Grace Solves

“So faith comes from hearing, that is, hearing the Good News about Christ." (Romans 10:17 NLT)

Over the years I've often quoted the King James Version of the scripture above... "Faith comes by hearing and hearing through the word of God." Unfortunately, the KJV is not the most accurate translation of Romans 10:17. Actually, in most authorized translations the word "God" is rendered as "Christ." Reading the scriptures from a New-Covenant perspective changes everything. Once I discovered the powerful revelation of the Grace of God, the scriptures opened up to me like never before. When we believe and receive the Good News of God's grace into our lives, the Holy Spirit will reveal hidden strategies and solutions to our dilemmas. Read the passage above again. Our faith is renewed, refreshed, and revived when we hear the GOOD NEWS about JESUS.  Amazing!

Jesus' words are like a sword that “cuts to the chase” (Ephesians 6:17). A sword is a symbol of delegated authority. It tears down religious mindsets and establishes the truth of His Kingdom in our hearts. By the way, God's Kingdom = the free gift of RIGHTEOUSNESS, satisfying PEACE, and infectious JOY in the Holy Spirit (Romans 14:17). Don't we all need a clearer perspective on things? As we position ourselves to hear from the Holy Spirit, He discloses secret information crucial to our success. The Holy Spirit never shouts His secrets; He only whispers them. We need to take full advantage of the His assistance. He is our Helper especially in the time of confusion, trouble, and need (John 14:26; Hebrews 4:16).

Christ Himself is the very wisdom of God inside of us… “God has united you with Christ Jesus. For our benefit God made him to be wisdom itself.” (1 Corinthians 1:30 NLT). So, take a moment to still your heart today long enough to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit bringing clarity to your calamity (John 6:13). If you feel the impending pressures of today’s concerns, don’t be overwhelmed. Look to Jesus. His voice will set you on your feet and firmly establish you (Hebrews 12:1). Andy Stanley once said, "Grace is pretty much the answer to everything." So, whatever you’re facing this season, Christ's words bring abundant grace, discernment, wisdom, and solutions. Grace solves!

Mountains and Mules

“For behold, He who forms mountains and creates the wind and declares to man what are His thoughts...” (Amos 4:13 NASB)

Have you stopped to consider that it may be God who formed the mountain and brought the wind of adversity to divert you from going in the wrong direction? Often the mountains and winds in our lives are necessary to lay bare our thoughts and expose the intentions of our hearts. To be powerfully used of God our motives must be tested. Many times, we command mountains to move that God Himself has dropped in our path. Rest assured, if God made the mountain in your life it won’t be moving anytime soon. I am not speaking of the mountains of disease, poverty, depression, etc. These are demonic attacks and hindrances to be cast into the abyss (Mark 11:23-24). God gives us double grace for these “mountains” (Zechariah 4:7; John 1:16). The roadblocks I speak of are the ones that God purposely places before us to detour us from disappointment, defeat, and even disaster.

There are many Biblical examples to cite regarding “God Obstacles.” God caused confusion to arise on the project at Babel to bring it to a screeching halt. God caused a stubborn mule to divert the prophet Balaam from proceeding to curse Israel. God brought a storm and formed a huge fish to swallow Jonah while running from the call of God on His life. God blasted light and forced a horse to throw Paul to the ground on his way to Damascus (to persecute and even kill believers). All these examples and many more are given to teach us that we must abandon the road of selfish ambition, self-promotion and self-initiated causes.

When we build towers or kingdoms unto ourselves it results in confusion and every evil thing (James 2:16 NASB). In the instance with Balaam, the mule kept veering off the road and no matter how much Balaam beat him the mule would not submit. No matter how much we pound or force it, if it isn’t God’s purpose we will not get where we are going. This is not to say we won’t have challenges on the way to fulfilling God’s vision for our lives. However, so many times God is doing everything to make it obvious that we are out of His will, only to find ourselves climbing out of a ditch because we refused to respond to His promptings.

God sometimes allows difficult people to enter our lives (i.e. Balaam’s mule and Paul’s horse) to force us to lay down our pride and trust Him through the process. God uses stubborn people to process us and oppose our wayward ways. James 4:6 tells us that God actively strives against the proud. In fact, contrary people are often necessary even in a God given vision. Why? A Brother or Sister Sandpaper in our lives will help refine the rough edges of our lives that keep us from being all God wants us to be. Don’t be too quick to dismiss difficult people. Not all difficult people are haters. More than often we need people to challenge us in order for us to ask ourselves the tough and honest questions about what we’re doing and where we are going (Proverbs 13:18; 26:7).

So be honest with yourself and God. Is selfish ambition driving you? Is the difficult person in your life challenging your pride? Is the mountain before you a God given detour? You know the answer... Don't be a stubborn mule about it!

 

A+ Grace

“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10 ESV)

There’s a true story of a university student who was extremely fearful of taking a final course in her college studies. Her intense anxiety stemmed from the nightmare accounts of how immensely difficult this class was and the next-to-impossible expectations of the professor. Nevertheless, she was required to complete the course to receive her degree. There was no other option. After sharing her anxieties with her father, he suggested that they make an appointment with the professor to discuss her apprehensions. During their visit with the professor he made a surprising offer… “I’ll tell you what, I’m going to give you an A+ before you take this class. No matter how you score throughout the semester, you will receive a promised A+ regardless. I only ask that you diligently apply yourself and do you very best in my class.” The girl and her father were shocked but incredibly relieved at his proposition. During the semester, she made the highest marks of any other student in her class and received the highest grade possible in the course. As a result of the professor removing the fear from the equation, she was able to focus all her faculties on the course work, succeed with high honors, and receive her college degree with Joy!

This is a perfect illustration of what Jesus has done for us. He has already prepared our place with God (John 14:2). It is settled in Heaven forever! We need not worry whether or not we will make it to Heaven based on our good works. It’s not what we do for God, but what he has already done for us. We have free entrance into all God has prepared for us because of what Jesus did, not how well we do. Yet, the paradox is we can do well in this life because Christ has removed all fear of condemnation and judgement (Romans 8:1; 1 John 4:18). We are judged based on Christ’s victory. We have been prepared by and through the sacrifice of God’s Son for all the good works that God wants to do IN us… “For it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:13 ESV)

When it comes to the total security of our salvation, favor, and blessings, Christ did all the preparation for it and we get to enjoy all the benefits that come from it. It’s like someone else studied and took the final exam for us and we get the A+ based on someone else’s preparation. Christ (gr)ACED the test for us, and we get the perfect score! We don’t deserve the perfect grade. That’s why it’s called grace. And by the way… We’re not graded on the curve. We’re graded on the CROSS! Hallelujah. We can simply enjoy the results and benefits of the work that has already been finished. And it doesn’t end there. We can absolutely live victoriously, walk in abundance, overcome any obstacle and do all things well, only because Christ has made it possible for us to succeed at every level (Philippians 4:13). We’re not saved by our works, but we are saved UNTO good works. It is also important to remember that while God doesn't need our good works, the world surely does. We not only should be Heavenly minded we must also be of Earthly good. Amen.

So rest Child of God. You have already been affirmed. The work you do for Jesus (good or bad) is not judged on your performance. It is judged based upon Christ’s PROMISE. You are considered holy, righteous, excellent, and confirmed through the finished work of Christ. It’s something that’s already determined and complete. “And in Him you have been made complete...” (Colossians 2:10 NASB)

Grace Breathes

“By faith even Sarah herself received ability to conceive, even beyond the proper time of life...” (Hebrews 11:11 NASB)

In Genesis 17:15, God changed Sarai's name by adding the 5th letter of the Jewish Alphabet hay (grace) to her name. This changed her name from Sarai (princess) to Sarah (mother of nations). God literally breathed his Grace into Sarai's barrenness transforming her into a fertile mother who would birth nations. The letter hay in the Jewish alphabet sounds like a sigh. When you say the name, "Sarah" it feels similar to exhaling or sighing... "Sar---ahhh." A sigh indicates a feeling of relief and rest. God's dreams for our lives are birthed out of rest vs. self effort and striving. When we work God rests, but when we rest God works. That's Grace.
 
Think of how Sarah must've felt? At 99 years old, she was physically incapable of conceiving a son. Yet, God promised her she would bear a child in old age. However, in her impatience to wait on God to fulfill His promise, she schemed to have a son through her handmaid Hagar. Yet, her attempts to do things her way failed miserably, ultimately resulting in her son Ishmael being exiled into the desert. At 99 years of age, it looked like the dream was over and everything in her life was centering on dying. But that's when the promise was just about to begin.

A God dream may lie dormant for a season, but it never truly dies because it was birthed in eternity. The question to ask yourself is... Do you want the Ishmael you’ve made or the Isaac God is birthing? We need Grace (what only God can do) for our dreams. A God dream requires a miracle to come to pass. If it doesn't take a miracle to fulfill your dream, then God probably never gave it to you in the first place. Miracles begin at impossible. When you can't do it, God CAN! It's never too late! Stop striving and let God's GRACE breathe life and resurrect the dream.

"Shall I bring to the point of birth and not give delivery? says the LORD." (Isaiah 66:9 NASB)

Serving Saul

"And whenever the harmful spirit from God was upon Saul, David took the lyre and played it with his hand. So, Saul was refreshed and was well..." (1 Samuel 16:23 ESV)

Just think… David: God's true and anointed king at 18 years old was brought into the service of a man who no longer had the endorsement of God. He was ungodly, insecure, bitter, jealous and seriously mentally ill. He had lost all his qualification for leadership. Yet, David submitted himself as a servant to a has-been king. Notice, when Saul acted harmfully, David responded lovingly. Part of God’s preparation for David was to work under an unfit and unfair boss. However, David's responses were critical to his future. God was teaching David how to thrive and survive under poor leadership. Those who are destined by God to do great things don't get to choose their assignment. They must simply embrace it. A Godly assignment will be both a field and furnace. It will be a place of productivity for you, but it will also be a place where God is producing something in you. Joseph learned the same lessons working under His Egyptian slave owner Potifar. Yet, because of Joseph's faithfulness and patience, he prospered in all he set his hand to do and eventually was promoted to be Prince of Egypt. Leaders who become anything of substance at some point have learned to serve under unfair and possibly even toxic leaders. Young leader: be patient, faithful, humble, and fully wait on God's timing. Your honor for bad, even terrible leaders, and serving and responding to them in a humble manner will set you up for promotion later. God sees all! Don't delay or derail your destiny by acting rashly out of anger or rebellion. Be certain, on the road to becoming king you may have to serve a few Sauls along the way.

Solid Food

“Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.” (John 6:53 ESV)

People have often misunderstood the difference between the milk and the meat of God’s Word. They say that God’s Grace = milk, baby food, soft stuff, etc. and the meat = obeying God’s laws, keeping his rules, and meeting his expectations. They believe that holy living is the hard stuff. However, the opposite is true. The meat of God’s word is JESUS. He is the FULL nutrients of our Christian walk. In our key passage Jesus said, “Unless you eat of my flesh and drink of my blood you can have no part with me.”  Flesh and blood… Sounds like meat to me. 2 Peter 3:18 tells us that we cannot grow apart from Grace. This is the real meat that grows us into spiritual maturity. Sadly, many are trying to survive the Christian life off of rules and regulations, all the while believing they are partaking of the meat of God’s word. In reality, they are starving themselves to death.

The milk (baby food) of God’s word is the Old Covenant Law. Jesus said, “I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna (Old Covenant baby food) in the wilderness, and they died... I am the living bread (New Covenant solid food) that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of THIS bread (solid food), he will live forever. And the bread (solid food) that I will give for the life of the world is my FLESH... Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life... For my flesh is TRUE food, and my blood is TRUE drink (Hebrews 6:48-55 ESV Emphasis Added). Understanding our New Covenant in Christ raises us up to strong, victorious, and mature living. No weak Christian there ever will be who places their total faith on Jesus and his Grace.

In Hebrews 5:13, Paul says, "For everyone who lives on milk is unskilled (ignorant) in the word of righteousness, since he is a child (infant)." (Hebrews 5:13 ESV Emphasis Added). Here Paul compares milk drinkers to those who are ignorant about the free gift of righteousness, who believe their favor with God is earned on a behavior or merit-based system. Bottle drinkers! Those who constantly push or promote holy living as the ultimate proof of their walk with Christ are still sucking on the utters of Old Covenant cows. Yet, when we feed off of what Christ has done through his finished work (solid food), we truly partake of the meat of God’s word, and in this, we will live to our potential with full spiritual vigor.

“Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him... So whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. This is the bread (solid food) that came down from heaven, not like the bread (baby food) the fathers ate and died. Whoever feeds on this bread (solid food) will live forever."” (John‬ ‭6:56-58‬ ‭ESV‬‬ Emphasis Added)

Lost Donkeys

"As for your donkeys that were lost three days ago, do not set your mind on them..." (1 Samuel 9:20 ESV)

Often in life we lose things. Big things. Important things. Valuable things. Sometimes it's by default and sometimes it's from simply having to let go. Whether voluntary or accidental, it's always difficult to experience loss. Yet, in the kingdom of God, when we lose we actually gain. When Saul lost his donkeys, it would be like a farmer ditching a tractor, or a moving company wrecking a van... a major source of income and livelihood... Gone. Yet, if Saul had not lost his donkeys he would not have gone on a mad search for them and would have never met Samuel. Saul's destiny to become king was tied directly to his loss (Also see 1 Samuel 9:22; 10:1, 14). Often in my life and ministry when I've experienced loss, failure, lack, looking at a month without bookings, or even losing important relationships to no fault of my own, it caused me to go on the hunt, searching, calling, inquiring, praying, etc. As as result, I've run directly into the most amazing opportunities because the loss propelled me forward into the next season of greater fruitfulness. Often, when I've lost something or had to give it up, I've discovered bigger doors of favor simply by being forced to move forward. We can allow loss to paralyze us or mobilize us. In my experience, I've often had to to give up to go up. I've even had to let go of good things that were working for me in order to attain the better things. In our key passage, the prophet Samuel tells Saul not to focus on the lost donkeys. Sooner or later we have to let go of what we've lost and begin focusing on what's next. Even if we don't know what it is, we should get our expectancy level high for the great things God is about to do. So if you've lost something, ask God to help you let it go and show you what to do next. You just might be surprised at what you will find when you stop looking for the lost donkeys.

R.E.S.E.T.

“Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things." (Colossians 3:2 NIV)

Reset means to refresh, to start over. I'm so glad that I get to start over all the time in my walk with Jesus. His mercy is NEW everyday for me (Lamentations 3:22-23). The above passage doesn’t mean that we must only think about God, only go to church, read only Christian books or the Bible, watch only Christian television 24/7, go to a monastery and take a vow of silence or a vow of hunger. NO! It means we need to think higher thoughts of God, each other, ourselves, and especially of what God thinks about us. When we think rightly, we will live rightly (Proverbs 23:7). We see everything more clearly when we know who we are in Christ. Everything flows from our identity and acceptance in Christ. We can truly enjoy life when we set our minds up with right thinking. This year holds amazing things for each of us. As we step into 2018, let’s determine to get a fresh perspective and let go of all negativity. Let’s reset our minds. I want to share 5 ways to R.E.S.E.T. your mind for the days ahead.

RENEW your mind in grace.

In order to set our minds up higher, we must see things from God’s perspective. We must renew our minds IN GRACE. When we see ourselves as Christ’s finished work, it fills us with confidence. We don’t shrink back at the promises of God (Hebrews 10:39). We can come boldly before the throne of Grace. When we renew our minds in God’s grace, we are bolder, stronger, and have a fiercer determination to push through all life throws at us. We know we belong to Christ and present ourselves as ALREADY made alive, holy, and totally acceptable to God (Ephesians 1:6). Nothing can stop the believer who knows who they are in Christ.

EXPECT God to bless you.

Condemnation kills expectation. It keeps us from receiving from God because we don’t feel we deserve it. As a result, we don’t ask. And we won't get if we don’t ask (James 4:3). Condemnation keeps us from asking. But faith works by love (Galatians 5:6). When you believe God loves you (in spite of all your sins and shortcomings) your faith will work effortlessly. Our faith isn't based on our performance; it's based on His PROMISE. God's approach to you is never based on your approach to him (John 6:37). He loves you and wants to bless you beyond belief. That’s good news! You and I don’t deserve anything God has for us, but we get what we don’t deserve because of GRACE (cue Hammond B3)! Therefore, we can come to God and ASK BIG and know that He will do abundantly above all we can imagine (Ephesians 3:20).

SHED the past.

In order to move forward and take hold of all God has for you, you must let go of what you are holding on to. You have to give up to go up. Even holding onto the good things can keep us from taking hold of the greater things. Forgive yourself, and let go of every hurt. Forgive everyone of everything. You can’t afford to allow anyhing to hold you back. When we hold back forgiveness we hold back the blessing of God in our lives. Mark 11:23-25 tells us when we ask God to move mountains, we must must forgive (v. 25). Sometimes the biggest mountains aren't the ones in front of us but the ones INSIDE us. This is a year of elevation and acceleration for God's people. Thus, we must lay down every weight that pins us down so we can soar (Hebrews 12:1).

ENTERTAIN Peace.

Don’t go down any mental roads that don’t lead to peace. God has nothing but good thoughts about you all the time. He has plans to prosper you and give you a bright hope and amazing future (Jeremiah 29:11). Faith is a refusal to panic. God recently told me, “Tony, if you could see what I see you’d never be afraid again.” Wow! That’s a word that we all need to grab onto. No matter what happens, even if your worst fear would come to pass (which probably won't), God will give you abundant grace when you get there. (Romans 5:17; 1 Corinthians 9:8). He’ll give you more than enough wisdom, connections, relationships, finances, insight, ideas, and solutions. There’s nothing you encounter that you can't overcome through God's grace.

TAKE Courage.

Courage is something that doesn’t come easy. If it were easy, it wouldn’t be courage. God told Joshua to BE strong and courageous. He didn’t say he WAS strong and courageous. Courage is something you have to seize. Whatever you’re facing or stepping into you don't have to fear. God tells us that we don’t have to be afraid AT ALL because He is with us. Courage is action in the face of fear. So, just do whatever God tells you to do and leave the consequences to Him. He is there to help, strengthen, and hold us in his righteousness (Isaiah 41:10). You may even feel you've lost your righteousness due to failure, resistance, or retreat. Friend, you can’t lose your righteousness (Romans 11:29). God wants to remind you that you don’t have to fear, because He IS WITH YOU. So don't throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded (Hebrews 10:35).

Above The Tide

“Much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.” (Romans 5:17 ESV) 

When someone is drowning it doesn't make sense to stand on the edge of the water and scream out the procedures for swimming: “C'mon! Tread harder! Kick faster! Breathe Deeper! Don't you remember what you learned in swimming class?! You got this!" All the while glub... glub... glub... down goes the victim. Instead, we either dive in or throw out a lifebuoy and pull them to safety. The same applies to the Christian life. When people struggle with sin issues and feel crushed under the accompanying weight of condemnation and fear, we shouldn’t “throw the book at them” by preaching more law and formulas for success. Rather, we should lovingly minister New Covenant grace. People will rise high above the tide in their lives when they are reminded of who they already are in Christ and regularly convinced that God’s grace has restored what sin has vandalized. When we liberally give and teach God’s grace, the power of sin is broken, and people begin to transform effortlessly. “For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.” (Romans 6:14 ESV) I believe when we freely receive grace in abundant measure, we can live for God better on accident than we ever could on purpose.

I Blew It Big Time

“Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.” (Philippians 3:12 ESV)

I’m so thankful God’s grace is ever toward and for me. I’m not perfect. I’ve blown it big, got it wrong, been arrogant, acted like I was the authority on the matter, and actually believed my theology trumped everyone else’s insight. I admit, I’m passionate about the revelations God has given me and have very strong and Biblically founded convictions about what I believe. However, I want to be careful not come across smug when I feel the need to advise others as to what they should believe or not believe and do or not do. Nor do I want to be passive aggressive in directing my posts to others I disagree with on social media. I am not THE example of flawless ministry or preaching. I desire to share my heart and what God’s grace has done in my life to help and encourage others. It isn’t my calling or assignment to bring correction to the church, Bible teachers, pastors, and ministry leaders. The sure way we can tell that grace has affected our lives is not in the way we respond to those who agree with us, but in the way we respond and treat those who disagree with us. The bottom line is I don’t know God’s grace more than anyone else. I NEED God’s grace more than anyone else. I hope to make this my motivation moving forward as I continue to share the grace that is found only Jesus Christ while honoring and respecting others opinions and viewpoints. I want to be able to say like the apostle Paul, "Even though I haven’t obtained perfection, I keep moving forward to all Christ has for me, knowing all the while that I forever belong to him."

The Dark Room

“Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure.” (Psalms 16:9 NIV)

Before the reign of the digital age, the negative of a photo had to be developed in a dark room. Many people dwell in the "dark room," a place where negative thoughts are constantly being developed and even overdeveloped. A negative of a photo is always seen in reverse spectrum. In other words, it is not viewed in its correct perspective. Negativity is simply a matter of skewed perspective.

According to its definition, negativity includes statements or acts that express contradiction, denial, or refusal. Negativity is void of affirmation or encouragement and is constantly in direct opposition to approval or acceptance. In biology, the word negative involves anything that moves or turns away from a stimulus of light. This is also true in life. Negative people often turn away or disregard anything that has to do with the light.

A few years ago, my daughter and I were coming home from the airport after a ministry trip. An ice storm had hit Atlanta the night before causing the roads to suddenly freeze over. What usually takes 45-minutes to get home took us 6-hours. As I was driving through the hazardous conditions, my fear and frustration mounted. After about an hour or so, my daughter non-chalantly said, "Well, at least we're not stranded on the side of the road like these other cars.” Being the man of faith that I was supposed to be, I replied, "You're right. Let's pray for those people," as I grabbed her hand and offered a “prayer."

Negativity is a choice: a choice to see the worst in people, places, and situations. Negative people create a tragic ending before the "movie" actually starts. Negativity spews cynicism, doubt, gloom, suspicion, and a constant sense of foreboding. Grumpy people maintain a negative point of view. A negative person feels bad even when he feels good for fear that he’ll only feel worse when he feels better. Unfortunately, medical studies seem to suggest that our bodies can even reap harmful results from a negative and gloomy outlook.

When we speak, our inflection and tone reveals our attitude and exposes our perspective. For example, we could say, “I wonder what’s going to happen today?” with a tone of expectancy or dread. Our outlook can determine our outcome. "As a man thinks in his heart so is he." (Proverbs 23:7). A pessimist should never be disappointed; because that which he believes will come true usually does. Job himself said, "What I always feared has happened to me. What I dreaded has come true." (Job 3:25 NLT). Sadly, we eventually become what we behold.

According to our key passage in Psalms 16:9, when we choose to be positive, our body will naturally reap the benefits. When we choose to have a happy heart, especially in difficult circumstances, it can work like medicine to soothe our troubled mind. Conversely, a broken, depressed, and hopeless spirit actually "dries the bones." (Proverbs 17:22). It’s never worth the worry and stress it takes to maintain a negative outlook.

With all that's going on in our world (publicly or privately), it's easy and even justifiable to be negative on a daily basis. However, we must resist the natural urge to be negative. It takes faith and resolve to be a positive person. When we realize that God's GRACE has secured our salvation, that His presence is ALWAYS with us, and that He is FOR us and not against us, we should be above all the most happy people on Earth (Psalms 118:6). 

So come out of the dark room. Know that even the negative things that happen to us are being developed and transformed into God's full-color, picture-perfect plan for our life. God takes what was meant to harm us and miraculously transforms it for our good and ultimate blessing (Genesis 50:20; Romans 8:28).

Superabounding Grace

"Where sin increased, grace abounded all the more.” (Romans 5:20 NASB)

Despair seems to abound all around us: threat of nuclear war, mass shootings, devastating hurricanes, volatile financial markets, political uprisings, worldwide disease, etc. Not only is the Earth in chaos, but often our private world is reeling. Life feels overwhelming. Circumstances crash in like a flood. Problems seem insurmountable: family crisis, emotional trauma, financial pressures, severe illness, and even death.

Yet, the the GOOD NEWS is Jesus came to give us life MORE ABUNDANTLY (John 10:10). His love and life changes everything. Jesus didn’t come to just take us to Heaven, but to bring Heaven to us. God's Grace is more than just a free ticket to Glory. It’s the total security of knowing that He is right here with us and that He will never leave us abandoned. He is a present HELP in the time of trouble (Psalms 46:1).

Jesus is our way of escape. He is our relief, our hope, our joy in every situation. No matter what we go through, His grace is greater (1 John 4:4). God’s grace exceeds the boundaries of our limitations, supplies our deepest needs, and breaks the power of all our fears. Where sin and its effects abound, God’s grace is champion. “No power of Hell or scheme of man” can win over God’s grace (Romans 5:17,21).

The Greek word for Salvation is sozo which means healing, protection, deliverance, freedom, security, peace, and prosperity. Our salvation isn't just limited to the forgiveness of sins and assurance of our eternity with God. It's so much MORE! It includes everything that Christ provided for us through his death, burial, and resurrection. His super-abounding grace encompasses every aspect of our lives.

Through God’s unlimited Grace, we can experience more of Heaven on Earth (Mark 6:10). It not only empowers us to avoid sin and obey God, but even more so, enables us to receive the fullness of all He has given us through Jesus Christ. Grace is God’s supernatural power, peace, and provision. Wherever sin, sickness, and sorrow seem to abound, God's grace exceedingly abounds toward us over it all.

What's Right About You

“And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment...” (John 16:8 ESV)

The devil loves to make a detailed inventory of your failures. His job is to constantly remind you of all that’s wrong about you. Yet, no matter where you are falling short, the Holy Spirit will always remind you of what’s right about you.

The Holy Spirit convicts the world of sin (John 16:8). The world includes all who are lawless, the unregenerate, non-believers, and unrepentant sinners (John 16:9). However, while the world is convicted of sin, we as believers are not of this world. Keep reading...

When you trusted in Jesus for your salvation, you were snatched out of darkness and transferred into the kingdom of His light (Colossians 1:13). You are an official citizen of Heaven and are subject to a totally different jurisdiction than those who are of the world.

We are not of this world (John 15:19). In Christ, there is no darkness at all (1 John 1:5). There is nothing but light all around you. You will never hear harsh words from the Holy Spirit when you fail or fall short. Condemnation, guilt, and convicting words come from the darkness.

The word convict means to pronounce guilty. The Holy Spirit definitely convicts sinners of their sin. Yet, the Holy Spirit constantly convinces believers (you and me) of His presence and righteousness, especially when we feel abandoned or rejected (John 16:10).

Before Jesus ascended to Heaven, He promised His disciples to send the Holy Spirit (the Helper) to comfort them from feeling alone, abandoned, and rejected. They would need to be constantly reminded that He would always be with them (John 15:26).

The Holy Spirit is our helper (advocate). He comforts us when we hurt, strengthens us in weakness, and defends us against satan's accusations. He is not against us; He is for us (Romans 8:31) He never puts condemnation on us (Romans 8:1), but always convinces us of Christ’s unshakable love (John 15:26).

Hear me clearly... SATAN is the accuser (Revelation 12:20). He seeks to harass those who belong to God, but we are dead to his lies. We must learn through the truth of God’s grace to rightly discern whose voice is accusing us when we fail.

You may say, “But I still have issues and shortcomings." No worries. Jesus will finish what He started in you (Philippians 1:6). Besides, God doesn’t see you for what you’ve done (good or bad) but for what Christ has done. He sees you through the finished work of His Son.

You are the righteousness of God in Christ. You are just as holy and blameless as He is. In Christ, you are complete and lacking nothing. You are hidden deep in the love of Jesus. (1 John 4:17, 1 Corinthians 1:8, 2 Corinthians 5:21; Colossians 2:10; 3:3)

That's what's right about you!

You Might Be Self Righteous If

“But we are all like an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags…” (Isaiah 64:6 NKJV)

In order to fully understand what Isaiah meant in our key passage, we must carefully examine his unorthodox choice of word pictures. The words “filthy rags” come from two Hebrew words: ed and beged (Strongs #899 and #5708). These two words combined connote a primitive piece of cloth used to shield a woman’s menstruation cycle. We should contemplate Isaiah's crude comparison of the Hebraic Law concerning regulations on personal hygiene to vividly illustrate the worth of our self-righteousness. Trying to earn righteousness through works is like trying to clean yourself with a dirty rag. The more you try to wash yourself, the dirtier you become. We cannot cleanse ourselves nor maintain cleanliness before God in our own efforts. Therefore, we must receive the free gift of righteousness by faith, trust in the finished work of Christ, accept the full forgiveness of God, and believe we are finally righteous once and for all (Hebrews 10:10). Along with this, we must become aware of our tendency towards self-righteousness and fall full into the Grace of God. How do we know if we're self-righteous? Here are a few indicators...

You Might Be Self-Righteous If...

…you think you’re better than someone because of something you’ve done.

…you constantly obsess about your spiritual growth instead of Jesus.

…your success stories always start with “I...”

…the faults of others dominate your conversations.

…you can’t forgive someone who hurt you.

…your freedom in worship is contingent on how holy you’re living.

…you get nervous, irritated, or angry when grace is mentioned or taught.

…you are uncomfortable around unsaved or immature Christians.

…your definition of “godliness” is based on the frequency of spiritual discipline.

…you find yourself more often judging others instead of loving them.

...you focus on the faults of others instead of receiving grace for yourself.

…you sneer at grace for someone else’s failures, but love grace when you need it.

…you believe you have something to do with your salvation.

…you think Jesus' finished work isn’t enough and that you must add your works to it.

…your definition of “good o'l gospel preaching” is being hard on people.

…you say (or sing) that Jesus will never let you go, but subliminally you don’t believe it.

…you feel that getting to Heaven ultimately depends on you.

…you think that salvation is Jesus' job but maintaining it is your job.

…you believe Jesus saved you from your past sins but not your present and future ones.

…you're trying more instead of trusting more.

…YOUR love for God is the focus instead of HIS love for you.

…you’re racing to finish Christ’s work instead of resting in His finished work.

J.U.M.P.

"How long will you hesitate between two opinions?" (1 Kings 18:1 NASB)

I’ve talked to so many recently who are in the midst of the valley of decision. It’s as if they’re standing on the edge of the cliff of their destiny and want to take that leap of faith. They’re hearing, “If not now when?” Recently, I was talking with a friend in such a place and God gave me this word for him almost immediately while we were talking on the phone. It came in the form of an acronym of the word J.U.M.P. Keep in mind there are many factors involved in seeking God's direction. Don't take this as the final "word" from God. I only hope that it will help in part as you seek His will in your situation.

JUGGLING... This is the season of juggling all the pros and cons, heavily weighing indecision, dreaming and wondering if God is saying yes or no. Often this involves talking to trusted advisors, mentors, friends and close relatives. This can be particularly stressful and even agonizing. However, at some point the juggling needs to stop, because no matter what phase of the decision process you’re in, there is always a potential temptation to keep juggling.

UNDERLYING FEELING... No matter how long you’ve been juggling, most of the time you will know what it is you are supposed to do. It’s that thought, picture, image, dream and bottom-line thing that is not going to go away. This is what you must settle once and for all. At this point there is no need to go back to juggling. You've done that already. The idea is to progress in your seeking. It won't do you any good to juggle because you'll just be juggling the same things and getting nowhere. You've analyzed enough. If you don't make a move you will give yourself a reason not to.

MISSION... Once you know the bottom line, you can focus on the mission. This involves all the details of moving, resigning your current job, preparing the kids, selling the house, etc. This doesn't always make navigating through the specifics easy, but nothing is more frustrating than wandering in circles in the valley of indecision. Torture! However, once you resign to the underlying feeling, it will naturally propel you. Other 'm' words come to mind in this phase: the mission, the means, the map, the manpower, and the move to set your mission in motion. In this phase your vision will begin to come into sharper focus. Don’t allow the fear of uncertainty to tempt you to go back to juggling. Focus forward! God will show you mental images and live action videos of yourself in the dream He has called you to and you'll naturally begin fine-tuning the strategy for your assignment. God will have your full attention. Your every thought will be on where He is leading you. Your spirit will be projected into the future of your mission. It's as if you'll already be there.

PURPOSE... Now that you're clear about your purpose and activated a plan, you will have a settled peace. Often, the peace doesn't come until after you've made the decision to pursue. Many times we are waiting on God, when He is actually waiting on us. However, understand that peace doesn't mean you won't have some problems along the way. It simply means you are no longer in turmoil with indecision. Indecision debilitates! Obeying God always takes a leap of faith. If God told you every little detail it wouldn’t require faith. If you think about it, you probably already know a lot of what to do because you’ve been imagining it for a long time. You’ve mentally worked through several details prior to this point. Eventually you’ll find yourself in the PLACE God has called you because you're fully committed to your purpose.

So, as the 80’s Rock legend David Lee Roth once said... “You might as well go ahead and JUMP!” (cheesy synthesizer riff here).

A Prescribed Time

“For I have assigned you a number of days…” (Ezekiel 4:5 NASB)

God is precise in His timing. He has a beginning and an end for every season. Many times, we feel that God has dropped us off somewhere without reason until we’ve passed every test and accomplished every task to His exact specification. Not so! God places us specifically in line with His purposes. He knows exactly how long it will take to complete HIS will. God is the master of the machinery.

Just because you fail doesn’t mean it will prolong your season. Don't let failure define you. Let it refine you. God's intention isn't for you to succeed as much as it is to be aware of your total dependence upon Him. When we fail, we learn more about God's character, His loving kindness, His patience, His faithfulness, His grace, etc. God’s assignment isn’t dependent on you fulfilling the task. If it were, it would mean the responsibility of accomplishing God’s purpose is up to you, that He is relying on you. Know that whatever God is doing will be accomplished in HIS prescribed time.

So, take in all the sights and sounds of your current assignment. Change your perspective. The moments now will be memories that will serve to your advantage at the next level. Don’t stress out when you mess up. God knows what HE is doing. HE is faithful to complete what HE started (Philippians 1:6). God called you and HE is faithful to bring it to pass (1 Thessalonians 5;24). You didn't start it, so you can't finish it. God is the author and the finisher of your story (Hebrews 12:2). Take heart! You WILL finish strong!

Irrevocable Righteousness

"For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable." (Romans 11:29 NASB)

Keeping in context with the entire book of Romans, the above verse means that God's FREE GIFT of righteousness and His SURE CALLING cannot be returned, revoked, rescinded, cancelled, terminated, reconsidered, refunded, ratified, or forfeited. All praise to God’s for our irrevocable righteousness that is only found in Jesus Christ!

Other places in the New Covenant reiterate this truth. Jesus will never leave us (Hebrews 13:5-6). Jesus is always with us (Matthew 28:20). We will never be separated from His love (Romans 8:35-39). Nothing can snatch us out of His hand (John 10:28). Jesus didn't die for a salvation that was temporal based on our limited ability to live according to the Law. His atoning sacrifice was totally sufficient and efficacious. Thus, our salvation is satisfactory and complete, lacking nothing. It's a salvation that lasts forever for those who receive it!

Some think if we teach people they are too secure in Christ they will go out and freely sin. This is nothing more than religious fear. Self-righteous people think too much grace gives people a license to sin. The truth is, people sin without license anyway. We don't need a license to commit sin. Grace produces after its own kind. Grace doesn't produce sin, it produces the life of God within us. The scriptures tell us that when LUST is conceived it brings forth sin (James 1:15). Grace brings freedom. Lust brings bondage.

Grace in no way gives us license to sin; it gives us license to live free. I’ve never had anyone come to me and say, "Wow Tony! Thanks for teaching all this Grace stuff. I think I'll go out and really live it up, party like there's no tomorrow, and sin without restraints!” Never! People usually exclaim, "Tony, your teaching on Grace has set me free from condemnation and the fear of losing my salvation. I've never felt more relieved. I love Jesus even more!"

Whenever people say, "Don’t teach too much grace to folks or they'll go out and sin," in essence they’re saying, “Careful now, we don't want people to be too sure of themselves.” Ridiculous! Our salvation is SURE and we should be overwhelming confident and secure in our salvation. Friends, sin isn't birthed from too much security; it's birthed from INSECURITY. Sin is a result of the lie we believe that sin is more satisfying than Jesus' love.

When we get a grasp of just how secure in Christ we are, sin will lose its power over us (Romans 6:14). We must come out of a Law biding mindset in order to experience the abundant life and overcoming power that comes though the Grace that is found only in Jesus Christ (Romans 5:17). When we receive the FREE GIFT of God's Grace and remind ourselves continually that we are 100% secure in Christ (in this life and the next) the shackles of bondage will begin to break off of our lives and we will know the freedom wherein Christ has truly set us free INDEED! (John 8:36).

The Second Mouse

“Don't put your confidence in powerful people; there is no help for you there.” (Psalms 146:3 NLT)

I’ve heard it said, "It's not what you know; it's who you know." If you rub shoulders with the "right" people you'll go far in life. While I'm grateful that I've had the favor of influential men and women of God, I'm only connected to them for the sole purpose of advancing HIS kingdom. Our platforms are for proclaiming the gospel, not for promoting our goods. All ministry activity must point toward Jesus Christ and the saving of souls. This brings glory to God and fruit from our labor. God’s Word strongly advises against being tied to ambitious and driven people (Proverbs 23:6-8). Typically, they are prone to love things and use people rather than love people and use things. The elite often deplete. Trusting in man-made systems to advance our agenda always ends in disappointment. STOP following “climbers” who won’t take you up with them. They’ll only use you for selfish gain. Racing, clawing, and jockeying for recognition is a rat race that eventually leads to a trap (Proverbs 29:25). Remember, it’s the second mouse that usually gets the cheese.

Substance

"You need to persevere so... you will receive what he has promised." (Hebrews 10:36 NIV)

It takes a lifetime for a God given vision to come to pass. Just think: it only takes 6 months for a mushroom to sprout up, but it takes over 60 years for an oak tree to grow to full maturity. One gets mulched up in a mower, while the other one survives storms, unbending and unbreakable. Many want to reach their pinnacle quickly. However, it takes years of compacting circumstances and strength under pressure to become something of real substance. One of the definitions of substance is "something real, not imaginary; something solid, not empty." Too many young pioneers and visionaries look for shortcuts to success rather than take the long road to fruitfulness. Real fruitfulness is a byproduct of faithfulness and perseverance instead of politics, sticking it out, and staying your post. When we attempt to take shortcuts toward our vision we will end up cutting our vision short. We must never give up and endure to the end. Nothing lasting, significant, sturdy, or truly impactful ever happened quickly. If you're facing discouraging and difficult times, it's time to hunker down even harder and trust God even when it SEEMS there's no growth or results. I call it postage stamp faith: sticking to your assignment until you reach your destination. The deeper the unseen root the higher the visible fruit. By the way... Be very mindful not to miss the wonderful things God is doing NOW for any anxiousness of what you're striving for. Today is only a result of what you believed for yesterday. Take time to thank God for the milestones you have seen and know that He is yet to do even greater. A God moment is only a result of what He has been doing in you over time! This is the stuff that real substance is made of.

Clarity in Confinement

"Then the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah the second time while he was still confined in the court of the guard..." (Jeremiah 33:1 NASB)

God spoke clearly to Jeremiah while he was in confinement. Sometimes we think that God doesn’t speak to us in our difficult times. However, God can and wants to show us things that only we can see and hear when we're in the pits. When you feel stuck in life, ministry, relationships, your career, finances, etc. try to silence your anxious thoughts long enough, and be open to hear the Holy Spirit regarding your situation. (Psalms 96:10) Of course this will require that you let go of your pride as well (James 4:6). And don’t believe the lie that you’ve done something wrong to get where you are. Often, our trials are clear indicators, and even the results of what we did right. Sometimes following God's will lands us right in the middle of temporary trouble. Resistance from the enemy is a part of doing thing's God's way. For example, Noah found Grace in the eyes of the Lord, and then he had to go build a boat. Grace and favor don't necessarily mean it will be easy. Sometimes when God’s favor is on your life, things will be more difficult for a season. Just, be careful not to let the dry times discourage you, steal your faith, and pass you by without being sensitive to what God is up to around you. And no matter what happens, know that God is moving mightily on your behalf in the silence.