Slaughter the oxen!

photo-1486590781073-2ad02b358578In 1519, the Spanish explorer and conquistador Hernando Cortez decided he wanted to seize the treasure the Aztecs had been hoarding. He took his soldiers and landed his ships on the shores of the Yucatan. Despite the large army under his command, he was still outnumbered by a huge and powerful empire that had been around for 600 years.

Some of his men doubted their chance of success and wanted to escape. Cortez did something that seemed insane. He gave the order to destroy his own ships. The path forward was clear—all or nothing, 100-percent commitment.

According to the legend, Cortez succeeded in getting the treasure because there was no going back.

To have success in your walk with God and in your ministry, you must abandon it all, like Elisha did in 1 Kings 19. He had a huge operation going which included 24 oxen running and 12 working plows. Elijah appeared on the scene, walked up to Elisha and threw his cloak around him.

This was the clear communication to Elisha, “God has chosen you to be my successor”.” Elisha’s response was unbelievable. He went back, kissed his parents goodbye, then took his yoke of oxen and slaughtered them. He burned the plowing equipment to cook the meat and gave it to the people, and they ate. Then he set out to follow Elijah and became his servant. (See 1 Kings 19:21, NIV.) Like Cortez, he destroyed every possibility of ever going back.

There is no such thing as casual Christianity. Following Christ comes with a cost. What are the things in your life you need to kill, burn or leave behind to pursue the “treasure” God has for you?

The truth is you cannot follow Jesus without leaving some things behind, killing some things off and burning some things up. Peter, James and John left the fishing business. Matthew left tax collecting. Mary Magdalene left prostitution.

To truly follow Christ, you must kill some things off—entertainment, TV, movies, social media, electronic games. Any or all of these could be blocking you from an intimate relationship with God. Or old friendships or relationships could be pulling you back into alcohol, drugs or dirty lifestyles. It could be your horoscope, yoga, essential oils, or other demonic influences.

What do you need to leave behind, kill off or burn today?

Jesus said, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62, NIV).

__________________________
Paul Wagorn, http://www.ideaconnection.com

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Get to the finals!

photo-1518214598173-1666bc921d66My secret was tightly locked up in my little box. I had worked diligently for weeks to prepare for this day—the Pinewood Derby.

When we entered the building, we could sense the excitement among the racers. The big track was set up, and the judges were taking their places.

Years before, my brothers developed a family secret for the axle system of these little cars that were carved out of a little block of wood. The process was the same every year. You must overcome every contestant to reach that final race. There were no shortcuts.

If you don’t overcome the smaller challenges of life, you never make it to the final race. Many of the tests in life, if overcome, qualify us for the bigger much more significant ones.

David was pursuing the Amalekites who had stolen everything he and his army owned including their wives and children. He was going to the enemy’s camp to take back everything.

“David and the six hundred men with him came to the Besor Valley, where some stayed behind. Two hundred of them were too exhausted to cross the valley, but David and the other four hundred continued the pursuit” (1 Sam. 30:9-10, NIV).

Life has a way of disqualifying the half-hearted. Consider the 200 who were too exhausted to cross Besor. They missed that “final race” probably because they had not conditioned themselves like the other 400. The 200 had no testimony of victory to tell their children. They did not witness how David and his men snuck up on a drunk army and took back everything. It must have been humbling when their wives and children were brought to them.

Don’t underestimate the small challenges of life. They are often the prerequisite for the glorious challenges. God has victory for you every step of the way. Don’t get stuck at Besor.

“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.”—Isaiah 41:13, NIV

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Build your life in the secret place

YUBiQ2NZdQThe hot midday sun shone mercilessly on the middle eastern countryside. A young shepherd sat under a tree working tirelessly while watching over his sheep. Again, and again he chose different targets working hard never to miss the mark. No one was there to see his accomplishments.

When he was done with his daily routine, he pulled out a simple harp and began playing like a master musician. He worked hard to polish up his skills. With the sun setting and the sheep safely in the fold, his mind was busy dwelling on the goodness of God. Inspired by the presence of God, he grabbed a pen and wrote,

“The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
he refreshes my soul.”

Why was this “no-name” working so hard? The sheep would not cheer him on saying “great shot” or “what a beautiful song, David”.” Would anyone ever read the poems he had written in his little book?

He was not of noble birth so why work so hard. Nobody saw any potential in him. When  the prophet Samuel came to visit his family for a special meal, nobody bother to tell David. Not even his own father saw potential in him.

David was not trying to get the attention of people. He wanted to please his God. In the end, it was not people but God who promoted him from the shepherd fields to the palace in Hebron and then later Jerusalem. Although, Samuel wanted to anoint one of David’s brothers as the next king of Israel, God said each time, “No, it is not him.”

The brothers finally went to the shepherd fields and brought David in. The family stood in shook when Samuel pulled out the anointing horn filled with oil and poured it over David’s head saying, “You are chosen of God to be the next king of Israel.”

Too many people live only to stand in the limelight. They will work hard to achieve their goals if they know they will have a platform. They will do everything to be recognized. They work hard to get the attention of influential people.

David was not like this. He didn’t try to meet Samuel at every conference or read all of his books or listen to every podcast. David wished to please only one person—God.

Are you building your life in the secret place or are you doing it to be recognized by men?

“The greatest among you will be your servant. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”—Matthew 23:12, NIV

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Are you in love with Jesus?

Z0VnQmdQWhen people are in love, they do the craziest things. I remember when I first fell in love with Simone, who is now my wife. No price was too high for me. I would buy flowers for her every week. I would drive through the night, getting next to no sleep just to be with her. I spent way too much money on her, more than I could afford at the time. But , to me, she was just worth it.

Are you in love with Jesus? When you are in love with Him, going to church is a joy. Reading the Bible and prayer is not a chore. You cannot wait for the prayer meeting, because you get the joy of His presence. Giving sacrificial offerings is a joy because you love your God.

How much is Jesus worth to you? Luke 14:3 talks about a woman that came in where Jesus was eating with a beautiful alabaster jar of expensive perfume made from essence of nard. She broke open the jar and poured the perfume over his head. Imagine, this jar of perfume was worth a year’s wages. In our day it could be worth $30,000. It was extravagant and wasteful in the eyes of some. Why would she do that? Because she loved Jesus and wanted to give her best.

Jesus said in Revelation 2:4, “But I have this complaint against you. You don’t love me or each other as you did at first!”

Some Christians say, I am just not an emotional type of person. I can’t get excited about my faith like some people do. The interesting thing is that just these “unemotional” people will go to great lengths to be at a football game. They complain about parking at church but are willing to park a mile away from a football stadium and walk to an uncomfortable bleacher seat that they paid $200 for. When the game starts, all un-emotionalism passes away. They shout at the top of their voices and get excited. Why? Because that is where their heart is.

Many Christians have a loving problem. Jesus says, “Turn back to me and do the works you did at first.”

When you still were in love, How much is Jesus worth to you?

Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind’” (Matt. 22:37, NLT).

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I will never go fishing again!

YkRnSGBZcAThe water was peacefully rippling on the beautiful beach. A few fishermen were cleaning their nets. You could not tell from a distance what was going on in their thoughts. Fishing was just not as good as it used to be. They had put forth their best effort, using all their tricks, laboring through the hours of the night, but caught nothing.

I can imagine Simon Peter dreading to go home with no paycheck. The disappointed hungry look from his children tore at his heart. What was he supposed to do?

The only consolation was that the Rabbi Jesus was using his boat to preach to the massive crowds on the beach. Somehow doing something special for Jesus did bring a sense of joy to his heart.

What do you do when everything you try seems to fail? Successful people fail just as many times as unsuccessful people. The difference comes in their willingness to keep trying and making adjustments. The most tragic thing is when people make inner promises that block them from God’s awesome will in their lives.

Peter could have said, “That’s it, I will never go fishing again. I am tired of seeing my family go hungry”.” This is exactly what many people do. They say things like, “I will never forgive my mother”.” or “I will never go into the ministry again”.” or “I will never go back to that church”.” or “I will never talk to my parents again”.” These are inner vows that block them for the rest of their lives.

When Jesus had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Now go out where it is deeper, and let down your nets to catch some fish.”

“Master,” Simon replied, “we worked hard all last night and didn’t catch a thing. But if you say so, I’ll let the nets down again” (Luke 5:4,5 NLT).

What would Peter have missed if he had not tried again? He would have missed the biggest business success of his life (both boats were filled with fish and on the verge of sinking) and would probably never have become the apostle—the “fisher of men.”

Don’t let inner vows block your future. Say to Jesus, “But if you say so, I’ll let the nets down again.”

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The unexpected miracle!

YURiRGFRcQSome years ago I received this email after an evangelistic outreach in Austria:

“Yesterday my Hindu friend told me that last week she was healed from a leg ailment. She had accompanied me to your meeting at the “‘Freie Christengemeinde’” in Braunau. She did not feel comfortable to go to the front during the healing prayer but had remained in her seat. However, during the night she realized that, all of sudden, the pain in her leg disappeared and that she was healed! Jesus had gone through the pews! :)”

The Bible says in Isaiah 65:24: “And it shall come to pass, that before they call, I will answer; and while they are yet speaking, I will hear.”

What will you do when everything is working against you, when it looks as if God is not answering?

Peter was at the end of his rope. A few days earlier, the King had captured his friend and fellow disciple James and killed him with the sword. And now it was Peter’s turn. He sat there, chained between two soldiers and must have felt that this was the end. One more night and it would be over.

What do you do when all doors are shut? When every opportunity to do something for God crumbles in the sand? Many start to complain. Others would like to raise their fist toward heaven and shout: “LORD, why do you allow this to happen?” I have known Christians who harbor bitterness in their heart toward God after a big disappointment and block themselves for the rest of their lives. What will you do when all doors are closed? Paul and Silas raised their voices in praise when they were in prison.

Some Christians would say, ““That’s just how it is. I cannot change my situation and just have to accept it”.” Did you know you can get used to live in a prison? Have you stopped praying? Many times, when we cannot fight any longer, when we cannot even pray any more, the Lord leads other Christians to stand in the gap for us.

One last night he lay down to sleep in prison. He probably did not know that many Christians had gathered together to pray fervently for him. During the night, the light of God shone into his prison cell. But Peter did not budge. He was asleep.

This is also the case with many Christians today. The light of God often manifests in our church services and though we love and enjoy it, we do not allow ourselves to be awakened.

The angel of the Lord punched Peter in his side to wake him. “Peter, you have a mission to accomplish. There is a lot you have to live for. Get up”.” And when Peter got up, the chains fell off his hands. The angel led him outside and when the angel disappeared, Peter realized he was free.

Have you reached a point where you just want to give up? Do you say, “I just don’t know what the Lord’s plan is for my life”? All doors seem to be shut, but God has a wonderful plan for you. Let Him wake you up today. You have a calling. You were born with a plan of God for your life. Let the Holy Spirit wake you up today, we need you urgently. Come out of your prison into the calling of God. I am praying for you.

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What causes men to take giant steps in faith?

YkNrR2FZA thin cloud of smog covered the streets of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. On almost all the roads, traffic had come to a standstill, and each driver seemed to create his own traffic rules. While we were stuck in traffic, a young Muslim beggar approached my window. I grabbed a shiny new coin and gave it to him. My heart was filled with deep compassion for this young man and I looked at him . “Jesus loves you!”

What happened next left me speechless. He took the coin, pelted it back at me through my window and ran away in anger. The name of Jesus provoked something deep within him.

Acts 4:18-20 says, “Then they … commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John replied, “‘Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.’” (NIV)

There always will be influences and people who want to silence us Christians. Many simply do not want to hear that wonderful name—Jesus“”. But we have the glorious obligation to carry on despite rejections, threats and persecution. It is our honor to glorify Jesus’ wonderful name in our generation. If we do this, He will stand to us no matter what. God proved it again during our crusade in Waliso, Ethiopia.

I stood on the platform that first crusade night and saw crowds of people before me who urgently needed a miracle from God. The Holy Spirit said to me, “Call someone with an injured knee up on the stage”.” I was obedient, but when I saw an elderly man break down at foot of the stairs, unable to come to the platform without assistance, I was not just dealing with a painful knee, but with a man unable to climb stairs. If the Lord did not intervene, this could turn out to be very humbling for me.

What causes men to take giant steps in faith? In Acts 3, Peter and John were going up to the temple to pray. There at the gate they came across a beggar who was lame from birth. Something grabbed Peter’s heart. He could not pass this needy man. After commanding him to walk in the name of Jesus, he put his reputation on the line by taking the lame by his hand and pulling him up. At that very moment, the power of God flowed through him and the lame man was totally healed. What makes people take risks for God?

Peter had prepared himself in the prayer chamber (upper room). But he was also willing to take a risk in public. I am convinced that there are two requirements for Christians to witness God’s powerful miracles. First, God shares His heart with you when you are alone in HIS presence. There you learn to recognize His wonderful voice. Second, when you are in the public eye, you will be willing to risk looking like a fool if necessary. The desire to please God will be so much greater than any desire to be accepted by men.
The man in Waliso stood at the bottom of the stairs and looked frail, but with great expectation. Hundreds more were watching from the crowd. I laid my hands on him and prayed a simple prayer. I opened my eyes and noticed no improvement. The Holy Spirit spoke again. “Take him by his hand and walk”.” I immediately took the man by his hand and said, “Come on, let’s walk.”

With the first step, the power of God came upon him and he was healed. He was jumping up and down and ran across the stage. We all looked on in amazement. The next day he ran up the stairs to the platform to give his testimony again.

God is willing to do so much more in our generation—if we will just let HIM.

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