It’s because from humble hearts we have let the new song, the song the Spirit sings. Crying “abba father” declaring His newness, His greatness, His new and present work in our lives and hearts. God has met us at a place of humble worship in a time when many of us have been having the hardest time. I think it might have something to do with the fact that we are in a season of perseverance.
I open up my iPad often to overlook the background image. The same image I’ve had for the past three years. The backdrop simply says: Do Work That Matters! It’s all too easy to get lost in the social stream, scrolling down, scrolling down, trolling around. It’s easy to get distracted from work that matters. Sometimes we lose sight of what really matters in it all.
I am one of those people that tend to read to learn and be sharpened. Rather than spend my time entertaining myself with reading for pleasure; (Who does that?!) If I want to be entertained, I’ll go to the gym or watch something with the family curled up on the couch with me. One thing I like to do is read quotes from some of the most brilliant and prominent figures in our worlds history. It inspires me and sometimes with just a few words creates in me great sources of zeal, satisfaction, conviction and motivation.
So today this one hit me hard. D. L. Moody – “Our greatest fear should not be of failure, but of succeeding at something that doesn’t really matter.” WOW! We are so afraid to try things, let alone things that matter. The more something matters, the more it might ask of you. Mark 8:36 says, “What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?” Jesus right there tells us what doesn’t matter. He tells us that the cost of following after things with no eternal value is worthless and of no benefit. Might I challenge you, as I myself too am challenged; what are you really afraid of? What will you succeed in?
Be blessed, Have faith, Give hope, Be LOVE!
Rev. Anthony C. S. Flanigan
I was prompted to dig deeper as I looked at todays verse of the day on www.biblegateway.com Romans 10:9-10 “If you declare 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 profess your faith and are saved.”
There are three questions I like to ask while I am reading God’s Word.
FIRST: What does this say about God?
SECOND: What does this say about Man?
THIRD: What does this mean for us?
There are two actions for the believer in this scripture – Believe, and Profess/Declare.
There are two actions for God in this scripture – Justification, and Salvation.
Now this all seems so simple doesn’t it. That’s because it is. But it isn’t a religious movement. It isn’t some programmized step-by-step guide to heaven. Step A. Say it, Step B Accept it!?
Jesus said, “A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.“ Luke 6:45
I want to go out on a limb here and say, perhaps the focal point and pivot point here is the Heart. The heart is the catalyst. God is after your heart! God is not after your lips, “The Lord says: “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is based on merely human rules they have been taught.” Isaiah 29:13
The heart is the root of movement, palpitations, vibes. It is the center from which our blood, our life source flows. God knew these things well before any physician could comprehend them; Why? Because He designed us. God is after your heart. Kardia – The greek word used for Heart.
Straight from Blueletterbible.org : The heart, Kardia:
That organ in the animal body which is the centre of the circulation of the blood, and hence was regarded as the seat of physical life
denotes the centre of all physical and spiritual life
the vigour and sense of physical life
the centre and seat of spiritual life
the soul or mind, as it is the fountain and seat of the thoughts, passions, desires, appetites, affections, purposes, endeavours
of the understanding, the faculty and seat of the intelligence
of the will and character
of the soul so far as it is affected and stirred in a bad way or good, or of the soul as the seat of the sensibilities, affections, emotions, desires, appetites, passions
of the middle or central or inmost part of anything, even though inanimate
So now I must ask: What does it mean to believe in my heart? It means to fully repent. To agree with your whole self that Jesus is LORD (Owner). That the same power that defeated the enemy, sins sting, death – That same resurrecting power fulfills the promise of a new life and a new heart: “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” Ezekiel 36:26
To believe in my heart is to allow a transaction to take place, not Just my sin and my judgement for Christ’s sacrifice and righteousness; But also, My heart for His heart! My heart represents the Fountain from which my physical and spiritual life begin, and move. My thoughts, passions, desires, appetites, affections, endeavors and even my purpose are exchanged for HIS thoughts, HIS passions, HIS desires, HIS appetite, HIS affections, HIS work, and HIS PURPOSE. This is what it is to be ‘Born again,’ this is what should be happening in the life of the believer, all believers.
WOW! FATHER, YOU CAN HAVE MY KARDIA – MY WHOLE HEART – MY WHOLE SELF. I TRUST YOU WITH THEM AS YOU’VE TRUSTED YOUR HEART TO ME. Amen!
That confession – More than words, but abandonment and sincerity is the confession of Faith we must desire to walk in. If your whole self believes in Christ’s LORDSHIP and POWER, your mouth will overflow with faith, hope and love. This is eternally true!
I’ve come to a realization: How I look at myself in the mirror impacts the way I enjoy my day. But let’s rewind a little bit to last week. I was at the YMCA doing my thing.
There are three reasons to look in the mirror at the YMCA:
Balance and Form: This is what the mirrors are there for. They help us to maintain proper form while we perform potentially dangerous movements under massive loads of pressure. A person could be injured badly from incorrect form and bad balance during a work out; however most of the time the mirrors serve another purpose.
Vanity and Comparison: Let’s be honest though. When we get our pump on it encourages us. It’s an instant gratification to literally see the progress of a workout in the form of dehydrated body tissues and firmed up and pumped up desirables. Comparison Kills they say. I often find myself feeling like less when I look around me and see guys in way better shape than I am. I stop feeling so good about myself; my vanity can quickly turn to insecurity.
360 degrees: The mirrors seem to provide us with nearly a full 360 degree panorama of the lush scenery in the gym. There are things I wish I could ‘un-see’ that I’ve seen in mirrors. There are also things I wish I saw more of, like people taking their first steps into the gym – they look both confused and excited, nonetheless bewildered as they walk around the gym in wonder! I’ve found myself choosing work out areas further away from the mirrors because of this panorama. Unfortunately some people dress to attract at the gym and I don’t really care to see it. #donteventrytomakemestumble #getbehindmesatan.
There is a huge revelation about Grace every day in the mirror. The truth is, we will have days when we feel like we can do anything. We will have days when we feel like we’ve tried everything and nothing works. There are days when we are reminded of our victories. There are days when we feel like all we do is fail. But Grace tells us a different story. Grace tells us: That man that looks good in the mirror – God created Him for great things! Grace also tells us: That failure, that man that doesn’t measure up, compare or that just looks like a failure to me, THAT man is new! God is fully aware of all of our failures, He purchased us, redeeming us from those things. Grace is often felt when we have a full 360 degree panorama of what’s going on around us, in us and through us, but knowing that God is still good and in a good mood.
The revelation of Grace gives balance to our lives. We learn not to see ourselves after our failures, and therefore we don’t see others according to theirs. The revelation of grace tells us that in spite of all of our failures, flaws and even being poorly conditioned for what we are attempting – God still calls us to greater things; things that only HE can do through us! Grace is magnificent in that it humbles us, but doesn’t destroy us. Grace builds us up as His purpose and calling trump our failed attempts and inabilities.
The revelation of grace should first change how you see yourself in the mirror, but once that guy is seen in the proper perspective; it’s time to perceive the world through grace. Your world will literally change when you see it revealed truly though Grace! God has a purpose for all of us, even those who are far off! Let’s pray that the Holy Spirit reveals true Grace to our hearts and opens our eyes to see it clearly!
In the past 20 years our world has changed in ways we couldn’t have imagined. We live in what has been called the ‘Information Age.’ The amount of information in the world is growing at about 53% per year. We have moved from books, shorthand writing and typewriters to ebooks, data entry and texting. We have gone from cassette tape to CD to iPod to iCloud. I Can now access my entire office and library from anywhere in the world. We have moved from land-lines to pagers to cell phones to ‘smart phones.’ We have gone from the 256 MB computer to terabytes and the 32 Gig iPhone. Everything is digital and rich in data. Who could have ever comprehended that entire libraries of books – 1,100 in a 16 Gb Kindle – could be carried around weighing less than a nice hardbound classic?
One of the greatest Kings in all of history was Alexander the great. His library became one of the worlds greatest treasures. It contained approximately 600,000 scrolls, or about 100,000 modern books. It was his crown achievement. The ability to read and write was special; and things to read were coveted. To put this into perspective for you: The entire treasure of Alexandria’s library would fail to fill an $89 external hard drive containing 2 terabytes of storage!
But in a world where information is growing and growing and our capacity to store it and devour it is increasing; yet, 7 mb of information has the power to shape cultures, lives and ultimately the world – as it has for the past 2000 years. This 7 mb of information is the Holy Bible! I just downloaded a .pdf document containing the entire Bible in less time than it took to take a sip of coffee. These 7 mb of information have and will continue to puzzle, fulfill and challenge mankind until the book is one day closed. But in a world where D.I.Y. and Self-Help are the fastest growing sections in every book store – How does the Bible stand out? Does it stand out anymore? Is it coveted?
The early modern age was born in the 1450’s with one pivotal invention: The Gutenberg Printing Press. Among the first to ever be produced, the Gutenberg Bible. From this day on, normal everyday people had ready access to the worlds most coveted thing, information. Literacy rates skyrocketed and a new era was born, one of exponential increase in the world of information. Music began taking its form with printed music on the classical ‘Staff’ in the 15th century giving swift prompting to birth the Baroque period of auditory revolution; and some 500 + years later, there are no signs of stopping the evolution of our worlds culture, sounds and ways according to the vastness of knowledge at our fingertips.
So, How does the 7mb Bible, which doesn’t evolve with cultures; but remains the same in content, continue to impact a people? The thought has been challenging me for a little while now. I recently read a bold statement from the book ‘The Present Future’ by Reggie McNeal. It stated: ‘The Church is print reliant. The Bible has become for the modern church the supreme manifestation of the Word of God (not Christ) because it is “objective” truth (a modern distinction). It became the fourth member of the Trinity. The sermon (an explanation of text) has replaced the mass (along with the mystery of God’s intervention). In a world of information; has the insatiable appetite for more information become a stumbling block? Is faith no longer ‘Confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see?’ -Hebrews 11:1. Does ‘faith’ now have a specific informational quota? If it does, can we still call it faith? Faith in what? Faith in what we think we know, or faith in who we know? 1 Corinthians 1:27 ‘God chose the foolish things in the world to confound the wise.’ Is faith in God becoming foolish in the eyes of the world because faith is equated to a lack of understanding or founded upon a less informed future?
Here is the dichotomy: I don’t need to be a mechanic to drive a car, nor do I need to understand the trades of plumbing and electrical engineering to use my bathroom and kitchen. I especially don’t need to understand how the entire digital world is somehow invisibly streaming through my living room right now via airwaves and such in order to use the internet. I don’t question where my water comes from and how it gets to my sink before I get a drink of water, I just know it works. Why then, do we need all of the information about every intricacy of God’s plan before we lift a finger to be part of it? Has the need for every byte of information become a stumbling block for those that really want to do as God has commanded?
God is asking His people to return to Him, the Person of God. John 1 tells us that the Word of God is God and is always with God; however, we cannot reduce God to a word or a book. We need to develop a true spiritual relationship with Christ Himself. His Word is the first and most consistent step in our walks with Him, But it is not the entire basis for a relationship with Him – That would reduce a relationship with a person to viewing their twitter feed; it doesn’t cut it. Relationships need face to face intimate discussions and long walks together, real encounters with real people. God is the same, He longs for the deepest and most invasive relationship in our life.
It’s time. It’s time for a world of information junkies to stop looking for knowledge about God and to get to know Him. It’s time to start to do as He has commanded, to make disciples and baptize believers into His Kingdom without needing a seminary degree first. Jesus says, ‘those that have eyes to see and ears to hear…’ He wasn’t saying physical eyes and ears, but Kingdom/Spiritual eyes and ears to; like Christ, to see and hear what the Father is doing and speaking. We live in a world where 7 mb of information will point us to the infinite God, the source of all life and all of life’s answers. In a world of information overload, there is a longing for a great spiritual awakening. The harvest is plenty – Go!
1 Peter 2:9-10 9 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
Peter is reminding the people of their identity IN Christ – Royal, Holy, Set apart as a Child of Light – From the Father of Lights – Declaring the praises of Christ who has translated us through His blood; out of darkness and into light. This verse is commonly quoted as a core verse of Identity, But today I am choosing to look closer at the statement in verse 10. “Once you were not a people, But now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” My observation is this: Before an encounter with Mercy, we are nothing! Our sin has made us unworthy of life, let alone belonging. People are made in the image of God. To be called Human, is the greatest privilege in the universe. We bear the marks of the creator in our very likeness. Our design as ‘people’ is to exist in Christ. Apart from mercy there is no recognition of humanism, but animalistic fates remain. Doomed to the dust, to eternal burning – Our value is reduced to nothing. God doesn’t even recognize us as a ‘people’ outside of His mercy.
Without mercy, I am doomed to become a Nobody. But Christ died for this Nobody, to make the pauper a prince and the knave, filled with Glory. Now; because of Christ – I am somebody, royal, choosen, Light, and a conduit of praise for the Father. My value was proven at the Cross, and at the cross I find my value. I can do the most amazing things, I could cure cancer AIDS and baldness; but I am NOBODY without Mercy. Mercy found me, restored me to Himself and has forever called me ‘Most treasured.’ I need to remember this for myself and for others. I need to remember the moment I get a little indignant that I am nothing, just like them without mercy. I need to remember that I need to be responsible to the dispensation of mercy by showing mercy in every circumstance. If I choose not to express mercy, I might beat someone down, but I only prove that I am nothing as well. But I choose to be something, I choose to be royal, I choose to – Like Jesus – Be a conduit of mercy and bring praise to my Father.
Lord, help me to realize my worth both apart and in You. Help me to respond to others with mercy as You have and to be humbled more and more by Your great grace! You are so good, thank you for bringing this ‘nobody’ out of darkness and into light, dubbing me royal and righteous according to Your merits! Help me to live up to Your definement of my life. Amen.
Scripture: 1 Peter 1:6-9 & Isaiah 36:18-20
Let’s go to New York City and see Van Gogh’s Starry Night. We could then fly to Paris and see Leonardo’s Mona Lisa and some of Claude Monet’s Water Lilies. Skyline to Madrid and check out Picasso’s Guernica. Might as well have supper with Jesus in Milan and go see God do His thing on the ceiling in The Creation of Adam at the Sistine Chapel. Whiz into the windy city and end this voyage with some American Gothic.
There is just something special about the real thing; authentic, genuine, uncompromised, in its original form. There is only one Mona Lisa – and if it were for sale; which it isn’t, we could start the auction at 750 million dollars and the bids could easily reach ten figures. But I don’t have to wait for the Mona Lisa to go to auction. I could go online today and order a poster size copy for $3, If I am really ambitious I could spend $350 and get a reproduction in oil paints on a canvas just like Leo used. For another $150 I could have this work of art framed in a hand carved custom setup. Lastly glue and lots of it, I think I have enough in the garage to do what I want to do here. There we go, for less than the cost of a ticket to Paris, I could get a high quality reproduction delivered to my door, framed and glued to the ceiling above my bed. Why above the bed? Only so it’s the first thing I see when I wake up in the morning because I am so proud of it, my very own Mona Lisa. What’s the difference? A painting is a painting right?
We do the same thing though. We settle for the likeness of righteousness instead of true righteousness. We fabricate for ourselves a floppy faith that is really of little or no value. We Decide we believe in three gods, the good God, the Thumb-pressor, and self as God. When we go through hard times in life, it must be because God is punishing me, or something that has to do with me. Many run away from God, or quit on faith when tough times come. But the Word says in 1 Peter 1:7 – “These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith – of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire – may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed.” So when we suffer because of our faith, the genuineness of our faith is proven. When our life in in danger, we can have faith in God and expect eternal salvation with Him, or cripple trying to save that which is perishable – life on earth. During the hardest times, our faith’s character and focal point come into focus. But we don’t like hard times, so we settle for resemblance of faith. We learn the lingo and pretend it’s all good. We say ‘I’ll pray about it.’ as an excuse for ‘let me think about how I will tactfully say no and stroke my fear of man.’
Just about anyone who wants to invest a little bit can have a spot on Mona-Lisa reproduction hanging in their home, but they could never call it the real deal. Likewise – The resemblance of faith is no good if our image of God and His promises become shattered when life throws us a sinker. The value of our faith is greater than that of the Worlds most protected treasures – But it’s attainment has been made available for all; and it’s value is found in the toughest of times.
In Isaiah we saw this. The Assyrians were a bit over confident – they thought no other God could save the other countries we conquered, what makes this any different. They didn’t boast in their Gods, but in their selves. They mocked God and even blasphemed Him. But the proving was this – There is only one true God and one true faith, and that is in the God who saves. Who cares if you’ve amassed for yourself a bunch of reproduction Mona-Lisa’s; You just met the real deal, and soon enough you will have to give account for your words face to face with Him.
I have found that the reproduction faith is floppy and no different from any other. Every hard time, every challenge is an opportunity to grow in authenticity as we believe in a God we might not always see moving, trusting that He is.
Scripture: James 3:6-12
Our tongue is destructive. The words we say have the power to consume and destroy. The corruptness of our nature is most easily seen in our words. The words we say are not just indicative of where we are, but also where we are going. Toxic words set ‘the whole course of one’s life on fire.’ The junk we spew today will continue to decay and impact tomorrow. James said the tongue itself is ‘set on fire by hell.’ Wow! It’s no wonder one of the first evidences of a person being touched by grace is they clean up their speech; likewise the most commonly seen sign of the baptism of the Holy Spirit is speaking in divine tongues. When heaven invades a person – filling them with the Kingdom – The tongue is the first to respond. The tongue is enslaved by darkness apart from Christ. We can do whatever we want, but there is no way to break the slanderous alignment of the tongue without Christ. Apart from Christ our words are ‘full of deadly poison.’ This being true, then one filled with God’s Holy Spirit will speak words as the antidote. The words of healing found in the scarred hands of the Messiah.
Somehow we initiate faith in Christ for the sake of salvation, but we have one foot in the world and one in heaven. Our identity becomes lost in translation and our tongues tell the story of such identity crisis. One moment the Kingdom flows, then the next the Flesh flows and so on. This should not be! James is saying we cannot praise God and curse His creation with the same tongue. He says you’ve got two types of streams, salt water and fresh water – but neither can produce the other. Either we are salt, or we are not! All in, or confused. That’s where we stand.
Brackish water. That is where fresh water streams meet up with bodies of salt water. In brackish water the variety of fish that can dwell is limited. Likewise as people of faith. The variety of fruit that comes from the brackish faith is limited. God is calling us out into the body of salt water – He calls us the salt of the earth. He is telling us to go all in. No sitting on the fence. We cannot wallow in brackish waters and wonder where the vibrant variety of color found in Caribbean seas cannot be found. We cannot wade in brackish waters with confusion – ‘why isn’t God blessing my life?’ God is calling you out into the deep blue sea. The shallow brackish faith is where the world stops and heaven begins – but it is the translation point. The translation point is no place to stop. Brackish is the beginning of the journey. we have to allow ourselves to be pulled in by the current of the sea to see for ourselves the depths of God’s glory. How do we know if we are in brackish waters? Listen to our words, take an inventory of healing and hurting words. Hurting people hurt people, allow Christ to heal you and draw you out into the deep waters of His grace, so that you too might become a walking message of the God who heals.
God, I know you are calling out from the deep. I know you will lead me into Your promise. Give me the faith to follow your lead out of the flesh, through the brackish to reside in the deep blue with you! I shall not live between two covenants, or confused over two lives, my life is yours, Your Kingdom is my home, you give me everything I need to swim with you in the deep. Amen.
Scripture: James 2:14-17, 24
Just like James 1- ‘If a person claims to be religious and does not keep a tight rein in on their tongue, their religion is useless.’ James is making a convincing argument that our Faith is manifested in what we do and say. People today hate to be told what to do; and thus have looked for the easy street of faith. People somehow have gotten the gospel twisted into this misconception that a prayer or religious activity once and for always can save a person from hell and deliver them into Heaven. That somehow we can choose to accept the philosophy of Christ without allowing it to transform us and still participate in the fullness of blessing. This is a tragedy and has been going on since, well, forever. Before I start to sound too hardnosed; we are saved by GRACE, through faith. It is God’s grace that does the work of salvation, but it is the vehicle of faith that delivers the grace to redeem. James is saying – Grace without faith cannot save. James is saying that we must make the decision to allow faith in God to perpetuate inner movements that manifest signs in our lives. James goes on to talk about the sign of obedience in the life of Abraham and the sign of reverence and protection of promise in Rahab. Our faith must influence our lives at a core level. It is impossible to have absolute faith in God and not be moved by Him. It is impossible for God to be our peace and speak chaos; and it is impossible to believe in a God who can and will move mountains and to shudder every time a speed bump comes along. It is no good for us to profess faith in Jesus and let it stop with the profession, but rather we must allow faith to produce works. We are not saved by our works – even our best is filthy- but our faith is proven when we respond to God with our lives, our words, our actions and in obedience to His call and purpose for His glory. We can talk about faith, we can agree on the things written about God in the Word, but that is insanity on it’s own, how can we wallow and wade in filth and poverty and claim to be well and healthy and do nothing to improve our situation. It’s like being hungry and saying ‘I have food to eat’ but even when we are spoon fed we refuse to swallow. We must maintain responsibility to the faith we profess by allowing it to move us, prove us and groove in us.
I must remember that God is pushing me outside of myself on a consistent basis so that faith might thrive in me and His story is made famous. Preaching is easy to do – There is nothing more agreeable than, ‘God love you,’ and ‘His promises are great and precious.’ The hard part is living out these truths, laying down my guilt-driven motivations and being motivated by a God who has plotted out Glory holes in my life. I need to not just believe in God, but to consistently respond to Him. When I do that, The world is white for the harvest and I can do all things through Christ.
Faithful God, thank You for still loving me through seasons of lack, lack of faith, lack of motivation, lack of obedience. God You have called me to so much more than I have ever realized. Open my eyes to your promise and give me the courage to go hard after your call. Show me Lord that without You I am nothing. Teach me God to respond to your grace with faith – faith that finds it’s manifestation in my words, the works of my fingertips and in the story of a life well spent on Your glory. Thank You for your grace,- Now give me faith. Amen
Scripture: James 1:26-27 & 22
James is making the push for whole life impacting faith. he is saying, ‘Quit wasting time in religious activity and start getting real with a faith that will change your life and impact those around you.’ James 3:10 ‘Out of the same mouth come blessing/praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be/this is not right!’ The whole point of spiritual discipline/religious activity, is to be turned over – in relationship with Christ – to the process of being made new and transformed into His image. The motions don’t matter if they don’t have allowance for internal movement. Going to church, learning the culture, the lingo and becoming a professional bobble head does nothing – it is a worthless thing – that is until the seed of the Word is allowed to spring a root to grow and bear fruit. The central nervous system has it’s center for command in the brain. Our thoughts; both voluntary and involuntary, control our movements – including the mouth. Every word begins with a thought. God has the capability to carry off for the slaughter any thought that is inconsistent with God, His plan, and His identity for those that believe. Our mouths tell our hearts story – its sickness, its health. Out of the overflow of the heart – the mouth speaks. Also the body moves in agreement and in alignment with the mind and heart. We shall not proclaim to be a child of light that lives in darkness. True faith has it’s fruit initially in our words and evidentially in our movements. There we see the switch flipped from doing things for faith and to doing things because of faith. Our words as well as our lives are the professional tell-all. In every thing we do and say, our heart and thoughts are interpreted. They ‘Profess-in-all’ what and who we really are. Blessing and cursing cannot come from the same place. As the decay of the cursing will rob all fruit of its usefulness. I could write on for ever on this- but it is time to do what it says and be transformed. I know I will be continuing this thought through the whole book of James.