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“Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory." ~ Romans 5:2 (NLT)

Why we need faith in God. 

Gen. 4:9 Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” He said, “I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?” 10 And He said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood cries out to Me from the ground. 11 So now you are cursed from the earth, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. 12 When you till the ground, it shall no longer yield its strength to you. A fugitive and a vagabond you shall be on the earth.” 13 And Cain said to the Lord, “My punishment is greater than I can bear! 14 Surely You have driven me out this day from the face of the ground; I shall be hidden from Your face; I shall be a fugitive and a vagabond on the earth, and it will happen that anyone who finds me will kill me.”

Outside of God's plan, people look like Cain, who disobeyed God and did things his way, “A fugitive and a vagabond you shall be on the earth.”Cain recognized his condition, “I shall be a fugitive and a vagabond on the earth.”

Fugitive Hebrew definition: “to quiver, shake, reel, stagger, wander, move, sift, waver, tremble”

Vagabond Hebrew definition: “to move to and fro, wander aimlessly, take flight, run away

What is faith? Faith has two definitions: 

  1. Passive Faith or faith as a brand: our doctrine or beliefs, such as Christian faith, Catholic faith, etc.
  2. Active Faith or faith as a lifestyle in Christ: Acting on God's promise and word. Jesus is the word. 

Matthew 9:2 Then behold, they brought to Him a paralytic lying on a bed. When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, “Son, be of good cheer; your sins are forgiven you.”

Certainly, you must have "faith" in order to "faith." If you don't have a relationship with Christ and a firm foundation in correct Bible doctrine, you can't have active faith. 

To win a football game, you just can't firs focus on catching the long pass for a touchdown. You begin with training, practice, learning all the plays, being in top condition. (Show Patrick Mahomes 3 and 15 play)

People want to God to honor their prayers and faith, but have no foundation with Christ and in the Word. 

 

The prayer of faith is not magic like waving your hand a saying "Abracadabra" or "Simon Says."

When the Bible says, "Without faith it is impossible to please God," it is not talking about belonging to a faith, as in a church or religion. The text is not saying "Without being a member of XYZ church it is impossible to please God."

From time to time, we heard statements like "Faith leaders" gathered. That's a reference to Christians, Jews, and Muslims and getting together. Such gathers can serve a purpose.

However, what we need is leaders living by faith, following Christ, and doing the Word.

The second half of the verse explains it, "because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him."

How Does Faith Come?

Rom. 10:17 So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

How does (active) faith come and grow?

Passive Listening • Passive means, “not active, but acted upon.” Passive people are generally sluggish and disengaged—believing that “whatever will be, will be.” Passive listeners only “perk up” when something is said that has the promise of easing their burdens or bringing more comfort into their lives.

A passive listener is the kind of person who ignores the importance of changing the oil in his automobile every 3000-5000 miles. Passive listeners tend to take action when trouble arises. Passive listeners tend not to act until they are acted upon. Passive listeners labor under a great number of self-inflicted problems.

Convenient Listening • Convenient is defined as, “Situated within easy reach.” The convenient listener only applies his heart to hear when the information or task is within easy reach. The best things in life are not usually within easy reach. We should not live with a sense of entitlement. We should live with a sense of purpose and responsibility. 

Jesus says something that sounds strange on first hearing, “And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force” (John 11:12). He was not talking about physical violence in this text. He was talking about being willing to take action. We call it being “proactive.” Convenient listeners do not embrace this approach to life.

Critical Listening • The word “critical” is defined as, “exhibiting the spirit of one who looks for and points out faults and defects.” Communication often fails because of critical listening that is more concerned about finding faults than in understanding the content and meaning of the message. Critical listeners are not motivated to learn and grow. Critical listeners often develop a self-righteous attitude that seeks to obtain or maintain a superior position. At the same time, such persons are often frustrated with others for not listening to them. Jesus addressed this condition:

“For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the same measure you use, it will be measured back to you and why do you look at the speck in your brother's eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye?” (Matthew 7:2-3)

Active Listening • Active listening allows us to hear without the limitations of passive, convenient, or critical listening. This should be our goal. “Active” is defined as: “Not waiting to be acted upon. Prepared to apply what is heard and act on it—regardless of the circumstances.”

James 1:25 says, “But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.”

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Prisoners of Hope
Committed to Seeing the Best

Zechariah 9:9 “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King is coming to you; He is just and having salvation, Lowly and riding on a donkey, A colt, the foal of a donkey. 10 I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim And the horse from Jerusalem; The battle bow shall be cut off. He shall speak peace to the nations; His dominion shall be ‘from sea to sea, And from the River to the ends of the earth.’ God Will Save His People 11  “As for you also, Because of the blood of your covenant, I will set your prisoners free from the waterless pit. 12  Return to the stronghold, You prisoners of hope. Even today I declare That I will restore double to you.

Romans 8:18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. 19 For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; 22 For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now.

There is a certain amount of pain that comes with simply living in this world. People become distracted by the pain, noise and clutter of this world. People get caught up in carnal pursuits, which becomes their prison. There are all kinds of prisons. People who commit crimes, and some falsely accused, end up in literal prison. Some are prisoners to their own bad practices, such as lying. Some are prisoners to unforgiveness or bitterness.

Everyone is a prisoner, So you may as well be a Prisoner of Hope.

Paul and Silas understood that they were already prisoners of hope, even before they were put in jail. That’s why that began to sing praises. They were doing what they always did!

Prisoners of hope never stop seeing the best. Prisoners of hope cannot be bound by prisons of this world or captive circumstances created by people.

Acts 16:24-26 (New King James Version)
24 Having received such a charge, he put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks. 25 But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. 26 Suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were loosed.

Prisoners of hope are believers in Jesus who recognize the limitation in their circumstances, but refuse to be limited in their expectations and actions. We have faith in a God who can do anything.

Prisoners of hope...

  1. Focus on the promises of God more than focusing on the conditions and circumstances around us.
  2. Understand that the world is full of darkness, but know that they are full of light.
  3. Keep their love warm even in a cold world.
  4. Are not distracted from serving God by the pressures and activities of this world.
  5. Have high expectations of good things to come.
  6. Follow the example of our father of faith, Abraham, who hoped against hope and fulfilled God’s purpose in his life. Like Paul and Silas
  7. Have hope as a refuge and anchor for our souls. We are steady and steadfast in all conditions because Jesus has already entered the presence of God for us.

 

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Zechariah 9:11 “As for you also, Because of the blood of your covenant, I will set your prisoners free from the waterless pit. 12  Return to the stronghold, you prisoners of hope. Even today I declare That I will restore double to you."

Psalms 68:4, Sing to God, sing praises to His name; Extol Him who rides on the clouds, By His name Yah, And rejoice before Him. 5  A father of the fatherless, a defender of widows, Is God in His holy habitation. 6 God sets the solitary in families; He brings out those who are bound into prosperity; But the rebellious dwell in a dry land

We are living in a world full of sin and darkness. If you read all of Zechariah 9, you will statement after statement of God judging Israel’s enemies and His promise to protect His people.There is a certain amount of pain that comes with simply living in this world. People become distracted by the pain, noise and clutter of this world. People get caught up in carnal pursuits, which becomes their prison. There are all kinds of prisons. People who commit crimes, and some falsely accused, end up in literal prison. Some are prisoners to their own bad practices, such as lying. Some are prisoners to unforgiveness or bitterness.

Everyone is a prisoner, So you may as well be a Prisoner of Hope.

Paul and Silas understood that they were already prisoners of hope, even before they were put in jail. That’s why that began to sing praises. They were doing what they always did! Prisoners of hope never stop seeing the best. Prisoners of hope cannot be bound by prisons of this world or captive circumstances created by people.

Acts 16:24-26 (New King James Version)
24 Having received such a charge, he put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks. 25 But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. 26 Suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were loosed.

Prisoners of hope are believers in Jesus who recognize the limitation in their circumstances, but refuse to be limited in their expectations and actions. We have faith in a God who can do anything.

Too many people look at their circumstances and make the decision that they can do no more, or become no more than what they see. Like Jeremiah, those persons have to learn to “See well.”

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The Leverage of Legacy

Joshua 4:1 And it came to pass, when all the people had completely crossed over the Jordan, that the Lord spoke to Joshua, saying: 2 “Take for yourselves twelve men from the people, one man from every tribe, 3 and command them, saying, ‘Take for yourselves twelve stones from here, out of the midst of the Jordan, from the place where the priests’ feet stood firm. You shall carry them over with you and leave them in the lodging place where you lodge tonight.’ ”

Let’s think about LEGACY as something handed down from an ancestor or predecessor. We also think of legacy as something provided to work with and build on.

A legacy can be considered something obsolete (as in legacy software). A legacy can be considered something precious as an inheritance or benefits in life.

It is our responsibility to identify the value of legacy, live the lessons, and build the future on it. That creates our leverage. The alternative is starting from scratch without resources. The leverage of legacy is carried forward by learning and teaching others how to love and serve God by remembering all He and others have done.

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Galatians 4:1 Now I say that the heir, as long as he is a child, does not differ at all from a slave, though he is master of all, 2 but is under guardians and stewards until the time appointed by the father. 3 Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world. 4 But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.6 And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, “Abba, Father!” 7 Therefore you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.

In a world where people don't know who they are or what they have, in Christ you already have an inheritance.

In the ancient world the process of growing up was much more definite than it is today.

A) In the Jewish world, on the first Sabbath after a boy had passed his twelfth birthday, his father took him to the Synagogue, where he became A Son of the Law. The father thereupon uttered a benediction, "Blessed be thou, O God, who has taken from me the responsibility for this boy." The boy prayed a prayer in which he said, "O my God and God of my fathers! On this solemn and sacred day, which marks my passage from boyhood to manhood, I humbly raise my eyes unto you, and declare with sincerity and truth, that henceforth I will keep your commandments, and undertake and bear the responsibility of my actions towards you." There was a clear dividing line in the boy's life; almost overnight he became a man.

B) Under Roman law the year at which a boy grew up, between the ages of fourteen and seventeen a family festival was held called the Liberalia. He took off a toga worn by children and put on a toga worn by adults. He was then conducted by his friends and family down to the forum and formally introduced to public life

We live in a culture that is often disconnected from concepts of inheritance, family, and the sense of Kingdom. I didn’t appreciate a lot of these principles until later in life. We’ve seen examples of it, from both bad and good examples.

As the text states, an heir, as long as he a child, does not differ AT ALL from a slave, though he is master of all. He might be the owner of vast property but he could take no legal decision; he was not in control of his own life; everything was done and directed for him.When he became a man he entered into his full inheritance.

Inheritance was not something one generation could receive after the death of the previous generation. It was inter-generational transfer during life.

 

What keeps people from knowing who they are? As “children” (immature) we were bound to the “elements of the world.”

Elements of the world to a Jew meant the Law, which was elementary knowledge. In the world, there was astrology, in which one believed his fate was determined by the stars and gods (small G). One of the reasons so called Christians justified the slave trade is that they believe Africans were people destined to serve others under forced labor.

Elements of the world represents things not under the direction of God in Christ.

What is the solution? “See Well! What God Perform!”

Ephesians 1:16 I do not cease to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers: 17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, 18 the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power 20 which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all principality[g] and [h]power and [i]might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come

When you look at the Bible, it's like the entire concept is about inheritance, what we have received from God, from our fathers, and what we provide to others.

Our culture in our part of the world is more concerned about getting our own without considering our larger purpose and legacy. Inheritance is actually less about money and about purpose.

Part of the blessing we have in making plans and fulfilling purpose is that we create inheritance and opportunity for others.

Romans 8:15 For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. 16 The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: 17 And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.’

 

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See Well. Watch God Perform!

Matthew 6:22 (NLT) Your eye is like a lamp that provides light for your body. When your eye is healthy, your whole body is filled with light.

Welcome to the year of our Lord 2020 AD and to a new decade. Remember that Jesus changed time. 2020 is two thousand Twenty years since Christ came. “Anno Domini nostri Jesu Christi", which translates to "in the year of our Lord Jesus Christ”. Dates counted down BC, before Christ. Now we count up.

Today, the Lord wants us to be inspired, informed, and renewed in hope. On New Year’s Eve, we heard from our ministers about the significance of Jesus’ words, “Your eye is like a lamp that provides light for your body. When your eye is healthy, your whole body is filled with light.” Each one shared from the same Scripture and bought a wealth of insights. This shows the depth and power of God’s Word. 

I want you to renew your commitment to the Word of God today. There is nothing else you are reading, watching on TV, or looking on your phone, that is more relevant to your life. As Jesus in Matthew 4:4, “People do not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (NLT)

David said in Psalm 119:105 “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” There are many Bible reading plans. Biblegateway .com is a good one. If you have Alexa, you can set it to read the Bible to you everyday. 

What makes your eye healthy is paying attention to the right things. What you need is information, insight, and inspiration.

What are three things you need to pay less attention to?

Part of our vision for this year is, “See well. Watch God Perform!” We are going to learn from the life of Jeremiah, specifically from an encounter he had with the Lord as described in Chapter One. When you read Scripture, you first want to understand the context of the text, what it means in the time it was written. After that, we look for application to our lives and purpose today. 

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A Place Called Forward

Exodus 14:13, And Moses said to the people, "Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD, which He will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see again no more forever. 14]The LORD will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace." 15]  And the LORD said to Moses, "Why do you cry to Me? Tell the children of Israel to go forward. 16] But lift up your rod, and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it. And the children of Israel shall go on dry ground through the midst of the sea.

Forward defined: To cause to proceed or progress toward a goal. To cause to go or be taken from one place, person, or condition to another.

Forward is a place to which God leads people of purpose and destiny. Forward is a place that stretches your faith and exercises your prayer life. Forward is the place and the direction the vision takes you.

F.O.R.W.A.R.D. is...

F Follow instructions. Face your God given responsibilities. Stop complaining and do something! Carry your weight. Be an effective part of the body of Christ. 

O - Open your heart to God. Turn to Him and not to fear. “Do not be afraid. Stand still and see the salvation of the Lord.” Love people enough to touch them (for ways to touch)

R - Remember your covenants with family, leaders, and brothers and sisters in Christ. “Remember” is a covenant word. Remember the people that helped moved you forward. Thank God for the circumstances that moved you forward, even though that did not appear to be the case at the time.

W - Walk by faith, not by sight. Don’t trust your feelings or your carnal mind. Only through prayer will you be sensitive to what God is doing and saying. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. Activate spiritual principles.

A - Act on the Word. Act on spiritual principles. Be doers of the Word, so you won’t deceive yourself. (James 1:22, But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.) Mrs. Lot deceived herself. Be faithful, supportive, and obedient. 

R - Roll with the punches, and then punch back

D - Dream big and get to Work! Work on and invest into your dreams.

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Luke 8:38 Now the man from whom the demons had departed begged Him that he might be with Him. But Jesus sent him away, saying, 39 “Return to your own house, and tell what great things God has done for you.” And he went his way and proclaimed throughout the whole city what great things Jesus had done for him.

This is a dramatic story. Many of us have heard that story many times. The most impactful part of the story is when Jesus told the man to go back home and tell what great things Jesus has done for him. It is easy to focus on the tragic part of stories, but it is more helpful to others to share what God has done to bring you out.

Your testimony is your story to God's glory. What God has done for you is the greatest evidence of his presence and power. There is nothing anyone can say to contradict an authentic experience with the Lord. As we say, “The proof of the pudding is in the eating.”

Your testimony is the story of God's glory and grace in your life!

  • A testimony is the statement of your faith in God.
  • A testimony is an explanation of what Jesus has done for you.
  • A testimony represents your chosen lifestyle, not only what circumstances have forced upon you.
  • A testimony encompasses your purpose and predicts your future actions
  • Your testimony of faith and expectation also completes the circle of your prayers, even before you see the answer.

Hebrews 11:4 By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts; and through it he being dead still speaks. 

When we obey God and do those things he wants us to do, God both recognizes our actions and testifies of our gifts. It is as if God tells the host of heaven about the good things that we have done. It's just like parents who want to talk about the accomplishments of the children, or teachers that share the good work of their students, or employers who boast to others about their best employees.

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Colossians 2:6, As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, 7 rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving. 

Giving thanks is not some kind of a pep rally. Giving thanks is a real life way to handle difficulties. Stop and think of times when you have felt overwhelmed by problems and difficulties. If you can remember, those seasons lacked a time of deep thanks giving to God. There's absolutely no way to successfully handle problems without the balance of rejoicing and giving thanks to God which releases his grace into the situation.

Rooted and Built up

Just as the great tree is deep-rooted in the soil and draws its nourishment from like giant Sequoia redwood survive fires. it , so the Christian is rooted in Christ, the source of his life and strength. Just as the house stands fast because it is built on strong foundations, so  the Christian life is resistant to any storm 

Thanksgiving keeps your heart clear of darkness

Romans 1:21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.

Again, Thanksgiving is a lifestyle. It is a way of living and thinking. Giving thanks to God actually keeps our heart clear and our minds positive,

The apostle Paul ministered in person and by letter with a mixture call reality, encouragement, instruction, and Thanksgiving. He also talked about something that's going to sound a bit unusual but I wanted to get a hold of this. One of the characteristics of believers who are active in the kingdom and making a kingdom impact is appreciating the significance of something that the Bible calls mystery.

In our culture, the word mystery is a genre of style. The mystery genre is a type of fiction in which a detective, or other professional, solves a crime or series of crimes. We sometimes call it “who-done-it.’

Colossians 2:2, For I want you to know what a great conflict I have for you and those in Laodicea, and for as many as have not seen my face in the flesh, 2 that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, and attaining to all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the knowledge of the mystery of God, both of the Father and of Christ, 3 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

1 Corinthians 2:7, But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory,

What is the mystery of God? Why would treasures of wisdom and knowledge be hidden?

A mystery is something perfectly plain to the person who has ears to hear, but is completely hidden to the person who doesn’t care and will not focus.

Ephesians 1:9-10 (NIV) He made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, 10 to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.

Paul then tells us the reason why God reveals truth to us in a mystery.

God wants the things He shows you to be more important, more impactful and more enduring there anything else you ever hear or learn.

Colossians 2:4 Now this I say lest anyone should deceive you with persuasive words. 5 For though I am absent in the flesh, yet I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good order and the steadfastness of your faith in Christ. 6 As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, 7 rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving. 8 Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ.  9 For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; 10 and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power.

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2 Corinthians 2:12, Furthermore, when I came to Troas to preach Christ’s gospel, and a door was opened to me by the Lord, 13 I had no rest in my spirit, because I did not find Titus my brother; but taking my leave of them, I departed for Macedonia. 14 Now thanks be unto God, who always causes us to triumph in Christ, and makes manifest the fragrance of his knowledge by us in every place.

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