The Next Step

After reading and carefully reflecting on the Book of James, I find myself circling around the same question: “Will I take the next step?”

I think a common and widely held misconception of Christians is that people think once we put our faith in Jesus Christ all our problems are suddenly solved, we are immediately better people, and are signed, sealed and delivered. In reality, one moment of faith is just the beginning of a process. That measure of faith we exhibit when we declare, “Jesus is my Lord and Savior,” seems so significant at the time and it is in its own right, but it is merely the first step on a path to true and lasting change.

In Luke 9:61 (NIV) it reads, “Lord, I will follow you, but…” 
…And there it is. That word that always gets in our way. It hinders, binds and prevents us from taking the call that is beckoning us forward–“but.”

Even if you are not a Christian, I think everyone can agree that actions (in most cases) speak louder than words. Regardless of our status, duration, or devotion as followers of Christ, if we always hold onto our “but’s” (pardon the pun) we will never experience the wondrous abandonment of truly following Christ.

This simple truth applies to so much in life; it is a glaring reality staring us in the face regardless of our beliefs or religion. It is the truth that even the brightest ideas, the most noble motives, the most significant moments of our faith, without action mean nothing… There are examples of this all around us as well as nowhere at all. It reminds us that if a person is ever going to do anything worthwhile, there will be times when he or she has to risk everything and leap headfirst into the dark. This “darkness” is a sea of unknown outcomes, sacrifices, and sometimes painful losses. We are so scared of experiencing these possibilities that we can’t see through the fog of present day trials; we fail to grasp that we may enter into a land of opportunity, reward and blessing on the other side. You may find that soon, the “dark” you thought you plunged into will transform into a brighter light than you have ever seen or experienced.

What if Martin Luther King, Jr. never picked up his pen, John Lennon never learned to play guitar or Benjamin Franklin never flew a kite? Our future is often shaped by the smallest sparks, the smallest decisions and the smallest of accomplishments. The decisions you make in the present will determine the choices you have in the future.

“As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.” 
James 2:26 (NIV) 

How significant is this verse in James to you? The comparison he makes with our body and spirit really stresses and warns us how vital–no–how much of a life or death sentence it is to put action to our faith.

For Christians, Jesus demands this unrestrained, adventurous spirit in placing our trust in Him. In the spiritual realm, Jesus demands that you risk everything you hold on to or believe through common sense, and leap based on faith in Him alone. This is scary for beings that are so consumed, mesmerized and enslaved by the common sense of this world. The notion that we must leap without knowing where we will land according to our own experiences and 5 senses cripples us with fear. Let me tell you, from experiences past and those to come, once you obey you will immediately find that what He says is as solidly consistent as common sense.

On the basis of our senses, what Jesus requires of you might seem mad. Again and again you will come right up to what Jesus wants, but every time you will turn back at the true point of testing, until you are determined to abandon yourself in total surrender. Whenever that time comes, take the leap. What you will find on the other side will fill your spirit with the amazing truth that you acted on the words of God.

Trust in Him, trust in His timing or simply make the determination to trust. Take that step you know you should take but are perhaps too afraid to based on what YOU think might happen. God meets us in those moments of doubt and lifts us up on eagle’s wings and carries us into His invincible future… a future that is brighter than any of us could ever imagine.
Two Boys Diving off Dock into Lake

The Perfect Fix: Fire Set by Faith in every Decision

In todays world of information overload, we collapse at the forefront of making a decision. With so many decisions that are unstructured and unpredictable, the desire for more answers immobilizes our strategy making process.  Thus, in todays environment, we need to be able to find not all the information but the right information. We need to be decisive in the parameters given.  Will we know if it is the right way.  Even if there may be five ‘right ways’ can we accomplish one.  My question today is: Does the perfect fix exist? Because, if we do not have a way to getting things to work, how do we ever intend to stay motivated.

I mean, what is our motivaton if we find ourselves at the tail-end of every challenge comming against more opposition? Why do we continue another day if we see the light at the end of the tunnel never get brighter? How far would you treck in the desert after you have journeyed for years with no refreshment.  How do you stick to your work until the end of the day, if your mind moment-to-moment is bombarded with fear, doubt, and remorse.

Does the perfect fix exist?  

Here is the thing, the perfect fix is not a result but a process.  A methodology of being your best in all that you do.  Doing what you know to do best: trust in God, live for His kingdom, and being readily available for service.  It takes discipline to be your best in your daily activities and being devoted to the opportunities in front of you.  Overall, it is our responsibility.

Process: is where you have dominion and command.  The process is where you come in and shine.  The results are outside your control, the inputs as well. So many people are overburdened because they feel or assume they have failed because of external circumstances.  Because you did not get hired, did not get the promotion, did not get the grade you wanted, did not make it through the relationship, does not mean you failed.  As long as you put your best effort forth, that is what counts.

God called us by His excellence.  You have the right to be diligent, hardworking, eager, and constantly motivated.  Your time of day is precious, do not give in to a person you are not meant to be because people will judge you.  If they want the best for you, they will be proud of you.  With any insight at all, people are all wanting to be themselves but everyone is worried to make the first move.  Live life by the way God set things to be in your life.  Believe in His promises.  As long as you are your best, you do your part, whether you get the job or not, wheter your relationship lasts or not, you know you are living Gods path for your life.  Motivation plus determination make for a promoted Christian lifestyle.  Jesus said to us: those planted in the good earth will have a harvest that will bear fruit, thirty, sixty, and a hundredfold (Matthew 4).  What’s the final call? Launch a policy that your perfect fix is a ready heart for Jesus. Be diligient, full of a spirit-of-excellence, be obedient and you will watch His kingdom be moved in ways you never would of dreamed.

Do the best you can, with the resources you have.  Never let yourself get taken over so easily by trying one way that did not work and forgoing all other options.  We live in a day with so many options to have an impact on the world, let us not forget the world needs more leaders, community builiders, and friends.  People who follow their path and stay in their lane influence others to be diligient in their life.

For the person reading who is being their best everyday, keep your focus.  Align your heart with God’s will for your life all-the-more.  Aim straight and eliminate any distractions.  Enlarge your vision, step into your development with character and know that God is deepening roots for the things to come to life beyond your imagination.  Each time you stay faithful, you are deepening your roots.  When you have stayed faithful for one week or ten years, continue to stay true to your own convictions knowing that God has set your path this way for a reason.  Stay diligient, stay ready in your heart for God, keep Him first, and be eager for todays fulfillment of continued persistent work and effort.

The perfect fix is right in front of you: it is now, today, in this present moment.  Will you give God your best in what He gave you.  Stumbling over if it is the right decision or not is not the concern.  Information overload and inactivity will be a past recipe of your life.  Your new ingredients to success lie in what Peter spoke about in 2 Peter concerning the fire set by faith.  In believing everything we see around us is meaningful, ignite your walk knowing that God is not surprised with your current situation and the state of affairs around you.  Keep your feet planted knowing Jesus Christ was already the perfect fix to your future decisions as well as your past.  Each day is a day to stretch, each hour is an hour of opportunity, the perfect fix is not a formula but a connection between what we are suppose to do and what we do. Stay diligent.

2 Peter 1:5-11 Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge,and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus ChristFor he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins.10 Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble11 for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you.

Embrace rejection

funny-gifs-say-no-to-rejection-1

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

Screen Shot 2013-05-12 at 7.54.52 AM

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.

Antelope_Canyon

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.

grand-canyon-np

 

Fear, boldness, and spiritual growth

The devil has created a cold and dark cave where he wants us to live. In this cave lie all sorts of creepy, crawly, slimy, and poisonous creatures, including fear. Fear is more immobilizing than any web, so much so that we may even be afraid to leave the cave.

Fortunately, there’s an incredible and beautiful world outside this dark cave that is filled with God’s warm light. All we need to do is be bold. We need to fight our discomfort, stand up when we’re frozen, fight through the wind of fear, and step into God’s light to find freedom from our imprisonment.

light in cave

Christ wants us to be as bold as he was.  “…’Get up.’ He said. “Don’t be afraid” (Mat 17:7). “Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened. But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” (1 Peter 3:14).

“God meets us in our discomfort” (Mike Keys), and it’s so true! To grow spiritually, we have to do things that are uncomfortable.  You’ll know what I’m talking about next time you feel it. Certain things are uncomfortable because on one side, your flesh wants to hinder your spiritual growth by causing you to live in fear. Flesh does not want God’s spirit inside us to expand, especially not onto others, and it will hinder you to take action over what your spirit puts on your heart to do. Take speaking up in a crowd for example. Your heart wants you to express something important, something that you’re excited for, but the devil wants you to live in bondage and to be frozen. He uses your flesh to tell you to be afraid with concerns of what others might think. But I urge you, break free!

Step into your faith, and break those chains of bondage that the devil uses to restrain your spiritual growth. Imagine that every time you do this, you are breaking out of that cold dark cave and into God’s love filled light.  Be glad that in every instance in which you do so, you will be growing in your spirit, exponentially. With every step you take out of your discomfort, you will get closer and closer to what God has in store for you.

Willing to Endure

As victory is in Christ, we in Christ never ever are to be defeated.

Though, in the heat of a battle, in the midst of a storm, how do we stay in Christ and not give in to sin.  How do we stay victors while suffering for Christ.

This question is a pressing concern.  First, understand there are compounding processes taking place at the front lines of the battle field(… our mind).  First, we are attacked in the depths of, not our firm beliefs, but in our unsolved theories.  We are not attacked on the basis of what we firmly know as true, but the concerns of our mind that still are under investigation.  We do not have all the answers but we are still hunting.  Double that with a generous grace we give upon our own lives.  When we say things like, “You got to have a weak point… your HUMAN”, “Your parents were victims”, “I never faced so much difficulty before”. The enemy wants us to believe that if we can’t stand strong everywhere, we are weak.  By one mistake we are not worthy.  We should not even bother.

But God relinquished our shame, He overtook our sin and yes now we are no longer subjected to sin and death but are revived – raised from the dead – into eternal life.  Trust that God is equipping you to overcome struggles, bad relationships, and obstacles.  That being so, when the going gets tough, the battle seems lost, the encouragement seems bone dry… Praise.

Praise is the deviation from losing to winning.  Praise, not because you feel it is time to praise, but when you need an answer to your enemies. When finances are tight and the bills do not have any way of being covered, when your marriage seems to be at its last thread before it falls apart, when your life seems to be so busy yet you do not understand your purpose, Praise God!

Why?…  God intercedes in the midst of our praise as our warrior to battle any devil trying to take a stronghold upon your life.  Psalm 18:3 declares to praise God and He will save you from your enemies.  Praise God that He is providing for your rent, Praise God that He is restoring your marriage, praise God that He is casting new vision upon your life to be stronger, more able, and effective than ever before.

Again, in the heat of the battle, Praise.  When you praise God, you are saying, God this problem is huge, but you are bigger.  God my situation looks impossible, but you are able. God is ready to rescue you, get into his presence, allow God to do a mighty work that will thrust you into a new season of your life.  Do not give yourself away to the little schemes of the devil.  Circle around the devil looking down at him and tell him you are not going to overtake me because my God has overcome the world.

Understand, God might send you into the lions den to teach you what you carry. Do not be over come: Press forward, keep the vision alive, refresh your hope, stand on His promises to build your faith. He is ready to move forward, are you?

“When we suffer for Jesus, it works out for your healing and salvation. If we are treated well, given a helping hand and encouraging word, that also works to your benefit, spurring you on, face forward, unflinching. Your hard times are also our hard times. When we see that you’re just as willing to endure the hard times as to enjoy the good times, we know you’re going to make it, no doubt about it.” 2 Corinthians 1:6-7 MSG