LIVING ON PURPOSE
A NEW YEAR WITH UNLIMITED POSSIBILITIES
Do you believe that God intervenes in the affairs of mankind or do you consider the philosophy where He stands back and calmly watches everything happen? I admit that sometimes it seems like He chooses to not be involved but I’m convinced the Bible reveals His passionate desire to personally help and guide everyone’s life. The Deist concludes that the Creator allows each person to control their own destiny and the deciding factor in every event is associated with man’s deliberate decisions. This concept places mankind as the pilot and captain of his own fate and eliminates the need to call or depend on God. This is true to a certain extent according to freewill but there is another theological view which also declares that He is always available to respond as the Omnipotent Creator who is in total control and the ultimate authority of all things. I believe that God gives every person the choice to decide their own destiny, but this does not mean we are alone and drifting on the sea of random chance. There are several variations of these worldviews but in general, followers of Christ understand and accept that Jesus went to the cross to redeem and restore the fellowship between God and mankind with the intention of Him becoming a personal Lord and Savior to those who believe.
If your prayer life is like fighting a battle, then congratulations, you are perfectly normal. We have worthy spiritual intentions but our flesh is weak, and it’s very difficult to ask and believe for a miracle from someone we cannot see. Unfortunately, humans have a tendency to spend their time trying to figure things out on their own. It seems that men especially feel compelled to use their own strength to fix everything and manage their own problems because they believe it’s their responsibility to lead and provide. Human nature has a built-in desire to use intelligence and logic to find a solution even if it means settling for less and being wrong. I’ve personally seen individuals throughout their life always grab the bull by the horns and attempt to force their problems into submission instead of yielding to God and trusting Him to take care of their problems. What the follower of Christ needs to consider in every circumstance is that it’s much better to have God as our highest priority as we invite Him to intervene and lead us in the way He wants us to go. There is no shame or embarrassment to admit that we are unable to carry our burdens and that we desperately need God to help us every moment. The Lord perfectly realizes we are very limited in power which is why Paul proclaims that God can be strong in our weakness if we will just let it go and trust Him. “But He said to me, My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weakness, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me” II Corinthians 12:9.
It’s important to consider our spiritual life within our own conscience in order to advance in our spiritual relationship with God. I propose the first question we must ask ourselves is how much do we really care about God and our soul? Yes, of course, we have questions about the Bible and prayer, like how do we know if we are praying according to His will and does having more faith mean that we are more likely to receive our request? Just because people speak loudly or pray for long periods of time does not necessarily mean God listens to them more than someone whose prayers are quiet and short. So, what makes the difference? With prayer, it’s a matter of motives and the attitudes of our hearts. Matthew 17:20 reminds us that if anyone has even the tiniest amount of faith, they can move mountains and nothing will be impossible for them. Nonetheless, we are also reminded in Psalm 66:18 about the importance of purity and sincerity, “If I choose to harbor sin in my heart, the Lord will not hear me.” Wherever you are in your journey, you can talk to God anytime as He longs to be your best friend. This coming year is filled with unlimited possibilities and He is waiting for you to embrace Him as the Lord and Master of your life!
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LIVING ON PURPOSE
WHAT CAN WE GIVE CHRIST FOR CHRISTMAS?
Another year has flown by and Christmas is just a few weeks away. Many are excited about the holiday season while others are struggling and feel overwhelmed for many reasons. Most people love the magical stories and traditions that we are accustomed to, while a few of us have researched and discovered that much of our festivities and rituals have nothing to do with Christ at all. For those who would rather focus on a more spiritual meaning, we can look to the Old Testament which prophesied that a child would be born of a virgin and was sent by our Heavenly Father to provide salvation for those who would believe. The New Testament tells about the Messiah’s ministry and how He was born to die, however, He raises from the dead three days later and returns to Heaven as His sacrificial mission was accomplished. We rejoice in Luke 2:14 that proclaims, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men” but I’m apprehensive when Santa is promoted as having similar supernatural abilities as God and competes for all the attention.
If there was ever a reason to decorate the house and celebrate, it would be to tell the world that Jesus Christ is the Savior who wants to deliver us and set us free from sin. He is the Master of the universe, the Creator of all things and is forever the way, the truth, and the life. You see, it would have been much easier for God to send us a Hallmark card saying, “I care about you” but instead He demonstrated and proved how much He loved us and is now patiently waiting for whosoever to decide if they will live for Him or someone else. I’m personally convinced the temptation of commercialism distracts the world from the true reason for the season, and I guess this reveals I’m one of those grumpy Grinch’s who are commonly referred to as a party-pooper. If you’ve read, “The gift of the Magi” we see there is a difference between wisdom and being impulsive and that love is more important than things. Anyway, for those who feel more comfortable following the Bible account of why we celebrate Christmas, there is peace and comfort in knowing that Christ is filled with endless mercy and compassion for all people. His humble entrance into this realm which is referred to as the incarnation and along with His glorious resurrection are the two most preeminent events in the history of the world. “Joy to the world, the Lord has come.”
I was driving down the road the other day and noticed a person up ahead holding a sign. The first thing that came to my mind was that someone is being paid to advertise for a Christmas sales event or maybe it was a plea from someone needing financial help. As I came closer, I noticed the sign said, “Jesus loves you.” I respect anyone who would stand on the side of the road on a cold and windy Saturday morning and fearlessly relay a message about the love of God. This simple act of evangelism touches the deepest part of my heart and as I drove by I waved and smiled attempting to encourage and show my support all the while wondering why my burden for the lost is not this heavy. This brings to mind just how significant Jesus being born really is. We assume that everyone already knows who He is, but the idea of us becoming a catalyst for God’s kingdom includes spiritual sensitivity and not be embarrassed to share this gospel of His amazing grace. Since Christmas is generally associated with giving presents, may we remember there could be no greater gift to mankind than Immanuel (God with us). “And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son” I John 5:11. It’s difficult to imagine anyone walking away from this priceless offering of redemption, but sadly it happens much too often. I think about the precious gifts the wise men brought to the Christ child and wonder what can I give to the one who created everything? Among the lighted trees, packages, and delicious meals, let us consider the true meaning of Christmas as we humbly realize that all the Lord has ever wanted is our heart.
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LIVING ON PURPOSE
MUSTARD SEED MOMENTS
I have a dear friend that is going through some serious health issues and everyone who knows him are sending up a lot of prayers. He has a couple of text threads which include his family and friends and he sends out morning updates to let us know whats happening and how he is doing. He’s always been a meek person who would rather be in the shadows of a crowd instead of the limelight, so stepping forward and being the focus of attention is quite a stretch for him. He and his wife are some of the most generous and kind people I have ever met and in their love and genuine concern for others, it’s easy to see the character of Christ which guides and establishes their personalities.
Since he found out about the cancer, we’ve learned more about his life along with his thoughts and views. He enjoys cooking and its a real treat to visit with him during the day as we partake of his delicious creations and chat about the goodness of the Lord. Those who know him are aware that he not only appreciates all types of creativity, but he is an artist in his own right and gifted craftsman who loves to work in wood. With spending most of his life as a construction contractor, he is respected as someone who is a visionary and can build pretty much anything. I met him years ago when he owned and managed an art gallery here in our hometown and he encouraged me to bring some of my paintings and place them in the gallery which I did. We are also fellow troupe members in our local theater where we reenact old time radio shows from the forties and fifties. We have lot’s of fun and he is our sound effect person who also creates many of the innovative contraptions used in our performances.
In his daily text messages, I appreciate staying informed with his medical procedure adventures but I’ve also detected a much deeper insight that goes far beyond the gamma knife and chemo treatments. It’s interesting as he uses different metaphors pertaining to being as one with nature and much of it is basically associated with trusting God when our river becomes whitewater. You see, another one of his passions is kayaking and all of the adrenaline and excitement that comes with flying down an explosive rapids or calmly of floating down a mountain stream on a beautiful sunny day. He talks a lot about meeting us at the creek and the brightness of God’s grace and glory being so bright that we will need to wear sunglasses. He uses this analogy which is near and dear to his heart as this realm is something he is familiar with while trying to find stability in this new intimidating world of the unknown. As he holds tight to God’s hand, he is being used by the Lord to relay the sobering truth that includes taking a closer examination of our life and to realize what is really important.
In Matthew 17:20, Jesus said that a tiny amount of faith the size of a mustard seed could move mountains as our friend is constantly reminding us that with faith all things are possible and how he is embracing the peace and security of the Trinity. The other day he talked about personality traits and certain characteristics people will remember about us when our journey is over. If we are concerned with who we are and what God wants us to be, this subject is important no matter how old we are or the condition of our health. It’s true that eulogies are attempts to paint a picture of someone’s life and what they accomplished, but more importantly it’s about what type of person they were. I’m reminded of the story about Ebeneezer Scrooge and how he was given an opportunity to not only see a reflection of who he was while he was still alive, but he was also given the chance to try and make things right with God and all those around him. When facing fearful circumstances and considering how we will respond, we are grateful for God’s amazing grace and His unending love that desires our complete attention. Today is the day to start gathering our faith before the giants come knocking at our door and as our thoughtful friend keeps reminding us, “when they do appear, we can rest in God’s love and just breathe.”
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LIVING ON PURPOSE
RESPONDERS ARE THERE WHEN WE NEED THEM
There was a time when like many others, I did not have a clue about the extensive training and dedication of our first responders. As a certified fire chaplain, I now know that battling structure fires is only one of many complex and dangerous situations they encounter. The development of these courageous men and women comes not only with many hours of on the job experience, but also years of classroom instruction and continuing education. Just as in college, instructors teach with power point presentations and videos from all branches of State and Federal emergency management and along with the class work, there are weekly drills with hands on training. Creating practice fires and learning how to battle them or re-enacting an active shooter situation is just a small part of what they are prepared to face. Thank God for the tax revenue which provides state of the art equipment for crisis situations like exposure from hazardous and chemical spills, flood rescue with boats, natural gas leaks, and cave and mountain search and rescue just to name a few. Whether carrying someone over their shoulder while climbing down a ladder or using the hydraulic cutters and spreaders whenever there is a serious vehicle accident, they not only have the capability to extract victims but are also trained to administer emergency medical assistance that can save lives before they are transported. These are just some of the situations they face as there is not enough time or space here to list the many specialized responsibilities and resources.
Here is a true story about an EMT named Joseph who was finishing up a night shift when he walked into a doughnut shop for his nightly coffee, something he had done hundreds of times before. This time, however, his carbon monoxide detector, purchased only recently after the death of a local business owner, began going off. He asked the doughnut shop employee if he was feeling symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning. When the employee said he felt fine, Joseph was sure the device was malfunctioning. Even so, something told him to check again. After clearing the device, he asked the employee if he could walk back to the ovens. The device confirmed this time that the entire shop was flooded with Carbon Monoxide. Joseph quickly evacuated the building and called his dispatcher and amazingly prevented the death of the person who was working that night. Or what about a paramedic named Kimberly who was attending her daughter’s volleyball tournament when she noticed a woman in distress at the event. After assessing the situation, she ran around the corner of the gymnasium, where an automated external defibrillator was available and she managed to restart the woman’s heart and saved her life. This is the level of determination and perseverance it takes to become a highly trained professional.
When we think of modern day superhero’s our attention turns to the movies or sports, but our first responders are the real hero’s which rarely receive the appreciation and respect they deserve. Because of the time commitment alone, first responders make substantial personal sacrifices. Whatever activities, hobbies, or family time they enjoy often takes a backseat to their service to the community. I can truly say that before I was a part of the fire district, I did not have a clue to what went on behind the scenes. I’m not a firefighter myself, but I have attended many training exercises because I desire to witness what they do and develop relationships with them. The hard work and dedication these individuals demonstrate every day is nothing short of amazing. I’ve personally watched them crawl on their face carrying full gear including oxygen tanks through dark tight spaces and then pull 450 feet of heavy hose on a 90 degree afternoon. Each member learns to trust each other with the understanding that someone’s life depends on their success and this includes being responsible for those they are working with. Just like everything else in life, taking the job seriously and regular practice is critical to becoming good at what we do which is why so much time is invested with training exercises and practicing with simulated emergencies. I hope we never need them, but if we do, they are only minutes away. Here is what one veteran firefighter had to say, “Being a first responder allows us to intervene with perfect strangers on the worst day of their lives. Protecting and serving another person gives us a deeper perspective about the precious value of every life.”
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LIVING ON PURPOSE
UNTIL ONE HAS LOVED AN ANIMAL
My wife and I were raised with dogs and when Cheryl and I started our new life together, it did not take long for us to bring home our first fur babies, (a Scottish Terrier and a Wire Hair Terrier) and over the years we’ve had many other wonderful companions. James Cromwell is quoted as saying, “Pets are humanizing. They remind us of our obligation and responsibility to preserve and care for all life.”
Like many of you, our dogs are like our children and it’s truly a privilege to share our lives with these remarkable individuals. They are such a blessing with being loyal, protective, and a sincere desire to love us unconditionally. Therapy animals have proven they have a special sensitivity that can detect human emotions and even the condition of our health. When we make eye contact with our furry friends, it seems they can see into our soul with a devotion that is pure and without question. We now have a young English bulldog named Teddy Roosevelt who is our latest best friend. At seventy pounds, he loves to take turns squeezing into our recliners with us in the evenings and when its time for bed, he labors to make it upstairs for another chance to snuggle with us. Anatole France is quoted as saying, “Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.”
Sometimes I’m surprised how much our dog knows. We’ve not actually tried to teach him a lot of tricks but when he’s laying around, it seems he always has one eye on us as he listens to every word and watches every move we make. I believe for all that he does not understand, he is learning to interpret our voice intonations and habits in order to somewhat figure out what’s going on. Speaking of our beloved companions, I want to share a story with you about an amazing pet that for over the last one hundred years has been declared as one of the most intelligent animals ever known. It’s not a dog, dolphin, elephant, or a monkey, but rather a horse named “Beautiful Jim Key.” It’s a fascinating and true account of the deep love between a compassionate man and a clever stallion and how this relationship revealed that animals are much more perceptive than was ever imagined.
In the late eighteen hundreds, a former slave and self-taught veterinarian named Dr. William Key had the idea of breeding two extraordinary horses with the hopes of producing a super racehorse. Well, the Arabian-Hamiltonian colt was quite a specimen alright, but he turned out to be super-intelligent instead of a champion athlete. At birth, the colt was very weak and sickly, and his mother passed away shortly thereafter which added to the opinions that Mr. Key should euthanize him, but instead a strong bond was formed between them. It’s documented how the wobbly young colt insisted to spend every minute with William and so he was brought into the house as a member of the family where he lived and slept. William named the horse Jim on his birth papers along with his own last name, and the “Beautiful” was added later. Right away Mrs. Key noticed that Jim was very attentive and developing human-like behavior so she started asking him questions to which he would nod yes or no. After observing Jim’s desire to communicate, William the “horse whisperer” was eager to see just how much Jim could learn.
William was a gentle and kind man and slowly started teaching Jim the alphabet where he quickly responded by spelling words, understanding math problems and eventually advanced to sentences and Bible verses. William introduced Jim to local fairs where they astounded large crowds with Jim’s ability to spell words by putting letters on a rack in the correct order. In 1897, Jim performed in the Tennessee Centennial Exposition as thousands witnessed his incredible abilities including President William Mckinley who was quoted as saying, “This is certainly the most astonishing and entertaining exhibition I have ever seen.” Performing all over the country including the World’s Fair in 1904, it was said that Jim was the most famous celebrity of this era. With over a million supporters of the Jim Key Band of Mercy which ignited the animal rights movement, Jim passed away in 1912 and on his grave displays the popular slogan “Be kind to animals” as a lasting tribute to God’s spectacular creation.
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LIVING ON PURPOSE
BEING THANKFUL IS A STATE OF MIND
I was thinking this week (while in the midst of complaining about the frustrations of life), that being thankful is more of a state of mind than a celebration. I’m sure you will agree it’s truly a blessing to wake up each morning and not be in agony. When we swing our bodies over onto the side of the bed and stand on our feet, this is nothing less than a miracle! So often, we become so busy thinking about what we are going to do that we forget how God is providing our good health which enables us to enjoy our life. I realize it’s easy to take our blessings for granted and since being grateful is an attitude of appreciation, let us remember to tell Jesus how much we love Him for paying the ransom for our soul.
What does Thanksgiving mean to you? Someone might reply, “It means a delicious feast” and we can relate as who does not enjoy a great meal? Others may say, “Thanksgiving means a day off from work or school” and this is always something to look forward to. Nonetheless, holidays are not only to be a celebration of indulgence but a spiritual sensitivity that recognizes all that we have and who gave it to us. As the word Thanksgiving suggests, we talk about thanks but rarely hear about the giving. Last week we considered the beauty of worship and praise as the deeper meaning of gratitude to God. Giving thanks is also more than an expression of gratitude because we can say “thank you” to someone and not really mean it. Genuine appreciation is not just words, but more of a sincere awareness of a particular thing or person, and then demonstrating that gratitude with honesty and sincerity. This year between the turkey, dressing, and the pumpkin pie, may we give praise to the one who made it all possible. It’s more than just saying a prayer at the table, it’s living a life that is pleasing unto the Lord.
One of our good friends is battling a serious health issue and trust me, she is seeing life through a different perspective this Thanksgiving. She’s been taking morning walks lately and has shared with me about how quiet and peaceful the world is right before the sun rises. In these times, it’s the little things like hearing the birds sing and the colors of the leaves that are majestic and awe-inspiring. Have you considered lately how glorious it is to be able to take a deep breath? Breathing seems so natural but to many, it is a constant battle. The feeling of being underwater is not pleasant and yet many live in this situation every day. The heart is another involuntary function that God has designed to keep a constant rhythm without us having to think about it, but many people are not so fortunate. How often do we thank God for all of the medications and treatments He provides to maintain our health?
Franklin Roosevelt is quoted as saying, “It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord. Across the uncertain ways of space and time, our hearts echo those words, for the days are with us again when, at the gathering of the harvest, we solemnly express our dependence upon Almighty God.” Occasionally I will take a short nap on my cozy leather sofa while our English bulldog wedges his way in between me and the back of the couch and lets out a sigh of enjoyment that sounds more like the grunt of a hog. What a blessing it is to have a place called home. I’m sure most of you feel the same way about your sanctuary of peace and security. I thank God that I can go to the refrigerator and find something to eat, then go out into the garage and get into a nice vehicle and travel wherever I need to go. We usually do not pay any attention to these “luxuries” but they are an amazing blessing. May we remember there are many people that do not have a home, a vehicle, a couch, or any food at all. First Thessalonians 5:18 tells us to be “Thankful in everything, and in all circumstances.” Whether in lack or abundance we will look to God and thank Him for all He has given, and more importantly, we will worship and love Him just for who He is.
Check out Billy’s new book, “Convictions and Considerations” at billyhollandministries.com
LIVING ON PURPOSE
THE MYSTERY AND BEAUTY OF WORSHIP
I realize it is awkward to worship someone we cannot see, but that is the point of living by faith. The Christian life is all about having a passionate desire to be with Jesus in the secret place of our hearts, and as we draw nearer to Him, He will open the eyes of our spirits so that we can see and know Him more personally. These lines and precepts of spiritual levels expose the vast difference between living a default religious existence and becoming a remnant disciple of our Lord and Savior.
God is calling us today to spend more time with Him and fall in love with Him so deeply that nothing in this world can interfere with this bond of holy intimacy. Is this what you want today? Do you long to be loved with the most fervent affection in heaven and earth? If this is what you are seeking, then you have found the meaning of life! However, there is one thing that can prevent you from becoming what Jesus died for you to be – your will. When we are truly in love with someone, nothing can keep us from them. “O God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee: my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is; to see thy power and thy glory, so as I have seen thee in the sanctuary. Because thy loving-kindness is better than life, my lips shall praise thee. Thus will I bless thee while I live: I will lift up my hands in thy name. My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness; and my mouth shall praise thee with joyful lips” (Psalm 63:1-5).
Worship is a unique and widely misunderstood term that humans seem to avoid thinking about, yet it’s actually something we practice constantly. Our fallen nature shrinks away from thinking about or openly praising God but boldly exalts the other idols in our life. It’s amazing how many people focus their attention on a special interest but would never consider worship as the simple act of personal adoration. There is an old saying “Everybody serves somebody” and I believe we can conclude that whatever has captured our imagination receives our highest praise. Of course, the human race comes fully equipped with this ability to be infatuated and controlled within the free-will of the conscience and is more than willing to bow down to whatever we love. We deny that many times we have actually crowned ourselves as lord and king, which explains why human nature rarely considers the fact that idolatry has more to do with the one we see in the mirror than an outside influence or temptation. The gospel summarizes the concept of worship as either going through life in the default mode of serving our own desires or making the decision to be spiritually re-born to serve and worship God. Let it be said that He will compel, but does not force anyone to worship Him; and according to His spiritual principles, the dark side also abides by the same law. In other words, you and I are constantly being influenced and choosing whom we will obey.
Together let us take a closer look at the definition of worship: “A homage or reverence paid to a thing or person; the acts, rites, or ceremonies of worship; adoration or devotion comparable to religious homage shown toward a person or principle (like the worship of wealth), honor, respect, veneration, reverence, esteem, exaltation, admiration, to extol, admire, glorify, magnify, and praise” (The Oxford Dictionary – American Edition). He draws us with His love, and we respond with gratitude and reverential awe. To know Him is the purpose of living, to love Him is our most precious gift, and to worship Him is our greatest honor and privilege. Wherever you are in your spiritual journey, God desires to fill you with His love and teach you everything you will need to know concerning the divine realities of His abundant life. May you embrace God’s Word as a vital stepping stone in your pathway toward comprehending Him more intimately. Heaven will be filled with the joys of worshipping our Lord and Redeemer and we can begin today. “O come, let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the Lord our maker” (Psalm 95:6).
Learn more about Billy’s new book, “Convictions and Considerations” at billyhollandministries.com
LIVING ON PURPOSE
REMEMBERING OUR NATION’S VETERANS
This is the official week when we honor and remember all of our veterans, but hopefully, we appreciate their service and sacrifices every day of the year. Most people assume the special day is spelled, “Veteran’s Day” however the day does not belong to veterans, but rather honors all veterans so no apostrophe is needed. Also, Veterans Day is not the same as Memorial Day as this is a time to remember those who literally gave their lives for our country, particularly in battle or from wounds they suffered in battle. Veterans Day which was originally called Armistice Day honors all those who have served the country in war or peace, living or deceased, and is intended to show appreciation for all veterans for their military service.
When we think about those who have served our nation, we realize that many men and women have paid a great price trying to defend and protect us and we are truly grateful. We can also look around and see many wounded warriors who are faced to live with physical disabilities along with serious psychological problems resulting from what they have gone through. Though we might not be aware of the severity of this situation, there is an ongoing phenomenon regarding the high rate of suicide among U.S. military veterans. According to a report published by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs in 2016, which analyzed 55 million individual cases from 1974 to 2014, along with more recent data, tragically confirmed that an average of 22 veterans commits suicide each day. In May 2019, President Trump signed an executive order for an initiative to counter this horrible reality. The program aims to equip state and local governments with the resources necessary to identify and intervene in scenarios where veterans may be at risk. Included within the record $73.1 billion dollars for veteran health services is $8.6 billion allocated for mental health services.
I’m reminded of a story about a young man named Josh who suffered a traumatic brain injury in Iraq and which left him with extreme hopelessness and depression. He had been deployed Southwest of Baghdad where during an attack, a mortar exploded 10 feet away from him, leaving him severely wounded and with a one-way ticket home. Six months later, on one particular winter evening, he was really having a hard time trying to fight the shadows of fear and sadness. His Ka-Bar was laying on the table beside his computer where he had just written a letter trying to explain his torment. He stepped outside to sit on the cold and wet cement steps just wanting to end it all. He remembers promising to himself that tonight I will, as he took another drag from his cigarette. Staring out into the darkness, he noticed something moving and soon discovered it was a kitten that was slowly walking toward him. It was soaking wet but friendly and obviously, with being so skinny, it was hungry. It was a tom with black and white patches and when Josh reached out to pet him, the mysterious visitor leaned into his touch and started to purr. This emotional connection with another living being triggered something deep within Josh’s heart as he felt hot tears running down his face in the cold drizzle. The kitten did not show fear but just kept staring at him with beautiful green eyes. In fact, Josh says this innocent creature seemed to understand how desperately I needed a friend at that very moment.
He carried his unexpected guest inside, dried him off and gave him some food. His plan to end it all had been distracted. Holding the kitten close, Josh considered he might not be able to deal with his own problems, but decided that he could try to help this little fellow with his. Josh named him Scout and on bad days, Scout would curl up in Josh’s lap and shower him with love that brought comfort and peace. Over the next few weeks, the bond they developed inspired Josh to request help for his depression, and eventually, he grew stronger in his faith and confidence. It’s not a stretch of the imagination that Scout helped save his life as Josh is now married and his wife just gave birth to a baby girl. Of course, Scout still loves to sleep in Josh’s lap. If you are a veteran and struggling with PTSD, counselors are available at 1-800-273-8255. “I sought the Lord, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears” Psalm 34:4.
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LIVING ON PURPOSE
THE BEST ADVICE IS FROM HEAVEN
Generally speaking, people are not excited about being told what to do. This is probably one of the greatest reasons why the world rejects the Bible and the ways of God. In fact, it’s rare to find anyone that is excited about taking advice, even good advice. Think about yourself for a moment. How often do you read God’s Word or hear a message and come away saying, “that’s a great idea and I am going to incorporate and apply this truth into my life!” When it comes to wise people trying to give us counsel, I suggest we at least listen because when we consider the strengths and expertise of others, we are being given an excellent opportunity to glean wisdom. When is the last time you heard someone say they hate being wise and are trying to avoid success? Being a stubborn know-it-all reveals our arrogance and many times will end up with us struggling to climb our mountain when we could have taken the chair lift.
There have been many times where I have simply acknowledged that I do not know what to do and I admit that I do not particularly enjoy being in these places. As I have said in the past, it would be wonderful if God would meet us at the kitchen table each morning and we could go over the day while drinking our coffee but that would just be too easy. It’s important to have devotions every day, but I am sure you have noticed that much of thetime we are doing all the talking? Speaking of prayer, when we are facing critical situations and really need a definite answer, it’s common to feel like our requests are going no higher than the ceiling. Why? Well, there is good news and bad news. The good news is that God is listening to every word. Just because it does not seem like we are getting through does not mean the Lord is too busy to deal with us or not interested – He is. The bad news is that this silent treatment could be the result of our own doing. There is an encouraging passage in Isaiah chapter fifty-nine and verse one that declares, “Behold the Lord’s hand is not shortened that it cannot save; neither His ear heavy that He cannot hear.” This was a message to God’s people explaining why they had not received the miracles they were desperately needing and the next verse reveals the true problem. Come to find out, it was not a power shortage on God’s part but rather their sin had locked the windows of Heaven. This is a hard lesson but God is not a Jeanie who lives in a magic lamp and stands ready to grant our wishes. He is the Sovereign Almighty Creator that operates according to His perfect will and conditions associated with our obedience.
There is usually no shortage of advice as parents, teachers, family, and friends mean well, but in the end, the person who will actually make all decisions is you. Sincerely ask God to speak into your life and He will reply. Our world is filled with distractions so try spending time in the stillness of solitude as this can make it easier to hear His still small voice. I’m sure that others are sincere and have good intentions but it’s more profitable to draw near to God so that we can understand our destiny for ourselves. Proverbs chapter three and verse five says, “Trust in the Lord with all of your heart and do not lean on your own understanding.” This is a loving warning which graciously explains how we must avoid depending on our own intelligence when it comes to making important decisions. Much more than earthly advice is the spiritual reality of God’s desire to speak to us and I believe we can agree that His voice is the most important of all. I’ve often thought about how difficult it is to hear someone whisper when they are down the street and the logical way to hear more clearly is to minimize the distance. James 4:8 invites us to approach God and promises if we will come toward Him, we will be able to communicate and comprehend who He is and what He wants us to do. “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.”
LIVING ON PURPOSE
DO YOU BELIEVE IN LIFE AFTER DEATH?
One of the most profound questions humans desire to understand is what happens when our physical heart stops beating. Some say the spirit departs from our body and we are aware of what is going on as we continue to advance in the crossing-over process. We’ve heard stories about individuals who have died for a short period of time and have been allowed to not only come back but they also retain some vivid memories of what happened while they were gone. There will always be skeptics, but there is also not a shortage of people whom the medical world has no explanations and often certain descriptive details from these individuals can be proven. Are these people just having visions and dreams, or do you believe there is a life after this one? With the Bible as our main source for understanding the spiritual realm, I choose to accept that every physical body also has a spirit and there is definitely life after death. First Corinthians 15:44 says, “It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body.”
The Christian faith teaches an eternal existence after this life and according to God’s word, every person will someday face this reality as we leave this realm. Many who tell about their after-death experiences claim to be greeted by an individual that is commonly assumed to be an angel who helps them in this transition. I’m a chaplain for a health care facility and I’ve spoken to several hospice nurses who frequently observe patients reach up toward the ceiling as they take their last breath. Every now and then a soul returns for reasons that only God knows and here are a couple of examples.
Anita Moorjani had been battling lymphatic cancer for several years, and one day she slipped into a coma. Her doctors said she had no vital responses or outward signs of life, however, her spirit was alive and well. She said in this conscious state, she was floating above her body and could see the entire room with complete peripheral vision. Anita could also sense her late father’s presence and could clearly hear him say that if she continued much further in being separated from her body, she would not be able to return. She is quoted as saying, “But I felt I didn’t want to turn back because it was so beautiful. It was just incredible because, for the first time in years, there was no pain. All the discomfort and fear was gone. I cannot explain the feeling of being enveloped in unconditional love.” Gradually she came out of the coma and a couple of days later her organs began to function and the tumors started shrinking. She is now cancer-free.
Another amazing story comes from Annabel Beam who was diagnosed with two chronic, life-threatening disorders at the age of four. When she was eight-years-old and continuing to decline, she climbed a huge hollow tree out in her yard and was sitting on a branch when it broke causing her to fall thirty feet where she landed at the bottom within the tree. Anna is convinced she died and explains that at the moment of impact she was suddenly surrounded by intense bright light and found herself sitting on the lap of Jesus. While being trapped for six hours, she is quoted as saying, “Jesus said, when you are rescued, there will be nothing wrong with you. I asked if I could stay, and he said no because he has plans that I need to fulfill on Earth.” She was rushed to the hospital where the doctors could not find any injuries or even a trace of her previous illnesses. How it inspires and builds our faith when we learn from those who have actually seen a glimpse of the next life. We can embrace this reality and know this realm is not all there is. God’s promises are true and His presence is real not only in this temporal existence but also for all eternity. Have you considered God that has a purpose and plan for your life and that how we live now is directly associated with our future? There is no need to fear, you can reach out to Christ today and ask Him to come into your life. May we be encouraged to know that it’s possible to live with God forever.
Learn more about Billy’s new book, “Convictions and Considerations” at billyhollandministries.com
LIVING ON PURPOSE
RELEASING GOD’S POWER THROUGH OBEDIENCE
Obedience includes the humble and sincere acceptance of the authority and will of God. It’s not only conforming, but also demonstrating our devotion through our thoughts, words, and deeds. The general concept of compliance both in the Old and the New Testament is based upon us yielding our will in order to do God’s will and if we choose to advance in our spiritual relationship with Christ, we can understand a lot more about personal accountability. One of the Greek terms for obedience conveys the idea of positioning oneself under someone by submitting to their authority and command. Another Greek word for obey in the New Testament means “to trust.” According to Holman’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Christian obedience means, “to hear God’s Word and act accordingly.” Eerdman’s Bible Dictionary also states, “Obedience involves physical hearing that inspires the listener to believe and in turn this motivates the hearer to act in accordance with the speaker’s desires.”
Some might believe it does not really matter what we do in this life, but nothing could be further than the truth. Whether we are a follower of Christ or not, disobedience is caused by rebellion toward divine truth and choosing to follow our own desires instead of seeing God’s will accomplished. We realize that we cannot earn our salvation by our works, however, if we are serious about our relationship with Him, we will always have a strong desire to please Him. Luke 6:46 Jesus says, “Why do you call me Lord, Lord, and do not what I say?” We can ask God to forgive our past, and today we can also make the choice to develop a determination to obey Him in all things.
Most of us remember a man in the Bible by the name of Elijah and we see that he was a person who knew something about the power of obeying God. I want us to look at a time in his life where God told him to do something and even though it seemed impossible, he did not hesitate to follow God’s instructions. In I Kings 17:1, he had just prophesied to king Ahab, that it would not rain for the next three years. The Lord then told Elijah to hide in the mountains by a stream of water and that God would send ravens to bring him meat and bread – and they did. This shows us that if we will simply listen and obey, God will take care of our needs. In the following verses, we find that the brook finally dried up from the lack of rain, so the Lord told him to go to a certain city and there he would find a poor widow who would supply him with food. When he entered the town gate, he found the woman and asked her to bring him a drink of water and a piece of bread. We pick up the story in verses 12-14, “As surely as the Lord your God lives, she replied, I don’t have any bread, only a handful of meal in a barrel and a little olive oil in a jug. I am gathering a few sticks to take home and make a meal for myself and my son, that we may eat it and die.” Elijah said to her, ‘Don’t be afraid. Go home and do as you have said. But first, make a small loaf of bread for me from what you have and bring it to me, and then make something for yourself and your son. For this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says:‘The barrel of meal will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the Lord sends rain on the land.” Remarkably, she did as Elijah said and even though no meal or oil was ever added to the containers, there was an endless supply. This was an amazing miracle, however, it’s also not the end of the story. After a while, the widow’s son became very sick and eventually died. Of course, the mother felt like God’s judgment had for some reason fallen upon her and she was very upset. Elijah felt bad for her and asked God to please bring the child back and the boy came back to life! In James the first chapter we are reminded there is no substitute for obedience and that possessing knowledge about what the Lord wants us to do is not the same as doing it.
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LIVING ON PURPOSE
SIMPLY BECAUSE I DON’T WANT TO
Many will read this title and attach it to an unlimited array of personal issues and the problems that are associated with them. I remember a few years ago while talking with a friend about temptation and the constant struggles within the Christian life, he shared about how often he wilts under the power of negative influences and like most of us, he usually ends up being disappointed with his choices. After going back and forth confessing our weaknesses and failures, out of frustration he asked me a pointed question: “why do we continue avoiding our responsibility to do what is right?” Hmmm…I tried to find an intelligent response or some spiritual way to justify our disobedience, but all I could come up with is the sobering fact that we just do not want to. Attached to this embarrassing explanation is that we will never change this rebellious cycle of defeat until we allow Christ to renew our mind and help us develop self-discipline. It’s true, we can live as close to God as we desire.
We realize this is a strong statement and one that we would rather not think about, but the Bible also never promised the Christian life would be easy. George Orwell is quoted as saying, “The further a society drifts from truth, the more it will hate those who speak it” nonetheless, I would rather be known as someone who confronts our problems than ignores them. I remember watching Flip Wilson back in the early seventies and one of his more popular comedy routines was called, “the devil made me do it.” Everyone laughed and thought it was funny and many could relate to the clever idea of accusing the dark-side for our bad decisions. We understand how easy it is to blame someone else for our mistakes, but as most of us know, this is just hiding behind more excuses. Anytime we intentionally deny the truth, we are heading down a dangerous road and will eventually pay a great price whether it be in this life or the next. The reality is that the devil can attack us within the parameters of God’s approval, but he mostly plays the role of a tempter and persuader. Our own carnality is also a strong influence and might suggest a second piece of chocolate pie, but no one is making us eat it.
I’m not saying I know more or trying to tell anyone about what God wants to change in them, I’m only presenting some things to consider so that we can all think a little more clearly about what is really important. We know there are many different levels of seriousness with our spiritual lives especially when it comes to knowing why we are here and what are we called to do. In order to follow God’s purpose, it’s wise to develop discernment to recognize the voice of the shepherd from the voices of distraction. When we agree that knowing and obeying our creator is the meaning of life, only then can we begin to climb the real stairway to Heaven.
A couple of the first steps include being sincerely prepared to submit our will to God and giving Him complete control over our decisions. You see, there is a throne in the heart of every person and there can only be one king who rules upon this throne. If God is not sitting upon the throne of our life, someone else is. For Christ to be our Lord, this means that we literally become possessed by Him. This may sound rather extreme, but He cannot lead us if we are always making our own plans. Most of us love the idea of going to Heaven but are not really interested in all the details of taking a holy vow and coming into covenant with God. Romans chapter six reminds us that we are “Servants to whom we obey,” and since our actions reveal our intentions, it would be good to examine our hearts and make sure who is occupying our throne. You see, where we spend our time and what we think about, reveals our allegiance to our true master. The core of the gospel is that Jesus came to rescue us, but He did not save us so that we can do whatever we desire, He saved us so that He could accomplish His desires through us.
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LIVING ON PURPOSE
CONVICTIONS AND CONSIDERATIONS
As just another messenger for God’s kingdom, I’m eternally grateful for the privilege to serve Him. We are living in an hour where the window of His grace is open and there is much to do before Christ returns. Basically, the intent of my writings is intended to inspire the reader to fill their lamps with oil and prepare their wedding gowns. This is another way of saying that I want people to know the Lord. How many individuals consider Christ as their first love and are filled with anticipation and excitement to meet Him in person? I’m not trying to imply that I understand any more than anyone else, in fact, the more I learn, the more I realize I do not know. I’m just simply convinced that everyone has the opportunity to walk by faith in Jesus if they so choose. One of the greatest revelations I’m still trying to comprehend is that anyone can live as close to the Almighty as they want. The question is, “How close do we want to be?” Actually, this is answered every moment by our own free-will.
There have been times in my life when being a messenger was discouraging as it seemed that very few were interested. However, in these difficult times, the Lord has always graciously rekindled the joy and excitement in my heart and strengthened my spirit to continue pressing forward. On many occasions, He has spoken to me in the middle of the night and I have awakened to write down the insight He wanted me to know. Scott Fitzgerald once said, “We do not write because we want to say something, we write because we have something to say,” as, truly, there is a huge difference between our thoughts and what God wants us to relay. His Majesty’s order of communication is designed through carefully arranged divine appointments because God is the only one who can perfectly know what will touch a conscience and specifically accomplish His desires within a person’s soul. We accept the calling of a sower as a part of His universal agenda to spread His gospel through planting His seeds of holy truth. “Jesus spoke unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, do you love me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, do you love me? And he said unto him, Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you. Jesus said unto him, Feed my sheep” John 21:17.
Convictions and considerations remind us that we are accountable for what we believe. Some will say, “Of course we care what God thinks and what He wants,” which leads us to another question: “How much do we care?” In Luke chapter 12, Jesus tells a story about a landowner who is planning a long journey and leaves one of his most trusted servants in charge of his affairs while he is away. The owner returns unexpectedly and is very displeased to find the servant has neglected his work, was intoxicated and had even abused some of the other servants. The punishment was decided according to what the servant knew along with his actions, as verse 48 relays so eloquently: “For to whomsoever much is given, of him much will be required.” Likewise, as we discover what God wants us to be, we are faced with deciding how far we will go and how much we will do. True, it’s not a popular subject, but every person will be held responsible for what they comprehended, accepted or refused.
As we search for God’s desires and seek the meaning and purpose of our lives, we will find the Lord waiting and willing to teach and lead us into His infinite wisdom and understanding. We have heard the old saying, “We do not see things as they are, we see things as we are.” This indicates that our personal views have much to do with our perception, interpretation, and decisions. These opinions, even when very sincere, mean very little because, in reality, we can be sincerely wrong. God is wisdom and when it comes to serving Him, it will take a relentless commitment and perseverance as we can only embrace truth according to the level we are willing to obey Him. Today let us be encouraged to know that, “Anybody can, everybody won’t, but somebody will.”
An excerpt from the new book, “Convictions and Considerations – Encouraging Stories for the Soul.” Discover more at: billyhollandministries.com
LIVING ON PURPOSE
GEORGE MÜLLER – A MAN OF FAITH
Night was falling over the harbor of Bristol, England, and in the orphanage founded by George Müller and his wife Mary, the children were getting ready for bed. George was working in his study when Mary arrived with alarming news. “We’re out of milk,” she said. “There isn’t enough for the morning oatmeal.” He slowly laid aside his pen and had a look of calmness. This was not the first time they found themselves without any money to buy food and other supplies. The pastor rose from his desk and reached for his wife’s hand. “Mary,” he said, “let us pray.” Two orphanage employees joined them, and together they made their humble yet necessary request to God as innocent children were depending on them for sustenance. George declared, “Be assured, if you walk with Him and look to Him and expect help from Him, He will never fail you.” A short time had passed and there was heard a knock on the door. Mary hurried to answer, returning to the study a moment later. She handed her husband an envelope. “It’s a letter, George. Hurry up and open it.” Enclosed was a sum of money, more than enough for their immediate needs. Within a few moments, two more letters arrived with money and pledges of support. Miraculous responses to prayer had become a common experience for the Müller’s.
They had taken the step of faith to bring in their first group of thirty girls in 1836, and in a short period of time, their orphanage now housed over a hundred. From the beginning, George was determined to never to ask for funds from people or to borrow money but instead making an agreement with God that he would depend on Him alone for every need, trusting wholly in the Lord’s faithfulness and provision. The passage that he was constantly quoting was Philippians 4:19, “But my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” As a self-proclaimed “poor man,” regarding good works and holiness, George was well aware of what he lacked spiritually. He had grown up the privileged, arrogant son of a lawyer and routinely, drank, gambled and skipped out on bills. However, as revealed in his autobiography, one night he attended a prayer meeting, and Christ changed his life completely. He gave away his library of over three hundred books and kept only one, the Holy Bible, as it was now his only focus. One night while praying and seeking the Lord regarding the orphanage, he heard a voice in his spirit say, “Open thy mouth wide and I will fill it.” He believed God was encouraging and inviting him to simply ask for what he needed and so a miraculous journey of faith began. Now as a pastor, he decided to live without a salary, relying only on money given to him. He learned to pray faithfully from his heart, humbly asking his Heavenly Father to provide and equip them to accomplish God’s will.
Eventually, he built five homes, costing more than $100,000 to build, which is over $14,000,000 in today’s value. Very few such places like these existed as many orphans lived on the streets or went to poorhouses, where they were treated like slaves. In the Müller homes, each child was tenderly cared for, clothed, fed, and educated, with Christian instruction as the bedrock. When they left the orphanage in their late teens, they went on to live productive lives. He also went on to establish six children’s schools and in 1834 he founded the Scriptural Knowledge Institute. Even with him refusing to agree or accept any type of loans or debt for the Lord’s work, the ministry continued to prosper abundantly. By 1880 the ministry was now responsible for 72-day schools with 7000 students in Bristol as well as others in Italy, Spain, and South America. Müller’s journal is filled with amazing stories about how the Lord directed finances to them throughout his sixty-six years of service. He raised these funds on his knees as many lives were changed through unwavering and persistent prayer and he always gave God all the honor and glory for all that was accomplished. His sincere trust in the Bible inspires all of us to believe and depend on God to meet our needs. “Ask and it shall be given you; seek and ye shall find; knock and it shall be opened unto you” Matthew 7:7.
Learn more about Billy’s new book, “Convictions and Considerations – encouragement for the soul” at billyhollandministries.com
LIVING ON PURPOSE
ENCOURAGEMENT FOR THE SOUL
I was talking with a Christian brother the other day about how it seems that many people are living in sadness and discouragement when suddenly he made a comment that really caused me to think. He said that according to his studies about the Christian life, it seems to be impossible to be depressed and to walk in the joy of God’s presence at the same time. After our conversation, I continued to ponder this statement and by the way, I do agree with it. I’m not saying that developing an optimistic lifestyle or being filled with spiritual joy is easy by any stretch of the imagination, but I definitely believe it is a subject worth considering. We know that being joyful in the Lord is a direct result of our personal relationship with Him, so in order to live in this state of mind, it’s obvious that we must not only restructure the way we think but have a sincere desire to embrace Christ as our Lord and Master.
So, why do I at times allow the melancholy feelings of despondency to influence me? It has everything to do with losing focus of Christ who is the source of my strength and hope. It’s so easy to drift away especially with all the distractions that surround us and tempt us with negative persuasions. It takes a strong determination to maintain a serious relationship with God and to abide in the awareness of His presence. The more we think about God, the more we will desire to be with Him. Sometimes I allow my enthusiasm to be quenched by allowing my circumstances to bring fear and worry upon me. When I’ve neglected to pray, study, or to just spend quiet time with Him, I find myself becoming spiritually weak in my faith and doubting that He cares or will take care of my problems and needs. I’ve also felt discouragement and condemnation from my mistakes and often forget that forgiveness is only a prayer away. The enemy of our soul never takes a vacation and is devoted to making our life miserable for the missed opportunities we have blown and wrong decisions we have made. We realize there are many faithful workers in the Kingdom of God that are tired and discouraged and sometimes they do not feel appreciated in their calling, but the Lord sees your labors and considers you a success not because of your abilities but because of your obedience and sincere love for Him.
In the Bible, we find a man named Barnabas who was one of those positive and optimistic personalities that we all enjoy being around. He saw the good and the potential in others along with having a great attitude and a hopeful outlook on life. The Collins Dictionary defines the name Barnabas as, “Son of consolation” and the word consolation means a person or thing that is a source of comfort in a time of suffering, grief, sadness, and disappointment. In Acts 11:22-24 we find a description of his personality. “And they sent out Barnabas to go as far as to Antioch. Who when he came and had seen the grace of God, he was glad, and exhorted [encouraged] them all that with purpose of heart they would cleave unto the Lord. For he was a good man, full of the Holy Ghost and of faith: And a great many people were added to the Lord.” The ministry of encouragement is one that every Christian has been called to demonstrate and I definitely need to constantly remind myself about this important responsibility. The word encourage means to inspire others with courage and confidence, to stimulate, motivate, support, advise or urge by approval or help. I wonder when was the last time we went out of our way to encourage someone? Unfortunately, it seems we seldom realize that we all need encouragement. Maybe it’s because we are so focused on seeking it for ourselves that we forget to give it to others? What a difference it makes when someone comes alongside and tells you they believe in you, that you are doing a great job and are a light of inspiration and hope to the world. Anne Frank is quoted as saying, “Everyone has inside them a piece of good news. The good news is you don’t know how great you can be! How much you can love! What you can accomplish! And what your potential is.”
Learn more about Billy’s brand new book, “Convictions and Considerations – encouragement for the soul” at billyhollandministries.com
LIVING ON PURPOSE
SEND A GREAT REVIVAL IN MY SOUL
It’s easy to drift away from God and settle for an average and normal way of living and this is exactly what a personal revival is all about. Revival means “return” and begins with a conviction of sin and an awareness of our need to repent. Spiritual renewal involves surrendering our will and accepting the call to live in obedience to everything God is demanding with complete honesty, sincerity, and humility. Revival can open the eyes of our heart and expose our great need for a constant Christ as we seek and ask God to restore our spiritual zeal and to stir the embers of our spirit until the fire of our passion begins to blaze once again. In his great love for us, he can instill within us a thirst for his presence and a fervent desire to take up our cross and follow him with all of our heart. Do you believe the Spirit of God is being poured out today on his sons and daughters? Do you see evidence of a spiritual revival around you? Do you sense the Lord convicting you to turn away from the temptations of the world and draw closer to him? I enjoy writing about positive topics and relaying inspirational stories, but every now and then I need to ask myself if I really want God’s discipline to purge the apathy and compromise from my life.
It’s not a secret that the dark side is against God’s agenda and persecution will continue to increase against those who are determined to live for Christ. The reality of people falling away from the faith and the love of many waxing cold is prophesied to happen and should come as no surprise to those who study the scriptures. Nonetheless, the critical declaration to engrave on the tables of our heart is that even if everyone we know drifts away from God and his word, we will remain faithful to his truth and never let go of his hand. I know that sometimes we feel discouraged and there are seasons when it appears that only a few really care about the Christian life, but then I remember that God is in control and his disciples are working diligently and this gives me encouragement and hope. Christians may be small in number but will continue to press forward because they know him and love him. What is our message? Jesus Christ freely gave his life and shed his blood so that we could be saved from our sin. He is the only sacrifice that can ransom a soul from being lost and the only authority that can transform and redeem those who will believe. “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, and whose hope is the Lord” Jeremiah 17:7.
In Revelation chapter two, Christ acknowledged the church at Ephesus for their perseverance and work ethic, but he stated they had forsaken their first love which was their personal relationship with him. Many times, as the excitement of salvation, becomes lukewarm, we lose our desire and urgency to pray and to obey God’s word and no longer have the joy or enthusiasm to serve him. In chapter three, we see where the church at Laodicea thought they were doing just fine but God said they had also become deceived about their spiritual coldness. Today I encourage us to examine our conscience and not only identify what is separating us from walking with him but to eliminate it completely. This is the hour of grace and the window of opportunity for the bride to prepare her wedding gown for the appearance of her groom. Let us shout from the housetops that King Jesus is coming! At this moment, you can ask God to forgive you and he will cleanse your heart and deliver you from whatever is keeping you from a victorious spiritual life. The cares and worries of this journey can beat us down, leaving us emotionally, physically, and spiritually exhausted, but Christ is waiting to restore our hope, faith, and joy. He is the only one who can wash away our guilt and give us a brand-new start. Let us sing this old hymn together, “Send a great revival in my soul, send a great revival in my soul, let the Holy Spirit come and take control…, and send a great revival in my soul.”
Learn more about Billy’s new book, “Convictions and Considerations – encouragement for the soul” at billyhollandministries.com
LIVING ON PURPOSE
THE STORY OF OUR LIFE IS BEING WRITTEN
When it comes to finding our place in this world, let’s consider two categories. The first one I call, “floating down the river.” Picture a scenario of someone napping in a small boat without a compass or a paddle. Having a spectator mentality, they have no map or intentional direction but rather are just hoping for the best. It’s also common for these individuals to throw pity parties from time to time, as a happy-go-lucky lifestyle usually runs into serious disappointments. Often haunted with thoughts of being left behind, they are caught in a vicious cycle of confusion and discouragement. As a Christian counselor, I’ve tried to help those who are stuck in this drifting mindset and certainly have compassion on them, but we all have to do our share of searching and praying. No doubt it’s extremely difficult to figure out our calling, but it’s also not helping the situation by living in denial and blaming everyone else for our problems and failures. It’s always scary to move out of our comfort zone and face reality because sometimes life can seem like a huge mountain that’s impossible to climb. If you’ve ever tried to help someone find their direction, you understand when I say we cannot force anyone to do anything and neither can we help those who are not willing to help themselves. In every area of life, those who desire a healthy state of being must see the truth about their own circumstances and be willing to do something about it. Since God’s character and nature is divine order, we can agree there are no mandates or divine commissions for floating aimlessly through life. The good news is that God is patiently waiting to help us whenever our passion to change becomes stronger than our excuses.
I believe that having Jesus Christ as the Lord of our life is the meaning and purpose for everything we do and this brings me to our second point. As the author and finisher of our faith, God’s word reminds us that he’s drawn a general outline and a specific one-of-a-kind blueprint for everyone’s life according to His perfect plans. It’s true, he rarely writes, “John Smith will be a plumber” on the wall, but the basic concept of the Christian life is to be determined to listen and trust him. This truth encourages and motivates us, but another aspect of this challenge is to realize there are certain conditions and responsibilities on our part and in order for his plan to be fully activated, it will require surrendering our will to him. You see, with God being the Potter and us being the clay, it’s critical to accept the fact that we do not conveniently add God to the ambitions we already have, but rather to allow him to transform us into a brand-new creation. Yes, it’s painful to not be in control, however, this is a very important part of our personal relationship with Christ. Our spiritual mission is more about him molding us into his image than blessing our ideas. He desires to be more than a Savior; He demands to be our Lord.
Personal change is not easy and anyone who advertises how wonderful it is to sacrifice, suffer and be uncomfortable, probably has a degree in marketing. There’s nothing wrong with reading books about how other people have accomplished their goals, but even if we become experts on how to be successful, this does not automatically mean we will. Besides, beyond the motivational seminars and the personal achievement formulas that are available, you are a unique individual and God has arranged a special path for you to take. Allow me to include, there is no substitute for prayer and perseverance if we are to become all that God has called us to be. Anyone that has experienced even a modest amount of success had to not only discover their spiritual blueprint but to also arise from their couch and start building. Every idea needs faith and a plan, but without allowing God to lead and teach us, we will most likely never fulfill our destiny. May we remember, the story of our life is being written and if we choose to follow God’s plans, we are a true success and will never be disappointed or ashamed.
Learn more about Billy’s brand-new book, “Convictions and considerations – Encouragement for the Soul” at billyhollandministries.com
LIVING ON PURPOSE
HOW COULD ANYONE TURN AWAY?
I’m sure most of you heard about a couple of prominent Christian leaders who recently announced they are changing their mind about following the Lord and have decided to abandon their faith. It’s true that all of us make our own decisions every day, but this is different and much more serious. Our spiritual life is the most important aspect of our journey and for the Christian, it is literally the meaning and purpose of our existence. We become excited and filled with hope when someone embraces the gospel and turns their life over to Christ, but are stunned when we hear about a member of God’s family turning away from him. I’m sad not only for these individuals but also for seekers who might have been thinking about taking a closer step toward God and are now having second thoughts. In a world permeated with discouragement and confusion, it’s disheartening and difficult to understand how a person who has experienced the joys of salvation can suddenly declare they no longer believe it anymore.
Some might be curious with how a person could be saved and then be lost, especially with many Protestant groups who acknowledge that salvation is a one-time confession. For Orthodox Christians, the idea of losing one’s salvation is much more acceptable since they believe that salvation is a process of being saved instead of the concept of eternal security. With so many different doctrinal interpretations and without walking through a theological minefield, let’s just say that whatever your persuasion, we can agree that walking away from God is dangerous, to say the least. We realize there have always been individuals that have drifted away from former convictions and it’s prophesied in I Timothy chapter four and II Thessalonians chapter two, that in the end times people will continue to fall away from the faith and submit to seducing spirits. This “falling away” is a translation of the Greek apostasia, meaning departure, rebellion, betrayal, defection, or apostasy. One indicator of rejecting holy truth is ignoring the reverential fear of God which is why it’s so critical to developing a constant awareness of his presence. Another sign is developing an ungrateful attitude and allowing arrogance to corrupt and control our thinking. “We must pay the most careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away” Hebrews 2:1.
I feel it’s important to discuss this phenomenon and be prepared to face even stronger hostile rejection of the Bible and even God himself by those who disagree with God. We realize we cannot prevent people from doing whatever they want, we can only present and demonstrate the truth and of course, pray for them. God has given mankind the free-will to choose whom they will serve and likewise will judge each person according to our decisions. Nonetheless, I would like for us to at least consider why someone who has tasted the goodness of God and has studied and embraced the scriptures, would publicly deny and denounce their spiritual views. I understand that we all go through normal seasons of discouragement and difficult times when we might have doubts or circumstances that may test our faith, but these are just temporary. The Bible talks about back-sliding and drifting away but to declare to the world that you are absolutely finished serving and trusting God forever is something much more serious. What would it take to convince a person there could be something or someone else that is worth more praise than Jesus who gave his life so we could be ransomed forever?
What sin could be more valuable, or satisfying, and more alluring than the glories of God’s presence? What could be more joyful, and peaceful than trusting in God’s divine truth which cannot fail? Since temptation can influence the mind and have such a powerful stronghold within the conscience, it is heartbreaking to see that many are being held captive in the bondage of deception. When a person ceases to believe in God, it is worth considering who they are serving now and what consequences will this bring? Taking a closer look at II Peter chapter two, the question remains for those who turn away; did they ever have a true personal relationship with Christ, or was their former religious lifestyle only based on an emotional feeling?
Ask for a free copy of the scripture CD, “keeper of my Soul” and learn about Billy’s brand-new book, “Convictions and considerations – Encouragement for the Soul” at: billyhollandministries.com
LIVING ON PURPOSE
Published – 8/26/19
WE ARE MORE THAN CONQUERORS IN CHRIST
We acknowledge God’s blessings in our own life as well as those around us. Of course, we have our share of problems and struggles, but for the most part, the Lord has provided for our basic needs and to be honest, he has also given us a lot of luxuries. Our seasons of difficulty might be with a relationship, financial hardships, issues with our health, the loss of a loved one or the occasional internal suffering associated with a painful emotion called rejection.
In the hard times, we are tempted to deny the situation or hide from the agony, to which we all know is like putting a band-aid on a broken arm. Discouragement and depression are real and unfortunately, a lot of people live with a smile on the outside but are crying on the inside. There are several keys that can help us overcome feelings of being ostracized and one of them is instead of asking God to change everyone’s view of us, we can ask him to allow us to see ourself the way he sees us. Researching the big-picture of our situation and analyzing every detail will allow us to trace the cause and discover a deeper understanding of why we feel the way we do. When we comprehend how our personal trigger mechanisms and response buttons operate, this is a huge step toward realizing that the way we think dictates our contentment and confidence.
Sometimes our rejection is associated with our gifts and talents and how we believe that no one cares about what we enjoy. When it comes to our spiritual well-being, an important key to consider is that whatever we do for God, it’s wise to be sure that God told us to do it. It’s much better to listen and follow God’s directions than to do something on our own and then ask him to bless it. The idea of patience is to prevent putting the cart before the horse. It’s easy to forget that obedience is up to us, but the results of our labors are up to him and are solely based on his intentions. If we really believe this, we would never be upset because we would know that everything is being accomplished according to his will. If we are dissatisfied with the results, then we are probably focusing on our own projections and expectations instead of trusting that God is guiding our life with his divine sovereignty. For example, by the mercy of God when we are allowed to create something and it’s used to help encourage one person, then maybe that was God’s original objective. In this light, just because we are not world-famous or making millions does not mean we have failed to be a success in God’s view. Being popular with the world has nothing to do with how much God loves you and is pleased with you.
Sometimes our misery is caused when we assume something is one way when it’s actually something else. It’s not always true that others do not like us or respect us. It might seem like it, but most of the time it’s simply that others do not have an interest in what we are interested in. Humans are very diverse and in the same way, we are probably not excited about dressing up like a clown, this is the same attitude people have about what we enjoy. To be honest, people are just more focused on their own life than what we are doing. Do not take it personally or be offended when your friends at work, church, social media, or even your family are not excited about your dreams. If you are being haunted by rejection, I want to encourage you today to seek God’s promises about how precious you are and write them on the tables of your heart. Remember that Jesus also faced severe rejection, “He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him” John 1:11. Keep your focus on Christ and he will help dissolve the unhappiness, hopelessness, and discouragement in your life. Lay your visions and talents at the feet of the one who made you and depend on his plans as we have this promise in James 4:10, “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.”
Ask for a free copy of the scripture CD, “keeper of my Soul” and learn about Billy’s brand-new book, “Convictions and considerations – Encouragement for the Soul” at: billyhollandministries.com
LIVING ON PURPOSE
HOW DO WE KNOW GOD IS REAL?
I’ve been asked many times through the years, how do we know God is real when we cannot see Him, touch Him, or hear Him? I admit this is a logical question and there are several things we need to consider in the conversation. I know what God can do but I’ve never walked up to him and shook His hand or had a cup of coffee with him. I can sense the still small voice of the Holy Spirit speak within my spirit and I listen to other people relay what they believe God is saying, but I have not heard God speak from the clouds or a burning bush like He did in the Old Testament. However, just because I have not had experiences like many others have had, this does not in any way diminish my enthusiasm to believe he is real. Those who are blind and cannot see the moon and the stars, still believe they are there. the Christian life contains unexplainable occurrences and occasional super-natural phenomenon including angel visitations and mind-boggling miracles, but in general, following God is to be lived by faith. Yes, this is much more difficult, but also much more rewarding. The Bible declares that God surrounds us whether we can see him or not and desires that we attempt to develop our spiritual awareness through keeping our mind focused on him.
There is a story in the Bible about a man who placed a high priority on being able to see Jesus before he could believe. Christ had just been publicly crucified and after three days, it was being told that his tomb was empty and that he had risen from the dead. Thomas, who was one of Jesus disciples was overwhelmed from all that had happened and declared that he would not believe unless he could see his nail-scarred hands and be able to literally touch him. Soon after this, it just so happened that Jesus miraculously appeared to him one evening and reached out His hands and said, “Thomas, because you have seen me, you have believed; however, blessed are those who have not seen and yet still have believed” John 20:29. Everything related to God is not presented in clear sight on purpose, including the understanding of scripture. The idea is the Lord draws us to himself and then it’s our responsibility to believe in him with all of our heart. He is not hiding from us to frustrate us, but our determination to know him is directly connected to how much we love Him. To the masses, this may seem like a foolish game of hide and seek with an invisible man, however to those who know God, this intimate relationship is the meaning of life. Our experiences, even the difficult times are meant to teach us how to trust God and are an important part of helping us become what God wants us to be. II Corinthians 4:18 says, “While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.”
When it comes to wisdom and understanding, there has never been a more important message to the world than to discover and experience the presence of God. The beautiful symbolism in the Tabernacle of Moses invites us to enjoy a spiritual reality that is as tangible as anything we could ever know. Today, this secret dwelling place with God is not a certain geographic location, but rather a state of being where we can communicate, worship and freely rejoice in the glories of His love. Meditating and focusing within the peace and security of knowing that Jesus died and rose from the dead to save us, is a truth more valuable than anything in this world. We cannot make people know God, we can only encourage them to look around and notice his work. C.S. Lewis is quoted as saying, “I believe in God as I believe the sun has risen, not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.” Nothing can separate us from the privilege to walk with God except our refusal to believe he is real.
LIVING ON PURPOSE
HAVING A HUNGER AND THIRST FOR GOD
We all love to sit down to a good meal. Whatever our favorite food, we really look forward to enjoying the things we love. After our appetite is satisfied, it doesn’t take but a few hours and we are hungry again, but we seldom consider that our spiritual life functions in much the same way. For those who follow God, they have been given a new spirit which loves to spend time reading and praying, meditating, being grateful or just enjoying his presence and this is how we absorb our spiritual nourishment. However, when we are busy and neglect our relationship with God, we become weak and lethargic just as we would if we went a long time without eating. My wife and I were watching a reality program the other night called, “Alone” where a group of individuals are trying to survive in the wilderness and one of the main challenges is finding food. After a couple of weeks without nourishment, we begin to suffer physically and mentally and likewise, when we go long periods without acknowledging God, we become spiritually weak and miserable.
I have favorite foods that I enjoy and it’s common to use the term crave when it comes to our particular taste. Likewise, our new spirit also craves to live and fellowship with our Creator. In Psalm 42 the writer emphasizes an intense desire and longing to be with God. “As the hart (deer) pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with Him?” There is very good news today. If you want to be with the one who made you and who loves you more than anything, you can reach out to him right now and ask him to surround you with his love and mercy. I’m convinced when we are going through a difficult situation and feeling down, that many times we have simply drifted away from the peaceful harbor of his grace. When life becomes heavy with discouragement, maybe we are experiencing the consequences of neglecting the Lord. If we are not craving his presence, maybe this is an indicator of how far we have drifted away. His mercy can forgive any mistake we have made and our past is never too damaged or dark that the light and compassion of God cannot restore us. This Life was never intended to be free from problems, but we were promised we can have hope and joy in the journey when we are holding his hand.
Some individuals can remember back when they were younger and were involved with God in some way. Maybe as a child, their parents took them to Sunday school and church or maybe someone read them Bible stories. These are good memories especially if this led us into a personal relationship with God and we are truly grateful someone loved us and cared about our soul, but unfortunately, there are also many who have allowed the cares of the world to distract them away from God. Some may even believe that our past experiences (as good as they might be) will carry us through the rest of our life and supply us with a continuous flow of peace and faith, but this deception is causing many to ignore a critical spiritual principle. The Christian life is not empowered by a yearly, monthly, or even a weekly visitation with God, it’s all about an awareness of his presence as a constant lifestyle.
A wonderful passage that pertains to our subject is found in Matthew 5:6, “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.” This is an assurance from Jesus that for those who desire more of God, they can certainly have all they want, whenever they want him. Christ is saying the spiritual life is very much like an endless buffet, but the question for all of us is do we really have a passion and craving to be filled with him? It’s important to remember that our mind and attitude has everything to do with how close we will walk with God. Yes, we can live in denial and create false securities, but the truth is we cannot live however we want and still be on good terms with him. Come to think of it, maybe this was the reason we drifted away in the first place.
LIVING ON PURPOSE
THE BEAUTY OF CLEAR CONSCIENCE
In every sense, we can say that our conscience is much more important than we think. In fact, one of the challenges within our human development is that we are seldom taught to consider our conscience at all. I want to intentionally make a big deal about our conscience because I consider it to be one of our highest treasures. How so? We’ve all seen the cartoons that portray the person trying to decide if they should be bad or good along with the angel sitting on one shoulder and the devil on the other. Actually, this scenario represents each of us and the inner turmoil of trying to choose which path to take exposes the war between rebellious temptations and the awareness of doing what is right. What is rarely clarified in this popular presentation is how the angel represents God’s perfect truth and though everyone can have a basic comprehension of right and wrong, it is difficult to understand God’s voice especially if an individual has not personally accepted God into their life as Lord and Savior. In this light, we comprehend that everyone’s conscience is directly associated with their spirit. Some have a value system that is either based on emotions and philosophy while others follow where God guides. As pain sensors tell our brain that something is wrong in our body, the conscience also works with the Holy Spirit as a security system that reminds God’s children when they have sinned and warns them if they are even contemplating about being bad. God’s truth is the beauty of a clear conscience.
I have often mentioned how important it is to cultivate and maintain our thoughts. The mind is not only the area of all our ideas and intentions but is the battlefield where we are constantly making critical decisions. To not be concerned about incorporating mental discipline and allowing God to help us renew our mind, we are ignoring one of the most crucial responsibilities in this life. George Bernard Shaw is quoted, “A Native American elder once described his own inner struggles in this manner: Inside of me, there are two dogs. One of the dogs is mean and evil. The other dog is good. The mean dog fights the good dog all the time. When asked which dog wins, he reflected for a moment and replied, The one I feed the most.” If the conscience is another word for the heart, we can agree that whichever we choose to use, it involves the deepest part of who we are. I personally believe the mind is the ultimate control center but the conscience can influence and persuade our decisions. Let us not forget the individual who has invited Christ into their life also has God’s presence as the most important influence to help manage and control. Again, the best-case scenario is when a person allows their conscience to be controlled through the Lord. I remember watching an interview years ago and the person was asked to talk about their faith and to give their personal interpretation of sin. They replied, “Being out of line with my values.” This is hardly a solid answer theologically because right and wrong are not based on human values. It’s true that following our conscience is trustworthy when it obeys God’s desires, however, this answer was referring to the act of someone’s conscience being violated or compromised. Sin has everything to do with us choosing our own will over God’s will.
In a fallen world that is filled with distractions, we realize that a clear conscience is associated with spiritual peace and contentment. Carl Jung is quoted as saying, “Through pride, we are ever deceiving ourselves. But deep down below the surface of the average conscience, a still small voice says to us, something is out of tune.” The world’s motto declares how they cannot obtain satisfaction and within this default disposition, we find that no class of society is immune from this reality. When wrong ideas are planted, wrong attitudes are easily developed such as the idea that the more possessions a person gathers, the more contentment we will have. Nothing could be further from the truth. So how can we be set free from the misery of a deceived and calloused conscience? We can ask God to save us from ourselves. “How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God” Hebrews 9:14.
LIVING ON PURPOSE
KNOWING GOD IS THE KEY TO TRUSTING HIM
The Biblical account of David and Goliath is one of the most popular stories from the Bible. You remember that Israel and the Philistines were enemies as this true account finds them preparing for battle, but also in somewhat of a strange standoff. The two armies were gathered on opposite sides of a large valley, but instead of getting it over with, the Philistines had been sending out one of their most intimidating warriors to mock and make fun of Israel’s army and even God himself. His name was Goliath and he was truly a giant as some scholars have estimated that he stood between 9 and 10 feet tall. Fully dressed in battle armor, Goliath dared any man from Israel to challenge him. Everyone was terrified and not even the highly respected King Saul dared to step forward. It’s recorded in First Samuel chapter 17 where Goliath said, “Choose your best soldier to come out and fight me! If he can kill me, our people will be your slaves. But if I kill him, your people will be our slaves.”
Our hero David was the youngest of his father’s twelve sons and while his older brothers were called to join the military, David was considered too young and was needed to stay home and do chores. His dad Jesse would regularly send him to the front lines with food for his brothers and he would bring back news about what was happening. One day David heard the giant teasing and taunting the soldiers of Israel and started asking the men about what the giant was saying. David stood boldly and challenged the men and was asking, “how can you allow this to happen, don’t you have any pride?” His oldest brother overheard David talking and became angry thinking that the young boy was just being negative and stirring up strife. King Saul was told about the young lad and he sent for him as he wanted to speak with him. When he approached the king David said, “Let no one lose heart on account of this Philistine; your servant will go and fight him.” As the story continues, Saul was no doubt impressed with this boy’s enthusiasm but tried to explain that David did not really understand the situation. David told how he had killed a lion and a bear while watching over his father’s sheep and was very good with a sling. As the Lord had helped him be victorious in times of great danger, he was positive that God would also help him kill this giant. Amazingly Saul agreed.
David was offered all types of armor and weapons, but he only wanted his sling. He searched in a nearby stream and found five smooth stones and placed them in his shepherd bag. To make a long story short, Goliath was evidently offended that Israel would send a child out to fight against one of the fiercest warriors in the world. The giant was laughing, but David was focused as he loaded his sling with one of the stones he is quoted as announcing, “This day the Lord will deliver you into my hands, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. This very day I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds and the wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel.” As David declared that he was representing the name of the Lord Almighty, he placed a stone in his sling and when he let it go, the rock sank deep into the giant’s forehead and he fell on his face like a huge tree crashing to the ground. David then picked up Goliath’s sword and cut off his head just like he had promised. Yes, this is an exciting and inspirational story, but how can we demonstrate courage when we are surrounded by fear and our circumstances seem overwhelming? The bottom line is that David trusted God because he knew him personally. You see, faith is a learned behavior and a positive response that is developed from our everyday experiences with the Lord. The Lord had never failed David and he was filled with confidence that with God nothing was impossible. The Philistine army ran away in terror because this young boy decided to stop telling God how big his problems were and started telling his problems how big God is. Today, the good news is that we can do the same.
LIVING ON PURPOSE
PUBLISHED – 7/22/19
WHY IS THERE SO MUCH DISSENSION?
We realize there is a battle between good and evil, but in order to have clear lines drawn that help us identify the differences, we must actually know truth from error. This may sound elementary, but it seems the failure of recognizing and embracing truth is the reason why there is so much confusion and hatred in the world. How so? When we look back through history and listen to all the arguing that is going on all around us today, we notice there is bitter disagreement about most everything. Politics and religion lead the charge when it comes to dissent and conflicts and unfortunately, it has always been this way. Truth is attainable among countless false opinions and interpretations; however, this is where we must include another important consideration and that is deception. There is certainly no shortage of enthusiasm, passion, or sincerity when it comes to people believing they are correct; however, we are also aware that humans can be sincerely wrong. In other words, if everyone could find, understand, and accept God’s truth, we would all agree and love each other. In this way of thinking, truth is associated with knowing God and error is directly connected with perverse antagonism. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Sadly, it is not.
When we mention the word truth, is there really such a thing as universal and absolute truth? I believe that God and his word is absolute truth regardless of time-line, culture, or location, it is the highest standard for our lives. Some might say this is a narrow-minded opinion but actually, this revelation did not originally come from me or any other human for that matter. It is a promise in the Bible and I personally choose to believe the author that cannot fail or lie. It also says that God was from the beginning which means that truth has always existed. It was not a process that evolved or developed gradually, which makes it impossible for us to comprehend. This is another one of those complex subjects that we just accept and embrace by faith. Throughout the history of the world, we see the definitions of God’s original explanation of right and wrong has undergone some major remodeling as mankind attempts to improve or correct God’s laws into a more acceptable way of living. Apparently, there has always been rebellious movers and shakers who believe that perfect truth can become outdated and lose its relevance. It’s not a secret this is happening today with those who are convinced their intelligence allows them the authority to implement and replace divine instructions while establishing a more popular and permissive civilization.
Taking a closer look, we realize it’s not that mankind is complaining that God’s way is wrong, but that we simply do not want to be told what to do. We are stubborn like a child and will crawl on our hands and knees across the hot blacktop to resist submission. Rebellion is embedded in our nature and is blatant arrogance toward the one who created and loves us. Every person is given a free-will to decide what they will believe and whom they will obey. God does not force anyone to accept his truth and allows everyone to live by whatever standards they choose. Freedom is another word to be considered within this discussion, but the interpretation can be dangerous. We rejoice that God’s truth will set us free from the bondage of sin, but the natural concept of freedom is to live however we want which is nothing less than unrestrained carnality. It takes the same amount of determination to bypass God’s truth and create a defiant independent lifestyle, as is needed for an individual to humbly embrace his true truth. This gives us an insight to the real cause of hatred and strife which is insubordination toward what is infinitely holy. If someone is trusting God as the way, the truth, and the life, they would never accept or compromise with the new philosophies of social acceptance and political correctness. On the other hand, if an individual is receptive to new worldview modifications, they will agree to discard the Bible and welcome the idea of progressive advancement. Sadly, we are witnessing a society that is boldly justifying sin and openly making excuses to abandon any type of spiritual accountability toward God’s perfect righteousness. “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth” John 17:17.
LIVING ON PURPOSE
THE LORD WILL BLESS HIS PEOPLE WITH PEACE
Recently, I had the opportunity to sit with a nice elderly lady and she was sharing with me about her health issues and other concerns. Suddenly she stopped and wanted to know if she could ask me a serious question. I said of course, and she proceeded to relay that she felt silly asking me about salvation, especially with her being a church member since she was a child. Her question was, “How can I really know I’m going to heaven?” I do not believe this is anything to be embarrassed about, in fact, it’s rather common as I’ve actually examined my own soul from time to time. I could sense the heaviness of doubt was stealing her spiritual joy, and this can escalate into fear and anxiety. I spent some time reminding her of the basic fundamentals pertaining to faith and God’s truth which can never fail. I suggested that she just be honest with God and tell him how she feels. After I left, I continued to think about how easy it is for any of us to drift away from the peaceful harbor of hope and encouragement and how important it is to keep a positive perspective and remain focused on God’s promises.
The opposite of peace is being anxious and many times we experience fear and worry when we are uncertain of what is going to happen. This negative energy has the intention to consume us and control our mind and will continue to haunt us until we choose to battle against it. Spiritual warfare is a reality and it’s the believer’s responsibility to call on the Lord for help as we defend against the darkness of panic, pity, and depression. Living in peace is not something that happens naturally, but rather is a learned behavior. People or circumstances cannot dictate our thoughts, we choose our response and reaction. We talk about our need to trust God and how we must stand strong in the times of adversity, but this state of mind will require persistent prayer and self-discipline. Faith believes that God can see into the future and that nothing surprises him which includes him understanding the trials we are going through and all of the situations we will encounter. Being convinced that Christ will provide for us along with accepting that his power is greater than any problem that might threaten us can bring comfort and assurance. Constantly reminding ourselves that God listens to us and that he is aware of everything that is going on in our lives can help us to trust and rest in his perfect peace. Psalm 29:11 promises, “The Lord will give strength to his people; the Lord will bless his people with peace.”
There is no greater confidence or joy than to be filled with God’s peace. Spiritual peace is far beyond our physical emotions as his ways are higher than our ways and his thoughts are higher than our thoughts. His peace is stronger than our fears and chases away our worries and anxieties as it floods our heart with courage and fortitude. Jesus is victorious and his promises are guaranteed to quiet our soul and replace our restlessness with his safety and contentment. Proverbs 3:24 reminds us, “When you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet.” One of the many names for Jesus is the Prince of peace and soon, He will return and establish his kingdom of peace for all eternity. We rejoice in this truth and look forward to experiencing the freedom from conflict and fear, but we do not need to wait until then to embrace this lifestyle of calmness. If we choose to abide in God’s presence no matter how intense the storms are raging, we are supported under the shadow of his protection. The world growing darker and chaos increasing cannot limit or diminish our hope and peace. It is only when we drift away from his truth and lean on our own understanding that we become troubled and perplexed. The Lord is giving us an offer that we must not refuse which is to give him our worries in exchange for the tranquility of his presence. Listen to Paul’s encouragement found in Philippians 4:6-7, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”
LIVING ON PURPOSE
ALL IS NOT LOST, GOD IS STILL IN CONTROL
Everyone knows there is an abundance of chaos, disagreement, and anger in this nation and around the globe. I would not be an honest messenger of God, if I said this old world did not have some serious problems and that there is nothing to be concerned about. However, I believe that God is in control and will rule upon his throne forever. Regardless of how wicked and corrupt this culture becomes and how many Christians may compromise and drift into apathy, God is still the Almighty Creator of all things, his promises are true, and he has a remnant of holy, sanctified warriors who love him and will faithfully represent him until the end. Some today might be convinced the enemy has hypnotized all of God’s people, but darkness can never overcome the light! There are still good people who are showing love and compassion. There are individuals of integrity and sincerity who are joyfully taking up their crosses because they are being led by the Holy Spirit. There are individuals who are praying every day for those around them and for this nation and they are seeing God’s miracles happening today just like when Jesus walked the earth.
We realize that much of the information we receive from the news is filtered through a biased interpretation and with this increasing problem of deception we wonder how in the world can God withhold his judgment any longer. Fifty years ago, we would not have dreamed about the things that are happening today as we can sense the spiritual resistance and warfare is becoming more intense. Unfortunately, darkness flourishes in a society where the masses do not respect or believe in God and do not care about what he is saying. However, even in the midst of our trials and burdens, there is wonderful news for every Christian who is discouraged by the wickedness in this present generation. The Bible teaches and affirms that God is never surprised or alarmed. He is sovereign over all things, including human history. He created the galaxies and upholds the universe by the word of his authority. He is Alpha and Omega and knows the thoughts of every person on earth. Nothing can happen that he does not allow and he works all things for the good of his people and his glory. The reality of God’s sovereignty is meant to give us security and joy and confidence to trust him at all times, even when we are perplexed and disappointed. We cannot give each other the peace that passes all understanding; it must be received from God. Instead of spending our time on social media telling everyone how bad it is and distributing depression, let us be filled with anticipation and live in the excitement that Jesus is the lord of lords and the king of kings and that he is returning soon!
Becoming a spiritual overcomer with Christ involves making the choice to develop perseverance and to pray for the passion to grow closer to God as a consistent lifestyle. We know the Bible declares that in the last days many will turn away from divine truth and will love pleasure more than God, but the fact is that all is not hopeless or lost! The Holy Spirit has an encouraging word for those who are seeking God with all of their heart and that is the Lord is currently raising up a multitude of sanctified saints who will stand for the Lord no matter what may come. There are Christians who are responding to the call to intercede and have accepted the great commission to share the life-changing power of the gospel. There are faithful followers that are so filled with the love for Christ that they are even willing to be persecuted for their faith. How does someone become fanatical about God? Just like a person who trains in a sport or is committed to losing weight, they are focused with a fierce determination! Yes, persecution and suffering might be a part of our destiny, but we can have joy, hope, and confidence while going through any situation if we choose to allow Christ to shine within us. Jesus is the light and is always looking for someone who is willing to be his lamp. “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? Psalm 27:1.
LIVING ON PURPOSE
CHOOSING TO SPEND TIME WITH GOD
Those of us who are married have learned the closer we are to our spouse the more sacred and meaningful our love becomes. When we listen, laugh, cry, reveal our most secret thoughts, hopes and concerns, this is an important part of learning to trust and know them. Likewise, this is also how we grow in our personal bond and adoration with our Lord. We come to Christ with as much sincerity as a human can have as we lay our head on his chest and are surrounded in his perfect peace that passes all understanding. This is a secret hiding place where the chaos of the world, the fears, worries, and sadness cannot find or defeat us. He is our eternal refuge where we are not required to perform or live up to some type of expectation or wait in a long line for his attention. We humbly come into his presence without seeking his approval or needing to compete for his favor. We are never worried that God has forgotten us but simply trust in his promises and enjoy the contentment of being close to him. In Isaiah 49:16 God promises, “Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually [always in my memory] before Me.” He knows everything about you and is waiting for you to come and spend some time with him.
I remember a few years ago, I was at church one night, and after the service, the worship band continued to play softly with no time limits and no hurry to leave. I closed my eyes and was feeling the freedom and joy of God’s Spirit as I just soaked in this precious moment. It’s so enjoyable to sense a tangible, divine connection with the creator that loves us and who wants the best for us. I was telling him how much I appreciated his love and while I was in somewhat of an intoxicated spiritual state, a wonderful lady came and handed me a small folded piece of paper and walked away. I opened it and read the words, “Billy, live only to please God – worship to the audience of one!” My throat tightened, and I felt a tear fall down my cheek as I thought of how profound this message was to my life. In our Christian journey, we have so much to think about with trying to do what we feel is right and dealing with all the negative voices that try to distract and discourage us. I have thought about that simple note and how easy it is when working for the kingdom to lose our focus of the king. There is no higher purpose to serve and no greater reason to live than to constantly seek God’s face and listen to his voice. “For do I now persuade men or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ” (Galatians 1:10). To draw near to the Lord with all of our heart is our deepest need. To maintain a passion to walk with him is our greatest challenge.
After a forest fire in Yellowstone National Park, a few forest rangers began to hike up a mountain to assess the inferno’s damage. Just a few feet from the trail, one of them found a bird literally petrified in the ashes, perched like a statue on the ground at the base of a tree. Somewhat sickened by the eerie sight, he noticed something moving under her. When he removed her body, he discovered three tiny chicks. The loving mother, keenly aware of impending disaster, had carried her offspring to the base of the tree and had gathered them under her wings, instinctively knowing that the toxic smoke would rise. She could have flown to safety but had refused to abandon her babies. As the blaze arrived, the heat had scorched her small body, but she remained steadfast so those she loved could live. If a tiny bird has this much love, imagine the infinite love of Jesus who willingly suffered and died to save all who would believe. Let’s take a moment today and tell him how much we love and appreciate him. “He will cover you with His feathers, and under his wings you will trust. His truth will be your shield and buckler. You will not be afraid for the terror by night; neither from the arrow that flies by day” (Psalm 91:4-5).
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LIVING ON PURPOSE
A TIME TO SPEAK AND A TIME TO LISTEN
According to current census calculations, the population of our planet is rapidly approaching eight billion people. Along with this massive number, we know there has never been a time in history when this many individuals occupied the earth at the same time, but we can also agree that we have more philosophies, opinions, and worldviews than ever before. This, in turn, brings us to a point in time where our arguments and conflicts have created a more difficult atmosphere to acknowledge what we believe without being mocked, ridiculed, and even persecuted. With the creation and advancement of communication technology within the last 50 years, we are witnessing a social media grid that is capable of connecting the entire world together in an instant. It’s true, this is an amazing way of uniting us, but unfortunately, it also presents a vehicle which increases the volume of chaos and controversy. I am not against having the opportunity to relay our thoughts, but for the Christian, we can clearly see that our Biblical perspectives are becoming an increasing target of hostility from those who oppose. We know the basic fundamentals of the Christian faith have always been an offense to the flesh and are seen as a direct threat to those who are focused on living and believing however they desire. We are reminded in John chapter fifteen that without God’s grace opening our eyes we cannot see spiritual truth and these individuals who are devoted to a more humanistic philosophy will always reject Christ and his followers. Verse 19 is warning the follower of Christ to prepare for rejection, “If you were of the world, the world would embrace you: but because you are no longer of this world, but I have chosen you out of this world, therefore the world hates you.”
The Bible uses the word enmity several times when referring to the attitude of the natural mind against the holy discipline of God’s character. Truth is a refuge of peace and security for those who love God, but is hated by the ones who want to live their own way. If we take a closer look at the word enmity we find that it means a state of being actively opposed or hostile to someone or something. Other words associated with enmity are, animosity, antagonism, bitterness, hatred, loathing, and resentment. So, when we notice a Christian trying to relay God’s message, which by the way is a responsibility within the covenant of salvation and we see them being mocked and persecuted, we know what is really going on. I pray for an awareness to share my faith and I believe that God can use us to relay His message. However, I’m also convinced that we should always listen carefully to the Holy Spirit and only speak when He is guiding us. We are not to be ashamed of Jesus or afraid of those who might reject us, but neither are we to be arrogant or stubborn and hinder what God is calling us to do.
In Genesis chapter three, we see where one of the curses from the fall includes the enmity between the serpent and his seed versus the seed of the woman which would eventually include Christ. This reveals why the realm of spiritual darkness is at war against God and those who follow Him. Each person is born depraved with an internal rebellion and is in need of being spiritually re-born and transformed which is exactly why Jesus went to the cross. His blood paid the ransom for those who believe. His sacrifice is an invitation for anyone to accept divine redemption as John 3:16 describes, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” It’s no secret there are many today who believe that God does not exist while others conclude there is no afterlife or that everything we see somehow happened on its own, but we can agree this is a legitimate part of freewill. Unbelievers are also convinced that anyone who would trust and worship the God of the Bible is delusional and cannot be taken seriously about anything. That’s alright, we realize that everyone is blind to the truth until God opens our eyes. Christians love and pray for everyone’s salvation and carry a heavy burden that all would come to personally know God. The window of his amazing grace is open today.
LIVING ON PURPOSE
OUR GREATEST HONOR AND PRIVILEGE
When we are truly in love with someone, nothing can keep us from them. It sounds like the beginning of a beautiful romantic love story, doesn’t it? Actually, it is a love story, but it’s between us and God. The Lord is inviting us today to spend more time with him and to fall in love with him so deeply that nothing in this world can interfere with this bond of holy intimacy. We can be as close to God as we want and be filled with His Spirit with a constant awareness of his presence if we choose him as the love of our life. If this is what you are seeking today then you have found the meaning and purpose of your existence. Our free-will decision to refuse is the only obstacle that can prevent us from becoming what Jesus died for us to be.
Our nature comes fully equipped with the ability to be infatuated and controlled with whatever we love and is more than willing to bow down to whatever is our highest priority. We usually deny that we are our own king, which helps to explain why we rarely consider the fact that idolatry has more to do with the one we see in the mirror than an external influence or master. God will compel but does not force anyone to worship him and according to his truth, the dark side also abides by the same principles. In other words, you and I are constantly being influenced and choosing who we will serve and obey every moment.
The more that God is on our mind the more we will become like him. When all is said and done, and we stand before his throne, the amount of our conscience we allowed him to occupy will reveal what meant the most to us. We realize it’s difficult to serve and worship someone we cannot see, and our carnal desires hate the idea of submitting to anything that interferes with our independence. The Christian life includes having a passion to be with Jesus every moment and if we do not have this, somewhere we have drifted away. As we draw nearer to him, he will open our spiritual eyes and allow us to see and know His plans. Our attitude exposes the vast difference between living in a default religious experience or becoming a sincere follower of Christ. The question for all of us is how much of God do we want and how desperate are we to know him?
The school of Christian living is our daily classroom and within our prayers should be the request to understand what we are learning. Without wisdom, knowledge is just a collection of facts, and in the Christian journey, it’s not how much we know, but how much we apply. We love and worship God not because of what he can do or how much he will give, but simply because we are infatuated with who he is. Our joy overflows when we meditate about his love, as our broken and contrite heart releases a sweet-smelling aroma in the beauty of his holiness. It is with trusting innocence that we can snuggle into the lap of our loving heavenly Father, where we are content as he places his arms around us and gently holds us and gives us his peace that passes all understanding. In the essence of his glory, we become supernaturally entwined with the creator and ruler of the universe who longs to mold us like soft clay on the potter’s wheel. This miracle of transformation can happen when we sincerely abandon our old nature and embrace him as the Lord of our destiny. Only then can our life finally begin its humble decent so that Christ can increase and be manifested within us. If we want more of God, we must choose to deliberately pursue him. Spending time with him allows us to know Him personally and to learn more about our calling. When he becomes the focus of our purpose, the awareness of His presence will become as natural as breathing. To know God is the meaning of our existence, to worship him is our most precious gift, and to love him is our greatest honor and privilege. “Then you will call upon me and go and pray to me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek me and find me when you search for me with all your heart” Jeremiah 29:12-13.
LIVING ON PURPOSE
Published – 6/10/19
OVERCOMING THE DESIRE TO REMAIN THE SAME
I’m sure you will agree that most of us humans have very peculiar and quirky personalities. It’s strange how we are easily influenced and persuaded in certain things, and stubborn as a mule about others. When it comes to admitting we are wrong in our views or that we are heading in the wrong direction, it doesn’t take long for us to reveal our contrary and rebellious attitudes. Most people seldom say it out loud, but are content with the way they believe and hope that everyone will leave them alone and mind their own business. Which by the way, explains why many individuals are not interested in going to church or reading the Bible. However, when it comes to personal change, our spiritual relationship with God is not the only topic on the menu. I was reminded the other day about my own defiant nature when I was on the phone with my mother the other day and the conversation turned to food. We were talking about how difficult it is to diet and how most of us are addicted to all the delicious things we love. Then out of the blue, she said that I should go through our cabinets and refrigerator and throw out everything that tastes good. After a moment of silence, I did not know whether to laugh or cry. I don’t mind chatting about considerations that could help control bad eating habits and everything was going fine until she hit a nerve with the radical idea of tossing everything out except a can of green beans and a box of plain popcorn. I did not vow that I would go to that extreme and we had a good laugh about it, but after our conversation, I continued to ponder about why I felt so threatened and even intimidated by the idea of not being able to have what I want. Even though I realize that exercise and strict dieting is a healthy direction, down in my heart I was not very enthusiastic. So why am I more excited about a huge buffet than an apple and a piece of toast? This would be wonderful advice if a person was passionate about making a positive lifestyle change. The problem is that I am not ready to focus, commit, or dedicate my complete mind, soul, and heart on this. In fact, the way I see it is that no one can accomplish any type of transformation until they are convicted and burdened with their desperate need and become absolutely locked in with fierce perseverance and unwavering determination.
Food is only one example of the many temptations that attempts to influence and urge us to overindulge. We know there is nothing wrong with enjoying life and all the blessing that God has provided, but we are referring to desires that are bad for us. The concept of our subject has more to do with being mature and in control of our flesh instead of a servant to our cravings and emotions. God refers to the human body as a temple or housing that contains our spirit which receives instructions directly from heaven. And then our mind and conscience make the decision to follow God or something else. This is why it’s critical for the mind to be renewed through the power of God in order for His will to be accomplished in our life. Without this willing agreement between our spirit and mind, there is minimal faith or spiritual advancement. From God’s perspective, we are not to be controlled or possessed by anything or anyone but Him. Mankind is referred to as vessels of clay, but unfortunately, the clay spends much of its existence resisting the potter’s instructions and commands. I remember years ago writing a song called, “Willing to change” and it was a result of my personal research about yielding our will and allowing God to intervene and rearrange our priorities. Again, this requires a surrender of our plans and imaginations which is painful, to say the least. It’s our free-will which must submit and choose to open the door of our heart in order to invite Christ to sit on the throne of our conscience and rule as the Lord of our life. Whether considering becoming a better person, having a healthier lifestyle, or growing closer to God, it’s all about our vision to change being stronger than our desire to remain the same.
LIVING ON PURPOSE
TO EVERYTHING THERE IS A SEASON
Life is filled with ups and downs, joys and heartaches. As the passage in Ecclesiastes chapter three mentions, there is a time for many different things, some bad and some good and the longer we live the more clearly we will comprehend what the writer is saying. These are lessons learned in the classroom of life which are experienced no matter how much we try to avoid them. As we walk through these milestones, we are faced with processing this assortment of emotions until we arrive at some level of understanding or at least a partial acceptance we can live with. In verse two we read, “A time to be born, and a time to die” which sounds elementary but actually looms very large within our existence. We’ve all held a tiny baby in our arms and have been excited about a lifetime of possibilities and we have also felt the grief and sorrow from those who have passed on. These are natural reactions that come from our human emotions, but the Bible presents being born and passing away in a different or should I say, a more spiritual perception. A few pages over in Ecclesiastes 7:1, we read, “A good name is better than precious ointment; and the day of death than the day of one’s birth.” The first part is explaining that a good reputation is the most important thing we can have other than our relationship with God. The second part is saying that departing this life is better than entering. Many will ask how can passing away be better than being born? This is referring to when a baby arrives in the world, a wise person will realize this infant is getting ready to face many difficulties and hardships. However, when a born-again individual leaves this world, they are being released from suffering and entering into a heaven that is filled with the eternal glories of God’s presence. In short, this verse is simply reminding us to not always be so emotional but to be more spiritually minded.
The end of our journey is a subject that many of us avoid intentionally. I agree it’s very easy to be in denial with the idea that someday we will say goodbye to this world. I’ve watched individuals that are in their nineties and how they respond when asked about selling an old automobile that needs to be restored. Many will reply they do not want to sell because they believe that one day they will get around to finishing this vision. I can understand these things are special to them and an important part of their life. We just do not want to let go of what we love. Others might have barns or warehouses filled with parts and pieces they have collected for many years, but they still refuse to sell even one item. I also have a lot of things that I consider important and maybe our “stuff” gives us a sense of security and we just want to be surrounded by it until the very end. Whatever reason we do not want to let go, we can be assured the greatest treasures on earth cannot be compared to the amazing realm that awaits God’s children. Adrian Rogers once said, “If you want to know how wealthy you are, look around at what you have and see what money cannot buy and death cannot take away from you.”
As a chaplain and minister, I’m often called to the bedside of those who are passing away and I’ve never heard anyone mention their love for material possessions. The conversation is always about facing their destiny, seeking forgiveness, and making sure they are ready to meet God. There is an old hymn which declares, “It is well with my soul” and conveys the message about making a sincere connection with our creator in order to find spiritual peace and contentment. Hopefully, we can agree that if we do not have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, all is not well. The good news is that everyone has a choice to make things right with God today. There is nothing preventing you from asking God to save and forgive you except your own decision. Anyone can invite the Lord to fill their heart with His presence and when our time comes to depart, we can also joyfully proclaim that all is well with our soul.
LIVING ON PURPOSE
HOW WOULD YOU ANSWER THIS QUESTION?
One of the most popular characters in the Bible is a man named David. Remember, he was the young boy who used a sling and a stone to take down a huge giant named Goliath and eventually became king of Israel. Among other notable feats and talents, he was also referred to as a man after God’s own heart. David and his wife Bathsheba had a son named Solomon and when David passed away, Solomon became the new king. Like all the other famous and beloved individuals that are included within God’s Word, when we study their lives, we can also learn much about how God wants us to live. Their lives are recorded to be more than just a collection of exciting bedtime or Sunday school stories. These true accounts have been given to teach everyone no matter how old they are about the principles of right and wrong, and the story of Solomon is no exception.
In Second Chronicles chapter one, we read how Solomon sincerely cared about the people of Israel and how he loved God with all of his heart. According to historical accounts, Solomon had great authority and respect among all the governors, captains, and judges of the region. In verse six, we notice that he once offered 1,000 burnt sacrifices on the brazen altar and before the ark of the tabernacle, which was the same ark that Moses had been instructed to build 500 years earlier. In verse seven, we are presented one of the most amazing questions that God has ever asked a human being: “That night God appeared to Solomon and said to him, ask for whatever you want me to give you.” Can you imagine? How would you respond? I probably would have asked for the Power-ball numbers or the ability to be invisible or something immature that had everything to do with me. However, the response of Solomon was much more spiritual. He said he appreciated God’s mercy on his father, David, and himself and was very humble with being given such a huge responsibility to lead an entire nation. He humbly asked if he might be given wisdom and understanding in order to be a good judge and to become a king that God would be pleased with. Wow! I believe that God was impressed with this young man! Now listen to the Lord’s reply: “And God said to Solomon, because this in your heart, and you have not asked for riches, wealth, honor, nor the life of your enemies, or long life; but has asked for wisdom and knowledge so that you can rule over my people whom I have made you king: Wisdom and knowledge is granted unto you; and I will also give you riches and wealth and honor such as none of the kings has had before you, or will have after you.”
In practical terms, when it came to giving a great answer, Solomon knocked this one out of the park and in return he received one of the greatest spiritual and material blessings ever given. Nonetheless, this is not the end of the story. Most will see this event as a one-time miracle instead of considering that God is trying to teach us a personal revelation. To me, a component of this story is that if we plead for materialism more than we seek to have the character attributes of Christ, we have allowed deception to influence our heart. We can have prayer journals which are wonderful, but I will admit that a good sized portion of my petitions are associated with financial and material blessings. Being self-absorbed affects our thinking and personalities, just like a pinch of yeast affects an entire pan of dough. When our priorities are out of order, unfortunately, we become less concerned about others and this may explain why God does not always give us the desires of our hearts. James 4:3 reveals a sobering insight into the realities of wrong motives and a selfish attitude: “Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.” Most if not all sins are associated with self-interest. Have you noticed we strongly criticize this defect in others, while often failing to recognize it in ourselves? God is merciful and wants us to understand when we are completely focused on Him, His desires become our desires. This is an excerpt from the new book, “Convictions and considerations – Encouraging stories for the Soul” Visit: billyhollandministries.com
LIVING ON PURPOSE
DO YOU HAVE GOD’S JOY IN YOUR HEART?
Do you remember that old song in vacation Bible School that said, “I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy, down in my heart? Well, I do agree that humanity is searching as hard as they can to find contentment and desperately longs to discover peace, but rebellion and the lack of knowledge is preventing them from finding it. What type of knowledge are you talking about? Spiritual understanding and holy wisdom about God and His instructions. In the first part of Hosea 4:6, the Lord declares, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge:” and He continues to talk about how the masses reject His truth. We notice God uses the word “destroyed” because without knowing about the divine realities of absolute truth, we will not comprehend the danger of living and dying without spiritual security. Oh sure, people can be moral and even somewhat religious, but many have never experienced a real encounter with the one that created them. On the outside, they might seem to be normal but spiritually they are not building from the blueprint that God has planned for them to become.
One reason why people are not filled with joy is that they do not understand God’s plan for them and when left to control their own destiny, they become dirty on the inside. Another reason is that since their spiritual eyes have not been opened, they cannot understand how happy they would be if they would surrender their old life and accept God’s new way of living. This passage actually reveals how much He loves all people and wants them to realize what the meaning of life really is. He is waiting for someone to ask Him for this knowledge and He will graciously give them all they want. There is no limit to how far we can go with God or how close we can be to Him. When we begin to have a vision of this revelation, we realize how crucially important joy is within the life of the believer. It’s not an option where we can pass on it or try and struggle through life without it. If being filled with God’s joy makes our spirit strong and fills our mind with confidence, then we must conclude that being empty of joy causes us to be spiritually weak, lukewarm, and miserable.
Let us observe three important steps toward becoming filled with joy. Joy is spiritual strength, joy is easily accessible and joy is our responsibility to maintain. Let us look at the first one in Nehemiah 8:10, “Then he said unto them, go your way, eat the fat, and drink the sweet and send portions unto them for whom nothing is prepared: for this day is holy unto our Lord: neither be sorry; for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” Scholars agree this verse is probably Nehemiah telling the people to enjoy themselves on this day and be happy as they celebrate the abundance of God’s blessings. He also reminds them that sharing and blessing others is a vital part of our Christian demonstration of love. Let us consider the last part of this verse which refers to joy being associated with our ability to stand strong in our faith. There are also several commentaries which reveal the original language to be, “Delight in Jehovah as a strong refuge or stronghold” which makes wonderful sense and continues to bring emphasis to having confidence in God’s Word and to trust that He desires for us to be filled with His Spirit.
But how does joy transform into spiritual strength? Well, this is an excellent question. I think we could sum it up by saying that we cannot be saturated with joy and sin at the same time. Joy and purity go hand in hand and it goes all the way to back to when we were innocent children. When we were young we did not have evil motives or hidden secrets and generally speaking we were happy. Good news! We can have this clear conscience again as an adult if living holy is at the top of our priority list. A consistent prayer life will make sure that we are on the right path as it keeps us in constant communication with God and the awareness of His presence. It is possible to live with a clear conscience and wouldn’t be wonderful if we could sing that old song again?
LIVING ON PURPOSE
Published – 5/13/19
PERFECT JOY AND HEALTH FOR ALL ETERNITY
I have a few antique clocks and for those who are somewhat familiar with these fascinating machines, you also know what a frustration they are to keep running. Recently, I was having problems with a grandfather clock and after a few weeks, I was being exposed for my lack of knowledge and ability when it comes to working on them. I can do some tweaking and occasionally I’m rewarded with a bit of luck but more often than not I turn to an older gentleman who lives in my community and depend on his expertise. In this particular situation, he had already made two house calls and it still would not run consistently, then he said something during his visit that caused to me think about what makes us tick, (pun intended). He made a comment about how these mechanisms were so delicate and sensitive, that even the tiniest misalignment can prevent the entire apparatus from operating correctly. We can identify how the human body is similar to these complex contraptions and how vulnerable and fragile we really are and only by the grace of God are we allowed to function as well as we do.
I’ve had my share of illness, and I’m sure you have too. With life being a never-ending classroom of researching and developing, there are a couple of things we can keep in mind as we continue moving forward. I believe in prayer, positive faith confessions and learning how to be an optimistic thinker. This may not guarantee our miracle, but it can certainly keep us on the right path. When walking our dog, I take advantage of this quiet time to talk to God about everything I can think of including my health and well-being. I’m convinced when we speak God’s Word openly, we are absorbing His hope and healing power into our mind, soul, and body. “For they (His Words) are life unto those that find them, and health to all their flesh” Proverbs 4:22. I’m not presenting some kind of hokey magical formula, but when practicing the presence of God in sincere faith, it becomes a legitimate spiritual principal that can generate peace and joy within our mind and soul. His abundant promises are filled with light and life and all that He desires from us in return is a humble and sincere submission to His will. This spiritual truth declares that no matter the size of mountain we may face or what type of furnace we might be thrown in, He loves us, wants the best for us and will always be with us.
It’s true we are blessed, but the Lord does not promise a perfect pain-free life. We understand that after the fall of mankind in Eden that unfortunately everything including our health has been plagued with a curse. I’m reminded about this when I look at my yard and see that no matter how hard I battle against the weeds, they continue to irritate me. Vehicles rust and wear out, our decks, fences, and porches rot away and everything is designed to decay, but it’s simply a reality of the natural world. There is nothing wrong with doing everything we can to improve our health and our appearance, but at the end of the day, we must face the sobering fact that our body is designed to be temporary. Exercise, dieting, and cosmetic surgery are great, but like the old clocks that run faithfully for many years, there comes a time (no pun intended) when all the parts wear out. Yes, there will be seasons of aches and pains and for some, there will be serious issues that will require a larger amount of trust and assurance, but whatever may come, may we be committed to devoting our best years to obeying and serving our Lord. For those who are in Christ, we can be excited to know this curse will not be present in heaven. Darkness and evil will be defeated and everything will be perfectly transformed including our brand new bodies that will last forever. Let us appreciate all the blessings we have enjoyed and when the end of our pilgrimage finally arrives, we can be filled with confidence and excitement as this life was a brief yet glorious opportunity to know God and that our future includes continual joy and perfect health for all eternity.
LIVING ON PURPOSE
LEARNING TO GIVE OUR BURDENS TO GOD
I had lunch with a middle-aged couple the other day and they were sharing about a crisis situation they are struggling with. The stress has been building for quite some time and the heavy burden of trying to deal with this is taking a toll. They are both believers, but at the same time, they admit there is much to learn when it comes to spiritual warfare and getting into position to listen and trust God with their life. You know, we all have a difficult time with these aspects of the Christian life, but admitting we are vulnerable and weak in our times of adversity is a positive step in the right direction. Many times it’s our pride that leads us into even more difficulty when we become convinced we can handle our own problems. When we approach our circumstances through our emotions, it usually does not end up well, but when we humbly follow God’s instructions we can trust that his wisdom knows exactly what to do. It’s true, the Lord can make all things work together for the good, but we must cooperate with his plans. II Corinthians 12:9-10 says, “And he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.”
Most of us have heard the old saying, “Let go and let God” but this is not easy. There may be times when we need to take the bull by the horns, but surrendering is associated with trust and this is an area where we humans often hesitate. Remember when your dad would hold out his arms and tell you to jump? This is the same idea that we are trying to learn about our spiritual relationship with God and if we cannot trust him, we cannot please him. Our nature has a stubborn and independent determination as we are not naturally wired to yield our control to anyone even God Himself. This is why the Bible speaks about our mind being renewed as learning to submit and obey is a learned behavior. This is especially the case when it comes to turning loose of our problems because we would much rather spend our time and energy trying to defeat them with worry and anxiety. The frustrating reality is that many of our misfortunes are simply too difficult for us to handle. We might as well face it, we cannot solve, repair, heal, restore, or resolve our serious obstacles, but God can. “But Jesus beheld them and said unto them, with men this is impossible: but with God, all things are possible” Matthew 19:26. When we finally realize we are unable to fix what is broken, we then have the choice to give our problems over to God and believe that he will step into the need and create a miracle. This is great news! Charles Swindoll is quoted as saying, “We must cease striving and trust God to provide what He thinks is best and in whatever time He chooses to make it available. But this kind of trusting doesn’t come naturally. It’s a spiritual crisis of the will in which we must choose to exercise faith.”
I realize it’s difficult to understand, but Jesus offers a very different perspective about suffering. While we are asking how God could possibly create anything good from our difficult situation, we usually forget that he knows everything and is waiting to use our circumstances to manifest his glory. Even though we may experience a thunderstorm occasionally, let us be reminded that eventually they stop and the sun comes out. Our life was not intended to be a continual valley of shadows or for us to carry our worries and heavy burdens. Matthew 11:28 declares, “Come unto me all who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest.” Today as you continue to face your giant and it seems there is no hope for victory, consider transferring this burden over to Jesus and allow him the opportunity to intervene. Linda Shepherd is quoted as saying, “If you are caught up in situations beyond your control, the solution is not figuring out how God can save you; it’s trusting that he will.”
LIVING ON PURPOSE
PRAYING AND WAITING ON OUR MIRACLE
I received a letter the other day from a reader who wanted to know more about praying for miracles and how long a person should keep asking. My first response is to ask, “Just how serious are you about receiving your request?” I realize the subject of faith is actually more complex than it seems and one that I have attempted to address in my new book, “Convictions and Considerations” which will be released this summer. There are many people including myself who are seeking and waiting on miracles for everything from financial breakthroughs to physical healing. Most Christians understand the warnings against praying amiss and how God is not to be seen as a genie in a bottle, but at the same time, the Bible encourages us to step forward and not be afraid to present our petitions for needs that are important to us. Hebrews 4:16 reminds us, “Let us, therefore, come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” Before we approach any situation with prayer, let us seek discernment and invite God to speak to our hearts as we listen and advance according to His directions. I believe every circumstance is unique and once we have His instructions we can confidently press forward, knowing that He is orchestrating control of the situation.
When praying for miracles, some believe that we are only to ask God for something once and never mention it again. The idea is that He heard us the first time and will make His decision when He’s ready without us having to continually aggravate Him about it. Others are convinced that a person should keep asking until they receive an answer because they believe God honors perseverance. In Matthew chapter 15, there just so happens to be an interesting account about persistent and relentless prayer. In verse 22, we find a woman begging Jesus to heal her daughter, but the Lord did not immediately acknowledge her. She kept following Him and crying even louder saying, “Son of David have mercy on me!” The disciples told Jesus to send her away because she was being irritating and getting on everyone’s nerves, but He did not. Eventually, she was in His presence and continued to worship and plead with Him to intervene as she was absolutely not going to take no for an answer. Finally, Christ spoke to her and announced, “O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto you as you desire.” The text concludes by confirming that her daughter was healed from that very hour. May we notice here that persistent intercession has nothing to do with God growing weary of our constant asking but has everything to do with the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen.
When planting seeds of prayer, it’s the individual’s responsibility to water them with constant confessions and confirmations. The nail is not driven in with one blow, but rather with a steady and continual driving force of fervency, tenacity, focus, and determination. We can increase the intensity of our prayers even more with fasting which will draw us nearer to His presence and enable us to have a magnified spiritual clarity. It’s evident that most people at least subconsciously believe that God can manifest a miracle because when something tragic happens, we hear them say, “I’ll be praying for you,” which of course is wonderful. Allow me to ask, when you pray, do you really believe God is going to create a miracle or do you include, “if it is His will?” There is nothing wrong with approaching our Creator and acknowledging His sovereignty because if you recall, Jesus prayed with this spiritual awareness when He was in the garden just a few hours before He was arrested. “And He was withdrawn from them about a stone’s cast, and kneeled down and prayed, saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine be done” Luke 22:41-42. May we consider that an important aspect of prayer is humbly agreeing with His decision. This does not cancel the concept of submitting our petitions or speaking God’s Word boldly with faith and authority but instead emphasizes the need to respect His plans and to hear His voice before we proceed and react. “Jesus looked at them and said, with man this is impossible, but with God, all things are possible” Matthew 19:26. Read more at billyhollandministries.com
LIVING ON PURPOSE
BUILDING A LADDER TO YOUR DREAMS
There are certain spiritual laws similar to the natural law of gravity that may be difficult to understand yet they are true and important keys to victorious living. The power of words fall under this category and are an excellent addition of knowledge and wisdom to our spiritual life. We can learn that words are much more than simple communication and when spoken in accordance with God’s desires they actually carry the power to motivate, inspire, and change circumstances. Even though the name it and claim it movement distorted this principle somewhat, there remains the fundamental revelation that becoming a light of optimism and faith is associated with training our mind to think positively. No matter what type of situation we might face, we do not have to surrender to a critical or defeated attitude. We constantly have the choice to be a refreshing fountain of encouragement, strength, and hope, or we can be a critical septic tank of doubt, depression, and despair.
The reason why God wants to change the way we think and speak is that He wants to change who we are. More than anyone else, He knows about the power of words because according to the Genesis account of creation, He created the heavens and the earth by literally speaking them into existence. For example, when someone declares they will always be poor, or the situation is impossible, we have just witnessed an agreement that has now been set in motion to be accomplished. Matthew chapter eighteen explains that if two or more shall agree, they will receive from the Lord and Isaiah chapter fifty-seven talks about God creating the fruit of our lips. This spiritual law of positive and negative confession is found throughout the Bible and can produce blessings or curses. Many will consider this lifestyle as childishly naive, but the spiritual principle of sowing and reaping is a spiritual reality.
The stories in the Bible are not just tales of giants, whales, and fiery furnaces, they are graciously given to us as lessons that we might learn and incorporate spiritual understanding into our lives. By the way, there is more to being a Christian than going around telling everyone we are one. The goal is for people to notice how we act and observe Christ in us, and may we be reminded they are especially listening to every word we say. When it comes to words, James chapter three talks about how small the tongue is and yet it has the ability to defile a person and those around them if not controlled. The taming of the tongue must come from an internal awareness and conviction because the mouth speaks what the heart entertains and reveals the true identity of the person. When we accept Christ as our Lord and Savior, the transformation process continues by asking God to take control of our life and this begins with allowing Him to change and renew our mind. Kenneth E. Hagan is quoted as saying, “Our confessions will either imprison us or set us free. Our confession is the result of our believing and our believing is the result of our right or wrong thinking.”
There is a true account about a young boy growing up Cleveland in a home to which he later described as materially poor but spiritually rich. One day a famous track and field athlete named Charlie Paddock came to his school to speak to the student body. At the time, Mr. Paddock was considered the fastest human being alive. His audience was captivated as he told the children to develop a vision of what they wanted to be and then to ask God to help them accomplish their goals. This little boy decided that he too wanted to become the fastest runner on earth so he went to his track coach and told him about his dream and the coach replied, “It’s great to have a dream, but to attain your dream you must build a ladder to it. The first step is determination, the second is dedication, the third is discipline, and the fourth rung is a positive attitude!” The result of positive thinking and confessing was four gold medals, breaking the Olympic and world records for the 200 meter, and holding the broad jump record for 24 years. And who did this little boy grow up to be? Jesse Owens.
LIVING ON PURPOSE
WHERE I FIRST SAW THE LIGHT
The cross is one of the most recognizable symbols in the world and rightly so; it represents mankind’s hope for eternal life. Does this sound religiously dogmatic? Maybe so, but how could any sincere Christian give reverence to Holy Week without referring to the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ? Billy Graham is quoted as saying, “God proved His love on the cross. When Christ hung, and bled, and died, it was God saying to the entire world, I love you.” To go a step further, the follower of Christ has been commissioned to tell the world about God’s grace which purchased and provides the reality of eternal salvation. Most people have heard about Jesus Christ being tortured on the cross at this time of year, even though the world would much rather advertise a more happier version of a holiday that emphasizes cute bunnies and hunting for colored eggs. When writing or speaking in the public forum, of course, it’s wise to have an open mind and not be so rigid about a certain issue to the point where only a handful of people will listen, but the cross is an exception. The cross is the foundation of the Christian faith and the promises contained therein is where the disciple of the Bible refuses to compromise. Calvary is where every child of God is united within the greatest act of unconditional love the world has ever known. Matthew Henry is quoted as saying, “Come and see the victories of the cross of Christ. His wounds our healing, his agonies our repose, his conflicts our conquests, his groans our songs, his pains our ease, his shame our glory, his death our life, his sufferings, our salvation.”
It’s true the great commission has more to do with the way we live than what we say. Through the concept of evangelism, Christians comprehend the world needs to hear how the cross represents victory over sin, but they also need to remember it’s up to them to become a genuine demonstration of what a true follower is called to be. The world is not going to consider accepting Christ as their Savior if the representatives of God’s kingdom are not who they claim to be. If anyone proclaims to be ransomed by the blood that Jesus shed on the cross, yet their life does not match their words, how will others be convinced this is the path God is calling them to take? May we as his followers come to a point in our spiritual journey where the cross becomes more of an awareness of His presence than a piece of jewelry. Charles Spurgeon is quoted as saying, “I find no better cure for depression than to trust in the Lord with all my heart and seek to realize afresh the power of the peace-speaking blood of Jesus, and his infinite love in dying upon the cross to put away all my transgressions.” Before any of us can celebrate the cross as our deliverance, we must understand it was because of us he had to go there.
Included within the accountability of taking up our own cross is discerning when divine opportunities are being presented to share the gospel and when to be silent. Being led by God’s Spirit is much more effective than our clever arguments and emotional enthusiasm. I confess I’ve failed to recognize the difference and made a mess of things and to be honest there have also been times when I hesitated from embarrassment and intimidation (remember Peter). Our pride causes us to believe our family will reject us and friends at work will label us as fanatics and make fun of us. So how does someone who embraces the cross of Christ learn how to deal with a rebellious world that is trying to avoid it? It is honesty, humility, and sincerity that God uses to reveal the truth about his love and forgiveness to others much more than we can with our social religiosity. Jesus loves you so much he willingly went to the cross and died so that you could be saved and live forever. He rose from the dead and is waiting for you to respond to his love. Issac Watts wrote the hymn “At the cross” and here is the chorus. “At the cross, at the cross where I first saw the light, and the burden of my heart rolled away, it was there by faith I received my sight, and now I am happy all the day.”
LIVING ON PURPOSE
THE CHRISTIAN DIRECTION AND PURPOSE
Many people believe it’s their mission in life to tell everyone what to do and how to believe and I’m sure there have been times when we have been guilty of something similar. There are situations when we feel that individuals need sound advice and this might be true, but it’s also common to forget that everyone has a right to think and live however they want. Christians do not intend to be insulting, but sometimes their message can be offensive and in rare cases, some end up living in isolation because everyone intentionally avoids them. It’s true, serious Christians have a burden and really care about others, but sometimes they take matters into their own hands and do not wait for God to guide them. It becomes even worse when concern turns to condemnation or even hatred for what someone else believes, which no matter how civil and courteous it might appear, no one can walk in the peace of God and embrace unforgiveness at the same time. Since the beginning of history, humans have drawn religious and political lines in the sand and dared the other side to cross over as strife and judgment is embedded within our nature. Unfortunately, being divided is so common that we would not comprehend how to act any other way. Jesus talks about how we should display spiritual love instead of being led by our emotions, but sadly, instead of accepting his guidelines for charitable living, many who boldly call themselves his disciples believe it’s their responsibility to fight against anyone whose theological, social, or political views are contrary to their own.
You and I are never going to save anyone because only God can do that. We can instruct those who want to learn and demonstrate what we believe, but that is about the extent of it. For those who are convinced they know everything, it’s nearly impossible to gain their respect. In the rare situation that anyone has ever listened to you and followed your suggestions, you should consider it a miracle. Even counselors that are paid handsomely from those who are seeking advice will confess it’s sporadic that anyone follows what they suggest. This reveals why Jesus has such a small following as the scripture relays that, “narrow is the way to eternal life and few there be that will find it.” Speaking of choices, the Bible is filled with stories and insights that illustrates the beauty of obedience and the negative consequences of rebellion. We are reminded of the simple illustration of a child who behaves badly and is disciplined while another follows instructions and is rewarded. The concept of good and evil is associated with an obedient person who follows God’s divine order even if it means personal sacrifice while the disobedient individual who lives independently is content to trust their emotions and base every decision on what they want to do.
So, what have we as Christians been called to do and how can we help a world of people who could care less about God? Well, you can search for yourself, but I’m convinced the meaning of life is to yield our will to God. With many years of thought behind this answer, I have not found anything more important than to know, love, and obey the Lord. Matthew 22:36-38 says, “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the law? Jesus replied, love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment.” The Bible advises everyone to seek out their own salvation with fear and trembling because the decisions we make today will have a direct impact on our next life. This is a reality we can choose to explore or we can continue ignoring and hoping for the best which by the way, is the foundation of freewill. For the Christian, freewill includes how intimate we want to be to God, however, accepting the responsibility of being a representative for his kingdom does not allow compromising our faith or playing both sides of the fence. Yes, it’s difficult to live in a state of spiritual sensitivity, but if we desire to be pleasing to the Lord, it will always be in direct cooperation with the Holy Spirit. After all is said and done, our spiritual success will be determined by our love and devotion to God.
LIVING ON PURPOSE
GRATEFUL FOR HEAVEN BUT FOCUSING ON CHRIST
I cannot imagine a more optimistic and exciting thought than going to heaven and spending an eternity with God. For those who have accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior, this divine promise is a wellspring of joy which confirms that our trials cannot be compared to the glory that awaits us. We should be inspired to fasten this covenant vow to our bathroom mirror so that every morning we can be reminded of God’s love and rejoice for the opportunity to not only know Him in this life, but to worship and adore Him forever. The fundamentals of our spiritual salvation can be basically described as God’s infinite compassion intervened as a rescue mission of mercy in order to save us from our sin. Martin Luther is quoted as saying, “I would not give one moment of heaven for all the pleasures and riches of the world, even if it lasted for thousands and thousands of years.”
Our daily routines are filled with distractions and for most of us it’s exhausting just to keep up, but even with the stress and frustration, it’s important to remain aware of a much higher reality. If we only think about the next life when we attend funerals, we are missing a vital component of our relationship with God that can keep us excited and rejuvenated with continual encouragement and joy. Spending time alone with the Lord was never intended to be an occasional experience or a last resort, but rather to be a constant connection as we strive to understand and obey His instructions. Walking in God’s presence as a lifestyle is intended to not only transform our spirit, but to also renew our mind and prepare our heart with the anticipation of meeting Him face to face. Titus 2:13 reminds us, “Looking for that blessed hope and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ.”
One of the many blessings of being a follower of Christ is choosing to live with a sincere attitude of peace and hope. We’ve heard people talk about going to their happy place and actually our Creator desires to abide and communicate within the conscience of those who love Him and who choose to honor Him as the Lord of their life. However, being attentive to His voice will not come naturally or without serious determination. Spiritual awareness and intimacy are realized when His desires become our highest priority. Many do not comprehend that as Christians our allegiance is to King Jesus and our citizenship has been transferred from this natural world to the spiritual reality of His kingdom. This concept of yielding and abandoning our will has everything to do with devoting our life to following the blueprints He has drawn for us. Psalm 14:2 says, “The Lord looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand and seek God”
As we consider the life after this one, it’s normal to become excited about our heavenly home. How encouraging it is to imagine that many of our loved ones, our new name, our new body, our inheritance, and citizenship, along with crowns and rewards are all a part of our glorious future. How wonderful to know that heaven will be filled with endless praise, everlasting joy, perfect peace and contentment without darkness, discouragement, suffering, pain, sickness, or sorrow. We are only briefly passing through this world and the only thing we will take with us when we leave is an account of how we lived. It’s sad but true that everyone is not concerned with their destiny and let us include that no one will enter because they are good or deserve it. We are graciously given eternal life when we repent, confess, obey, and receive Christ as our Lord who willingly paid our ransom. Billy Graham is quoted as saying, “I will not go to heaven because I am a preacher. I’m going to heaven entirely on the merit of the work of Christ. The most thrilling thing about heaven is that Jesus Christ will be there!” “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born-again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you” (I Peter 1:3-4).
LIVING ON PURPOSE
IMAGINE WHAT WE ARE MISSING
When we hold a tiny baby in our arms, do we consider how devoted they will be to God, or do we just see the natural and physical possibilities? As Christians, we have the opportunity to become as close to God and spiritually sensitive as we desire with the potential to discern wisdom that is hidden from our earthly understanding. An important question is how many people, including all those tiny babies, will make the most important decision to follow this type of lifestyle? I realize it’s a sobering subject, but one that I believe is worth considering.
In Luke chapter two, we read about an individual named Simeon who was a spiritually dedicated man of prayer and fasting as he is described in verse 25, “righteous and devout with the Holy Spirit upon him.” He was there when Mary and Joseph brought baby Jesus (who was probably no older than three months) to be dedicated at the temple according to the Law of Moses. God had promised this elderly man that he would not pass away until he had seen the king of all kings and on the very same day that Mary and Joseph went to the temple, Simeon encountered the divine appointment of meeting this special family. When he looked at Jesus, he reached out and held him and said, “For with my eyes I have seen the Lord’s salvation.” Simeon proceeded to prophesy over the child and even though Mary and Joseph were already aware that Jesus was the Savior of the world, they still marveled at Simeon’s words. Allow us to pause a moment and consider that this man would not have recognized the Christ child if he had not been walking in a high level of spiritual sensitivity. Mary and Joseph appeared to be just another average normal family that blended in with the massive crowd and yet Simeon immediately was easily able to identify the Lord.
Later in the same chapter, we learn about an elderly prophetess named Anna who also worshiped and prayed to God in the temple night and day. It just so happened that she was there that day and she too recognized baby Jesus as the Son of God. Anna, who some have calculated to have been over 100-years-old, began to boldly tell the crowd about how this child would be the redeemer of God’s people. Now I realize that older people usually go on and on when they see an infant and say things like, “they are really going to be amazing” but this was definitely different. Those who passed by probably thought, “Now isn’t that touching, a nice elderly lady making over a tiny baby” and then went on about their business. However, let us note the reason they were not absolutely ecstatic about what she is saying is because they were unable to perceive the reality that God was right in front of them. Could it be the lack of spiritual sensitivity is the reason why many times we do not notice the presence of God in our busy everyday life?
We realize that Christians are to live in a high level of awareness, but we must admit we are weak and easily distracted. I have a question; if we are called to develop a deeper spiritual cognizance where we know what is going on around us, then what is the consequence if we refuse? By thinking, feeling, deciding, and walking in our default nature, we are literally rebelling against the way God intended for us to exist. Since we are actually saying we are not interested in listening to or following God’s plans and are not passionate about doing his will, how could he possibly be pleased with us? Being devoted to following the Lord is what being His disciple is all about. Drawing nearer to God enables us to to be filled with His Spirit and this allows us to more keenly understand the spiritual realm. So why do we refuse to draw near to God? Because we are more concerned with what we want to do. We can no longer blame anyone but ourselves as our real hindrance has everything to do with our own rebellion. If spiritual awareness is not a priority, we will simply not be able to discern truth. Within the sin of omission is the consideration that if we had taken our spiritual life more seriously, then maybe God would not be so disappointed about what could have been.
LIVING ON PURPOSE
ACCEPTING FORGIVENESS AND RESTORATION
It has been said, “Our lives are defined by opportunities, including the ones we miss. Let us not weep over chances we have missed, but rather for the ones we did not take.” When I look back over my life, I can see where I’ve made plenty of mistakes and I’ve also missed out on some wonderful opportunities. Maybe you are saying the same thing. If so, I encourage you to resist the temptation to live in regret. Humans are fallible creatures and we all make wrong choices, but hopefully, through our failures and disappointments we can learn more about ourselves and that is a good thing. James Joyce is quoted as saying, “mistakes are the portals of discovery” and there is no doubt they can be a significant part of our personal development process. I realize that keeping our head in the sand is much easier than facing the truth or forgiving ourselves, but repentance is a more worthwhile endeavor than living with the overwhelming feelings of guilt and condemnation. We can either embrace the inclination to allow negative thoughts to haunt us and keep us subdued with sadness or we can resist this emotional torture by calling on the Lord to heal our heart and renew our mind. God’s plans and ways are bigger than our mistakes and lost opportunities. He is not only ready to forgive and restore us, but He can also fill our life with confidence, hope, and victory!
It’s common when suffering from disappointment and regret, to be reminded of the ones we secretly blame for our failures. However, as the water is long gone under the bridge, it’s time to turn loose of the grudges and stop replaying the scenarios of what could have been. You’ve suffered enough! Walking around in this negative and stressful state of mind can lead to depression, anxiety, and even physical health problems. It would be wise to make a list of those we need to forgive and sincerely ask God to help us while making sure our name is at the top. You see, bitterness and resentment can hold us in a spiritual and mental prison, but sincerely giving it over to God is the key that opens the door to freedom. We are the only one that can choose to put an end to us living in the misery of an unchangeable past. Alice Walker is quoted as saying, “The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they do not have any.” The Bible refers to the devil as the accuser of the brethren and he is constantly trying to flood our mind with negative and damaging persuasions. Some individuals may try to pretend their past never happened or that maybe these memories will all just go away which sounds nice, but running away from reality is not the answer. Denial is living in agony, but being honest with God and ourselves is always the pathway to peace.
In Philippians chapter 3 the Apostle Paul says, “This one thing I do; forgetting those things which are behind, I reach forth to the things which are before me.” He is encouraging us to not only concentrate on the present but to also look to the future and be sensitive to new opportunities. We have a tendency to deal with our problems our own way, however, God wants to help us deal with this once and for all. Let go and allow Him to give you a brand-new start as He’s ready to fulfill the dreams and desires He’s placed in your heart. He loves us and longs to forgive us and to either reinstate our dreams that seem to be lost forever or He can create new opportunities in ways we could never imagine. I believe our Heavenly Father desires to restore the years that you’ve lost and give you a fresh zeal so that you can fulfill your destiny. Being positive and optimistic about your future is a deliberate decision. Will you sincerely believe you are forgiven and accept the spiritual reality that you are worthy of His love? We know that nothing is impossible with God and His Word cannot fail. Psalm 103:11-12 is a wonderful promise about being forgiven and is filled with hope for all eternity. “For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is His mercy toward them that fear Him. As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.”
LIVING ON PURPOSE
THERE’S MORE TO A HOUSE THAN CURB APPEAL
A friend of mine called the other day and was really excited about a new idea he had about flipping houses. My wife and I watch programs about renovating properties and we enjoy seeing the creative ideas and amazing results. I told my friend I thought this was a great adventure and that I’m sure it will be a success since he is skilled in the area of construction work. I became even more enthused when he went on to tell me that quitting his job and going into a new profession was not the only thing that was going on in his life. He also has a desire to rededicate his life to God and allow the Lord to do some serious spiritual remodeling within his heart. This vision of making a major change is refreshing, to say the least, and I’m always encouraged to hear about individuals who step out in faith and have a passion to improve their lives and fulfill their destiny. No matter who you are or what you’ve been through, God is inviting you today to be spiritually redeemed and transformed by the grace and love of Jesus Christ.
Whether remodeling a house or our life, it’s going to take a lot of determination and hard work. Have you noticed it seems there are always improvements that need to be done around the house and a considerable amount of constant maintenance in order to keep everything running smoothly? Of course, some issues are more important than others, but we can agree that our foundation is one of the most critical factors because that is what everything is based on. If the foundation has problems, we need to deal with that before we go any further in our improvements. It’s deceptive to paint and decorate a structure that is literally falling apart internally. Likewise, when it comes to our spiritual life, many people can paste a smile on their face and seem to be alright on the outside, but often they are empty and miserable on the inside. The Bible actually compares our existence with a house and uses the symbolism of our faith to describe the stability and endurance of our life. In Matthew 7:24-27, we read the words of Christ, “Therefore, everyone who hears my words and puts them into practice is like a wise person who built their house on the rock. The rain came down, the floods came, the winds blew and beat against that house, yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish person who built their house on the sand. The rain came down, the floods came, the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with terrible destruction.” Just as the foundation is the most important part of any physical structure, becoming born-again creates for us a brand-new spiritual foundation along with a new identity as a member of God’s eternal family.
These storms and floods are referring to the difficulties we will face throughout our journey and is a heavenly warning for us to be prepared by trusting God who is our refuge in times of trouble. How many times have we known what we should do, but rebelliously decided not to do it? Christianity is a privilege and an opportunity to follow Jesus, nevertheless just because someone declares to be a follower does not necessarily mean they are living God’s way. There is a huge difference between knowing about God and having a personal relationship with him. How can we learn to trust God if we do not know him? When our comprehension of him is cloudy, we are going to view him wrongly. However, the individual who places their faith in God and is dedicated to obeying his instructions will have peace and joy no matter what type of crisis may come. Giving our life to Jesus as a “fixer-upper” is the most important decision we will ever make. Only his power and authority can transform us into what we’ve been called to be. Our creator has all the answers and solutions, but it’s our responsibility to take the initiative as building inspectors to make sure the foundation of our life is strong on the inside because there’s more to a house than curb appeal.
LIVING ON PURPOSE
THE TRANSFORMING POWER OF GOD’S TRUTH
Most of us have heard that the Bible is a road-map for this life. I have not only listened to messages like this but have spent much of my life proclaiming it. Nonetheless, how many know that just because we believe something is true and are thoroughly convinced this is the path we should take, does not mean that we will always follow it? Take for example, we realize that eating right and daily exercise would be extremely beneficial to our health, but we seem to be experts of procrastination by consistently putting off until tomorrow what we should be doing today. I’m also guilty of this and then I walk around beating myself up from the condemnation of not doing what I know I should do. This is just one area that some of us struggle with among the vast subjects of opportunities that we face every day. So, what do we say when we know there is nothing more important than God’s word and still refuse to study it? The same is true with prayer as we all know there is nothing more powerful and yet many times we choose to put it off.
The reason why the Bible is so important to the human race is that it’s basically a reflection of who God is and a personal letter from him that explains what he wants from us. It contains true stories and words of divine wisdom which can strengthen, encourage, and lead us into his will. Learning and understanding the word of God illuminates our mind and opens our spiritual eyes so that we can see more clearly how to not only live an abundant life, but to also give him the honor and glory that he deserves. Since God is the creator of all things and has uniquely designed you and I, we should be grateful and consider him worthy to receive our deepest love and adoration. The concept of absorbing God’s holy truth is a crucial part of the process of knowing him personally and opens the door for us to live in the awareness of his presence.
The Bible stands or falls as a whole. If a newspaper were routinely discovered to contain errors, it would be quickly discredited. It would make no difference to say, “all the errors are confined to page three” or “many of the stories we publish are probably not true.” For any publication to be reliable in any of its parts, it must be factual throughout. Why would we waste our time reading something that is fabricated? In the same way, if the Bible is inaccurate when it speaks of everything from geology to genealogy, why should it be trusted? It is either a trustworthy resource, or it is not. It’s clear to see who is behind all of this negative publicity as the devil is against God and commonly referred to as the enemy of our soul. He also understands the potential spiritual power that can be generated when someone reads and applies God’s word. This kingdom of darkness is aggressively working around the clock to prevent anyone from discovering the secrets and mysteries that God intended for us to know. The devil realizes that if the spiritual principals within the Bible can be dismissed and discredited as fictional fables, the possibility for salvation and victorious living are diminished. R.C. Sproul is quoted as saying, “It is fashionable in some academic circles to exercise scholarly criticism of the Bible. In so doing, scholars place themselves above the Bible and seek to correct it. If indeed the Bible is the word of God, nothing could be more arrogant. It is God who corrects us; we don’t correct him. We do not stand over God but under him.” I feel so strongly about the importance of absorbing God’s word that last year I went into the studio and recorded an 80 minute CD where I narrate over 100 encouraging and inspiring Bible passages. I realize it’s challenging for many people to sit read, so I’ve made this resource as an enjoyable alternative where anyone can just relax and soak in God’s truth. It has beautiful background music and is filled with scriptures about faith, healing, hope, and peace. I would be glad to send this out free to anyone who is interested. Billy Graham is quoted as saying, “Let us encourage all believers to feed on God’s word – it is nourishment for the soul.”
LIVING ON PURPOSE
INJECTING FAITH INTO OUR DOUBT
Soon after Jesus had resurrected, we find a beautiful passage found in John chapter 20 that is a wonderful example of how much God loves us and wants to encourage us. The friends and family of Christ were gathered together after his horrific crucifixion and were still grieving over his death when all of a sudden, he appears in their midst! Even though they remembered how he had promised to return I’m sure they were still awestruck. Jesus stretches out His hands and reveals his wounds, and of course, they are overjoyed to see him again. He spoke peace and breathed on them and before he left, he filled them with the Holy Spirit. Thomas was not there that night and later when he returned and was told that Jesus had visited them, he said that until he could see Jesus with his own eyes, he would not believe it. After eight days the group came together again and like last time Jesus miraculously appeared except this time Thomas was present. Christ looked at Thomas and told him to reach out and touch the scars, and he did. Jesus said, “Be not faithless, but believing,” and Thomas replied, “My Lord and my God.” When we are discouraged and struggling to believe, we can know that God will always make the extra effort to prove how much he loves us and cares about us.
How many times have you needed the Lord to inject faith into your doubt? I call on him to help me every day. You see, Thomas was not the only person who had problems with doubting. Actually, he’s a perfect example of you and I. God realizes how hard it is for us to believe and even though Thomas could literally see him, we do not have that luxury. This is where faith comes in and the reality of understanding that just because we cannot see him physically, does not mean he is not there. In verse 29 we read, “Jesus said unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.” Faith is having the ultimate optimistic and positive attitude. Faith is choosing to believe when we are walking over bridges that cannot be seen. Faith is paying our tithes when we only have a small amount of money in our bank account. Faith is resting in peace and completely trusting that God’s word cannot fail. Yes, it’s difficult to demonstrate confidence in the Lord when all we can see is discouragement and hopelessness, but let us remember when Jesus intervenes into your situation, miracles happen and nothing is ever the same. Everything and everyone in heaven and earth are subject to his infinite power and authority.
So, how can we have more faith? We can pray and ask God to give us more courage to believe. Faith is not only a source of spiritual hope and strength, but Hebrews 11:6 reminds us, “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that approaches God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” In Acts chapter 16, we read where Paul and Silas were being held in a dark and dreary prison, yet they began to worship the Lord. Why? Because joy is not confined to a geographic location, a mood, or a feeling, but is activated when the determination to trust God becomes stronger than the temptation to be afraid. We cannot live in faith and fear at the same time. If we will feed our faith, our fears will starve! These men made a choice to see reality with the eyes of their spirit instead of being led by their emotions. Whatever trial we are going through today, we also have the opportunity to do the same thing. Our natural senses are connected with our mind, but spiritual faith declares that I will base my hope and trust in God no matter what happens because I know he always has my best interest in mind. Humans have a tendency to rely on their intelligence and have confidence in their own decisions, but this cannot bring true spiritual peace. True peace comes from knowing that God is in control. Thomas Aquinas is quoted as saying, “To one who has faith, no explanation is necessary. To one without faith, no explanation is possible.
LIVING ON PURPOSE
THE DREAM WITHIN US
Our destiny is the core of our purpose and constantly urges and drives our responsibility to make sure we are doing everything we can to accomplish our mission. This divine calling fuels our thoughts and imaginations as we ask God to help keep us going forward and to never give up. Once we discover our vision our goal will not be easy. Dreams and faith go hand in hand. May we also consider that working a temporary job might be necessary in order to support our family while we are developing our skills and waiting for our dream to manifest. Benjamin Franklin is quoted as saying, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” In the study of God, we see that he is articulate and his attributes are infused with a Heavenly order. It has been said that a goal without a plan is just a wish and I’m sure we can agree that success does not happen without a strategy and large amounts of determination and perseverance. Warren Buffett is quoted as saying, “Someone’s sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago.”
I remember as a young boy, I loved insects and animals and wanted to become a biologist. From morning until evening I would catch all types of creatures and then I would read about them. However, as a teenager, I abandoned my dream and unfortunately became more interested in the social scene than years of academic discipline. About the same time, I was given an opportunity to learn how to play the guitar and discovered that I loved to sing and write Christian music. After I was married, I still enjoyed writing and performing my own songs, but now I had a family and was responsible for making money to support them. I was blessed to have a good paying job, but it was a profession that I absolutely had no interest in. In fact, for a while, there was a dark cloud of disappointment and frustration hanging over my head as I felt that I was not following my spiritual blueprint and being hindered from utilizing my potential.
So, after seeking the answers to my questions through many prayers and tears, the Lord lovingly helped me find my mission along with the peace and contentment I had been searching for. I accepted my job as a way to take care of our financial obligations while also working diligently in what I was passionate about at the same time. I would rise early to go to work and when I came home, I would spend as many hours as possible studying the Bible, writing, teaching, and recording music. I eventually graduated from Seminary and became an ordained minister, certified chaplain, and a Christian author. Has it been a hard road? Absolutely! Especially when very few are interested in what you are doing. So, was becoming a biologist a part of my spiritual blueprint and I made the choice to walk away or was it only something that was fun and the Lord graciously steered me into the correct destiny he planned for me? Now that I look back on my life, the ministry has been challenging, but by His grace, I’m confident for the most part that I am following his plan.
When seeking direction, one of the most important considerations is to not allow anything to quench the excitement and zeal that God has placed within us. You and I have a definite and specific purpose and it’s critical to protect and defend our mission from the dream killers. We’ve been given angels, the Holy Spirit, God’s Word, and of course, Jesus himself who is ready and willing to help us and empower us to do our Father’s will. Yes, there may be times when you might need to walk around the block and encourage yourself with scriptures, positive confessions, and quotes from those who can motivate and inspire you. And when we choose to obey God’s voice, we might as well be prepared to face adversity as there will be times of severe spiritual attacks, weeping, heart-aches, and intense soul-searching. Nonetheless, just remember you are following God’s mandate and he is the highest authority and nothing is impossible with him! If your calling only encourages one person, in God’s perspective you are truly a tremendous success! It’s not about what we can do, it’s about being determined to obey what he is telling us to do.
LIVING ON PURPOSE
GOD FORGIVES AND RESTORES
We all stand on common ground when it comes to making bad choices and terrible decisions but this does not have to be the end of our story. Missing the mark is common when we give our emotions the power to guide and lead us and we can make a mess out of things in a hurry. However, there is a huge difference between allowing our mistakes to keep us in the bondage of hopelessness and believing that he can save and deliver us. Since many of our problems come from obeying our carnal influences, the Lord declares that our true success depends on how much we are willing to surrender our desires, reach out to him by faith, and live according to his plans. Of all the decisions we will make in our lifetime, there is no better resolution than to walk with our Savior and obey his voice. Proverbs 3:3-4 says, “Let not mercy and truth forsake thee: bind them about thy neck; write them upon the table of thine heart: So shalt thou find favor and good understanding in the sight of God and man.” God knows us better than we know ourselves and our life can be a journey of hope and joy when we know that we can trust him with everything.
When we suffer because of our bad decisions, we have yet another choice: To either accept being defeated or to ask Jesus to do a deep work in us and bring us out the other side victorious. Many will scoff at this statement because they believe their situation is beyond anyone’s help, and that even God cannot fix our mess. Some might say, “Even if God can hear me, what do I say to him?” Well, first we can realize there are consequences for our negative thoughts and actions and that our idea of recovery and restoration is probably not a part of the same plan that he has. We can also humbly accept that it was our twisted plots and schemes that caused the problem in the first place. Conviction is good because it allows us to see the truth and when we ask Christ to forgive us he will remove the condemnation. Within this restoring process, the best thing we can do is to let go and let God. In other words, we have already tried it our way and now it’s time to be respectful and submissive so that he can heal, recreate, and lead us into our perfect destiny.
For those who are familiar with professional basketball, I’m sure you will remember a player named Vinny Baker. He was a 6’11” power forward and a top 10 draft pick in 1993. In his first five years he averaged around 20 points per game and in 1999, he signed a seven-year, $86 million contract with the Seattle Supersonics. You would think this would be the ultimate summit for someone who had worked so hard but in this case, there was also another type of high: the one that comes from drugs and alcohol. While being influenced by his friends and other players he started smoking pot and drinking as the life of a professional athlete involves a lot of opportunities to party. He was getting wasted before games and before long, he was even drinking during games. One night he was so stoned that he wondered if he could even function but somehow ended up scoring 41 points. Eventually, the partying began to take its toll on his mental and physical health and after being traded a few times he was finally out of the league in 2006.
After struggling with several rehab failures, Vin started going to a Bible study. His lifestyle had changed and one day as he was crying out to God, he felt an urgency to call his old boss who owned the Seattle team. During a meeting with Howard Schultz, Vinny told the owner he just wanted a fresh start which led him to humbly accept a barista position at a Starbucks. After losing over $100 million, he was now at peace with God and himself. Through a series of miracles, Mr. Baker has now moved on to broadcasting and development work with the Milwaukee Bucks, and he’s also working with an organization to open rehabilitation centers around the country. Whatever has happened and wherever you are today, God wants to forgive you, restore you, and fill you with his love and peace.
LIVING ON PURPOSE
DO WE CARE WHAT GOD THINKS?
Is God always happy? Well, let me see, this is an unusual question but I would say probably not. Since he is not made of flesh we assume that he does not have emotions like us. But, on the other hand, we read about his demonstrations of compassion and anger so I guess this is still up for debate. It is my opinion that some things please him and others cause him disappointment and most of it is associated with the way people live. So, what do you think makes him happy? Well, again we have the scriptures which reveal his thoughts and these explain his desires. Remember, there was a time he became outraged when the people of Noah’s day were living like sinful Barbarians and he brought a flood that destroyed the whole world except for eight people. So, we can clearly see that when individuals follow sin instead of submitting to his voice this makes him very upset. Basically, He’s glad when we live for him and aggravated when we do whatever we want.
Here is a two-part question; do you believe he is happy with you, and do you really care what he thinks about you? Anyone can take the time and learn about God and what he expects from us. Yes, there is a problem with the world’s lack of spiritual understanding but there is also a huge issue with people who realize what is right but arrogantly refuse to do it. These individuals walk in the shadows and avoid God’s light on purpose because his holy truth exposes more than what they want to deal with. They know deep down that he is not happy with them and yet they are content to live in denial far away from anything that will cause feelings of guilt. You see, the Bible was given to us so that we could understand right and wrong and how much God wants us to be good. He is also not shy about explaining the consequences that will happen when we choose to be bad. One reason why it is so important to read his word (and exactly why many do not even open it) is that it empowers us to live up to God’s standards while eliminating our excuses. Charles Stanley is quoted, “To discipline, ourselves is to simply say no to our desires when they conflict with God’s will.”
With God being the creator and judge of all things, our soul being priceless, and eternity just a breath away, why are so few interested? I am not necessarily a single-minded, hellfire and brimstone preacher, even though there is nothing wrong with presenting much needed Biblical truth, but my desire is to emphasize and relay the message of God’s great love. He has a beautiful and wonderful plan for everyone but the problem is that many sadly do not care. How can I make such a statement? Look around, do people look interested in God to you? The Lord desires to give us all we could ask or imagine but instead of us living for ourselves, he is calling us to live for him. Until we turn away from our selfish independence and realize that he created us and bought us with a great price, we will not really be concerned with our allegiance to him. How can we take our spiritual life seriously until we refuse to be controlled by our own will? Good news! We can be transformed into a new person with a new lifestyle when we ask Jesus to change our mind.
We realize that what and how much we know is the heart of the matter as Luke chapter 12 says, “To whom much is given, much is required.” This means the more we discover about what God wants from us, the more responsibility we have to obey him and the amount that he is pleased with us will be measured by how committed we are to his instructions. Knowing his plan is one thing but demonstrating our knowledge is something completely different. When we choose to take that first step of faith to live for Jesus we are accepting the basic fundamentals of salvation and can sincerely pray, “Lord, all things are possible with you. Please change my life, save me and fill me with your Spirit and whatever happens may I react according to your will – not mine, amen.
LIVING ON PURPOSE
THE LORD IS OUR STRENGTH AND SHIELD
We have learned since childhood about the blessings of being protected. Remember when we were in the arms of our mom and dad, it seemed the dangers of the world could not reach us. Now that we are grown, we appreciate our home that gives us shelter from the elements and provides us with security against whatever that might want to harm us. But of all the things in this world that can provide a sense of safety and defense, there is nothing that can compare to the power and authority of God. Psalm 23:4 helps us to see there is no need to be afraid. “Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me, thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.” The rod and staff are reminders that we are his sheep and Jesus is our great shepherd. He is carefully watching over his people and wants us to stay close to him.
The other night I had difficulty sleeping and as I tossed and turned all types of harassing thoughts were bombarding me and trying to interfere with my peace. I began to pray and ask God to help me and was reminded that in the Bible God is referred to as a shield. This brought me great comfort as I began to visualize being completely surrounded by this huge strong shield and I began to envision the arrows of the enemy harmlessly bouncing away. The next thing I knew it was morning. As I went downstairs and started on my first cup of coffee, I was still thinking about the shield and went into my office to look up the definition. Shield simply means a guard to defend and protect, to cover as a barrier, a place of shelter and security to hide behind and a way to preserve and maintain our safety. Becoming aware of this promise gives us peace even when fear and confusion is raging all around us. “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” Matthew 11:28.
In this chaotic world in which we live, it’s refreshing and encouraging to know that God is always there for us, but if we allow ourselves to become engulfed with an overload of news and negative information we can become anxious and worried to the point of anxiety and exhaustion. We do not always make the right choices to spend time with him but just to understand that he loves us and listens to our concerns is such a wonderful encouragement. When the storms of life are raging and we are drowning in a sea of worry and doubt, we can trust him and run into his presence. There is a story recorded in Matthew chapter 8 about Jesus going across a lake in a boat with disciples. While he took a nap, there arose a violent storm and his friends were terrified that that boat was going to sink. They woke him and he calmly spoke to the wind and waves to stop and suddenly it was perfectly calm. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever and still has the power and desire to command “peace be still” to your storms today. “Our soul waits for the Lord: He is our help and our shield” Psalm 33:20.
Salvation is usually considered in the sense of being born-again into a brand new spiritual creation but this covenant is not just limited to saving our spirit. Christ gives us total salvation which includes ministering to our body, mind, and emotions. He is concerned and ready to help us in any area we might need. If we notice the definitions of salvation we can see that Jesus is actively engaged to help, heal, restore, preserve, protect, rescue, provide a way of escape and deliver us from any type of harm or danger. He is a strong and mighty tower and if we choose to dwell in the secret place of the most-high we are at peace under the shadow of the Almighty. Whatever you are going through today, remember that God can do anything and is our refuge and our shield of security that never fails. “The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusted in Him, and I am helped: therefore my heart greatly rejoices; and with my song will I praise Him” Psalm 28:7.
LIVING ON PURPOSE
LET PATIENCE HAVE IT’S PERFECT WORK
Difficult times are not something we enjoy going through, in fact, we usually try to avoid even talking about them. When trouble comes, the first thing we ask is why is this happening and if we are not cautious, we can easily be drawn into a full-blown mental, emotional and spiritual breakdown. You would think as many of these storms that we have experienced, we would be learning how to handle them, but for the most part, we are just as shocked and confused as all the times before. Unfortunately, we just can’t seem to realize the spiritual value of our trials and how there is a way to walk through them with peace, faith, and understanding.
In the book of James, we find a passage that sounds like something someone would say when they cannot think of anything else, but in reality, it is a wise spiritual principle that can change the way we perceive our problems. Chapter one and verse 2 and 3 says, “My brothers, consider it all joy when you fall into various adversities; knowing this that the trying of your faith works endurance and patience.” If our journey was without adversity or tribulations and if we could always fix our own problems, we would not really need to pray or have faith in God. When everything is going smooth, we usually do not worry about adjusting our attitude or evaluating the way we think. However, when we run into obstacles and life becomes difficult, most of us are not prepared and immediately become overwhelmed with worry and fear. Some of our options include running from them or denying them, or confronting it the wrong way and making it worse, but our most favorable reaction is turning to God for help. When we make the decision to trust him completely, this will open up a brand-new way of comprehending what he is trying to do in our life. James continues in verse 12, “Blessed is the person who is patient under stress and stands up under temptation, for when they have stood the test, they will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to them that love Him.”
Patience is a fruit of the Spirit that is demonstrated and developed when under extreme pressure. The word patience is associated with being steady, having composure, calmly enduring, and tolerating delay while devoted to seeing something through to completion. Sometimes when things are not going our way, we are tempted to take matters into our own hands, but its good to consider that God desires for us to submit and listen to him even though it may not make sense to our emotions. This type of response is not learned instantly, but it’s like a muscle that builds strength when it’s used consistently. The more we allow Christ to control our thoughts, the more we will be like him. We can waste the opportunities within our trials, or we can embrace them and allow them to strengthen our faith.
The Christian life involves perseverance to develop an awareness of God’s presence so that we might be transformed into his image. As we surrender our will to God and allow his character and nature to lead us, we will eventually evolve into the person he has called us to be. Included in our yielding to his wisdom and timing, is to have the desire and respect to bow before him in repentance and humility. This is where our human strength comes to an end and our spiritual dependence in him begins. When the Lord answers our prayers and gives us our miracle, it not only increases our trust in his ability but also fills our heart with confidence to know that he truly cares and is always with us whatever we are going through. God loves us and has a wonderful plan for our life that includes a storehouse filled with spiritual abundance, but we can only advance into His peace and contentment according to how seriously we take our responsibility to become spiritually mature and eager to obey him. Yes, of course, God can deliver us from our trials and troubles but our attitude has more do to with us listening than our screaming and crying. Joyce Meyer is quoted, “Patience is not simply the ability to wait – it’s how we behave while we are waiting.”
LIVING ON PURPOSE
WHAT IF IT IS TRUE?
Life is filled with thoughts and ideas. Many spend their time trying to keep busy because they do not want to think about what God expects from them. The strategy is to live in a state of distraction so their conscience will never have the occasion to pause and ponder about the true meaning of life. Everyone is unique and that’s what makes life interesting but I was thinking the other day about how many are always on the go and never sit still for a moment unless they are forced to stop. Somewhere down the line, there will come a time when we will not be able to run or hide behind a distraction. On the other hand, there is another group that enjoys the quiet and peace of God’s presence and sincerely desires to listen and obey his voice simply because they love him. Whichever group you belong to it can be said that we only have one life and one chance to get it right, so whether we choose to live in denial or embrace our spiritual reality, one-day truth will be revealed.
I read a sign one time that compared two different philosophies of living and I looked it up the other day to make sure I had the words correct. The quote is as follows: “Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a well-preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming “Wow! What a ride!” Of course, the phrase has been modified through the years but you get the general meaning. This declaration has been attributed to a man named Hunter S. Thompson and has been widely accepted as an enthusiastic motto to live by. For those who live on the edge and experience everything to the absolute maximum, this describes the attitude of a wild and carefree life. Instead of a sensitive, and peaceful journey, this philosophy encourages people to drain every drop of excitement, indulgence, thrill, and pleasure they can with every chance they have. These pie in the sky ideas have been floating around since the beginning of time but it’s just another way our human nature tries to influence the conscience to not be concerned with what God wants. The Bible is clear about our destiny and the definition of true salvation which includes surrendering our plans and being transformed into a completely different person. Sadly, it’s common that most people do not take their spiritual life seriously.
God is not obligated to give us unlimited windows of mercy to embrace his truth but he does so because he is filled with patience and love. His intention all along has been for us to love him back but most of the human race simply ignores him. The masses are convinced that eternity and this “God thing” is no more than a slight chance of being true and they are perfectly content with rolling the dice. It seems that many have come to this conclusion; if God is really filled with mercy, then why should I worry? This is another one of those ideas that makes it easy to accept that it matters not what a person does or does not do because they are covered by that highly popular religious word called grace. In this way of thinking they can relax and trust that everything will all work out in the end.
For those who are convinced they were given the gift of life to do whatever they want, they are living in a fantasy world. We were born to know, worship, and serve God. Most people want blessings and heaven but have not really decided to seriously investigate about their purpose or responsibility because they have no interest or intention of accomplishing it. I was behind a car the other day that had a bumper sticker which said, “What if it is true?” and it did exactly what it was meant to do; it caused me to think. I thought about the gospel of Jesus and prayed that everyone would believe it is true. It’s a brand new year and he is inviting everyone to make a brand new start. God is waiting to forgive and deliver us but before we can embrace the cross as our ransom, we must humbly acknowledge that we were the reason he had to go there.
LIVING ON PURPOSE
WALKING WITH GOD ONE STEP AT A TIME
A brand new year and I hope it will be filled with health and happiness for all of us! I realize there are many things that will happen this coming year and some of it might not be pleasant, but whatever may come, let us declare that we will obey the voice of our heavenly father and continue to dedicate our lives to him. We had a heart-breaking end to last year as just before Christmas we had to put down one of our most beloved dogs. China was a brush-coat Shar-Pei and one of the most intelligent and loyal dogs a family could ask for. She had a protective personality and felt that it was her job to guard our property and to be constantly on the look-out for intruders. We have secure fences but every now and then a wild animal would climb into our yard and that was always a huge mistake on their part. She was jet-black and was difficult to see in the night as she would patrol the premises in stealth mode until we told her it was bedtime and she would proudly come in. We took her keen hearing for granted and how she would bark even when people were walking or talking across the street. China was so athletic and loved to run through the fields and investigate everything and after 10 years we miss her terribly. I can just imagine her running in the fields and forest of eternity with all the other animals who are there.
So far in this first week of the new year, things have not been much better as we are now dealing with another serious personal setback. Sometimes it seems that trouble comes in waves and that we are being attacked from every side, but these are the occasions when we must stand strong in our faith, keep our armor buckled on tight, and stay focused on God’s promises. Yes, life has its share of ups and downs but through the worries and discouragements we must remember that Christ loves us, he is aware of our circumstances, and will take care of us. Even though we realize that he always has our best interest in mind, most of the time it’s difficult to understand what is going on or why this is happening because we are traumatized and in shock. Psalm chapter 119 and verse 105 says, “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path” and this is a comforting reminder that God wants us to have confidence in where we are going and to not stumble on our way there. The world is filled with darkness and he is offering the light of his truth so we can see and follow his path. Another important part of this analogy is that he wants us to walk a specific path that he has arranged and not one of our own makings. His desire is for us to listen to his voice and obey him in every situation. Unfortunately, most of us decide that “if it is to be, it is up to me” and begin to trust and follow our own desires and ideas.
Sometimes this path is confusing and fearful but the light of God’s love encourages us to trust him even when it appears to be heading straight up a cliff. Even though many times it may not seem like it, he is completely aware of our circumstances and always has our best interest in mind. We are told that faith is the evidence of things not seen which means we must trust where he is leading us. Also, this light is not like a powerful spotlight illuminating what is up ahead. The lamp or lantern of his word is designed for us to take one step at a time and go slowly as we hold tightly to his hand. Lastly, this path allows us to believe he is leading us into his perfect will. The reason and meaning of life is to know God and to follow him so whatever happens in our journey, let us stay as close to him as possible and live with his confidence and peace which passes all understanding. “Then spake Jesus again unto them saying, I am the light of the world: he that follows me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life” John 12:8.