Have you ever known that there is a change that you need to make in your life but you have absolutely NO desire to execute that change? Have you ever wrestled with the impossibility that you will be able to follow through or be successful in making the change you know is needed? Maybe you know that you need to start an exercise regime, but you’re completely overwhelmed by the prospect of all that is involved with getting to the gym, going out for a run or walk on a regular basis or of sticking out the commitment to be physically fit. Or maybe there is a habit that you know-that-you-know you need to quit but the thought of living without “…” is daunting and totally unappealing. You hate the habit but you NEED the thing you’re attached to, and it makes you almost panicky to think of life without it. Or maybe you want to add healthy choices into your life like better ways of eating, being a more connected friend or serving in your community, but the thoughts of what the cost will be and everything in your life that will have to adjust in order to make room for this new lifestyle is keeping your feet in the blocks.
If any of these life challenge screen shots describes you, I GET IT!! I have been there in each and every one of those tight squeeze places where who I am and who I know I am supposed to be are as far apart as the edges of the Grand Canyon. But I have a word of encouragement for each of us. The good news is that God knows that we cannot traverse that chasm in our own strength. He sets the vision for the next place that He wants to take us and He is fully prepared to get us there. The problem is that since we’re locked in these things called “Time” and “Space”, we get freaked out when the change doesn’t happen overnight. We would prefer that the moment the revelation hits that we should start to exercise, cut out sugar, stop cussing, turn our gossiping and critical mouth into a thankful and praising mouth, or start being faithful in reading the Bible and prayer, that the desire and the ability to execute would also be there.
But it doesn’t work that way. Unfortunately, I have found that the Preview of Coming Attractions comes way before either the desire or the ability. And even once the desire comes, it can be quite a while before the strategy or the ability come as well. And that can cause a lot of frustration (What is wrong with me? Why do I still fall short in this area? Why can’t I quit “…”? Why can’t I start “…”? and so on). But from this frustration is born the moment of choice that God needs from us. He will never shove His will down our throats. He simply pulls back the curtain and lets us see the better way but at the end of the day, it will always be our choice whether we want to go down the path that will bring life and freedom or remain in the place where we are.
On Sunday, August 20th, the Lord impressed this word on my heart and I shared it with our congregation.
I, the Lord your God, am a consuming fire. I am the God who makes days, times and seasons. And your times are in my hands. The times of all creation are in My hands. Make ready your hearts. Make ready your homes. Fill your lamps with oil, says the Lord. Fill your lamps with oil for yourself, for your families, for your neighbors, for those I am calling. There is abundant supply. Access the abundant supply. Not just enough for you, says the Lord, but enough to give away, enough to draw the nations. My heart, My heart is crying out for the lost and you are the answer. You are the healing. Your hands are my hands, says the Lord. Our feet are My feet. Where you go, I go. I send you, says the Lord, not in your own strength, but in My strength. You are not as you appear. You are Jesus on this earth and nothing, nothing can stand against My church. You go now. You go now in the strength of My Spirit and nothing can withstand you, says the Lord. There is no power in hell that can stand against you for all has been defeated and you are in Christ. You are Mine. And I have made you for this day, I have made you for this time. You are where you are because I have placed you here. And there are those you will touch, there are those you will speak to that you have been destined to minister to. You are My children and you have been marked with the seal of My Holy Spirit – My Holy Spirit. My Holy, Holy Spirit lives in you. You are My vessel. You are pure. You are refined. You are sanctified. You are marked with the blood of the Lamb and nothing will stop this mighty moving force that is My church, says the Lord.
- Do you believe that these are the last days as referred to by Paul in 2 Timothy?
- Do you know that you are the hands and feet of Jesus on this earth today?
- Do you know that God has placed you in the family, the job, the church and the neighborhood where you are so that you will be His representative on this earth? If we are His body, what would Jesus do for your family, your friends and your colleagues if He were here in the flesh? What problems would He solve, what healing would He bring and what truth would He convey?
Even though I was the one who delivered it, this word is challenging me in considerable ways. When the Lord says, ‘Get ready’, we better take note and get ready. When he tells us that we are able to accomplish our assignment and that nothing will be able to stop us, we need to quit making excuses. I am challenged and taking this to prayer. I am asking the Lord to help me make changes and evaluate my life properly. This life is not a dress rehearsal. We have one shot on this ball of water and dirt and I personally don’t want to abuse the privilege of carrying the presence of Jesus in my mortal body. I want to represent the Father and Jesus well and be His hands and feet on this earth. I believe you do, too. Let’s pray.
Father, we can do nothing without you, that we know. But we forget is that WITH You, we can do mighty things. You are waiting for us to get up and do those mighty things and live out the truth that it is no longer we who live but Christ who lives in us. Let us grow in devotion, in passion and in boldness to bring your goodness into this lost and dark world. You have prepared good works for us to walk in. Help us to see what to do and be obedient to do it. Help us to be relentless in cleaning the junk out of our hearts and minds so that your Presence can flow through a pure vessel. You are good and patient and we thank you for your mercies that are new every morning! Amen.
Thought for the day: Not only should we not FORGET all the Lord’s benefits, but we should REHEARSE all of His benefits OUT LOUD to ourselves and to others. Speaking about the benefits and blessings of the Lord keeps His presence at the forefront of our minds.
It’s too easy to lose sight of God’s greatness and goodness in our tiresome lives. It’s too easy to focus on everything that isn’t happening. So the Lord gave us a solution for our ingratitude and shortsightedness. In Psalm 103, He tells us to forget not all of His benefits. The opposite of forget is remember, right? But simply remembering His benefits in the solitude of our mind doesn’t create the atmosphere of God’s favor that speaking about His benefits does.
Have you ever been around a person who is talking about something great that happened to them? As they speak, you can see how they are reliving that situation in their minds as if they were there. The same is true for when we tell others about the things that God has done for us. As we relive His goodness and power, people can see that our God is real and moving on our behalf. A God who once was a theory in their mind now becomes the Living Wonder that He truly is.
And as far as it concerns us, I have noticed that when we lose sight of God’s benefits, we grow cold in our affection towards the Lord. But when we remind ourselves and others of what God has done for us, we refocus ourselves on the fact that the that God who poured out His benefits before can do it again.
So today, let’s open our mouths to our families and friends and tell them of the benefits that God has poured out. Ask the Lord to bring situations back to your memory and to give you opportunities to share testimonies of His care with people who need to be encouraged. You never know how the goodness that God has poured out in your life will bless someone else – and I KNOW it will certainly bless you!
And if you’re having trouble thinking of anything to applaud as a benefit, I recommend reading all of Psalm 103 where the Psalmist rehearses many of the benefits of the Lord. Those displays of God’s goodness, mercy and patience should never lose their luster in our affections; and if they have, repent for your hard-heartedness and ask the Lord where the root of bitterness has sprung up. He will show you, wash you up and restore the joy of your salvation!
Psalm 103:2 – Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget none of His benefits.
Psalm 116:12 – What shall I render to the Lord for all His benefits toward me?
- Can you think of a time that God poured out His goodness and mercy upon your circumstances? Can you recall times when you could imagine the worst, called out to God for rescue and then watched Him work His wonders on your behalf?
- Do you ever spend time in prayer just thanking God for what you have rather than asking for something more?
- Do you know people who are discouraged and who don’t believe that God would ever want to do anything good for them?
Today, let’s make it a point to thank God for all we have instead of asking Him for anything more, Let’s exalt the ways that He has blessed us and create an atmosphere of His goodness around us that others can draw from. Amen!
Life wounds every one of us.
Disappointments, betrayal, our own mistakes, and the selfishness of others can leave deep and lasting wounds. Oftentimes, we think we have moved on from the situation that caused the wound and feel that time has healed it. It’s just water under the bridge. But underneath the scar tissue of the memories lies a festering sore that has not healed as we thought. We are not even conscious of the wound’s existence or its effect on our lives. But if we are honest, we can see how in certain areas of our lives we are being held back from our highest and best. Something seems to always hold us back that little bit. We’re not experiencing complete joy. We’re not experiencing our complete potential and prosperity. We continue to fall back into old habits and negative mindsets. We continue to repeat the same cycles and mistakes.
So what causes these limitations and repeated ‘trips around the mountain’? I believe many times the issue is woundedness. Like an infection seeping into our system and causing widespread and varied symptoms throughout the body, the infection of woundedness keeps us from the complete freedom that Jesus purchased for us. The enemy has a goal and a plan: If he cannot take our eternal identity, then he would like nothing more than to see us lead an impotent life bound in misery until we die.
But God’s plan is the opposite. Jesus said “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10 ESV) That abundant life includes healing for our woundedness. I don’t know about you, but I realize where I am wounded by how I react when life presses on a certain spot. Just like a bruise that doesn’t hurt until I touch it, certain wounds seem to be gone until life presses on them. And then all of a sudden, I am keenly aware that I am not as healed as I thought! I know I’m wounded when I find my faith in certain areas becomes hard to walk out because of past failures and disappointments. Or when I find that my love walk is hard to maintain because of past betrayals. Or when my identity in Christ becomes hard to hang on to because of my awareness of my own personal failures and areas of unworthiness.
We have choices to make every day. And if the truth be told, we would love to make all good choices. However, we will make some good and some bad choices this very day. The issue is that when we have a choice to make, we don’t see all of the consequences. How can we see all of the ramifications of every choice when we are limited by time and by our experience? We can only visualize certain outcomes that are within our experience or imagination. The most impactful part about this scenario is that some choices carry huge outcomes for us, for our destiny and for others.
So it’s very important that we look back at the track record of our choices, and make changes going forward so that we can make better ones. If we want to get to the end of our life without regret, we need to steer a strong course and not let every wind or current have their way with us.
Here’s an example from the lives of my pastors regarding a choice that was intimidating to make but had powerful consequences. 16 years ago, my pastors took over our church as the Senior Pastors. They had been living in Massachusetts but our church is in Maine. Just before the transition, they had purchased their dream home in Massachusetts and were now commuting up to Maine to lead our church. This commute was difficult but doable. Then came the season that our church was faced with the need to expand. There weren’t many options on the real estate market for the type of building that we needed and we had a time crunch due to our lease ending at our current building. In prayer one day, my pastor, Pastor Denise, clearly heard the Lord tell her that if she would sell her house in Massachusetts and move closer to the church, He would provide land and finances for the church to build a building rather than purchase an existing structure. Pastor Denise told Pastor Ron what the Lord had spoken and they put their house on the market right away. Within one week of putting their house on the market, the land that our church is built on came on the market. It’s a beautiful plot of land on the top of a lovely hill with a pastoral view of farms below.
But the story gets better.
Stamina is an urgent need if we are going to finish the race that the Lord has set before us. Therefore, we must increase our stamina.
To illustrate what I mean by increasing stamina, let me use my friend as an example. My friend runs long distances and has a trainer. When she began training for her first marathon, her trainer explained to her that she would have to increase her stamina by 10% every week – and no more. Her trainer strategically increased her body’s muscular ability to handle longer distances by making gradual and consistent demands on her stamina. He gradually increased the distance that she would run and then the pace that she would run each new distance. His goal was to prevent her body from collapsing and becoming injured. Injury caused by overzealous training would backfire and take her out of the race completely. But by the same token, not pushing her level of stamina consistently enough would cause her to be underdeveloped when faced with the pressure of race day.
The same is true for us in the things of the spirit. We must consistently and strategically increase our stamina in the things of God. But let me say this: increasing stamina is never fun and it requires focus and self-discipline. It requires vision for the goal that we wish to attain. Do you wish to be closer to the Lord? Do you wish to hear His voice more clearly? Do you wish to shed unwanted habits or sin? Then increasing your stamina in prayer, in worship, and in directing your thoughts toward God will be key. Coming into His presence regularly and increasing the amount of time that you can focus your thoughts, your worship and your praise upon Him is critical for increasing our spiritual stamina.