Many of us don't know and understand the love God has for us, so it's hard for us to be completely dependent on Him. First John 4:16 says, "And we have known and believed the love God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him" (NKJV).
We know God loves us because He tells us so. And, we know by His actions. He sent His only Son to suffer and die in order to take away our sins and provide us with eternal life so we could be with Him forever.
Many of us intellectually know that God loves us. But do we really believe He loves us? Do we claim all that He has for us?
Knowing and believing are two separate things. If we believe God loves us, we have no cause to worry about anything. He is the only one who will never let us down. There is no one like Him.
Many times we feel we don't deserve God's love, but it's not about what we do to earn His love. It's about what He did for us--He gave.
What matters to God is that we learn to accept His love as freely given to us. God's love makes it possible for us to work through any situation that comes our way.
There is a substantial difference between being filled with the Holy Spirit and not being filled. The apostle Peter went through a period of stumbling, defeat and insecurity. But Jesus had promised the disciples they would receive power when the Holy Spirit came on them, and they would be His witnesses.
Peter lived that experience in the upper room where it says: "And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance" (Acts 2:2-4, NKJV).
For three years, Peter walked with Jesus and saw the most glorious moments of the Lord's ministry. But when Peter had to make a stand for Christ, he refused to do so. In the upper room, when he received the fulfillment of Christ's promise, the fullness of the Holy Spirit enabled him to become a faithful witness.
We do not change because we witness miracles and wonders, nor do we change because we attend a beautiful worship service. Only an upper room experience can transform us--a personal experience with Christ through His Holy Spirit.
The Holy Ghost is in us to do more than make us shout. He has come to give us the power to live holy.
This year marks the observance of the 100th anniversary of the Church of God in Christ, the body of believers I am privileged to serve as general supervisor of the Department of Women. Our founder, Bishop Charles H. Mason, was sovereignly led to establish the denomination after having experienced the great move of God during the Azusa Street Revival. Four years later, Mason called Mother Lizzie Woods Robinson to serve with him as the first organizer of the women's department.
During the early years, the women came together on occasion to fellowship, encourage one another and pray. Eventually, their soul-winning and evangelistic work would lay the foundation for the birthing of churches and the expansion of the ministry.
The local weathermen warned us regularly in spring 2006 about the dreadful hurricane season Florida residents were facing. The two previous years had been record-breaking in our state and across the Gulf region for damage due to hurricanes. In Orlando, where I live, three storms hit within six weeks.
At a conference I attended in May 2006, several leaders discussed the dismal forecasts. As we talked, it became clear that the Holy Spirit was prodding us to do something. After all, Jesus has authority over the winds and the waves (see Mark 4:39), and He gave His authority to us. By the end of the discussion, three of us who have intercessory prayer networks totaling about 10,000 people committed to take a stand in prayer against the storms and their probable devastation.
During the next month I connected with several other leaders whom God was also directing to stand in prayer regarding the storm season. We began to ask the Holy Spirit for His strategy and were amazed at how specifically He directed us to pray. We decreed: "No storm of hurricane strength will hit American soil."
My wife gave me an iPod for my birthday last July but I waited until Christmas to open it. Of course I appreciated the gift. But I avoided opening the box because I didn't want to tinker with another new form of technology.
I have reached my limit. And I am not the only one suffering from high-tech fatigue. I see this condition everywhere. People talk on cell phones while driving. Some use their phones while e-mailing from their laptops. I see guys chatting in airport restrooms using their remote earphones. (No thanks. I'll call from the gate area.)
I've even watched two people sit together in a restaurant while they phone other people at the same time. What we've lost in real connection with human beings we've made up for in increased broadband speed, sound quality and added video features. After all, who needs the lost art of conversation when we have TiVo, BlackBerry devices, Bluetooth headsets and smaller, sleeker MP3 players?
Destiny is about looking forward.
During my youth, I did everything I knew to fit in. As a result, I fell in with the wrong crowd, did the wrong things and was on the wrong road to my future. Had there not been a major intervention by God, I would probably have been dead before the age of 20.
But God did intervene. And today, as a pastor, I often encounter people at my church with problems similar to the ones I had in my teen years in Baltimore, Maryland. For years now, my message has never changed: God doesn't make mistakes. He has never given up on you. God loves you and wants to see you fulfilled in life. God has a purpose and calling—a destiny—that He seeded into you when you were first conceived in your mother's womb, and He is still holding it for you today.
Probably our greatest hindrance in doing the will of God is the fact that it involves sacrifice.
The Christian life seems to be a strange experience in this way, and many people (even believers) today either choose to gloss over the uncomfortable component of sacrifice or ignore it altogether.
Even during the joyous celebration of Christmas, as believers, we should not overlook the fact that the baby in the manger was destined for the cross. The truth remains that our salvation, God's free gift to us, was not without cost.
When Katherine Harris became secretary of state in Florida in 1998, she had no idea she would play a significant role in the history of our country. But when her position required her to certify the outcome of the 2000 presidential election in her state, she took a stand based on what she believed was right—legally and in the eyes of God. Because her decision resulted in Florida's choosing George W. Bush over Al Gore by only 537 votes—and swinging the national election in Bush's favor—she was vigorously opposed, but she remained firm in her conviction.
Most of us will never be thrust into a situation in which the eyes of the entire nation are upon us, as Harris was. But each of us must be ready to take a stand for what is right. Beth Moore says we must follow the example of biblical characters such as Daniel and his fellow exiles, who lived a life without compromise.
In the last 40 years American courts have ruled Christianity out of public life and undermined the Christian foundation on which our country was built. As a result, righteousness has ceased to be valued and ungodly living has become the norm—much of it protected by law. Unless the trend is stopped, we risk losing our Christian heritage altogether.
NOBODY IN MY FAMILY watches Desperate Housewives. My wife and I are raising four teenage daughters, so the last thing we need is a sleazy prime-time soap opera about suburban women who consider adultery an acceptable way to cure boredom.
No thanks. I'll change the channel.
On the other hand, I do want my girls to grow up to be desperate. Not like the women who live on the fictional Wisteria Lane, but more like Hannah--the Bible's original desperate housewife. We could use a big dose of her desperation today.
Last fall, in spite of our prayers, Central Florida residents faced the possibility of going through a second hurricane. Every weather report we saw indicated that one was heading our way. My husband and I had already been through a first round and experienced some damage to our home. Surely, it couldn't happen again!
When Frances, the second storm, arrived, my family was out of town. I kept praying and declaring to myself that no matter what I found after I got back, God said it was all going to work out for my good (see Rom. 8:28).
It was easy to have faith--until I walked into the house and found the ceilings collapsed, water standing everywhere and the smell of mold permeating the air. How could this disaster turn out for our good?
In obedience to Jesus' explicit command, 120 believers waited in the upper room for the promise of the Father, and while they waited, they travailed in prayer. For 10 days they gave themselves to intercession.
Luke records their steadfast spiritual labor: "These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication" (Acts 1:14, NKJV). This is a key fact that reveals that intercession was an integral part of the birth of the church.
In that miraculous moment, the Holy Spirit fell in power. Peter preached Christ, and suddenly 3,000 souls believed, repented and were born anew (see Acts 2:37-41). The travail of the 120 brought forth new life for many. This is the calling of God's interceding forerunners everywhere.