A few days ago, I was working in my home office, and I called out to my wife Tara because I wanted her attention (realistically, I probably just wanted Twizzlers or something…don’t judge me). There was no response. I knew she wasn’t too far away, so I called out again. No response. I cautiously elevated my voice (just in case she couldn’t hear me)…still no response.

I finally stormed upstairs to see what could be more important than my needs in that very moment, only to see Tara multi-tasking with a phone call and doing her nails. Not only could she not hear me, but the overwhelming smell of acetone and nail polish let me know that she couldn’t have helped me anyways.

Unfortunately, many of us view God in the same manner. We’ve said many prayers, cried many tears, endured many trials, all to feel as if
•God isn’t hearing me, or
•Even if He is, He’s too busy to lend me a helping hand.

Take a look at what the prophet Isaiah has to say:

Listen! The Lord’s arm is not too weak to save you, nor is His ear too deaf to hear you call.                                   (Isaiah 59:1 NLT)

I believe this is a wake up call for us to begin (or go back to) viewing God for who He really is. Society has attempted to nullify the existence of God, diminish the power of Jesus Christ, and trivialize the necessity of the Holy Spirit. I have news for you:

God is not deaf to your prayers!
God is not blind to your situations!
God is not powerless to your need!

My challenge to you today is look at your current circumstance or situation, and then be honest with yourself about how you’re viewing God through it all. Is God some Sunday morning notion that is a last minute lifeline…or is He your ever-faithful Abba Father, loving enough to hear every prayer and strong enough to conquer every mountain in your life? I don’t know about you, but I serve the ever-faithful, ever-powerful, living God!

Choose today to serve the Isaiah 59:1 God.

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Scripture

1Now it came to pass in the days of Ahaz the son of Jotham, the son of Uzziah, king of Judah,that Rezin king of Syria and Pekah the son of Remaliah, king of Israel, went up to Jerusalem to make war against it, but could not prevail against it. 2And it was told to the house of David, saying, “Syria’s forces are deployed in Ephraim.” So his heart and the heart of his people were moved as the trees of the woods are moved with the wind. | Isaiah 7:1-2

Then the Lord said to Isaiah, “Go out now to meet Ahaz, you and Shear-Jashub your son, at the end of the aqueduct from the upper pool, on the highway to the Fuller’s Field, 4and say to him: ‘Take heed, and be quiet; do not fear or be fainthearted for these two stubs of smoking firebrands, for the fierce anger of Rezin and Syria, and the son of Remaliah. | Isaiah 7:3-4

Observation

King Ahaz was facing imminent attack by the kingdoms of Israel and Syria. Ahaz’s reaction was that of sorrow, fear and timidity, and his reaction imparted down to his people. Not only was his faith in God not evident in his life, it also negatively impacted the faith of his people.

Application

As leaders, we are always subject to an agenda of the devil against our lives. After all, the devil is only troubled by those that actually threaten his plans for humanity. Despite his agenda, we know that we are more than conquerors through Christ, and that there really isn’t any battle, since the battle was already won on the cross at Calvary…AMEN! Although we know this in our spirit, we sometimes fall victim to the weakness of our soul, and the threat of natural attacks begin to permeate into our thoughts, feelings and emotions. In this passage, God highlights through the prophet Isaiah three key things to be mindful of as leaders when the threat of an attack arises:

1.) Take heed and be careful. As leaders, we need to mindful and aware that the devil has an agenda against you. But take refuge in the fact that no matter the agenda, the plan and purpose God has for your life triumphs over all! As you continue to understand and receive God’s plans for you, there will be less room for the devil’s agenda to manifest itself in your life.

2.) BE QUITE & STOP COMPLAINING! We need to stop claiming things that were never intended for our lives! The power of life and death are in the tongue, and as a leader, we cannot afford to be operating in the lies that the devil tries to impart into our lives. Not only should you stop complaining ABOUT the problem, but also stop complaining TO people! Find encouragement and direction in the Word of God, and pray to the Holy Spirit for guidance through your situation.

3.) DO. NOT. FEAR. Our victory is rooted in our praise and our faith, not fear. This implies an on-going reliance and trust in God, not in the temporary circumstances that make present themselves in our lives. God is not moved by our problems; He is moved to action by your unshakable faith and unstoppable praise.

Prayer

Heavenly Father, I thank you for calling and choosing us as leaders for Your kingdom. We understand that the threats of attacks in our lives are nothing but aggravation against the devil’s agenda, but we take great joy in knowing that there is no battle, no struggle, and no problem. We operate and walk in faith, and we thank You for Your faithfulness to us. In the name of Jesus, we declare that our mind, thoughts and actions will transform to that of champions that will triumph over every single situation. By the authority of name of Jesus, we cancel every attack spoken against our lives, our families, our families, our circles of influence, and our respective ministries. We declare the blood of Jesus to cover and protect us, and for the Holy Spirit to continually guide us as we continue to conquer hell. We thank You for broken chains and restored faith through this prayer, and we seal the fruit of this prayer in the name of Jesus…AMEN!Image

Scripture

Now it came to pass, when Jesus had finished these parables, that He departed from there. When He had come to His own country, He taught them in their synagogue, so that they were astonished and said, “Where did this Man get this wisdom and these mighty works? Is this not the carpenter’s son? Is not His mother called Mary? And His brothers James, Joses, Simon, and Judas? And His sisters, are they not all with us? Where then did this Man get all these things?” So they were offended at Him. | Matthew 13:53-57 (NKJV)

Observation

Jesus is finally returning to the hometown that had contributed to His childhood upbringing and helped shape Him into the natural man He had become. All this time, He had been pouring into those that weren’t an integral part of his early years…those that have been in desperate need of a Savior, a Helping Hand, and above all a Friend. And now, He is returning home.

And yet Jesus finds Himself met by offense. His countrymen, those He went to school with, those He ran around the playground with, those that babysat Him while Joseph and Mary were out on date night (work with me here), the people He had the most familiarity with…all have turned from family friend to emerging foe.

The most striking angle of the offense is the comparison of Jesus to natural standards. Just like everyone else, wasn’t He just a man, with a mother like you and I, a father like you and I, siblings like you and I? In His countrymen’s mindset, “What makes Jesus so special if He’s just one of us?” 

Application

If we were to take a serious look at our lives, specifically the moments where we have taken up offense(s), would our mindset, words and actions line up with those of Jesus’ countrymen? Where an individual that is operating in the gifting that God has birthed into them causes us such animosity and insecurity, which ultimately leads to offense? The circumstances may differ from situation to situation, but the reality remains the same: offense blinds us from opportunity

This is what I mean by opportunity. Matthew 13:58 states that Jesus didn’t do many mighty works in his hometown. basically, He performed average works, less than the caliber of works He had been performing outside of Nazareth. Can you imagine the magnitude of opportunity the Nazarenes passed up by taken up an offense against Jesus? If He had been casting out unclean spirits, restoring broken bodies, making the mute to speak and the blind to see, and raising people from the dead…imagine how much more He could’ve done for His own people!

Interestingly enough, I believe that we do the same thing when we take up an offense with an individual. If God was to place someone in my path and in my life that is operating fully in their potential, gifting, and supernatural power, then I would venture to say I’m somewhat of a fool to push them away with an offense versus being drawn to the opportunity. By opportunity, perhaps my faith needs to be strengthened by someone who is fully operating in their calling. By opportunity, perhaps my insecurities can be minimized by being mentored by someone that has full confidence in who they are in Christ. By opportunity, perhaps my feelings of “fighting this faith battle alone” are being removed by a fellow warrior in the faith being divinely introduced into my life for the continued work of the kingdom.

Too often, we are blinded and distracted from the opportunities God has for us. In those moments where animosty, insecurity, and worst of all offense, desire to bubble up in our spirit and overtake our emotions, we should instead look to and grab hold of the opportunity God has for us in the situation. If we serve a good God that thinks good thoughts towards us and has good plans for us, then we must understand that there is a good opportunity that God has for us in every situation, through every circumstance, and especially with every individual.

Prayer

Heavenly Father, I thank you for Your desire to do good, greater, and the greatest works in our lives. I thank you for the impartation of our spiritual gifts, but also for the unseen blessings of those that you divinely place into our lives. Regardless of our feelings and emotions, Your opportunities for our lives are perfect and ready for us. In the name of Jesus, I declare thoughts of animosity, insecurity and soul-binding offenses to be eradicated from our lives! I declare that the dutimous power of Jesus come into our lives and heal all soul wounds in order for us to clearly see, appreciate and take hold of the opportunities You have for us. In Jesus’ mighty name, Amen.

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Scripture

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it.” 1 Corinthians 9:24 (ESV)

“Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win!” 1 Corinthians 9:24 (NLT)

Observation

This is a harsh reality of life: at the end of the day, not everyone is a winner. Everyone is moving with such momentum and acceleration, and often times, the people you interact with on a daily basis are pursuing the same things as you. Whether it be professional aspirations, personal accolades or spiritual development, we are moving with the idea to be progressing towards a goal…but so is everyone else.

Despite the promises in God’s Word, the prophecies spoken into our lives, and our relentless pursuit of God for answers, we often find ourselves in motion but rarely coming out on top. In this race of life, we are defining ourselves more as mere participants and less as winners. I believe that the disconnect lies in us having good INTENT but not being INTENTIONAL.

Application

For us to be true winners in life, we need to stop thinking about it…we need to start acting like it! Furthermore, there needs to exist a sense of tenacity towards being a winner in life! The word “obtain” in 1 Corinthians 9:24 comes from the Greek word katalambano, which means to take eagerly. Being a winner and victorious in life is yours for the taking, but you must not only want it but passionately & purposely pursue after it! Declare this with me:

I WILL be a WINNER in my family.
I WILL be a WINNER in my relationships.
I WILL be a WINNER in my job.
I WILL be a WINNER in my finances.
I WILL be a WINNER in my ministry.
I WILL be a WINNER in the emotional health.
I WILL be a WINNER in the spiritual battles of life.
I WILL be a WINNER in everything I put my mind to today.

Now, if you truly believe those declarations…what are you going to do differently from yesterday  so you can be a true WINNER today? You are not only destined for greatness…you are destined to WIN.

Prayer

Heavenly Father, I pray that you impart into us the strength to put action behind our intent to win in life. Your Word declares us to victorious and more than conquerors, and we receive that not only in thought, but also in our every day steps. Guide us in our journey of being intentional, so through our nature of being winners, our life’s testimony may bring more glory to Your name. In the name of Jesus, Amen!

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Scripture

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Don’t judge by his appearance or height, for I have rejected him. The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7 NLT)

Observation

The reign of King Saul was drawing to an end, and the time was near for Israel to be led by a new king. The prophet Samuel was sent out by God to anoint Saul’s successor, and here he has arrived at the house of Jesse. Despite his wisdom, Samuel sizes up one of Jesse’s sons based on his appearance and physical stature, only to draw this conclusion – he fits the profile, so he must be the one! God intervenes and makes a startling declaration that, needless to say, contradicts our and society’s current mindset: the heart of a man will always triumph over the qualification of a man.

Application

In the event that you’ve been terribly busy and out of touch with society over the past few days, let me quickly bring you up to speed on what’s been going in the biggest arena of NCAA Men’s Basketball…MARCH MADNESS! Each year, this tournament highlights at least one major underdog emerging from the background and stealing the spotlight (unfortunately, my alma mater Villanova University didn’t do too hot, but I’ll let that one slide for now). The biggest underdog story this year is undoubtedly the 15th-ranked Florida Gulf State Coast University (FGCU) stunning 2nd-ranked Georgetown with a first round defeat. 2013-03-23-fgcu-16_9Oh, the lamenting on every social media site about the brokenness of brackets and predictions due to this unforeseen loss! See, FGCU didn’t fit the profile of a champion when compared to Georgetown: proven track record, talent, funding, prestigious basketball program, experience, etc. In light of this, let me tell you what FGCU did have (and played with) on March 22nd: HEART.

You see, FGCU exemplifies what God was trying to reveal to Samuel: the heart of a man will always triumph over the qualification of a man. Many of you that are reading this have been at one time or another disqualified due to not fitting the profile or “just not measuring up”. You may be viewed , or even worse view yourself, as a background player that is only good for where you’re currently at. I am writing today to encourage you to break away from that lie of life! God is not interested in your credentials, accolades, or earthly achievements; God is interested in a person whose HEART is passionately pursuing after Him. Why is this? Why don’t our accomplishments and personal resume matter in the grand scheme of things? Here’s why: achievements bring glory back to the individual; the passionate and unadulterated pursuit of the heart brings glory back to God. Trust me when I say this, God is much more attracted and in desire of your heart longing & thirsting after His own, and when He has your heart, watch out! I declare that you will be elevated and placed in positions that will allow God’s glory to permeate through you! You WILL be that underdog that emerges from the background and you WILL triumph as a champion! This is YOUR season, and your heart, not your qualifications, will see you through the end.

Prayer

Dear God, I pray that we will begin to see ourselves as You see us: a people that have been called and destined for victory, greatness, and leaving a positive impact on this world. I thank You for the deeper revelation of what truly attracts You: a heart that is pure, in need and forever longing for You. I pray that You bring someone along our path this week to share this encouraging Word as we have been encouraged by it, for we are blessed to be a blessing to others. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Scripture

“Is there anyone here who, planning to build a new house, doesn’t first sit down and figure the cost so you’ll know if you can complete it? If you only get the foundation laid and then run out of money, you’re going to look pretty foolish. Everyone passing by will poke fun at you: ‘He started something he couldn’t finish.’ (Luke 14:28-30 MSG)

Observation

In this passage, Jesus is painting a picture of the uncalculated cost. He relates it to someone that had an idea to build a house and set forth in the project without first understanding if he could afford to complete the project. Unfortunately for this builder, there are insufficient funds to complete the project, and the apparent failure to count the cost is now apparent to the outsiders looking in.

Application

This parable presented by Jesus parallels too often what happens with Christians or those coming to Christianity. Don’t get me wrong, it is amazing and exciting to see people that have been living an unfulfilled life give their hearts to Jesus! Even more, it is a beautiful sight to see someone that had walked away from their relationship with Jesus Christ to come back into His presence, being fully received back into welcoming arms…it is truly amazing!

But what next? Notice how the passage calls for the builder to count the cost to FINISH. There is so much more to the call of Christianity past going to church on a Sunday and posting bible verses as Facebook statuses. The call is much more than relying on good works and volunteer hours to feel accomplished and in good moral/ethical standing. According to this passage, there is a cost associated with this call, and I would be doing you a great disservice without shedding some insight into this cost. So here is it:

1. You DO NOT have to clean up your life before coming to Jesus. A theologian draws the analogy of washing up before taking a bath…it doesn’t make sense! Jesus has the desire AND power to wash you clean of your past, your insecurities, your fears, your soul wounds, and anything else that has hindered you from being a partaker of His grace for you. Your cost of following Jesus is not dependent on how clean you are when you present yourself to Him; your cost is dependent on simply presenting yourself to Him.

2. Once you let Jesus into your life, you DO have to allow Him to clean up your life. It’s interesting to see some people say, ” Of course I want Jesus to be my Lord and Savior…but I still want to control my life.” That’s like paying for car maintenance but then coming home and doing it yourself even after paying…just doesn’t make sense! This is the cost that so many people struggle with…control. Power. Authority. In some respects, it’s as if the passage is asking, “it’s not about can you afford to follow Jesus. It’s about can you afford not to follow Jesus?” And therein lies the true cost.

It’s as simple as that. When I have to count the cost, I have to understand that I can come to Jesus EXACTLY the way that I am right now, but I need to be willing and able to allow Jesus to clean my life up. Luke 14:33 says to forsake all that you have as counting the cost. That passage is often misinterpreted, for its Greek connotation meant to “say goodbye to.” Are you ready to say goodbye to the old life? Are you ready to say goodbye to the need for control and holding on to the past? Are you ready to say goodbye to the safety net that has hindered you from spiritual growth for all these years? If the answer is a sincere yes, then my friend, you’re on the right path of counting the cost. I’d be lying to you if I say it’ll be easy, but trust me when I say this…it’ll be worth it eternally.

Prayer

Dear God, I pray that anyone reading this would begin to feel Your heart’s desire for us. You exhibit a love that transcends human comprehension, a love so deep that an attempt to focus on it will bring a strong man to his knees in humility and adoration. I thank you that Your love is strong enough to take us at any point where we are in life. I thank you even more that you enlighten us about the cost of embracing this love into our lives so that we understand what is in store for us. The most amazing thing is that you’ve already told us what is waiting for us at the finish line…such an awesome God you are! I pray right now, in the name of Jesus, that the strongholds of control and hardened hearts will begin to melt away so that Your love and grace can come in & begin to do a great work. I thank you Lord for the healings and testimonies that will come of this. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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Scripture

At the Lord’s command, the whole community of Israel left the wilderness of Sin and moved from place to place. Eventually they camped at Rephidim, but there was no water there for the people to drink. (Exodus 17:1 NLT)

But tormented by thirst, they continued to argue with Moses. “Why did you bring us out of Egypt? Are you trying to kill us, our children, and our livestock with thirst?” (Exodus 17:3 NLT)

Observation

At this point, the Israelites have been delivered from the hand of the Egyptians, witnessed firsthand the demise of Pharaoh’s army as they were swallowed up by the Red Sea, and have been provided for with manna and quail from heaven. Despite all these provisions, they reach a point of lacking water and their faith crumbles. In anger (and with sincerity), they turn to Moses, demanding rationale for bringing them out of Egypt; after all, at least they had menial provisions while in slavery versus none at all while walking in supposed “freedom”.

Application

For all of us, 2013 will be full of victories, conquests, natural and spiritual promotions, physical and emotional healings, and God responding to our hearts’ desires. BUT…, there will come a moment (or several moments) in 2013 where things will get tough, and in that moment, we may be tempted to think and/or say, “I wish it was 2012! At least it wasn’t AS DIFFICULT!

Stop and think about it for a second. Has our God ever failed us (Psalm 136)? Does He not know what we have been through, what we are going through (Matthew 6:8), and has He not provided a way out for us (1 Corinthians 10:13)? Doesn’t the God we serve have a phenomenal, perfect plan for each and every single one of us (Jeremiah 29:11)?

Be encouraged that when the menial provisions of 2012 seem more attractive than the tough, trying times of 2013, God has your well-being, abundance of provision(s), and undeniable victory as the first things on His mind for you. Let us not be like the Israelites who were fixated on the SURVIVAL of 2012; rather, let us be focused and excited for the abundant VICTORY of 2013.

Prayer

Dear God, as we enter into this new year, we do not forget what you’ve done for us in 2012. From the blessings to the trials from which we have endured, we understand and are thankful that every piece of our life works together for good (Romans 8:28). But we do not want to stay focused on 2012; God, we want to prepare our hearts to jump into 2013 and receive everything this year has to offer. We pray for a purposed disconnect from 2012 and past years that will inhibit us from partaking of what 2013 has in store for us. Even in the trying times of 2013, we pray that you make these verses alive in our Spirit as an encouragement to never give up, never look back, and never doubt Your faithfulness. We thank You and love You Lord. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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