Have High Expectations of God

“I will…tell you…things you do not know.” Jer 33:3 NIV

In tough times we’ve a tendency to lower our expectations. As a result we end up settling for less than God wants. The Bible asks, “Is anything too hard for the Lord?” (Ge 18:14 NKJV). Now it’s easy to answer, “No!” But what you do next proves whether or not you actually believe that. Jesus said: “If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them” (Jn 13:17 NKJV). To walk in God’s blessing every day you must do what He tells you. And He may tell you to do something different! The problem is, we get attached to methods which worked in the past and keep going back to them. But by always looking to the familiar, you limit God. He’s much greater than any proven method, and He’s never predictable. His Word says, “Call to me and I will…tell you…things you do not know.” The Living Bible says, “I will tell you some remarkable secrets about what is going to happen.” What an offer! When God decided that Moses would lead the children of Israel out of Egypt, Moses never questioned God’s ability, he just questioned whether God could do it through him. What was God’s answer when Moses complained that he wasn’t an articulate speaker? “Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say” (Ex 4:12 NIV). God is neither enhanced by your strengths nor inhibited by your struggles. There’s more He wants to do through you than what you’ve experienced so far. So have high expectations of God and respond in faith to whatever He tells you.

Vitamins for Spiritual Health (6)

“Are you in health, my brother?” 2 Sa 20:9 NKJV

Never forget, you’re not home yet. The story’s told of an old steamship that pulled into Southampton harbor and the passengers got off. Helium-filled balloons rose into the air and the crowd went wild as a young Hollywood starlet walked down the gangplank to be greeted by her family and friends. The last person off the ship was an elderly man who had spent more than fifty years of his life as a missionary in India. All his earthly possessions were in a tattered suitcase he carried by his side. After getting to his room in a cheap boarding house, he knelt by his bed and prayed: “Lord, I’ve served you all my life. I’ve sacrificed everything to tell others the good news of the gospel and brought many to you. Yet there was no one to celebrate my arrival or welcome me home.” As he knelt there the voice of God spoke to him softly and said, “Son, you’re not home yet!” And redeemed child of God, neither are you! If God has blessed you with a nice house, thank Him and enjoy it. But don’t get too settled. At best, it’s only temporary accommodation. Paul thought often of heaven: “For I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better. Nevertheless to remain in the flesh is more needful for you” (Php 1:23-24 NKJV). God has something “far better” in mind for you. A great preacher once said: “It is our main business in this world, to secure an interest in the next one.”

Vitamins for Spiritual Health (5)

“Are you in health, my brother?” 2 Sa 20:9 NKJV

Never withhold because times are hard. The Bible teaches that those who set their mind on “getting” always lose, whereas those who set their mind on “giving” always win. The story’s told of a dog walking across a bridge with a bone in his mouth. When he looked down into the river and saw his reflection, he thought it was another dog with a bigger bone. So he jumped in to get it—and drowned. Paul dedicates two entire chapters in the Bible to the subject of money. Perhaps that’s a good answer to those who say, “All the church ever talks about is money.” Since money is congealed sweat, coined time, coined talent, negotiable you, it’s one way in which you can give yourself to God. It’s not the only way, but it’s a very important way. So Paul writes: “Remember this—a farmer who plants only a few seeds will get a small crop. But the one who plants generously will get a generous crop. You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. For God loves a person who gives cheerfully. And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others…Yes, you will be enriched in every way so that you can always be generous” (2 Co 9:6-11 NLT). Unless you practice generosity there’s no point asking God for more money. He doesn’t pour His blessing into pots, but into pipes; not into reservoirs, but into rivers that let it flow out. Getting the idea?

Vitamins for Spiritual Health (4)

“Are you in health, my brother?” 2Sa 20:9 NKJV

Never forget the law of sowing and reaping. God set in motion certain laws and they never change. One is the law of gravity. Another is the law of sowing and reaping. “While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest…shall not cease” (Ge 8:22 NKJV). This law works both negatively and positively. If you sow good things you will reap good things; if you sow bad things you will reap bad things. Consider parenting. Eli the high priest was not only called to be a role model to the nation, but also to his two sons. Now, he may have been a great success in ministry but he failed badly on the home front. His sons, who were also priests, enriched themselves by taking bribes. They even slept with women in the temple courts. Pretty shocking, eh? So what did God say? “I will judge his house…for the iniquity which he knows, because his sons made themselves vile, and he did not restrain them” (1 Sa 3:13 NKJV). As a result Eli’s sons were killed at the hands of their enemies, and when the news of it reached Eli he dropped dead. That’s the harvest law working negatively. But thank God it also works positively. Paul writes about it: “Knowing that whatever good anyone does, he will receive the same from the Lord” (Eph 6:7 NKJV). You say, “What does that mean?” It means that whatever good you make happen for others, God will make happen for you. So whether it’s a smile, a prayer, a gift or a helping hand, start sowing good seeds and you will reap harvests of blessing.

Vitamins for Spiritual Health (3)

“Are you in health, my brother?” 2Sa 20:9 NKJV

Never allow life’s disappointments to make you cynical. If you live long enough people will disappoint you, including your family. Even spiritual leaders will let you down! Paul wrote: “We wanted to come to you—even I, Paul, time and again—but Satan hindered us” (1 Th 2:18 NKJV). Did you think Satan was going to send you a congratulatory telegram because you decided to serve the Lord? Not a chance! The walk of faith is one of delight—and difficulty. When you signed on for the first, you signed on for the second. Paul was on a sixteen-month missionary journey—one of miracles and church building. But he ended up in prison on trumped-up charges and was left to rot there. How did he respond? “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!” (Php 4:4 NKJV). You say, “How can somebody rejoice in prison?” When you see your disappointment as God’s appointment, you start to understand its purpose. Paul had books to write that would change the world, so God needed to get him “off the road.” Listen to what he wrote from prison: “I want you to know…that everything that has happened to me here has helped to spread the Good News. For everyone here, including the whole palace guard, knows that I am in chains because of Christ. And because of my imprisonment, most of the believers here have gained confidence and boldly speak God’s message without fear” (Php 1:12-14 NLT). Hidden in some of your biggest disappointments, you will find treasures of truth that literally transform your life and your future.

Christ Is Risen

Easter is about life. This message, Christ is Risen, takes a look at just how precious that life is. For a moment, death was powerful and the grave was a hopeless pit. But then came the dawning of the third day!

Connection Questions
  1. What does the resurrection mean to you?
  2. How do you imagine the disciples felt when they realized their leader was dead?
  3. In John 11:25-26 Jesus says, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die.” What does He mean by this?
  4. What can we speculate about our own glorified bodies based on Jesus’ experience on earth after He resurrected?
  5. What are some examples of how the disciples were changed after seeing Jesus resurrected?
  6. Christ defeated death so that we can be forgiven and live eternally. He was victorious so that we too, can be victorious. Do you feel like there is anything defeating you that you want victory over today?
Conclusion

It says in Hebrews 9:22 that without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sin. And we know without Christ’s resurrection, death would reign supremely. But praise God there has been both! Christ suffered for our transgressions and defeated death when He rose on the third day. Forgiveness and eternal life can be yours.

Connection Point

He is not the God of the dead, but the God of the living.(Mark 12:27)

From a CROWN OF THORNS to a CROWN OF LIFE! Because of Christ’s death and resurrection, a crown of glory awaits for us in heaven. But it all began with a crown of thorns. In Jentezen Franklin’s new 2-DVD teaching “KINGDOM COME,” you can discover the power of the cross and resurrection for your life! This set features two powerful messages — “Lily Among Thorns” and “Christ is Risen.” Available for a limited time.

Share your thoughts with us on Twitter and Facebook.

Vitamins for Spiritual Health (2)

“Are you in health, my brother?” 2 Sa 20:9 NKJV

Never take God for granted. Don’t become overly familiar with spiritual things. Samson did that and he paid dearly. After discovering the secret of his strength: “[Delilah] lulled him to sleep on her knees, and called for a man and had him shave off the seven locks of his head…and his strength left him. And she said, ‘The Philistines are upon you, Samson!’ So he awoke from his sleep, and said, ‘I will go out as before, at other times, and shake myself free!’ But he did not know that the Lord had departed from him. Then the Philistines took him” (Jdg 16:19-21 NKJV). It’s a story of tragedy. Samson was born to lead Israel to victory. But instead he gave in to his lowest impulses, consorted with the enemy and thought he could get away with it. Listen to him: “I will go out as before, at other times.” But this was one time too many. His disobedience hadn’t robbed him of his supernatural strength before, but it did this time. He crossed a line and ended up losing his sight, his strength, his liberty, his credibility, and his usefulness. Eventually he died a prisoner of the Philistines. You say, “Today’s devotion sounds a bit harsh.” No, it’s protective! The Bible says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Pr 9:10). When you persist in disobeying what you know God has told you to do and think you can escape the consequences, you’re headed for trouble. Repent, get right with God and get back on track while you still can.

Vitamins for Spiritual Health (1)

“Are you in health, my brother?” 2Sa 20:9 NKJV

The principles of God’s Word work like spiritual vitamins. For the next few days let’s look at some: Never excuse in yourself what you accuse in others. King David did that. In confronting him over his sin with Bathsheba, Nathan the prophet told David a story about two men. One had many cattle; the other had only one lamb. When a guest came to the rich man’s house for dinner, he took the poor man’s lamb. “David’s anger was greatly aroused against the man, and he said…‘the man who has done this shall surely die! And he shall restore fourfold for the lamb…because he had no pity.’ Then Nathan said to David, ‘You are the man!’” (2Sa 12:5-7 NKJV). Nathan continued: “Thus says the Lord God of Israel…I gave you your master’s house and your master’s wives…And if that had been too little, I also would have given you much more!…You have killed Uriah [Bathsheba’s husband]…with the sword; you have taken his wife to be your wife…Now therefore, the sword shall never depart from your house’” (vv. 7-10 NKJV). David didn’t know it, but he pronounced his punishment with his own lips: “He shall restore fourfold.” And David did. First, the child he fathered with Bathsheba died. Second, his son raped his daughter, and he didn’t have the moral authority to deal with it. Third, Absalom, the beloved son destined to inherit his throne, fomented war and died at the hands of his own people. Fourth, civil war broke out in Israel and thousands of people died as a result. The lesson is clear: never accuse in another what you excuse in yourself.

Wait and You’ll Experience God’s Best

“God…will fulfill his purpose for [you].” Ps 57:2 NLT

If you’ve been praying for God to send you the right partner, or for a better job, or to change the heart of a rebellious kid, remember, whether He changes the situation or changes you, He “will fulfill his purpose for [you].” God sees the big picture, and He loves you so much that He works out “all things for good in your life” (See Ro 8:28). One author writes: “It’s hard to make sense of life’s challenges when you’re in the middle…you’re too tired, your perspective’s limited…you don’t have the strength or vision to do this on your own…‘Trust the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding’ (Pr 3:5 GWT) means letting go of floundering attempts to manipulate people, circumstances, or timing…and returning the reins to the One who knows the way. Think about it; if you knew what you were doing, would you be in this mess? We talk about waiting on God. But He also waits on us…until we’re ready to receive…until we appreciate what we’re asking for…until we’ve made sufficient preparations in our heart…until we’re free from resentment and discontent…until our maturity level is appropriate and our understanding elevated…Sometimes He waits until we think He’s forgotten us just to test and grow our faith…Remember, ‘With the Lord a day is like a thousand years’ (2 Pe 3:8 NIV). Eternity is His backdrop…and He can solve a problem in a minute, or in two generations.” Isaiah says, “The Lord longs to be gracious to you…Blessed are all who wait for him!” (Isa 30:18 NIV). Wait! Don’t get ahead of God and you’ll experience His best.

Bearing Fruit

“I chose you…to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last.” Jn 15:16 NIV

Before leaving this world Jesus took His disciples aside to prepare them for the problems they would face after He was gone: “I am the vine; you are the branches…apart from me you can do nothing…I chose you…to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last” (vv. 5,16 NIV). Here Jesus teaches us two important things: (1) You only discover who you are, in relationship to Christ. “Apart from me you can do nothing.” When you forget that, you end up trying to do things only God can do, like solving your problems your own way, or promoting yourself through clever strategies. You’re not blessed in any endeavor because of your performance; you’re blessed because of your connection to Christ. Unless you understand that, you’ll waste your time chasing people who have no more power than you do. Your strength and success are in Christ, the Vine, so stay connected! (2) Before you get the fruit that remains, you lose the fruit that’s temporary. “He cuts off every branch that…bears no fruit” (v. 2 NIV). You can be a good branch, connected to a good vine, bearing good fruit, and suddenly God starts cutting back certain things in your life. Things you thought would always be there are taken away; now it feels like you’re going backwards. It takes faith to believe that God would permit you to lose what you’re proud of, and what you draw your security from in order to give you something better—fruit that lasts, enduring success. So, difficult though it may be, let it go. God has something better in mind for you.

Weigh Yourself on These Scales!

“Faith without deeds is dead.” Jas 2:26 NIV

One day a man trying to lose weight stepped on the bathroom scales. His wife asked, “How are you doing?” He replied, “Okay, just one problem; according to these scales I ought to be eight inches taller.” When it comes to demonstrating true discipleship, James puts us all on the scales: (1) When it comes to feeding the hungry: “Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, and you say, ‘Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well’—but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do? So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is…useless” (vv. 15-17 NLT). (2) When it comes to loving people and treating them with respect: “Suppose someone comes into your meeting dressed in fancy clothes and expensive jewelry, and another comes in who is poor and dressed in dirty clothes. If you give special attention and a good seat to the rich person, but you say to the poor one, ‘You can stand over there, or else sit on the floor’—well, doesn’t this discrimination show that your judgments are guided by evil motives?” (vv. 2-4 NLT). (3) When it comes to caring for the needy: “Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress” (Jas 1:27 NLT). Get your doctrine out of the deep freeze! Take your theology off the drawing board and start using it in a practical way. Come on—weigh yourself on these scales.

Salvation

“What the law was powerless to do…God did by sending his own Son.” Ro 8:3 NIV

The Bible says: “A certain ruler asked Him, saying, ‘Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?’ So Jesus said…‘Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.’ But when he heard this, he became very sorrowful, for he was very rich” (Lk 18:18-23 NKJV). This man had already achieved the three P’s of success: power, prosperity, and prestige. He was a bottom-line guy: “What must I do?” Even the way he worded the question suggests he thought he could get eternal life the way he’d gotten everything else—by self-effort. He mistakenly assumed that heaven was just a payment away, but it’s not. Only a cold-hearted God would sell salvation to those who can afford it. That’s a hard concept to grasp since we’re rewarded for our performance. But just as you wouldn’t impress Picasso with your crayon sketch, so your character and good works don’t qualify you for heaven. Eternal life costs more than you can afford. That’s why you don’t need a résumé, you need a redeemer. Money wasn’t this man’s problem, self-sufficiency was. It wasn’t his income that kept him out of God’s kingdom, but his ego. And it’s not just the wealthy that have difficulty grasping this; so do the educated, the strong, the good-looking, the popular, and even the religious. To receive salvation you must first acknowledge that you’re spiritually bankrupt, your cupboard bare and your reputation worthless. You can’t approach God demanding justice—you can only come pleading for mercy. And if you come today, that’s what you’ll get!

What it Means to Serve (3)

“Serve the Lord with gladness.” Ps 100:2

Paul writes: “When people commend themselves, it doesn’t count for much. The important thing is for the Lord to commend them” (2Co 10:18 NLT). If your self-worth is based on anything other than God’s approval, you won’t serve with the right motives. Insecure people worry about how they’ll be perceived by others. They hide their weaknesses beneath layers of protective pride. The more insecure you are, the more you need people to serve you, and the more you work for their acceptance. One Bible scholar writes: “In order to be of service to others we must die to them; that is, we have to give up measuring our meaning and value by the yardstick of others…Thus we become free to be compassionate.” Your service should not be based on the response of those you are serving, but on obedience to God alone. True servants of God don’t insist on having lofty titles. If their job description calls for it, they wear that badge with humility. Paul, the greatest of the apostles, wrote: “You may brag about yourself, but the only approval that counts is the Lord’s approval” (v. 18 CEV).

If anybody had a chance to name-drop, it was James the half brother of Jesus. What credentials; imagine growing up with Jesus as your brother! Yet he simply referred to himself in Scripture as “a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ” (Jas 1:1). Your service to Christ should be both your job and your joy: “Serve the Lord with gladness.” Can you imagine what would be accomplished if we all got serious about our role as servants—and did it joyfully?

Lily Among Thorns

Jesus looked at a world without hope, without salvation and offered Himself as redemption. He was the lily of the valleys … but He became a lily among thorns. He could have been crowned king but instead, was crowned with our iniquities. Because He lives today, we too can rise tall above the thorns of this life and be transformed into something beautiful.

Connection Questions
  1. Think about the contrast between thorns and lilies. What words would you use to describe each?
  2. Does this help you see how, as a Christian, you should be like a lily among thorns?
  3. The enemy tries to use thorns in life to send us negative messages. What’s the message God wants you to hear?
  4. What are the 5 traits of the lily that we can liken to Christ?
  5. The bible teaches, “if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection” (Rom 6:5). Take a minute this Easter season to discuss what His resurrection means to you?
Conclusion

We live in a broken world. There will be thorns. Even Jesus chose to navigate through the troubles of this world rather than escape them. But ultimately He overcame and because of that, so can we!

Connection Point

I am the rose of Sharon, and the lily of the valleys. As the lily among thorns, so is my love among the daughters (Song 2:1-2).

From a CROWN OF THORNS to a CROWN OF LIFE! Because of Christ’s death and resurrection, a crown of glory awaits for us in heaven. But it all began with a crown of thorns. In Jentezen Franklin’s new 2-DVD teaching “KINGDOM COME,” you can discover the power of the cross and resurrection for your life! This set features two powerful messages — “Lily Among Thorns” and “Christ is Risen.”

Share your thoughts with us on Twitter and Facebook.

What it Means to Serve (2)

“Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.” Php 2:5 NIV

Paul wrote: “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant” (vv. 5-7 NIV). In order to serve God you must focus on others rather than yourself. Much of what we do is self-serving. We serve to be admired, or to achieve our own goals. Some of what we do is more manipulation than ministry. We’re really thinking about ourselves and how noble and wonderful we are. We even use serving as a bargaining tool: “God, I’ll do this for you if you’ll do that for me.” No, true servants don’t use God for their purposes, they let God use them for His. God is always more interested in your attitude than your achievements. King Amaziah lost God’s favor because “He did what was right in the sight of the Lord, yet not with a true heart” (2Ch 25:2 NRS). Self-forgetfulness is a daily struggle, a lesson we must learn over and over. You can measure your servant’s heart by how you respond when others treat you like a servant. How do you react when you feel taken for granted, bossed around, or treated as an inferior? Jesus said, “If someone takes unfair advantage of you, use the occasion to practice the servant life” (Mt 5:41 TM). You say, “It’s not fair. I keep giving to this person but they never give back.” Just keep serving, knowing “the Lord will reward everyone for whatever good he does” (Eph 6:8 NIV).

What it Means to Serve (1)

“Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.” Jn 13:8 NIV

Jesus “took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist…poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped round him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, ‘Lord, are you going to wash my feet?’…Jesus answered, ‘Unless I wash you, you have no part with me’…When he had finished…he put on his clothes and returned to his place. ‘Do you understand what I have done for you?’ he asked them…I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master’” (vv. 4-16 NIV). Observe two things Jesus taught: (1) In order to serve God, you must serve others. When Peter objected, Jesus said, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.” To play your part in God’s plan you must put others first. What you’re doing right now may enrich you personally, but are you serving others and pleasing God? (2) When it comes to serving, nothing should be beneath you. Can you picture it? Jesus, who was God, stooping to wash the lowest, dirtiest and smelliest part of the body. Keep that picture firmly in mind next time you’re asked to do something you don’t want to do, or something you think is “beneath you.” Christ saw so much value in the least, the lost, the last and the lowest, that He came to redeem them. And today He wants us to go out of our way to serve one another.

Try to Be More Understanding

“Be kindly affectionate to one another.” Ro 12:10 NKJV

Often the reason a relationship fails is not because of a difference of opinion, but a lack of understanding. Why aren’t we more understanding? For three reasons: (1) Selfishness. Somebody quipped, “There’s two sides to every question—as long as it doesn’t concern me personally.” Paul writes: “Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another.” (2) Fear. Prejudice is often the fear of what we’re unwilling to try and understand. When it comes to new ideas you’ve two options: open your mind and grow, or reject them and stay the same size. We tend to compare what we don’t understand with what we think we do—like the folks who told Columbus the earth was flat. When it comes to building relationships you’ve got to be willing to do what you’ve not yet done. (3) Differences. It takes more than one color to make a rainbow and one musician to make an orchestra. When you take time to appreciate the differences in people, you discover we all share the same hopes and fears. Harry Truman said, “When we understand the other fellow’s viewpoint and what he’s trying to do, nine times out of ten he’s just trying to do right.” Two of our most common problems are “gift-envy” and “gift-projection.” One happens when we compare our talents with others and feel inferior. The other happens when we expect others to feel equally passionate about what we do. The Bible says, “There are different kinds of service…but we serve the same Lord” (1Co 12:5 NLT).

He Showed Them His Hands

“Jesus…showed them his hands.” Jn 20:19-20 NCV

Dr. Paul Brand, a brilliant surgeon who worked at the Christian Medical College in Vellore, India, writes: “I work with the marvels of the hand nearly every day…But one time of the year holds special meaning for me…When the world observes Passion Week…I reflect on the hands of Jesus…those hands that had done so much good were taken, one at a time, and pierced through with a thick spike…Roman executioners drove their spikes through the wrist, through the carpal tunnel that houses finger-controlling tendons and the median nerve…maiming the hand into a claw shape, and Jesus had no anesthetic … Later his weight hung from them, tearing more tissue, releasing more blood. Has there ever been a more helpless image? The disciples, who’d hoped he was the Messiah, cowered in the darkness or drifted away.” But that’s not the last time we see Jesus’ hands. The Bible says: “When it was evening on the first day of the week, Jesus’ followers were together. The doors were locked, because they were afraid of the elders. Then Jesus came and stood … in the middle of them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ After … this, he showed them his hands…His followers were thrilled when they saw the Lord.” Dr. Brand adds: “For the remainder of his time here, Jesus chose [to minister through] scars in each hand. That’s why I believe God hears and understands our pain … he kept those scars as a lasting image of wounded humanity. He knows what life on earth is like because he has been there. His hands prove it.” So bring your wounds to Jesus today and let Him make you whole—body, mind and soul.

None of These Things Move Me

Most failure comes, not from a lack of talent or opportunity, but from a lack of determination. Babe Ruth said, “It’s hard to beat a person who never gives up.” And just like Rizpah proved in 2 Samuel 2 when she refused to quit, your determination will get the attention of the king. You may be fighting to save a dream, fighting to defeat sickness or fighting to protect your family like Rizpah. What you have to get hold of is determination that says, “None of these things move me.” Even when there’s no fight left in me, I won’t let go!

Connection Questions
  1. Rizpah’s story in 2 Samuel 2 is moving because her sons were not even alive yet she fought for their honor. Have you ever felt like you were fighting for something no one else saw the purpose in?
  2. Jacob was determined to get his blessing and wrestled in his pain. Can you relate to that experience?
  3. Jesus said to the gentile woman, “…great is your faith! Let it be to you as you desire” (Matt 15:28).
    • What obstacles did she face in getting what she desired?
    • What can we learn from this about being determined?
  4. When you feel like giving up, what will you remember to help you keep going?
Conclusion

The fact is, in this world you will face trouble. Following God doesn’t remove all the obstacles. You have to stand fast in your unwavering faith and have divine determination that whatever comes your way you can say as Paul did, “none of these things move me.”

Connection Point

“But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy … to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.” (Acts 20:24).

From a CROWN OF THORNS to a CROWN OF LIFE! Because of Christ’s death and resurrection, a crown of glory awaits for us in heaven. But it all began with a crown of thorns. In Jentezen Franklin’s new 2-DVD teaching “KINGDOM COME,” you can discover the power of the cross and resurrection for your life! This set features two powerful messages — “Lily Among Thorns” and “Christ is Risen.”

Share your thoughts with us on Twitter and Facebook.

The Blessings of the Blood (2)

“He has reconciled you to himself through the death of Christ.” Col 1:22 NLT

Observe: (1) You have been reconciled to God. God wants unbroken, intimate friendship with us, as with Adam in Eden. But sin made us enemies of God. “You who were once far away from God…enemies, separated from him by your evil thoughts and actions” (v.21 NLT). Yet He never stopped pursuing that relationship, sending Jesus to restore it. He “made peace by means of Christ’s blood on his cross” (v. 20), resulting in your reconciliation to God. The Greek word for “reconciliation” means “to be friends as we once were.” Now you can walk and talk with God as Adam did. Now God sees you as “holy and blameless…without a single fault!” (v.22 NLT). (2) You are the Lord’s redeemed. At the Jordan River John saw Jesus and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (Jn 1:29 NIV)—Jesus, “In whom we have redemption through his blood” (Col 1:14). The word “redemption” means “liberation from captivity by a ransom paid.” Not only are you purchased at the cost of Christ’s life, you are also adopted by blood into God’s family. (3) You are forgiven of all sins. “In whom (Jesus) we have…the forgiveness of sins.” How did He accomplish the total removal of all our sins? “Having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us…he took it away, nailing it to the cross” (Col 2:14 NIV). He wrote in His blood, “paid in full” across your outstanding bill of indebtedness to God, nailing your “canceled debt notice” to His cross. You are forgiven. You owe nothing!

The Blessings of the Blood (1)

“[God] has delivered us from the power of darkness.” Col 1:13 NKJV

History’s crowning moment occurred when “Christ died for the ungodly” (Ro 5:6). He didn’t just die for His friends and supporters, He died for people who despised Him. It was no quid-pro-quo deal where Jesus said: “I’ll accept you if you accept me.” No, it was a selfless, one-sided act of love. No conditions, nothing demanded in return. As a result, God “delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the dear Son.” Selah! Stop and meditate on the advantages you enjoy through Jesus’ blood: (1) You’ve been delivered. The Greek word Paul used means to literally rescue by drawing us to Himself. Your deliverance was a deeply personal event to Jesus. By His shed blood He drew you to Himself. The distance sin had put between you and God was reversed and you were “accepted in the beloved” (Eph 1:6). (2) You’ve been freed from the power of darkness. That “power” is Satan’s tyranny over those living under his control. Christ’s blood liberated you from the darkness, ignorance and blindness Satan uses to deceive and manipulate you. (3) You’ve been translated into the kingdom of God’s son. The word “translated” implies being transferred from one place to another. In Paul’s day superpowers like Rome would annex other nations and make them part of Roman territory. Often the conquered were better off under Rome, enjoying such privileges as safety, food, mail service, travel protection, etc. Christ’s blood transferred you into His kingdom to enjoy these advantages: guaranteed protection, abundant provision for all your needs, full status of sonship, and unlimited access to His throne.

Christ is Totally Credible (2)

“Jesus, knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, said … ‘It is finished!’” -Jn 19:28-30 NKJV

From the moment of His birth to the hour of His death, Christ’s life was predicted in detail by Old Testament prophets. He fulfilled about forty different prophecies during His lifetime. Statistically, the chances of that happening are about one in a billion! Why is it important to point this out? Because voices are being raised that question His virgin birth, His deity, His miracles, His resurrection, and His soon return. Evidently the same folks were around when Peter lived. He writes: “I will work hard to make sure you always remember these things after I am gone. For we were not making up clever stories when we told you about the powerful coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. We saw his majestic splendor with our own eyes when he received honor and glory from God the Father. The voice from the majestic glory of God said to him, ‘This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy.’ We ourselves heard that voice from heaven when we were with him on the holy mountain. Because of that experience, we have even greater confidence in the message proclaimed by the prophets. You must pay close attention to what they wrote, for their words are like a lamp shining in a dark place—until the Day dawns, and Christ the Morning Star shines in your hearts. Above all, you must realize that no prophecy in Scripture ever came from the prophet’s own understanding, or from human initiative. No, those prophets were moved by the Holy Spirit, and they spoke from God” (2Pe 1:15-21 NLT).

Christ is Totally Credible (1)

“Jesus, knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, said…‘It is finished!’” -Jn 19:28-30 NKJV

What made great intellectuals like C.S. Lewis commit their lives to Christ? His credibility! Observe some of the Old Testament prophecies Jesus fulfilled during His lifetime: (1) He would enter into Jerusalem on a donkey: “Behold, your King…He is just and having salvation, lowly and riding on a donkey” (Zec 9:9 NKJV). (2) He would be betrayed by a friend: “My own familiar friend in whom I trusted…has lifted up his heel against me” (Ps 41:9 NKJV). (3) He would be sold for thirty pieces of silver: “So they weighed for my price thirty pieces of silver” (Zec 11:12). (4) They would gamble for His garments: “They divide My garments among them, and for My clothing they cast lots” (Ps 22:18 NKJV). (5) Not one of His bones would be broken: “He guards all his bones; not one of them is broken” (Ps 34:20 NKJV). (6) He would be buried in a rich man’s tomb: “They made His grave with…the rich at His death” (Isa 53:9 NKJV). (7) That He would be raised again from the dead: “You will not leave my soul in Sheol, nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption” (Ps 16:10 NKJV). John records: “After this, Jesus, knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, said, ‘I thirst!’” In full possession of His mental faculties, with His mind unclouded, He checked off the prophecies He was supposed to fulfill right down to the last one, and said, “It is finished” (v.30 NKJV). Christ—He’s totally credible, and you can trust Him!

You Can’t Do This Alone (2)

“They shall bear the burden…with you.” Nu 11:17 NKJV

You may be a great visionary, but you will not succeed until you learn to inspire others with your vision and transfer it to them. If you can’t do that, you are condemned to experience an ancient curse that was reportedly used in Romania: “May you have a brilliant idea, which you know is right, and be unable to convince others.” Now, while the ability to communicate is important in transferring your vision to others, it takes more than that. You must have credibility and conviction. People will only buy into your vision if you are sold out to it. Convincing others of the significance of your vision can happen only if you are convinced of its significance. That requires the right message, spoken by the right messenger, to the right people, at the right time, and in the right way.

Psychologist and author Dr. Larry Crabb describes this convergence, saying: “A vision we give to others of who and what they could become, has power when it echoes what the spirit has already spoken into their souls.” That power can convince people to join you in the pursuit of your vision, and greatly enhances your chances of success. There is an interesting mathematical dynamic in the Bible which states that one person can put a thousand others to flight, but two people can put ten thousand others to flight (See Dt 32:30). Yes, the Scriptures teach the power of synergy. When you get the right people involved, plus the blessing of the Lord, you’ll accomplish more than you ever dreamed possible.

I Can’t Do This Alone (1)

“I am not able to bear all [this] alone.” Nu 11:14 NKJV

One day Moses told God that the job was too big for him. So God told Moses to find seventy men with leadership ability. Then He said: “I will take of the Spirit that is upon you and will put [it] upon them; and they shall bear the burden…with you” (v.17 NKJV). Understand this: you will never fulfill your dream as long as you are unable or unwilling to get others to buy into it. Don’t think that because your dream is worthwhile, people will automatically line up to be part of it. It doesn’t work that way. The same dream that will bless you, can bury you if you don’t surround yourself with the right people. Moses said, “I am not able to bear all these people alone, because the burden is too heavy for me. If You treat me like this, please kill me here and now” (vv. 14-15 NKJV). Don’t wait till you’re on the verge of a nervous breakdown or your family is falling apart before you reach for help.

When God calls someone He always calls others to stand with them. So start looking around you. You may need just one person, or you may need many. Indeed, the greater your dream, the greater your team must be. But here’s the good news: the size of your dream determines the size of the people who will be attracted to it. If you have a big dream, you have even greater potential for good people to help you. What you need to do is connect with them, invite them in, transfer the vision and then turn them loose.

Irina – Chicago

A little over a year ago, I was fasting asking the Lord to bless us with more children. My son was 3, and I visited several doctors asking to test me for possible infertility. One day, during this fast, the doctor’s office asked me to stop by their office to retake some blood test. My husband and my son were with me. As we were leaving the clinic, a lady sitting by the exit in the waiting room told us that we were going to have a daughter soon. She said it 3 times. When I asked her why she was saying it, she told us that she was fasting and God gave her this knowledge. I had tears in my eyes when I saw that she was holding the fasting book written by Pastor Franklin. We both were fasting along with your church here in the Chicago land area. I am almost 4 months pregnant now, with a girl. Please join us in our prayer asking God to bless our family very richly with this child that she will be healthy, godly, and beautiful. Praise be to God for answering our prayers!!!

It’s About Him – Not You

“This work had been done with the help of our God.” Ne 6:16 NIV

After scoring a goal for his team, a big, rugged linebacker started dancing and beating his chest as if to say, “Look at me, I’m the greatest.” Then the ball changed hands and the opposing team ran it back on the ensuing kickoff, eighty yards for a touchdown. But unlike his opponent, the kick-returner offered up a quick “Thank You, God” before turning to celebrate with his team. Now meet another team player, Nehemiah, the king’s royal cup bearer. When he heard about Jerusalem’s broken-down walls, he set aside his own problems and focused on the nation’s. Nehemiah was so burdened for the city where his forefathers were buried that he “wept…mourned…and prayed before…God” (Ne 1:4 NIV). He remembered his roots, and reminded God of His covenant with His people by, in essence, praying: “I know who You are, God, and I know who we are. Your people have rejected You, but we’re coming back and You can give us success.” God honored Nehemiah’s prayers and Jerusalem’s walls were rebuilt in fifty-two days, causing the enemy nations who heard, to lose “their self-confidence, because they realized this work had been done with the help of our God.” When God looks for a leader, He knows the kind of man and woman He can count on. He knows that a leader who’s a team player can turn weakness into strength, obstacles into stepping stones, and disaster into triumph. You may not see yourself as a leader per se, but people watch you every day. The question is, do they know Who you are following? And that it’s about Him—not you?

Stop Shortchanging your family

“The years…pass quickly, and then we are gone.” Ps 90:10 NCV

Eileen Silva Kindig writes: “We talk about lack of time … when what we lack is backbone to take responsibility for how we spend it … Instead of coming home, we’re escaping to the office and assembly line to get away from household chores, childcare, and the demands of relationships … work gives us a buzz. Besides money and freedom, it provides the satisfaction of a job well done, an outlet for creativity, breezy, low-demand camaraderie, and intellectual stimulation … All this may be keeping us financially afloat … but the less time we spend with family, the messier our home life gets.” Time is so precious that God gives it to us a moment at a time. “The years … pass quickly, and then we are gone.” So what will you have to look back on? Hours spent working overtime or hours spent with your loved ones?

Kindig recommends seven things: (1) Remember who’s in charge. Manage your time, don’t let it manage you. Think through commitments before you make them. Decide what’s important. The urgent seldom is. (2) Schedule in reverse. Put your real priorities on the calendar first, then add the rest. (3) Drop one thing from your schedule; for example, spending two afternoons less a month volunteering at the Boosters’ Club frees you to enjoy lunch with your spouse. (4) Be, rather than do. Think. Pray. Relax in a chair. (5) Get your spouse’s perspective on how you’re spending your time, and what may be stealing it. (6) Be honest about your limitations. You can’t manufacture time; we all get the same amount. (7) Keep a list of your commitments by the phone so you think twice before adding to it.

How badly do you want it

“You have great faith! Your request is granted.” Mt 15:28 NIV

Matthew records: “A Canaanite woman … came to him, crying out, ‘Lord … My daughter is suffering terribly from demon-possession’ … He answered, ‘I was sent only to … Israel … It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to their dogs.’ ‘Yes, Lord,’ she said, ‘but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.’ Then Jesus answered, ‘Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted’” (vv. 22-28 NIV).

This Gentile woman was an outsider, yet she pushed through and got what comfortable insiders often miss. Talk about hurdles! First, Jesus refused to answer her. Next, He said, “What I have is only for the Jews.” Finally He said, “It wouldn’t be right to give the children’s bread to dogs.” Most of us would have walked away offended. Not her! She cried, “Have mercy on me.” She wasn’t asking for what she deserved, she was crying out for what she needed! As a result, Jesus removed every obstacle and answered her prayer. And if you persist, He will do the same for you too.

In reality, this woman told Jesus, “Let the children have the bread, all I need are the crumbs.” Church folks become so complacent that they neglect the bread, waste the bread, complain about the bread, and sometimes don’t even come to church to get the bread. But desperate people pick up the crumbs and find life! They know that if there’s power in the loaf, there’s power in the crumb. And when a crumb is all you can get, a crumb is all you need. So what do you need from God today? How badly do you want it?

Do you love God’s Word

“Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.” Mt 24:35 NIV

One of the first books to come off the printing press when it was invented was the Bible. And it’s still the world’s best-selling book. An anonymous author has written: “It contains the mind of God, the state of man, the way of salvation, the fate of sinners, and the happiness of believers. It is a light to direct you, food to nourish you, and comfort to cheer you. It is the traveller’s road map, the pilot’s compass, the soldier’s weapon, and the player’s game plan. It’s a mine of incredible wealth, and a river of genuine joy. Its doctrines are holy, its precepts are binding, its histories are true, and its decisions are immutable. Christ is its grand subject, your good its design, and the glory of God its end. Read it to be wise, believe it to be safe, practice it to be spiritually healthy. Read it slowly, frequently and prayerfully. Let it fill your memory, rule your heart, and guide your steps. It is given to you in life, will be opened at the judgment, and be remembered for ever. It involves the highest responsibility, will reward the greatest labor, and judge those who trifle with its sacred contents.”

The Bible is “The word of our God which shall stand forever” (See 1Pe 1:25). Most of us respect the Bible; the trouble is we don’t read it daily and put it into practice. After hearing a discussion on various translations of the Bible, one man said: “I prefer my mother’s translation, because she translated it into everyday life.” Are you doing that?

Grace, Grace

Paul took his thorn in the flesh to the throne of grace and God did not remove the issue. God gave him grace to overcome and defeat the issue. You are facing real problems and real challenges, but there is something that can empower you to overcome. It empowers you to defeat mountains, defeat adversity and defeat the giants in your life. It’s the enabling grace of God. Learn more in Pastor Franklin’s message, “Grace, Grace.”

Connection Questions
  1. What are the four types of grace Pastor talks about in this message?
  2. How have you experienced God’s grace in your own life?
  3. Zerubbabel talked to his mountain. What do you want to say to the situation you’re facing right now?
  4. What did God say to Paul about the thorn in his flesh? (2 Cor 12:8-9)
  5. How does grace “help us in our time of need” (Heb 4:16)?
Conclusion

Do you know what it’s like to have unattained goals, unfinished projects or dormant dreams? In Zechariah 4 the Lord said to the prophet, “The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation … His hands shall also finish it.” There is something that can empower you to face your obstacles and to level the mountains like plains. It’s the enabling grace of God! Pastor Franklin shares a message this week that will shift your focus to the capstone, Jesus. Shout, “Grace, Grace” to that mountain! God will finish what he’s started in you.

Connection Point

“Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).

What shapes your life? Find out what’s shaping your decisions and influence everyday in Pastor Franklin’s new 2-disc set, Faith That Shapes Your Life, which includes his messages, “You Can’t Fake It; You’ve Got to Faith It” and “God’s Four Impossibilities.”

Share your thoughts with us on Twitter and Facebook.

If You Persist You Will Prevail

“Don’t…give up.” Gal 6:9 NLT

James Watt spent twenty years perfecting the steam engine. William Harvey worked for eight years to demonstrate how blood circulated in the human body, then for another twenty-five years trying to convince the medical establishment. Most of us underestimate the time it takes to achieve anything of lasting value. You’ve got to be willing to pay your dues. Cutting corners is a sign of impatience and poor self-discipline. The secret of every breakthrough is to follow through. Albert Gray says, “The common denominator of all success lies in forming the habit of doing things that failures don’t like to do.” If you find yourself continually giving in to your moods, you need to change your approach to doing things. To do this, you must set standards for yourself that require accountability.

Suffering a consequence for not following through will keep you on track like nothing else. Once your new standards are in place, work according to them, not your moods; that will get you going in the right direction. Self-discipline is a quality that’s won only through practice. Successful people have learned to do what doesn’t come naturally. They are willing to confront discomfort, distractions and doubt, and act in spite of them. R. H. Macy, founder of Macy’s department stores, failed at five different professions—whaler, retailer, gold miner, stockbroker, real estate broker—before he finally succeeded. When asked what sustained him through failure after failure he replied, “Purpose and persistence.” That’s what separates those who achieve from those who merely dream! It’s why Paul wrote: “Don’t get discouraged and give up, for we will reap a harvest of blessing at the appropriate time.”

Draw on His Power Within You

“To him who is able to do immeasurably more.” Eph 3:20 NIV

There are words in your Bible which have so much power in them that they’re more effective than any therapy. God can illuminate a Scripture that goes back into the past and heals your wounds, gives you direction in the middle of despair, and provides hope for the future. Satan will try to fill your mind with so much junk that you don’t have an appetite for God’s Word. That’s because he knows the Scriptures unmask him, and release the potential lying dormant within you.

Before Jeremiah rose to national prominence as a prophet, God told him two things: (1) “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you” (Jer 1:5 NIV). Your parents didn’t get the first look at you, God did. Nothing about you surprises Him. In spite of what you’ve been through, He hasn’t changed His mind about who you are or what you’re destined to become. (2) “Before you were born I set you apart” (v.5 NIV). You say, “I’ve always felt different.” That’s because you are. Celebrate it! Stop looking for acceptance where you don’t belong. You’re on a mission for God; that’s why the enemy has tried so hard to take you out. Once you understand that, your struggle will begin to make sense.

As you study God’s Word you’ll begin to experience the mind-renewing, life-changing power He’s deposited within you. “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.” So start drawing on that power today.

Hold Up Your Pastors Hands

“I will give you shepherds according to My heart.” Jer 3:15 NKJV

Here’s a sad statistic: Over 50% of those who enter the ministry leave it within ten years because of discouragement. Make sure that doesn’t happen to your pastor. Picture this: Joshua’s soldiers are down in the valley fighting the Amalekites. Above him on a hilltop sits Moses with his hands raised toward heaven. As long as his arms are raised the battle goes their way. But if you’ve ever tried to hold your hands up for long, you quickly grow weary and lower them. The moment Moses does that, the battle goes against Israel. So Aaron and Hur hold up his arms and the tide turns in favor of Israel. It wasn’t just Joshua’s ability to fight, it was Moses’ ability to hold up his arms that won the day. Aaron and Hur kept a leader from fainting so an entire nation could be saved.

God said, “I will give you shepherds according to My heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding.” If God has given you a pastor who loves, leads and feeds you, support them. Hold up their hands! In the Old Testament tabernacle the candlesticks had to be kept burning day and night because their light represented God’s presence among His people. If a light so much as flickered, designated servants moved in immediately to refuel it and restore it to its original glow. Are you getting the idea? It’s your responsibility to make sure the light doesn’t flicker in your church or the fire go out in your pulpit. So pray for your pastor every day and be sure to encourage him every chance you get.

Hazel – Texas

I want to share with you that my 9 Year old daughter & I have been doing the 21 day fast with you, We’ve had highs & lows but God Came through tonight. He saved my husband tonite!! The day we finished fasting!! I’m so thankful & want to give God all praise & glory. Not only for saving my husband & showing me that he sees & hears my prayers, but also that as I try to lead my daughters in the ways of Lord that my 9 year old in her first experience of fasting that God saved her Daddy. What a way to remember your first fast.

The Law of Consequence

“Do not be deceived … A man reaps what he sows.” Gal 6:7 NIV

Your child says, “I didn’t mean to break the window.” You reply, “But you threw the rock that broke it, right? So you’ll pay for repairing it.” And when your child pays, he or she learns a principle that could save them from costlier consequences down the road. God, who is a loving heavenly Father, invented the law of consequence—for our benefit. Consider this:

(1) Your decisions determine the kind of harvest you reap. Adam and Eve got to choose whether or not to obey God, but they didn’t get to escape the consequences of their choice. “A man reaps what he sows.” You’re not the pawn of a punitive god, malevolent cosmic force, the devil, or luck. You have been given the power to choose right or wrong.

(2) Your decisions impact others. Hurting them may not have been your intention, but often it’s collateral damage you can’t avoid. After conquering Jericho, Achan stole some of the spoils, causing Israel’s defeat at Ai. Later Joshua challenged him, saying, “Why have you brought this trouble on us?” (Jos 7:25 NIV). Before you act, you need to consider who will get hurt by the fallout from your decision. Will it be your children, spouse, friends, church, etc.?

(3) Forgiveness may not cancel the consequences of your decision. God hears your confession, freely forgives you and expunges your record, but the harvest law may still remain in effect. “David confessed…‘I have sinned against the Lord.’ Nathan replied, ‘Yes, but the Lord has forgiven you…[but] your child will die” (2Sa 12:13-14 NLT). So if you don’t want to reap, don’t sow.

Establishing Landmarks

“This I call to mind and therefore I have hope.” Lam 3:21 NIV

You need to establish some spiritual landmarks in your life to remind you of the times when God intervened on your behalf. Someone said, “We’re not slow learners, just quick forgetters.” How soon we forget, or claim credit for things we had little to do with. When God parted the Jordan River for His people to cross over, He knew something they didn’t—that on the other side they would face some big challenges, including the City of Jericho. That’s when they would need “reminders.” So He told them to collect twelve stones from the Jordan and build a monument, so they and their children would recall His past faithfulness to them. Samuel did the same after Israel defeated the Philistines. He took a stone and named it Ebenezer, meaning, “Thus far the Lord has helped us” (1Sa 7:12 NKJV).

Before you give in to discouragement, doubt or defeat, stop and recall what God has done for you “thus far.” Like the day you met Jesus, or the times He guided you, or the doors He opened that you thought were permanently shut, or the scrapes He brought you through. Keep a record of these events and refer to it often. It will help you to remember His goodness when you tend to forget it. It will give you a sense of gratitude for yesterday’s blessings, and confidence to face whatever tomorrow brings.

“This I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (Lam 3:21-23 NIV).

Be Nurturing

“Love each other as I have loved you.” Jn 15:12 NIV

When Jesus said, “Love each other,” He used the Greek word for “love,” which means to nurture. Think of a mother and her child: her love is constant and her greatest desire for that child is that they should thrive. You say, “But isn’t that the kind of love people should get somewhere else, like at home?” No, beneath the façade, some of the people in your life desperately need to be nurtured. And they’ll be influenced most by those who make them feel best about themselves. One leader writes: “Many people are very close to my heart because they believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself. They listened to me without condemnation and loved me unconditionally, even when I wasn’t very lovable. Without them, I wouldn’t have possessed the hope I needed to keep pursuing my dream.” Now, you can’t be like the little girl who came home from church and announced, “I want to be like the man who stood up in the pulpit today.” Delighted, her mom said, “You want to go into the ministry?” “No,” she replied, “I want to tell people what to do!”

Hello! Some of us want to be authority figures so we can correct people and give them our so-called “constructive criticism.” Most folks don’t need a critic, they need a cheerleader. When you nurture them they will welcome you to speak into their life—and they will listen. Goethe said, “Correction does much, but encouragement does much more.” So think encouraging words and speak words of encouragement. “Anxiety in the heart of man causes depression, but a good word makes it glad” (Pr 12:25 NKJV).

The Word for “Worrywarts”

“Martha…you are worried and upset about many things.” Lk 10:41 NIV

Worry acts like a thief; it robs us of the joy God wants us to experience each day. Basically, all our worries come down to two things: that we won’t get what we need, or that we’ll lose what we’ve got. Martha was a “worrywart,” and it showed up when Jesus came to dinner. She worked hard in the kitchen while her sister Mary sat listening to Jesus. In frustration Martha asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself?” (v. 40 NIV). Worry makes us forget who’s servant and who’s Lord. Notice three things in this story: (1) Martha was busy serving, but she wasn’t enjoying it. No doubt she wanted to please Jesus; it’s just that she allowed her work for the Lord to become more important to her than her relationship with the Lord. Has that happened to you? (2) Satan didn’t take Martha out of the kitchen; he just stole her purpose for being there.

Satan doesn’t turn you against the church; he just makes you focus on yourself. He doesn’t take away your ministry, he just discourages you by saying you’re overworked and not appreciated. (3) God values your attitude more than your actions. “Do everything without complaining” (Php 2:14 NIV). A bad attitude spoils the gift you offer to God. Jesus said, “Martha…only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen…it.” (Lk 10:42 NIV). What did Mary choose? Sitting at the feet of Jesus. He always prefers the quiet devotion of a sincere heart to the noisy attitude of a complainer. Think about it.

Three Goats

Are you carrying goats on your back? Just like the unmistakable aroma of goats, the guilt of sin can linger long after the deed is done. Don’t let your mistakes keep you from experiencing God’s grace—your enemy wants nothing more. Satan brings condemnation but the Holy Spirit brings conviction. In Three Goats, you’ll learn how to leave those goats at Calvary and embrace the true freedom of Christ.

Connection Questions
  1. In 1 Samuel 10, what do the three goats represent?
  2. Have you ever let guilt & condemnation keep you from experiencing God’s grace?
  3. What does the Bible teach us about empathy? Read Romans 12:15.
  4. How do you think jealousy can separate us from the blessings of God?
  5. Pastor talks about the “aroma of the goat” in his message. Have you ever made a poor choice and experienced the “lingering” effects?
  6. How can we experience the freedom Paul talks about in Romans 8:1 and Jesus speaks of in John 8:36?
Conclusion

It’s hard to leave those goats at Calvary. It can be hard to forgive yourself for mistakes and bad choices. But Jesus said, “It is finished.” When you accept His forgiveness, you don’t have to keep paying for your sins. He who the son sets free is free indeed! (John 8:36)

Connection Point

“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:1-2).

Our faith shapes our life. Get Pastor Franklin’s new 2-disc set, Faith That Shapes Your Life, which includes his messages, “You Can’t Fake It; You’ve Got to Faith It” and “God’s Four Impossibilities,” and be inspired to cultivate a closer, more intimate relationship with God.

Share your thoughts with us on Twitter and Facebook.

Discipleship

“Whosoever doth not bear his cross…cannot be my disciple.” Lk 14:27

Brenda Goodine says, “My friend decided it was time to talk to her bright four-year-old son, Benji, about receiving Christ. ‘Benji,’ she asked quietly, ‘Would you like to have Jesus in your heart?’ Benji rolled his blue eyes and answered seriously, ‘No. I don’t think I want the responsibility.’” Now, you may not like Benji’s answer, but you have to admire his honesty. He wasn’t just thinking about the rewards of discipleship, he was thinking about the responsibilities it brings.

Brother Lawrence, a French monk, put it this way: “Let us think often, that our only business in this life is to please God.” Imagine asking yourself before each action, word, or attitude, “Is this pleasing to the Lord?” How different would your life be? How would your decisions impact the people around you? Jesus said, “Whoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.” Crosses were not made to live on, but to die on. Every morning when you wake up, go into the bathroom, look in the mirror and say, “Today, I’ve been called to die to self-indulgence, self-interest, and self-promotion.”

Tom Landry, coach of the Dallas Cowboys, once said, “The job of a football coach is to make men do what they don’t want to do, in order to achieve what they’ve always wanted to be.” And that is the essence of discipleship. Furthermore, Jesus said if you are not willing to do it, you “cannot” be His disciple.

At Home in God’s Presence

“Lord, through all the generations you have been our home!” Ps 90:1 NLT

At the end of a hard day it feels good to come home to a place you know—a place where you can kick off your shoes, run around in your bathrobe and not worry about what anybody thinks. And reverently speaking, God’s presence can become equally comfortable to you too.

With time, you can learn to go there for strength, for protection, and for guidance. God wants you to be at home in His presence and aware of His nearness at all times. We think of God as a deity to discuss instead of a place to dwell, but God wants us to see Him as the One in whom “we live and move and have our being” (Ac 17:28 NIV). When God led the children of Israel through the wilderness, He didn’t just show up once a day and then disappear. No, the pillar of fire was present with them all night and the cloud of smoke was present with them all day.

God never leaves us. Jesus promised, “I am with you always” (Mt 28:20 NIV). The Psalmist said, “The one thing I ask of the Lord—the thing I seek most—is to live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life” (Ps 27:4 NLT). “That’s nice,” you say. “I’d love to live in God’s house too, but I’m stuck in the real world.” No, just the opposite; you are just one decision away from your Father’s presence. You don’t need to change your address—just your perception. Wherever you go today, whatever you face today, remind yourself, “He is with me!”

Sonia – Georgia

My entire family fasted full three weeks this year. We have been trying to get pregnant for 3 years. Half way through the fast, we found out we were 6 weeks pregnant. Thank you for helping us guide us pastor.

You Are a Translator

“Whatever the Father does, the Son does likewise.” Jn 5:19 NRS

Jesus acted as a translator. He got His message from the Father, then translated it to those around Him. He heard a voice others were missing. And because He could hear it, He acted differently. Remember when everyone was troubled about the blind man? Jesus wasn’t. Somehow He knew that this situation would reveal God’s power (See Jn 9:3). Remember when everyone was distraught about Lazarus’ illness? Jesus wasn’t. Rather than hurry to His friend’s bedside, He said, “This sickness will not end in death … it is for God’s glory” (Jn 11:4 NIV).

How could a relationship be more intimate? Jesus had unbroken communion with His Father. How did He do it? He rose in the predawn hours to pray. He communed with His Father through the night while others slept. He turned from the incessant demands and expectations of others to be sure that His agenda lined up with God’s agenda.

Do you suppose the Father desires the same for you? Absolutely. Paul says that you have been “predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son” (Ro 8:29 NRS). Such a lifestyle is promised, but it’s not guaranteed. It comes at a price. Are you prepared to pay that price? John writes: “We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ” (1Jn 1:3 NIV). Only when you have spent time in God’s presence, when you have “seen and heard,” will you be able to talk about Jesus in a way that compels others to listen.

Fashioned to Perfection (4)

Before anyone laid eyes on you, God fashioned you to perfection. He gave you those eyes, that build, smile, and more. I love Exodus 4:11; God asked Moses, “So the LORD said to him, ‘Who has made man’s mouth? Or who makes the mute, the deaf, the seeing, or the blind? Have not I, the LORD?”

We live in a society who despises how they look and spend millions of dollars changing God’s handiwork. There is something wrong on the inside when you hate yourself on the outside. God made you just like you were supposed to be.

Don’t wait for a better version, accept yourself today. Quit saying, “I’ll feel good about me when I lose another 20 pounds.” Your whole life will go by hating yourself. Don’t waste another day wishing you were someone else. Be thankful for the life God has given you today!

I want to challenge you to start viewing yourself differently today. When you look in the mirror, remember that you are God’s child. He made you special. He fashioned your physical appearance, your many attributes, and even your weaknesses. He loves you and wants to have a personal relationship with you. Get to know him on a more personal level through prayer, Bible study, and fasting. The closer you draw to God, the more you will FEEL GOOD ABOUT YOU!

Fashioned to Perfection (3)

The devil has convinced many people that they are not worthy. He whispers self-criticism and self-despising thoughts into our ears. He wants to put in our heads that we will never be good enough. If you hear voices telling you that you are not righteous enough, not holy enough, and not valuable enough, they come from the enemy of your soul, Satan.

The enemy is out to destroy you. He wants to poison your life and the lives of those around you. And it begins with your self-image. If he can make you despise yourself and, despise others, God is just a short step away.

But God loves you. It is as simple as that. He lovingly created you and has amazing plans for your life. God wants you to feel good about yourself. He wants you to see the potential He sees in you.

Start giving thanks on a daily basis for what God has given you … including your physical imperfections. When you are weak, God is your strength. “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9). It is only in your weakness that you can experience the strength of God.

Fashioned to Perfection (2)

Don’t compare yourself with other people. The Apostle Paul advised us not to compare ourselves with others. “For we dare not class ourselves or compare ourselves with those who commend themselves. But they, measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise” (2 Corinthians 10:12).

If you try to be like someone else, you’ll always come in second best. No one is better at being you than you! Try to understand that you are made in God’s image. He made you unique, special, and with His purposes in mind.

Maybe you don’t have a new car or the best home on the block. Maybe you don’t have the job society says is worthy. But you are where God wants you to be! You are perfectly created and equipped for His plan for your life.

Remember that God made you. If you think about the shape of your nose or the color of your eyes, remember who formed you. Let the Psalmist’s words be your comfort:

“For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, And that my soul knows very well. My frame was not hidden from You, When I was made in secret, And skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, The days fashioned for me, When as yet there were none of them” (Psalm 139:13-16).

Fashioned to Perfection

Your relationship with yourself is the first criteria upon which your relationship with other people and, ultimately, God is based. If you want a good relationship with God, it begins with feeling good about yourself.

When asked what the first and most important commandment was, Jesus replied,

‘Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is one. And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these” (Mark 12:29-31 NKJV).

Of all the commandments and laws in Scripture, Jesus summed it up by saying, “Love God with all of your heart, mind, soul, and strength. “And love your neighbor …” But here’s the catch – “… as you love yourself.”

When you love yourself, then you’ll know how to love others and God properly. But loving ourselves can often be the hardest part. If you have a low self-image … if you don’t like who you are … if you constantly criticize yourself, it will impact all of your relationships.

Real Fans

Are you a spectator or a real fan? There are many things in life we enjoy from a distance. We’re happy spectators who enjoy a convenient, entertaining event. But when it comes to our faith, we’ve got to be more than that. In this message you’ll learn, as a believer, what it takes to be a Real Fan!

Connection Questions
  1. Real fans endure any kind of weather. What circumstances, hurts, or excuses have you allowed to hinder your relationship with God and your involvement in your church community?
  2. Real fans never miss a game. What gets between you & your time of worship? How often do you allow things in your schedule to come before church and your time with God?
  3. Real fans pay. Explain why you think it is important to cheerfully give your tithe and offerings?
  4. Real fans memorize the statistics. Why do you think it is important to memorize Scripture?
  5. Real fans are vocal. What kind of noise are you making for the Lord?
Conclusion

Real enthusiasm is fueled by passion and fervor. As believers, it’s time to move from being an indifferent spectator to a true, enthusiastic fan!

Connection Point

Oh, clap your hands, all you peoples! Shout to God with the voice of triumph!” —Psalm 47:1 (NKJV).

Our faith shapes our life. Get Pastor Franklin’s new 2-disc set, Faith That Shapes Your Life, which includes his messages, “You Can’t Fake It; You’ve Got to Faith It” and “God’s Four Impossibilities,” and be inspired to cultivate a closer, more intimate relationship with God.

Share your thoughts with us on Twitter and Facebook.

Obedience (3)

What are the requirements God has outlined for us? If you want to live a life of obedience in God’s eyes, you must:

Make prayer a part of your lifestyle. Stay in constant prayer and communication with God. Too many Christians wait until they get into trouble to pray. When your child is hanging out with the wrong people or when you get bad news from the doctor, you pray. Prayer is like compounded interest. If you do just a little every day, the impact will be compounded. When you commit to pray every day, you’ll be stronger and more powerful spiritually than you can imagine.

Reading the Bible regularly is a required assignment for a Christian. I believe it is more beneficial to pray 15 minutes a day and read your Bible 15 minutes a day than to occasionally go on a weekend long binge of studying God’s Word. It is that daily feeding from Scripture that will encourage you and strengthen you. With a daily dose of God’s Word in you, you will be empowered to resist temptation and move forward in God’s purpose for your life.

Commit to your family. God has called us to be loyal and loving to our spouse and to raise our children to know and love God. It takes time to do that. Don’t allow your career and pursuit of success to interfere with spending quality time with your family, taking your family to church, and having family prayer and devotions.

Be faithful to God’s commands. Look to Scripture for God’s clear mandates. Things like being part of the fellowship of believers, tithing, and more are the ABCs of maturing as a Christian. The more you read God’s Word, the more clear His commands become to you. A willingness to obey is the key.