LIVING ON PURPOSE
Accomplishing God’s will is our purpose
It’s disappointing to God that most people are usually more concerned about what they want in life than asking Him what He requires of them. Since our eyes were opened in the garden, our fleshly nature specializes in the skills of compromising and justifying. Self-deception is common Only a few will take the responsibility to obey Him and get serious about dedicating their lives to being a living sacrifice for Him. Yes, included with the blessings of this life is being accountable.
You might have heard the unpopular verse found in Revelation 3:16 where John relays what Jesus thinks about the church at Laodicea. “So then, because you are lukewarm and neither cold nor hot, I will spew you out of my mouth.” We realize parables and analogies are common in the Bible, and without trying to explain the different interpretations of what this verse means, let’s just say that we want our coffee hot and our iced tea, well…cold. Within the context, Jesus is referring to their attitude. In short, He was saying their hearts were in a state of being lackadaisical, apathetic, and lethargic. And, not just this certain group, He is using them as an example of the dangers of backsliding when anyone takes their eyes away from His truth and drifts into the temptations of carnality.
Let us not forget that He is speaking to members of an established Christian church who were supposedly followers of Jesus and His teachings. This letter to Laodicea is the harshest of the seven churches that are mentioned in chapters two and three. There is no beating around the bush on His disappointment and He is warning them about trying to make the Christian life into a comfortable social club. By His judgment of their works, He makes it clear this is a dead church. What does this mean and can it happen today? Definitely. Whenever the members of an assembly see themselves as independent, materialistic, and self-sufficient, they have already slipped into a state of religious indifference.
Jesus continues to be more specific using cutting words such as “wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked.” Their lukewarm faith had become hypocritical. The lifeless atmosphere of the services was the result of a lack of enthusiasm and passion for Christ in their minds and hearts. They had become backslidden and maybe there were a number of individuals that had never been converted and were just pretending to be Christians. It’s not an exciting topic but there is such a thing as People who practice a form of religion, but their conscience is one of self-righteous complacency. They claim to be taking up their cross and following Jesus, but their hearts are unchanged, and their game-playing is sickening to God.
Many of us have been blessed beyond measure, but having daily quiet times where we pray and worship God, can help us remain humble and aware of the holy respect of His presence that is so vital to our intimate relationship with Him. Just because we have resources, does not mean we are to rely on them more than our faith. Instead of being proud of what we have accomplished let us realize that everything we have has been graciously given to us by the one who owns everything. In modern language, God offers us salvation through Christ and this gift of grace allows us to be transformed into a new person. Our spiritual identity goes from being blind and lost, to being filled with hope and joy that we have been rescued to do His will. Changing our mind changes our attitude.
A common defense of being lukewarm is that it does not matter. This is not true! Being backslidden is a big deal. When we lose our sensitivity and no longer feel convicted by the Holy Spirit, we are in serious danger. Becoming spiritually numb causes us to not care how our sin affects those who see it including God Himself. We do not realize the impact our halfhearted attempt of being a follower of Christ has on everyone. If demonstrating God’s character and accomplishing His will is not our purpose, what is? Accepting Christ is not all there is to salvation, it’s just the beginning. It’s an opportunity, a privilege to serve Him. Like Laodicea, the Lord is demanding for us to repent and get back on the straight and narrow. He is long-suffering toward the lukewarm and forgiveness is available today, but we must see our need and call on Him.
LIVING ON PURPOSE
Enjoying the comforts of remaining the same
As God continues to move upon the earth, He has never stopped calling His children to be truth seekers, to speak His words, and demonstrate His character. The painful fact is this does not happen automatically. There must be a passion to advance into God and this means the closer we come to Him the more we will become the best version of ourselves.
Most people have never really studied religious history and know very little about why we believe the way we do. The traditions the masses learn about God derive from what they have been told and very few have the desire to research on their own to see if the information is correct. I better stop there before I make too many waves, but one thing we can agree on is that personal transformation is one of the foundational pillars of the Christian faith.
When we watch a baby grow and progress in their learning, we celebrate and rejoice in their development. Likewise, there is no reason to doubt that God feels the same way about our spiritual maturity. Changes within our society and culture are inevitable and it’s easy to look back and remember how life used to be and how technology is always coming up with something new. Remember when we used to go to the movie rental store and used pay phones? When we look in the mirror, we can see that our bodies are slowly changing and unfortunately there is nothing we can do about it. However, there is an area in our lives where change will not happen unless we want it to. We are in control of our spiritual growth.
When we think about God and the spiritual life, it’s relatively easy to construct ideas about the way we believe, and it seems that everyone has private interpretations. We have been given free will to make decisions and we are basically in control of what we think and do. Very few comprehend what it means to surrender their will unto God. We can go to church, sing songs, and even give a few dollars in the offering plate, but no one including God is going to force us to develop an intimate relationship with Him. Christians have been given a new spiritual identity with the capacity to be convicted which is the ability to discern what is right and wrong. However, we can override our guilty conscience by ignoring God, and like a lawyer presenting a case in a courtroom, we can justify our thoughts and actions in the light of intentional self-deception.
There are numerous examples of characters in the Bible who have rebelled against God including His favorite people the Jews, as no human is a robot that He can control. One of the dangers that every child of God faces is compromising with the world’s system which by the way is the easy path and very common among the lukewarm crowd. Only those who have developed an awareness of God’s presence will ever have the faith to stand for His truth. And what is this truth? Well, truth means a lot of different things to many people, but the truth I’m talking about is believing that God is who He says He is. Remember Pilate said to Jesus, “what is truth?” At this hour, this question has never been more urgent. In the preceding verse, Jesus said that He was a king bearing witness to divine truth, and everyone that understands this truth can hear His voice.
I’ve mentioned the comfortable path where we just try to get along with the system without offending anyone, but this is not the way Jesus lived and neither is it the way He wants us to be. The desired path is a commitment to ignore our so-called dignified reputation and declare that obeying Him is our highest priority. When we make this choice, let us be prepared to experience a similar negative reaction that He faced. Taking up our cross and following His demands is not for the faint of heart because it places us on the front line of spiritual warfare. Will we choose the broad or the narrow way? Could it be that our New Year’s resolutions are the result of spiritual conviction? Are we being reminded by the Lord about what He wants us to change? What a perfect time to examine our hearts and dedicate our lives to God more than ever before.
Read more about the Christian life at billyhollandministries.com
LIVING ON PURPOSE
Christ our hope for the New Year
We are at the end of another year and it always brings thoughts of starting fresh and having hope for the future. Most of us have watched the ball drop on New Year’s Eve which officially declares, “out with the old and in with the new.” At midnight, people from all over the world will celebrate the turning of the next page of their lives. Over the years, the “time-ball” has undergone several changes in design, and the most recent was created for the Millennial celebration in the year 2000 by Waterford Crystal. It’s a geodesic sphere, six feet in diameter, and weighing approximately 1,070 pounds. It’s covered with a total of 504 crystal triangles that vary in size and each piece has a special designation: Hope for Love, Peace, Wisdom, Unity, Courage, Healing, etc. The Name of the ball itself? “The Star of Hope.”
It’s wonderful to have hope as it’s a positive and optimistic attitude to believe that everything is going to be alright. However, there is a difference between wishing and knowing. The time ball might be called the star of hope, but Jesus Christ the Son of God not only came to bring hope, He is literally our only hope. This means that unless He is our Lord and Savior, we do not have a hope of becoming what Jesus died for us to be or the promise of eternal life. When we are born-again and become a child of God we are given a type of hope that allows us to rest in the reality that He is the absolute truth and everything He has guaranteed will come to pass. When He declares that He can not only redeem us, but we can spend eternity in Heaven with Him, we have a blessed assurance that means more than any dream or aspiration the world can offer. Christ in us is the hope of glory as we surrender out will to God in the reality of knowing Him as our eternal spiritual Father.
If you have been stressed lately and your prayer life has recognized more negative resistance than usual, then congratulations, you are perfectly normal. We are indeed distracted, but much of our stress is our own fault. No one is making us watch television, play games, or be absorbed in social media. We should understand that living a holy and obedient life before God is difficult enough without us refusing to take our responsibility to stay focused seriously. Scanning the headlines we know there is a lot of strange things going on in the world. I’m often asked about my thoughts pertaining to Biblical prophecy including the topics of rapture and tribulation? I realize that most everyone has speculations and interpretations, but let’s just say that God is in control and everything is moving according to His perfect will. The wise decision would be to make sure we are as close to God as possible. Proverbs 3:5-6 reminds us, “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.” When we think about New Year resolutions, this passage defines how we are to allow God to be the Master and King of who we are and everything we say and do. The foundation of being a Christian is to invite God to control and possess us.
There are many individuals and families that are going through all types of difficulties. Whatever the crisis, disappointments, worries, and fears, there is no higher priority than to consider our spiritual relationship with the Lord. Our creator has given every person an open invitation to come to Him 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! January means “beginning” and is a wonderful time to receive His forgiveness. He loves you more than anything and there is so much He is waiting to reveal to you. II Corinthians chapter six reminds us, “Behold now is the accepted time: behold now is the day of salvation.” As a messenger, I will never say anything more important than today is the perfect time to embrace the grace and mercy of God and sincerely give your life to Him.
LIVING ON PURPOSE
What does Christmas mean to you?
I’ve read articles over the years about how Christmas is a combination of Christian and pagan symbolism along with some folklore traditions and for the most part, this is true. I also realize that most people do not want to hear about such things. Beyond the bah-humbug, I will admit that even though Christmas is not as much fun now as it was when I was a kid or when our children were young, I still enjoy the season. I remember laying under the tree and how I was mesmerized looking up at all the twinkling lights. To me, Christmas has always been a special time and heaven forbid I use the term, “magical” but as a child, my overactive imagination had no problem believing the fables especially after I learned about Saint Nicholas that knows everything and can give every child in the world exactly what they want. Now that we are adults, it seems we still hold onto the memories of Christmas past and even have a little excitement left for Christmas future no matter how old we are.
I was thinking about some of the things I do not enjoy about Christmas like for example, the traffic when trying to shop is a headache and how it seems people are not always in a “Currier and Ives” festive mood. The high level of stress and anxiety to make sure everything is perfect can turn our joyous celebrations into something that resembles a torture chamber. The pressure of making sure the house is decorated just right, the food is delicious, and finding the perfect gifts, takes an exhausting toll on all of us. And let’s not forget about the intense commercialism that bombards us with advertising and turns everything into a money-driven frenzy. But, for the sake of all those involved, we will continue our merry traditions until we cannot do it anymore because spending time with our loved ones for the holiday makes us all happy. What is there not to like? The lighted tree, feasting at banquet tables with the richest delicacies of the year, and everyone enjoying themselves are the ingredients for a wonderful occasion. Let us not forget seeing the excited faces of the little ones as they unwrap their presents. We remember the carol that reminds us, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year.”
Still, in the back of my mind, I keep thinking about the spiritual parts and pieces of a supposedly Christian holiday. After all, I was also taught this was when Jesus was born. The concept of syncretism is the perfect opportunity to blend all types of ancient traditions and rituals with our sacred faith. We have a nativity with Jesus as the Savior for those who believe and Santa Clause with his magical powers for those who believe. I understand for those who are not Christians, this is no big deal because a party is a party, but the Bible says that the more we learn the more we are accountable for. Besides, everyone is going to do whatever they want. We all strain at a gnat and swallow a camel every now and then, right? Then if we pull the plug on Christmas, we can become so legalistic and narrow-minded that we offend everyone and end up living alone. I cannot see how this helps anything. Is trying to find a reasonable balance just another word for compromise?
I wonder how many would celebrate Christmas if it was only about Jesus coming to save us. What if there were no Christmas trees or the magical man dressed in red with a white beard? What if Mr. Kringle was without supernatural powers like being omnipresent and the ability to shape-shift and visit every home in the world in one night? Without the sparkling lights, Frosty the snowman, candy canes, the ham and pecan pie, the music carols, Rudolf, and a large pile of wrapped gifts, Christmas day would probably pass by quietly like Groundhog Day. Advent is a time of reflection and gratitude about Christ coming to save us from our sins. He seems helpless as a baby in a manger, but one day every person will acknowledge Him as Lord and give an account of how they lived. Somewhere between the wise men, the winter solstice traditions, and flying reindeer, may we find our reason for the season.
Dr. Holland is a Christian author, outreach minister, and community chaplain. To read more about the Christian life visit billyhollandministries.com
LIVING ON PURPOSE
Published – 12/12/22
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail
Most people have read or at least heard of a man named Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882). He was a literary giant in his own lifetime and is known today in many circles as “The Children’s Poet” and several schools around our nation are named in his honor. You may remember some of His original works which include, Paul Revere’s Ride, The Song Of Hiawatha, and Evangeline, and was the first American to completely translate Dante Alighieri’s Comedy. As one of the fireside writers from New England, he is regarded as the most popular poet of the nineteenth century.
On July 9, 1861, tragedy struck the Longfellow home. His wife, Fanny, was near an open window placing locks of her daughter’s hair in a packet, using hot sealing wax to secure it. It was never known whether a spark from a match or the sealing wax was the cause, but suddenly her dress caught fire and she was engulfed in flames. Henry was sleeping and was suddenly awakened by her screams for help. He ran into the room and immediately tried to smother the flames as best he could, first with a rug and then his own body, but the damage from the burns was very severe. She died the next morning.
Henry Longfellow’s own burns were so extensive on his face and hands that he was unable to attend his own wife’s funeral. The scars on his face made shaving nearly impossible, so he allowed his beard to grow which became associated with his image. The anguish within his soul was beyond what anyone could fathom. His family could see his suffering in his eyes, and they observed his long periods of silence. At times he feared that he would be sent to an asylum on account of his sorrow.
A couple of years later in 1863, there was another crisis when his son Charles Longfellow without telling his family, boarded a train headed for Washington, D.C. to join President Lincoln’s Union army to fight in the Civil War. On the first day of that December, Henry was dining alone at his home when a telegram arrived with the news that Charley had been shot and was being transferred to the Rapidan River. Henry immediately set out to search for his son and arrived by train on December fifth. He was alarmed when informed by the army surgeon that his son’s wound was very serious and that Charles would most likely be paralyzed. Longfellow, as a 57-year-old widowed father of six children, was not only witnessing his country fight a war against itself, but his oldest son had been struck down on the battlefield.
Although he was admired for a gift for communicating the human experience, Longfellow still needed divine peace that only God can give. On that Christmas Day in 1863, he heard the Christmas bells ringing in Cambridge and the singing of “Peace On Earth” but he considered the strife and division going on around him was in direct contradiction with a joyous holiday. He sat down and desperately tried to reflect on the joys of knowing that God is not dead or sleeping and that He is the only one who can heal, save, and give hope for the soul. He was never considered a hymn writer, however, the poem he wrote on that day expresses the agony about the condition of the nation and his own personal loss, and was later set to music by Englishman John Calkin. The result is one of our most popular Christmas carols, “I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day.”
There is a theme of passion within the poem, eventually leading to an attitude of confidence and trust even in the midst of bleak despair. The Civil War was in full swing and the devastation from the battle of Gettysburg still gripped the nation in a state of trauma. He must have asked himself how can we have peace on Earth and goodwill toward men in this war-torn land, where brother fights against brother and father against son? Yes, the days were dark, but he includes in one of the stanzas, “The wrong shall fail, the right prevail!” Within these words, we sense a man crying out in prayer to God, just like many of us are today, to please stop the hatred and the violence, and fill the hearts of all people with God’s love. This carol reminds us that peace and goodwill shall one day be established when the Prince of Peace shall reign forever.
Read more about the Christian life at billyhollandministries.com
LIVING ON PURPOSE
Why, my soul, are you so downcast?
Since before the world was made God has known you and loved you. He has never taken His eyes away or ignored you. If you were to write down all the blessings and victories He has given to you, they would prove He has called you, has been guiding you, and has many wonderful things planned for your future. Do you believe this today? Is your life heading in a direction that you are excited about, or are you downcast?
At this time of year, it’s common for many people to be filled with a mixture of emotions. Some are dealing with anxiety, and others are walking through a time of sadness and loneliness. Maybe something negative happened this year and you have not recovered from it. Maybe you have experienced a terrible loss and are in agony while trying to appear that everything is alright. Along with 2022 coming to a close, we have the new year just a couple of weeks away and all the unknowns can be a little stressful.
Has disappointment in the past, caused you to not be as confident or optimistic as you once were? Of course, we all have times in our lives when we are upset and feel that nothing is going right. Don’t worry, you are perfectly normal. Life is a series of ups and downs and no matter how jolly of a personality you may have, there will be seasons when we search deep within ourselves to see if we are being attacked or if maybe there is something wrong with us. Whatever the case, it’s easy to wallow in our sorrows, but when we turn our attention away from ourselves and focus on loving God and those around us, the dark clouds begin lifting, and the joy and brightness of God’s presence fill our hearts.
I want to share God’s word with you from Psalm 42:5 and repeated again in verse 11, “Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God.” This is a passage from David and if you study his relationship with God, you know he had his share of sorrows, but he also learned how to encourage himself. He wrote this when his son Absalom committed treason but even through something as devastating as this he expresses that hope becomes even more empowered when everything seems hopeless. He examines his own heart and comes to the understanding there are times we will not comprehend why we are going through trials, but we are to obey and glorify God while we are waiting for our answer.
Instead of going to bed and covering our heads, let us look beyond our pity party and focus our eyes on the goodness of the Lord and how much He has done for us. Sometimes we are so absorbed with what we are going through, we forget all the things He has helped us with and saved us from. I had two situations today that could have been tragic, but God intervened in them both. I was driving on the bypass and was getting ready to change lanes when at the last second I saw a car beside me out of the corner of my eye. If I had turned into that car, the outcome would not have been good, to say the least. My wife kept talking and was never aware of the situation as I breathed a sigh of relief. The second situation involved me being on a ladder this afternoon on the front porch. I thought I was on the bottom step but I was actually on the step above and fell onto the concrete and into the storm door. I broke the door and have a few bruises, but miraculously I was not seriously injured.
With two near misses on the same day, I’ve been humbly counting my blessings. I know it’s easy at times to feel sorry for ourselves, but instead of feeling cast down, may we consider where we would be without God’s constant mercy and compassion. Hope is a small word like love and joy, but it contains the power of the human soul to trust God and live every moment as if His promises are going to be fulfilled in our lives. Often we are troubled because we are focused more on what we interpret as a disappointment than on praising God for providing another opportunity to appreciate His goodness.
LIVING ON PURPOSE
Using God’s speech filter in our conversations
As I’ve prayed for spiritual awareness over the years, the Lord has been patient with my lack of understanding and has graciously allowed me to labor in the area of communication. When having a conversation with someone, listening intently helps to discern what is on their mind, but most importantly it’s even more important to listen to God in order to know how He wants us to respond. For the Christian, there is no higher responsibility than to monitor and examine every thought and word before we release it.
It’s common for most people to express whatever they feel like saying. To the individual it’s the right of their independence, for the rest of us it’s known as not having a speech filter. The unrenewed mind when left to do and say whatever it wants is often referred to as foolish according to the book of Proverbs. For example, the attempt to bring instruction to those who do not think before they speak is the basis of Proverbs 26:4, “Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you yourself will be just like them.” Wasting time trying to explain only makes them more confident. If we choose to argue with someone who is not thinking clearly, we stoop to a lower level and make things worse. Since unlearned people despise wisdom, they enjoy drawing others into a conflict where they use deceit, become angry, and scoff at opposing ideas.
Seldom do we meditate about what we are going to say but we are reminded in James 1:19-20, “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for wrath rarely produces the righteousness of God.” The world is filled with differing opinions about everything and it does not take a lot of effort for a heated argument to arise. Being disciplined is difficult because we feel that we should stand up for what we believe. This can be true on the right occasions, however, the most important thing is to obey God. We should speak when He anoints us to give an answer, and if He says to be silent we should recognize this particular situation is not a divine appointment.
Matthew 12:36-37 goes even further by warning us that our speech is being recorded and will be used in our judgment. “But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words, you will be condemned.” It’s common for the average person to be neutral when it comes to certain conversations with no intention of exposing their worldviews. If a controversial topic comes to the surface, they may bite on it or they might wait and adjust the conversation accordingly. I’ve heard people say, “it is no one’s business what I believe” and “I never talk about religion or politics.” evidently these individuals are convinced it’s more comfortable to avoid serious discussions than be a part of them. On the other hand, I often encounter those who charge out of the gate with both barrels blazing. Whatever the case, it’s good to have our spiritual antennas up and be sensitive to what is going on and how God is planning to use us.
So, aside from our deeds having an impact on our integrity and respect, it seems our speech actually identifies the type of person we are. Matthew 7:17-20 uses symbolism to describe every person as a tree and what we do and say is the fruit we bear, “Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit, you will recognize them.” It’s true we all make mistakes and constantly need to repent for our failures each hour, yet as believers in God, we must strive to seek His power to improve our communication with one another. Whether it be with our spouse, our children, or at work, is our communication holy, healthy and wholesome? Are we representing Christ in our conversations? Our words reveal our awareness of His presence and this is what the Christian experience is about.
Read more about the Christian life at billyhollandministries.com
LIVING ON PURPOSE
We have much to be thankful for
I’ve always enjoyed Thanksgiving with my family but many times I become distracted from the intended purpose. Between football, conversations, and pumpkin pie, it’s easy to forget how much we have to be thankful for. Sadly, many have forgotten or maybe they have never known the history of human suffering that is associated with the Pilgrims. It’s been recorded that the new colony was focused on giving God thanks for His blessings and protection as William Bradford is quoted, “Being thus arrived in a good harbor, and brought safe to land, they fell upon their knees and blessed the God of Heaven who had brought them over the vast and furious ocean, and delivered them from all the perils and miseries thereof, to again set their feet on the firm and stable earth, their proper element. Thus, out of small beginnings, greater things have been produced by His hand that made all things of nothing, and gives being to all things that are; and, as one small candle may light a thousand, so the light here kindled hath shone unto many, yea in some sort to our whole nation; let the glorious name of God have all the praise.” Clearly, the pilgrims of the Plymouth colony praised God and appreciated Him for all they had. Today the meaning of Thanksgiving is often lost under an endless avalanche of media hype, sales advertisements, marketing gimmicks, and aggressive commercialism.
Like all Christians, we give thanks to the Lord for loving us and rescuing us from eternal darkness and death. We could never express to our Heavenly Father enough how grateful we are that He sent Jesus to redeem and forgive us with His blood. I realize there are hard times and many difficult situations, but we are fortunate to not only have His promises of hope and peace here on Earth, but He is also preparing a place for us in Heaven. I published a book a couple of years ago called, “A Lifestyle of Worship” and it’s about becoming determined to develop an awareness of God’s presence all the time instead of just when we are in church or need a favor. Brother Lawrence, whose seventeenth-century work, “The Practice of the Presence of God,” details his discipline to become so sensitive to everything going on around him that he might consider all situations as an opportunity to manifest the attributes of Christ.
I realize that most people keep a busy schedule and do not always wake up in the mornings and thank God for all of their blessings. Why is this? Well, we have a tendency to take important things for granted like our good health or even the air we breathe. We become so occupied with trying to make decisions and leaning on our own understanding that we forget that God is helping us and always has our best interests in mind. It takes serious dedication to continually concentrate on how worthy He is of our gratitude and adoration. “O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His name together” Psalm 34:3.
So, we see that Thanksgiving is about expressing our love to God, and those who desire to know Him personally will discover that our devotion is not based on what He can give us, but just on who He is. Above my fireplace, there’s a log engraved with Matthew 22:37-38 and I often ask God to reveal to me the depths of this spiritual truth. “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and greatest commandment.” Every word that has ever been spoken and every book that has been written can only scratch the surface in describing God’s endless generosity and glorious majesty.
This season let us consider our Thanksgiving holiday as more than a day off from work, a traditional celebration, or a Black Friday sale. May it be a state of mind where we can truly worship Him for our daily blessings and our eternal salvation. It’s wonderful to have a roof over our heads, good health, and a long list of His benefits, but we are especially grateful for His infinite grace. It’s my prayer today, that I will never become spoiled with His blessings, but every moment be sincerely grateful for the privilege to know Him, and be compelled to demonstrate His love and compassion to others.
Dr. Holland is a Christian author, outreach minister, and community chaplain. To learn more about the Christian life visit billyhollandministries.com
LIVING ON PURPOSE
Knowing God unites us in His love
The opportunity to know God is the greatest invitation that has ever been given in the history of mankind. For those that have a passion to learn about Him and serve Him, we will never be able to tell Him enough how much we love and appreciate His love, grace, and endless mercy. There are supposedly over two billion people on our planet that claim to be associated with the Christian faith and you would think that every person within this family would be united in their love for God and one another. Sadly, this is not the case. When we study religious history and see the numerous groups that aggressively oppose each other, it leaves us with many questions about how so many people can serve the same God and yet be so divided.
Have you noticed when researching the many opinions of religiosity, each group believes they are right and everyone else is wrong? I grew up in a church like this and was disheartened at how doctrines, legalistic traditions, and rituals cause hatred and hostility among those who claim to be disciples of God. This gives me a headache because no one understands everything and the only perfect person who ever lived was Jesus. It’s arrogance and the desire for control that creates strife. Doing things a certain way is not as important as following His way. To be blunt, unless we are walking in the attributes and character of Christ, our views matter very little. If we are more concerned about a doctrine than we are about being filled with God’s love we have already missed the point. I Corinthians 13:2 reminds us, “If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.”
I write about the Christian life and one of the strange realities is that many who claim to know God are uncomfortable expressing their love to Him, they refuse to study His word, and do not want to talk about taking up their cross. However, they love to argue about doctrines and how everyone else is deceived. Those who approach ministry with the coldness of politics remind us of when Jesus confronted this legalistic attitude in His day. They were not interested that He was the Son of God who came to fulfill the prophecies of a coming Messiah. They wanted to kill Him (and eventually did) because He did follow their religious rules and regulations. He did not look, act, or speak like they thought He should. Instead of embracing Him and trying to be one with God, they rejected His teachings the same as denominations and churches oppose each other today.
We know the god of this world’s system is Satan and his agenda is to influence people to be against God and each other and bring division to the churches. We must conclude that many follow their emotions instead of the Holy Spirit. In Matthew chapter 23 we read where Jesus does not hold back His criticism against the church leaders. I encourage you to read the chapter, but His point was how they were more concerned with putting on a religious show and boasting about their pious ceremonies instead of allowing God to demonstrate His character within their lives. They created their own worldview of God instead of obeying His will. Can we consider that if every Christian would humbly seek and fervently listen to Him there would not be thousands of different spiritual sects? Since the Almighty represents one truth, we must blame the confusion on these ancient evil spirits of deception along with people’s unrenewed minds that cannot discern God’s voice from their own.
God is speaking, but we have a hearing problem. The logical solution would be for every Christian to draw nearer to God in order to comprehend divine truth more clearly. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? When Jesus wanted people to pay attention He would say, “He that has ears to hear, let him hear.” We all have ears on our heads, but He was talking about how only the redeemed can understand Him. Being born again gives us a new spirit and a new set of ears. “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me” John 10:27. Could it be that many religious people cannot perceive divine truth because they do not have spiritual ears to hear?
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Joy and peace are a state of mind
Fear and stress are often blamed for ruining our contentment and happiness, but anxiety and worry are not uncontrollable monsters that force us to be afraid. Actually, depression and panic originate is a negative response from within our own beliefs. In this light, pessimism is a personal decision that will continue to dominate our thinking until a new system of thought processing is installed.
The Bible says in the book of Romans 12:2, “Do not conform to the views of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Simply stated, this verse is generally talking about interpreting our views through the lens of God’s Word and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, rather than through the lens of our emotions, past experiences, or the opinions of others. Recognizing our patterns and tendencies to be gloomy can explain why we react in certain ways and help us improve our pessimistic attitudes. Asking God to help us re-wire our minds is the key to learning how to trust Him as changing the way we think will change who we are as we demonstrate a life that honors Him.
The recent decline in our economy is now at the point where many are feeling stressed and worried. My wife and I have noticed our home and auto insurance is climbing along with a significant increase in our utility bills and property taxes. With mortgage interest rates rising, we are seeing home sales slowing down and subsequently real estate prices are falling. We have rumors of shortages, along with the rising cost of food and fuel are alarming and it only makes sense that as the cost of operating a business increases, they must raise prices to maintain a profit. Some are indeed jumping on the price-gouging wagon, but nonetheless, our world is currently not heading in a good direction.
We can look back in history and see there are ups and downs in the stock markets and inflation, but whether enjoying prosperity or experiencing difficulties, it’s wise to remember that God is our source and it’s more secure to place our truth in Him than any earthly government. We are not to ignore what is going on, but the way we live is not based on a political party, it’s standing for truth and doing what is right in God’s eyes. It only makes things worse to blame others or to argue about the condition of our nation. We must realize that it is Satan who manipulates humans and his purpose is to steal, kill, and destroy which includes wreaking havoc on economies, creating division, and causing people to suffer. However, the Lord promises in Joshua 1:9, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”
People talk about going to their “happy place” a seemingly magical location where we can take shelter from whatever is threatening our security. But what is this about? It can mean different things to different people but for those who have a relationship with God, it’s a place in the deepest part of our conscience where we can commune with God and embrace the safety and joy of His presence. It is said that trying times are not the times to stop trying and that we can either give up or get up. Often when people face serious challenges in life, they lose hope rather than persevere in faith. We are reminded in Psalm 91:1, “They who dwell in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.”
In first Samuel chapter 3, it says that David found strength in the Lord, which means he encouraged himself. He was facing one of the most difficult challenges of his life, and no one was around to encourage him. There will be times when no one is around to counsel or give us a pep talk, and it’s during these seasons that we will need to embrace God’s promises for ourselves. Whether it be an emotional, psychological or spiritual issue, we can either be in control of our thoughts or our assumptions will control us. When we receive God’s wisdom it allows us to see life from His positive perspective which is never associated with fear, depression, or hopelessness.
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How do we respond to temptation?
The painful truth about any type of addiction and temptation is there was an introduction and a personal agreement to entertain it. They knew it was wrong but made the conscious decision to accept it and a cognitive desire to continue. I’ve never known anyone who is trying to recover from an addiction to trip and fall face-first into a bag of cocaine and relapse. Do those with a history of substance abuse accidentally run into syringes of heroin or not realize the dangers of taking oxycodone? No. They surrendered their power to resist, bowed down to their new master, and became a slave to the persuasion of darkness.
I’ve never heard of an alcoholic who opened and accidentally consumed hard liquor thinking it was a soft drink. People know exactly what they are consuming. When a person goes into a bar or a liquor store they are definitely aware of why they are there. Individuals do not inadvertently become involved with sin, they willingly choose what they want to do. Whatever the situation and no matter how long it’s been going on, the reason people search for relief is to dull the agony of reality. To become numb to the truth, to drown out the voice of conviction and guilt, to avoid, to run away and hide from God. Some will never face their fears until it is too late and would rather live in emotional and spiritual captivity than allow God to set them free.
The same principle of free will happens when someone becomes extremely obese. Yes, we have compassion just like anyone that is struggling with any type of problem and we cannot imagine the cycle of discouragement they go through every day. We also realize there are individuals who have hormone issues and other health conditions that are not their fault, but there are others that have simply never said no to their cravings. For whatever reasons, food can become a powerful anesthetic that brings temporary relief by exchanging a sense of euphoria for shackles of bondage. A lack of accountability and self-discipline has serious consequences, to say the least. Again, no one has ever forced another person to overeat, they do it because they want to.
I spoke with a woman the other day and she was telling me about taking care of her four grandchildren. The daughter and her husband became addicted to drugs and they divorced. Not long after this, the daughter brought her children to stay with this woman and her husband and they have not seen her since. This was four years ago. These grandparents have full custody but are struggling to raise these beautiful kids because they are on a limited income. Sadly, there are many parents that have abandoned their little ones, and far too often addiction and incarceration are a part of the equation. It’s a heartbreaking scenario and we wonder how anyone could love some type of desire more than their own children or anything else. It’s actually the same answer that applies to every decision we all make every moment. The free will to choose. When Sinatra sang, “I did it my way” he was making a rebellious declaration for most of the entire human race. It’s the arrogant and aggressive proclamation about not caring what God says about sin, I live by my own rules.
Most of us know of someone that is entangled in some type of habit, craving, fixation, weakness, compulsion, or dependency. These behaviors are the result of how individuals attempt to deal with whatever is seemingly overwhelming them. We realize we humans are vulnerable to urges, but we always have the choice to resist or accept. It’s not how many times we are tempted, it’s how determined we are to stand against it. Every idea, thought, and suggestion will receive one of two reactions, yes or no. The enemy of our soul has been given the opportunity to persuade us into making destructive decisions, but with God’s strength, we can learn how to control our emotional impulses which is the way God intended. If we refuse to develop the perseverance to break free from our destructive cycles, our carnality will control us and cause even more misery and disappointment. Though we can try to help others become victorious, each person must realize that trusting God is the key that can open their own prison doors. Those who will not help themselves cannot be forced to change.
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The beauty of being broken before God
Have you ever wondered if God is listening to you? One of His many divine attributes is that He is Omnipresent which means He is everywhere at the same time. His presence constantly permeates the atmosphere whether it be on earth, in heaven, or throughout the universe. This is how He knows everything that happens and every word that is said. He knows every tree that falls in the forest and every thought that has ever been imagined, as well as the motives and intentions of every heart.
I enjoy taking walks so that I can have the privacy to talk to Him. It gives me comfort and peace to know He is there, even though I do not hear Him reply in a literal voice. Like you, I’ve discovered that it’s easy to share with Him, but difficult to hear and comprehend what He is saying. Sometimes I will just stop talking and listen for Him in the quiet. As Psalm 46:10 talks about being still and knowing that He is God, we are encouraged to stop allowing stress to make us afraid, and to learn how to rest in His presence. A key to developing a strong personal relationship with God is to have a holy reverence for who He is and this begins with being broken before Him.
Since Romans 10:17 says, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ” we know that hearing always precedes obedience. Faith can arise when instructions are revealed, however, if we are without the desire to understand, we are without a vision to accomplish His will. We can obtain libraries of knowledge but the gift from heaven that changes lives is the passion to hear God’s voice. The next step is deciding just how much of our will we are going to surrender. During the Welsh Revival of the early nineteen hundreds, a song that was heard frequently by those who were seeking a closer walk with God was, “Bend me lower, lower, down at the feet of Jesus.” Yes, spiritual awakenings can become a widespread excitement, but the emphasis is on the individual entering into the holy of holies with God on their own. This spiritual metamorphosis happens through a personal conviction of the Holy Spirit who opens the eyes of the conscience and understand what it means to be saved by grace and become a servant to Christ as Lord and King.
The greatest need in Christendom today is not necessarily more religious seminars, programs, or conferences. It is for men and women to be broken before God and to realize their great need to be focused on His constant presence. Once broken we will be empowered with divine supernatural energy, wisdom, and the anointing from heaven will be overwhelmingly evident. The fragrance from Mary’s alabaster box could not be released until it was broken. To accomplish His desires, we will need to allow the Lord to break us so the inner fragrance of His presence can be released. It is then we will have revival in our souls and be able to relay and express His compassion to others.
I heard a story years ago from a minister who said one morning he climbed a mountain and was sitting on a boulder contemplating the majesty of God, when nature revealed a profound message about the Christian life. He noticed something very interesting about the grass with fresh dew on it. The blades that stood tall and extended to the sky had no droplets of refreshing water, but the blades that were bent to the ground had several droplets on them. The bent grass reminds us that seasons of spiritual refreshing often come when we bow before Him in a state of gratitude and humility. It’s the attitude of descending that enables us to experience the reality of His majesty.
Psalm 51 is one of my favorite chapters and verses 16-17 declare, “For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” The life that stands tall and arrogant is not in the spiritual position to bask in the presence of His glorious presence. When the dew drops of heaven fall upon the heart that is calloused and distant, they roll off leaving that soul to remain dry and discontent.
LIVING ON PURPOSE
Ignoring God does not lessen our need for Him.
Within the Christian faith, we are taught that every person will someday stand before God and have a discussion about how they lived. A few will argue, give excuses, try to justify, and attempt to present their case before the infinite judge and authority of all things. Many will scoff and doubt about not being responsible for the way they live, but for the most part, the majority agrees there is coming a day of judgment. You would think with nearly everyone at least hearing about being held accountable that it would cause individuals to find out more about God and what He requires.
When the scriptures talk about recognizing words and deeds, the association between good and bad trees, and the evidence of fruit, most people are offended at the idea of being judged. They also become easily ruffled when presented with the consideration that nice and sympathetic people are not necessarily sheep of God’s fold. There is such a thing as spiritual discernment and one reason for the Holy Spirit is to give us a deeper insight than just our emotions about situations, certain individuals, and especially ourselves. We are not to be ignorant about what is happening around us, but at the same time, there is no way we can know what is in the heart of another person.
I was asked the other day about what I believe is the difference between a person who is always thinking and talking about the Lord and someone who never mentions Him. Yes, we have religious laws, doctrines, and interpretations of the Bible that are explained by those who are considered experts about what it means to be a follower of Christ, but can Christianity be condensed into a specific lifestyle formula that is identified and measured according to a certain standard? If we are a Christian will everyone know it? Yes! You have heard of those who carry burdens and a common weight of the soul is to plead for those who do not know God. We pray because we love.
When a person is in love with God, they are overflowing with joy, faith, and excitement. A person is drawn, repents when they are convicted with the gospel, surrenders their will, and becomes spiritually born-again. They are redeemed through the blood covenant atonement and are now a new creation that is governed by the Lordship of Christ who leads and controls their life. We can agree the infinite light and life of God within these individuals illuminates and empowers the presence of His mercy, compassion, and love. So, could it be possible for a person who has yielded everything they have and all that they are unto God, to never say a word about knowing Him? Could someone who has taken up their cross, feel embarrassed or ashamed to talk about the Bible, pray for someone in need, or share about what Jesus accomplished on Calvary? Indeed no! Christians are called to be warriors, not secret agents.
The world is convinced that heaven is the default destination of everyone except for a few hideous individuals here and there. This philosophy is without spiritual discipline to understand what it means to yielding our will. It’s a comfortable worldview that does not want to be told what to do and has the song, “I did it my way” at the top of their playlist. This rebellious attitude is perfectly content to float down the river and hope that everything works out in the end. It will not. God is not asleep.
I’ve said many times that either everyone is going to heaven or hardly anyone is going. What do I mean? If being a nice and decent person is the only requirement, then we have nothing to worry about. If the Bible is true we need to discover the reverential fear of God. In reality, this default idea is the other way around. Hell has always been the default since man fell in the Garden and is why Christ is the only hope for those who believe. The confusion is about He demands. If we had the desire to search carefully within ourselves, we would find there are certain lines we refuse to cross when offering our lives to God. We seldom consider these hidden reservations as we are afraid to face our guilt and fears associated with our need to change. Denial becomes easier to manage with time and the longer we wait to make things right, the deeper we fall into deception.
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Being resilient when facing adversity
I was having a conversation with a good friend the other day, and he was telling me how life is becoming more difficult now that he is in his eighties. When he was young he loved to jog and walk several miles a day, and now he can hardly make it to the kitchen. I’m about twenty years younger, but I can definitely relate to my body and mind going through some changes. I’ve always heard the lack of activity does not do us any favors as it seems the less we do, the less we can do. My mother is 84 and she stays active by going to church, shopping, eating out, and walking around Walmart. It’s good for her to get out of the house and stay moving.
When my father passed away a few years ago, my sisters and I were concerned about how she would handle being on her own. You see, our parents are from the old-school tradition where my mom never worked outside the home. My dad and his dad were in the construction business together and we all had a good life. That is until he was diagnosed with a serious kidney disease and the latter half of his life was spent downsizing, being on dialysis, and getting his affairs in order. He showed mom how to pump gas, manage the checkbook, and pay the bills so that when he passed, she could survive living alone. There were six children in her family and she is the last living sibling, but my sisters and I are there for her and we make sure she has everything she needs.
Sometimes I will call in the middle of the day to check on her, and she’s just watching reruns of all the old programs I grew up with. For the most part, she’s bored and tries to come up with ways to entertain herself. I’m very proud of her as I realize that many people live alone and they do well, but after living with one person for so long I’m sure it can be very lonely at times. I want to say that whatever you are feeling down about today, God has placed strength and courage within you that you might not realize you have. Discouragement or victory is decided on the battlefield of your mind. In other words, if you see yourself in a dark valley, this is where you believe you are. If you see yourself on the mountain basking in the brilliance of the sun, nothing but your own negativity can convince you otherwise.
When it comes to resilience, it’s inspiring to know that we can endure much more than we can imagine. At one time or another, we will experience some form of adversity, hardship, or life-changing crisis and the majority of us will make it through to the other side. Growing older can be added to the list along with dealing with things like serious health issues, financial problems, and relationship failures just to mention a few. The good news is that problems cannot defeat you. You are only defeated when you stop fighting and praying.
So, how do people deal with serious events that threaten their future? It depends on how desperate they are to trust God and this includes being content and joyful. Being positive or negative are learned behaviors, and having faith in who God is and what He has promised is a constant choice. For example, when we read the book of Proverbs, we see that asking and gaining holy wisdom is an important key to understanding the meaning of life.
It’s true that we react to negative circumstances with a flood of strong emotions and a sense of uncertainty. However, we generally adapt well over time when we learn that resilience is an ongoing process that requires time to seek and comprehend truth. Being resilient does not mean that a person is without anxiety or worries, but it involves learning that we can overcome fears that are trying to bluff us into giving up. Developing resilience is a personal journey where we train our minds to see what we believe instead of only believing what we see. It’s crucial that we know ourselves and even more important to know what God is saying. To have an optimistic view of ourselves and realize what is going on around us, we can examine our hearts, pray, and seek different strategies that can provide peace, healing, and a protective state of mind and spirit.
Learn more about the Christian life at billyhollandministries.com
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Are we dedicating or hesitating?
I attempt to keep my eyes and ears open to learn about the Holy Spirit and human behavior. In my spiritual journey, the situations I’ve encountered through counseling and teaching have graciously allowed me to see the importance of walking in humility through the awareness of God’s presence. I’m not implying that I’ve arrived at a spiritual plateau where God and I float through the clouds together, but I do believe we can be as close to Him as we desire to be. To be honest, the more I discover about His written and specific will, the more I realize I have hardly scratched the surface of pleasing Him. I’ve learned that our rebellious human nature loves being independent while God is constantly trying to reveal to us how the meaning of life is doing His will. He desires that we snap out of our defiant trance and allow Him to transform our thinking so that He can use us to accomplish His desires.
I’m sure that some of you comprehend what I mean when I declare how difficult it is to keep our carnal will under subjection to God’s still small voice. Even though many do not have a clear understanding, there is a huge difference between religiously knowing about God and knowing Him personally. We realize that it’s possible to drift away from God and fall into a backslidden state but it’s also a reality that we can be deceived about what it means to be born-again. Most everyone has a knowledge of Bible stories but many do not have the burden or discipline to pray, have never studied the Bible, nor have they witnessed or shared their testimony with anyone. These individuals appear to have everything under control until they are facing a serious crisis and their world is turned upside down.
When someone contacts me for prayer and counseling, the first question I ask is if they can remember a specific time when they surrendered their life to Jesus. Most responses are related to baptism or being in church as a child. It seems that some individuals do not want to admit they have not been living for Him and feel guilty to call upon Him because they need His help. Yes, there are times when even the strongest follower of Christ are shaken to their core but generally speaking the reason why people do not have spiritual security and discernment in times of tragedy is because they have drifted away from Him. If we communicate with Him in the good times, we will also be more likely to know what He is saying when facing a battle. If we do not have an intimate relationship with Christ in our daily prayers and worship, how can we expect to know what to do when the bottom drops out? When we are constantly talking with Him, praying, and worshiping Him every day, when adversity comes we will not need to search for Him. We are already with Him.
There are levels of advancement with God and He desires that we keep moving closer to Him throughout our earthly existence. Following Jesus includes the responsibility of being a soldier who fights a spiritual war against the kingdom of darkness. If we are not brokenhearted about the world’s blatant disregard for the Bible and the lack of a reverential fear of God, then we have already fallen into a state of lukewarmness.
Yes, it’s hard to be different from the culture and to separate ourselves from sin, but learning how to develop a passion to obey Christ is the only way to be filled with His hope and joy. If we refuse to nurture our holy covenant vow with God while we are living on the mountaintop, we will not have enough time to build an intimate relationship with Him when we find ourselves in a dark valley. This is the danger of not taking advantage of making Him our highest priority today because when we are knocked down to our knees tomorrow it’s too late to start building a foundation of faith. The majority of those who are in shock from a crisis become so overwhelmed with confusion and fear they cannot concentrate on anything except their agony. Today is the day to know God personally so that when troubles come (and they will) we can trust Him and hear His voice within the peace and confidence of the Holy Spirit.
Read more about the Christian life at billyhollandministries.com
LIVING ON PURPOSE
Published – 9/19/22
A lifestyle of solitude and simplicity
There is much to be desired when it comes to spending time alone. It’s only been in the last few years that the floodgates of voices have been opened to everyone at any time. Yes, we can see there have been written scrolls from thousands of years ago, and books were printed around the year 1200, but this information was not widely circulated. Through the years printing continued to expand and when newspapers became available, the masses were given a new realm that would inspire and influence their thinking. Take for example, in the early nineteenth century when many people lived in remote areas, they had no idea what was happening in the world. This isolation allowed them to concentrate on what they needed to do which was physically difficult but they were not filled with stress or fear about politics or social issues. When the radio was invented, families would sit around and listen to a variety of opinions and ideas. Later came the television that planted visual seeds within the mind and further persuaded the conscience. Was it invented for information or mind control?
We know in the last 100 years, the world has changed dramatically. There have been many wonderful advances in technology and at the same time, we wonder what the plans are of those who control them. Social media and the internet have become such a part of our lives, that I’m not sure what any of us would do without them. These higher forms of communication are accepted as making us more intelligent, but could they also be distracting and hindering us from walking with God? The greatest gift in the history of the planet is Jesus Christ and there is nothing more valuable than the privilege to walk and talk with Him. I have noticed in my life, that I spend much more time watching and listening to others than having an ear to hear what His Spirit is saying. It’s obvious there is a competition going on here for our attention, and like programmed robots, the masses are addicted to the system. If someone were to unplug from the internet and television, they would be considered demented. However, what if someone believed II Corinthians chapter six is God demanding for us to separate from the world and spend our time meditating with Him? Isn’t this what Satan is trying to stop?
From July 1845 to September 1847, Henry David Thoreau withdrew from the noise and chaos of civilization with the desire to meditate and write. He built a cabin and lived alone in a remote area just south of Concord village Massachusetts on the shores of Walden Pond. In the quiet solitude, he found the wonders of God’s nature and the peace of His presence. As we purpose to be aware and listen in the simplicity of honesty we too can hear and know divine truth. Listen to his words:
“I left the woods for as good a reason as I went there. Perhaps it seemed to me that I had several more lives to live, and could not spare any more time for that one. It is remarkable how easily and insensibly we fall into a particular route and make a beaten track for ourselves. I had not lived there a week before my feet wore a path from my door to the pond-side; and though it has been five or six years since I trod it, it is still quite distinct. It is true, I fear that others may have fallen into it, and so helped to keep it open. The surface of the earth is soft and impressible by the feet of men, and so with the paths which the mind travels. How worn and dusty, then, must be the highways of the world, how deep the ruts of tradition and conformity. I did not wish to take a cabin passage, but rather to go before the mast and on the deck of the world, for there I could best see the moonlight amid the mountains. I do not wish to go below now. I learned that if one advances confidently in the direction of their dreams, and endeavors to live the life which they have imagined, they will put some things behind, and will pass invisible boundaries.”
I realize that most people lead busy lives, but do we not have the choice to decide how ensnared we are with the world? Are we in control or are we being controlled?
LIVING ON PURPOSE
Will we love God or the world?
Christians are accountable to love and pray for their family, and friends, and against evil everywhere, but unfortunately, many have lost the enthusiasm and the burden to ask God to set them on fire for His glory. If Christian leadership is afraid to declare war against Satan and evil strongholds and principalities, how can they be inspired or have the faith to become a living sacrifice for God? When there is no difference between a spiritually blind world and those who claim to be God’s front-line warriors, society falls deeper into spiritual darkness.
The gospel of Jesus Christ is what God uses to prick the conscience of those who are spiritually lost, and His disciples are accountable to pray for the sensitivity to know when a divine appointment is being arranged. When Christians become distracted with their plans and pleasures, prayer is neglected, and we know when conviction and the reverential fear of God are ignored, sin increases and becomes bolder. This is exactly why Satan and his demons spend every moment trying to prevent Christians from seeking God’s instructions and accomplishing His will.
Mankind has always been under attack from the kingdom of darkness and many different evil spirits are working overtime trying to weaken and distort the strength, honor, and faith of Godly men and women who are called by God to stand and engage in spiritual warfare for divine truth. Look around and notice that most men are spiritually anemic and filled with fear and carnality which is a disgrace to God’s plan for them to be strong leaders for His glory.
This deception is intended to hinder those who are called by the Lord to be the head of the family and role models for their children. The church laughed at people like Milton Berle and Flip Wilson, but it’s not funny now, as it was all a plan to plant a seed of accepting perversion. For those who are commanded to take up their cross and follow Jesus, we must be careful with what we accept as normal. The dark side is very subtle and uses a progressive repetition to slowly convince the masses that good is evil and evil is good. The idea is to program the human conscience to embrace the tsunami of lies and propaganda that is intentionally attempting to remove God from our culture.
The vision of the world continues to advance toward global control and we know it will be very difficult for many to resist the temptation to follow this system. I ask that we consider examining and preparing our souls today for serious choices we may face tomorrow. The lines are drawn and each person will decide which kingdom they are going to stand with. Matthew 6:24 states there are only two. Those who love the world will side against God and hate Him, and those who love God and embrace His truth will be hated by the masses. Jesus said in John 15:18-19, “If the world hates you, you know that it hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.” Who do we love? “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him” I John 2:15.
My family has told stories about how my great grandfather would walk down the hill behind the house in the evenings and they could hear him weeping and travailing in the spirit to God. He and his wife were God-fearing people who raised 14 children on a small farm and depended on God for everything. How many people do you know who spend time on their knees desiring above all things to have a broken and contrite heart? The Bible says in James 5:16, “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man accomplishes much.” Fervent means intense and this desperate determination to know God is the only way anyone will be able to endure to the end.
William F. Holland Jr. is a minister, chaplain, psalmist, and author. As a freelance faith writer, his books and newspaper and magazine articles are enjoyed around the world. Dr. Holland’s weekly column, “Living On Purpose” is focused on bringing spiritual hope and encouragement through God’s Word. Read more about the Christian life at billyhollandministries.com.
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God builds His temple with living stones
As a Christian faith writer, I am blessed with God providing me with spiritual insights and considerations to relay to others. He creates opportunities for me to share, however, what I do is not anything more special than how millions of other Christians are serving Him, and I humbly acknowledge that most are more talented and effective than myself. I’m just a small piece of a large puzzle, one voice among many who is pointing toward the one who has all authority, who created everything, and who knows everything.
I can honestly say that I’m consumed with writing about God and the Christian life, and my testimony includes that I did not pursue or plan this way of life. I know it sounds unusual, but writing came to me through a spiritual experience when I was a younger man and since that time it has been a sacred part of my life. I received two prophetic encouragements that were confirmed and I’m very grateful to God for His calling. Writing is the first thing I think about when I awaken, and in the evenings I have a pad and pen on the table next to my recliner to scribble my thoughts while our English Bulldog Teddy snores in my lap. Scott Fitzgerald is quoted as saying, “You do not write because you want to say something; you write because you have something to say.” I am a truth seeker and must spend a portion of every day meditating, praying, reading, and writing. If I ignore a thought and plan to write it down later, it’s often like a dream that fades and will eventually dissipate. I’ve learned over the years that no matter where I am or what I’m doing, I must write it down or I may lose it.
Throughout my working career (yes, I’ve been a bi-vocational minister), I would jot down ideas, as many times I would be humming a tune and a complete song with verses and chorus would just suddenly come to me. Later at home, I would play and sing this new song as if I had known it all my life. I typed and recorded them at home as demos so that I could remember them. Many of these original songs have been recorded in professional studios as the Lord helped me create several full-length CDs along with YouTube videos that are available for those who would like to listen to them. Over the next few years, writing music evolved into writing devotions and sermons and became the foundation of what I do today. I’ve played the guitar since I was a kid and have ministered in churches, nursing homes, prisons, homeless shelters, weddings, funerals, revivals, and such throughout my life. As a former worship pastor in several churches, I’ve always enjoyed leading others into God’s presence.
So what drives every Christian to serve God? I believe He gives His people spiritual gifts and they receive inspiration from the Holy Spirit who empowers them to accomplish His will. Whatever the Father has placed in the heart of His children, it is to fulfill a divine purpose. I Peter 2:5 says, “You are like living stones being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” Christian pastors, teachers, singers, and evangelists are messengers of the gospel of Christ which is the power unto salvation to all who will believe. As we confess Jesus as our Lord and believe that God has raised Him from the dead as Romans 10:9 -12 explains, we all become “living stones” within God’s eternal temple.
This analogy of God’s family being like stones or bricks in a wall reveals that no one is considered more important than anyone else. As each stone supports the structure, they individually become unified with the body of Christ. Listen to Ephesians 2:19-22, “Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God. Having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In Him, you are also being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.” “Jesus, thank you for shedding your blood, and resurrecting from the dead so that we might be transformed into a living stone for your glory. Amen.”
Read more about the Christian life at billyhollandministries.com
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Words can be forgiven but not forgotten
We will never rise above or go beyond what we believe and what we speak. It’s a spiritual revelation to comprehend that words have power and where there is privilege there is also responsibility. I realize that we have much to pray about, but this request is crucial if we are to live a holy life of integrity and respect. “Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips” Psalm 141:3. Since what we say is what we think, it would be wise to monitor what we listen to and what we speak. Communication not only shapes our views while influencing our thoughts and behavior, but words also expose who we really are as we can learn a great deal about a person when we hear them talk. The word fire produces a variety of emotional responses when used in different environments. For example, pleading for fire when we are rubbing two sticks together is a positive response especially when we are camping out in the cold weather and are hungry. However, screaming the word fire while in a crowded theater brings a negative reaction of fear and panic. As James chapter three points out, an evil tongue may be small but it can destroy the world.
Words can accomplish God’s intentions and carry us to amazing places, but, unfortunately, they can also lead us into situations we wish we had never known. As children, many of us quoted this little rhyme, “Sticks and stones may break our bones, but words will never hurt us” which was a courageous stand as we were being threatened or made fun of, but we realized after we grew up that in most cases, words were actually more emotionally painful than if we had been physically assaulted. There’s a good chance that you remember when someone said something that caused you to feel rejection and pierced your soul. Maybe negative words from a parent, teacher, coach, a friend, a bully from school, or the neighborhood, and unfortunately these painful wounds will always be remembered. Thankfully, some individuals change over the years as they recall the bad things they have said and are convicted to apologize and make things right as they realize that foolish people say foolish things.
On the other side of the two-edged sword of words, it’s astounding to understand they also have the power to bring inspiration, encouragement, and healing. In Proverbs 16:24, the Holy Spirit relayed to king Solomon that highly sensitive people are discreet and careful to use good judgment with their speech while the uncaring do not plan or consider what they say. We know this is true because we have been comforted by God’s promises of hope and from those who deeply care about us. In the ancient world, honey was the sweetest substance available, and Solomon was intentional with his imagery as he penned these words, “Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.” We have the opportunity to filter our speech through the Holy Spirit, but it’s our choice to apply spiritual principles or ignore them. The person who is wise and desires to walk in the awareness of God’s presence will learn to have control over their carnal nature. Our emotions are only interested in pleasing our flesh, but God’s will is about His desires and how He wants us to live.
One command associated with obedience to God is to develop spiritual sensitivity and self-control which are included in the fruits of the Spirit. As a result of choosing words wisely, our communication can become an important relay of God’s message. The Lord wants His people to reveal His character, and listening to individuals who follow His voice motivates us to embrace this beautiful way of connecting with others. Those who disregard spiritual discernment and do not care what they say are quite familiar with the flavor of their foot. “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen” Ephesians 4:29. Let us consider that what is in the well will come up in the bucket. In this light, we realize that negative and destructive words are not the tongue’s fault as it is only a servant to the mind and spirit.
This is an excerpt from Dr. Holland’s new book, “Receiving Our Healing” Learn more about the Christian life at billyhollandministries.com
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The window of God’s grace is open
God has been stirring me for the last several years to realize there are many levels in our relationship with Him and that we are to be continually progressing through the stations of the tabernacle on our way to the holy of holies. He desires to give everyone a personal revelation to become more spiritually sensitive, to hear His voice, along with His wisdom to know what is right and wrong. To develop an awareness of His presence, we must invest our time meditating on His word, praying, and interceding in the secret place of intimacy with Him. How can we know Him or what He is saying if we do not talk and walk with Him? To advance in our spiritual journey and become stronger spiritual warriors, we must have the discernment to recognize spirits and a correct interpretation of His written word. In this hour, we are being exposed to constant deception and as we continue moving forward, our ability to know good from evil will be the difference between life and death. God’s grace is the opportunity to abandon our will so that we can embrace His.
I’m convicted about my lack of understanding and the need for a deeper passion for God. I’m not as close to Him as I often think I am. It’s easy to fall into a mindset that all is well with our soul and yet be drifting further away from Him. How does this happen? It has to do with what we are used to. If we have been in God’s glorious presence, then we can also sense when we are distant from Him. The problem is that most people have hardly experienced Him and cannot recognize the difference as they have nothing to compare with. Thus, when it comes to personal intimacy with God, most do not know what they are missing. It’s common for the masses to accept that all there is to being born again is believing there is a God, and that heaven awaits everyone except for a few evil ones who commit terrible crimes. However, the truth about salvation is distorted, and the majority is not even curious to know what it is. I’ve said before that either nearly everyone is going to heaven or hardly anyone is going. Why do I say that? Because I cannot see a significant difference between those including myself who claim to be saved, and those who do not.
When we hear about being a living sacrifice for Christ and taking up our cross and following Him, I wonder how many people know what this requires. I would guess that if we interviewed the average person walking down the street and asked if they were going to heaven, most of them would say, “I hope so.” If we asked what they were looking forward to in heaven, we would probably hear things like, “At least I will not have to work anymore” or “I’m looking forward to my mansion and I hope it has a pool” or “it will be nice to be healthy and never die.” Unfortunately, it is most likely the majority are willing to roll the dice with eternity, and with there only being two destinations they figure they have a fifty percent chance of walking on the streets of gold. My point is the meaning of life is to know and love God and we are discovering that concentrating and obeying Him must be our highest priority. As our love for Him grows stronger, our only desire for heaven will be to worship Him.
Let us consider that if we are not infatuated with The Almighty today, why would we look forward to adoring Him in heaven? If we are not living with an awareness of His presence now, why would we be excited to bow down to Him around His throne? The amount of time God is on our minds measures how important He is to us, and if we are not becoming what Jesus died for us to be, then we are being hindered and controlled by our emotions. Serving, loving, and following the world is a dangerous place to be. You have the power to decide how close you want to be to Jesus. If you are ready to stop living an illusion and realize that genuine salvation has everything to do with surrendering your will to Him, call upon Him now and repent, give Him your heart, and He will become the Lord of your life.
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The lines of communication are open
The path to victory was never promised to be an easy one. It’s filled with faith blended with hard work, persistence, and a passion to follow God’s directions. What type of victory are you referring to? The only success and accomplishment that has eternal value is when we follow and accomplish God’s will. So, what is this? Well, there is His general will which includes His written word that is given to help us learn how to live for Him. There is also His specific will where God has designed a personal blueprint for each of His children as it pertains to their unique destiny and is available for all who seek Him.
With all of the knowledge that is in the world, there is nothing more important than to know who God is and what He desires. We have an open line of communication with Him to listen to His voice and to talk to Him and yet His general and specific will is largely ignored. Why? Human nature is more concerned with its own plans instead of submitting to what God is demanding. The Lord revealed to me about ten years ago that we can be as close to Him as we want and the only thing preventing this from happening is our rebellion. Every person has been given the free will to choose and make their own decisions about whether they will serve God or themselves. The carnal mind does not enjoy being told what to do, and this resistance is commonly referred to as the war between good and evil. This reality of spiritual warfare is woven throughout scripture and is seen when Lucifer rebelled against God. He is now the ruler of the dark kingdom and is trying to deceive and persuade every person who will listen to ignore God’s eternal truth.
It’s wise to seek the meaning of life and to examine if where we are spiritually is where we need to be. If we desire to build our house on the rock, it’s essential to know this requires a willing surrender of our will. Without yielding our will to God we will not be able to fully express our love for Him or others which is the core of the Christian life. Loving God with all of our mind, heart, and soul, comes with developing a constant awareness of His presence. Jesus is quoted in Luke 22:42, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine be done.” He was in such agony interceding, the Bible says His sweat was as great drops of blood. This is an intensity that most people including myself have never experienced. He could have decided to fight against the government or He could have escaped out of town, but He abandoned all of His ideas and opinions and yielded to the one whose thoughts are higher and is perfect in all His ways.
There is no doubt that many including myself have a lack of understanding of spiritual things, but what about when we know what we need to do and still refuse to do it? An example would be that it’s easier to do good deeds than to develop a consistent and fervent prayer life. Christians are usually willing to do something that looks religious because it is noticed by all. The secret place of spiritual intimacy with God is not seen by anyone and has no recognition. No one will ever want to pray until they become saturated with a relentless passion to love God. They might mention someone to Him and ask if He would help them, but this is on an elementary level like, “Now I lay me down to sleep.” There comes a time when a true disciple of Christ must graduate from kindergarten and move to deeper spiritual levels. We notice that Jesus would often slip away to find a quiet and private place where He could be with His Father. The concept of making spiritual communication with God our highest priority is hardly mentioned in today’s hectic world because the average person does not want to be convicted about how they are too busy to think about it. The popular message is about how Jesus paid it all and now we just need to wait for His return. Yes, it’s true the sacrifice of Jesus indeed provided the opportunity for the fellowship with God to be restored, but we are accountable for how interested we are about it.
Read more about the Christian life at billyhollandministries.com
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Published – 8/8/22
God has an amazing plan for your life
God loves you. This deserves repeating…God loves you! Sometimes people feel that no one cares but this is not true. Jesus proved how much He loved you when He gave His life for you. How much more can He do than to die and come back from the dead so that you can enjoy a relationship with Him and have eternal life? This is not only good news, it’s the best news the world has ever known.
I recently spoke to a small group of amazing people that are seeking God for direction. Sometimes life does not turn out as we had intended and within the disappointments, many find themselves standing at a crossroad where they will either choose to examine their conscience and allow God to help them make a new start, or they will continue trying to live according to their own ideas. It’s true we all have a free will to make decisions, but in every circumstance and situation, God’s way is the best way. Since He can see the future, He knows how everything is going to turn out. He also knows what you are going through today, and we know that He has a wonderful plan for your life. How do we know this? God promises in Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
I consider it an honor when the Lord arranges divine appointments for me to minister as His messenger. I enjoy talking with people about God and the Christian life and sometimes He will open a door for me to listen to someone’s problems and I ask for His wisdom and guidance when I respond. I’m always reminded of the passage in Proverbs 11:14 that says, “Where there is no counsel, the people fall: but in the multitude of counselors there is safety.” In my years of being a minister and chaplain, the most common challenge that people have is trusting God. I agree it is not easy to manifest faith, in fact, it might be one of the most difficult things within the Christian life. We love the idea of a quick fix, but most of the time God is just as concerned with teaching and developing us as He is with giving us a miracle. Why? Because He is trying to reveal to us that His love for us and our love for Him is more important than anything else we are seeking.
We never need to be stressed or wonder if God is strong enough or wise enough to figure out how to help us. He has all authority and power, He is the Alpha and Omega, He knows everything, can do anything, and when we need a miracle, He is the only one who can make it happen. What we really need to be concerned about is making sure we are in position to receive from Him. What do I mean? We do not hand a child a chainsaw and the reason is obvious. They are not old enough or strong enough to handle something that could injure them. It’s not that they can never use one, but they need to wait until the time is right. Likewise, if we devote our lives to Him and wait for His timing, this will allow our spiritual maturity to advance us into His perfect will. If we are not in position to receive or we give up and throw in the towel, our doubt cancels what He was preparing to do. This is why we must hold on like a bulldog to His promises and allow patience to have her perfect work.
We can assure people that God will always do what He promised as His word cannot fail, yet they will still ask, “So how much longer must I wait for Him to help me?” Have you ever considered that maybe He is waiting on you? I can say this with confidence because it’s happening with me. He’s waiting for us to pray and build mountain-moving faith, and not just trust Him with our words but with our hearts. He’s waiting for us to surrender our will to Him, to build determination and perseverance, and to stand strong on His truth as we declare that “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me!” He desires to train His soldiers for battle, but how many want to enlist and follow His orders?
Read more about the Christian life at billyhollandministries.com
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Published – 8/1/22
Our character reflects what we love
Most of us have heard that having lots of money cannot buy love or bring happiness. Since I’ve never been mega-wealthy, I will trust God on this one. Most people are trying to build financial security, but it’s also common for those who succeed to encounter frustration and disappointment. Ecclesiastes 5:10-12 gives us this divine insight, “Whoever loves money never has enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income. This too is meaningless. As goods increase, so do those who consume them, and what benefit are they to the owners except to feast their eyes on them? The sleep of a laboring man is sweet, whether he eats little or much, but the abundance of the rich will not allow him to sleep.”
We notice this passage begins with someone who loves money as there is a difference between enjoying wealth and it becoming an idol that is worshiped. A popular Bible verse in I Timothy 6:10 says, “For the love of money is the root of all evil, which while some have coveted after, they have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.” Money does not develop character, it reveals it. I’ve heard people say that money is the root of all evil, but this is incorrect. Money is not evil in itself, ion fact, it can help people and accomplish wonderful things. The danger is how it can possess the hearts and minds of those who have not learned how to prevent it from controlling them. Again, we see that true wealth is joy, peace, and contentment. This reminds me of a story about a little boy that loved pancakes. His mother told him one day, I am going to fix you all the pancakes you can eat, so he thought this will be wonderful. She started cooking and he kept eating. She finally asked if he would like another pancake, to which he replied, “no mam, I don’t even want the ones I’ve already had!”
King Solomon comes to mind when we think of someone who had more wealth than anyone in the world and yet was miserable. He said that having everything you could ever imagine cannot satisfy and is what he called vanity. Sadly, many believe if they could win the lottery, have their dream house, a flashy car, or marry that amazing person they would be happy, and there is nothing wrong with having these things until they begin to have us. There is only one thing that can truly satisfy the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual needs of the human experience and that is having a personal relationship with God. He wants to bless us so that we can live an abundant life and also be a blessing to others. Remember the man in Luke chapter 12 who tore down his barns so that he could build larger ones? God was not pleased with him being so insensitive and self-absorbed.
The end of our verse in Ecclesiastes talks about how the person who works hard and obeys God can rest in peace, but those who love riches are always frustrated with stress and anxiety. I remember when I was a young boy, my dad worked for a very wealthy man. This person was in the construction and developing industry and built subdivisions and shopping centers and owned several farms and so on. He would drive out to the job sites and tell my dad to get in his Lincoln and they would go for a drive and chat. He would tell my dad that he had not slept all night because he was watching the stock market and was consumed about losing money. Instead of being grateful and filled with joy with what God had helped him accumulate, he was nearly in tears and afraid that he might not be making the right decisions. He was obsessed with his riches and even though he had more than he could ever spend, he was being controlled and incarcerated in the darkness of fear and gloom. We were created to love our Creator and be generous, not to allow the pride of materialism to lure us into a state of disappointment and depression. Whatever consumes our mind controls our life. The more we focus on our possessions, the more entangled and distracted we are from our priorities. However, the more we seek and love God and commune with Him, the more we will reflect His attributes.
LIVING ON PURPOSE
Birds of a feather flock together
There is a huge difference between personal transformation and just talking and wishing. We can counsel, advise, pray, and encourage someone, but they are the only ones who can discipline their thoughts, take the initiative and chart a new direction. For example, being an optimistic person does not fall out of the air and happen on its own, but rather it’s a learned behavior similar to developing bad habits such as a negative attitude or a rude personality. We cannot prevent unpleasant things from happening to us, but we decide if they will control us, or we prevent them from controlling us. As we discover what God wants us to be, we are then faced with deciding just how much we will do. Philippians 1:6 declares, “Being confident of this very thing, that he (God) who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” The writer is saying that God considers you His most valuable possession and is filled with anticipation and excitement to see you flourish and thrive according to His plans. However, it will require self-discipline to overcome fear and doubt as He will not force us to obey Him the same as He does not make us love Him.
In the course of our lives, we watch those who have accomplished admirable things while the unseen forces of negativity remind us how we could never do that. You are not good enough or you do not deserve this or that are some of the most common lies that people face when dealing with low self-esteem. The truth is these individuals who are soaring in the clouds have also been hounded by the same dark voices and deceptions, yet became determined to rise above them. Anyone who has advanced in God’s wisdom and obedience has learned to be careful about who they listen to. Sadly, some have become a victim of their environment and must break free from the cycle of dysfunction. Our thoughts control our actions and eagles have no business hanging around in the chicken coop. Birds of a feather flock together and if you are determined to be an eagle, it’s important to spend time with other eagles.
A sound mind is one of the greatest gifts we have been given and it’s our responsibility to guard and protect what it absorbs. The ears and eyes are windows to the soul and as the caretaker of our garden of thoughts, we must be very careful of what type of seeds are planted and allowed to grow.
We are reminded in Proverbs 23 that as a person thinks in their heart, so are they. You see, The farmer was aware of what the eagle was supposed to be, and knew if the eagle believed he was a chicken he would always live like a chicken. A true leader can recognize another leader and it was the zookeeper who understood the eagle’s potential and did everything he could to help him see his destiny. Many of us have been blessed to have someone who discerned our abilities and helped us fly. In turn, after we realize who God has called us to be, it’s our mission to help others that need the encouragement and inspiration to look in the mirror and see themselves the way God sees them. I know people who are confused and are without a specific direction as they say they cannot find their way. We may indeed be adrift, but God knows exactly where we are and where we need to be. If we sincerely seek Him in prayer, Matthew 7:8 promises, “For everyone who asks receives, he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.”
We are called to be eagles, but our nature tends to be complacent and content to take the easy way. When Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane just before He was arrested, He asked His disciples if they would watch and pray with Him. After a while, He went to check on them and they were sound asleep. He is quoted in Matthew 26:41, “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” The story of the eagle and chicken is about knowing our identity and as Luke 1:37 declares, “NOTHING is impossible WITH God.”
Read more about the Christian life and Dr. Holland’s book, “Convictions and Considerations – Encouragement For The Soul” at billyhollandministries.com
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The eagle who believed he was a chicken
Once there was a young eaglet that accidentally fell from the safety of his nest high on the mountain. Miraculously, he fell into a patch of soft grass and survived. As he stumbled out into the open a farmer saw him and brought him to his farm and placed him inside a chicken coop with all the other chickens. Since the eagle had not yet discovered his true identity, he started watching the other birds and naturally followed their habits and doing what they did. So many people have been wrongly influenced by trying to be like others and for some, it has ruined their lives. He was growing stronger and more beautiful every day, but he had not yet discovered the revelation of who he was and what he was called to be.
One day a man from a zoo came to the farm as he heard about an eagle being raised as a chicken. The farmer explained the bird was no longer an eagle, he was now a chicken because that is all he has ever known. However, the zookeeper knew the bird had the heart and soul of a lofty eagle and was never meant to live on the ground, but to catch its prey and soar into the clouds. He lifted the eagle onto a fence and told him to fly. The eagle glanced down at the comfortable chicken coop, jumped off the fence, and continued doing what chickens do. The man returned the next day realizing the eagle was born for something much greater – he just had to know it! This time he carried the eagle up to the rooftop of the farmhouse and again told him to stretch his wings and fly. The large bird looked at the man, then again down into the chicken coop, and gracefully flew back down to be with his friends.
The man was now more committed than ever and said he would return the next day and prove the eagle was truly the most stately, powerful, dignified, and majestic raptor in all the world. The farmer shook his head and said, “he is what he believes.” The next morning the man took the eagle to the mountain and climbed as high as he could. With an eight-foot wing span and razor-sharp talons, the eagle perched on his arm and the man pointed high into the sky. He said, “Eagle, you belong to the sky and not to the earth. Stretch your wings and fly.” This time the eagle stared upward into the bright sun, straightened his body, and stretched his wings. He puffed out his chest and you could see the dignity and strength rise within him. His wings moved slowly at first, then with more power and confidence. Suddenly, with a mighty screech, he launched into the open air and began to fly toward the sun. The eagle finally realized who he was and never returned again to an average and ordinary life of mediocrity.
The eagle by nature flies high and independent and does not follow a flock. They are skilled hunters as their vision is clear and being strong and independent, they choose what and when they eat which is why they are classified as birds of prey. On the other hand, the domesticated chicken is a symbol of that which is limited and dependent on others. As a ground dweller that pecks and scratches, they are fearful and vulnerable to predators. They are quite content to just eat and sleep and be taken care of. This is not to say that chickens lack the ability to understand and reason, but the analogy points to an attitude of being complacent. Attributes such as intelligence, being emotionally sensitive, talented, and having a charismatic personality is not what keeps a person trapped in the bondage of a poverty or survival mentality, it’s not knowing who they are and refusing to do what it takes to become all they have been called to be. The barriers of low self-esteem and a lack of confidence must be conquered as each individual decides the level of success they want to reach. I use the word decide because the mind must be trained and only the person who desires to be transformed can change the course of their destiny. Thank God for those who recognize our potential and encourage us to fly because they love us.
Read more about the Christian Life and Dr. Holland’s book, “A Lifestyle of Worship – Living In The Awareness of God’s Presence” at billyhollandministries.com
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Taking a closer look at Psalm 23
Psalm 23 is one of the most popular chapters in the Bible and many have said it is one of the wonders of the literary world. It is so deep that scholars are perplexed and yet so simple that children can enjoy it. However, in all of its beauty and profound wisdom, we should pray that we do not lose our reverence for its interpretation. It is easy to allow familiarity to make us cold and indifferent to chapters such as this and others like John 3, Romans 8, and First Corinthians 13. Being spiritually lukewarm is deceptive and It simply means we are not on fire and have allowed our fervent excitement to become as smoldering embers. When we come to the place where we begin to roll our eyes and say that we have heard something a thousand times and think that we know all there is to know about it, then we have lost our passion and love for it.
Let us consider the first verse. “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.” We notice the passage does not ask if the Lord is our shepherd, but rather it states that He already is. I personally see this beautiful Psalm as a prayer confession of faith. As a minister, I’ve asked many people to say this chapter with me especially at funerals because they are comforting, but they are also words that publicly declare that we are His sheep and we follow His voice. I wonder how many people have read these words and have never given serious thought as to what they really mean? It’s common for pastors to ask gatherings of people to quote this chapter with them and this includes those who are not a Christian, but what about those who claim to be a Christian and yet are not actually following Him? Let’s look carefully at each word of the first verse.
The first word is THE. God is not A God or just another God, He is The God. Believing He is the Lord of Lords and the King of all Kings is something we need to settle in our hearts in order for us to comprehend who He is and who we are. LORD is the term used over 600 times in the New Testament to identify Jesus Christ which means master, and supreme authority. So the shepherd is Jesus. Many today want to be free and independent and do not like the idea of anyone being their lord, but these are the same ones who accept the idea of a Savior, and free salvation. For those who are truly God’s sheep, they are dedicated to love and serve the one who died on the cross and rose from the dead so they could spiritually live with Him forever. Jesus said in John 10: 27, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.”
IS might be a small word but it’s extremely powerful and means “current” which God has always been. He is infinite, from the beginning and has no end, omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent. He is loving and listening to you right now. MY is our next word and it may seem elementary but this is what separates having a personal relationship with Christ from just another collection of words we are familiar with like Amazing Grace or the Star-Spangled Banner. Shepherd means someone you completely trust, you strive to hear every word He says, you love and worship and are always ready to do everything He tells you to do. Who is Jesus to you? Are you committed to living with Him and loving Him even if everyone else chooses not to? Jesus is quoted again, “I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine” John 10:14.
In closing, the verse ends by saying, “I shall not want.” What does this mean? We all have things we desire. I believe this is saying that when we are the sheep of His fold, His presence alone is more than enough to fulfill us far beyond what the world can offer. Many have vast amounts of riches and blessings, yet are not satisfied, grateful, or filled with spiritual joy. Jesus is the only person who can fill our souls with peace and contentment. The Great Shepherd loves you where you are, but will never leave you like He found you.
LIVING ON PURPOSE
Land of the free and home of the brave
Every summer we look forward to July fourth because it’s filled with fun things to do, like barbecuing, picnics, games, family gatherings, camping, and fireworks. And of course, for many, it’s usually a paid vacation day which is always nice. Along with the excitement and activities, let us also remember and be grateful for those who have served our country so that we can enjoy our freedom. Independence Day is all about the courage of many Americans who fought against Great Britain in the Revolutionary War and with much blood-shed declared the victory and helped establish this great nation. On July fourth, 1776, the Second Continental Congress, meeting in Philadelphia, declared the sovereignty of the United States of America as they signed the Declaration of Independence which is recognized as our nation’s birthday.
There is a moving account of a young man who was a soldier in this war and in every sense of the word defines the meaning of a true American hero. Nathan Hale of Coventry, Connecticut was born in 1755 and grew up to be a highly educated and handsome young man who had every prospect of a happy and fulfilling life. Those who knew him commented on his love for sports, his kindness and strong Christian convictions. As tension increased about a possible conflict with the British, Nathan like many other enthusiastic young men, joined a local militia and was quickly advanced to the rank of sergeant. When the war officially became a reality, many chapters of the Connecticut militia rushed to Massachusetts to help their neighbors during the Siege of Boston but Hale was unsure whether to join these forces or to wait and see what would unfold. He was a young professional teacher that had a lot to lose especially with not being clear about what was happening. In early July 1775, Nathan received a heartfelt letter from his best friend, Benjamin Tallmadge who had seen the war firsthand and was now relaying about the situation. Tallmadge told Nathan that teaching school was truly noble but at this time it was critical to consider the responsibility of defending this glorious country. The day after receiving this letter, Nathan Hale resigned his teaching position and became dedicated to the call of duty.
When George Washington reorganized the army in January 1776, Nathan received a captain’s commission where he spent six months helping to build fortifications and preparing for the inevitable battle for Manhattan Island. Early in September 1776, Washington formed an elite, green beret-type group of New England Rangers, and Hale was soon invited to command one of the four companies whose mission was forward reconnaissance. Washington desperately needed to know the probable site of the upcoming British invasion and the best way to obtain this pivotal information was to send a spy behind enemy lines. This was extremely dangerous and guess who volunteered?
It is not verified exactly how Hale was captured but we know he was immediately brought for questioning before the British commander, General William Howe. Intelligence information was found on Nathan and since this was not in code or invisible ink, he was irrevocably compromised. Although Howe was moved by the young man’s demeanor and patriotism, it could not be denied that he was out of uniform behind enemy lines. The customs of war were clear and Nathan was sentenced to hang. The next morning, Sunday, September 22, 1776, at 11:00 AM, Nathan Hale was marched north, about a mile up the post road to the Park of Artillery where after giving a spirited speech he was executed. A British military engineer and cartographer named John Montresor witnessed the event and was deeply touched by Nathans’s composure and his last words. As fate would have it, Captain Montresor was ordered to deliver a message from General Howe to Washington under a white flag that very afternoon. Montresor sincerely emphasized that Nathan had impressed everyone with his sense of dignity and courage, quoting Hail’s words while he stood on the gallows: “I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country.” Nathan Hale’s body was left hanging for several days near the site of his execution and later was buried in an unmarked grave. He was 21 years old.
Dr. Holland lives in Central Kentucky where he is an ordained Christian minister, community chaplain, and author. Discover more about the Christian life and his new book about miracles, “Receiving Our Healing” at billyhollandministries.com
LIVING ON PURPOSE
Whose report will we believe?
Whatever we are concerned about today, faith and discernment are key components of our prayers. Without spiritual sensitivity, we do not understand God’s will and faith is what empowers and activates our communication with Him. We believe in miracles because we know that God listens and is the only one who has the authority to restore and provide. If someone is having a health crisis, the Bible declares that He is the Great Physician and our healer. This is exciting truth until doubt and fear sneak in the back door and Satan repeats the same strategy to deceive as he did with Adam and Eve in the garden. His favorite temptation is to plant seeds of uncertainty and confusion in our minds to question whether faith is real or our imagination. In our times of trouble, we are bombarded with speculations and opinions, but we must become unmovable in knowing that the report of the Lord cannot fail.
Josh Christmas once said, “I do not believe what I see, but I see what I believe.” Basically, it means that followers of God are not to place their trust in what others say or how things appear. Since we are filled and guided by God’s Spirit, we place our confidence in Him alone. Faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen, which means the answers are ready to be manifested but conditional on us knowing His plans and believing with all of our hearts. For example, when a doctor says there is no hope, we must realize this is not the final decision because God is more than able to accomplish His plans. Our daughter and our daughter-in-law were both told by the experts they would never have a child. This was not true, as God always has the final word. Today, our daughter-in-law has an amazing son and our daughter just gave birth to a beautiful baby girl. My wife and I prayed about this for years and we know that He is our source for everything. My new book about healing and miracles contains true accounts of God miraculously intervening.
When Lazarus was dead for four days, Jesus told the people to remove him from his tomb and unwrap his grave garments. They said his body was starting to smell and, according to natural thinking, this was disrespectful and even insane. However, they were not understanding the reality of who God is. Christ commanded Lazarus to live again, and he did! Ezekiel describes a valley of dry bones and God asked the prophet if he believed the bones could live. The Lord told Ezekiel to speak to the bones, and the flesh came back upon them and they were restored back to life. The reason these stories are recorded in the Bible is to teach us to not always accept what we see in the natural world as being impossible to change. Christians are to live with an expectation of the supernatural, to walk in the constant awareness of God’s power as they listen and obey His voice.
It’s common for the average person to build their worldviews on what they have been told instead of researching for themselves. Beware of listening and trusting the world’s opinions more than listening to God. If we absorb what the culture tells us, we are vulnerable to being brainwashed to believe what society wants us to embrace. Who do you suppose decides what is broadcast as truth and what is censored as disinformation? Satan is the father of all lies and just so happens to control the airwaves? Our decision to seek God and know what He is saying, or believe the report of this natural realm, is the difference between thinking clearly and falling into a delusion. You see, faith is not limited to only being activated in positive thinking, it also can enforce negative attitudes. If we believe and accept the worst, we are joining forces with dark energy that will make the problem worse. I assume we all know where this dark energy originates. The Bible says that we must not be conformed to the pessimistic way the natural world lives but be transformed by the renewing of our mind in Christ, which means we know He is who He says He is. Every moment we are faced with the choice to absorb the light and life of God, or the deception and hopelessness of a fallen world. What we perceive is our reality.
LIVING ON PURPOSE
338 – Knowing when to hold on and when to let go
When it comes to being knowledgeable, it’s not how much we know but how much we understand. It’s one thing to have bags of information seeds stacked up in the barns of our minds, but more importantly, how many seeds have been planted and nurtured to take root within our conscience? Even the devil himself has more knowledge about God than the average person but he does not allow it to change who he is. It’s called selective thinking where facts are learned and accumulated but not acted upon. This is where we see a huge difference between knowledge and wisdom. Just because we read about how to live a victorious Christian life does not mean we will automatically be converted into a victorious overcomer. We must absorb His Word through our brain and into our spirit all the while learning how to surrender our will and discipline our carnality.
Beware of powder-puff messages that only talk about strolling through life and enjoying the overflowing storehouses of blessings. They do nothing to awaken our desperate need to be a living sacrifice for God. In reality, the Christian life is not easy, and in fact, the more serious we become about taking up our cross the more difficult it will be. If we are genuinely born again, our spirit is connected with God’s Spirit and we have a wonderful opportunity to channel His energy into us. If we can prevent our old corrupt nature from talking us out of it, we can be saved from ourselves but it’s going to take a burning passion and a total commitment to live what we believe. Being a follower of Jesus means we are accepting a golden opportunity to transform the way we think which will literally change who we are.
Persistence and stubbornness can be good if we can incorporate them into following Christ more intensely. Yes, being stubborn for God can be considered faith, however, being stubborn against God is an attitude of rebellion. He appreciates us for being persistent but when He tells us no and we still keep pushing forward, we fall into the dangers of disobedience. There have been times in my life when I did not know if I should stop believing or if I should keep pushing. I’ve had doors slammed in my face and my share of disappointments, but I kept knocking even to the point of trying to force them open with a crowbar. Maybe God never intended for them to open and my demolition attitude just made things worse. Or maybe He wanted to see if I knew the difference between a vision and a whim. Whatever the case, the key to avoiding resentment and confusion and knowing if the dark side is working against us or if the Lord is directing us, is spiritual discernment. Wisdom comes from seeking God’s still small voice with all of our heart and mind.
Pray and research thoroughly before you move forward. If you are standing in a crossroad today and not sure where to go, do something positive while you are waiting for His confirmation. If you’ve been seeking His direction for a long time and have not heard anything, I once heard someone say, “while waiting for a door to open, keep praising Him in the hallway.” You might feel the desperation to begin a personal fast in order to become more sensitive to His voice. Fasting is not always just about food but can be the denial of other activities as you dedicate quiet time alone with Him. By the way, this is personal and there is no need to broadcast this on social media. When you discover all the requirements that are associated with your goals, you may realize you are simply not ready to proceed at this time, or maybe not at all. Yes, God can move mountains, but since He is the one who created our destiny, our ideas may not be the same as His. He can influence others, give us favor, open doors, and present divine appointments, but it’s our diligence and perseverance that helps us to be in the position to receive. He is preparing a path for you behind the scenes that can utilize your strengths and will be a perfect fit for you, however, your obedience and patience are critical factors as you follow His plans and not your own.
Dr. Holland is a Christian minister, author, and community outreach, chaplain. Read more about the Christian life at billyhollandministries.com
LIVING ON PURPOSE
Learning how to adjust our sails
“Your mind is a garden your thoughts are your seeds, you can plant flowers or you can plant weeds.” This means we choose what seeds we plant into our minds and are responsible for the thoughts we allow to grow. Feed your faith and your fears will starve to death.
We cannot direct the wind, but we can adjust our sails. We choose each day what we will say, how we act, and who we will serve. God is waiting for us to become the person Jesus died for us to be. Courage does not always roar. Sometimes faith is the quiet voice at the end of the day that says, “I will try it again tomorrow.” Never give up, ask God to help you and He will. The Bible says in Psalm 118 verse 5, “I called upon the Lord in my distress: the Lord answered me, and set me in a large place. The Lord is on my side, I will not fear, what can man do to me?”
Proverbs chapter 3 and verses 5- 8 declare, “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct thy paths. Be not wise in thine own eyes; fear the LORD and depart from evil. It shall be health to thy navel, and strength, nourishment, and refreshment to thy bones.” We know that God is the highest authority and has complete power and control over all things! We are celebrating how our creator is bringing victory over an enemy that is trying to do us harm!
We confess God’s Word that is the true reality of His perfect will. We believe and receive His never-failing truth into our lives and come into agreement with Isaiah 54:17, “No weapon formed against thee shall prosper; and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and their righteousness is of me, saith the Lord.” We are filled with joy because God loves us and sent His Son Jesus to save us and we know in our hearts that He desires to intervene and always has our best interest in mind.
God is the creator of all things and spoke the universe into existence! He said let there be light and there was light and it was good, and this same spiritual principle is active and alive within us. He wants us to know and agree with His will and to speak His Word in faith as He has promised that He will manifest His plans through us for His glory. God’s Words are light and life and His people are commanded to choose life! In Isaiah 57:19 the Lord says, “I create the fruit of the lips; Peace, peace to him who is far away, and to him that is near and I will heal him.”
We repent of our sins and ask God to help us become victorious! Psalm 66:18, “If I regard iniquity in my heart God will not hear me.” Psalm 51:10-12, “Create in me a clean heart O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from thy presence, and take not thy Holy Spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation, and uphold me with thy free Spirit.” “In my distress, I called upon the Lord and cried unto my God: He heard my voice out of His temple, and my cry came before Him, even into His ears” Psalm 18:6. Be encouraged to know He is listening to you right now.
“Father, we come to you today with a broken and contrite heart. We are weak but we know that you are strong. Fear and doubt are at my door like ravening wolves. We look across the world and see evil and darkness everywhere. We have a heart that is heavy as we see more people every day turning against you and your truth. I humbly ask that you fill my mind and soul today with your peace that passes all understanding. Please encourage my heart and allow me to see the victory as when Elisha’s servant’s eyes were opened. Help me to stay focused on who you are and to dwell in the secret place of the Most High. My hope, my trust, and my life is in you and nothing else. In the name of Jesus, I pray, amen.”
Read more about the Christian life at billyhollandministries.com
LIVING ON PURPOSE
Christ is the vine we are the branches
I was having a discussion with a friend the other day about how it seems that so many people are living in fear and discouragement when he mentioned something that really made me think. He said that it was impossible to be depressed and walk in the joy of God’s presence at the same time. After our conversation, I continued to ponder this thought and by the way, I do agree with it. I’m not saying
that developing an optimistic lifestyle is easy, but being a positive or a negative thinker are both learned behaviors. Since a healthy relationship with the Lord is associated with the level of our spiritual joy, we can know that a lifestyle of encouragement will depend on controlling the way we think. “Why art thou cast down, O my soul? And why art thou disquieted within me? Hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise Him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God” Psalm 42:11.
Like the Psalmist, there are times when we allow sadness to lead us down the road of discouragement. I use the word allow because joy and sadness are attitudes of the mind which we choose. How can we live in victory if we are always worried and afraid? I’m still learning that it’s up to me whether I accept the misery of anxiety or become determined to focus on God and find refuge in the safety of His arms. We cannot control what happens to us, but we can decide how we will respond. When I’ve been too busy to pray, study or worship Him, my faith turns to doubt as I begin to lose my confidence that He will take care of my problems and needs. When we drift away from the security of His love and peace, we are vulnerable to the overwhelming feelings of hopelessness and sadness from mistakes and sins we have committed. The dark side will sniff out our failures and attempt to bring guilt and condemnation to remind us of what we could and should have done. The enemy of our soul is devoted to condemning and tempting us to be depressed about missed opportunities and wrong decisions.
There are many followers in the kingdom of God that are tired and disappointed and often they do not feel appreciated in their calling, but the Lord sees your labor and His definition of success is not the same as the world. There is nothing more wonderful than to know the mission and will of God and to be walking in it, however, if there is anything that can deter us from following Jesus we will be tested and tempted. “For the Lord God can help me; therefore shall I not be confounded [confused] therefore have I set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be ashamed” Isaiah 50:7. Setting our face like flint is declaring a message of faith that we are dedicated to becoming the person God has called us to be. Flint is a very hard substance and in the season of our trials, the strategy for victorious spiritual combat is to stand strong and not allow doubt or intimidation to influence or persuade us to compromise or surrender.
Our Creator is waiting to give us the stability and perseverance we need to accomplish His plans, but He is also depending on us to become committed in our obedience to Him. There is a big difference between talking about what we should be and actually manifesting it. His river of contentment is available anytime and beckons for us to wade out into the deeper waters of His presence. We are invited to be saturated in His Spirit and to bask in His glory if this is what we really want. Unfortunately, many are relaxing in their lounge chairs at “poolside” and only stick their toes in the water occasionally when a crisis comes upon them they cannot fix on their own. The best way to maintain a successful and consistent Christian life is to pray and study God’s word daily which renews our minds and keeps us sensitive to His thoughts and the demonstration of His character. John chapter 15 explains how Jesus is the vine and we are His branches, which allows everyone to witness His nature and glory. We know we are to believe in Him, but when is the last time you considered that He believes in you?
Read more about the Christian life at billyhollandministries.com
LIVING ON PURPOSE
When I am weak He is strong
How much grace does it take to love our enemies and those who have hurt us? Well, that’s a good question. Tragedies occur all around us and it’s true we are heartbroken and disturbed, but what happens if we are personally offended or our family and friends are harmed? I admit that I do not always have the character of Christ when I’m being threatened or attacked. Many times, my first reaction is to retaliate because it’s a part of our old nature, but I agree that people need to be punished for their evil deeds and acts of violence. However, the temptation to resent and be bitter is real. Life is filled with challenges and situations that lure us into bad attitudes but for the serious Christian, it’s the forgiveness of Christ that can teach us and lead us into the peace that passes all understanding.
When we fall into a negative mindset, our joy which is our spiritual strength, evaporates and we become weak and discouraged. Anger and the desire for revenge can emotionally, mentally, and spiritually hold us in the bondage of misery. If we allow ourselves to become weighed down with animosity, our relationship with God suffers which is why it’s so important to not become entangled in the snare trap of hatred. To those around us, everything may seem fine but deep within our hearts, we are seething with contempt. The battle we choose to fight in our conscience is something we desire to do because we feel justified, but if we continue to embrace these feelings we are allowing the darkness of sin to control our thoughts and hold our souls hostage. Sadly, many would rather cuddle thoughts of hostility instead of releasing them to God and allowing Him to execute justice in His way.
A while back I received a call from the Veterans Center to pray for an elderly gentleman that was near death. He was barely able to understand or communicate because of the heavy doses of morphine. His son was sitting next to the bed and after a while, he started to share some personal thoughts about his dad. They were not close and he began to describe a man that was not only harsh and uncaring but abusive. I could sense the deep emotional pain as he revealed the sadness and disappointment of a wounded family. The son was a Christian and had been dealing with resentment for years and was aware of his need to find closure, amazingly I could see the love and peace of God in his countenance. This type of emotional pain is truly a heavy burden, but If we sincerely ask the Lord to step into our situation, He is the only one who can bring inner healing to the deepest places of our being.
If you watch a toddler you will notice they react to basic experiences of hunger, affection, disappointment, happiness, and anger but have not yet learned the dangers of being offended. Resentment is one of many attitudes we naturally develop as we grow older and it’s only through inviting Christ to become our Lord and allowing His truth to transform our minds that we can be molded into His way of merciful thinking. God wants us to be open and honest with Him and not suppress these ugly emotions which can damage our relationship with Him. The opportunity to call on Christ is always available as Psalm 46:1 declares, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” Holding on or letting go of these negative attitudes is our choice. If we keep them they become an infection that can also desensitize us from having sympathy for other people’s problems. This is very serious because it involves the Christian’s most precious asset – our love. The enemy of our soul will use anything he can to hinder our love and discourage us from praying for others. May we never lose our focus to humbly serve and obey Christ because we are blinded by our own misery. Whatever someone has done to hurt us, let us remember that living in the peace of God’s love and forgiveness is possible. Resentment incarcerates the conscience but forgiveness is the key that opens the prison door. Some may say they will not or cannot forgive, but Mark 11:25 reminds us, “And whenever you pray if you have anything against anyone, forgive them, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses.”
To read more about the Christian life visit: billyhollandministries.com
LIVING ON PURPOSE
May we never forget freedom is not free
Memorial means to “remember” and every year on the last Monday in May, we honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice with their lives in the line of active military service while protecting and defending the country they loved. For those of you that have family members and close friends who died fighting for our freedoms, we can know they perished for a cause greater than their own.
What do you think about when you hear the words Memorial Day and does it have personal significance? Unfortunately, for some Americans, the true meaning of Memorial Day has been seemingly lost. It’s common for people to be glad for another federal holiday and a three-day weekend. Some recognize the occasion as the beginning of summer and celebrate with a cookout. Then there are the parents, spouses, siblings, and children who will touch their loved one’s name on a military memorial wall, and place flowers on their grave. My mother’s youngest brother Clinton was 19-years-old when he was killed on a battlefield in Korea. Clinton (who was nicknamed Kenny), and his cousin Thomas both went into the army together and had dreams of a happy life after the war, but neither one returned.
Memorial Day is often confused with Veterans Day or even Armed Forces Day, and though it’s highly appropriate to honor all our veterans, living and dead, and to recognize their immeasurable contributions to our country, this is not the true meaning of Memorial Day. So, why do so many Americans feel uncomfortable and refuse to acknowledge our fallen patriots? We realize our human nature tends to avoid the unpleasant, and this is natural, nonetheless, these individuals deserve our respect and honor.
The tradition of the Memorial Day celebration began on May 30, 1868, as an initiative by Major General John A. Logan. The event was held with a large gathering of people decorating the graves of thousands of military personnel. After speeches by officials, children from an orphanage made their way through the cemetery, singing hymns. New York was the first state to declare Memorial Day as an official holiday, followed by other states. The southern province observed it separately until the completion of World War I, after which the Memorial Day celebration included all the Americans who sacrificed their lives in any war. Official guidelines say the flag in all administrative buildings should be displayed at half-staff. In 2000, President Bill Clinton implemented ‘The National Moment of Remembrance Act’ to encourage all Americans to voluntarily stop wherever they are at 3 PM local time on Memorial Day for a moment of silence to honor those who have died in service to the nation.
I want to share this true account about private George Watson, a member of the Army’s 29th Quartermaster Regiment who hailed from Birmingham, Alabama. On March 8, 1943, he was far from home in the Pacific theater. His unit was on board the Dutch steamer USAT Jacob near Porloch Harbor, New Guinea, when it came under a sudden and devastating attack from Japanese bomber planes. The cargo ship was destroyed after sustaining several direct hits and had to be abandoned. Chances of survival seemed slim to the frightened men floating helplessly in the ocean as enemy fire continued to rain down on them. At that moment, Watson demonstrated bravery worthy of the most heroic warrior. Without thought for his own safety or survival, he dived into the water and started swimming to those who were drowning, pulling his injured and helpless comrades to the few available life rafts. No one is certain how many men he saved, but according to eyewitnesses, it is certain that in his relentless efforts, many men lived because of his fearless courage. George continued until finally becoming so fatigued he did not have the strength to avoid the powerful suction when the ship began to sink. Watson, along with four other valiant sailors, disappeared beneath the waves. For extraordinary heroism on the front lines of combat, Watson became the first black American soldier to receive the Distinguished Service Cross. His love for others and demonstration of selflessness were even further recognized when he was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor during a 1997 ceremony. Because Watson had no family members to claim his medals, citations, honors, and other awards, they are proudly displayed by the U.S. Army Quartermaster Museum at Fort Lee, Virginia. George Watson field at Fort Benning, and The United States Navy ship, USNS Watson, is named after him.
LIVING ON PURPOSE
The God who is more than enough
Many people today are struggling with the stress of everyday living and many feel lonely, depressed, and sad, but whatever you are going through today, be encouraged to know that God is able to take care of you. When we research the Hebrew name El Shaddai, we discover that it means the all-sufficient one with all wisdom and authority and is commonly referred to as Omnipotent. It’s very important to know that both optimism and pessimism are learned behaviors, which means that choosing our thoughts has everything to do with our attitude and how we view life. Here are seven areas where we can believe and know that He is waiting to fill us with His joy, peace, and contentment.
1. God knows: God is Omniscient and is fully aware when we are going through difficult times, our worries and fears, and even what we are thinking. Actually, He is the only one who really knows how we feel and we can always trust that He is working on a way to help us. There are 3 answers to our prayers; yes, no and keep waiting so, whatever happens, have faith that He is in total control and always has our best interest in mind.
2. God loves: The love and grace of God is greater than all of our sin. Jesus died a cruel and painful death in order to save us from ourselves. The good news today is that when those who hear this gospel about God’s love and receive it into their lives, they can escape the torment of eternal darkness and be redeemed and transformed into a child of The Almighty. Read Romans 8:37-39.
3. God cares: The Lord of all glory is listening to every word we say; He sees every tear and knows all the problems we are going through. Today, He wants us to believe that He cares about us and desires to help us. He promises that His eye is on the sparrow, which allows us to know how much more He is watching over us. He is sensitive and compassionate about everything that is going on in our lives and longs to have a close personal relationship with us.
4. God provides: The Lord provides forgiveness, restoration, hope, and whatever we need, whenever we need it. Christ can give what no one else can provide. He is always on time and never fails! We can place our trust in God and believe with all of our hearts that He will do above and beyond all that we could ask or imagine. Philippians 4:19 says, “But my God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.”
5. God desires: God has a desire, and that is for us to love Him and follow His voice. He also wants us to succeed, to be an overcomer, and to live an abundant life. Before we were born, He drew our personal blueprint and within this wonderful plan includes a destiny of victory and joy! He created us to be filled with His power and to walk confidently in His presence. Deuteronomy 31:8 says, “It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.”
6. God heals: The Almighty is the great physician and has all power and authority in heaven and earth. He gives instruction and wisdom to doctors; He creates medicines and knows the solutions to every health problem. God has the miracle power to take care of whatever we need perfectly and completely, whether physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual. I tell people all the time that either in this life or in the next, God will heal His children perfectly and completely. In Exodus 15:26 God declares, “I am the Lord that heals you.”
7. God delivers: Whatever the bondage, temptation, or situation, the King of kings can lift you out of your agony and set your feet upon a solid rock. Believe, absorb, and allow His truth to set you free! Psalm 18:2-3 reminds us, “The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower. I will call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised: so, shall I be saved from my enemies.”
To read more about the Christian life and Dr. Holland’s new book about miracles visit: billyhollandministries.com
LIVING ON PURPOSE
Man shall not live by bread alone
One of the popular topics that readers contact me about are concerns associated with food shortages and higher costs. I realize that no one has a crystal ball to see into the future, but we have plenty of websites that are encouraging everyone to stockpile food and water. The prepping movement has been warning the public for years to prepare for such a crisis and, of course, many have created profitable businesses by selling everything a person would need if something like this were to happen. I’m sure many of you are like us that have friends and family members who have food and water reserves and my wife and I believe it’s wise to have some extra provisions in case of an emergency.
The prices of food and fuel are rising, and many families are feeling even more financial stress. I’m involved with a weekly food distribution ministry in my hometown where we receive food from area grocery stores and a local co-op 3-times a week, then we give it out to homeless shelters, the elderly, and those in need. Our team has the burden of making sure that everyone in our community can at least have something good to eat. It’s one thing to tell someone to be blessed and something else to activate our faith and make sure they have the provisions they need. Jesus said in Matthew 25 that when you give to the needy, you have given to Him.
We know that political wars and sanctions can disrupt food chains, as weather, plant diseases, fuel and fertilizer costs, and pestilences can also contribute to shortages. By the way, I’ve often wondered why governments pay farmers not to grow their crops. We read in Matthew 24:6 about the scarcity of food, “For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places.” And Revelation chapter 6 talks about a quart of wheat costing a day’s wage and implies there will be a time when war and famine will give way to inflation due to supply and demand. For those who love God, we know we can trust Him in the difficult times and that He hears our prayers and will provide for our needs. Paul related in Philippians chapter 4 about maintaining contentment and being at peace with God in times of need or prosperity.
There is an amazing story found in I Kings chapter 17 where God intervened for the prophet Elijah and miraculously provided food and water. The Lord commanded ravens to bring him meat and bread twice each day and also supplied him with fresh water from a brook called Cherith. When fear surrounds us and life feels uncertain, it’s easy to doubt that our Creator is really with us, but the same God who is with us during good times is the same God who is with us during times of uncertainty. This example should encourage us to know that He is always watching over us and desires to take care of us like we take care of our own children.
In closing, may we remember that famines and food shortages are not only about empty shelves at our local market, but there is also a spiritual famine happening today with God’s word and it will only become worse. Most people are not really interested in having their conscience being convicted of sin, but believe there is no such thing as a universal standard of divine truth. Even many religious individuals would rather listen to inspirational messages that compromise and justify living however they want. Things that are socially accepted today would have been an outrage in the Christian world just 50 years ago. Instead of God’s followers taking a stand and defending His foundational realities, the majority now makes excuses and negotiates to make everyone happy. II Timothy chapter 4 warned us this would happen, and it has. John 6:33-35 Jesus says, “For the bread of God is he which comes down from heaven, and gives life unto the world. Then said they unto him, Lord, evermore give us this bread. And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that comes to me shall never hunger; and he that believes on me shall never thirst.” And in Matthew 4:4, “But he answered, it is written, man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”
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LIVING ON PURPOSE
Developing an effective prayer life
Prayer is a familiar word that we hear every day and is usually associated with something being wrong and needing to be fixed. I receive emails and texts on a regular basis from those who are having a crisis and call on me to pray for them and I certainly do. For Christians, being in agreement with the prayers of others is a blessing and responsibility as the power of God is increased and multiplied. For those who are not familiar with talking to God, it’s common for them to call others who they believe can plead with the Lord on their behalf.
It’s an honor for people to ask someone to pray as they trust this person knows God, but the truth is that everyone has the opportunity to be as close to God as they desire. This is not the most popular statement but nonetheless true. Prayer was never intended to be a last resort option that is used in an emergency like calling the fire department. The miracle of Christ being crucified and resurrecting from the dead restored the broken relationship between God and mankind that happened when Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden. God gave His Son so that we could be saved and communicate with Him.
To begin, we must pray for a desire to pray, for if we are not interested in praying it will not happen. Everyone does what they want and prayer will never become a habit until we become determined to make it a lifestyle. Designate a time and a place. When we become serious about spending quiet time talking and listening to God, our life becomes more focused, filled with meaning, peace, purpose, and confidence. We do not arrange our prayer time around our life, we must be determined to arrange our life around our time with Him. Learn all you can about self-discipline. When you make a decision about the best time and place to pray – stick to it! This will be much more of a personal challenge than you ever dreamed. Remember, the enemy will do all that he can to discourage, distract and prevent you from advancing in your relationship with God.
Open your Bible and ask Him to reveal His word. Prayer is not always closing our eyes and just asking for things. It’s a time of sharing our deepest thoughts with God and this includes giving Him an opportunity to respond. Listen intently and write it down. Silence is golden in His presence. Prayer has no substitute. Many have thought that attending church or listening to Christian music is our “quota” of spiritual nourishment. These are good but not enough. We can do all these things and actually grow distant from the Lord if we are not spending personal quiet time with Him. Prayer is our lifeline to His throne and the fountain of our joy. Prayer is progressive. When we decide to enter into this deeper walk with God we will comprehend the true meaning of praying without ceasing. The beauty and ultimate goal of daily meditation is developing a constant awareness of His presence. This is where we grow stronger in our spiritual wisdom and discernment.
Begin a prayer journal. The word of our testimony is a wonderful way to keep track of our burdens, petitions, and victories. What a faith-builder when we make a record of answered prayers and how the Lord manifested a miracle when the situation seemed impossible. Also, study the armor of God. The Christian life is a battle and beware that you do not step into the front line unarmed. It’s no secret that the devil and His demons are not threatened with lukewarm religion, but they target anyone that makes a decision to pray. Our words contain power. Silent prayers are fine but praying out loud is even better. Confessing and decreeing God’s word is being in agreement with His will. He has promised in Isaiah 57:19 that He would create the fruit of our lips and in Matthew 18:18-20 Jesus speaks about the authoritative power of binding, loosing, and agreeing in faith with His desires. Prayer and obedience are powerful weapons. Yes, we have a nature to worry, be afraid, and wring our hands and speak negative, but this has never helped anyone, it only makes things worse. If we invest the same amount of time praying that we do worrying, we would see more of God’s will being done on earth as it is in heaven.
Read more about the Christian life at billyhollandministries.com
LIVING ON PURPOSE
Walking a mile in someone else’s shoes
It’s easy to mock and be critical, and unfortunately, our human nature loves to judge unfairly and display negative thoughts about others. If we could only remember that many people are going through some type of painful trial which usually explains why they seem peculiar. I often counsel those who are struggling with personal problems and it changes our perspective when we know the bigger picture. As Christians, we are called to be a light that represents God’s nature and this includes forbearance, understanding, and compassion. This is so that everyone can see Christ and hopefully will inspire them to learn more about who He is. When we act ugly and rude, we are actually turning others away from the message of grace and love that we proclaim is what the lost world desperately needs. Whether you’ve noticed it or not, those around us are carefully observing us which is having a direct impact on what they think about God and who we are. Every day we have opportunities to do what Jesus would do.
If we knew what is going on behind the scenes in the lives of those all around us, it would allow us to realize they do not deserve our harsh speculations and criticisms. I published a book a few years ago called “A lifestyle of worship – Living in the Awareness of God’s Presence” that focuses on developing spiritual sensitivity and how this discernment can drastically change the way we think and see life. I’m convinced we will not grow in our concern for others until we can see them the way God sees them. When I’m focused on His presence and trying to do His will, I am more humble and understanding. However, when I’m distant from Him and allow arrogance to rise up, I gravitate toward being indifferent and cold-hearted. Rick Warren is quoted, “God’s mercy to us is the motivation for showing mercy to others. Remember, you will never be asked to forgive someone else more than God has forgiven you.”
I recently learned about an 8-year-old boy that experienced a horrifying tragedy. His mother had agreed to take care of a friend’s dog for a few days. The dog did not have a history of aggression and she did not sense any danger to bring it into her home. One day the little boy was out in the yard with the dog and suddenly out of nowhere the animal violently attacked him. The mother heard the cries and ran to stop the attack, but not before the dog had bit off the boy’s ears and caused very serious wounds to his head and face. It was believed that if the mother had not arrived when she did, the dog would have killed him. I watched an interview with the little fellow after the wounds had healed and he had such a gentle and kind personality. Those few seconds changed his life forever.
He is a smart and witty child and is surprisingly upbeat in spite of the devastating damage that he deals with on a daily basis. Where his ears had been are now just small holes on the sides of his head. The muscles in his face are permanently damaged and twisted which causes him to talk out of the side of his mouth. His eye socket was reconstructed and he is fortunate they were able to save his sight. As I listened in amazement at his courage at such a young age I was deeply moved and felt a tear running down my cheek. What a traumatic ordeal this innocent young man has gone through. He went on to say that he begged his mom to let him return to school and how the other kids will gather around him and stare at him like he is a circus attraction. He overhears them saying he’s scary looking and all that. I know kids are cruel and remember when I was growing up I watched bullies torture other children they considered were strange or whatever. I think about what this child has gone through and not only having to live with the outward consequences, but also the emotional agony from the insults and rejection. I Peter 3:8 reminds us to be sympathetic, to love one another, to be compassionate and humble, and this helps us to consider what it would be like to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes.
LIVING ON PURPOSE
Jesus gave His life so that we could live
I admit I am an emotional person. I recall going to see the Passion movie a few years ago and I was disturbed, to say the least. It’s not uncommon for me to shed a tear when I witness something that moves my soul and this was no exception. Recently, I was watching a program about the “Make-A-Wish Foundation” and how they provide a way for very sick children to experience a happy but most likely a last request and I cried through the entire program. As the agonizing scenes of what Christ went through were presented, I kept thinking how could someone watch this and not be deeply stirred in their soul? I feel the same way about the Chosen series. I’m not ashamed to wear my feelings on my sleeve and have no desire to act tough and pretend that expressing emotions is a sign of weakness. If we are not careful, we can become hardened by the harshness of life and lose our spiritual sensitivity.
Remembering the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ should be more than an annual holiday. For the Christian, it should be a constant awareness of His love. Once again we are bombarded with the celebrations of eggs, rabbits, baby chicks, baked ham, and new clothes that can be distractions from the focus of Christ suffering and dying on the cross and resurrecting three days later. The incarnation is another celebration where worldly traditions attempt to deflect and compete for attention. These holy seasons are a reminder of the gift of eternal salvation. We realize it’s never pleasant to imagine an innocent person being brutally tortured, but the fact that Jesus miraculously came back to life proves His infinite power and authority and why we are so filled with humility and encouragement. Jesus Christ did not just talk about love, He demonstrated His mercy and compassion by suffering and surrendering His life so that we could live.
When I think about Christ and the reason why He came to earth, it’s a comfort to know this was not a spur-of-the-moment idea, but rather it was a carefully planned mission by the Father to restore our fellowship with Him. Jesus willingly left the glories of heaven, submitted to His Father’s will, was betrayed and denied by those He trusted and mocked as someone delusional. The religious community rejected His message and the legal system along with the demands from the general population overwhelmingly agreed to publicly execute Him without a reason other than they hated Him. Sadly, these negative attitudes have not changed.
We notice that Jesus was constantly approached by those in desperate need and it was His perfect nature to be concerned and compassionate. The world has always been filled with human suffering and He is always ready to respond in love and mercy. Being emotional and even knowledgeable about the Bible is fine, but that does not necessarily mean that someone is following Christ. It’s what they do with what they have learned that transforms considerations into spiritual obedience. When we see someone who needs help or even an encouraging word, what good does it do to just look at them with pity? Christ was always ministering to those who would reach out to Him by faith and two thousand years later He is still pouring out His grace and forgiveness to anyone who will call upon His name.
As His followers, we have been called to focus our attention on becoming more like Him despite a troubled world that justifies walking over the wounded and being self-centered. His command to take up our cross includes letting go of our natural way of selfish thinking and willingly embracing His character and nature. The more I learn about His life and His message, the more I realize that I am far from being who I need to be. As we meditate on His truth, we are given a deeper understanding of who He is, and what He wants to accomplish through us. The reverential fear and awareness of who Jesus is and why He came to earth is our only hope and it’s every Christian’s responsibility to keep their spiritual eyes focused on Him. Beyond the festivities and the feasting, may we consider spending time concentrating on the one who loves us and came to save us from being lost forever.
LIVING ON PURPOSE
The Passion of Christ is God’s amazing grace
April is the month of new beginnings when trees begin to sprout their leaves and flowers emerge from the ground to express their beauty. This is also the time when we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. God’s infinite love for us is the foundation of the Christian faith for without Jesus being raised to conquer death, hell, and the grave, He would have been just another courageous martyr. You see, His perfect blood that was sprinkled on the mercy seat was the only payment that was holy and powerful enough to redeem, transform, and purchase the spirits of those who will believe. John 19:30 declares the Son of God cried from the cross, “It is finished” which guaranteed the covenant authority of God’s word is true and the spiritual reality that eternal salvation is now available for all who hear the gospel, are convicted to repent and will embrace Him by faith. This is why the gospel is called the good news and truly it is the ultimate promise of hope and peace the lost are searching for.
Christians experience the life-changing miracle of God so loving the world that He sent His Son to save us from our sins to restore us back to the personal fellowship that was lost when Adam and Eve disobeyed Him in the Garden. The greatest love story ever told is recorded in the gospels and many of you have memorized the message found in Matthew 28:5-6 when the angels appeared to the women at the empty tomb. “The angel said to the women, Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here, for He is risen as He said! Come, see the place where they placed His body.” It’s difficult to comprehend just how important these words are. Nonetheless, it’s also important within our commission to relay this truth to everyone about the glorious significance of what His sacrifice and resurrection accomplished, what it guarantees for the future of those who believe, and how we can obtain and have a blessed assurance of these glorious promises today.
The Lord has given most of us a good life filled with blessings, but I’m sure you have noticed that no matter how much “stuff” we accumulate, it does not bring spiritual contentment or joy. Material possessions, money, friends, and loved ones can make us happy to a certain extent, but nothing on earth can satisfy or take the place of our personal relationship with God. When we talk about hope, this usually means we are trying to believe that something is going to turn out the way we want, but there is a spiritual hope empowered by faith where we can definitely know our prayers will be answered without having to worry or be afraid. “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope” Romans 15:13. You see, those who trust and know God, have been born again into an eternal inheritance that can never change or fail.
Be encouraged today in knowing that when Christ accomplished His mission on the cross and rose from the dead, those who are partakers with Him are preserved by the greatest power and authority in heaven and earth. He is the creator of all things, and is the Alpha and Omega. We do not place our confidence in this earthly realm, but we can completely trust the one who knows everything, created everything, and controls everything. Humans try to build the perfect life but always end up disappointed as only Christ is truly perfect. He is holy and blameless, Omniscient, Omnipresent, Omnipotent, and exalted to the highest place with a name that is above every name. It’s good news to know we have a crown of glory with our name on it as our home is reserved for us in heaven forever. Like Abraham, we are looking forward to that city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God. Let us rejoice and be eternally grateful to Christ for becoming the bridge of light, hope, and truth between this life and the life to come. Rejoice today that He is risen! Luke 18:33 declares, “And they shall scourge him, and put him to death: and the third day he shall rise again.” Praise Him forever!
LIVING ON PURPOSE
Being accountable for our spiritual sensitivity
I remember the day we brought Teddy our English Bulldog puppy into our home. The breeder told us he was eight weeks old but after receiving his papers, we noticed he was actually only six weeks old at the time. He was a healthy little bruiser and we would laugh at his stumbling and being uncoordinated, but now we realize it was because he was such a baby. My wife and I would sit on the porch in the evenings and watch him explore around in the front yard. He was so happy as he would jump and roll in the grass and investigate his new surroundings but when he would hear a loud commotion like a noisy car passing by, it would scare him and he would come running to us. After a while, he gradually became more used to the traffic sounds and the lawn mowers, and eventually it did not bother him.
We hear about those who live close to railroad tracks or airports and how they are sensitive to the sounds at first, but eventually get used to them. I collect old clocks and when people come in they ask how we can stand all of these chimes and gongs, but we do not even notice them. It’s one thing to get used to sights and sounds that do not hinder our spiritual lives, but it’s dangerous to let our guards down when it comes to accepting things that are contrary to God’s standard of sanctification. Our new-born spirit is sensitive to what we see and hear and what a challenge it is to protect our mind. As Christians, we have a responsibility to guard our hearts from the negativity and darkness of this world that is trying to pull us away from God’s presence. Unfortunately, many individuals including church members are convinced there is no harm from absorbing a constant barrage of negative television shows, movies, and social media. It’s a shame the era of innocence is now only a memory. A lifestyle of purity is now considered fanatical and old-fashioned and not respected any more.
I remember the old Dick Van Dyke Show where, even though Rob and Laura were married, there were two separate beds in the bedroom. Back then, even the idea of a married couple in the same bed was socially taboo, and that was only fifty years ago. The old westerns like Roy Rogers and The Lone Ranger were not about killing, but were hardly anything more than jumping off a horse and punching someone in the nose. When I was a kid, we would watch programs like, Bonanza, Lawrence Welk, and the Wonderful World of Disney. We were not exposed to extreme violence, witchcraft, and the constant sex scenes as we are today. So, what happened to our cultures modesty? The days of blushing and embarrassment are gone as the shock factor has caused many minds and hearts to become calloused. This is exactly what the enemy wanted so the masses would lose their spiritual sensitivity to God’s voice. As the entertainment industry continues to push the limits of sorcery and debauchery, those who indulge are being tempted to dwell on dark thoughts that are ungodly instead of what is lovely and just. If we are not careful, even the children of God can become numb to corruption, deviance, and wickedness, very much like the frog who sits in the pan of water on the stove and hardly notices he is being boiled alive. If we absorb and accept small amounts of impurities here and there, before long we will not be offended or insulted about anything. Sadly, we might even begin to enjoy it.
It’s no secret that most people, do not want to hear about self-discipline, repentance, or messages that contain topics about how changing the way we think will change the way we live. In man’s carnal defense, his emotions consider this intrusion as meddling and no one’s business, including the one who created him. These uncomfortable and rebellious attitudes are God’s way of convicting us of our guilt. It’s His way of getting our attention that we are doing something wrong, but often our emotions love it too much to stop. We all face this daily battle because our fallen nature is opposed to virtuous living and always willing to fight for its independence. One of the greatest failures for anyone including Christians is to ignore the reverential fear of God and His demand to live holy.
LIVING ON PURPOSE
PUBLISHED – 3/28/22
Without a burden, we will not pray
The key to being a good soldier is listening carefully and being obedient. No one, especially God wants a servant that decides to be absent without leave or that is rebellious and always wants to do things their way. Every effective military has strict discipline for a purpose and this is for making sure the soldier is focused on what the leader is saying. One reason for going through boot camp is to learn certain skills while training the individual to build strength so they are in excellent physical condition. Going into battle is very strenuous and demands for each team member to be strong and confident. But even more important than building physical endurance, their minds must be educated, transformed, and renewed to follow orders and to be ready to respond without fear under the most terrifying and difficult situations. To have someone’s attention, the person must trust and respect the one who is in command and these components are crucial to being victorious. As we can see, the concept of awareness and perseverance cannot be over-emphasized in our relationship with our Lord and King.
In the summer of 2021, I began asking God to help me develop a deeper level of awareness of His presence along with more discipline, wisdom, and discernment. I wrote down a few positive statements to confess in my prayers and whenever it would cross my mind. I do not want to be lukewarm and continued to ask for a revelation of more fire and passion to consume me. Information is only a gathering of knowledge until it becomes quickened as divine truth and wisdom to our mind and conscience. Many people know a lot of facts, but until truth energizes and activates conviction within our hearts, it will not change our destiny. I have also asked Him to help me recognize errors so that I might know the correct interpretation of His Word. I desperately need a higher level of sensitivity to His voice so that I can comprehend what He is saying. These opportunities are critical components of the Christian experience and will be accomplished or ignored according to our level of desire.
Knowing God is based on communication, but evidently, many who call themselves a Christian are either not convinced this is true or they are not interested in participating. The overwhelming percentage of these people avoid prayer simply because this is something they do not want to do. They have convinced themselves that God does not care if they pray or not because they believe that whatever they do or choose not to do will not make any difference as far as their good standing with Him. As long as He has prepared a beautiful heaven for them after this life, all is good even if they do nothing. The truth is they are held accountable for not praying, along with other duties such as personal Bible research and worship, witnessing and praying for a burden for the lost, developing an awareness of God’s presence, and being ready to respond to divine appointments such as laying hands on the sick and confronting evil, being filled with the Holy Spirit, walking in reverential fear of who He is and demonstrating His nature and character, just to name a few.
So, what is the secret to having an exciting and effective prayer life? We must first decide if this is something we really want. If we desire to invest our time into knowing God He will provide everything needed to make it happen. I wonder how many believe yielding our will to Him is just too extreme and radical? For any of us to enter into a walk of faith and love, we must discern His voice as He tells us what He wants us to pray about. Dwelling in the secret place with Him is not based upon systematic theology or a proper scriptural exegesis. It’s simply a lifestyle of discipline where listening and obeying becomes more important than pleasing others or our own agenda. How often do you ask Him for a fervent passion to pray? Without love and a burden we will not care and this no doubt explains the enormous lack of interest. It’s not that we are begging to suffer, but when we choose to obey God, suffering will probably be included. Charles Spurgeon is quoted as, “A little faith will bring your soul to heaven, but great faith will bring heaven to your soul.”
LIVING ON PURPOSE
Telling our worries and fears how big God is
I was reminded today of the verse in Psalm 30 and the last part of verse five that say’s, “Weeping may last through the night but joy comes in the morning.” The analogy is implying there will be sadness during hard times but perseverance will be rewarded when the conflict is over. David, who is referred to in Acts 13:22 as a “man after God’s own heart” kept his eyes on the Lord. When times were difficult, he cried out to Him in frustration; and when God was faithful, he lifted his voice in praise. The darkness has come to divide, conquer, steal, destroy, harm families, and tear down nations, but let us remember the devil must flee when you resist him in the name of Jesus Christ.
Many of you are worried about what is coming. Stand firm in your prayers, ask for discernment, and stay focused on God and His truth. The enemy has many disguises. Release the agape love within you as a strong defense against deception, as Christ in you is the hope of glory. Make sure your house is built on the rock. Now is not the time to become relaxed and distracted but rather to become more intense and passionate to draw near to God and to accomplish His mission. Keep a journal of your visions along with your prayers, as maintaining a reverential fear of the Lord gives us confidence that He will protect and provide for us.
Let us be encouraged today by proclaiming that God is the highest authority. Think about that for a moment. Try to fathom that everything we see He imagined and created. If we hold a marble in the palm of our hand and pretend it is the earth, and compare it with the size of the Sun, which is one of the billions of small stars, our sun could hold over one million marbles. If we lay a quarter on the ground and pretend it is the sun, and make a comparison in size to the other billions of larger-sized stars, we would need to measure a circle with a circumference of 20 feet. Can you imagine what Heaven will be like? With trillions of stars and millions of galaxies, our human mind cannot comprehend the majestic authority and unlimited power of the one who spoke everything into existence. Step outside tonight and look up into the sky, He has demonstrated and proven that His ability truly has no limit. Here is a thought even more overwhelming, He loves you and desires to save you and help you.
Allow me to say dear friends, if you believe your problems are too big or your enemy is too powerful for the Lord to take care of, then your concept of God is much too small. He is El-Shaddai, the God that is more than enough to take care of anything you would ever need. The only thing the devil ever created is fear and anxiety, but thank God we have a greater reality which is our spiritual understanding that He is the Alpha and Omega who desires to fill us with His hope and peace. May it be a personal revelation to stop telling God how big your problems are and to start telling your problems how big God is.
“Heavenly Father, we pray for our brothers and sisters and ask that you put your arms around them. Many of them are tired and weary from trying to stand against the darkness of this world. Please give them an extra measure of faith with their shield as they continue praying against principalities and the ruler’s of evil. Give them peace as they rest in your presence and wipe away their tears and encourage them with the joy of your truth. You provided redemption and desire to set us free. Give us wisdom and discernment to know how to prepare for what is coming. Bless them with good health and multiply their prosperity that they may be able to have the resources they need. As they surrender their will to you, fill them with your nature and character. Empower and anoint them with your Holy Spirit as they fulfill their destiny and accomplish your will. Give them an understanding of Agape love, as it is our highest calling. We ask these things for your honor and glory, in your holy name, amen.”
LIVING ON PURPOSE
IN GOD WE TRUST WITH EVERY SITUATION
Have you known someone who was even-tempered and composed even when circumstances seemed to be falling apart all around them? In times of a serious crisis, somehow these individuals have the type of personality to remain calm and collected, in fact, it’s not unusual to see them comforting the very ones who came to help them. So, what is the secret to living in a peaceful and tranquil state of mind? For those who trust in God, I believe we come to a point in our spiritual journey where we simply begin to realize that Jesus is the Prince of Peace and it only makes sense this would include believing what He has declared is true. It may sound rather elementary, but having a passion for knowing Him personally will go a long way toward learning to trust Him.
Life has its share of wonderful seasons where we enjoy the blessings and have delightful experiences and then there are times of disappointment and occasionally these are devastating. Have you noticed that when we are on the mountaintop, we tend to forget about God because we are so distracted with our pleasures. Then, after the celebration has passed, we find ourselves walking through a dark and discouraging valley, and immediately call out to Him because we want to go back to the good times. A certain amount of fluctuation is indeed a normal part of life but riding on an emotional roller coaster is not exactly the way God intended for His people to live. His perfect plan is for us to become mature in order to have a higher spiritual connection with Him whether we are walking through abundance or adversity.
Paul said in Philippians 4:11-13, “I have learned to be content with whatever I have. I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” I believe it would help with our anxiety and stress if we could just sincerely place our lives into His hands and rest in the confidence that He knows about our situation and is working behind the scenes for our best interest. As a counselor, I realize that when someone is desperate for an immediate solution, advising them to keep praying and be patient is not what they want to hear. Proverbs chapter 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all of thine heart, and lean not unto thine own understanding. In ALL thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths.” Observing this carefully allows us to comprehend He is simply wanting us to stand on what He has promised. He desires that we trust Him not only in times of crisis but every moment.
One of my favorite verses is Psalm 145:18 and 19, “The Lord is near unto all them that call upon Him, to all that call upon Him in truth. He will fulfill the desire of them that fear Him: He also will hear their cry, and will save them.” The bottom line is that God wants to intervene because He loves you. His answers might not always be what we imagined or when we wanted them, but He will always make the right decision in His perfect time. Many are struggling financially and are stressed to the point of a nervous breakdown. Others are facing serious health issues, family problems and are afraid of an uncertain future. Worry is the opposite of faith and can steal the joy of our salvation. I do not have specific answers for every issue and neither can I explain why bad things happen to good people, but I do know that whatever type of valley you are walking through today, God hears your prayers and will never forget or forsake you.
I’m reminded of the story in Mark chapter 4, where Jesus and His disciples were in a boat during a violent storm. Jesus was resting comfortably while the men were crying out in fear of sinking and drowning. They woke Him, and He calmly commanded the wind and waves to stop and they did. He is always in total control of every situation and if we are holding His hand, we can always rest in His perfect peace.
LIVING ON PURPOSE
GOD SEARCHES FOR THOSE WHO DRIFT AWAY
No matter where we come from or how we have been taught, we are responsible for what we think, what we say, and how we act. As optimism and pessimism are learned behaviors, we know that our conduct and worldviews can be changed and controlled if this is our desire. Our spiritual understanding about who God is and who we are in Him must become more than a hope or a chance of fate. Having a personal relationship with Him is based on knowing that we have been purchased with the blood that Jesus shed on the cross and receiving His grace that transforms us.
Everyone is allowed to decide whatever they want to believe but this does not mean that God approves. When it comes to God’s truth, there is our version and His perfection and the decisions we make reveal the type of person we are. We are responsible as to the level we choose to surrender our will to God. There is a legend that talks about an older member of a tribe that is teaching his grandson about the meanings of life. He said, “There is a fight going on inside of me. It is a terrible conflict between a wolf and a sheep. The wolf is evil and is filled with darkness, anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, depression, lies, and pride. The sheep demonstrates goodness and fairness and his light shines bright with joy, peace, love, hope serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. My grandson, this same battle for control is going on inside of you and me and in every other person.” The grandson thought about this and after a few moments asked his grandfather, “who will win?” The wise man replied…“the one you feed.”
I was talking with a friend the other day about the Christian life and I asked him how he came to know the Lord. He said when he was a child, he went to a Sunday School class where they would listen to Bible stories and sing songs. Sometimes the teacher would ask if anyone would like to receive Jesus as their Savior and if someone raised their hand, they would be led in a prayer to ask Christ into their heart. These are truly great programs and have been used to help build foundations of faith in the lives of many. However, even though he went through this process, he was not saved that day. As a child he did not understand what Jesus dying on the cross really meant and was just going through the motions. Sadly, he grew up without living for God and it was not until over forty years later he had a genuine life-changing encounter with Jesus and his spiritual eyes were opened to what true salvation means. People can be led to an altar and repeat the sinners prayer, but it is only an emotional experience until God draws and convicts us by his power and transforms our spirit.
When a person is convinced they are spiritually secure, yet they have no desire for God, they have become spiritually lukewarm either or maybe they have never received Christ. If we are truly saved, the Spirit of God within us will relentlessly pursue us until we return to our first love. This subject is much too important than to just assume that everything will be alright. We are miserable without God’s peace and joy, and I encourage you to call upon him today. He loves you but will never make you love Him. Those who are born again and accept Christ as their Lord, may backslide for a season, but as the great shepherd, God promises that he will find those sheep who have wandered away and always bring them back into the fold. Without being pursued by his endless love and mercy, we would drift out to sea and never return. If you are running from God and trying to avoid him, the Holy Spirit is pleading with you this very moment to be born again or rededicate your life to the one who died to save you.“If you confess with your mouth, Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved” Romans 10:9-10.
LIVING ON PURPOSE
A testimony about a miraculous healing
I want to share a praise report of God healing someone I know personally. We hear about sickness and disease and the endless cries of why, but rarely do we learn about miracles when God intervenes and touches a person with His creative and restoring authority. In the New Testament, there are true accounts of Jesus asking what He can do for those who were suffering, and when they told Him their request, He said, “I will.” As Christians, we pray because we believe God is listening and that He will answer our petitions according to His perfect plans. His written word is His general will, and He also has a specific will where He speaks directly to us. This is where we need to advance in our spiritual discernment and sensitivity. For example, God says that He will bless a couple when they are married, but there is not a chapter and verse saying Sally will marry Joe. With every decision in life, The Almighty is trying to get our attention as He desires to lead us into divine appointments we commonly call, “walking in His Spirit.” Can you imagine how much more meaningful our life would be if we could develop a constant awareness of His presence?
I help manage a food distribution ministry that receives groceries from large markets and we give it away to those who could use a blessing. We have a team of ten individuals that work in this community outreach three times each week. One of the members, Wanda Humes is a very sweet Christian lady that unfortunately was the victim of a rear-end collision two years ago. The cervical vertebrae in her neck were damaged and the muscles and tendons have been pulling her chin down to her chest since the accident. This has caused her head to point directly to the ground without being able to lift it. Any attempt to raise her head was excruciating and so she has been walking around with not being able to see people when she talks to them. People are constantly criticizing her for not looking at them when they are talking to her. I have felt compassion for her and occasionally I will gather the team around her to pray that God would heal her.
On Friday afternoon February 25, 2022, the trailer had just been unloaded and we were loading our vehicles to give the food away when suddenly I felt compelled to gather the two team members that were still there and to pray for Wanda again. I laid hands on her along with Louise Gauthier and Norman Cline and started asking Jesus to touch her neck. I said I believe that God can straighten bones, muscles, and tendons, and He is our provider and healer. I was pleading the blood of Jesus over her while these two witnesses were agreeing and together we sealed this request in the Name of Jesus. We left and went separate ways with the food. Fifteen minutes later I received a call. Louise and Wanda had pulled over on the side of the road shouting praise God into the phone, saying that Wanda’s neck suddenly straightened up for the first time in 2 years! She could raise her head and see the sky like it was before the accident! We came back together about an hour later and were rejoicing when we saw her neck had been completely healed by the love and mercy of Christ.
We do not always understand why God heals some and does not heal others or about His perfect timing, but as I explain in my last book about miracles, there are so many factors involved. It’s not easy to discern the plans of God without fervently seeking His face and even then He is not obligated to share His reasons in every situation. We know that God spoke the universe into existence with His voice, yet many fail to believe He can speak to their sickness and remove it. The Bible says in Hebrews 13:8, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” Be encouraged, He can heal anyone of anything. There is nothing special about me, I’m just a person like you trying to live for Him as I continue learning how to love Him and those around me. I humbly relay this testimony to you and declare that in this particular case, it was God’s will to manifest His power on this day at this moment for His glory.
LIVING ON PURPOSE
Those who have an ear let them hear
One of the greatest mysteries is the perplexing relationship between God and humans. I cannot think of a more glorious yet frustrating subject. Especially when it comes to people trying to find answers when all they have is questions. I’ve counseled and given psychological first aid to those who have gone through a traumatic crisis and I’ve listened to people in hospital waiting rooms repeat that age-old question, “Why is this happening?” They cry and beg, but many times they cannot hear a sound from Heaven, and usually neither can anyone else. I’m thankful for the holy scriptures that are wonderful promises, but nothing would be better than to sit down at the kitchen table with Jesus or at least one of His angels and have some coffee while we discuss all the things I would like to know. I’m sure that if we were given this glorious invitation that trusting God would be the foundation of the conversation.
The Bible reveals that God has all wisdom and authority and most Christians will agree that He wants to interact and intervene in our affairs, but this is where our ideas and hopes of communicating with Him take an unexpected turn. It’s common to hear the old saying, “my door is always open” from those who want to make themselves available to us, and it could not be any more true than with God Himself. His presence is always with us and He is always listening. The question would be if we are listening? The Bible says that he who has ears to hear, let him hear what the Spirit has to say.” This would imply those who have a desire to hear. Have you noticed that straining your spiritual ears to hear God’s voice is very difficult? It seems that everything in the world will try to distract us which allows us to see a glimpse of spiritual warfare. For those who are seeking God’s direction, I encourage you to add fasting to help bring power and clarity to meditation and prayer.
It is common to hear people say, “the Lord told me this and that” and I believe this is wonderful. We know that God lives within those who are born-again and Him communicating with us is a central part of our personal relationship with Him. Allow me to include the closer we are to Him the better chance we will have to hear His still small voice. People have different perceptions of God, as some imagine a person sitting on a throne dressed in white who looks like Gandalf in the Lord of the Rings series. There are flashes of lightning all around Him and His voice sounds like layers of thunder. Others picture a younger man like the Jesus in the Chosen series who is walking on a dusty road and stops to talk to a group of children. He is kind and soft-spoken, and when you look into His eyes, you become drawn into the depths of His love. Whatever comes to mind when we talk to Him is fine, but the greatest miracle is that we have been given an opportunity to be as close to Him as we want.
Even though we are not able to see Him with our natural eyes, we are joined together with Him in our spirit and mind. How can we know hear His instructions if we are not listening? We enjoy engaging with others when we talk to them, but with God, we communicate through faith. Even though we can sense and appreciate His presence, it is still a challenge. I wonder if not being able to see Him is why many times we lose our focus and attention when we pray?
When we consider where we are today in our spiritual journey, we are grateful our Lord knew us from the beginning and had a detailed plan for our destiny. Do we realize how much God loves us? We can never praise Him enough for all that He has done for us. It is always a blessing to remember that we did not find God but He found us. Christ went to the cross because He knew we were lost, and we worship Him for becoming our Savior and giving us eternal security. In His person, we have found our purpose, and in falling in love with Him we have found the true meaning of life.
LIVING ON PURPOSE
Are you satisfied with the amount of God you have?
Anyone that has ever risen from the couch and declared their intentions to work for the kingdom of God has felt the resistance of our negative human nature. Whenever God’s children feel a passion to demonstrate their convictions, it would be a good idea to be prepared for resistance and even persecution. It’s not only our intimidation about what others might think about us, but it’s also the challenge of imposing discipline over our own will. It’s true, we will face adversity, and it’s disheartening to realize that most people are not interested in our vision, which is why we must stay focused and remember our accountability is to God. An important aspect of spiritual warfare is between what He wants and how determined we are to do it.
It’s less painful to live according to our perceptions than to accomplish what the Lord has planned for us. Our human nature is clever and feels perfectly satisfied living in the apathy of denial. With the natural ability to have selective hearing and seeing, a person can go through their entire life living however they want instead of allowing God to open their spiritual eyes. There is an old saying, “As we discover what God wants us to be, we are then faced with deciding just how much we will do.” When we are convicted to take the bull by the horns so to speak, we are setting ourselves up to be tested within the deepest recesses of our being. Everyone wants to be loved and appreciated because feeling good about ourselves is a huge part of our psychological and emotional stability. However, when we place too much emphasis on our emotional feelings and not enough on being obedient to God, we are already deceived and defeated by compromise.
We are emotional beings but we cannot afford to be controlled by them and one of the most difficult challenges is to develop our spiritual discernment to the point where we know the difference between God’s voice from everyone else’s including our own. Have you noticed when you sense the Holy Spirit beckoning you to say or do something for God, immediately other influences and persuasions trying to talk us out of it? There are powerful forces at work attacking our thinking to manipulate, distort and control our attitudes, emotions, and our relationship with Jesus. Fear is trying to hinder our faith, but we need to realize that we have the choice to allow it to dominate us or we can resist it. Our trust in God includes allowing Him to rule and reign within our mind which is a key component to Him being our Lord. He desires to possess us, but without us willingly surrendering our will to Him, we will not reach our intended spiritual destiny. This is why we should study God’s Word every day and constantly ask the Lord to give us more sensitivity, wisdom, and courage to execute self-discipline. Our destiny was given for us to fulfill, but if we are not interested, He is not going to do it for us.
Most people want just enough of God to save them but not to the point where it would require them to be uncomfortable or live according to a strict standard. It’s much easier to wade in the baby pool that’s only up to our ankles instead of jumping in over our head with total dedication and commitment to His commands. Until we step out of our default existence and into His divine reality, we will never comprehend the deliberate pursuit of living on purpose. We are first in line for His help and blessings but hardly excited about words like sacrifice, perseverance, and accountability. So, just how much of God are you seeking and how important is it to obey Him? I’m reminded how the discipline of participating in sports is similar to the dedication and determination needed to be an overcoming Christian. Champions work hard and have an intense vision of who and what they want to achieve which is another reason why most people are spectators instead of participators. A truth seeker is listening, learning, and focused on God’s voice and is willing to do whatever it takes to accomplish the vision they have been given. Are you satisfied with the amount of God that you have? You see, the only obstacle preventing us from being saturated with God’s presence is our resistance to surrender our lives completely to Him.
LIVING ON PURPOSE
When praying for rain, don’t forget your raincoat
We’ve heard the old saying that life is not a bed of roses for as long as we can remember. I understand what it’s trying to convey, but I’ve also thought it would not be all that great to lie down on a bed of sharp thorns. Nevertheless, the point is that life will have its ups and downs and most of us will experience our share of hard times. Whether it’s a financial worry, a medical situation, relationship problems, or being concerned for the condition of the world; life is a daily challenge. However, amid all that is going on, we have the opportunity to know God who is an endless source of love, authority, and hope. We can choose to embrace the encouraging truth that He cares about our problems and to believe that He has the answers and the power to give us the victory no matter how dark the night or how tall our mountain. “And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work” II Corinthians 9:8.
Yes, there are seasons and potholes in the road, but these trials can help us learn about faith and patience, however, God never intended for a crisis to keep us incarcerated in the bondage of spiritual defeat. Despite being surrounded by negative forces, we can receive divine grace through Christ to abide in His presence where there is an abundance of joy, security, and peace. In John 10:10-11 Christ declares, “The thief comes only to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: but I (Jesus) have come that you might have life and that you might have it more abundantly. I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd gives his life for the sheep.” Whatever the situation, God has promised that He wants to save and protect you and bring you through your trials stronger and more confident than ever.
The thoughts of God supplying our needs are wonderful and true spiritual realities but there is also a very important component in receiving His abundant blessings and that is our responsibility to believe. If we do not have faith, it’s not only impossible to please Him but highly unlikely that His miracles can be activated into our life. In Jeremiah chapter 29, we see in verse 11 that we are always on His mind and He has planned very good things for us to enjoy. But continuing in the context, the next two verses mention for us to take the initiative to call upon Him, pray, and seek His presence with all of our heart which of course includes the element of trust and assurance. Knowledge that He can help us must be transformed into a personal revelation that He will.
I recall a story about a small farming community that had been experiencing a terrible drought. The crops were dying in the fields and everyone was worried and anxious because this is how they made their living. The pastor of the local church called a special prayer service for all the people of the town to gather in front of the church and spend some time agreeing in faith that God would send some rain. Many people arrived and you could sense the seriousness among the crowd. As the pastor was getting ready to begin the meeting, he saw a young girl standing quietly in the front. His eyes were drawn to her bight yellow raincoat and her face was beaming with excitement. She was holding a large umbrella and as he wished he had brought one himself, seeing how she believed suddenly gave him a surge of hope and confidence. The little girl’s childlike innocence warmed his heart as he realized how much faith she possessed. Though the town had come together to pray for rain, there was not an anticipation of getting wet, and he wondered if they really believed a miracle was going to happen.
A life without a positive and hopeful expectation of God’s goodness, reveals the miserable pessimist who abides in the shadows of fear, negativity, and sadness. The kingdom of darkness along with our default human nature is constantly telling us it’s impossible, it’s risky, it’s hopeless, but faith believes that nothing is too difficult for God and all things are possible with Him. Every person is sent an invitation to place their trust in God, but sadly many choose to embrace doubt instead.
LIVING ON PURPOSE
Determined to be on the same page with God
Last year was challenging for many, and as we move ahead in 2022, may we dedicate our minds and hearts to continue drawing as near to God as we can. Psalm 24:7 promises, “The angel of the Lord encamps round about them that fear Him, and He delivers them.” This is referring to the reverential fear that many Christians have become too busy to think about. Let us not become distracted or discouraged as the enemy is trying to weaken and scatter God’s people. Pray for spiritual sensitivity so that you will not allow the intensity of the Holy Spirit’s fire within you to dwindle to a lukewarm ember. Where are the living sacrifices, and where is the boldness and desperation to walk with God? Guard your heart and never lose your fervency to obey God or the constant longing for His presence. Jesus is waiting for His warriors to awaken and prepare for His return, but many do not see the urgency.
You see, the Lord has a general will which is His written word, and a unique and specific will that includes unwritten detailed instructions for all of us. God’s promises are the last will and testament of Jesus Christ which means that Biblical truth is eternally enforced and activated. This means we are called to confess these instructions and receive these blessings by faith. He is the testator and we are His heirs according to His covenant as His word is true and never fails! He rose from the dead which confirms every statement He spoke is alive and active and our obedience to the Holy Spirit who works through us, empowers us to walk in God’s authority for His glory. My brand new book, “Receiving our Healing – Going to war on our knees” has just been released, and it’s about understanding this covenant relationship with God and how together with His truth and our faith, we can receive healing and live victoriously in this life.
His specific will is based on His sovereign desires and plans, but this does not mean we cannot know what they are. Since Christ and the Holy Spirit dwell within God’s people, it’s possible to become so close to Him that we can hear His voice and know His will. Those who seek will find and the ones who knock the doors shall be opened to them. Having the mind of Christ is rarely taught and much of this is because the religious masses are not interested in sacrificing or surrendering the control of the flesh. Only those who are passionate to yield their will can enter into the higher levels of understanding. We want Jesus as our Savior, but accepting Him as our Lord means that He manages our thoughts, words, and actions. This is the narrow way that God intended for His people, and according to this required dedication, the authority of the Almighty will be manifested in a remnant of devoted believers. Romans 11:5 says, “Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace.” If you needed to speak with a remnant overcomer about God and your soul who would you trust?
I am grateful to the Lord Jesus for His mercy and grace. By faith I anticipate Him pouring out His Spirit upon us and giving discernment and the awareness of His authority to those who desire His glorious presence. As we move closer to the end of the age, we know He is not returning for a church that is weak, confused and distracted. He is coming for a glorious bride whose garments are without spot and wrinkle and have overcome the carnality of their flesh and temptations from the evil one. Seek the Lord while He may be found and fast and pray until you are filled with the holy fire of His Spirit. Pray and seek Him for a burden for the lost as this is the result of spiritual love. We will never care about souls until we love people enough to pray for them. Having an obsession to walk with God does
not fall out of the air, but rather the mind and heart must be trained and renewed to desire what He desires. Overcomers are recognized as the Body of Christ against which the gates of hell will never prevail against. Peace and hope to you, and may the Lord continue to give you His wisdom and understanding.
LIVING ON PURPOSE
Resisting the temptation to be discouraged
Recently, I had an opportunity to chat with a wonderful lady as she shared 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. She wanted to know how she can know that she is going to heaven? I do not believe this is anything to be embarrassed about, in fact, it’s rather common as I examine my own heart and soul often. I could sense the heaviness of doubt was stealing her spiritual joy, and this stress can escalate into fear and anxiety. I spent some time reminding her about the spiritual fundamentals of faith and salvation. I suggested that she 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 spiritual confidence and how important it is to keep a positive perspective and remain focused on God’s perfect truth that can never fail.
The opposite of peace is being anxious and we often experience fear and worry when we are uncertain about 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 being overwhelmed by the darkness of panic, pity, and depression. Living in God’s peace is not something that happens automatically and like optimism is a learned behavior. People or circumstances cannot dictate our thoughts unless we allow it. Everyone is held accountable for their choices with how they respond and react to every situation. We realize the need to trust God and that He calls us to stand strong in times of adversity, but this state of mind will require persistent prayer and self-discipline.
Faith believes that nothing surprises God which includes Him understanding the trials and pain we are suffering. Being convinced that Christ will intervene and provide for us along with accepting that His authority and power is greater than any problem that might threaten us will bring comfort and assurance. Constantly reminding ourselves that God is listening, and that He is aware of everything that is going on in our lives is the path to trusting and resting in His perfect peace and security. Psalm 29:11 declares, “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 presence. 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 love and compassion is stronger than what is tormenting us and chases away our worries and distress as He floods our hearts with courage and fortitude.
Be encouraged today, Jesus is victorious and His promises are guaranteed to quiet our soul and replace our restlessness with safety, confidence, and calm. 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 purity and joy for all eternity. We celebrate this truth and look forward to experiencing the freedom from conflict and chaos, but we do not need to wait until then to embrace this lifestyle of trust and hope. If we choose to abide in God’s presence no matter how intense the storms are raging, we are safe under the shadow of His protection. The world is growing darker but the increase in confusion cannot diminish God’s truth on which we stand. It’s only when we drift away from His promises and lean on our own ideas that we become troubled and perplexed. Give him your confusion and worries in exchange for His divine tranquility. “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” Philippians 4:6-7.
LIVING ON PURPOSE
God wants our heart not just our problems
God is faithful and is always with you, protecting and watching over you whether you believe He is there or not. Just because you cannot sense Him intervening, it does not mean He is distracted working on the other side of the world. There is an old saying, “God’s care for His children is like the Sun: It’s constant. Even though the clouds often obscure it, this does not mean it’s not there.” And Isaiah 59:1 reminds us, “Surely the arm of the Lord is not too short to save, nor His ear too dull to hear.” Even if you have made some serious mistakes, it does not mean He does not still love you or has forsaken you. Maybe He is just patiently waiting for you to give Him your life instead of just your problems.
You may be beating yourself up and thinking this is one of the worst times of your life but be encouraged, there is wonderful news! Have you ever considered Romans 8:28 as a promise directly to you and your problems? Listen to this again, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to His purpose.” This is a very popular passage in the Bible and for good reason. Many times we do not receive the enjoyment and nourishment from God’s banquet table because we are so focused on our situation. If we would spend the same amount of energy on prayer that we do on worry, I believe we would see more victory and less discouragement. Since God is working behind the scenes to make things work out for us, we may not be demonstrating enough patience with Him. Maybe He is trying to show you something very special that you would not have been able to see any other way.
It has been said the majority of great things which have been done on the earth, have been accomplished by those going through difficult times. Mature Christians are to be like steel when it is “tempered” with heat to make them pure and strong in experience and wisdom, yet covered with velvet as they manifest God’s character with compassion, humility, and sensitivity. Instead of spending all of our time trying to figure out why things happen, we can seek to know Him more intimately. How will this help? Because He is the only one who has all the answers and knowing and loving Him is how we learn more about everything. Learning and accepting this truth about the endless commitment of God’s love toward us is a revelation of His unfailing covenant to be with us now and forever.
Knowing that Jesus suffered on the cross because He loved us, allows us to see the lies of our adversary when he tells us that no one cares or that we are hopelessly lost. With the increased spiritual sensitivity which Jesus is waiting to give us, we can start making good decisions and get back on the right path of God’s will. A. W. Tozer is quoted as saying, “Man’s mighty burden is his obligation to God. It includes an instant and lifelong duty to love God with every power of mind and soul, to obey Him perfectly, and to worship Him acceptably.” Included in this quest to be transformed into God’s image is the fact that Christ will help us become victorious in whatever area we need to overcome.
New Year resolutions commonly include trying to resist food cravings as we admit how our minds lead and control our bodies. Charles Lindbergh is quoted as saying, “Success is not measured by what a person accomplishes, but the courage with which they have maintained the struggle against overwhelming odds.” Another example is having a problem with cursing, which by the way is a terrible witness. We can ask God to put an alarm on our minds and tongues to stop us before it is too late. It’s much better to be aware of our sins before we commit them than to ask forgiveness after the fact. What many fail to realize is that once our testimony is compromised we may never have an opportunity to share Christ with that person again because the enemy will always remind them about that time when we lost control. If we are determined to allow God to renew our minds, this will bring a positive change to the
LIVING ON PURPOSE
Those who desperately seek God will find Him
I realize that my thoughts are not all that important, but what God has to say contains the power to change what man cannot change. May we choose faith over fear and allow our hope to be larger than our doubt! Did you notice that I said we have the choice to decide which side we are going to believe. Yes, but brother Billy how can I choose life? Well, Deuteronomy chapter thirty is an amazing place to start when trying to comprehend God’s plans for our lives. Verse 19, “This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live.”
These instructions and promises were being directed to the nation of Israel, but we can also incorporate spiritual principles like this into our lives today. God is saying to everyone that obedience unto Him will empower and renew our minds while imparting a clearer understanding of His perfect will. Our responsibility is to hear His word and then speak it forth in faith as we press forward in our quest to surrender our will so that we can accomplish His will. Men and women have always had choices to obey God or be rebellious and He is declaring that our decisions have much to do with whether we are blessed or cursed. We also notice that following His commands is associated with long life while on the other hand refusing to have a reverential fear of His holiness will bring judgment. Having a carnal nature always leads us to deeper levels of corruption and wickedness.
Do not confuse your current path with your destination. Just because it’s cloudy and storming today does not mean the sun will not shine tomorrow. We can have joy and peace on the inside no matter what is happening around us. An African proverb says; “however long the night, the dawn will break” which reminds us of the passage found in Psalm 30:5, “Weeping may last through the night but joy comes in the morning.” The human spirit is stronger than anything that can happen to it because it is eternal. May we always remember that if we are walking with God, Satan can never defeat us. The devil is allowed to tempt and influence us so that we might be discouraged and make wrong choices, but the Bible promises in James 4:7 that if we have the perseverance to resist him, he will flee. Satan came to Jesus in Matthew chapter 4 and Christ stood strong against him. We read in verses 10 and 11, “Then Jesus said to him, away with you, Satan! For it is written, you shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve. Then the devil left Him, and behold, angels came and ministered to Him.”
As many of you know, my wife is a two-time cancer survivor. She has walked through many dark valleys, but today we rejoice as she has been cancer-free for 10 years. She agrees with the old saying that it’s not how many times you fall down, it’s how many times you get back up! When we are facing a crisis, we have three choices: We can let it define us, we can let it destroy us, or we can let it strengthen us. Cancer or any disease cannot stop love, shatter hope, dissolve faith, destroy peace, silence courage, steal eternal life, or conquer our spirit. I Timothy 1:7 reminds us, “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” Faith does not go to bed and pull the covers over our head. The Bible talks a lot about spiritual warfare which is a reality for every Christian soldier. My new book is called, “Receiving our Healing – Going to war on our knees” and reveals that God wants to give us miracles, while also explaining what He requires from us. Mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual healing is included in the blood atonement of Christ and within this covenant, we can receive His promises. Nonetheless, to walk in the power and authority of His Spirit, we must know who He is in us, and who we are in Him. Jesus is our deliverer, our healer, our Redeemer and Savior, the King of kings, and the Lord above all lords.
LIVING ON PURPOSE
A Perfect Time To Begin Brand New
The New Year is here and I’m excited to see what 2022 has for us! My hope is this coming year will be a season of abundance not just with material prosperity and success, but of love, health, and spiritual awareness. As we plant seeds of faith, may we have the patience and expectation to witness the harvest of God’s blessings. One of my personal resolutions is to be more generous and joyful even when things are not going well. I’m reminded of a quote by Mother Teresa who said, “Not all of us can do great things, but we can all do small things with great love.”
January means “beginning” and as we plan our resolutions this is the perfect occasion to consider developing physical, emotional, and spiritual lifestyle changes. You notice I used the word developing because our goals are often a lengthy process. For example, eating a salad today is not going to automatically make us healthy, but it’s a positive first step that will pay off if we can embrace that little secret weapon called perseverance. Today let us believe that anything is possible and just like everything else in life, being diligent and determined are important aspects of personal transformation.
There have been many adaptations from the original Al-anon credo that encourages everyone to be realistic about trying to change everything all at once as it’s important to realize that changing who we are is a lifestyle and not just a whim. No one else can do this for us. We must see our need to change and be willing to do whatever it takes to be victorious. There is nothing wrong with having long-term goals and we should release our faith into accomplishing our destiny, but it’s also important to focus on our mission one day at a time. It would be better to take it slow with permanent results than to go through the motions and become overwhelmed with frustration and eventually give up.
Our world has changed and facing our fears and uncertainties is now a normal way of living. I’m very sorry for what many of you have gone through these past two years as God brings comfort times of sorrow. I encourage us to be brave in this New Year as we consider the old saying, “a ship in the harbor is safe, but that’s not what a ship is built for.” May we live in the moment and begin each day with gratitude. Let’s laugh more and take the time to consider those around us and how much they mean to us. We have the choice to see the glass half-full and to use our voice to bring hope and love at a time when the world needs it the most. John Bunyan is quoted as saying, “You have not lived today until you have done something for someone who can never repay you.”
Let us not forget that while we are advancing in our own journey, that we have a responsibility to demonstrate and teach wisdom and truth to the younger ones. Children may outgrow their shoes, but they will never outgrow the positive and encouraging messages we leave with them. Most of the time we are so busy that we rarely consider how easy it is to ignore what is truly important. Realizing that optimism is a learned behavior allows us to know that personal awareness and transformation is hard work. It’s not about how smart we are or how much we can achieve but our motive should be to allow God to empower us and work through us to accomplish His plans.
Finally, let’s make a sincere decision to exonerate those who have wronged us and allow forgiveness to cleanse our conscience. When we hold grudges it’s like an infection within our soul, but when we choose to forgive, we will experience a refreshing that will flood our soul with joy and peace. If we have wronged someone, may we have the courage to step forward in honesty and tell them we are sorry. “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” Ephesians 4:32. Edith Lovejoy Pierce is quoted as saying, “We will open the book. The pages are blank. We are going to write the words ourselves. The book is called Opportunity and its first chapter is New Year’s Day.” I wish you all a very blessed New Year!