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Greater - Part 4

"I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing.  He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father."  John 14:12

I can’t stress enough the belief that I have that God desires to do greater in our lives.  It is a deep core belief of mine.  God desires to work through us in greater ways that will bring greater glory to His name in our marriages, families, lives and in our church.  If you haven’t yet read previous blog post, I would encourage you to read them to see what I’m talking about.  Today, I want to share some thoughts on a couple of mind set that prevent us from God’s greater in our lives.  I hope that this insight will help in your journey towards God’s greater in your life.

  1. Behind Us – When God’s desire for greater is presented to us, it’s easy to be overwhelmed and to look back.  I mentioned this before in a previous post.  I can’t emphasize this enough.  Its human nature to look back and to compare today’s opportunities to yesterday’s successes and failures.  Looking back will never get us to God’s greater.  God desires to move us forward and while we appreciate yesterday’s success and we learn from yesterday’s failure we must not look back.  The prophet Isaiah stated it best in Isaiah 43:18 when he directed the people to not look back but rather to move forward with expectation for greater things
  2. Beneath Us – God’s greater can sometimes begin with small acts of obedience.  I love how Pastor Steven Furtick put it in his book greater, “Dream big!  Start small.”  In our journey towards greater we have to remember that it all starts with small steps.  Think of it as God conditioning us for the greater.  We can never reach greater until we’ve been faithful with the smaller.  Zechariah 4:10 “Do not despise these small beginnings, for the LORD rejoices to see the work begin…”  Our pride sometimes resists the small beginnings as if to say that what is being asked of us is beneath us.  One could have a great dream to touch the lives of thousands but it may start in serving in the nursery or helping clean the church.  Don’t ever think that something is beneath you.
  3. Beyond Us – When we capture a glimpse of God’s greater, it can be so big in scope that we can say that it’s beyond us.  We can throw in the towel before we ever get started on this journey.  If God is calling you to a greater lever of service in your home life, church life and in your personal life, then He will provide and equip you for all that is needed to reach the God-purposed destination.  With God, all things are possible (Luke 18:27).  If we really believed that, why don’t we see things as possible instead of impossible or improbable?  Don’t form patterns in your life where everything seems beyond you.  The key to God’s greater is that we remain with God and allow His word to strengthen and guide us.

God’s got greater things in store for our lives that will bring Him greater glory.  I want to challenge you today to renew your mind and allow God’s Spirit to draw out your courage and tenacity in reaching for God’s greater.  He is willing and able to do much more than we could imagine.  He’s waiting for us to walk with Him on the journey towards greater.  

 

Greater - Part 3

"I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing.  He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father."  John 14:12

One of the best word that describes God is great.  We've heard many people say it before.  "God is great!"  The things that He does in our lives and how He shows His faithfulness to us can be summed up in one word.  Great.  I never get tired of saying it, "God wants to do greater things through us and for us."  It's a truth that resonates in my soul and it transforms my life.  Today, I want to share with you how believing God for greater in your life, requires transformation in our life.  I know, change is not always easy but it is necessary in order to experience God's greater in our lives.  Instead of running from change, let's embrace it and acknowledge that obtaining God's greater requires change.  Here are a couple of things that must change in our lives if we are going to experience God's greater.

  1. Our Thoughts - There is a constant battle that is being played out in our mind.  I am not preaching positive thinking here, although, positive thoughts never hurt anyone.  What I am saying is that our thoughts need to change in order to experience God's greater.  The Apostle Paul stated in Philippians 2 that as believers, we have the mind of Christ in us.  That's where our thoughts should originate, from the mind of Christ.  Too many times our thoughts have limited the scope of our dreams and vision because our thoughts have talked us out of God's greater.  The only way we win the battle of the mind is to use the mind of Christ.
  2. Our Expectations - Our thoughts will always influence our expectations.  Given the times, it has become easy for many to lower their expectations.  "I'm not going to get the job."  "I won't get the raise."  The list goes on and on.  When I activate the mind of Christ, it changes my expectations.  I begin to see things from a different perspective and begin to elevate my expectations.  God won't do greater in our lives if we're not expecting it.  He won't do greater in your marriage, family, health and finances if our expectations are at a low point.  No!  We must exercise our faith and raise the level of our expectations.
  3. Our Behavior/Actions - It's not enough to think differently.  We must also behave and act differently.  We must allow our faith and expectations to change our actions.  God's greater always requires that we respond with an act.  If God's wanting to do something greater in your marriage, you have to ask yourself, "What behavior must I change?"  If God is wanting to do something greater in your finances, you have to ask yourself, "What must I change in my finances."  I know that this is at times more difficult than others but the fact remains that God's greater requires a change in how we behave and what we do.  I think of Abraham, then Abram, when God wanted to do something greater in his life.  Abraham was required to DO something.  He had to get up and leave his homeland for a greater one that God had for him.  How many have lost out on God's greater because they weren't willing to leave their "homeland?"

My prayer is that we will embrace the transformation that God is wanting to do in our lives.  Our thoughts, expectations, behavior and actions all must be transformed in order to experience God's greater in our lives.  Let's submit these things to the Lord and allow God's greater to overtake our lives.  God bless.

Greater - Part 2

"I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing.  He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father."  John 14:12

 

We serve a God that has greater plans for His people.  In our last blog we learned how we can be sure that God has greater plans for us.  If you haven't read it, give it read.  I know that it will encourage you.  In today's post I want to share with you why many of us are hesitant to strive for God's greater in our lives.  Remember, when I use the term, greater, I am not necessarily meaning greater quantity.  God greater plans for us involve an increased level of surrender and effectiveness in His kingdom.  God's plans for our lives are not a "one-size-fits-all" kind of plans.  He customizes plans for each individual. Please don't make the mistake of thinking that what God plans for someone else must also be the plans for you.  Let's get into our topic for today.  Let's look at the obstacles for God's greater plans in our lives.

  1. Disconnected - It's hard to discover God's greater plan for our lives when we are disconnected from God.  I'm talking about relationship.  How can we become aware of God's greater plans when our relationship with Him is weak and blasé?  Something great happens when our relationship with God is passionate and vibrant.  We begin to familiarize ourselves with His voice and then we begin to discern His greater plans for our lives.  It's impossible for us to have a solid relationship with God and sooner or later not discover God's greater plans.
  2. Comfort - Here's a fact.  God's greater plans for you will make you uncomfortable.  They will challenge you and stretch your faith in ways you can't even imagine.  In Steven Furtick's book, Greater, he writes, "Comfortable complacency will lead to miserable mediocrity."  Ouch!  That's a stinging statement about the attitude of many believers.  We value our comfort more than the call to the greater God has for us.  We've settled for "ok" and "good" when God says, "I have something greater for you."  We can't walk in God's greater plans for our lives from a position of comfort.  It's just not possible.
  3. History - We all have a history.  We've done stuff that we're proud of and stuff we're not proud of.  It's this history that sometimes causes us to resist the greater plans God has for us.  Our history is like a knife that, good or bad, can cut both ways.   Let me explain.  It's easy for us to look back on the good things that have happened in the past and reflect on them but this becomes an obstacle when we dwell on them.  We can't live in our past victories we must press on for God's greater.  Sure we appreciate yesterday's victories but God says to us today, "I've got something greater."  Don't let yesterday's good rob you of tomorrow's greater.  Our past failures can affect us as well.  Maybe you've tried something that was out of your comfort zone and you didn't see the results you wanted to see.  Maybe you've gone through divorce, bankruptcy or closed your business.  We can not let our past failures serve as an anchor to weigh us down.  We've got to keep moving forward to God's greater plans.  God knows your past and he doesn't want you living in it.  That's why God put our eyes in the front of our heads and not the back of them. 

There are so many other reasons why we could resist God's greater in our lives but it's safe to say that none of them are valid.  In fact, let's call them what they really are.  Excuses.  Imagine what your life would look like if you emptied yourself from excuses and allowed God to something greater in you?  What would your life look like?  What would your home look like with parents who were striving for God's greater plans?  What would a church look like with group of believers who were sold out to God's greater plan?  God's has something greater for all of us.  Let's go discover it! 

 

Greater - Part 1

"I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing.  He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father."  John 14:12

This statement by Jesus is an overwhelming one to say the least. How is it possible for us to do greater things than Christ?  I've recently revisited this scripture due to the fact that I'm reading an amazing booking called "GREATER" by Steven Furtick.  This book has provoked much thought in my life and has caused me to evaluate my expectations in almost every area of my life.  The fact is that God desires to greater things through our lives but sometimes we just have a hard time believing it.  Why would God want to do greater things through us?  Let me give you a couple of reasons why I know that God wants to do greater things through us.

 

  1. God created you.  God didn't create you to be average or mediocre.  While many have settled for average living, God has greater things for your life.  He's the master planner and builder of your life.  He designed you with greatness in mind.  The greatness I'm talking about isn't a greatness that is prideful or self-promoting.  The greatness that God designed you with is one that bring glory to Him.  If God didn't have greatness in mind when He created you, why would He even bother?
  2. God sent Jesus to redeem you.  One of the definitions of redeem is "to change for the better."  Many of us attempt to become better people by making better choices, being kinder, being more generous and the list goes on.  This is admirable on our part but the fact remains that we can never truly be redeemed, or changed for the better, without Jesus Christ.  Why would God send Jesus for humanity if God didn't have something greater for us.  It is because He has something greater for us that He sent Jesus.
  3. God gave us His Holy Spirit.  This is mind blowing if you really think about it.  God desires to do greater things through us and in us and He knows that in our strength that we are incapable of doing it.  So what does God do?  He gives us His Holy Spirit so that we can have no excuse about our limitations.  Think about it.  The very same Holy Spirit that was present and active at creation and the very same Spirit that empowered Jesus to perform miracles is alive in all Christians.  Why would God give us His Spirit if He didn't have greater things for us to do?

My friends, I want to encourage you to believe that God can do something greater in your life.  Maybe it's in the area of your marriage or maybe in the area of your business.  It's time that we set are hearts, minds and spirits to a greater level of expectation.  Remember that God hasn't designed you for mundane and average.  He's designed you for greater!

A Clear Message

In the "Circle Maker" by Pastor Mark Batterson, he states that as a pastor he is called to comfort the afflicted and to afflict the comfortable.  I think that this is an amazing statement that pretty much clarifies the role of any pastor.  As a pastor, it's always easy to try to be diplomatic with people.  After all, pastors are not in the business of offending people.  With that being said, I believe that when you speak truth, biblical truth, it will offend some truth.  I recently heard an interview of a prominent pastor who was asked a question on a very controversial subject.  His response was simply brilliant.  He responded by saying that as a pastor, he was called not offer his opinion but rather God's word.  This is absolutely true.  With Easter in the rear view mirror, I began to analyze many of the responses that I received in reference to my Easter message.  The basic premise of my message this Easter was simply answering the following question.  What is a Christian?  I didn't realize that the answer to this question could make many people so uncomfortable.  We all have views as to what a Christian is, but really what matters is what God's word teaches.  I believe that our society is in need of a clear message and not some muddled ambiguous message.  I'm not asking or advocating people go out of their way to try and offend people with an "in your face" message.  What I am saying is, let's be clear with the word of God.  When  asked, let's not be afraid to declare what God's word says about some of the current hot topics.  When the message we declare is clear it allows people to really evaluate their lives in light of God's word.  It's only His word that can bring about great and positive change in our lives.  Be blessed this day. 

Out of My Comfort Zone

One of the themes that God has laying on my heart recently has been the theme of growing in faith.  This theme has permeated through my lessons and sermons this year.  I've learned that there is a huge difference in acquiring faith and growing in faith.  This difference is as big as the difference between knowledge and wisdom.  Knowledge is having information but wisdom is knowing how to apply that information.  Having faith and growing in faith are two distinct things.  The Bible tells us that faith comes by listening to the word of God (Romans 10:17).  It is vital to any Christian to input the word of God into their life.  Whether it be through daily Bible reading, listening to teachings on the radio, tv or internet, or going to church regularly, getting God's word into our lives is important because it's how we acquire faith.  Faith comes by hearing.  However, we grow in faith by doing and not by listening.  That is why James writes, "Faith without works is dead.  (James 2:17)"  I believe that what James was trying to convey is that our faith grows when we respond with action.  The more we put our faith in action, the more it grows in our lives.  When James says, "Don't just be hearers of the word, but do the word (James 1:22)" I believe what he means is it's not enough for us to have faith, we must act in faith and live in faith.  This takes me to my thought for today.  It's easy to have faith, but it's hard to live in faith.  Living in faith will take you out of your comfort zone real fast.  It will cause you to abandon the status quo.  Living in faith causes us to go beyond our own desires and to look for God's will above our own.  For the past year, I've felt that God has been preparing me to enter into Spanish ministry again.  It's been almost 15 years since I've ministered exclusively in Spanish.  Having grown up in Spanish churches I understand Spanish the culture and the language.  My biggest challenge is speaking it consistently in a sermon setting.  You see, I could sit back and stay in my comfort zone at Lifeway and not worry about starting a new Spanish service but to do that would be disobedient to God and also I would not be putting my faith in action.  Regardless of the challenges that I may face in starting this new Spanish service, I know that my faith grows and is strengthened when I do what God has asked me to do.  So, now I'm stepping out of my comfort zone and I'm excited to see what God is going to do.

Love Doesn't Stink!

Maybe you've heard of the poplular song by the J. Geils Band called "Love Stinks."  Adam Sandler made it popular in the when he covered in the 90's romantic comedy "The Wedding Singer."  There are many people out there who believe this very phrase.  They have been used and abused in relationships that have brought them to this conclusion.  I in no way want to diminsh the reality of those events but I would like to say that love doesn't stink.  Love is great.  It wasn't love that led to the hurt and pain that many have felt but rather it was maybe the betrayal of that love.  We're nearing the Valentine's Day when many of us will be cherishing our husband or wife but for some, they may feel alone and believe that experiencing love is not an option for them.  I would whole heartedly disagree with them.  God has designed all of us to be loved and to love.  When He created Adam in the Garden of Eden in the book of Genesis, He noted that it was not good for Adam to be alone so He created Eve to be Adam's partner.  I believe that God has designed someone special for every person who is willing to wait on God for the right time.  This right time is not the same for everyone.  For some the right time to have that special someone come into their lives could be after college, during college or like me right after high school.  I would not recommend that but it has worked for me and my wife, Rosie.  You see, love is great!  Love doesn't stink when we submit to doing it God's way, not ours.  So in this festive season of love and relationships, allow God to direct you in this area of your life.  If you already have that someone special in your life, cherish them and honor them with a sincere and authentic love.  If you're still waiting on that special someone, be patient and allow God to bring them to you at the right time.  You never know how God will work in your life and when you least expect it, God will meet the needs in your life.  God bless.

A Race at the End of the Race

Every year at Lifeway Church we dedicate the entire month of January to prayer.  We have prayer meeting practically every day, except for Saturday, that literally saturate the month with prayer.  Several years ago we added the discipline of fasting along with prayer and these have proven to be powerful tools that God has given us to advance His agenda in our lives and our church.  I can not say that the month of prayer was my idea though.  I learned this when I attended a church in south Texas in the mid 90's called Iglesia Del Pueblo.  The pastor there was instrumental in shaping who I am today as a pastor.  Every year without fail we had a month of prayer and I remembered saying to myself then, that if I ever pastored a church, I too would have a month of prayer.  So, to Pastor Juan de la Garza I say, "Thank you for teaching and modeling me the importance of prayer.  It is a lesson I have never forgotten and never will."  Here at Lifeway, we are about to conclude our month of prayer.  It has felt like a race of sort.  Sometimes I felt we've been running up hill and at other times I've felt like we've been running down hill with the wind at our backs.  We've seen some amazing things through out the month and God has revealed Himself in awesome ways in the lives of so many people.  As we near the finish line, ready to raise our hands to break the tape that means we've finished, I see a sign in the distance that calls out to me.  The words are clear and I know that its message is for me and the body of Christ.  The sign reads, "KEEP RUNNING!"  I know what this means and it's unmistakable.  Although the month of prayer is over, we're to keep praying.  God is calling us to a life of prayer and not just a month of prayer.  Nothing builds my faith like prayer.  Nothing builds my vision like prayer.  Nothing causes me to dream bigger like prayer.  Nothing causes me to love more like prayer.  Nothing causes me to give more like prayer.  Nothing causes me to be a better dad like prayer.  Nothing causes me to be a better husband like prayer.  Nothing lines up my heart with God's mission like prayer.  That is why the Apostle Paul said, "Never stop praying!" (1Thessalonians 5:17).  Pray!  Pray!  Pray!  So at the end of this race, there's another race to run.  My friends it's time to keep praying.  Let's do it!   

More for Less?

If you're a comparison shopper, you are familiar with the term "more for less."  In fact, that term alone can bring out the most avid shopper to investigate prices and product alike.  I don't know if it's in our nature or if it is something that we have picked up as our society has become more consumer savvy, but this "more for less" attitude has gone beyond the borders of our spending and has crept into our daily lives.  If asked, I bet that most of us would want more quality moments in our marriages.  We would want more quality time in with our kids.  We want more from our finances.  We want more from our churches.  We want more from God.  Here's the thing.  We will never get more by giving less.  That is the biggest obstacle to overcome.  Does God want to do more for our marriages, families, finances and churches?  Yes!  There is no doubt about it.  The issue has been are we willing to do what God asks us to do, which usually means greater sacrifice and service, or are we expecting "more for less."  As a husband, if I expect more out of my relationship with my wife, I can't give less of my time, affection and attention to my wife.  I must give more.  As a father, if I want more out my relationship with my kids, I can't give less, I must give more!  As a business man, if I want my business to grow, I can't give less of my time meeting potential clients, I have to do more.  As a pastor, I can't expect God to do more in our church if I accept people giving less.  Less of their time, their talents and their treasure.  It's all connected.  You see, our lives are not like Wal-Mart.  We can't have more for less in our relationships.  If you want more, you have to give and invest more.  Here are a couple of things that we can do to evaluate our output in our lives.

  • How much time, energy and resources am I investing in the things that really matter and that should matter to me?
  • If I am to give more of my time, energy and resources to things that matter to me, that means I have to take time from somewhere else.  What areas do I need to take time from to give to others?
  • Sometimes it's not the quantity of time that matters, but it's what you do with the time that you have.  Ask your spouse, children and/or church leaders, "How can I spend some quality time connecting or serving?"  Get someone else's perspective, not just yours.

So let's coin a new phrase today.  Get more for more.  Whether you're looking at this as a church leader, a spouse, a parent or any others figure, we're going to have to quit expecting more for less.  There are no short cuts to building stronger relationships.  God bless!

Just Do It!

A lot of people don't like to pray because the get frustrated because they don't see immediate results.  We obviously live in a fast food culture of everything happening quickly.  This flies in the face of the process of prayer.  The process of prayer, waiting and receiving an answer serves a purpose.  That purpose simply put is to build our faith and dependence on God.  It's important for us to allow the process of prayer to grow us and expand our faith.  The question is not if God answers, but rather when we will receive the answer.  So as you pray today, know that the answer may not be given to you tomorrow or this week.  Don't get impatient and frustrated with the lack of expediency on God's part.  Understand that God is not only wanting to get answers to you, He's also trying to use the process of prayer to work through you.  So pray hard.  Pray often.  Pray knowing that God will answer and He's doing a work in you.  Pray.  Just do it!  God bless. 

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