★ “Back to the Basics” – Pursuit #3 – Adoration That Matters ★

Today is the final segment in our series of the 3 Worthy Pursuits…Prayer – Word – Worship.  We first introduced these pursuits in the post ★ “Back to the Basics” – Never-Ending Pursuit ★ in which we saw through the life of Jonah that God will go to great lengths to re-direct us from our disobedience.  The first Pursuit of our series was called ★ “Back to the Basics” – Pursuit #1 – Opening the Pipeline ★ in which we saw how critical prayer is through the Prayer of Jabez from 1 Chronicles 4:10.  In the second post ★ “Back to the Basics” – Pursuit #2 – What Are You Feeding On? ★, we covered the importance of reading God’s Word, the Holy Bible.  In today’s post we will unpack the final Pursuit…Worship.

100 - Daily Dependence - Worship EmojiWhat is worship?  It is a noun?  Is it a verb?  Yes…It’s actually both. 

Let’s start off with what Merriam-Webster’s Learner’s Dictionary had this simple definition of worship as:

  • the act of showing respect and love for a god especially by praying with other people who believe in the same god
  • the act of worshipping God or a god
  • excessive admiration for someone

Before we get too deep, too fast, I wanted to look at that last meaning…excessive admiration for someone.”  Another word for admiration is adoration which means 100 - Daily Dependence - Five Below Storedeep love.  My youngest daughter without a doubt has a deep love for Five Below. Any time she gets some money she wants to go shopping.  I have to say I am a fan of the store myself because you can some pretty cool stuff for $5 or less.  One visit, as we went through the aisles, I saw this mug which blew me away!

100 - Daily Dependence - I love Me Mug

What a sign of the times!  We live in such a self-indulgent culture that screams look at me, listen to what I have to say, it’s all about me.  You don’t have to go too far down on your Twitter or Instagram feed before you see an example of person making that proclamation of “I love me” through their excessive selfies!  I saw these alarming statistics on infogr.am site:

100 - Daily Dependence - Selfie Statistics

“1 million ‘Selfies’ taken globally each day!!!”  Not that is a “whole lotta lovin” of oneself!!  The Apostle Paul talked in 2 Timothy about the coming “Godlessness in the Last Days.”  In verses 1-2 he said:

“But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy,”

And the list goes on, you can read the rest in 2 Timothy 3:1-5.  Doesn’t that sound very familiar to today’s culture?  Now am I saying that taking a selfie = Godlessness?  ABSOLUTELY NOT!  I have taken my fair share with the people in my life to capture a moment.  But what I am saying is that we need to be very careful that being a “lover of self” is a slippery slope!  We need to renew our mind each day and not follow whatever is trending on Twitter!  See Romans 12:2.

In our last post called ★ Thought for the Day – Are You a Parasite? ★ we talked about how reading God’s Word, and “doing” what it says will move us from being babies in the faith to mature in our walk with God.  The same is true for our worship.  We need to not be so self-centered that everything has to be all about us and follow what 1 Corinthians 13:11 (NLT) says:

“When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things.”

When we were babies it was true that the world did revolve around us but that was due to our helpless state but just like as the apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians, we need to put away childish behaviors and start adoring the One who truly matters!  1 Chronicles 29:11 (NLT) gives us another way to live…

“Yours, O Lord, is the greatness, the power, the glory, the victory, and the majesty.  Everything in the heavens and on earth is yours, O Lord, and this is your kingdom.  We adore you as the one who is over all things.”

Going back to Merriam-Webster’s definition…Worship is “the act of worshiping God or a god.”  The strikethrough is based on what the Jesus said in Luke 4:8:

And Jesus answered him, “It is written, “‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only shall you serve.’”

Jesus was quoting Deuteronomy 6:13 from the Old Testament.  So how do you Worship God?  In how you treat others (see Luke 6:31-35, Mark 12:29-33), how we take care of people in need (see Matthew 25:31-46, James 1:27), and even how generous we are (see Matthew 6:19-21, 1 Timothy 5:8).  Another way to Worship God is through music.  David, who was called a man after God’s own heart, played the harp and loved to worship God through music.  He wrote in Psalms 150:1-6 (NASB)

Praise the Lord!
Praise God in His sanctuary;
Praise Him in His mighty expanse.
Praise Him for His mighty deeds;
Praise Him according to His excellent greatness.
Praise Him with trumpet sound;
Praise Him with harp and lyre.
Praise Him with timbrel and dancing;
Praise Him with stringed instruments and pipe.
Praise Him with loud cymbals;
Praise Him with resounding cymbals.
Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.
Praise the Lord!

I love that declaration…”Let everything that has breath praise the Lord!”  What a call to action!  This should be freeing to all of us because David said “Let everything,” not the talented or gifted, so if you are shy or feel like you do not have a good enough voice, memorize Psalms 150:6 and Worship the Lord whether in your home, car or church!  We live in such an incredible time period where there are some many different genres and styles of worship, from classic hymns to modern praise and worship.  How doesn’t matter as long as you do!

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I love what worship leader John David Hessler said…

“Songs become like a diving board to get us back in to the deep water of the Lord’s heart.  I love how a song can somehow contain an eternal moment inside of it.”

I cannot agree more with that!  I love music of all kinds but especially worship music.  I always have music playing whether it be in the house, car or wherever I go with my iPhone.  But I think that my favorite times of listening to worship music is when I am in church because as I am experiencing “an eternal moment” along with others which users in Holy Spirit’s presence because God inhabits the praises of his people, see Psalms 22:3-4.  Referred to as “Worship Service” or “Corporate Worship,” the gathering together of other believers in Christ to sing praises to God leads us into the final definition that I would like to delve into…Worship is…“the act of showing respect and love for  a  God especially by praying with other people who believe in the same God.” The strikethrough and capitalization of “God” is based on 1 Corinthians 8:6 (ESV) says:

“yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.”

God is worthy of our worship and is just waiting for us to turn from our wicked ways, see 2 Chronicles 7:14…The question is will you worship Him?  Will you give up on focusing just on what you want and what make you happy?  Will you look for opportunities to help others, to look out for the overwhelmed, under resourced and people far away?

Though we examined each PURSUIT separately, they are intrinsically linked…at some point you need to realize your brokenness and need of a change in your life, resulting in a PRAYER to God to accept Jesus as your Savior.  In response to that prayer, you start developing a relationship with God through reading His WORD.  And the outcome of gaining knowledge of God and His Son, your love and adoration deepens which leads to WORSHIP.  This is a picture of what happens during a church service, whether you attend on Saturday or Sunday.  Regardless of what denomination or congregation you belong to, if it is a Bible preaching church, each PURSUIT is represented during the corporate time of honoring God.

I will close with this last thought that I think encapsulates the truest sense of Worship…

“Worship is so much more than the songs we sing on Sunday morning.  It is the life that we live the rest of the week.”  Unknown

And how could I talk about worship and not give you a song too?  Here is an incredible song called “Simplicity” by Rend Collective.  Let this just fill your spirit!

Here are a couple of lyrics…

I come with my broken soul
To you the perfect one
To worship you in spirit and truth
Only you 

Give me a childlike heart
Lead me to where you are
Cause I’m coming back to my first love
Only you

You’re the reason I sing
The reason I sing

I pray that today you would focus on Adoration That Matters and live your life worshiping the One true God and give your heart to His Son Jesus Christ!

If you would like to read more on this, check out the post ★ Thought for the Day – Sweetly Broken ★

 

 

 

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★ Thought for the Day – Tribute to My Mom ★

Let me start off by wishing all the Moms a Happy Mother’s Day!!  

As part of the “25 Days of Thankfulness” series I shared with you about my Mom’s stroke in 2010 called ★ Day 03 – Reason for the Season – Let Hope Arise ★, and what a walking miracle she was.  100 - Daily Dependence - Mom's High SchoolOn April 18, 2016 my Mom was found on the floor by the nursing staff at the assisted living facility she was at and rushed to the hospital.  Within an hour of being admitted of the hospital, the CT scan determined that she had an even larger stroke the second time around. This time though it was on the other side of the brain which left no possibility of recovery, and 24 hours after being admitted to the emergency room my Mom lost her battle and passed away at 8 am on Tuesday morning. On Thursday night after the wake, my wife and I went back to my sister’s house.  As I sat down at my mom’s desk in my sister’s house, (a desk that has been around longer than I have been alive,) I thought to myself, what is the one thing that I would want to share with you about this incredible woman?  Would it be her work ethic?  Her money management skills?  Or her amazing ability to make anyone feel at home?  All of which were true, but I think what I learned most from my mom is about living out a lasting legacy (click here to read more.)  She taught us the value of family and about being a person of integrity; two values that I strive to embody myself and pass-on to my daughters.  I would not be the man I am without her tireless efforts to model the right way to live.

I also gleamed the importance of perseverance.  The stroke that happened in 2010 was a catastrophic event that had forever changed ALL our lives.  But long before that fateful December 23rd, my mom endured many other hardships.  She did not have an easy life to say the least.  From the time I was 5 years old, she was a divorcee, raising 3 children at a time when that was such a stigma.  It was like wearing a scarlet letter.  In spite of it, she taught us that regardless of circumstances to always be generous, loving and self-sacrificial.  One of the most tangible ways she expressed this was at Christmastime, which was always magical, and done on a single parent’s income!  Thinking back on it now, as a father myself, it is amazing how she was able to rub 2 nickels together to create a quarter.  Though we struggled financially, somehow she was able to give us the perfect Christmas year after year.  We had great traditions from the Advent calendar to the prime rib dinner to the eggnog toast…and always with Christmas music playing in the background, from Bing Crosby to Johnny Mathis to Brenda Lee.  Just thinking of it I am catapulted back in time…Music has a funny way of doing that.

As my sister and I went through our Mom’s room at the assisted living facility, many emotions were stirred up.  Here is a picture that my daughter made for her Grandma years ago to encourage her along the path of recovery from the first stroke from Psalm 23:1-6:

100 - Daily Dependence - Psalm 23

This verse is very dear to me.  I read this the day I was baptized (April 11, 1999) which I was reminded of when I sat in the very church in which I had made my profession of faith 17 years early watching others commit their lives to Jesus.  Finding this picture with that verse was a tangible expression of God’s presence amidst the pain and sorrow of the moment which made our task of gathering pictures and an outfit for the wake bearable.  I also saw a ton of music there including that John Mathis Christmas CD that we would listen to every year.  I realized that my love of music also stems from Mom.  For those who know me well, I always have music playing whether it be in the house, car or wherever I go with my iPhone.  And I have a song for any occasion…Including the last weekend I spent with my Mom starting when I flew in on Friday April 15, 2016.  Many people know that date because it is the filing deadline for U.S. federal income tax returns for individuals but it was also the 9 year anniversary of my family and I moving to Texas, a coincidence that was not lost on me when I realized it on the plane.  I went back to NJ to try and help out because over these past few weeks Mom’s health had diminished considerably.  Friday was a great day because it was a long 2 months of going from the hospital to the rehab facility my Mom was overjoyed to be moving back to familiar surroundings at the assisted living facility.

Over the next two days my sister, brother and I spent precious moments sitting in the courtyard as God blessed us with two glorious days of sunshine and the opportunity to express our love to her.  As we sat there, I of course had worship music playing for her.  One song that she really liked was called “Abba,” which in Aramaic is a word derived from baby-language and is translated to mean “Daddy.”  I often shared things with Mom from what I was reading in the Bible or what I learned from the sermon on the previous Sunday when we had our weekly phone calls.  As we sat in that courtyard and the sun warmed our faces, there was a gentle breeze as this lyric of the song played,

          “Abba, I belong to you.” 

I told Mom that God is her Daddy and He cares for her so deeply that He sent Jesus to die for her so that she could spend all eternity with Him.  And just as the song said, she belonged to Him.  Little did I know just a few days later she would be with her Daddy in heaven!  Romans 8:18-21 (NLT) speaks about “The Future Glory” we have to look forward to:

“Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later.  For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are.  Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay.

What a beautiful promise!  Something to know about our family is that if one of us is hurt we all rally together at the hospital.  It was not any different on Monday night (4/18/16), after a long day of waiting for the inevitable; my Mom had 12 people in her room at 10 pm sharing stories about the impact she had on them.  It was brought up how I was visiting for Christmas in 2010 when she had the first stroke and how fortunate that was.  And now 5-1/2 years later I am here for the second stroke…the room was silent for a half a second then all of sudden someone said that maybe we shouldn’t invite me here anymore…hahaha!  But my being in NJ both times has nothing to do with coincidence, but rather a loving father in heaven!  Our Daddy cares so deeply for each and every one of us.  I love what the Apostle Paul said in Romans 8:28:  100 - Daily Dependence - Romans 8-28God orchestrated that in the two darkest moments in our family’s life, I was not 1,500 miles away in Texas, but just minutes away in NJ.  Words cannot express how thankful I am, that if this had to happen, I was here to be a support to the family.  Romans 8:38-39 (NLT),

“And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love.  No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

“Nothing can ever separate us from God’s love!”  I mentioned that I learned all about perseverance from Mom and that was because she was a fighter!  Not only for her family to stay close or for her kids to grow up to be people of integrity, but also how she fought after having a massive stroke.  She defied the doctors back in 2010 who said she may not live, or that she may not speak again, or that she many never use the right side of her body.  Adversity after adversity she overcame and persevered!  My Mom was a living testimony of the faithfulness of God, a walking miracle!  I am so proud of her and was thankful that though her life was changed after the stroke, I had my Mom for another 5-1/2 years in which our relationship deepened far greater than it ever would have because we talked about matters of faith and the importance of standing on the firm foundation of Jesus Christ.  97 - Daily Dependence - Footprints PoemDuring this time period I saw how God was her hope and anchor amidst the storms and how He carried her through the many hardships.  My Mom had this plague hanging on the wall called “Footprints,” which we had on the memorial card given out at the wake.  I shared this quote with Mom a while ago from a good friend of mine which I will close with:

“We don’t know very much about eternity, but we do know that for the Christian, whatever our emotional and physical struggles are now, they will cease then.  Heaven’s delights will far outweigh earth’s distresses.”  Leo Primero    

As Romans 8:38 said, “Nothing can ever separate us from the love” of our Daddy in heaven.  And I will add to that with Revelation 21:4 (ESV) which says,

“He [God] will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

I take great comfort that my Mom is enjoying Heaven’s delights and is now free from the pain and suffering that she endured in this life.  Our loss is Heaven’s gain!  100 - Daily Dependence - Our Loss is Heaven's GainIn my Mom’s final moments, she had here 3 children at her bedside and we sang along with a favorite song of her’s from John Denver called “Take Me Home, Country Roads.”  As the conclusion of the song, my Mom took her final breath and Jesus took her home to heaven. She is finally at rest with her Heavenly Father after having that fateful second and fatal stroke.  Mom, thank for showing me how to live a lasting legacy and for making me the man who I am.  I owe everything to you and you will be dearly missed.  Know that your efforts were not in vain and generations to come will benefit from your love, dedication and faith in Jesus.  Rest in peace Mom.  I love you!

Happy Mother’s Day!!

 

If you would like to hear that “Take Me Home Country Roads.”

 

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★ Thought for the Day – But God… ★

Last year I posted this ★ Thought for the Day – What is the X-Factor of Leadership? ★, which examined how the X-Factor of Leadership is humble service to others through the example that Jesus gave to His 12 disciples.  On the eve of Jesus’ brutal death on the cross, He celebrated one last Passover meal together with His disciples, the people closest to Him.  Referred oftentimes as “The Last Super,” Jesus gave us a powerful demonstration and pattern to follow of what servant leadership is all about when He, the Son of God took on the role of a slave/servant and took hold of a jar of water and basin and washed His disciples’ feet.  One by one, foot by foot, Jesus humbled Himself and cleaned the day’s grime from their sandal-wearing feet…POWERFUL!  If you missed it, I encourage you to check it out because it will give you some needed background to this post.

Yesterday was “Good Friday,” which for Jesus was anything but that.  For us though, it changed everything!  By dying on the cross, Jesus stole the power of death and provided a pathway for you and me to overcome the Devil and have eternal life!!  But before we celebrate Easter and Jesus’ Resurrection, I thought we could look at the events leading up to Sunday.  Last week, my Pastor gave a great overview of Holy Week which I was very familiar with having grown up Catholic.  His sermon encouraged me to spend some time just reading and meditating on the events of this week through the Gospel of Luke.  If you are interested in reading what happened, they are recorded in Luke 19:28 – 24:12.  For those not familiar, Holy Week is the time period from Palm Sunday when Jesus triumphantly entered Jerusalem to Resurrection Sunday (aka Easter).  As I studied the story of Easter in Luke, I discovered some interesting things.  On Palm Sunday Jesus was heralded as a King riding in on the back of a Donkey and though we all know what happens just 5 days later on Friday, I was amazed about how Jesus made the most of every opportunity.  In Luke 21:37-38 it says that:

“Every day Jesus went to the Temple to teach, and each evening He returned to spend the night on the Mount of Olives.  The crowds gathered at the Temple early each morning to hear Him.” 

Even though He knew what awaited Him, Jesus spent each day teaching the very people who later would call for His crucifixion!  Michelle Myers made this astute observation:

“The crowd shouted “Hosanna” on Sunday…and shouted “Crucify Him!” on Friday.

Good Friday was a horrible day but I think that Saturday was probably the saddest day because all the hopes and expectations that Jesus’ followers had were crushed, and crucified on that cross along with Him.  Today’s “Thought,” is all about the transition period between the death of expectations and the resurrection of the dead.  And how, if you find yourself in that circumstance today, whether you are a believer in Jesus or not, there is hope in these two powerful words…BUT GOD!

95 - Daily Dependence - But God

Before that though, I would like to give a little context.  Luke 22:1-6 offers the background…As the Festival of Unleavened Bread (also called the Passover) was approaching, the leading priests were looking for a way to kill Jesus.  In verses 3-5 it says:

“Then Satan entered into Judas Iscariot, who was one of the twelve disciples, and he went to the leading priests and captains of the Temple guard to discuss the best way to betray Jesus to them.  They were delighted, and they promised to give him money.”

One man from among the inner circle accepted a bribe to betray His master.  As Judas waited for his opportunity, Jesus continued to show love to him even to the point of washing his feet!!  And the amazing thing, Jesus knew as he was washing Judas’ feet, see Luke 22:21-22 and John 13:18-30 which recalls when Jesus made the announcement that one of them would betray Him!  In the late 15th-century, Leonardo da Vinci captured that moment in his famous painting called “The Last Supper” 95 - Daily Dependence - Leonardo da Vinci - The Last Supperas each disciple, including Judas asked Jesus if it was them.  Shortly after, Judas left to put his plan in action.  Unaffected by his departure, Jesus warned Peter and the other disciples that Satan was going to “sift each of them like wheat” and that the spiritual warfare was going to be intense.  He also prepared them for what their life was going to be like after He was gone, see Luke 22:31-38What love!  Just hours before He would be viciously tortured and nailed to a Roman Cross, 95 - Daily Dependence - Crown and NailsJesus cared so much for these men that He would wash their feet, celebrate with them and offer counsel for the future!  After the Passover meal, Jesus did what He had been doing all week, and went with His disciples to the Mount of Olives to pray for strength for what Friday was going to bring.  In Luke 22:47-48 it recalls how Jesus was betrayed and arrested.  As He pleaded for His disciples to pray that they will not fall into temptation, the passage says:

But even as Jesus said this, a crowd approached, led by Judas, one of the twelve disciples. Judas walked over to Jesus to greet him with a kiss.  But Jesus said, “Judas, would you betray the Son of Man with a kiss?” 

When I read these words, God spoke so clearly into my spirit that “WE ARE ALL JUDAS!” 

WE ALL HAVE betrayed Jesus in our disobedience and choices that we have made.

WE ALL HAVE sinned and fallen short of what God desires for our life and…

WE ALL HAVE NO POWER to overcome sin without Jesus.

BUT GOD can change us if we will open our hearts!  Look at this amazing truth from Ephesians 2:1-9!

95 - Daily Dependence - But God - Ephesians 2 - 1-9

BUT GOD!  Two little words but when they are combined the impossible is possible!  When we say yes to Jesus, “we are made alive with Christ,” it’s like hitting the “reset button.”  95 - Daily Dependence - Nintendo Game System - ResetThe “reset button” is probably one of the greatest inventions on video game systems.  Do you remember what game system this is from?  Long before Microsoft Xbox 360, Nintendo Wii, or Sony PlayStation there was the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES).  For those who remember this, you are old like me.  Hahaha!  This classic 80’s game system 95 - Daily Dependence - Nintendo Game System 2was a major pastime of my childhood.  Hours upon hours were spent playing games like Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out, Donkey Kong Jr. and The Legend of Zelda to name a few.  The reset button was a constant go to when I was “knocked out” by Tyson or killed by a barrel or failed to rescue Princess Zelda, I would immediately jump up and hit the button which was like a do-over or clean slate.  95 - Daily Dependence - Martin Parker Street Art - Reset Your LifeI saw this sign creation from street artist Martin Parker that so perfectly illustrates what the purpose of the Cross and the reality of Easter!  We all get the opportunity to “reset our life” when we recognize that we are in need of a savior and surrender our will to God.  When we come to the end of ourselves and see that we cannot be “good enough” or “do enough” to earn our way to heaven.  When we see the cross for what it truly is, the ransom payment for our past, present and future mistakes!  God wants a relationship with you and me and so He provided a way though the death and resurrection of His Son.  In the post ★ “Back to the Basics” – Never-Ending Pursuit ★, we looked at the life of Jonah and saw an example of how God will move heaven and earth in order to pursue you and me!  God did the same thing when He sent Jesus to Earth.  1 John 4:9 (NLT) says:

“God showed how much he loved us by sending His one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through Him.”  

As I have been studying the book of Jonah recently, it is amazing the jewels that are contained in this well-known story.  Jonah and the Fish is not just a children’s story made up to teach a life lesson about the price of disobedience but was a true story.  Jesus validated Jonah’s miraculous experience in Matthew 12:40 (NLT), Jesus said:

“For as Jonah was in the belly of the great fish for three days and three nights, so will the Son of Man be in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights.”

Yesterday was the remembrance of how Jesus was crucified over 2,000+ years ago and the payment for the sins of the world.  He died on Friday BUT GOD raised Him from the dead 3 days later!  Today as we wait for Resurrection Sunday, I want to put these two powerful words on the sticky side of your brain…“BUT GOD!”  You may feel like things will never change…that your circumstance is hopeless…that things are hopeless.  But that is simply not true!  I am living proof that nothing is impossible for God.  All you need to do is open your heart!  Hebrews 2:14-15 (NLT) is an amazing verse to show that when you accept Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, you can be alive and free!!

“Because God’s children are human beings—made of flesh and blood—the Son also became flesh and blood.

For only as a human being could He die, and only by dying could He break the power of the devil, who had the power of death.

Only in this way could He set free all who have lived their lives as slaves to the fear of dying.”

Jesus came to set you and I free, will you accept Him?  Revelation 1:18 (NKJV) says,

“I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen.  And I have the keys of Hades and of Death.”

Jesus left the majesty of heaven and became flesh and blood to deliver a message of hope to a world desperately in need of a Savior.  He is ready to extend grace and mercy to you today.  So what should our response be?  Will you surrender your life to Him?  If you are ready to make a decision that will change your life, here is a simple prayer you can pray:

God take this broken, sinful person and forgive my sins.  I want a relationship with you I am in need of a Savior.  I believe that Jesus came to die on the cross for my sins and that He is the bridge that brings me to eternal life with you forever.  Please forgive all my sins.  I accept the free gift of eternal life and know that I can never do enough good deeds to earn that salvation.  In Jesus Name I pray!  Amen!

If you prayed that in earnest, welcome to the Kingdom of God!  I encourage you to find a bible teaching church and pursue your new relationship with Jesus!  If you want to read more about developing your faith, check out our segment on the blog called “Back to the Basics”

Now for the believer who may be struggling today or perhaps your walk with God has been in a lull…I want to challenge you to make a change today!  Worship Pastor Wade Joye made this statement that resonated in me!

“Easter is not an event we celebrate; it’s a reality we live in.”   

Just like Christmas, Easter should not be a “one and done” event.  It should be part of our DNA.  Don’t be a “Chreaster”… (a person who calls themselves a Christian but only attends church on Christmas and Easter.)  If you want to have a vibrant faith, then you need to put in the work.  We are doing a series right now about three worthy pursuits of God that will change the trajectory of our life with God.  Through Prayer, Reading God’s Word (the Bible) and Worship (both in song and church attendance) we can live a victorious life!  Paul instructs us in Romans 8:11 (NIV)

“And if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you.”

As a believer in Jesus Christ, the same Spirit that raised Him from the dead is in you!  If you are in need of refreshment of your Spirit today, ask and you will receive that!  Jesus is the Resurrected King who is ready to resurrect you and me.  If you want to grow you need to make steps to do things differently.  Nothing changes if nothing changes!

In anticipation of Easter tomorrow, I will close with this…“He is Risen!”

I pray that this year, you will experience Christ in a new way!  Happy Easter!

 

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★ “Back to the Basics” – Pursuit #1 – Opening the Pipeline ★

In our last post ★ “Back to the Basics” – Never-Ending Pursuit ★ we dug into the life of Jonah and saw through his life how God will go to great lengths to re-direct us from our disobedience.  We also introduced that we would be doing a 3 part series of how if we would respond to God’s “Never-Ending Pursuit” of us that would result in a victorious life for us.  As a refresher the trilogy of posts will delve into these 3 Pursuits…Prayer – Word – Worship.

94 - Daily Dependence - Prayer Word Worship BannerSimple enough right?  But I know myself; in the busyness of life establishing (and maintaining) a consistent “quiet time” can be a challenge.  Not familiar with that term?  You can check out this post called ★ Back to the Basics – Silencing the Noise ★ that goes in-depth about it but in a nut shell, it is simply being intentional about having a conversation with God through prayer, reading the Bible (Word) and for me I enjoy having worship music on.  This could be at night or in the early morning, or any time in between that does not really matter, what matters is spending time with God.  The pursuit of our Father in Heaven is all He desires!  God wants a relationship with us.

94 - Daily Dependence - Prayer EmojiSo in our inaugural post of this series let’s talk about “opening the pipeline” aka – Prayer.  In 2 Chronicles 7:14 (NLT) we get a very clear picture of what God is desiring:

94 - Daily Dependence - 2 Chronicles 7-14 - If My People Would Pray“Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land.”

“If my people” would “humble themselves and pray and seek” Him and turn away from sinning, God will hear us and forgive us!  Wow!  This is not an obligatory prayer before your meal, or a lukewarm petition.  God’s desire is for us to truly want to pray, to be passionate in our time with Him.  And it is not intended to be a monologue…that you tell Him all that you need and then say Amen…It should be a dialogue where you listen for a response which could be an impression you feel or something that you comes to mind.  And this is something that is developed over time.

Before I accepted Jesus as my savior and pursued a relationship with God I know I prayed many milquetoast and meaningless prayers where I bargained with Him like God let me pass this test and I’ll go to church this week, or God get me through this hangover and I will never drink again.  The problem with these prayers is that they were not sincere and were just attempts to bribe God to get me out of trouble.  Too often we pray when things are terrible for God to help us out but once that is done God gets nothing…no thanks, no gratitude even if He did everything we prayed.

There is a song by the late great country singer Johnny Cash called a “Boy named Sue.”  He tells the story about how his father named him Sue and that he spent his life fighting everyone as a result of it.  The song most certainly is fictitious but in the Bible there is a man who was the equivalent to Sue.  His name was Jabez.  In 1 Chronicles 4:9 it says that:

“His mother had named him Jabez, saying, ‘I gave birth to him in pain.’”

The name his mother gave Jabez literally means…“he causes or will cause great pain.”  Now that may not seem like a big deal, but in Old Testament times, a person’s name was an indication of his future.  And a name like Jabez was like a curse that would predestine a person to a life of ridicule and grief just like the “boy named Sue.”  However, Jabez rose above the curse with a very simple prayer.

In 1 Chronicles 4:10 Jabez cried out to God saying:

“Oh, that You would bless me indeed,
And enlarge my territory,
That your hand would be with me,
And that you would keep me from evil,
That I may not cause pain!
So, God granted what he requested.”

Jabez was a man who knew the power of prayer and is a great example of how to open the pipeline to God.  First and foremost we can learn that just like Jabez, we need to believe with all our heart that God will honor our prayer.  Now Jabez’s prayer may seem to be common sense but how many of you have ever prayed so boldly?  Most people feel that they should be grateful for whatever they have and it’s better not to press your luck by asking for more since there is so much suffering in the world.  That is completely opposite from the truth.  If you look at the first part of his prayer:

94 - Daily Dependence - 1 - Oh, that you would bless me indeed

Jabez is asking God to provide him with resources.  Now don’t misunderstand me, that does not mean that you can ask God for a Rolls Royce or a mansion in Beverly Hills.  As we discussed in the post ★ Thought for the Day – Where Does Money Come From? ★, “God is not a vending machine!  Too many pastors and churches have sown into the “prosperity gospel” where you “give to get,” or in this case that you are praying for God to give you with lots of stuff!   That is not what blessing means.  The kind of blessing Jabez is talking about in a biblical sense is to ask God for “supernatural favor.”  It is asking God to bless us not with more of what we can do for ourselves, but for Him to do the miraculous through us to glorify the kingdom of God.  What a different perspective then the conventional though of our culture.  God has so many blessings for us and is just waiting for us to ask for them.  In Matthew 7:7-8 (NIV1984) it says:

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.

Jabez asked and he received.  The prayer of Jabez is a special prayer asking for God’s blessings.  But something you have to realize is that God’s blessings are not always the blessings that we think that they ought to be.  The blessings that He will bestow upon us are so much more abundant than we could even imagine.  When Jabez asked God to “bless him indeed” he didn’t say “God I could use a new car, or a million dollars”; rather he left it up to God to decide how, when and where to bless him.  He prayed that God would give him nothing more and nothing less than what God had planned for his life.  The blessing can come in many different forms and for reasons that you would never expect.  In the second part of Jabez’s Prayer he asked for God to:

94 - Daily Dependence - 2 - Enlarge my territory

Now when I first read that I immediately thought of real estate.  That Jabez wanted more land but what he was really asking for was more influence, more responsibility and more opportunity to make a difference for God in his life.  Asking your territory to be enlarged is a very dangerous request though.  You are saying to God give me a greater sphere of influence and more opportunities to impact people for Christ.  It is being totally open for God to use you as a tool for His purpose.  That means stepping out of your comfortable schedules and routines and being ready at any moment to fulfill God’s master plan.  It means seeing “interruptions” as “opportunities!”  This was true for me on Thursday on my flight home from a business trip in Indiana.  My plan was to plug-in my ear buds to relax with some music and write this post!  But as a man sat down next to me and proceeded to talk with me, God opened an incredible door to speak life into his situation.  Though I was exhausted from 2 days of meetings, and had other plans for the 2 hour flight, I was thrilled to be able to partner with God to share the truth from His Word to help encourage him.  It truly was the highlight of my day!

When you ask for your territory to be enlarged, it is an awesome responsibility but the rewards are immeasurable.  More than any other part of the prayer of Jabez, this concept of “enlarging my territory” has to be the most bizarre and unexpected request.  How many people do you know go up to their boss and say “would you give me more work and responsibility?”  Most people feel that whatever they are currently doing is enough and that they do not have the skills to handle anything more.

Through the Holy Spirit, He will speak the words of encouragement or healing or compassion that the person needs to hear.  That is what happened to me on Thursday!  The man in seat 16A asked me if I was a pastor but I am not, I’m an architect, and he kept saying “how is it that you know all of this?”  The answer unequivocally is God!  That is the point of this part of Jabez’s prayer, by asking for “the expansion” you are taking a huge leap of faith and trusting that when you are reaching out to people who God will give the words to speak when you are open to be used, He will break all the boundaries and restraints holding you back.  The third part of Jabez’s prayer:

94 - Daily Dependence - 3 - That your hand would be with meIs the equivalent of the Star Wars catch-phrase…“May the Force Be With You.”  Jabez realized that once God started to bless him with resources and expanded his territory that he was going to need help.  It is all too common for people to ask for more responsibility and once it has been given they feel overwhelmed and begin to doubt themselves.  It is at this point that we need the hand of God to carry us and work the impossible through us.  In his book “The Prayer of Jabez: Breaking Through to the Blessed Life,” Bruce Wilkinson said that:

“The Hand of God is a biblical term for God’s power and presence in the lives of His people…As God’s chosen, we are expected to attempt something large enough that failure is guaranteed…unless God Steps in.”

I shared some of this in the ★ Why I Do What I do ★ section of the blog, starting this blog was a huge step of faith because of the commitment level.  It takes much more effort than just throwing up a status update.  But God certainly expanded my territory through this blog and without a doubt has had his hand on my preventing epic failure.  He has equipped me with a boldness to share things from my heart and do things that I never imagined possible.  It has been an amazing experience!  The fourth part of the Prayer of Jabez states:

94 - Daily Dependence - 4 - And that you would keep me from evilThis is critical to pray.  As God blesses us, and our territory is expanded and the supernatural power is surging through us, we are most vulnerable to stumble and fail.  When you are enjoying spiritual victories and seeing God’s unbelievable plan unfolding it is easy to feel invincible and impervious to the attacks of the devil.  But, Jabez knew that once you start treading on the devil’s territory, a giant target would be placed on you.  You become public enemy #1 in his eyes.  I can attest to that fact.  With the devil’s attention focused on you like this, it’s best if you don’t try to play with temptation.  Don’t fall into the devil’s trap by testing your strength to resist from sinning because that is the quickest way to fail.  Bruce Wilkinson made this point in the book that:

“It is better to stay out of the arena than to challenge the lion.”

What is the best offense?  A good defense!  And that of course as you can already guess, is prayer!  In the book of Matthew, Jesus told the apostles how to pray, “The Model Prayer” found in Matthew 6:9-13 is often referred to as the “Lord’s Prayer,” or as I knew it growing up, “The Our Father.”  The final verse shows how important to pray to God for deliverance:

“And do not lead us into temptation,
But deliver us from the evil one.”  Matthew 6:13

In regard to temptation it is best not to press your luck.  If there is no temptation we will not sin; so stay clear of situations that will lead you to sin or cause harm to you or someone else.

There is such a tremendous power in prayer.  When Jesus was on the earth He was always praying to the Father.  In fact the only thing that the apostles ever asked Jesus to teach them was how to pray.  Jesus’ ministry was not just about healing and preaching but about praying.  He lived a life of Prayer.  It was through His prayers that God worked all the miracles and wonders.  In the life of Jabez, here was a man who started off badly but ended victorious from a simple prayer.  And let’s not miss the final part of that prayer…

94 - Daily Dependence - 5 - That I may not cause painI love the self-realization of Jabez, to know that he is fallible and in need of God to protect him from hurting other people.

And God’s response…“So, God granted what he requested.”  I heard a missionary say once:

“That when we work, we work.  But when we pray, God works.

God will work in your life through your prayers.  When you pray, you are opening up a pipeline to the creator of heaven and earth and the possibilities are endless!!  Your pray doesn’t have to be a formal, rehearsed prayer but rather God desires it to be one from the heart.  You don’t have to have your eyes closed or be in church.  Sometimes the most powerful prayers can be in the car as you’re driving to work or school.  Regardless of what you are doing, or who you are with, God will honor your prayers and welcome the fellowship time between you and Him.  Talk to God like a friend and open your heart to Him.  The miraculous can be done with a prayer!

If you are interested, you can check out the second installment called

★ “Back to the Basics” – Pursuit #2 – What Are a You Feeding On? ★

that covers the Pursuit of Feeding on God’s Word!

or

If you the introductory post, you can go here:

★ “Back to the Basics” – Never-Ending Pursuit ★

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