Show Me Faith – Pastor Anthony

Scripture: James 2:14-17, 24

Observation:
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.

Application:
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.

Prayer:
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

Profess-In-All- (Professional) – Pastor Anthony

Scripture: James 1:26-27 & 22

Observation:
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.

Public Blood Bath – Pastor Anthony –

Scripture: Hebrews 13:11-13

Observation/application:
The author was writing within the context of a people who were born in Law and where the ‘temple’ was the central physical place of worship – the synagogue being the local place. It was time to leave the familiarities of Judaism and leave it’s place of worship. This was sure to result in rejection as lots of pride must be swallowed in making the statement that Christ has come and that He was the once and for all – fulfilling all the Law so we wouldn’t have to keep practicing the Law. It’s the plunge from one faith to another, but also it’s identity shift from on life to a new one. Now I have recognized that the opposite is plaguing Gods church. Those that once lived a public faith have seen it reduced to 90 minutes in the private security of a counterfeit temple. But we are not to live for ‘private and secure,’ for ‘if anyone wishes to follow me, let him take up His cross and follow me.’ Wow, so laying my life down as a sacrifice, is not a sacrifice worthy of Christ as long as it is still within the privacy and comfort of the church. I need to see Christ outside of the church, not drawing people inside the church – but drawing ALL out unto Himself, OUTSIDE – publicly calling His people by His goodness, covering them in His Identity in His blood. Christ bore the cross and its scorn so that we wouldn’t have to; but we can bear His cross as an expression so that those we meet will no longer be humiliated by sin. The church is a storehouse, fellowship hall, and training center, It helps in the gathering and equipping of the saints, with it comes life long and life altering relationships. BUT the epicenter of faith and true place of ministry is public, outreaching and uncomfortably outside of the four walls of the church. The church exists to facilitate the aftermath of public ministry and to rehabilitate, restore and send those touched by grace. It’s so easy to get this twisted. I need to live outside in faith and humility – trusting the King whose cross publicly displayed His promise.

Prayer:
Most High, I know your calling is high, I know your ways are higher than mine – so show me God how to embrace your way. Teach me not to fall in love with church culture, but to follow the soul-winning culture of public ministry. Wreck me for You and graft me in You. Holy Spirit lead and guide me into the streets as one who has been touched by grace. Give me the confidence to lay it all down for You, so that I, like You, might take a public blood bath and display Your righteousness and glory. Amen.

Embalmed and Guilt Free – Pastor Anthony –

Scripture: Hebrews 10:2-7

Observation:
If a sacrifice or sin offering actually had the ability to “perfect” us, repeated offerings wouldn’t be required – If that could happen people would not return to worship in guilt with offerings, but they would be guilt free and never again approach God with sin offerings. BUT Christ did! But He – as high priest, did not offer the blood of bulls and goats; but rather, He offered Himself perfected on the cross. He – Once and for all acknowledged God’s will and pleased Him; not by offering up the innocence of others, but of His own accord. Because of His victory we are not guilty anymore -‘there is therefore no condemnation for those that are in Christ Jesus. The age of the burnt offering is over. There is a new thing, pleasing to the Lord – ‘You have prepared for me a body… I have come to do Your will my God.’ Christ’s mission in His body pointed to the grave, obedience to the grave in His will. The ultimate realization is that our bodies – our lives – must be made obedient to the will of God in being laid down in the burial waters of baptism and embalmed – Filled for the burial with His Holy Spirit. A pleasing man to the Lord is a dead man walking, filled with the evidence of resurrection power. Inner decay and the stench of death – the ‘dead things in our lives’ are removed and replaced with the sign of preservation – the substance of faith, yielding eternal hope.

Application:
Once and for all – for me, all the time. I need to allow this seed to take deeper root in me and to multiply. Before I allow myself to take enough ownership of sin – I must acknowledge that Christ already owns it – the guilt is not rightfully mine – and now Christ’s Holy Spirit is a reminder of my righteousness, rather than penance for sin. My offering is my life – prepared for the burial, embalmed and sealed by His Spirit.. So I must say – ‘Here I am my God, I have come to do Your will.’

Prayer:
God seal me for burial that I might share in the power of resurrection and see Your will done on earth as it is in Heaven. Amen.

Sing AND Praise – Pastor Anthony

2 Chronicles 20:21-22 “After consulting the people, Jehoshaphat appointed men to sing to the Lord and to praise him for the splendor of his holiness as they went out at the head of the army, saying:

“Give thanks to the Lord,
for his love endures forever.”
22 As they began to sing and praise, the Lord set ambushes against the men of Ammon and Moab and Mount Seir who were invading Judah, and they were defeated.”

Observation:
Jehoshephat sought the LORD because the vast army was way more than he could handle. He gathered all the people and God spoke instruction and victory through Jehaziel in verses 12-17. After this meeting, all the people followed Gods instruction and went to watch at the edge of a gorge where the enemy was gathering – verses 19-20. Now Jehoshaphat appoints men to sing AND praise God. With their faces towards a massive enemy army, their eyes, hearts and voices lifted to God; not in despair, but in Jubilation – Praising God for the splendor of His holiness – ‘He is Good,’ and ‘His Love endures forever.’ Now the Word says AS they began to sing AND praise. The singing was not what God required – but praise. Singing isn’t worship – praise is worship. 20:19 said after God spoke through Jahaziel that they ‘praised the LORD, the God of Israel, with a very loud voice.’

In our churches today, we sing songs to God, and about God – but the enemy is silenced and the attack destroyed when praise becomes the driving force for singing. So now a nation is facing either demise or a miracle from God. As they sang AND praised, God moved. God confused the enemies and they turned on each other. There is no battle that the LORD cannot intercede for us. But why doesn’t He? Could it be that going through the motions isn’t good enough. Singing songs on Sunday morning doesn’t have great impact as long as our attention is fixed on the enemy. I cannot give the enemy the glory of being terrified when God’s promise is contested. I can go to God and praise Him for who He is and even if disaster comes; the LORD will be with me. Jesus is looking for those who will worship Him in ‘Spirit and in Truth,’ John 4:24.

I have a mental picture of a child who is constantly playing with their favorite toy and ignoring their father. When it’s time to eat; they play, asked to clean up; they play. The child is completely absorbed by the toy. But then the father gets a little attention; only when another child threatens to steal the toy – then the child runs to the father to keep the toy. If it breaks – Daddy is there to fix it. But the fathers instructions are ignored and He is all but forgotten as long as they have that toy – Their real God. The father is never praised for theperson He is. He is a tool and only loved when something more beloved is threatened.

God isn’t asking us to just sing songs so our problems go away, but to praise Him for who He is alone. The interpretation of the mental picture is that our life and the cares of it are like our favorite toy. We can get so wrapped up with ourselves that we ignore God. We have this gift called ‘life’ as a gift and promise for God; but we are not to worship the toy – but the giver. God is the giver. Jesus said, ‘Whoever wishes to save their life will lose it; but whoever loses their life for my sake, will find it.’ Luke 9:24. When all of our attention is give to our lives and problems and God only plays the role of ‘Fixer and Saver’ when we decide; He takes the backseat to the true object of worship – Our life and it’s problems. God becomes a tool, not the object of worship. The praise of God silences the enemies, but we cannot praise Him because that is our way of manipulating God to act on our behalf. We must have an attitude of praise no matter what. Praise is our eternal mode. So now; when problems come we must not be distracted from praise and turn to despair, but we must consider our life nothing and praise Him for ‘He is great, and greatly to be praised’ -Psalm 145:3. Praise is the strategy for God’s plan!

Application:
Prayers of petition are good. We can boldly approach God with need, but this boldness is found in an abandoned life and faith in God’s plan. I need to embrace this more and let go of control in my life and ministry. This is also a great application for worship services. I get so upset sometimes when people don’t seem to enter in and participate. But the solution isn’t to get them to sing songs and through them find praise; but to help people find a source of praise and launch into worship in the attitude of praise. I’ve got to help identify these things and with God’s help; lay a strong foundation for life changing praise to flow.

Prayer:
God, work on my heart. Show me more how to praise You for You, not just what You do and can do. When the source of praise is what you do for ME; will praise die on bad days? Teach me to praise You for You in the way Paul and Silas did – naked, beaten and in chains. I know You move when I forsake all for the sake of Your glory. Amen.

Following Requires Great Trust – Pastor Anthony –

Scripture: Ezekiel 47:1-6

Observation:
First we have the waters trickling from the house, an image of the household of Israel. The waters are coming from the east first – the direction of worship. By the time we get to the end of this passage we see what a great river flows out of this place. This is a beautiful picture. These waters are not destructive, but they are peaceful and full of life.
The man led Ezekiel out in calculated steps. Ankle deep then waist deep, and then over the head. The crazy thing is that Ezekiel follows the guy. Even for a vision, what would possess someone to follow so uncomfortably?
Finally after being in over his head, he was asked if he took it in. Then he was safely brought back to comfort, solid ground.

Application:
I want to begin this with worship. When we worship Jesus things are happening spiritually that we do not understand naturally and cannot accomplish outside of worship. The blessing and leading of God is flowing out of a place of worship. I know this is a picture for the household of Israel, but it is also a great picture of what my household should be like and what the Church should reflect.
Why is worship sometimes shallow? Because shallow/ankle deep is comfortable. Ankle deep requires no trust except that the water temp is right. Ankle deep waters are not hard to walk in. they don’t easily carry you away either. But ankle deep is a starting place, keep following the Lord. Am I ankle deep in some areas of faith… Is faith supposed to have areas? Is it faith if I have ankle deep faith for one promise or direction of God and over the head depth for other things? I am still listening for clarity on these questions.
After being ankle deep we are always led deeper, it’s our responsibility to follow.
Chest deep and the waters are not so quiet. Chest deep in the river, I can jump and be carried a little ways. None the less I am still in control. Nerves kick in and now this becomes a question of trust. Do I trust God’s leadership enough to go deeper?
In over the head requires diligent sacrificial faith. It asks me to count my life as nothing for the sake of following Him. It requires me to be like the psalmist and “fear no evil for you are with me.” It almost seems easier to give my life up than to give up control over my life. But God is asking me to do both. Give it all up, life, and control the over it.
Whatever depth I am at, God isn’t going to leave me there. He is going to lead me and He is patient waiting for my following. God isn’t hanging out in the deep end while I’m doing the alligator crawl in the kiddy pool. He leads and waits. I also noticed that He will lead us back to solid ground – a place of self confidence. When we take in the depths of His call, when we follow and labor to follow. When we trust like crazy – God leads us to a place to rest – labor into rest. God gives us mind-blowing revelations in the deep end, but then gives us two feet to stand on, so that we too might lead from a starting place.
As a leader, I have to remember not to yell out encouragement from the deep end, but to be patient and encouraging from the wading pool… or wherever people are at.
I have to be honest, this is scary. This requires a great deal of trust. It requires my eyes to be on the Lord. This requires me to know his heart and intentions are good, that He is Good. This requires me to follow Him out of a place of humility and worshipful sacrifice.

Prayer:
God thank you for your leading. Thank you that you wait patiently for me to follow. Teach me to make you the constant object of worship. Teach me to turn my affections and attention towards you. Lead me deeper. Teach me the benefits of vulnerability in following You. I want to follow you, wherever you lead. Give me the strength to give up control. Give me the confidence in YOU, to follow; trusting in your goodness. Let streams of living waters flow from the altar of my household and church. Impact a city with your goodness – Start with me.

Johns call is mine too. – Pastor Anthony –

Scripture: Luke 1:67-80

Observation:
God is great and greatly to be praised. His Goodness extends before the foundation of time. God shows mercy to us in keeping His promises. Praise God for the fulfillment of His promise to Abraham, the same promise is for me today.
God has given us the message to spread the knowledge of salvation (2 peter 1 all things that pertain to life and Godliness through the Knowledge of Him.) We are recipients of the fulfillment of His promises, Fear of man has no place, we are free to worship Him and Him alone. Again God is merciful, He causes the sun to rise and fall, even on our darkest situations… Death itself – God is sending a rising Sun – The Son – The Light of Salvation, to cast out the shadows and guide our way rightly and peacefully.
John Grew up, not just in stature, but he became strong in spirit (faith) and He lived a life that reflected the evidences of God’s call.

Application:
First let me never forget that in everything I do, I should start by giving God praise. When I read this word spoken by a father over His son, I think of my own children. The power of prophecy. I will prophecy over my children more intentionally during the times that I pray for them.
God is so good, He has been so merciful. This mercy is still in the process of defining me. As I continue to connect more and more with Gods great mercy; let me grow in the Knowledge of salvation and strength in spirit.
This word was spoken specifically over John the Baptist as a ‘for-runner’ preparing the way for the Lord. John understood this. John didn’t live a life that was worried about acceptance of man. He understood that even unto death that there was no room to seek the acceptance of man. John lived in the wilderness, He didn’t dress like everyone else, he didn’t conform to fit. But in living out Gods call on his life to its fullest definition, he grew.
This also is my call. As a for-runner, to lead people to the knowledge and joy of salvation. There is no room for fear of man, there is no room for conformity. There is only need for me to be fully defined by Christs work and ministry in, to, and through me.

Prayer:
Thank you Jesus for your mercy. I pray that you will lead me to speak YOUR words over my children. Let the prophetic call be embraced and true in my life and my household. Help me Lord to stay focused on what you would have for me to do and teach me to live a life that reflects your calling. Define me by your love and let me ooze the message of Your salvation. Thank you for the ministry of humility that John had. Teach me to number my days, teach me to be humble, lead me into your light. Thank you for being my refuge, my strength, my daddy – Pappa God.

The Bridle of Revelation – Pastor Anthony

Scripture: Proverbs 29:18 ‘Where there is no revelation people cast off restraint; but blessed is the one who deeds wisdom’s instruction.

Observation:
God’s revealed wisdom – revelation – is the vehicle through which God provides righteous leadership. His revelation is the bridle in our jaws. By wisdom, He guides us, and He stalls us. Heeding to His wisdom is hearing, ‘Whoa,’ and feeling the gentle nudge hither-to and fro. If we choose not to be led – our path becomes wayward, we become lost and endangered. But Wisdom is my bridle – led by Him, He shows me the Way. He coaches me along, the Kingdom saddled on my back. he is blessing His path, revealing His way and by WIsdom turning my head. Seeking God, is to submit to His leadership, way, and wisdom.

Application:
My way is not lost, or wild, or careless is along the way I am seeking God and His revelation. I must lean into Him and in submission to His way take the bridal and carry the Kingdom wherever He may lead. My life lacks discipline apart from God’s Wisdom.

Prayer:
Lord, my God, Teach me to seek and respond to Your revelation – Your wisdom. Restrain me from a wayward path. Coach me along Your path in Your righteousness. Amen.

From the Inside out – Pastor Anthony –

Scripture: Proverbs 27:19 – ‘As water reflects the face, so ones life reflects the heart.’

Observation:
My heart is the core engine that drives my life. Everything I do. Everything anyone does has it’s life root in the heart. What fills my heart, will fill my life. A broken heart is seen in a broken life, broken relationships and made clearly – externally present. Likewise a whole heart will lead to a whole life – full of faith, hope, love, joy and peace. As life is perceived – so also are the depths of the heart uncovered.

Application:
I need to embrace this truth from the inside out. I cannot change my heart with deeds, actions, external appearances. I need a heart surrendered to Christ, so that my life becomes a reflection of such surrender. I must keep asking my heart, “What is driving you?” Let love cast out fear, faith replace worry and hope replace dispair and anger. Heart issues are God issues – my heart is at the potters wheel. Surrendered to God – He will shape my heart – He will shape my life into something glorious for His own pleasure.

Prayer:
I lay me down – I see my heart is what You’re after, You can have it, and with my heart – shape my life to reflect your goodness, greatness and glory. Amen.

Wasted Words – Pastor Anthony –

Scripture: Proverbs 23:9, Romans 14:1,13,16,17,19,22.

Observation: Our words are wasted in these arguments; even our carefully chosen ‘prudent’ word will turn to scorn. The fool is convinced otherwise. Don’t be a fool by arguing with one. Likewise the petty arguments in the church have painted the picture of a confused foolish religion. People divided over interpretations – arguing for the sake of pride and self-righteousness – rather than; in silence, allowing Christ’s righteousness be revealed. Our words are wasted and don’t cause righteousness when our most sincere motives are formed from the position of being ‘right,’ or needing to be right on the matter.

Christ bestows blessing in a place of unity; convictions- when biblical shall not become stumbling blocks for someone else’s faith.

Application: I need to recognize the obstacles I have placed by my own convictions and remove them. For the sake of mutual edification find unity and work towards it. I need to remember to pass judgement on differences in conviction is to ‘condemn myself’ and waste my efforts and words.

Prayer: LORD, help me to lead from a place of unity and not to influence self righteous opinions. Keep me humble and ve righteous in me, so that You might lead many to You and correct our wasted words. Amen.