SECOND WIND

On Sunday, Fearless received a second wind. Pastor Jeremy was back to give us a word about perspective and identity. 
We started off in Isaiah 40:27: "Why do you complain, Jacob? Why do you say, Israel, 'My way is hidden from the Lord; my cause is disregarded by my God?'"
It appears as though God is speaking to two different men, but really there is only one. Jacob was a name given to the young man at his birth. Jacob means deceiver and heel grabber. Jacob was born a twin and was said to be grabbing his older brother's ankle out of the womb in an attempt to be the firstborn. But God gave him a new name, a name from His perspective. God gave him the name Israel, which means 'chosen of God,' God gave that name to Israel to remind him that his past is dead. He is not the Jacob he used to be; he is not the name the world gave him; he is not the name his parents gave him. He is only who God called him to be. 
Isaiah goes on to remind us of a very important notion: Gods understanding is unsearchable. We are always trying to understand what He is doing. but sometimes we just have to accept that we simply cannot understand In that case, we have to let go of that desire to understand and replace it with faith. You may feel week when you don't understand what is happening, but your weakness is the best place to be because God gives power to the weak. Those who wait upon the Lord, renew their strength. 
Don't you hate waiting? In the waiting, we want a lot of answers. We get so desperate for answers that we would rather hear a bad answer because any answer seems better than waiting. This is further compounded when we are waiting on something we don't understand. But in the waiting, the most important thing that we can do is to actually wait on God, like a server waits on a table. 
The greatest time you can give to God is when you feel like you don't have anything left to give. Those are the moments when waiting on God can be so pivotal. When you're waiting on the Lord, it is not your moment to complain; neither is it the moment to not serve. Rather, those are the times when we should stretch our faith. We have to get to a place where we realize that our life is not our own. While you're waiting on the Lord, it gives Him the ability to wait on (or attend to) your situation. But as long as you're busy waiting on your situation, God can't take over. So wait on God, not your situation.
When you wait on the Lord, you shall mount up with wings like eagles. There is a specific reason He chose the eagle. There are 4 things you need to know about eagles:

  1. The eagle was built for the storm.
    Eagles lock their wings and allow the storm to take them because the storm already does most of the work for them. All they have to do is stand in the right position in the storm and they will be elevated. Whatever storm you're in right now was not sent to kill you... It was sent to raise you to another level!
    Maybe last night you had to pray yourself to sleep four different times through each nightmare that woke up up. Maybe you need to praise through the broken relationships in your life. Maybe you need to accept that God isn't preparing you for the rain of the storm, but He is preparing you for the reign of your life.
  2. The eagle is known for its vision.
    The eagle is not built with myopic vision, but it is build with telescopic vision. If you're an eagle, you shouldn't be alarmed when the pigeons sitting amongst you can't see the same vision that God has brought to you. You might be in the same position, looking at the same object, but your vision might allow you to see further than them. 
    This is especially true if God is increasing your elevation. Elevation changes perspective. Many times in our lives, we keep praying for the thing to move. We pray, "God move this fear out of my life," "God, please get rid of this insecurity," "God please remove this pride," "If you could just help me with this lust," "If you could just help me with this anger," "God, these people keep rejecting me. If you could just give me people who love me." You have to understand that God doesn't want to just move a barrier. God wants to increase your elevation so that you're above that recurring barrier. Elevation changes perspective, and perspective change allows you to see that very same barrier in a new way.
  3. The Eagle lives off of things that are alive - it doesn't feed on dead things.
    We have to stop eating dead things. We have to stop eating other people's past. We have to stop eating our pasts. We have to focus on what is still alive. We have to focus on the goodness that God has brought in each person today. This is the only fruit that will give us nutrients. We have to stop trying to get nutrients from dead things.
  4. Eagles mate once for life. 
    Female eagles test their mates before they breed. They do this to ensure that there is a foundation that can support a family. They do this to ensure that the baby eagle will be successful.
    When making nests, mother eagles make their babies comfortable, but only temporarily.  They build their nests with cotton and glass. When the eagles get big enough to feel the glass poke through the cotton, the nest is no longer comfortable. God does the same thing for us. Everything is comfortable for us when we are first saved. Everything is comfortable until we being to grow. That is the exact time where God wants us to take that next leap of faith and realize how much bigger the world can be outside of our nests. 
    God wants you to take that leap of faith. God wants you to receive His nutrients. He wants to elevate your perspective. He wants you to only go by the name He has given you. Most of all, He wants to refresh you and give you a second wind, just as soon as you're willing to wait on Him. 
     

SEX, DRUGS MONEY AND MORE: GUARD YOUR HEART

On Sunday, pastors Jeremy and Christy Johnson teamed up for the continuation of our series,
“Sex, Drugs, Money, More” and reminded us that as we pursue a relationship with someone
else, not only should we deepen our relationship with God and become a whole person, we
need to learn how to guard our heart as well.
Proverbs 4:23 says, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”
Above everything else! If your heart is not healthy, nothing in your life will be because
everything flows from that place. The health of your heart determines the course of your life.
You could be doing your best, protecting your family and working hard to financially support
their needs, which is awesome, but if you are not guarding and taking care of your heart, your
relationships will suffer. The health of your heart determines what decisions you make, where
you go and what you do.
To begin guarding your heart, ask the Holy Spirit to be your guard. As we have talked about in
previous weeks, deepen your relationship with God and ask Him how to have the healthiest
heart possible. One way to guard your heart is to take things slow when entering into a new
relationship. Don’t go deep with someone right away. Allow trust to be built between you and
the other person before sharing all of your secrets. There is plenty of time to get to know each
other. Another way to guard your heart is to honor those around you. Honor marriage. If you
have friends that are of the opposite sex and they are married, don’t encourage them in such a
way that their mind wanders. You don’t know what is going on in their marriage right now. If
their spouse hasn’t encouraged them in awhile, but you do, they could begin to have doubts
about their marriage. It’s not to say that you can’t encourage people, but be mindful of their
spouses when you interact. Save certain things for your husband or wife. See yourself as worth
more than a provocative picture on Instagram. Be aware of the way you present yourself to the
opposite sex. Just because someone is married doesn’t mean they no longer have an appetite.
If we begin to honor marriage and champion marriage by being aware of and staying away from
situations that could lead to a relationship falling apart, the divorce rate would plummet. It is
time to be the people we want to be with. What if instead of looking for a person that fits a
certain criteria, we became the criteria? Ecclesiastes 9:10 (MSG) tells us that life is God’s gift
and we should take advantage of every opportunity that we have. Whether you are single or
married, live with that perspective. Be the best person you can be in your singleness or
marriage. If you guard your heart and really begin to take hold of this precious life, everything
in your life will begin to prosper.
Some of you may have been wounded in the past because you didn’t guard your heart or
someone in your life did not respect your boundaries. God wants to heal your heart and give
you a fresh start in guarding and protecting it. Let go of the ghost of your past relationships and
allow God to come in and put those broken parts back together. You can be healthy and whole.
You can have the marriage you desire even if your previous one failed. Regardless if you are
single or married, you can live your best life now. Marriages can be revived by a heart check
and a perspective shift. Relationships can be formed by going out and living life to the fullest.

Ask God to fulfill His plans for you in whatever season you are in. You don’t need to wait to live
out your destiny. You can live in it right now!

SEX, DRUGS, MONEY, MORE: YOU DON’T COMPLETE ME

On Sunday, Pastor Jeremy Johnson continued our series, “Sex, Drugs, Money, More” by
showing us that we are a whole person without anyone else and contrary to popular belief, our
significant other does not complete us. Before we add anyone else to our story, we must realize
that we have a story of our own that God desires us to seek out. We have a life to live right
now, regardless if we have someone by our side or not.
Ephesians 4:19 says, “Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality
so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, and they are full of greed.” Our biggest issue in life is
our desire for more. As soon as the Father gives us something, we want more. God put the
desire for more inside of us so that we would long for more of Him. Paul continues in verses 22-
24, “You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is
being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to
put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” God wants us to
stop carrying around our old self so that we can embrace the new self we have become in Him.
We are not just remodels we are new creations! The moment we were saved, our identity went
from sinner to saint. If we continually see ourselves as sinners, we will continually justify
walking in our old behavior.
If we want to add another person to our lives, the first thing we have to do is deepen our
relationship with God. The thing to focus on here is relationship. We have to go beyond the
knowledge of God and allow our knowledge to be tested so that we can begin to walk in
wisdom. Every test we are given is an opportunity to see that God is who He says He is. In order
to enter into a relationship with an imperfect person, we must have a relationship with a
perfect person – Jesus. We have to allow His unconditional love to come in and show us who He
has created us to be so that we can love someone else unconditionally. Someone with flaws
and all.
Another key to take note of before entering into a relationship or even as you are in a
relationship is to seek a whole life. Many single people miss all that God has for them because
they are waiting for their spouse to show up. Our culture has caused us to believe that
singleness is some kind of disease when in reality it is where God has us right now. Two halves
do not make a whole. You are not walking around as half a person. You are a whole person with
a destiny that is meant to be lived out right now with or without a spouse. Your spouse may be
a part of your destiny someday, but do not miss out on what God has for you right now by
sitting back and waiting. Become the person you have always dreamed of being right now. Do
what you have always wanted to do. Take pottery lessons, do karate, go to that movie you’ve
wanted to see for weeks even if you don’t have someone to go with. Take advantage of your
singleness. Go after God and allow Him to show you who He has created you to be and go out
and live life! The idea of marriage and falling in love is wonderful, but your life doesn’t start
there. Your life has already started! This day, this hour, this minute is one that we should take
hold of! If you allow yourself to live a full life with or without someone, you will attain true
contentment. Contentment that is not based on how an imperfect person makes you feel, but

based on the one that has made you a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). The One that has
plans to prosper you right now!
Allow yourself to make the transition from being in love with love to allowing yourself to be
loved by love Himself. Ask God why He made you unique. Why you like what you like and why
you dislike what you dislike. Ask God what He loves about you. Let Him show you that your
body and your personality were wonderfully and fearfully made. Your unique laugh echoes joy
wherever you go. Your smile makes an imprint on all who walk by. There is purpose within how
you were created. Allow Him to show you these things while waiting so that your life is not
dependent on a beautiful yet imperfect person. The groom carries the bride through the
threshold, but can’t carry her forever. We have to learn to walk on our own and be who God
has called us to be without the constant need of affirmation from our significant other. Let’s go
deep with God so that when we go deep with someone else we are not held up by the fears of
not being good enough or not being whole. Allow God to make you whole. It may not happen
overnight, but today is a new day and today is a good day to start!

SEX, DRUGS, MONEY, MORE – SINGLE, BUT NOT YET READY TO MINGLE

On Sunday, Pastor Jeremy Johnson continued our series, “Sex, Drugs, Money, More” by
showing us that if we want to go deep with someone else, we have to deepen our relationship
with God first. No matter what we have done in the past, we need to know that God has never
loved us any less at any point in our lives. Even after Samson’s failures, his hair that linked him
to his strength grew back:
15 Then she said to him, “How can you say, ‘I love you,’ when you won’t confide in me? This is
the third time you have made a fool of me and haven’t told me the secret of your great
strength. 16 With such nagging she prodded him day after day until he was sick to death of it.
17 So he told her everything. “No razor has ever been used on my head,” he said, “because I have
been a Nazirite dedicated to God from my mother’s womb. If my head were shaved, my
strength would leave me, and I would become as weak as any other man.”
18 When Delilah saw that he had told her everything, she sent word to the rulers of the
Philistines, “Come back once more; he has told me everything.” So the rulers of the Philistines
returned with the silver in their hands. 19 After putting him to sleep on her lap, she called for
someone to shave off the seven braids of his hair, and so began to subdue him. [c] And his
strength left him.
20 Then she called, “Samson, the Philistines are upon you!”
He awoke from his sleep and thought, “I’ll go out as before and shake myself free.” But he did
not know that the Lord had left him.
21 Then the Philistines seized him, gouged out his eyes and took him down to Gaza. Binding him
with bronze shackles, they set him to grinding grain in the prison. 22 But the hair on his head
began to grow again after it had been shaved (Judges 16:15-22).
Samson broke his promise to God to never reveal the source of his strength, but even after he
shared his secret and lost his strength, it grew back! Some of you need to know that even if you
have lost your way with God recently, God can restore what was taken from you, just as he did
with Samson. It doesn’t matter if you got yourself in a mess or someone else did. He can restore
you. Samson was a man who lived his life moving forward, but always looking backward. Before
this encounter, he had a failed relationship with a woman he cared for deeply. When he was
with Delilah, it was not just to get his sexual needs met. He was trying to fill a void from his
past. If you continue to look at your past as you move forward, you cannot live the life God has
called you to live because your vision is no longer on one thing – the purpose of God. It is on
your past pain.
One of the best things you can do when you are single, but not ready to mingle, is to deepen
your relationship with God. This may seem like common sense or just a predictable pastoral
answer, but it is often times something we overlook, not realizing that our relationship with the
perfect person of Jesus is what will lead us to a prosperous relationship with an imperfect
person. Deepening a relationship with someone who has zero flaws and who has the ability and

desire to set us free from everything that hinders us, gives us the ability to love those around us
in spite of their flaws.
To deepen your relationship with God does not mean you have to do more. Our identity is not
actually linked to what we do, but whom we are as sons and daughters who can now go boldly
to the throne of God. Knowing your Bible is good, devotions are good and church is good, but
just because you do all of those things does not mean you have a deep relationship with God.
Knowledge is just that, knowledge. Knowledge learned, but not lived and tested is not wisdom.
We are called to walk in wisdom and truth, not knowledge and truth. Many of us want to walk
on water when the first step is to get in the boat. Stop beating yourself up on the shore and
know that God wants relationship with you more than you know. He wants your pain to go
away more than you do. That is why it is important to allow Him to come into your life beyond
the words on the page.
Ask Him to come into the painful places of your heart and bring healing to those places. If you
are just starting out your journey with God and you are not sure if you can trust Him, give Him a
little at a time. Allow your knowledge of His goodness be tested and proven true. He is not
intimidated by your questions. He is waiting for you to ask them. He wants you to know beyond
any doubt that He loves you the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. Do not allow your
feelings to tell you otherwise and keep you from being free of your past. God is a gentleman.
Your relationship with Him can go at the pace you want it to go. He is not abusive like people in
your past. He is not going to take advantage of you. The safest place your heart can be is in His
hands. All you have to do is get in the boat and allow Him to show you that He is real. Take
some time today and ask Jesus to show you that He is who He says He is. Allow the truth of who
He is to wash away all the pain of your past so that you can, not only move forward, but look
forward to the purpose and promises ahead of you.

SEX, DRUGS, MONEY, MORE: THE CHASE FOR MORE

On Sunday, Pastor Jeremy Johnson kicked off our new series, “Sex, Drugs, Money, More” by reminding us that the chase for more leaves us feeling empty and unsatisfied. Our treasure cannot be found in the things of this world.It can only be foundin the promises of Heaven. God is the only one that can fill our need for “more.” Matthew 6:19-24 puts it this way:

“19Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth,where moths and vermin destroy,and where thieves break in and steal.20But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven,where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.21For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.22The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy,your whole body will be full of light.23But if your eyes are unhealthy,your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!24 No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”

We have all had the thought of, “If I just have this, I’ll have everything I need to be happy.” When in reality, once we have it,all we want is the next best thing. If we live our lives believing that the treasures of this world will make us happy or satisfied,we will never stop searching for the next best thing and will miss the miracle in what we already have. It’s not that God doesn’t want us to have a nice house or nice car. He doesn’twant us to be owned by what we own. The things we gather now will only be ours for a short time, but when our treasure is set on the things of God, our treasure will last way beyond this world. Wherever our treasure is, our heart will be also. Is it really worth it to risk placing your heart in something that is unprotected and will soon fade away? Your treasure determines what you value and what you value, your heart will pursue. If your heart is not into the things of God, start putting your treasure there and your heart will soon follow. Get your heart to go where you want it to go. Lead your heart. Don’t let it lead you.

God is not trying to take away your fun. We all have those things that we would love to have and He keeps those in mind. His goal in aligning your treasure is to give you a life with long lasting fulfillment and fruit. Mark 4:14-20 goes deeper into this concept:

“14The farmer sows the word.15Some people are like seed along the path, where the word is sown. As soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them.16Others, like seed sown on rocky places, hear the word and at once receive it with joy.17But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away.18Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word;19but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealthand the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful.20Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop—some thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times what was sown.”

The desire to own other things could keep you from being fruitful in this life! Worry can cause good fruit to expire. It is not to say that if you are firmly rooted in God that you will never worry again, but the verse does imply that worry, like love, is a choice. What if we chose not to worry?What if the breakthroughs we are waiting for are to come once we decide not to worry? Worry chokes out what God is trying to say over your life. As seen above, the risk is too great to store our treasures in material things. The enemy would love for us to get caught up in chasing the “more” because then, God’s word would never take root in us and we would never walk in the power and authority we were designed for. The enemy would love for us to believe that every thought we have is our own and that we should just give up when we have thoughts of inadequacy. The enemy is constantly whispering thoughts contrary to who we are in our ear because he is scared of us! He is scared of us knowing that we are fearfully and wonderfully made, that God knew us before we were formed and had purpose for us (Psalm 139). He would love for us to believe we are less than because if we actually take ahold of the fact that we were intricately designed for purpose, we would change the world and silence his voice forfeiting his power wherever we go.

Take time to thank God for the miracle of what you do have and ask Him to help you place your treasure in Him so that you don’t miss out on true fulfillment. Ask Him to help you prepare your soil for good seed so that He can increase its value. He is the God of increase. By leading your heart to His, you will notmiss out on anything. You will be gaining more than you could ever imagine possible!

AS FOR ME AND MY HOUSE – RUN YOUR RACE

On Sunday, Pastor Jeremy continued our series, “As for Me and My House” and reminded us of the race we are called to run. We are not cheerleaders on the sidelines waiting for Jesus to come back. We are in the game making plays and changing the game in our lives. Without the knowledge of our place in the game, we will run aimlessly wondering why we are being chased when the ball is in our hands.

 

In 1 Corinthians 9:24-27, Paul addresses the kind of race we are in, 24Do 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. 25Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 26Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. 27No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.”

 

The kind of games he was referring to were the games in Rome where the result was life and death. If you did not win, you lost your life and for what? A crown made out of leaves that only lasted until your next battle. The race that we run will have a reward much greater than a temporary crown. Ephesians 6:12 tells us, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Our battle is not that of the Romans, but is one that can change whose authority we allow to influence us. We are not fighting the devil. Jesus already made a public spectacle of Him on the cross by demolishing sin and death. When we start lining up with the belief that the devil won over the belief that God won, we lose all over again. Our job is to fight from the victory Jesus so beautifully sacrificed His life for and lead others into that victory. Hosea 4:6 reveals that we are destroyed by our lack of knowledge. Knowing that you are running this race of faith with the victory already won will change everything. A defeated mindset results in defeat, but a mindset set on the victor Himself gives you the confidence you need to face any fight.

 

Another important thing to know is that we were are not running this race alone.

Hebrews 12:1-2 says, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.” The great cloud of witnesses is comprised of those in the faith that have gone before us. They ran their race and now they have passed the baton and are cheering us on as we run ours. Part of why the race of our faith can seem difficult is because we do not see our place in the race. If we have been living our lives as cheerleaders instead of competitors, no wonder we have been feeling like we are getting beat up at every turn. We are out on the field without the proper knowledge or training to win the game. If a cheerleader played in a football game, she would not have the proper knowledge, gear or training to play the game effectively without getting hurt.

 

Before Gladiators would fight in Rome, they would buy expensive oil to put all over their body so that the enemy would lose their grip on them. The anointing of God is the same way. God wants to rub His oil on you so that when you step into the ring the enemy loses his grip on you. The anointing of God is costly and does not come through everything being perfect. It comes through your difficulties, but when you surrender to Him and follow His lead, the difficulties lose their grip on you and you begin to walk in a mindset of victory instead of defeat.

 

In whatever you are facing today, ask God to show you your position and how to train for what comes next. Let go of control and allow His love to guide you out of the fear that has held you for so long and run the race you are meant to live. It does not matter what has entangled you in the past. It does not have to entangle you today. As Paul says in 1 Timothy 6:12, “Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.” You have all of Heaven cheering you on. It is never too late to take your place as a competitor in this race and see God move powerfully in your life!

AS FOR ME AND MY HOUSE – CUT THE BULL

On Sunday pastor Jeremy Johnson continued our series “As For Me And My House” by posing the same question Elijah proposed to the prophets of Baal, “How long will you waver between two opinions?” The choice to follow God above everything else is a constant in our lives. Even Jesus was confronted with it.

 

Matthew 4:8-10 says, “Again, the devil took him (Jesus) to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. 9 ‘All this I will give you,’ he said, ‘if you will bow down and worship me.’ 10 Jesus said to him, ‘Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’”

 

Has the devil ever taken you up to a mountaintop? We often think that every mountaintop that we are led to we are led to by God but this scripture proves otherwise. Yes, God is with you in the valley and He’s with you on the mountaintop and can lead you to both but so can the devil. Wherever you find yourself ask God if He’s the one that has led you there. The Lord may be waiting for you to say, “For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.” Whatever the world tries to offer is mediocre compared to what God Himself has for you. If He’s leading you He will prepare a table for you in the presence of your enemies! His blessings will overflow (Psalm 23). In order to live in a state of overflow we cannot allow ourselves to waver between two opinions. This is what Elijah was trying to show the prophets of Baal, “So Ahab sent word throughout all Israel and assembled the prophets on Mount Carmel.21 Elijah went before the people and said, ‘How long will you waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him.’ But the people said nothing (1 Kings 18:20-21).”

 

This is much like the American church today. We have tried to bring our culture (our ideas and opinions) to the word of God as opposed to bringing the word to our culture. We have given in to the idea that we only live once so we might as well live the way we want to live. That may sound good but the foundations of that belief system came from the founder of the satanic church. Their commandment is “do what thou wilt that be the whole law.” We are not meant to live our lives this way. We are meant to live as Jesus lived. Jesus lived for the will of the Father even when His will was not the same. It’s human nature to want to do what we want to do. But when we live apart from God we forfeit our destiny for some mediocre dream that could only be fulfilled by our own means. Instead of our divine destiny that can catapult us beyond what we could ever imagine or dream. The prophets of Baal knew this kind of living well. They did whatever they could within their own means to get their god’s attention:

22 Then Elijah said to them, “I am the only one of the Lord’s prophets left, but Baal has four hundred and fifty prophets. 23 Get two bulls for us. Let Baal’s prophets choose one for themselves, and let them cut it into pieces and put it on the wood but not set fire to it. I will prepare the other bull and put it on the wood but not set fire to it. 24 Then you call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of the Lord. The god who answers by fire—he is God.”

Then all the people said, “What you say is good.”

25 Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, “Choose one of the bulls and prepare it first, since there are so many of you. Call on the name of your god, but do not light the fire.” 26 So they took the bull given them and prepared it.

Then they called on the name of Baal from morning till noon. “Baal, answer us!” they shouted. But there was no response; no one answered. And they danced around the altar they had made.

27 At noon Elijah began to taunt them. “Shout louder!” he said. “Surely he is a god! Perhaps he is deep in thought, or busy, or traveling. Maybe he is sleeping and must be awakened.”28 So they shouted louder and slashed themselves with swords and spears, as was their custom, until their blood flowed. 29 Midday passed, and they continued their frantic prophesying until the time for the evening sacrifice. But there was no response, no one answered, no one paid attention.

30 Then Elijah said to all the people, “Come here to me.” They came to him, and he repaired the altar of the Lord, which had been torn down. 31 Elijah took twelve stones, one for each of the tribes descended from Jacob, to whom the word of the Lord had come, saying, “Your name shall be Israel.” 32 With the stones he built an altar in the name of the Lord, and he dug a trench around it large enough to hold two seahs of seed. 33 He arranged the wood, cut the bull into pieces and laid it on the wood. Then he said to them, “Fill four large jars with water and pour it on the offering and on the wood.”

34 “Do it again,” he said, and they did it again.

“Do it a third time,” he ordered, and they did it the third time. 35 The water ran down around the altar and even filled the trench.

36 At the time of sacrifice, the prophet Elijah stepped forward and prayed: “Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command. 37 Answer me, Lord, answer me, so these people will know that you, Lord, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again.”

38 Then the fire of the Lord fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench.

39 When all the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, “The Lord—he is God! The Lord—he is God! (1 Kings 18:22-39).

Elijah was among the minority that believed in God but His obedience led the prophets of Baal to the one true God. Obedience is no easy task but when you see what obedience can do it is well worth it. We need to repair the altar in our lives just as Elijah did so that others can see that through Jesus they can find the kind of peace and fulfillment they’ve been looking for. Choosing to be obedient to the Lord in the midst of others opinions including our own is the most powerful thing we can do. Our choice to follow the Lord allows generations to come to overflow with blessing. Following our own way will only lead us to a life of striving just like the prophets of Baal. There’s no striving with King Jesus. He is worth laying down our opinions for. He is worth following. He offers us life beyond this one. The other things we serve only offer us short term pleasure but He gives us eternity. Don’t waste another day wavering between Him and the world. Give Him your all today and see the table He has prepared for you!

AS FOR ME AND MY HOUSE – A BREAKTHROUGH PRAISE

On Sunday, Pastor Christy Johnson continued our series, “As for Me and My House,” by showing us that praise and worship is our greatest weapon against the enemy. Jehoshaphat knew this well when war was declared on his people.

 

2 Chronicles 20:1-4 says, “After this, the armies of the Moabites, Ammonites, and some of the Meunites declared war on Jehoshaphat. 2Messengers came and told Jehoshaphat, ‘A vast army from Edom is marching against you from beyond the Dead Sea. They are already at Hazazon-tamar.’ (This was another name for En-gedi.) 3Jehoshaphat was terrified by this news and begged the Lord for guidance. He also ordered everyone in Judah to begin fasting. 4So people from all the towns of Judah came to Jerusalem to seek the Lord’s help.”

When the moment of crisis came, everyone in Judah (which means, “Now I will praise”) came together in worship. Often times when tragedy comes, we retreat and try to go about it on our own unprotected. However, we are not meant to fight alone. We are not meant to retreat. We are called to come together in the fight and believe that God will come through.

Pastor Christy used the example of Jacob, Rachel and Leah as an example of what breakthrough praise looks like. Jacob’s desire was to marry Rachel and when he asked her father for her hand, he told Jacob to work for him for 7 years. After 7 years, he was to marry Rachel or so he thought. On the wedding night, the father switched Rachel with his eldest daughter Leah. Once Jacob figured out what had happened, he went to the father and the father told him that the eldest had to be married first and that he would have to work another 7 years for Rachel. Eventually, David was married to both Leah and Rachel. Can you imagine how insignificant Leah felt not being her husband’s first choice? In those days, the way to feel significant was to have children. Leah’s plea for significance can be seen in the names of her children.

First came Rueben whose name meant, “See a son.” That was Leah’s way of saying, “See Jacob, I have given you a son! I am significant!” Her second son was named Simeon, which means, “heard.” This was her way of saying, “God has heard me by giving me another son. I am significant!” Her next son was named Levi, which means, “attached.” Now she hoped that because Jacob was attached to her through all three sons, that he would finally love her. Her youngest son was named Judah, which means, “Now I will praise.” If you look at the progression here, she went from fighting for her significance to letting go and praising God even though her situation had not changed (Genesis 29:14-35).

This is the true foundation of worship – to choose to worship even when nothing around you has changed. Some of you are waiting for things to change and you are prolonging your destiny because you are delaying your praise. God says do not delay in your praise for it is the very thing that is going to unlock what is in front of you. Praise and worship have two different positions. Praise is being thankful for what He has already done, while worship is thanking him for who He is, regardless of what He has done. When you get the house you want and you thank Him for it, that is praise. When you thank Him regardless of whether or not you have a house, that is worship.

If we go back to before the war was waged on Jehoshaphat’s people, we can see that in 2 Chronicles 17:6, Jehoshaphat was so dedicated to the Lord that he removed the idols from Judah (the place called praise). In order for us to have breakthrough praise, we must also remove the idols in our lives. Oftentimes our idols are our own opinions. We cannot worship God and our opinions at the same time. Jehoshaphat knew that. We have to be willing to surrender our opinions to God and allow Him to do things the way He wants to do them. Look beyond your music preferences or whatever it is that holds you up from your praise in church. Allow God to show you what He wants to do.

In 2 Chronicles 20:5-9, Jehoshaphat begins to list all the times the Lord had come through before this moment. “Jehoshaphat stood before the community of Judah and Jerusalem in front of the new courtyard at the Temple of the Lord. 6He prayed, ‘O Lord, God of our ancestors, you alone are the God who is in heaven. You are ruler of all the kingdoms of the earth. You are powerful and mighty; no one can stand against you! 7O our God, did you not drive out those who lived in this land when your people Israel arrived? And did you not give this land forever to the descendants of your friend Abraham? 8Your people settled here and built this Temple to honor your name. 9They said, ‘Whenever we are faced with any calamity such as war, plague, or famine, we can come to stand in your presence before this Temple where your name is honored. We can cry out to you to save us, and you will hear us and rescue us.’”

 

He was confident in God because of His history with God. When we are facing a battle, one of the best things we can do is remember what God has done for us in the past. What He has done for us in the past will give us the confidence we need to face the present. If He was faithful before, He will be faithful again.

 

As Jehoshaphat continues to pray, He tells God that they are powerless against the army that wants to attack them. He admits that He does not know what to do and asks God for help. Then starting in verse 14, “The Spirit of the Lord came upon one of the men standing there. His name was Jahaziel son of Zechariah, son of Benaiah, son of Jeiel, son of Mattaniah, a Levite who was a descendant of Asaph. 15He said, ‘Listen, all you people of Judah and Jerusalem! Listen, King Jehoshaphat! This is what the Lord says: Do not be afraid! Don’t be discouraged by this mighty army, for the battle is not yours, but God’s. 16Tomorrow, march out against them. You will find them coming up through the ascent of Ziz at the end of the valley that opens into the wilderness of Jeruel. 17But you will not even need to fight. Take your positions; then stand still and watch the Lord’s victory. He is with you, O people of Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid or discouraged. Go out against them tomorrow, for the Lord is with you!’

18Then King Jehoshaphat bowed low with his face to the ground. And all the people of Judah and Jerusalem did the same, worshiping the Lord. 19Then the Levites from the clans of Kohath and Korah stood to praise the Lord, the God of Israel, with a very loud shout.”

The only thing they were called to do was hold their positions. Allowing God to fight is not taking a back seat. We still have to show up, but in showing up, we allow God the opportunity to show off. Do not be weary of your position. It is remaining there with your eyes on Him that you will find victory. See what happens next in 2 Chronicles 20:20-24:

20Early the next morning the army of Judah went out into the wilderness of Tekoa. On the way Jehoshaphat stopped and said, “Listen to me, all you people of Judah and Jerusalem! Believe in the Lord your God, and you will be able to stand firm. Believe in his prophets, and you will succeed.”

21After consulting the people, the king appointed singers to walk ahead of the army, singing to the Lord and praising him for his holy splendor. This is what they sang: 

“Give thanks to the Lord;
    his faithful love endures forever!”

22At the very moment they began to sing and give praise, the Lord caused the armies of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir to start fighting among themselves.23The armies of Moab and Ammon turned against their allies from Mount Seir and killed every one of them. After they had destroyed the army of Seir, they began attacking each other. 24So when the army of Judah arrived at the lookout point in the wilderness, all they saw were dead bodies lying on the ground as far as they could see. Not a single one of the enemy had escaped.

Can you believe that?! Their praise caused the Lord to cause the enemy’s camp to turn on each other. When they arrived to the battle, their enemy was already defeated! The Lord meant what He said! They did not have to fight! They just had to take their positions as people of praise. They may have thought they needed more than what they had to win this battle. They may have thought they needed to be more than who they were, but it was what they had and who they were that allowed them to walk in victory. They were the army of praise who had a faithful God. That is all they needed and that is all that you need. Command your soul to praise, even if nothing changes and position your eyes on God and allow Him to fight your battle for you. Ask those around you for help as well. There is a tribe of Judah in your own life that is waiting to praise with you toward victory!

AS FOR ME AND MY HOUSE – A PRAYING CHURCH

On Sunday pastor Jeremy continued our series, “For Me And My House” and taught us about the power of our prayers. We have the ability to change any atmosphere with our praise. David knew that his words had the power to change his environment. In Psalm 141:1-3 he prays, “I call to you, Lord, come quickly to me; hear me when I call to you.2 May my prayer be set before you like incense; may the lifting up of my hands be like the evening sacrifice.3 Set a guard over my mouth, Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips.”

 

He asks the Lord to set a guard over his mouth and keep watch over his lips. Why? Because whatever you say directly affects your situation. The enemy doesn’t rule from a throne he rules through a throne. He knows that God has invited us to sit with Him upon His throne so the devil whispers thoughts of inadequacy in our ear hoping we will say them and eventually believe them. The thoughts of being a nobody and never amounting to anything. The thoughts of never being able to outrun your past or that you have disqualified yourself. You have the power to fight off those thoughts by not allowing your mouth to come into agreement with them.

 

David also prayed that his prayers would be like incense and that the lifting of his hands would be like the evening sacrifice. Before Jesus died for the sins of the world the priest would have to go into the Holy of Holies (the place that God designed for the people to pray) with the blood of a  sacrificed animal and ask God’s forgiveness for the sins of the community. This task was not something to be taken lightly. Before the priest went in they would have to tie a rope around his ankle with a bell on it to ensure that he was still alive under the holiness of God. Occasionally they would have to pull the priest out by his feet because the sin in his own life couldn’t handle the Holiness of God not because God was mean but because by nature God’s holiness destroys sin. Thankfully we don’t have to worry about that anymore thanks to Jesus.  After the rope was tied and the priest approached the Holy of Holies there was an altar of incense in front. When the priest would take the blood of the sacrifice into the Holy of Holies he would mix the coals where the sacrifice burned with incense and put it at the door. The majority of the time it would be one sacrifice but once a year their would be a community sacrifice where the head of every house hold would bring an animal to be sacrificed. With that many sacrifices the smell must have been unbearable but the smell of incense coved the smell of sin.

 

When we pray it doesn’t necessarily take what we are going through away but it makes it bearable to get through. When David asked that his prayers be like incense he was asking that his prayers would change the atmosphere. He understood the symbolism of incense and the power of prayer. He understood sacrifice. He didn’t want to take his prayers lightly. He wanted to see transformation come through his words. Be encouraged today to pray the same prayer and see the atmosphere change around you. Thanks to Jesus God’s presence is no longer contained in one place. It goes with us wherever we go. May every prayer we pray saturate the atmosphere revealing to people that there sins have been covered by the sacrifice of Jesus and that they have unlimited access to God’s presence!

AS FOR ME AND MY HOUSE – WHAT’S IN YOUR HANDS?

On Sunday pastor Jeremy Johnson continued our series “As For Me and My House” by reminding us that God loves to do miracles not with what we don’t have but with what we do have. In order for us to prosper where we are we have to focus on what we do have not on what we don’t have or wish we had. The disciples learned this first hand in Mark 6:30-52:

 

30 The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught.31 Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”

32 So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place. 33 But many who saw them leaving recognized them and ran on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them.34 When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things.

35 By this time it was late in the day, so his disciples came to him. “This is a remote place,” they said, “and it’s already very late. 36 Send the people away so that they can go to the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.”

37 But he answered, “You give them something to eat.”

They said to him, “That would take more than half a year’s wages! Are we to go and spend that much on bread and give it to them to eat?”

38 “How many loaves do you have?” he asked. “Go and see.”

When they found out, they said, “Five—and two fish.”

39 Then Jesus directed them to have all the people sit down in groups on the green grass.40 So they sat down in groups of hundreds and fifties. 41 Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to his disciples to distribute to the people. He also divided the two fish among them all. 42 They all ate and were satisfied, 43 and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces of bread and fish. 44 The number of the men who had eaten was five thousand.

45 Immediately Jesus made his disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. 46 After leaving them, he went up on a mountainside to pray.

47 Later that night, the boat was in the middle of the lake, and he was alone on land. 48 He saw the disciples straining at the oars, because the wind was against them. Shortly before dawn he went out to them, walking on the lake. He was about to pass by them, 49 but when they saw him walking on the lake, they thought he was a ghost. They cried out, 50 because they all saw him and were terrified.

Immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” 51 Then he climbed into the boat with them, and the wind died down. They were completely amazed,52 for they had not understood about the loaves; their hearts were hardened.

Notice here that Jesus didn’t tell them to go buy food for the five thousand He instructed the disciples to use what they had. At first the disciples didn’t look at what was available to them. They immediately focused on what wasn’t available. They didn’t think they had enough to do what Jesus was asking them to do but it turns out they had more than enough. Jesus asked them to divide up in groups, He blessed the bread by giving thanks, He broke the bread and then He gave it. He didn’t just multiply it instantly which is what many of us would have preferred but He used the opportunity to show us and the disciples how to believe His word above what we can see with our natural eyes. In order for this miracle to take place the disciples had to believe His word over the limitations of their world. There’s no way five loaves and two fishes could feed five thousand not to mention the women and children that were not counted. Yet they ended up with more than enough.

How many times has God called us to do something and we complain about not having enough? How many times have we missed out on the miracles we so long for in our lives because our focus is on what we don’t have instead of what we do have? If the disciples had ignored Jesus’ request to look at what they had and then trusted that it was enough thousands of people would have been left unnecessarily hungry. Are there times in our lives that we’ve unnecessarily gone without because we have failed to see what we have?

Our God is a God of overflow and just as the food overflowed that day He wants to multiply our blessings to a state of overflowing. But first we must recognize what we have and give thanks for what we have before He can multiply it. Do you feel like you are lacking financially? What about that tip you got the other day that was more than you expected? That is evidence of overflow! Thank Him for it! Does your boss drive you crazy? What about that promotion they gave you a few months ago? Thank Him for it and bless your boss! Oftentimes we ask God to take us to the next level in our lives when we haven’t conquered the level that we are on. The disciples had a chance to go to the next level when Jesus walked on the water to meet them but instead they feared Him. It says they did not understand the miracle of the loaves and that their hearts were hardened. They had just seen Jesus do the impossible but the fact that the impossible was made possible didn’t stick with them when Jesus walked on the water. Therefore they did not move forward as they could have if they had understood that the loaves and the fishes was just the beginning of what Jesus could do with their faith.

This year is a fresh start and an opportunity to recognize what you have so that God can multiply it because He wants to multiply it! In another translation of the story of the loaves and the fishes it is said that the meal came from a little boys lunch. I bet the mother of that child didn’t realize the power that lunch held when she made it like she had done all the other days before. But it was a catalyst for the impossible. You may not think that what you have is enough but one day that may seem like any other, God is going to use your “not enough” or seemly insignificant blessings to catapult you into the next level. Into things your heart can’t even fathom. Choose to be excellent where you are not focusing on what others have around you and trust that in the proper time God will take you to the next level. If you have trouble seeing what you have ask God to remind you and empower you to steward and be thankful for what seems like not enough when in His reality it’s so much more.

AS FOR ME AND MY HOUSE – WE REBUILD

On Sunday, Pastor Jeremy Johnson began a new series, “As For Me and My House,” and encouraged us to serve the Lord wholeheartedly by realigning ourselves through prayer and fasting to begin the new year.

 

God desires us to fast and pray not to get His attention, but so that we can be realigned past the hurt and pain the world has caused us. We have treated our past as treasures on our mantle for too long. As said in Isaiah 61:4, it is time to rebuild, restore and renew what has been ruined in our lives. The enemy would love nothing more than for us to be free through Jesus, yet not actually be free. We must draw a line in the sand and retune ourselves to the blessings God desires us to live in.

 

Joshua 24:14-15 says, “Now fear the Lord and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your ancestors worshiped beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. 15But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”

 

To fear the Lord is not to be afraid of Him. It is about giving reverence to Him above anything else. When you give reverence to Him above everything else, you won’t have to fear anything else. We have other options just as this scripture references, but if we want to live out the life of freedom as God has called us to and so freely gave to us through Jesus, we have to draw a line in the sand. We have to make a choice that we will serve the Lord, above everything else. It is in making that decision that the devastation in our lives can be rebuilt and we can begin to be restored and renewed. Prayer and fasting is a pathway to seeing that kind of breakthrough in our lives. As said before, fasting is not about swaying God to do something. It is about realigning ourselves with Him and His leadership. If we focus on the dos and don’ts of fasting, we are focusing on the wrong thing. As in anything the Lord asks us to do, the Lord’s desire is for us to get closer to Him. He wants to take us out of religion (do this, don’t do that) and bring us into relationship with Him. He emptied Heaven so that we could be in relationship with Him. So when you are fasting from something, spend the time you would use on what you are giving up to pray and hear about the amazing plans God has for you.

 

Draw the line in the sand today and ask the Lord what has been holding you back from pursuing Him wholeheartedly. As a church, we are beginning a fast on January 8, 2018 to realign ourselves for the new year. Look on our website for the details and ask the Lord if there is something He would like for you to give up for a period of time. You do not have to bring what happened in 2017 into 2018. Start fresh and begin walking in the freedom God has designed you for!

I’M A BELIEVER: WITH UNOPENED GIFTS

On Sunday,Pastor Jeremy Johnson continued our series, “I’m A Believer,” by showing us through the Christmas story, that we may have some unopened gifts from God because we are intimidated by the wrapping. Joseph nearly ran from the best gift of all because of how it was wrapped.

Matthew 1:18 states, “18This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit.19Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yetdid not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorceher quietly.20But after he had considered this, an angelof the Lord appeared to him in a dreamand said, ‘Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.21She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus,because he will save his people from their sins.’ 22All this took place to fulfillwhat the Lord had said through the prophet:23‘The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel’(which means ‘God with us’).24When Joseph woke up, he did what the angelof the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife.25But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.”

When Joseph found out that Mary was pregnant outside of marriage, his plan was to break things off quietly so that she would not be disgraced. However, once He found out the Lord’s plan, He continued with the marriage. How many times have we run away from a gift God was trying to give us because it wasn’t nicely wrapped? No wonder Joseph’s first instinct was to run away. Going into marriage with a woman who was carrying someone else’s baby was not the best wrapping for raising the savior of the world.

Often times God is found where we would never think to look. John 1:9-13 says, “The true lightthat gives light to everyonewas coming into the world.10He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him.11He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.12Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name,he gave the right to become children of God—13children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.”God’s own people did not recognize Him when He came. They knew His word and practiced the law, but could not see Him when He was right in front of them. How many times in our lives have we thought He was not there when He actually was? In not understanding that Jesus was the gift they had been waiting for and evidence of everything they had studied and practiced, the people did not gain access to their right to become children of God. The good news today is not that we believe, but that we have become children of God through believing and receiving the gift of Jesus.

God’s plans for us are not always, what we think they should be or look the way we think they should look. After all, wouldn’t you think that if God called Mary to have Jesus, He would haveprovided a more suitable place for Him to be born? Luke 2:4-12 states:

“4So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehemthe town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David.5He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child.6While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born,7and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

8And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.9An angelof the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.10But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid.I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11Today in the town of David a Saviorhas been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.12This will be a signto you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

Mary was carrying the savior of the world and there was not a room available for her to have Him in. Why is that? Did God forget that part of the plan? Why were doors shut on them? The fact is that this was all part of God’s plan. The significance of Him being born in a manger was undeniable at that time. Before Jesus, God’s people had to sacrifice spotless lambs on a regular basis to pay for their sins. Before a lamb was sacrificed, they were placed in a manger wrapped in clothes just like Jesus. God was purposeful in a seemingly chaotic situation to show that no more spotless lambs were needed. Jesus was going to be the ultimate sacrifice.

Have you ever wondered why doors were shut on you with that job you wanted or that relationship you were hoping would work out? Maybe it was because God was trying to redirect you. He does not redirect because He is mad at you, He redirects because there is a much bigger and better plan for you than meets the eye. The significance of Jesus being the spotless lamb and the foreshadowing of Him becoming the ultimate sacrifice would have been overlooked had He not been placed in a manger.

Do not be afraid to allow God to redirect you and donot be afraid to unwrap the gifts He wants to give you. The wrapping may look unorthodox like it did for, but unwrapping it is more than worth it. Ask God about the unopened gifts in your life and ask Him to help you unwrap them and live the purpose-filled life you were born to live!

I'LL TAKE IT GOD - SIZED : COLORING OUTSIDE THE LINES

Are you living your life here on earth to the fullest, with a God-sized life? We can be living life to a much greater potential when we pursue a God-sized life. The word says that no eye has seen, no ear has heard, nor has it been imagined the plans He has for us. The word literally tells us that we cannot imagine what God has for us. It is too great! But how big is God to you? Is He small when you walk through storms, or does He always stay the same? The truth is, He doesn’t change, grow, or shrink; He is always the same, yet we tend to limit Him in our minds. We keep

Him out of certain areas of our lives that aren’t comfortable for us to allow Him into. We hold back our trust.

Like the box illustration, we can sometimes allow our life experiences to define what we believe is possible instead of looking at our situation through God's eyes. This cycle is broken when we begin to allow the Lord to be the center of it all. He will give us new eyes to create in the world around us and to believe for greater. A God-sized life is a God-centric life; there is nothing that He isn’t Lord over in it. It is an “all in,” fully surrendered life. How can you live a God-sized life today?


I'LL TAKE IT GOD - SIZED

Have you ever been through an intense workout, and then had to stretch your sore muscles afterwards? Often times, the stretching part hurts worse than the actual workout. Why is that? Because your muscles are growing and your body is preparing to do things it’s never done before. Similarly, when you go through a period of stretching in your life, it’s because God is preparing you for new things and growing you. Jesus didn’t die on the cross for you to live a normal life; He wants you to live a God-sized life with a God-sized portion! But with that comes the inevitable stretching.

Isaiah 54:3-4 NIV says,
“Enlarge the place of your tent, stretch your tent curtains wide, do not hold back; lengthen your cords, strengthen your stakes. For you will spread out to the right and to the left; your descendants will dispossess nations and settle in their desolate cities. “Do not be afraid; you will not be put to shame. Do not fear disgrace; you will not be humiliated. You will forget the shame of your youth and remember no more the reproach of your widowhood.” Isaiah 54:3-4 NIV

This life is but a tent, and it pales in comparison to the glory the Lord has for you. Be careful not to decorate too much, because it’s only temporary. But while you’re living here, the Lord wants to enlarge your tents and make way for all that He has here on earth for you. To enlarge your tent, you have to clear the territory and cut out the things that are blocking the way. You have to unpack the suitcases filled with where you’re at, and pack for where you’re going. If you were going on a trip somewhere with a different climate, you wouldn’t pack for the climate you live in; you would pack for the climate you’re going to. Start preparing for where you’re going! Lengthen your cords by working with and adding to what you already have. Don’t throw away what you have. God isn’t going to give you everything that you think you need to accomplish what you need to accomplish. He’s going to work with what you have. Moses was given a staff to split seas with, and David was given a stone to kill a giant with. God will take whatever you have and add Himself to increase the growth in your life. Strengthen your stakes, or in other words, your strengths. The stakes are the strength of the tent that holds it into place. God has given every person unique gifts and talents that He wants you to use to honor Him. Ask yourself what strengths you have and start strengthening them. God wants to use you in a God-sized way, but you have to make room for Him to work in your lives! Once you step into your God- given destiny, you will forget your history. The best days are ahead of you. You will not be embarrassed or humiliated, so don’t be afraid to step out. But don’t forget that stretching goes hand in hand with strengthening, and don’t confuse the stretching with the actual race. God allows you to come to a point of pain for a moment so you can complete the race set before you. The stretching is like the athlete on the sidelines, preparing for the race. You wouldn’t compete in the Olympics without going through the rigorous practice and preparation needed to excel in it. So from now on, start praising when you go through pain, because it’s all part of the plan to help prepare you for the great things God has in store for you!

THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY: BREAKING THE CYCLE

On Sunday Pastor Jeremy Johnson continued our series, “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly” by encouraging us to break the cycle of going from relationship to relationship living off surface level love. According to Ephesians 3:17-18, we are to be rooted and established in love so that we can have the power to grasp the never-ending love of God. We have no hope of grasping it apart from one another.


How can we be rooted and established in love if we only remain at surface level? At surface level we just have the ability to believe everyone is awesome. If we are rooted and established in love for one another, we have the honor of believing everyone is awesome in spite of their hang ups. When we love each other in spite of it all, we begin to walk in the love of Jesus. Being rooted and established in love does not happen overnight. To be rooted means you have to dig deep, and to be established means you have to have a strong foundation. It doesn’t matter how beautiful the building is; if it has a poor foundation and doesn’t have the roots to maintain the weight, it is going to fall. It’s a waste of time to build something without a foundation, just as it is when you try and go after your dreams without love and support. We were not meant to live life alone. We were meant to build each other up. Ephesians 4:16 says, “From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.”


When we build each other up as opposed to building on our own, we give ourselves permission to operate on our strengths, while others take on our weaknesses, enabling us to carry so much more. Take Belgian horses, for example! One horse alone can carry 8,000 pounds. That’s pretty good, right? But when one horse is partnered with another horse, they can pull 24,000 pounds - three times the amount they pull on their own. When these horses begin to know each other a little bit better, they can pull four times as much: 32,000 pounds. When horses have grown up and been working together since being foals, they can pull up to 50,000 pounds! Our strength is based on the longevity of our love. How much we can carry and how far we can go is determined by how much work we put into relationships. Why settle for 8,000 pounds when we are capable of carrying 50,000?


You may be reading this thinking, “I’m fine with the 8,000 pounds. Loving people this way is too much work, and filled with too much hurt.” But is it really love if you only love someone when it’s easy? In Matthew 43, Jesus tells us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. If we only love those who love us, we are no different than pagans. Verse 48 states, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Perfect here doesn’t mean flawless, but it means to repair and adjust. To repair and adjust means to see the needs of another and act accordingly. Each relationship in your life has a different function and reveals a different facet of God’s love. You can’t love everyone the same way. To be rooted and established, to repair and adjust all takes work, but it’s within that work that we reach our dreams. It’s within that work that we receive the love that we crave, because in loving one another we receive the revelation of how wide, long, high and deep the love of Christ is for us! Ask God to show you how to be rooted and established, and how to adjust and repair so that you can live the life you are called to live. Your dream could be one friendship away!

THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY: WATERING THE DIRT

On Sunday, Pastor Jeremy Johnson continued our series, “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly” and took us on a journey through 1 Corinthians 13, which shows us the never ending love we were born to receive and give out to one another.


1 Corinthians 13:4-7 defines love this way:


“Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;  it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”


If love consists of all these beautiful things, then why do we often see the opposite? Why have we experienced love insisting its own way and not believing, hoping, and enduring? Because it’s actually against our nature to love this way. We have been programmed since birth to live in a form of backwashed love – you love me, and then I’ll love you. Jesus had a different approach; He loved us first (1 John 4:19)! Jesus called us friends when we were enemies, and He loved us when we were at war with him. The only way for us to begin to love this way is if we tap into God’s love for us. When we begin to learn His nature and give our lives to Him, His nature becomes ours.


One of the greatest threats to experiencing God’s love and pouring it out onto others is the lie that God is mad at you. That could not be further from the truth. Jeremiah 31:3 tells us that He loves us with an everlasting love! It doesn't matter what we’ve done or what we will do; God’s love never expires. Everything He does is out of love. 1 John 4:7-8 says, “Beloved, let us love one another; for love is of God, and he who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God; for God is love.” It says that those who do not love do not know God, so the best way to live out the definition of love presented in 1 Corinthians 13 is to spend time with God. Just as a hose needs to be plugged into power to release water, we need to be plugged into Him for love to pour out.


Often times we say, “I can’t love that person because…” And it’s true; we can’t love that person on our own. Love is conditional when we love in our own strength. Our love can only become unconditional when we spend time with unconditional love Himself. Why do relationships fall apart? Because people try to sustain relationships without God. Another reason why relationships fail is because people pursue the wrong kind of relationships just to get some form of connection. God has specific people in your life right now that you are called to love, and who are called to love you. Ask God to reveal those people to you. It’s time to take our hearts off the shelf and start pursuing relationships with one another again. It can be scary especially if you’ve been hurt in the past, but let His love become your shield and believe that you are worth this kind of love. A love that hopes, believes, and endures! God would not define love in such a beautiful way if He did not want us to experience it! Ask God to lavish you with His love because once that happens love will no longer come from a place of striving, but from a place of overflow!

THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY: FREE TO LOVE

On Sunday, Pastor Jeremy Johnson started a new series on relationships called, “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly,” revealing to us that we were created for love that has no limits, as opposed to the “You help me and I’ll help you” kind of love. Since we’ve grown accustomed to a conditional kind of love system, it’s caused us to retreat from relationship and attempt to walk out our journey with God on our own. We were never created to live in isolation. The truth is that God designed us in such a way that we cannot achieve our destiny without one another.


1 Corinthians 12:12-20 says:

“Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many. Now if the foot should say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,’ it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. And if the ear should say, ‘Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,’ it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.”

If you’ve ever felt like no one is like you in your community, that’s actually a good thing. We were not created to function the same. Our body actually functions better because of the sum of the different parts. If our body only consisted of eyes, we wouldn’t even be alive. God actually created our differences to harmonize, not divide. Unfortunately, we’ve all been hurt by relationships that have caused us to live in a cycle of triangulation, which consists of the bad guy, the victim, and the rescuer.

The bad guy bullies and manipulates the victim, causing the victim to stay in their victimized state, which then causes the rescuer to jump in and try to fix everything. The bad guy feels such a lack of control in his own life that he feels powerful controlling the victim, and the victim finds purpose in being controlled by the bad guy. The rescuer finds purpose in meeting the needs of the victim, which may seem kind, but it’s actually depriving them of their God-given power to get out of the situation themselves. Anytime we feel powerless we are believing a lie. 2 Timothy 1:7 states, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” The truth is, relationships are messy and painful at times. No matter what we do we will always run into that, but God has given us all we need to love one another through it all, and remain in control of ourselves in the process. We cannot control other people, but He’s given us the power to control ourselves and to choose how we will respond to people.

The kind of relationships we are called to have are the ones where our love is tested and proven true. “Better is open rebuke than hidden love. Wounds from a friend can be trusted but an enemy multiplies kisses (Proverbs 27:5-6).” A lot of us enjoy relationship until it gets too real, but it’s in allowing people to speak into your life that true friendship happens. The verse above implies that flattery and surface level friendships are deceitful, but the open rebuke and the friends that are honest with us are the ones that we should trust. We were created for the kind of friendships that enable us to be all that we are called to be, not friendships that keep us in chains.

Unfortunately, the chain filled relationships have tainted our view of relationships so much so that we don’t even pursue the healthy ones, but that can all change today. We can draw a line in the sand and make the decision to stand firm in the good, the bad, and the ugly because it’s in those times that loneliness disappears, camaraderie is forged, and we begin to feel loved and known in ways that we’ve only dreamed of!

CHURCH OF POWER: WE ARE THE WAVE

On Sunday, Pastor Jeremy Johnson continued our series "Church of Power" by reminding us that just as a guitar needs to be tuned after it’s been played, we need to be retuned as well. We are called to be a wave of His glory; dreaming His dreams, carrying out His vision, and speaking His word. We were never meant to live off of second hand revelation.


When we start to read His book for ourselves, we start retuning our hearts to what God actually said, and not to what people think He said. We have lost our way and have made theologies on how we feel God would want things to be, instead of going into the Word and seeing what God has destined us for. Life with Jesus is not just about getting to Heaven, but it’s about bringing Heaven to earth. Acts 2:17 states,


“In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams.”


He wants to interact with us just as He interacted with the early church. He wants to reveal to us the things of Heaven through our eyes. That’s why there’s such an attack on the eyes of this generation. What we see becomes our reality. We must guard our eyes as we would guard a city in battle. This was true for the disciples as well. They had opposition. People tried to shut them up in ways that we can’t even fathom, but even so they did not change their focus. They saw the impossible displayed through the life of Jesus, therefore they lived in the impossible. They saw people healed through their shadows! They saw a murderous man become a Holy Spirit filled preacher, teacher and martyr.


Why then do we not see the miracles of the early church in our everyday lives? Because we’ve reduced our relationship with God to sinners saved by grace, but it’s so much more than that. It’s true we were sinners saved by grace, and we could do nothing to earn our salvation, but now we are saints born to see and experience Heaven coming to earth; demolishing strongholds of sickness, anxiety, and fear. Read the stories of the early church to see what you were created for, and ask God to baptize you in the Holy Spirit just as He did with those in the Upper Room so that you can begin to experience and walk in the power of the Gospel.

CHURCH OF POWER: NEW WINE

On Sunday, Pastor Jeremy Johnson continued our series "Church of Power" by reminding us of our identity in Christ: as ones who are new creations, appointed and set apart for such a time as this. Jeremiah 1:5 says, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” Notice that God didn’t say, “I want to use you.” He said, “I have appointed you.” Often times we ask God to use us, and then wonder why we feel so used. We were never called to be used; we were called to be strategically placed for divine appointments.


In verse 6, Jeremiah responded in fear as so many of us do. He said, “I do not know how to speak; I am too young.” God responds by saying, “Do not say, ‘I am too young.’ You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you.” Often times we use fear as our protection, but the only thing it’s doing is keeping us from our destiny.  It may have been true that Jeremiah was too young and didn’t know how to speak, but God didn’t see that as an excuse not to appoint him. He saw it as an opportunity, just like He did with Saul who later became known as Paul.


Saul used to imprison as well as murder Christians in hopes of eradicating Christianity. When he was on his way to Damascus to continue his misguided quest, the Lord appeared to him. Acts 9:4-9 says,


“As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?’ ‘Who are you, Lord?’ Saul asked. ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,’ he replied. ‘Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.’ The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything,”


When he got to Damascus, a disciple named Ananias prayed for him and the scales were removed from his eyes. He was then filled with the Holy Spirit and began to preach the Gospel. Many people questioned him because they knew who he had been and they even plotted to kill him, but eventually they realized he was no longer that person. He had been transformed just like the water that was turned into wine in Jesus’s first miracle. You may find the first miracle of Jesus to be comical as well as puzzling, but really it was a prophetic picture of what Jesus came to do. He didn’t pour the water into the wine making it watery wine. He literally transformed the water into a new substance. He changed the water’s past, present, and future just like He did for us.


Many of us may feel like God is just trying to make us into a better version of ourselves, but He’s actually made us into something completely new. Why then do we feel like the transformation is a process, rather than a “suddenly”? Because the transformation didn’t happen in our emotions, but it happened in our spirit. Our emotions are playing catch up. Ask God to show you how He’s transformed you from water into wine, and to help you walk into the appointment that He has created you for. The fears you’ve learned along the way that you’ve used to disqualify yourself from greatness have held you back for too long. It’s time to believe that He has made you into a new creation; past, present, and future!

CHURCH OF POWER: THE CRACKED POT

On Sunday, Pastor Jeremy Johnson continued our series “Church of Power” by showing us that our purpose lays just as much in the journey as it does in the destination. This was proved to be true for Peter and John when they approached the lame man at the Temple gate called Beautiful:

 

Acts 3:1-12 says,

 

Now Peter and John went up together to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour. And a certain man lame from his mother’s womb was carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple which is called Beautiful, to ask alms from those who entered the temple; who, seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, asked for alms. And fixing his eyes on him, with John, Peter said, “Look at us.” So he gave them his attention, expecting to receive something from them. Then Peter said, “Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.” And he took him by the right hand and lifted him up, and immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength. So he, leaping up, stood and walked and entered the temple with them—walking, leaping, and praising God. And all the people saw him walking and praising God.Then they knew that it was he who sat begging alms at the Beautiful Gate of the temple; and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.Now as the lame man who was healed held on to Peter and John, all the people ran together to them in the porch which is called Solomon’s, greatly amazed. So when Peter saw it, he responded to the people: “Men of Israel, why do you marvel at this? Or why look so intently at us, as though by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk?”

 

Notice that it was the miracle of the lame man that gave Peter the authority behind his message that day. Many people looked to Peter and John and assumed the power came from them, but Peter used this opportunity to set their eyes on the true source of power, which is Jesus! This guy had been lame for 38 years and hung out at the gate of the temple. People most likely had to step over him to get to church. How many times do we step over our purpose for the day by being too focused on our destination? And why did it take 38 years for the lame man to walk? Jesus must’ve walked by him. He was alive during this 38-year time frame. Why didn’t He just heal him earlier? Perhaps God was preparing him for this very moment. A lot of the time unanswered prayers are not actually unanswered; they are just building blocks toward the breakthrough.

 

Many times we can feel like we have to get to a certain point in our lives before we achieve our destiny. We think, “Once I get there, I’ll achieve my purpose,” when really we’ve been achieving it the whole time. Pastor Jeremy told a story about this cracked pot that an Indian man filled with water everyday. The pot could not contain the water it was originally designed to contain, but the owner of the pot decided to plant seeds along the path from the river to the destination so that the cracked pot could water the seeds. So even with a crack,the pot still had purpose. We are cracked pots. We have things in our lives that we think are disqualifying us from our destiny, when really, those are the things that are empowering us to accomplish it. That lame man was chosen to be the breakthrough Peter and John needed that day. Who knew the unseen man would be talked about for the rest of time? He was and still is a representation of God’s power. Why? Because Peter and John stepped out in faith and believed God’s power would be displayed. How often do we miss moments where God’s power can be seen because we are too afraid to step out? Be encouraged today to ask God to give you the eyes to see the opportunities set before you today and the courage to step out in the power He’s given you to display.