Archive for November, 2014

Chosen

Sunday, November 30th, 2014

Our key scriptures are found in Acts 9:10-16, with the focus on verse 15:

But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel (KJV).

Saul of Tarsus, later known as Paul, had a less-than-desirable past. He participated in stoning men of the Gospel and everyone knew it. But, when God looked at Paul–He saw something different. God saw what Paul was going to be, and therefore, called Paul His “chosen vessel.”

We all have a purpose in God’s kingdom, and we are called by Him (I Corinthians 1:26). When God calls us, He will equip us with the ability to do greater things than we can ever imagine (Ephesians 3:20).

When God chooses us, He sees a picture in us that we cannot see. If God says it, then it’s true. If God defines who we are and proclaims who we are going to be, nothing that anyone else says matters. God looks into the future. When He calls us as His chosen vessel, He wants to take us to where He has already seen us! God’s picture may not be the current condition that we are in. He sees our potential and not our position. He alone declares the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46:10)!

God’s Chosen are Willing to Come Out

God’s chosen people are willing to come out from where they are and embrace the plan God has for them (John 15:16). God has promised that when He does a new work in us, our fruit–our work for His kingdom–will remain! We are a chosen priesthood and a royal nation (I Peter 2:9), and God will do whatever is necessary to try to make us the kings and priests we are called to be. God wants to make us His!

God’s Chosen are Obedient

God’s chosen people are obedient to do what God tells them to do. In Acts 9:6, God tells Paul to rise and go to the city. Paul didn’t ask questions–he went. It is after Paul reaches the city and tarries there, that God sends another servant to him. In his encounter with Ananias, Paul was baptized and filled with the Holy Ghost. He left with a call to preach the Gospel. When we hear God’s call, and obey, we will leave our encounter with God different from whence we came.

Chosen People Keep the Course

Chosen people have a tenacity to keep going regardless of the odds. When we decide to live a life for God, we don an immediate bullseye on our backs that attracts all opposition from the devil. But, with God on our side, and the Holy Ghost working in us, there is nothing we cannot overcome. We have to press toward the mark of the high calling (Philippians 3:14) and never look back to the life that God brought us from.

When we give God our best, He will render His best. The outcome? The supernatural. If we understand that we are chosen (called out), are obedient to Him, and keep the course, we will see and reap the benefits of His presence in our lives. God has His finger pointed at all of us. Will we accept the call and do a work for His kingdom? Accept–and experience the supernatural.

The Key to Keeping Marriage Together

Sunday, November 23rd, 2014

Build a Marriage That Lasts

Our key scripture for this message is found in John 13:34:

A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another (KJV).

Over half of marriages today fail due to the common mistake that people think “love” is a noun. Jesus commanded us to love one another–love is an action, a demonstration; something we need to display for our spouse, each and every day. Love can manifest itself through the following actions:

Learn Your Spouse

A key to keeping marriages together is to know and understand your spouse (I Peter 3:7). We must learn how our spouses wish to be loved so they can feel loved and appreciated.

Focus on Your Spouse

In the Old Testament (Deuteronomy 24:5), in the first year of marriage, a man would not take upon himself any other obligations, but stayed home to focus on and care for his wife. We sometimes need to stop and take time to focus on our relationship instead of everything going on in our lives.

Love and Respect Your Spouse

Wives are called to respect their spouse (Ephesians 5:33), and husbands are called to love their spouse (Ephesians 5:23). If each spouse commits to doing the same to each other, the focus is not on self. Through meeting our spouse’s need, our needs will be met in return.

Keep Jesus in the Middle of Your Marriage

A marriage will not survive without Jesus in the center of the relationship. We need to love our spouses like we love the Lord. We should take time to reflect on our relationship with Christ to ensure we understand what love is, and how this can be shown to our spouse.

Spouses are the most valuable commodity we have in our lives, and if we cannot value our greatest blessing, God isn’t going to bless us further. Marriage is an important blessing (key); we need to keep it together.

In Everything Give Thanks

Friday, November 21st, 2014

Pain. Anger. Frustration. Grief. Joy. Wealth. Peace. Happiness. Contentment. Death. Violence. Affliction. Love. Worry. Honor. Humiliation. Care. Victory. Triumph. Defeat. Blessed. These are only a few of the strong emotions that we may come to encounter throughout the course of our lives.

Five-year-old Jane Worthington was dropped off at the orphanage in San Moreno California by her drunken father who had just witnessed his wife of 7 years, stricken with severe depression, take her own life the week before. Feeling confused and helpless, Jane, though only five years old, felt a wave of darkness sweep over her. Through the years of struggle that followed, she learned that life is full of trouble and pain.

Sixteen-year-old Lewis Johnson, born and raised in an Apostolic home, could not see himself completely giving everything to God because of his infirmity. Lewis was born with multiple sclerosis, which resulted in a misalignment of his spine to where he always walked in an abnormal way. Multiple doctor’s appointments and treatments could never cure his aching heart for the rejection that he felt every time he walked into his school building. No matter how many times he raised his hands at the altar in church, something always made him ask the question, “why me?”

Janine Benton, 18 years old from Dubois, Indiana, felt very content at the university she chose to attend. As her family celebrated her completion of high school with a graduation party at the most desired country club in town, Janine couldn’t help but reflect on how her life has been full of peace and happiness. Not only was she well liked by the community, but she also managed to land a full ride academic scholarship to Brown University, where her best friend was also going to attend. To top it all off, her parents awarded accomplishment with a brand new car. How could she not be excited to start such a new and promising chapter of her life?

On the one hand, a family can be celebrating the birth of a new child. On the other hand, a family can be mourning their loss, as they lay their child to rest. On the one hand, families can come together for a joyous holiday season of Thanksgiving, with floods of good memories that they have shared. On the other hand, families across the way could be dreading the holiday season, for fear of rehashing broken memories of their unloving families. Although each person has a completely different story, there is one common denominator that is required of the happy, the sad, the rich and the poor:

“In Everything give thanks.” (I Thessalonians 5:18)

Thankful in the Midst of Chaos

Sometimes we ask ourselves, “How can I give thanks, when nothing seems to be going right?” How can a mother who has just experienced a miscarriage for the third time, find it within herself to give thanks? How can a father, who has just found out that his 17-year-old son is diagnosed with an unidentifiable and incurable cancer, find it within his heart to give thanks? How can the families, who have suffered the abduction of their children, find it in their souls to say, “Lord I give you thanks today”? In this world full of evil and heartache, it is hard to find the courage to be thankful when you have only been exposed to pain. And then, when you look at someone who may not have gone through much trial or pain in their life, you begin to envy their happiness. You wonder why you were stuck with so much suffering and heartache. But God doesn’t specify in His word who should give thanks or when it is appropriate to give thanks, based on your life’s circumstances. He simply commands us to give thanks in everything—even in the bad things. It’s pretty hard to comprehend how a God, who is in control of the cosmos and the very breath that we breathe, could allow humanity to endure such turmoil of the soul and still command us to be thankful unto him. But in looking closer, we see that God will never give us more than we are able to bear (I Corinthians 10:13).

We look at the story of Job and how his suffering endured, without reprieve and without warning or understanding. Yet he could utter the words:

naked came I into out of my mothers womb, and naked I shall return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away, blessed be the name of the Lord.” (Job 1:21).

We find, at this point in his suffering, Job realized that he must be thankful because his only alternative was to curse God and die. God, who created and handcrafted you, who made you after the likeness of his image, and from the beginning of time looked upon you and said “you are good,” knows every single thing you encounter in your life. Whether it be joy or sadness, his plan and purpose for your life’s journeys are forever established in heaven. They are designed with the intent to draw you closer to a love relationship with him, that you may be a witness to the awesome power of God for someone else. Knowing that the Holy One regards me and desires to make me an ambassador of his glory gives me the courage that, no matter what life may bring, I can lift up my head and hands to say “Thank you Jesus.”

He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.

 But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. (Isaiah 53:4-6).

Jesus, our Jehovah Jirah. Jesus, our Kinsmen Redeemer, knows how it feels to be in pain, to be wounded, to be hurt, and to feel emotional and physical abandonment. Jesus knows how it feels to be rejected by those who are supposed to love you the most. Yet, he knows that his affliction served a greater purpose. That purpose is to bring redemption for you and me. Whatever you are going through in life will serve a greater purpose if, in your heart, you can continue to say “Thank you Jesus.”

I will end with the wonderfully inspirational story of a true hero in history, named Cory Ten Boom. Cory Ten Boom and her family lived in Holland during the time of the Holocaust. Because of a deep burden that God placed in their hearts, they created a secret room in their house to hide Jews from the Nazi’s. Even though their hideout saved a numerous amount of Jews, they were eventually discovered and Cory and her entire family were sent to the concentration camps. Cory Ten Boom’s family did not survive. In Cory’s book “The Hiding Place”, she recalls being marched into her cell and looking upon the pile of bodies on the floor stacked on top of each other. Upon closer look, she could see her sister amongst the bodies that were so carelessly thrown away. As she was marched to her cell, I am sure numerous emotions were filling her heart and mind. I’m sure the enemy tried severely to torment her mind with thoughts of cursing God. But Cory knew that “In every thing give thanks.” She spoke of her cell and how there was an infestation of fleas there. I’m sure the fleas feasted upon her and everyone else in those cells. But instead of Cory Ten Boom finding, yet another thing to potentially complain about, she began to thank God for the fleas in her cell. She later found out the only reason she survived the concentration camp, and the reason she was never sent to the gas chambers, was because the Nazi soldiers did not want to come near her cell and its infestation of fleas. Glory be to God! God used fleas to save His humble servant and Cory Ten Boom lived to recall the stories that occurred during that time in history. Looking at her story, one could easily see why she would have cause to shrink into a hole of depression. Cory Ten Boom and her family did not have to hide away the Jews. If they had kept to themselves, they would have survived. And why did God have to use fleas to help her in her dark situation? So many questions could make one easily doubt the sovereignty of the Almighty! But instead of cursing God, Cory Ten Boom insisted on thanking God. Could it be that she understood life isn’t about having everything come easy, with little to no pain and suffering? Could it be that she understood life was about standing fast in thanksgiving to the Creator, no matter what happens? I think this is the lesson to be learned: that in everything we are to give thanks!

This holiday season, whether you are enjoying it with family and friends, or perhaps may be enjoying the season alone, lift up your head and thank God for his many blessings. Rest in hope that, even if you don’t understand the trials and troubles that may come into your life, the One who Created life knows exactly why you are in your season of life and He has it all in control. Let your life be a continual season of thanksgiving and there will always be that beacon of light and peace, that will undeniably be linked to the love that Jesus has for you.

The Foundation of Giving

Thursday, November 20th, 2014

The Foundation of Giving is the fourth and last segment in the Foundations for Growing series. This study has taken us to the Word of God to help us apply foundational concepts to our Christian walk so we all can be “…founded upon a rock” (Luke 6:48).

Statistics show:

  • 53% of Christians have not given to their church in the last month
  • On average 3% of Christians tithe (97% of Christians do not tithe)
  • 70% of people live paycheck-to-paycheck

Pastors find in counseling their Saints that people want to give or give more, but cannot financially.

Is Money Important?

Money is very important to God, but He doesn’t need money! He knows we think we need money; therefore, God uses money as a tool to teach us dependence on Him. In the Bible, there are over 800 scriptures that deal with money and possessions. Through God’s Word, we can understand the true purpose of what giving is all about.

Why Should We Give?

Christians should pay tithes and offerings because it is a Biblical commandment—God tells us to do so in His Word. These scriptures are just as God-breathed and inspired as the rest of the Word of God. We need to obey the Word in whole, not just in part.

Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings. Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it. And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground; neither shall your vine cast her fruit before the time in the field, saith the LORD of hosts (Malachi 3:8–11, KJV).

In Malachi 3, God commands His people to pay tithes and offerings. If we abide by His word, He will “open the windows of heaven, and pour [us] out a blessing” (Malachi 3:10, KJV). This is our only investment strategy that has all of heaven behind the return!

What Should I Give?

God commands that we give a tithe. A tithe means tenth. From our paychecks, the tithe (10%) belongs to God, and we live on the rest (90%) of our paycheck. In Malachi 3, God says He will bless us with more than we could ever do with the 10% if we give it to Him!

In addition to the tithe, God also commands in these scriptures to give offerings. Offerings are additional gifts that we give to God at our own discretion, without a specific value tied to it. Offerings are given at our own will. When we give to God, He will bless us with more than what we give. We should ask ourselves, How much blessing do I want from God? Luke 6:38 says:

Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again (KJV).

We cannot out-give God! The more we give, the more God will bless us. God’s blessings will not always equate to monetary blessings, but He pours out His blessings in a currency the world cannot afford. We need more of God’s blessings than just dollars and cents—we need health, favor, and His presence!

Why Does God Ask for 10%?

Remember, tithing—and any form of giving—is not for God’s benefit. Tithing is for our benefit.

Tithing Teaches Us How to Keep God First in Our Lives and Be Unselfish People

Unselfish people make better parents, better Christians, better workers, etc. If we are unselfish, every area of our lives will drastically improve. We are better people when we give to others and when we give to God.

Tithing Teaches Us God’s Plan for Operating His Kingdom Here on Earth

If we don’t give, we won’t be able to support the financial needs of running a church facility (e.g., utilities, property taxes, maintenance, etc.). Every church has a financial need to keep the lights on and to keep activities ongoing!

Giving also goes beyond our own church walls! Churches give what comes in from the Saints to efforts and ministries outside the church—foreign missions, North American missions, men’s and ladies’ ministries, children’s ministries, etc. Giving impacts not only our local church, but the community, state, nation, and world!

Tithing Teaches Us How to Prosper Over Time

It is God’s will that His children are prosperous—He gives us unique gifts and talents so we can be successful. If we manage our gifts and talents well, He will give us more to oversee. However, God wants to ensure that we have a heart for His kingdom and not follow our own agenda. Proverbs 13:11 tells us that get-rich-quick schemes won’t work and are not God’s will for His children. We need to work hard for our money and He will bless us over time.

What are the Benefits to Giving?

Many Saints have observed that if they stop tithing and giving offerings, their financial situation gets worse. How is this possible? In Malachi 3:11, God said he would “rebuke the devourer for [our] sakes” if we obey Him in His command to tithe. There are circumstances and people in life that will try to come and take away our monetary blessings.

But, if we are faithful to God in our tithing, He will protect our finances! When we don’t give, not only do we run the risk of opening a floodgate of financial woes, but we remove God’s ability and desire to protect our finances. This is a greater blessing in itself—why keep 10% when we can have a greater blessing from God?

Financial Principles

If we cannot live off 90% of our income, then we cannot live off 100% of our income. An extra 10% isn’t going to cover our expenses if 90% won’t cover our expenses! We need to make sure that we are living within our means financially and evoke Godly principles when managing our finances. We need to have the pillars of finance in our life: tithes, home, clothes, food, utilities, transportation, etc. If we have expenses beyond these essentials in life, we don’t need them! When we follow the guidelines outlined in God’s Word for our finances, we can give the way God wants us to give and we can also give the way we want to give. To become better stewards of our money, we need to get faithful with God.

Steps to Giving

Settle the Issue of Giving in Our Heart

Our heart is where our treasure is (Luke 12:34), and our heart problems give us money problems. Misplaced priorities, envy, laziness, covetousness etc. are all not money problems, but heart problems. If we get our heart in the right place, we will start to hear God’s voice, which will influence our financial decisions.

Jesus tells us in Matthew 6:19–20

“Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasure in heaven…” (KJV). Earthy treasures will pass away, but we need to focus on an eternal treasure—making it to heaven and being forever with the Lord!

Get a Clear Understanding of Ownership

We don’t own anything—it all belongs to God. Psalms 24:1 says, “The earth is the LORD’s, and the fullness thereof…” (KJV). Our paycheck is not ours. The 90% is not ours. The 10% is not ours. All 100% of our paycheck and everything that we own belongs to God. God requires that we return a tithe (10%) to Him, and then He allows us to keep the rest of His money and manage it for our own wellbeing. When we manage our finances, we need to remember that we’re spending God’s money. We should ask ourselves, “How would Jesus spend this?” Too many times we don’t allow Jesus to be the Lord over our finances. God shows us in His word how to manage His money and how to be a good steward.

Be the Manager that God Has Called Us to Be

We are called to be good stewards of God’s resources. A steward is one that handles another’s affairs. We in turn are managers of the affairs (money) that God has placed into our hands. God will hold us accountable for what He has given us.

The parable in Matthew 25 explains how God puts different talents in people’s hands to take care of according to their abilities. If we manage the talents well, God will give us more to manage. In the parable, God calls one of the servants “wicked” for not managing his talent well. Stewardship is very important to God, and He expects us to manage our finances appropriately.

Financial Discipline

We need to be disciplined with our finances. When we don’t handle our money the right way, there can be utter chaos in our life. If we abide by the following disciplines from God’s Word, we will always be able to give like we want:

Remember Everyone Needs a Cushion

When we map out a financial budget, there are always unforeseen life circumstances that try to “break” our budget and make us spend more than what we planned. Disciplined financial planning accounts for these moments. Proverbs 21:20 notes that a foolish man spends everything and lives paycheck-to-paycheck. It’s scriptural to save and put money away! Proverbs 6:6–8 notes that an ant prepares for the winter by gathering and stockpiling food for a later time. Save for a rainy day!

Every Dollar Needs a Name

We all need to have a plan or a budget for our money. While we may not know the exact amount coming in each paycheck, weekly or monthly, we can estimate the amount and prepare a budget. Luke 14:28 says, “For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it?” (KJV). We need to have a budget to make sure we have adequate finances to cover our expenditures.

Every Debt Needs to Be Attacked Like an Enemy

We should attack out debts like an enemy—one at a time. We should start with the smallest debt and pay it off with every spare dollar we have. If we start with the smallest debt, when we pay it off we will have a small victory that will encourage us to attack the next debt. We take the money we used to pay off the smallest debt and start adding it to the next smallest debt to pay it off (this strategy is called a rolling debt snowball).

A New Mindset

When the children of Israel came out of Egypt and sent spies to scope out the promised land, 12 spies said the children couldn’t inhabit the land because of giants, but 2 said Israel could conquer them. Israel had come from 400 years of slavery and couldn’t get out of the mindset of bondage. The same is true for our finances—if we are in debt, we can’t think of ourselves ever being out of debt. If we don’t tithe and give offerings, we also can’t think of ourselves ever being able to tithe and give.

We can get out of debt and we can be the givers that God expects us to be. Just start today and take one day at a time. If we use God’s Word as a foundation for financial planning and giving, we will prosper. God tells us in His word (Malachi 3) that He will bless us, and God cannot lie. Go ahead a prove Him…test it out and see what happens.

Family Submission

Sunday, November 16th, 2014

Putting Our Family First

The scripture setting for this message is found in Ephesians 5:15-21, focusing on verse 21:

Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God (KJV).

In the Word of God, there are few scriptures that explicitly state guidelines and expectations for the family. However, in Ephesians, Paul addresses the foundational principle of successful relationships—that foundational principle is submission. Submission is leveraging time, talent, and treasure to the benefit of our family.

When we submit to our family, we take our mission and put it in second place. Paul identifies four  relationships in the family where submission is key:

1. A wife’s submission to her husband (Ephesians 5:22-24)

2. A husband’s submission to his wife (Ephesians 5:25-33)

3. Children’s submission to their parents (Ephesians 6:1-3)

4. Parent’s submission to their children (Ephesians 6:4)

We submit ourselves one to another out of fear (reverence) to God. Jesus died on the cross so we could live. He put His own agenda aside; He was last, so we could be first. Jesus’ example of submission was for the church–but, when God created the church, He had the family in mind.

In each family relationship, we all can ask each other “How can I help?” By placing our family’s needs before our own, we are following Christ’s example of submission—loving others more than ourselves.

The Foundation of the Lord’s Supper

Friday, November 14th, 2014

communion

“The Foundation of the Lord’s Supper” is the third segment in the Foundations for Growing series. Luke 6:47–48 is the focus scripture of this series, emphasizing that we should be “…founded upon a rock.”

Why Do We Take Communion?

Every year, the Passover was celebrated by the Jews to remember when the Death Angel passed over homes during Israel’s bondage in Egypt. Israel obeyed the command of God delivered by Moses to sacrifice their best lamb and paint blood on the door posts of their home. When the Death Angel passed over, the first born in their home would not be killed.

The Passover was designated to remember God’s grace to Israel, and to celebrate God bringing them out of bondage in Egypt. The blood shed would atone (save) the Jews yearly until the ultimate sacrifice was given. Jesus would soon become the Passover lamb.

Before the crucifixion, Jesus celebrated the Passover feast with His disciples. This time, the celebratory meal was different.

And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body. And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. But I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom (Matthew 26:26–29, KJV).

What is Communion?

Communion is a sacred ordinance, exampled and commanded by Jesus in Matthew 26:26–29. Jesus took the bread and blessed it and took the cup and gave thanks—and both were given to the disciples to consume.

In I Corinthians 11:24–30, Paul recounts the story in Matthew 26 because the church at Corinth had started to participate in communion improperly. While culture today uses the verbiage “communion,” Paul referred to it as the “Lord’s Supper” (I Corinthians 11:20). In the Greek, Lord (kuriakos) means “belongs to Jehovah,” and Supper (deipnon) means “main meal.” Translated, this phrase means “the meal that belongs to the Lord.” When we join in communion—the Lord’s Supper—we are invited to God’s table to eat this meal for a very specific purpose.

What is the Purpose of the Lord’s Supper?

The Lord’s Supper Reminds Us of How Jesus Covered Our Past

No matter who we are, we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. We need God’s grace and salvation to make it to Heaven. There were two components of the Lord’s Supper: (1) bread—the symbol of the broken body of Christ, and (2) the blood—the shed blood of the Lord Jesus.

The Body

And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me (I Corinthians 11:24, KJV).

When we partake of the Lord’s Supper we eat unleavened bread, which is bread without yeast. This is a part of the original meal of the Old Testament law (Exodus 12:17). When we eat the bread, Jesus instructed us to remember Him! We need to remember that His body was broken for us. Isaiah 53:5 says, “But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed” (KJV). Remember the cruelty of the cross; there was no worse punishment. The pain that Jesus felt when His body was broken—His bloodied back, the crown of thorns on His head, and the nails in His hands and feet—we should have felt it, but He took our place.

In John 2:19, Jesus says “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” (KJV). Jesus was referring to His body! After Jesus was crucified on the cross, He died and was buried. But, on the third day He rose from the grave! We need to remember how Jesus not only resurrected His own body and claimed victory over death, but how He has resurrected us from the dead and brought us into newness of life (Romans 6:4).

The Blood

After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me (I Corinthians 11:25, KJV).

When Jesus died on the cross, His blood covered every sin that each of us have ever committed or will commit in our lifetime. The wage of sin is death, and there must be a blood sacrifice for the price of sin.

Jesus referred to His blood as the “fruit of the vine” in Matthew 26:28. After Jesus broke the bread and presented the cup, He said it was the “new testament in [his] blood” (I Corinthians 11:25). “Testament” means contract; Jesus was presenting a new contract, a new placeholder for the ultimate sacrifice for sin. Jesus became the lamb.

Jesus instructed the disciples to take all of the blood, which was not an instruction for the bread. There is significance in the blood! Leviticus 17:11 tells us that “For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul” (KJV). The broken body did not cover our sin—Jesus’ blood is what is our ultimate atonement. Without the shedding of blood, there is no remission of sins (Hebrews 9:22).

The Lord’s Supper Consecrates the Present

It Demonstrates God’s Will to Commune with Us Over the Intimate Remembrance of His Sacrifice

Jesus noted in Luke 22:15 that He desired to eat the Passover meal with His disciples before He suffered on the cross. He had planned to be with His disciples in an intimate setting, an upper room, because He wanted to commune with them. When we partake in the Lord’s Supper, we are sharing in the blood of Christ with Him and with our church body.

It Demonstrates a Celebration of God’s Blessing in Our Life

When we partake in the Lord’s Supper we are celebrating the work of the cross. If it was not for Jesus’ sacrifice, we would not have the privilege of salvation and the honor of coming before His throne. Just as Jesus blessed the bread when He brake it, He continues to pour out blessings in our life every day.

It Demonstrates a Recommitment of Our Faith in the Work of the Cross

Every time we share in the Lord’s Supper we are demonstrating outwardly that we believe in it: the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. We acknowledge that He is active and alive in our life! I Corinthians 11:26 says, “For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come” (KJV). We do not just “see” the purpose of Christ and the Lord’s Supper, but we show it. We can show others outwardly with our actions, behaviors, and involvement with the Lord’s Supper.

It Demonstrates Our Gratitude for Jesus’ Sacrifice for Our Sin

In both instances of scripture, Jesus gave thanks. Christians should use Jesus Christ as a model of behavior in our spiritual walk—if He did it, we should do it. Jesus included thanksgiving in the pattern for His Supper. Just as Jesus gave thanks, we should give thanks to Him before we participate in the Lord’s Supper. We should praise and thank the Lord for His work on the cross, and for everything He does for us every day in our lives.

The Lord’s Supper Anticipates the Future

For oft as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come (I Corinthians 11:26, KJV).

The Lord’s Supper is just as much about the future as it is in remembering the past and realizing the present. Jesus commanded the church to partake in his Supper until His return. When Jesus returns, He will rapture the church. In Revelation 22:20 Jesus provides final parting words: …surely I come quickly (KJV). As we partake in the Lord’s Supper, we look to the future anticipating His return in the clouds for His church, but look to the past to thank Him for the miracle of the cross.

How Do We Approach Communion?

Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body (I Corinthians 11:27–29, KJV).

If we do not understand the purpose of the Lord’s Supper, or reverence it as we should, we bring upon ourselves the guilt of the Lord’s body (the guilt He took for us on the cross). In the Corinthian church, the Lord’s Supper had turned into an obnoxious fellowship, and members were gorging themselves in the meal instead of eating at home. We need to understand what the Lord’s Supper is about, and not make light about what the cross did for us.

Paul noted, “For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep” (I Corinthians 11:30, KJV). The church was sickly and some members had even died because of the sin in their lives and irreverence shown toward the Lord’s Supper. Partaking in this meal is a serious activity to God, and our lives depend on how we act about it. The Supper and the cross are worth our sincere reverence.

Scripture tells us to “examine” (test) ourselves to make sure we are worthy and ready to partake in the Supper. Repentance should always be the first step in our “remembrance” of the Lord’s Supper. We need to approach this fellowship with the Master with a clean heart and right spirit. Our minds should not be on the way of the world, but the Word and God’s holy presence.

Remember…

Paul tells us in Hebrews 10:19–20, “Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh” (KJV). Paul was referring to the tabernacle’s inner room—the holiest of holies, that housed the Ark of the Covenant and mercy seat—where the very presence of God dwelled.

It is because of the sacrifice of Jesus that we can walk into the presence of God. We cannot take for granted the privilege we have of being in the God’s presence, and partaking in His Supper. It was His broken body that made a way for us, and His blood that covered every sin.

Thanksgiving: The Key to His Presence

Thursday, November 13th, 2014

“Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name.” Psalms 100:4

One day, I was struggling with my personal prayer time. My prayers just felt empty, like something was missing. I knew God heard me and He would answer my prayers. I just felt like I spent more time petitioning Him, yet not really getting into His presence and knowing Him. It seemed shallow and it concerned me. I decided to start from the beginning. My “tabernacle plan” prayer guide was very helpful and it began with this verse in Psalms. It said “Enter with thanksgiving and praise”…and then it listed every color of fabric used in the tabernacle entrance, along with what those colors represented. I could see there was a lot more to thank and praise God for. I realized that my mind would go blank after listing a few things. This concerned me deeply. I knew I loved God and I really did have a heart of thanksgiving…but I only thanked him for the cross, for every good and perfect gift, His provision, and His peace/joy/love. That was truly the extent of it! The problem was that I hadn’t really moved from there in my prayers in almost 20 years! It was time for a change.

I got my Bible, a notebook, and a pen…and started filling pages. There was so much more that I loved about Him, and I made a list so I could refer to it. I will be very transparent, and tell you I had to read from that book every day for a couple of weeks until I could retain a good amount of it. What I can tell you is this…it was revolutionary in my life! My thanksgiving went right into praise, just as the Word describes it should. Thanksgiving was the key that unlocked the gate…and I walked right into praise without even thinking about it. That led me to worship…then surrender…to repentance…and all the way into the AWESOME presence of God! This followed the tabernacle plan from the Old Testament. It worked for Moses and David, and it still works today! Why? God doesn’t change. He is the same…yesterday, today, and forever!

Thank Him for what He has done and praise Him for who He is…this is my interpretation of “be thankful unto Him, and bless His name.” It is simple, but doing it consistently will cause your relationship with Him to grow. You can start with this key of thanksgiving and entering His presence daily. This is so vital to our spiritual growth! We fail to realize that our initial experience with God is JUST THE BEGINNING of what He has for us! It should be an introduction to a lifestyle of seeking Him. Growing takes time and eventually you will know how to get up from crawling and begin walking with Him. Being in His presence consistently will help you develop into a mature Christian.

Galatians 4:1 says “The heir, as long as he is a child, does not differ at all from a slave, though he is master of all.” For believers, this means that only mature sons get that inheritance. If we remain a child in our walk with God, we will never be able to access the great inheritance He has for us. We must know Him, not just know about Him. When we get in His Word, we find everything that He is and THANK Him for it…we PRAISE Him for it. I challenge you to try the key, open the gate, and start walking through it today. You won’t regret it!

I got out that notebook today, and looked through those pages again. It still reminds me of all the wonderful things He does and how amazing He is! I suggest that everyone do something like this and make it personal. Find out what you love most about Him and write it down. Remember it…and tell Him every day! I want to share a little bit from that book, just in case you need a starting point. This list goes on and on, but here are a few I found in the Word of God…

…He keeps every promise forever. He gives justice to the oppressed and food to the hungry. The LORD frees the prisoners. The LORD opens the eyes of the blind. The LORD lifts up those who are weighed down. The LORD loves the godly. The LORD protects the foreigners among us. He cares for the orphans and widows, but he frustrates the plans of the wicked. The LORD will reign forever. He will be your God, O Jerusalem, throughout the generations. Praise the LORD! (Psalms 146:6-10 NLT)

He heals the brokenhearted and bandages their wounds. He counts the stars and calls them all by name. How great is our Lord! His power is absolute! His understanding is beyond comprehension! The LORD supports the humble, but he brings the wicked down into the dust. (Psalms 147:3-6 NLT)

To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified. (Isaiah 61:3 KJV)

The eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, and his ears are open unto their cry.

The righteous cry, and the Lord heareth, and delivereth them out of all their troubles. The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the Lord delivereth him out of them all.

The Lord redeemeth the soul of his servants: and none of them that trust in him shall be desolate. (Psalms 34:15, 17-19, 22 KJV)

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. (Psalms 46:1 KJV)

I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last. (Revelation 22:13 KJV)

No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper; and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and their righteousness is of me, saith the Lord. (Isaiah 54:17 KJV)

Thy word is true from the beginning: and every one of thy righteous judgments endureth forever. (Psalms 119:160 KJV)

Let them praise the name of the Lord: for his name alone is excellent; his glory is above the earth and heaven. (Psalms 148:13 KJV)

He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust. (Psalms 91:1-2 KJV)

He shall call upon me, and I will answer him: I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him, and honour him. (Psalms 91:15 KJV)

And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. (Romans 8:38 NLT)

Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee. Trust ye in the Lord for ever: for in the Lord Jehovah is everlasting strength: (Isaiah 26:3-4 KJV)

Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear: (Isaiah 59:1 KJV)

But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, (Ephesians 2:4 KJV)

Other notes included words that describe Him…

He is gracious, merciful, faithful, kind, true, holy, righteous, worthy of praise, loving, and good.

He is the King of Glory, Everlasting Father, and the Prince of Peace!

He is my healer, comforter, provider, protector, deliverer…my victory, and my confidence!

This doesn’t even begin to describe His greatness! The Psalmist said “I will bless the Lord at all times, His praise shall continually be in my mouth”…let thanksgiving and praise be a lifestyle…and continue your list! It will be a key to unlock the hidden treasures God has for you!

Leading Your Family Out of This World’s Culture

Sunday, November 9th, 2014

It’s Time to Draw a Line

Today we gave special thanks to our Veterans.  They sacrificed themselves by putting their lives on the line for our freedom.  These men and women are true heroes.

Pastor Nave continues his series on FAMILIES this week by challenging parents to be heroes as well.  In order keep our families together, we must recognize there is a greater war going on today. It’s results are far more important than national boundaries, oil, forms of government, power, or control. IT IS THE STRUGGLE TO PULL OURSELVES, AND OUR FAMILIES OUT OF THE CULTURE OF THIS WORLD.

Paul’s words describe the chaos of the battlefield we seem to live on today (II Timothy 2:24-3:5).

It seems we need to make a decision, and draw a line.  We can’t make excuses, and just assume the culture of the world around us.  God’s way is still right, no matter what society embraces.  The story of Lot (Genesis 19) is used to show us two keys to lead our families out of this world’s culture.

Lead When it Counts, So You Can Lead When it Counts

Genesis 19:14 –  And Lot went out, and spake unto his sons in law, which married his daughters, and said, Up, get you out of this place; for the LORD will destroy this city. But he seemed as one that mocked unto his sons in law.

They didn’t take Lot seriously because they had never heard him talk like that before.  You’ve got to have a voice in your child’s life every day, so when it really matters….you HAVE a voice.  Set clear lines on right and wrong while they are young (Proverbs 22:6). What is fuzzy in our vision, will be blind spots to the next generation.

Put Your Family in God’s Hands

Genesis 19:16 – And while he lingered, the men laid hold upon his hand, and upon the hand of his wife, and upon the hand of his two daughters; the LORD being merciful unto him: and
they brought him forth, and set him without the city.

Lot was unsure of which way to go.  While he “lingered”…the angel grabbed his hand and pulled them out of the city before it was destroyed.  This reminds us that our best chance is to put our family in God’s hands.  Holding on to them can be potentially dangerous.  If Lot’s wife was responsible to get them out of the city, they wouldn’t have made it.  Only God can help you lead your family out of this culture.

The Foundation of Fasting

Thursday, November 6th, 2014

“The Foundation of Fasting” is the second segment in the Foundations for Growing series. Our key verses for this study are found in Luke 6:47–48, with the continued focus being “…founded upon a rock.”

Whosoever cometh to me, and heareth my sayings, and doeth them, I will shew you to whom he is like: He is like a man which built an house, and digged deep, and laid the foundation on a rock: and when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently upon that house, and could not shake it: for it was founded upon a rock (KJV).

Why Should I Fast?

As followers of God’s Word, we need to seek out answers to such questions to help with our discipleship and growth. We learn and receive direction by reading the Word of God. The Bible provides examples for us to apply in our day-to-day living.

In the New Testament, fasting was a part of everyday life:

  • Mark 2:18—John the Baptist led his disciples to fast
  • Matthew 4:2—Jesus fasted 40 days and 40 nights to begin His ministry
  • Acts 13:2—The church at Antioch fasted when they faced persecution
  • Acts 14:23—Paul fasted to receive direction before appointing elders in the church
  • Acts 27:33—Paul fasted for 14 days during a shipwreck
  • I Corinthians 7:5—Paul taught the Corinthian church to fast
  • Acts 10:30—Cornelius fasted and prayed (even when he didn’t know God)

The church partakes in the foundation of fasting today because:

Fasting Is an Important Christian Discipline

Fasting for the Christian today is an important aspect of our Spiritual walk with God. Fasting is how we humble ourselves before God—it (1) acknowledges His greatness, and (2) it acknowledges our own limitations. At a high level, we can view fasting as the way we discipline our body (our flesh) toward God.Paul explained that he practiced fasting to keep himself in line with God because he didn’t want to chance becoming a castaway (I Corinthians 9:27). “Castaway” in the Greek means “failing to past the test” or “unapproved.” We don’t want to fail to pass the ultimate “test” in our walk with God.

Fasting Takes Up Where Prayer Leaves Off

Fasting can bring spiritual breakthrough in areas of your life that have remained unmoved by prayer (or other efforts) alone. Through fasting, God will activate to a greater degree.

In Matthew 17, the disciples were unsuccessful in rebuking a devil out of a man’s son. When the man brought his child to Jesus, “Jesus rebuked the devil; and [the devil] departed out of him: and the child was cured from that very hour” (Matthew 17:18, KJV). There are challenges we will face in our day-to-day life that will not be overcome until we fast! As in the case of the boy with the devil, Jesus said, “this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting” (Matthew 17:21, KJV).

Fasting Is a Private Aspect of Our Walk with God

Scripture provides examples when the corporate church body will fast, but individual fasting should be completed in private. Jesus told the disciples when they fasted to not “appear unto men to fast” (Matthew 6:16, KJV). First, Jesus did not say “if you fast..,” He said “when ye fast” (emphasis added). Fasting is not an option for the individual—God commands it.

When we fast, we should complete our daily routines (e.g., taking a shower, going to work, etc.) as usual so others do not know differently. Fasting should be completed in secret so we do not receive accolades from others. When we fast in secret, we understand that we are giving an account unto God only, and desire to stand right before Him. Fasting is much more valuable than the perception of those around us. What we do in secret, God will reward us openly (Matthew 6:18).

Fasting Brings Spiritual Focus

When we fast, we take our attention, time, and resources away from elements in our life that we normally would spend time on. Our attention, time, and resources can then focus on our spiritual relationship with God.

When we fast, we kill off (crucify) the flesh. When the flesh dies, our spiritual mind brings everything into focus! We will receive clarity in our lives, revelation in the Word of God, and a desire to draw closer to God in our spiritual walk.

Nothing dies in nature without a struggle. Our flesh will fight us when we fast. Paul noted his flesh warred against his mind when he tried to fast (Romans 7:23). We will face the same opposition, but we can overcome!

Why Do We Fast?

What Fasting is Not

Fasting is not going on a hunger strike. When fasting, we need to fill that void with a spiritual effort/activity. Instead of eating:

  • Read the Bible
  • Pray
  • Cook a meal and take it to a shelter
  • Participate in a ministry in your church

As another type of fast, we can even forgo an event/entertainment, and use the money and the time to invest in a person in need, missions, etc. Replace the “void” of what you fast with something else!

Fasting Options

There are many different types of fasts described in the Bible:

  • Total Fast: abstaining from all food and non-water liquids for a period of time.
  • Daniel Fast: 21-day fast without meats, sweets, refined or processed foods, etc.
  • Sunrise to Sunset Fast: abstaining from food and liquids from the time the sun rises and sets.
  • Partial Fast: abstaining from one meal, a snack, activity, etc.

Remember: The length of a fast is not the mark of quality (quality does not equal quantity)—we need a focused fast. In a successful fasting regime, you will find that once you fast, you are more apt to fast again and for a longer period of time.

How to Start Fasting

Start with something small (e.g., a meal, coffee, etc.).

Ask Yourself: What would hurt me if I couldn’t have it or couldn’t do it?

Once you’ve identified what “that” is, FAST IT! The principle of fasting is to deny yourself. God will honor all sacrifice, and through fasting, we are offering up ourselves. The benefits of fasting are more than you can imagine. Test Him and God will prove it!

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Adapted from: Wednesday Night Bible Study, October 15, 2014

Seasons of Thanksgiving

Tuesday, November 4th, 2014

Leaves continue to change to amber yellow, sun-fire red, and pumpkin orange, and trickle down from the trees with the slightest gust of wind. Entering into the month of November, the holiday season starts to creep in around us. With the crisp crunch of the leaves under our feet, and the soft bite of the wind at our cheeks, we hear a symphony of reminders in every sound—caroling to us, “Thanksgiving is coming.”

Many of us will begin an array of activities: meal planning, shopping, decorating, volunteering, etc. In the onslaught of activities, we are reminded the purpose of the season: to be thankful.

However, we grumble about the ever-changing number of guests that are attending Thanksgiving dinner and become stressed with the constant invites that fill up our calendars. In the grand scheme of things, our behavior in this “season” doesn’t change; we just move forward in the same manner we always do, dealing with the “trials” of day-to-day life.

If we’re honest with ourselves, this happens to all of us, even though we try to display a heightened spirit of “Thanksgiving” during this season. But, we forget that Thanksgiving isn’t just a one-time-a-year event. We lose sight of what “Thanksgiving” is all about. If we stop and think about it, we can ask ourselves, “Am I really thankful?”

Paul reminds us in Ephesians 5:20: Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; (KJV).

According to Scripture, we are to be thankful for all things and to be thankful all the time. So, when culture identifies a time of year for us to be “thankful” (e.g., Thanksgiving), the Bible tells us that we aren’t to be thankful just once a year. As God’s children, we’re called to live a life according to His Word—24 hours a day, 365 days a year—and we’re to be thankful during that entire time!

It’s hard not to get caught up in the trials and distractions of life, which can easily wear us down and make us feel unthankful at times. But, when we turn our eyes to Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2), we can easily see how thankful we can be!

It’s not hard to be thankful to the One who: supplies our every need (Philippians 4:19), is our Savior (Titus 2:13), is our hope (I Timothy 1:1), and is our everything—Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6). Because of our intimate relationship with Jesus, we have the privilege of being thankful all the time and for everything He has done for us.

You might be asking yourself, “How can I demonstrate my thankfulness” or “when can I be thankful?”

Scripture tells us to rise early to commune (meet with) the Lord (Psalms 63:1). When we approach the throne of God and desire to be in His presence and speak with Him, we do so through prayer.

Psalm 100:4 says to “enter into His gates with thanksgiving and into His courts with praise.” In Matthew 6:9 when Jesus explains to His disciples how to pray, He begins by praying, “Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name…” (KJV).

Through these Scriptural examples, we know that we should begin our prayer with thanksgiving and praise to God! By rising early in the morning, we can start off our day by thanking and praising Jesus for everything that He is, what He has done, what He’s doing, and what He’s going to do! When we begin our day by meditating on how thankful we are for what God has done and praise Him for it, we establish a mindset and manner of thanksgiving for ourselves to abide in throughout the remainder of the day. Thanksgiving and praise will “set the stage” for every action and thought—thankfulness!

Through prayer—in our method of beginning with thanksgiving and praise—we can fulfill Ephesians 5:20 by being thankful all the time, for all things. Because we start our day in prayer and tap into the presence of God, throughout our day God’s presence will be a constant reminder to us to be thankful. We won’t be able to stop thanking and praising Him all the day long! His praise shall continually be in our mouths (Psalm 34:1)!

Having a prayer life and becoming more thankful is achievable for us all! If you aren’t accustomed to praying, just start! It will make a world of difference in your life. If you don’t have time for a long prayer session in the morning, just pray for a few minutes! If you don’t know how to pray—start with the prayer below:

Jesus, I come before your throne this morning with thanksgiving and praise. I thank You for being my rock, my fortress, and my deliver. I thank You for the goodness and mercy extended toward me each and every day of my life. I will praise You with my whole heart, and give You honor and glory forever. Lord, I want to do that which is acceptable and good in Your sight and follow after Your Word. Scripture tells me to be thankful all of the time and for all things. Help me today to keep my mind and my heart on You, Lord—to be thankful in my every word and action. Your Word tells me that You are able to keep me from failing, and that I can do all things through You. I thank You for being the same yesterday, today, and forever; that your promises still apply to me today; and for Your Word and presence in my life. I ask this today in Jesus name. Amen.

I encourage you dear reader, to let this season be a fresh start of your daily “Thanksgivings.” Let it be a turning point for your daily mindset, commitment to prayer, and daily act of thanksgiving. Whether it be small or great, remember we can be thankful at all times and for all things. And, most importantly, remember who to be thankful to and for—Jesus.

Who Told You?

Sunday, November 2nd, 2014

Where are you getting your information?

“But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.” (II Corinthians 11:3)

If we look at the story of Eve and the serpent (Genesis 3:1), we see that we should never enter into conversation with the enemy.  His effectiveness is found in his crafty and subtle ways.  We really can’t outsmart him, but we CAN overcome him!

Satan deceived Eve, and his first attack was on the Word of God.  He twisted the truth just enough to make Eve believe his lies.  Just as he got Eve to neglect the Word of God, he tries the same tactics with us today.

False is always free.  We must buy the truth, and sell it not!  The Word of God is truth!  He is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6)!  You can take Him at His Word!  His Word is permanent (Matthew 24:35, Numbers 23:19).

“For ever, O Lord, thy word is settled in heaven.” (Psalms 119:89)

Eve chose to ignore the Word. She chose rebellion over freedom.  John 8:32 says “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”  Where are you getting your information from?  Who told you what is right and what is wrong?  Don’t be deceived…buy the truth, and never sell it…for ANY price!