Monday, October 17, 2016

The Compounding Effect of God

How do you make a big impact in the kingdom of God?

In Nehemiah, they rebuilt the wall that had been torn down for 150 years. They had actually tried to repair the wall but failed. Have you ever embarked on a really large project that was bigger than you and anything you could have imagined? Did you start working on it, but it ended up being too big for you to overcome?
Well, the only way to accomplish a huge project is to break it down into the smallest of baby steps that anyone could carry out. That’s what Nehemiah did. He had people repair the wall outside of their own homes. 

The city walls are torn down. Repairing the whole thing looks like a huge undertaking. But what if each of us repairs the portion of the wall between his two next-door neighbors, one to the left and one to the right? What if we just work on that bit? That doesn’t seem so bad.

What they found out is the enemy doesn’t like restoration. The enemy doesn’t want us to repair broken-down people or repair and take away strongholds. No, the enemy wants us with our defenses down so we are easy to attack. He wants our neighbors to stay in bondage. To that end, he sends obstacles and threats and all kinds of barriers into our path.
Nehemiah knew they needed to find a way to fight against the enemy who was trying to come in and also keep working at the same time. A lot of times, we are either all throwing down in fighting or all working. We need to do what Nehemiah did. He made sure three hands were holding a weapon and fending off the enemy so the worker could keep busy with his free hand and continue the work (Nehemiah 4:16–18). For every four hands, three hands defended against the enemy, and one hand did the work.
If we want to see the compounding effects of God’s work in our world, we need to have three hands holding swords and one hand doing the work. What that means for us today is in our session praying, those people who are praying continuously are holding back forces of darkness we can’t see in the spirit realm for those doing all the labor. They are clearing the roadway, if you will. Let’s say your car is stopped on an interstate because there’s a major traffic jam, but you can’t actually see what the problem is. That’s like the spirit realm. There’s a traffic jam, and the only way to clear it is through prayer because God’s angels will come and push back that darkness.
When we want to see the compounding effects of God’s work in the things we are doing, we need to assign people who are called, gifted, and equipped with prayer and have them intercede on our behalf while we are doing the work.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Inputs, Processes, and Outputs: Marriage and Finances

Let’s talk about inputs, processing, and outputs for our finances. Right now, transparently, our cash flow is pretty tight. So my husband and I are saying our output is tight cash flow. We’ve got to go back and evaluate what we are inputting and what we are processing every month.

Our inputs, our income—is there enough of it? Our processes are our bills, our saving, and our giving. All of those things sucking it out leaves us with a final output result of either money left over or money in debt. It’s the same thing with cash flow. You have to go back and see what is going in, what is coming out, and how you are arriving at the final part. It’s so simple just to look at that.

Sometimes, in our processing, our spending can be a comfort to us. When we have new things, it takes our eyes off the pain or trouble in our lives. It gives us this high, and we feel excited about getting this new thing. Every time we get a new input, it makes us feel good, which leaves us with an output of being cash-flow tight. Does that make sense?

It is the same thing in every area of our life. We are able to look at the inputs, the processes, and the outputs. For example, if my marriage is not in a good place, that is my output. I always use this as the measurement with my husband. Like, “I want a 10/10 marriage. I don’t want a 2 marriage. I don’t want to get old and be like, man, I settled for a 2 marriage my entire life.” So when I recognize that my marriage isn’t a 10, I stop and say, “Hey. I want a 10 marriage. I don’t want a 2 marriage. I want to maintain a 10 for our whole life.”

My husband knows my talk. What we do is look into the input and say, “What’s going on?” and recognize when our marriage starts to slide down out of a 10. It’s generally because we become busy. So we put aside date nights. There are things we used to do but now simply don’t do anymore. In the processing, maybe he is so busy at work that he is not pursuing me like he once did. He is not pursuing his wife in seemingly minor ways—in the kitchen by cleaning up or by calling me during the day. I may be speaking negative words over him, which is making him feel discouraged, so he doesn’t truly want to pursue me.

That is essentially how we process our marriage. What is going on in your thoughts? Can you remember how much your husband cares about you or how much your wife actually believes in you? That is the processing. It’s about forgiving and forgetting and not letting bitterness grow in your heart. It is truly taking control of those opportunities to have negative thoughts against one another or throw each other under the bus when we fail. When we evaluate those inputs and processes in our own marriage, we will end up with an output we want. We will have a 10 marriage.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

God Is the Same Yesterday, Today, and Forever, Part 2

Let’s just walk through the Bible. Some people have the question, “If God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, then how do you reconcile the Old and the New Testaments?” They read the Old Testament through the wrath of God, constantly seeing that God was angry and correcting. You have to know that in the Old Testament, the Holy Spirit didn’t live inside of people. Once they had gone really evil, starting to agree with the enemy, there was no correction other than the rod for them. They didn’t have the Holy Spirit to guide them. They didn’t have the power of God to overcome their temptations. They just became increasingly worse and worse.

If you look at the Word, God always provided for His children. From the beginning of time, He provided for Adam and Eve. Even when they left the garden, He provided the clothing. He provided the first sacrifice for them. They didn’t even have to sacrifice the first animal. He did it. God did it. He is a provider.
From the beginning of time, He has been a provider. From the beginning of time, He has been good. From the beginning of time, everything He created was good. From the beginning of time, He gave us choices. From the beginning of time, He told us we had a choice between life and death.
That still exists in the New Testament, the new covenant, today. Not just in the Old Testament, but every day, they had a choice in the old covenant. In the new covenant, they have a choice, too. They have a choice to reject Jesus. In the old covenant, they were given curses for every time they disobeyed. But if you look at the new covenant, in Galatians 3, it says Jesus became the cursed for us. If you read John 16:8, it says the Holy Spirit comes to convict the world of their sin. Their sin is that they do not believe in Jesus. 

There is one sin outstanding against mankind after Jesus came. That one sin is what separates us from receiving the power of the Holy Spirit to instruct us, guide us, comfort us, and love us. There is just one sin. That is it. Before, it was all the sins. If you look at it, God Himself took the wrath—through the body of Jesus Christ—for every sin. He took the payment. 1 John 2:2 says He died for the sins of the whole world. They are abolished. They are erased as far as the east is from the west. They are finished. It is a finished work.

This is a story. It is not a concrete thing that happened at one point in time. It has been a story of God creating us and redeeming us since Genesis 1. He created us. And since the fall, He has been redeeming us. There are dimensions to the process, so when we believe in Jesus, we are made new and we are being made new. One day, in the new world, we are going to be fully made new in a glorified body. It’s incredible. It’s an incredible story.
Only religion would keep you trapped in the mindset that God is mad and angry. If you read Isaiah 54:9, it says, “So now I have sworn not to be angry with you, never to rebuke you again” (NIV). He is finished with it. He is in the prophecy of Jesus Christ. He is saying, “I am putting all of my wrath and all of my anger into Jesus’ body so you don’t have to bear it.” 

That is the same loving God who created us, redeemed us, and gave provision for Adam and Eve. He is a good God. He is a good Father. He loves you. He wants you well. He prospers you. He is continually on your side. He is standing for you. Jesus is interceding for you. He is praying to the Father all the time. He says this if you have not asked. If you ask not, then you won’t have it. If you ask, you will. He is saying, “Hey, I am just this simple Father who loves you so much. If you would just ask, it is right here waiting for you.”
But sometimes, we are so afraid He is a wrathful God who is going to be angry if we ask for something selfish or we ask for anything, we don’t even bother asking. What is really happening is we are putting ourselves in the seat of God instead of Him. It’s like saying, “Hey, I’m the one who decides what I am going to ask for and what I am not going to ask for. I am the one who is not going to tell Him the desires of my heart.” 

In intimate relationships, you share those things. Back and forth, you’re like, “These are the desires of my heart. This is what I love. I just want this so much.” It’s a conversation. It’s not begging. It’s not a vending machine. It’s not like ask and receive. It’s literally an ongoing dialog with this lover of your soul.
That is the God who gave us the Holy Spirit that lives in us, guides us, talks to us, and comforts us at every corner and in everything as long as we welcome Him and say, “Holy Spirit, would You speak to me today? Would You guide me today? Will You tell me which way to drive when I pull out of the driveway? Would You continue to remind me that there’s no condemnation in You and I am not supposed to live under condemnation? I just love You, Father.”
That God is the same. Hebrews 1:3 says Jesus is the “exact representation” of God (NIV). He represents exactly who God has been since the beginning of time. If you read Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John—the four Gospels—you will find that Jesus is loving and kind. He is for people. He is not against people. He wants to work in their lives. Many times, He healed entire crowds. That is who He is. 

Jesus took the punishment we deserved and took it upon Him. Not getting the punishment you deserve is called mercy. Not only that, but then He gave us a gift. That gift is called grace. That grace is the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is a gift to us that will tell us and warn us of things to come and remind us of the things we have forgotten if we would just listen and receive.
Yes, God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He is love. It is who He is. It’s not what He does. He is the Redeemer. He is continuing to redeem us every day until we have our new bodies.

Monday, October 10, 2016

God's Promises Are Yes and Amen

The Bible says God’s promises are always yes and amen.
There is no expiration date on the finished work of Jesus Christ. There is no expiration date on His hope. There is no expiration today of the work He did yesterday. It’s not a gallon of milk that in a few days will expire and curdle. It is always there. It’s always fresh, always available, and always quenching.
You can trust God and His Word. You can truly put your hope in it. There is nothing else worth putting your hope in. You can’t put your hope in doctors, medicine, your boss, your employer, or your ability to work hard. All that stuff will pass away. But God’s promises are good and will endure forever.

Sisters: Thankfulness

Colossians 3:15—the end of this verse is my favorite line in the Bible:

“And be thankful.”

Thanksgiving is a command. This is an imperative statement. It is saying, “And you, be thankful.” I believe we are commanded by God to be thankful.
I often think of thankfulness as thoughtfulness. Thankfulness and thoughtfulness go together. The Word of God tells us to think of others above ourselves. We should in fact think other people are more important than ourselves (see Philippians 2:3–4). But how often do we do that? We fight to get through traffic. We fight to be first in line. We run into the restaurant to cut someone off so maybe we can get seated three minutes before they can. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been passed on the highway only to catch up with the person who almost caused a wreck a few minutes earlier.
I think when we are thoughtful and thinking about someone else deeply—about what they have done for us or the sacrifice they have made—it evokes an overwhelmingly thankful heart. Is it thankfulness or thoughtfulness? Regardless, thoughtfulness is the root of thankfulness every time.
My cousin is on her honeymoon right now. Because I helped her plan her honeymoon, she sent me the sweetest message. She is on the final night of her honeymoon. What is going on in her mind that she would send me a text on the final night of her honeymoon? Really! The two of them were thinking about this trip and how amazing it was, so they began to be thankful for the person who helped them plan it. Here is her message:

It’s our last night. I checked in online. We are freshening up to go to the fire and then the pool. We have had the time of our lives. There have been many times I thought I needed to be pinched because everything is so perfect here. We have laughed endlessly. Thank you for booking our vacation. Thanks to you, we have had the best honeymoon imaginable. I am so thankful to have a great cousin like you. I love you. You are a prayer warrior. The weather has been incredible. God is good. We are sure this trip is a start to a very happy marriage. Thank you.

When we are mindful and thoughtful of others and we consider what they have sacrificed or what they have given, it always results in thanksgiving. The Bible tells us that in the end times, people will be lovers of themselves. They won’t be thankful because when you love yourself more than anybody else, you are not thoughtful of the person next to you.
You cannot do anything about a person who is not thoughtful. But you can do something about you. You can be one who deeply considers the sacrifice of Jesus and what He has given. When we deeply consider what He gave—His body and His blood—and that He was naked on a cross, someone gambled over having His undergarment, and He was marred beyond human likeness for our sins, then we can become thankful to God. 

Thank you, Father, that we have life. Thank you, Father, that I’m no longer a slave to sin because You have set me free. I’m no longer under the power of darkness. I’m in the power of light. It’s because of You and Your sacrifice.
Thankfulness always changes the game and your attitude. When you are thankful, you cannot remain anxious or depressed. You can’t stay there.
So here’s the challenge: Open up a journal, a notebook, sticky notes, a chalkboard, or whatever else works for you and compel yourself every day to write down what you are thankful for in the morning, at lunch, and in the afternoon. At the end of the week, I want you to see what has changed, what is different about you. Then share it with us. Come back to this blog post and tell us what is going on in your life.