The perfect gift is in our hands

Many gifts are not going to be used this year because they were not what the person wanted. Gift receipts are very common these days. They allow you to return and exchange your gift. It’s hard to find the perfect gift for someone. I am sure we all have our own definition of a perfect gift. It can be defined as something useful, practical, unique or needed. Yesterday I talked about the best gift we could give ourselves; the gift of developing our relationship with the Lord. That gift definitely falls under the category of a perfect gift. It is very useful, very practical, unique to each individual and much-needed. However, it is a gift that we tend to take out once a week on Sunday or on rare occasions. Let’s keep the gift alive. Let’s use it on a daily basis and get all the practical and useful benefits it has to offer. It’s the gift that keeps on going but it has to be unwrapped all the time.

When God gave His Son to the world, He did it so that whoever believes in Him would have eternal life. Jesus Himself said that He came that people may have life and have it abundantly. (John 10:10). He gave us the gift of an abundant life. When we develop our relationship with Him, we experience the abundant life daily. He is the river of life. His provisions are overflowing and they keep us from going thirsty. The Lord is more interested in our spiritual growth first. The abundance we should be looking for is on a spiritual level. Then the rest will follow. “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” declares Matthew 6:33. Seeking the kingdom starts with getting to know the King better. Let’s make it our priority to learn about the King of the domain before we explore His territory.

I tried using the perfect gift just once a week and it didn’t work for me. It literally felt like I was given something very special for a few hours and then I would put it in the back of the closet of my life. I would just hang it and not take it out for a while. It looked good on me while I was wearing it but I spent more time wearing what the world had to give me and there was no abundant life. Let’s wear the perfect gift all the time. Let’s embrace it, endorse it and don it proudly. An abundant life of spiritual growth is such a beautiful life. Talking to the Father every day is the way to go. Thanking Him for the gift of knowing Him is a noble thing to do. Singing His praises on the regular is a glorious use of our time. Shining His light around us is a powerful way to live. Being His witnesses to the world is a fantastic testimony. The perfect gift is in our hands. Let’s not exchange it. Let’s not trade it for worldly gifts. Let’s keep the gift of the abundant life out of its box all the time!

Suggested reading: Matthew 5:6; Luke 12:31; John 6:27

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What faith will do for you

“And He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace. Your suffering is over.” (Mark 5:34). These words spoken by Jesus have a strong significance. They give us a clearer picture of what causes miracles, breakthroughs and other blessings to take place. Jesus performed a lot of miracles in the Bible including the one mentioned above. A woman with a bleeding issue believed that if she could only touch Jesus, she would get healed. She touched Him in the middle of a crowd. He felt power leaving Him. Once He found out who had touched Him, He told the woman that her faith had made her whole. She did get her healing. Why? Her faith healed her. We often focus on the Healer and we should but we miss the part about our faith connecting us to our healing or our breakthrough. How many times do we just wait for God to act but we don’t stretch our hand to touch Him with our faith so to speak? Could it be that we need to make our way through the crowd and touch Him? Could it be that we need to ignore all the obstacles and stretch out our hand of faith until He says “Your faith has made you whole”?

There is a verse in the Bible that has stayed with me. It’s the one that mentions that Jesus performed many miracles that are not listed in the Word of God (John 20:30). In John 21:25 we are told that “Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.” Faith played a role in many miracles I am sure. I wonder how many miracles we could see nowadays if the Church as a whole had more faith in miracles. If the Church as a body stretched out its hand of faith, there would be a lot more breakthroughs, signs and wonders. Faith comes from hearing and we are not hearing a lot about miracles I find. It’s a question of prioritizing what we believe in. Miracles sound too far-fetched for a lot of people. I want to embrace them. I want to be in a crowd and touch His garment with my faith and receive whatever blessing I need. If it was possible back then it is still possible today. Do you believe that?

The crowd of people that was standing between the Lord and the woman with the issue represents all the people or things that stand in the way. There can be a number of obstacles that slow our process down or that try to prevent us from getting to the Lord. Think about overbooked schedules. They can stand between you and God because you can’t find the time to wait on Him. Make an inventory of the “crowd of people” in your life. List all the things and people that might be blocking you. Once you know who and what they are, speak out in faith and declare that no one and nothing can stand in your way. Declare that you will reach Him because your hand of faith is stretched out and ready to connect you with the One who can give you what you need. It’s believing that will make things happen. It will stir things up and you will receive your miracle. The best way to stretch out your faith is to step out in faith. Do something that shows you have faith that the Lord can help you. Before long “your suffering will be over.”

Suggested reading: Jeremiah 32:27; Luke 18:27; John 12:37

How to deal with turbulence 

This message could easily be titled “Flying with God Part 3” but “How to deal with turbulence” is a better title for it. I was flying back to NYC in July when we experienced some severe turbulence for a few minutes as we were approaching the airport. It was very bad. I had not felt such strong turbulence in a while and I fly pretty often. As the plane was shaking, going up and down and people were scared, the Lord told me deep down not to worry. He said “Just trust Me.” All I could hear was “Just trust Me.” My mind was projecting a scenario that didn’t look too good but “Just trust Me” was louder than the fear. When we are facing the turbulence of life the Lord is telling us the same thing. His answer to turbulence is “Just trust Me”. However, the noise caused by the turbulence may be louder and it can drown His voice to the point where we can’t hear it at all. How should we act when turbulence is shaking our faith?

The first thing we need to remember is that we are in a safe structure. Because of our relationship with the Lord we move around in a secure sphere where He has us in the palm of His hand. Think of a plane as a safe structure. Think of yourself as flying around in the safest plane there is. He’s got you and He won’t drop you. You are sitting with a powerful seatbelt of protection. Your seatbelt is strong and it will keep you protected. Consider His belt as a promise of His protection. When you encounter turbulence, the belt is there for a good reason. His promise doesn’t change because of turbulence. His belt of protection doesn’t go anywhere. You can imagine that it is gone but in His reality it is permanently there keeping you safe. You can decide to fly off the handle and go into panic mode. It won’t do any good. It’s like when you look for your sunglasses everywhere and then you realize they are on your head. The belt of protection is still there whether you panic or not. 

There are two things to remember when going through some turbulence; turbulence is very common and you are in the hands of a well-qualified pilot. I did a little research. Turbulence is caused by gust or by pockets of air. I found out that planes cannot crash due to those conditions. It is extremely rare that it happens. Turbulence is actually considered normal and it is regarded as a convenience issue and not a safety issue. It’s annoying and not convenient but it won’t flip your plane upside down. Problems and tribulations are big annoyances but if you stay in faith, they won’t crash your plane so to speak. They will make you feel like your life is upside down but you will be able to fly away from the troubles in due time. People who get thrown around and fall during turbulence are people who are not belted in correctly. Keep your seatbelt securely fastened. Hold on to God’s belt of protection. Keep the faith during the turbulence of life. God is the pilot and He will make sure you get to your destination safely and that you have an enjoyable flight getting there. You are in the best hands possible. Keep that in mind. Remind your mind. Don’t panic during turbulence. It is normal and it will pass. Stay encouraged!

Suggested reading: Psalm 46:1; Psalm 121:3; 1 Peter 1:5

Make a “happy list”

Find something good and that you love in your life. Focus on it. Devote more time to it and you will show God more appreciation for what you have been given. People say “Focus on the good and don’t dwell on the bad.” I agree with that idea 100%. The Bible also invites us to spend more time thinking about good things than dwelling on the negative. “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things” is a great recommendation that we find in Philippians 4:8. Can you think of good things you can concentrate on today? Make it a daily priority to ignore the bad and magnify the good. It’s a beautiful way to show gratitude to God since all good things come from Him. 

Ten good things could happen to us in one day and two bad things and we will end up remembering the bad things more. The bad sucks up all of our energy when the good should indeed be the source of our energy. Good feelings keep us going. Bad feelings slow us down and zap our zest for life. I find that even when things are not going well, there are a number of good things I can zero in on. It’s up to me to decide not to amplify the negative things. We often have a choice over what we can think of but we also often think we don’t have a choice. I’m a list guy and I love making lists for all sorts of things. I just created a happy list. It’s a list of the good that is taking place in my life on a daily basis. I keep a journal of my daily experiences and I just added a new section. I am going to write three different good things every day. I can’t repeat the same things twice during the week. This will force me to really scrutinize my life and recognize every big and small good things. There is so much good in the small things too. 

The more we think of the good in our lives the more we realize that God is indeed active in our lives and He wants us to have good things. I can’t control a lot of things but I can control how I will handle a lot of things. I can control my attitude. I can control my approach to the good and the bad. I take the bad and turn it over to the Lord. Prayer is the best way for me to deal with the bad. If you have other ways that work for you, by all means use them and keep them close by for the next storm. Your umbrella of protection probably looks different from mine but it is an umbrella nonetheless. I know of someone who has to be left alone when things hit him hard and it works well for him. He just spends alone time with God on a walk usually. Come up with a happy list. That list will come in handy almost every day. I can guarantee that. Put family members, friends, beautiful moments on that list. Whatever is good, noble and pure belongs on that list. Focus on it. It will reduce your anxiety and the stress of every day. Stay focused!

Suggested reading: James 3:17; Romans 12:9-21; Titus 2:7

Indulge in your favorite comfort foods 

Comfort food is food that gives consolation or a feeling of well-being. Yogurt is one of my favorite comfort foods because it brings back good feelings from childhood. Comfort food takes you back to a familiar place that you love and cherish. It makes you feel at home. Most people eat their comfort food in order to deal with painful and tense situations. The Word of God is food for the soul and it is nourishment for our whole being. It is a huge supply of food that we should be having every day to maintain a healthy (spiritual) lifestyle. We can find some delicious comfort food in the Word. We can find passages that take us back to a familiar and safe place. What is your (Bible) comfort food? What passages do you turn to when you need to feel at home again while going through an uneasy time? Let me share some of my comfort foods . 

1. The ice-cream of consistency: “Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). This comfort food is my to-go food. I snack on it the most. I take it out of the fridge of God’s provisions every chance I get. The Jesus who did great things for me years ago is still the same. He has the same love, He keeps the same promises and He has the same power. As I indulge in this comfort food, I find the strength I need. It gives me spiritual energy for the rest of the day. 

2. The calming dessert: “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.” (Psalm 23:1-3). This comfort food brings a lot of peace. It encourages me to get into meditative prayer and it soothes my mind, my soul and my spirit. God is the ultimate provider for all things. Eating this food daily is a great reminder that I have nothing to worry about. He will always meet my needs. 

3. The hearty snack: “And now these three remains: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:13). This snack always satisfies and it covers all food groups. It will sustain you for a long time and it will keep you in the truth. Eat it at all times. Don’t ever worry about overeating love. It’s the key to everything. 

I strongly encourage you to define your comfort foods and to indulge in them. They will bless you every time. Eat up!

Suggested reading: Isaiah 25:6; Ezekiel 34:14; 1 Corinthians 10:3

It doesn’t matter what you are up against 

I don’t know what’s going to happen this week. I don’t know if there will be acts of terrorism or casualties. I don’t know if you are going to have your heart broken or you are going to run into difficulties. What I know for sure is that God’s mercy will be enough for you and He delights in showing mercy. I know for sure that you will have what you need to face the challenges that will come up. I know that you are going to go through this week with the necessary equipment to have a great week. I also know that since God is on your side it doesn’t matter who is against you or what is against you. Romans 8:31 puts it nicely. It says “What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” “These things” refer to all adversity, the opposition, problems, conflicts and all negative things. They will come. They will happen but it doesn’t matter because we have Someone greater and stronger for us. He is on our side and He is rooting for us. “These things” won’t win. You will win. 

I am not making negative predictions by alluding to the fact that “these things” could take place this week. If we think that nothing bad will ever happen, we put ourselves in a very vulnerable position and we stick our head in a bubble outside of reality. Once I understood that “these things” are bound to happen it actually made me feel better. Once again I have to say that I don’t go around expecting bad thing to happen. I go around with joy and confidence that no matter what happens I can handle it and I will go through it with flying colors because of the One who is for me. If you adopt the same attitude, you will live a lighter life and you will have a more constant positive outlook on life. Just hold on to the truth that God is for you. If you get sick, God will still be for you and He will help you. If you get bad news, God will still be for you and He will help you. If you get hurt physically or emotionally, God will be for you and He will help you. “These things” could be the worst things you have encountered BUT God will be for you and He will get your through them. 

Since God is for you and He always says you have nothing to worry about, enter this week with the assurance that you indeed have nothing to worry about. Keep in mind that you are in good hands no matter what bad hand life deals you this week. You are living in the truth and the truth is that blessings and favor will follow you every day this week. You are going to be a blessing to people around you and you are going to encourage those who need encouragement because that is part of who you are whether you know it or not. This week is going to be very good because it is what you can expect. Expect to be surrounded by mercy and grace. Expect to bounce back when you get punched by the opposition. Nothing that happens to you this week can stop what God has planned for you. His goodness is going to be present. His wisdom is going to dawn on you. His love is going to walk this earth thanks to you. Stay encouraged and praise Him for what’s to come. The good will be sustained, the bad will be dealt with beautifully, and the ugly will be beautified. Have a great week!

Suggested reading: Psalm 118:6; Jeremiah 1:19; 1 John 4:4

Take a break from the pain 

No one would deny that the atrocities taking place in the world have affected a lot of us emotionally. Pain and sadness seem to be a commonplace wherever you go these days. We are not immune to sorrow but we can take the necessary measures to deal with it. My proposal today is to take a break from the pain. Take a break from the sadness. “How?” you may ask. Have a fun. Have a party. Attack sadness with joy. Joy is a strength that can restore us from sickness to health and that can boost our morale when we tap into it. I am not saying this is easy to achieve but I am saying it can be done. Nurturing sadness will allow it to grow into something even more devastating. Cultivating joy will enable you to face the harsh realities of life with power. There is tremendous power in joy and it’s time we excavated it. Having a relationship with God implies having access to unlimited joy. Too many people are not aware of that and think that staying sad is pious and most accepted by God. No, He is not a sad God. Sadness is not in His DNA. It shouldn’t stay in ours for long. Let’s kick it out of our system!

I understand that having fun while everything around us is falling apart sounds like a bad idea. However, some popular bad ideas are what we should follow. If we want to start thinking the way God does, we need to let go of some of our old world patterns of thinking. When God advocates for us to rejoice at all times He is also including difficult times. Rejoicing when all is going well is no big achievement. Rejoicing when pain is eating us inside is a great testimony to our faith and trust. I have a friend who is always happy. Even when he gets bad news he bounces back very fast. He doesn’t believe in God but he knows the power of joy. He knows how much positive energy comes from joy and how it affects him in a wonderful way. 

I suggest you jumpstart joy. Do something fun. Watch a comedy. Read some jokes. Hang out with happy people. Give joy a chance to make an entrance into your life by finding it in the small things first. Once you have connected with it again, it will take off with wings if you stay open to it. There is a huge supply of joy waiting for you. God is the supplier and you are the receiver. Joy has a way of eradicating sadness and pushing it out of the way. We have a choice. We can pile up the dirt of sorrow on ourselves and be buried under a mountain of pain or we can dig ourselves out with joy. Like I said earlier, having a party in the face of adversity is a good choice. Instead of having a self-pity party we ought to have a happy party. If nothing else it will help you forget the pain for some time but I can guarantee that it will do a lot more for you. Take a break from the misery around you and spend time with the One who can heal all wounds. The more happy times you engage in, the stronger you will get when faced with sad moments. We can’t help feeling sadness but we can help ourselves get out of it. “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4). 

Suggested reading: Deuteronomy 12:7; Psalm 5:11; 1 Thessalonians 5:16