Freedom in Obedience - Guest Post by Michelle Daugharthy

I'm so pleased to introduce my friend Michelle Daugharthy to you.  Michelle is a beautiful person inside and out.  She has allowed God to take her mess and create a beautiful masterpiece from her life.  She is a wonderful wife, mother, and actress!  She acts in commercials and small films AND she writes!  Enjoy this piece of wisdom that she has written for us.

I am going to say something that may sound counter-intuitive.

There is FREEDOM walking in obedience.

We were actually created this way.  We crave safe boundaries; it creates security.  A child will continue to push against any boundary you put in place to see if you really care enough to mean it.

“Yes! If you don’t play in the street, then you are FREE to stay alive! That is how much I love you!”

“Yes! If you are home by curfew and do not go to your boyfriend’s house alone, then you are FREE to not be burdened with the guilt that weighs from sexual sin! That’s how much I love you!” We can often fear that if we agree to walk in obedience to the Lord, He will ask us to give up something we love or do something really hard.

And He might. BUT, trust me, if He asks you to give it up, it is because there is something better in store!

A few years after my divorce, I was dating a man long distance for almost two years. It was a challenging relationship. He was a good, Christian man, but had some deep struggles with being OCD and over-critical that were less than life-giving in our relationship.  We broke up a few times, and each time I felt like we were supposed to get back together. He had so many of the qualities I longed for in a husband.

The thing is, he had a reeeeaaallly hard time committing to marriage because he was afraid he would regret his choice later. I always went back and just tried to “work harder” on our relationship. The deeply implanted wounds and issues were not healed, and things got very bleak and hard again.

When I was praying about what to do, I felt the Lord ask me, “If you knew I had something better for you around the corner, would you give him up?” I actually did not have to think too long…”Yes, Lord. I will do that and trust you.”

So I broke it off for good. He pleaded and pleaded with me to give him another chance, but I calmly held my ground. It was hard. I gave something up I really wanted. And it hurt. But I also felt peace in the midst of that because I knew I obeyed God. I felt more free out of that relationship! I was even able to get to a place of being ok if I did not get married again because I knew the Lord was enough and He was taking care of me.  Six months later, I met a man whom I was pretty smitten with right away.

Friends, God is SO good.

He knew what I needed in a mate, and I believe He had this man in mind for me. (God just had to perform a minor miracle and move him back to our city!) Long story short, we married about 2 years after we met. Now we have been married almost 9 years and have added two kids to our family, in addition to my daughter I have from my previous marriage. Is it perfect? No.  Do we sometimes struggle?  Yes. But it is GOOD.  So good.  And don’t we all want what is good, the best for us?

God is a good father and knows how to give good gifts – the best gifts!

That is what He loves to do! In fact, His word tells us how He likes to give gifts: “ …which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!”  (Matthew 7:9-11.)

Freedom does not mean just getting to do what we want.  Freedom is defined as the state of being at liberty rather than in confinement.  Friends, sin leads to confinement, to bondage….to slavery.  Obedience is for our protection, and for our promise for freedom!

Walking in obedience to God will always lead to greater joy, peace, and freedom! Will you follow and obey Him today?

Is False Submission Stealing Your Calling?

Jesus continually did one thing that enraged the Church leaders of his time:  He refused to submit to their authority.  He lived his life on earth under His Father’s authority – not the authority of man.  If Jesus had submitted himself to the Sanhedrin and the High Priest, He would have never finished His calling.

They told Him not to heal on the Sabbath.  They questioned where His authority came from.  They tried to belittle Him and spread falsehoods about Jesus because Jesus was stealing their presumed power.  The leaders of the Church of Jesus’ day liked their positions.  They found their identity in their positions – and it caused them to have a spirit of control over their sheep.

They walked in false authority.

Jesus put His heavenly Father’s wishes above the oligarchy of the leaders and Sanhedrin.  He would have been disobedient to obey the “restrictions” that the Church put on Him.  The leaders of the Church in Jesus’ day had a carefully designed Matrix of control in which they used manipulation and legalism to keep the sheep in line.

Now Jesus didn’t completely disrespect the religion of His youth.  He did obey the customs and some of the expectations of the Church leaders – but not when it came to fulfilling His calling.  Jesus commonly practiced civil disobedience against these religious leaders.

He sought His Father’s will first and then obeyed it.  He did not let man keep Him from obeying His Father – even to the point of dying on the cross.

Of course, we are to obey our leaders as it says in Romans 12.  But in the same way that Jesus did, we are practice civil disobedience against our Church leaders when they try to supersede the will of God in our lives.

As Believers,  if we know that we know God has called us to do something, and we allow an earthly person or leader to talk us out of it – we have submitted to false authority.

We must always allow God’s will and His commands to have first place in our lives… even if it goes against our Church leaders.  God will hold us accountable if we obey man instead of Him.

The disciples disobeyed Church leadership because the Lord had instructed them to share the Word of God.

Acts 5: 27 - 30 The apostles were brought in and made to appear before the Sanhedrin to be questioned by the high priest. “We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name,” he said. “Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are determined to make us guilty of this man’s blood.”   Peter and the other apostles replied:

“We must obey God rather than human beings!”

Now, any of you who have followed me for any amount of time know

my feelings about the Patriarch System that looms over the Church

.  According to many Church leaders, there are a litany of things that women are not allowed to do.

But I still remember the day God called me to preach.  I still remember the Lord telling me I would have to cling tightly to Him because the men at my church were not going to be happy about it.  Nevertheless, I would still need to obey Him.  And that’s what I did.

It was hard to obey the Lord and not men when it came to my calling.  It was hard to push back against false submission and be called names and be called a Jezebel all because God gave me a gifting that men “presumed” belonged only to them.

Nevertheless, I have obeyed Him.  And it has been so worth it.  I have lost friends, and jobs, and church families because I have been unwilling to follow the legalistic rules of the Patriarchy Oligarch.

But if I bend my knee and bow to false submission, I am worshiping an idol.  If I obey the rules that men lay down for me, instead of obeying the Lord – I hand the fate of my calling over to them.

If I choose to listen to men and lay down my calling because men told me to, I would have no answer to give to the Lord on Judgment Day.   “My Church leaders wouldn’t let me,” will not be a sufficient excuse.  I will be the one held accountable for not fulfilling my calling. 

Maybe your calling isn’t in ministry, maybe it is elsewhere, but there is a temptation to not follow through because it would “seem” unsubmissive.  Please hear me, whatever God has called you to, do not bow your knee to the Spirit of False submission. You must obey God and not men.

Jesus showed us how to respectfully disobey the Oligarchy.  If God is telling you to do something, and men are trying to keep you from obeying – DO IT ANYWAY! 

...even if they end up crucifying you for it.

What Every Believer Should Know About Walking Closer to the Lord

If you are anything like me – you want to walk as close to the Lord as you can.

I remember pursuing the Lord with everything that I had during a personal revival in my late twenties.  I was passionate about walking closely with Him.

I fasted.

I prayed.

I worshiped.

I studied the Word.

I turned my thoughts to the Lord at all times of the day and night.

But I hit a plateau.  The same things weren’t drawing me close to him anymore.  I was stuck.

I spoke to my pastor about my dilemma and asked, “What else can I do to get closer to the Lord?  I have fasted, prayed, worshiped, read His word – but I can’t seem to draw any closer.  I want more of Him.”

My pastor spoke a life-giving admonition to me.  He said, “Tisha, do you need more of the Lord? Or does He need more of you?”

The answer, of course, was that the Lord needed more of me.  I needed to lay down some pride.  I needed to lay down some presumption.  I needed to lay down my flesh.

Father God asked me, “Tisha, are you willing to be a fool for me?”

I told the Lord I was ready to be His fool.  But I had NO IDEA how much I still loved the approval of men!

What I now understand about that time in my life was that I desired to be in the Holy of Holies with the Lord.  But I was not allowed into the Holy of Holies because I had not been purified enough.

I had quite a bit of twisted thinking to lay down. I still had unrepented sin in my heart. And I had some idolatry in my heart that kept me from getting any closer to the Lord. 

You see… God still requires purification to have the fullness of His presence.

In the Old Testament, the layout of the temple was a road map for us to understand how to draw closer to His presence.

His people entered into the outer court where they sacrificed animals at the Bronze Altar because of their sins.  Then they were washed and received forgiveness at the Bronze Laver.

Then they entered into the inner court where they drew closer to the Lord’s presence through worship.  Here we find the Lampstand, which is a symbol of the Holy Spirit.  We find the Showbread, which is a symbol of Christ and the Word.  And we find the Altar of Incense which is a symbol of prayer.

It is only after we pass through these steps that we find ourselves standing before the Holy of Holies which houses the glory of God’s presence.  

In the Old Testament, a priest only entered into the Holy of Holies once a year.  He entered to sprinkle blood on the mercy seat for the sins of the people.

Hebrews 9:7 But only the high priest entered the inner room [Holy of Holies], and that only once a year, and never without blood, which he offered for himself and for the sins the people had committed in ignorance.

We understand that now Jesus’s sacrifice on the cross, tore the curtain that stood between God’s people and His presence.  His blood was good enough to be sprinkled on the mercy seat once and for all.

(Hallelujah to the Lamb!)

The one thing we need to realize, that I think most Believers dismiss, is that our sin STILL separates us from the Holy of Holies.  We cannot have the fullness of God’s presence until our sin is repented for and put under the blood.

And we have a lot more sin to confess to the Lord than we even realize.  Anything on the throne of our hearts other than God is idolatry. 

We must repent from the worship of the approval of man.  We are guilty of finding comfort in fleshly things rather than God.  We are guilty of manipulation, lust, greed, perversion, pride, self-righteousness…  I could go on, but you get the gist.

Unrepented sin keeps us from the fullness of God’s presence.

The entrance of the Holy of Holies is blocked to us --- for our good.  Because the closer you get to the Holy of Holies the more pure our hearts must be.  He is a consuming fire. 

Rick Joyner says, “What you can get away with in the outer court, will get you killed in the Holy of Holies.”

Some of us are “Outer Court Christians.”  We are always sinning, then confessing, then getting cleansed.  Repeat.  Sin. Confession. Cleansing.

Some of us are “Inner Court Christians.”  We have set our mind to draw closer to the Lord through the Holy Spirit and Prayer and the Word.  But we still don’t have the fullness of His Presence.

Still, some of us are addicted to the presence of the Lord and we just have to do ANYTHING we can to be near Him.

Here is the knowledge I have gained about coming near to the presence of God.  If I feel far away from the Lord and desire to be nearer, there is something I can do about it.  We are not powerless in drawing near to the Lord.  We must remove all of the debris in our hearts that separates us from His presence!

Begin to ask the Lord if the Holy of Holies is blocked for a reason?

Is there idolatry in your heart? Is there a stronghold that needs to be cut off? Is there a generational sin that needs to be repented of?  Is there a soul tie with a person that is holding you back?

The more you press in for the answers these questions – the more understanding you’ll have about how to draw closer to the Lord.

It’s worth it!  I’m serious! 

Hear my testimony when I tell you –

there is nothing more wonderful than walking through this life in the fullness of God’s presence.

Steps to Wholeness:

Ask the Lord if the Holy of Holies is blocked for you.

Ask Him to show you what is in the way of being closer to Him.

Believe that God desires to be with you more than anything.

Repent of any sins He reveals.

Break any generational curses He reveals.

(Use this tool.)

Repent from any idolatry.

(De-program from that idol using this tool.)

Break any soul ties He reveals.

(Use this tool.)

Confession: I want to check out of reality!

By Brian Cantoni - https://www.flickr.com/photos/cantoni/10715878456, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=57069789

Confession:  It’s Friday.  It’s payday.  It’s the weekend and I don’t really want to do any work today.  I’d rather binge on Netflix.  The second season of a show I like to follow is out today and I would simply like to dive into it and check out of reality for the day.

Maybe you aren’t a Netflix binger.  Maybe you are a novel reader or a video game geek.  Maybe your definition of checking out of reality is just to sleep all day.  But you know where I’m coming from right?  You’ve had those days where you just don’t want to be an adult.

I need to do some writing.  I’ve been working on a book about being set free from bondage.  It’s in the back of my head rattling around… and I’m at war with the assignment from the Lord that needs to be finished and my desire to numb myself with Netflix.

Several years ago Netflix would have won this war.

The scales would have been tipped in favor of “Tisha’s flesh” and I would have justified my decision with all kinds of excuses.  I need to rest.  I’ve worked hard enough this week.  I deserve some “me” time.

You know the self-justification I’m speaking of – don’t you?

A few years ago I read a story from a pastor who had a prophecy that was supposed to come to pass, but it was five months late.  The pastor figured the prophet who gave him the prophecy had missed it, so he let it go.  But the Holy Spirit spoke to the pastor and said “The reward I spoke about in the prophecy is still true – but it is delayed.  I gave you the assignment to write a book and you have put it off for five months.  I cannot bring you this reward until you obey Me.”

Reading this story really infused me with a fear of the Lord. 

Our delayed obedience yields delayed rewards. 

It got me to thinking – what has been delayed in my life because I have delayed my obedience to the Lord?

Netflix binging isn’t wrong as long as I have sought His Kingdom first.  Have I fulfilled what He has called me to do first?  Have I spent time with Him?  Have I fulfilled my responsibilities to my household first?  Have I neglected my children’s or my spouse’s needs?

Netflix doesn’t win anymore with me.  I have too much to gain with my obedience.

God’s Kingdom is first… and then Tisha’s kingdom comes next. 

Sometimes when I seek God about what is on His list for me to do – He’ll say “Push the pause button and binge on Netflix if you want.”  But it’s OK because I’ve surrendered my day to Him.  My calendar belongs to Him.  He holds today and knows what tomorrow brings.  My job is to fear the Lord and to serve Him with my life.

Today – Netflix is not first on God’s list for me.  It’s time to go and write.  It’s much easier to submit my flesh to His will these days.  I want to be on time with my obedience – because I love Jesus. 

My obedience is a reflection of my love for Him.  AND if I obey Him there is a reward for my obedience… He reveals Himself to me!

Those who accept my commandments and obey them are the ones who love me. And because they love me, my Father will love them. And I will love them and reveal myself to each of them. 

John 14:21

If Netflix (or whatever else it is that you use to check out of reality) is still winning the war of your flesh, it’s time to put God and His Kingdom first.  It doesn’t mean you have to give up Netflix binging… it just means you get God’s stuff done first.

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

 Matthew 6:33

Test God’s word by handing over your day to Him.  Hand over your calendar to Him and let Him order your steps.  You will find that when He has control of the wheel that there is time for everything… even a Netflix binge.

Becoming More Excellent: An Easier Way to Keep Your Goals

I used to go through seasons of excellence followed by seasons of mediocrity.  I used to decide to set my mind to being excellent and after a week or so (sometimes even a few days) I would find myself back in my old ways.  Living a life of mediocrity wasn’t what I WANTED to live, but I couldn’t seem to shift my life into the excellence mode that I was reaching for.

Part of my problem was that I was giving myself too much grace.  I made a goal for myself to be more excellent but wouldn’t keep it.  Almost like I wasn’t keeping my word to myself. 

I made goals to spend more time with God.  I made goals to read the Word more.  I made goals to keep my house tidier.  I made goals to be a stricter parent and mean what I said the first time.  I made goals to exercise.  I made goals to do more fasting.  I made goals to journal faithfully.  I made goals to pray for everyone I said I would pray for.

However, after a few days of living my new goals of excellence, I would “reward” myself because I was doing so well at attaining my goals.  I would give myself a day off.  <----- greasy grace.

Then I would get back to my goals for a few more days and give myself another few days off.  <------ really greasy grace.

After all, God loved me whether or not I kept my goals.  He wouldn’t be so hard on me.  He loved me unconditionally, so I could just rest in His grace.  Right?  Isn’t this what we tell ourselves when we don’t keep our own pledge.  “Oh well… God loves me – I don’t have to keep my word.”

The Body of Christ in many ways is not excellent because we don’t really mean what we say – and we give ourselves way too much grace… more than the Lord would give us.

God wants us to be excellent.  He doesn’t want us to keep rules and regulations to be excellent – but He does want us to keep our words.  He does want us to be disciplined.  He does want us to obey Him.

Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.  (John 14:21)

During a season of discipline from the Lord, I struggled to live a more excellent lifestyle.  I had been trying to keep my new goals – but I was doing it as though they were rules.  The Lord helped me with this by giving me a huge revelation that really helped me to do a complete shift into excellence.

He said, “Tisha, follow through with the words you say and achieve the goals you set simply because you love Me.  Do it out of our relationship…not because you are following rules.”

This really helped me.  I began to keep the goals I set to read the word and spend time in prayer because I loved the Lord, not because I was following a set of rules.  I began to pay attention to my words.  When I promised someone that I was going to pray for them – I either wrote it down, or I prayed for them right then so I wouldn’t forget.  If I set a fasting or an exercise goal,  I looked at it as though I was accomplishing a task that would bring me closer to the Lord, not as a punishment.

If I had a directive from the Lord, I would do it immediately!  I obeyed immediately because I wanted to show Him that I loved Him.

Did you see that in John 14:21 that there is a reward for obeying the Lord?  If we obey Him, He shows Himself to us.

This reward is so worth it!  God reveals Himself to those who obey Him!  As I have sought after excellence and disciplined myself in the Lord, He has revealed Himself to me, and I now know Him better… simply because I obeyed!

Become more excellent!  Mean your words.  Keep the goals you make. Run this race of life in order to win the prize!  The prize is Jesus!

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.”  1 Corinthians 9:24

How to Become Bolder for Christ

It’s exciting to see the Body of Christ wake up and begin to be bold about the things of the Lord.  You can be sure that the enemy of our souls is not happy about this awakening.

One way that the enemy is trying to silence us – is to make it “not cool” to preach the truth of God in a public place or on social media.  He can’t afford to lose a hold on the people who are living in his darkness.  It is the truth that sets people free.  The Spirit of the Lord dwells where there is LIBERTY.  

So our adversary is pulling out the oldest trick in the book to make us intimidated by using the “disapproval” of the world.

The world keeps shouting “BE KINDER!”   But what they really mean is “BE QUIET, because if you don’t agree with me – you are not being kind.” 

Their shouts are actually meant to subdue us from preaching the truth of Christ.  Somehow the enemy has twisted the preaching of God’s truth as unkind.  But really it is just the opposite – it is a kindness to the world that we boldly proclaim the truth, even if they do not listen.

Peter and John ran into the same thing in Acts 4.  The religious aristocracy commanded them to not speak or teach in the name of Jesus.

The response of Peter and John is notable and it is the very key to being bold for Christ.

Peter and John replied, “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God, For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.”  Acts 4:19-20

They were more concerned with what God thought of them than what man thought of them.

This is how we become bolder for Christ:  We obey God, not men.

When I was first venturing out to speak more publicly about Christ I remember trembling because of what “man” might think of me.  The Lord helped to put my feet on the rock instead of sand by helping me to BELIEVE this verse in Psalm 19:14.

“May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in YOUR sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.”

The only person who has to be pleased with your bold words is the Lord.

We should seek to accomplish two things as we step out and speak boldly about the Kingdom of God and His truth.  We should seek to have His words and His heart.

If we have God’s words but not His heart – we can become a clanging cymbal.

If we have His heart but do not speak His words of truth – we can actually be disobedient.

Ezekiel struggled to give the message of truth that the Lord wanted him to prophesy to Israel.  He had the Lord’s heart but resisted speaking His words.  The Lord said, “You must speak my words to them, whether they listen or fail to listen, for they are rebellious.” Ezekiel 2:7.

Later in Ezekiel 3, the Lord tells Ezekiel that if he does not preach the truth to people in order to turn them from their ways that God will hold Ezekiel accountable for the sin of the people.

Youch!!

That one stings!

If you have a truth from the Lord that you do not speak because you are afraid.  You will be held accountable at the judgment throne.

Let us press on to be bold for the Lord and be willing to be rejected because of our message about Him.  Let us learn to fear the Lord more than we fear men.  It is by the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony about Jesus that will ultimately help us to overcome!

This is my prayer for you:

“…that whenever you speak, may words be given to you so that you will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel,” (Eph. 6:19)

The Dangerous Sin of Presumption

As I unpack this teaching about the sin of presumption, it is my hope that it will help the Body of Christ to take a step toward the Lord in intimacy.  Repenting from presumption will position us in a place of humility that will crush the pride that is hidden in our hearts.

I’ve done it.  You’ve done it.  We have ALL committed the sin of presumption.

We have presumed to know the mind of God, but we were wrong.  We have presumed to understand His ways, but we haven’t.  We have presumed that we are in right standing with God when we are not.

The sin of presumption is presuming to know God – when we don’t really know Him and His ways.

presumption - when you believe that something is true without having any proof (Cambridge Dictionaries Online)

presumptuous - A person who is presumptuous shows little respect for others by doing things they have no right to do (Cambridge Dictionaries Online)

presumption - 1. the act of presuming; specif., a. an overstepping of proper bounds; forwardness; effrontery b. the taking of something for granted (Webster's New World College Dictionary)

The best example of presumption in the Word of God is the story of Saul of Tarsus.  Saul was a Pharisee of Pharisees.  He was superb at keeping the rules of the law and thought he was doing God a favor by putting Christians in prison.  He watched Stephen be stoned to death and approved. (Acts 22:20)

Saul presumed to be in right standing with God because of his “works.”  Saul thought he knew God inside and out…. but he didn’t.  He didn’t know the thoughts and ways of God… but he didn’t.  Saul knew the words of God and the laws of God, but he did not know the heart or the character of God.  He was blind to the fact that Jesus WAS the Son of God. (Acts 9)

Saul of Tarsus had rejected the Messiah and didn’t even know it.  He presumed to be right with God – but yet had rejected the very thing that would have made him right with God. Saul had blinders on.

We do this all the time.  We think we are right with God, but we don’t know that we don’t know.  The pride of presumption has overtaken us.  We are not seeing ourselves the way God sees us.  We are not seeing the world the way God sees the world.

God was kind to Saul of Tarsus and knocked him off of his horse, shined a light in his face, embarrassed him in front of his friends, blinded him for three days and introduced himself as Jesus, the one he’d been persecuting.

Saul was blind for three days.  God sent Ananias to give Saul back his sight.  When Ananias prayed for him, scales fell from Saul’s eyes.  Presumption fell from Saul’s eyes.  It was kind of the Lord to bring Saul to repentance because he saw Saul’s heart.  Saul was walking in pride – but his heart really did want to please the Lord.

I remember the Lord knocking me off of my horse in my late 20s.  I thought I was in right standing with the Lord – but God showed me (while reading a powerful book) that I did not have His mind concerning many things in His kingdom.  I was judging according to my own opinion and not according to His truth.  He made sure I understood that He did not care one bit about my opinion. 

God is only concerned with His plan and His Kingdom.  

I was shocked that I had been wearing blinders.

I was in presumption that my thoughts lined up with His.  I wrongly assumed that I was OK with Him.  It hurt a lot to be humbled.  It hurt a lot to realize that I was so far away from Him.  I was embarrassed, and I was cut to the heart that I had been so prideful.  

I am really grateful that the Lord chose to knock me off of my horse.  I took my pride to the Lord and repented for it.  The Lord removed the scales from my eyes and showed me that I had been trusting in my own confidence.

He said, “Tisha, it is presumptuous for you to have confidence in your own opinions.  My truth and My ways are the only things that should give you confidence.  Stand in the confidence that My ways are higher and better than yours.”

Ask the Lord to show you if you are wearing any blinders?   Are you walking in presumption? Do you have any scales over your eyes?  Only the Lord knows.  Ask Him to knock you off of your horse if you need to.  While there might be pain for a moment, in the long run, it will be the best prayer you’ve ever prayed!

Isaiah 55:6-9

Seek the Lord while he may be found;

    call on him while he is near.

 Let the wicked forsake their ways

    and the unrighteous their thoughts.

Let them turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on them,

    and to our God, for he will freely pardon.

 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts,

    neither are your ways my ways,”

declares the Lord.

 “As the heavens are higher than the earth,

    so are my ways higher than your ways

    and my thoughts than your thoughts.

The Common Denominator of America's Idolatry

America has been in decline since the 60s.  We’ve never been the perfect nation.  But something happened in the early 60s that caused our nation to turn a hard corner into a downward spiral of significant idolatry.

You can see it in our history.  We became complacent and allowed a few people to take prayer out of the schools.  It was followed by a sexual revolution – and then abortion.  The increase of sin in our nation since then is markedly different.  The idolatry of sex, greed, power, control, food, drugs, racism and so on permeates our society.  Whenever anyone challenges someone’s idolatry there is a vitriolic response rooted in selfishness.  “This idol makes me happy!  So leave me alone!  Who are you to judge?”

Idols are the things we worship.

Every single person alive on the planet worships something.  We were created to be worshipers.  Even if we don’t worship God – we worship something.  We can worship ourselves.  We can worship sex.  We worship our family.  We worship control.  Whatever it is that we draw our strength from – whatever it is that makes us feel better about ourselves.

If we are not getting our strength and identity and comfort from our Creator – then we are getting it from something that is created. 

You see – there is actually a common denominator in all of our idol worship.  It all comes down to one reason that we turn from God and toward idols. 

We worship idols because we are looking for something other than God to comfort our emotions.

Ever since the very first sin in the Garden of Eden – we have had a need to be saved from our emotional pain.

The truth is that our Heavenly Father IS the answer to our pain.  He is a good Father.  He helps us with our pain and shows us how to live in the midst of a broken world.  He sent His son Jesus to show us how to walk through this world without bowing to our emotions.

How would you like it if your children constantly looked elsewhere for their comfort?  How would it feel to you if every time your child got a boo boo they went to the refrigerator for food to make them feel better?  How would you like it if your teenager went to pornography or drugs every time they were hurting instead of coming to you?  How would you feel if your children looked to self-help gurus in the midst of their fear instead of asking you for help?

This is how it feels to the Heavenly Father when we constantly look for other things to comfort our emotions.  It is His truth and unconditional love that sets us free… not idolatry.  Idols only numb your pain for a moment – and then they make you pay for it.

Exodus 20:3-5

You shall have no other gods before me.

You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God

No matter how much you are engulfed in fear or how much your emotions hurt… make up your mind to only bow to the Lord.

When you are in pain run to the Lord.  Don’t run to sex.  Don’t run to food.  Don’t run to control.  This is idolatry.  And it is the way that Babylon behaves – not the children of God.

When your emotions rise up and you need them comforted – go to the Lord to comfort them.  Call upon the Holy Spirit who is the Comforter.  Turn on worship music.  Open your bible.  And pray…

This is how we turn from our idol worship and serve the Lord.

We must no longer sin because of our emotions – we must obey in spite of them!

The Lord showed me that in the valley that this nation is about to experience – it is His goal to kill our idol of comfort.  The coming tribulation to this nation is meant to be severe mercy. 

God loves every person in the world, but He will not bend His Truth to make people more comfortable in their sin. - Michael Youssef

If this nation is going to turn around, we must turn from our wicked ways.  We must turn from our idol of comfort and begin to pick up our crosses and follow the Lord – no matter how much we hurt.  

We must learn to obey His truth in spite of our fear and pain.

Jesus endured much pain on this earth.  He did not endure it so that you could FEEL good.  He came as an example of how to endure pain in this life.  He could have called upon twelve legions of angels to help him and COMFORT his pain (Mt 26:53) – but He obeyed His Father instead.

We must become like Him in His suffering. (Phil 3:10)

It is suffering that is about to come upon our nation.  We are going to experience quite a bit of pain in

this Valley of Death

– but God means it for our good.

He’s killing our idols.  He’s killing our comfort.  He’s destroying Babylon within us.  He’s turning our nation back to Him through a time of discipline.

It’s time to lay down our idols and preach the word of God – no matter how much pain it brings.

James 1:2-4 Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

Prayer:

God forgive me for turning to idols to comfort my emotions.  I am sorry that I have bowed to created things in order to make myself feel better.  You are the answer to my pain and I am willing to suffer for your Name.  Help me to only seek You in the midst of suffering.  I don’t want to be double minded any longer.  I ask for the grace of God to help me turn away from the idols in my life.  I ask You to burn the ways of Babylon out of my heart.  In the mighty name of Jesus, AMEN.

A Word for Those Who Want to Quit

I know that some of you are carrying your cross and you are very weary.  I know that there is GREAT temptation to lay down your cross and say – “It’s over, I give up!”  But I want to encourage you today that there is a great victory ahead and it is important that you do not quit!

The Via Dolorosa is literally translated “the way of suffering.”  It is the path that Jesus took up through the city to the hill of Golgotha while carrying His cross.

He didn’t complain.  He didn’t whine. He didn’t blame others. He just focused on His assignment.

To die.

The Dark Night of the Soul (Click Here)

kind of feels like this: Maybe we have been beaten up with words by our brothers and sisters, the enemy may be piercing our minds with doubts and lies and accusation.  We feel completely alone, no one is standing with us and we are frustrated that we are STILL required to carry out our burden for the sake of His Kingdom.

Honest moment: In my Dark Night I told the Lord over and over and over and over that “It’s not fair!!!”  I hated it.  I whined.  I complained.  I blamed everyone else.  I had a terrible attitude for several years of my pathway on the Via Dolorosa.  I definitely had some “rebellion” in me that needed to be weeded out.

I remember one Christmas when I complained A LOT – the Lord rebuked me through a Christmas song!  ♫ You’d better watch out!  You’d better not cry!  You’d better not pout!  I’m telling you why… Santa Claus is coming to town. ♫

It reminds me of a verse in Isaiah 1:19-20 “

If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the best from the land; but if you resist and rebel, you will be devoured by the sword.”

OUCH!

I was obeying the Lord by not quitting and not giving up.  But I had a dreadfully selfish defiance about the cross He had asked me to bear.  Isaiah says that there are two elements to receiving the “prize” or the best from the land:  We must be obedient AND willing!

For a season I was not willing to carry my cross.  Yet, the patience and discipline of God brought me to a place of dying to myself so I could trust Him and say “Not my will but Yours be done.” 

In fact, it was a really good thing that He helped me to overcome my rebellion, for after that I faced even more difficult circumstances that required an even deeper death to self to carry my cross.

This is kind of a difficult truth to absorb – but if we are to carry our crosses daily – it means we must walk the “the way of suffering” every single day.  Even after your season of testing, you will still carry your cross on the Via Dolorosa daily.  One of the purposes of the Dark Night is to acquaint you with this path.  You actually become friends with this path because you realize that the Via Dolorosa actually leads to life.  It becomes less painful because when you are dead to yourself and your emotions, you can embrace suffering because you know God has a plan and your pain has a purpose.

In Mel Gibson’s the

Passion of the Christ

, the scene that impacted my life the most was when Jesus was carrying His cross on the Via Dolorosa and stumbled right in front of His mother.  He looked up at her with blood streaming down His face.  He was unrecognizable.  He was being whipped and people were shouting terrible things against Him.  It was during this most terrible trial of His human life that He looked at His mother and said, “Look mother, I make all things new!”

You see, Jesus knew He was accomplishing His purpose.  He knew the path of suffering He was on would actually bring LIFE to the WHOLE earth!  It is hard for us to believe that a path of such pain and suffering could be God’s will for us.  Everything within us wants to avoid pain.  Every fiber of our being cries out for self-preservation.

This is exactly how the enemy can deceive some into a ditch on the path of life.  He convinces you of this lie:  God is gracious and loving and would never require such suffering of His people. 

And then there’s this half-truth:  Jesus died so I wouldn’t have to. 

I love this piece of wisdom from Bob Sorge.

He says we must remember that there are two elements to the cross.

1) S

ubstitutionary = Christ took your place on the cross.

2) Identificational = Jesus wants you to join Him in His suffering.

When on this very difficult part of the Dark Night you must resist both lies.  The very reason for our “crucifixion” path is because it leads to more life than you can ever imagine. 

Why is the Lord asking you to walk this path?  Is it to set your family free?  Is it to spread the gospel?  Is it to prepare you for ministry?  Is it to bring redemption to His earth?  There IS a reason that you are on the Via Dolorosa and if you are willing AND obedient – you will make all things new within your sphere of influence.

The other ditch on the opposite side of the Via Dolorosa is this lie:  God is requiring too much of me. I cannot handle it.

I admit – it does seem that God gives us more than we can handle.  But His answer is that we’re not doing it alone.  He is carrying the weight of the cross with us.  We must resist the devil’s attempt to make us feel alone.  We must use our faith muscles, which produces perseverance and ultimately leads to maturity.  This is where we apply the verse: 

I can do ALL things through Christ who strengthens me.

  Philippians 4:13

Let me share some practical advice for those of you who are struggling to submit to the “way of suffering.”

As simple as it sounds one of the key ways to overcome this trial of wanting to quit is to “take another step.”

Depending on where you are at on the Via Dolorosa this could mean a variety of different things.  It could be the tiny baby steps.  Like you simply make your mind up to breathe through the pain until noon.  And once you pass that mark you breathe until 5PM.  Then you breathe until bedtime.

There were other times during the Dark Night that I would set my mark out a little further.  For instance, just make it through the weekend, or make it until Christmas, or just make it through the summer.  This really did help me to get through the difficult ‘way of suffering.’

I will never forget the story of Marcus Luttrell, the Navy Seal in

Lone Survivor

.  He tells the story of losing his entire squad in a fire fight in Afghanistan.  He had a broken back, a broken pelvis, broken nose and bit his tongue in half, and he was paralyzed from the waist down.

As He lay dying against a tree looking at the moon, feeling sorry for himself He said, “I kept thinking I was still alive they (his fellow seals) fought and died, but I’m still alive so the mission is still on.  So I reached out and grabbed a rock and I drew a line and I used my elbows and crawled to it.  I decided if I died, I died.  If I made it to the line… I would draw another line. I’d fall down a hill and crawl up another one.  I did that for seven miles…. I am not going to stop. It’s not an option. I’m a Navy Seal.  When you go into training they take away everything that you are or ever were, and then they mold you into what they want you to be.” 

Marcus Luttrell DID make it home.  He was harbored by an Afghan village and then returned home to America.  He was made whole and healed and has inspired the entire country with his bravery.  But he had to lay down his “victimhood” and resolve to keep going despite his circumstances.  I can’t imagine how his body ever healed itself after all of that.  But as David Crowder wrote in his song, ♫ Earth has no sorrow that heaven can’t heal. ♫

This is the perfect example of what the Via Dolorosa is.  It is hard!  It is painful!  You want to quit! But something inside you says it will be worth it.  You are making all things new.  Just keep going.  Don’t quit.  Draw a line in the sand and when you reach it, draw another one to reach for.  Just keep taking another step.

You WILL reach your destination!

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest

if we do not give up.”

  Galatians 6:9 (emphasis mine)

Deliverance – God’s "Get Out of Jail Free" Card

There is nothing quite like the feeling of deliverance.  It’s like a wash of peace that comes over you when God delivers us from depression or trauma.  A lot of people describe it as “feeling lighter.”

Earlier in life I struggled with depression on a weekly basis.  It was terrible to have a black cloud hanging over my head.  I just wanted to crawl into bed and stay there.  The enemy stole my hope and stole my life.  Nothing seemed to help.

There were times that I remember being delivered from depression.  It was like my sky opened up.  It was like the clouds parted and my world became normal again.

Sometimes God delivered me using His truth.  He would show me a lie I was believing that He could not be trusted, when He gave me His truth it would bring me peace. Other times I would wake up delivered in the morning after a night of struggling.

But after a few days (and in all honesty sometimes a few hours)… that black cloud of depression would come for me again.  It felt so big – there was nothing I could do.  But I soon learned that there WAS something I could do.

I remember the Lord saying something to me at this time that was difficult to understand – but I knew He wanted me to grow up into it.  He said,  “Tisha, STAY in the deliverance.”

What I grew to understand was that deliverance was a “Get Out of Jail Free” card.  It is free because Jesus paid for our deliverance on the Cross.  But my freedom from depression kept being revoked because I was not hanging onto my deliverance.  The only way that we can hang onto the peace of deliverance is to walk with Him!

I would not continue to walk close to the Lord after being delivered.  I kept going back to the prison of depression.

What I would do is allow the enemy’s arrows of hopelessness penetrate my heart and mind again.  I would not hold the truth of the Lord close to my heart.  I would not put up my shield of faith against the arrows of hopelessness.  I would not take authority over the spirit of heaviness and tell it to GO in the name of Jesus.  I became a victim and forgot to praise His name.

The lie that the enemy kept feeding me to get me into depression was this: The Lord cares about everyone else but not about me.  God would deliver me with His truth that He cares so deeply for me that He knows the number of hairs on my head or His thoughts toward me numbered the sands on the shore.

Whenever I let go of the truth of God’s love for me… I would lose my “Get Out of Jail Free” card and depression would return.

Believe His word and walk in His ways.  Use the authority He’s given you to rebuke the devil and STAY out of jail!!

I will listen to what God the Lord says;

    he promises peace to his people, his faithful servants—

but let them not turn to folly.

Surely his salvation is near those who fear him,

    that his glory may dwell in our land.  Psalm 85:8-9

Maybe God has delivered you from sin or addiction or a trauma.  You must remember to hang onto your deliverance by walking closely with the Lord.  If you return to your folly (the sin or the lies) you will surely find your deliverance revoked, not because the Lord is angry with you.  But because you chose to go back to jail.

After we are delivered we MUST go and sin no more.

Hearing God's Voice: Learning to Test the Spirits

When I was first learning to hear from God – I had no one to train me about how to test the spirits to see if they were really the Holy Spirit.  I made many mistakes as I was first trying to hear God for myself. 

God does speak through His word.  But He also speaks through the Holy Spirit directly to our spirit.  I was brought up on a foundation of only hearing God through the Bible.  But as I matured, the Lord wanted to speak to me directly through the Holy Spirit.

I want to share a few things that I learned in my process of maturity in the hope that it might keep you from making the same mistakes I did!

Test the Spirits

Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.  This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.  1 John 4:1-3

My interpretation of this verse is that everything you hear must acknowledge and line up with the character of Jesus Christ.  If we hear a spirit that does not conform to the image of who we know Christ is -- then it is the Spirit of the “Anti-Christ.”

Learning to test the spirits has been a process though.  It is not easy to distinguish between God’s words, the devil’s words and my own thoughts.  It takes time to practice!  My friend Scott says, "The devil is the 'Great Almost.'"

I do not have it all figured out.  I do still miss it on occasion, but that just keeps me humble to know that I do not hear 100% correctly from the Holy Spirit.  I only hear “in part” and need others to help me hear more accurately.

An Example of Failure

I had toyed with the idea of going to a local benefit fundraiser that was also a contest for a big prize amount.  It was for local businesses.  I thought it might be a good way to rub elbows and meet some new people.  But I wanted God’s direction to go as it cost $100 to attend and that was a big chunk of money for me then.

I was returning from taking my boys to a local fair about 4 pm one afternoon and I heard a spirit say “Why aren’t you going to the fundraiser?  I told you to go to the fundraiser!” The voice I heard was frantic and frustrated at me.  The fundraiser began at 6 pm that evening.  So I rushed home, put on some fresh clothes and bought my $100 ticket at the door.

In short, there was no fruit at all from that dinner/fundraiser.  I didn’t even make any new contacts.  I thought to myself, well maybe I was supposed to sow money into the fundraiser and there will be a harvest from it.  But a few years later, there was still no harvest from that $100.

I began to ask the Lord if I had missed it.  He showed me through a series a “lessons” that He never speaks to me in franticness.  He is never frustrated at me.  His character is to have limitless patience.  He showed me that He did not tell me to sow that $100, but the enemy came to steal it from me and I believed the spirit because I didn’t test the spirit that spoke to me.  The spirit that spoke to me on the way home from the fair did not represent the character of Christ.

If you hear someone or a spirit speak to you and that spirit does not line up with the character of who Christ is then it is not from God.

The voice I heard on the way home from the fair was not a representative of Christ because the spirit was impatient with me.

Another Example of Missing It

A pastor had been sharing with me what a crazy experience that he had been having with the Lord and it was exhausting him.  He was awakened very early in the morning by a spirit and the Lord would begin to speak to him.  He felt that he had to obey the spirit because He was getting some wonderful revelation – but he was only getting 3 hours of sleep a night.

I felt a red flag in my spirit and I told him that it sounded like a “tormenting” spirit to me.  I said this because Scripture says “In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat-- for he (God) grants sleep to those he loves.”  Psalm 127:2

God wants us to be healthy – a lack of sleep does not make for a healthy lifestyle.  He can give us all the revelation we need during a 16 hour day.  He grants sleep to those he loves.  This spirit was trying to steal from the pastor, his family and his flock.

The pastor received my counsel and refused this spirit and his sleep evened out again.

This is how to discern whether a spirit is from God – does the Spirit line up with Scripture or the character of Jesus?

A Piece of Wisdom

This might seem kind of crazy but this is how I have learned to test the spirits.  I ALWAYS tell the spirit no.

Whenever I hear a spirit tell me to do something or to say something.  I tell the spirit no.  And the reaction of the spirit tells me if it is Christ like or not.

For instance, the other day I heard a spirit tell me to do something and I wasn’t quite sure it was the Lord.  So I spoke to the spirit in my mind and said, “You know I’m going to have to test you.”  I heard the inner voice answer me.  “Yes I know you are.”

I felt complete peace.  No demanding voice to tell me to obey.  No tormenting spirit telling me that if I didn’t do it I’d be disobedient.  No frantic, agitated voice making me feel shame. I set my mind to NOT do what the voice was telling me for a few minutes.  And I had nothing but peace the whole time.

About 3 minutes later, I heard the same voice give me the same directions.  I said “No.  I am not going to do that.”  Again, I felt complete peace.  No pressure.  No accusation.  I felt the spirit be completely humble and patient with me.

So about 5 minutes later, I heard the same voice again, give me the same direction.  I said “Lord if that is you – what will you do if I refuse to obey you?”  He said, “I will wait for you to hear Me.”

It was at this point I could begin to trust the spirit.  The spirit that spoke to me was peaceful, patient, kind, gentle, generous, respectful, not demanding that I submit to it.

I then obeyed the spirit that I heard and my action bore great fruit.

If you surmise that a spirit who is speaking to you is not from the Lord – this is what you should do.  Tell that spirit to be quiet in the name of Jesus.  Bind it from talking to you and pray that the angels would loose it away from you and take the spirit to the feet of Jesus Christ. 

I encourage you to step out and try to hear the voice of God!  Don’t be afraid of hearing the Holy Spirit… it leads to maturity.  But test the spirits.  God will never lead you to do something that is not Scriptural nor will He speak to you using a tone that is not in His character.

Be brave and learn to listen!

My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. – John 10:27

Idolatry of the Pastor - When Loyalty Is Taken to the Extreme

I am so guilty of doing this!

I am guilty of putting my pastor on a pedestal and worshiping him instead of Christ.  I have at times given my free will over to my pastors and allowed them to take the place of the Holy Spirit in my life.  But the truth is…

A pastor does not belong on a pedestal… ever. 

We cannot be more mesmerized with a person than we are with Christ.

When we begin to raise authorities in the church to a level above the people in the church, we have broken the commandment that we should have no other gods before Him.

I can specifically think of twice that the Lord convicted me that I had elevated a person to a pedestal and listened to their counsel instead of God’s.

Both times I had elevated pastors to a pedestal in my life it was because they taught me a revelation that was life changing.  Both of these pastors were incredibly gifted.  They had just the right message at just the right time in my life.  I was in awe of them.

The problem was… I was actually in awe of their gifting.

I allowed their gifting to impress me so much that I was willing to put them on a throne in my heart and consider them more important than God.  I forgot that the revelation and gifting that they blessed me with had an origin with my own Heavenly Father.

The lie I believed was since they had revelation that I did not yet have that were somehow more important in the Kingdom.  This is a crazy lie because every person has a slice of God that no one else has.  Even my children have a revelation about God that I need to learn from.  Even the newest Christian has a revelation about God that each person can learn from.

Knowledge about God's kingdom does not make a person or a pastor more important.

Man is flawed.  I am flawed.  Our giftings are given to us by God through His amazing grace.  When our giftings work in the Body of Christ for the glory of God… there is really no way that we can take any credit for getting something right.  The gift came from God.  It worked because of Him, not because we were selected to be superior to anyone else.

(Click here to read about "The Importance of Not Trusting a Person's Gifting)

When I put these pastors on the throne, I would look to their counsel first.  Instead of seeking God first, I would assume since they had such wonderful revelation that they walked closer to God than me and they would have the more accurate answer.  I felt that because God used them to bring such important revelation to me that I owed them my loyalty.  But my definition of loyalty ended up becoming extreme and I soon worshiped them.

I began being very biased for them.  Even when they would stumble, I made up excuses for their flaws in my heart.  I defended them to the extreme because they had set me free with their wonderful revelation.   I was no longer fair in my analysis of their ministry.  I set them up in my heart as idols.

I really grieved the Lord when I did this.

In time, just as all idols bring disappointment and heartache, these pastors I had elevated in my heart brought me great disappointment. One disappointed me through a huge character failure and another through personal misunderstanding.

I remember God using an older man in the church to bring me a simple rebuke but an important one.  When describing what happened with one of the pastors and explaining how I was so hurt, he simply said, “Tisha, he’s only a man.”

I know that may seem simple to you, but at the time – it was profound that God could use just a few words to show me that I had given my pastor more loyalty than I had given to Him.

My heart was broken.  I was so sorry that I had been seeking the favor of this man more than I was seeking the face of God.

Loyalty to church leadership does not mean we put them on a pedestal.  Loyalty to church leadership doesn’t mean we dismiss their flaws.  Loyalty to pastors must never supersede our loyalty to God.

We DO need to honor our pastors - BUT we need to put God FIRST! 

Seek first the Kingdom of God and all of these things will be added unto you.  (Matt. 6:33)

We need to seek God for ourselves, pastors should not be our conduit to Him.  They are not the CEO of the church.  The Church is not a business.

The structure of God’s kingdom is not a hierarchy – it’s a body.  It’s a team.  Jesus is the coach. The pastors are the assistant coaches.  In fact, just as in a football team you might have MANY assistant coaches. A mentor is an assistant coach.  Maybe an author you like to read is an assistant coach. Possibly God will use your spouse to be His assistant coach.  But none of these are meant to be the head coach.  Only Jesus is given that title. 

Our loyalty needs to be aimed at the Kingdom of God, not the organization of the church.

Remember that your pastor is not your rescuer – Jesus is.

Your pastor didn’t die for your sins – Jesus did.

Your pastor is not the author and finisher of your faith – Jesus is.

Examine where your loyalty lies.  “Seek First the Kingdom” is the answer to the idolatry of the pastor.

Steps to Wholeness:

If you are convicted about lifting up a man or a woman in your life up on a pedestal follow these steps to repent from your idolatry.

1.

Ask God for forgiveness for putting a person on a pedestal.

2.

Declare that this person shall come down off of the throne of your heart in Jesus name.

3.

Ask the Lord to sit on the throne instead.

4.

Break any ungodly soul ties by praying this prayer – (Pastors – you can also break soul ties with your congregation.  Sometimes the sheep have expected way too much of you.  Let God set you free by praying this prayer and substituting “pastors” with the word “congregation.”)

1.   I sever

ungodly

influence and

ungodly

soul ties from my pastors.

2.   I give back to them the things that belong to them.

3.   I take back the things that belong to me.

4.   I wash them in the blood of Jesus.

5.   I pray that You would remove all faulty wiring from my mind.

6.   I ask You to replace it with the wiring of the Holy Spirit according to the Kingdom of Heaven.

7.   I ask You God to set my pastors free from all of their wrong programming.

8.   Give them back their soul.

9.   I ask You God to give me back my soul.

5.

Praythe sealing up prayer (found by clicking here).

Don't Mistake the Blessing of God for the Approval of God!


From time to time I have really struggled with seeing God bless people who I knew were really far away from Him.  They would possibly be prodigals sowing their wild oats, or a Pharisee who was a modern day Saul of Tarsus running around spouting out rules and regulations.  Sometimes people who were walking in abject sin would still see the blessing of our heavenly Father.  Why would God bless these sinners who were obviously far away from Him?

I knew this particular couple to be living in deception about many things of the Lord.  It was not my opinion that they were apart from the vine.  I had the judgment of the Lord that they were indeed far from Him.  God loved them and wanted them to be set free, but they were not willing to hear the truth from anyone.  They alienated themselves from their friends and loved ones because of the “religious” lifestyle that they led. 

I remember at one point they were in need of a new car.  The woman told me how she’d prayed that God would give her a new car and in her request she’d told God that one exactly like they already had would be just fine.  Well, the very next week, they were given a very good deal on a car the exact make and model of the one they already had.

This troubled me greatly.  Why would God hear and bless them if this couple was so far away from Him?  This question disturbed me for years, because in my mind the blessing of God was also the approval of God.

I know a particular church that moved out of the will of God and wanted a “Barbie Dream House” (click here for more).  They purchased a building and remodeled it so that the world would be impressed by the building and come to church there.  God does not use the outward exterior of a church to draw people close to Himself.  He uses the heart of His people to draw people to Himself.  They were far away from the vine.

Yet God blessed them.

Even through the moving process God’s blessing was there.  They had other churches help them move into the new building.  They had an anointed last service in their old church building.  Their moving process was smooth and everyone enjoyed the fresh, remodeled building.  I again was troubled until I read this quote by Rick Joyner.  “Sometimes God will bless what He Himself will never inhabit.”

Whoa!  That’s a good one!

Sometimes God will bless us even if we are apart from the vine.  He loves us as His children and He does not deny us His blessing even if we are deceived or in rebellion.
Therefore…

Having the blessing of God does not mean we have the approval of God.

I have a wonderful example for you.  They are precious family members of mine.  They love God with all of their hearts.  They are two of the most faithful pray-ers I have ever known. 

They also love their son.  They raised him in church and taught them about the Lord.  Nevertheless their son chose a sinful lifestyle.  These precious family members live broken hearted each day for their son.  But they pray and trust that God will see to his salvation and in the meantime…they love him, and bless him.

They have never disowned him.  His mother says “I can’t afford to lose him.”  She has given him the truth and shown him the scripture about how he was not lining up with a Godly life and now she has left it in the Lord’s hands.  But just because her son is deceived doesn’t mean she’s going to cut off the relationship.  They bless their son every chance they have.  They have helped him financially when he was in need.   Their son knows that his parents don’t agree with his lifestyle.  But they are not willing to give up their relationship because of it.  The son also knows that just because his parents bless him does not mean they approve of his behavior.

In the same way we cannot mistake the blessing of God for the approval of God.   He's going to bless His children no matter how far away from the vine we are.  He does it to draw us to Himself attempting to turn us back toward Him.  He blessed the Hebrews who wandered in the desert for 40 years because of their disobedience.  Manna in the morning, quail in the evening, and their shoes and clothes never wore out.  They were in the desert because of their selfishness but God blessed them.  God’s blessings are separate from His approval. 

Consider your own life.  Don't mistake the blessing of God for the approval of God.  Ask the Father to show you where you stand with Him.  He will be faithful to show you.

When Jesus was baptized in Mark 1:11, the Spirit descended on Him and the voice of the Father said these words:  "You are my son, whom I love.  With you I am well-pleased."

The Father made a distinction between His love for His Son and His approval.  The Father loved the Son but was also "pleased" with Him.

Let it be our desire to hear “Well done, good and faithful servant!” --- let us pursue the approval of God!


(It is important to keep a balance in the Truth and Grace of God.  God does bless us even in sin.  But God also turns His face away from those who have gone astray and willingly stay in rebellion.  He turns away in His great love so that they will seek and return to the love they once felt. It is famine that brings the prodigal home.)

Restoring Rebuke and Admonishment to the Body of Christ

The Body of Christ is in a ditch of kindness.  Somehow the definition of love has come to have a one dimension delineation.  Kindness or niceness is not the only definition of love.  Love is kind but it also rejoices with the truth. (Go here for a previous article about

The Definition of Love

.)

We have been programmed by the world and the hyper-grace church that if we say something perceived as negative, it is not NICE and therefore not Christ-like.  It has caused many in the Body to come to the place of being afraid to bring correction to one another.

Another reason this false Doctrine of Nice has seeped into the Church is because we are not taking into account the WHOLE Word of God.  

We pick and choose scriptures that define the paradigm of Jesus as full of grace but reject the scriptures that would define Him as truth.

Jesus is love.  But love is not the definition of God.  God is the definition of love.  Therefore, we must take into account ALL of His actions while on earth if we are to accurately understand Him and become like Him.  He came FULL of grace and truth.

His rebuke and admonishment were mostly to those who claimed to be His people.  He gently corrected those who had a soft heart and were willing to repent.  He used a sharper tone with religious people and sometimes His own disciples when they became proud or hard headed.

Jesus corrected and confronted people publicly.  He called people names to make a point.  He lost His temper in righteous anger.  He confronted people with wrong motives.

Jesus hated sin and was NOT careful with the feelings of those who were hardened to their sin.  His goal was always to bring repentance and righteousness.  He caused pain with his words in order to deal with people’s rebellion against God.

When Jesus did speak harshly, He did it with wisdom and tact.  He tempered His words and followed the leading of His Father.

John 12:49

For I did not speak of my own accord, but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and how to say it.

Jesus only spoke what the Father commanded him to say and He only said it with the tone His Father gave him.

I would submit to you that if God’s people would do a lot more correcting and become like Christ in this area of rebuke and admonishment that the Body of Christ would not be nearly as immature as we currently are.  Sin hinders our relationship with Him.  Rebuking someone and cutting them with our words out of a loving (not controlling) motivation - quite possibly could bring them to repentance.

Proverbs 28:23 

He who rebukes a man will in the end gain more favor than he who has a flattering tongue.

This verse from Proverbs is absolutely trustworthy!  The times when the Lord has tasked me with rebuking a friend or a leader – this verse is the one that I stand on.  They may not appreciate my rebuke in the beginning.  But 90% of the time, those whom I give a word of admonishment to – come back and thank me for it later.

There was one particular time a friend was about to marry a man I knew was not God’s will.  Her emotions got away with her and she did not look more deeply at this man’s character.  I gently told her that I felt like she needed to REALLY pray before moving forward with it.  But I did not tell her that I had serious doubts that this man was from the Lord.  She went ahead and married him.  And after 18 months of verbal and emotional abuse she filed for divorce.

We later discussed the conversation when I had gently told her to pray harder about it.  Through her tears she said, “Tisha!  Why didn’t you warn me more harshly?  I wish you would have hurt my feelings and possibly saved me from two years of pain!”

She was not blaming me for her choices.  But she was seeing that I was a messenger from God who did not use God’s tone with her.  Instead of hurting my friend’s feelings… I bowed to the Doctrine of Nice. I should have hurt her deeply enough for her to reconsider her plans for marriage.  (I am grateful to tell you that God did bring her a wonderfully loving and God-fearing husband and they are living their happily ever after!)

Let us reconsider the definition of LOVE.  If our motivation when bringing a rebuke is love and not “control” of another person… Rebuke can be a kindness – because it leads to repentance.  If a right-hearted rebuke is refused, then leave it in God’s hands.  The religious leaders of His time did not listen to Him either.  But He did speak the truth to them whether they listened or not.

If the Lord calls you

to admonish or rebuke someone, be willing to hurt another’s feelings in order to turn them from their sin.  We can no longer afford to be double minded when it comes to correction in the Body of Christ.  Disengage from the false Doctrine of Nice.  In its place, let a desire for righteousness and holiness become your goal.  Let a desire to speak truth in love with the tone of God well up within your spirit. 

2 Timothy 4:2-5

Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage--with great patience and careful instruction.  For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.  They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.

Admonishment and rebuke are actually tools for being a peacemaker.  God is not interested in man making peace with man.  God is interested in man making peace with Him.  This happens through repentance.  Sometimes rebuke and admonishment are needed to bring others to repentance.

Hebrews 12:11

No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.

God rebukes and disciplines those He loves…   Let us learn to love better.  Let us be His mouthpiece of rebuke and admonishment if He so chooses.  Listen and obey -- become like Him.  Let your motivation be love - not control and many will be saved!!

Are You an Apathetic Bride?

Believers, there’s a wedding coming. Are YOU getting ready? I had a really vivid dream this past month and I want to share it with you.

I was a bride getting ready on her wedding day. I wasn't very excited about getting married and wasn't even sure I wanted to wash my hair. I could see that my hair wasn’t fresh and was almost greasy. I asked a friend if she thought I should wash it. She said, I think you really should.

Someone came and got me from my dressing room to do pre-wedding pictures. And NO ONE was ready to do pictures. I was really irritated!

END OF DREAM

As a friend and I prayed about an interpretation later, she had some great wisdom. She said, "Your dream is about the Church and how apathetic they are being about getting ready for the Bridegroom."

Ouch!! There is a sting to that interpretation. After all that Jesus has done for us, after all that He has warned us would happen at the end of days, we are still not truly getting ready.

Who would even think to not wash their hair on their wedding day? Honestly in the dream it was because I was being lazy and didn’t want to go to the extra effort. Washing my hair in the dream was a parallel to washing our minds and renewing them in holiness. This is exactly what we are doing. We are being lazy about renewing our minds. We are conforming to the pattern of this world.

It really broke my heart to think that this is how Christ’s Bride is behaving. He gave His life for us. He suffered cruelly, was abandoned by everyone, allowed Himself to be mocked and spit on. They nailed Him to a tree that He created and plunged a sword into His side to make sure He was dead. He did this to redeem us out of the clutches of death so that we could one day be with Him. And this is how we repay Him? By halfheartedly preparing to be His Bride?

We desperately need to pray to be delivered from our apathy and our lack of enthusiasm! He is worthy of so much more than we are giving Him. Are we going to begin to set aside our earthly lives and prepare our hearts for the wedding?

We need to renew our minds!!

Romans 12:2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world but be TRANSFORMED by the RENEWING of your mind...

Are you willing to turn the TV off for an hour in the evening in order to pray and study more? Are you willing to prepare your children by having them play one less sport so you can spend more time with them, training them in the things of the Lord? Are you willing to wake up earlier, stay up later, give up your lunch time in order to spend more time with God?

Are you willing to humble yourself and spend time allowing the Holy Spirit to bring conviction of things that need to change in your heart and mind? We must know the truth about where we stand if we are going to give the Lord the Bride He deserves.

It is unfortunate that many believers who are called to be the Bride will simply not do the work required to get ready. If believers refuse to get ready they will still live for eternity in heaven, but instead of being the Bride they will end up being guests at the wedding.

Rev 19:7-9

Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear." Then the angel said to me, "Write: 'Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!' " And he added, "These are the true words of God."

Are you going to be the part of the Church that is the Bride of Christ? Or are you going to be a guest at the wedding?

If your desire is to be the Bride – then I submit these words to you as a word of prophecy from the Lord…

     "Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you." Be very careful, then, how you live--not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Ephesians 5:14-16

If anything in this world fascinates you more than God - then you don't have what God wants you to have. - Smith Wigglesworth

Lord Change Me: Preparing for the Glory of the Lord


There are milestones in each believer's life when we come to a place of being changed into the likeness of Christ.  The Bible calls it going from glory to glory.  This happens when our hearts are changed by the Holy Spirit and we are given a new heart.  When we come to the revelation that something within us does not line up with the Kingdom we have a choice:  we can either allow the Lord to change us, or we go around and around the mountain about the issue until we allow the Lord to change us.

I remember a revelation I had once about John the Baptist's purpose here on earth.  I knew he was here to prepare the way for the Lord.  But God gave me further insight as I was reading Luke 3.

"A voice of one calling in the desert, 'Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him. Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill made low.  The crooked roads shall become straight, the rough places smooth. And all people will see God’s salvation. " Luke 3:4-6

The Lord spoke to me after I read these words and He said, "Tisha, what do you think I'm talking about here?"  The understanding I had of this verse was more of a global understanding up to that point.  I felt that it meant that he would take down nations, and raise up nations, and straighten the nations that were crooked, and smooth out the rough places of others.  But I knew that my answer was only a guess.  He said, "I'm referring to people here." 

God meant that He was interested in every person becoming a straight path for Him.  He wanted every valley in a person to be raised up.  That means every place where a person doesn't know the truth or they don't know their worth, He wants the valley filled in with His truth and worth.  He wants the mountains in our lives brought to level ground.  The mountains represent our pride, or even idols in our lives that take precedence over the Lord.  They have to be brought down for us to have level paths. He wanted crooked roads to be made straight.  There are households, businesses, and churches that have some crooked places in them that need to be straightened out.  It may be the financial places that need straightened.  It may be the dysfunctional relationships where there is a spirit of control.  It may be ungodly methods of leadership.  God wants the twists and turns of the path to become straight.  He also wants to make the rough places in our lives, our personalities, our reactions, and our relationships to become smooth.  He wants the places where we rub others the wrong way or others rub us the wrong way to be smoothed out, so that we come to the place of being unoffendable.

A milestone in my life happened when I read a book by Evelyn Christianson entitled "Lord, Change Me." (click here)  I was given a new heart through this book.  I had found a secret that has been priceless in my Christian walk.  I had found the prayer, "Lord, change me."  Yes, I knew that there were people around me that needed to change, but all of that faded away and I focused on becoming a straight path for the Lord.  I didn't need to worry about anybody else's path, only my own.  My eyes were opened to the mountains, valleys, crooked and rough places in my own heart.  Each time I encountered a new mountain or valley I simply got on my knees and asked God to change me.  It wouldn't have worked if I had tried to change myself.  I can pull out my old heart but I can't give myself a new one.

Valleys
"...every valley shall be filled in."  There are low places in my path that need to be lifted up.  There are parts of my soul that are wounded from childhood.  There are parts of my soul that are wounded from previously unresolved relationships.  There are unfounded fears that keep me bound.  There are things I think about myself that are not true.  Until I see myself the way God sees me the valleys will not be filled in.  Until I see others the way God sees them the valleys will not be filled in.

I am also lacking skills that I need to be all that God has called me to be.  I'm lacking leadership skills, or writing skills, or preaching skills.  These are all valleys that God will have to teach me so that the path will become level.  Remember that all we learn in this life will also be used in the next life.  All that He teaches us will be important in our place in heaven as well.

Mountains
“…every mountain and hill made low…” Pride is a mountain that many of us have dealt with.  It is a sneaky little thing "pride." I heard someone say once that pride is like bad breath, you're the last one to know you have it.  Pride keeps us from humility which is the state at which we are a vessel for the Lord.  Several mountains of pride have been toppled in my own life, some of them because I saw my wrong thinking and asked for them to be brought low.  But other mountains were brought down through suffering.  My mountains came tumbling down without any warning.  Although after looking back, I see how the Lord tried to get my attention before He struck down my mountains.  Paul encountered a mountain toppling when he met the Lord on the road to Damascus.  Paul had been so proud of his religious activities that he was sure that God was pleased with him.  But that mountain came down when the Lord blinded Paul and admonished him by showing Paul that he was persecuting Jesus.

We have seen public figures in the secular and Christian world have their mountains toppled.  God does it because He's creating a straight path for His Son's return.  It's because of His mercy that He topples mountains in our lives.  I would rather God deal with my mountains here on earth than showing me the mountains after I get to heaven and have no chance for change. 

Some mountains in my life have been people.  People that I have put before the Lord.  I have cared too much what they think.  I have taken ungodly advice from them to please them. 

Being unwilling to let go of our family can be a mountain in our lives.  Look at what Jesus said in Matthew.

    Matthew 10:37 "Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not         worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not             worthy of me;"

I think we could also substitute anything in this verse.  If anyone loves his spouse, job, drugs, alcohol, pornography, church, or food more than Jesus is not worthy of Him. That's quite a thought...that our mountains make us unworthy of Him.  Lord change me and bring down my mountains!
  
Crooked Roads
“…The crooked roads shall become straight…”  I have a dear relative who owns her own financial consulting firm for small businesses.  It's a unique business where her company is hired by small businesses to look into their financial records to straighten them out and then give them projections and goals for the future.  She has shared with me on many occasions how "messed up" some companies are.  They started out using the wrong financial system or never even understood what they should have been keeping track of all along and it has created a mess that the company is completely unaware of.  So my aunt's company will straighten out the books and taxes that have been thus far wrong and then show them how to do it better, guiding them on a straight path ahead.  She makes the crooked roads straight.

This is exactly what has happened in some believers lives.  They got started on a crooked path.  Wrong beliefs or wrong doctrine that come at the beginning of life cause trouble as time goes on.  Eventually the crooked path has caused a "messed up" life.  I believe every believer has some roads that are crooked.  One of my crooked roads was my belief about where women belonged in the church.  When God called me to ministry, I remember thinking how unbiblical He was being!  He had to straighten out my crooked road before He could use me.  Another crooked road I had was a controlling spirit.  In my "control" I thought I was trying to make everything straight.  When actually, the more I tried to control a situation the more crooked the situation got. 

God show us what's crooked and make it straight.

Rough Places
“…the rough places smooth…”  A diamond is not pretty right out of the diamond mine.  It is rough-edged and dirty.  It has to be cut and polished with a trained eye.  Believers are too, diamonds in the rough.  And most times God will use other people to polish our rough edges to a shine.  He uses the impatience, unkindness, lack of gentleness and lack of self-control in others to smooth out the patience, kindness, gentleness, and self-control in ourselves.  Sounds like fun!

But this polishing is necessary for His return.  We are intent to make a straight path for His return.  So the polishing is necessary.  The more polished we become the easier it is to rise above offense.  The easier it is to respond in love.  The easier it is to see people as Jesus sees them.  Don't run away from the smoothing process, desire it.  Desire gentleness.  Desire self-control.  And desire patience!  God is pleased when we pray for patience.  It is a fruit of the spirit.  Desire to be made smooth.

The Glory Revealed
…And all people will see God’s salvation…
Luke was quoting Isaiah 40 in Luke 3.  It is translated “all people will see God’s salvation.” 

But Isaiah 40:3-5 says it like this:
A voice of one calling:
“In the wilderness prepare
    the way for the Lord;
make straight in the desert
    a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be raised up,
    every mountain and hill made low;
the rough ground shall become level,
    the rugged places a plain.
And the glory of the Lord
 will be revealed,

    and all people will see it together.

For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

The preparation that we are going through by raising valleys, bringing down mountains, making crooked places straight and rough places smooth is so that God’s glory can be revealed in us!

Whatever step you are on, don’t stop praying “Lord, Change Me!”  Wherever you are at in the process – embrace what God is doing and let the Lord work His glory in you.  People will see the change in you.  You will bring glory to the Lord through your transformation.


Steps to Wholeness:
Prayer, Father in each of our lives and our households – Change us! Raise up the valleys, bring down the mountains, make the crooked roads straight and the rough places smooth in the name of Jesus the one whom we are preparing for!   Then let Your glory be revealed in Your people. A men!


Your Story's Not Over Yet...

Last week I found the notes that I had written out for the first sermon I ever preached.  It was during my

“Dark Night of the Soul.” 

The sermon was called “I Trust Him with My Story.”

You see each one of us has a story.  We serve a story-telling God.  This is why He gave us a book full of true stories.  The Bible has recorded the stories of men and women who have succeeded and failed, and more importantly – God has shown us the end of ALL stories… the return of Christ for His bride and everlasting peace in His Kingdom for those who believe.

God is still keeping track of our stories.  Revelation points to the books that will be opened at the end of the age.  One of those is the book of life, those whose names are written in this book will enter the gates of heaven to live there for eternity.  The other books are those who have recorded our story. We will be rewarded according to what is recorded about us in those books. (Rev. 20:12)

I think Naomi had the roughest story of any woman in the Bible.  When famine hit Bethlehem her husband moved them to Moab to escape the famine.  Her husband dies in Moab.  Then her two sons marry and then also die.  She is left with two daughters-in-law in a foreign land with no income and no extended family.

The famine lifts in Bethlehem so Naomi decides to go home.  She tells her daughters-in-law to go back to their families and then she says something that lifts the veil about the anger she feels about her story:   “It is more bitter for me than for you, because the LORD's hand has gone out against me!"

One of her daughters-in-law Ruth insisted on going with Naomi back to Bethlehem.  When they reached Bethlehem Naomi told her family and friends, "Don't call me Naomi. Call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter. I went away full, but the LORD has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi? The LORD has afflicted me; the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me."

How many of us have blamed God in the middle of our story?  I certainly have.  I have told Him that I felt like He was against me.  We often get so discouraged and so bitter at life’s circumstances that we say “God you are a terrible story writer! I quit!”

But do you know the rest of Naomi’s story?  Do you know that even though she had to be on welfare and even though she had no husband or children…  Naomi’s story was far from over.

You see, God was not hidden from her pain.  God did not take offense at being blamed for her empty life.  Though He never gave an explanation for the dire circumstances that Naomi found herself in, God did not leave her story unfinished.

Without Naomi, her daughter-in-law Ruth never would have found Boaz and married him.  Without Naomi, Ruth would have never given birth to a baby boy named Obed, who was the grandfather of King David, who was the great, great, great, great… grandfather of Joseph, the father of Jesus.

Naomi’s story was integral to the coming of the Messiah!

At the end of Naomi’s story, God closes the gap by giving her a baby boy to bounce on her knee. A baby whose name we would speak 4000 years later. 

God uses Naomi’s painful story to bring the most beautiful ending of all – the story of the Kinsman-Redeemer.

Because of Naomi’s perseverance, Ruth met and married Boaz.  The story of Boaz foreshadows Jesus Christ, the ultimate Kinsman-Redeemer who will redeem a bride for himself—the church.

I know some of you are angry with God.  I know some of you are bitter at your circumstances.  But please hear me when I say… No matter where your story is right now – it is NOT the end.  You can trust God with your story because He is sending you the ultimate fairy tale ending.  He is sending Jesus our Kinsman-Redeemer!

Some of your stories are simply in a difficult chapter.  Some of your stories are at the tipping point.  There are always villains in God’s stories.  There are always conquerors in God’s stories.  We must choose to believe God, even in the darkest chapters.  We must choose to persevere even when it looks like all hope is gone.  We must choose to obey even when our bitterness rises up.

Believe that God is a good story writer and that He has plans to write a GREAT one for you!  He has proved it over and over in His Word.  Press on in the midst of your pain like Naomi did.

Lift up your head – the story’s not over yet…

Asking God for Mid-Term Grades

You know that point in high school when mid-term grades came out?  Your heart skips a beat right before you look at them?

In my high school there were four quarters in a year of school.  Mid-Terms were the half way point in a single quarter.  If a D showed up in those mid-term grades – I knew I would have to buckle down and get to work the next 4 ½ weeks in order to get that grade up!

I wasn’t always thrilled to get that sheet of paper – but at least I knew where I stood.  It wasn’t the final grade that would be marked down in my high school record, so the truth of my mid-terms helped me to plan accordingly for my final grade.

This may be quite a new thought to many of you – but there is a FINAL GRADE for how you run the race of this life coming for each of us.

We get “X” amount of time on this earth.  The Scriptures show us that we will each be rewarded according our final grade.

 "Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done.”  Rev 22:12


Just as you earn a grade in high school, you earn grades on earth.  The grade that you receive on Judgment Day will translate into your eternal reward.

So let me tell you a little secret!

God is VERY willing to give you your mid-term grades here on earth.  He would LOVE to tell you how you are doing in your life right now and the grades that you are receiving so that you can make any necessary adjustments.  He wants very much to give you a “Well Done!”  when you get to heaven.  So Your loving Heavenly Father would be more than happy to tell you how well you are running your race according to His judgment.

When I began asking for my mid-term grades from the Lord, it was scary at first.  Honestly, there were some grades that I knew that I did NOT want to know about.  But as I have walked this path for several years – I have learned to LOVE it!  Because the truth sets us free!

Knowing the truth about where I stand in this life on earth has actually brought me GREAT freedom.  There are no more questions about being in God’s will or speaking God’s truth.  I simply ask Him for a grade.

I ask Him for a grade about being a wife.  I ask Him for a grade about how I handled specific conflicts.  I ask Him for a grade about how I am doing at obedience.  I ask Him for a grade when I put on events and gatherings.  I ask Him for a grade on just about everything.  When I do He is faithful to answer.

Sometimes I hear a “Well done.”  Sometimes He will bring a specific thing I said to mind and bring conviction.  Sometimes I will come across a Bible Verse that will be the answer to my question for a grade.

Other times I flat out hear a grade in my spirit.  Sometimes it’s an A and other times it’s not.

A few summers ago – I asked Him for a grade about how I was doing as a mother.  I heard B+ in my spirit.  I was able to accept that B+ and say “Lord, I would like to raise that to an A.  What are the things that I need to do to get an A as a mother.”

I quieted myself before the Lord and I saw the number four.  There were four things that I needed to change in order to raise my mid-term grade to an A.

     1)   There was a generational sin that was holding me back. I had to ask the Lord to break it off of               me.

     2) I was believing a lie about my childhood and the loss of my mother at a young age. The Lord               had to show me the truth and set me free from the lie.

     3) I was not pouring vision into my children like I should have been doing -- that needed to    
           change.

     4) I was letting my children get away with a few things that were not pleasing to the Lord.

Even though it was a bit scary it was COMPLETELY worth asking for a mid-term grade.  I have made all of these corrections and I hear a “well done” in my spirit from time to time.  On top of that – my kids have a better mother.  I have been set free from a generational sin and a childhood lie that allows my “love tank” to be at full capacity.  I have been pouring vision into their lives which helps them to be on track and on time in their calling.  AND I have been more precise in their discipline which helps them to be more righteous in His sight.

If I hadn’t have asked for a mid-term grade, I probably would have entered heaven with a B+ in “motherhood.”  But now I am running the race to win the prize!  I desire to win!  I desire to hear “Well done!” 

Some people aren’t ready for grades.  Specifically if you are a perfectionist – grades might be a hard concept for you.  But I have a friend who God gives the primary grades of E (Excellent) S+ (Above Satisfactory) S (Satisfactory) and N (Needs Improvement).

Whatever your method, ask God for the truth about where you stand with Him.  It will have eternal consequences.

Surely you desire truth in the inner parts; you teach me wisdom in the inmost place. Psalm 51:6


Prayer:  Lord show me the truth about myself.  Give me my mid-term grades so that I can fulfill my calling in this earthly life and at the end of it hear “Well done, good and faithful servant!  Come and share your master’s happiness.”

Mean What You Say the First Time!

As we come into maturity to become like Christ, we must come to a place where we mean our words.  I had to grow significantly in this area.  I always gave myself an abundance of grace when it came to keeping my word.

I would tell someone I would be at a place at a specific time for a meeting but show up 10 minutes late and not really think anything about it.  I would say I was going to call someone but never do it.  I would tell someone I would pray for them but would never do it.  I would tell my children to be quiet but I didn’t really mean what I was saying so they would go right on being loud.

I was quite careless with my words.

Matthew 12:36 But I tell you that everyone will have to give an account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken.

Ouch!  Yeah that hurts!

I have had to ask forgiveness for a lot of empty words I have spoken.

Your words only have power if you believe them.  As the Lord was sanding me off in this area He challenged me to listen to the words that I was speaking and hold myself and my character to those words.  It was a painful time of necessary sanding that has smoothed out my rough edges and unknowingly increased my authority.

You see it was sloppy of me to give my word and then not keep it.  It was not Christ-like for me to say I would do something and then not follow through.

So many people in the Church are untrustworthy because they say they will do something but DO NOT follow through.  This is quite sad because God’s people should be the most trustworthy people on earth.

I want people to be able to trust me.  I want to be known as a person of my word… no matter how much it hurts.  There were a few times during my “word discipline” season that keeping my word was PAINFUL!

But the word says in Matthew 5:37 

“Simply let your 'Yes' be 'Yes,' and your 'No,' 'No'; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.”

“Honesty is making your words conform to reality. Integrity is making reality conform to your words.” – Stephen Covey

In the Kingdom, increasing your integrity – increases your authority.

Jesus knew His authority.  He meant His words.  The devil knew Jesus meant His words because He used very few words when commanding demons.  In fact, He never had to tell a demon to come out of a person twice.  In Matthew 8:32, Jesus spoke one word “GO!” to a legion of demons and they fled.

One way that God taught me to believe my words was through disciplining my children.  He taught me to not threaten anything that I was not willing to follow through on.  If I was going to threaten a spanking then I needed to follow through.  If I threatened a time-out I needed to be willing to stop whatever I was doing to carry out the time-out.

When I told my children they could not have candy at the store or bedtime was at 9 ---- I KEPT MY WORD!!  No matter how much they complained or how much it cost me.

You see, after a while of keeping my word to my children – they knew that I meant it.  They knew if I said, “Be quiet or there would be a consequence,” that I meant what I said the first time. 

YOUR CHILDREN KNOW ON WHAT TIME YOU MEAN YOUR WORDS.

How many times do you tell your children to stop?  What time do you mean it?  The third or fourth time?  Friends that is not keeping your word.  Mean your words the first time.  It will be one of the best  disciplines that you develop as you climb the mountain of maturity.

The more you keep your word, the more your authority will increase.  If you speak to your family and mean your words… they will listen!  If you speak to the world and mean your words… they will take notice. If you speak to the mountain and mean your words… it will MOVE! 

Want to become like Christ?   LEARN TO MEAN YOUR WORDS THE FIRST TIME!

"It's not the lost who will decide the future of America, it's the saved!"


I heard a preacher say recently, “It is not the lost who will decide the future of America, it is the saved.”  That really resonated with my spirit.  Somehow, the Body of Christ in America has resigned itself to the fact that we can’t change the unrighteous course that our nation is on.  We are hurtling at light speed toward our own destruction because
of the sinfulness our culture has immersed itself in, and we feel helpless at the oncoming catastrophe. 

But friends, we are not helpless.  In fact, the Body of Christ, has the power to apply the brakes.  Why is it that we have not yet done so?  Are we so deceived that we have forgotten that we can speak to the mountain?  Has the fear of being called “politically incorrect” so paralyzed us that we can no longer speak the truth of God in public?  Have we become so impotent that all it takes for us to back down is the thought of being called a ‘fool’ in public?  Do we fear the rejection of man that much?

You know, Noah was quite a fool.  For a hundred years while he was building an ark, he was the town ‘joke’.  And yet, in the end, those who laughed and slandered Noah perished.  Noah feared God more than he feared people.  God told him there was a coming catastrophe so he “did everything just as God commanded.” (Gen 6:22) 

Friends, there is a storm coming.  In the same way that the flood was meant to cleanse the earth, God is about to send a ‘shaking’ to cleanse our nation.  Everything that is built on sand will be destroyed.  But everything that is built on the Rock will stand.  God has given us the tools to build an ark in Henry County.  We can apply the brakes to the coming catastrophe by following Noah’s example and do everything just as God commands.  We can build a stronghold right here in our county through which God can be a lighthouse to the rest of our nation.  But this requires that we become ‘fools’ for Him. 

We must lovingly be salt and light without fearing rejection.  We must speak the truth in our churches, in our homes, in the public square and we must vote at the polls with God’s truth.  The future of our country is in our hands. 


Will we do everything God has commanded?  Will you stand and contend for the next generation?  Many children today face a severe lack of absolutes.  Broken homes, absent parents, sexual confusion and ‘do what feels right’ culture surround today’s youth.  There is only one answer for this generation and it requires work on our part.  The Church MUST pray!  This is part of building an ark.  We must pray for our young people to come to salvation and for a revival of truth in our schools. 

The Church MUST also add actions to their prayer.  We must stand for the truth.  We must represent Christ who is full of Grace AND Truth.  We must grow deeper, be strategic, speak with wisdom and tact.  We must become an Army with One General.  We must become fearless to obey God.

What is your part?  How are you building an ark?  First for your family, then for your community. Everyone has a part in the Army.  We are a Kingdom Army like the one during Nehemiah's time, an army who builds and fights. 

I pray today that God will reveal to you how to do your part.  Let us pray AND act!  

The LORD thunders at the head of his army; his forces are beyond number, and mighty is the army that obeys his command.  Joel 2:11