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Living an Abundant Life

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Everything the devil does is reactive. The best he can do is react to what he sees God doing. But that’s nothing to belittle. It’s serious. You need to understand the devil’s tactics – and your own – which seek to undermine the abundant life God has in store for YOU. All of us have our own understanding of what an “abundant” life is, but God’s definition is the one we need to embrace and enjoy.

GOD STILL DOES MIRACLES, and yesterday we witnessed a real one at GraceYork.com. To relive it, listen to the companion podcast to today’s blog post (see below). You’ll be blessed, significantly. It involves the true story of a woman who stole money from the church offering basket on two occasions – and was caught. She repented, and then experienced the blessing of God in a dramatic, life-changing way. In turn, we were all blessed. It was a huge win for everyone, as repentance often is. Repentance opens the door to reconciliation, healing, wholeness and the blessing of God. Try it and you’ll see what I mean. I’m still jumping with joy over the black eye the devil got yesterday as God’s people at Grace Fellowship did the right thing, the right way, and pursued the glory of God in a difficult scenario. Had we not, the abundant life that is found only in Jesus Christ would have eluded not only the person who stole, but also our whole church.

Most of the time we hear of church “discipline”, and it’s more akin to a church brawl than “discipline.” I prefer the word “restoration” over “discipline” because only God can really discipline His children. It’s our job to pursue restoration and reconciliation. Restoration and reconciliation are hard work – but they are God’s work, and therefore the most important work. There is nothing more important in life than restoration and reconciliation. Life is relationships. Try to separate any area of life from relationships and you will see that it is difficult to do. Eventually, everything in life has a way of impacting relationships, for better or worse. When we prioritize healthy relationships, everything in life gets better. 

Some of us have a hard time with Jesus’ words in In John 10:10. This is where Jesus says something that should stop us in our tracks. We may have heard it before, but that’s the problem. The more familiar we are with the words of Jesus, the more we think we understand what He means – when we really are only scratching the surface. Jesus’ words deserve to be read, re-read, applied and re-applied perpetually – or we will miss out on God’s best. Read the words of Jesus, again, for the first time:

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”

We have a problem with the word “abundant.” But we need to get over it, and embrace God’s deepest desire. God’s desire is, indeed, to give you an abundant life. To really understand what that looks like, you really need to read and apply the blueprint for living that He authored, the Bible. It’s where God’s definition of abundance is defined and offered to us again and again and again.

What about you? Do you want an abundant life – the kind of life Jesus envisioned for you before the beginning of time? How badly do you want it? It’s yours for the taking. Jesus wouldn’t offer you something He can’t deliver. Read the Bible – but don’t stop there. Put it into action. This is what makes all the difference in the world, and the world to come. The Bible is God’s blueprint for an abundant life. Why wait to fulfill your destiny?

Is This Just Chaos, or is it Demonic?

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Refusing to acknowledge the truth has no affect on the truth. Truth stands regardless of how we see it. But how we see it can definitely affect how we live. The truth is that evil spirits roam this earth – and they’re looking for someone to latch onto. You need to make yourself “greasy”, so any spirit looking to latch on can’t hold on. Here’s how . . .

[T]hree truths you need to know about demons that will most likely have a significant impact on your life:

  1. They prefer a human host.
  2. They create chaos.
  3. They are tenacious. They don’t give up easily.

You may not believe in the reality of wicked spirits, but your unbelief will not affect the truth. How do we conclude the above three things about evil spirits? Jesus, in Luke 11:24-26 explains:

“When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, and finding none it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when it comes, it finds the house swept and put in order. Then it goes and brings seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and dwell there. And the last state of that person is worse than the first.”

Notice that the beginning of this story has the demon (an unclean spirit) inside a person. It has a human host. It then leaves the person, for whatever reason, and finds itself dissatisfied with the world at large. So, it returns to its “house”. But when it returns, it’s home is not as it was when it was there earlier. It is now “swept” and “put in order.” This is a contrast to the chaos experienced by the person when the demon was living there. Disliking the remodel, the demon demonstrates significant tenacity by finding seven other demons with worse reputations, to help it regainits territory. They simply don’t give up easily.

What about all that chaos in your life? Could it be that it isn’t merely because of your lack of management or organization skills? If we take Jesus’ words to heart, the answer is “yes.” Not all chaos is demonic, but dismissing the potential for chaos to be caused by a demonic entity is simply not biblical. Chaos can have a supernatural cause.

What should you do if chaos is the norm in your life? What should you do if you simply can’t seem to get your head above water, and you seem to be repeatedly experiencing fierce chaos? The first thing you should do is evaluate your own life and see if there are any changes you should make. Are you using your time wisely? Have you taken on more than God has asked of you? Make adjustments, accordingly. But you should also ask God to reveal the presence and influence of unclean spirits, demons. Ask God to reveal to you, in a non-hurtful way, whether the chaos is demonically caused. Praying this prayer is an important step in the process of determining the cause of the chaos engulfing you.

You also need to understand and embrace the importance of truly submitting yourself to God. The Bible tells us in James 4:7: “Submit yourselves to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” Submit. Resist. But the question is, how do we submit to God in such a way that the devil must flee? James 4:8-11 gives us a glimpse:

“Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.”

The picture James paints is of a person truly, thoroughly repenting of sin. Repentance is humility. Notice the mourning and weeping. It’s not possible to be humble before God without repenting. And, it’s not possible to resist the devil without doing so. Spiritual warfare, in a word, can be summed up with one word: humility.

True repentance makes your life greasy. The enemy simply can’t hold on to someone who walks in repentance. If you want the devil to run with his tail between his legs, you must embrace a lifestyle of repentance. This is what it means to be humble before God. And when we are, it makes the devil shake in his boots. If he had a pair, that is . . .

Pay Attention, Life is Happening

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If we’re not careful, life will . . .  suck the life out of us. We can end up being alive without really living. Our tendency is to begin drifting rather than piloting. There is a world of difference, and that is what determines whether or not we really enjoy our journey. Pay attention – life is happening.

Think often about the brevity of time. Your time. Don’t let it discourage you. Let it inspire you. Consider, often, that you won’t be here forever, and neither will the people around you. Live like you mean it. Do this, and you’ll never be bored. Do this and you, while alive, will be truly living. 

Here are a few quick thoughts that can yield long-term benefits if you apply them immediately and perpetually:

1. Pay attention when someone else is talking. Talk less. Listen more.

Why do you think James 1:19 says what it says? Because God knows how to help you live a life that satisfies, thrills, excites and impacts the world. Your world. Right now. Go get your Bible and read James 1:19. Let is soak into your way of living. Listening is a forgotten command from God Himself. Listen more. Talk less. Chain your chatterbox. If you do, you won’t just be alive. You’ll be living.  Pay attention – life is happening.

2. Put yourself in the shoes of other people. Enter into their hopes, dreams, aspirations. You will learn things about them, things about yourself. Things about LIFE. You will be living the way you’re supposed to live, and you will be a better, happier, more fulfilled person.

Cell phones and “smart” devices have a way of making us dumber, clouding the real intentionality for which we were created. Live life by interacting with the people right in front of you, right now. What’s important is what and who you are around in real-time, face-to-face. Remember what it means to be engaged in a conversation? Maybe not. It’s become culturally acceptable to be disengaged. But that doesn’t make it acceptable or beneficial for you. In fact, it is a complete detriment.

Our default mechanism is to focus on ourselves rather than others. We’re more enamored with ourselves than we should be. There is beauty, there are lessons, there is life happening apart from us. When we have conversations, we tend to drift, seeking ways to insert our story, share our thoughts, express our hearts. Stop the drift. What about the other person? Ask them questions – and really listen. You’ll find this also makes you far less selfish, and far more happy.Do this with one relationship as an experiment, and see what happens to it. It will shock you. Begin doing it with everyone, and your revolution is on. Pay attention – life is happening. 

3. Show people you love them, often – in ways they need to see, hear, feel it. Love people in the ways that mean something to them, not you. And mean it when you express it.

Love is the cure for boredom. When we “love” people in ways that mean something to us, but not to others, we miss the whole point of love itself. The best love is expressed in the language of the people. Some people feel loved when hugged. Others when told. Still, others feel most loved when we spend time with them. Who are the people who love you – and whom you love? How are you loving them? Speak their language, not your own, and you will find the rewards nearly overwhelming over time. Don’t aim meaninglessly in your expressions of love. Find out the kind of love others need, and give it to them on their terms, not yours. Pay attention – life is happening.

Being alive is not the same as living life. Live like you mean it. Right now, wherever you are. 

There you have it. Three quick thoughts taken from a few of the observations from my own mistakes and failures that I hope will help you succeed. You can live like you mean it. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

How to Handle a Faith Crisis

“It happens to all of us eventually. We find ourselves dry, floating in a sea of doubt – or at least drifting toward one. What can you do? More than you think . . .”

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The circumstances of life will pound you – or rock you into a state of indifferent numbness. Sooner or later you could find yourself in a position where you just don’t have the depth of faith you wish we had. It happens to all of us eventually. We find ourselves dry, floating in a sea of doubt – or at least drifting toward one. What can you do? More than you think. Here are a few things from experience that I’ve learned can build faith, and help overcome a faith crisis:

1. REMEMBER THAT YOUR FAITH IS NOT YOUR OWN, AND THAT IS A GOOD THING.  Somebody other than you is the founder and the perfecter of your faith. His Name is Jesus Christ, and He is the original fire-starter.Hebrews 12:2 says that we are to look to Jesus, the “founder and perfecter of our faith.” If Jesus is the One who creates and matures your faith, which is what Hebrews 12:2 is saying, then the starting point of all faith is to ask Him – even if you don’t feel passionate about doing so – to intervene.

God is the original fire-starter. He can start a fire in you. You may recall the story of Elijah calling for the wood and sacrifice to be drenched with water – three times, but God still consumed the altar and the sacrifice. Here’s the story from 1 Kings 18:30-39:

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Then Elijah said to all the people, “Come near to me.” And all the people came near to him. And he repaired the altar of the Lord that had been thrown down. Elijah took twelve stones, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, to whom the word of the Lord came, saying, “Israel shall be your name,” and with the stones he built an altar in the name of the Lord. And he made a trench about the altar, as great as would contain two seahs of seed. And he put the wood in order and cut the bull in pieces and laid it on the wood. And he said, “Fill four jars with water and pour it on the burnt offering and on the wood.” And he said, “Do it a second time.” And they did it a second time. And he said, “Do it a third time.” And they did it a third time. And the water ran around the altar and filled the trench also with water. And at the time of the offering of the oblation, Elijah the prophet came near and said, “O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that you are God in Israel, and that I am your servant, and that I have done all these things at your word. Answer me, O Lord, answer me, that this people may know that you, O Lord, are God, and that you have turned their hearts back.” Then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt offering and the wood and the stones and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces and said, “The Lord, he is God; the Lord, he is God.”

In other words, there is not enough water on the planet to quench a fire God wants to start – and God wants His fire burning in you. God is the founder and perfecter of your faith. Ask Him to mature your faith, and He will light the fire. It may not be instantaneous, but it will come – because God knows how to start a fire. Your job is to simply ask Him to start it in you, and believe that eventually the embers will be rekindled and become a fire once again.

2. UNDERSTAND THAT FAITH IS KINDLED AND RE-KINDLED IN PROPORTION TO YOUR TIME IN GOD’S WORD, THE BIBLE. Did you read that right? You sure did. Your faith is a consequence and a reflection of your time spent soaking up the Bible. Romans 10:17 says this:

So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.

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If you want to build your faith, read the Bible. Don’t skim it. Skimming is not the same as reading. Really read it. Soak in it. If you were admitted to the hospital with a critical illness, doctors would take extreme measures to bring about a change of health. If you find yourself in a faith crisis, take measures accordingly, to reverse it. Be urgent about your spiritual health, even if that means you are not emotional about it. Faith is not about feeling spiritual, but about doing what you should do regardless of how you feel. Feelings often follow actions. It’s not the other way around.

Don’t expect a deep, rich faith from a shallow skimming of the Bible. Take serious measures if you want serious faith. Make time to immerse yourself in the Bible in the morning, afternoon and evening – and make sure you put what you are reading into practice. Approach the Bible intentionally, seriously. To do so is to take God seriously. If you take God seriously, over time God will build you up with serious faith. That’s the way it happens.

Don’t make light of the power of God’s Word to overcome a faith crisis. In my own life, I have found that oftentimes my faith is weak and frail – only to find that my time in God’s Word has been likewise. A lack of faith is often the result of biblical negligence. Neglect the Word and your faith will be affected.

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You don’t need a complex strategy to get results with God. He has made it so that He is easy to approach and easy to find. Why? Because He wants to be found by you. But you must take a step in His direction. You must call out to Him.He wants to have a true, deepening relationship with you.

Remember that God is the original fire-starter and He wants the fire of faith in Him burning in you. Remember that your faith will be built up as you soak in God’s Word, the Bible. Keep it simple. As James 4:8 says, “Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.”

And by “you”, God definitely means you.

I’d love to hear your comments as we sojourn together.

Did Jesus Call You To Do That?

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It’s possible to serve Jesus and not enjoy Him. If you’re not careful, you’ll be so busy for Jesus you won’t have time for Jesus. But this doesn’t have to be your story. Here are some tips on how to enjoy Jesus the way you were designed.

It’s not only possible. It’s probable. With the passage of time, we begin to unwittingly start doing things “for Jesus” that He never asked us to do. And when that happens watch out – because it invariably means that we have stopped doing the one thing that we shouldbe doing.

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It starts off wonderfully well. Jesus is in town, and a woman named Martha invites Him to her home. Martha does what you and I would do. She gets busy putting out a spread – for Jesus. And her seemingly lazy sister, Mary, does nothing to help. All she is interested in doing is sitting at the feet of Jesus. This frustrates the daylights out of Martha, who feels all alone in her service to Jesus. In fact, Luke 10:40 says that “Martha was distracted with much serving.” Martha’s service for Jesus actually wound up being a distraction from Jesus. Read it for yourself, again, for the first time.

Martha’s behavior is not spoken of fondly by Jesus. Mary steals the show. Jesus tells Martha “you are anxious and troubled by many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:41,42). And what was it that Jesus found so commendable? She “sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching” (Luke 10:39).

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One thing is necessary in the life of a true disciple:sitting at the feet of Jesus and listening to his teaching. Everything else we do in life, in the Name of Jesus, is supposed to be an overflow from spending time with Jesus, and listening to His teaching. Martha was certainly serving Jesus – but Jesus didn’t ask her to serve in the ways that she chose. Could the same be true of you and me? You can bet your Vegas vacation that you and I are more prone to doing things for Jesus that He never called us to do than doing the “one thing” that Jesus says is “necessary” for a true disciple. If we do anything else for Jesus but neglect sitting as His feet and listening to His teaching, we’ve missed what Jesus says is necessary. It’s frighteningly easy to exchange what is necessary for what is dispensable. Here are some tips on how to prioritize the “one thing” that Jesus says is “necessary” in the life of a true follower of Jesus Christ:

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1. Don’t confuse doing things for Jesus with spiritual maturity. The exact opposite could be true. If you think you are maturing in your devotion to Jesus Christ because you are doing more for Jesus, think again. Busy-ness is never a measure of spiritual maturity. Spiritually mature people may be busy, but being busy does not make a person spiritually mature. Don’t confuse being busy with growing in your walk with God.

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2. Jesus says it is necessary, not beneficial, to listen to His teaching. This is important for you – not just the people to whom you are ministering and serving. If you don’t do what Jesus says is necessary, then what in the world are you doing, and why? You can be sure Jesus didn’t call you to do the secondary things if you neglect what He says is necessary.

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3. Look through the course of your week and set aside appointments for yourself and God. Then, do your best to keep them. John 1:14 says “the word became flesh and dwelt among us.” Mary was spending time with The Word, Jesus. Doing so is what Jesus said was necessary. You can do the same today. This is not some mystical, esoteric endeavor. Get a Bible, read it – slowly – and take time to digest what it says. On some days you might spend more time than others, but the objective would be to daily read the Bible so that you walk away having learned something new about God and your relationship to Him. This is not an exercise merely for the mind, but for the heart and soul, too. If you do this, you’ll literally have the assurance of doing what Jesus is telling you to do, rather than doing what you think He might want. Start by praying, asking God to open the eyes of your heart, that you might know Him better, and love Him accordingly. God will answer your prayer. Then, consider how to put what you read into action. 

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4. Don’t be legalistic about your planned time with God, in His Word. God gave you grace, you can give it to yourself. The surest way to hit a target is to aim for it. If you don’t aim for it, you’re sure to miss it every time. Even some time in God’s Word is better than none. Get up 15-30 minutes earlier each day by going to bed 15-30 minutes earlier, so you can read the Bible, pray, and reflect on what God is teaching you. This simple exercise will dramatically alter – and altar – your life.

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5. Listen to the Bible, and podcasts that teach the Bible, on your way to work, while exercising, traveling. Of course, I’m partial to the free Godfactor App, but I can’t apologize for a tool we created that will help you discover and enjoy God – deeply. Get the app, or listen to our messages on iTunes by searching for “Godfactor.” But if you don’t like my method of teaching, by all means, find someone whose teachings you love – someone whose teachings are true to the Bible, not merely motivational talks. With the Godfactor App, you don’t even have to listen to me – you can listen to the Bible being read by a guy with a voice far better than mine – any part of it – at any time you like. You just might create a positive addiction in doing so.

Well, there’s a start for you – and a much needed reminder for me. We all struggle with sitting still at the feet of Jesus, spending time in His Word, listening to His teaching. But if Jesus says this is the “one thing” that is “necessary”, then shouldn’t you and I do all we can to ensure we hit Jesus’ bullseye?

I’d love to hear your comments. Share them, and you just may encourage someone else in the process.

How to Win a Fight Every Time

“Do you like to win? If you try to fight a spiritual battle with physical weapons, you will lose – every single time. Be smart when you fight and you will win – every single time . . .”

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We’ve all done it – engaged in spiritual warfare while not being very spiritual in the process. In Italian, we call that “stunad” (pronounced stew-nod). It means “stupid.” You don’t have to understand Italian to realize that fighting a spiritual battle in the power of the flesh is not only stupid but also an exercise in futility. You’ll lose all the time. But you don’t have to be a loser. Here are a few thoughts on how you can fight like a “spiritual powerhouse” – and win a spiritual battle every single time.

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  1. BE ON THE ALERT FOR “SPIRITUAL AMNESIA.” All of us suffer from what I call “spiritual amnesia.” An event in life – life itself – knocks us so hard that we forget who we are, who God is, and how to operate as His child. The event rocks our world so hard that we literally forget, even if temporarily, how to function in ways that unleash the power of God. The way to be smart is to perpetually remember that if you are a true follower of Jesus Christ, you are engaged in an epic spiritual battle that must be fought with spiritual weapons. Paul tells us “For the weapons of your warfare are not of the flesh . . . ” (2 Corinthians 10:4). Be on guard against spiritual amnesia in yourself and those around you. Remember who you are, what God has called you to, and that it is not in any way, shape, or form, a physical battle. Remember that if you are really following God, you are by default engaged in spiritual warfare – it simply cannot be fought by natural means.
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  3. UNDERSTAND THAT WHEN YOU FIGHT GOD’S BATTLES WITH GOD’S WEAPONS, YOU WON’T WIN SOME OF THE TIME. YOU’LL WIN ALL OF THE TIME. God is not a loser. The second half of 2 Corinthians 10:4 (cited in #1, above), says the weapons God has given us have “divine power to destroy strongholds.” The imagery that Paul provides, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, is total, utter destruction against the enemy. When you fight with God’s weapons, what you are really doing is allowing God to fight for you – and when God fights, He never loses. 2 Corinthians 10:4 reminds the true follower of Jesus Christ that God doesn’t wound His enemies, He destroys them. Fight God’s battles with God’s weapons and you will win, because God is the Ultimate winner. When you do things God’s way, you win.
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  5. BE CAREFUL YOU DON’T CONFUSE YOUR CONCEPT OF “WINNING” WITH GOD’S. I have seen this distract myself – and countless other people – repeatedly. I am constantly re-learning that my thoughts are not God’s thoughts, and my ways are not His ways (Isaiah 55:8). I remember kneeling in my dormitory room at Rutgers University, crying out to God, asking Him to give me something I wanted really badly. He didn’t do it – and I’m so glad! I’ve learned that man’s best often belittles God’s good. God’s plan for my life is infinitely better than I can dream or imagine – because it is based on His goodness. The goodness of God is so much better than what we can fathom, or create, that we must settle the issue in our minds and revisit it often. What we ask God for, even on our best days, is still short of what He has in store – not merely for us, but ultimately for Himself. And, isn’t this the real purpose of life, to advance the agenda and glory of God?
    You must recognize that winning may not look the way you thought it would – but if you really fight God’s battles with God’s weapons, in God’s power, you have won, and will win. Not some of the time. All of the time. It’s been said that “he who laughs last laughs best.” God is a hearty laugher, because He always laughs last. Isaiah 54:17 says “no weapon that is fashioned against you shall succeed.” The original Hebrew, and the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Hebrew) mean that there is literally nothing capable of success against God’s people. This comes across in the English as well, but somehow we seem to miss it. It’s not over until God says it’s over, and God will ultimately be glorified, get the last laugh and win. Align yourself with God’s vision of victory and you’ll not allow yourself to be let down.God always wins. Always means always. If you are frustrated, it could be because you have unknowingly replaced God’s vision of victory with your own. Don’t get ahead of God. Walk with Him and you will win His battles in His power, His way. 
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  7. MAKE SURE YOU ARE FIGHTING GOD’S BATTLES, NOT YOURS. When you fight your own battles, you fight alone. If you are fighting a battle God didn’t call you to fight, why are you bothering? He has bigger fish to fry – and so do you. A lethal mistake you can make in life is to waste time fighting battles that God never called you to fight. You must be extremely and perpetually careful you don’t get sucked away from the main purpose of your life which is to love Him, advance His Kingdom, and fight His battles. Enough said. Move on.
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  9. SLEEP ON IT. Memorize – and apply – potent passages of the Bible that teach you how to fight and win spiritual battles. This cannot be emphasized too much. You might be intimidated by the thought of memorizing a Bible verse or passage, but let me tell you a secret how to do this much easier. Sleep on it. Read a passage of the Bible at night, just before you go to bed. (Not in-between texting or watching television). Really read it. Meditate on it and it alone. Pay attention to the words on the page. (I recommend not using an electronic device for this, bc you will be tempted to use it for something else). Note where it is in your Bible. Feel it in your hands. Ask God to help you hide it in your heart. Do this several nights in a row and watch what happens. Your mind will work on it when you are sleeping. You will begin to feel energized – because God’s Word hits you, by design, at the core of your being. Here is a sampling of some key Bible verses you should commit to memory, as means of directing you and protecting you so that you succeed in spiritual warfare:
  • 2 Corinthians 10:4,5 – The Nature of Your Weapons
  • Ephesians 6:10-20 – The Spiritual Weapons You Have in Your Aresnal
  • Ephesians 4:17-32 – How Unresolved Sin Makes You Weak and Gives Satan Opportunity
  • 1 Peter 5:6-11 – Humility as a Primary, Potent Weapon Against Satan

The above verses are simply a start – but a potent start at that. If you really  put them into action, your whole life will dramatically change.

Do you like to win? If you try to fight a spiritual battle with physical weapons, no matter what those physical weapons are (intellect, physical strength, money, prowess), you will lose – every single time. Be smart when you fight and you will win – every single time.

I’m with you in this. But more importantly, God is with you. I guarantee you that if you fight God’s battles in God’s ways, you will win every single time. You have God’s Word on it.

Let me know your thoughts. I’m all ears . . .

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