For the better part of my Christian life I have been an ardent student on issues related to Bible prophecy. One of the key takeaways I’ve had from all those years of study is that nothing about our human nature – and Satan’s tactics for manipulating that nature – has changed since the beginning.
In our desire to understand what God is saying about future events and our place in prophetic history we must realize that we can be easily swayed in what we end up believing. We may believe that we are being authentic in our search for prophetic truth, but unless we are first loyal to seeking truth, with a humble heart, we will always be in danger of being led away from knowing God’s revealed will.
In Jeremiah 29 we see God telling the prophet Jeremiah to give instruction to the people of Israel to what they must do while in Babylonian captivity. His instructions are quite shocking, and are not what the masses of people expected, or wanted, to hear.
We also see other self-proclaimed prophets prophesying conflicting instructions to the people – words that satisfied the emotions and desires they wanted to hear. It was at this point God made it clear there was a choice to be made, and each person’s worldly fate would be decided as they discerned and chose which voice they followed.
Today’s chorus of prophetic voices is no different than it was 2,600 years ago when Jeremiah wrote these words. While it is apparent to most Spirit-sensitive believers that we are in some of the most prophetically significant times since the birth of Christ, we are equally in danger of missing God’s perfect will during this time because we are unskilled in knowing how to discern the narrow gate of God’s Truth verse the wide highway of misdirection and deceit.
We must be in tune with both God’s prophetic voice and God’s established Word. We must be willing to search for ourselves what the scriptures say, and not just listen to those we deem superior in knowledge of these issues. We need to compare and verify today’s prophetic words against the settled foundation of God’s written Word. In other words, we must take personal responsibility for what we believe.
In scripture, we see there are true prophets and false prophets. Both go by the same title, “prophet.” This alone should let us know we have to take personal responsibility to discern the difference.
God has given us His Spirit to lead and guide us, personally, into all truth. But we must be seekers of truth, as we will be held personally accountable for our participation. We must lay aside any predisposition and narratives we have come to believe, even ones we’ve had our whole lives, and be ready and willing to exchange what we believe for what God reveals. God’s will is not dictated by what we believe, and as is made clear in Jeremiah 29, we will have no valid argument to make when God fulfills His word and we are found on the opposite side.
These are without question exciting and supernatural days to be living in. God’s form and involvement in this world and concluding point in history is apparent to all with eyes willing to see!
Our assignments for this time are ours to accept, but we can only be successful if we are following the instructions of God alone! And these instructions may look very different to what we always assumed they would.
Just as God used the voice of the prophet Jeremiah to give new instructions and revealed what He was doing, He continues to use prophets today. And just as there were prophets providing alternative revelation, through insincere hearts that would lead the sheep astray, we must also be wise to recognize the same today.
It is not my purpose to tell you which prophet(s) to believe, but I do believe it is part of my greater purpose in these prophetically historic days to help teach you how to discern truth for yourself, by the help and guidance of the Spirit that dwells richly within you.
Once you learn the tactics of the enemy, and how to identify them in your own life, you have unlocked the gates of freedom to pursue and achieve all that God has purposed for you in this time. You will start to clearly hear the voice of the True Shepherd and filter out all other voices intent on leading you astray.
“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” ~ Jesus Christ
Tracy Manno is an author, speaker, worship pastor, recording artist, and founder of His Way Worship where he provides artist coaching and teaching resources on practical application for living the new life we have in Jesus Christ. . – You can find more resources available at HisWayWorship.com
by Tracy Manno
A couple days ago I was watching my two daughters argue, which can be fairly entertaining at times. I don’t always intervene right away in hopes they will find ways to work it out. Over the years they have learned how to push each others buttons, and they each know what drives the other crazy. They have also, unfortunately, learned how to use these skills to influence the others actions by manipulating their emotions. And as I continued to watch it became clear they weren’t going to attempt to make peace on their own.
At the center of this particular argument, the younger one was trying to keep a secret from the older, and the older knew she was. So she took advantage of her younger sister by saying things that would purposely rile her up until, out of frustration, would divulge her secret. Once the younger sister realized what had happened she was devastated! “How could I let this happen?! How did she gain control over me that way again?!” And the tears started to roll down her cheeks.
My goal in that moment, as a parent, was to teach them not just about what is right and wrong, but about why and how the choices they made were destructive, in fact, hateful. Each of them was looking to gain control over the other. The first wanted to hold power over the other with secret information, and the second wanted to control the actions of the other by manipulating emotion.
I heard it said recently that if someone can control how you feel than they can control how you think, and ultimately how you respond. Based on this simple example with my two girls, I’d say there’s quite a bit of truth to that statement.
When we allow others to swell our emotions, whether by words or deed, and we don’t ground ourselves with reason and discernment before responding, we are in danger of handing them control of the direction of our actions. Remember that old phrase, “My anger got the best of me.” When this happens, which it does to all of us, our anger – or hurt, fear, guilt, shame, etc – becomes the leash around our neck that someone else is in control of. And unless we recognize it, and take back control through the use of our mind and powers of judgment, we will forever find ourselves saying those words “How did she gain control over me that way again?!”
In James 1:19 it says “Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry (or respond).” We are also told in Ecclesiastes “Be not quick in your spirit to become angry (or offended), for anger lodges in the heart of fools.”
All these instructions are there to help us protect our freedom and maintain control of our own lives. They are meant to keep us free from the control of others, keep us on God’s path for our lives, and live a life of worship in Spirit and Truth.
I pray this story comes to mind throughout your week, and you will find yourself taking back control of the areas in your life that the enemy has sought to steal from you.
by Tracy Manno
We are all creatures of familiarity. Even those of us who are adventurous and like trying new things, we all find a comfortable place in going back to things that are familiar to us. Whether it is a favorite food, an old movie, or coming home after a long trip away, we all find our grounding in things that are familiar to us.
The problem with our tendencies for the familiar is we can become trapped in patterns of old thinking and behaviors that hold us back and keep us from walking the NEW things God has prepared us for. Jesus made this point when He said “"No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God." (Luke 9:62)
This truth extends a lot farther into our lives than I think most people recognize. We all understand that we wrestle against our old nature; our sinful, prideful and selfish tendencies. But even more than that, there are greater forces at work against us that aren’t as clearly seen or understood. These are forces designed to keep you trapped in living a life that is less than what God intended for you. Strongholds meant to keep you in the dark, and conformed to patterns of this world.
And the scariest part is that these strongholds that are meant to imprison us end up being the very things we defend and identify with the most. We don’t recognize them as dangerous because they are by design familiar to us. We don’t question them because they are cloaked deep within our core beliefs and how we see the world. And the more we deflect the truth of their existence, the more hardened they become.
I wrote the book “Know God Find Freedom” to give you insight into these strongholds and show you how to identify them; and to also show you God’s strategy to release His power in your life that will set you free, shift your perspective, and move you forward on the path to fulfilling His purposes for your life! And that power is in the knowing!
Jesus said “You will know the truth and the truth will set you free”
Our lives can feel like that of a hamster in a cage, always looking through the plastic box to something we want to reach on the outside, and as we move towards it we find ourselves running within a habitrail, a maze of twisting tubes, always leading us back to where we started. Each time we try and move toward our new life, our old thoughts and behaviors unconsciously redirect us back to where we have always been a hundred times before, until finally, and tragically, we resign ourselves to think “this is just how life will always be.”
Have you been there? Are you there? Well I want to encourage you today not to give up hope! There is an escape from the cycles and patterns that have held you captive!
When the apostle Paul told us to “Grab hold of the eternal life to which you were called!” he was saying take hold and enter into the freedom of your new life now! And the place we go to grab hold of this freedom is at the place of KNOWING GOD.
Jesus IS the truth, and to KNOW the Truth we must replace what we always thought to be true with what He says is truth. This is the process of abiding in Christ, and it’s a very personal process, and it is the path to your Freedom, of taking possession of your new life, not just when you get to heaven, but right now!
No longer do you need to submit to patterns that keep you filled with fear and anxiety. No longer do you need to resign to a life of doubt, confusion and hopelessness. No longer do you need to question if God has a purpose for your life.
This is a journey of discovery! And in order to discover the new, we MUST BE WILLING AND INTENTIONAL about letting go of the familiar. What you’ve always thought. How you’ve always perceived and interpreted the world and those around you. You need to be willing to look through new eyes, hear with new ears, think with new thoughts, and understand with the wisdom God gives.
Jesus said we must become like children again if we are to be useful in the Kingdom… ready to learn, explore, seek out the new! When we seek and find truth, we also find revelation. God not only wants to reveal all of who He is to you, but also all He created you to be and do! When we know God, we have FOUND OUR FREEDOM.
Know God Find Freedom will help you break free from the paralyzing forces that keep you running in familiar circles and holding you back from taking new ground; and will open your vision to the journey set before you, to know and live the new life that Christ has already prepared for you.
I know that as you apply the insights and methods discussed in this book, it is going to be ground breaking for your life, your calling, and your freedom!
by Tracy Manno
This morning I was reading in the book of Exodus and was struck by something I really hadn’t spent much time thinking about before. The first three verses of Exodus 2 are all we are given in regard to the first three months of Moses life, and the heart-wrenching decision his mother made to send him down the Nile river in a basket. Can you imagine the anguish she must have gone through in making that decision? And not just that decision but all the way back to when she realized she was pregnant.
At that time Pharaoh, King of Egypt, decreed all male baby Israelites were to be murdered. Imagine how difficult the decision to even get pregnant would have been for any Jewish couple at that time. And imagine the anxiety she felt for 9 months as she carried the baby, not knowing its gender, wondering if her child would be taken and killed as all the others were.
With each of my 3 children, the moment of their births was filled with such joy for me and my wife. But imagine Moses’ mother when she gave birth and realized she had a son, to whom the order was given to kill. There was no lasting joy in that moment, only fear and impending dread.
In her despair she decided to hide Moses for three months while nursing him until she couldn’t hide him any longer. Those 3 months must have been more agonizing than the 9 months she carried him in her womb. The heartbreaking reminder, every day, every moment as she nursed her baby, growing more in love and tender to his needs, knowing she would have to give him up and never see him again.
The human pain and agony I just talked about was completely absent from the three verses of scripture we see in this story. We read nothing of the human element – her personal anguish. The living-nightmare she was in, and the agonizing trials of functioning every day within that nightmare, must have been overwhelming to say the least.
I must have read that passage at least a hundred times prior, but this time the absence of what she went through personally, emotionally, struck me the most. But as I thought about it, most of scripture is written that way. I suppose if the Bible included details of all the human experiences within the stories the final version would be too large to be practical. But it doesn’t take much for us to “fill in” those human gaps with our own understanding of the human condition. The “spaces” between the words in the Bible represent so much more than mere punctuation; they represent our story as well.
So often we read the Bible and recognize people only as characters, not real-life humans like you and me. But when we start to apply our own experiences of suffering, pain, tragedy, fear, love, perseverance, joy and every other part of the human condition, the stories become much more personal, and much more relatable.
The Bible says that Jesus came down from heaven and put on human flesh so that He could know us, relate to us, and be exceedingly merciful to us in every way. (Hebrews 2:14-18) In other words, when God became human He was able to fully enter into our suffering with us, as us, and ultimately for us.
It is with this same understanding I believe we are intended to enter into the scriptures. The Word of God is alive. We must not only see ourselves within its pages, but put ourselves there. We, along with humanity past, present and future, are in need of the Savior, and if we cannot place ourselves into the eternal story of God’s redemptive plan than we are hopelessly lost.
We are to connect with scripture at a very personal place. The spaces in-between the words and sentences offer us the opportunity to make that connection at a very real, and human, level.
As you fill yourself with God’s Word today ask that He would bring personal understanding and revelation for your life, and that you would find yourself within the pages of the greatest story ever told!
by Tracy Manno
I woke up this morning with a real sense that it’s time to share a little more with you about what I believe God has been saying to me, and where this whole thing is going. I figured I’d get it out in a single stream of thought through a quick video that you can link to at the bottom of this post.
His Way Worship is an evolution, not of a company but really of me seeking out God’s will. Someday I’ll share with you where the name came from, and why it means so much to me. God has continually told me through words from others that the heart of HWW is going to reflect the things He is doing in my heart, and it will be for the sake and benefit of others.
Stepping out into this calling has been a process. It started 6 years ago when I had an encounter with God where He shifted my thinking from what I thought the plans for my life were, to a completely new understanding. And through 6 years He has been walking me through the fulfillment of that shift. Now, entering into the 7th year since that encounter, I believe it’s time to fulfill what He showed me.
God will give us glimpses of destiny for us to refer back to as He moves us forward on our path. Those glimpses can come through encounters, desires, passions, words, dreams, visions, or however else He sees best to help us know, deep down, what we were created to do. Remember Joseph and his dream of ruling over his brothers? It took more than two decades for the fulfillment of that dream, and throughout the journey Joseph didn’t have clarity to what it was going to look like. But he always had the dream, the promise, to hold onto.
What is yours? What has God already revealed to you about your life calling? Maybe you brush off thoughts of this “other life” when they come to your mind because you can’t see past the life you live right now. But as Psalm 139 tells us, God wrote each of your days before you were even born. When you come to truly believe that, it becomes much harder to brush off. In fact you have a burning desire to chase after it.
Your life was purchased at great price, by the blood of Jesus. You are no longer your own but His. Romans 12 teaches us that our true act of worship is to offer our lives as a living sacrifice, to do what God desires us to do. The word living speaks to things of new life! Your new life is “hidden” in Christ (Colossians 3). Have you found it?
Worship is not all about music… it is an attitude! It is an unceasing exchange between what we think and what God thinks. What we want and what God wants. This is His way for us to worship!
So it’s time for me to be a little vulnerable and share where my head, and heart has been lately, and what you will start to be see from HWW that will help you make the shift to the things God is calling you to fulfill.
by Tracy Manno
In Part 1, we talked about the idea of “waking up” to a growing sense of calling, purpose, even destiny for your life. I had mentioned that I believe this must happen within the church even prior to a large scale revival, or global awakening takes place. The reason I said that was because when the eyes and hearts of thousands and millions are opened to the Truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, God’s “Plan A” for them is discipleship by those that truly know relationship and fulfillment in their new life in Christ.
“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you...” (Matthew 28:19–20)
“And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others.” (2 Timothy 2:2)
In order for this to happen in mass, the church needs to be ready, reliable and awake!
God always leaves a remnant of believers. The remnant are those that have not bowed their knee to any false idol. They are God’s loyal soldiers. In a world where ideological narrative seems to rule the day, the remnant are those not getting caught up in the arguments prevalent in the world, but are instead caught up in the mind and doings of their commander, King Jesus.
“No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier.” (2 Timothy 2:4)
What we identify with will create our arguments. Just look at the polar extremes and divisions in our country and around the world today and you’ll see what I mean. Every day you turn on the TV or log into Twitter you enter a world of arguments where division exists. And the arguments invoke tremendous emotion, creating almost addictive behavior. In the arguments we lose sight of the person on the other end. In the argument we find that defeating the other side is the ultimate thrill. In the argument anyone who stands opposed to what we believe are dehumanized and labeled in our minds, giving us even more self-righteous conviction to brutalize them with our words.
I am not saying Christians aren’t to engage in debate and critical reasoning. In fact we are encouraged to do so. But we are not to get caught up in the trending issues of the world, make that our identity, climb those hills and die on them. Instead, we are to be a people making our case, providing testimony and being witness to truth alone. Truth is indeed the only place that we can all unite.
Jesus Christ is the Truth. He is Truth! “And you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” (John 8:32)
There is no bypassing the magnitude of this verse and what it means for our lives. If we want to be free from being caught up in the arguments and ways of this world, our first and greatest allegiance must be to “know” the Truth. Truth must be our best friend. In other words, Jesus Christ is to be our greatest desire.
God reveals what He’s doing to His friends. "No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you." (John 15:15)
Our social media world has truly distorted what being a friend means. A friend in the traditional sense is someone you know, you trust, you spend time with. It is someone you have affection for that goes deeper than shallow common interest and convenience. True friendship is battle tested and wears the scars to prove it. True friendship truly “knows” one another, knows what they are thinking and what they are doing. If someone were to say something deceitful or untrue about your friend you would be the first to question it, stand up for them and speak on their behalf.
The bible states that in the end times there will be a lie so well accepted that it would deceive even the elect of God… if it were possible. Those words “if it were possible” should give us real pause. Is it possible for Christians, those filled with the Spirit of Truth, to be deceived along with the rest of the unbelieving world?
The answer is pretty profound. We will be deceived only if we allow ourselves to be. We have been given access, or more accurately, we are indwelled by truth itself, the Spirit of Truth. Yet even as Adam and Eve walked with the Lord in His presence daily, they had a choice. They had all the truth they needed available to them, walking with them, speaking tenderly and lovingly to them. Being deceived was a choice made by surrendering personal responsibility to discern, in exchange for a plausible and self serving argument.
As Christians we often think that our choices each day are whether or not to sin. And while there is truth to that statement, the greater choice is to know truth or reject truth, as God sees it. Knowing truth is always a choice. Or maybe it would be better to say not surrendering to deception is the choice.
Truth isn't always visible up front. The Bible says we are to seek truth, pursue it, even reason together to find it. But it has become almost a way of life for so many to simply accept what the loudest and most prolific voices are saying, without first doing due diligence to discern.
How quick are we to jump on the bandwagon of our familiar and "trusted" voices? How quick are we to surrender our responsibility to discern, seek, ask questions, gather information and investigate before we start echoing the talking points we heard?
We are to hold to Truth as a soldier holds his ground. God says our ground cannot be stolen by the enemy; however it can be surrendered to him.
The book of 2 Corinthians says the battle for truth is fought and won in our minds. Without asking questions, without investigating on our own and looking from other perspectives, we surrender the battle ground without even a struggle. (see 2 Corinth. 10)
Those that call themselves Christians, above all others, should have an insatiable appetite to know truth in all situations. When we see hate and division on mass levels like we are in today's society we should be even more driven to investigate. When we see this kind of division we must recognize it as the fruit of the enemy.
It is up to us to fight each day for truth. It is up to each of us to seek God, through His Spirit, to reveal His thoughts, His ways, His heart in all that we see and experience. It is up to us to examine ourselves, and see if there are any untruthful ways within us. (see Psalm 139:23-24) We cannot leave that to others to do for us. We cannot relinquish that responsibility by listening to the loudest voices while assuming they know what’s best.
When the Great Awakening occurs will you be ready to lead and point others to the place of truth, healing, unity and love? Will your life be a beacon, a light set on a hill? Are you part of the remnant that will not bow its intellectual knee to the idols and god’s of this world, but will stand on the Truth of not only who God is, but what He is doing!
Let us be set apart from the narrative of this world, and be united to Truth, through the Gospel of life and freedom in Jesus Christ.
Related Articles: The Greater Awakening - Part 1
Founder of His Way Worship, Tracy Manno is a Christian artist, worship pastor, life coach and author with a calling to come alongside other Christian’s to help them fulfill God’s calling on their lives.
by Tracy Manno
I have been noticing a pattern over the past couple years with the use of the phrase “A Great Awakening.” In spiritual terms this is speaking about a national, even global revival; an awakening to God in the midst of an anti-god culture. This will certainly be amazing to be a part of, and many believe it to be soon on the horizon. But what does that mean for those of us who are already chasing after God and walking in faith?
I believe there is a greater awakening already happening for Christians right now. It is an awakening at a personal level, which will extend to the effectiveness of the church as a whole. And it is an awakening, in my opinion, that has to happen before the global spiritual awakening.
The greater awakening is based on a personal awareness and pursuit of God's truth for the full realization of our identity, calling and purpose as sons and daughters of God. Some call this our destiny in Christ, while others refer to it as walking in God's perfect will. Whatever definition suits you, I believe God is opening the eyes of those that would see, and the ears of those that would hear on massive levels within the body of Christ to a greater knowledge of our end time assignments.
The word “awakening” implies we are currently sleeping. For most this sleeping state is unknown to them. Some coast through life content with a desire to simply maintain the status quo. Others remain asleep out of hopelessness or cynicism, convinced life will always be the same regardless of what they do. Whatever the reason, being asleep is a resignation to pursuing the greater works God has planned for each of us and the abundant life promised to us in Jesus Christ.
Most of us have come to believe that our abundant life is fulfilled in the next life, when we are given the full measure of our inheritance in Christ; the redemption of our bodies. I know that I was taught that growing up, even though scripture commands us to start taking hold of our eternal life right now! (see 1 Timothy 6:12) But when we are taught things without other ideas to challenge them, we unwittingly become captive to their narrative.
This process happens all throughout our lives. We are conditioned within certain narratives from a very young age. Not all are malicious in nature. Most are simply products of our upbringings, social and economic status, ethnicity, political bents, and many other influences.
I say all this because waking up requires us to recognize the snow globe of narratives and mindsets we've existed in for so long. To be awake means to be free from the chains of bias, prejudice, and excuse. In order to walk in the new we must be free from the bondage of the old. And the Bible says the battleground over bondage and freedom is in the mind! (see 2 Corinthians 10:5)
The narratives we live in are based on patterns of thinking that have become established and now influence how we see things, interpret them and make decisions. Narratives are useful in creating consistent and known responses, and because of this they are not objective, and rarely capable of leading us to unbiased truth. Jesus told us that we are to "know the truth and the truth will set you free."
Before he became the apostle Paul, his narrative on Christians was firmly established. His belief that they were blasphemous traitors to the faith deserving of death came from false religious narratives taught to him from a young age. These teachings controlled all of his decisions until one appointed day when “Truth” Himself woke Paul up. Paul's life-long narrative was disrupted instantly on the road to Damascus when the glorified Jesus revealed Himself to him. And at that moment he had a choice to wake up or stay asleep.
We all know the end of that story, and Paul later wrote that he wasn’t living life in relationship with God, but was ignorantly (asleep) living life in relationship with his narrative. (see 1 Timothy 1:12-13)
When we blindly live life in obedience to preconditioned narratives we live as those sleep walking. We coast through situations without expanding our awareness and challenging our understanding. We give our ability to think and make decisions to others by following the familiar narrative. But when we live our lives inside relationship, specifically our relationship with Jesus through the Holy Spirit, all pre-existing narratives of who we are and what truth is dissipate in the brightness of His light!
Here's the heart of the greater awakening: You were made to be in relationship with God, and to fulfill very specific things that He not only planned for you but also provided and gifted you to fulfill. But in order to finish the race planned for us we MUST wake up from our pre-existing condition, the way we’ve always been and thought, and take on the mind of Christ, letting Him renew our thinking and lead us into all truth. (see Romans 12:2 and John 16:13) The greater awakening is all about your freedom!
So what does this mean for you? What does this look like?
Well there are many of you sensing the awakening deep down. It's a sense that there is more, that everything isn't as it seems. God is stirring this awakening, and it is your job to pursue it. We are waking to Truth. God’s truth to who He is and who you are in Him. The truth of identity, calling and purpose to do and fulfill what He created you for! In this fulfillment there is nothing more satisfying. It’s the call to awaken from the malaise of half met longings and dreams to the reality of abundant life, fulfilling the desires He Himself put into your heart!
Seem unattainable? Seem impossible for your life?
I love the way the Amplified version translates Ephesians 2:10…
For we are His workmanship [His own master work, a work of art], created in Christ Jesus [reborn from above—spiritually transformed, renewed, ready to be used] for good works, which God prepared [for us] beforehand [taking paths which He set], so that we would walk in them [living the good life which He prearranged and made ready for us].
If these words stir you, know that it is the Spirit of God that brings His Word to life in us. And ask yourself one question: Why would you not believe what it says? Be honest! What voice, what thought, what familiar excuse is trying to tell you it isn’t true for you?
Your awakening to greater relationship and purpose in Christ is hindered only by false mindsets and narratives. This is what the Holy Spirit is waking us up to. The truth of the perfect will and plan for each member of His Bride, to play their role in the grandest final act this world has ever witnessed!
As Paul quotes to the church in Ephesus: “Wake up, sleeper, rise form the dead, and Christ will shine on you!”
Are you ready to take your place?
Next in PART 2 we will take a look at what it means to walk in truth.
Related Articles: The Greater Awakening - Part 2
Founder of His Way Worship, Tracy Manno is a Christian artist, worship pastor, life coach and author with a calling to come alongside other Christian’s to help them fulfill God’s calling on their lives.
by Chantel Waltz
My life regularly feels non-stop with always a lot to do. Can you relate? As a mom of 3, I feel like I am spread thin, trying to meet all my family’s needs. The laundry, the shopping, the cooking, the cleaning, the homework, the after-school activities. Not to mention work or church ministry! Nursery! Worship Team! Prayer Teams! Evangelism! There never seems to be an end to the list of responsibilities. I’m not complaining, really. I love my family, my church and my life, but I do tend to get a little stressed out…...ok, a lot stressed out.
You could call me a Martha. You know the one. Martha, as in Mary’s sister. Jesus came to the home of these two sisters and began to teach. Frantic and disheveled Martha got busy preparing the food, while Mary, the good sister, sat sweetly down at Jesus’ feet to enjoy his company. Martha stood fuming in the doorway (because Mary wasn’t helping her make the dinner) and got reprimanded by Jesus for being angry with her sister.
This is, of course, my own translation of the Biblical account, but really, don’t we tend to interpret the story this way? “Wonderful Mary and Horrible Martha!” The thing is, regardless of our own interpretations, by working hard to prepare the food, Martha was doing exactly what she should have been doing! In those days, the women were always expected to work hard to serve their families, and especially notable guests.
Understanding this makes me feel a little better about my Martha tendencies. Serving others is a wonderful thing! It not only blesses others, but is also a vitally important part of our lives and spiritual walk. James 2:20b says “Faith without works is dead.” Jesus wasn’t rebuking Martha for serving, he was rebuking her for allowing her serving to make her anxious and angry!
Here at His Way Worship, we talk a lot about what worship is. More than musical worship during a church service, we worship the Lord through our whole lives. Romans 12:1 says “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God. This is your spiritual act of worship.” Every day, like yours, my life is full of sacrifice, which mostly looks like service. There’s every day service: serving my husband, my children, my friends, and community. There’s also spiritual service: teaching, leading worship, praying for others, evangelism. When presented to the Lord, I know that my every act of service is worship unto Him, even washing dishes!
Jesus knew that Martha was actually worshipping Him as she worked hard to prepare His meal. So even His reprimand of her was rooted in love and pleasure. Not disappointment or anger. The last thing Jesus says in his reprimand is interesting to note, however. He adds that “One thing is needed, and Mary had chosen the better part.”
The Better Part… worshipping at His feet… taking time for intimate friendship with Jesus.
What is it about us Marthas? Sometimes the thought of sitting down to pray or read or worship (when our daily to-do-list could wrap around the house) fills us with anxiety. There are so many needs, all the time!! And sometimes, the goal of taking time to sit down and be with Jesus becomes just one more thing on the list that we don’t have time to do, which stresses us out even more. Furthermore, it’s not always easy to get to the place of intimacy with Jesus. Maybe we dread the possibility of getting “emotional” or just plain have a hard time sitting still.
By now you can probably guess that I’ve not been the most disciplined about spending intimate time with Jesus. I am getting better and have actually seen progress in this area of my life, but it’s honestly a daily challenge to choose to take time to be intimate with Jesus… to get filled up. And it is SO true, when I try to serve without first being filled, I DO feel like Martha. Anxious. Tired. Angry.
So, to all my fellow Martha’s-keep going! Keep running! Keep serving! Know, that as you serve, if you offer it to the Lord, you are engaging in worship to Him, and He loves it! But also know that His plan for us includes stopping to do the one thing that is needed. To sit at His feet. To lay our burdens down. To hear what he wants to say to our hearts. To get filled-up. It’s truly the Better Part.
I wanted to discuss the idea of God's love being reckless, as sung in the Bethel Music worship song, "Reckless Love."
There has been a lot of conversation around this song as to whether we should use the term "reckless" to describe God's love for us. To some, the use of this word is dishonoring to an all-loving, all-wise and all-powerful God, reducing Him to an obsessive deity, unable to control His own responses. To others, the use of this word speaks volumes to their soul as they consider how God left nothing on the table to rescue and redeem the lost sinner, even setting aside His own dignity in pursuit of His personal passion.
My intention with this response to "Reckless Love" is not to establish or discredit either view, but rather to turn us to the unifying truths of Scripture as we seek to understand Him who exceeds the ability of our mortal understanding.
When we hear the word "reckless," we tend to think of things that have to do with being foolish, undisciplined or unwise, right? The word relates to something done without applying wisdom, without thinking it all the way through, lacking prudence and good judgment.
So from that point of reference, you might be thinking "God is not any of those things! God is wise! God's judgment is always good!" And I would agree.
But here's the thing. God doesn't use the world's standards to judge and define His actions. He uses His own heavenly standards, which seem foolish to the world. And often God chooses to explain His wisdom and truth to us by referring to it in the most opposing words available in contrast to worldly wisdom.
For example, when speaking of those Jesus bled and died for, the pure white bride of Christ, Paul says in 1 Corinthians that we are "scum of the earth." When speaking about living a life based on faith in the power of the resurrection of Christ, again Paul concedes that to the world we should look like the most pitiful people on the planet (see 1 Cor. 15:19).
So the concept of using undignified terminology to highlight the great chasm that separates the world's understanding of God to His own understanding is well established in Scripture.
Take a look at what it says in 1 Corinthians 1:18-25:
"For to those who are perishing, the preaching of the cross is foolishness, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God" (v. 18).
Would you call the cross foolish? Of course not! You understand what the cross is, what it means? But to the world, it is foolish indeed.
"It pleased God through the foolishness of preaching to save those who believe. For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom. But we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to the Greeks" (vv. 21b-23).
They (the unbelievers) don't get it. It doesn't fit into their model of thinking ... their standards. It's foolish! It's reckless!
"But to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, we preach Christ as the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men" (v. 24-25).
Consider this: God tells us we must become like children to come to him. A child, when he or she sees what they want, will go after it with reckless abandon. It judges for itself what is most important, and will leave all it has for that chance at getting that one thing it deems in that moment to want the most.
Remember the parable Jesus spoke about the "pearl of great price." The man sold everything he had to gain access to this one pearl of great value. Foolish! Reckless spending of all he owned! But to the person of faith it's not foolish, it's not reckless. It's the wisdom of God calling.
Jesus will leave the 99 sheep to go after the one that is lost. Jesus will leave His throne in heaven to take on the frailty of human, mortal flesh, to save even just one lost sinner. To the world, to a grownup, this is childish, reckless thinking. But not to the one who knows what's most important.
The father or mother who has lost his child will give up all sense of proper etiquette when searching for that child. I don't like bringing attention to myself in any normal situation, but when I can't find my small son or daughter in a crowd I get reckless to my own standards. I become a spectacle to all those around me in my effort to find my lost child.
Jesus became a spectacle on the cross, for all to see. Not prim and proper, no dignity, just a spectacle for all to see. Reckless love for those He came to save. Reckless by worldly standards—but not by the heavenly standard.
The Bible consistently encourages us to represent Him in this life by living the life of a fool. Fools that love others with the same reckless abandon as Jesus loves us. Fools that love as if this world and what it offers means nothing, and God's kingdom and our eternity mean everything. To the world, that's foolish, dare we say, even reckless. To the one being saved, it is the power and faithfulness of God the Father to do whatever it takes to save those He loves.
Tracy Manno currently resides in central Pennsylvania with his wife and three children and is president & CEO of His Way Worship® and co-founder of Narrow Road Ministries where he has serves as director of business and worship. Drawing upon 20+ years experience as lead worship pastor, as well as a broad range of achievements as a songwriter, artist and business executive, Tracy spends much of his time coaching new artists and mentoring those with a desire to live out their God-written destiny in Christ.
For more information and to contact Tracy about coaching, worship and speaking engagements, go to HisWayWorship.com or connect on Facebook at facebook.com/HisWayWorship.
by Terrance & Lisa McCoy
Does it strike anyone odd that Jesus made wine for His first miracle? Perhaps the strangest part of the first miracle was that Jesus used bathing jars to hold the wine. Honestly, isn’t that a little gross? As crazy as this first miracle seemed, the strangest part to me was when he had them fill the huge jars full of water. He had his disciples fill the stone jars to the brim. Why didn’t Jesus just go over to the jars and pray a little prayer and make wine? He could have. There is a purpose for the water.
In Bible times, stone jars were used for purification rituals. Stone was believed to hold purity. These jars were often made of limestone, which was easy to carve. The water poured inside would thus be pure, “living water,” held in this cistern of sorts, for later use. The jars were useful, moldable, pure...but just attractive jars without the water being inside them. The water was the tool to be used. The water was the key element in the purification ceremonies. The water was the stuff of Heaven, being held in specially chosen earthen vessels. The water was the game changer.
We are the jars - chosen, moldable, ready to be used for the Kingdom, waiting for the Water that will flow and heal. But if we come before God without being filled, without lifting our hearts and empty vessels for a fresh filling of His Spirit, power, and direction, we are just attractive stone. We may clean up nicely and say, “Amen!” at the appropriate time, but we are hollow, cavernous, and cold inside without the stuff of Heaven sloshing out and into the world. The stone is nothing without the water.
If I may be honest, we live in a world of carbon copying. Everywhere you look and in all things, we are looking for the next cool look. We are waiting on the next mega church to write another hit song so we can share it in our church. We wear our hats certain ways, bend our brims in certain ways, roll up our pants legs, cut our hair, wear our jewelry and plan our church services in certain ways in hopes to have success. I’m guilty more than anyone else. It leaves me asking myself, “What am I depending on to radically love and change the world around me”. When I try to perform or create things to change the world without listening to God, I am making my own “boxed wine?”. Am I squeezing my own grapes and trying to manufacture my own power? Am I bypassing the living water and hoping the stellar stone will do the trick? A wine connoisseur can identify a fine wine a mile away. They can distinguish its aroma, its intensity, balance, and complexity of notes and flavors. Our hearts are the same way. When you have had choice wine, boxed wine is way less appealing.
Jesus was making a huge point. In John 4:14 He asked the Samaritan woman for a drink. He was building up to an eternal and epic moment with her. “With this living water, you will never thirst again.” I have tasted this water. I’m so glad I did. I, too, fill it to the brim and it bubbles over. If I fill my life with my talent, performance, hard work and grit, I offer the world box wine, devoid of Heaven’s flavor and intensity. If I fill my life with His Holy Spirit, the miracle happens. He allows choice wine to spill out of my dirty stone jar. This, and this alone, is what our world needs. People need much more of Him and much less of me. They need my worship flowing from my emptiness and His filling. They need all of us to go from water to wine, pungent and resplendent for His glory.
Kick the boxed wine, my friends. Let’s go for the Chardonnay!