What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
Over the years, I’ve been blessed to sit at the feet of some very wise people who have shared so many things that I value and appreciate. That wisdom set the trajectory of my life and I consider it a real honor! When I think about the best advice I’ve ever been given, I have to consider the following:
When I was in 9th grade, my grandma who helped raise me, commented about some of my choices in friends. She said, “Darling, if you lie down with dogs, you’ll get up with fleas.” It was a wake up call that helped me see that my relationships were going to shape my life. They either reflect who we ARE or who we BECOME. I began making better choices immediately.
When I was a young preacher and father in my late 20’s or early 30’s, I was taking my dad for chemo treatments as he fought a brave battle against cancer. He asked me to pull over and with tears he began to bear his heart. I’ll never forget what he said. “Son, I’ve been in ministry for almost 40 years. I don’t regret the churches I didn’t pastor, or the sermons I didn’t preach. I regret that my wife got old and my children grew up, and I don’t have very many memories. My life is almost over but yours has just begun. Please don’t make the same mistakes. Love God and do ministry with all of your passion; but take time to enjoy life and build memories with your family.” It taught me to create priorities so that I don’t win the world at the expense of my family. I’ve chosen to value life, create memories, and prioritize the things that matter most.
In my mid 30’s, I was sitting with Bishop Bill, Lady Bishop Shirley Mckinney, and a few others, in his office at the church on Lakeshore Blvd. TD Jakes, and a few other prominent preachers had just left the room. Bishop McKinney turned to the group of us young preachers (Marlin J Reid and a couple of others) and said, “Guys, when you get in the presence of wisdom, the best thing you can do is shut up and listen. If you have anything to say, let it be a question!” That was some of the greatest wisdom I’ve ever received.
I took 2 thoughts from it:
When you get around people wiser and smarter than you SHUT UP and LISTEN.
Secondly, don’t be too afraid or too intimidated to ask questions. Most successful people admire those who are willing to ask questions and don’t mind sharing their thoughts. You’ll be amazed at how much you can learn if you’re willing to listen and ask questions.
How about you? What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given? I’d love to hear your stories.
Every year this time I’m asked why the Friday before Easter is referred to as “Good Friday.” There are 3 main trains of thought. One says it was originally “God Friday,” and over time as things transferred from language to language it was changed.
The second says, it’s “good” in the sense that it initiated the process of redemption and resurrection. That without death resurrection cannot happen.
The third, which most scholars hold is, it’s “Good” in the sense that it’s holy, sacred, and revered. But, it can only be sacred and revered because of the outcome. Without Good Friday, we don’t have Resurrection Sunday.
Interestingly, this seems to be the story of life. The reality is, for Jesus, “Good Friday,” was anything but good. In the middle of the night as He prayed in the Garden, He was arrested. Throughout the night and into the early morning He was beaten, tried unjustly, convicted, and scourging. He carried his cross to the top of Golgotha and was crucified by 9:00 in the morning. He suffered in horrific agony as the life was literally suffocated out of His body and finally died at 3 pm in the afternoon.
Yet in His anguish, with a bleeding back, nails in His hands and feet, and a crown of thorns on His head, His greatest pain was not physical; it was the fact that because He is vicariously taking upon Himself the sins of the world, the Father turned His back on Him. Jesus cried out, “My God, my God! Why have you forsaken me?”
Notice He didn’t say, “my hands, my hands, my head my head, or my feet, my feet.” He said, “My God; my God…”
This was a direct quote from Psalm 22 when the writer, 950 years earlier, feeling abandoned and forgotten, cried out “God where have you gone? Where are you when I need you most? Why aren’t you answering my prayers in the time of my crisis? Why have you forsaken me?”
Have you ever felt as though God has forgotten or forsaken you? Have situations or circumstances seemed so overwhelming that God seemed a million miles away? I think we all have. Maybe your marriage is falling apart, your children are in trouble, someone you love is sick or dying, maybe this plague has cost you your job, your church is shut down, you’re struggling to pay your bills and no relief is in sight; or perhaps you’re just completely overwhelmed by the stress and pressure of this entire ordeal.
This is why Good Friday is so good. It’s hope that weeping only endures for the night…but joy comes…in the morning.
As Jesus was suffering the most horrific form of death for 6 hours, He modeled for us how to endure the darkest moments; when life seems unfair and the Father seems silent. He showed us how to overcome when we feel overwhelmed.
- PROMISE — In the time of his greatest suffering, as His body was writhing in pain, His enemies were mocking and ridiculing Him, and God was silent…rather than being bitter and vengeful, He was meditating on a Psalm; He was filling His mind with the promises of God. He was not angry, spiteful or resentful. He was in fact just the opposite. He was gracious, merciful, and forgiving. Even as He was dying, He was ministering to others and making sure their needs are met.
What a great example of how to endure the difficult moments of life. Feed on the word of God. Meditate upon and fill your mind with His promises. Keep hope alive in your heart. In the dark times, stay focused upon the good things God has done in your life. Remind yourself of His promises. Keep looking forward with great anticipation…it’s Friday but Sunday is coming.
- PRAISE — Make a decision to be a person of praise. Verse 3 of Psalm 22 says, “…But thou art holy, You who inhabit the praises of Israel…” In other words, the Psalmist says, “If I can just praise God in the midst of my pain, and remember His goodness, His presence will manifest. His grace and strength will bring me through!”
He even promises to continue to praise God in the midst of the congregation of mockers and scoffers. The message to us is clear. Even in pain, God is still worthy of our praise and adoration. If we will acknowledge and praise Him, He will come and dwell in those praises and either deliver us from or deliver us through the situation. There will always be those who don’t understand; who will scoff and mock, but keep praising Him. He is your strength and the hope of all of your tomorrow’s.
- PURPOSE — Finally, in verses 27-31 the Psalmist reminds himself of the purpose that is before him. He declared that in the end, God was going to redeem this situation and bring something good out of bad. That God was going to be glorified to the point that even people who are not yet born would declare His goodness. HE FOUND PURPOSE IN HIS PAIN!
The writer of Hebrews 12 reminds us that Jesus was able to endure the agony of the Cross because He remained focused on the PURPOSE that was set before Him. Remaining focused on the purpose, helps us maintain our joy during the agonizing process.
The Psalmist begins with “My God my God, why have you forsaken me and ends with, “…They will proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn – for it is finished.” (Psalm 22:31) In other words, he said, “I’m going to remain focused until I finish my purpose.”
Interestingly, these were also the final words of Jesus, “It is finished!” He fulfilled the purpose and is now man can be saved and He is glorified in the heavens and the earth. Good Friday was part of the process that led to Resurrection Sunday.
In Isaiah 11:1-10 the Old Testament prophet described this event when he said, “From Jesse’s stump is coming a green shoot; a green shoot and this will be my servant. And he will be filled with the Spirit of the Lord, which is a spirit of wisdom and council and might and knowledge…and he’s going to set things right in the world.”
Imagine a gigantic tree stump that looks totally dead. Think about how big the tree used to be, with huge branches and limbs reaching high into the heavens. But now, all that is left is a massive stump. What used to be so alive and awesome is now dead. However, then you look more closely you see that beneath the surface is an extensive root system that has spawned a little green shoot sprouting up from the top of the stump that represents new life, new opportunities, and new beginning.
✴ So why do we call this Good Friday? Because it is sacred and hallowed.
✴ Why? Because it is the beginning of the redemption process and the transformation from something horrific to something grand.
✴ Why? Because it was good for US! It was the price of redemption. The suffering Savior became the resurrected Lord! Because of GOOD FRIDAY, lost, hopeless man can now come boldly into the presence of the Father, find forgiveness, and enjoy fellowship with Him forever.
Don’t lose hope on Friday; Sunday’s coming! Stay in the Word, keep giving God praise, remain focused on your purpose. Joy comes in the morning…it’s FRIDAY…but SUNDAY’S COMING!
Have you ever felt the pain of being forgotten, abandoned, or rejected? Has someone or something made you feel inadequate or insufficient? At some point or another we have probably all felt left out or passed over for someone else. It may be because of an unusual personal characteristic (being a slow learner, over-weight, slow, awkward, shy, or poor); it could be because of a mistake you’ve made or a even a painful event you’ve been forced to deal with…an injustice you’ve suffered at the hands of someone else.
Depending on the severity of the rejection, it can scar people for life. For some, the devil uses those painful memories to keep them in an emotional prison lock behind the bars of their past. They feel unloved, unwanted, and unaccepted. They convince themselves that they can’t ever measure up to other people’s expectation of them.
It can cause people to feel as though even God sees no value or worth in them. So, they spend their lives avoiding or even running from His presence or falling into a cycle of dead works; always trying to earn His favor and blessing. The concept of grace is totally forgotten and life becomes one of feeling as though your best is never good enough…you are forever unworthy!
That’s why I love this passage so much, “And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen.” (1 Corinthians 1:28)
When Paul wrote that verse, he was writing to the Corinthian believers, who were being ostracized and rejected by the unbelieving community in the city of Corinth. It was a pagan culture that didn’t understand this new ideal of faith in a single, living God. They looked down on these Believers as ignorant, simple, and uncultured, seeing them as out of touch with the norms of their polytheistic society. In fact, their disdain for Christians was so intense that Paul said they “despised” the Corinthian church.
The word “despised” is the Greek word exoutheneo which means, “to make light of, to despise, to treat with contempt, to disregard, and to neglect.” It paints the picture of someone low and detestable whom others perceive as hideous, disgusting, despicable, and nauseating. In fact, this word describes a person who is such an outcast and so low in other people’s minds that they don’t even consider them worth recognition. In the culture they were the untouchables; almost totally ignored and treated as human trash or scum.
But notice that at the end of the verse Paul declares that the people whom the world rejects are the very ones whom God has chosen! He chooses His treasures from the trash heap. He is the original ‘recycler.” He delights in taking those whom others see no value in and using them as a testimony of His greatness and grace! Even Jesus was, according to the Prophet Isaiah, “despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrow, acquainted with grief…” (Isaiah. 53:5) He takes great joy in repairing, rebuilding, and reshaping your life as a living testimony of His love and causing the radiance of His glory to be seen in you!
So if you’ve been rejected by friends, family members, co-workers, or even church members, don’t take it personal. Just understand they are too blind to see the value God created within you. If your heart has been broken, He is able to heal you, restore you, and use you as a vessel for His honor and glory. Remain yielded to His hand and He will make yours a life of distinction! That I can guarantee!
Every day you are either becoming more of what you desire to be or more of what you already are…You are either conforming or transforming…the good news is, you are the one who decides which it will be!
Romans 12:2 (NLT) says, “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.”
Transform (Greek-metamorphu) means to “completely change into another form or species.” It implies a process of development where the hidden design is ultimately revealed. It means to allow what God has written into our spiritual DNA on the inside, to work its way through to the outside, until we living out the full potential that we were created with.
The butterfly goes through the process of metamorphosis until that which was always there written into its genes or DNA by the Creator is revealed.
Caterpillars can’t fly. But they were born to fly. How do you solve this conundrum? Metamorphosis! When the caterpillar has been changed into a butterfly, it becomes what God always intended it to be. It emerges from the cocoon as a beautiful butterfly. It maximizes it’s potential!
Metamorphosis reveals the essential character of whatever was put there by the Creator in the beginning.
- The opposite of transform is conform.
Paul tells us we cannot conform to the spirit of this worldly age and be transformed into the person God designed us to be at the same time. The word conform means “to be pressed or squeezed into a mold or mindset.” The world tries to force you to fall in line; to think and behave like they do. It you don’t you’re an outcast, non-conformist, an extremist.
The What are dangers of conformity?
- You fail to recognize your uniqueness
- You allow others to determine your value, purpose and potential
- You never access the fullness of your calling and heavenly resource
- You don’t maximize the GREATNESS God created in you and prepared for you
Rather than conforming God want us to be transformed into the image of Jesus Christ displaying the characteristics of an overcomer in life. He wants us to rise above the small mindedness that limits us and keeps us from maximizing our potential in Him.
Now let’s apply this to life of the believer…
When you were born-again, God placed something great on the inside of you…His life, His power-His glory, grace, love, confidence, peace, wisdom, the full potential for every resource and promise of God to be fulfilled. He has given you all things that pertain to life and godliness.
“By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence.” (2 Peter 1:3 NLT)
You have everything you need to be an overcomer in life. The devil should never get the best of you. You have the potential to win in every situation.
But, for many the treasure on the inside isn’t manifesting on the outside! This is why we see so many saints living like sinners. They struggle with the same issues, bad habits and unproductive patterns of behavior as unbelievers.
When they were born-again they were given eternal life and brought into the family of God. Their SPIRIT MAN was changed on the inside, but their lifestyle or manner of living…THE OUTSIDE has remained much the same. They still battle anger, hatred, bitterness, strife, lust and so forth. They are still sick, broke, discouraged…living under the effects of natural conditions. They are just surviving…not living out the exciting adventure of discovering, fulfilling their life mission and heavenly assignment. Daily life is just the constant repetition of past events lived over and over!
The truth is, most all of us realize we need to make changes in some area of life!The problem is actually doing it! And, to be honest most of the changes we DO make are short-lived, lasting just long enough to relieve the stress of the current dilemma and then the old patterns re-emerge.
I’m not questioning anyone’s salvation or commitment to Christ; no doubt they have acknowledged Jesus as their Lord, and will go to heaven; but they are living far below their potential in Jesus Christ. Something is wrong. Since the problem is not the inefficiency of the life of God within, it must be something we need to change.
If we are going to experience outwardly the inward things that God has planted in our hearts…the things that He whispers to us…the hopes, the dreams, the benefits and the promises that He gives us . . .something has to happen…something has to change…and it is this: We must renew our minds; or in other words learn to think in line with the word of God.
“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind that you might experience, prove, and taste the will of God.’
What are you facing in your life right now? Is it stress, physical challenges, or problems in your marriage? Are you grappling with emotional issues? Perhaps you have a deep, dark depression that enshrouds you and just does not want to let go of you. Maybe you are struggling with some familiar sin; perhaps it is an issue of illness; maybe there are things going on with your kids or in some other arena of relationship. I truly believe that God wants to bring transformation into your life.
If you are struggling with financial woes, He wants to bring you into blessing; under emotional strain, He wants to give you peace…He wants your marriage to be healthy…to have strong family relationships. God wants to bring you into the fullness of what He created you to be and He wants you to enjoy the total provision of Calvary.
What were you created to be? What has He deposited within the DNA of your redeemed spirit? What is your capacity? What is your dream or goal for this new year? What does GREATER mean to you? Are you ready to be changed?
What you believe is directing your choices and determining the level of your life.
- What you believe…about God…the devil…life…other people…YOURSELF…is determining the choices you are making and creating your future. It doesnt have to be true…just believed strongly enough to affect your decisions. It is important to believe the right things…
Here’s the secret to true life transformation…believe the right things. Renew your mind to think like a child of the King…royalty. Intentionally “embrace a new way of seeing, thinking and believing!” Allow God to change the way you think and what you believe!
The Motivation – (Romans 12:1-3) “in light of the mercies of God…” (Verse 1) “Then you will always be able to determine what God really wants—what is good, pleasing, and perfect.” (Verse 2)
- His motivation…He loves you. He has invested too much in you for you to accept less than the best.
- Your motivation…It’s the only way to experience the fullness of His will and purpose for your life. Otherwise you’ll spend your life being a public success and a private failure. Always pursuing but never obtaining the dreams and desires of your heart.
The Means (Titus 3:5) “[God] saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit.”2 Corinthians 3:18: “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”
- You can’t change yourself. You may be able to modify behavior, but you can’t transform your life. You need help!
- The Holy Spirit…the Spirit of Grace is the change agent. The power to change comes from the work of the Holy Spirit in your life as He reveals and then leads you into truth breaking the power of old thought patterns and habits and empowering you to develop new elevating ones.
The Method (James 1:21) “…humbly accept the word God has planted in your hearts, for it has the power to save your souls. (22) But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves. (23) For if you listen to the word and don’t obey, it is like glancing at your face in a mirror. (24) You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like. (25) But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don’t forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it.”
Change comes as our minds are renewed to think in line with the word of God.
- Read it (James 1:21-25) read, hear & study the Bible. Get connected to a good Bible teaching church and connect to a small group.
- Reflect upon it (Psalm 1:2-3) meditate in it day and night.
- Repeat it (Proverbs 10:11) confess it with your mouth. This is a good place to build a support system. Surround yourself with friends who will encourage you and help you stand during the storms of life that are sure to come.
- Respond to it (John 13:17) act upon it. Do what you CAN DO while you’re building the strength and courage to do what you WANT to do. Get started…go back to school, take some courses, join a gym, get some counseling, stop spending and start saving, begin a devotional time…do what you can.
The Word is a seed which when planted and nurtured brings forth the fruit of lasting transformation. Each day as you begin to apply its truths your life will transform and you will begin to see the positive effects.
Open your Bibles to Isaiah 30:29 and please leave them open while I make a few comments…
“You shall have a song
As in the night when a holy festival is kept,
And gladness of heart as when one goes with a flute,
To come into the mountain of the LORD,
To the Mighty One of Israel.”
It is important to remember that the Christian life is lived in stages and arrived at one level at a time. Each of us is a work in progress. Your life is filled with projects that God has either finished or He is still working on.
All of us have areas that are flourishing and areas that are in various stages of growth and development. There are no shortcuts, and there’s no way to circumvent the process. What we learn at each level qualifies us to be promoted to the next. Growth is difficult on your flesh. It will stretch you in every area.
Example: working out-in order to increase the strength of a muscle there must be resistance placed against it. As the muscle is worked, it becomes stronger. The process of stretching and exercising can be a painful one but it’s the only way to grow!
Far too often we make the mistake of spending so much time focusing on the areas that are in development (the areas of lack, need, brokenness, or struggle) that we fail to recognize and acknowledge the progress we’ve made, improvements in our lives, or even the victories God has given us. While we never want to be a person that settles for mediocre, we also don’t want to become a person that is so driven to achieve the next thing that we fail to celebrate the current things God is doing in our lives.
We’ve all seen people that rush through life only to turn around and realize they never took time to live and enjoy all of the things they spent their lives pursuing. I want to challenge you to take the time to make periodical evaluations of your life and learn to celebrate the wins!
Celebration is important. Your life is changed when you become a person who celebrates.
Celebration improves your outlook on life…
• The atmosphere in your home gets better
• It strengthens relationships and makes them more enjoyable
• Your faith and confidence in God soars
• You have a more positive influence on the world around you when you live a life that is authentically and consistently in an attitude of celebration!
In fact, God is our model of celebration. Most people think God is always somber, stoic and serious; but the truth is God loves celebration. The word celebrate is a common word in the Bible first introduced in the Old Testament when God instructed his people to celebrate their successes or wins in life in a grand fashion, with elaborate parties that were called Feasts or better yet, “festivals.” He instructed them to incorporate the practice of celebration into the fabric lives, as part of their lifestyle and culture. To this day, the Jewish people are known for the celebrations and festivals they observe.
Look with me at a few scriptures on this matter…
Exodus 12:47 “…All the congregation of Israel is to celebrate…” (Notice the term, “all” includes the broke, sick, depressed, angry, or disgruntled. No one was excluded from celebrating, regardless of their status, circumstances or situations.)
Nehemiah 12:27 “At the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem, the Levites were sought out from where they lived and were brought to Jerusalem to celebrate joyfully the dedication with songs of thanksgiving and with the music of cymbals, harps and lyres.”
Psalm 145:7 “They will celebrate your abundant goodness and joyfully sing of your righteousness.”
(Deuteronomy 16:10-12 NLT) “Then celebrate the Festival of Harvest to honor the Lord your God. Bring him a voluntary offering in proportion to the blessings you have received from him. 11 This is a time to celebrate before the Lord your God at the designated place of worship he will choose for his name to be honored. Celebrate with your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, the Levites from your towns, and the foreigners, orphans, and widows who live among you. 12 Remember that you were once slaves in Egypt, so be careful to obey all these decrees.”
Celebrate-“observe; laugh, rejoice, singing, dancing, eating and music”
- Commemoration-First, they were to remember the blessings of God or the victories God had given them.
- Celebration- Remembering the wins brought a spirit of joyfulness and thankfulness that would inspire rejoicing and celebrating.
- Contribution- This spirit of thanksgiving would inspire and motivate them to bring a gift of appreciation to honor God and to bless someone else less fortunate than them.
The entire family was involved in this process. They played games, observed rituals and recited the stories of God’s provision over and over and then brought gifts to God and others. Remembering and celebrating the goodness of the Lord caused them to develop an attitude of gratitude and generosity. People who remember the goodness of God are much more likely to be happy, joyful and generous.
Celebration changes us!
1) Celebrating helps us remember the RIGHT things
A lot of people forget what they should remember and remember what they should forget. You see, Satan is a master at pointing at all the stuff in your life that is still under development in his attempt to try to get you to believe nothing is happening. He will point at struggles, needs and remaining problems and say, “See, this faith stuff doesn’t work!” “God doesn’t really love you.” “Your failures have disqualified you.”
See, we all have success and failures, and wins and losses. Sadly, many people spend their lives fixated on every negative things that have happened. Instead of remembering the fact that God brought them through; they just remember what they went through. God wants you to stop focusing on the struggles, mistakes, failures, and begin to think about the good things that you have experienced and focus on them. Praise helps you remember the right things.
Celebration helps you stay focused on the positive things in your life. You don’t want to dwell on the people who hurt you… the disappointments… the frustrations… because that only magnifies those experiences in your life until they completely overshadow everything else and you begin to forget that while there are certainly battles, there are also victories!
God never promised us that we wouldn’t have troubles, battles, or bad experiences… But he teaches us to focus our attention on the good and to live a life of consistent praise and thanksgiving.
Why is this so important? David said, “Come magnify the Lord with me and come let us exalt His name together.”
Whatever you focus on-you magnify, and create an atmosphere for it to reproduce in your life because it becomes the primary thing.
We need to remember that God is committed to the process of restoring our lives. During the transformation process, it is important to focus on the good and allow Him to address the other.
2) Celebrating causes us to develop the mentality of a winner
When we learn to rejoice and celebrate the wins and successes in life, it etches the mentality of a winner into our DNA. We begin to expect to win every time we go into the battle.
(2 Corinthians 2:14) “Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ…”
This is one of the reasons God wanted them to record and pass on by oral tradition the history of His interaction with them. As they repeated it over and over their children would develop an expectation of victory because of the successes of their parents.
The Jewish people were notorious for building Memorials…Often after significant events they would stack some stones to build a memorial so that every time they walked passed it they would remember the good things God had done for them! Also, there children would relive the victories of their parents for generations to come and remember that the same God who did that can handle this…whatever this is…
This is why throughout the OT God referred to himself as the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob…He was saying, “Listen; I don’t change. What I was I am and what I am I always will be…you can trust me…if I did it before, I’ll do it again!”
He was trying to teach them to approach life through the lens of a person who expected to be victorious! Whenever there was a challenge, He wanted them to go INTO the battle with the confidence that the God of their Fathers would do the same thing for them. He wanted them to go into the battle expecting to win!
This is why it is so important to become a praiser. Once God begins to show Himself strong and mighty on your behalf, celebrate! Celebrate every healing… blessing …positive transition… every promise! Don’t let the enemy steal the pleasure and joy of your success…take some time and rejoice!
This is what James 1:2 is all about…
“My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. 4 But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.”
The only way to count it joy when you are being forced to deal with pain, setbacks, betrayal, and unexplained situations is to have a hope…a knowledge and an expectation that steadfastness and consistency will produce something greater within you and when you come out you will have recovered all you have lost and more!
One reason a lot of people don’t experience more wins in their life is because they don’t have winning in their system. They may have a lot of talent, loads of potential… but they come from a family tree that’s rooted in a history of negative experiences… They haven’t tasted enough victory; they are very experienced in defeat. Because all they can think about is the negative things they have lived through, they become conditioned to expect another in the long line of disappointments and setbacks.
One of the ways we break that mentality is intentionally begin to renew our minds to the Word of God and begin to think like a winner. (Romans 12:2) As we do, we begin to embrace Gods plan as our plan—-His promises as our promises. We begin to realize that we have been redeemed by the blood of Jesus and the Holy Spirit is working on our behalf; victory is on the way! It may look bod now but joy comes in the morning!
As we celebrate the moments that define us and our future it position our hearts, minds, our homes, our families for God to finish what He has begun.
Another key in this process is to begin to declare victory and celebrate wins even before the battle takes place.
Scientists tell us that the brain has an area called the, “prefrontal cortex,” it is anterior part of the frontal lobes of the brain, lying in front of the motor and pre-motor areas. It is where a person’s self-control muscle is.
A person develops eating disorders or a shopping addiction, or even a lazy lifestyle a because of a repeated pattern becomes a subconscious habit. Every time an action is performed, it sends a message to the brain that says, this is how one should respond next time a similar situation occurs. Once an act is repeated over and over again, it becomes a developed pattern of behavior we call a habit. We eventually do it without even thinking.
Have you ever been around people that no matter how good things are going, they are always expecting something bad to happen; or they carry a chip on their shoulder because they have been hurt in so many relationships, they become defensive against even those trying to help them? What’s the problem? They haven’t developed the habit of winning. Success is not in their DNA!
When we learn to CELEBRATING THE WINS… WE LITERALLY BULK UP THE MUSCLE OF SELF-CONTROL! IF WE DO IT ENOUGH AND OUR MENTAL MUSCLE OF SELF CONTROL GETS STRONGER and victory becomes a habit. We fire up our spirits, upgrade our thinking and exercise self-control.
David…It’s interesting that David, before going to face Goliath references his past wins… lion, bear… he had a trophy case of some sort… which is why he saved Goliath’s weapons and cut off his head.
(Psalm 77:11-12) “I will remember the works of the LORD; Surely I will remember Your wonders of old. I will also meditate on all Your work, and talk of Your deeds…”
Paul…The Apostle Paul expressed this in Romans 8 “Who shall separate us from the love of God…I am persuaded…death or life…angels or principalities…powers…things present nor things to come…heights, nor depths…nor any other creature…”
Most people are waiting for some spectacular event to occur that will solve all of their problems and cure all of their ailments before they begin the celebration. However, a person with a winner’s mentality celebrates before the battle is over because they know…help is on the way and victory shall be mine!
3) Celebrating releases an attitude of generosity
The third area of focus during the Feasts was to bring an offering to honor God and bless others.
By its very nature, celebration is an inclusive act.
Think about it; when we get ready to have a birthday party for our kids what do we do? We invite a bunch of their friends over! When we get ready to celebrate… an anniversary, a promotion, a significant purchase, a graduation, a new baby, etc. What do we do? We call our friends and family and share our story. By doing so, we bring other people into our celebration.
You need to develop the habit of remembering what God has done in your life; you need to take the time to celebrate the wins…to give Him praise and glory for the great things He has done…then you need to become a vessel of blessing to someone else. This is why we’re even told to bring our tithes and offerings with a spirit of thanksgiving and praise. We’re told that God loves a cheerful giver…” (I’m blessed to have something to give…”)
Generosity is one of the most Christ-like attributes we as a believer can express. Most of aren’t generous because of 2 issues…selfishness and fear! Celebrating the wins causes us to evaluate the success we’ve enjoyed and releases a generous heart that wants to share it with others.
4) Celebrating causes God’s presence to manifest in our lives
Three times each year (during the Feasts), all families were required to come to Jerusalem to present themselves before God. At this time the presence of God was confined to the Temple. In the Psalms, the writers paint a vivid picture of worshipers coming into the presence of the Lord.
As they climbed the hills in their approach to the Holy City, they sang songs called the Psalms of Ascent. They are recorded from Psalm 120 to 134. It is interesting to observe how these songs reflect the spiritual condition of the heart as people prepare to worship.
First of all in Psalm 120 they are expressing their problems; “In my distress I cried to the LORD, And He heard me.” In Psalm 121 they see their answer coming; “I will lift up my eyes to the hills—From whence comes my help? My help comes from the LORD” In Psalm 122 they express their desire to be in His presence; “I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go into the house of the LORD.” Psalm 123 says, “Unto You I lift up my eyes, O You who dwell in the heavens.”
Notice the improvement as they get their focus off of their problem and onto God. By the time they get to Psalm 133 they are declaring, “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is For brethren to dwell together in unity!” when they reach the Temple they are unified and ready to worship and be blessed.
Look at the last song; Psalm 134; “Behold, bless the LORD, All you servants of the LORD, Who by night stand in the house of the LORD! Lift up your hands in the sanctuary, and bless the LORD. The LORD who made heaven and earth bless you from Zion!”
Now they are entering the presence of God with Thanksgiving and praise and are experiencing the goodness and blessings He has reserved for them! Without a spirit of gratitude and celebration, you don’t even get past the gate into God’s presence. We have access by the blood but we have entrance through our praises.
EXAMPLE: Visiting my friend who lives in an exclusive gated community in Southern California- He said, just pull up to the guard and ‘give him my name and he will open the gate. The moment I called my friend’s name, the guard said, “Welcome.” God’s presence has a gate- the password is “Thank You; I give you praise! Etc.”
Celebrating gives us entrance into His manifested presence.
Conclusion: The world needs to see the face of celebration on Christianity. They’ve seen so much strife, contention, mean-spirited, and sobriety. They need to know serving Jesus is not a lifestyle of joylessness. It is joy unspeakable and full of glory!
Rick Warren said, “The primary reason people come to Jesus is because they know a Christian…and, the primary reason people DON’T come to Jesus is because they know a Christian.”
You’re either going to represent God from posture of struggle, timidity and fear, or from a posture of joyfulness, freedom and generosity. Let’s let the world know how good He is!
For the past few years my congregation, friends, and family have hosted a grand Pastor’s Anniversary/Appreciation for my wife and me. The most recent was about 4 weeks ago. We had friends and colleagues come in from several states as well as many local pastors and former members of Church Alive. It was an amazing 3 day event which made me feel like a million bucks. Unless you’ve done it, it is impossible to understand the complexity of full-time ministry. It is filled with joys and sorrows, ups and downs, good moments and terrible ones! You have to check your heart to make sure you are doing it for Jesus, because there are moments when it seems the very people you have devoted your life to serving don’t appreciate it or worse yet don’t even want it!
For several years when we were first getting started at a church, we didn’t even do a Pastor’s Appreciation. I would travel around and preach all of my friend’s special days and then come home feeling unappreciated and unloved. Someone asked me why I didn’t organize one myself. I remember saying to them, “I don’t need a particular day, or event to feel honored.” The truth was, I PRETENDED I DIDN’T NEED IT BECAUSE I DIDN’T HAVE IT!
Remember in school, the guy who was always saying it wasn’t important to have a girlfriend because he couldn’t get one? Subconsciously, that was my attitude.
However, once they organized special day to show their appreciation, I understood for the first time that while I don’t need anyone’s affirmation to confirm my calling and destiny, it does mean a lot to know that there are those who appreciate what you give your life for.
Having said that, I also want to add, that there are times when I feel like I’m NOT APPRECIATED! You know… when saints won’t support the church financially, aren’t faithful in attending service on Sunday, fail to show up when they’re scheduled to be serving in a particular ministry, or worst of all when there is fighting and strife between people who should be holding up the standard of God’s love for the all the world to see. It’s like the bumper sticker that says, “Honk if you love Jesus!” I want one that says, “Don’t honk; If you love Jesus, pay your tithes, treat others right, forgive each other…” You see, appreciation, thanksgiving, and gratitude are emotions, that can be articulated, but if they are not also be displayed by actions, they are simply empty and meaningless words.
Gratitude, thankfulness and appreciation are essential elements of the Christian walk. Whether it is showing appreciation to God, or other people, all of us need to realize that we have much to be appreciative and thankful for.
The word most often used in the Bible to express appreciation is the word, “Thanks; thankful or thanksgiving.”
This week, all across America families will be gathering together to eat turkey, ham, stuffing, sweet potatoes and pumpkin pies; to watch football and celebrate with friends and family a holiday we call, “Thanksgiving.” Somewhere in the process of events, many will take the time to acknowledge God and show appreciation for His goodness.
Sadly, for many once the celebration is over the spirit of thankfulness disappears and within a few days discontent returns. In fact, I believe this is one of our greatest vulnerabilities as a generation…unthankfulness! It seems as though as a generation we have more than any previous generation has ever had but have become more unthankful, unfulfilled and unappreciative than any other in recent history. There is almost a sense that we deserve what we have and what others have as well. It is an attitude of entitlement that is being demonstrated in cities all across this nation right now.
Just walk the halls of any major mall in America and listen to the children talk to their parents about what they want for Christmas; you see exactly what I’m talking about. There seems to be a mentality that that everyone is entitled to equal status in life. Thank God for a nation that tries to guarantee equal opportunity but none can promise equal outcome. There are far too many factors such as talent, timing, work ethic, favor, relationships, and so forth to guarantee that everyone can live life at the same level. Let’s be very careful not to fall into the trap of being thankful for a few hours and then reverting to our sense of entitlement or ingratitude.
Thanksgiving must be more than a holiday, celebrated on the fourth Thursday in November; it must become an attitude of life. You must develop a mindset that searches out the good even in the bad! Being thankful has nothing to do with our current condition, situations or circumstances; it is a matter of the heart…it is a choice to appreciate the good instead of focusing on the bad. No matter how bad things are…there is still something good happening if you’ll only take the time to look hard enough!
- Thanksgiving does not come automatically into our lives; we must choose to nurture and express it
- Negative circumstances are never reasons for negative living; they may be excuses but not reasons.
- In order to move in into the fullness God has prepared for you, you must learn to appreciate and be thankful for what He has already done. It is a stewardship issue. God will not promote you or entrust you with more than what I can be a proper manger of. Appreciation is the first step of good management!
(I Thessalonians 5:18 AMP) “Thank [God] in everything [no matter what the circumstances may be, be thankful and give thanks], for this is the will of God for you [who are] in Christ Jesus…”
To give thanks means to “confess your appreciation; to praise or acknowledge verbally your gratitude for something you have received.”
So thanksgiving is the appropriate response of appreciation from one who is grateful!
There are 3 aspects:
1) Acknowledgment…Thanksgiving begins with appreciating God and recognizing that every good thing in our lives comes from Him as an expression of His grace and love! In fact, one of the Greek words translated as “thank” in Matthew 11:25 actually means to acknowledge and agree fully. James tell us, “…every good gift is from above and comes down from the Father of lights…” (James 1:17) Thankfulness begins with recognizing the good…the blessings from the Lord…the love of people…the kindness we’ve received! There is goodness all around you if you’ll only take the time to look!
2) Attitude…The natural effect of this realization is an attitude adjustment. We become a person of gratitude and appreciation. You see, your attitude is the outward expression of what you are feeling and thinking inwardly! Attitude is the thermometer of your spirit. It gives an indication of the condition of your heart. Jesus taught that what comes out of the mouth and what is produced around us is a reflection of what is in abundance within us. Our attitude gives us a means of measuring the spiritual condition of our hearts. That is why an attitude can be seen without a word being said. Your face can reveal what you are thinking regardless of what you are doing. Since an attitude often is expressed by our body language and by the looks on our faces, it can be contagious. Instead of wearing a frown; smile! Recognizing the good that you have received will cause you to change your attitude and become more grateful!
3) Actions… An attitude of appreciation and gratitude is expressed through actions. While thankfulness begins in the heart it is revealed by our attitude and actions. There are a variety of ways in which appreciation is shown.
- Thankfulness is shown by offering praise to God. Singing, lifting our hands and verbalizing our thankfulness is one way. You see, verbal praise is also a declaration to others of the wonderful works of God….what a wonderful way to show that we are thankful! (Ps. 100:1-5)
A woman and her husband went to see a marriage counselor. She wanted a divorce because she was convinced that he didn’t love her. She said, “We’ve been married for 20 years; I wash his clothes, cook his meals, take care of the children and he never says, ‘I loves you!’” His reply was, “When we got married, I said, ‘I love you!’ If anything changes I’ll let you know!” It’s not enough to feel it in your heart…you need to say it with your mouth! Say it to God; to the people you love…express your thankfulness!
- We can also show thankfulness by serving…blessing others as an expression of our appreciation for what God has done for us. To be blunt, the only way to “serve” God is to serve people. In Matthew Chapter 25:42-45, Jesus said, “For I was hungry and you wouldn’t feed me; thirsty, and you wouldn’t give me anything to drink; (43) a stranger, and you refused me hospitality; naked, and you wouldn’t clothe me; sick, and in prison, and you didn’t visit me.’ (44) “Then they will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and not help you?’ (45) “And I will answer, ‘When you refused to help the least of these my brothers, you were refusing help to me.’
The Apostle James said, “This is pure religion undefiled… to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.” (James 1:27)
- Thankfulness is show through our giving of gifts and material support. One of the most practical ways we can show thankfulness is by giving back a portion of what has been given to us. Even when it comes to tithing or honoring God with the first-fruits of all of our increase, it is and must always be an expression of gratitude. (Acts 28:10)
All three of these expressions of gratitude can be shown to God but also to others. You can show your appreciation for the kindness of others by verbally expressing how thankful you are…you can show it by performing an act of service…doing something to improve the quality of their life…you can show thankfulness by being generous with your time or resources. I promise it will elevate the quality of your relationships. Every wife wants to hear how hot she looks…every child needs to hear how much they are loved…every friend enjoys hearing how much they mean to you…try it…it will make a huge difference!
- The final expression of thankfulness is really something we do to express gratitude to people, but also shows God that we realize He uses people to bless us and so show our thankfulness through praying for those whom He uses to bless us- A heart of gratitude does not forget the acts of kindness and love it has been shown! One of the best ways to show appreciation is to pray for God to bless those whom He has used to bless us. We can ask God to bless their kids, give them health, meet their financial needs and so forth. Pray for those who bless you! (II Timothy 1:16; Ephesians 1:15-18)
You see, thankfulness is a matter of the heart; making a choice to be grateful and appreciative. Someone said, “When I was young I thought it was happy folks who were thankful; as I grew older I realized it is instead thankful folks who are happy!”
Harold White is quoted as saying, “Comfort comes like a guest, lingers to become a host, and stays to enslave us. It has been said that every human institution goes through three stages of development:
First, it is started by risk takers.
Then it is eventually handed over to caretakers.
At some point decline sets in and the institution is led by undertakers.
Think about that for a moment…Risk Takers, Caretakers, Undertakers. What the risk takers start, the caretakers preserve, and eventually the undertakers bury. It may take years but unless we are intentional about remaining active and relevant, it’s only a matter of time. The pattern holds true for companies, schools, clubs, associations, and also for churches.
The church in the United States has been called the “sleeping giant,” with emphasis on the “sleeping.” Sleeping? Maybe not…napping…absolutely! The tragedy is, we seem to be napping at the worst possible moment!We are A.O.W.L. when our culture needs us most! For many, the church is becoming irrelevant.
In America, 80% of our churches have become stagnant, or are in a state of decline and only 20% will ever grow again. The average church in America is declining by 9% each year and averages about 75 people. 3700 churches closed last year. Just to maintain the current church per population ration, we need to add an additional 2,900 church each year.
However, before you call the fat lady in to serenade us, lets consider another interesting statistic. About 76% of people who do not attend church regularity said they’d attend if someone would invite them. The truth is, many churches have become so focused on making sure all of the members are content, that we’ve forgotten that we are called to be a life-giving force in our community as well. Our mission must be clear; WIN SOULS and MAKE DISCIPLES!
That requires that we be willing to take risks and often do things that rock the boat! It requires being different than the world and being bold in sharing our faith! It requires loving people who don’t look like us, dress like us, talk like us, or live in our neighborhood!
Do you know the greatest danger the church faces today? It’s not heresy, false doctrine or immorality. Our greatest danger is in becoming so comfortable that we also become totally irrelevant to the world around us.
Every church faces this danger…having just enough people to run the programs, manage the ministries, enjoy the beautiful buildings, raise the budget, and in general “have church” week in and week out, totally oblivious to the world around us. That’s not just a temptation at Church Alive; it’s the challenge every congregation faces. “Having church,” is terrific; but actually “being the church” in the marketplace is how we make a difference.
Each Christian is called to be a risk taker for Jesus. We ought to be like Paul and Barnabas who are described in Acts 15:26 as “men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Remember, we are called to be salt and light!
That means we must be willing to lay it all on the line in order to fulfill our mission. It means pushing all your chips to the center of the table and uttering 3 words from Sunday’s message, “I’m All In For Jesus!”
This is our mission…our purpose…let’s live it out!
WHY FORGIVE? The words jumped off the front page of Time magazine, January 9, 1984. The accompanying picture riveted the hearts of people everywhere. Pope John Paul II, with his left arm around Ali Agca, the Turkish gunman who had attempted to assassinate him a just eight months earlier, tenderly embraced the right hand that had aimed and fired the near deadly bullet. Leaning down, the still weak Pontiff whispered words of pardon, forgiving the man that out of shear hatred had tried to kill him.
While it may have been just a whisper to the gunman, it was a glorious declaration to the entire world of the power of God’s grace and mercy. When asked what he said, the Pope replied, “I spoke to him as a brother whom I have pardoned, and who has my complete trust.” Later, addressing women inmates in the same prison, John Paul II went even further proclaiming, “I was able to meet my assailant and repeat to him the pardon I gave him immediately. . .”
The only way to have a positive life is to learn to let stuff go immediately. Holding on to offenses and hurts will suck the joy out of your heart and cause you to live a negative, cynical life. The Bible meaning of the words translated as “forgive” are powerful. The Hebrews used three main words to express the concept. Kippur (atone) and shalach (let go) and nasa’ (lift up, bear, dismiss, send away) the term most often used by the Old Testament writers.
In the Greek, Apoluo (let go, loose, release one from prison), charizomai (be gracious) and the primary word, aphiemi, which means, “to let go, totally erase as though it never existed, reject, send away or spew out in an everlasting manner,” are used to project the full ideal of what real forgiveness means.
For many, just the thought of releasing someone of a wrong they have done seems weak. Especially when we all learn early on in life that unless you “stand up for yourself” others will take advantage of you!
Someone once told me that it was “unfair” to ask people to forgive…they said by doing so, we force them to suffer twice: the initial hurt, and then again as they wish the one hurting them well at their own expense.
But allow me to turn the question around and ask, “If forgiveness is unfair, what is the alternative?” The obvious answer would be rage, animosity, revenge and retaliation. As someone much wiser than me once said, “The problem with getting even, is that it never happens! Revenge chains victims and offenders to the wrongdoing, with both parties hopelessly stuck on a merry-go-round of pain where each takes turns hurting the other.”
Learning to “release” or “let go” can often be a real challenge, especially if the hurt is deep enough. However, the Bible gives us several reasons why as followers of Jesus we MUST let it go! In addition to what I shared yesterday, we must forgive…
- For His Sake…We must forgive because we who have been forgiven now represent the one whom has forgiven our sins. We are His ambassadors in the earth and called to the ministry of reconciliation. We are the visible representatives of the invisible God. We are the prism through which the world sees Jesus. Even as the Father forgave us “for Christ’ sake,” we should forgive others in the same manner. (Eph. 4:32)
- For Their Sake…When we forgive we release people and give them the opportunity to be freed from their wrong-doing. Do you realize that forgiveness comes before repentance? I know some will be shocked by that statement, but I assure you it is totally Biblical. In Luke 23:34, while dying on the Cross, Jesus offered forgiveness BEFORE any of us had repented of our sins and 1 John 4:20 tells us that we can only love Him “because He FIRST loved us!” WOW! 2 Corinthians 5:19 adds, “In Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us.” Now let me clarify…forgiveness precedes repentance but reconciliation and restoration can only come once forgiveness has been accepted through repentance. In other words, we forgive even if people never apologize for the wrong they have done. However, THEY will never be free, nor can they ever be restored unless they accept that forgiveness and turn from their wrongdoing. Forgiveness gives them the freedom to experience a second chance.
- For Our Sake… Forgiving is the only way to truly be free from the hurt we have experienced. It sets us free from the prison of the past and liberates us into the promise of a new and glorious future. Not to forgive is to sacrifice the potential of our future on the altar of our past.
Forgiving is going to be a constant challenge that we will have to address throughout our entire lives; so begin right now and choose to “let it go,” so God can release new joy and hope into your life and cause you to live in a positive and productive manner!
“But” is such a small word but when it is used to make excuses, it has great consequences. Beginning with Adam shifting the blame for his transgression in the Garden, all of us have a tendency to use our “but” when it comes to something that we feel we must make an excuse for.
One of the most famous “buts” in the Bible is found in Numbers Chapter 13 where the 12 spies, sent to scout the land of Canaan return and say to Moses, “We entered the land you sent us to explore, and it is indeed a bountiful country-a land flowing with milk and honey. Here is the kind of fruit it produces. But the people living there are powerful, and their towns are large and fortified.”
“We even saw giants there…We can’t go up against them! They are stronger than we are…The land we traveled through and explored will devour anyone who goes to live there. All the people we saw were huge…Next to them we felt like grasshoppers, and that’s what they thought, too!”
What a sad story. God had delivered them from the hand of the slave-masters of Egypt. He had miraculously provided for them as they traveled through the desert and brought them to the border of the land He had promised to give them. Everything He had spoken, He had performed. Even when they went in to spy out the land, they witnessed firsthand the fulfillment of God’s promises everywhere. But, when they saw the giants they forgot the promises, provisions, and the acts of God’s power. Fear and low self-esteem caused them to say, “Yes, it is everything God said it was going to be, BUT, He forgot to tell us there were giants in the land and we are afraid of them”
Their lack of understand concerning the faithfulness of God combined with their low self-esteem to cause them to make up excuses for why they were incapable of possessing the land. Fear because a but so big they talked themselves out of even trying to possess the land.
In spite of the attempt of Joshua and Caleb to encourage the congregation and to remind them that they were up to the challenge, they chose instead to murmur, complain, and accusing God and Moses of bringing them out to die. They even ask to go back to Egypt. As a result, an entire generation died in the desert, just short of the things God had prepared for them. Their bodies where free but their minds were still captive!
Let me ask you a very simple question…How big is YOUR BUT?
What are you allowing to hold you back and keep you from the good things God has prepared for you? What is keeping you from buying that house, beginning that project, going into ministry, or launching that business?
Are you looking at the giants or are you looking at the promises of a faithful God? What excuses are you making for not living out your dreams or fulfilling your purpose? What are you saying, “But” to?
Let me give you some simple advice that will help you…
- Can the excuses. No more excuses, no more reasons why you can’t…“greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world!” You are more than able to take the land…to fulfill your dream…begin that business…go back to college…take control of your life…and enjoy the good things He has prepared. No more fear…no more doubt…no more worry…no more excuses or reasons why you can’t…no more buts!
- Renew your mind to the Word of God. In verse 33 they said, “There we saw the giants (the descendants of Anak came from the giants); and we were like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight.” What a powerful statement. Your view of yourself becomes the filter through which you perceive life and generally your words expose what you are really thinking about yourself, others, and life in general. Allow the Word of God to define who you are and what you are capable of; not your past, other people’s opinions, the culture or you feelings of inadequacy. Open up the Word and discover what God says about you. Renew your mind to His evaluation of your life and your situations and then determine to walk in His provisions and promises.
- Begin to declare the promises of God over your life and circumstances. Remember that what is inside of you is infinitely greater anything happening around you. In Philippians 4:13 Paul said, “I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” You have the same Holy Spirit living within you and giving you the continual strength to handle any situation life can throw at you! Begin to declare you are capable…you are…through His power and strength! You’ve got this…you can do it…no more buts!
Say this with me…“Father I thank you for the price Jesus paid at the Cross to reconcile me to the Father and make me an heir of the promises and provisions of the New Covenant. I believe that through the power of your Word and with the aid of the Holy Spirit who dwells within me I am capable of overcoming in every area of life. Today I declare…no more excuses…no more reasons why I can’t…no more negative thoughts…no more fear, doubt or worry! Every day I am getting stronger and more determined and I will live out my dreams and possess every promise. In Jesus’ name. Amen!