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Is Jesus Mad At Me? (Mark 9:14-29)

Jesus was UPSET and everyone gathered then and there knew it. It wasn’t often that His tone shifted to an irritated rebuke, but it was obvious that day when He emphatically declared “O faithless generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you?” 

Jesus’ frustration was heard as he stood next to a father who was overwhelmed by a lifetime of his son’s extreme physical affliction. He had brought the boy to Jesus' disciples for healing, but despite their best efforts, his condition remained the same. The normally successful disciples were baffled, and the dumbfounded crowd began to give input. Tensions flared and ultimately an argument broke out. 

Arriving to find this scene, Jesus became angry, BUT WHY?  Everyone’s heart was in the right place. Everyone wanted the boy to be better. Everyone was praying. The disciples were trying to do a good thing the best way they knew how. So why the emotional outburst by Jesus?

Bottom line, Jesus knew it was Heaven’s agenda for the boy to be healed, BUT HE WASN'T. God's will was not being done on Earth as In Heaven. Jesus came to earth specifically to destroy the works of Devil and to teach the disciples to do the same, but in this instance, they were powerless and ineffective. Not only that, but they had given up after being baited into an argument about why the boy wasn’t being healed. 

And this begs the question, “WHO WAS JESUS MAD AT?” The sick boy who prayed to be healed but wasn’t? The father who prayed also but lacked faith? Maybe the crowd for their failure to push the prayer over the top with their numbers? No, no and again, no!

Jesus was upset with the twelve disciples. They were the ones who were called, trained and empowered to destroy the works of the Devil, and yet they didn’t, whatever the reason. They were powerless, ineffective and distracted with arguments.

Jesus went on to heal the boy and later explain to the twelve why they failed. They learned, and grew from the experience!

We have the same situation today, only worse. We live in a culture of unbelief. Healing in our nation tends to be rare. We glamorize paranormal supernatural phenomenon in almost every book and movie (I say "we" because we may not write or produce the material, but we pay for it over and over while encouraging others to do the same) and hardly even yawn when culture mocks real healing when it happens. Recently Tim Tebow prayed for a fan who was having a seizure in the stands, and when the fan showed a dramatic improvement, Tim was mocked for his efforts with miracle worker meme's and sarcastic news articles! All this plays out while the vast majority of American churches teach against the idea of post-Biblical miracles or at best excuse their ineffective prayers by prefacing them with statements like, “you know, God doesn’t always heal" or "sometimes God is best glorified in the midst of our struggle.” Words spoken by Jesus.... NEVER!

I believe Jesus is upset. Not only don't we destroy the works of the Devil, but we’ve abandoned attempts at such because we are too distracted by arguments about as to why or why not!

Personally, I think He’s ticked. But make no mistake about it, His frustration isn’t with the sick, their families or even the general crowd that attends church. Their hearts are usually right, and their prayers are usually sincere. I believe He is upset with high level disciples, church leaders who aren’t engaging the call to heal, too distracted with arguments, and even worse, guilty of blaming The LORD our Healer for the sicknesses and afflictions that the Devil pours out on people.

I’m going to own it. If Jesus is mad, and I think He is, He’s mad at me. Don’t defend me, I can handle it. I trust His anger. I trust Him. He rebuked the disciples because He loved them and still wanted to use them, but knew they needed to make adjustments, AND THEY DID! If He’s mad at me, He still loves me and wants to use me and is trying to teach me the adjustments I need to make. I trust His anger, because I trust Him! I will do better. The Kingdom will win, in and through me!

How about you, Leader? Is He mad at you? If He is, let's move forward together!

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21 Things All Great Leaders Do

The following article was taken from Carey Nieuwhof's Leadership Blog and can be found HERE.

Ever asked yourself: What do the great leaders do that other leaders (average and, well, poor) don’t?

Greatness in leadership is in part born, but it’s also learned.

Just because you have the instincts for leadership doesn’t make you a great leader. Great leadership is also about cultivating the right habits and disciplines.

Which is good news for all of us, because that means we can grow and become better.

Age doesn’t make you better as a leader. It just makes you more of who you really are.

Your habits, disciplines and skill sets make you better.

Here are 21 things I’ve seen all the best leaders do.

1. Make the mission more important than themselves

The sure sign of a mediocre or poor leader is that their leadership is about them.

And it’s not always ego that drives this. Self-centred leadership can be driven as much by insecurity as it can be by pride.

The reason people want to throw their whole heart into a mission is because the mission is about a cause bigger than everyone, including the leader.

Poor leaders make their leadership about them. Great leaders make it about the mission.

2. Work on their character even harder than their skill set

I used to think being a great leader was about your skill set.

But character sinks the ships of otherwise highly skilled leaders. Ethical breaches, moral lapses and character flaws take highly skilled leaders out of play regularly.

Great leaders know that character—not competency—determines your capacity as a leader. So they work hard on their heart, their lives, their morality.

Great leaders know that character—not competency—determines your capacity as a leader.

3. Refuse to make excuses

Ever notice that the best leaders never make excuses?

In fact, the leaders who make the most progress make the fewest excuses. And the leaders who make the most excuses make the least progress.

This is one of my pet leadership themes: You can make excuses, or you can make progress, but you can’t make both.

So stop making excuses. You’ll start making progress.

You can make excuses, or you can make progress, but you can’t make both.

4. Bring clarity

Great leaders stick with a problem or idea long enough and engage it deeply enough to clear away the fog and reduce the concept to its simplest forms so anyone can understand it.

This doesn’t mean they dumb it down. Rather, it means they make the concept accessible. And because it becomes accessible, more people are helped, and more people follow.

If you can’t say it clearly in 30 seconds, you probably don’t understand the problem clearly enough to proceed.

5. Think abundance, not scarcity

A scarcity mindset will kill your organization or church over the long haul.

Yes there are seasons for restraint. Yes, every organization needs a bean counter. And yes, dreamers can be a problem.

But if you think small you will stay small. If you think it’s not possible, it won’t be.

6. See the opportunity, not the obstacle

Some people only see obstacles. The best leaders see opportunities.

When everyone else sees the problem, great leaders work at the problem until they find the opportunity.

Some people only see obstacles. The best leaders see opportunities.

7. Show up on time

Great leaders tend to show up on time.

If they’re late, they never make excuses. They take responsibility.

Great leaders take it a step further. They not only show up on time, they show up prepared.

Showing up on time and prepared can put you ahead of most other leaders.

8. Deliver on time…or ahead of time

The world is filed with people who promised and never delivered.

Great leaders will under-promise and over-deliver.

One of the best ways to do that is to hit deadlines, and even beat them. That gives time for feedback and correction and surprises the life out of whoever was counting on you.

9. Schedule their priorities

Great leaders set their own agendas. They know where they bring the most value, and schedule time for it.

Preachers do it by devoting one, two or three days a week to their messages, no matter what.

All leaders devote meaningful time to working on their business, not just in it.

Their most important tasks get their best energy and time, not their leftovers.

If you want to know how to schedule your priorities into your calendar, I wrote about it here.

Give your most important tasks get your best energy and time, not your leftovers.

10. Develop their strengths

Most of us want to fix our weaknesses.

The best leaders instead decide to recruit around their weaknesses and spend almost all of their times doing what they’re best at.

You’re probably only truly excellent at a few things.

Spend most of your time doing them.

11. Invest in themselves

You can see self-development as an expense.

The great leaders see a wise use of seminars, coaches, networks, conferences and resources as an investment rather than an expense.

How do you know it’s an investment?

Easy. It produces a return.

Look for those things that will produce a return.

You can see self-development as an expense. Great leaders see it as a invesment.

12. Practice self-care

The best leaders take time off. They don’t work 24/7.

They realize they have limits and they respect them.

As I outlined here, almost every leader will either practice self-care, or will revert to self-medication.

Don’t believe it? Ever notice you eat worse when you’re under stress? That you swap out exercise when your schedule fills up in exchange for more caffeine?

If you answered yes, you’re self-medicating, and it takes down a huge slice of business leaders and church leaders.

13. Prepare to be mis-understood

Being misunderstood comes with the territory of leadership.

Sometimes you have to do what people need, not what people want.

And often, people won’t understand why in the moment.

As a result, you’ll be misunderstood.

If you’re leadership is more about the mission than it is about you, you’re okay with that.

Great leaders commit to doing what people need, not what people want.

14. Develop a trusted inner-circle

The best leaders never lead alone.

They don’t trust themselves enough to only seek their own opinion.

So they develop a trusted inner circle. I wrote about how to develop one here. The bottom line is to get some people wiser than you around you.

If you’re the smartest person in the room, get some new people in the room.

15. Take the high road

It’s easy to get pulled down into mud…arguing, jostling and getting caught up in cheap accusations that lead nowhere good.

Great leaders never do.

Take the high road.

You know what that is.

Be kind. Don’t fight back. Prepare to be misunderstood. Forgive. Show grace.

The high road isn’t the easy road, but it’s the best road.

You simply never regret taking it.

16. Push through their fears

Fear undermines so much in leadership. In this post, I outlined 5 ways to tell if fear is undermining your leadership.

So are great leaders fearless?

Not at all. It’s not that great leaders have no fears. They just push through them.

17. Take full responsibility

Weak leaders blame.

The best leaders take full responsibility—even when it’s not their fault.

That can be incredibly challenging to do, but great leaders have discovered that taking responsibility doesn’t cause people to blame you; it causes people to trust you.

It also makes causes whoever was in part responsible for the problem to want to rise to the occasion to make it right.

18. Leave people better than they found them

All leaders leave a trail.

Poor leaders will sometimes leave a trail of bodies or a trail of disappointment.

But the great leaders leave a legacy, because they leave people better than they were when they found them.

Great leaders help people become better people. The people they work with are tremendously grateful for that.

19. Call people by name

I’ve met a few fairly famous people over the last few years.

One thing that has surprised me is how they were intent on both learning my name and calling me by it.

I can only imagine how many tens of thousands of people they’ve met in their lives, but when I was with them, it was like I was the only one.

Remember and say people’s names. They’ll never forget that you did.

20. Help people who can’t help them

Selfish leaders are always building networks of people who can help them get ahead.

Truly great leaders alway make time for people who can provide no direct help for them.

They take the time to talk to an intern, to hear the custodian’s stories, to come alongside the middle manager who’s frustrated.

Can you do that for everybody?

Of course not.

But just because you can’t do something for everybody doesn’t mean you can’t do it for somebody.

21. Have private relationships that reflect their public leadership

Truly great leaders don’t have a disconnect between who they are at work and who they are in life.

Too many leaders seem great at work but are disasters at home. That’s not great leadership.

Great leaders throw same passion, skill and heart into their home life (and their faith life) as they throw into their work life.

Don’t use all your best energy at work. Save some of the very best for home.

What Do You See?

The great news, of course, is that each thing on this list is a skill or practice you and I can adopt. We can get better.

I also feel like this could be a longer list.

I’d love to know what you’ve seen truly great leaders do.

Scroll down and leave a comment!

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Emerging Leaders

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We have an array of volunteers that make up our WORKer's Pipeline ranging from first timers all the way to Elders, and everyone in-between engages to help us fulfill our mission. In the early stages of this pipeline, little is required in the form of prerequisites or training. A volunteer can jump in and help our mobility team on a Sunday morning without having established regular attendance and doesn't even have to be a follower. But the farther right a volunteer moves through that pipeline, the greater the need to make sure they are qualified to succeed at that level.

Previously, as individuals demonstrated leadership potential, we brought them through our e401 Ministry Leadership Training material, a four session course designed to resource their toolbox for all of their leadership needs. Wait a sec, four sessions? Yep, just four! I'm laughing as I type that out! Four sessions to prepare leaders to lead the most important organization on the planet is equivalent to showing a toddler a two minute "How To Swim" video on YouTube and then throwing them into the deep end. And the very serious outcome is key leaders end up swimming in the deep end, unable to touch the bottom while taking on water and fighting the lifeguard.

In reality, training takes time and relationships. There is no substitute.

With this in mind we have created a program to replace e401 called "Emerging Leaders." This 9 month intensive takes place in a group setting that includes coaches, 18 classes, 9 books and two leadership projects. We launch our first session on Tuesday January 26 at 6:30pm. Please take a few moments to check it out HERE. 

Unless previously notified, it isn't mandatory for e401 graduates to go back through the Emerging Leaders intensive, but I want you to know you are invited and welcome. On paper, you are equipped for your position. But in practicality, you might recognize the need to strengthen your current leadership skill-set by attending. Another option is to consider taking key sessions that address specific areas that you need growth in. If you aren't aware of any areas that need growth, I'd challenge you to talk to the leader you are accountable to and ask them. If you would like to participate on any level, contact us directly HERE.

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Purple Project: Perfect For Your Leadership Development

At the end of the day, a leader in God’s Kingdom determines where an individual is, determines where The LORD wants them to be, and then assists them in the journey to get there. That’s the job description of every spiritual leader. That’s what a Bible study leader does. That’s what a Connect Group leader endeavors to do. It's what a parent should strive to accomplish.

But sometimes, specific tasks gets in the way of that understanding. The worship leader assumes that leading worship is what they actually do, and after the music ends and the crowd is dismissed, they can check off the box next to "mission accomplished." And sometimes, the group a leader leads gets in the way of that same understanding. After a Connect Group gathers to enjoy their meal, discussion and prayer, it would easy for the leader to check off the same box because everyone participated.

But spiritual leaders can’t afford to lose their real purpose in the foliage of task or crowds. The mission has to be boiled down to individuals, not crowds, and forward motion, not just participation. We are only successful when we have helped the individual take quantifiable steps forward in their experience and journey with Jesus. Just because they have a new experience or learn a new truth doesn't mean that anything missional actually happened. The checkered flag can't come out until we have walked them into doing something with that knowledge or experience.

After all, Jesus said to kingdom leaders, “GO AND MAKE DISCIPLES!”

The Purple BOOK is a book study in Biblical foundations. It’s a “look the answer up in the Bible and fill in the blank” format.  But it becomes a successful PROJECT when a leader (mom or dad, husband or wife, friend, ministry leader, etc) decides to focus on one or even a few people to take through the book with the bigger goal of helping them move forward in their spiritual walk. It's not just about the information. The info certainly has value, but the discipleship catalyst that moves people forward is activated when coach and team come together and determine what next steps the information reveals and how to take those steps.

So, here’s your chance to develop in the key components of YOUR mission. I am asking you to pray. Dial in on a few people. Invite them to participate. Give them a book. Tell them to read Section 1 and fill in the blanks. Get together with them the next week. You don’t have to revisit every single question - pick a few random questions to cover in the study to discuss. Share your personal experience in that area. Ask them a question or two about their experience in that area. Discover where they are. Help them see the next steps. Pray over them. Love them. Help them take steps forward the very first week! Then, celebrate and REPEAT!

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The Call To Grow 2016

You are a leader. You likely even led something today. How did it go? How are you doing as “the leader?”

If you’re like most, you see some room for improvement. But if you’re like most, instead of working on your leadership skills to achieve a better outcome you’ll use the same approach next time and be frustrated that your team “just doesn’t get it!” 

Been there, done that!

Fortunately, leadership is a skillset that can be developed. I’m not suggesting that everyone can become the CEO of a Fortune 500 company but I am suggesting that everyone can excel in the leadership roles they find themselves in as they follow The LORD. He provides everything necessary for His people to lead well.

But remember: good leadership doesn’t just happen. Unless you intentionally work at it you will probably be mediocre at best, and definitely less than He intends! All sorts of things will fight against your leadership effectiveness, just don’t let your biggest enemy be your own failure to develop! 

Here are a few tough questions: What have you done in the last six months to improve your leadership? What books have you read? What video classes have your watched? What podcasts did you listen to? What leadership mentors did you sit down with? 

If your response has a healthy number of bullet points, awesome! But if not, buckle up. It’s time to grow. As a leader in our house we will develop and participate in a culture that includes a commitment to personal growth!

There’s not shortcuts to His BEST, but I look forward to taking the leadership journey with you.

Pastor Steve

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Recognizing Traction

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I know of a pastor who moved to Southern Oregon some years ago to start a church geared at college town young adults. It seemed like a great fit because he was young, cool and loved the college town vibe. But it never came together. Try as he may, his efforts fell short with that demographic. Even stranger and a source for early frustration, he began finding instances of success with people in their fifties. The more he tried to reach the twenty-some things, the more and more fifty-some things kept showing up, giving their lives to Jesus and inviting their friends. Ten years later the young pastor found himself preaching to a sanctuary of over 800 people every Sunday, mostly in that middle age to retirement demographic.

Imagine what would have happened if he ignored that first couple in their fifties. He would have missed the very thing that God was calling him to do because of his short sightedness and personal agenda

Jesus was walking through Jericho one day. A crowd was gathered. People everywhere. Some were there out of curiosity and others were just caught up in the flow. Everyone wanted his attention, but crowds are fickle, and Jesus knew that. He wasn't distracted by all of the noise. Instead, he zeroed in on a short man who stood out like desert sand consuming drinking water spilled from a canteen. He was a well known powerful executive who had climbed a tree to catch a view of Jesus, business suit and all. And there it was. Traction! Jesus recognized the appointment set up by His Father before the foundation of the earth. He walked over to the man and eternity changed as a result, for many!

I received an email via our website from a woman new to the area. She loved what she saw on the website and wanted to visit, but there was a problem: she needed a ride. Even though it wasn't really our thing, we arranged transportation figuring it to be a one time thing. It's been a few months and she keeps coming back. She's brought her daughter, her grandkids, her friends from her apartment complex. The group without transportation is growing. TRACTION!

Wherever you see traction in you ministry, LEAN INTO IT! Set aside your agenda when you accidently discover HIS! When dry ground drinks the water, keep pouring! It's a grace given by God to change eternity.

Time to find a van. Time to find some money. Time to call the insurance company. Time to find a leader who can gather a team to pick people up while maintaining the equipment.

Zacchaeus, hurry and come down because... I see traction granted by The LORD and I'm not missing it!

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De-Grumble Your Culture

Over the weekend we continued in our Exodus series and talked about the short term memory of the Israelites. Three days after The LORD supernaturally set them free from Egypt and brought through a sea of water without any boats, they began complaining because they lacked drinking water. They didn't just complain, they grumbled. They murmured. They blamed Moses, Aaron, Miriam and everyone else. Like the outbreak of a lethal plague, everyone began moaning and groaning about their less than ideal situation.

What were they thinking? The same God who dried up water can probably make water appear, right? 

Their complaining ended up disqualifying the majority of them from ever making it to God's promised destination. No, it wasn't a one strike and you're out. It was an ongoing pervasive aspect of their culture. Complaining, unthankful-ness, slandering the people over them who really weren't to blame. 

Sound familiar? Sure does, sounds like America. Sounds like 90% of the workplaces I've ever been to. Sounds like a few houses I've been to. Sounds like a few people I've met. Sounds like me in a few instances...

We have this story as a warning. You and I really are grateful for WHO He is and WHAT He's done, but we need to be sure that our words express that, ESPECIALLY when we are facing difficulties!

After all, this is His journey. We came by His invitation. We're following His GPS. Any problems that arise, they do so by His permission... for His Glory and for our maturity! Instead of complaining, let's:

REMEMBER - let's remind ourselves what He's already done on our behalf. And let's keep in mind that if He was able to take care of that then can probably handle this!

EXPRESS THANKS  - while we're not excited about the problems we face we can be thankful for what He's done in spite of them. And every parent would admit that they are more likely to help a thankful child with a problem they are facing than they are to help a whiner. Usually, they just walk away and let them whine.

SHOW RESPECT - let's be sure to show leaders respect. I know that problems in our lives are often connected to leaders. We feel like problems at work are our bosses fault. Problems at school are the fault of our child's teacher. Problems in the country are the fault of the President! It's human nature. Israel felt their problem with water was the fault of Moses! But this story reveals that to be incorrect. It was ultimately God's fault! Instead of slandering leaders for things they are not responsible for we should show respect and pray to the One who can take care of the problem, The LORD.

MAKE PEACE - when everyone else wants to create controversy and stir up drama about something they are unhappy with, you and I should provide solutions for peace. We should step in and convince people to put down the rocks and handle problems differently.

Let me challenge you set out today to de-grumble your world. If you observe grumbling in you, repent and ask The LORD to transform you! If you see it in others, gently and lovingly encourage them and help them to redirect their words in a way that doesn't make it worse. Life will be a whole lot more peaceful and the fragrance of the Gospel will be much more obvious in our lives! 

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5 Facets Of Tithing

As we continue in our series Redeeming$, I want to lean into an important takeaway regarding firstfruits and tithing. These two words are used interchangeably in scripture and define the following 5 facets of giving to the LORD:

  • the WHEN: after experiencing increase, the first thing we do is return a portion of it to the Lord, thus the word firstfruit or first of fruits. It makes Him FIRST in finances.
  • the WHERE: the firstfruit tithe is to be returned to His House.
  • the HOW MUCH: the amount we return to the Lord's House is one tenth of our increase. Tithe literally means 1/10. We are instructed to return a whole tithe because the Lord desires specific proportions in this matter. Of course, we can add to it, but that is called an offering.
  • the WHY: we return our tithe to the Lord as a matter of obedience, because we love His house and want there to be "bread" there, and ultimately, because Jesus has lead each of us out of the slavery of Egypt!
  • the PROMISE: he will bless what remains and take care of all of our needs.

If you don't participate in firstfruit tithing, why? There's usually a reason! So what's yours? Do you feel like it's your money to do with whatever you want? Do you feel like the church doesn't deserve it? Are you afraid you won't have enough if you give it away? Have you lived so far outside of your means that you feel like you can't afford it?

Money can be a dangerous tool of the enemy if the Lord is not FIRST, so I would challenge you to deal with this matter now. Spend some time before the weekend talking with your family and make some decisions about what your next steps should be. Seal the discussion with prayer and move forward in your pursuit to make Jesus FIRST. It might take some steps and some time, but I am confident that if you begin, He will come running in a way that quickly diminishes the gap between Him and FIRST!  

Be encouraged. The heart of God is to bless you in every way! 

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Praying About Resources

I want to challenge you to hold on to a key takeaway from our Redeeming$ Series regarding prayer. While some people wander through their financial lives with no real sense of God's specific purposes I am believing that our church families will be committed to discovering God's financial goals so we can live beyond survival and experience SIGNIFICANCE!

If that is going to happen, it's going to take PRAYER! Hopefully you already gather with your family at least once a week for prayer (if not, today's a good time to start). As you do, I'm challenging you to include financial matters in the prayer mix in the following ways:

1) PRAY ABOUT YOUR RESOURCES BEFORE YOU RECEIVE THEM

Jesus taught us to ask our Heavenly Father to meet our needs. Having a sense of hope isn't enough. We need to be more formal and ask. So, lets do it! As we lean into Step 3, we will develop a list of specifics that we can focus on in this step. This formal act of family prayer for specific needs serves as an invitation for God to paint within the framework of the request so that his answer will be obvious for all to see. 

2) GIVE THANKS FOR YOUR RESOURCES AS YOU RECEIVE THEM

The formal act of giving thanks declares that God is PROVIDER for everything received. We have to move beyond the idea of thankfulness and establish formal expressions of thanks that our families can participate in.

3) PRAY ABOUT HOW  TO USE YOUR RESOURCES

As followers of Jesus, God has given everything for His purposes and our enjoyment, BUT NONE OF IT BELONGS TO US! We are nothing more than stewards and it's time we acted like it. We need to treat money as His by determining Biblically and prayerfully how He wants it spent. This will lead us to a formal budget that includes returning the tithe to His House, paying our bills on time, living within our means, learning to save and prepare for the future, paying off and avoiding debt, and planned generosity. 

If you don't already do this, take some time this evening to gather your family to pray while including finances. Take it a step farther and do it on a weekly basis. You will be amazed at what the Lord will do!

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How To Recognize A Next Step Is Needed

For some people, the idea of knowing the next step in their life is an unsolvable mystery... at least, until angels show up or the letters line up in the alphabet soup. They tend to have an overly mystical sense of how a next step is discovered while ruling out the natural markers that should serve as indicators. The fear of making a wrong step often leaves them paralyzed at any intersection in life that has options.

Here's a simple list to help you recognize when a next step is needed in your life:

1) When You Discover a New Truth - there are many times while reading the Bible that a new truth will be revealed. When that happens there are always new things to do or stop doing. As I continue to read the Word, next steps for money, relationships, ministry, appear. New truths can also be discovered as you listen to godly friends, speakers, podcasts, books, etc.

2) When You Encounter A Problem - problems arise rarely go away. They require a fixing. Though that doesn't seem spiritual, it is. If you are out of gas, your next step is the gas station gasoline. If you have a conflict, your next step is to resolve the conflict in a Biblical way. If your checkbook requires more money than you have, your next step is to come with a solution. Prayer should always be the pre-cursor to a critical next step, but initiating the solution is the step. In Genesis 13, the land could not support the tribes of Abraham and Lot. Conflicts developed between the two clans. The obvious and necessary next for Abraham was to bring resolution to the situation. They could have prayed, and knowing Abraham, he did. But no angels showed up. No scrolls from heaven rolled down. In the absence of Word from God, Abraham told Lot to choose where he would dwell so that he could dwell somewhere else. Problems are a sign that you need to take the next step in the form of a solution. Don't worry about choosing a wrong solution. Follow Biblical principles and come up with your plan and be confident that if God has something different or specific, He will let you know.

3. When You Experience Fruitlessness - God's plan is that our efforts in life will be rewarded. He desires there to be fruit at the end of a farming season. Though we all experience seasons of drought in life, extended seasons demand that we look closer and make adjustments. More times than not,  our field lacks fruit simply out of wrong methods. We are lousy farmers and we need to learn the right way to do things. Most marriages don't struggle because of sabotage, they struggle because at least one person is doing something they think helps the marriage when in reality it's hurting it. Planting corn is a good thing, but it doesn't work to plant corn in December, no matter how many times you try. The right idea but wrong method works against fruitfulness and needs to be corrected. If the drought is in marriage, go to a marriage counselor. If it's in finances, go to a financial counselor. Wherever it is, did deep for some answers. You'll be surprised at how much fruit can grow with on or two simple adjustments.

4. When You Step Into A Season of Suffering - trials and suffering play a key role in our lives. When I experience either, my first reaction is to run away, but I've learned that there is no where to run! Instead, Ive learned to lean forward and pray like Jesus did, "Father, if you will, let me avoid this cup, but if not, I embrace the difficult things you have for me." Then, I strive to "suffer well." I said "strive," mind you. I didn't say I've become the Jedi Master. But some of the best worship I've ever offered to the Lord has come during seasons of suffering. Don't forget, suffering has a Godly purpose if we embrace it.

5. When You Face Unexpected Circumstances Allowed By God - I know a family that had two daughters by means of difficult pregnancies and c-sections. During the second delivery the couple made their ability to have children. As the doctors completed the delivery they performed a tubal-ligation. Some eight years later, the couple became pregnant for a third time. They were surprise and overwhelmed. After a few weeks of working through the emotions, they embraced the idea that God had allowed them to get pregnant again, and it wasn't part of their plan, it clearly was part of His. Situations like this are amazing because God only interrupts our our good plans when He has something more specific and better, according to His plan. He's not after our misery, He's after our best and His glory!

6. When You Experience A Growing Desire - Psalm 37:4 says Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart. This verse doesn't just say that God gives us what we desire, it says that He will even give you the desire. Don't be afraid of growing desires within your heart that are godly and line up with scriptural principles. Take steps forward and see what comes of them.

7. When You Encounter A Developing Area of Fruitfulness - David discovered by accident that he was great warrior. He wasn't enrolled in Naval Academy, he was a shepherd. One day his father's sheep were attacked by a lion and he was able to take the lion out. Later, the sheep were attacked by a bear. He found that he was good at hand to hand combat. Later, when Israel needed someone to fight the giant Goliath, he knew it was in his wheel house, so he leaned forward and took Goliath on. As you discover success in your efforts, allow obvious fruit to serve as a magnet to propel you further in the fruitfulness. The fruit should be sign enough that you are doing the right things, as long as your cause and methodology are in line with scripture!

8. When You Find Yourself In Sin - sin requires a next step called repentance. It might also require you to develop a game plan to avoid falling into the sin again and again -  Genesis 4:7 If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.” The new testament reveals the need at times for us to break the cycle of sin by including others in our repentance - James 5:16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.

These might seem like very natural ways to recognize next steps, but don't ever forget that supernatural things come on the heels of natural actions. Have confidence to take the next step and watch God bless your efforts!

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General Steps Lead To Specific Steps

It can be tough when you feel like God hasn’t given you a vision (revelation from God of what is, what should be, and the partnership with Him to take the steps in between) for your life. It’s even more frustrating when it seems like everyone around you has vision, and talks about it over, and over and over! You begin to wonder, “What’s wrong with me that God doesn’t speak to me?”

In Bible College many of my classmates knew God was calling them to plant churches, or preach to stadiums filled with people, sing in cathedrals with rapturous tones or travel to the nations bringing a message of hope and healing.

I didn’t know what God wanted from me. He didn’t speak that way about specifics, at all. At no point did I even sense what he wanted me to do with my life. No prophet spoke. No angel appeared. No scroll rolled down from heaven with instructions. I didn’t have the slightest vision for my life from God… at least not a Specific Vision (specific plans from God that applied to my life only).

One thing I did develop was plenty of General Vision (general plans from God, revealed in His Word, that apply to everyone’s life). In the Bible I could see a ton of general things God wanted for my life. He wanted me to follow His son and become a Godly man. He wanted me to read my Bible, pray, tithe on my income, faithfully gather with the rest of the church for worship and fellowship. He wanted me to serve others, be honest, avoid drunkenness, stay away from sexual sin, to share Jesus with my friends, to be a good husband, son and father. I wasn’t all of those things yet, so my next steps in the General Vision department were to work on becoming those things.

As I took the next steps towards fulfilling General Vision details, I discovered a few things along the way:

  • I found greater clarity for next steps as I engaged in spiritual disciplines (prayer, worship, Bible reading, worship) and continued forward with what I already knew. One of the first things I learned was that Bible reading was important, so I bought a Bible and began to read. That discipline has led to the discovery of a thousand next steps. It has worked a lot like baseball: you discover second base (the one you don’t see) as you touch first (the one you do see) and then round the corner. Doing what was in front of me led to the discovery of what was next.
  • I also discovered that the process of moving forward one step at at time was developing me as a Christian and causing me to mature. I was “becoming the person God wanted me to be” which is far more significant than reaching any particular spot in the journey. I learned that “becoming” is more important than “arriving” at any one destination.
  • I also discovered that becoming proficient in the things revealed in General Vision category prepared and qualified me for the things He would later reveal that fell into the Specific Vision category. How could I every be the husband to Rowena that God wanted me to be (Specific Vision) if I didn't first overcome all sexual sin (General Vision)? How could I ever have the faith for all that’s required to pastor a church (specific vision) if I failed to develop the simple faith required to return my tithe to Him (general vision) and trust Him to provide for my needs? General Vision always prepares and qualifies you for Specific Vision.
  • I discovered that Specific Vision is usually revealed while pursuing general vision. I discovered God’s specific call on my life to preach while fulfilling general things like serving my church family by cutting the grass. 
  • I discovered that when God reveals specific vision, he does so in mountain peak form. From my house I can see the tops of Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Hood and Mt. Adams. The look close, but in reality, they are very far away with a great deal of valleys and obstacles in between. So it is with Specific Vision. God has shown me Specifics for my life, but I’ve learned they are off in the distance. I will get there, but it’s going to take time and work. It will involve some valleys and many tomorrows.  I need to settle in for the journey, and during the long journey, remind myself that I have a direction I am moving in.
  • I’ve discovered that the journey to Specific Vision looks a lot more like pinball than darts. The path is not always clear, and I don’t always walk it with style. I tend to bounce around, make some mistakes, but whatever comes, I have to  continue to move forward forward. It also demands that I don’t abandon the things I already know. I don’t jump off one pinball table on to another. I must continue move forward on this course while continuing in what I have already achieved.
  • Finally, I’ve discovered the pursuit of Specific Vision is a lot like building a puzzle. I work on what I can see and what is obvious, hoping that connected things will begin to take form and fill in. It requires consistency and determination. It doesn’t move very fast. But one step at a time it comes together, every time!

So what are the next steps for you? Even if you don’t have a specific Vision (yet), what are the next steps for you in the General Vision department? What next step will help you to grow in Him? What next step will repair a relationship? What next step will help you to help someone else in their situation? What next step of obedience is he asking for? What next step is required for you to grow in your finances? What next step do you need to take in relationship with the church? What next step do you need to observe to see your friend come to know Jesus? What next step do you need to take to overcome sin?

Let’s take steps together, and see His Kingdom expand!

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Can You See Your Next Steps?

There are a million definitions for VISION out there, in both the business world and the church world. I’ve tried to articulate vision, from a Biblical perspective as:

VISION is the revelation from God of what is, what should be, and the partnership with Him to take the steps in between.

Abram (Gen 11:31-32) found himself in the city of Haran (Hebrew meaning is “crossroads”). His was travelling with his father to Canaan, but they got waylaid and never made it. Eventually his father passed away and Abram was directionless, even though he was now responsible for the large family and possessions he inherited.

Fortunately, God spoke to him (Gen 12:1-3) and told him to leave Haran. Abram experienced VISION, but unfortunately, the vision was not very clear. There was no map, only a first step. GO. There Lord promised he would go with him and lead him to a location and situation of great blessing. In essence, God promised to bring clarity to the VISION. So, Abram packed his stuff and started the journey.

VISION is what happened to Moses. God showed him people enslaved in Egypt’s grip and God’s desire to bring them to a promised land. While he didn’t show him much in between God promised to go with Him (something Moses regularly reminded God of) so Moses took the first step and told Pharaoh, “Let the Lord’s people go.” Peter also experienced VISION (Matt 4:18-20) when Jesus invited him to “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Clearly he had no idea everything the adventure would require or what the results would look like, but he immediately “left their nets and followed him.” Jesus was faithful to bring clarity one step at a time and eternity was changed in a way that impacts our lives today!

Saying yes to Jesus requires VISION. VISION is the essence of following Jesus. Since he is not standing next to us in physical form giving instructions, we rely on clarity of VISION to reveal the next steps in our walk with Him. We trust Him for the next step in the primary areas of our lives: our relationships, our career, our finances, our health, our role in our church family, our use of our talents and gifts, our ministry, and our mission to share Him with others.

Do you know what the next steps for you are? Have you considered them at all? It’s important that you do.

Remember, God brings clarity as we:

  • seek Him - clarity of vision come as we see Him more clearly
  • read the Bible - it will give greater clarity of Him and those basic areas of life
  • take a step forward - clarity comes when you do what you know to do. rounding first base leads to the ability to see second base.
  • obey - if God asks for something, do it. Obedience always leads to blessing, part of which is clarity.
  • ask, seek and knock - it’s not glamorous, but grinding your way through spiritual disciplines brings results!
  • listen to those over you in the Lord - God has placed spiritual leaders in your life for a reason. Include them in the discussion. 

Let me challenge you to use the next few weeks to consider those primary areas of your life while asking God for vision clarity. He will provide it. He will reveal the next steps for you. 

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God Just Wants Me To Be Happy, Right?

Each of us were created with a soul (mind will and emotions) and therefore, we experience a wide range of feelings every day. While some are legitimate, many are wrong. How is that possible? Why do we experience unfounded emotions? It’s simple - SIN. Because of sin, our emotions don’t function as God intended. They are usually half a notch off and not rooted in truth. Remember, Adam felt fear, shame, nakedness, insecurity, even bitterness, immediately after he sinned. It caused him to react in ways that were completely contrary to common sense.

To make matters worse, our generation idolizes feelings. With 5,000+ documented feelings and emoticons to suit, the masses seem intoxicated to move on to the next better feeling. It is a plague that even believers have adopted. Even though “God just wants me to be happy,” is a verse that doesn’t appear in the Bible, it still serves as a catalyst for many major life decisions.

As believers, we have surrendered our lives to Jesus. He is Captain, and it is important that we fight to make sure that our emotions don’t mutiny against His Lordship. If we do, His best is at risk!  There are two primary concerns that I would challenge you to guard:

1) Don’t Confuse The Voice of Feelings with the Voice of God - emotions will tell you things all day long. They swill speak continuously without citing a single reputable source, demanding that you bow to them as truth. But,  more times than not, your emotions are simply your flesh, and we know that our flesh is corrupt. Refuse to live in the flesh. Embrace the heavy lifting (prayer, worship, bible reading, etc) that will allow the voice of God to be the loudest voice in your life.

More times than not, I am suspicious of my own emotions, and I do my best to test them with the Word of God and prayer before making decisions!

2) Don’t Be An Emotional Treasure Hunter - given the choice to feel better or to feel worse, all of us would chose better. I get it. But we have to understand that making major changes for the sake of experiencing a better feeling is not always God’s best. The right action may be painful. It might require you to stay exactly where you are and suffer. But if it’s what God wants, then we suffer well.

Job, while suffering severely said, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.” He knew that our good God had an agenda that didn’t always have our happiness as top priority. Jesus understood this principle when He said, “Father, not my will, but Yours be done.” It was a painful decision to go to the cross, but it led to our salvation.

Here’s a little truth that I have experienced - obedience to God and right standing with Him ultimately leads to a joy that is immovable. Doing what the Lord asks always leads me to the sunny side of the emotional scale. The beatitudes declare, “Happy is the man that….” as then goes on to describe the actions of individuals obedient to his will. Right actions before God, difficult though they may be, ultimately bring us happiness. Weeping may endure for a night, but with the Lord, joy will come in the morning!

To sum it up, I would encourage you to demand that your emotions be the caboose with your life being the cars that make up the train, all pulled by the locomotive who should be the Lord. Put Jesus first in your life and the good emotions will follow. If you allow your emotions to drive your life, Jesus will be forced to follow and that never works out.

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Recognizing How Jesus Draws You

In John 12:32, Jesus promised, "And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” He was making it clear that He was going to engage everyone and everywhere in a relationship with Himself after He was lifted up. By "lifted up," He was referring to 1) His crucifixion, and 2) the efforts His followers would engage in to shine the spotlight of attention on Him so others would take notice.

Everyone has experienced His drawing. It's happened through a host of different people and circumstances, but the spotlight has illuminated Jesus at different times in your life, regardless of what your relationship is (or is not) with Him right now.

This drawing process will continue for the rest of your life. If you haven't said yes to His invitation to follow Him yet, He will continue to issue that invitation again and again. If you are following Him, the drawing process will continue for the rest of your life as He seeks to draw you to the next step of your journey with Him.

A few things I would like to emphasize:

1. It's Important To Recognize How Jesus Draws You - you are a unique person dialed into a unique frequency in life, but Jesus will deal with you on that frequency with great similarity all through your life. For me, He generally draws me through, what I call, "Divine Dissatisfaction." I can be chugging along doing the same thing that I've been perfectly satisfied with for the last 78 days, but on the 79th day, I am frustrated. Nothing has changed. Things are still good. I'm not bored or needing a change. I'm simply frustrated. I've learned that this is how Jesus draws me to take the next step. Without that Divine Dissatisfaction I would stay in the same place forever. I've learned that this internal tension is an indicator to lean into some open discussion with the Lord in prayer to determine what He is saying.

It's important that you recognize the similarities of how He draws you so that you can move to the next step.

For Discussion: Describe the similarities of how Jesus draws you.

2. It's Important To Identify The Next Step - the drawing of Jesus can be an exciting experience, but it should never be the destination. God drew to Moses to a burning bush, not so Moses could build the First Church of the Burning Bush and attempt to have the same experience week after week. His goal was for Moses to take the next step and lead His people out of bondage. The drawing of Jesus led Peter, James and John to witness Jesus in His glorified state on a hillside, not so they could build the Glorified Jesus Ministry Movement and attempt to train other leaders how to reproduce this experience. His goal was for these men to be confident of His Lordship so they could take the next step to build His Church, even if it meant their death!

For Discussion: What is the next step for you?

3) It's Important To Take Action - every act of drawing is intended to elicit a next step, and requires forward motion. It's not enough to know the next step. Taking the next step is key. It will often require obedience and faith, but it will unlock the doors of God's favor and blessings, not to mention, expand His Kingdom your life and the lives of those you are connected with. Your actions will cause His Kingdom to take ground.

For Discussion: What specific actions will your next step require and how will you take them?

Take a few moments to discuss your thoughts this week. Commit your steps to Him as a family and help one another along the way!

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How Does Jesus Draw People To Himself?

In John 12:32, Jesus promised to "draw all people" into a relationship with Himself. Every man, woman and child on every continent regardless of social status, religious upbringing or political persuasion. That is a HUGE task.

A qualifier is a condition that must takes place before something desired can happen, and this promise came with a qualifier that has an intended double layer: Jesus would first need to be lifted up.

The first layer if the qualifier has been fulfilled already. Jesus was "lifted up" when He consented to His own death on the cross. The crucifixion served as the green light for the drawing process to begin. That layer of the qualifier is completed. 

The second layer of the qualifier is still very much in play. The practical green light for Jesus to draw all men is when His followers "lift Him up". No, He doesn't need us to crucify him again, but he does desire that we live our lives in a way that shines the spotlight of attention on Him so that others can notice, consider and get to know who He is. This is less about our singing on Sunday than it is our interactions with people the other six days of the week.

Think about it for a moment. While there were a lot of supernatural things happening behind the scenes as you came into a relationship with Jesus, there were probably a few key people who did some things that shined the spotlight on Him! He was able to capture your attention and heart because someone else was helping you to see Him!

7 Steps For Your Fall Action Plan:

 Being confident that you want to be used by Christ in a similar way so that people in the circle of your life will come to know Him, let me give you a few action steps to take to be successful. Lets embrace these steps between now and early November knowing that He is going to do His part as we do ours!

1) Embrace Your Mission - don't be mistaken, God is asking you to take this on as a mission. It is the Great Commission. It is for every one of us and it's 24/7. You might not know everything that He wants you to do in this lifetime, but He absolutely wants you to actively participate in the process of helping people to meet and follow Him!

2) Engage Your World - God has placed you exactly place where you live so you can reach the people that your life intersects with. Family, friends, neighbors and co-workers are the people he wants you to reach so it;s important that your mission is a part of your interactions.

3) Give Of Yourself - one of the ways you can avoid being a used car salesman in the spiritual arena is to be sure that you are making a legitimate investment into the relationship that qualifies you to "go there" with spiritual things. You need to be a friend, offer your time, help when needed, share your possessions and invite them into your home. 

4) Be Vocal - being a good friend is not enough to point the spotlight on Jesus, it will take some words. Being vocal about Jesus can be as simple as giving him credit to as heavy as sharing how he helped you with a major life issue. Let your conversation spotlight Jesus regularly with varying appropriate depths depending on the circumstances. Don't preach a sermon. Share what He has done and is doing for you.

5) Be Transparent - let people hear about your real life struggles... before during and after. Let them watch God at work in your imperfect life. You need not be perfect, Jesus already is. Your friends need to see a Perfect God at work in an Imperfect You! This will help them to consider him at work in their less than perfect life too.

6) Create Steps - it's important to give people opportunities to take steps closer to Jesus. If you don't, your dialogue creates a highway past one of the universes greatest wonders with no exit for people to pull off and experience. Failure to invite people to the next steps turns them into spectators. Step out and invite people to move forward. It might feel pushy, but it's not at all. Invite them into friendship. Invite them into your calendar. Invite them into your family. Invite them to let you pray for them. Invite them to an event or to a Sunday gathering. Invite them to myStory Sunday in November. Invite them to accept Christ. Give them the opportunity to say yes to Jesus!

7) Rest: He Promised To Do His Part - you can't make people become followers of Christ. You can't create a compelling enough of an argument, nor can you answer every question in a convincing way. All you can to do is point Him out, shine the light on Him. God is the one who must reveal himself to them. He's the one who has to convince them. He's the one who has to prove His existence. But relax... HE WILL! And what a joy to be a part of the process.

Know that while you are working on these steps, we are praying for you and constantly looking to create opportunities to help you in your mission. In fact, November 3 is our next myStory Sunday. What an incredible event to invite your world to so that will help them take a step forward in their relationship with Christ. For more information, check out myStory Sunday here.

What Did Jesus Mean When He Promised To "Fill Us?"

This weekend I had to finally apologize for my wife’s frequent outbursts of, “my husband is soooo hot!” Even though she only said it in my imagination, I felt an explanation was long overdue, and I wanted everyone to understand that her statement might not be solely about the my good looks. It is possible that she might have been speaking of my body temperature. (I overheat easily due to my lack of hydration and abundant coffee consumption) or the fact that she robbed the cradle when she married me (she is older than me and therefore I am stolen goods - again, all part of my delusion). 
 
It’s interesting that one statement can actually mean several different things. Such is the case when we read or talk about the concept of believers being “filled with the Holy Spirit.” After much study, I believe the emphasis of this statement to be threefold, all of which we need to understand, embrace and lean into. 
 
Emphasis 1: The Holy Spirit Fills All Believers At Conversion - all believer’s are supernaturally filled with the Holy Spirit from the moment they say yes to Jesus. It is the Holy Spirit who draws us to Jesus, reveals Him as God, brings us to a place of decision and enters our physical bodies as we take our first steps to follow Him. As God first breathed into the lifeless form of Adam, so too the Holy Spirit breathes the breath of life into believers allowing us to be born again into a transforming relationship with Jesus Christ. A few verses that strengthen this position include:
  • Romans 8:9 And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ.
  • John 14:16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever-17the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.
  • 1 Corinthians 6:19 Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?
  • Romans 8:15 For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.”
  • 2 Corinthians 1:21 Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, 22 set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.
Emphasis 2: The Indwelling Holy Spirit Is Engaged For Function - all believers are commanded to be filled with the Holy Spirit. Since the Spirit is within them already, this is a statement of practice and function beyond emphasis 1. God would not command something that already is. Therefore, it is possible for believers to be filled upon conversion and to engage in activities without the Holy Spirit engaged. Stirring up the Holy Spirit within us therefore is a necessary practice and allows us to "be filled." We are commanded to pray, to walk and to even live with the Spirit engaged. This requires intentional efforts throughout the day. 
 
If Jesus were with us physically, we would expect to experience our day in partnership with Him. He would impact how we see people, places and events. He would teach us, train us, tell us where to go, what to do, etc. It would be an active process at all times. While He is no longer here on earth, it still can be an active function because the Holy Spirit is in us desiring to fulfill that same role. But unlike flesh and blood Jesus, the Holy Spirit is often unseen, overlooked and disengaged as a part of our practice. To be “filled with the Holy Spirit” is to engage His leadership in our lives. Consider:
  • Ephesians 5:18 Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.
  • Ephesians 6:18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints. 
  • Galatians 5:16 So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.
  • Acts 4:8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: “Rulers and elders of the people! 
  • Revelation 1:10 On the Lord’s Day I was in the Spirit, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet, 
Emphasis 3: The Holy Spirit Baptizes Believers For Kingdom Empowerment - after Jesus breathed upon the disciples and said, “receive the Holy Spirit," he encouraged them to further seek for supernatural empowerment: 
  • Luke 24:49 I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” 
While the Spirit was already given, further fulfillment of the promise was available. The disciples were obedient as narrated in Acts 2, and during a prayer meeting, suddenly, the Holy Spirit came like a rushing wind unlocking various giftings within believers and empowering them to operate on behalf of the Kingdom at a higher level. This experience occurred several other times to church families as they were gathered:
  • Acts 8:14 When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them. 15When they arrived, they prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit, 16because the Holy Spirit had not yet come upon any of them; they had simply been baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus. 17Then Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.
  • Acts 19:1 While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul took the road through the interior and arrived at Ephesus. There he found some disciples 2and asked them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when£ you believed?” They answered, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” 3So Paul asked, “Then what baptism did you receive?” “John’s baptism,” they replied. 4Paul said, “John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus.” 5On hearing this, they were baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus. 6When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied. 7There were about twelve men in all.
The promise of the infilling of the Holy Spirit is one of Jesus’ greatest promises. It is more than theory. It is practical... therefore we must practice the promise to be filled.

10 Things Jesus Promised About The Holy Spirit

I recently watched a man try to start a motorcycle with the power switch in the off position. Though the key was turned on and he was pushing the start button, the switch was thwarting his best efforts. He tried the start button multiple times. He tried to jump it by rolling down my driveway and popping the clutch, multiple times. He made his wife push him down the street as he popped the clutch, multiple times. Finally he realized his error, turned on the power switch... and it worked!

Following Jesus requires things way over our pay grade. In our own ability we are powerless to accomplish them. To attempt to do so would be like my friend and his motorcycle. But Jesus promised to supernaturally supply the help needed by means of the Holy Spirit. The promise of the Holy Spirit and all that He brings is one of the most amazing promises Jesus makes to His followers:

John 7:37 On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’ ” 39 Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.

The Holy Spirit has been with man since the beginning, but Jesus was promising a new function of the Spirit in the lives of His followers. These are the things we learn about the Holy Spirit from the Book of John:

1) He Is The Catalyst for Salvation - Jesus spoke and a lot of people became His followers. One would be concerned that without Jesus caliber preachers and sermons, no one would ever get saved after Jesus' ascension. But salvation, yours or a friends, is not the byproduct of human effort, a good sermon or response to factual data. In reality, it is the Spirit of God that does the work in Jesus' absence, and He promised the Holy Spirit would do this. As a believer, you experienced it first hand when you came to Christ. As someone who wants to see friends and family follow Jesus, it's important to rely on the Holy Spirit to draw them. Reliance on Him in the process is a must! He is the one who makes this happen.

John 3:5-6 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.

2) He Is Given In Abundance - Jesus was limited by His physicality. He could only be in one place at one time. He was often tired. He was often unavailable. He knew His followers needed more, so He promised to give the Holy Spirit who would have no limitations. No matter how much access they needed, or how much help, no matter when or where, Jesus promised His followers would receive it by means of the Holy Spirit.

John 3:33–34 Whoever receives his testimony sets his seal to this, that God is true. For he whom God has sent utters the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure.

3) He Gives Life - Jesus promised the Holy Spirit would bring life. Spiritual life, absolutely. But life to whatever was experiencing death, including relationships, circumstances, finances, etc. The very Presence of the Holy Spirit was promised to bring life.

John 6:63 It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.

We read the following verses to discover promises 4-9. Remember, Jesus had just spent 3+ years with the disciples on a tour of training, friendship, crowds, miracles, supernatural healings, etc. Not knowing how things would get even better, the last thing they expected was for Jesus to announce His departure under the banner of, "it is good for you that I go away." That would have been difficult to receive as truth. It's like your girlfriend breaking up with you because, in her words, "because there's someone better for you out there that you will never find unless you break up. But the promise of the Holy Spirit was proof of His statement's truth because of how He would function in believers lives:

John 14:16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you. 26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.

4) He Will Help - no matter what, where, when or why, Jesus promised the Holy Spirit would be our helper. He can help at home, work, business, finances and that all while helping others. 

5) He Is Permanent - Jesus promised that unlike Himself, the Holy Spirit would be with us at all times. No standing in line, no being put on hold. He doesn't take coffee breaks, time-outs, vacations, sabbaticals or retire.

6) He Will Reveal Truth - Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would show us truth. That includes truth we might be looking for to make the right decision, or truth we can't see because of our blindness. While we fail to respond to human warnings because of our perception of their bias, Jesus promised the Holy Spirit would step in and make truth clear.

7) He Will Be In You - Jesus promised the Holy Spirit would no longer be with us, but that He would actually reside in us. Amazing! There is no longer a need to pilgrimage to a Holy City because the Holy Spirit dwells within. Unlike your wallet, there is no accidental leaving the house without Him. Elsewhere in the Bible, we discover that we can have fellowship (a relationship or a friendship) with the Spirit. 

8) He Will Teach You - while it's great to have human teachers, Jesus promised that the indwelling Spirit would actually train us as we walk. We have an onboard Trainer for all things.

9) He Will Tell You What Jesus Says - it would be great to make an appointment to as Jesus for His opinion, but that is completely unnecessary because Jesus promised the Holy Spirit would do that for us directly and immediately.

10 He Has Already Been Given - this is the best part, of the promise of all. As a follower you already have the Holy Spirit! He is already in you. He is on board to function as promised. As God breathed his air into the first man, Adam, and He became a living being, so Jesus has already exhaled into His followers as they became born again. Now the key is to take advantage of all He is Is and offers to Be in your life!

John 20:21–22 (ESV) 21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” 22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.

Jesus Promised That I Need Not Fear

People fear all sorts of different things. Several documented fears that I recently came across blew my mind: Ablutophobia, the fear of washing or bathing; Logizomechanophobia, the fear of computers; Novercaphobia, the fear of your step-mother; Rhytiphobia, the fear of getting wrinkles; Coulrophobia, the fear of clowns; Homilophobia, the fear of sermons.

FEAR is an emotion induced by a perceived threat that causes entities to pull away and hide. It can serve as a survival mechanism when the fear is reasonable, but it can also serve as shackles for someone bound by the fear or who fails to take advantage of a remedy to the situation. These fears we experience can be triggered as situations arise (the possibility of being laid off or a concerning doctor's report) or they can be subliminal and operate in the background of who we are like a computer program that operates out of the user's view, influencing everything we do without us even realizing it (the fear of failure, the fear of God's displeasure, the fear of never having enough).

What are you afraid of most?

There are a couple of great accounts where Jesus promised His followers that they did not need to fear:

John 6:16 When evening came, his disciples went down to the sea, 17 got into a boat, and started across the sea to Capernaum. It was now dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them. 18 The sea became rough because a strong wind was blowing. 19 When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat, and they were frightened. 20 But he said to them, “It is I; do not be afraid.” 21 Then they were glad to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat was at the land to which they were going.

Matthew 8:23 And when he got into the boat, his disciples followed him. 24 And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep. 25 And they went and woke him, saying, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing.” 26 And he said to them, “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. 27 And the men marveled, saying, “What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?”

As a follower, it's okay to have a healthy fear of heights, fire, dangerous people, etc, but I believe that we don't have to live in fear because of these five facts:

1. He Loves You - In 1 John, God reveals His very essence as being that of love. John 3:16 reveals that He loves everyone in the world. Furthermore, scripture reveals:

Isaiah 54:8… but with everlasting love I will have compassion on you,” says the LORD, your Redeemer.

Jeremiah 31:3 I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.

Romans 8:15 For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of son-ship. And by him we cry, ""Abba," Father."

2. He Is Always With You - one of the great promises that we have in following Jesus - we are not alone. He was in both storms. One of the times, he was in the same boat. He has promised to be with us at all times, especially times when we are afraid.

Psalm 23:4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

Psalm 118:6 The LORD is with me; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?

Psalm 56:3-4 When I am afraid, I will trust in you.  In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can mortal man do to me?

Deuteronomy 31:6 Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you."

Isaiah 8:12 …do not fear what they fear, and do not dread it. 13 The LORD Almighty is the one you are to regard as holy, he is the one you are to fear, he is the one you are to dread.

3. He Will Help You - whenever we are afraid, we should run to Him first!

Psalm 27:1 The LORD is my light and my salvation-- whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life-- of whom shall I be afraid?

Psalm 115:11 You who fear him, trust in the LORD-- he is their help and shield.

Isaiah 41:10 So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Isaiah 41:13 For I am the LORD, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.

Hebrews 13:5-6 …God has said, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you."  So we say with confidence, "The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?"

4. He Is Always Working His Good Purposes - there will be times when it seems like Jesus is asleep at the wheel, especially when bad things happen. There will be times when it seems like He is absent, or event against you, but it is critical that we recognize we don't know the full story and things that we can't image being helpful often are part of His working, always to accomplish His best.

I recently spoke with a woman with a sick adult daughter going through chemo-therapy. Both mother and daughter recognize that the sickness is the very thing that has brought the daughter back into a relationship with the Lord. A sick body might affect part of our natural lifetime, but eternity is forever... with our without Jesus! God is using her illness for her best. 

If something bad does happen, I can have the utmost confidence that He will use it for His good.

Romans 8:28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

5. He Will Complete His Redemptive Work In/For Us - we live in a world where sin's affects are still very much at work. While Christ lived, died and was resurrected, we know that redemption is still in process. It is not yet complete, but, IT WILL BE! Bad things still happen, but there will come an end of it. Things will be made right. He will wipe away the tears and right the wrongs. Even if the worst thing you fear does happen (probably the worst thing we fear is death), even that will be made right!

2 Corinthians 4:16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. 5:1 For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. 2 For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, 3 if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. 4 For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. 5 He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee. 6 So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, 7 for we walk by faith, not by sight.

Jesus Promised A Return On Gospel Giving

Gospel Giving is giving that helps people to be introduced to Jesus. Gospel giving includes the money you give to your local church, church planting endeavors and missionaries as well as the time and talents you use for the same.

The boy who gave his lunch to Jesus so the multitude could be fed (John 6:1-14) is an account of Gospel Giving. The setting was a mass gathering where people were being introduced to Jesus. As the hour got late, people began to get hungry and the meeting was about to be cut short. And then a young boy shared his lunch. This very practical offering allowed the meetings natural needs to be met. But that's not all. It allowed people to spend more time with Jesus and discover Him to be the Living God. It opened the door for people to see Jesus do a miracle. It also created a return of 12 baskets of leftovers

Consider a few things revealed in this Biblical account regarding Gospel Giving:

1) It Will Never Feel Like You Have Enough To GIVE:

The boy in the account was hungry like everyone else, but unlike everyone else, he was a prepared. He had a meal, but it was "barely enough" for himself. The feeling of "barely enough" is usually the greatest obstacle to consistent, proportional and/or generous giving, even for the financially savvy. But know that this feeling, and that is all it is, will never go away not matter how much you have! Unfortunately, heeding this emotion breeds more of the same. if you don't have the faith to give when you have little, your faith will remain dwarfed even when you have more. You will never have enough, so don't allow feelings to dictate your course of action. Allow faith to take over! Begin Gospel Giving today!

2) We Are Not Limited By OUR Resources

Too often we limit ourselves by the supply that we see in front of us. Whether finances or talent, we often feel the restriction of our own resources. But this scriptural account reminds us that the God who CREATED every ounce of wealth that will ever discovered is the same God who is able to speak over our supply and cause it to supernaturally increase. We will have enough after we give because He is our source and He has no limitations.

3) Jesus Supernaturally Blesses And Uses What We Give Him

What the boy did is counter intuitive. In his need, he gave. Amazing!

And his giving was directed at the Gospel. While he gave so that a natural need like hunger could be met, his giving facilitated the bigger picture, the Gospel.

This boy directed his giving to Jesus. And Jesus responded in verse 11 by giving thanks. He was grateful, appreciative, and full of thanksgiving. And that's JESUS' response every time we do the same. There will be times when it seems like your team, class, church, even leadership seems unappreciative when you give from your limited supply of time, treasure and talents, but at no time is Jesus unappreciative!

Something else Jesus did is discovered in the same accounts found in Matthew, Mark and Luke. He blessed the gift! He placed supernatural favor on it. What was barely enough for one and nowhere enough for the crowed became more than enough to meet the need! Those who ate it were more than satisfied. The meeting was able to continue, and Jesus was recognized for who He really is!

4) Gospel Giving Comes Back With Leftovers

The story concludes with the gathering of 12 baskets of leftovers, the remnants of a few bread rolls and a couple of tiny fish! The young boy gave out of his "barely enough" and recieved back more than he could carry. This is one of the great truths in Gospel giving... we receive more back than we ever gave in the first place.

Be careful here, this is not a get rich quick scheme or a secret math equation for financial gain. This is not a guarantee that if you put a $10 bill in the offering this week, you'll find a $100 bill on the side walk next week. But the promise remains. Every bit of Gospel Giving you participate in will come back to you and then some. Consider Jesus' promise:

Luke 6:38 Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full—pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.”

I'd like to challenge you sit down to prayerfully consider your Gospel Giving. I'd like to invite you to have a discussion with your family about your giving for the sake of others hearing about Jesus and making the decision to follow him. While it may seem like a lack lustre act (money given in an offering that helps to pay rent on a school, time spent setting up chairs so children have a place to sit in Kid's Church), it is about the much bigger picture, people experiencing Jesus.

I want to challenge you to address your Gospel Giving (time, treasure and talents) on these three maturing levels:

  1. Consistent - do you give as regularly as your receive? If not, learn to develop the habit of consistent giving. The Gospels needs people to consistently give of their time, treasure and talent. Your consistency will guarantee that the needs are met. Serve regularly. Use your talent where it's needed, because it's needed - no angelic mandate required! Give every time you get a paycheck.
  2. Proportional - do you give according to your income? Mature believers do. Jesus encouraged tithing to his followers which means giving ten percent of our income for the sake of the Gospel. Some new followers learn about tithing and go cold turkey and just started doing it. That's radical faith! Maybe you're not there yet. Maybe you have to make some adjustments in your debt load in order to get there. In that case, don't be afraid to start at a lower level of proportional until you do get there. Start somewhere and you'll be surprised how the Lord will help you! 
  3. Generous - have you ever given a ridiculous gift for the sake of the Gospel? If not, it's time. If it's been a while, it's time again! Consider that $7K you have in savings for a new car. Let's be honest, your old car still works! What if the Lord asked for that money for the furthering Gospel? Would you be willing to part with it? What would it be like to give that away so a family in Panama could receive a home and a village could hear the Gospel? What would it mean to trade your vacation for a staycation so that you could go to Panama to help build that house instead? What would the value be of getting up two hours earlier on a Sunday to come and help set up the facility so that people could hear about Jesus?

Jesus promised a return on Gospel Giving! Cars rust away. Trophies earned on athletic teams end up in boxes. But souls are eternal, and those that are impacted by the Gospel experience eternal life.

5 Things Jesus Promised About Eternal Life

Jesus repeatedly promised eternal life. The classic case is John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life."

But what does that really mean? What was Jesus really promising. After all, we live in a world that thinks life after death includes sitting in clouds, playing harps, a universal heaven for all who believe in something, materialism, annihilationism, soul sleep, reincarnation, restoration, purgatory and or limbo.

Jesus taught a great deal about eternal life. Here are 5 components of eternal life that Jesus was promising:

1) Jesus Promised That We Are Eternal Beings - a quick study of Luke 16:19-31 reveals that there is life after death for the righteous and unrighteous. Paul, in Acts 24:15 re-addresses that concept by pointing out there will be a resurrection for both the righteous and unrighteous. Even though we are dying, we were created to live forever, and we will

2) Jesus Promised That Only He Can Provide Eternal Life - while we are eternal, we are dying. We were born into dying bodies, surrounded by dying relationships, in dying circumstances, trapped in a dying world without a sense or understand for the living God. We truly are the living dead. And death will not stop the dying process. It will serve only as a gateway for that process to continue eternally. Fortunately, Jesus came to bring life. Instead of eternal death, he gave the promise of eternal life. But He declares Himself to be the only avenue to that life. 

  • John 6:40 For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”
  • John 6:47 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life.
  • John 6:51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”
  • John 8:51 Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.” 
  • John 11:25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?”
  • John 5:24 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. 
  • John 14:6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

Jesus is either the most narcissistic person to ever walk the planet, insane, or He was telling the truth. Based on His birth, life, death, resurrection and ascension, not to mention the the miraculous nature of the Bible, we believe Him to be telling the truth. The fact that He is the only way to life means that no substitute is possible, nor is anything additional required. Sadly, it also means that without Jesus, the walking dead experience is ratcheted up after death:

  • Revelation 20:10 "And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever."

3) There Is A Coming Judgement - the Bible talks about a judgement that focuses on the eternal judgement of those who are not in Christ:

  • John 5:28 Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice 29 and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.
  • Hebrews 9:27 Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment,
  • Revelation 20:11 Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. 12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. 13 And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. 14 Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. 15 And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.

But wait, those in Christ will be judged too. Christ's blood doesn't work like a magic whiteout causing all of our impure acts to disappear from the text of our lives. If that were the case, our biography would have no dialogue. We will still be judged for our acts, but judgement isn't necessarily negative. It includes measurement of good actions, motives and includes affirmation and rewards. Some of the critical verses regarding the judgement of believers include:

  • Romans 14:10 For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat.
  • 1 Corinthians 4:5 Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart. At that time each will receive their praise from God.
  • 2 Timothy 4:8  Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.
  • Matt 5: 11“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

4) Jesus Promised To Prepare A PLACE For Eternal Life - eternal life in the Kingdom of God is way beyond clouds and harps and even cabins over the hilltop. In heaven, there are relationships, responsibilities, function, purpose, etc. Christ is preparing a place for us that is way bigger than a heavenly condo on Gold Street. He is preparing an eternal life, not an eternal vacation. And as one man said, "If he spent six days creating the the heavens and the earth, imagine what eternity will look like now that He's been working on it for several thousand years.

  • John 14:1–3 14 “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. 2 In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.

5) Jesus Promised That His People Will Once Again Experience Perfection - God created the first man perfectly. A perfect reflection of the perfect God. He had the perfect body, with the perfect function, in the perfect environment, with perfect relationship, including one with the perfect God. Temptation came and man chose to believe someone other than God, and that brought death. It has impacted everything we know. But Jesus' promise of eternal life is a promise to eradicate ALL effects of sin and death! We will be perfect in every way, in the perfect environment, with perfect relationships including one with the perfect God!

  • Revelation 22:1 Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb 2 down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. 3 No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. 4 They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. 5 There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever.