"we plan for things ahead, we prepare for things now and for the things behind us... we let go."
Not too long ago my family and I were entered into a marathon. We didn't plan on participating in this particular marathon and until then we hadn't fully prepared ourselves to run this particular race, yet there we were smack dab in the midst of thousands of other runners on race day. Can you imagine? Finding yourself caught in the middle of a crowded marathon with so many other finish line hopefuls, about to embark on a long run that you hadn't prepared for... the leg cramps alone are daunting enough, not to mention the out of breath condition that you would most likely experience throughout the length of the race! But there we were, armed only with what we have firmly planted on the inside of us.
You see, that is the what this commitment that we have to Father God is ALL about.
As humans we have this extreme tendency to 'know why'... we study, we buy cd's, subscribe to apps, enroll in bible school, faithfully attend church and secure our spot and our opinions in all of the great philosophical discussions that we can find... all for the purpose of understanding. But just WHAT are we REALLY understanding?
Understanding by definition has everything to do with our own intelligence. The speed with which we understand, can tell us what level our intelligence is at... even our lack of understanding speaks of our intelligence abilities. Us humans often equate understanding with victory... intellect with success... and knowing 'why' with superiority. Yet we tend to forget that one little scripture that contains a powerful punch (Isaiah 55:8) "My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts," says the LORD. "And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine." Because when we get down to it, on race day what we know can only take us so far, if we truly want to make it to that finish line, we need something bigger. But what we need is not something that we can see, it isn't even something that we can control 100%... what we need is found deep within us... some call it 'drive', some call it 'will', some even call it 'crazy'; whatever you want to call it, we've all got it.
In this life we all find ourselves inside of moments. Sometimes these moments last longer than most, sometimes these moments take us by surprise, sometimes these moments are filled with happiness and sometimes these moments are the hardest moments that we will ever face. Regardless, we all must know that what we expose ourselves to (from bible school to unhealthy addictions and everything in between) on a continual basis, is the very thing that will carry us through the grueling marathons and help us reach the finish line with breath and stamina to spare. And as my family and myself continue running, we will continue to tap into the goodness, the wealth and the power of God's word that remains to be our crazy driving force, because the things that are embedded deep within each of us will truly and undoubtedly sustain us through ANYTHING.
So today's message is simple... KEEP IT UP! Keep your commitment to reading the word, keep waking up early on your coveted Sunday morning day off and go to church, keep speaking to God all day long and including Him in all that you do, keep listening to sermons and audio books and podcasts, keep signing up for conferences that exist to make a difference, keep blasting songs that remind you of just how GOOD God is, keeping giving to Kingdom causes and to those in need, keep helping each other and keeping each other accountable, keep praying with friends and family for each other and for those you do not know, keep exposing yourself to all things that point to heaven and keep LOVE at the forefront of ALL that you do... because there is NOTHING too small or seemingly insignificant when it comes to God. He is very much a part of every action that you take on His behalf. Every single thing that you do in His Name, not only provides you with great understanding... but MOST important... it provides you with a unique impartation that only God can give, for all of life's races. Be encouraged today as you read this and trust in Him with all that you've got. Love, PL
The word sacrifice is not usually a fun word to think about, it isn't even that great of a word to look up in the dictionary. Half of the definitions given to 'sacrifice' have to do with OFFERING something, while the other half have to do with SURRENDERING something. Either way you look at it, the end result of a SACRIFICE will always be a LOSS... and let's be honest... we don't like to lose.
It is said by many that JESUS was the ultimate sacrifice, when he died on the cross for OUR human frailty he sacrificed Himself so that we would WIN the prize of an eternity spent with Him in heaven. This is a fundamental foundation for Christianity. So, maybe it's just me, but as I have been thinking about Easter (as it's coming up fast) I can't help but ask the question, since Jesus sacrificed His life so that I wouldn't have to, why does it seem like EVERYTHING we do as Christians equates to a lifestyle of sacrifice? Think about it... we sacrifice our time to help others, we sacrifice our money to build His church, we sacrifice our lives to causes that are greater than ourselves and we sacrifice our humanity in order to pursue a supernatural way of living. We sacrifice ALL THE TIME! So why then, do WE sacrifice so much if HE already made the BIG one?
In the 80's at the height of his reign in the NBA, Michael Jordan was not only the superstar of basketball or the symbol that landed on the shoes of every baller out on the court, but he was also the king of advertisement. If you put MJ's name on your brand (even if it was cereal!) your product was guaranteed to sell. In the early 90's a company called Bayer Bess Vanderwarker came up with the ultimate slogan for Gatorade in 1991 using three simple words 'BE LIKE MIKE'. This campaign ran forever (it seems) and has been noted by sports fanatics globally who were inspired to try to be just like Michael Jordan. So why did this simple strategy work so well for a company peddling colored water? Because Michael Jordan represented the IMPOSSIBLE becoming POSSIBLE. In his prime he was someone to align your own hopes and dreams and ambitions to and that slogan captured the hearts of a generation of people who wanted to do the impossible.
Now, as much as I like Michael Jordan (and yes, I was once a baller on the court showing off my Air Jordans!) good old MJ is NO Jesus Christ. He can fly, I'll give him that... but last I checked he hasn't yet perfected the slam dunk in the middle of the ocean! JESUS on the other hand... NOTHING BUT NET! Jesus did greater things than this, He healed people, He fed people, He reconfigured the ingredients in water, He brought a man back from the dead, He restored vision to blind people, He called out demons and sent them on suicidal missions, He loved the unlovely, He forgave the most guilty and He did it all while BEING HUMAN. Now that is a pretty significant point in the story of Jesus, because we (as humans ourselves) tend to focus on His deity - on the fact that He is God as well - and so we look at these stories that we read in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John and we worship/praise Him for all that He is and all that He set up for us, but we often times forget to focus on the simple fact that He did these things while being a human. So what's the big deal, you ask? The BIG DEAL is this: just like Michael Jordan did some pretty extraordinary feats on the ball court - Jesus did some pretty extraordinary feats on the LIFE court and just as the slogan 'BE LIKE MIKE' inspired a generation of athletes to do the unthinkable, the never before tried and the seemingly impossible; we have an even greater slogan to 'BE LIKE JESUS'.
I for one KNOW that there is a strategic reason that Jesus laid low for the first half of his life, just being human and learning and growing and trusting and working and experiencing what life (as a human) is truly like, you know, the stuff that we have been doing. Did He have struggles? Did He face challenges? Did He ever worry or stress? We can only speculate that He did, since He was human like you and I. But you know the coolest part? When He was ready, He did the impossible. He broke the record books with the things that He could do. And He showed us how to be just like Him. Ooooh! I'm gonna say that again... He showed us how to be just like Him. Did He make the ultimate sacrifice? Absolutely. And if we are going to 'BE LIKE JESUS' a sacrificial life is our equivalent to the young kids jumping in the air and sticking out their tongues in driveways across the globe to be like the man who broke a few barriers of his own. And you know the stories of how MJ put in the time and pain to get where he got, what ever made us think that it would take anything less than the DEATH to our comfort zones, in order to spread the JESUS LIFE to those who are still DEAD to His LOVE? In other words, IF IT TOOK THE ULTIMATE SACRIFICE TO SECURE THE SALVATION OF THE WORLD, IT'S GOING TO TAKE THE SAME TYPE OF THING ON OUR PART TO DISTRIBUTE IT!!!!!!!! Whatever that means to you personally JUST DO IT. So what is YOUR sacrifice? That's up to you, EVERY day you've got a choice, choose to sacrifice the things that continue to hold you back and although it may feel like you are losing something, soon and very soon, you WILL realize that you are actually starting to WIN.
The art of dancing has always been an enigma to me. On the streets I'm not exactly known for my ability to keep time while moving my legs back and forth and when you throw in trying to move my hips and do something productive with my hands ALL at the same time? Let's just say, I was not blessed with the Fred Astaire or even a Michael Jackson 'anointing'! (but just between me and you, in my own mind, I'm better than Usher any day of the week! ha!) Dancing to me has always been something that I've admired from afar (and safe) distance. Now, I'm about to expose my age a little here, but when I was a kid dancing wasn't as intricate as it is today; I'm talking fox trot, simple ballroom, the cha cha, jitterbug, swing dancing and the masterfully complex form known as the twist, haha! (just to name a few). Compare those with the moves that happen each week on 'So You Think You Can Dance' or the 'Step Up' franchise and you won't find a whole lot in common, other than the fact that dancing takes people places that they just can't seem to go, leaning up against a wall. There is a freedom that is found inside of dancing that liberates people, and when you throw in a dance partner, it becomes quite exhilarating and limitless.
The other day I was meditating on the basic principles found within the art of dance, I'm talking BASIC. Steps. Back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. Even if you throw a secondary forth, you still need to take AT LEAST one step back in order to COMPLETE the cycle that we know as dancing. In this 21st century fast paced GO GO GO GO GO GO GO until you need to keep going and going and going going and going; we can tend to lean a little too hard on the dance steps that lead us forward, often times thinking that taking a step back once in a while will either set us back or slow us down (we can see it as a form of weakness), but in the grand scheme of this delicate journey that we call life we are greatly amiss. For some reason we think that as we charge ahead in life, like the running of the bulls in Spain (where they seem to have no pause or reverse) that this will get us to our desired destination in 21st Century style, but this isn't the case.
In the book of Ecclesiastes the writer poetically covers the many different seasons that we (as humans) go through; and a good while after this passage was written a band called 'The Birds' wrote a melody that these words flowed with (it's one of my favorites). When you read chapter 3 of Ecclesiastes you will find a beautiful ebb and flow that is not only melodic (in and of itself) but is actually necessary to heed throughout every moment of life; and as you dig deep into the various movements (seasons) that the author of Ecclesiastes speaks of you begin to realize how each season (movement) looks a lot like the art of dancing. The laughing, the crying, the living, the dying and so on are very similar to taking one step back and two steps forward, two steps back and one step forward etc. Ultimately, the longer that you look at the various movements (seasons) the more understanding you will have of the way in which your own life's pattern has gone (and is still going). You will begin to see just how important backward steps are in order to gain enough speed that is essential to the catapulting of your future steps (leaps) forward.
This line of thinking is not one that we can immediately get excited about, after all who likes going backward (unless you are an Olympic level ice skater working up the moment to do a triple sou cow)? Backward motions don't give you a whole lot of visibility to work with, in fact, of all the directions backwards is the one that makes you feel most out of control; but maybe that's just the point. When we are constantly on the go moving forward and doing whatever we need to do to maintain a fierce speed, we don't have much need for anymore input, so where does God fit into our GOGOGO lifestyle? Recently in my own personal life I've been faced with a few major decisions, as well as decisions that I make weekly on behalf of what God wants for Destiny House and I will be the first to admit that TIME is something that I don't want to lose out on. There is always an urgency when it comes to helping people and the last thing that I (or any pastor) want to be careless with is opportunity, so making a decision to take a step back is always a difficult task, but if I've learned anything over 35 years of ministry experience it would be the balance between the seasons (movements) and the speeds with which I must transition into the next.
So here's the lesson of the moment... invest the time and effort into understanding and learning your specific dance that you and God move MOST efficiently in. And even if you are like me (lacking in the 'dancing with the stars' level of coordination) trying to find the right beat, just take that next step and leave the beat and style of the dance up to your dance Partner. God is gentle, patient and delicate with His dance partners and when you let Him lead, He will always make your moves look good! Dance on dudes! I Love you!