The Prodigals

Have you ever heard the Bible story of the lost son, also known as the prodigal. It is one of my favorites. You can find it in the book of Luke, chapter 15. A man had two sons. The younger one asks his dad for his inheritance, packs up and moves away to a distant land. He proceeds to waste all the money and finds himself so destitute that he ends up working for a pig farmer. He is so hungry that even the pig slop looks good. He realizes the pigs are eating better than he is. As he takes stock of his life, it occurs to him that the servants in his dad’s house are eating better than he is so he decides to go home and ask if he can be a servant for his dad. While he is still a distance away, his father, who has been diligently watching for him since he left, sees him and welcomes him home. Dad is ecstatic and throws a party to celebrate. He declares, “My son was dead and has now returned to life.” As the party gets underway, the older brother who has been working in the field finds out that this brother of his has returned and gets upset about the celebration, refusing to come inside. The dad seeks him out and talks to him, explaining that they had to celebrate, because his brother was lost but now is found.

There are those we know who have gotten off their path. Maybe they were active in church and had a working faith previously but have lost touch. Maybe they stayed home because of Covid and need an invitation to come back to services. Father is missing them. It's time to call the prodigals back home. We need to go after them, contact them, be proactive. But keep this one thing in mind, we are not here to judge why they haven’t been in church. We are to here to love them, right where they are. Send a text or call them. Drop a DM! Hit them up! It's our responsibility to bring them back. Here is your script: “We miss you. We need you. We love you.” Love heals. That's what brings people back into fellowship and ultimately into God’s presence. Letting them know we love them will draw them. God puts people in our life on purpose, for a purpose. We're better together. Tell them that they make church better. THEY make a difference. They matter.

There will be a multitude of reasons why people drop off and are not at church. It’s up to us to show them how much we care. We want to be an oasis of love. When people know we care, it lights a fire in them. The closest thing to the heart of God is taking an interest in people. Ephesians 6:8 tells us that whatever we make happen for others, God will make happen for us. Caring for people means we are responsible for what we say to them and how we say it. Lift Jesus up and He will draw people. But, if you cause people to get off course, Scripture says it's better for you not to have been born. On the other hand, there is nothing more pleasing to God than for one who has been lost to be found. Just think of how you would feel if someone rescued a child of yours. If you helped my son out or saved him from harm, I would be your friend forever. God values His children’s rescue even more! Leave the 99. We get focused on who is at church. We fellowship and enjoy those who show up. This is good, but who is not at church this week? What about the one? Where are they? Who is not at church that should have been? Go after the person. Don't leave them alone. They may not respond. but keep trying. You're planting a seed. God’s mercy is greater than any mistake or any point of separation they may have experienced. At some point, the seed you have planted will spring to life. Don’t give up on them. God never gave up on you. God is for you. Make sure they know God is for them too. “We miss you. We need you. We love you.” It's not our job to scare the hell out of them. It is our job to tell them the good news. Get the salt out of the shaker. Spread the good flavor of God around to these who are missing. They may be in a mess but love them in it and love them through it. God will make the soil of their heart soft. You just have to plant the seed. Then He will do the work. Go get the prodigal.
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The Stories I'll Tell

There are so many great stories in the Bible. They are pleasant to read and interesting to study for many different reasons. Today, we are going to highlight a few and identify a takeaway for each. In I Samuel 1, Elkanah and Hannah, after being barren for years and praying desperately for a child, gave birth to Samuel. Fulfilling a promise they had made to God, they dedicated and gave Samuel to the Lord. He was given to the Lord under the care of Eli and was raised in the temple and ultimately served God his whole life.

Your kids are God’s kids. They are yours to watch and raise but they belong to the Lord. In those spiritual moments when they are struggling, when you are struggling, do your very best with them, teaching them in the way they should go and asking for wisdom as you do. In Genesis 37, Joseph, son of Jacob (the third patriarch of Israel), was the most beloved of Jacob. Out of twelve sons, Jacob loved Joseph most. He was the recipient of a beautiful robe as proof of the love of his father. He was loved by his father, but hated by his brothers. It didn’t help when he told his brothers about his dreams that he would rule over them. They hated him even more for it and sold him into slavery, telling his father he was killed by a wild animal. David also has a lot of brothers as told in I Samuel 16 & 17. Samuel was sent by God to anoint the next king of Israel, one of Jesse’s sons. All the boys were called in for this coronation moment…but David was not invited. Samuel had to ask Jesse if he had more sons. His dad didn't include him in the party. He was left out. Some of us feel like we've failed as parents or been failed as children.

People can't keep you from your purpose. Joseph saved his whole family even though he had been a slave and David saved the armies of Israel by killing Goliath. They were both used to ultimately save the nation of Israel. They each accomplished what God called them to do in spite of their disadvantages. Your past can't keep you from your purpose.You and your kids are created with purpose for a purpose and God is the keeper of that purpose. In the New Testament in John 4:46, Jesus traveled to Galilee. While there, He was asked by an official from Capernaum to come heal his son. After speaking with the official, Jesus declared his son was healed. The man believed Jesus and started on his way home, finding out from his servants who met him on the road that his son was well. Together, they established that the boy was healed the moment Jesus spoke it. As a result the whole family was saved. God's word is true and always on time. Stay in faith. In John 6:5, a huge crowd of people followed Jesus and the crowd grew hungry. Philip is no help. He just repeats the problem. Andrew finds a little food but is not sure what to do with it except bring it to Jesus. Jesus tells everyone to sit down and then blesses the food. God wants to bless you and provide for you, but He will do it through your obedience. As the disciples passed out the food, there was more than enough. The people ate as much as they wanted. And they gathered the leftovers, twelve baskets of leftovers! God is the God of more than enough. He will supply all of your needs.

Jairus’ 12 year old daughter and the woman with the issue of blood are in the next story from Mark 5:36. Jesus is on his way to heal Jairus’ daughter and a woman who had been bleeding for 12 years, grabs His hem in the pressing crowd. He stopped and asked who touched him. Power had gone out from Him. The woman was made well by her faith. Meanwhile Jairus’ daughter dies. It seemed the woman got what she needed but Jairus did not. But, there was no need for fear. Just faith. When you're waiting for your miracle, keep your faith strong. Be patient. Celebrate others. It's all about what God wants to do in and through you. Jesus goes to Jairus’ home, removes everyone except a few disciples and her parents and commands the girl to get up. Jesus brings life back. What if Jairus refused to let Jesus come back to the house after that initial disappointment? He would have missed it! But he activated his faith by still making his way with Jesus and welcoming Jesus into his home. God works in these moments in amazing ways, in and through us, changing us and changing those around us.

The last story I want to highlight today is in Mark 9:17. One of the fathers in a crowd brought his son who had seizures because of demonic possession. The disciples couldn't help this family. They were faithless at this moment. When Jesus approached, the demon threw the boy into convulsions because the devil and Jesus can't dwell in the same place. These seizures had been happening since the boy was small. The father calls on Jesus and asks for mercy and help if He could. Jesus declares that anything is possible to him who believes. The father proclaims he believes but asks for help to believe more. Jesus rebukes the devil and the boy collapses. He appeared dead, but Jesus touched him and then helped him up. Anything Jesus touches comes to life and does not die.

Your kids are God’s. People can't keep you from your purpose. God's word is true and always on time. God is the God of more than enough. When you're waiting for your miracle, keep your faith strong. Anything Jesus touches comes to life and does not die.

Todays the day. Come into the freedom God has for you. Take what is broken and damaged and bring it to Jesus. Surrender all you are and all you have to God. He will keep you. He will bring you into the purpose He designed you for. He is never late and He is always more than enough. Activate your faith and know that when Jesus is in the house, there is life.
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Grow Where You Are

Life goes better, when you put God in first place. Scripture says it this way, "When you are planted in the house of the Lord, you will flourish." The local church is the hope of the world. If we are to be that hope, we must be strong and united...we must be PLANTED in the house and there are a few things we must do if we are to be planted and positioned to bloom and flourish. Do you want to be part of building a successful and effective church? Take a look at these with me.

Grow Spiritually We need to become spiritually mature to make forward progress in our faith so we can show others the way and be a blessing to those closest to us. We know that a tree is healthy and thriving by its green leaves, fruit and its growth over the years. The fact that we are achieving new heights and withstanding the storms of life is confirmation that our roots are growing deeper and we are progressing toward maturity. Spiritual growth occurs through personal study of the Bible and through messages we hear and read. We are transformed by the Word of God.

Pray Faithfully and Encourage Since the day you became a Christian, you may have heard the saying: “Prayer changes things.” But exactly what kinds of “things” does prayer change? Prayer changes the circumstances of our lives. Check out the story of Peter in prison in Acts 12:1-5. As the church prayed, God responded and an angel led Peter out of the prison. Prayer has the power to change desperate situations, to change problems and to remove obstacles. In fact, prayer has the power to change anything that stands between the believer and God’s perfect will for the believer’s life.

Support the Vision God often gives vision to one person while giving the resources and the talents to fulfill that vision to other people. By giving the vision to one, the skills to another, and the resources to yet another, any vision that God has imparted can be achieved. But, a single person cannot achieve it alone. As we work together, God gets the glory. Support the vision that God has given to those who lead and know that God has given you something to contribute to the effort.

Serve Wholeheartedly In the Bible, we are told that the highest position in the kingdom of God is a position that bears a different label, “servant”. God’s kingdom is totally upside down when it comes to the concepts of power and authority. A person must humble himself in order to be exalted, give in order to receive, die in order to live, and be the least in order to be the greatest. Look around you and find something that needs to be done at your church and then do it. Your church cannot succeed unless somebody is willing to serve in the nursery, empty the trash, greet and smile in the lobby and set up chairs. Acts of service are done, not for personal gain, but for the glory of God, will have eternal reward.

Give Regularly The way we make our money and the way we spend our money are two of the most revealing behaviors in our life. If something is valuable to us, we will invest in that thing. We demonstrate that God means more to us over and above all our other interests through bringing the tithe, the tenth of our income, into God’s house. From God’s perspective, it’s not about money. He doesn’t need our offering to stay afloat. It’s about our heart. If we truly possess a heart for God and His house, He can change the world through our life. Proverbs 3:6 (Living Bible) promises, “In everything you do, put God first, and he will direct you and crown your efforts with success.” As we take this approach, everything that is left revolves around God; it starts with God and it ends with God.

Attend Church Consistently Jesus intended for His people to be relational. He intended for us to have an ongoing relationship with Him, and He intended for us to have a meaningful relationship with one another. At the local level, our spiritual family consists of pastors and teachers, but also those who simply want to follow Christ and serve Him. Only in the context of other believers can you fully achieve your God-given destiny, because other believers will pray for you, help you, encourage you, and equip you for the service God wants you to provide for Him and for others. Perhaps this explains why the writer of Hebrews told the early Christians that they should be committed to the practice of assembling together (Hebrews 10:25). The person who is firmly planted in the rich soil of God’s house is destined to bloom.

Bring Others In the gospels, when Jesus met John and Andrew, the two men asked Him a very strange question. Having heard John the Baptist describe Jesus as “the Lamb of God,” John and Andrew approached Jesus and asked him, “Rabbi, where are you staying?” Jesus answered it in a very practical way. “Come and see,” He said (John 1:39, NLT). He invited them into His life. Jesus began His ministry with an invitation, and His followers today should do likewise. As modern-day followers of Christ, we should follow the Lord’s lead by inviting people to “come and see” that the Lord is good and to “come and see” what He is able to do in their lives. Learn to invite people to church. The best gift you can give someone is to introduce them to Jesus!

Take steps daily to GROW SPIRITUALLY. Commit to PRAY FAITHFULLY. Actively SUPPORT THE VISION of your local church. Be willing to SERVE WHOLEHEARTEDLY. Be obedient to scripture and GIVE REGULARLY. ATTEND CONSISTENTLY, for yourself and as an example to your family. Reach out, and INVITE OTHERS to join you.

As you commit to these disciplines, your life will be richer, you will be a blessing to those around you, and you will BLOOM WHERE YOU ARE PLANTED.
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The Way We Fight Our Battles

Worship is love expressed. It is an outward expression of what is in your heart. There are different ways to express our worship and we need to worship on both good days and on bad days. Too many minimize the power of worship. It's not about time but about coming into God’s presence. Even on your worst day you can win with worship. We may not always be aware, but there are spiritual battles and victories that happen during worship. 2 Chronicles 20 tells us the story of Jehosophat. In this passage, he is coming out of a disappointing defeat and finds that there is more battle coming.

During worship, we have three common enemies:

1) Distraction: You may find when you commit to be “all in” that distraction comes. For example: I had a friend who committed to tithe but encountered a lawsuit and other difficulties right after he had made the commitment and he never followed through on that commitment. But, another friend who made the same commitment pushed through the distractions and has experienced blessing as a result. I have a 3rd friend who told me that she as a single mom has realized she couldn’t afford not to tithe and as a result, she always has enough to pay her bills. Worship functions that same way. Press in and press through the distractions and enter into the Presence of God expecting to receive and see results.

2) Destruction: Another enemy of worship is destruction; things that used to work don't work anymore. Worship positions you to overcome destruction but you must intentionally enter into worship in order to overcome.

3) Discord: A third enemy of worship is discord in relationship. Everything falls apart. Discord causes breakdown of relationships. Sometimes we experience a season of attacks from many directions. Our flesh wants to get discouraged and collapse inwardly but worship will bring the Presence of God and it is Him who makes a way where there seems to be no way.

When Jehosophat heard what was threatening him, he was shaking in fear. What did he do? He prayed and ordered a nationwide fast! His situation did not keep him from stepping toward God. We must let the distractions motivate us to move closer to God. Jehosophat resolved to seek the Lord. Stop retreating and get resolved to worship in spite of bad news, in spite of what's going on. Worry increases pressure, but worship releases pressure. Worship is your weapon. Battle for your blessing. Let the fight that is in you come out. Choose to let worship displace worry.

There are five reasons that worship, as a weapon, brings victory.

1) Worship refocuses attention. It changes our focus from the problem to the Problem Solver. In Ps 34:3-4, David, in his time of trouble, declared he would magnify the Lord. Magnification does not make its object bigger, but it makes our view bigger. It affects our focus. God is already big. Worship helps us forget what's wrong in our life and remember what's right with God. He's bigger than all problems and fears. Worship is an exchange. We may come in with big problems but we leave with a big God and small problems. Let us exalt his name together.

2) Worship reminds me who's in charge. Don't be afraid. 2 Chronicles 20:15 reminds us that the battle is not ours. It's Gods. A. W. Tozer wrote: “The reason why many are still troubled, still seeking, still making little forward progress is because they haven't yet come to the end of themselves. We're still trying to give orders, and interfering with God's work within us.” Don't fight battles that belong to the Lord. At the end of yourself there is the beginning of God. Surrender. If you hold onto it, God can't take care of it.

3) Worship releases faith. In verse 21, praisers were placed in the front of Jehosophat’s army. Faith is based on what you believe will happen. When you worship God for giving the victory before you have seen it happen, this is called faith. It takes a special bold faith to worship before the answer comes. I've already won. I'm surrounded by God. This is how I fight my battles. Celebrating God’s answer before you have seen it, defeats the enemy.

4) Worship reverses the plan of the enemy. Second Chronicles:20: 22 tells us that as the singers praised God, the Lord set ambushes against the enemy. God began to move as they began to praise. As the worship went forth, the enemy was defeated. Worship defeats the enemy because his strategy is in lies and when we praise, we praise in pure truth. It is the way out of confusion, lies and fear. When worship goes up, God shows up.

5) Worship changes people around you. In Acts 16, Paul and Silas were imprisoned. Battles come even when you're doing the right thing. They were shackled in the innermost part of the prison, but they praised and worshiped God at midnight. Why worship now you might ask? God allowed them to be imprisoned so how could they find it in themselves to worship? But the power of their worship brought many people into relationship with God that night. Not only was the jailer and his whole family saved, but other guards and prisoners as well.

Enter into worship, especially in the trying times of your life. Enter into worship on Sundays at church. Focus on the words. Meditate on their meaning. Declare them as you sing. Take them to heart and sing them in agreement with the truth in them.

As we come into unity with God and His truth, we will see things change in our lives and we will see God work on our behalf. This is how we fight our battles.

giving, worship is our weapon, closer, tithe, giving god my first ten percent

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Made For This

People tend to settle for less than what God has for them. Ps 16:11 talks about the path of life God has in mind for us. David meditates on God’s guidance and direction, “Now you’ve got my feet on the life path, all radiant from the shining of your face. Ever since you took my hand, I’m on the right way.” God has freedom and deliverance and a radiant life path in mind for us. Being unstuck from the mire that keeps you off that path is the most fun you'll ever have. I want to help you move forward, taking the steps you need to take to get unstuck. One statistic shows that 87% of the Body of Christ still do not know their purpose. Can you imagine if 87% of your body was not operational? You most certainly could not function properly and you'd probably be dead. Think of all the miniscule parts of your body that are constantly working, resulting in your ability to live.

What are the enemies of knowing our purpose?

1)Confusion: The Apostle Paul expressed the importance of understanding our gifts in I Corinthians 12. He starts this part of his letter to the Corinthians, “Concerning spiritual gifts, I do not want you to be ignorant.” It is important to have clarity when it comes to the gifts we have been given. 2)Comparison: When we are too focused on what others have, we become unsatisfied and discouraged. You'll always be miserable as long as you are comparing your life to others. Just be yourself and know God created you just the way He wanted you. Focus on God and His promises and take your eyes off what you don’t have. 3)Not knowing you have a calling: God had a plan and purpose for you even before He made you. He made you to fulfill that purpose. Psalm 139:13 says it beautifully, “For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” David, author of this Psalm, knew whose he was, not just who he was.

My dream is for you is to know your purpose. You don't need the rest of your life to figure it out. Start where you are. God’s design in you reveals God’s destiny for you. Our lives will not be perfect here on earth, but knowing our purpose will be fulfilling and satisfying. It is most certainly worth discovering.

Four things to know about your purpose:

1)Call from birth: We each have something in us that we were created to do. God does not revoke these gifts. Start from where you are and serve God with all your heart. Attend to what He has revealed and you will be blessed.

2)Growing awareness or incremental progression: Joseph (Exodux) is a good example. He had the dream, but everything went wrong early. Step by step, he came fully into his destiny. In the end, all the things that felt like wrong turns placed Joseph right where God wanted him. He told his brothers, "You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good." Don't misinterpret what you're going through because God will turn it for good.

3)Walking through open doors. God opens doors no man can shut. Queen Esther learned this, that she was placed in her position for that time and for her people. God is working to give you the opportunities he has for you. When He opens a door, walk through it.

4)God encounters. God, on occasion, gives us a suddenly moment. I pray God would touch your life today in this way and give you a suddenly moment. The Apostle Paul (Saul at the time) had a suddenly moment when God appeared to him as he was on his way to kill Christians. Instead of destroying Saul, God called him into the ministry and made him an apostle! There is nothing that can hold you back. You are not worse than Saul. Get up and go. Stop resisting God. God created you on purpose for a purpose. You're not an accident. It’s time to get up and go and start discovering and attending to your purpose.
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