Just Great

“The whole extent of hell, the present suffering, the bitter recollection of the past, the hopeless prospect of the future, will never be thoroughly known except by those who go there.”- J. C. Ryle

Because we have never visited hell we don’t know how great a death we have been saved from.  But Paul said “Who delivered us from so great a death, and does deliver us; in whom we trust that He will still deliver us” ( 2 Corinthians 1:10) To deliver us from such great death, God provided a great, chain snapping, bondage breaking, and sin cleansing salvation.  The Bible calls it a great salvation. “How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him” (Hebrews 2:3)

In this great salvation, Jesus has saved us, delivered us from death and hell but that’s not all. We are saved from the devil, from shame, hopelessness, and fear.  Yes!  We are saved from sins power, from the flesh, from bitterness and hatred but greater than the things He saved us from, are the things He saved us for.

He saved us for a new life – He saved us for peace and for purpose. He saved us for heaven for His family and for the kingdom of God. He saved us for divine power and for works of ministry but mostly He saved us for Himself.  Jesus purchased us at a great price we are worth so much to God. He paid the same price for you as he paid for Billy Graham and the Queen. He died to save Englishman and Indians.  He saved tinkers, tailors, soldiers, and sailors; rich men, poor men, beggar men, and thieves.  It is a great salvation! When Jewish Peter was on a roof wondering if God could love gentiles like us, he saw a sheet came down from heaven holding unclean animals. It was not a handkerchief and it was not a size that could fit inside his lounge. No, it spread out over the earth.  “He saw heaven opened and an object like a great sheet bound at the four corners, descending to him and let down to the earth. (Act 10:11)  Every unclean thing was inside this great sheet. God said, “What God has cleansed you must not call common.” Act 10:11) 

Friend, He has cleansed you. You are not common or unclean. God gave Peter a great picture to say that no person is too unclean nor is their sin so great, that God cannot save them by His great Grace.

 

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God of the Valleys

Many years ago I was in Nepal, when I heard the news that my wife had almost died from a hemorrhage, due to an ectopic pregnancy. It was hard for me being overseas and even harder for my wife. As leaders, we’d like to think that God would keep us from the valleys of trouble and pain, but one thing God wants to do is to teach us that he is God of the mountain and the valleys.
He does not lead us there but he doesn’t keep us from the valleys either. He may not lead us there but he will be there with you. If you like – God doesn’t prevent every trouble – He doesn’t step in and stop every challenge and difficult time coming our way, but He will help us out of the troubles or through those troubles. The Bible says “Many are the afflictions of the righteous but the Lord delivers us from them all”
What God wants to do, is to be part of your life; to be in your life. He wants to be the wind beneath your wings and to have involvement in your challenges and simply keeping you from every trial and trouble would inevitably keep Him locked outside your life.
God does not always control circumstances on the front end but he always gets involved and delivers on the back end. This is how we grow. As His children we don’t just go through trouble; a believer always grows through troubles. David was convinced that God never left him nor forsook him. That conviction changes everything
Friend, heaven is no place to grow kids. There has to be some resistance; some things to overcome some trouble to bear in order to grow up strong and capable. A strong faith cannot be achieved by weak or small challenges

Honor your self

David was small compared to Goliath but not to other men. The idea that David was some kind of small, puny guy is not true. David was a shepherd, he was a tough man, and he was a man’s man. He killed a lion and a bear with his bare hands!  Saul was a head & shoulders taller than anyone else in the land and Saul must have sized David up before he offered David his armor.  So it is likely that David was a big and strong man like his bother Eliab “So Saul clothed David with his armor, and he put a bronze helmet on his head; he also clothed him with a coat of mail. David fastened his sword to his armor and tried to walk, for he had not tested them. And David said to Saul, “I cannot walk with these, for I have not tested them.” So David took them off  (1Sam 17:38-39) 

David couldn’t use the armor, not because it didn’t fit but because he hadn’t tested it.  Because he wasn’t used to it – it wasn’t his tools.  David was anointed to be king, but it wasn’t his time, his calling was still a shepherd. So he goes down to the stream picks us five smooth stones and puts them in his shepherd’s bag. When Goliath who was over nine feet tall, looks down at David, he doesn’t see a small man he sees a shepherd. David still has his staff, and his shepherd’s bag, containing the sling, and the five rocks.   He wasn’t trying to be a soldier; he had no proof of any other calling.  The Bible says, “and Goliath was enraged, and he said am: I a dog that you are coming at me with a stick (which is a staff)?” Goliath dishonored David’s calling but God honored it. David knew that God will prosper you in your calling.  One of the most destructive things we can do is always wish we were somebody else. To be the best Bob that Ted can be.

Friends, honor the strengths and callings of other people and live within your own.  Go through a process to find your talents and calling.  Work out what God has gifted you to be and live in the centre of that.  That is your sweet spot. Don’t live your whole life and never become who you are meant to be.

 

 

 

Emmanuel

The prophet said He shall be called Emmanuel (God with us) but the angel told Mary to call His name Jesus.  (God our Savior) These are effectively the same. God saves us by being with us.  Within us and with us, He is our righteousness, our Life, and our mighty Helper.   When Jesus left the planet He said “Go and lo, I will be with you always, until the end of the age. Or I will always be Emmanuel as you go.

Jesus was born to be with us and continues to be with us as we execute His mission. When the apostles cried out to God for help, God shook the place where they were praying. God answered with His power not just because they asked but because they were going to continue the mission; they went out and kept preaching.

He has a fresh anointing for you on His mission. You don’t need a fresh anointing to heal the sick, till you actually start to pray for those who are ill. You don’t need a fresh anointing to prophesy until you stand up to prophesy. You don’t need a fresh anointing to witness till you begin to do it and only when you actually stand up to face the enemy or confront your stronghold, is the Holy Spirits powerfully released through you.

When you have received the fresh anointing it will change the way you live because Gods anointing enables the changes you have decided to make. The evidence of the anointing is not running, falling or shouting but being able to live in righteousness peace and joy. To live in righteousness rather than compromise; to live in peace in the midst of trouble and joy when required to live alongside difficult people.  Now that He is with us, we are changed and He changes the way we can live.

Friend, Jesus the Savior came to be with us. The presence of His Spirit means all of Heaven is with you in the battle. The anointing doesn’t mean there will be no enemies; it means that God can defeat your enemies.  It doesn’t mean there will be no troubles but it does mean that you can live for a purpose and a mission bigger than your troubles.   “Go and Lo I will be with you …”

Convictions

A man without convictions is as weak as a door on one hinge.  In a postmodern world where everything is “true ” or at least acceptable, convictions are becoming rarer.  But convictions give us a right perspective on life. Strangely people have strong convictions about unimportant things like football and politics, but no convictions about the important things like the killing of unborn people or other plainly ethical issues of right and wrong.

The people who make the greatest impact upon the world were and are those with convictions. There’s was Paul, Jesus, Gandhi, Luther, Hitler and MauSetung.  When Jesus said “I must …..”  it was evidence of a conviction.  People can hold wrong or even evil convictions.  Therefore convictions like conscience, need to be informed by a reliable guide.

The biblical definition of faith is an unshakable conviction that a thing is so.  So a person of true faith has convictions.

Without a conviction about spiritual growth, people that live through trials of faith could give up.  No one stays on a task unless they are convinced it is important.  Convictions enable us to endure suffering for Christ and to reject sin and soft choices.

Having convictions or true biblical faith helps us resist temptations.  We see the long-term consequences of sin are greater that any short-term pleasure it provides.  We have a conviction that we are in the world to make it more like heaven not to increase the culture and reach of hell.  We can see the long-term blessings of obedience are greater than any short term suffering we may experience as we obey now. These convictions come from understanding that all things work together for good to those who love God.

Friends, when we don’t have our own convictions we are at the mercy of everyone else’s convictions.  Your boyfriend who believes you belong to him or your boss who has a conviction that he has first claim on your life 24 hours a day!  If our convictions don’t determine how to live others will determine it for us.  Can you list 10 things about which you have a solid conviction?

Money Talks

You’ve heard that money talks; well it does!  Even more, money tells the truth. It tells the truth about what we love. Our money talks louder than our mouth. Jesus said, “where your treasure is your heart will be also.”   Because this is true, we put our money where our heart is not where our mouth is.

We husbands can say “I love you sweetheart” but never give our wives any money for shoes or things that delight them.  Or were a bit tight about her spending $90.00 on a dress but we have to have a $400 fishing rod or some other necessary equipment.   In fact, it’s funny when you walk down the street where we live, you can tell which the husband’s car is and which the wife’s car is.  The husband has the V8 commodore and the wife is the $3000 Toyota.  Money tells it like it is.

One day Mary came to Jesus and declared her love without words; her money spoke. Her money told the truth.  She came that day with a jar of spikenard to pour over his feet, worth $100,000 in today’s money. This was her lively hood. If she was previously a “lady of the night,” this would represent her life savings. She needed this for her future years as she would never be married. She gave it totally to Jesus. Her heart and her gifts said “You’re my greatest love. More than any wealthy man, who kept me, brought me or delighted in me. You are now more than everything in the world. You are now my future; all of my hopes are in you.” She told the truth of her love, out of her heart and her gift filled the house with the fragrance of that worship.

Friend, we have many opportunities to give to Jesus and if the truth is being told when we do, it will fill His house with that fragrance.

It’s working great

Wherever we face trouble or a great problem God steps in and meets that with His great power.   The disciples found a great stone lay over the grave, but God sent a great earthquake to shift it. The result was the disciples had great joy in their hearts!

“and laid it in his new tomb which he had hewn out of the rock; and he rolled a great stone against the door of the tomb, and departed” “And behold, there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat on it”  “So they went out quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to bring His disciples word (Mat 27:60, 28:8). 

God brings us through situations that seem closed and blocked by great stones; they seem impossible difficult or burdensome but when Jesus rises up and the stone is moved by His great power we see that Jesus is not dead and we experience great joy.

Once When Jesus was in a boat there is a great storm but after they woke Him up, He rebukes the wind and there was a great calm.  “And a great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat so that it was already filling. Then He arose and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace, be still!” And the wind ceased and there was a great calm and they feared greatly and said to one another what manner of man is this that even the sea and the wind obey him ( Mark 4:37-41).

What is placed into heart of the disciples?  Great fear or great awe of God.

Friend, God means the great storms in our life, to eventually become a great calm, not so we carry on to the other side unchanged unaffected, but that’s something of God’s greatness is deposited in our heart and spirit’s.

The Second Time

One day God told Jonah to join Him in a great mission. God wanted to take God wanted to take Jonah to a greater place in him and for him to grab hold of His fuller purpose for Jonah’s life but Jonah didn’t want to go there because it didn’t sound like an easy thing to do.  To go up may mean we have to face difficulties and hardship and like Jonah we don’t always want to go there. We know it’s not as easy to walk uphill as it is to walk down.  So Jonah went down to Joppa which means beautiful and as people, I think it’s fair to say that we that we prefer the beautiful life.  Jonah paid his small fare to Tarshish but the cost of the ride would be far more. You could say “his decent” was continuous.  He went down to Joppa, down into the depths of the boat and finally down into the deepest sea and all God wanted, was for Jonah to go up. There were great storms and impending disaster until Jonah admitted he was running and was tossed overboard.  Jonah braced himself again the wall of the fish’s stomach, it was very hard to breathe and slippery under foot.  While amazed he was still alive, he wondered how much longer he would be.  As his soul began to grow faint, he remembered the Lord and began to pray.    But I will sacrifice to You With the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay what I have vowed. Salvation is of the LORD.” So the LORD spoke to the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land. Jon 2:9-10

What seemed like a grave was Jonah’s transport to dry land and eventually Jonah is vomited up by the fish.  Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah the second time, saying, “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and preach to it the message that I tell you” (Jonah 3:1-2).

God spoke to Jonah a second time.  This is not the same as a second chance. God is the God of the second chance and many more chances beside but the “second time” is something different.  Let’s think of the other places God spoke the second time and notice it is always about breakthrough and blessing.

When Abraham was about to offer up Isaac in obedience God spoke the first time to stop from offering Isaac!  Then the Angel of the LORD called to Abraham a second time out of heaven(Gen 22:15), and said because of your obedience I’m going to bless you!

When Solomon had offered up a thousand bulls as a sacrifice to God in worship, God spoke to him a second time. Again God said He was going to bless and establish Solomon with a new level of favor (1Kings 9.2).

When Jeremiah was in prison “the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah a second time (Jeremiah 33:1), saying, I’m going to heal, restore and favor Israel.  As Peter was on the roof, he was assured that God had declared even the gentiles to be clean.  And a voice spoke to him again the second time, “What God has cleansed you must not call common” (Act 10:15). The second time was a new flow of revelation to Peter.

The significance of the second time is seen by the fact that all of these people weren’t running from God or disobedient like Jonah. So rather when God speaks to Jonah the second time it is not a second chance but the promise of total restoration, complete blessing and the giving a new commission with a new level of favor.  The second time is not just a reluctant reinstatement to the place we fell from but the pronouncement of favor and a new level of authority and purpose.

If you need a second chance God will give you one but He wants to speak to you the “second time.”  The book of Hebrew says “God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, (Heb 1:1-2)  Our Father has spoken to all of us the second time.!

Friend, are you ready to go up? Are you ready to follow God into a new place? You can’t decide when God will talk to you but you can decide to offer yourself to him a living sacrifice.  When Abraham offered his best, God spoke the second time. When Solomon offered his best, God spoke to him the second time and when Jonah offered his sacrifice to God in the fish Gods favor and purpose came again to Jonah.

Greatness

God is great in so many ways. God is great as to His strength and power but also great in His dimensions, and His extent. Actually His greatness is immeasurable along with His excellence and glory. He is not great in comparison with anyone or anything. He is great by Himself; there is no other like Him.  He is not just first, He is the only God and beside Him, there is no God.  He is great as to His age, being without beginning or end; the Ancient of Days but age doesn’t apply to Him. God is great as to His abundance and all that He does. The Greek word for great is mega. He is Mega in His pre-eminence.

On top of all that, all His attributes are great.  So He has attributes like great mercy.  Pardon the iniquity of this people, I pray, according to the greatness of Your mercy, just as You have forgiven this people, from Egypt even until now.” Num 14:19 

Now when you have greatness, it is yours to give away.  King David said  “Yours, O LORD, is the greatness, The power and the glory, The victory and the majesty; For all that is in heaven and in earth is Yours; Yours is the kingdom, O LORD, And You are exalted as head over all.  Both riches and honor come from You, And You reign over all. In Your hand is power and might; In Your hand it is to make great And to give strength to all. 1Ch 29:11-12 

You can only give what you have so God is able to give greatness to His people.  He gives His kingdom to his people; He gives His glory in John 17, He gives power at Pentecost and He gives His greatness to His people.

He took the apostle Paul and made a great murderer into a great missionary and it doesn’t matter who you are today, Gods plan is to put His greatness inside your heart and life.  “To know what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power”  But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, Eph 1:19,  Eph 2:4    God is placing his greatness into our lives!

And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all. Act 4:33 

Even while the apostle preached with great power, great grace was deposited into the heart of those hearing.

Grace is really Divine influence upon the hearts of men. So when the resurrection was preached in great power by the apostle, great grace (Divine influence) came upon the people. As the resurrection of Jesus (The miracle-producing power that can bring something that is dead, back to life) was preached in the power of the Spirit, the same grace or life-giving resurrection power came upon those that heard until faith was born in the faithless, those that were hopeless began to find hope and those who were discouraged believed again. Even the dead in spirit come to life.

Great Grace comes into our lives when Gods great power is talked about.

Friend, what you hear about God and what you can see of God is what you experience of Him. In other words when you see His greatness, greatness gets inside of you.  God is revealing His greatness to us so He can work some of His greatness into us.  Not great skills necessarily or great talents but a great heart, a great attitude, great character, great vision, great purpose and great faith.

 

 

Unity brings Victory

Gideon shared his battle plan with the army.  “Do as I do; do the same as me!  Come together under my leadership” Gideon’s men never said “I’m not sure that is a good idea?

“And he said to them, “Look at me and do likewise; watch, and when I come to the edge of the camp you shall do as I do:  When I blow the trumpet, I and all who are with me, then you also blow the trumpets on every side of the whole camp, and say, ‘The sword of the LORD and of Gideon!‘ “Judges 7:17 -18

The devil knows the churches key to victory is unity.  You never hear of devils splitting up and starting a new hell.   God is not asking for our opinion. We do as the leader does.  That is how you have a breakthrough in a city.

This is demonstrated in our corporate worship times. Our task is not to score the worship leader on the job they do or decide whether we like their song choice.  No, our job is to follow their lead.   In the temple when they made one sound, the glory fell.    The Spirit of God will fall if there is one people, with one heart, in one accord, and in one place.  When we say whatever the leader is doing, I’m following it. It doesn’t matter what song is sung if people follow with faith and a good heart. If there is unity there can be a break through.  The power of God didn’t fall because Paul and Silas could sing well but because there was unity in the prison.

 And every man stood in his place all around the camp, and the whole army ran and cried out and fled. When the three hundred blew the trumpets, the LORD set every man’s sword against his companion throughout the whole camp; and the army fled to Beth Acacia, toward Zererah, as far as the border of Abel Meholah, by Tabbath. Jdg 7:21 -22

When every man stood in his place or the place he should have been standing, God moved and the enemy ran. If we are not bringing our gift to the house and our strength to the army, we are not standing  in our place.  One can put 1000 to flight and two can put 10,000 to flight.   If you have an enemy you can’t defeat by yourself,  find a friend to stand with you.

  And the men of Israel gathered together from Naphtali, Asher, and all Manasseh, and pursued the Midianites.   Then Gideon sent messengers throughout all the mountains of Ephraim, saying, “Come down against the Midianites and seize from them the watering places as far as Beth Barah.  Jdg 7:23-24

Soon all the other tribes’ joined in the battle.  300 brave men armed with lamps, vessels and trumpets brought all the rest of Israel up to the battle.  Our actions can inspire others to rise up.  Don’t wait for your mate to decide to be a world changer. When you decide you will bring your friends with you. Be the first.  Your decision will change not only your destiny but maybe the future of those that know you. God has not changed his mind about you.  You may have had a call and you may have got off track but there a great verse in Amos for you.  “So says Jehovah: As the shepherd takes two legs out of the mouth of the lion, or a piece of an ear; so shall the sons of Israel be taken out… Amo 3:12 .  Here the lion had devoured the sheep.  All that was left was an ear and a leg but God was going to take them out of defeat.

Friend, what ever enemy has stolen and torn you to pieces – as long as you have an ear to hear His word and a leg to stand on, it’s not too late for you.   God will restore the years that the locust has eaten.  You can get back in the game and back in the battle under leadership.