The Flood

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For most of my life I have been comfortable with being comfortable. I am very much a man of routine; I am at ease when I have even a vague outline of where I am going or what the day will look like. As humans we all have our niches, habitats, tendencies, methods and specificities that help to create and establish levels of comfort and measures of manageable tranquility in our lives. Whether you recognize, acknowledge or feed it, this hunger for control and comfort is ingrained in all of us. Ultimately, our control of comfort can become a corruption that can destroy every fiber of our world.

God saw how corrupt the earth had become, for all the people on earth had corrupted their ways. So God said to Noah, “I am going to put an end to all people, for the earth is filled with violence because of them…”
Genesis 6:12-13 (NIV) 

After reflecting on these Scriptures in Genesis, I realized something simple yet profound: We will all experience the flood. 

At one point or another in life we will go through one if not many great floods and storms that will destroy all that was once established, teeming and comfortable in our lives and wash it away without any ascertainable reason. In these situations do you find yourself building an ark and preparing life for the future or rather, settling in the land of sheltered yesterdays? In these fragile moments, faithful obedience surpasses circumstantial evidence.

I have seen that if you remain tied to a dock of comfort, God will inevitably send a storm to sever those ties and send you out to sea. For some of us it happens suddenly, for others it is more of a process. As creatures of comfort, we often find it difficult to depart from our dock because it represents the measurable outcomes and controllable circumstances that we so desire in our lives.

Then there is that confronting, obstructive Scripture in Matthew 16:25 (NIV) “For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.” 

Does God really want us to lose our life, our comfort and our ease? Yes, because what He has is more, is greater, is better than anything we can perceive. God wants to redefine what it means to be comforted until all we need is Him. Jesus asks us to put everything afloat upon God, and go out to sea on the great swelling tide of His purpose. It is out at sea where eyes are truly opened, faith is fully formed and character is eternally shaped. If our faith, security and hope are on board with Jesus we are not to spend all our time in calm waters just inside the harbor, full of joy but always tied to the dock. We must echo the obedience of Noah and build an ark to weather our own storms and embark upon the sea of God’s promises.

In verses 6:22 and 7:5 of Genesis (NIV) it reiterates the same vital point and difference between Noah and a lot of us, “And Noah did all that the Lord commanded him.”
Noah did all. It is a dangerous, sometimes fatal mistake to refuse direction, to refuse to follow and fully obey on this voyage. The counterfeit of obedience is a state of mind where you create your own opportunities to sacrifice yourself, and your zeal and enthusiasm are mistaken for discernment.

“But Samuel replied:
‘Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices
    as much as in obeying the Lord?
To obey is better than sacrifice,
    and to heed is better than the fat of rams.'”
1 Samuel 15:22 (NIV)

It is easier to sacrifice yourself than to fulfill your spiritual destiny. Fulfilling your destiny means doing the hard work. It means getting up every morning to gather the wood to build that ark, and preparing to live for the future rather than the past. Beware of paying attention or going back to where you once were on the shore of yesterday’s comforts when God wants to take you somewhere that you have never been before.

“Do not conform to the pattern 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.” 
Romans 12:2 (NIV)

Embrace rejection

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There is a problem that comes with perfection on earth in the inability of everyone here to accept things that are in fact good. And you might say, “well what is good for one person may not be good for another person.” While this hypothetical may be valid due to it’s ambiguity, there are in fact things that are unequivocally good for all people. The bible talks about fruit of the spirit in Galatians 5:22, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”

What is important to note is the inability (especially among the teachers of the law) that people had in accepting Jesus’ teachings when he was here on earth. In fact, He had a lot of resistance, even though there could be no one person and no plan more perfect. The reality is that even the most perfect plans meet resistance and ultimately rejection.

And this is with a perfect plan! How about plans that are not so perfect?  We need to carry over the same principle and be prepared for that. If there is one quality that the most effectual people on earth have had, it is their indifference to rejection. These people realized that failure was not real, but in everything here on earth, there is an effect. In every result that one person may consider to be a failure, the most successful people would consider it a victory as a lesson learned. I, myself, need to learn that my plans can not be perfect, but even if they were, they would face rejection all the same.

I’m a perfectionist and I like for everything that I do to yield the most results. The problem with that is the fear that doing something will yield minimal results. But I’m coming to realize that results of any kind are beneficial; in fact, monumental success stories are made up of smaller milestones. I’ve come to realize that even the best plans face rejection, as there are certain people who can comprehend your plan and others who will resist with all their effort.

I plan to embrace rejection. Many people already know me as someone who isn’t affected by rejection in my ability to continue pressing forward without a change in attitude. The problem is that unless I feel compelled to do so, I will avoid a circumstance in which I feel I am likely to face rejection. I need to alter this behavior dramatically so that this fear does not limit the plan God has for my life. I have decided to make a new goal for myself that will have a new focus on doing more things in which I expect rejection, without compromising. I  will tackle these things with an open heart and open mind as if I expect them to happen, and allow God to surprise me when the odds were against me. Overall, I plan to plan less, and do more. I will embrace the rejection of my plans and appreciate the results of my labor, so that when I execute plans that God puts on my heart, that execution is not hindered by the fear of rejection.

Prepare for blessings- 40 day Challenge

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There is a new season ahead of us- a season of preparation for increased blessings.

Many of us Christians are at different places in our spiritual walk. Some of us may still have many questions and, yes, even moments of doubt. I would be lying if I said this wasn’t normal. How can we not find ourselves in these moments when the world is constantly trying to set limits and tell people what should and shouldn’t be possible? No matter where we are in our walk, let’s be encouraged to stretch further into our faith, and into prayer to ask God to demonstrate to us again, as He has before, that worldly limitations are broken easily with Christ.

We hold God to his promises. Matthew 9:16 and 17 talks about how a person does not pour new wine into old wine-skins because the skins will break based on their inability to stretch.  The old wine-skins are our old bodies, and the wine is Jesus’ spirit. In accepting Jesus into our lives, Jesus forgave us of our sins, and gave us new lives. As a result, our new bodies are stretching with His spirit inside of us. On the flip side, we can be comforted as we hold this as a promise that Jesus said himself! In giving up our lives for Christ, He is going to give us His spirit, and if He’s going to do that, He will also give us new lives, He will heal us of our past, and He will give us new bodies. Jesus’ spirit will stretch our new bodies. We just have to let it happen.

I recently found myself in a place in my spiritual walk where I began to become complacent. I stretched significantly in my initial growth past points of obvious fear that was like shackles to my spiritual growth, and found myself in an area of more open space. And, to reiterate one of my past posts, I had no idea what to do next. I was becoming too comfortable and it led to some incredibly difficult spiritual attacks.

Our discomfort is like the trick cooks use to boil a frog in water. The technique is so subtle, the frog never even realized it was cooked to death. One discomfort may be waking up early, and so this slight bother may direct a person’s life in one direction. The next may be an array of things that one would rather put off for later. And so these slight discomforts end up directing our lives from one direction into the next. Instead, we should befriend our discomforts and break them down so that we direct our own lives and enable ourselves to go in whatever direction God is calling us.

God wants us to be blessed, especially so that we can bless others; but how is he going to bless us if we can’t even handle what is already on our plates?  We need to demonstrate that our discomforts are trivial by embracing those activities, and getting to the point that we glorify God in all we do. Once we clear our plates, God will definitely give us more to handle. He will bless us and enable us to pour blessings on those who need it most.

The Challenge- Do all the things you know you need to do but don’t want to for at least 40 days. Repeat, once completed. 

When to Start: Start at your most inconvenient moment. Start now if doing so would be a burden to you, and prepare for increased blessings.

Initiation: Wake up early- 5 AM if possible. Get some friends to join you. Prepare together or on your own, and then get together to officially start your 40 days of preparation by waking up to watch the sunrise at the best spot you can find, ending with a bible study and breakfast.

Continuation: Work out in the morning. We are the body of Christ and we need to be healthy. Working out first thing in the morning will break your sleep schedule, and enable you to wake up earlier without feeling so tired. You’ll also feel tired earlier.

Planigation (I like to make up words): Make a strict plan. Come on, Jesus fasted for 40 days. We can at least take care of all our responsibilities for that same time period!

Emmediation: Do all the things you know you need to do immediately. If it’s not reasonable to do it then, write all these things down and make sure you get to all of them, especially the most uncomfortable on the list.

Jesus replied, “Not everyone can accept this word, but only to whom it has been given…. The one who can accept this should accept it” (Mat 19:11,12). Jesus was referring specifically to a marital relationship depending on your calling from God, but it also refers to sacrifices in general.

Imagine that you are Simon and you see Jesus walking by, carrying His cross. What would you do?  Would you watch Him walk by, and chalk it up to blessings in that you didn’t have to carry Jesus’ cross?  We see Jesus carrying his cross daily, and what do we do for him?

34“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

37“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

40“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

Carry your cross; handle what is before you; and receive God’s blessings.

Attack your discomforts- Next steps

Even subtle discomforts are like walls in a canyon.  We may find ourselves confined to their direction unless we realize that we can learn to climb over them and get a better vantage point.

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This article details one technique to take charge of our spiritual walk and helps to prepare ourselves for the blessings God wants us to receive.

Months after first rededicating my life, I find myself continuing to learn what God truly wants for my life. I started by giving it all up.  All my weakness as well as all of my strengths- I gave it all to God.  And I found new strengths to overcome things that used to have complete control over my life. In fact, there is no doubt that God has made me stronger than I’ve ever been over my past weaknesses. And yet, I didn’t and couldn’t possibly earn my righteousness, but right standing was given to me by His grace, and His grace alone. Jesus said, “…go and learn what this means, I desire mercy, not sacrifice (Mat 9:13).The first step is to get up, and GO! Seek after him! “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you” (Matthew 7:7).

Initially, God’s spirit was obvious to me.  I was able to discern what He wanted by overwhelming discomfort, and doing just what my discomfort was trying to hinder me from doing. For instance, I wanted to say something spiritual in a crowd and the devil tried hindering my growth through fear. After realizing that and breaking free, God’s spirit in me was able to grow past that point in my life and into new territory- a territory that is free and not so obviously bound by fear. And now, as I’ve settled into this new territory, the next step was not so immediately clear.

The next step forward is counter-intuitive- deceptive in other words, as the devil takes any opportunity to hinder our spiritual growth. As followers of Christ, we believe that God wants to bless us, and He does. The question is what sort of blessings are we after? Do we want more spiritual responsibility or is our idea of blessings the ability to lounge around and play Smash Brothers all day? In other words, are we consoling ourselves through comfort or are we breaking free areas of our discomfort? In fact, the bible is very clear on this issue in regards to taking up our cross as well as throughout the book of 1 Peter.  A good question to ask is always, “How am I not bringing glory to God?” If by being lazy, we are chastised at work or at home, we allow the devil to provoke us as well as forego the blessings that would follow from otherwise being self-disciplined. The next question is “I know what I want to do, but what do I need to do?”

God blesses us based on our ability to handle those blessings. “Whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them.” (Matthew 13:12). This is because of our ability or inability to handle what is before us.

So what is generally on our plates? We have both things that bring us comfort as well as things that are just not fun at all and are in fact uncomfortable. Do we think that by sitting around and watching movies all day that God will bless us?  How would we be able to handle further blessings if we can’t even handle what we have? Become a person who takes care of the many things that you would rather not do, and God will give you much more.

This is not just about blessings but about spiritual growth. Grow!!! Seek after your discomforts and annihilate them. Discomforts can be walls in a canyon. They can dictate where you go if you’re not willing to stand up and climb over them; however, when you do, you’ll have a much better vantage point to determine the best possible course of action. Do not let your discomforts dictate the decisions and direction that you take in your life. Break free from the bonds of significant and even subtle discomfort, and grow to see God’s plan for your life more clearly.

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