Give it Up!

Ephesians 2: 22 & 24

In reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self . . . and put on the new self.

Here we are in February. How are you doing on your New Year’s Resolutions? How is your willpower holding out? Well, here’s the deal, willpower isn’t the thing anyway. In fact, one might go so far to say that it is rebellion from God.

We are not supposed to be self-willed. I think you can see that in the verse above. We are supposed to be people who are surrendered to God. We are instructed to lay aside our old self and the power we think we have. “‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the Lord,” (Zechariah 4: 6). Christians are supposed to succeed not by their own might, nor by their own power but by the Spirit of the Lord. So, willpower is the exact opposite of the power we are meant to employ.

Every year we condemn and criticize ourselves because our willpower has failed us. Or, even worse, maybe we enjoy some success by utilizing the force of our own will. That, my beloved, is the greatest failure of all, and it grieves me. I hear people summoning up their will to accomplish some task and I know they will ultimately experience the greatest failure of all.

Success is in surrender. I know this will make you uncomfortable. It does me as well but then, I find that a great many of the things our Father asks of me make me uncomfortable, initially. It is more comfortable to rely on our own strength and determination than to meekly and humbly surrender control to anyone, even God. It takes humility in our hearts and honesty to surrender control to God. It is truly a humbling experience. It is also one of those experiences which is best lived daily. Every time we surrender a bit of ourselves, if we are honest and truly give in to the process, we find there is more surrender needed.

Our greatest strength is in admitting we have none. Even Jesus said he could do nothing without the Father and yet somehow, we believe we can lose weight, resist sin, be kind to others, and so on, in our own strength.

Please, take a moment to think about the goals you set for yourself for this year. What are you going to do to accomplish them? The answer you should now know is that you are going to give them to God and ask Him to show the way. Give him your goals, dreams, and ambitions. Ask Him to help you be the person you want to be. You cannot change yourself. You make think you can, but you are fooling yourself. He is the master and creator and if we will give our hearts to Him, He will create all that we want. Let Him work in your heart. Lay yourself open in surrender. Give Him the problems you would like to see changed. Vanquish willpower. Give away all your power because it is vanity and futility anyway. The Lord said only by His Spirit shall a thing be done, so there is the one sentence instruction and command for succeeding in all things.

Willpower and self-determination are idols raised up against the will of God. The power of self is an affront to the command of God but also to the love, grace and saving blood of our Lord Jesus. It’s not what you can do that is important. It’s what you can let go of that makes the difference. Surrender your power. Surrender your heart. Let Jesus be Lord.

Did this make sense to you today? Do you have questions or need help? Engage in personal coaching at Ivey Ministries.


2 Samuel 5: 20            NLV

So David went to Baal-perazim and defeated the Philistines there. “The Lord did it!” David exclaimed. “He burst through my enemies like a raging flood!” So he named that place Baal-perazim (which means “the Lord who bursts through”).

There is a common expression among Christians. We talk about receiving a breakthrough. When you have persisted against a problem or like David, an enemy, and the victory finally comes, we often characterize that as the breakthrough. This expression comes from David’s exclamation on God’s goodness.  You can see the breakthrough language more clearly from the New American Standard Bible which reads, “So David came to Baal-perazim and defeated them there; and he said, “The Lord has broken through my enemies before me like the breakthrough of waters.” Therefore he named that place Baal-perazim.” I chose the New Living Version for today because of it’s compelling visual imagery. God breaks through like a raging flood! He comes all of a sudden and with great might.

Do you need a breakthrough? What have you been standing for, believing for? Declare, like David, that this is your Baal-perazim, your place of the bursting forth of God’s power. God is our victory, not our own might and that was one of the secrets of David’s breakthrough as you can see in his language. He said, “The Lord did it!” What you don’t see is that before he even went out to battle, he prayed. He prayed until he heard God’s answer. Once he was assured of God’s word and presence, he went out against the enemy and Yahweh delivered the enemy into David’s hands.

The theme of the previous paragraph is more than a sermon, it is an entire book. We need to pray and meditate, spend time with the Lord and listen to His voice. We must wait and be steadfast in our time with the Lord until we are certain of the instructions he has for us. Then, we can go forth in strength and power. We should never labor in our strength, never. God said, “Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,” (Zechariah 4: 6). We are commissioned to move by God’s Spirit only. This is the partnership of which I frequently write. Before we engage in the war or even tomorrow’s to do list, we are commanded to first inquire of the Lord. That is what David did. He asked God what he should do, and he didn’t move until he had the Lord’s answer. Then with the Lord’s answer in our pocket, we move forward with the power of the Spirit. The Spirit then delivers the enemy into our hands or accomplishes the task or goal for us. Then we proclaim, “The Lord did it.”

There you go, the paradigm for success. Pray, wait if need be, hear God’s voice and then release His power into the situation. Then you, too, can declare God’s goodness and proclaim the day of the breakthrough for God will burst forth for you just like he did for David as you follow David’s success plan. Get God’s word, hearken to His voice. Perhaps then you will name your house Baal-perazim.

Success Handicap

Mark 10: 17 – 22

As He was setting out on a journey, a man ran up to Him and knelt before Him, and asked Him, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments, ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’” And he said to Him, “Teacher, I have kept all these things from my youth up.” Looking at him, Jesus felt a love for him and said to him, “One thing you lack: go and sell all you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” But at these words he was saddened, and he went away grieving, for he was one who owned much property.

I have always been very attracted to this character, the rich young ruler. Maybe I relate to him at some level. There are some things we don’t know about this person, but I am going to be very glad to hear the rest of his story.

He approached Jesus to discover what he needed to do in order to inherit eternal life. The first thing which intrigues me about this fellow is that although he was very successful and even a ruler among the Jewish people, when he approached Jesus, he threw himself to his knees. There was humility in this young man and I think we see an honest devotion to God. He also attempted to show honor to Jesus by first calling him “teacher,” or in the Hebrew that would have been Rabbi, and secondly by tacking on the adjective “good.” Jesus rejected his adulation pointing, instead, to the Father. There is a full sermon right there.

Jesus referred the man to the commandments and when the man professed that since his boyhood he had kept the commandments Jesus looked at him. When Jesus looked at him he felt love for him. I think in that moment Jesus looked into the man and could see that he spoke the truth. All of his young adulthood this man had attempted to serve God and was devout in his faith. Jesus was moved by what he saw in this young man. The Passion translation reads, “Jesus fixed his gaze upon the man, with tender love,” (v. 21). Isn’t that moving? I have always imagined that this brief verse shows a powerful and dynamic love. It never seemed to me that it conveyed a casual or even typical emotion of feeling love. I have always sensed that there was something deep and important about the way Jesus looked at him and the emotive energy he conveyed towards the young man, as if that love was not a passive but rather a dynamic event. Jesus saw into the young person’s heart and was moved by what he saw there. He saw something else too. What was that?

Jesus said, there is one thing lacking in you. Can’t you imagine the young man hanging on Jesus’ words? He probably held his breath just waiting to hear what Jesus would say next. Jesus told him to go sell his worldly goods and follow him.

That is the invitation most of us would love to hear. It says that Jesus finds something within you with which he can work, something he finds attractive. He called this young man to be one of his followers. At this point in the narrative there are two interpretations. One is that what follows next identifies what the man lacked. The other interpretation is that in following Jesus, he was going to be led to that thing which he lacked. Regardless, the man stumbled right here.

Hadn’t he run to Jesus and cast himself at Jesus’ feet specifically to receive the answer to what he needed to do to inherit eternal life? Hadn’t he been so passionate about serving Yahweh and spending eternity with Him that he humbled himself before Jesus even though he was a man of means and influence. He had a passionate desire, a true longing. And yet, when Jesus told him what to do, he hiccupped. How much is that like each of us? We are very sincere, until he gives us an answer that does not fit into our religious paradigm. All of a sudden we are saddened and, like the rich, young ruler, we walk away with our heads bowed low.

If the young man was so absorbed with his eternal life, why was it not good news to him that he would have treasure in heaven? We think temporally rather than infinitely. The here and now dominates our existence and so it was for the young man. He was a man of wealth and success. He had been promoted amongst his peers because of his abilities. Now, as he knelt before Jesus, he learned that his trust was misplaced. He trusted in the might and the power of his hand. He knew how to succeed by his strength. Do you recall what Zechariah 4: 6 says, “‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the Lord of hosts.”  Our trust and our success is supposed to be in God through the power of His Spirit.

The young man was given the invitation of all the ages, the offer to walk with Jesus. However, when Jesus told him he needed to sell all that stuff so he could go with Jesus he felt a twinge within him. What if I sell all my properties? What happens to my rent income? What will happen to me if I sell all my businesses and business interests? How am I to survive? See, he might have loved God, but he didn’t trust God to take care of him. He trusted in his own ability to provide.

And this is why I think I feel so compassionate toward this fellow. There am I in the midst of his story. Where do I fix my trust? Do I trust God, or Jesus, to meet my needs on a daily basis? If I sell something or give it away, how will I then provide for my needs? There are some people who trust Jesus enough to do exactly what he says without argument. That is not me. I am still growing into that and perhaps today is the day that I can outgrow the rich, young ruler in me. Maybe today is the day I can shuck the robes which he and I have in common and I can answer Jesus’ call to follow him for we know, do we not, that invitation has, in fact, been issued to each one of us and we have answered it only incrementally. Perhaps today is the day we say, “Yes, Jesus.” I am not saying that you need to sell all your earthly goods. You just need to do what Jesus is telling you to do and I need to trust him with what he is telling me. Maybe you do need to give away something. Maybe Jesus has been trying to redirect some of your money or your time for awhile now.

I also like to think that, like us, the rich, young ruler, after he had time to evaluate and pray, did return to Jesus. Most of us stumble but that is not to say we can’t get up and brush ourselves off and begin again. That is where you find the champions in people. It’s not when they do that which is easy for them, it is when they choke on it but do it anyway. It may take a day or two, or month or two, or even a year or two of praying before we renew ourselves to the point that we overcome ourselves and follow Jesus’ leading.

So, I ask you not to look too disparaging on this young chap. Just know that he represents a part of each of us and then fix your hope on Jesus. I believe the young man was eventually able to overcome his fear just like I believe you and I can rise to the challenges Jesus poses to us. He was handicapped by his trust in his own abilities and his success. What handicaps us? Jesus can cause us to rise beyond those things which attempt to restrain us. We can be renewed in our innermost being to live out the dream God has for us. We have the ability to trust Yahweh fully.

No Worms Please

John 5: 19

Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself.”

Jesus said he was nothing without God so consider me, as David said, a worm (Psalm 22: 6). Who are we if Jesus could do nothing without the Father’s assistance? Before Jesus’ ministry began, Father sent him to be baptized by John the Baptist. When John baptized Jesus in water, God baptized him in the Holy Spirit. The text from Matthew says that the Spirit of God descended from heaven and rested upon Jesus (Matthew 3: 16). Everything Jesus did from then on was done in the power of the Spirit of God. So again, I ask, who are we that we can do anything apart from God’s Spirit?

Jesus would have known the scripture from yesterday, “Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the Lord of hosts,” (Zechariah 4: 6). He knew that his ministry was dependent on working with the Holy Spirit. In fact, did you know that even the Father relies on the Spirit’s power? Look at the account of creation from Genesis. The Spirit was hovering over the void. Then when God spoke, the Spirit made it so. He is the power part of God. So, if God operates by the Spirit and Jesus operates by the Spirit, it would seem imperative that we learn how to work with him too.

Of course, this isn’t natural for us but truly, we aren’t supposed to live in the natural anyway. We are part of the super-natural family of God. The natural realm was what we had before Jesus. Now, we are above natural having been adopted into God’s family.

Does this sound a bit far-fetched? I think so, but that is an indication of how far we have slipped. It certainly was not far-fetched or unusual for Peter, John, or Paul. This wouldn’t have even sounded implausible to Doubting Thomas. Remember, he was one of the people who fed the five thousand. They would think our existence is strange. Few miracles, healings or manifestations of the Spirit. And do you know that these people continued to walk in the miracles after Jesus exited? Why? It wasn’t Jesus performing the miracles. It was his Father’s power through the person of the Holy Spirit.

Because of the Holy Spirit, you can lay hands on the sick and they will recover (James 5: 14 – 15). There is no reason you cannot change water to wine, walk on the water and feed the hungry. In fact, Jesus said that you should be doing greater works than he. “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father,” (John 14: 12). That scripture has bothered me for some time because I am not doing greater either. I think the first step is for us to wrap our minds around the fact that we are supposed to be supernatural people living in the supernatural world even as we traverse this physical earth. That is what Jesus did and we Christians are all the time talking about walking in his footsteps. Well, this is what it means. We are to partner with the Holy Spirit as he did and believe for the manifestation of God’s miracles everywhere we go. We are too complacent though. It is comfortable to settle for the natural. We don’t want to be weird and frankly, it takes some faith to live in the supernatural. It takes faith to be like Jesus, no doubt. Still, that is what distinguishes us from those who are not under his lordship. We aren’t called to be natural. In a way I guess I am asking you to be unnatural. We are called to be peculiar, unique. “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light” (1 Peter 2: 9).

Be anointed by the Holy Spirit as was Jesus and walk out into the world as he did. Sure, it’s a challenge but we have the highest and most holy calling. Let’s honor it.

Spirit Power

Zechariah 4: 6

This is the word of the Lord . . ., ‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the Lord of hosts.”

Last week we spent a little time with the prophet Habakkuk, and he taught us about partnering with God and not being prideful. Habakkuk told us that leaning on our own strength, might and power, is a result of a prideful soul, a soul which is not right within us. The good news was that our Father has prepared a way for us to renew our souls and make them right. It is about immersing ourselves in Him and part of Him is His Word. That means to bathe ourselves, be baptized in the Father and the Son, since Jesus is the Word and nothing happens apart from him.

Today we are reminded that the power we need was never meant to come from our hands or even our own minds. Our strength and our success is in Him, more specifically in His Spirit. We are to work, think, walk and even breathe by God’s Spirit. We know that anything we do that is not done by and in faith is unpleasing to God. Only by faith in the Son are we justified and it is that faith which guides us.

God sent His Son to redeem us and to establish His family. Then Jesus sent us the Spirit to walk beside us and show us the way. The Bible tells us that Jesus is the way and that is where the Spirit always leads. The Son is the way to the Father. So all culminates in the Father and in His love. It is His master plan. A plan by which we were saved from eternal damnation, made heirs to His riches, given success here in the earth, and restored to Him as a body, whole and perfect. However, it is only in walking with and in the Spirit of God that we function as ordained. Anything not done in the Spirit, by faith, is frankly, an abomination. That sounds harsh but that word keeps ringing through my mind as I write.

An abomination because it is by our works, which is repugnant to God. When we look to our hands, education and wisdom, eschewing God’s gifts, it is to make ourselves Gods. This is the very thing which caused the downfall of humanity. We feign to know good from bad, right from wrong. We decide what is right to do, making ourselves righteousness judges. This is the way that leads away from God. In every sense, it is idolatry because we set ourselves up on the throne of our lives. We succeed or fail by our might, rather than recognizing the true God. Sure, we go to church on Sunday and pay homage to Him but how distasteful must that be to Him when we served ourselves and our needs all week long. We get up each morning and decide what we will do that day when God clearly tells us that it is not by our minds or decisions that we are to labor. We are supposed to turn to Him. We are to trust Him as our superior in intellect, wisdom, and experience. He is supreme in every way but most of us have yet to learn that worship is walking in His ways rather than by our sight and might.

Everything we do is a Spiritual matter, I mean right down to pumping gas into your car. You never know what might be on the mind of the Spirit. He might want to tell you that pump isn’t safe and to go to a different one. There is no part of our day that is not rightfully lived in the Spirit of God. We are to be baptized into Him as we are in the Father and Son, immersed fully in him.

It’s a simple thing to do but it must be done in faith. Simply ask the Spirit to come to you and take up his proper place in your life. Ask him to be your leader, teacher and constant companion. Invite him to be your business partner and your closest confidant. Ask him to come live in you and to be with you. Ask him to fill you to overflowing and to be with you always. There is no one with more power yet it is tempered with the greatest compassion. He is the breath of God, the very breath in your lungs. That’s what the Bible says about him.

How close is your breath? That is how close you are to hold the Spirit of God. Every breath is to be spent with him. We have had little actual contact with the Spirit. We’ve not taken today’s scripture to heart fully. Let’s change that. Make this the day that you invite God’s Spirit to be the power in your life. Relinquish your control and gain true freedom in him. Not by might, nor by power but by God’s Spirit. Let that be your calling card.

The Brass Ring

Isaiah 42: 1

Behold, My Servant, whom I uphold; My chosen one in whom My soul delights. I have put My Spirit upon Him; He will bring forth justice to the nations.

I am sometimes asked which book is my favorite of the Old Testament. That’s easy! I love the book of Isaiah. The prophet Isaiah undoubtedly was in the flow of the Holy Spirit. He saw into Jesus’ life and ministry as no one else did. Because of Isaiah’s own intertwining with the Spirit, one can see the person of Jesus all through this book.

Obviously, in this verse, Isaiah foretold the coming of the Messiah. He also was shown the partnership that would exist between Jesus and the Holy Spirit. Before the Chosen One would bring forth justice to the nations, he would experience his own union with the Spirit.

It is through this partnership with the Holy Spirit that Jesus was empowered to do any of the things he did. Without the power of the Spirit, Jesus could do nothing (John 5: 19). This is one of the most profound realities of Christian life. Isaiah’s fullness of understanding of Jesus’ anointing is seen in the sixty-first chapter. “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me,” (Isaiah 61: 1). These are the very words which Jesus read in the temple that launched his earthly ministry (Luke 4: 18). This prophesy shows two examples of partnership with the Spirit. First, it shows that Isaiah spoke by the power, leading and unction of the Holy Spirit. Second, it reveals Jesus’ collaborative relationship with the Spirit. This is Jesus’ commission. I have only given a small part of it but you will appreciate reading the entire chapter.

Nowhere is this cooperative relationship defined more precisely than in Zechariah 4: 6, “Then he said to me, “This is the word of the Lord . . . saying, ‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the Lord of hosts.” This is critical language but an idea that we, perhaps, are yet to fully realize. While simple in theory, it is a bit more challenging in application, especially in that most of this applied theory is new in many parts of the body of Christ. We are only just now learning how to work in the flow with the Holy Spirit as Jesus did. However, he is giving us this revelation at this time in Church history so that we may go forward as a dynamic body of believers. As we increase our walk in and with the Spirit, we bring his power and wisdom to our own lives. That must be our first step. Only when we, through the Spirit, have met the pressing needs of our own lives can we set our eyes upon the horizon. However, having learned how to cooperate with the Spirit of the Lord for our own needs, we then take his power to the world. Our perspective changes along with our vision. We can then begin to cooperate with the Father on His goals and His vision instead of constantly being bogged down by earthly issues.

This intertwining with the Spirit is the key element necessary for us to arise as the mighty church of God, The Eternal. If there is any singular expression of needed deep revelation for believers it is the knowledge of how to walk with the Spirit such that every one of us is in continual communion with him, following him step by step. God spoke through Zechariah to reveal to us that everything we need to do, everything we are called to do is to be accomplished in the strength and power of the Spirit. What does this mean? This is the critical question. When we can answer this question definitively, we will have laid hold of the Kingdom of God. This is the brass ring!

Power Line

Zechariah 4: 6

“Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,” says the Lord of hosts.

God tells us to rely on the power of His Spirit instead of trying to accomplish matters in our own strength. It is so easy to get caught up in your own skills, talents and even education and not turn matters over to the Father. I should know because I have been around this mountain more than once. This goes to the theme of doing things the easy way or the hard way. We can struggle in our own strength but it is a much more difficult way to live and a life less successful. God’s way is for us to walk in love and prayer and leave the heavy lifting to him. He will make your ways straight if you will only release your work and problems to him. Give him the situation in prayer and then let go of it. He will work it out and lead you to solutions while you spend your time in prayer and thanksgiving. Pray for the situation. Pray for the people involved and then thank the Lord of the Harvest for your solution.