Does Failing Make You A Failure?

I have learned over the years to live my entire life based on God's Word, the Bible. The Holy Bible is without a doubt the genuine blueprint for living life on planet earth and beyond. I've learned so much from God's Word. As His Word has been uncovered to me, one nugget at a time, I have also discovered who I am. Only through, by, and in Christ can this happen.

It is only by the grace of God, revealed to me in His Word and by His Spirit, that I am confident of my position before Him. In Him I am a new creation. In Christ Jesus I am in right-standing with the God of the universe! What does this mean? Among several things, the one thing I want to point out today is that I am not a failure. I may fail (as we all do) but that does not make me a failure. You see, a clear understanding of His grace reveals that whatever happens to us, whatever we experience (good and bad) He causes it all to work together for our good. (See Romans 8:28) This sounds great. But having lived it is even better.

My purpose for this post is to address failure. Does failing make one a failure? Right off let me say "No! Failing does not make you or me a failure!"

My favorite example from God's Word is that of Peter. Peter was that rough, gruff fisherman Jesus called to be one of the leaders of His 12 disciples. Peter, along with the other 11, walked with Jesus for more than 3 years. Jesus poured the riches of the kingdom into Peter. Peter himself emphatically proclaimed "Even if I have to die with you Jesus, I will not deny You!" However, shortly after Jesus was arrested on the night before His crucifixion, he denied Jesus 3 times. You have to understand how serious this was. He denied that he even knew Jesus before a rather large crowd. Jesus heard this denial. When Peter realized that He had denied even knowing the One he loved the most, he went out and wept bitterly.

This wasn't a quick, little "Boo Hoo!" The original language says he went out and "wailed loudly and violently". Peter was truly remorseful. He was shattered. How could he have allowed himself to do such a terrible thing. Peter had failed miserably!
The Scripture tells us Jesus knew this would happen, because He prophesied it to Peter and the disciples. Jesus also told Peter to strengthen his brothers when he had turned back to Jesus. Please understand, Jesus knew Peter would fail, yet His plans were for Peter to encourage his brothers...after this epic failure! Peter not only strengthened the brothers, but went on to become a powerful pillar in the early church! Peter failed miserably...but that did not make him a failure. You could say that even though Peter would fail miserably (and Jesus knew it), His plans for Peter were incredible! When we read and study Peter, all he accomplished, and all he wrote in the Bible, it is quite evident Peter was NOT a failure! Peter could have given up, but he didn't.
Have you failed? I have. But listen to me are not a failure. I am not a failure. Know why? Because you and I are created (in Jesus Christ) for good works. Yes, you may fail again, but you are not a failure. Jesus knows you will fail again. But He also has incredible plans for you, after you fail! This my friend is the grace of God. Just don't give up. Don't quit. Everybody fails, but in and by Christ we are not failures. No one who is the righteousness of Almighty God is a failure. Believe this! Stop thinking otherwise. God's Word is truth!
I love the Scripture Philippians 4:13, "I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength."  In Christ you are forgiven. But that's not all, in Him your are His creation. He does not create failures! So even though you have failed, you are not  failure. Press on my friend. You are the righteousness of Christ Jesus!

What Can I say? It's Life-Changing!

One of the highlights of my day comes at the beginning of my day. I love to rise early, spend time in the presence of our loving Jesus, and feed upon His powerful Word. What can I say? I'm addicted! Somehow it is not rote. It is not duty. This time with Him is something I need. As much as I am refreshed, strengthened, and energized, I simply must have my time with Jesus.
The time I spend with Jesus is not timed. Some days I spend more time with Him than others. I simply must be with Him! This has given to me over the years a constant awareness of His matter where I am, what I am doing, or what time of day it is!
I can say with much confidence that regular time with Him is a good thing. It is life-changing. It is life sustaining. When the storms come...He is still there. When I don't feel well...He is there. And because He is there, I can do all things through Him who gives me strength!
I can only imagine what heaven will be like. (No play on song lyrics here.) But I do know that we will be with Him forever! If hanging out with Him here is so life-changing, imagine what it will be like then! I love the fact that we can have just an incredible (life-changing) taste of heaven now!
Fortunately there is nothing complicated about being in His presence. It is quite simple. Just focus on Him. Create an environment in which it's just Jesus and you. I use the vehicle of anointed praise and worship music to help. "Anointed" simply means it has God's touch upon it. Somehow it has a supernatural edge. That's what makes the difference. And it takes time. But don't set your timer. Just make the effort (and time) to be with Him. As we focus on Him, the reality of His "bigness" comes into proper perspective as everything else around us seems to fade.
I just noticed I have used the term "life-changing" more than once. Guess that's the theme of this post. I like!
If you want your life changed, spend time in the His presence. Don't you do all the talking. Again, simply focus on Him. Let His presence do the talking! What can I say? It's life-changing!

38925EB: The Spiritual Life: The Presence of Jesus through the Holy Spirit - eBook The Spiritual Life: The Presence of Jesus through the Holy Spirit - eBook
By Andrew Murray

Please! Allow Me To Rant!

I usually don't rant about too much through my blog, but I think I will today. Please understand my heart in what I am about to write. I'm not posting this to provoke a debate. There are enough of them on social media as it is.

I am a born again Christian. My life was changed back in 1978 as I cried out to Him in the midst of a personal crisis. He heard and answered my cry! As a result, my life is His, no longer mine. He changed my life. I would never, ever want to go back to my old ways again. Knowing and serving Him is just too good to throw away. If you know anything at all about me; or if you read my blog at all, you definitely know where I stand on this.

I also want to say that I am an American. Being an American doesn't make me a Christian. However, as a born again Christian American, I've studied the roots of our nation; roots that are planted deeply in the God of this universe. Modern day History books don't tell the true story of how our nation was founded. But the truth can be found in writings such as "The Light And The Glory" (authored by Peter Marshall and David Manuel).

But this is not a history lesson. It's a rant. Remember? America over the years has drifted away from the God who established her and upheld her over the years. We've said over the years "God bless America!" because He had blessed us. But now we need to be shouting from the rooftops, "America, bless God!" To serve and acknowledge Him is to bless Him. We've fallen way short of this over the past 50 years.

We kicked Him out of our public schools in the early sixties. For decades we've murdered the unborn. Don't you ever forget, the God who "gives" life cannot bless the process of "taking" innocent life. Because we've buried our heads in the sand, thinking it would go away, the consequences of murdering the unborn have overtaken our nation. And just recently the high court of our land decided to redefine the meaning of the marriage institution which, let me add, was established by God. Please, don't be a fool, thinking mere man can override anything God Almighty has established.

If I conducted extensive research on the current administration in Washington, I don't believe I could find a single thing about it I could defend. There's just nothing there. But here me out! Stop blaming our President! Stop blaming Washington! America is at fault...not just our leaders! We are the ones who have allowed this to go on, year after year.

What is happening in our land today is a result of a nation (over time) turning its back on the God of all creation. Listen to just a small portion of a passage of Scripture from Romans Chapter One. "And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper..." (Romans 1: 28) This means God let them have their perverted way. If this is what we choose, so be it! However, He will not (and cannot) pour out blessings on the one (or nation) which has chosen to go its own way.

My mind is baffled at the lack of perception of the American people (including much of His church). Not many seem to perceive the trouble our nation is in. Much of this is caused by greed. Greed runs rampant from Washington through the corporate realm down to the grassroots level. Greed feeds the present, but blinds one of the inevitable consequences. Sooner or later the wage of greed arrives undoing the one caught in it.

Another cause of the blindness in America is the degradation of morality from one generation to the next. Simply stated, many who know God and who have high morals do not raise up future generations to do the same. As a matter of fact, many folks are so deluded that they want to hide truth and morality from the next generation to insure they fail to walk in it. Greed feeds on the absence of truth and morality.

I could take this rant on a rather long ride. However, I'll head for the exit ramp. But let me say, (at the risk of being labeled a "doomer and gloomer") if things don't change, it soon will be too late. What? Pretty negative. But there is a lot of negative in our land today from Washington on down. Will it naturally evolve into a better state? I don't think so. Ponder the way things are going. What kind of world do you want your children and grandchildren to grow up in? It probably won't change...however, can we change?

There is only One way to reverse the degradation in our land, cry out to Jesus as I did in 1978. Watch things change! It's that simple! God never left. We left Him. Turn back to God. Repent for the sins of our nation. Change the way you live. Live for Him. As you cry out to Him in behalf of our nation, He will enable you to change your life. There is hope. But that hope is slowly slipping away. What will you do. It's not up to Washington. It's not up to the Republicans or the Democrats. It's up to you my friend. Heaven is waiting. God stands ready to bless America again, but we must return to Him! Rant over.

732714: The Light and the Glory, revised and expanded edition: 1492 - 1793 The Light and the Glory, revised and expanded edition: 1492 - 1793
By Peter Marshall & David Manuel

Did Columbus believe that God called him west to undiscovered lands? Does American democracy owe its inception to the handful of Pilgrims that settled at Plymouth? If, indeed, there was a specific, divine call upon this nation, is it still valid today?
The Light and the Glory answers these questions and many more for history buffs. As readers look at their nation's history from God's point of view, they will begin to have an idea of how much we owe to a very few--and how much is still at stake. Now revised and expanded for the first time in more than thirty years, The Light and the Glory is poised to show new readers just how special their country is.

Heaven's Party Come To Earth

It amazes me that heaven parties when just one sinner repents. That's what the Book says. Jesus used the examples of the shepherd who lost one of ninety-nine sheep, the woman who loses one of ten coins, and of course the father whose son demands his inheritance and leaves. (The prodigal son).

The shepherd left the ninety-nine sheep in the open pasture and went and found the one lost sheep. When he found it, he brought it home, called his friends and family together, and threw a party. Jesus said, "I tell you that in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance." (Luke 15: 7) Did you catch that? Just one!

The woman who lost the silver coin, turned up the lights and searched through the house until she found the one lost coin. When she found it she called her friends and family together and partied in a major way! "In the same way", Jesus says, "I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents." There's that number

Almost everyone knows the story of the Prodigal Son. After he left with his inheritance his father waited eagerly for his return. The Bible doesn't say how long he was away, but it does tell us he squandered away all of his inheritance over a period of time. He became penniless and hungry. In shame he makes his way back to his father who is still eagerly watching and waiting for his return. Instead of giving shame, his father runs to him, embraces him, and throws a major celebration because the one who was lost was now found! In all three scenarios, the lost were found and lots of joy was had. Parties were thrown!

Why does repentance on the earth bring so much joy in heaven? To fully understand the answer to the question we must seek God to understand the significance of "being lost", and then "being found"! We learn from Jesus' three illustrations that it is utterly tragic to be lost. When one is lost, they are lost eternally, unless they repent while still on the earth. To be lost is to be eternally separated from God. Repentance according to Jesus is like being found, after a long, extensive search. Celebration must take place. That which was lost is now found!

Repentance is not remorse. Repentance is a complete change of heart, mind, and direction. The core of repentance is receiving Jesus' infinite grace, mercy, and unfailing love.  Only fully trusting one's life to Jesus can make this possible. Jesus said, "I have come to seek and save that which was lost." (Luke 19:10)
When Jesus hung on the cross, He took upon Himself the essence of "being lost" as He bore our sins. He was separated from God His Father as He became your sin and my sin. The result is whoever will truly call upon Him in repentance, hungry for life change...He will answer. Whoever receives His grace, mercy, and love will immediately go from "eternally lost" to "eternally found"! When that happens heaven begins to party down!
Repentance is heaven's source of joy. If that's the case, it should also be the church's source of joy. We should be intent on bringing heaven's joy to earth as we lead folks into repentance in the church and out in the world. Ask Jesus to make you an instrument of heaven's joy as you avail yourself to leading others to Jesus. Then get ready to party!

Why Wait? Because It's Worth It!

We live in a "have it now" world. We hardly have to wait for anything! Our society is an instantaneous one. Someone said the next thing will be Toss-A-Burger. You reserve your burger online in advance. When it's time to eat, you simply drive "by" the drive-through window and someone tosses your lunch into your car. You don't even have to stop. Make sure your car window is down!

Why wait...when you can have it now, pay for it later. Why wait when you can spend your tax return before it is even issued! I remember when Connie and I purchased our first car. It was a 1974 Chevy Vega station wagon. We had to wait days for our credit to be reviewed, and finally approved. I was a bit nervous, but I didn't lose my sanity over it because our society was accustomed to waiting back then. We were more patient because of it. Today we blow a gasket if we don't hear something in 3 minutes.

This "spirit" of the instantaneous has made its way in to the culture of the Western church. In addition to emulating the ways of the world in this, we seem to lose patience with God when we don't quickly get what we ask Him for. Many give up. After all, the Bible says if we give, we shall get, right? But the asking and receiving must be done in God's way. So this brings me to the heart of this post.

There is a species of "giving and receiving" we Christ-followers tend to overlook. This particular species of giving and receiving is the most significant. It doesn't deal only with the here and now, but also the hereafter. As a matter of fact, the most significant "receiving" is done after we leave this life.

Jesus said, "Blessed are you when men hate you, and ostracize you, and insult you, and scorn your name as evil, for the sake of the Son of Man. Be glad in that day and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven." (Luke 6: 22 - 23) This is without a doubt, the most difficult form of giving. He goes on to say we must love our enemies, do good to those who hate us, bless those who curse us, and pray for those who mistreat us. (Verses 27 and 28)

These are the forms of giving that will bring the greatest rewards. But the thing is...they come later. In the face of hatred and being ostracized; in the face of insult and scorn; in the face of those who hate us because we serve Jesus, we are to love, do good, bless, and pray for those who have made themselves our enemies. When do we get rewarded for this? In heaven, not now. What is our reward for this? I'm not sure. But there is one thing I am sure off. The rewards we receive in heaven far out weigh any reward we can receive here on earth. Jesus said on the day we're hated, ostracized, insulted, and scorned for His sake we are to celebrate. Celebrate? Why celebrate for all that negative stuff? We don't celebrate for the negative stuff, we celebrate because of our great reward we will receive in heaven!

How often do you leap for joy when you are glad about something? Jesus said on the day we're persecuted we are not only to be glad, but we're to leap for joy! This type of reward will be so great we can leap for joy in the face of present persecution! It's just that incredible! And there will be a whole lot more leaping and dancing when we actually receive our reward in eternity!

Truthfully, for you and me to endure what is ahead, we must understand eternity. We must be able to think past the here and now. We must understand that most of what we do in this life affects our eternity. Jesus said, "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there will be your heart also." (Matthew 6: 19 - 21)
So how can one establish the mindset that reaches past the present into the eternal realm? It's quite simple. We fall deeper and deeper in love with the One who rules eternity. We determine that we are lost without Him. We determine that we are desperate for Him. We must seek Him until we find Him. The closer we come to Him, the more we perceive the reality of eternity. This perception enables us to endure whatever we encounter while we are on earth. We can even leap for joy in the face of it because our reward in heaven is so incredibly fantastic!

401265: Heavenly Rewards Heavenly Rewards
By Simms Mulozi & Pukuta Mwanza

Go Beyond The Barriers

We read in our history books about those who accomplished great exploits. Exploits that more than likely changed the course of history. We read in the Bible of those who stepped out for the sake of the Gospel, and changed the course of eternity for you and me. These were not great people. They were ordinary people who had faith in a great God! Somehow they realized (at some point) that mediocrity is the enemy of life-changing impact; and that the mindset of the status quo is the enemy of greatness. It's not so much that they broke beyond the limits of their own abilities. They simply broke through the barriers that kept them from greatness. God was already in them. The greatness was already there!
The greatness is already there! Did you get that? Gideon is a good example. (See Judges 6) Israel had turned away from God. God sent the Midianites to pretty much torment and hassle Israel for seven years. They wreaked havoc among the Israelites. When it was harvest time in the land, they would come out of nowhere and steal the harvest (among many other things)!
Israel prayed and God sent help. He chose Gideon, a great man of faith and power...right? Wrong! When He found Gideon, he was beating out wheat while hiding in a winepress for fear of the Midianites. The angel approaches him and says, "The Lord is with you, O valiant warrior." "The Lord is with us?" says Gideon. "Why has He let all this happen to us?" "And besides all that, I am a simple man from the lowly tribe of Manasseh."
The angel didn't tell Gideon He would zap him with a Holy Spirit ray gun, and give him supernatural abilities to defeat the Midianites. He simply said, "The Lord is with you, O valiant warrior." The greatness was already there! Gideon simply needed to break through (and away from) the mindset of mediocrity and the status quo. He eventually realized that with God...ALL things are possible. He got the clue that God had called Him to do things far beyond the ordinary. He delivered Israel with God's help. The greatness was already with him, because God was with him.
God didn't create and call you to be ordinary. He didn't call you to be mediocre, working hard just to maintain the status quo. No, he called you to great exploits for Him. Great exploits are not for a few select. They are for anyone who will trust God enough to take steps of faith. Steps that lead beyond the ordinary. Great exploits usually begin with small steps, usually one at a time. And remember, the greatness is already there because God is in you!
What has called you to do? Where has He called you to go? What dreams has He put into your spirit? Don't let the mindset of mediocrity hold you back. God is much bigger than that.
My suggestion to you is to write down your dreams. Pray over them. Dreams turn into great exploits for God. Dreams will take you through the barriers of the ordinary and status quo as you trust God. The greatness is already there because God is with you. Don't you agree it's time to break forth into what God has called you to do?

007399: War Room, DVD War Room, DVD

Tony and Elizabeth have it all---good jobs, a beautiful daughter, and their dream home. But their marriage is crumbling, and Tony is flirting with temptation. When Elizabeth meets her new client, Miss Clara, she's challenged to establish a "war room" and a battle plan for prayer. What will happen if she steps out in faith? Rated PG. Dove faith-friendly. Approx. 120 minutes.

Praise Him...Win Or Lose!

As I have stated before in previous posts, I really, really like the movie "Facing The Giants". It's that "football" movie about a coach who gets a revelation of some key Godly principles. He begins to apply these principles to his personal life as well as the team he coaches. The result is he coaches his underdog team to a State Championship!

What kind of principle could bring about this kind of success? The principle of praise. Coach Grant Taylor teaches his team to praise God when they win, and praise God even when they lose. This sounds too simple right? Not exactly. It is quite difficult to praise God in the rough times; especially when we lose or fail at something. Our culture conditions us to believe that winning alone is true success. And when we lose...we fail. The truth however, is that losing or failing does not make you a loser or a failure. That's one reason why we should praise God even when we lose or fail.

There is another reason we should praise God - even when we lose or fail. This reason is the foundation of the principle of praise. It is because He is simply worthy of ALL our praise. Circumstances do not change the fact that ALL praise is due Him. As a matter of fact, He never changes...even when circumstances do. When we praise Him regardless of our circumstances, we are declaring that our victory lies not in our performance, but in Him. We are acknowledging to Him that He is the only One who can change or even remove our circumstances.

God simply honors and receives praise offered to Him. Praise offered to Him in the hard times is not a product of circumstances. But many times praise offered when times are good (or when we win) is. Have you noticed that when some football players score a touchdown, they kneel down as to thank God? There is nothing wrong with that. He should get the glory. But have you ever seen someone kneel down to thank God when his opponent scores a touchdown? Have you ever seen a quarterback raise his hands in praise to God when he throws a pass that's intercepted?

To praise God in the bad times is not to praise Him FOR the bad times. It is to praise Him in spite of the bad times. Again, He never changes. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever! He is always worthy of our praise. No circumstance will every change that!

This principle of praise can be applied to whatever you do. If you are in business you can praise Him when things are good, and when things are slow. Be grateful for who He is, not only for what He has done. This moves the heart of God. When His heart is moved His hand begins to move! And nothing moves the heart and hand of God more than His principles applied in our lives.
Praise is one of the most powerful forces in the universe because God is exalted above our circumstances. When He is exalted, He is free to be God in our lives. When He is exalted, we see Him instead of our circumstances!
I will end this post with a great example of the power of praise from God's Word. Paul and Silas were being held deep in the dungeon of a maximum security prison. They had been brutally beaten and were chained hand and foot. About midnight they began praising God and praying to Him. They weren't praising and thanking Him for being in prison and for being beaten. They were praising God for His infinite greatness. They were praising Him in spite of their circumstances. Suddenly an earthquake occurred. The chains and shackles fell off of them and the prison doors flew open. In addition, every chain on every other prisoner dropped to the ground! This powerful praise opened the heavens for God to show Himself strong in their behalf. (See Acts Chapter 16) I encourage you to apply this principle in your life. Praise Him in the good times and the bad times....and whether you win or lose!

874370: Facing the Giants: Bible Study, DVD Leader Kit Facing the Giants: Bible Study, DVD Leader Kit
By Michael Catt, Alex Kendrick & Stephen Kendrick

Facing the Giants Bible Study - Leader Kit is a small-group Bible study driven by the characters, events, and circumstances in the movie Facing the Giants. Using movie themes and group interaction, this four-week study will help group members conquer their fears, face their giants, and grow their faith. The member book also includes leader helps and icebreakers to enhance your small-group experience. Features:
  • Video-supported Bible study
  • Member Book
  • 4 group sessions
  • DVD with teaching clips and movie trailer

702899: Facing the Giants, DVD Facing the Giants, DVD
By Alex Kendrick

Created by a church in Georgia to evangelize non-believers and encourage believers, this inspiring story about a losing high school football coach with a new game plan will have your whole town talking about trusting God for the impossible! After six consecutive losing seasons and fear surrounding his life, coach Grant Taylor turns to God in desperation. Taylor and his Shiloh Christian Eagles soon discover how faith plays out on the field and off! Rated PG. Approx. 112 minutes.

DVD Features:
  • Region 1, Closed Captioned, Widescreen
  • English, French, Spanish, Portuguese and Thai Languages
  • English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Thai and Chinese Subtitles
  • Exclusive Behind-the-Scenes Feature: "The Facing The Giants Story"
  • Commentary from the Director, the Producer and Screenplay Co-Writers
  • Small Group Study Guide Featuring Scenes from the Movie
  • Fumbles and Funnies: Outtakes
  • Cut from the Team: Deleted Scenes
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • Interview with Mark Richt, University of Georgia Head Football Coach
  • Interview with Michael Catt, Sherwood Baptist Church Senior Pastor
  • "With You" Music Video

Simplicity = Power In Worship

One thing I've noticed about humans over the years I have lived (being that I am a human) is that we have a natural tendency to make things complicated. Things can start out simple, but we tend to drift down the path of complication as time passes. I am convinced the root of this tendency is pride. Not that it is necessarily evil...but it does affect our effectiveness in many ways! Corporate worship is a good example. As we humans make our attempts to polish, perfect, and perform...things get complicated. Bottom line: When things get complicated we focus more on us than God.
Isn't worship all about focusing on Jesus? If more effort is being expended to keep the "well oiled machine" going...our focus is removed from God and placed on our own efforts. This is pride. Simplicity is not a lack of proficiency. Simplicity is the means in which we hone our focus on Jesus. The truth is Jesus is not impressed by what we can accomplish, unless He is glorified in it. Let's allow Jesus to search our hearts to make sure our motivation in worshiping Him is simply to glorify Him and not ourselves.
This brings me to worship lyrics. In a corporate setting, simplicity is the key to our focusing only on the King of Kings. There are many songs being sung in corporate worship today that should not be. Not because they are bad songs, and not because they are not anointed by God. But because they have so many words that most people are focused more on the overhead monitor, and getting the words right, than on the object of our worship...Jesus. Many of the "overly-wordy" songs sung in worship are great ballads (love songs) that should be sung to Jesus in a one-on-one setting.
The best Scriptural example I can recall is that of King David. David took a very complicated worship system and made it radically simple. Under the Old Testament Law, worship was a very complicated sacrificial system. If not done properly, people died! However, David, the psalmist comes along, throws up a tent, and puts the ark of the covenant in it on top of the mountain. He even comes into this tent often and simply worships God. Many of the songs he used in his worship (now the Psalms) were written while a shepherd boy, tending the flocks out in the fields.
God honored David's method of worship because it was pure and simple. He allowed access into His very presence even though this simple procedure was still under the Old Covenant. David led many people into God's presence this way. There was nothing complicated about it because David had no pride in this. Why should this be so significant for you and me? Because David's worship (David's Tabernacle) is a foreshadowing of what was to come. It was a look ahead to the New Covenant in which the one-time sacrifice of Jesus provides you and me access into God's presence through our worship, not a completed system.
God has graciously gifted us with the vehicle of music as a powerful way to worship Him. This involves our voices, instruments, and our bodies. Seek Him for simplicity in the ways we worship Him. It is true that we progress in our own abilities and styles as time passes by. But it is not "going back" to simplify things in worship. Remember, in the corporate setting it is our goal to focus on Jesus with our whole being. The singer and the musician as well should be able to focus keenly on Jesus, not the chord charts or the words. When Jesus is the focus our worship becomes powerful and lives are changed.

087370: Pure & Simple Blended Worship Pure & Simple Blended Worship
By Alfred Publishing & Carol Tornquist(COMPOSER)

Hits from the most popular Christian songwriters---Michael Frye, Tim Hughes, Matt Redman, Chris Tomlin, and many others---are paired with favorite hymns as tasteful, contemporary medleys. These easy piano arrangements feature lyrics, suggested fingerings, phrasing, pedal markings, and easy-to-read notation. Easy Level Piano Sheet Music.
Titles: Beautiful One, with O Come, All Ye Faithful * Blessed Be Your Name, with At the Name of Jesus * Here I Am to Worship, with O Worship the King * How Deep the Father's Love for Us, with I Stand Amazed in the Presence * How Great Is Our God, with Praise to the Lord, the Almighty * How Great Thou Art, with God of Wonders * It Is Well with My Soul, with Be the Centre * Jesus Paid It All, with The Wonderful Cross * Majesty (Here I Am), with Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise * On Eagle's Wings, with Be Thou My Vision * The Risen Christ, with Christ the Lord Is Risen Today * Softly and Tenderly, with Draw Me Close * 'Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus, with In Christ Alone.

Is Your Worship Really Worship?

This post is directed to those who are responsible for leading congregations/public gatherings into the presence of God. (This includes church leadership.) "Praise" and "Worship" as mentioned in this post refers to that time and medium employed during a public gathering in which folks gather corporately to draw closer to God.
So is your worship really worship?  True worship is hunger for God. God didn't make it complicated! Hunger for God is simply a strong desire to be as close to Him as possible. His Spirit in us and upon us makes it supernaturally possible for us to get as close to Him as we're willing to. It is His Spirit that generates our own hunger for Him; our desire to be near Him. "God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth." (John 4:24)
Without hunger for God our worship is at best a polished performance. I'm a musician, and if you are like me, good performance, great talent, and high proficiency can be very impressive. And sometimes the line between impressive and authentic can be clouded. However, the more hunger one has, the more genuine their worship. True worship is what affects others as it revealed as authentic, not impressive.
Over the past 5 and a half years Connie and I have visited numerous churches. In very few have we found a simple hunger for God. This is not to be critical, but to point out the need for our worship to be worship. Listen to me carefully. The greatest attraction to your church is Jesus. After all, it's about Him. It is not about music style. It is not about the content of your set-list. It's not about the talent. It's not about the proficiency of your team members. It is ALL about Jesus....and hunger for Him. When people hunger for Him, He comes and changes lives. I fear this eternal concept is too simple for some who are convinced that true worship success depends solely on the methods and procedures.
Let me propose a test for you. This may sound a bit ridiculous in this day and time, but hear me out. Take some time and take your worship team into a room with no instruments, no sound system, no overhead monitors, no smoke, and no flashing lights. Worship God there. Not individually but corporately. Not prayer, worship. Worship leader, lead your team into the presence of God with nothing but your bodies and your voices. If there is hunger for God you will enter into His presence. You may have to labor a bit, but persist! Focus on the One who deserves ALL the focus. Persist until you break forth into His presence.
Today's younger generations are being indoctrinated on the premise that worship is all about music style, content, presentation, and how sensational the presentation can be. But if they are not being taught by demonstration that the heart of all worship is hunger for Him,  worship will be a presentation (at best) only drawing those who are impressed by man's abilities...not God's. Jesus, in referring to the cross, gave us a valuable key, that also plays out as an infallible principle today. He said, "And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself." (John 12:32)
So I'll ask you once again. Is your worship really worship?

Is God Judging The U.S.?

Let me begin with one God is not judging the United States of America. God is not judging America's sin. God judged the sin of the whole world over 2000 years ago when Jesus hung on the cross. All the sins of mankind were placed upon Him as He paid the price for our righteousness.

God is not passing judgment. What is happening to the U.S. and most of the nations on the planet today is this. We are moving farther and farther away from the God who has blessed our nation over the past 200 years. We are distancing ourselves (as a nation) from the God upon whom our nation was founded. God hasn't changed. He is still the awesome, loving, and all-powerful God He has always been.

The 91st psalm begins like this: "Anyone who dwells in the shelter of the Most High (that's God) will abide in the shadow of the Almighty." To live in the shadow of Almighty God is a good thing. Why? Because according to the psalmist this makes God our "refuge and fortress". Having God as our refuge and fortress means having God's blessing and protection. Anyone knows that a refuge and a fortress are safe places. The thing is though, America is not so safe any more. We've made the choice to exit the refuge and fortress by choosing to move away from God and His principles. By excluding God we've opened the door to immorality in all shapes and forms, hatred, murder in our schools, and outright perversion. Our exclusion of God has degraded and weakened the U.S. on the international level to the point that she no longer positively impacts the world as she once did.

Let me use the umbrella as an example of protective covering. It is designed to keep us dry when it is raining. The key is that we remain under the umbrella. While there we are protected from the rain. It is our choice whether or not we remain under this protection. If we choose to walk out from under the umbrella...we get wet. As we choose the way of sin (as a nation) we also move away from God. As we move farther away from Him we no longer receive the blessing and protection knowing Him provides. Please remember, it is impossible to oppose God by choice and remain close to God.

To dwell in the shelter of God, and to live in His shadow (covering) is to make Him the God of our nation once again. But it must be our choice to return to Him. It's that simple. The good news is, He waits eagerly for the United States of America to return to Him. He has never left us. Instead we have left Him.

The truth is, it is humanly impossible for the U.S. to return to God as a nation. No amount of work or tradition or ritual will bring us closer. There is no religion or denomination that can do so. There is no earthly leader who can do so. Yet...there is still hope for our nation! Yes, this is humanly impossible but not with God. Jesus said, "The things that are impossible with people are possible with God." (Luke 18:27)

We must cry out to God for His divine intervention. There is no other way. The church in our nation must return to Him! There is no other way. Revival in our land must be more important than our own personal agendas and kingdoms. Without heavenly won't happen. Without corporate crying out to Him there will be no divine intervention! Just as moving away from God is our choice, coming back to Him is our choice. What will you do? The choice is yours and the time is short.

No Worries!

Wouldn't life be wonderful if there were no worries? Think about it. There would be no heart attacks, no strokes, no stomach problems, no irritableness, no frustrations...and a whole lot more peace! The majority of sicknesses, diseases, and disorders would be nonexistent.

Did you know there is a cure for worry and anxiety? No, it's not a pill. It is not psychological therapy. It is simple trust in Jesus and His Word. That may sound a bit "Pie in the sky" to you...but it's true. Some may think that when you compare the level of stress and worry to the simplicity of simple trust in Jesus it's just too good to be true. However, it is true. And it is good! Again, a worry-free life is the result of simple trust in Jesus and His Word.

The best explanation of this reality is in the book of Matthew, in Chapter 6. Jesus starts off the passage by saying "...Do not be worried about your life." (Verse 25) I was reading this this morning when I felt the need to underline that part. (If you can't underline and write in your Bible set it on the shelf and get one in which you can!) Don't worry about your life, Jesus said! That's nailing it on the head.

Are you one to worry about your life? Have you even once managed to improve the quality of your life by worrying? Worrying takes away from the quality of life. Jesus went on to say, "And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to your life?" (Matthew 6:27) The answer is very clear. No one! As a matter of fact, it has been proven time and again that worry and anxiety shortens one's lifespan. What I love about God's Word is the comfort and confidence it gives to me; comfort and confidence that God is in control! When I realize God is in control, the more simple trust I place in Him. This faith produces peace that surpasses mental logic! In other words, this peace goes beyond all human reason.

Jesus continues, "...for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things." (Matthew 6:32) Please realize my friend, God is so big that He knows what you need. When you're worrying about a need, He already knows you have that need. Instead of worrying about what you see (or don't see), simply trust Him, and the truth of His Word; and that He promises to take care of those things we can't take care of.

"Cast your burden on the Lord and He will sustain you; He will never allow the righteous to be shaken." (Psalm 55:22) Notice "He will NEVER allow the righteous to be shaken." The only way to "never be shaken" is to roll your cares over on the Lord. Then He takes them. When we carry our own burdens, instead of casting them on Him, we are overcome by worry and anxiety. This leads to our being shaken. God wants you to be in a place in which you are "never allowed to be shaken". That place is a place of peace and of faith, and you will only experience it as you roll your cares upon Him.

Jesus further states in the passage in Matthew Chapter 6, "But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." He said, "Don't worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." (Matthew 6:33-34) Jesus says the last thing we need to do is worry about tomorrow. Let tomorrow do the worrying for itself. It's about today. Seek Him today. Seek Him now. Seek Him first! Seek His kingdom and His righteousness. Then tomorrow will be taken care of. How? By God Himself who lives in tomorrow as much as He lives in today!

You see, to seek His kingdom is to seek the principles of His kingdom. These are the very principles that dispel the worries of this world. God's kingdom principles are opposed to this world's principles. So when one seeks first His kingdom, they are eagerly seeking superior laws and principles; principles that transcend the forces of worry and anxiety. This works only when the King is made the highest and foremost priority.

If you're trying to figure out how your need will be met, you are worrying. If you are one to attempt to calculate even how God can provide your need, you are limiting the all-powerful, almighty God to your own mental capacity. Stop it! Stop imagining how God will provide! Instead, simply thank Him for providing! He said He would. Now.....simply believe that He will, and rest well tonight.

"Commit your way to the Lord, trust also in Him, and He will do it." (Psalm 37:5)

Pigskins Are Flying!

It's that time again. Football season is upon us! Even though it's 193.1 degrees here in the South, it's still football time. At the time of this writing college football (which is my favorite by far) has just kicked off. The pros will be banging heads by this weekend. Yes, pigskins are beginning to fly everywhere!

Everyone has their favorite team. You know, that one team you'd die for. After all, it is YOUR favorite team. It doesn't matter whether they win or lose, whether they stink or not, or how funky their team uniforms are....they're YOUR team; and you're loyal to them to the end. It doesn't matter if you are a nice person or not...during football season you're a ravenous, rambunctious, uncontrollable fan of your favorite team. Right?
So what are you waiting for? It's time to get your social media oiled up and ready for those obnoxious digs toward those who oppose your team; or just those who like different teams. Let the human race know you are loyal only to YOUR team! Proclaim to the cosmos your "Hook'em Horns", "Hotty Toddy", or your "Waw Eagle"! Let the universe know YOUR team rules!

And never forget this guys...your manhood lies in football. (Not sure about the girls.) When your team wins, YOUR man-card credentials are genuinely validated. So...may your team win (unless of course they play mine). Let YOUR team rule, until they bow to mine. It's football season!

(In all seriousness, I do love football. But my how powerful the church could be if we could give it all for Jesus as we do football. What do you think?)

Stop Struggling With What You're Struggling With!

I was up early this morning pondering the goodness of my God. The Bible says, His compassions are fresh and new every single morning. "Because of the Lord's great love, we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. (Lamentations 3:22-23) What an encouraging Scripture! The actual truth is, no matter what time your day begins, His compassions are new and fresh. Because of His infinite grace, His love for you never stops. It is fresh and new each and every day. This brings great joy and peace to my heart.

It's true most Christians struggle with what they struggle with. No, not trying to be funny or confusing. But think about it. When you struggle with sin, do you often feel you are not pleasing to God? Truthfully, sin is not pleasing to God, but YOU ARE. Listen carefully, Jesus took your sins upon Himself when He died on the cross. "But He, having offered one sacrifice (Himself) for sins for all time, sat down at the right hand of God... For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified." (Hebrews 10: 12,14) I just love that "for all time" part.
What He did for you pleased God. Therefore, you are pleasing to God. That's where many Christians struggle. We think our acceptance by God is based on our performance (good or bad). So we struggle with not being acceptable to God because we struggle with sin. That's an unnecessary struggle however. The struggle won't make us any better, but trusting Jesus will. Simply believing He made us acceptable on the cross enables us to walk in His grace, mercy, and compassion every single day! That's powerful!

We live in a body of flesh, in a fallen world, so there will always be struggles with sin. But the struggle doesn't mean we are not pleasing to God. As long as the cross stands...we are pleasing and acceptable! This is God's grace. Through grace we are accepted by God. Thus, the power of the cross continuously works in us to overcome sin. If I could pick one Scripture (and I will) that powerfully declares who I am it would be (Romans 8: 1), "Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." All condemnation has been removed by Jesus and His finished work of the cross. Your part (and mine) is to believe and act accordingly. That's when we begin to see the power of grace overcome the power of sin in our own lives.
So stop struggling because you are struggling with sin. Instead, believe who you really are in Christ Jesus...acceptable and pleasing, God's very own righteousness. Turn the struggle into faith in Him who accepts you...not on the basis of your performance, but in and through what Jesus did on the cross.

949350: The War is Over: God is Not Mad, So Stop Struggling With Sin and Judgment The War is Over: God is Not Mad, So Stop Struggling With Sin and Judgment
By Andrew Wommack

Do you still feel the guilt of past sins? Do you struggle to believe that you're really forgiven? Peace is available, because Jesus did everything for you on the cross so you could be free from judgement and fear. In The War is Over, Andrew Wommack reminds you of the extent of God's grace through Christ. As you read about all Jesus did for you, you'll be freed to receive God's blessings in a new way.

It's Not Over Till It's Over....And It's NOT over!

There is a word we use quite often in our vocabulary. It is a powerful word. It can be used positively or it can be used negatively. The essence of this word can change situations. It has been known to move mountains. No, I'm not talking about faith. This word has produced victory in the worst of situations. In the midst of incredibly impossible scenarios this word causes folks to prevail. Without the force behind the word, faith would be impossible. The word is "Hope".

Hope proclaims a multitude of messages, all with one result...victory. Messages like, "It's never too late!" Or, "It's not over yet!" How about this one, "God's not done with me yet!" Another, "Sin may abound in this world, but I will stand in the grace of God!" Here's one that has molded my entire life, "With God....all things are possible!

While the word hope proclaims a multitude of messages (all resulting in victory), these messages are relative to the person who anchors themselves in such hope. No situation is identical from person to person. However, hope extends its victory to every person!
There is another side of this coin that can bring defeat, instead of victory. The road to defeat is forged by the power of the word "hopelessness". Hopelessness is drastically opposed to Hope. However, understand...hope is far more powerful than hopelessness. That is why the Bible is very adamant and direct about the power of hope. "Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him, the help of my countenance and my God." (Psalm 42:11) David seems almost baffled that his soul could even reach the depths of despair. But even when it does, he commands his soul to hope in God. David declares he will again praise God almighty, the one who puts the smile on his face.
From David's example we learn that discouragement, despair, even depression will attempt to grip us. But the key is to NEVER lose hope. Hope leads us forward and upward. Hope says, "It's not too late." Hope says, "God has something better for me ahead." Again, hope says, "It's not over yet...the best is yet to come."
In these last days, hope in Jesus Christ will be the force that moves us in victory. There will be no other way. Humanity's finest accomplishments will not be enough to bring us success, protection, and deliverance. Only hope in our supernatural God.
Remember, hope is not anchored in your past. It is not anchored in humanity. It's not anchored in the world's current events. But genuine, despair-defying hope is anchored in Jesus. With Him all things are possible! I love that old adage, "It's not over till it's over." And the good news for you and me's NOT over! Put your hope in our mighty God!

918256: Finding Hope When Life Seems Dark: Hosea, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah Finding Hope When Life Seems Dark: Hosea, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah
By Kay Arthur

In this booklet you'll study five of the prophets who ministered to both the northern and southern kingdoms before the exile of the southern kingdom to Babylon. Though God commissioned His prophets to preach unique messages to different audiences, He gave them a common theme—hope when life seems dark. As you study these, you too will find hope. Group or individual study includes a daily guide to help you discover truth for yourself, questions for discussion, a thought for the week, and a memory challenge.

Can God Be Eliminated?

Since about 1963 the spirit of anti-Christ as begun it's ploy to eliminate God from the lives of human beings. The only way it has gained ground over the past 50 years is through humans allowing it to happen. This ploy has been allowed by humans just a bit at a time, over time. Take a look back from the 2015 vantage point and you can see how much the spirit of anti-Christ has accomplished.
God has been banished from America's public schools. Attacks on the Word of God are becoming more frequent and aggressive. Just recently Brandon, MS High School band was not allowed to perform its half-time show because it contained a "religious" song in the line-up. This all stemmed from suit filed by one, single student in 2013 because the student was offended by a religious meeting held on campus. (According to Fox News) A judge ordered the meeting to stop, as well as anything with religious connotations on campus (which would include religious music played). The judge threatened to fine the school $10,000 if another violation occurred. Scared, spooked, and cowardly, the school prevented its own band from performing their half-time show.
The good news though, is that parents and the students began singing the very song (From the home-side bleachers) that caused the band to be banned. You may have already seen the incident captured on video by more than one person. The video has gone viral!
There is further good news. God cannot be banned. No...He cannot. It seems the more the attempt is made...the more He flourishes. There are those who will stand up for Jesus matter what the cost. In our county (U.S.A.) we have allowed the enemy over the past 50 years to come in and begin stealing our religious freedoms. It was ignored at first. It was not even noticed. It was subtle. But in recent years it has become blatant, forceful, and boisterous! Over those 50 years God has prepared (and still preparing) generations who will not bow the knee to the concept of a "godless" society. Nope.
Here is the bottom line. Man, at his very best, can only dream of a godless society. The truth is however, Jesus rules the universe. Things in the world will continue to get worse. The Bible prophesies this. However, where sin abounds, grace super abounds! The darker the night...the brighter the light.
In these last days there will be many who fall away from following hard after Jesus. The pressures of government, man-made religion, and outright godlessness will cause them to fold. However, there are those whom God has been preparing. These are the ones who will rise to the occasion! These are the ones who will not bow the knee to the Baals of our land, and our time. Because of oppression and persecution, the church will flourish; people will dig in deeper to Jesus; and folks will take their stand for Jesus, no matter the cost.
You can ban the marching band. You can cancel the meetings. You can remove every cross from every public place. You can lock the church doors, but God will flourish. He will flourish through His people...the church. As bad as it looks and sounds, God is still in control. He never lost control.
If you are a follower of Christ Jesus let me tell you that you are living in the most exciting, most powerful time ever for His church. Don't you every forget this. You were born for such a time as this! Make the decision now...stand for Jesus Christ. Watch Him do great and might exploits in and through you!
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766232: unPHILtered: The Way I See It unPHILtered: The Way I See It
By Phil Robertson with Mark Schlabach

The beloved straight-talking patriarch of A&E's Duck Dynasty shares his philosophy of life and reveals the source of his boldness. Beginning with five key words---"love God, love your neighbor"---he shares how his faith affects his views on everything from marriage and family to business practices, gun control, taxes, and prayer in schools. 240 pages, hardcover from Howard.

A New Church Plant?

Why would anyone want to plant a new church in these last days? I mean, there is a church practically on every corner...right? Everywhere you turn...there is another church. You'll find denominational churches and/or nondenominational churches. Add to that interdenominational churches where folks from "all" denominations are welcomed. You'll even find denominational churches that pose as nondenominational churches as they don't reveal the name of the denomination in the name of the church!
There are Pentecostal churches, Charismatic churches, Spirit-filled churches, traditional churches, seeker-friendly churches and more. So why would anyone want to start a church in America in these latest of the last days?
The numero uno reason of course, would be that God simply said to do it. God knows the needs of folks, beginning with the need for salvation. I believe God would lead to start a new church because many of today's churches are not effective for His kingdom.
Tradition alone is a powerful enemy of the church rendering her ineffective, simply because folks follow it (tradition) more than they follow God's Spirit. They "way things have always been done" seems to have a higher priority than the Holy Spirit's leading for today. Things change. Needs change. Cultures change. No one knows more than the Holy Spirit how to address all the changes. A good example would be a military in today's time attempting to fight a war with 100 year old weapons technology. It won't work!
If I were to be instrumental in planting a church today this is what it would look like. First, it would not be traditional. Why? You can go down the street one block and find at least 3 churches operating in a traditional manner. (You know, the way it has always been done.)
When I say it would not be a traditional church I mean several things. For instance, the church building would not be central to all the activity of the church. Yes, there would be a command post for gathering at least once weekly to learn, train, and celebrate all the ministry done by the church "out there" between meetings. However the focus would be less on one meeting and gathering place, and more on reaching people, outside the walls. The emphasis then would not be on how ornate and elaborate the building could be made or how many polished programs could be in place. With a much lower overhead, the investment of funds (you know, money) would be in people, not the building and all its programs.
With a more outward than inward focus, there would be a need for small group meetings. Small group meetings are not a new concept. As a matter of fact, the church actually began with small group meetings. The difference would be that small groups would promote the building of relationships with people, and sharing the gospel of the kingdom of God outside the church. The emphasis of the small groups would be more on "Go" than "Y'all come".
Next, this new church plant would be nondenominational. No offense to my denominational friends, but planting a nondenominational church at least offers a beginning without the crippling effect of tradition. From that point forward church folks would have to be diligent to stand against the temptation to yield to tradition. There will always be a war against that. Let me emphasize again that this church plant would be nondenominational and non-traditional. I would be most adamant about that.
Moving on, this new church plant would be a Spirit-filled church. A Spirit-filled church is made up of folks who are filled with God's Holy Spirit according to Acts Chapter 2. It is not that people who are not baptized in the Holy Spirit would not be welcomed. They would just need to understand it is a Spirit-filled church and be open to Holy Spirit baptism. All of the manifestations of the Spirit mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12 (and more) would be most welcomed. What the world needs now (in addition to love sweet love) is the supernatural manifestation of the Spirit of God....through the church. I love Paul's statement in 1 Corinthians 2: 4-5, "And my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God." You can get persuasive words of human wisdom anywhere, but then that's where your faith will be founded, on human wisdom. But where there is a demonstration of the Holy Spirit and power, one's faith will be founded on the power of God. That's the difference! So this new church plant would be a Spirit-filled church, made up of people who are baptized in the Holy Spirit. (See Acts 2.)
Next, this new church plant would have a heart for the nations of the world. Why? Because Jesus did. He said, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation." (Mark 16: 15) Jesus also said, "This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end shall come." (Matt. 24: 14)
This new church plant would not be a place for personal agenda. God's agenda would take the highest priority. To be a part of this last days work one might just have to lay down their personal agenda. Having been a pastor for many years I've seen it over and over again. A person comes to a church. They're excited about all God is doing. They want to get involved in ministry. But inside they actually want to use this church to promote their personal agenda. They see a particular church as a potential place to do just that. But when circumstances and the flow of the church do not allow this, they eventually pack up their agenda and move on to the next church. They are always looking for a place which seems to offer opportunities to promote their personal agenda. This new church plant would be a place through which to promote only God's agenda. And I would be most adamant about that too.
And finally this new church plant would be about encouraging followers of Christ to follower hard after Him in these last days. Time is short and there is no time for traditional, agenda promoting games. I also believe that these last days will be the most glorious for the church. We must realize that, examine our hearts before Him, and commit to making what ever changes are necessary (including repentance) to move forward in His awesome plan in these last days. Yes, that's what I would do. Pray for God to raise up churches like this in these last days. The world needs them!