felt like when they got pregnant.  The excitement normally associated with pregnancy was tempered by the anxiety of possibly losing a son.  They did not have access to a sonogram and the text does not tell us that the Lord spoke to them concerning the gender of the baby, so as far as we know they did not know if they were having a boy or a girl.  Although boys were normally a family’s pride and joy back then, I am sure Amram and Jochebed secretly wanted a girl.  No one wants to lose their children and I can only imagine the agony associated with losing a baby.  So after 9 long months their wait was over and their worst fears were realized; they had a bouncing baby boy.  Baby Moses did not have a care in the world, but his parents knew he was born with a death sentence hanging over his head.  They hid him as best they could, but the more the baby ate, the more he grew and there came a point where he could no longer be hid.

Jochebed made a basket out of reeds and covered it with tar.  Ironically, she chose to put the baby in the Nile River, the same place the king wanted the boys to die.  But instead of becoming Moses’ cemetery, the Nile became the place of his “second birth.”  Moses’ life took an incredible twist of grace in the river.  ‘It just so happens’ that one of the king’s daughters was taking a bath in the river at the same time when baby Moses was passing by.  The king’s daughter sent a servant after the basket and when she opened it and saw the baby boy she said, “This must be one of the Hebrew babies.”  She knew what was supposed to be done, she knew this baby was sentenced to die, and she knew her own father had issued the death warrant.  But in an remarkable act of grace – completely unmerited, unexpected and unbelievable – the king’s daughter decided to adopt the baby as her own.  And to make a good story even better, she wound up hiring Jochebed, Moses’ own mother, as his nanny.  Jochebed got paid to take care of her own son.  I will stop here for today.

So what does this mean to you today? A few quick things:
1.  God had plans for you before you were ever born.
2.  The greater the assignment, the greater the attack.
3.  The enemy’s poison can’t stop God’s purpose.
4.  Grace is unmerited, unearned, unexpected, and seemingly unbelievable at times; that’s why it’s AMAZING!

Closing Confession:  Father, I thank You for making plans for me before I was ever born.  You destined me before the foundations of the earth.  I am not a mistake.  I was born when I was supposed to be born, in the right place, for the right things the happen to me.  The enemy has tried, time and time again, to derail me from my destiny, but his plans have failed and will always fail.  I am Your child, called according to Your plans and purposes for my life, and I declare by faith that I will arrive at Your desired destination.  I do my best to live by faith, but I can’t count the times when Grace stepped in and gave me what I did not deserve.  Or when mercy stepped in and kept me from receiving what I did deserve.  You have been so good to me.  Like Moses, I have a story and it is unquestionably a GRACE CASE.  Help me to share my story today.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen!

This is Today’s Word!  Apply it and Prosper!

A Grace Case: Moses (Part 2)

(Read Exodus chapters 1 and 2)

This morning we continue our series “Grace that is Simply Amazing.”  Last week I introduced you to Moses and his amazing story.  Moses was born with a death sentence looming over his head.  He was supposed to be thrown into the Nile River to drown, but God had other plans for Moses.  The same river that was supposed to destroy him was the place he was delivered.  The same family that pronounced his death sentence wound up taking him in as one of their own.

This story is one of grace and providence.  No doubt, God had great plans for Moses.  God knew this baby boy would be the one He used to deliver his people out of Egypt, so he needed to be strong and courageous.  God knew Moses was destined to write the first five books of the Bible (the Torah), so he needed a solid education.  God knew Moses would some day need an audience with the Pharaoh, so he needed a relationship with the Egyptian royal family.  All these things were provided by the same family who wanted him dead.  God used Pharaoh to finance Moses’ education, upbringing, physical training, and to foster the relationships he would need later on in life.  I love it when God uses the enemy to finance the ministry.

This is clearly a grace case.  This is not a story of Amram and Jochebed’s exceptional faith.  While Moses’ parents did hide him for a few months, they released him into the water without any inkling of what would happen next.  It’s not like they offered God a sacrifice and stood in faith that all this would happen to Moses.  This was divine providence.  This was God overlooking, overseeing, overshadowing baby Moses, by His grace; protecting and preparing him for his life’s assignment.  Moses, the baby who was supposed to die, grew up as an Egyptian prince, with the best life had to offer, and he would eventually give it all up for his life’s assignment.

I came to God at 23 years of age and one of the most life-changing experiences I have ever had with God was a night in Kuwait when the Father took me back over my life, as if it were a movie, showing me experience after experience where He kept me for my life’s assignment.  I had a praying mother and a praying grandmother, and I am sure God honored their faith, but I also firmly believe that the Father shielded me countless times by grace and grace alone.  Growing up in Brooklyn I was shot at multiple times, once with a sawed-off shotgun (where the gunman is not supposed to miss), and I was never hit, by the grace of God.  At the tender age of 11 years old a thief put a .357 magnum to my head in order to steal my $23 blue-and-white suede Adidas.  I have had knives at my throat, guns to my head, and threats on my life, all before the age of 18, but like Moses, God kept my by His grace; all the while preparing me for my life’s assignment.

So what does this mean to you today? A few quick things:
1.  God initiated His involvement in your life by His grace.  He took the first, second, third… 500th step, because He loves you.

2.  Life is better understood looking back.  When you are going through something you may not understand why.  God has a plan for your life and it is a good one.  Once you submit to Him you begin to understand how He was with you the whole time, preparing you for such a time as this.

3.  God can turn it around.  God does not do everything and every bad thing that happens did not come from Him, but He surely knew it would happen and He can make a way to use it for your good.

4.  Trust God.  When you establish a firm trust in God – in His goodness, grace, mercy and kindness – then you can maintain that trust, even when you don’t know how things are going to work out.  No matter what happens, the fact that God is still with you should bring you comfort.

Closing Confession:  Father, this morning I can look back and say, “Thank You.”  I too can attest to the fact that You were there for me when I had no clue that You were.  You stepped in for me and saved me, when I would have otherwise perished.  You shielded and protected me for such a time as this and for that I will never cease to give You praise.  You initiated the contact in my life.  You pursued me and tracked me down, and You were relentless in Your pursuit.  You kept sending people to me, to speak to me, even when I flat-out ignored You and those You sent.  Thank You Father for never giving up on me and for keeping me, by grace, for my life’s assignment.  I now vow to live my life on purpose, with purpose, for Your glory.  I am still here, so I ask You to use me today so Your Kingdom plans and purposes can be made manifest through me.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen!

This is Today’s Word!  Apply it and Prosper!

 

 

A Grace Case: Moses (Part 3)
(Read Exodus 2:11-15)

This morning we continue our series “Grace that is Simply Amazing” by continuing to look at the life of Moses.  With Moses we have been reminded of how God often initiates contact with us, in order to protect us for our life’s assignment and to establish a relationship with Him.  Now I want to highlight the fact that Moses was not perfect.

After Moses had grown up as an Egyptian prince, he went out to visit his own people, the Hebrews, and he saw how hard they were forced to work. During his visit he saw an Egyptian man beating one of his fellow Hebrews.  After looking around to ensure no one was watching, Moses killed the Egyptian and hid the body in the sand.  The next day Moses went out to visit his people again.  This time he saw two Hebrew men fighting. “Why are you fighting your friend?” asked Moses, to the one who had started the fight.  The man replied, “Who appointed you to be our prince and judge? Are you going to kill me as you killed that Egyptian yesterday?”  Right then, Moses realized he was in a world of trouble.  Soon after, Pharaoh heard what had happened and attempted to have Moses killed.  Moses fled from Pharaoh and settled in the land of Midian.

We already spent a few weeks looking at how Jesus was motivated by love and operated by grace.  I believe it is important for us to see God as a God of grace.  Not because it gives us a license to sin, but because it helps keep us from condemnation.  Whenever we mess up – and we all do – the devil quickly sweeps in and attempts to get us over into condemnation.  The Holy Spirit will convict of righteousness, reminding us who we are in Christ, but He will never condemn us.  When we feel convicted we run TO Christ, when we feel condemned we run FROM Him.

I bring up the point about condemnation because I am sure Moses felt it as he sought to establish his life in Midian.  There he was, living in a tent, in a foreign land, with foreign people, in isolation from everything he ever knew.  The Bible does not tell us anything about his upbringing, but I would venture to say that he felt special.  The Bible leads us to believe the he knew he was a Hebrew.  If he knew he was actually a Hebrew who was adopted into Pharaoh’s family, then how could you not feel special?  All the other Israelites (millions of them) were slaves, being made to work under excruciating circumstances.  Moses was the only Hebrew living in opulence and he seemingly wrecked his life by making a foolish mistake.  Within a week Moses’ life had been turned upside-down.

Have you ever been there?  Have you ever felt like you wrecked your life?  Have you ever felt like you disqualified yourself from your destiny?  Have you ever felt like your mistakes had taken your life to the point of disrepair?  I am sure Moses did, but guess what?  Moses was still alive, so God was not through with him.  God still had plans for Moses and He still has plans for you!

So what does this mean to you today?  A few things:
1.  God is not looking for perfect people because there aren’t any.
2.  God considered your mess-ups before you made them and He destined you anyway.
3.  Don’t allow condemnation to make you feel like you have disqualified yourself from what God has qualified you for.
4.  God uses flawed people to perform holy acts so that the excellency would be of Him, and not of us (2 Cor 4:7).
5.  When God uses you in spite of your failures and flaws He is guaranteed to get the glory!
6.  If you are still breathing, then God is not through with you!

Closing Confession:  Father, I thank You for this Word.  When I look at the life of Moses and how You still had plans for him after he made major mistakes, I find hope for myself.  I know the mistakes I have made in life.  I realize the fact that I am not perfect.  But I thank You for reminding me that You knew what I would do before I did it, and You still destined me for greatness.  Therefore, shall not allow the enemy to get me over into condemnation.  I resist condemnation at all costs.  I am not perfect, but I am forgiven.  I am still alive and You still have plans for me.  I declare, by faith, that I shall continue to press toward my purpose with bulldog-tenacity.  I will not allow a mistake to derail me.  When I make mistakes, I repent and move forward.  Forward ever, backward never!  The best is yet to come in my life.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

This is Today’s Word!  Apply it and Prosper.

 

 

A Grace Case: Moses (Part 4)
(Read Exodus 2:16-25)

This morning we continue our series “Grace that is Simply Amazing” by continuing to look at the life of Moses.  Thus far we know he fled to Midain, but let me tell you what happened when he got there.  Scholars debate over the proper distance between Egypt and Midian.  Some say it was a three day journey and others claim it took Moses 9 days.  Either way, Moses had plenty of time to think about his mistake and he also had plenty of distance over which to grow hungry and thirsty.  When Moses arrived in Midian he headed straight for the well.  He was sitting on the well, getting some rest, when the seven daughters of the local priest (Reuel) came to draw water for their father’s flocks.  Moses watched as a few shepherds confronted the girls and started to chase them away.  Even though he was tired and hungry, Moses was still a man of courage.  Moses confronted the shepherds and protected the girls.  He then took the time to draw water from the well for their flocks.  Moses did not know it, but this was a divine appointment.

When the girls returned to Reuel, their father, he asked, “Why are you back so soon today?”  They answered, “An Egyptian rescued us from some shepherds who wanted to attack us and he then drew water for us and watered our flocks.”  “Where is he?” their father asked. “Why did you leave him there?  Invite him to come and eat with us.”  Moses accepted the invitation, one thing led to another, and Moses wound up marrying Zipporah, one of Reuel’s daughters.  Later they had a boy who Moses named him Gershom,which means, “sojourner.”  Moses gave him that name because he said, “I have been a foreigner in a foreign land.”

Moses was a Hebrew who grew up as an Egyptian.  He was too Hebrew to actually be an Egyptian, but too Egyptian to be welcomed by the Hebrews.  After his mistake he settled in Midian.  But he was clearly not a Midianite, and while he wound up spending 40 years there he never really embraced Midian entirely.  Moses was, as the name he gave his son suggests, a sojourner looking to find himself and his place in the world.  Many of us can identify with him.

After many years the king of Egypt died and the Israelites continued to groan under their burden of slavery. They cried out for help and their cry rose up to God.  The Bible says, “God heard their groaning, and he remembered his covenant promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  He looked down on the people of Israel and knew it was time to act” (verses 23-25).  Moses had no idea, but his life was about to take a major turn.  He had taken a zig-zag road in life, but his purpose was about to become clear.  We will stop here for today.

So what does this mean to you today?  A few things:
1.  Delay does not mean denial.  Moses spent 40 years in Midian, thinking his chance for something great in life had expired, but God still had a plan.
2.  Detours may delay you, but they don’t derail you from your destiny.  You may take a zig-zag path, but you will still get there!  If you are still breathing, then God still CAN!
3.  Be who God made you to be.  If you don’t feel comfortable in the “box” or “label” the world attempts you to put you in, it is because the Father does not want you to be confined.  Don’t allow yourself to be limited.
4.  Let it out!  If you feel like there is something greater inside of you than what you are currently experiencing; there probably is.  Pursue your dreams.
5.  Sometimes your breakthrough will come when you least expect it.  Moses had no idea his life was about to change for the better, but God did.

Closing Confession:  Father, I thank You for this Word.  I can identify with Moses and as I read about his life I find hope for my own.  My mistakes may have delayed me, but they shall not deny me from Your best.  No matter what the enemy wants me to think, I know I have not been derailed from my destiny.  No matter how long it takes, I am determined to arrive at Your desired destination for my life.  I shall get OUT of me everything that You have placed IN me.  It may not look like it all the time, but I am right where You knew I would be and I am determined to continue down the path to my destiny.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

 

 

A Grace Case: Moses (Part 5)
(Read Exodus 3:1-5)

This morning we continue our series “Grace that is Simply Amazing” by continuing to look at the life of Moses.  I mentioned yesterday how the Lord heard the cry of His people.  The time had come and the Lord was ready to rescue His people from Egypt, just like He had promised Abraham over 400 earlier that He would (see Genesis 15:13,14).  Remember, God is the central character in each story.  When we read about Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Peter, James, or John, we are really reading about God and what He was able to accomplish through individuals who were not perfect, but who were simply willing to submit to God’s Kingdom plans and purposes for their lives.

As we get back to Moses we pick him up after 40 long years in Midian.  I am sure he had fond thoughts of his childhood, as he grew up with the best life had to offer, but those thoughts were distant memories.  I am also sure he beat himself up more times than he wanted to admit, for making the mistake that landed him in Midian.  So there he was, minding his own business, attempting to make the best of life in a place he never thought he would wind up, when God, initiated contact with Moses once again.  That, my friends, is grace.

It was an average day and Moses was doing his normal tasks.  This particular day he was tending the flock of his father-in-law, Jethro (also known as Reuel), the priest of Midian.  Moses led the flock far into the wilderness and came to Sinai, the mountain of God.  There the angel of the LORD appeared to him in a blazing fire from the middle of a bush.  Moses stared in amazement.  Though the bush was engulfed in flames, it didn’t burn up.  “This is amazing,” Moses said to himself.  “Why isn’t that bush burning up? I must go see it.”  As Moses got closer the Lord called to him from the middle of the bush, “Moses! Moses!” “Here I am!” Moses replied.  “Do not come any closer,” the LORD warned. “Take off your sandals, for you are standing on holy ground.”  Most of us know this story, but most of us don’t look at it through the lens of grace.  To see it through the lens of grace we must see it from God’s perspective.  This was about God and what He promised Abraham He would do for Abraham’s descendants.  This was not about Moses per se.  Moses did not come up with the idea to rescue the Israelites, this was completely God and it was done by His grace.

So what does this mean to you today?  A few things:
1.  You have a story and it is about much more than just you.  God has plans for your life and if you with let Him, He will grace you to accomplish them all.

2.  God can bring a turnaround in an instant.  You may feel like you have wrecked your life with your mistakes, but turning it all around is not hard for God at all.

3.  For God to fully operate in your life He is looking for you to cooperate.  God did not force Moses and He will not force you.  If you cooperate, He can operate, by His grace!

Closing Confession:  Father, I thank You for this Word.  This Word has reminded me that my life is not just about me.  You have Kingdom plans and purposes for my life and I am ready to submit to them.  I have not always been ready and I have made my fair share of mistakes along the way.  But thank You Father that I have not truly wrecked my life to the point of disrepair.  I am still alive, You are still on the throne, and You can still grace me to accomplish Your divine will.  From this moment I declare that I will cooperate with You, so You can fully operate in my life, for Your glory!  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

This is Today’s Word!  Apply it and Prosper.

 

 

A Pause for Self-ReflectionThis morning we continue our series “Grace that is Simply Amazing.” Last week we did not close out the week this way, but I will attempt to close out every week with a message that gives us an opportunity to reflect on what we learned during the week.
On Monday we learned about Moses’ birth and how we was basically born with a death sentence and I shared my testimony about the many times my life was in danger as I grew up in Brooklyn.  When you look at Moses it seems like the enemy attempted to take him out, before he ever got started.  The same can be said of Jesus.  King Herod sent the three wise men (or three kings) to find baby Jesus, not because he wanted to worship the baby, but because he wanted Jesus dead.  Jesus, like Moses, was born with a death sentence.  Similarly, Jesus told Peter, “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren” (Luke 22:31,32).  Satan wanted to take Peter out at the wheat sifting stage, before he ever got started.  What’s the point?  The point is that satan attacked Moses before he was born, Jesus before he was ever born, and Peter before he was Born-Again, because they all had a great assignment.  I believe the same can be said of me and the same can be said of many of you.  Make no mistake, the enemy is not going to waste time attacking someone who is not worth attacking.

On Tuesday we learned of Moses’ major mistake.  Moses killed a man and he would up being exiled from his home and everything that he knew; resigned to spending 40 years of his life in seeming obscurity.  The good news is, however, that God was not through with Moses.  As much as Moses messed up his mistake could not disqualify him from what God had qualified him for.

On Wednesday we learned that Moses did what he thought was the only thing he could do and that was to setup a new life in Midian.  Moses attempted to move on, thinking about his old life from time to time, and also thinking about how he had seemingly wrecked his life by taking matters in his own hands.  But we also learned how God heard the cry of His people back in Egypt and how He was ready to do something about it.  Moses did not know it, but God still had major plans for him.

Finally, yesterday we learned how, when the time was right, the Lord sought out Moses at the burning bush.  Moses did not earn the contact, he did not perform a special act of faith, but God, by His grace, pursued Moses and helped Moses maximize his purpose and potential in life.  That’s how He does with us.

So what does this mean to you today?  A few things:
1.  The greater the assignment, the greater the attack.  Satan is no fool.  He only spends time attacking divine purpose.  So if you are under attack, it is because you have something that is worth attacking!

2.  Your mistakes are not news to God.  God did not have to wait until you messed up to know you were going to do it.  He made provisions for your blunders, so thank Him for His goodness and move on.  Don’t wallow in self-pity or condemnation.

3.  Your life is not your own.  Once you submit to God your life is no longer your own.  God has great plans for your life and if you will allow Him, He will bring to pass all He has destined you to accomplish while you are in the earth.  Moses thought his life was over, but God knew it was not.  Guess what?  Since you are still alive, then God still has plans for you and if you will allow Him, He will bring those plans to pass for His glory!

4.  God will pursue you.  God pursued you to get you saved — think about the many people He sent your way, to talk to you about Him, before you gave your life to Christ — and He will pursue you now that you are saved, in order for you to maximize your purpose and potential.

Closing Confession:  Father, I thank You for this Word.  When I look at the amazing things You did through Moses I get encouraged about what You have done, are doing, and will do in my life.  I have been attacked, and I now know it is because I am worth attacking.  There is greatness locked up in me!  The enemy wants to stop what You want to accomplish in, with, and through me, but He can’t.  Everything You want to accomplish in my life SHALL come to pass.  Not because I am perfect, but because of Your grace.  My life is not my own.  I am submitted to You and Your Kingdom plans and purposes for my me.  You have pursed me and I now declare that I will pursue You.  I want to get out of me everything You have placed in me, and I declare that I will.  I will die empty.  I will maximize my purpose and potential.  I will make the difference I am called to make.  And it will all be because You wanted to do it and You brought it to pass!  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

This is Today’s Word!  Apply it and Prosper.

 

 

A Grace Case: Moses (Part 6)
(Read Exodus 3:6-10)

This morning we continue our series “Grace that is Simply Amazing” by continuing to look at the life of Moses.  We left off with Moses standing in front of a bush that was burning, but it was not being consumed.  Moses then heard the Lord call him by name, saying, “Moses! Moses!”  And the Lord went on to say, “Do not come any closer.  Take off your sandals, for you are standing on holy ground.”  I can only imagine what Moses felt.  This was a supernatural experience.  The Lord went on to say, “I am the God of your father—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.”  When Moses heard this, he covered his face because he was afraid to look at God.  I am sure his heart was experiencing relief (that he had not actually derailed himself from his destiny), gratefulness (that God still wanted to use him), and fear (that he was actually having an encounter with the God of his forefathers), all at the same time.

The Lord then said, “I have certainly seen the oppression of My people in Egypt.  I have heard their cries of distress because of their harsh slave drivers.  Yes, I am aware of their suffering.  So I have come down to rescue them from the power of the Egyptians and lead them out of Egypt into their own fertile and spacious land.  It is a land flowing with milk and honey—the land where the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites now live.”  Notice the amount of times the Lord says, “I”.  The reason why this is a grace case is because, when grace is involved, the emphasis is on God and not us.  We know Moses to be the great deliverer of the Israelites from Egypt, but Moses did not come up with the idea.  It’s not like Moses said, “You know what?  Although I grew up like an Egyptian, I am actually a Hebrew and I am going to see to it that all the Hebrews go free.”  No, this was not Moses’ idea, it was God’s and God used Moses by Him immeasurable and amazing grace.

So what did Moses do when he heard what God said?  Did he rise up with amazing courage, ready to take the assignment?  Did he exhibit exceptional faith and tell God he was the man for the job?  Of course not.  Moses hid his face, afraid to even look at God.  Why?  Because Moses had been carrying around the condemnation and guilt of his past for years.   You can’t exhibit confidence in God, or His assignment for your life, when you feel condemned and guilty.  In the New Testament John explained this, saying, “Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from him anything we ask, because we obey his commands and do what pleases him” (1 John 3:21,22).  John explained that if our hearts DO NOT condemn us, then we can have confidence in God.  But what happens if our heart condemns us?  What happens if we are walking around with the guilt and condemnation of the mistakes we have made in the past?  The answer is simple: we will be stripped of all confidence.  We will never take on our divine assignment from God when we cower in condemnation.

So what does this mean to you today?  A few things:
1.  You are not a mistake.  You were born with a purpose and your life is about what God wants to accomplish in, with, and through you.

2.  You are a grace case.  Like Moses, you did not earn your assignment.  And just like you did not earn it, your mistakes cannot disqualify you from what God has already qualified you for.

3.  You don’t have to be perfect.  When God gives you a promise He knows that there will be a period of time between the promise and the performance.  God also knows that you will not be perfect in that span.  So don’t wallow in condemnation when you make a mistake.  Repent, receive forgiveness, and move on in faith.  You are not perfect, but you are forgiven and destined.

4.  Have faith in God.  Condemnation will strip you of your confidence and faith boils down to confidence.  When you remind yourself that God knew you were going to mess up and He gave you the promise anyway, then the emphasis is clearly on Him and His faithfulness.  Maintain your faith/confidence in God.  Men will fail you and you will fail yourself, but God will never fail you!

Closing Confession:  Father, I thank You for knowing me better than I know myself.  Men have failed me and I have failed myself more times than I want to admit, but You have never failed me and You never will.  You destined me by Your grace and Your foreknowledge of what I would do right, and what I would do wrong.  Therefore, my mistakes cannot disqualify me from what You have qualified me for.  I am who You say that I am and I will do what You say that I will do.  I will accomplish everything You put me on this earth to accomplish, because I will enter every day with an unwavering confidence in You.  My faith is in YOU – not in me and not in others.  You called me and I am convinced that You are able to finish what You have started in my life.  I declare by this faith!  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

This is Today’s Word!  Apply it and Prosper.

 

 

A Grace Case: Moses (Part 7)
(Read Exodus 3:6-10)

This morning we continue our series “Grace that is Simply Amazing” by continuing to look at the life of Moses.  Let’s take a closer look at what God said to Moses at the burning bush.  The Lord then said, “I have certainly seen the oppression of My people in Egypt.  I have heard their cries of distress because of their harsh slave drivers.  Yes, I am aware of their suffering.  So I have come down to rescue them from the power of the Egyptians and lead them out of Egypt into their own fertile and spacious land.  It is a land flowing with milk and honey—the land where the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites now live.”  There are two things I want to highlight in what God said.  First, the amount of times the Lord said, “I” is a reminder that Moses’ assignment to lead the nation of Israel out of Egypt was clearly His idea.  Moses did not come up with the idea on his own and what is said of Moses can be said of us.  The Lord gives us our divine purpose by grace.  Just like Moses did not come up with, or truly earn, this awesome assignment, we don’t either.  Our divine purpose is not developed, it is discovered.  Just like Moses learned of what God wanted to do in his life, at the burning bush, we also learn what God wants to do in, with, and through our lives as we walk with and hear from Him.

Second, if you read this passage carefully you will notice that God said He would do two things: 1) lead His people OUT OF Egypt and 2) lead His people INTO Canaan (the land flowing with milk and honey).  The Lord kindly exposed His divine intentions to Moses.  The Lord was going to lead the people OUT OF a bad situation and He would lead them INTO a great one.  And then, after sharing both with Moses, the Lord then said, “Now go, for I am sending you to Pharaoh. You must lead my people Israel out of Egypt.”  Moses’ assignment was only connected to th first thing the Lord said He was going to do.  Moses did not know it, but the second assignment was reserved for a man named Joshua who would faithfully serve Moses for 40 years.  After 40 years of mentorship and development, Moses’ time on the earth would come ot an end and Joshua would lead the nation of Israel into Canaan.  But whether it was Moses leading them out or Joshua leading them in, the Lord was clear that in both cases this would be His doing.  This was the Lord’s idea and siince it was His idea then He would willfully provide Moses and Joshua the grace required to fulfill the assignment He gave them.

So what does this mean to you today?  A few things:
1.  Divine purpose is discovered.  You don’t get to come up with your divine purpose.  You discover it as you walk with God and once you find it, you job is to follow it and finish it before you die.  That’s how I spell success.  It’s not in how much money you have, or where you live, or how high up the ladder you went.  Success, to me, is about finding, folllowing, and finishing your purpose before you die.

2.  You have grace for your assignment.  Whatever God expects you to do, He equipps you to do; and whatever He equipps you to do, He expects you to do.  It would be unrighteous of God, as a Father, to expect you to do something you are not equipped for.  So, if He is telling you to do it, it is because you already have it in you.  His instruction is always equal to His injection!

3.  If it’s God’s will, then it’s God’s bill.  Moses received this assignment by grace.  He did not come up with it on his own.  So, since it was God’s will, then it was also God’s bill.  God was the one who would have to bless what Moses did (supernaturally), to bring to pass His will.  Said another way, if He gives you the vision, then He is obligated to also give you the provision.

Closing Confession:  Father, I thank You for knowing me better than I know myself.  Men have failed me and I have failed myself more times than I want to admit, but You have never failed me and You never will.  You destined me by Your grace and Your foreknowledge of what I would do right, and what I would do wrong.  Therefore, my mistakes cannot disqualify me from what You have qualified me for.  I am who You say that I am and I will do what You say that I will do.  I will accmplish everything You put me on this earth to accomplish, because I will enter every day with an unwavering confidence in You.  My faith is in YOU – not in me and not in others.  You called me and I am convinced that You are able to finish what You have started in my life.  I declare by this faith!  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

This is Today’s Word!  Apply it and Prosper.

 

 

A Grace Case: Moses (Part 8)

(Read Exodus 3:11 NLT)  But Moses protested to God, “Who am I to appear before Pharaoh? Who am I to lead the people of Israel out of Egypt?”

This morning we continue our series “Grace that is Simply Amazing” by continuing to look at the life of Moses.  I can only imagine how Moses felt while he was standing at the burning bush, hearing from the Lord supernaturally, receiving notice of what the Lord wanted to do, and what his role was going to be.  I know we sometimes read a few verses in scripture without appreciating the context.  Let’s think about this for a minute.  The United States of America has been a nation for 236 years.  The Israelites had been under the captivity of Egypt for about 400 years.  Let that sink in.  You know the rich history we have as a nation.  Last night our current President was re-elected to stay in office, but think of the 43 Presidents who have gone before him.  President Barak Obama is the 44th president in 236 years.  Pharoahs were not elected, they were born.  So Egypt probably had not gone through 44 Pharaohs, but I am sure they had been through their fair share in 400 years.  All the Israelites of Moses’ day knew was slavery, bondange, and submission to Egypt.  The Lord then comes to Moses, a man who was raised in Pharaoh’s house, and tells him that He has been selected to go before Pharaoh and tell him that the God of Israel is commanding him to release the people after 400 years.  This would be like God coming to you and saying, “I have heard the cry of my people and I know the blessing they used to walk in back in 1612 (400 years ago).  I am now ready to get them back to that glory and I have selected you for the assignment.”

Joseph was instrumental in making Egypt a global leader.  Egypt was a superpower in it’s day and it prospered from the work of the Israelites.  The removal of the Israelites would severely impact Egypt, shift the national economy, and eventually redefine it’s status in the region.  This was a monumental task.  There was no way the Pharaoh would simply release the Israelites because Moses or some unseen God said to do it.  And I am sure Moses was considering the enormity of the task when he thought to himself, “Why me?”  Remember, this was the same guy who had messed up and seemingly wrecked his life.  This was the same guy who murdered a man, in cold blood, and then buried him in the sand.  This was the same guy who fled Pharaoh’s house, because the Pharaoh wanted him dead.  This was the same guy who never really connected with the Israelites, because he was raised as an Egyptian prince.  And now, after 40 long years in Midian, after having established a family in a new nation, the Lord comes to Moses, seemingly out-of-the-blue, and reveals this incredible assignment to him.  It was too much for Moses to grasp and receive initially.  Moses said, “Who am I to appear before Pharaoh? Who am I to lead the people of Israel out of Egypt?”  I will stop here for today.

So what does this mean to you today?  A few things:
1.  You have to see it to be it.  You will never be who you can’t see yourself being.  Moses did not see himself as worthy or capable.  In his mind he was both undeserving and inadequate.  And this is why this series is about grace.  Moses did not earn this assignment, all he had to do was receive it by grace.

2.  Divine vision always requires divine provision.  When you receive a vision from God, it will always require His involvement to come to pass.  In other words, it will always be bigger than what you can do without Him.  That’s why it must be received by grace and accomplished by faith.

3.  It’s not just about you.  You, like Moses, were born for a reason.  And like Moses, the Lord has been working all your life to get you the point where you are today.  He has done things for you that you have no clue about and it was all so He could accomplish His Kingdom plans and purposes for your life.  Your job is to receive, believe, embrace, and then walk out in His divine assignment.  It’s about Him!

Closing Confession:  Father, I thank You for giving me my divine assignment by Your grace.  You reveal it to me, You encourage me to accomplish what You have already graced me to do, and You then bless the work of my hands.  I am Your child.  My life is not my own.  I am here in the earth to accomplish Your Kingdom plans and purposes, and I declare that I will.  I shall find, follow, and finish my purpose in my life before I die.  What You have given me to do is much greater than what I could accomplish on my own.  Therefore, my faith and confidence is in You.  I look to You as author and finisher, creator and sustainer, alpha and omega in my life.  You gave me the assignment, You gave me the grace to fulfill it, and You then walk with me as I seek to accomplish what You have birthed me to do.  I declare by this faith!  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

This is Today’s Word!  Apply it and Prosper.

A Grace Case: Moses (Part 9)

(Exodus 3:12 NIV)  And God said, “I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain.”

This morning we continue our series “Grace that is Simply Amazing” by continuing to look at the life of Moses.  Yesterday we saw how Moses questioned his ability to do what God was asking him to do.  I am sure that Moses, as little kid running around the palace in Egypt, had great plans for his future.  He was able to play around the throne and watch as the Pharaoh made decisions that impacted the entire nation.  I am sure he was reminded of his royal status on a regular basis, by both his adopted mother and his servants.  He was a prince and as a prince, I am sure he had big dreams.  But as you fast-forward a few decades Moses was not living the life he imagined.  Growing up I am sure he never pictured himself living as an exile in Midian.  You know what?  Life happens!  So when the Lord suddenly and supernaturally appeared to him at the burning bush, it is easy to see why Moses could not imagine himself doing what the Lord wanted him to do.

Moses felt both undeserving and inadequate.  This is why the words, “I will be with you” are so important.  By promising to be with Moses every step of the way the Lord was attempting to get Moses to shift his focus from himself and his shortcomings, to God and His limitless power.  Moses’ faith could not be in man and it could not even be in himself.  Moses’ faith had to be in God.  A God who would never leave him, nor forsake him.

The next statement the Lord said is equally important.  God said, “This will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain.”  I believe the Lord was attempting to get Moses to see Himself coming back to Mount Sinai, after he had already accomplished the mission, with millions of people in-tow, coming back to thank God for what He had done in, with, and through Moses.  This was an attempt to get Moses to develop an image of the success he was going to experience.  Like I said yesterday, you can’t “be it” until you “see it”.  You will never accomplish what you can’t see yourself doing.  We will stop here for today.

So what does this mean to you today?  Two things:
1.  Have faith in God.  I keep driving this home, because it is very important.  Your faith cannot be in man and it cannot be in yourself.  Others will fail you and you will even fail yourself, but God will never fail you.  He will never leave you, nor forsake you.  Establish and maintain a strong confidence in Him and your confidence in God will enable you to enter every day with a surety that cannot be shaken.  You will be amazed at what you can accomplish when you have fearless confidence in God.

2.  Develop an image of the success you believe the Lord is leading you into.  Once you have that image – and remember, the image is based on the confidence you have in God, and not yourself – you must keep that image before you.  When the opposition comes (and it will), and on those occasions when you feel like giving up, it’s the image that will give you the vision you need to keep going.  Can you see yourself accomplishing what God is leading you to do?  If not, develop the image.  Once you do, never let it go until it comes to pass.  Receive it by grace and pursue it by faith.

Closing Confession:  Father, I thank You for giving me my divine assignment by Your grace.  I develop an image of the success I believe You are leading me into and that image becomes the vision I need to persevere when times get tough.  I shall keep that image before me until I see, in my hands, what I have already seen, in my heart.  I see myself doing what You have called and graced me to do.  I align my image of me with Your image of me.  I consciously force myself to make an alignment with my divine assignment, and as I do I shift my confidence from me, and my ability, to You and Your limitless power.  My faith is in You.  You have promised to be with me every step of the way.  You will never leave, nor forsake me, and Your promise to be with me enables me to enter every day with fearless confidence.  I receive Your image by grace and I pursue it by faith.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

This is Today’s Word!  Apply it and Prosper.

A Pause for Self-Reflection (#4)

This morning we continue our series “Grace that is Simply Amazing.”  On Fridays I have been taking a pause to give us a moment to reflect on what we have been learning, prior to heading into the weekend.  In this case we have a long weekend, so let’s see what the Father wants us to think about.

This series is about grace.  Since we are walking through the life of Moses I am obligated to tell you what happened in his life, but we are doing so as we examine his life through the lens of grace.  Our Presidential elections were held this week and there has been lots of chatter on the internet about God’s providence in the selection of President Obama for a second term.  Many have made the claim that God put Barak Obama in office for a second term.  Let’s be clear.  The citizens of the United States elected Barak Obama, not God.  Now, did God know it was going to happen?  Of course.  Does God have plans for Barak Obama.  Yes, just like He had plans for Moses and He has plans for you.

While I was personally not fond of either candidate, and I keep my vote to myself, I bring this up because our faith must be in God and not in man.  Jeremiah 17:5 says, “This is what the LORD says: “Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who depends on flesh for his strength and whose heart turns away from the LORD.”  Don’t put your trust in man, keep your trust in God.  Now, you may be thinking, “Wait a minute Rick.  You were talking about Moses and you then shifted to our Presidential elections.  What’s the connection.”  The connection is twofold: it is about providence and grace.  I will briefly discuss each to give us something to meditate on for the weekend.

Providence:  When Moses was out in Midian, minding his own business, thinking that he had wrecked his life and aborted his dreams, the Lord sought him out.  The Lord initiated the contact because He had plans for both Moses and Israel that had not been completed.  At the burning bush the Lord shared with Moses some of what He wanted to do for His people (Israel).  The Lord then shared with Moses what his part was going to be in the overall plan.  Some of what the Lord shared with Moses would not happen until Moses was dead; driving home the point that this was more about God than it was about Moses.  God had plans for the nation and for the individual.  Likewise today, God has plans for our nation and He has plans for the individuals in the nation.  So no matter who wins or loses an election, at the end of the day, our confidence must be in God and not in man.  While God DOES NOT DO everything, He surely knew everything that would happen and He made plans accordingly.  That’s providence, and it applies both to the United States (corporately) and to you (individually).

Grace:  Moses had a tremendous assignment in life.  Leading Israel from Egypt would be no easy task and then leading millions of people through the desert would be even harder.  But before Moses was born God had a plan for his life and if you see how things worked out for Moses you can see God’s fingerprints all over him.  Even when Moses made a major mistake (murdering a man) and he seemingly derailed himself from his destiny, God still had plans for him.  Since God already knew Moses would mess up, before he did so, Moses’ mistakes had already been taken into consideration when God made plans for his life.  Said another way, God does not expect you to be perfect in order to fulfill His plans.  If that were the case, none of us would qualify for anything, because we all make mistakes; even major ones.  God made plans for Moses and He worked with Moses to bring them to pass by His grace.  Moses could not earn God’s plan for his life.  Moses had to receive it by grace and seek to fulfill it by faith.  The same can be said of President Obama (because he is not perfect and many of his policies do not line up with the Word of God), and the same can be said of you (even though we may have never met, I know you are not perfect).  God uses imperfect people by grace.

Closing Confession:  Father, I thank You for this reminder.  When I look at how Your Kingdom plans and purposes were manifested for both Israel (as a nation) and Moses (as a person), I find hope for myself and our country.  When I think about our nation and the challenges we face, and I then think about my life and the challenges I face, I have to put my trust and confidence in You, not in man, and not even in myself.  Man will surely fail me and I will even fail myself, but You will never fail me.  While You don’t do everything, You know everything and You made plans – for nations and individuals – according to that foreknowledge.  Thank You for Father for making plans for me and my country.  And thank You Father for not making those plans contingent upon my perfection.  If I had to be perfect for Your plans to come to pass, then they would never be realized because, as You know, I am far from perfect.  But by Your grace You chose to use me and for that I will never cease to give You praise!  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

This is Today’s Word!  Apply it and Prosper.

A Grace Case: Moses (Part 10)

(Exodus 3:13,14 NIV)  Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?”  God said to Moses, “I am who I am.  This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you.’”

This morning we continue our series “Grace that is Simply Amazing” by continuing to look at the life of Moses.  When we last looked at Moses he was at the burning bush, having a supernatural encounter with God, questioning his qualifications, and attempting to digest all that was happening.  Let’s admit, this was a lot to take in.  For the Lord of Lords to interrupt a your seemingly mundane life, in the middle of a routine task, with news that will change your life and the lives of millions of people, is a bit much to swallow.

After the Lord promised to be with him, Moses said, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’  Then what shall I tell them?”  God said to Moses, “I am who I am.  This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you,’”  There is more to the name “I AM” than has ever been brought out.  The name “I AM” is a tetragram, or a word of four letters. We translate it JEHOVAH or YAHWEH.  However, it is a sacred name.  So much so that the children of Israel, to this day, don’t pronounce it in order to ensure no one profanes the Lord’s name.  So none of us know for sure, today, how to pronounce it or whether or not to translate it as Jehovah or Yahweh?  One thing is sure, while the Israelites attributed many names to God throughout scripture, this name is the one the Lord attributed to Himself and it is considered the completely holy.

Holiness aside, let’s seek to learn something from this name.  This name means the Lord is self-existent, eternal and unchangeable.  The Lord is the same, yesterday, today, and forever.  Some scholars teach that the four letters that make up this name also form a word that is the “perfect tense” for the Hebrew verb “to be.”  We don’t have a “perfect tense” in the English language, but Hebrews do.  In Hebrew the perfect tense represents past, present, and future tense, all at the same time.  So, if this name is the past, present, and future tense of “to be,” all at the same time, then it means that Jehovah was, is, and ever shall be.  It means He is the Lord of your past, your present, and your future.  It means that He is the God of your already, your right now, and your not yet.  It means that He is both the author and the finisher of your faith.  The God who has always been, is now, and ever shall be.  Shall be what?  Whatever you need Him to be in your life!

So what does this mean to you today?  A few things:
1.  God was, is, and ever shall be the same.  He is the God of your past, present, and future; all at the same time.
2.  There is nothing that will ever happen in your life that will come as a surprise to God.  God knew it would happen, before it happens, and He made plans to bless you in and through it.
3.  God can be whatever you need Him to be, in order to accomplish His Kingdom plans and purposes.
4.  Creation will always fail at attempting to describe the Creator.  In many ways God is indescribable, incomprehensible, and unimaginable.  He is so far above us and He yet chooses to operate through us.  That my friends, is grace.

Closing Confession:  Father, I thank You for being the I AM in my life.  You are the God of my yesterday, today, and forever.  You are the God of my past, present, and future.  You are the God of my already, my right now, and my not yet.  You are Lord of everything, everyone, and everywhere.  You are far above me and Your ways are often baffling to me.  But thank You Father for choosing to operate in, with, and through me.  I am nowhere near perfect and I could never earn the right for Your to take up residence inside of me.  But Jesus paid the price for me and You now – perfection personified – choose to live in me and to guide me every day.  As I walk with You and You with me, You become whatever I need You to become, in every situation, every day.  For that I will always give You praise.  Thank You Father, in advance, for walking with me today and for using me for Your glory!  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

This is Today’s Word!  Apply it and Prosper.

A Grace Case: Moses (Part 11)

(Read Exodus 3:15-17)

This morning we continue our series “Grace that is Simply Amazing” by continuing to look at the life of Moses.  Yesterday we took a look at God’s primary name: Yahweh or Jehovah.  In the message we learned that Jehovah is the Lord of our past, our present, and our future.  He is the God of our already, of our right now, and of our not yet.  Flowing in that same vein, the Lord went on to say to Moses, “Say to the Israelites, ‘The Lord the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob—has sent me to you.’”  With this statement the Lord was attempting to get people who had been under the bondage of slavery for 400 years to look back past the pain and beyond the hurt, in order to remember the God of their past.  This ‘God of their past’ took it upon Himself to initiate the release of His people.  Not because they did anything exceptional.  Not because they exhibited uncommon faith.  Not because they worshipped the Lord faithfully in spite of their challenges.  No!  The Lord did this simply because He had a plan for them and because He had promised their forefathers He would.  God was faithful to His Word and this is clearly a grace case.

The Lord instructed Moses to gather the elders of Israel together and to say to them, “‘The Lord, the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob—appeared to me and said: I have watched over you and have seen what has been done to you in Egypt.  And I have promised to bring you up out of your misery in Egypt into the land of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites—a land flowing with milk and honey.’”  Once again, notice who is the person in the text doing the work — the Lord.  The Lord watched over the people, He noticed their misery, and He was ready to do something about it.  Not because of their faith, but because of His grace.  The Lord wanted to bless them and bring them into a blessed land (the land flowing with milk and honey), just like He promised Abraham some 400 years earlier that He would.

So what does this mean to you today?  A few things:
1.  Blessings and cursings flow down through generations.  Sometimes we experience things (good and bad) because of what our forefathers did.  This gives us hope for our children and their children.  Generations to come will be blessed because of your relationship with God.

2.  God has great plans for your life.  God told Jeremiah that He made plans for him; plans to prosper him and bless him, to give him a future and a hope  (Jer 29:11).  Jeremiah was not special.  What God did for him, He also did for you.  The Lord made plans for you before the foundations of the earth.  That’s grace.

3.  Look back to look forward.  When faced with a difficult situation we sometimes have to look back — past the hurt and pain — in order to remember the God of our salvation and blessing.  The same God who blessed you then, will see you through the challenges now.

4.  God is faithful.  God promised Abraham that He would deliver his descendants and 400 years later He fulfilled His Word.  Four centuries could not make God forget what He promised.  He is faithful, even when you are not.  Have faith in God!

Closing Confession:  Father, I thank You for this reminder.  I know that both blessings and cursings flow down through generations.  I embrace the generational blessings of my forefathers and through Your power every generational curse stops with me.  From me on, Your blessing will flow freely throughout my children and their children.  You have great plans for me and for my children, and we shall see those plans come to pass.  Whenever faced with a significant challenge, I remember the God who has brought me too far to fail me now.  I look back in order to look forward and I rekindle my faith.  My faith and confidence is in You.  Even when I am faithless, You are faithful.  You can be trusted and I trust You to bless me to maximize my purpose and potential in life.  I enter this day with fearless confidence, because my confidence is rooted in Your faithfulness towards me.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

This is Today’s Word!  Apply it and Prosper.

A Grace Case: Moses (Part 12)

(Read Exodus 3:18-22)

This morning we continue our series “Grace that is Simply Amazing” by continuing to look at the life of Moses.  After the Lord told Moses to gather the elders of Israel, He told him exactly what to say, and the Lord even went to the extent of telling Moses what was going to happen before it happened.  This is an awesome example of grace.  I wish I could tell you that the Lord always works this way, but He doesn’t. Most of the time we have to walk out our journey by faith, not truly knowing how things will work out, not knowing when the breakthrough will come, but having complete faith and confidence in whom we have believed.  In this case the Lord knew where Moses’ faith level was and He gave Moses the information he needed to step out in the faith he had.  Isn’t it awesome how God knows how much we can handle and He never expects us to operate beyond what we are able to do.  Sure, the Lord stretches us, in order to help us expand our capacity to believe, but He never expects us to do what He knows we are not equipped, enabled, or empowered to do.

The Lord let Moses know up front that Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, a man who was raised in the palace with him, would not let the Israelites go unless the Lord Himself compelled him to do it.  There is no way a king would arbitrarily release a multimillion-man free workforce just because someone asked him to.  However, the someone in this case (Moses) was being sent by the King of kings and the Lord of lords.  So the Lord shared with Moses that He would have to strike the Egyptians with signs and wonders and that afterward the Pharaoh would relent and release His people.  The Lord even went to the extent of making sure that His people did not leave empty handed.  Not only would they come out, but they would come out with riches.  The Egyptians would literally give the Israelites, their former slaves, silver, gold, and clothing.

So what does this mean to you today?  A few things:
1.  God wants to be the central character in your life’s story.  In Sunday school we learned of what Moses did, but the more we read the story, the more we realize this story is about God and what He wanted to do for His people, through Moses.  The same can be said for you.  Will you allow God to use you, for His glory?

2.  God will never expect you to do what you are not equipped to do.  His instruction is always equal to His injection, so if He is sending you to do it, it is because you can.  Expand your capacity to believe.  See yourself doing what He wants you to do and attempt to do it by faith.

3.  God often includes restitution with restoration.  When God restores something to you that the enemy stole, that’s great.  But it is even greater when he makes the enemy pay you back for the trouble you experienced.  If the enemy has stolen from you and you believe God is leading you to experience restoration, then also believe God for restitution.  I have personally experienced divine restitution and it is awesome.  God did not have to do it this way, but He did, by His grace.

Closing Confession:  Father, I want You to be the central character in my life’s story.  I want You to operate freely in my life and I declare that I will fully cooperate with You, so You can.  When people think of me, I want them to immediately think of You.  I want my name to be associated with Yours.  I want people to know that You are ON me, IN me, WITH me, and FOR me.  I will get there because I am willing to do all You lead me to do.  When You stretch me and tell me to do something that I am not comfortable with, I shall expand my capacity to believe and attempt to do it by faith, because I know You will never ask me to do something You have not already equipped me to do.  And when You restore to me everything the enemy has stolen over the years, I also expect restitution with my restoration.  You can make the enemy pay me ‘double for my trouble’ and I believe You will.  You restore to me all that belongs to me and I am ready to walk in Your fullness.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

This is Today’s Word!  Apply it and Prosper.

A Pause for Self-Reflection

This morning we continue our series “Grace that is Simply Amazing.”  On Fridays I have been taking a pause to give us a moment to reflect on what we have been learning, prior to heading into the weekend.  Let’s think back before Moses and before the nation of Israel.  Back in Genesis 15, when Abraham’s name was still Abram and he and his wife were still childless, the Lord reassured Abram that He would be true to His word.  Not only did God promise Abram a son, but He reminded him that he would be the father of a nation.  And within that context, while a childless man was complaining to God, eagerly wanting children, the Lord said, “Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own, and they will be enslaved and mistreated 400 years.  But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterward they will come out with great possessions.”  I doubt Abram could truly digest what the Lord said in those two sentences.  He just wanted a son and the Lord was promising a nation and even revealed that this nation would be in bondage for 400 years.

Fast-forward over 400 years and a lot had transpired.  Abram’s name was changed to Abraham.  Abraham had Isaac, Isaac had Jacob, Jacob’s name was changed to Israel, and he had 12 boys who became the leaders of the tribes of Israel.  One of his boys, Joseph, found favor with Pharaoh and through that favor his family was able to move to Egypt in the midst of a terrible famine.  The Israelites were thriving in Egypt until a Pharaoh took over who did not know Joseph and the Israelites wound up becoming slaves in Egypt, just like God said they would.  After about 350 years of servitude baby Moses was born was a death sentence hanging over his head.  There was a decree from Pharaoh to have him killed, along with the other Israeli baby boys, but God had special plans for Moses.  Instead of dying under the hand of Pharaoh, Moses wound up becoming Pharaoh’s adopted grandson and he grew up as a prince in Egypt.  But the promise the Lord gave Abram still had to come to pass.

We know Moses made a major mistake that led to his exile.  This former prince of Egypt was living with the Midianites when the Lord interrupted his seemingly mundane task of watching sheep in order to give him great news of a tremendous assignment.  The promise that was given to Abram, over 400 years prior, was still good, the Lord was ready to lead His people out of Egypt, and Moses was the man for the job.  Not because Moses was some great man of faith, and not because he was perfect.  No, Moses was selected by grace!  Think about the awesomeness of that reality!

So what does this mean to you today?  A few things:
1.  You were born for such a time as this.  You could have been born at anytime in history, but the Lord saw fit to bring you into the world now, therefore, this is your season to make your mark in the world.

2.  There is much more going on than what you realize.  Don’t be foolish enough to think that you are where you are, solely because of your efforts.  God has been working behind the scenes in your life since you were born and He is still honoring prayers and decisions that were made before you were born.

3.  You are not a mistake.  Whether your parents planned for you or not; whether you came into this world as a result of rape, incest, or some terrible act; you are not a mistake.  God knew when you would be here, how you would get here, and what plans He had for you.  You are special.  You are one-of-a-kind.  You are destined.  You are graced.  You were born for a reason and your goal should be to find, follow, and finish your assignment in life before you die!

Closing Confession:  Father, I thank You for bringing me into this world for such a time as this.  I could have been born in the times of Jesus.  I could have been born during the dark ages or during times of great revival.  I could have been born from different parents, in a different country, during a different time.  But I was born when I was, where I was, and through whom I was, because You have a plan for me.  I shall find, follow, and finish Your assignment for my life.  I will maximize my time in the earth.  I am special.  No one has the same fingerprint that I do.  No one else on the planet has the same eye signature that I do.  And no one else has my assignment.  I am not a duplicate.  I am an original and I will act like it.  Father, You brought me into this world for a reason and together we will see that reason manifested.  Use me for Your glory; not because I am perfect, but because of Your grace!   In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

This is Today’s Word!  Apply it and Prosper.

A Grace Case: Moses (Part 13)

(Read Exodus 4:1-8)

This morning we continue our series “Grace that is Simply Amazing” by continuing to look at the life of Moses.  We have spent the last couple of weeks looking at the conversation the Lord had with Moses at the burning bush.  We pick up the story there as Moses seeks to digest all the Lord promised to do through him.  You would think that after the Lord went through so much detail, clearly outlining what He was going to do through him, that Moses would be ready to accept the assignment.  But Moses was simply not ready.  Instead of saying, “Yes!”, instead of saying, “Here I am, Lord.  Let’s go set your people free!”  Moses said, “What if they do not believe me or listen to me and say, ‘The Lord did not appear to you’?”  While this seems like a let down, let me tell you that a response like this is more common than not in the Body of Christ.  It often takes some reassuring, on the Lord’s part, to get people to cooperate with the great things He wants to accomplish in, with, and through their lives.

The Lord was not impatient with Moses.  Moses’ questioning did not disqualify him from the assignment.  In an attempt to get Moses to expand his capacity to believe, the Lord said to him, “What is that in your hand?”  “A staff,” he replied.  The Lord said, “Throw it on the ground.”  Moses threw it on the ground and it became a snake, and he ran from it.   Then the Lord said to him, “Reach out your hand and take it by the tail.”  Before we go any further, let’s notice a couple of things.  First, when attempting to reassure Moses, the Lord used something he already had – the staff.  Why?  Because the Lord is never going to expect you to do something that you are not ALREADY equipped to do.  Moses already had the staff, so the Lord wanted him to use it.  The staff would be used several times, by Moses, as a tool to usher in the supernatural.  Second, Moses ran from the snake.  The fact that Moses, a seasoned shepherd, would run from the snake tells me that it was a dangerous snake; most likely a poisonous one.  This was not a baby, harmless snake.  And when dealing with a dangerous snake, grabbing it by it’s tail is a hazardous act.  Moses had to trust God enough to do what He said.  Sure enough, Moses trusted God, he grabbed the snake by the tail, and as soon as he did it became a staff again.  The Lord then gave Moses one more sign.  He said, “Put your hand inside your cloak.”  Moses did as the Lord instructed.  When he pulled his hand out it was leprous, white as snow.  “Now put it back into your cloak,” the Lord said.  Moses did so, and when he pulled it out it his hand was restored.

The Lord went on to say, “If they do not believe you or pay attention to the first miraculous sign, they may believe the second.  But if they do not believe these two signs or listen to you, take some water from the Nile and pour it on the dry ground.  The water you take from the river will become blood on the ground.”  It is clear that the Lord was committed for the long haul.  No matter what it took to get Pharaoh to release His people, He was committed to backing Moses the entire way.  This was a no-fail mission and with the Lord’s help Moses could not fail.

So what does this mean to you today?  A few things:
1.  It’s not uncommon to question how God is going to use you to perform the supernatural.
2.  The Lord will never send you out on a mission you are not already prepared to succeed in.
3.  Sometimes you underestimate how prepared you are to do what God has called you to do.
4.  If the Lord tells you to do it, then He will see you through it.
5.  If you run up against opposition while you are doing what the Lord has told you do, don’t worry, He already knew the opposition would come and He made plans to overcome it.

Closing Confession:  Father, I want to accomplish all You have destined me to accomplish while I am in the land of the living.  You have great plans for me and I thank You for having the patience to work with me in order to see those plans become a reality.  I know I am not always ready when You are ready, but I thank You for helping me to get ready.  I now realize that I am more prepared than I sometimes think I am.  You will never send me out on a mission that I am not prepared to succeed in.  So, I enter into this day in faith, believing that I am ready to overcome every challenge that may come my way.  You are committed to see me through whatever You send me to.  So I enter this day with confidence, not just in myself and my abilities, but in You and Your faithfulness!  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

This is Today’s Word!  Apply it and Prosper.

A Grace Case: Moses (Part 14)

(Read Exodus 4:8-10)

This morning we continue our series “Grace that is Simply Amazing” by continuing to look at the life of Moses.  After everything the Lord promised to do for Moses we learned yesterday that the first thing that came out of his mouth was an excuse.  Instead of agreeing with God and accepting His assignment, Moses asked, “What if they do not believe me?”  To understand how insulting this could be to God we must go back to what the Lord told Moses in chapter three.  The Lord said, “The elders of Israel will listen to you.”  So what Moses said was a direct contradiction to what the Lord already said would happen.  It is like Moses was saying, “I don’t believe you, God.  I know what you said, but what if what you said doesn’t happen?”  Think about that for a minute.  Moses was not having a conversation with you or me, he was having a supernatural conversation with the Lord of lords and he was questioning the one true God.

Back in chapter three, the Lord was even gracious enough to go on to tell Moses what would happen next.  The Lord said, “Then you and the elders are to go to the king of Egypt and say to him, ‘The Lord, the God of the Hebrews, has met with us. Let us take a three-day journey into the desert to offer sacrifices to the Lord our God.’ But I know that the king of Egypt will not let you go unless a mighty hand compels him. So I will stretch out my hand and strike the Egyptians with all the wonders that I will perform among them. After that, he will let you go. “And I will make the Egyptians favorably disposed toward this people, so that when you leave you will not go empty-handed.”  The Lord did not use unsure terms.  God did not say this “might” happen or “could” happen, no the Lord clearly said that this is what would happen.  The Lord was promising this and His reputation was on the line.  If it did not happen, just as He said it would happen, it would be a discrepancy in His sovereignty.  By saying exactly what was going to happen, the Lord was reassuring Moses that He would be there every step of the way to see him through the ordeal.

Now that we better understand what happened in chapter three, let’s fast-forward back to chapter four.  After already giving God one excuse and after the Lord so graciously responded to the excuse with reassurance, you would think that Moses would be ready for the assignment.  You would think that Moses would say, “Okay God, I believe you.  I don’t feel ready, but since You think I am ready, I must be.  Let’s go.”  But of course, it would not be that easy.  The next thing Moses said was, “O Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.”  You’ve gotta be kidding me!  First Moses questioned God, now he was questioning himself.  We will stop here for today.

So what does this mean to you today?  A few things:
1.  The Lord graciously manifests His perfect glory in imperfect people.
2.  The Lord can make champions out of cowards.
3.  The Lord gives you His assignment by grace, not because of what you did or failed to do.
4.  Divine purpose is about the Lord’s will being manifested through you; sometimes in spite of you.
5.  Even when you don’t feel like you are ready, you are ready when the Lord says you are ready.
6.  If you are facing it, then you can take it – if you couldn’t, you wouldn’t be facing it.
7.  Excuses don’t disqualify you.  You can’t disqualify yourself from what God has qualified you for.

Closing Confession:  Father, I thank You for being so gracious to me.  You look past my fault, flaws, and failures.  You overlook my doubts and questioning.  You see my reservations and You choose to use me anyway.  For that I will always give You the glory.  I am far from perfect, but You choose to manifest Your perfect glory through me.  You put Your glory in me, an earthen vessel, so that the excellency would be of You and not of me.  Sometimes You bless me in spite of me.  Sometimes You seemingly have to go around me and my hesitations, in order to bless me and use me for Your glory.  I thank You for Your grace and I vow to do better.  From this day forward I shall seek to live by faith consistently.  I will stop questioning Your Kingdom plans and purposes and I will seek to accomplish them by faith.  Use me Father to make a difference in my sphere of influence today, and every day!  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

This is Today’s Word!  Apply it and Prosper.

Happy Thanksgiving

(1 Thes 5:16-18 NIV)  Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

This morning we take a break from our current series long enough to pause to simply say “Thank you” to God and to be rekindle a spirit of thanksgiving in our hearts.  Thanksgiving is about about looking back long enough to see things that we need to look up and say, “Thank You” for.  Yes, I know that many consider Thanksgiving to be about turkey and stuffing, macaroni and cheese and cornbread, pumpkin or sweet potato pie, football and snow, fireplaces and family, and about eating too much and resting too little.  I will admit that I enjoy all of those things.  My God-brother is already here with his family, my oldest son came home from college a few hours ago, and we have three other families that will be joining us tomorrow for Thanksgiving dinner.  The house will be bustling with activity and we are looking forward to it, but thanksgiving is bigger than all of that.  Thanksgiving is an attitude.  Thanksgiving is a lifestyle.  Every day should be a day of Thanksgiving!

In Paul’s first letter to the church in Thessalonica he taught about living a life that is pleasing to God.  In his closing remarks he said, “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”  What was Paul saying?  What was He teaching us?  I believe Paul was telling us that the secret to living a life that is pleasing to God is to maintain your joy, to keep an active prayer life, and to GIVE THANKS to God IN all circumstances.  Notice that he said “IN” all circumstances and not “FOR” all circumstances.  If we are honest we must acknowledge the fact that everything that happens to us is NOT good and we DON’T always like everything we face.  But Paul’s point is that we should trust God enough to believe that at the-end-of-the-day we will still come out on top.  I may not always be able to Thank Him FOR IT, but I can still thank Him IN IT.  This attitude of gratitude is what enables me to live a life of Thanksgiving and I pray that you tap into the same thing!

So what does this mean to you today?  It means that as you walk with God you will not always get what you expect and you may not always get what you want, but you should have enough confidence in Him to know that when it is all said and done you will not be disappointed.  This reality, this confidence, this inner-knowing, is what enables you to live a lifestyle of Thanksgiving!  Look back and be thankful.  Look forward and be excited.  You serve a God that has blessed you, is blessing you, and will bless you.  You have lots to be thankful for.  So as you eat too much and rest too little, as you enjoy football and family, and as you devour turkey and stuffing, take the time to thank God tomorrow and every day.  Develop a lifestyle of Thanksgiving!  Give thanks IN all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus!

P.S.  Before we close, I just want to share something that I am very thankful for.  On December 7th I will be promoted to the rank Chief Warrant Officer Five in the United States Army.  I am humbled and extremely thankful.

Closing Confession:  Father, I may not always like my circumstances.  I may not even be able to thank You FOR my circumstances, but I declare that I will thank You IN them.  I know that when it is all said and done, the situations I face will work out for my good, so instead of waiting until I see it to say it, I praise You now!  I am excited NOW!  I am expectant NOW!  I am THANKFUL NOW!  I look back and I am thankful.  I look forward and I am excited.  I live everyday as a day of Thanksgiving!  From this day forward Thanksgiving is part of my lifestyle!  I declare this by faith!  In Jesus’ name, amen!

From my family to yours, may you have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

A Grace Case: Moses (Part 15)

(Read Exodus 4:11-12)

First of all, I hope you enjoyed your Thanksgiving weekend.  I sure did.  I had a house full of family, friends, food, and fun.  I am thankful for God’s grace and His continued blessing.  I hope you are as well.

This morning we continue our series “Grace that is Simply Amazing” by continuing to look at the life of Moses.  We have already seen how Moses first questioned God — questioning whether or not what God said would come to pass — and how he also questioned his own abilities; even after God clearly said he could do what he was being sent out to do.  Let’s pick up the story there.

Moses was still questioning whether or not he was the right man for the job when he said, “O Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.”  Moses did not understand God or grace.  The fact that Moses was not a public speaker, that he was not comfortable with being a mouthpiece for God, and that he was not particularly gifted in the area the Lord was assigning him to, are all norms with God.  God routinely makes holy garments from flawed material.  Why?  So that it can be evident to all that He is the one doing the work.  This way the Father gets the glory and no one else.

In the New Testament, Paul, thinking of this very point, said, “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves” (2 Cor 4:7).  God knew Moses was not necessarily qualified, and I believe that is actually one of the reasons why he was chosen.  God had the treasure (the power), all he needed from Moses was the earthen vessel (a cooperative human).  Guess what?  The same holds true for you and me.  God can do the extraordinary in, with, and through you; not necessarily because of your awesome ability, but rather because of His infinite power.  If God uses you, in a way that clearly exceeds your proven ability, then He gets the glory and you get the pleasure of partnering with God to accomplish His Kingdom plans and purposes in the earth.

So what was the Lord’s response to Moses?  How did the Lord deal with Moses’ insecurity?  The answer is: more grace.  The Lord said, “Who gave man his mouth? Who makes him deaf or mute? Who gives him sight or makes him blind? Is it not I, the Lord? Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.”  The Lord was ready, willing, and able to deal with any and all of Moses’ inadequacies.  He was patient and gracious with Moses, even in spite of his low self-esteem.  We will stop here for today.

So what does this mean to you today?  A few things:
1.  The Lord wants you to use you in ways that are beyond your normal ability, so that it would be evident that His grace is on you, and so that He would get the glory.
2.  Align your opinion of you, with God’s opinion of you.  Never allow low self-esteem to keep you from achieving God’s best.
3.  The Lord is not looking for perfection, He is looking for availability.  Will you answer His call?
4.  If you will provide the willing body, He will provide the supernatural power.  This way it becomes an act of grace and the honor, when it comes, gets rightly redirected back to God.
5.  If you say, “Yes,” God will say, “Let’s go make a difference.”

Closing Confession:  Father, I thank you for Your overwhelming and incalculable grace.  You look at me — with my failures, flaws, and all — and You still choose to use me for Your glory.  Not because I am perfect, and not because of my great ability, but because of Your lovingkindness, tender mercy, and grace.  You have plans for me and even though I often feel like I don’t deserve to be used of You, and I am unworthy of Your blessing, You choose to see those plans through anyway.  So this morning, I make a vow to align my opinion of me with Your opinion of me.  I will not allow low self-esteem, self-condemnation, or past failures, to keep me from future success in You.  I make myself available to You Father.  Here I am, use me for Your glory.  You have the power, I have the earthen vessel.  I submit and surrender to You.  Manifest your glory in my life and when You do, I will redirect all the honor right back to You!  I declare this by faith.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

This is Today’s Word!  Apply it and Prosper.

A Grace Case: Moses (Part 16)

(Read Exodus 4:13-17)

This morning we continue our series “Grace that is Simply Amazing” by continuing to look at the life of Moses.  We are still at the ‘burning bush’ in this story and we have already seen how Moses questioned God and questioned his own ability.  Before we are too hard on Moses, let’s take a minute to think about the magnitude of the situation.  Moses had been living in exile for 40 years.  He had already assimilated into the Midianite culture.  He was born a Jew, raised an Egyptian, and was living as a Midianite when the Lord visited him at the burning bush, during a mundane task.  I can understand how Moses had a hard time taking it all in.  This was not a run-of-the-mill encounter.  We are talking about a supernatural encounter with the Lord Himself.  And the Lord was attempting to get Moses to receive an assignment that would both accomplish God’s Kingdom plans and purposes, and change Moses’ life and lineage forever.  If the Lord did something similar with you, would you be ready, within a few minutes, to take the assignment?  Or would you also possibly question God and your own ability?

Yesterday we saw how Moses attempted to get out of the assignment by saying that he was not eloquent and how the Lord reassured Moses that He would help him speak and tell him what to say.  Now, if the Lord Himself reassured you that He will be with you, to help you speak and to tell you what to say, then there are not many more excuses you can come up with.  So, you would think that Moses would say, “Okay Lord, I give in.  You win.  I accept the assignment.  Let’s go.  You know I am not qualified, but You promised to be with me every step of the way.”  However, that is not what Moses said.  Once Moses realized that he did not have any more excuses, instead of accepting the assignment, Moses simply said, “O Lord, please send someone else to do it.”  Even after all the Lord went through to reassure Moses, he was ready to throw it all away and he flat-out turned down the assignment.

Even though God is a God of grace and mercy, and even though God already knew before the foundations of the world that Moses would turn Him down, the Bible says that “The Lord’s anger burned against Moses.”  The Lord was not happy at all.  But since He is all-knowing, He had already made plans for Moses’ insecurities.  The Lord said, “What about your brother, Aaron the Levite? I know he can speak well. He is already on his way to meet you, and his heart will be glad when he sees you. You shall speak to him and put words in his mouth; I will help both of you speak and will teach you what to do. He will speak to the people for you, and it will be as if he were your mouth and as if you were God to him. But take this staff in your hand so you can perform miraculous signs with it.”  The Lord could have dismissed Moses because of his unbelief.  He could have found someone else.  He could have given the assignment to Aaron and allowed Moses to sit by and think about what ‘could have been.’  But the Lord did not do any of that.  The Lord was dedicated to working with Moses, insecurities and all, because of His grace.

So what does this mean to you today?  A few things:
1.  Your fears and insecurities are not news to God.  He knew you would have them and He chose you anyway.
2.  The Lord is dedicated to working with you, to maximize the purpose and potential He has placed inside of you, even though He knows you are often going to work against His Kingdom assignment for your life.
3.  When you operate in faith you are able to cooperate with God and receive His best.  When you operate in fear, doubt, and unbelief you might still get it done, but you often wind up doing so in a way that was not God’s best for your life.  So resist fear, doubt, and unbelief at all costs.

Closing Confession:  Father, You know my thoughts before I think them, my feelings before I feel them, and my fears before I express them.  You know me better than I even know myself, and the fact that You still chose to use me — with all my failures, faults, flaws, and insecurities — helps me better understand Your grace.  Moses was not perfect, but You chose to use him anyway and when You retold Moses’ story in the New Testament, You did it in such a way that makes Moses look like a faith giant.  What You did for Moses, You will do for me.  You have used, are using, and will use me for Your glory.  And when my story is told, after my struggles and even after I am gone, You will ensure that I get presented in the best light.  Not because I was the best, but because of Your grace.  Thank You Father for being so good to me.  Your grace is truly amazing and I enter into this day with great expectations, because I serve a God of Grace, Mercy, and Hope!  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

This is Today’s Word!  Apply it and Prosper.

A God who Presents us Faultless

(Hebrews 11:24-27 NLT)  It was by faith that Moses, when he grew up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter.  He chose to share the oppression of God’s people instead of enjoying the fleeting pleasures of sin.  He thought it was better to suffer for the sake of Christ than to own the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking ahead to his great reward.  It was by faith that Moses left the land of Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger. He kept right on going because he kept his eyes on the one who is invisible.

This morning we continue our series “Grace that is Simply Amazing” by continuing to look at the life of Moses.  I could continue to teach on the life of Moses for the next few months, but I believe most of you know what happens next and I have made my point.  Moses was no superhero, but He was used of God by grace.  However, it is interesting that a few of you have commented to me about the fact that the Moses I have described thus far in this series does not match your recollection of Moses.  Why?  Because many remember Moses from Cecil B. DeMille’s 1956 motion picture entitled, “The Ten Commandments.”  DeMille’s epic film dramatized the Biblical story of the Exodus of God’s people from Egypt.  Even though I was born in 1972, I have vivid memories of film and I agree that Demille’s portrayal of Moses seems nothing like the man we have been learning about in this series.

In the film Moses (played by Charlton Heston), is portrayed as a strong, courageous, champion of a man, who confronts Pharaoh Rameses II (played by Yul Brynner), with zeal and conviction.  No one who has seen the film will forget the magical moment when Moses is standing before the Red Sea as it opens up like a part in a woman’s hair.  The Moses we see at that moment seems far from the man at the burning bush.  Part of the reason why our memory of Moses seems disconnected from the questioning, babbling, fearful, and insecure murderer we have been learning about in this series, is because of the way the Father chose to portray Moses in the New Testament.

If you read the passage I provide for you this morning you quickly notice that the Holy Spirit, through the writer of Hebrews, put a very positive slant on Moses’ life.  The same can be said of Abraham.  We all know of the many mistakes he made, but if you read Romans 4 or Hebrews 11 Abraham is made to seem like a faith giant.  Nothing is mentioned of his mistakes.  Why?  I believe it is simply because God is a Dad.  Not only is He God, the Creator of all things, but He is also our loving, caring, and sharing heavenly Father.  Think about it.  If you have teenagers, or if your children have already been through their teenage years, you know how often kids can make mistakes.  However, when asked how their kids are doing, parents don’t lead off into a rant of all their children’s blunders.  No, parents always ‘talk their children up’ and speak of all the good things they have done; even putting a positive spin on the not-so-good things.

So what does this mean to you today?  A couple of things:
1.  You don’t have to be perfect to be used of God.  That should be clear by now.  God uses humans by His grace.
2.  When the Holy Spirit leads others to talk about your story, you can rest assured that He will always portray you in the best positive light.  As a loving Father, God loves to brag on you.

I will close with the words of Jude.  Closing out his letter, Jude wrote, “To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you faultless before his glorious presence great joy.”  Notice, you are not faultless, but the Lord is able to present you faultless.  Jesus was faultless and you clearly are not, but when God looks at you, He sees Jesus, because Jesus’ righteousness has been put on you.  You are presented faultless, not because of what you do or fail to do, but because of what Jesus did.  And that, my friend, is grace.  Not just any grace.  It is the grace of God, and yes, it is amazing!

Closing Confession:  Father, I thank You for being so gracious to me.  I don’t deserve what You freely give me.  I am nowhere near faultless, but Jesus was faultless and His righteousness has been imputed to my by faith.  Jesus willingly put my sin on Him, so that His righteousness can be put on me.  I am now righteous, not because of what I do, or fail to do, but only because of what Jesus did.  When You look down on me You see that I am covered by the Blood of Your dear Son and You choose to present me in the best possible light.  When telling others about me, as a loving Father, You willingly ‘talk me up’ and highlight the good I have done, while conveniently choosing to leave out the bad.  Thank You Father for being such an Awesome God and loving Father.  I enter this day knowing that I have Your love, Your grace, and Your favor.  This reality gives me a confidence that cannot be shaken.  I declare this by faith.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

This is Today’s Word!  Apply it and Prosper.

God Chooses “Nobodies” to Expose the “Somebodies”

(1 Cor 1:26-31 MSG)  Take a good look, friends, at who you were when you got called into this life. I don’t see many of “the brightest and the best” among you, not many influential, not many from high-society families. Isn’t it obvious that God deliberately chose men and women that the culture overlooks and exploits and abuses, chose these “nobodies” to expose the hollow pretensions of the “somebodies”? That makes it quite clear that none of you can get by with blowing your own horn before God. Everything that we have—right thinking and right living, a clean slate and a fresh start—comes from God by way of Jesus Christ. That’s why we have the saying, “If you’re going to blow a horn, blow a trumpet for God.”

This morning we continue our series “Grace that is Simply Amazing.”  As I seek to wrap up the story of Moses and move on to David I can’t help but think about the awesomeness of the message behind the people God chooses.  I mentioned that yesterday and I will flow in that same vein today.

When God wanted to start a family, instead of selecting a young, vibrant, strong, healthy, and righteous couple, He chose a 75yr. old man (Abram) with a 65yr. old barren wife (Sarai), from a family of idol worshippers.  When God wanted to confront Pharaoh and lead His people from Egypt, instead of choosing a strong rebel from within the Israelite ranks, who would initiate an insurgency and lead a revolt, the Lord chose an exiled, ex-prince, who had never really lived like a Hebrew (Moses), to lead the Hebrews from the grasp of his former family.  When the Lord wanted to raise up a military general to stand up and lead a rebellion against the Midianites, instead of choosing a strong man who was already in the Army, the Lord chose a scared farmer (Gideon), who considered himself to be the weakest man from the clan.  I could go on and on with these examples.  But I will wrap it up with just one more.  When the Lord wanted someone to begin to put His Word in people’s email inboxes, back before email was even popular (1997), and He was looking for this person to dedicate himself to writing about God’s Word every morning, instead of choosing an English scholar, or a theological scholar for that matter, the Lord chose a Dominican kid from Brooklyn (me), who learned English as a second language, in the New York City public school system, and who never learned the foundations of grammar or proper English.  So, it’s clear that Abraham, Moses, Gideon, and Rick Piña are all grace cases.  And although I don’t personally know everyone who reads Today’s Word, I would venture to say that you are a grace case as well.

Please read the passage I have provided for you.  Paul summarizes what I am attempting to say. I love it when Paul said, “God deliberately chose men and women that the culture overlooks and exploits and abuses, chose these “nobodies” to expose the hollow pretensions of the “somebodies”? That makes it quite clear that none of you can get by with blowing your own horn before God.”

So what does this mean to you today?  A few things:
1.  God chooses ordinary, and even unlikely people, to do extraordinary and amazing things.
2.  God goes out of His way to choose those the world has dismissed, in order to use them to amaze and confound those who did the dismissing.
3.  You owe whatever you have become, and whatever level of success you have attained, to God.  Without God’s grace you would not be where you are today.
4.  If you think you are successful and you feel like bragging, then brag on God, because He is the source of your success.

Closing Confession:  Father, You routinely select those the world has thrown away.  You take cowards and make them champions.  You take barren families and make them bountiful.  You take the ineloquent and make them great orators.  You take the destitute, dejected, disregarded, and dismissed, and make them leaders above those who did the dismissing.  You are an amazing God and loving Father.  You took me when I was a nobody, and You have made me somebody in You.  Not because I deserved it.  Not because I exhibited an exceptional level of faith.  Not because of my eloquence, affluence, intelligence, or good looks.  No, You did it simply because of Your grace.  Your grace is amazing to me and for it, I will never cease to give You praise.  Thank You Father for choosing me and for wanting to use me for Your glory.  I submit and surrender to Your Kingdom plans and purposes and I cooperate with You, so You can freely operate in, with, and through me.  I declare this by faith.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

This is Today’s Word!  Apply it and Prosper.

God Chose You!

(1 Cor 1:26-31 MSG)  Take a good look, friends, at who you were when you got called into this life. I don’t see many of “the brightest and the best” among you, not many influential, not many from high-society families. Isn’t it obvious that God deliberately chose men and women that the culture overlooks and exploits and abuses, chose these “nobodies” to expose the hollow pretensions of the “somebodies”? That makes it quite clear that none of you can get by with blowing your own horn before God. Everything that we have—right thinking and right living, a clean slate and a fresh start—comes from God by way of Jesus Christ. That’s why we have the saying, “If you’re going to blow a horn, blow a trumpet for God.”

This morning we continue our series “Grace that is Simply Amazing.”  I used this passage yesterday, but I did not say much about it.  Let’s close out the week by taking a closer look at what Paul said in the opening chapter of his first letter to the church in Corinth.

Let’s take a look, as Paul suggests, at who we (and others) were when we were called by God.  I was a 23yr. old arrogant, hot-headed, Staff Sergeant in the Army who let everyone know he was from Brooklyn.  David was the 8th son of Jesse and his father thought so poorly of him that when the prophet came to select one of his sons as king, Jesse did not even put David in the lineup.  Jeremiah was a kid with such low self-esteem that he could not see himself doing what the Lord was telling him to do.  Rahab was a prostitute, running a brothel, and now she is listed in the Hall of Faith (Hebrews 11) and Jesus’ lineage (Matthew 1).  And Paul, the writer of this letter, was the first century church’s worst nightmare.  As far as the church was concerned, Paul was a terrorist who had people arrested and killed for naming the name of Jesus.

In no way was Paul, or am I, suggesting that God cannot or does not use people from prominent families, with prestigious backgrounds, and great reputations.  God can use anyone and that is exactly the point.  No one is disqualified because of his or her past.  No one is “too bad” because of what they have done.  No one is beyond repair in God’s eyes.  Anyone who is still living — regardless of age, race, background, socioeconomic status, or etc. — can be used of God.  Because God uses people by His grace.  However, I do agree with Paul that it somehow seems like God gets extra enjoyment out of using people who have been dismissed by the world.  I preach in Jail most Friday nights and I tell those men that they are good candidates to be used of God for His glory.  Why?  Because many have written them off.  Many have dismissed any possibility of a positive future for them.  Many believe their dreams have been aborted.  But when the world says, “No,” God can say, “Yes,” and defy all odds by His grace.

So what does this mean to you today?  A few things:
1.  Settle in your heart that you are forgiven.  God knows your past and He chose you anyway.  God also knows the mistakes you are going to make… and He chose you anyway.  Accept His forgiveness and resist condemnation at all costs.
2.  Settle in your heart that God wants to use you.  God chose YOU!  Let that sink in.  Meditate it over and over again.  God chose YOU, because He wants to use YOU for His glory.  Not because you are perfect, but because of his grace.
3.  Never cease to give God the glory.  In this passage, after thinking about the type of people God uses, Paul said, “If you’re going to blow a horn, blow a trumpet for God.”  Every time you get recognized for your accomplishments, remember that you would not have accomplished them without God’s grace and be sure to give Him the glory!

Closing Confession:  Father, I thank You for choosing me when I, quite honestly, might not have even chosen myself.  And thank You for forgiving me, not just for my past mistakes and sins, but also for those You know I am going to make.  You know everything I have done and will ever do, and You still chose to use me for Your glory.  That Father, is grace, and yes, it is amazing to me.  So, in order to maximize what You want me to do, I will settle in my heart that I am forgiven.  I settle in my heart that You want to use me.  When I get thoughts of feelings of being unworthy, I quickly dismiss them, because I already know I am unworthy.  You did not choose me because of how perfect I was going to be.  You chose me by grace.  I accept Your grace and I seek to fulfill Your assignment for my life.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

This is Today’s Word!  Apply it and Prosper.

Grace is NOT FAIR!

(1 Cor 1:26-31 MSG)  Take a good look, friends, at who you were when you got called into this life. I don’t see many of “the brightest and the best” among you, not many influential, not many from high-society families. Isn’t it obvious that God deliberately chose men and women that the culture overlooks and exploits and abuses, chose these “nobodies” to expose the hollow pretensions of the “somebodies”? That makes it quite clear that none of you can get by with blowing your own horn before God. Everything that we have—right thinking and right living, a clean slate and a fresh start—comes from God by way of Jesus Christ. That’s why we have the saying, “If you’re going to blow a horn, blow a trumpet for God.”

This morning we continue our series “Grace that is Simply Amazing.”  I traveled to Georgia this weekend to help one of my friends celebrate their 20th wedding anniversary.  While on the road I was thinking about God’s grace and a thought occurred to me that emphasizes why grace seems to hard to receive.  It’s a simple reason: grace is not fair.  This thought is not original, but it helps me remember that I am not God and He is not me.  Let me explain.  When we read the Bible we almost always read it from our own perspective.  However, this is God’s book and His ways are far above ours.  When we do something wrong, our mentality tells us that we should be punished for it.  That’s why we often “feel” like we have disqualified ourselves from God’s best when we mess up.  Why?  Because that would be fair.  We want things to be fair, so when we do good, we expect to be rewarded; and when we do bad, we expect to be punished.  However, God does not see things the way we do.  He made plans for us before we were born and He already knew all we would do right and all we would do wrong, and He still made plans for us to succeed.  Our failures are not news to God, so He is not necessarily looking for equity, He is looking for submission to His plans and purposes.

I keep providing you this passage from 1st Corinthians because it is such an great example of grace.  If Paul would have said, “God takes the best and brightest minds from all over the world, the strongest men and women with the greatest work ethic, to use for His glory”; we would not have a hard time understanding that.  That seems logical and it would be something we can all strive for.  If we looked at the people God used and we saw exceptionally bright, hard working, and unquestionably righteous men and women, we could accept that with a human mentality without issue.  If I were able to tell you that Paul was selected to write over half the New Testament because he won the “best Apostle” competition, then your human mind could easily wrap itself around the idea.  However, when I tell you that Paul was not even in the running, that he was not even one of the original Apostles, and that he was actually on the opposite team persecuting everyone who named the name of Jesus, and God selected him anyway and used him in a greater way than all of the other Apostles, that does not make sense.  That is not fair.  That is somewhat scandalous.  But that, my friends, is grace.

So what does this mean to you today?  Two things:
1.  Grace is not fair.  When I teach on sowing and reaping, cause and effect, and the free will of humans, the teaching makes sense because we can logically understand how we reap whatever we sow.  That’s fair and it seems like we are getting (good or bad) what we deserve.  However, if you deserve it, then it is not grace.  With grace God freely gives you what you do not deserve.  God is not doing it to be fair, He is doing it because He loves you.

2.  Don’t fight grace with your human mindset.  You may not always understand what God wants to give you and why, but just accept the fact that He loves you and receive all that He wants to do in your life.  When your human mindset tells you that you should be punished, and the Holy Spirit is telling you that He wants to bless you richly, don’t fight it, just accept it, and allow yourself to become overwhelmed by God’s love and grace.

Closing Confession:  Father, I thank You for Your grace.  The more I learn about grace, the more I understand why it is so amazing.  You know me better than I know myself.  You know all the times I have messed up and You know how my mindset immediately attempts to force me over into self-condemnation.  Thank You Father for loving me, forgiving me, and calling me by Your grace.  You already knew all the failures I would ever commit and You called me anyway.  Not because I was the best.  Not because I was the brightest.  Not because I earned it.  Not because I deserve it.  No, Father, You called me by Your grace and for that I will never cease to give You praise.  I realize that grace is not fair, so I will stop disqualifying myself from what You have qualified me for.  I accept all You want to do in my life and I seek to fulfill Your Kingdom plans and purposes before I die.  I declare this by faith.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

This is Today’s Word!  Apply it and Prosper.

The Selection of David

(Read 1 Samuel 16:1-13)

This morning we continue our series “Grace that is Simply Amazing.”  We already looked at a portion of the life of Moses.  Now let’s look at another grace case: David.  Before we begin to read about David in 1st Samuel chapter 16, I like to have people read chapter 15.  In chapter 15 the Lord, through the prophet Samuel, told king Saul to attack and utterly destroy Amelek for attacking Israel when they came out of Egypt.  He was to kill everyone and destroy all possessions, to include all animals.  Saul, however, chose to spare Agag, the Amelekite king and he also spared the best of the animals.  Saul decided that he wanted to make a sacrifice to the Lord with these animals.  God sent Samuel again to Saul, but this time to inform him that he no longer had God’s favor.  The prophet told the king that he was no longer “little in his own eyes” and he had somehow arrived at the point where he thought he could disobey, or dismiss, God’s commands.  Samuel said, “Obedience is better than Sacrifice.”  When Samuel left the king he never went back to see him until the day of his death.  This truly grieved the prophet, because he truly loved Saul.

In the next chapter the Lord told the prophet Samuel to visit Jesse’ house, because He had selected one of Jesse’ boys to be Saul’s replacement; the next king of Israel.  Jesse hailed from the tribe of Judah, he was a great-grandson of Boaz and Ruth, and he lived in Bethlehem.  Samuel knew that if king Saul found out that he was going to Bethlehem to anoint his replacement, Saul would have him killed.  So Samuel took an animal for sacrifice, to make his trip look like a routine act of worship.  When the prophet arrived in Bethlehem he told the town Elders that he was there for a sacrifice.  Samuel then proceeded to Jesse’s house and he asked Jesse to join in, with his sons, in the purification rite normally performed before a proper sacrifice.  The text says that Jesse and his sons joined in the purification ritual; I will bring this back up later.

Once everyone was ceremonially clean, Samuel was ready to make his selection.  However, before he left for his trip the Lord clearly said to him, “You are to anoint for me the one I indicate.”  You would think that a prophet would not need to be reminded of this, but there was a reason the Lord said it.  As Samuel stood there, looking at Jesse and his boys, Samuel could not help but be impressed with Jesse’s eldest son, Eliab.  Samuel thought to himself, “Surely the Lord’s anointed stands here before the Lord.”  Samuel was impressed with how good Eliab looked, but the Lord said, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at.  People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”  After Eliab was rejected by God, Jesse went to the next son Abinadab, and the next, and the next, until he had gone through all seven sons.  At this point Samuel was confused.  He asked Jesse, “Are these all the sons you have?”  Jesse had to admit that he had another son, the youngest, David, but he was out tending the sheep.  Samuel said, “Send for him; we will not sit down until he arrives.”  We will stop here for today.

So what does this mean to you today?  A few things:
1.  When the Lord gives you clear instructions, don’t come up with something you think is a better idea.
2.  What God has for you, is for you.  No one can take your blessing.
3.  Even when people don’t think enough about you to even put your name in the running, God has a way of picking you anyway.
4.  When you least expect it, while you are doing what you normally do — in this case it was tending sheep — the Lord can bless you and change your life forever.

Closing Confession:  Father, like David, I know You have destined me for Your purpose.  I am no mistake.  I am here for a reason and the doors of opportunity will open for me.  While I am waiting on You, I will continue to be faithful to what I am charged to do.  I will do what I am expected to do, in excellence, every day, even when it seems like no one is watching.  I know You are watching and I know You will open the door of favor in Your timing.  What You have for me, is for me, and You will not give it to anyone else.  So I will wait patiently, expectantly, and faithfully.  When I least expect it, my breakthrough will come and my life will be changed forever.  Understanding this I can work faithfully, and whistle while I work!  I declare this by faith.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

This is Today’s Word!  Apply it and Prosper.

You are Destiny’s Child!

(1 Samuel 16:12,13 NIV)  So he sent for him and had him brought in. He was glowing with health and had a fine appearance and handsome features.  Then the Lord said, “Rise and anoint him; this is the one.”  So Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the presence of his brothers, and from that day on the Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon David.  Samuel then went to Ramah.

This morning we continue our series “Grace that is Simply Amazing.”  Yesterday I introduced you to David, another grace case.  I told you how Samuel was instructed of God to go to Bethlehem, to Jesse’s house, and to anoint one of Jesse’s sons to be Saul’s replacement as the next king of Israel.  It is understandable why Samuel initially thought Jesse’s firstborn would be the one.  In addition to being a good looking young man, Hebrew tradition placed the greatest blessing on the firstborn son.  But God, by HIs grace, had other plans.

It’s disappointing to me that when Samuel was preparing for the supposed worship, and he asked Jesse to have his boys join him in the ceremonial act of cleansing, that Jesse did not think it necessary to send one of the boys to get David.  Jesse went through the entire rite with seven of his eight boys, and it seemingly did not bother him that David, the little shepherd boy, was out tending sheep.  It also bothers me that not one of the brothers said anything.  It’s almost like David was the forgotten son.  He was the youngest, and he was out doing his family duties, but when it seemed like the family forgot about David, God certainly did not.

After learning of the eighth and final son, Samuel told Jesse, “Send for him; we will not sit down until he arrives.”  I can picture the awkwardness of the moment.  Jesse sent one of his boys to get David and he and the other six sons waited, without really knowing why the man of God was in their home, and not knowing what this had to do with David.  But when David arrived it all became clear.  The Lord spoke to the prophet, clearly telling Samuel that David was the one He picked, and Samuel then took the horn full of oil (that had been consecrated to the Lord), and anointed David right in front of his father and brothers.  It was like the Lord was saying, “You might not have picked him, but I did.”  So right there, at that moment, without any explanation of why, without any qualifiers of exceptional performance or service, the Lord selected a teenager to be the next king of Israel, in front of a family that did not even ensure he was in the lineup.  That, my friends, is grace.  Not just any grace.  It is the grace of God, and yes, it is amazing!

So what does this mean to you today?  A few things:
1.  You might be overlooked, omitted, and even oppressed by others, but that does not change the fact that you are destined.  You are Destiny’s Child!
2.  God can bless you right in front of those who dismissed you.
3.  The oil (blessing) reserved for you, will not flow for anyone else.  No one can take your blessing.  That’s why you don’t need to get upset when others get blessed.  They have their blessings and you have yours.
4.  Sometimes God interrupts your day, in the middle of a routine task, in order to bless you richly.  Not because you necessarily did anything to deserve it, but simply because of His grace and love towards you.

Closing Confession:  Father, like David, I know You have destined me for Your purpose.  When I am overlooked by others, You notice.  When I am omitted from the lineup, You have a way of stopping everything until I show up.  Nothing man can do to me can stop what You have destined for me.  I am Destiny’s Child.  Your Kingdom plans and purposes for me shall come to pass.  You prepare a table for me, to bless me, right in front of my enemies.  You elevate me before those who sought to come against me, just to show how much You love Your children.  And Father, I will never claim to deserve all You freely give me.  You loved me before I ever cared about You.  You opened doors for me before I even acknowledged You were working in my life.  You bless me way beyond anything I could ever deserve.  I know You do it by grace, and for that I will never cease to give You praise.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

This is Today’s Word!  Apply it and Prosper.

You Have Grace for Your Assignment

(Read 1 Samuel 16:1-13)

This morning we continue our series “Grace that is Simply Amazing.”  We have been dealing with David, another grace case, for the last few days.  Yesterday we learned how God saw fit to call David out of the field, where he was dutifully taking care of his father’s sheep, in order to anoint him in front of his father and brothers.  I made an attempt to move forward in the passage this morning, but the Holy Spirit arrested me and took me back.  Let’s take a little more time to think about what happened to David.

We will learn later that David spent a great deal of time with his father’s sheep and the lessons he learned as a young shepherd helped him better understand God, who became the Great Shepherd of his life.  With that in mind, the first point I want to make is: God is always at work in your life, even before you acknowledge who He is.  God made plans for you before you were born and He also actively participated in your life before you accepted Him as Lord.

One of the greatest moments I have ever experienced in God was a day when the Holy Spirit took me back (in my mind, as if it were a movie) over all the times He shielded and protected me, while I was growing up in Brooklyn and the Dominican Republic.  I accepted Jesus as Lord at 23, but I would have never made it to the age of 23 if the Lord was not actively protecting me for my purpose.  The same can be said of David.  While he was just a young boy, out protecting sheep, David had a life-and-death encounter with a lion and another with a bear.  In both cases the Lord protected David and helped him kill both animals with his bare hands.  Had the Lord not been with David during those encounters (and I am sure, many others), like me, David would not have been alive to receive and fulfill his purpose.  What the Lord did for me and what He did for David was completely unmerited.  As a young man I did not acknowledge God and we don’t have any indication that David was exceptionally righteous as a young man either.  So, in the case of David, me, and I am sure you as well, the Lord helped us and protected us for our purpose, even when we did not acknowledge Him at all.  Do you know what that is called my friend?  It’s called GRACE!  Completely unmerited, undeserved, unexpected, and borderline unbelievable.  Grace is amazing!

The second and final point I will make today is that a special empowerment came upon David when Samuel anointed him with oil.  From that moment David was graced to be the king of Israel.  If you keep reading the text you see that the spirit of the Lord departed from Saul and the anointing to be king was now on David.  Why is that important?  It is important because you must understand that you are here for a reason and you must settle in your heart the fact that you have divine grace for your divine assignment.  The Father will never expect you to do something He has not equipped you for.  I am sure David did not fully understand the enormity of the assignment, nor the enormity of the grace of his life to fulfill it, but both the assignment and the grace were his.  Guess what?  The same can be said of you.  You have both a God-given assignment and the God-given grace to fulfill it.  No matter how big your assignment seems and now matter how unqualified you might feel, you must settle in your heart that you have grace for your assignment and you will fulfill it, not in your strength or ability, but in and by the grace of God.  Where God leads, He feeds.  Where He guides, He provides.  Whatever He tells you to do, He graces you to do.  So enter this day with your confidence rooted and grounded in His grace.

Closing Confession:  Father, thank You for keeping and shielding me when I did not even know You.  You made plans for me before the foundations of the world.  You shielded and protected me for my divine purpose, even before I ever acknowledged Your existence.  You were there for me before I ever called You Lord.  Thank You Father.  When I think about Your love and grace toward me, I am overwhelmed.  There is no way I could deserve it, and for that I will never cease to give You praise.  Now that I know You and I have a relationship with You as my Heavenly Father, You freely lead me by Your Spirit.  You reveal Your divine plans and purposes for my life, to me, and You also give me the grace to fulfill them.  No matter how big the assignment, I know You have given me the grace to fulfill it.  So I pursue my purpose with bulldog tenacity, knowing that I will never be able to fulfill it in my strength, but I shall maximize my purpose and potential in Your strength and by Your grace.  I declare this by faith.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

This is Today’s Word!  Apply it and Prosper.

Grace puts the Emphasis on God

This morning we continue our series “Grace that is Simply Amazing.”  In this series we have looked at Jesus and how grace was the underlying current that led him to perform many of His miracles.  We have look at some specific grace cases, like Moses and David, and it is clear that God went out of His way to initiate a relationship with each man and then use them mightily, for His glory.  And we will look at others, like Paul, who was playing on the opposing team when the Lord called Him and led him to change sides.  In every case, studying grace has given us an opportunity to put the emphasis for the success, victory, and glory, back on God.  I have been teaching on faith for years and I can admit that even the best faith-teacher, can at times, put too much emphasis on human effort.  Grace takes the emphasis off of us and shines the spotlight on a God who made plans for us before we were born, and then dutifully works with us to fulfill those plans while we are in the land of the living.

The words of the song “Amazing Grace” have new meaning for me now.  The more I study grace the more I appreciate God and His loving kindness and tender mercy toward me.  I, like Paul, can say that I am what I am by the grace of God.  I shudder to think where I would be and who I would be, without the grace of God.  Grace reminds us that our life is about God and His Kingdom plans and purposes for us, not about us and our often selfish desires.

I am glad the Lord led me this morning to write about putting the emphasis on Him.  In a few hours I will get promoted to the rank of Chief Warrant Officer Five in the United States Army.  I had family come in last night from Georgia, New York, New Jersey, and Rhode Island.  Others will travel today and a group of family, friends, and colleagues will all meet in the Pentagon for the ceremony.  As I think about the promotion and what it means, I can’t help but go right back to the grace of God.  My mother came to this country in 1970 without a dime.  I was born in 1972 and my parents divorced in 1975.  My mother struggled to raise me, and later my sister.  We grew up on public assistance, in the murder capital of the murder capital at the time (East New York, Brooklyn), in a place where tragedies were commonplace and dreams were scarce.   However, the Lord saw fit to choose me.  Like David, I have been promoted in front of those who dismissed me.  Like Moses, I have sometimes argued with God and attempted to disqualify myself from what He has qualified me for.  But like Jesus, I attempt to submit myself to the Father’s will, to be used of the Father, for His glory.  Not because I am perfect, not because I earned it, not because I deserve it, but simply because of God’s amazing grace.  When I get promoted today many will say that it was because I worked hard, or I am smart, or I have contributed so much, but I will share with you now what I will share with others later, and that is that my promotion has come by the grace of God.  I am not the smartest network engineer, I am not the greatest leader, and I am not the most prepared staff officer, but I am a child of God, who is willing to submit to God, to be used of Him by His grace.  That’s the reason why I believe the Lord has seen fit to promote and to continue to use me in His Army, to serve in the United States Army.

So what does this mean to you today?  Two simple things:
1.  You are who you are, by the grace of God.
2.  If you earnestly acknowledge the grace of God on your life, you will be able to properly give God the praise for who you have become and all you have been able to do.

Closing Confession:  Father, I sincerely thank You for Your overwhelming grace on my life.  I can look back and acknowledge the fact that You have been with me every step of the way.  You made plans for me before I was born and You have walked with me, even before I ever called You Lord, to help bring Your Kingdom plans and purposes for my life to pass.  You are the base and boundary, center and circumference, balance and beauty of my life.  You are my all and all.  It is in You that I live, move, and have my being.  If I had 10,000 tongues, I could not thank You enough.  I know I am not a self-made man/woman.  I am who I am by Your grace and I am not ashamed to say it!  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

This is Today’s Word!  Apply it and Prosper.

The Space between the Promise and the Performance

(Read 1 Samuel 16:1-13)

This morning we continue our series “Grace that is Simply Amazing.”  David is a grace case from start to finish.  He was minding his own business, going about his daily routine, tending to sheeping, not knowing that God was about to perform a significant act in his life, when one of his brothers ran out to get him in the field.  I could just imagine the conversation.  It probably went something like, “David, hurry up, you need to get home right away.  There is a prophet in our home and he is looking to do something with one of us.  He already looked at each of us and now he is waiting on you.”   When David arrived, still smelling like sheep, the prophet anointed David’s head with a few drops of olive oil in an informal yet significant ceremony.  The Bible says, “From that day on the Spirit of the LORD came upon David in power” (1 Sam. 16:13).  David then became known as an “anointed one” or “the LORD’s anointed.”  From that moment on David was God’s designated leader for the nation of Israel.  What had David done to deserve this honor?  Nothing.  Apparently his family agreed.  They didn’t even invite him to his own coronation.  Besides, historically, a new king had to be the son of an old king.  Jesse was no king and David was no prince.  This was not a natural selection, but rather a spiritual one.  David’s selection was not a birthright, but rather a divine appointment.  And David was not selected because he earned it, he was selected by grace and grace alone.  God picked David, even though he was not from the right family.  God picked David, even though he was the youngest of Jesse’ boys.  God picked David, even though he did not do anything special to deserve it.  God picked David by grace.  Guess what?  He did the same with you!

As soon as the impromptu coronation ceremony was over you would think that the clouds would open up, that there would be a voice from heaven, or that the prophet Samuel would escort David to the palace so he could take over the throne of Saul.  None of that happened.  The prophet left, David rubbed the oil off his forehead, his brothers went back to whatever they were doing and David went back to his sheep.  None of them could truly understand what had just happened.  God had transitioned the power for national leadership from Saul to David in the spirit, but naturally speaking, it would be over a decade before David would physically assume the throne.  David had to wait faithfully and patiently to receive in hands what the Lord had already done in his heart.

So what does this mean to you today?  A few things:
1.  God made plans for you before the foundations of the world.  Not because of anything you did (obviously), but simply because of His grace.
2.  You have and will continue to experience divine moments in your life, when God shifts something in the spirit, in order to see His Kingdom plans and purposes for your life come to pass in the natural.
3.  During those divine moments the Father will deposit something inside of you, but there will be a span of time before you see in your hands, what you have already received in your heart.
4.  In the space between the promise (in your heart) and the performance (in your hands), you must do your best to remain faithful.  Not because you are attempting to earn it, because you can’t, but because you are attempting to honor the Lord for bestowing His grace upon your life.

Closing Confession:  Father, I thank You for making plans for me before the foundations of the world.  You were thinking of me before I could do anything to earn your attention.  And after I was alive, with the ability to live right before You, I ignored You and went my own way.  I was completely undeserving, but You pursued me anyway.  You loved me enough to track me down, even when I had no consideration for You whatsoever.  You blessed me and saved me by Your amazing grace.  And now that I openly acknowledge You as Lord, You freely deposit things in my heart, about my future, that give me hope.  I know it is simply a matter of time before I see, in my hands, what I have already received, in my heart.  So I wait patiently and faithfully.  Not because I am trying to earn it, because I never could, but rather because I simply want to honor You for being so good to me.  I declare this by faith.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

This is Today’s Word!  Apply it and Prosper.

Grace and Favor will Open Door for You

(Read 1 Samuel 16:14-23)

This morning we continue our series “Grace that is Simply Amazing.”  After the prophet Samuel left Jesse’s house life seemingly went back to normal.  The Spirit of the Lord was upon David and there was a grace on him for national leadership, but he went right back to his sheep and everyone went back to their normal lives.  However, since the Spirit of the Lord had left Saul, and he no longer had the grace for national leadership, he started to be tormented by an evil spirit and Saul was filled with depression and fear.  Some of Saul’s servants said to him, “Let us find a good musician to play the harp whenever the tormenting spirit troubles you.  He will play soothing music, and you will soon be well again.”  Saul said, “All right, find me someone who plays well, and bring him here.”

At this point, if you are not familiar with David’s story, you might be thinking, “Okay Rick, where are you going with this?  What does this have to do with David?”  Actually, a great deal.  Surprisingly, one of Saul’s servants said, “One of Jesse’s sons from Bethlehem is a talented harp player.  Not only that—he is a brave warrior, a man of war, and has good judgment.  He is also a fine-looking young man, and the LORD is with him.”  Can you believe that?  In one moment David was minding his own business, tending to his sheep, when one of his brothers pulled him out of the field in order to be anointed the next king of Israel.  After his impromptu coronation, he went back to the field, and now, unbeknownst to him, his name is being brought up before king Saul.  Not only that, but the servant who brought up David’s name told the king that he was a talented harp player, a brave warrior, a good looking young man with good judgment, and above all of that, the servant said the Lord was with David.  How in the world could the servant know all of that?  Here’s the answer: God!  This was a setup if there ever was one.  Saul sent messengers to Jesse to say, “Send me your son David, the shepherd.”  We will stop here for today.

So what does this mean to you today?  A few things:
1.  Grace will open doors no man can close.  Once the grace for national leadership was on David he could not go back to his normal life, even if he tried to.  When there is a grace on you for a certain area, that grace will open doors that no man can close and close doors that no man can open.  Things will happen for you, not because you did anything to earn them, or because you deserve them; they will happen simply because of God’s grace and because He will do all that is required to help you walk in your purpose.

2.  Favor can do more in a minute than labor can do in a lifetime.  David could have worked all his life and never had an audience with the king.  But once the favor of God was in operation in his life, favor did in a moment, than labor could have ever done in a lifetime.  The favor of God will bring you before all those you need to be exposed to in order to maximize your purpose and potential.

3.  You can’t earn Grace or Favor, but you should appreciate them.  I am clearly a recipient of grace and favor, and while I could never earn them, I can (and should) thank God for their operation in my life.  It should be the same with you.  You can’t earn God’s goodness, but when it comes your proper response should be to say, “Thank You!”  Enter every day with thanksgiving on your lips, a smile on your face, a song in your heart, and a spring in your step.  This way you will always be ready to give God praise!

Closing Confession:  Father, You open doors for me that no man can close and close doors for me that no man can open.  You have graced me and the grace on my life makes things happen for me that I could never make happen for myself.  You favor is on me and favor can do more in a minute than my labor could do in a lifetime.  Thank You Father for Your grace and favor.  Thank You for being better to me than I have been to myself.  You bless me to do what I can and You supernaturally do what I can’t.  Your grace and favor bring me before great men and women and when I stand before them, your grace and favor enable me to say what I need to say, to receive what I need to receive, and to grow to the level I need to grow in order to maximize my purpose and potential.  Father, I will never cease to give You praise for how good You have been and continue to be in my life!  I declare this by faith.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

This is Today’s Word!  Apply it and Prosper.

Faith and Trust

(Read 1 Samuel 16:14-23)

This morning we continue our series “Grace that is Simply Amazing.”  Yesterday we saw how David, who seemingly attempted to go back to his normal life, was quickly summoned by the king to serve as his personal musician.  I can only imagine how this went over in Mr. Jesse’s household.  First, the king’s personal prophet visited Bethlehem and caused a commotion in the town.  The prophet chose to visit Jesse’s house and anointed David to be the next king of Israel right in front of his father and brothers, the same people who had omitted him from the lineup.  If that were not enough, after the prophet left and after they attempted to go back to life as usual, a royal messenger knocked on Jesse’ door and said, “Mr. Jesse, king Saul requests that you send him your son David, the shepherd.”  Once again, notice how David did nothing to initiate all the commotion.  David was minding his own business, going about his daily routine, when his brother came to get him for the impromptu coronation ceremony.  And later, after David attempted to go back to his normal life, he was minding his own business again when the royal messenger knocked on the door.  Do you know what it’s called when you seemingly do nothing to initiate God’s blessing, but it comes anyway?  The answer, my friend, is grace.  David was a grace case start-to-finish.  God sought him out and God went out of His way to bless David richly.  Not because David earned it or deserved it, but simply because of God’s amazing grace.

Jesse was not going to turn down the king, so he sent David to Saul, along with a young goat, a donkey loaded with bread, and a wineskin full of wine.  Notice how Jesse was not thinking that this was a grace case.  Jesse was not sure what was going to happen and he did not want the king to be upset with him, so he sent gifts, just to make sure (in his mind anyway), that everything would work out fine for David and for his family.  This is probably more attention than he had ever received in his life, and he was not sure how to handle it.  David, however, rolled with the punches.  David did not question the coronation, nor did he question the call from the king.  David went to king Saul and began serving him.  Whenever the tormenting spirit troubled Saul, David would play the harp, the spirit would go away, and Saul would feel better.  Saul sent word to Jesse asking, “Please let David remain in my service, for I am very pleased with him.”  The Bible says, “Saul loved David very much, and David became his armor bearer.”  We will stop here for today.

So what does this mean to you today?  Two things:
1.  There is a certain level of mystery associated with walking with God.  This is something that I am dealing with personally right now.  I like to know what is going on, but my Pastor reminded me last night that we only get to know whatever the Lord chooses to reveal to us.  We won’t know everything, but we will know what we need to know in order to walk and live by faith.  David did not know what was going on, but he knew God was doing something and he flowed with it.  We should do the same.

2.  When God opens a door, walk through it with trust and confidence.  David had to trust God while he was tending his father’s sheep.  While in the field he experienced hand-to-paw combat with a lion and a bear and he wound up killing both animals with his bare hands.  Now the Lord was leading him in a different direction; one that took him before the king of Israel.  David went and did what was asked of him, trusting God the entire way.  The same God who kept him on the plains would keep him in the palace.  And what was true for David is true for you.  Walk through every door the Father opens for you, knowing that He is not leading you to failure!  The same God who kept you then, will keep you now!

Closing Confession:  Father, I trust You with my whole heart.  I will not know everything, and while that is somewhat difficult to accept, I accept the fact that You love me and You reveal to me what I need to know, when I need to know it.  I get to know what You allow me to know and in the areas where I don’t know, I simply trust You.  I walk by faith in the areas where You give me a promise and You want me to stand on Your Word.  But in the areas where I am not sure what Your will is, I will walk by trust, believing that You love me too much to lead me astray.  So, I will walk through every door You open for me, with trust and confidence.  I have confidence that You will do what You have promised mel and I have trust in the areas where I am unsure and uncertain.  Either way, I love You, I am convinced You love me, and I live my life based on that reality!  I declare this by faith.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

This is Today’s Word!  Apply it and Prosper.

Maximize This Season

(1 Samuel 16:21 NLT)  So David went to Saul and began serving him. Saul loved David very much, and David became his armor bearer.

This morning we continue our series “Grace that is Simply Amazing.”  David’s story is amazing.  After the shepherd boy was summoned to the palace he was told what would be expected of him.  The king was being tormented by an evil spirit and David’s job was to play the harp whenever the king needed peace.  Although David knew that Samuel, the same prophet who had anointed Saul to be king, had recently anointed him to be Saul’s successor, David never brought it up and he simply did as he was told.  David was young, probably 17 or 18 years old, but he exhibited maturity beyond his years.  Whenever the tormenting spirit troubled Saul, David played the harp, the spirit would withdraw, and Saul would receive peace.  Saul sent word to Jesse asking, “Please let David remain in my service, for I am very pleased with him.”

Our text says that “Saul loved David very much.”  Saul loved him so much that he appointed David to be his armor-bearer.  In Scripture, an armor-bearer was a servant who carried additional weapons for commanders.  Abimelech (Judges 9:54), Saul (1 Samuel 16:12), Jonathan (1 Samuel 14:6-17), and Joab (2 Samuel 18:15) had armor-bearers.  Armor-bearers were also responsible for killing enemies wounded by their masters.  After enemy soldiers were wounded with javelins or arrows, armor-bearers finished the job with clubs or swords.  Since Saul never entered combat while David was his armor-bearer, David’s duties non-combat duties were more like an adjutant.  This meant that David was around the king all the time and he was exposed to the throne and the ins-and-outs of the monarchy.  This is very important because some day David would be king and he needed to know how to rule as a monarch and I am sure he learned things, in the presence of Saul, that he would have never learned in the field with his sheep.

In several messages I have mentioned the fact that grace and favor will open doors that no man can close, but let me ‘pull the string’ on that thought a little further.  Think about David’s life and you can see the fingerprints of God all over it.  Not only did God supernaturally promote David in front of his family, but He then opened a door for David to immediately come to the palace in order to play a musical instrument that none of us he could play before the summons came.  Then, once in the palace, the Lord opened a door for David to spend more time with Saul, so that he could learn all he needed to learn in order to prepare himself to be Saul’s successor.  Notice that David did none of this on his own.  This was all being done by grace.  The only part you could say David did was playing of the harp, but even then, one could make the argument that God gave him the grace to develop into the musician he was.  There is no way around it, David was who he was, by the grace of God.  The same can be said of us.

So what does this mean to you today?  A few things:
1.  Your gift (and God’s grace) will make room for you, and bring you before great men (Prov 18:16).
2.  The Lord will expose you to people today that will help develop you into the person He needs you to be tomorrow.
3.  When God brings you before great men, don’t do all the talking.  Be observant and ready to receive all the Lord wants to deposit in you.  He brought you into their company for a reason, make sure you maximize the moment.
4.  There is no such thing as luck and nothing happens haphazardly.  Either spiritual forces (God or satan) are working behind the scene or you are reaping what you have sown.

Closing Confession:  Father, I thank You for Your immeasurable love and overwhelming grace towards me.  You love me more than I love myself.  You have opened doors for me that I could never open for myself and You bring me before great men and women, in order to prepare me for what You want to do in my life.  As You bring me before great men and women, I declare that I will maximize the moment.  I will not do all the talking.  I will be ready to observe and receive all You want to deposit in my life.  Wisdom is transferred by association and as You bless me to associate with great people, greatness will be deposited in me.  I know that You are preparing me today, for my tomorrow and I declare that I will maximize this season of my life, so that I can be prepared for the next.  Every day Father, I get incrementally closer to Your desired destination for my life.  Forward ever, backward never!  The best is yet to come!  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

This is Today’s Word!  Apply it and Prosper.

Never Give Up

(1 Samuel 16:1-23)

This morning we continue our series “Grace that is Simply Amazing.”  Before we move on to chapter 17, I want to close out the week with a quick recap of chapter 16.  In this chapter we were introduced to David and we quickly saw the hand of God on his life.  It’s easy to put the emphasis on the overwhelming outpour of grace and favor we see in this passage, but let’s take a few moments to think about David prior to his coronation.

David was the 8th and final son of Jesse.  As the youngest, within the Hebrew culture, David was last in the pecking order.  His oldest brother, Eliab, was first in line for the birthright and everything flowed downhill from him.  We can surmise, from the way he was omitted from the lineup, that David was some sort of loner.  David spent a great deal of his time tending to his father’s sheep.  We later learn that he protected the sheep at all costs, even when it involved fighting a lion and a bear with his bare hands.

As the shepherd of the sheep David watched as the sheep built a dependency on his leadership.  They followed him wherever he led them and they relied on him for protection.  Without David the sheep would go astray.  Without the sheep David did not have anyone to lead; he was definitely not a leader at home.  So David found his significance in the field and he sought to remain faithful to his father and to the sheep, even when it seemed like no one was watching. However, we know God was watching.  His years in the field helped David later pen the 23rd Psalm.

God had plans for David and I am sure deep down inside he knew it.  He knew he was born for something bigger than sheep, but I am also sure that he could not have imagined, in 1,000 years, that he would wind up as the king of Israel.  So David remained faithful to what was before him, dreaming of what could come next, not really sure how it would happen, when his life changed forever by grace.  David did nothing to make Samuel to come his house and call for him.  David did nothing to make God anoint him the next king of Israel.  And then David did nothing to make Saul call for him and bring him to the palace.  David was just being faithful to what he was supposed to be doing when his breakthrough came, not by faith, but clearly by grace.

So what does this mean to you today?  A few things:
1.  God has plans for you.  You are not a mistake.
2.  God’s plans for you are bigger and better than your plans for you (see Eph 3:20).
3.  Remain faithful over what you have been given charge over.  Even if it seems like no one is noticing, God is.
4.  Sometimes your breakthrough will come by faith, when you are clearly standing on a promise from God, but then again sometimes your breakthrough will come by grace, when you least expect it, and when you did nothing to initiate it.
5.  Never give up.  Your life may seem mundane, ordinary, and common, but that does not mean that you won’t see your God-given dreams come to pass.  We serve a God who can turn your life around in an instant.  Keep your faith, hope, and trust in Him.  Your breakthrough can come at any moment.

Closing Confession:  Father, I love You with my whole heart.  I know You love me and it amazes me that You made plans for me before the foundations of the world.  You planned my life out before I was even born.  You sit on the circle of the earth and You still take time to think about me.  Wow.  Thank You Father for caring for me.  You have even numbered the hairs on my head.  I rest in Your love for me.  Since I know You love me, and I know Your plans for me WILL come to pass, I faithfully discharge the duties I have been given and I perform everything I am expected to do in excellence, whether others are watching or not.  I know You are always with me and You take notice of me, even when others do not.  So I will be faithful every day and I trust my breakthrough will come, either by faith or grace.  I am confident that I will arrive at Your desired destination for my life, before I die.  I declare this by faith.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

This is Today’s Word!  Apply it and Prosper.

Overcoming the Fear Factor

(1 Samuel 17:1-11)

This morning we continue our series “Grace that is Simply Amazing.”  As we enter chapter 17, David’s story shift’s it focus to Saul.  The spirit of the Lord was no longer on Saul and he no longer had the grace for national leadership.  Saul was basically fired by God and he did not even know it.  It was during this time, when God’s favor had left Saul, that the Philistines mustered their army for battle against Israel.  The Philistine army camped between Socoh in Judah and Azekah at Ephes-dammim.  Saul countered by gathering his Israelite army near the valley of Elah.  So the Philistines and Israelites faced each other on opposite hills, with the valley between them; just like a scene from a movie.

Once the scene was set, a Philistine champion from Gath, named Goliath, came out of the Philistine ranks to face the forces of Israel.  This man was a beast.  Goliath was over 9ft. tall, he wore armor that weighed 125 pounds, he carried a javelin with a 15lb. spearhead, and his shield was so big that another man (his armor bearer) had to walk with him to carry it.  Goliath stood in the valley and taunted the Israelites, saying, “Why are you all coming out to fight?  I am the Philistine champion, but you are only the servants of Saul.  Choose one man to come down here and fight me!  If he kills me, then we will be your slaves.  But if I kill him, you will be our slaves!  I defy the armies of Israel today!  Send me a man who will fight me!”  When Saul and the Israelites heard this, instead of having confidence in the God that had seen them through countless battles, the Bible says, “They were terrified and deeply shaken.”

There was a time when Saul operated in faith, but this is clearly a case when he was operating in fear.  I have lots of teaching on fear on my website and we, as believers, should resist fear at all costs.  Interestingly enough, I taught on “Overcoming the Fear Factor,” from this very passage, in Jail this past Friday night.  Fear is an incapacitating force that can stop the strongest person in their tracks.  Fear is actually an opposite form of faith.  Faith expresses confidence in God and His promises.  Fear expresses confidence in the enemy and his promises.  I will stop here for today.

So what does this mean to you today?  A few things:
1.  Satan will attempt to get you to play by his rules.  No one said the Israelites had to accept Goliath’s one-on-one winner-takes-all rule, but Saul foolishly accepted what the enemy established.

2.  You cannot be in-fear and in-faith at the same time.  Once Saul and his Soldiers were in-fear they had no confidence (faith) in God.

3.  We have a real enemy.  Just like God is real, satan is real, and fear is his greatest tool.  If satan can get you to fear, he can get you to stop acting like God’s representative in the earth.

4.  Our Enemy uses images.  Goliath’s sheer size struck fear in the Israelites, even though, as a man, he was clearly not invincible.  The enemy will attempt to make your situation seem worse than what it actually is.  Because if you develop an image of failure, seeing yourself defeated, then you beat yourself before you ever got started.

5.  God is bigger than any enemy.  Paul asked the question, “If God be for us, who can be against us?” (Rom 8:31).  The answer is: anyone who wants to lose!  Goliath, as big and bad as he thought he was, wound up dead and decapitated.  This is the fate of those who come up against God’s children.  You must have more confidence (faith) in God’s ability than confidence (fear) in your enemy’s ability.

Closing Confession:  Father, Your grace and favor are on me and they bring me peace and rest.  I know You are with me and You always will be.  This gives me hope and confidence.  I am so convinced that You are ON, IN, WITH, and FOR me, that I will not allow fear to get a hold of my heart.  Fear is not a factor for me.  I overcome fear, because I am rooted and grounded in Your love for me.  Perfected love casts out all fear.  I declare: NO FEAR HERE!  Fear has no power over me.  My confidence is firmly rooted in my relationship with You, and since I am always in-faith, I will never be in-fear.  I know I have a real enemy who wants to steal, kill, and destroy in my life.  But I also know I have a real God, who shows up in my life in real ways, so I have nothing to fear.  You are bigger than satan and any enemy that comes up against me.  This reality brings me peace and I enter every day in Your REST.  I thank You Father for helping me to rid my life of fear, worry, doubt, and unbelief.  I declare this by faith.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

This is Today’s Word!  Apply it and Prosper.

The Grace to Stand Your Ground

(1 Samuel 17:12-32)

This morning we continue our series “Grace that is Simply Amazing.”  Yesterday we left off the story with both armies mustered against each other, with nothing to separate them but the valley of Elah, and with Goliath (the giant) taunting the Israelite army and striking fear in their hearts.  Let’s pick up the story from there.

As we know by now, Jesse had eight sons.  His three oldest boys—Eliab, Abinadab, and Shimea—were part of Saul’s army and they were within the ranks that were paralyzed with fear of Goliath.  David, being the youngest, was back at home tending to his father’s sheep.  Twice a day (morning and evening) for 40 days Goliath strutted in front of the Israelite army and made his offer, and for 40 days not one Israeli Soldier stepped forth.  Goliath’s words struck fear in Saul and his men.  The old adage, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me,” might have worked on the playground, but in real life words have power.  I have taught several series on the power of words and this case is a good example.

During this time Jesse asked David to take a basket of roasted grain and bread to his brothers on the frontline.  Jesse also sent cheese for the boys’ captain.  David left the sheep with another shepherd and set out early the next morning with the food.  He arrived at the camp just as the Israelite army was leaving for the battlefield.  David followed the army as they assembled on their side of the valley.  He left the food the Supply Sergeant as he looked for his brothers.  As soon as David found his brothers Goliath, the Philistine champion, came out from the enemy’s ranks to perform his daily taunt.  To David’s surprise, many Israeli Soldiers ran at the mere sight of Goliath.  David asked a few Soldiers why they were running and they replied, “Have you seen the giant?  He comes out each day to defy Israel.  The king has offered a huge reward to anyone who kills him.  He will give that man one of his daughters for a wife, and the man’s entire family will be exempted from paying taxes!”  David asked for clarification on the reward, and his oldest brother, Eliab, heard David and got angry, saying, “What are you doing around here anyway?  What about those few sheep you’re supposed to be taking care of?  I know about your pride and deceit.  You just want to see the battle!”  “What have I done now?”, replied David.  “I was only asking a question!”  Ignoring his brother, David went to king Saul and said, “Don’t worry about this uncircumcised Philistine, I’ll go fight him!”  We’ll stop here for today.

So what does this mean to you today?  A few things:
1.  Use your tongue to bless and not curse.  “Kind words heal and help; cutting words wound and maim” (Prov 15:4).

2.  Listen to every situation through the filter of faith.  David did not hear what the others heard.  David had recently been anointed and he heard the voice behind the voice.  Learn to do the same.

3.  Ask God to help you develop spiritual discernment.  As you learn to identify situations that are not of God, you will know what to resist and what to receive.

4.  Look at every situation through the lens of faith.  David did not see what the others saw.  They were looking through natural eyes and he saw Goliath through spiritual eyes.  That’s why he was not afraid.

5.  You have the grace to do whatever the Lord leads you to do.  David was led to fight Goliath and since the Lord led him to do it, then He would bless David through it.  The Lord is obligated to bless you when you are doing what He told you to do.  He will never leave you helpless when you are IN His will.

Closing Confession:  Father, I know I have a real enemy, who will come against me in real ways, but I also know I have a real God who has graced me to resist his threats by faith and to win when forced to fight.  I declare, by faith, that I have spiritual discernment to hear with spiritual ears and to see through spiritual eyes.  I am able to discern what I should resist and what I should receive.  On those occasions that I am led to resist the enemy, I take my stand in faith, not wavering, doubting, fearing, or flinching.  Having done all, I will stand.  If I get to the point where I am tired of standing, I will receive the grace to continue to stand, supernaturally, until my breakthrough comes.  I am not a coward and fear has no power over me.  I live by faith and I am ready to fight the good fight of faith at any moment.  I have the grace to resist the enemy and that same grace empowers me to win!  I declare this by faith.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

This is Today’s Word!  Apply it and Prosper.

Looking Back to Look Forward

(1 Samuel 17:32-37)

This morning we continue our series “Grace that is Simply Amazing.”  Yesterday we learned that after 40 days of taunting, when not one of Saul’s Soldiers had the courage to face Goliath, David, a sheep-watching  harp-playing teenager, said to the king, “Master, don’t give up hope. I’m ready to go and fight this Philistine.”  We already know Saul loved David and enjoyed having him around.  David was the only person who could bring Saul comfort when he was being tormented by the evil spirit, but Saul did not see David as a warrior.  Saul answered David, “You can’t go and fight this Philistine. You’re too young and inexperienced—and he’s been at this fighting business since before you were born.”  Remember, this was the king speaking.  The king of Israel basically told David that he was still ‘wet behind the ears’ and far too inexperienced to fight a seasoned warrior like Goliath.  But David was undeterred.  replied, “I’ve been a shepherd, tending sheep for my father.  Whenever a lion or bear came and took a lamb from the flock, I’d go after it, knock it down, and rescue the lamb.  If it turned on me, I’d grab it by the throat, wring its neck, and kill it.  Lion or bear, it made no difference—I killed it.  And I’ll do the same to this Philistine pig who is taunting the troops of God-Alive.  God, who delivered me from the teeth of the lion and the claws of the bear, will deliver me from this Philistine.”  Wow.  David had unwavering confidence in God and that confidence helped him persuade Saul.  The king said, “Go.  And the Lord be with you!”

So what does this mean to you today?  A few things:
1.  You will have to overcome discouragement along the way.  David had to ignore the discouragement of both his brother and king Saul.  Eliab thought he was there for the wrong reasons and Saul thought he was not up to the task, but David had to be settled, in his own heart, with who he was, what he was able to do, and why he was doing what he was doing.  If you are not at peace with yourself and with the grace that is on your life, the discouragement of others can derail you from God’s path.

2.  Establish some altars in your life:  Whenever God did something mighty for the nation of Israel they established an altar to serve as a reminder of what God did.  David had mental altars established that provided him the encouragement he needed for this fight.  He was able to look back to what God HAD done, and that perspective provided him all the encouragement he needed to face this present-day giant.  What altars have you established in your heart?  The same God who delivered you then, will deliver you now!

3.  God wants you to be fearless:  The entire army of Israel was afraid of the giant.  King Saul himself was terrified.  But a little shepherd boy, anointed by God, did the seemingly impossible.  What giant is tormenting you this morning?  If God gave you a stone, would you be ready to fight?  Or would you allow fear to paralyze you?  The Father wants you to live with a fearless confidence that enables you to venture out into the supernatural.  Without fearless confidence (aka faith), you will never move beyond the threats of the enemy.

Closing Confession:  Father, I thank You for helping me to be settled in my purpose.  I know who I am, and more importantly, I know whose I am.  I am Yours and I was birthed to fulfill Your Kingdom plans and purposes.  I know others will attempt to discourage me along the way, but I refuse to allow the discouragement of others to derail me from my destiny.  I am on the path to Your desired destination for my life and I will stay on that path, regardless of discouragement or disappointment.  I look back and I recognize all the times You have been there for me.  Those instances becomes altars in my life that help motivate me when I feel down.  I look back and I say, “Thank You!”  I look forward and I am excited!  I enter this day with fearless confidence in You!  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

Grace for Your Race

(1 Samuel 17:37-40)

This morning we continue our series “Grace that is Simply Amazing.”  Yesterday we learned that after 40 days of a stalemate, because no one in the Israeli army had the courage to fight Goliath, David was given the opportunity to represent Israel in the fight.  So after taking over a month’s worth of berating, and after dealing with the frustration of the situation and the fear of becoming a slave to the Philistines, king Saul put the future of the nation in the hands of a teenager.  But this was not just any teenager, this was a teenager empowered by the grace of God; a teenager who had killed a lion and a bear with his bare hands; a teenager who had recently been anointed by God to take Saul’s throne; a teenager who was not afraid of the the giant; a teenager who was looking through the lens of faith, speaking the language of faith, with full confidence in his God.  After David promised, in convincing manner, to kill the Philistine pig (Goliath), king Saul said, “Go.  And the Lord be with you!”  Saul probably did not know it, but there was power in the acknowledgement that the Lord was going to be with David, to bring the victory through David’s hands, by His grace.

After giving David the authority to represent the nation, king Saul also gave David his own armor.  Most Soldiers had body armor, but David, a shepherd boy, was no Soldier, so he did not.  It would have been a privilege to wear the personal armor of the king into battle.  This would be like a Private in today’s Army, wearing the uniform of the Commanding General.  David put it on, strapped Saul’s sword over it, and took a step or two to see what it felt like.  After a few moments David said, “I can’t go in this, I’m not used to it.”  So David took the armor off and gave it back to the king.  David then picked up five smooth stones from a nearby stream and put them into his shepherd’s bag.  Then, armed only with his shepherd’s staff, the five stones, and a slingshot, David started across the valley to fight the Philistine giant.  I can only imagine the scene.  A king and his army standby as a teenage shepherd wanders into a valley to face a giant, armed with nothing but a slingshot and a few rocks, and their future is in his hands.  It’s a good thing that David’s future was in God’s hands!  We will stop here for today.

So what does this mean to you today?  Two things:
1.  Enter into God’s Rest.  If you are frustrated because you are trying very hard to get God to move in your life, then that is the problem – you are trying too hard.  When you are led of God you simply go as He leads you and you go in His grace.  David was led to fight Goliath and since he was doing what the Lord was leading him to do, he did not have to force the door to open.  Through grace and favor David quickly got an audience with the king and quickly received the approval to represent the nation.  And although David appreciated the offer to wear the king’s armor, when he did not feel comfortable with it, he simply took it off.  He was not worried and he was not attempting to MAKE anything happen.  He was simply resting in who he was and in what the Lord was leading him to do.  You would do well in learning to do the same.

2.  Operate in your own grace.  You don’t have the grace of others and they don’t have yours.  Saul might have had the grace to fight with armor, but David felt no pressure to look like anyone else or to attempt to fight like anyone else.  David stepped into that valley dressed like a shepherd, because he was graced to be a shepherd.  And since he was operating in his own grace, the Blessing flowed.  The Blessing will not flow when you attempt to be someone the Lord has not called you to be.  So” 1) know for yourself who God has called you to be, and 2) operate in that grace.

Closing Confession:  Father, as You have told me in Your Word, I labor to enter into Your rest.  I rest from my own works, and I am settled in whom You have called me to be.  People who don’t know their purpose experiment their way through life.  I am not experimenting.  I have accepted and submitted to Your purpose.  Therefore, Your grace and favor are on me to become the person You have called me to be.  I feel no pressure to be someone I am not.  I accept no pressure to copy or mimic someone who I don’t have the grace to become.  I know who I am and I have my own grace.  I operate in that grace daily and like Paul, I can say, “I am who I am by the grace of God.”  Your grace upon me is not in vain.  I have my own grace and I am running my own race.  When giants come to deter me from becoming all You have called me to be, those giants will be met with the same fate as Goliath.  Giants DO fall and they will fall if they get in my way.  Thank You Father for birthing me with a purpose and for gracing me to fulfill that purpose.  I declare this by faith.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

This is Today’s Word!  Apply it and Prosper.

Develop an Image of Victory!

(1 Samuel 17:41-47)

This morning we continue our series “Grace that is Simply Amazing.”  Yesterday we left off with David walking into the valley to face Goliath.  Picture the scene upon the canvas of your mind.  Two armies are mustered on each side of the valley.  Down in the valley is a giant, clothed with armor head-to-toe.  Standing by the giant is his armor-bearer, carrying a shield so big it requires a second man to tote it around.  And then, out of the opposing side, comes a teenager with no armor at all.  He is more dressed like he is ready for chores than for battle.  He does not have a sword and he has never trained with one.  All he has is his shepherd’s staff, a slingshot, and five smooth stones.  But wait, I forgot, this little boy does have something else… he has the grace of God.  A few weeks earlier he was a nobody from nowhere.  Today he is a young man who is going to represent his entire nation in battle.  The weight of the nation is in his hands and his hands are in God’s hands.  That’s the scene, so now let’s pick up the story.

Goliath walked out toward David with his armor-bearer ahead of him, and sneered in contempt as he looked at his opponent.  Goliath asked, “Am I a dog, that you come at me with a stick?”  Goliath went on to curse David by the names of his gods.  However, Goliath had no idea that he could not curse what the only true God had already blessed.  Goliath went on to yell, “Come over here, and I’ll give your flesh to the birds and wild animals!”  David was unphased.  Unlike Saul and his men, David did not allow Goliath’s threats to strike fear in his heart.  David replied, “You come to me with sword, spear, and javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies—the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.”  For David this more than just a one-on-one hand-to-hand combat showdown.  This was about God and how He had been disrespected by Goliath.  David was God’s emissary and he was going to let everyone present that day know what happens when you defy the God of Israel.  So with his faith firmly rooted in God David said, “Today the Lord will conquer you, and I will kill you and cut off your head.  And then I will give the dead bodies of your men to the birds and wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel!  And everyone assembled here will know that the Lord rescues his people, but not with sword and spear.  This is the Lord’s battle, and he will give you to us!”  We will stop here for this week.

So what does this mean to you today?  A few things:
1.  Have faith in God.  There is nothing — literally NO THING — too hard for God.  If He leads you to do something that is clearly beyond your natural ability, it is because He wants to flex His muscles and get the glory.  Let Him!  Have faith in His ability.  You submit and He will conquer!

2.  God’s ways you are not conventional.  God could have selected a seasoned warrior.  He could have sent out His man with full armor and a sharp sword.  He could have made someone as big as Goliath for Saul’s army, but what would be the fun in that?  God specializes in man’s impossibilities.  God does things in unconventional ways so that it would be clear that He was the one behind it, and so that He would get all the glory!

3.  Your feet will never take you where your mind has never been.  David had already envisioned himself winning.  David saw the victory, upon the canvas of his mind (spiritually) before he ever stepped into the valley.  As a believer you should seek to receive in your heart, before you attempt to receive in your hands.  And once you have received the vision (in your heart), you can have confidence that the provision (in your hands) will also come, by God’s immeasurable grace.

Closing Confession:  Father, I know I face a real enemy daily.  I know he comes up against me with pictures, plots, plans, and words.  But I also know You are a real God who deals with real issues, real enemies, and real opposition in a real way!  You are bigger than anything and anyone that can come up against me.  My confidence in You is greater than the fear of anyone else.  David was anointed by the prophet Samuel.  My encounter came directly through Jesus Christ.  The Holy Spirit enables me to hear and to see through spiritual means.  I learn what to receive and what to reject.  You bless me to receive the right things in my heart, so I can see the right things in my mind, speak the right things with my lips, and do the right things with my hands.  You help me to develop an image of victory and You then bring that victory to pass by Your grace.  I declare this by faith.  In Jesus’ name.

This is Today’s Word!  Apply it and Prosper.

Happy New Year!

(1 Corinthians 10:23 NLT)  You say, “I am allowed to do anything”–but not everything is good for you. You say, “I am allowed to do anything”–but not everything is beneficial.

Happy New Year!  I have not sent out Today’s Word in a week and a half and I truly enjoyed the break.  In the 15 years I have been writing Today’s Word this is the longest break I have had and I must tell you that I enjoyed it and missed it.  I enjoyed it, because we all need rest and time to rejuvenate ourselves in the Lord, but I also missed it because since I have been doing it for so long, it is part of my weekday routine and it felt strange to sleep in a few days.

I pray you enjoyed your Christmas and New Year’s celebrations and I pray it was an enjoyable time for you and yours.  On Monday night, when the clock struck midnight, we crossed over into 2013 and for most it felt like crossing a threshold.  In one sense, it was a day like any other, but in another sense it was not.  New Years days give us an opportunity to mark an increment of time in our lives.  A year is long enough to set long term goals, but not too long to where the time does not go by faster than we imagined.  At the beginning of the year we often seek God for direction and by the beginning of the next year we are often struggling to remember what we said we were going to do.

As we progress through life (in time) the goal is to also incrementally progress towards God’s overall expected end for our lives.  Paul reminds us, in our text, that while we can do anything we want to do, everything we CAN do is not something we SHOULD do.  With that in mind, I am led to share a few practical points about this time.  A New Year gives us an opportunity to:

1.  Take self-inventory.  We should all periodically take the time to consider/reconsider whether we are where we want to be and heading where we want to go.

2.  Take a navigation check.  We are heading in a certain direction and a New Year is a great time to check our navigation-heading to ensure we are still on the path to God’s desired destination for our lives.

3.  Check the quality of our decisions.  During the New Year we should take a hard look in the mirror to ensure we are consciously making an alignment with God’s assignment for us, for this season; in order to maximize this season so we can enter into the next.  You are where you are today because of the decisions you have made that have either taken you towards or away from God’s best.  If you have not made good decisions in the past, this is a great time to start aligning your decisions with God’s will.

4.  Check your Spiritual leadership.  I share this last, but it is perhaps the most important.  If you are connected (spiritually) to the God-ordained church you are supposed to be, then you will hear Prophetic Word that will help guide our decisions this year and at the end of the year you will be incrementally closer to maximizing your purpose and potential.  Jesus said, “Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Mat 4:4).  The Word that comes from God, that we are supposed to live by, is NOT JUST the Word of God that is in the Bible.  Listen to me here.  The Bible is the Word of God, without question, and it is infallible, inerrant, and inexhaustible.  I love the Word of God and it contains what the Lord said.  However, God is not done speaking.  When you connect to the right church you are able to hear what the Lord IS SAYING to you, NOW, based upon what He already SAID.  If you are connected to the wrong church, you are going to hear the wrong things, and it will lead to wrong decisions.  However, the contrary is also true.  I cannot overstate the importance of being connected to the right church, in order to hear what the Father wants you to know this year.

Closing Confession:  Father, I thank You for having blessed me richly thus far in life.  I look back to 2012 and to all the years before that and I say, “Thank You.”  You have been better to me than I deserve and honestly better to me than I would have been to myself.  Your grace, mercy, and loving kindness are amazing to me.  I will never cease to give You praise for saving me through Your Son Jesus, my Lord, and for keeping me all these years.  As I enter 2013 I make time to take the time to evaluate where I am, where I have been, and the direction in which I am heading.  I want to ensure I am in alignment with Your divine assignment for my life.  I declare, by faith, that I submit to the leading of the Holy Spirit and I make whatever course-corrections are necessary to remain on the path to Your desired destination for my life.  I will also ensure I am connected to the right church, receiving the right Word, that will help influence my decisions this year, so that by this time next year I will be able to say that I am incrementally closer to maximizing my purpose and potential while I am in the land of the living.  I declare this by faith!  In Jesus’ name.

This is Today’s Word!  Apply it and Prosper.

Purpose and Grace

(Read 2 Timothy 1:8-12)

Before I fully re-engage in the “Grace that is Simply Amazing” series, I am led to share a few more messages about the New Year, with an emphasis on purpose and grace.  Last year, around this time, I taught on purpose and vision and I shared nuggets like these:

1.  Once you know your divine purpose, it will give birth to divine vision.
2.  You will never BE what you cannot SEE.  You have to SEE IT (first) to BE IT.  That’s vision.
3.  Divine vision will give you the aim-point to strive towards.
4.  Once you know where you are going, you can receive supernatural motivation to get there and this motivation will enable you to overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles along the way.

This year I don’t want to focus so much on the vision that is birthed from discovering our purpose, but rather on the grace that is connected to our purpose.

I want you to read 2 Timothy 8-12, because I won’t have the time to teach the entire passage.  You should read the passage to get the context, but for this morning I will focus on verse 9.  The 9th verse reads, “Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began.”  Let’s take a closer look at this verse and draw golden nuggets along the way:

God saved you AND called you

  • If all God wanted for you was to be saved and going to heaven you would be dead.
  • If Jesus only came for Fire Insurance, you would be gone.

With a Holy Calling

  • God wants to be the Central Character in your life’s story.
  • You were born because He has an assignment for you!
  • This is a HOLY calling.

According to His own Purpose AND Grace

  • God will never give you the Purpose without the Grace to accomplish it.
  • Whatever He expects you to do, He equips you to do.
  • Divine provision is contingent upon Divine VISION.
  • Your prosperity is locked up in YOUR PURPOSE.
  • When you find your PURPOSE, you will be able to access the GRACE to fulfill it.

BEFORE the world began

  • You are not a mistake!
  • God made plans for you before the world began!
  • God finished you before you ever got started!

*** Your job is to:

  1. Find your purpose.
  2. Follow your purpose.
  3. Finish your purpose… before you die!  And here is the motivation… you have Grace for your Purpose!  Once you align with what God has assigned you to do, the grace will freely flow!

Closing Confession:  Father, I thank You for birthing me with and for a purpose.  I am not a mistake.  You made plans for me before the foundations of the world.  You purposed me for a specific assignment and You then dutifully watched over me as I lived my life without You.  I was lost and You knew it.  You then saved me by Your grace when I called upon the name of Your Son Jesus to be my Lord.  I will never cease to give You praise for saving me, but You did not just save me.  You saved me and called me with a Holy Calling, to fulfill Your purpose for my life.  You gave me purpose and You also gave me the grace to fulfill the purpose.  You gave me the assignment and You also gave me the ability to complete it while I am in the land of the living.  I declare, by faith, that in 2013 I will operate in the grace You have bestowed upon my life; a grace to fulfill my divine purpose and to maximize my potential.  In Jesus’ name.

This is Today’s Word!  Apply it and Prosper.

Purpose, Vision and Grace (You need all three to maximize 2013)

(Phil 2:13 NLT)  For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.

Monday morning we will fully re-engage in the “Grace that is Simply Amazing” series.  This is the last message I will share that is completely focused on helping us prepare for 2013.  Last year, around this time, I taught on purpose and vision.  Yesterday, I taught on purpose and grace.  Today I will bring it all together and teach a quick lesson on purpose, vision, and grace.

Notice what Paul said, “For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.”  Yesterday we looked at the PURPOSE and the GRACE.  In this scripture Paul highlights the DESIRE and the POWER.  It’s basically the same thing.  God is the one doing the work if you get to the point where you are able to synchronize with what He wants to accomplish IN, WITH, and THROUGH you.  God gives you the purpose, He gives you the vision to see how you can accomplish the purpose, and He also gives you the grace to make it happen.  In other words, God gives you the desire, the ability to supernaturally see how it will come to pass, and then the empowerment to do it.  That’s purpose, vision and grace; and if you can consciously acknowledge all three 2013 will be the best year of your life.

So what does this mean to you today?  A few things:
1.  God’s purpose for your life is established and unchanging.  It was set before you were born.

2.  Your goal, after coming to Christ, is to find, follow, and finish your purpose before you die.

3.  God gives you incremental vision – which is foresight, birthed from insight, with the benefit of hindsight – so you can have supernatural direction for life that takes you toward your purpose.

4.  God’s vision will always extend you beyond your ability and your comfort zone; therefore it will require his grace.

5.  God’s vision will also require His provision; it will be too big for you to accomplish without Him.  This, once again, forces you to acknowledge His grace.

6.  Once you receive what you believe is God’s vision for this season, your job is to: a) Believe it, b) Receive it in your heart, c) Declare it with your mouth (take God public), and d) Step out in faith (pursuing it with your actions), relying on His grace the entire way.

Closing Confession:  Father, I thank You for this teaching.  I declare, by faith, that I receive the understanding of Your purpose for my life, Your vision for this season, and the grace to maximize both.  I am Your sheep and I hear Your voice.  You speak to me and I have an ear to hear what You are saying.  I write the vision down so that my family and me can run with it.  We all receive it by faith and we are committed to doing our part in seeing the vision come to pass.  However, we live each day relying on Your grace.  We know that without Your grace we can do nothing.  We are reliant on You and Your immeasurable grace as we pursue the vision You give us for this season.  The vision becomes the ruler by which we judge our decisions and it also provides a basis for unity and harmony within our home.  We know where we are going and we will get there by faith and grace.  By the end of the year we will be at Your expected end for 2013 and we will also be incrementally closer to Your overall expected end for our lives.  We receive it, believe it, declare it, and step out into it in 2013 by faith!  In Jesus’ name.  Amen!

Earth Agreeing with Heaven

(1 Samuel 17:41-47)

This morning we get back to our series “Grace that is Simply Amazing.”  Last year we left off the story of David and Goliath with the war of words that was waged before the physical battle ever started.  When Goliath the giant, saw David — the teenage shepherd boy who was more dressed for tending sheep (with this shepherd’s staff) than for hand-to-hand combat — he asked, “Am I a dog, that you come at me with a stick?”  Goliath went on to curse David by the names of his gods.  However, Goliath had no idea that he had no power to curse what God (Jehovah) had already blessed.  Goliath went on to yell, “Come over here, and I’ll give your flesh to the birds and wild animals!”  This was an intimidation tactic, but David was unphased.  Unlike Saul and his men, David did not allow Goliath’s threats to strike fear in his heart.  David had his own arsenal of words.  David replied, “You come to me with sword, spear, and javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies—the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.”

Goliath saw this as a battle between two mere men; or in this case, a grown man and a little kid.  However,  David saw this as a battle between one man without God and one man anointed by the only true God.  David knew the grace of God was on his life and since he was being led of God, he was completely confident in the God who was leading him and he relied on His God for the victory.  How do I know this?  it is evident by David’s words.  Pay close attention to what David said.  David declared, “Today the Lord will conquer you, and I will kill you and cut off your head.”  Think about that for a minute.  David said the Lord would conquer Goliath, but he would kill him and cut his head off.  Goliath was a battle-tested Giant who was dressed for hand-to-hand combat, but that did not matter to David.  David’s confidence was in God and He knew the Lord Himself would be involved in conquering Goliath.  Now, David clearly had a part.  David attributed the conquering to God, but he also said that he would be the one doing the killing and the cutting.  It’s interesting to me that David said he would cut Goliath’s cut off and he did not even have a sword.  So how could David say what he said with such confidence?  I believe it is because the Lord had already revealed to David what was going to happen and all David had to do was agree, in the earth, with what heaven wanted to do.  David’s part was to cooperate, so God could operate in the earth.  David’s part was to manifest on earth, what had been revealed to him from heaven.

So what does this mean to you today?  A few things:
1.  You have a part and God has a part.  You part is to cooperate with God, so He can freely operate through you.

2.  There is no need to fear when you know His grace is on you.  When you are confident that you are doing what the Lord is leading you to do, then you can trust that His grace will be on you to experience the victory.  Therefore, there is no need to fear.

3.  Prayer is about the earth agreeing with heaven.  Prayer is not about you making up what you want and then asking God to bless it.  No, prayer is about finding out what God, in heaven, wants to do in the earth, and then agreeing with Him to bring it to pass.  That’s how you can see His Kingdom come, and His will be done.  Where?  On earth!  How?  As it is in heaven!

Closing Confession:  Father, I thank You for this teaching.  It is clear to me that David could not have known what was going to happen, exactly the way it was going to happen, unless You revealed it to him.  You revealed to David was heaven’s will was and he cooperated with you to see Your will be done, on earth, as it was in heaven.  What You did for David you can do for me and I believe You will.  I am Your sheep and I hear Your voice.  You reveal to me what You want to accomplish in, with, and through me; and I then seek to walk it out by faith.  I use my faith to access the grace that is on my life to do what You have ordained for me to do.  What You want to do in me is already done in heaven and my job is to cooperate with You, so You can bring it to pass in the earth through me.  Therefore, I step out into this day and this week with complete confidence in You.  You show me what You want to do in my life and I step out in faith to bring it to pass.  Not in my ability, but in Your grace.  Not because I deserve it, but because You want to do it.  Father, my life is not my own.  Use me for Your glory and as You do, Your Kingdom shall come and You will shall be done… on earth, as it is in heaven!  I declare this by faith!  In Jesus’ name.

This is Today’s Word!  Apply it and Prosper.

God Gets the Glory!

(1 Samuel 17:48-51)

This morning we continue our series “Grace that is Simply Amazing.”  Yesterday I shared with you that David said to Goliath, “Today the Lord will conquer you, and I will kill you and cut off your head.”  This teenage shepherd boy, with nothing but a slingshot, a stone, a shepherd’s staff, and the grace of God, stood against a Philistine battle-tested, 9ft. tall, hardened elite Soldier.  This would be like a teenage paperboy attempting to fight against a member of Seal Team 6.  In the natural the odds were completely against David and that is exactly how the Lord loves to operate.  Remember, I said David was equipped with a slingshot, a stone, a shepherd’s staff, AND the grace of God.  The grace of God makes all the difference.  David was being led of God, therefore God’s grace was on him for the victory.  David had already seen, by faith, what was going to happen.  Our present is heaven’s past and heaven gave David a glimpse of his future.  David saw himself killing Goliath, by God’s grace, and then cutting Goliath’s head off with his own sword; and he had the audacity to say it before he did it.  David received an image of the victory and he had the faith to take God public.  Anyone can say what they saw (by faith, in prayer) after the fact, but it takes faith to say what you believe the Lord wants to do through your life, before you do it, so that God gets even more glory out of the situation.

As Goliath moved closer to attack, David, unafraid, quickly ran out to meet him.  Reaching into his shepherd’s bag, David took out a stone and hurled it from his sling.  The stone hit the giant in the forehead and it sank in.  Goliath stumbled and fell face down on the ground.  Just like that, the man who had been menacing king Saul and his entire army for over a month was killed within a few seconds by a teenager, with the grace of God on his life.  The Bible says, “So David triumphed over the Philistine with only a sling and a stone, for he had no sword.”  But wait, what David saw and what he said had not come to pass yet.  So David then ran over to Goliath, pulled the giant’s sword from its sheath, and used it to kill him and cut off his head.

So what does this mean to you today?  A few things:
1.  Our present is heaven’s past.  God can show you your future, because from heaven’s perspective, it’s already done.  When you are able to see it, believe it, declare it, and step out into it, it’s called faith.

2.  Don’t be afraid to take God public.  When the Lord shows you your future, don’t be afraid to tell others about it.  This let’s the Lord, and everyone else, know that you are confident that what God said shall come to pass.

3.  The bigger the challenge, the greater the glory.  There is nothing too hard for God and there are many things too hard for us.  God likes to perform things in, with, and through us that are clearly too big for us, so that He can get the glory.  So when you are faced with something that is too big for you, instead of getting intimidated, get excited about God and what He can do through your life.

4.  The enemy’s bark is bigger than his bite.  Goliath talked trash for 40 days and his words struck fear in the hearts of Saul and all his men.  But at the end of the day, Goliath was killed by a teenage shepherd boy.  That’s how satan is.  He talks a big game, but he knows he can’t beat you when God’s grace is on your life.  So don’t be afraid.  Walk in faith (confidence in God) and not fear (confidence in satan).

Closing Confession:  Father, I thank You for this teaching.  What is future to me is past to You.  You can reveal to me what is going to happen, before it happens, and when You do, I shall have the faith to receive it, believe it, declare it (taking You public) and walk out in it.  I am not afraid of the enemy, because I know his bark is bigger than his bite and I also know that You want to get glory from my life.  When I am faced with something that is clearly too big for me, and I know You are leading me to face it anyway, then I know You are going to get the glory from it.  So I walk out into it by faith, not with confidence in my ability, but with confidence in Your ability and Your grace.  As I do, and as You give me the victory against clearly insurmountable challenges, then You get the glory from my life and living.  Father, You are awesome and I enter this day fully relying on Your grace to flow through me, so You can be glorified, Your name magnified, and the devil horrified!  I declare this by faith!  In Jesus’ name.

This is Today’s Word!  Apply it and Prosper.

Maximize this Moment!

(1 Samuel 17:51-53)

This morning we continue our series “Grace that is Simply Amazing.”  Yesterday we got to the point in the story when David killed Goliath.  The legendary story is rife with life application, but the story does not end with Goliath’s last breath.  The only reason David was fighting Goliath in the first place was because none of Saul’s men, not even one, had the courage to face him.  The giant stood in front of the Israelite army for 40 long days and taunted Saul and his Soldiers twice a day.  Many of these Soldiers had been through extremely hard battles and gruesome hand-to-hand combat, but none of them took the challenge.  However, I don’t necessarily blame them.  There were spiritual forces working behind the scene that kept the Soldiers from stepping forward.  And this went on long enough for David to get there.  You see, this was David’s time, this was his designated moment, this was his coming-out party.

David was the youngest of eight boys, who had clearly been somewhat dismissed at home, but after being validated by God in front of his father and brothers, the Lord took it a step further and validated him on a national stage.  With the entire national defense force watching, along with the Commander-in-Chief himself (king Saul), David was thrusted into the national spotlight as he stepped into the next phase of his calling.  After David was anointed by the prophet in front of his brothers he simply went back to work as a shepherd and continued his life as normal.  David knew something had happened, spiritually, but naturally everything continued on the same until it was the proper time to step into the change that had happened in the spirit.  This was that time and after David killed Goliath his life would never be the same.  As soon as the rock left his sling and Goliath’s face hit the ground David’s life was changed.  I will talk tomorrow about how this moment snapped the Israeli Soldiers out of their stuper and how David inspired them to win a great battle against the Philistines that day.

So what does this mean to you today?  Two things:
1.  First the spiritual, then the natural.  The Lord already knows what is going to happen, because your present is heaven’s past.  So He can reveal to you a glimpse of your future, knowing that there will be a period of time before you experience it in the earth.  When He reveals it to you, know that it won’t happen before it’s time, but when the time is right, you will be able to walk into the realm of what has been destined for you, and you will have the grace to handle it then.  You may not have the grace now and if the Lord gives it to you before your time, it can wreck your life.  But when the time comes, the grace will be present for you to maximize the moment.

2.  All your life the Lord has been preparing you for this moment.  Know that today, January 9, 2013, is not a mistake.  All your life the Lord has been preparing you for today.  Whatever you face today — which may include something you have been facing for days or weeks — is something that you are prepared and equipped to face.  In other words, you have the grace for it.  If you could not handle it, you would not be facing it.  The fact that you are facing it is evidence that the Lord trusts you with it.  So walk out into it with confidence, knowing that you have the grace to maximize this moment.

Closing Confession:  Father, I thank You for this teaching.  I declare that this is my designated moment.  Anything I face today and everything I have been facing for days are things You already knew I would have to handle and You prepared me to do just that.  All my life You have been preparing me for this moment.  You show me things about my future and You then prepare me to maximize the moments when they come.  You never allow me to face things before their time and You keep me from facing anything I cannot handle.  Therefore, I enter this day with full confidence in You.  I declare that this is my moment.  This is my time.  This is my season.  I have the grace to face everything I am facing and since Your grace is on me, I shall win!  I am the winner, and not the loser; the head, and not the tail; above only, and never beneath; the victor, and never the victim!  I will make the most of this day, because I have been preparing for this day my entire life.  I declare this by faith!  In Jesus’ name.

This is Today’s Word!  Apply it and Prosper.

Grace to Make a Difference

(1 Samuel 17:51-53)

This morning we continue our series “Grace that is Simply Amazing.”  I am trying to move on from the fight between David and Goliath and get to other aspects of David’s life, but the Lord has me meditating this story over and over.  I can’t move on until He lets me.

Yesterday I talked about the fact that this teenage boy was thrust into the national spotlight while he was running an errand for his father.  David was supposed to be taking lunch to his brothers and then head back home, but a routine errand turned into a life-changing event, because God’s timing lined up with earthly opportunity.  Many times, when we want the two to line up, they are not and we are forced to exercise Godly patience.  However, in this case, David was not looking for the spotlight, notoriety, or a fight for that matter.  All David was doing was what his father asked him to do, but something funny happened on the way to lunch.  David heard Goliath defy the only true God and he was led, by the Holy Spirit (who had recently enveloped him during his spiritual coronation), to fight the giant.

Let me reiterate the fact that every Soldier in Saul’s army had the opportunity to fight Goliath, but none of them took it.  Partly because they were afraid, but more importantly, because this was David’s assignment.  Let me explain.  Many preachers criticize Moses for striking the rock twice and claim that had he not tempted God he would have led the nation of Israel into the Promised Land.  However, I firmly believe that the job of leading Israel into Canaan was Joshua’s and the Lord was not going to allow Moses to fulfill Joshua’s assignment.  Moses had his own assignment and his own grace, and so did Joshua.  Further, many criticize Peter for not ministering to the Gentiles.  One can make the argument that Peter was prejudiced or a racist, however, ministering to the Gentiles was not Peter’s assignment, it was Paul’s.  Peter had the grace to minister to the Jews and then Paul came along, with the grace to minister to the Gentiles.  So, getting back to this story, God was not going to allow any of the other Soldiers to step into David’s moment.  David might have thought that he was there for an errand, but God had bigger plans.  Before the foundations of the world the Lord knew what David would do that day and the grace was on him to accomplish it.  Last point; when David stepped into his purpose and killed Goliath, the men of Israel and Judah broke out of their stuper, rushed after the Philistines, and won a great military victory that day.

So what does this mean to you today?  A few things:
1.  What God has for you is for you.  No one can take what God has destined for you.  Likewise, you can’t take what God has destined for others.  Understanding this, you are able to celebrate the diversities of giftings and callings without jealousy.  You don’t ever have to envy what God is doing through someone else, because they have their own assignment and you have yours.  Your job is to run your own race and everything you need to maximize your purpose and potential is available to you.  But if you try to run someone else’s race you will ask God for things He can’t give you, because they are not yours to have.

2.  The Lord can change your life in a moment.  There is nothing God can’t do and He can elevate you in an instant, but remember, He will not elevate you before your time.  God will not bless you with certain things before the proper time, because He knows that some things given prematurely can distract, derail, or even destroy you, instead of blessing you.  So stand fast, trust God, live by faith, and know that every blessing ordained for you to have will be manifested in it’s proper time.

3.  The grace of God on you can activate the grace on others.  Last night I was in church and Dr. Renny McLean, a powerful man of God, had us say, “I am contagious.”  The point being that God can use us to activate and release things in others.  The more God’s grace and power flow through us, the more it is stirred up in everyone we come in contact with.  So enter into this day knowing that you are an agent of change!

Closing Confession:  Father, I thank You for this teaching.  What You have for me is for me.  I have my own assignment, my own race, and my own grace.  I appreciate what You are doing through others, but I refuse to allow envy or strife to cause me to lose myself by chasing someone else’s assignment.  I know who I am and I have the discipline to pursue my own purpose.  Therefore, Your abounding grace is made available to me to accomplish everything You have destined me to accomplish and by faith I declare that I will!  As I pursue my purpose there will be designated moments where You bring me before great men and women, in order to shift me and elevate me.  I am open to it and I know that in Your timing every shift that is supposed to take place in my life shall come to pass.  I receive Your best NOW and I know it is only a matter of time before it happens in the earth.  Lastly Father, I am an agent of supernatural change.  I am contagious.  The grace and power on me helps to activate the grace and power on others.  Father, together — You and I, me and You — let’s go make a difference today!  In Jesus’ name.

This is Today’s Word!  Apply it and Prosper.

Purpose, Vision, Faith, and Grace

This morning we continue our series “Grace that is Simply Amazing.”  It’s Friday and as we close out the week and prepare for the weekend I want to highlight some of the aspects of David’s story, from the perspective of what I have learned over the years in this amazing journey the Father has me on.  I have walked with God for 17 years and have been preaching/teaching most of that time.  Early in my ministry I primarily taught on faith.  Then there was a season where I did a great deal on teaching on purpose.  From there the Lord had me to teach on vision.  Lately, for the past year or so, I have been studying grace and am now teaching on it.  As I look back over my personal journey, the Father has taught me many things and has had me to share most of what He has taught me, but of all the things He has dealt with me about these four topics — faith, purpose, vision, and grace — are certainly the major ones.  With that in mind, I will briefly discuss each within the context of David’s story.

Purpose:  Before the foundations of the world the Lord established David’s purpose and ordained him to be the king of Israel.  Normally, to be a king you would have to be born a prince, but David was born as the 8th son of Jesse, a commoner, and he was raised as a shepherd.  That is somewhat of a strange start for a destined king, but God routinely uses the foolish things of the world to confound the wise and He loves to elevate and promote the unexpected, so He can get the glory.  From the perspective of purpose, I am sure David knew he was different.  Even while tending sheep David did things that shepherds don’t normally do.  David killed a lion and a bear with his bare hands, developing his relationship and reliance on God, as he spent time with the Great Shepherd while he was shepherding sheep.  Application: Your purpose was established before you were born and your goal should be to find it.  Purpose cannot be developed, it must be discovered and once you find it, your life will have a level of clarity that it did not have before and things will begin to make sense.  You will understand why all your life you have had certain tendencies, as if you have been pre-wired for a certain purpose.

Vision:  Once purpose is known the door to vision is opened.  David saw himself killing the giant and cutting his head off well before he actually did it.  How?  Through divine vision.  However, while the Father gave David the vision of killing Goliath, at that point in David’s life the Father had not released the vision for ruling as king.  Why?  Two reasons: 1) It was not the proper time yet.  2) David was not ready for it.  Application:  Divine vision is incremental and progressive.  It is incremental because the Lord will only give you enough vision to see the next season of your life.  He may give you glimpses of what is far down the road, but you won’t have the clarity to walk in those realms until the time is right.  For now, the Father gives you clear vision to walk in the season you are in, so that you can maximize it and prepare for the next.  Vision is also progressive, because the more you walk with the Father and learn His ways, the more He is able to reveal to you.  You should be able to handle more vision today than you could 10 years ago.  By giving you incremental and progressive vision, the Father equips you to pursue your purpose.

Faith:  Once David had the divine vision of killing the giant, it took faith to actually to do it.  David needed faith to go stand before the king and ask for the assignment.  He needed faith to refuse the king’s armor and to step into the valley with nothing but a slingshot, a stone and a stick.  David operated in faith in order to access what God was leading him to do.  Application:  Faith is about you agreeing with heaven.  When the Lord reveals to you your purpose and He begins to give you divine vision, you will need faith to make an alignment with your divine assignment.  Most of the time, doing what the Lord is leading you to do will require you to go against conventional wisdom and common sense.  But if you have the audacity to believe God and step out in faith in what He is leading you to do, you will experience the supernatural.

Grace:  To be clear, David did not kill Goliath on his own.  God’s grace was on him to do so and it took grace to get him to that point in the first place.  David was in the field, minding his own business, when God interrupted his life, completely by grace, in order to anoint him as the next king of Israel.  It was by grace that Saul put the future of his entire kingdom in the hands of a teenager, and it was by grace that David received the vision of what he was going to do.  The grace of God was on David to accomplish the Father’s will.  Application:  Knowing your purpose is essential, receiving the vision to walk it out is awesome, having the faith to attempt it is required, but without the grace of God you will never be able to do it.  Faith is your part, grace is God’s part.  By faith you access the grace.

In summary, your purpose was established before the world began.  The Lord reveals to you your purpose and He then gives you incremental and progressive vision in order to pursue it.  You must then have the faith to do what flies in the face of common sense, and once you step out in faith, the grace of God will be on you to experience God’s best.

Closing Confession:  Father, I thank You for this teaching.  You established my purpose before I was born and You reveal it to me as I walk with You.  Your purpose is why I am here and why I was born for such a time as this.  I am no mistake and the timing in which I was born is no mistake either.  I am here, in this season, for a reason and that is my purpose.  Knowing my purpose gives birth to divine vision.  You incrementally and progressively give me the vision I need to pursue my purpose.  This vision is foresight, birthed from insight, with the benefit of hindsight.  I don’t loosely stumble my way through life.  I am able to SEE what You want me to do, in each season, and I am therefore able to maximize one season as I prepare for the next.  I have the faith to step out into all You reveal to me, even when it flies in the face of reason, logic, and common sense.  I don’t live by what I see with my natural eyes, I live by faith… by what I see with my spiritual eyes.  And as I step out in faith, with the clarity of vision, pursuing my purpose, Your grace is on me to succeed!  I am who I am and what I am by Your amazing grace!  In Jesus’ name.

This is Today’s Word!  Apply it and Prosper.

Two Facets of Grace

(1 Corinthians 15:10 CEV)  But God treated me with undeserved grace! He made me what I am, and his grace wasn’t wasted. I worked much harder than any of the other apostles, although it was really God’s grace at work and not me.

This morning we continue our series “Grace that is Simply Amazing.”  Last week we closed out the week with a message on purpose, vision, faith and grace.  If you have not read it, I recommend you do.  I believe the Father shared great truth through me in that message.

This past weekend I was meditating on grace quite a bit and the Father highlighted to me two facets of grace.  It’s not like this was groundbreaking news, because I already knew each aspect individually, but I had not looked at them in the light in which He shared it with me.  There is one facet of grace where you do not do a thing and then there is another where you are empowered to do God’s will.  Let me explain.

Grace where you don’t do:  This is the aspect of grace most are familiar with.  I spent the first part of this series highlighting incident after incident where Jesus blessed people, not because they did anything, or because they deserved it, but solely by the grace of God.  The woman caught in adultery, for example, did not perform God’s will, nor did she did not do anything to earn her breakthrough, but she received forgiveness and redemption by the grace of God.  When Samuel came to Jesse’s house and anointed David to be the next king of Israel, it was not because David did anything to initiate the contact, it was purely by the grace of God.  The author of the text I have provided for you, the Apostle Paul, was terrorizing the church and working against God when God called him to the gospel ministry, purely by grace.  This aspect of grace is undeserved, unmerited, often unexpected, and almost unbelievable.  It’s grace, not just any grace, it is the grace of God, and yes, it is amazing.

Grace to do:  There is another facet of grace, one that is not as recognized.  Not only does God call us by grace, but He then graces us to fulfill the calling.  Said another way, God gives us our purpose by grace (without us earning it), and He then gives us the grace to achieve it.  In the scripture I have provided Paul acknowledged that God treated him with undeserved grace.  Without grace Paul could have never received such an awesome assignment.  Paul did not deserve it, but God purposed him by grace to have it.  And then Paul explains how he had to work hard to fulfill his calling.  Paul put all his effort into maximizing his purpose and potential.  But even then Paul acknowledged that it was by the grace of God.  Without grace Paul would not have been called and without grace he could not fulfill the call.  God gave Paul grace before he lifted a finger to perform God’s will, and He then gave him grace to fulfill the assignment he had been given.

So what does this mean to you today?  It means that both facets of grace are in operation in your life.  I may not know you, but I can nonetheless make that statement without fear.  Why?  Because God deals with us all this way.  He looks past our faults, flaws, and failures, in order to call us to fulfill the assignment He ordained for us before the foundations of the world.  And once we answer the call, He gives us the grace to fulfill it.  So, receive His assignment by grace, knowing that you could never earn it.  And then walk out into your assignment with His grace, knowing that you will never be able to fulfill it without Him.

Closing Confession:  Father, I thank You for this teaching.  Both facets of grace are in operation in my life.  I acknowledge the fact that You called me by grace.  I was completely undeserving, but You called me anyway.  You sent Your son Jesus to die for me, before I ever lifted a finger for You, and You then tirelessly pursued me, even when I wanted nothing to do with You.  Yes Father, You called me by Your immeasurable grace.  And now that I have answered the call, You give me the grace to run my race.  I have grace to do everything You have called me to do and I declare that I will.  I step out into this day knowing that You are ON me, IN me, WITH me, and FOR me, to accomplish all that You established for me to accomplish, before the foundations of the world.  I pursue my purpose by Your grace and I will never cease to give You praise for loving me, in spite of me, and for giving me such a great assignment.  Like Paul, I say, I am who I am by Your amazing grace and Your grace towards me shall not be in vain.  In Jesus’ name.

This is Today’s Word!  Apply it and Prosper.

Don’t Underestimate the Impact God can make Through You

(1 Samuel 17:51-53)

This morning we continue our series “Grace that is Simply Amazing.”  If you have been following this series you already know what God, through David, was able to do.  I say it that way because I want to put the emphasis back on God.  While it was David, and not God, who flung the stone and swung the sword, God’s grace was unquestionably on David to kill the giant.  And we know that the victory that ensued, where the Israeli Soldiers attacked the Philistine army and won a great battle that day, can also be attributed to God, because it was God who was moving behind the scenes.

So was it David who did something great that day?  Yes.  Wait a minute!  But wasn’t it God who was at work?  Yes.  It was both.  It was David and it was God.  It was God through David.  In the scripture I shared with you yesterday we can see what I am explaining.  Paul said, “God treated me with undeserved grace! He made me what I am, and his grace wasn’t wasted.”  Paul looked back and all he was able to accomplish in the Body of Christ and he acknowledged that he was not worthy of the assignment in the first place, and second, he was not a self-made man; God made Paul the man that he was.  Paul had no problem with saying that he was who he was by the grace of God.  But Paul continued and said, “I worked much harder than any of the other apostles.”  Wait a minute!  At first Paul clearly put the emphasis on God and now it seems like he was putting the emphasis on himself.  But he actually wasn’t.  Paul was just acknowledging the fact that it requires effort on our part to maximize our purpose and potential.  Walking with God and performing His will is not effortless, although with God’s grace it can be sweatless.  There is nothing wrong with Paul acknowledging the fact that he had a part in his success.  Paul was not arrogant or full of pride.  This is evident, because Paul continued and said, “Although it was really God’s grace at work and not me” (see 1 Corinthians 15:10).  And therein lies the dynamic.  It is you and God, God and you… together, making a difference in your sphere of influence.

Now think about the impact David had on the nation of Israel that day.  King Saul was in danger of losing his throne if David lost and the nation of Israel was in danger of becoming slaves to the Philistines.  The fate of millions of people lied in the hands of teenager.  It’s a good thing that his hands were resting in the hands of God.

So what does this mean to you today?  A few things:
1.  Age is not a factor to God.  Abraham was 75 when he got started and 100 when Isaac was born.  You can make the argument that he was too old.  David, on the other hand, was just a teenager when the fate of millions of people rested upon his shoulders.  You can make the argument that he was too young.  But God is God is He can use anyone.  If you are still breathing, then God can still use you.  So don’t allow anyone to disqualify you from God’s assignment because of your age, race, gender, or anything else.  God can use you for His glory.  Now, will you let Him?

2.  One person submitted to God can make a tremendous impact.  David saved Israel from a national loss and later led that same nation to regional dominance.  Paul — a man who should have never been qualified to preach — went on five missionary journeys, changing the climate of Asia minor, and then wrote half the New Testament which is still a blessing 2,000 years later.  Moses — a man who committed murder and wound up exiled — came back later to lead millions of people out of bondage and help re-establish them as a nation under God.  So what is your story going to be?  God wants to be the central character in your life’s story and if you let Him, your story will be great.  You’re not too old, too young, too tainted, or too damaged for God to use you to make a tremendous impact.  If you are still alive, then God still wants to use you.  Please let Him.  Cooperate with Him so He can freely operate in your life!

Closing Confession:  Father, I thank You for this teaching.  I realize that You have been attempting to work through me my entire life.  You have been tugging at my heart and sending people my way to speak to me for years.  I have not always cooperated with You.  Partly because I did not see myself as worthy of being used by a holy God.  But I thank You that my perspective of me is now lining up with Your perspective of me.  I am not holy or righteous because of what I did or fail to do.  I am holy and righteous because of what Jesus did and I am settled in that righteousness.  Therefore, I am determined to maximize my purpose and potential while I am in the land of the living.  I am determined to die empty; getting out of me all that You have placed in me.  I am determined to make the impact that You desire to make in the earth.  Because I know I am not relying on my ability, but Yours.  It is me, but it is also You.  It is You, but it is also me.  I am who I am by You immeasurable grace and I enter this day confident that my God can and will use me for His glory!  I shall make an impact on my sphere of influence, by Your grace!  In Jesus’ name.

This is Today’s Word!  Apply it and Prosper.

Handling Success with Grace

(1 Samuel 17:52-57)

This morning we continue our series “Grace that is Simply Amazing.”  By this point in David’s story we know that his victory over Goliath stirred up the faith of the Israelite army and they rushed the Philistine army prepared for battle.  The Israelites chased the Philistines as far as Gath and to the gates of Ekron. The bodies of the dead and wounded Philistines were strewn for miles.  The Israelite army then returned and plundered the deserted Philistine camp and with that, the battle was over.

David took Goliath’s armor off of his corpse and kept it as a trophy, but he carried Goliath’s head with him, because he wanted to present it to the king.  While this was going on king Saul asked Abner, the commander of his army (who was clearly not in command that day), “Abner, whose son is this young man?”  This is an interesting question.  Saul already knew David as his harp player, but while David was playing the harp king Saul never thought to ask who his father was, or what family he came from.  David’s  lineage did not seem important to Saul when David was just a harp player, but now that he was going to be hailed as a mighty warrior, Saul wanted to know more about him and his family.  Abner replied, “I really don’t know.”  Saul responded, “Well, find out who he is!”

When David returned from the victory General Abner Abner brought him to king Saul.  David walked up to the king, with the giant’s head still dangling from his fingers, and the king said, “Tell me about your father, young man.”  David replied, “His name is Jesse, and we live in Bethlehem.”  We will stop here for today.

So what does this mean to you today?  A few things:
1.  Private victories precede public ones.  The Lord made sure David experienced killing a lion and a bear, in private, without any fanfare, well before he killed the giant.  Why?  Because if you can’t handle private success, you will certainly not be able to handle public success.  Pride has been the downfall of many great people.  So, while you are winning your battles in private and asking God when he is going to expose you to the public, don’t worry, keep winning the private battles and the time will come when the Father shines His spotlight on you.

2.  You have the grace to handle success.  Handling failure is difficult, but handling success can be even more difficult.  Success has a way of chewing you up and spitting you out, if you are not ready for it.  But just like the Father will not allow you to face challenges you are not ready for, He will not allow you to face success you can’t handle either.  So, if you are experiencing it, then you can take.  Accept the success with grace and it will not destroy you.

3.  Never forget where you came from.  David knew he had just won a great victory and he knew his life was about to change forever.  But when asked about his Dad, David said, “His name is Jesse, and we live in Bethlehem.”  Notice that David said, “we” and not “he.”  Although David would soon leave Bethlehem, he was proud to say that he lived there and that he was from there.  David also brought honor to his family name that day.  Here’s the point: while God wants to deal with your future, and not your past, God does not want you to be embarrassed of your past.  The mess of your past becomes the message of your story!  Look back and be thankful, just never judge your future by your past.

Closing Confession:  Father, I thank You for this teaching.  I am extremely thankful for my time of preparation.  All my life You have been preparing me for this moment.  I have had many private successes and I have often wondered when You would expose me and elevate me, but I don’t have to wonder any more.  I simply trust You.  I know my private successes are preparing me for public ones.  When You do open the door and bring me before great men and women, I shall be prepared to accept and handle the success with grace.  Your grace is on me to experience everything I experience.  Good or bad, easy or tough, up or down, I am prepared to handle everything that comes my way.  I know who I am and whose I am.  I know where I come from and I am not ashamed of it.  I am ready to bring honor to my family name.  I shall leave a legacy of righteousness for my children and their children.  I look back and say, “Thank You!”  But I don’t judge my future by my past.  I have not always been perfect, but my mess will become my message.  My stress will be part of my story.  My tests will feed my testimony!  And even with all the mistakes I have made, my past can’t disqualify me from what You have qualified me for.  I am ready for this day and for every day that comes next, because of Your immeasurable grace.  In Jesus’ name.

This is Today’s Word!  Apply it and Prosper.

Covenant Relationships

(1 Samuel 18:1-3)

This morning we continue our series “Grace that is Simply Amazing.”  After David had finished talking with Saul, he met Jonathan, the king’s son.  This was a supernatural connection.  The Bible says “there was an immediate bond between them, for Jonathan loved David.”  The Bible goes on to say Jonathan “loved him as he loved himself.”  This quickly became a covenant relationship when Jonathan made a solemn pact with David.  Jonathan sealed the pact by taking off his robe and giving it to David, together with his tunic, sword, bow, and belt.  Symbolically, this meant that Jonathan was giving David everything he had.  Spiritually, the two men were entering into covenant with one another.  Jonathan’s father, king Saul, sanctioned the relationship and welcomed David into the palace.  David would never again live in Bethlehem.  On a day when David was simply running an errand for his father, a funny thing happened on the way to lunch, and his life changed forever.

David had no way of knowing what Jonathan was going to mean to him.  Jonathan, the son of Saul, would eventually help David escape the attacks of his father, at the risk of his own life.  On more than one occasion Jonathan would be attributed with saving the life of David.  Jonathan was being groomed to be king and he wound up establishing a covenant relationship with the man who would take his place.

Jonathan also had no way of knowing what David would mean to him.  In addition to providing a special friendship while they were alive, David’s love and commitment to Jonathan would survive his death.  Jonathan had no way of knowing that both he and his father would die on the same day and that his son, Mephibosheth, an heir to the throne, would wind up crippled living in a barren place (LoDebar).  It was David who, because of his love for Jonathan, later redeemed Mephibosheth from LoDebar and restored him to the king’s palace.

David could not have planned a better relationship if he tried.  David did nothing to start the relationship, other than kill Goliath, and I believe the Lord was behind the special relationship.  I believe the Lord planned this relationship before the foundations of the world, because David needed Jonathan and Jonathan needed David.  Let’s stop here for today.

So what does this mean to you today?  A few things:
1.  There are no lone rangers in the Body of Christ.  You will never maximize your purpose and potential without the assistance of others.  I run into people all the time who say things like, “I don’t anyone”, but in actuality they are making such statements out of pain; because they have been hurt.  It does not matter how bad you have been hurt, you need others and others need you.  Allow the love of God to wash your heart and welcome the relationships He has ordained for you to have.

2.  Covenant Relationships are special.  The word “friend” is used very loosely today — especially when people have thousands of “friends” on Facebook — but God-given friends should be cherished.  I believe the Lord helped set up the relationship between Jonathan and David and if you take the time to acknowledge it, you will find that He has done the same for you.  The Father sends people our way, so we can be a blessing to them and they can be a blessing to us.  Life is better lived when enjoyed with the company of great friends.

3.  Friends help friends out of love.  Jonathan helped David, even at the expense of going against his father, because he loved him.  And David helped Jonathan, even after he was dead, because he loved him.  When you operate in God’s love you are able to help your friends because you simply want to help; not because you are looking for anything in return.

Closing Confession:  Father, I thank You for this teaching.  I acknowledge the fact that I will not be able to maximize my purpose or potential in life without others.  I cannot do it by myself.  I am not a lone ranger and I won’t even attempt to be one.  I need You and I need others.  I need the special people You have ordained to be a part of my life and I know they need me.  So I release any pain from my past and I open my heart to receive the covenant relationships You desire for me to have.  I also commit to being a blessing to my friends, because I love them, without any expectation of anything in return.  My friends will be part of my life’s story and I shall be part of theirs.  And when we get to heaven we will be able to continue the fellowship.  I thank You Father for blessing me to have great friends and we enjoy our lives together.  In Jesus’ name.

This is Today’s Word!  Apply it and Prosper.

Grace is NOT Fair!

(1 Samuel 18:5 NLT) Whatever Saul asked David to do, David did it successfully. So Saul made him a commander over the men of war, an appointment that was welcomed by the people and Saul’s officers alike.

This morning we continue our series “Grace that is Simply Amazing.”  In chapter 17 we saw how just after David cut Goliath’s head off king Saul reached over to the commander of his army, General Abner, (who was clearly not in command that day) and asked, “Abner, whose son is this young man?”  The General did not know and was charged to find out.  General Abner went out to meet David and ushered him back to the king.  As Abner brought David before Saul the head of the giant was still dangling from his fingers, and blood must have still been dripping from it’s neck, as they stood there.  Imagine the scene for a minute.  Abner is a battle-tested General who had no-doubt led his men in combat.  However, General Abner and every one of his men had been paralyzed in fear of the giant for 40 long days.  Next to the General was a kid who did not fear Goliath and who was standing there with the head to prove it.  This same kid, David, had instilled courage in the army of Israel that day and his actions led to a great military victory for the nation.  General Abner did not know it, but this kid would soon become his replacement.

Yesterday we learned that David was invited to live with king Saul and he established a covenant relationship with prince Jonathan.  Our text today tells us that whatever the king asked David to do, he was able to do it successfully.  This reminds me of Joseph.  Grace and favor were in operation in Joseph’s life and it is clear that they were also in operation in David’s life.  One day David was out in the field, tending sheep, going about his life as normal, knowing that God has something great for him, but not really knowing how it was going to happen.  And here we are in the story, just a few weeks later, and his life was completely different.  David had a special moment, where God approved him in front of his family, and after that moment he went back to the sheep, knowing that God was up to something.  A few weeks later he had another special moment, this time in front of the king and his entire army, and afterwards he was invited to live in the palace.  And after all of this, our text says that David was appointed as commander over the men of war.  Without any military experience, without ever serving a day in the ranks, without ever even wearing a suit of armor, David took command of Israel’s forces as a military General.  How in the world did that happen?  The answer is clear: GRACE!  This promotion was unearned, unexpected, unprecedented, and unfair.

So what does this mean to you today?  I only have one point this morning: Grace is NOT fair.  Phillip Yancey calls the mathematics of grace “scandalous.”  Grace is not about equity, fairness or justice.  Grace flies in the face of merit.  Grace goes against everything you have ever been taught about earning something.  The problem is that if you earn it, it is not grace.  Don’t mistake what I’m saying.  I am not saying that the Father wants you to be lazy, that He does not expect you to work hard, or pursue your purpose with passion and zeal.  But what I am saying is that God has things for you that He gives you by His unfailing grace.  The woman caught in adultery did not receive justice, she received grace.  She was clearly wrong, but Jesus did not condemn her.  The thief on the cross was not hanging there, at the point of death, because he was innocent.  No, he was a convicted criminal, but Jesus did not give him what he deserved, he gave the man grace.  It is unfair that a convicted criminal would receive the same eternal life for calling out to Jesus in the last seconds of his life, than a person receives if he/she dedicates decades to the service of the Lord.  But grace is not about fairness, grace is about God and HIs immeasurable love towards us.  David did not earn his way up the ranks.  It was not fair that he be placed in command of troops that had served in the army for decades, but the promotion came by grace and favor.  Why?  Because it was part of God’s plan for David’s life.  So don’t fight against God when He is giving you what He wants to give you by grace.  Don’t feel unworthy, as if you can’t take it because you don’t deserve it.  Believe me, if God only gave you what you deserved, your life would be miserable.  No, accept whatever He gives you by faith, knowing that it came to you by grace.  Not just any grace, but by the Grace of God!

Closing Confession:  Father, I thank You for this teaching.  I acknowledge the fact that You have not always given me what I deserve and I am extremely thankful about it.  I did not deserve Your salvation.  You sent Your Son Jesus to die in our place, while we were yet sinners.  You then loved me unconditionally all my life, even when I wanted nothing to do with You.  I did not deserve the way You sent people to me, to tell me of Your goodness, kindness and mercy.  I did not deserve forgiveness of sin, nor the gift of eternal life, but You gave them to me when I accepted Your Son Jesus as Lord.  And since I have been walking with You, the laundry list of things You have blessed me with, that I did not deserve, it way too long to mention.  You are better to me than I could ever even be to myself.  You don’t give me justice, You don’t give me fairness, You give me grace, and for that I shall forever be thankful and I will never cease to glorify Your name!  So Father, as I enter this day and every day that follows, I am open to receive all You desire to give me by grace.  I know You will freely give me everything I need to fulfill my life’s purpose.  Not always because I deserve it, and not always because I earned it, but many times on grace and grace alone.  You grace is amazing.  Thank You Father for being so good to me.   In Jesus’ name.

This is Today’s Word!  Apply it and Prosper.

The Grace for Divine Protection

(Read 1 Samuel 18:6-9)

This morning we continue our series “Grace that is Simply Amazing.”  Last week we left off with David receiving an incredible promotion.  With just having one fight on his resume (killing Goliath), and without ever serving a day in the military, without ever leading troops, without ever attending training, and without ever even wearing a coat of armor, David, the teenager, was promoted to General – Commander of the men of war.  David’s life had changed immensely in just a short span of time.  He went from the lowest position in his home to the highest position in the military in just a matter of weeks.  Before, David was a “nobody” and now he was national hero who was invited to live in the palace with the king.  How did this happen?  The answer is simple: it was the grace of God.

As the victorious Israelite army was returning home after David had killed Goliath, women from all the towns of Israel came out to meet king Saul and his army.  They sang and danced for joy with tambourines, cymbals, and flutes.  This was their song: “Saul has killed his thousands, but David his tens of thousands!”  David did not ask these women to sing that song.  David did not have pride in his heart.  David was not looking for recognition.  David was not placing himself above Saul.  But Saul, when he heard the song, become very angry.  Saul said, “What is this?  They credit David with tens of thousands and me with only thousands. Next they’ll be making him their king!”  Saul had no idea how prophetic his words would prove to be.  Yes, David would be Saul’s successor, commanding the kingdom after Saul’s death, but it was not like David was attempting to take anything from Saul.  This was all God’s doing, but Saul did not know it.  The Bible says: “So from that day Saul kept a jealous eye on David.”

So what does this mean to you today?  A few things:
1.  Don’t try too hard to make things happen.  David was not trying to make anything happen, and the Lord kept opening doors for him that no man could close.  Once the door was open, David stepped through it by faith.  You would do well to learn from David.  You can get out ahead of God — and mess things up in the process — by trying too hard to make things happen.  Remember, God operates in His timing.  So wait on God and then move by faith when HE opens the door.  If you move before His timing you will be operating without His grace.

2.  People will turn on you in a New York minute.  Saul was enamored with David, his national hero, and in a split second, because of something David had nothing to do with, Saul turned on him.  Some folk are fickle, phony, or flat-out fake, but thank God that He is faithful.  God will never turn on you, but some people will smile in your face and then stab you in the back.  I learned a long time ago that not everyone who is WITH you, is FOR you.  So keep your trust in God.  This is not to say that God does not bless us with true friends, but it is to say that true friends are hard to find, so when you do find them, cherish the relationships.

3.  Their poison can’t stop your purpose.  Saul was the king of Israel and we will learn later that he got to the point where he wanted David killed.  But even the king of Israel, the most powerful man in the land, could not kill God’s anointed.  Saul was a king, but David was being protected by the King of kings.  So, no matter what anyone attempts to do to you, and no matter what their natural position in the earth is, if God is for you, He is more than the entire world against You.  When you are operating in the grace of God upon your life you will experience divine protection that no enemy will be able to penetrate.

Closing Confession:  Father, I thank You for this teaching.  I know You have great plans for my life.  I know You have destined me for greatness.  I know I am full of purpose and potential.  But I will not get out ahead of You.  I will not attempt to make things happen, unless You are leading me.  I will wait patiently until You open doors for me.  I will not move until You say, “Go.”  And when You do speak, and when I do move under Your direction, I know that Your grace will be on me to succeed.  Even if men come against me in envy and strife, You will always be there to shield and protect me.  Their poison can’t stop my purpose.  I keep my eyes fixed and focused on You.  You are my Lord.  You are my God.  You are my King, and I worship You.  You are the author and finisher, creator and sustainer, beginning and end, all and all in my life.  I look unto You and while my eyes are fixed on You, You see to it that no weapon formed against me shall be able to prosper.  I declare this by faith.  In Jesus’ name.

This is Today’s Word!  Apply it and Prosper.

Trouble Following Triumph

(Read 1 Samuel 18:8-11)

This morning we continue our series “Grace that is Simply Amazing.”  Yesterday we learned that Saul allowed the green-eyed monster of jealousy to take a grip of his heart when he heard Israelite women sing about David’s exploits.  All David did was kill one man, but the people attributed more confirmed-kills to David than to Saul.  Saul could have laughed it off.  What did the ladies know anyway?  But Saul did not laugh it off and he allowed it to alter his opinion of David.  David had done nothing wrong to Saul, but Saul developed bitterness in his heart toward him.

The very next day a tormenting spirit overwhelmed Saul.  This was not new, for it had been happening since Saul disobeyed God.  In the past Saul would call for David, the harp player, and allow David’s anointed music to bring him peace.  However, now David the harp player was David the man of war and the people’s favorite, so things were not the same.  Saul did not want to call for David anymore and he attempted to deal with the tormenting spirit without David’s music.  Sure enough, it did not work.  Saul got to the point where he was raving in his house like a madman.  David came to play the harp, but Saul’s bitterness toward David made the harp playing ineffective.  King Saul had a spear in his hand and in his rage he hurled it at David, intending to pin him to the wall.  But David escaped the attack.

Let’s look at this from David’s perspective.  David went from obscurity to national hero overnight.  One day he was delivering lunch for his big brothers and the next day he was living in the palace.  And on his way to the palace spontaneous crowds erupted in his honor and his trip took on a parade-like atmosphere.  People David did not know were calling his name and making up songs in his honor.  The prophet came to town, spoke a few words, placed a few drops of oil on his head, and now, less than two months later, it seems like it was working.  Whatever the prophet did, it initiated a move of God in his life that would change it forever.  The only problem was Saul.  David had done nothing wrong to Saul, but now, all of a sudden, the king who used to love him and his harp playing, was attempting to kill him.

So what does this mean to you today?  A few things:
1.  Be secure in who God made you to be.  Saul was insecure and that insecurity led to envy, strife, and turmoil.

2.  Never let it get to your head.  David did not allow the sudden fame to usher him over into pride, and that is somewhat amazing when you think about the fact that he was only a teenager.  I believe it was because David knew God was doing it for him.  David was experiencing success by grace and that realization kept him humble.  When God graces you for success, never allow pride to get a grip of your heart.  Pride will stifle the flow of grace and you will quickly find yourself outside of the will of God.

3.  Trouble seems to follow triumph.  When God blesses you richly, don’t think the devil is just going to sit around and be happy about it.  No, satan will do everything he can to steal, kill, or destroy what God is doing in your life.  The good news is that he can’t.  When God’s grace is on your life the enemy can try all he wants, but his attempts will always fail.  So, keep your trust in God and don’t be surprised when the enemy raises his ugly head with trouble after a triumph.  If you remain humble and you keep your trust in God, the Father will bless you to trouble your trouble and not to be troubled by it.

Closing Confession:  Father, I thank You for this teaching.  I know who I am, and more importantly, I know whose I am.  I rest in who You have made me to be and I will not allow jealousy to ever get a grip of my heart.  You may not have given me what You gave others, but You also did not give others what You gave me.  I walk in the grace You have placed on my life, and I rest in it.  I also never allow pride to get a hold of my heart.  I know I am NOT a self-made man/woman.  I am who I am by Your grace and I will never forget it.  The realization of Your grace on my life keeps me humble and dependent on You.  And lastly Father, I know that trouble may follow the many triumphs You have destined for me to experience, but I will not allow the trouble to trouble me.  I trouble my trouble by keeping my eyes stayed on You!  You keep me in perfect peace and You shield me from every attack.  I declare this by faith.  In Jesus’ name.

This is Today’s Word!  Apply it and Prosper.

Don’t Change Who You Are

(1 Samuel 18:12 NLT) Saul was then afraid of David, for the LORD was with David and had turned away from Saul.

This morning we continue our series “Grace that is Simply Amazing.”  Yesterday we saw how trouble followed David’s triumph and the king, who once loved him for his harp playing and who was thankful to him for killing Goliath, quickly turned on him and attempted to kill him.  Of course, the same grace that had been on David was still on him, therefore there was a hedge of protection around David that shielded him from the attack.  But where did this leave David and Saul’s relationship?  David was the hero, Saul was the king.  David was the new kid on the block, Saul was the seasoned veteran and national leader.  Saul should not have been intimidated by David whatsoever, but he was.  Our text says, “Saul was then afraid of David, for the LORD was with David and had turned away from Saul.”

No matter how popular David was, Saul was the king.  I think it is hard for us (Americans) to truly understand the king-dynamic.  There is a huge difference between the Presidents and Prime Ministers of today, and the Kings of yesteryear.  Saul was a sovereign.  He had no checks or balances.  His word was the supreme authority.  By just speaking a word Saul could bequeath land, forgive debt, overturn a legal sentence, or pronounce a death sentence.  No one questioned the king.  No newspaper articles could question his methods.  No bloggers could dissect his decisions.  No news anchormen/women could criticize his ways.  Saul was like a ‘little g’ god to the people.  And this man — a man who seemingly had it all — was intimidated and afraid of a young boy who had the grace of God upon his life.

So what does this mean to you today?  A few things:
1.  Some people will be intimidated by the grace of God on your life.  David experienced this and I have as well.  Sometimes you will run across people who feel intimidated by what God is doing in your life.  There is not much you can do about it, other than pray for them.  Continue to run your race, with the benefit of God’s grace, and make sure you operate in love.  As long as you are operating in love, and not pride or hatred, you will continue to enjoy the grace of God and while others may not like it, they won’t be able to do anything about it.

2.  People of authority, who are over you, may despise you without you doing anything to initiate it.  Being intimated is one thing, but Saul got to the point where he hated David and David never did anything wrong to Saul.  Sometimes people you don’t even know will hate you.  Or, like in this case, people of authority, who are over you, might develop bitterness and resentment toward you, simply because of what God is doing in your life.  But just remember, God is the ultimate authority.  They might think they have power, but they can’t curse what God has already blessed!

3.  Never allow the insecurities of others to cause you to change who God made you to be.  David knew Saul had a problem with him, but he did not change.  Sometimes you might feel the urge to ‘tone down’ who you are, because others don’t like you or you might feel the urge to ‘tone up’ yourself in pride, because of all the attention you are getting.  Here’s the point: if you are operating in God’s grace and you are being blessed, there will be some people who have a problem with you, even if you do nothing wrong to them, just don’t allow their discomfort to cause you to get outside of the will of God for your own life.  Continue to run your race, with God’s grace, not getting too low, or too high.

Closing Confession:  Father, I thank You for this teaching.  I know who You have made me to be and what You have called me to do.  I have the grace to run my own race and I declare that I will.  Along the way there might be people who develop their own insecurities, because of what You are doing in my life.  Or there might be some who because of those insecurities, develop bitterness and hatred toward me, to the point where they actually attack me.  I declare, by faith, that I shall keep my eyes on You.  I will not allow the internal struggles of others to change who I am.  I know their attacks will be unfruitful and I shall pray for them, and to continue to run my race, with Your grace.  I shall not be moved by others and I will never allow the attention I get, because of Your grace, to ever cause me to cross over into pride.  I will also not allow the pressure from others to cause me to operate in less than who You have called me to be.  I am who I am by Your grace and I won’t allow anyone to change that.  In Jesus’ name.

This is Today’s Word!  Apply it and Prosper.

Recap for the Week

(Read 1 Samuel 18:6-12)

This morning we continue our series “Grace that is Simply Amazing.”  Since it is Friday I want to take a brief look back over what we have learned from David this week.  When you think about David, and what God did through him at such a young age, you can’t help but be amazed.  Most scholars believe David was 17 or 18 yrs. old when he killed Goliath.  I have two kids close to that age; a 19 yr. old son and a 17 yr. old daughter.  As amazing as they both are, it is hard for me to insert them into a story like this.  David was exposed to things as a teenager that would cause most men to give up, cave in, and quit.  And when you consider the fact that David did this all without the support of his father or brothers, it makes the story even more amazing.  But David was not truly alone, for God was with him every step of the way.  God kept David for his purpose and He will also keep us for ours.  Let’s look back over what we have learned this week for some final points before we move on.

1.  David resisted pride.  When the women came out calling David’s name and singing songs about his victory, even giving him more credit than king Saul, it would have been easy for David to have allowed the accolades to get to his head.  But David resisted pride and he maintained a proper opinion of himself.  Learn from David and do the same, because if you allow yourself to get caught up in pride, you might have to get humbled by God.  Take it from me, it is much better to humble yourself and allow God exalt you, than to exalt yourself and force God to humble you.

2.  David handled the trouble that followed the triumph with breaking under the pressure.  For a teenager to have to take a stand against a king, all alone, without the support of his family, is almost too much to ask.  However, God would not allow David to face what he could not handle and He was with David every step of the way.  Remember that when trouble follows your triumph.  The same God who graced you to experience the triumph, will be with you as you face the trouble.  So never give up, cave in, or quit.  The devil knows he cannot beat you if God is with you, but if he can get you to quit, then you actually beat yourself.

3.  David did not get out ahead of God.  David knew he was anointed to be the next king of Israel, so he knew he was Saul’s replacement.  Since he killed Goliath he could have easily thought to himself, “Hey, I can kill this guy and go ahead and take the throne.  God anointed me for it anyway.”  But David refused to get out ahead of God’s timing.  The right thing, at the wrong time, becomes the wrong thing.  You must wait patiently for what God has destined you to have, because there is a season when your harvest is due.  Before that, it is simply not your time.

4.  David did not change.  Both success and struggle can change people.  David could have changed upwardly, thinking more highly of himself, when the women were calling his name.  Or David could have changed downwardly, thinking less of himself, when Saul was attacking him.  But David simply remained the same.  Learn from David and don’t allow accolades to make you think too highly of yourself or pressure from others to drive you over into low self-esteem.  Just maintain your integrity, walk upright before God, and be the person God has called you to be.

Closing Confession:  Father, I thank You for this teaching.  I resist pride and low self-esteem.  I don’t think more of myself than I ought, but I don’t think less of myself than I ought either.  I have a healthy opinion of myself because I see me, the way You see me, and I am grateful for whom You have made me to be.  I am not ashamed of who I am and I walk in the grace wherewith I am called!  I have the grace to handle both triumph and trouble.  No matter what comes my way — up or down, high or low, good or bad — I can handle it by Your grace.  And Father, I will never get out ahead of You.  I know that the right thing, at the wrong time, becomes the wrong thing.  Therefore, I will operate in Your timing.  I know You have called me to do certain things, but I also know that they will happen in Your divine time.  So I don’t attempt to get out ahead of You.  I wait patiently, maximizing this season, preparing for the next, and enjoying the ride!  In Jesus’ name.

This is Today’s Word!  Apply it and Prosper.

The Enemy Can’t Stop Grace

(Read 1 Samuel 18:13-16)

This morning we continue our series “Grace that is Simply Amazing.”  When we left off in David’s story king Saul threw a spear at David, attempting to kill the young man because of the jealousy in his heart.  This is actually very interesting, because Saul, being the king, could have simply spoken a word and had David arrested or killed.  However, no matter how much power Saul had, God had his hand on David and the Lord was protecting him.  I am not sure how he knew it, but Saul knew he could not touch David, at least not in a traditional way.

King Saul opted to send David into combat, hoping he would die on the frontlines.  Saul made David a commander and sent him on his way.  However, even this plan backfired on Saul.  David faithfully led his troops into battle.  The Bible says, “David continued to succeed in everything he did, for the Lord was with him.”  This was David’s time.  David was walking into his season.  David was operating under the grace of God on his life and there was nothing Saul, or anyone else could do about it.  David was blessed.  The best definition for the Hebrew word translated “blessing” I can find is: nothing missing, nothing lacking, nothing broken, completely at peace.  That was David’s life.  David’s life had drastically changed in a matter of weeks and he was walking in the blessing of the Lord.

The Bible says that when Saul recognized what God was doing in David’s life, “He became even more afraid of him.”  Think about that statement for a minute.  King Saul, a man who was a Sovereign in the land — who had no checks or balanced, who was basically the supreme authority in his kingdom — was afraid of a teenager, because that teenager had the grace of God on his life to lead the nation of Israel.  In other words, Saul was afraid because he knew that the same God who had anointed him to be king had already picked his replacement, and although he knew he had power, he also knew he could not go against God.  We will stop here for today.

So what does this mean to you today?  A few things:
1.  God has all power.  There is nothing (literally nothing) God cannot do.

2.  God has ultimate authority.  All authorities in the earth are subject to God’s authority (Rom 13:1).

3.  God has plans for you.  Before you were born God made plans for you and they are good plans (see Jer 1:5; Jer 29:11; Ps 139:15,16; Isa 49:1; Rom 8:28-32).

4.  Nothing can stop the grace of God when it is in operation in your life.  For God to freely operate in your life He seeks your full cooperation, but when you are cooperating, and He is operating, there is nothing the devil or anyone in the earth can do to stop God’s plans for your life.  The only person who can stop the grace of God from flowing is you.  When you stop cooperating you stop God from operating, but when you repent and go back to make an alignment with your assignment, the grace will flow again.

5.  Success will not come without opposition.  God’s grace flowing in your life does not mean that you will enjoy a perpetual picnic.  All who live Godly will suffer persecution and opposition (2 Tim 3:12), but the good news is that with the grace of God flowing in your life, you WILL come out on top.  The road will not always be easy, but you won’t have to face the challenges alone.  Once God’s grace is on you, the only way you can lose is if you quit.

Closing Confession:  Father, I thank You for this teaching.  You have all power.  There is nothing You cannot do.  You sit on the circle of the earth and all things are under Your feet.  You also have all authority.  There is no authority in the earth, except that which You have allowed.  All authority in heaven and in earth is subject to You.  And You Father, the creator and sustainer of all things, took the time and still take the time to think about me.  You made plans for me before the foundations of the world.  You planned out my days and Your plans for me are good.  My goal in life is to find, follow, and finish Your plans for me.  I consciously make an alignment with my divine assignment.  I submit to Your Kingdom plans and purposes for my life.  As I do, Your grace freely flows to and through me.  I know I will face opposition along the way, but I also know that the opposition cannot stop Your grace.  The only way I can lose is if I quit, and I refuse to quit.  I shall not give up or cave in.  No matter how hard it gets, I know Your grace is on me to succeed.  I trust You and I cooperate with You, so You can freely operate in my life.  In Jesus’ name.

This is Today’s Word!  Apply it and Prosper.

Divine Patience

(Read 1 Samuel 18:17-19)

This morning we continue our series “Grace that is Simply Amazing.”  As we learned in yesterday’s message, king Saul was sending David out on combat missions, hoping that he would die in battle, but his plan backfired and David became more popular with the people.  So one day Saul said to David, “I am ready to give you my older daughter, Merab, as your wife.”  That sounds very strange.  Saul clearly wanted David dead, so there had to be an ulterior motive behind the his offer, and there was.  Saul went on to say, “But first you must prove yourself to be a real warrior by fighting the Lord’s battles.”  This caveat was wrong on multiple levels.

First of all, by killing Goliath David had already earned Saul’s daughter’s hand in marriage.  If you remember, in the previous chapter, when David was running an errand for his father, taking lunch to his brothers, he learned of the reward Saul was offering to anyone who would kill Goliath.  The Soldiers present told David, “The king has offered a huge reward to anyone who kills him. He will give that man one of his daughters for a wife, and the man’s entire family will be exempted from paying taxes!” (1 Sam 17:25).  Based on the reward for killing the giant, David should not have had to do anything else to earn the princess’ hand in marriage.  Second, David did not have anything to prove where combat is concerned.  David had killed the tallest, meanest, most terrifying man Saul had ever seen.  Therefore, telling David that he had to “prove himself” was ridiculous.  Lastly, David had already led men in combat, submitting to the assignment of the king, winning every battle he engaged in.  What else did David have to do?

The Bible goes on to tell us Saul’s real reason for making the offer.  The Bible says, “For Saul thought, “I’ll send him out against the Philistines and let them kill him rather than doing it myself.” ”  Time after time, attempt after attempt, Saul was trying hard to have David killed in a way that would not make himself look bad, but no matter how hard he tried, David kept coming out on top.  And David was not doing it for personal gain.  David did not even see himself as worthy of marrying a princess.  David said to Saul, “Who am I, and what is my family in Israel that I should be the king’s son-in-law?  My father’s family is nothing!”  David was sincere in his humility.  I am sure Saul did not truly want David to marry his daughter anyway, so when the time came for Saul to give his daughter Merab in marriage to David, he gave her instead to Adriel, a man from Meholah.  Saul was calculating, conniving, and underhanded, but David remained faithful to God and to Saul.

So what does this mean to you today?  Two things:
1.  Vengeance and recompense belong to the Lord.  In the New Testament Paul quoted Leviticus when he said, “Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, “I will take revenge; I will pay them back,” says the LORD” (Rom 12:19, Lev 19:18).  David could have easily gotten tired of Saul and fought against him, but David knew the Lord would see to it that Saul would receive a bad harvest on the bad seed his was sowing.  So he left the revenge and recompense to the Lord.  You would do well in doing the same.  Don’t try to get people back for the wrong they do to you.  The Lord will do a better job than you ever could.

2.  Becoming the person God has called you to be requires divine patience.  There is no such thing as an overnight success.  David knew he was anointed to be Saul’s replacement, but he had to exercise divine patience, and endure senseless tactics from Saul, while he was waiting on God’s timing.  The message here is that you WILL become the person God has destined you to become, but you must endure the process.  The good news is that the same grace you will need when you step into you success, is also on you now, while you wait and develop into the person God needs you to be when the door of success swings wide open.

Closing Confession:  Father, You alone are Lord, You alone are God, You alone are my king, and I worship You.  I look unto You as author and finisher of my faith.  My confidence is in You and You alone.  I call upon no other name and I acknowledge no other deity.  I look to You for all things and I know You will see to it that I reap a harvest on every seed I sow.  You will also see to it that others reap harvests on the seeds they sow.  Therefore, I don’t have to seek revenge on anyone.  When people rise up against me, sowing bad seed, I know two things.  First, their attacks will fail, because Your hedge of protection keeps me from all harm.  Second, You will see to it that they reap a bad harvest from their bad seed.  So I don’t have to go after them, because vengeance and recompense belong to You.  I run my race with Your grace and divine patience.  What I am experiencing today is preparing me for my tomorrow.  I know You have great plans for my life and I know things will happen in Your divine timing.  Therefore, I wait patiently for doors to open that no man can close and for others to close that no man can open.  As they do, I experience Your best.  In Jesus’ name.

This is Today’s Word!  Apply it and Prosper.

Remain Humble

(Read 1 Samuel 18:19-27)

This morning we continue our series “Grace that is Simply Amazing.”  Yesterday we learned more of Saul’s calculating, conniving and underhanded ways.  Saul reneged on his offer to give David his eldest daughter’s hand in marriage and then married his daughter off to Adriel the Meholathite.  Meanwhile, Saul’s daughter Michal fell in love with David.  When Saul learned of it he saw it as another opportunity to have David killed.  The Bible says he thought, “Ah, a second chance. I’ll use Michal as bait to get David out where the Philistines will make short work of him.”

Again Saul said to David, “You’re going to be my son-in-law,” but David was not quick to accept to offer.  So Saul ordered his servants, “Get David off by himself and tell him, ‘The king is very taken with you, and everyone at court loves you. Go ahead, marry his daughter and become the king’s son-in-law!’”  But David was not taking this lightly.  Even though Saul was mistreating him, David still respected authority too much to disrespect the throne.  David replied, “I can’t. I’m a nobody; I have nothing to offer.”  The servants went back to the king and relayed David’s message.  Saul said, “Go tell David this: “The king isn’t expecting any money from you; only this: Go kill a hundred Philistines and bring evidence of your vengeance on the king’s behalf. Avenge the king on his enemies.”  Once again, Saul expected David to be killed in action.

Upon receiving the message David was pleased.  He did not have a lot of money, but he could surely lead men in combat.  David had quickly become a military warrior.  Seeing this as an opportunity to qualify to become the king’s son-in-law (as if he had not done enough already), David lost no time and gathered his men for the mission.  David and his men killed the hundred Philistines, brought their evidence back in a sack, and counted it out before the king—mission accomplished!  Saul had no choice this time but to give his daughter to David in marriage.

So what does this mean to you today?  A few things:
1.  Remain little in your own eyes.  There was a time when Saul was humble like David.  The prophet Samuel reminded Saul of the time when he was “little in his own eyes” (1 Sam 15:17), but Saul made the mistake of getting to the point where he could make decisions that went against the God who gave him the position.  David was not making that mistake.  One could make the argument that David had already earned the right to marry the king’s daughter, but he remained little in his own eyes, humble before the Lord, and his humility kept the grace of God flowing.  This is not to say that the Father wants you to have low self-esteem, but it is to say that pride stifles the flow of grace and the blessing in your life.  So remain humble before God.  Never let your accomplishments cause you to get to the point where you disregard the God who blessed you to perform them.

2.  Use what you have.  David did not have money, but he did have the grace to fight, so that is what he used.  I may not know you, but I am sure there are lots of things you don’t have.  Focusing on what you don’t have is not going to get you very far.  However, if you focus on what you do have, on what God has blessed and graced you with, you can then use what you do have to get what you don’t have.  Two fish and five loaves seemed like nothing in the little boy’s hands, but in Jesus’ hands that two piece fish dinner fed over 5,000.  What you have this morning may not look like much compared to what you are facing, but if you put it in God’s hands He can take what you have (your seed) and use it to help you address your situation (your need).

3.  They can’t stop you.  Saul could not stop David.  Scheme after scheme, plot after plot, all of Saul’s tactics failed, because the grace of God was on David.  When you are operating under the grace of God for your life the enemy cannot stop you.  What he can do is attempt to get you frustrated so you throw in the towel and give up.  In other words, the only way you can lose is if you quit.  That’s why the enemy attempts to get you frustrated, so you can give up and beat yourself, because he can’t stop you when God is operating through you.

Closing Confession:  Father, I thank You for this teaching.  I remain little in my own eyes.  While I resist low self-esteem, I also resist pride.  I will never get to the point where I violate Your instruction or commands.  I remain humble before Your mighty hand and I trust You to exalt me in due season.  And when You do, I shall still remain humble in Your sight.  When faced with a situation that is too big for me (my need), I refuse to focus on what I do not have.  I look at what I do have (my seed) and I put it in Your hands.  As I do, You bless it and empower me to receive all You desire for me to receive for this season.  And lastly Father, I declare that every plot, plan, design, tactic, scheme and strategy the enemy devises against me shall fail!  The enemy cannot curse what You have already blessed.  Your blessing and Your grace flow freely in my life today and every day.  I am Your child and I enjoy Your best.  In Jesus’ name.

This is Today’s Word!  Apply it and Prosper.

They Don’t Know What You’ve Been Through

(Read 1 Samuel 18:19-27)

This morning we continue our series “Grace that is Simply Amazing.”  Yesterday we learned that David — after being deceived by Saul with his first daughter and after being given a ridiculous requirement of killing 100 Philistines — was given the privilege of marrying a princess.  David and princess Michal married in what I am sure was a beautiful royal wedding.

I am currently in Georgia, at a church leadership conference, and while my Spiritual Father (Bishop Richard Peoples) was ministering the Word yesterday, the Lord had me to take a few minutes to meditate on David and Michal’s wedding.  The first person I thought of was Eliab.  Do you remember him?  He was David’s eldest brother, the firstborn of their father Jesse.  I don’t know if Eliab was in the wedding party or not, but chances are that he was at the wedding.  Can you imagine what Eliab must have been thinking?  Being the firstborn Eliab had the birthright blessing and there was a certain confidence about him.  When the prophet Samuel stood before Eliab, as he was looking to anoint one of Jesse’s sons to be the next king of Israel, even the prophet thought to himself, “Surely this is the LORD’s anointed!” (1 Sam 16:6).  Eliab was strong and good looking, and being the oldest he probably thought he was the best.  But when the Lord told the prophet that Eliab was not the one, and neither were any of the other six boys present, I am sure none of them were very happy when they had to wait on David to come out of the field in order to get blessed right in front of them.

When David was on an errand for his father, taking lunch to his brothers, and asked about about the reward for killing Goliath, it was Eliab who got angry and said, “What are you doing here!  Why aren’t you minding your own business, tending that scrawny flock of sheep?  I know what you’re up to. You’ve come down here to see the sights, hoping for a ringside seat at a bloody battle!” (1 Sam 17:28).  It is clear that Eliab had a chip on his shoulder concerning the attention his little brother was getting.  I can only imagine the look on Eliab’s face when David cut Goliath’s head off.

So let’s get back to the wedding.  I imagine Eliab was thinking, “Man, that should be me.  I should be marrying the king’s daughter right now.”  I am just imagining, but in my holy imagination I could see Eliab, even at the wedding, thinking that he was better than David and how he should have been receiving what David was receiving.  But Eliab had no idea what David had been through to get to where he was.

So what does this mean to you today?  Two things:
1.  People see your success, but they don’t know your struggle.  Eliab was not there when David wrestled with a lion and a bear with his bare hands.  Eliab was not down there in the valley with the giant.  Eliab was not there when the king (a man with supreme authority) hurled a spear at David’s head.  Eliab was not there when David had to kill 100 Philistines in order to earn the right to marry the princess.  It would have been too easy for Eliab to stand at David and Michal’s wedding and say that David was “lucky,” but Eliab had no clue what David had been through.  People only like to acknowledge your harvest, but they conveniently overlook the years of sowing you did.  Just don’t allow the resentment of others to cause you to grow bitter.  They don’t know what you’ve been through, but you do.  Remain humble and thankful for God’s goodness, knowing that without him you would have never survived the struggle long enough to see the success.

2.  They don’t have your grace.  Eliab could of thought that he was better than David and that he could have done everything David did, but he could not, because he did not have David’s grace.  Eliab had his own grace, for his own race.  When others resent your success, thinking that they could have done what you did even better than you did it, don’t entertain their envy.  Know that you only did what you did because of God’s grace on your life and if they keep spending their time wondering about how their could have lived your life, then they are wasting their own.  Don’t focus on running the race of someone else, just focus on your race, because God only gives you grace to run your own race.

Closing Confession:  Father, I thank You for this teaching.  Others will see the success I experience at this stage of my life and most of them have no clue what I have been through.  They see the success, but they don’t know the struggle.  They see the harvest, but they were not there when I was sowing seed.  They see the manifestation, but they don’t know the mess I had to go through to experience it.  I won’t allow the bitterness or resentment that others may have, for my success, to cause me to get bitter.  And as You bless me to experience divine success, I will not allow the accolades of others to cause me to forget that my success came from You.  I remember my struggle, because it’s part of my story.  I remember my mess, because it’s part of my message.  I remember my tests, because they are part of my testimony.  And I run with patience the set course that You have laid before me.  I run my own race, with my own grace, knowing that I don’t have the grace of others and they don’t have mine.  I have my own grace, for my own race, and as I encounter challenges and obstacles along the way, I am reminded that I have Your grace on me to overcome every one!   In Jesus’ name.

This is Today’s Word!  Apply it and Prosper.

Remain Passionate About Your Cause (Purpose)

(1 Samuel 17:29 KJV) And David said, What have I now done? Is there not a cause?

This morning we continue our series “Grace that is Simply Amazing.”  Yesterday I shared a message with you about how David’s eldest brother, Eliab, must have felt when he saw his brother getting married to the king’s daughter.  Interestingly enough, last night I was in a church service where my Spiritual Father (Bishop Richard Peoples) talked about the time when David was taking lunch to his brothers.  David heard Goliath’s threats and inquired about the reward for killing the giant.  Eliab got angry and said, “What are you doing here!  Why aren’t you minding your own business, tending that scrawny flock of sheep?  I know what you’re up to. You’ve come down here to see the sights, hoping for a ringside seat at a bloody battle!”  David replied, “What have I now done? Is there not a cause?”  Bishop Peoples taught last night on being Passionate About Your Cause.  I feel led to share a few points that I gleaned from his message:

1.  Passion helps you win.  Passion will give you a drive and determination that helps you overcome challenges when the arise, because they will arise.

2.  Passion keeps you going.  Passion gets you up in the morning.  I am a witness to this.  I can’t count the times I have been doing something for God, or myself, and wound up going to sleep late, only to get up a few short hours later to write Today’s Word.

3.  God gives you passion for your purpose.  God births a divine passion in our spirit for our assignment in life.  This is part of the grace we have for our assignment.

4.  Passion motivates you to do it, whether you have the position or not.  Without passion you can have a position and not walk in the fulness of it. With passion you can walk in the grace even without the position or title.

5.  Passion keeps you looking forward.  Your passion helps you keep your focus on that which is bigger than you.  Passion gives life to your life.  Anyone without passion is already dead; they just have not made it official.

6.  Listening to the wrong things will stifle your passion.  The Bible says, “When Saul and his troops heard the Philistine’s challenge, they were terrified and lost all hope” (1 Sam 17:11).  Don’t nurse and rehearse negative things.  Saul and his men foolishly stood there, listening to Goliath for 40 days, and their lost their passion and hope.

7.  Successful believers guard their heart in order to protect their passion.  David’s son Solomon taught us that we must guard our hearts, literally protecting what we allow through our eyes and ears, because our life springs out of our heart (Prov 4:23).

8.  Passion draws people.  People are naturally drawn to people who are passionate about their purpose.

9.  Passion draws resources.  When you are passionate about your purpose you will find that everything you need to fulfill your purpose finds its way into your hands.

10.  Passion never gives up until manifestation.  Caleb waited 45 years for a promise from God to be manifested.  At 85 years old Caleb said, “Listen Joshua, 45 years ago the Lord promised me this mountain region and I am now 85 years old, still ready to fight to take possession of the land the Lord promised me.  So now, GIVE ME MY MOUNTAIN!” (Pina Translation) (see Joshua 14:7-12).  Caleb maintained his passion for 45 years and he never gave up hope of what the Lord promised he would posses.  Guess what?  He got his mountain and you will also get yours if you maintain your passion for your cause!

Closing Confession:  Father, I thank You for this teaching.  I declare, by faith, that I have a divine passion that will not burnout.  I seek You with my whole heart.  I pursue Your presence daily and Your presence keeps my passion burning.  I have divine passion for my divine purpose and I shall maintain it every day of my life.  My passion keeps me going when my body is tired, when my mind is weary, and when I encounter obstacles along the path of life.  It is my passion that gives me divine determination to see Your best manifested.  My passion keeps me looking forward, with a “forward ever, backward never” mentality.  I guard my heart will all diligence.  I carefully consider what I allow through my eye and ear gates.  I don’t allow things to get into my heart that will stifle the fire of my passion.  Instead, I feed my passion with Your presence and Your Word.  As I meditate Your Word day and night the fire of my passion burns bright.  My passion is so strong that it helps draw all the people and all the resources I need to fulfill Your Kingdom plans and purposes for my life.  Father, I pursue Your presence and my purpose with passion and I shall never give up until I see the manifestation of everything You have promised me.  Every day I walk in the land of the living shall be a day full of passion.  I declare this by faith!  In Jesus’ name.  Amen!

This is Today’s Word!  Apply it and Prosper.

Unstoppable Grace!

(1 Samuel 18:28-30 NLT)  When Saul realized that the LORD was with David and how much his daughter Michal loved him, Saul became even more afraid of him, and he remained David’s enemy for the rest of his life.  Every time the commanders of the Philistines attacked, David was more successful against them than all the rest of Saul’s officers.  So David’s name became very famous.

This morning we continue our series “Grace that is Simply Amazing.”  After everything David had been through in the months following his triumphant victory over the giant, I am sure his wedding day was special.  David married the king’s daughter, Michal, the second daughter offered to him, but the first that he loved.  David and Michal were happily married and madly in love, David’s brother-in-law Jonathan was his best friend in the world, David’s men were willing to follow him to the end’s of the earth, and public could not get enough to David, loving everything he did.  If this happened today David and Michal would be followed by the paparazzi, David would be on the cover of every magazine, and we would watch David tell his story on Oprah.  This unknown eighth son from Bethlehem had taken Israel by storm.  From the outside you would say his life was amazing, and it was, but from within the palace gates the people saw something else brewing… Saul’s resentment towards David.

Our text says, “Saul became even more afraid of him, and he remained David’s enemy for the rest of his life.”  Another translation says, “Saul’s fear of David increased and settled into hate. Saul hated David.”  Isn’t that sad.  David was experiencing supernatural victory after supernatural victory in his life, but the man who was supposed to have the most power in the entire kingdom, a man David had done nothing wrong to, hated him.  But while it is sad, the flipside is that Saul, who had earthly power, could do nothing to stop David.  The more the Philistines attacked and the more David went out to fight, the more David was able to outshine everyone else and the text says his name “became very famous.”

How did this happen?  How did a nobody from nowhere become so famous that he was outshining the king?  How did a kid from a lowly family come into the palace and win over the king’s kids?  How did a teenager who had never served a day in the Army become the General on the cover of Israel’s Time magazine?  I’ll tell you how: GRACE!  While David had something to do with it, David could not take all the credit.  This was God’s handiwork.  The hand of God was evident on David and he was experiencing overwhelming, immeasurable, and undeserved grace.  Guess what?  That same grace is available to you.

So what does this mean to you today?  A few things:
1.  When you tap into your purpose it unleashes God’s immeasurable grace.  David was born to do what he was doing.  David did not know it, but all his life the Lord was preparing him for this assignment and once he started walking in it, supernatural grace empowered him to experience divine success.  The same will happen for you once you start walking in your divine purpose.

2.  Prosperity will not come without opposition.  When people hear the word “prosperity” many immediately think of money.  While that is not necessarily incorrect, it is incomplete.  Divine prosperity is not just tied to resources, it is about supernatural success.  The Lord wants us to succeed in life and when we walk in our divine purpose, the grace will be on us to succeed.  But even divine success does not exonerate us from opposition and challenges.  Make no mistake, you will be tested.

3.  Grace is unstoppable.  No matter how much opposition comes, grace is unstoppable.  Saul was supposedly the most powerful man in the land and he could not stop a teenager who had the grace of God operating through his life.  When you are operating in God’s grace the enemy cannot stop was God has started.

Closing Confession:  Father, I thank You for this teaching.  I declare by faith that I find, follow, and finish my divine purpose in life before I die.  As I find and follow the purpose You established for me, before the foundations of the world, I tap into Your immeasurable grace.  Your grace flows freely to me, because I am doing what You destined me to do, and since I am fulfilling Your purpose for my life, You are well pleased and You bless me richly.  I know I will face opposition on the road to Your desired destination.  I know it is not always going to be easy.  I know I will have to overcome obstacle after obstacle.  But I also know that Your grace is unstoppable.  The enemy cannot stop what You have started in my life.  I look unto You as not just the author, but also the finisher of my faith.  Like Paul, I am confident of this very thing, that You, who have begun a good work in me, shall perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.  You always finish what You start and what You have started in me is unstoppable!  I declare this by faith.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen!

This is Today’s Word!  Apply it and Prosper.

Grace for Favor

(Read 1 Samuel 19:1-7)

This morning we continue our series “Grace that is Simply Amazing.”  We learned yesterday that king Saul had gotten to the point where he literally hated David, even though David was married to his daughter, was best friends with his son, was respected by the Soldiers, and loved by the people.  None of that mattered to Saul and he wanted David dead.

Chapter 19 opens with king Saul urging his servants and his son Jonathan to assassinate David.  But prince Jonathan, David’s best friend, immediately went and told David what his father was planning.  That was a dangerous move, because Saul was so unstable that he could have ordered the death of his own son, if he found out that Jonathan was betraying him.  But Jonathan risked it and said to David, “Tomorrow morning you must find a hiding place out in the fields.  I’ll ask my father to go out there with me, and I’ll talk to him about you.  Then I’ll come back and tell you what I find out.”

The next morning Jonathan spoke to his father about David, saying many good things about him.  He said, “The king must not sin against his servant David, for he has never done anything to harm you.  He has always helped you in any way he could.  Have you forgotten about the time he risked his life to kill the Philistine giant and how the LORD brought a great victory to all Israel as a result?  You were certainly happy about it then.  Why would you murder an innocent man like David?  There is no reason for it at all!”  Jonathan made a compelling case to the king, especially when you consider the fact that the words were coming from his own son.  Jonathan’s words got through to his father and Saul vowed, “As surely as the LORD lives, David will not be killed.”  Afterward Jonathan found David, told him what had happened, and then brought David to Saul for the two to reconcile.  It seemed to work, at least temporarily, and David went back to serving Saul.

So what does this mean to you today?  Two things:
1.  You can receive favor by grace.  To me, favor is when the Lord raises up people who use their power, their ability, and their influence to help you in ways that you cannot help yourself.  What prince Jonathan did for David, with his father the king, was a clear case of favor.  David did not ask Jonathan to do it and Jonathan did what no other man in the kingdom could have done.  Jonathan talked Saul ‘off the ledge’ and  protected David.  When you walk with God and your ways please him you will find that people will help you, without you asking for the help, and they will help you in ways that you could have never helped yourself.  That’s favor and it comes to us by grace.  Not because of anything we do to deserve it; simply because of God’s love for us and His desire to see us fulfill our divine assignment.

2.  Don’t move unless the Lord tells you to move.  I run into Christians all the time who want to run away from a situation at the first sign of trouble.  People run from jobs, business opportunities, marriages, and etc., just because of challenges.  Guess what?  Everyone faces challenges and opposition is NOT an indication that you are outside of the will of God.  David was right where God wanted him to be and you can be ‘right-smack-dab’ in the middle of God’s will and still face opposition.  All that means is that you have the grace to face it.  So don’t move unless the Lord tells you to move.  Don’t run away just because it gets hard.  How can you experience the Lord as an overcomer if you never have anything to overcome?

Closing Confession:  Father, I thank You for this teaching.  Your grace on my life opens the door to favor.  You give me favor with others to the point where You raise up people to use their power, their ability, and their influence, to help me in ways I cannot help myself.  They may not even know why they are helping me, but they help me nonetheless, and they help usher me into Your best.  Father, I know I will face challenges.  All that live Godly shall face persecution.  I know it is not always going to be easy.  I know You did not promise me a perpetual picnic.  But I also know that You have graced me to face every challenge head-on.  I am the head and not the tail; above only and never beneath; the winner and not the loser; the victor and never the victim.  Things may get hard, but I shall not cave in, give up, or quit.  I never run away from challenges, because Your grace is on me to overcome every one!  In Jesus’ name.  Amen!

This is Today’s Word!  Apply it and Prosper.

Grace for the Space

(Read 1 Samuel 19:8-17)

This morning we continue our series “Grace that is Simply Amazing.”  Yesterday we saw how Saul’s son Jonathan intervened to save David’s life.  The prince convinced his father and the king said, “As surely as the LORD lives, David will not be killed.”  A friend of mine pointed out that with this statement Saul was acknowledging the Lord’s providence and power, and the fact that God’s hand was on David.  But the acknowledgement was short lived.  Soon after David returned to the palace war broke out again.  David led his troops against the Philistines and he attacked them with such fury that they all ran away.  After the battle Saul was sitting at home, enjoying David’s harp playing, with spear in hand.  All of a sudden the king hurled the spear at David.  David dodged the spear, leaving it stuck in the wall, and David quickly fled into the night.

Saul sent troops to watch David’s house.  They were instructed to kill David when he came out the next morning.  But princess Michal, David’s wife, warned him, “If you don’t escape tonight, you will be dead by morning.”  So she helped him climb out through a window, and he fled and escaped.  The princess then took an idol and put it in his bed, covered it with blankets, and put a cushion of goat’s hair at its head.  When the troops came to arrest David, she told them he was sick and couldn’t get out of bed.  The troops went back and reported to Saul that David was sick.  Saul did not care.  The king sent the troops back, saying, “Bring him to me in his bed so I can kill him!”  Sure enough, the troops went back to David’s house, prepared to carry the entire bed if necessary.  It was then that they realized David was gone and the only thing left in his bed was the idol and cushion of goat’s hair.  Saul was furious with his daughter, asking, “Why have you betrayed me like this and let my enemy escape?”  But Michal, fearing for her life, lied and said, “I had to, he threatened to kill me if I didn’t help him.”  And with that, David was on the run again.

So what does this mean to you today?  A few things:
1.  There is a space between the promise and the performance.  Very rarely does a promise from God manifest itself immediately.  In David’s case there was over a decade of time between the day Samuel anointed David as king and and the day he actually took the throne.  In your case it may not take that long but however long it takes, it will more than likely not happen immediately.

2.  The space is often challenging.  When you know you have a promise from God and you are convinced that it shall come to pass, the time you spend waiting on the manifestation is important.  In the the space between the promise and the performance of it, the devil is going to try to do everything he can to get you to give up on the promise.  David could have easily given up and went back home to Bethlehem, but the calling on his life was too great to give up on, and the grace of God kept him going even when the challenges came one after the other.  But here’s a source of encouragement for you.  The devil is crafty and he knows what he is doing.  He is not going to waste his time attacking people that are not going anywhere.  If the enemy keeps attacking you, it is because you are worth attacking.  The Lord is doing something in your life and the enemy is trying to get you to give up before you see the manifestation of it.

3.  You have grace for the space.  No matter what you face, no matter how long it takes, and no matter how hard it gets, you have the grace for it.  If you are facing it, then it is evidence that God trusts you with it.  You can take it.  You will make it.  Don’t give up, cave in, or quit.  This too shall pass.  Before you know it, the trials and testings will be over and you will see the manifestation of the promise.  So keep going, keep pressing, and keep believing, relying on God’s grace the entire way!

Closing Confession:  Father, I thank You for this teaching.  I realize that there is often a space between the promise and the performance, between my confession and the completion of it, between my prayer and the manifestation of Your power.  And I know the enemy is going to attempt to get me to give up along the way.  In the space between the promise and the performance, the enemy will bring me problems.  In the space between the confession and the completion, the enemy will stir up confusion.  But I refuse to focus on the challenges, I focus on You!  Jesus received a Word from You at His baptism, confirming that He was Your Son.  Jesus was then LED OF THE SPIRIT into the wilderness to be tempted of satan.  Satan tested the Word Jesus received and questioned whether or not He was the Son of God.  Jesus had Your grace and He passed the tests.  When Jesus came out of the wilderness He had the POWER OF THE SPIRIT.  The same holds true for me.  I receive Your promises, satan comes to test what I received, I have the grace to withstand and pass every test, and as I pass the tests and overcome the challenges I come out with the POWER OF THE SPIRIT.  I have the grace to endure the space between the promise and the performance and anything the devil brings my way in between only helps me to grow and mature into the person You desire for me to be!  I declare this by faith.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen!

This is Today’s Word!  Apply it and Prosper.

SuperNatural Protection

(Read 1 Samuel 19:18-23)

This morning we continue our series “Grace that is Simply Amazing.”  In each of the past two days we have learned about an attempt king Saul made on David’s life and in each of the attempts one of Saul’s flesh-and-blood children stepped in to save David from their father.  This morning we will see another attempt, but this time the Lord Himself will step in to save David.

After David’s wife helped him climb through a window in order to escape into the night, David fled to Ramah to see the prophet Samuel.  After all, David’s life had never been the same since the day Samuel visited his home in Bethlehem.  David told the prophet what was going on and all that Saul had done to him.  Samuel decided to take David with him to live at Naioth.  Saul got word that David was at Naioth in Ramah and he immediately sent his troops on a capture-or-kill mission.  But when the Soldiers arrived in Ramah they encountered Samuel and a group of prophets he was mentoring.  The prophets were all prophesying and all of a sudden the Spirit of God came upon Saul’s Soldiers and they too began to prophesy.  Somehow Saul received word of what happened and he sent another group of troops, but when they arrived in Ramah the Spirrit of God came upon them and they began to prophesy uncontrollably as well.  Saul received word of what happened to the second group and sure enough, he sent a third group of Soldiers.  Guess what happened?  The same thing!  The king had sent three groups of elite Soldiers to capture David and the King of Kings intervened every time.  The Lord had hardened combat-tested Soldiers prophesying like they were prophets.

Saul was fed up with the situation and he decided to take a trip to Ramah himself.  The king arrived in Ramah and stopped at the great well in Secu.  “Where are Samuel and David?” he demanded.  By now king Saul was not just after David, but he was upset with the prophet Samuel as well.  “They are at Naioth in Ramah,” someone told him.  So Saul took off to find them, but on the way the Spirit of God came upon Saul and he too began to prophesy all the way to Naioth!  Saul could not stop what was happening.  The king was so upset that when he finally got to the presence of Samuel, Saul tore off his clothes and laid naked on the ground all day and all night, prophesying in the presence of the prophet.  A few people saw what was going on and exclaimed, “What? Is even Saul a prophet?”  We will stop here for today.

So what does this mean to you today?  A few things:
1.  Favor is great.  I love it when God raises up people to use their power, their ability, and their influence to help me.  Favor is awesome, but don’t think that God cannot help you without the assistance of others.  If He can’t find someone to step in on your behalf, He will do it Himself.

2.  Direct divine intervention is better than favor.  The anointing is God operating through man, and that is awesome, but remember, our God is sovereign.  The Lord can bless you through others, but He can also do it directly, as a sovereign act of His power.  So yes, the Lord will look to help you through others, but in situations where he can’t find someone to cooperate or where others are not around, the Lord will step in Himself and manifest His divine power in your life to shield, protect, bless, and empower you supernaturally!

3.  When people come against your divine purpose they are coming against God Himself.  When you are pursuing God’s purpose for your life and you know you are not seeking to perform your will, but rather His, and someone chooses to attempt to stop you, then that person is coming against God.  That is a dangerous place to be for the other person.  At that point you don’t have to attempt to fight for yourself, God will do the fighting and He can protect you in ways you never could.  So just keep pressing, keep going, keep pursuing yourself divine purpose, and the Lord Himself will see to it that you are protected along the way.

Closing Confession:  Father, I thank You for this teaching.  I truly appreciate Your favor on my life.  I am extremely thankful for all the times You have moved upon others to use their power, their ability, and their influence to help me in ways I could not help myself.  I love it when You work through others to help me.  But Father, I know You are not limited to working through others.  On those occasions when You cannot find someone to cooperate with Your Kingdom plans and purposes for my life, or on those occasions where You just want to show Yourself strong, You are able to manifest supernatural power in the earth without the assistance of a man; as a sovereign act.  I thank You Father for all the sovereign acts You have already performed in my life and I thank You in advance for all those You have yet to perform.  When I am pursuing Your divine purpose and people come up against me, they don’t know it, but they are actually coming up against You.  On those occasions I don’t even have to fight.  I know You will fight for me.  Vengeance and recompense are Yours.  I just keep my eyes on You and I pray for my enemies, because they have no idea how much trouble they are getting themselves into when they attempt to stop me from achieving Your purpose.  They can’t stop me, because they can’t stop You!  So I look unto You as the author and finisher of my faith and I run my race with the grace You have freely give me, knowing that I have divine protection along the way!  In Jesus’ name.  Amen!

This is Today’s Word!  Apply it and Prosper.

Naturally SuperNatural

(Read 1 Samuel 19)

This morning we continue our series “Grace that is Simply Amazing.”  This week we went through 1st Samuel chapter 19 and we saw how God protected David from Saul’s continuous attacks.  In this one chapter we saw God move through Jonathan and Michal, using the king’s own kids to take a stand against their father.  And we then saw the Lord intervene directly, causing three waves of hardened Soldiers to prophesy, and then moving upon the king himself, causing him to prophesy uncontrollably as well.  Saul even went to the extent of stripping his clothes.  It must have been a ‘sight’ to see the king of Israel, stark-naked, on the ground, prophesying uncontrollably.  I share this quick recap because I want to take the focus off of Jonathan, Michal and Saul for today’s lesson.  Let’s think about David and how his reliance must have been on God the entire time.

In chapter 16 the prophet Samuel made an unannounced visit to Jesse’s house in Bethlehem and by chapter 19 David’s life was as different as it could be.  David went from an unknown son of a nobody, to national hero, to fairytale wedding, to Israel’s most wanted within a matter of months.  To say that his life was a roller-coaster ride of highs and lows would be an understatement.  The changes David was going through and the pressure he must have felt because of them was enormous.  It was certainly enough to make even a strong man give up.  But David kept going.  Why?  Because of his relationship with God.

While David was out tending sheep he learned how to rely on God directly.  God was there for David whenever a wolf attempted to take one of his sheep.  God was there when David, just a teenager at the time, had to fight a lion and a bear with his bare hands.  God was there for David when no one else was and David learned to rely on His God for strength and peace.

David did not have a Pastor he could call on speed dial.  David did not attend weekly Bible studies for great fellowship, encouragement or instruction.  David was not surrounded with a strong men’s group where he could share his struggles and get brotherly support.  No, while all these things are good, David had to learn to rely on God directly.

So what does this mean to you today?  Two things:
1.  Learn how to receive from God directly.  It has been my experience that many Christians today, maybe even most, don’t know how to hear from God or receive from Him directly.  They can enjoy a good Word through their Pastor or enjoy good worship when the Praise team is leading them, but outside of a church service or Bible study, they don’t know how to receive from God directly.  And then even in a service, where God’s glory is manifested and He is moving supernaturally, many Christians won’t receive from God unless someone (a human)  lays hands on them or speaks a Word from God over them.  I have seen God move supernaturally in a room and some receive from Him, while others are sitting around either clueless or waiting for a human to interact with them.  David did not have the human-intermediary that many are accustomed to today.  David learned how to receive from God directly and his life is evidence of the relationship.

2.  Open yourself up to the supernatural.  The God who moved on king Saul, causing him to strip naked, is still alive today.  The God who caused the blind to see, lame to walk, dumb to speak, and dead to resurrect is still alive and He wants to move in your life in a supernatural way.  But to see Him move supernaturally you have to do two things (at a minimum).  First, you must establish an atmosphere where God is welcome to manifest His glory.  In most cases this atmosphere will be established through worship.  And then, once you are in the atmosphere where God is clearly present and He is manifesting His glory, you must open yourself up to receive directly from Him.  Don’t wait on another human.  Don’t think that God cannot touch you Himself.  Open your heart and your spirit to God and you will experience the supernatural.  Once you do, your life will never be the same.  Once you are Born-Again the supernatural is supposed to become natural to you!

Closing Confession:  Father, I thank You for this teaching.  I declare, by faith, that I get to the point where the supernatural becomes natural to me.  I create an atmosphere of worship and praise in my home.  I welcome You in daily.  I also connect, spiritually, with the praise and worship at my church.  I am committed to establishing environments where You are free to abide.  Where Your presence is, Your glory will be manifested and Your power will be available.  I learn to discern when You are present and on those occasions when I am in Your presence, I learn to receive from Your directly.  I thank You for my Pastors and I appreciate all the spiritual mentors You have given me, but none of them replace my reliance on You.  I hunger and thirst after You with my whole heart.  I yearn to see the supernatural manifested in my life on a routine basis.  I am Born-Again.  I am filled with Your Spirit.  I am supposed to be naturally supernatural and I declare by faith that I am.  I am not limited to living my life by earthly realities.  The supernatural is available to me and I learn to tap into Your heavenly realm on a daily basis.  Thy Kingdom has come and now I declare that thy will is done… ON EARTH, as it is IN HEAVEN!  I declare this by faith.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen!

This is Today’s Word!  Apply it and Prosper.

God is Always There!

(Read 1 Samuel 20:1-3)

This morning we continue our series “Grace that is Simply Amazing.”  Last week we walked through the 19th chapter and this week we open up with the 20th.  After the bizarre encounter that left three waves of Soldiers prophesying and the king himself prophesying uncontrollably, completely naked, David decided to leave Prophets Village (Naioth in Ramah).  David went to see his covenant brother, the king’s son, prince Jonathan.  He asked Jonathan, “Why does your father Saul want to kill me?  What have I done wrong?”  Jonathan naively replied, “My father can’t be trying to kill you!  He never does anything without telling me about it.  Why would he hide this from me?  It can’t be true!”  After everything Saul had done to David, Jonathan’s statement makes him sound clueless.  However, it was because Saul was hiding what he was doing from Jonathan.  David responded, “Jonathan, I swear it’s true!  But your father knows how much you like me, and he didn’t want to break your heart.  That’s why he didn’t tell you.”  David knew the real deal and he was not upset with Jonathan’s naïveté, because he understood how deceptive Saul was being towards his own son.

David’s next statement is what jumped out at me this morning.  David went on to say, “I swear by the living LORD and by your own life that I’m only one step ahead of death.”  David knew the hand of God was on him, and I am sure he knew he was experiencing divine protection, but David was at the point of frustration.  He felt like he was continually cheating death and it sounds like he was losing hope that he could continue to get out of Saul’s attacks.  The spear attacks, the countless and seemingly unnecessary missions to the front lines, the bizarre incident in Prophets village, and life on the run were all getting to David.  I will stop here for today.

So what does this mean to you today?  A few things:
1.  Don’t be surprised when you encounter conniving and deceptive people.  I am not trying to turn you off from people, because the Lord wants us to have lasting and fruitful relationships, but I do want you to keep your trust in God and not in man.  Even well intentioned people will sometimes do you wrong, but then again, there are others who will do all they can to stop you; using conniving and deceptive practices to turn others against you.  So, when others come up against you, don’t be surprised by it and don’t be dismayed either.  Just pray for them and keep your trust in God.

2.  It’s okay to be honest about how you feel.  Even the best of us get tired and frustrated.  David was not superman and that is good news.  God did not use perfect people, He just put His perfection in the flawed.  David got upset, like we all do, and that reminds us that we can be real with God.  Don’t put on a phony face when you talk to God in prayer.  Remember, He knows your heart.  Just be real with Him and let Him know when you are frustrated, disillusioned or even depressed.  No matter how low you are, He can pick you up!

3.  The Father won’t allow you to face what you can’t handle.  David was frustrated, but the Lord knew he could take it and he would not allow Saul to take David past his breaking point.  Guess what?  He does the same for you.  The Father will not allow you to face something that will completely break you.  So, if you are facing it, then it is obvious that God trusts you with it and you can handle it.

4.  The Lord always makes a way.  No matter what Saul did, God was there for David every time.  Not because David was in faith.  Not because David was standing on a Word from the Lord.  Not because David was connected with God in the spirit.  No, God stepped in time after time by grace and grace alone.  The Lord was protecting David for his purpose and He will do the same for you!  He will make a way where there seems to be no way!

Closing Confession:  Father, I thank You for this teaching.  I am not naive.  I know there are people who are with me, but not for me.  I know some people are conniving, deceptive and committed to doing me wrong.  I am not surprised by their attacks and I keep my trust and confidence in You the entire time.  That does not mean I never get upset, frustrated or tired of the attacks.  On those occasions when I am down, I am honest with You.  I tell You Father how I feel and how I need Your strength.  You are always there for me, to pick me up, dust me off, and encourage me to keep going.  I thank You Father for allowing me to be open and honest with You.  You never look down on me and You always meet me where I am.  Thank You For not allowing me to face what I cannot handle.  If I am facing it, it is because You trust me with it, and by Your grace I shall overcome.  Not because I am so great, not because my faith is flawless, not because I am perfect, but because of Your immeasurable grace and goodness towards me.  You never leave me, nor forsake me.  You are always there for me and You bless me — even when I don’t deserve it — to see Your best manifested time after time.  Thank You Father for being so good to me!  In Jesus’ name.  Amen!

This is Today’s Word!  Apply it and Prosper.

You Don’t Have to Be Perfect

(Read 1 Samuel 20:3-15)

This morning we continue our series “Grace that is Simply Amazing.”  Yesterday we saw how David was at the point of frustration, tired of the constant attacks, and he told Jonathan that he was “only one step ahead of death.”  Jonathan wanted to know how he could help.  David said, “Tomorrow is the New Moon Festival, and I’m supposed to eat dinner with your father. But instead, I’ll hide in a field until the evening of the next day. If Saul wonders where I am, tell him, “David asked me to let him go to his hometown of Bethlehem, so he could take part in a sacrifice his family makes there every year.” If your father says it’s all right, then I’m safe. But if he gets angry, you’ll know he wants to harm me. Be kind to me. After all, it was your idea to promise the Lord that we would always be loyal friends. If I’ve done anything wrong, kill me yourself, but don’t hand me over to your father.”  Wow, David was so frustrated that he was ready to give himself over to Jonathan, to be killed by his friend; willing to accept anything but death by the hand of Saul.  This is important to understand, because it reveals to us that David wavered in his faith like many of us do.  David was not standing strong in faith, without wavering, believing God to protect him.  No, David was tired, upset, frustrated, and ready to give up.  We all get to that point at certain times in our lives, but thank God that our lapses in faith does not disqualify us from God’s promises.

Jonathan said, “Don’t worry, if I find out that my father wants to kill you, I’ll certainly let you know.”  “How will you do that?” David asked.  “Let’s go out to this field, and I’ll tell you,” Jonathan answered.  When they got there, Jonathan said: “I swear by the Lord God of Israel, that two days from now I’ll know what my father is planning. Of course I’ll let you know if he’s friendly toward you.  But if he wants to harm you, I promise to tell you and help you escape.  And I ask the Lord to punish me severely if I don’t keep my promise.”  Think about the significance of what was happening.  Prince Jonathan was the heir to the throne.  It was no secret that David was a threat to taking his place as the next king.  But instead of being upset about it, the Lord used Jonathan, the person David would eventually replace, to go out of his way to bless David.  And look at the severity of Jonathan’s sincerity.  Jonathan pronounced a curse on himself if he did not keep his promise to help David.  That was no small act.  And then, after willing to curse himself, Jonathan went on to bless David, saying, “I pray that the Lord will bless you, just as he used to bless my father.  Someday the Lord will wipe out all of your enemies.  Then if I’m still alive, please be as kind to me as the Lord has been.  But if I’m dead, be kind to my family.”  Jonathan was conceding the throne, pronouncing a blessing upon David, and then asking for mercy, in advance, from the future king.  We will stop here for today.

So what does this mean to you today?  Two things:
1.  A lapse in faith does not disqualify you from the promise.  When you fall ‘out of faith’ for a season it may impact how long you wait — because how you wait does affect how long you wait — but you cannot disqualify yourself from what God has qualified you for by grace.  Said another way, God does not require you to be perfect to receive His promises.  Thank God for grace!

2.  God will bless you through the most unlikely of people.  If anyone should have been upset with David, it was Jonathan, because David would eventually take his place.  But Jonathan had already conceded the throne to David, in his heart, and he was willing to accept a curse from God if he did not do everything he could to bless David.  God will give you favor with people you would never expect to receive favor from, and cause them to bless you, even at their own expense.

Closing Confession:  Father, I thank You for this teaching.  I am committed to living my life by faith.  I do not live by what I see with my natural eyes.  I live my life by what I see in the Spirit.  What I see in the natural is temporary and subject to change.  What I see in the Spirit is eternal and immutable.  I have the ability to see with my inner man and I live my life by what I see.  When You reveal to me what You have already destined me to have, I agree with it and I align my lips (declaring) and legs (doing) what You have revealed to me.  By doing so I am living by faith and not by sight.  I don’t allow my present circumstances to keep me from living by a greater reality.  However, Father, I thank You for not requiring me to be perfect.  On those occasions where I have a lapse in faith, and where I am not as strong as I should be, I thank You for keeping the promise for me, waiting for me to get back ‘in-faith’ to receive it.  Thank You Father for not allowing my fail failures to disqualify me from what You have already qualified me for, by grace.  My lapses in faith may cause a delay, but I shall not be denied.  And along the way You raise up people who are willing to bless me, even when it costs them personally to do it.  Your faith and Your favor, Your grace and Your mercy, they are all amazing and I shall never cease to give Your praise for being so good to me.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen!

This is Today’s Word!  Apply it and Prosper.

Godly Friends

(1 Samuel 20:16,17 NLT)  So Jonathan made a solemn pact with David, saying, “May the LORD destroy all your enemies!” And Jonathan made David reaffirm his vow of friendship again, for Jonathan loved David as he loved himself.

This morning we continue our series “Grace that is Simply Amazing.”  Jonathan and David had a God-ordained covenant relationship.  Our text says that Jonathan “loved David as he loved himself.”  Not only was Jonathan willing to concede the throne to David, but time after time he was willing to put his life on the line in order to save David’s.  This friendship proved extremely valuable for David and it leads me to share a few words about friends.

David’s son, Solomon, later became the wisest man in the world during his time and he said, “Become wise by walking with the wise; hang out with fools and watch your life fall to pieces” (Prov 13:20).  The point being that your friends make an impact on you and vice-versa.  My mother clearly understood this.  She knew the perils of the environment I grew up in (Brooklyn, NY), so she daily told me, “Son, show me who you hang with and I will tell you who you are.”  In other words, “Show me your friends and I will show you your future.”  The people we choose to associate with says a great deal about us.  Most people choose friends who have like interests, ambitions, character, and lifestyle.  I know the term “friend” is used lightly today, but it should be reserved for those who can make positive deposits in our lives and vice-versa.  Like the Jonathan-David relationship.

Having the right friends is awesome.  We all need people to share our life experiences with.  Everyone needs a Paul, or what Paul provided Timothy.  This is a mentor, a guide, someone who already is where you want to be and who is willing to pour into you the things that they have learned along the way.  Everyone needs a Timothy, or what Timothy provided for Paul.  This is someone you can mentor, who wants to be where you already are, and who is willing to be poured into.  This gives you an opportunity to pour out into someone else what has been poured into you.  And finally, everyone needs a Jonathan, or what Jonathan provided for David.  This is someone on equal par with you, someone to share life experiences with, someone you can sharpen and you can keep you sharp!  Do you have all these in your life?  If not, ask God to lead you to them.  When you have God-ordained friends the Father can use them to help keep you on the course to His desired destination for your life!

So what does this mean to you today?  A few things:
1.  Your friends matter:  Show me your friends and I will show you your future.  If you get to choose the people you call “friend,” then shouldn’t you choose wisely? Choose the right friends and they will help you live the right life.

2.  Protect your anointing:  If you value what God is doing in your life, then you will protect it by refusing to connect with those who may contaminate your anointing.

3.  Select Godly mentors:  Mentoring relationships are powerful.  Mentors enable us to do much more than we can alone.  Select your mentors wisely and grant them ‘right of passage;’ giving them access to speak into your life.

4.  Follow the mentors in scripture:  In addition to the Godly mentors you can and should have in the earth today, you can also be mentored by the heroes of the faith in scripture.  Follow their example.  Learn from their lives.  Imitate their faith and patience and you too will be able to obtain the promises of God.

Closing Confession:  Father, I thank You for this teaching.  Your Word is awesome and it applies to every area of my life.  I declare, right now, that I have a Paul in my life.  I have someone to look up to, who already is where I want to be, and who can pour into my life!  I give them ‘right of passage’ to speak into my life, therefore I value their counsel.  As You pour into me through them, I receive the impartation and it helps make me into the person You have destined me to be.  I also have at least one Timothy in my life; a person who wants to be where I am.  This person comes to me and You bless me to pour into them the things that have been poured into me.  You have sent others to invest in me and You now send people for me to make investments into.  I thank You Father for giving me covenant relationships that makes my life more enjoyable.  And Father, I also have at least one Jonathan.  This is my covenant brother; someone who is my peer, on my level, and who I can enjoy my life with.  I am able to keep them sharp and they keep me sharp as well.  By surrounding myself with the right people, who give me the right input, and who influence me in the right way, I become the right person and I am able to protect the anointing that is on my life.  Thank You Father for blessing me to enjoy life with people who are pouring into me and people I can in turn pour into.  I know I need others and others need me.  I will be there for my friends and my friends will be there for me.  I declare this by faith.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen!

This is Today’s Word!  Apply it and Prosper.

True Colors

(Read 1 Samuel 20:17-42)

This morning we continue our series “Grace that is Simply Amazing.”  Although David knew that Saul was trying to have him killed, Jonathan was still not convinced, so the two came up with a plan.  David was to hide in the woods in a certain spot and Jonathan was to attend the dinner meal, during the moon festival, with his father.  David had a spot at the table and when the king realized that David was missing Jonathan was to tell his father that David had to go home to Bethlehem to attend to a family matter.  If Saul was okay with David not being there, then that would be evidence that Saul’s anger had subsided, but if he got angry, then it would be clear that Saul wanted David killed.  The next day Jonathan was to go out into the woods for archery practice and after shooting three arrows in the direction where David was, Jonathan would send a boy to get the arrows and then yell one of two things to the boy.  One statement would let David know the coast was clear.  The other statement would tell David that his life was in danger.  This sounds like something out of a movie.  I love it.

The festival came and the plan was set in motion.  When Jonathan told Saul that David had to go back to Bethlehem, Saul was furious.  Prior to this, Saul was always careful not to expose his true feelings in front of Jonathan, because he knew Jonathan loved David.  But this day Saul lost it.  Saul said to his own son, “You stupid son of a whore!  Do you think I don’t know that you want him to be king in your place, shaming yourself and your mother?  As long as that son of Jesse is alive, you’ll never be king.  Now go and get him so I can kill him!”  But Jonathan pleaded, “Why should he be put to death?  What has he done?”  Saul got even more upset with the questions and hurled his spear at Jonathan, intending to kill his own son.  With that, Jonathan finally realized that his father was determined to kill David and he was crushed by his father’s shameful behavior.

The next morning Jonathan went out to the woods, shot his arrows, sent the boy, yelled the statement to signal to David what had happened, and then sent the boy back to town.  As soon as the boy was gone, David came out from where he had been hiding, he bowed three times to Jonathan with his face to the ground, as a form of thanks for what he had done.  By this point both men were in tears.  They embraced each other and said good-bye.  Jonathan’s last words to David were, “Go in peace, for we have sworn loyalty to each other in the LORD’s name.  The LORD is the witness of a bond between us and our children forever.”

So what does this mean to you today?  A few things:
1.  God can grace you to see other’s true intentions.  Although Jonathan either could not see or did not want to see the evil in his father, David certainly did.  Unfortunately, many will smile in your face and then attempt to stab you in the back.  However, God can grace you to see right through the façade of others, discerning their true intentions.

2.  People’s true colors come out eventually.  What’s in you abundantly has to come out of you eventually.  It was only a matter of time before Saul exposed his true colors to Jonathan and everyone else, and the same is true today.  People may attempt to hide their true feelings about you, but sooner or later, the truth will come out.

3.  Don’t let others change who you are.  No matter how others feel about you, good or bad, do not allow the actions or feelings of others to change you.  Be true to yourself and your God.  Be yourself day-in and day-out.  This way, even when others change, you won’t.  If you are at peace with your identity in Christ — knowing who God made you to be — then you will not be moved by actions of others.  Said another way, you have the grace to be YOU.  Don’t let anyone cause you to operate outside of that grace.

Closing Confession:  Father, I thank You for blessing me to discern the true intentions of others.  While people may smile in my face, with full intentions of stabbing me in the back as soon as I turn around, I am neither fooled nor moved by their actions.  I am not fooled, because You reveal to me all I need to know, in order to run the race that is set before me.  And I am not moved, because their actions cannot hurt me and I refuse to allow their actions to change me.  When people deal with me in deceptive ways, I know that their true colors will eventually come out, and everyone will see them for who they are.  But before, and even after their true intentions are known, I am committed to being ME.  You have graced me to be ME and I declare that I will.  I refuse to allow the actions of others to get me outside of my grace.  I have the grace to run my race and I will do so.  No one can get me off course.  No malice, strife, ill-will, or attack can derail me from my destiny.  I know who I am, because I know whose I am, and I shall be the best ME I can be, all the days of my life.  I declare this by faith.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen!

This is Today’s Word!  Apply it and Prosper.

A Grace-Filled Story

This morning we continue our series “Grace that is Simply Amazing” and I feel led to tell you a story.  It is a story about a little boy who was the first of his family to be born in a new country.  His parents immigrated to the United States in hopes of walking through new doors of opportunity.  Two years after their arrival their bouncing baby boy was born.  But soon after the doctors told the boy’s mother that he needed a leg brace to ensure his legs grew properly and that without the brace the boy might grow up to walk with a limp.  Because the mother did not yet have her green card, she had to leave the country with the boy and head back to her native land when the boy was just five months old.  Doctors there told the mother that the boy did not need the brace, but she was concerned when at 13 months old he had never taken a step.  She and the boy’s grandmother kept praying and trusting God.  One day, after a trip to the store, she arrived at her mother-in-law’s house to find a crowd.  The neighborhood was bustling with something and they asked the boy’s mother to stand in front of the house, while the crowd held the little boy at the other side.  When they let him go the 13-month-old took off running towards his mother.  The first steps she ever saw him take were in the form of a sprint.  The boy never wore the brace again.

The next concern was that the boy’s soft-spot was not closing.  Although a child’s soft-spot commonly closes around 18 months old, the boy was 3 yrs. old and his soft-spot was still open.  The family was back in the U.S. by this point and the doctors gave the mother concerning news.  They said, “This may cause your son to be either mentally retarded or very bright.”  While today I believe that diagnosis might be bogus, back then the mother believed the doctors and she was once again very concerned about her boy.  Around this time she and the boy’s father divorced.  She was living in a foreign land and the boy was now all she had.

One day the little boy was playing outside when he ran after a ball into the street.  Before anyone could stop it a 1975 Lincoln Continental (built like a tank) hit the 3 yr. old.  He was hit so hard that he slid under a van.  The boy’s uncle pulled him from under the van and he had blood coming out of his ears, nose, and mouth; and he was unconscious.  The mother jumped into a cab with her unconscious and bleeding son.  She had already lost her marriage and it looked like she was about to lose her son.  She looked down at her seemingly lifeless son and then looked up to the God of her youth.  She called out to God and promised to GIVE GOD the boy if God would spare his life.  When she did the boy suddenly woke up.  Soon after a team of doctors performed 12 x-rays and ran a battery of tests, and were all completely baffled.  The doctors could see the blood on the mother’s and the boy’s clothes, but the little 3 yr. old had not lost any blood.  The doctors could not find internal bleeding, any bruises, any cuts, or anything wrong with the boy whatsoever.  They kept him in the hospital for three days for observation and he enjoyed ice cream and cool toys the entire time.  The boy sat there without a care in the world, and without a pain in his body.  The doctors released the boy calling it a miracle.

I could go on, but let me shorten the story by telling you this.  The boy grew up in New York City and he cheated death so many times that his friends dubbed him, “El Santo,” or “The Saint.”  I am the boy and it is clear that God was protecting me for my purpose.  I am not sure if my soft spot not closing had anything to do with the car accident, but I know the Lord was protecting me for His assignment for my life.  Not always because of my mother’s prayers, not always because I was so good (because I wasn’t), the Lord was working in my life by grace.  And guess what?  He still is!  Isn’t grace amazing?

So what does this mean to you today?  A few quick things:
1.  Before you were born God made plans for you by grace.

2.  All your life the Lord has been protecting you for your purpose, to fulfill His plan for your life, and He has been doing it by grace.

3.  You don’t deserve all God has done for you, and you could never earn it.  All you can do with grace is receive it.

4.  The more you think about God’s immeasurable grace, the more you will be amazed by it and by how much God loves you.

Closing Confession:  Father, I thank You for making plans for me before the foundations of the world.  You thought about me and made plans for me well before my mother met my father.  I was born on purpose and with a purpose.  And all my life You have been working both behind the scenes and in ways that are clearly seen, in order to protect me for my purpose.  You were there for me when I did not acknowledge You whatsoever.  You have made ways for me during times when I completely disrespected You.  Your love for me has never changed.  It has truly been unconditional, even when my acknowledgement of You came with all sorts of conditions.  Thank You Father for being so good to me.  You loved me, planned for me, blessed me, and protected me; not because I deserved it, but simply because of Your grace.  I could never pay You back and I know You don’t want me to even try.  So instead I commit to living out the rest of my days in full pursuit of Your purpose for me.  I chase after You and I am committed to finding, following, and finishing my purpose before I die.  Your investment in me shall not be in vain.  I will honor You while I am in the land of the living and You will get the glory out of my life.  That is my commitment to You Father!  I declare this by faith.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen!

This is Today’s Word!  Apply it and Prosper.