Moving toward a new year, one of your purposes should be to create a culture in your heart, life and home that is growing closer to God. For your spiritual life to be authentic, your relationship with God must become personal; you must have ownership. One of the best ways to grow in passion and make spiritual changes is to read inspiring and challenging books. As you read, take time to pray and fast a day or a meal. Below are some suggested reads for 2019 that will change your life.
- The Bible (Start with Proverbs and read as led.)
- Draw the Circle, The 40 Day Prayer Challenge by Mark Batterson
- The Book of Mysteries by Jonathan Cahn (365 Day Devotional)
- The Fasting Edge by Jentezen Franklin
- Fresh Wind Fresh Fire by Jim Cymbala
- It’s Not About Me by Max Lucado
- Love Like You’ve Never Been Hurt by Jentezen Franklin
- Anxious for Nothing by Max Lucado
- Storm by Jim Cymbala
- Addicted to Busy by Brady Boyd
- Men: Play the Man by Mark Batterson
- Ladies: A Heart Like His by Beth Moore
Looking down at my meal as I got ready to enjoy Thanksgiving dinner I saw a full plate. As I looked at my plate I reflected on how much it was a representation of my life; full. What makes the plate of my life full is not the things of this world but the presence of God in my life and family. Our lives are full when we have a hunger for God and have a desire to spend time with God. Our lives are blessed when we understand that God’s Word brings such strength and power to our day and that we recognize our time in prayer as the most important time of our day. Our plates are full when we realize that we are fortunate to have an extended family that worships with us, prays for us and goes with us through the difficult seasons of life. Our plate is full when we understand that the most important thing that we can leave for our children is a spiritual legacy. A legacy that is built on the powerful name of Jesus and the absolute necessity of being filled with and living a Spirit led life. Do you have a full plate? Don’t look at your material possessions, but what really matters, your relationship with God. If you have a life that knows about Jesus and His work on Calvary, your plate is full.
A raindrop, pebble, rock or stone; no matter the object or size, it creates a ripple that the diameter, effect and end, no one knows. The impact of our lives, are much like a ripple. We serve God, share the Gospel, give money and tell our story, yet often leave this life not knowing the impact of our existence. Stephen is an example of such a life. The Bible simply says that Stephen was a man full of faith, full of grace and power and full of the Spirit. His life ends tragically with a stoning by wicked men. Those who witnessed his life likely talked about his potential and all that he could have done if God had spared his life. Yet, that day was just the splashing of a stone. The impact of his life had not ended, but just began. That day a young Saul watched his stoning and a ripple started in his heart. A ripple that would takes years to see its effect, but on a road to Damascus, everything changed. Saul becomes Paul, is converted, and the rest is history. Countless messages preached, missionary journeys, many churches established and twelve epistles written. All a ripple effect from a life that seemed to end so senselessly. When we get to Heaven I imagine Stephen will be shocked by the impact of his life. I have a feeling it will be the same for many today who read this story. Live a life that leaves a ripple.
I need new shoe strings. It’s not that I can’t afford them, it’s just that I haven’t taken time to go to the store. So, I deal with frayed shoe strings that get in tangled knots. Instead of taking a few minutes to make the purchase I find myself spending extended time trying to untangle the knots. What a picture of life. There are so many aspects of life that become complicated, not because God doesn’t have the solution but because we refuse to bring our difficulties to Him. Instead of saying, “God I’ve got a mess or God, this is broken,” we sit for hours, weeks and months trying to untangle, get the “knots” out, by our self. Jesus said, “come to me all who labor and are heavy-laden or overwhelmed and I will give you rest,” in essence just give it to me. How many times do we find ourselves wanting to talk it out with a friend or even worse, trying to fix it our self. Our lives will have areas that get frayed and there will be complications. Just like the solution to my shoe strings is to go to the store and buy a new pair of strings, the solution for our tangled and knotted messes is Jesus. Have complicated situations in your life that’s bringing stress? It’s time to simplify, take them to Jesus. He specializes in taking care of knots and tangled situations.
This is the time of year we marvel at Falls colors. Fall, God’s personal fireworks show. Leaves. Red. Orange. Yellow. Brown. Green. It’s even amazing the number of shades of red, orange and yellow there are. No two trees, even if they are the same variety, have the same color. Watching the spectacular colors begin to appear here in central Indiana I began to think how everything that God creates is unique. Every leaf has its own personal pattern, every snowflake has its own distinctive design and as Psalm 139:14 says, “each one of us are fearfully and wonderfully made.” One of the things that concerns me when someone comes to Christ is when they lose their color, their personality. Why is it that so many become beige and bland? Jesus’ disciples were as full of color as a Fall in Indiana. Simon Peter, egotistical and arrogant. James and John were called the Sons of Thunder. Thomas was chided as a doubter. Simon was a zealot longing for the overthrow of the Roman Empire. Spirit filled and Spirit led but individuals. I would suggest that Jesus likes our personality. It’s what makes us impactive. It’s what makes us distinctive. It’s what makes us effective in His Kingdom. He didn’t want twelve cookie cutters. He wanted 12 cast of characters. Coming to Christ should change your heart, not your personality. I like to put it this way, you be you or UBU.
Leaves were swirling and branches breaking. Looking in our back yard our grill cover had blown off and our Adirondacks were scattered. Running errands, we saw lawn chairs that had blown across the street, construction signs tipped over and debris flying in all directions. Long before a wind advisory warning was ever issued it was obvious that the wind was blowing with a mighty force. As I witnessed the impact of the wind, my mind immediately went to the verse found in John 3, “the wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So, it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” It made me think, when God begins to fulfill the promise that He will pour His Spirit on all flesh, it will be obvious. We won’t have to create it with lights and haze. We won’t need the latest spin from Bethel or Hillsong. It won’t be based on the charisma and personality of a man. It will be obvious. People will stream to altars; baptismal tanks will be disturbed regularly and the outpouring of the Spirit will be so impacting and life changing that it will be obvious that people’s lives have been overwhelmed by God’s Spirit. When God sends the wind, it will be uncontrollable, overwhelming, and there will be no need for a wind advisory to let us know it arrived.
When it comes to praying and understanding how God answers prayers there are two principles that we must keep in focus. Faith and endurance. Faith causes us to pray. Faith believes, ask and dreams that anything is possible with God. Faith knows God delivered a nation out of bondage in one night, that God parted the Red Sea, saved the Hebrews and destroyed the Egyptian army. Faith knows God shut the mouths of lions and stopped fire from burning three Hebrew men. Faith knows that Jesus healed the sick, opened the blinded eye and deaf ear, gave the lame the ability to walk and fed 5000 with five loaves and two fish. Faith knows God brought a young girl, a young man and Lazarus back from the dead. Faith knows that in our situation that God can heal, deliver, change anything or anyone and answer any prayer we pray. Endurance is the ability to wait. Endurance is the ability to not lose faith, get bitter or angry when the answer doesn’t come in our time or the way we expected. Endurance never doubts or wavers. Endurance stays the course when it hurts, when it gets hard or when we don’t understand. Endurance prays, prays and prays some more. Endurance never gives up. Endurance always believes. Endurance says there is no other option. Ask God to put faith and endurance in your spiritual life and you will go from, “can God, to God can!”