Freedom or Independence?

Today we celebrate the birth of the United States, the Declaration of Independence from Mother England was made 240 years ago today. We live in an unusual day of history; that same Mother England less than a month ago declared its independence from the European Union, carnal man continues his assault on the commands of God attempting to be freed from them, and everyday people have been emancipated by technology from human relationships. Today a large percentage of digital natives are more comfortable interacting with machines than with people. Sitting at the dinner table, they text each other in silence, memes carrying more expression than their faces. Drowning in information, we are starving for knowledge.

In this context, I pose the question, “Did God make you to be free or independent?” The concept of independence is faulty, because it is contrary to scripture. No man lives to himself and no man dies to himself (Romans 14:7). No man is an island. Nobody is independent of others and certainly not of God. Countries today are learning the interdependence that has always existed among the tribes of the earth. Our interdependence on others and are dependence on God are immutable facts of human life.

Freedom is a God idea. God created us with a free will. Please allow a short digression to address the concept of evil. If there was no bad choice, and only good choices were available to us, then there would be no choice at all. A prerequisite to freedom is the possibility of contrasting choices. Returning to freedom, God desired a creation that could make the choice to worship. He will always have praise, because if we hold our peace the rocks will cry out in praise (Luke 19:40). For the Creator to experience worship, it required a creation with freedom to choose.

Freedom was His idea. And He is still in the liberation business. If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed (John 8:36). He can set you free to live a life of worship. There is no chain, prison, or bondage; whether of your own creation or others; none of them can prevent the God who specializes in setting prisoners free.

He can free you today. Somethings that I know, have been freed from: their past, genetic curses, addiction, sickness, mental health conditions, small mindsets, jealousy, gossip, covetousness, carnal nature, anger, bitterness, unforgiveness, fornication, fraud, theft, worldliness, adultery, and the list could be endless. No freedom is greater than the freedom to worship Jesus.  God can free you from any economic, educational, or ethnic limitation or boundary imposed by man.

On this Independence Day choose Freedom. It’s better than independence. Be freed from the confines of the earthy and conformed to the Eternal. In Christ you will find the fullness of joy that true freedom brings.

You Can’t Read a Book by the Cover

A rather embarrassing moment in my life happened one day going to lunch during a youth convention in Bristol, CT. Leading the crew into Sbarro’s, a picturesque plate of penne pasta, sauce and meatballs graced a table for two by the door. A side salad and drink completed the perfectly positioned advertisement of what we could expect. My mind was convinced this was a well placed imitation of the day’s special; this idea was corrected as my fingers sunk into the pasta I had reached to pick up, thinking it was a single mass of wax. Horrified, I looked up to see the clerk’s dismay as I had just destroyed a lunch, which only moments before he was hoping to enjoy. I quickly looked for napkins, wondering how I could recover from the poor example I had just set and apologize well enough for the defiled lunch.
It was certainly a powerful reminder of the fact that you can’t read a book by the cover. I digress to wonder if God allowed the creation of blogs for preachers who didn’t quite finish the message on Sunday (or thought of all the things they didn’t say). That seems more plausible since I’m pretty sure preachers invented series (just kidding, lighten up!). Be fully persuaded in whichever option you choose. I’ll take my favorite dessert order: Both!  

So this past Sunday, time prevented the full development of the message titled, “You Can’t Read a Book by the Cover.” With your indulgence, I’d like to continue that thought a bit here.

Things are not always what they appear. I’m pretty sure more have been disappointed to discover a wax masterpiece was just that, not something delicious and edible. A few others, undoubtedly, also thought they would feel wax and discovered the real deal.

Sometimes life’s biggest disappointments precede life’s greatest blessing. Joseph the Dreamer of Dreams is such a powerful example of that. David the Worshipper is another. Zacharias a third. All Bible examples who faced tremendous disappointments in life. Assault, trauma, betrayal, delayed promise, personal failure, hurtful words, broken relationships, and many other disappointments that have been faced by many.

Other times, things that seem so anointed with promise become an albatross that causes us to sink into despair. We discover the old proverb to be true, “All that glitters ain’t gold.” We were positive this was the right relationship, the right time, the right step of faith and things just don’t work out the way we thought they should.

Here’s the message in a word, patience. The Bible does in fact tell us the trying of our faith results in patience. The story of faith is like many stories you’ve read. There’s an introduction, hope is birthed; then a conflict, where hope often is challenged; a climax, where hope seems dashed; and closes with a resolution, where it all makes sense.

If you feel ready to give up, I challenge you to hold on. Hold on to your hope. Hold on to your promise. Hold on to the dream. The end of the story hasn’t been written yet. Read another chapter. In fact, write a new chapter. Take that challenge, embrace it with faith. Look at that impossibility and declare it the measure of the miracle God promised to you.

Things may not look good, don’t give up on the story because of the page you’re looking at today. He that cometh to God, must believe that He is (faith) AND that He is a Rewarder of them who diligently seek Him (passion). Jesus, the Bread of Life, was broken, His Body marred beyond recognition. The story didn’t end there. The Cross happened. A resurrection followed. The depth of despair will only serve to heighten the joy that’s coming.              Blessings ~ jwp

So What Is Success?

Definitions are so critical. How do you define success? Do you have a target? If you aim at nothing… you will probably hit it. Let’s pause to consider what confirms true success?

Here’s a list I offer:  

  1. Knowing God/Being Saved
  2. Having a Great Marriage (the Paul’s skip this one)
  3. Raising Godly Children 
  4. Fulfilling Ministry Calling & Gifting
  5. Financial/Vocational Success

 These reflect right priorities in life – #1 salvation/relationship with God; #2 relationship with spouse; #3 relationship with children; #4 ministry/calling fulfillment; and #5 secular calling/fulfillment.

There is no greater goal, than to reach the end of this race and hear, “Well done good and faithful servant. Enter in.”

Any goal or objective we set should demonstrate these proper priorities and a correct balance in pursuit of these priorities.
The next post will cover some ideas about goal setting and a final on this topic for now will discuss some common pitfalls. 

My prayer is one of these simple ideas here can bless you as the CEO of your life. Now let’s go change our world. 

Good Success is God Success!

There are three knowledge prerequisites to setting these success goals.
Know God. Know yourself. Know what God wants you to do.
Knowing God comes easy to those who pursue Him. He wants to be known! Nobody has an advantage, the intellectual, the gifted, the wealthy, the young, the old, God is no respecter of persons. He will reveal Himself to you in a progressive manner. He intends we grow in knowledge and experience. Knowledge of His Word and the experience of His Presence; these are the two indispensable pathways of knowing Him. The Bible tells us knowledge puffs us up, but love builds us up. There is a danger for those who grow in a mental knowledge about God but fail to grow in their experience of God. The demonstration in your life of the attributes of God is the greatest measure of your knowledge and understanding of God.

Knowing yourself is probably the hardest knowledge to obtain. We trick ourselves so easily. We have built in pre-programming from our childhood that’s so instinctive we don’t even realize it’s not the way God made us. Our traditions are not holy. Know yourself, be honest with yourself. Dig down to what real motivations are. Build (takes an investment) true friendships in life that will tell you the truth, not just make you feel good. Learn your strengths and weaknesses; giftings and passions; Identify life seasons, fears, and insecurities; Practice a weekly sabbath of rest and reflection; Keep God on the throne and your flesh crucified. As a responsible steward become a sharp tool, ready for the Master’s use.

Knowing what God wants you to do, is often described in church circles as your calling. God often gives a final picture and then puts us through a dark room of development where He causes clarity and definition of the calling to take form. The will of God is that you do the absolute best you can where He has you right now. He will guide and open the doors of your calling. Identify your pastor and give him or her full veto power in your life. The pastor you loved and appreciated when what they said was agreeable to you is just as Godly when their words aren’t agreeable. Get an anointing, but then refuse to build a shrine for it and worship it. True anointing will always lead to action. One faith step at a time, watch God cause it to come to fulfillment and fruitfulness.  

Good Success!! Good Success??

Joshua 1:8 This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success.

  At the risk of appearing radical (and biblical) allow me to clearly state, scripture tells us God is no respecter of persons. On one end of the good success doctrine are those declaring, if you follow Christ you get a new Mercedes and a mansion in the suburbs. At the other end of the spectrum are those convinced any pursuit or definition of “good success” are unspiritual and probably in violation of scripture. Somewhere in the balanced middle, many of us live, not lackadaisical or lukewarm, simply pressing towards a mark, a high calling from the Spirit of the living God. 

  So does God really want you to have success? YES! He does. In fact Romans 8 tells us plainly, God is for us! That means He is for you!

  You don’t drift to a destiny. Not all who look like they’re drifting are. Some are discovering a destiny one step of faith and purpose at a time. Don’t judge! It’s probably not your business and a waste of time. Luke 14:25-28 And there went great multitudes (good time to pull out a message like achieving success” our Lord in His infinite wisdom preached on the cross) with him: and he turned, and said unto them, If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple. For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it?

  If you are aiming for good success, you need to let the Spirit clarify what your intentions are, sit down and reflect on them, count the real cost, and make some determinations about how to finish.

  Those that are perfectly in control, probably are. Be careful that’s not you. The reality is no human is perfectly in control. There is a human tendency based in pride to appear to be perfectly in control. Some with this mindset are purpose driven folks. Instead of your purpose driving you, let the Spirit lead you.

  Proverbs 16:9 We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps.

  Drawing a further contrast of the differences between the Holy Spirit leading you versus a purpose driving you: purpose driven folks love the line, “It’s easier to get forgiveness than permission”, they generally don’t operate in submission to the established authorities in their lives; tend to be territorial about their area of ministry, have a “protect my turf” mindset over an “advance the kingdom” one; they’ve been reformed not transformed. When you’re transformed your instincts change, when you’re reformed, often unplanned reactions reveal the man of sin still in control of your life.

  There was a time in church when our culture made it seem the homelier you were, the less educated you were, the less effort you put into your preparation then the more holy you were. Gone are the days of glorifying ignorance, ugly, and laziness. Allow the Holy Spirit to define what success looks like in your life. Write it out. Clarity will bring clear vision. Establish direction, define milestones, determine prerequisites, connect to God’s structure. It’s time to set some goals and grow!

God spoke … and then there was Light.

It’s really that simple. Until a Word from Him. It’s pretty dark.

How many times have scientists, theologians, and philosophers thought they had full understanding, and then…

A Word from God brought light, and true understanding came.

A Word from the infinite One piercing the darkness of the finite ones. Sometimes through nature, sometimes through an unlearned preacher, other times through His written Word. God is speaking, who will listen?

How many times have brilliant minds been amazed by the voice of one esteemed as a child in comparison to their own capacity?

When light comes, darkness is eliminated. Some, unexplainably, will seek to find the comforting confines of their darkness. Refusing to live in the Light. These poor, nocturnal souls are drawn to the earthly and miss the eternal.

It matters not how long the dark night of the soul, wait patiently for that Voice. In that patient waiting, do all you know to do; faithfully, wholeheartedly.

God will speak. Light will come.

Father’s Day

I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.

I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.

I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.

I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.

I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.

I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.

I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.

II John 1:4