Archive for January, 2015

Sharpening Iron

Wednesday, January 21st, 2015

Today we might look at our calendars and think, it’s still January. Either time is flying by at its normal pace, as it does throughout the remainder of the year, or we’re in a time-locked state where the days seem to crawl by. At this moment, we can stop and reflect—How am I doing on my New Year’s Resolutions?

If we’re struggling to keep those resolutions (self-inflicted or vowed to God), or even looking to develop our spiritual walk with God, one strategy we can employ to safeguard success is by obtaining a mentor.

As a best practice in life—goal/resolution attainment aside—we should all strive to secure a mentor to help with our spiritual walk. Most of the time we have these people already in our lives, but they haven’t officially donned the title “mentor” and/or we haven’t given them permission to fulfill this role in our lives.

A good rule of thumb is to find someone spiritually strong in their own relationship with the Lord. And, we need to obtain a mentor who has already accomplished what we’re trying to do for God and His
kingdom!

Get Sharp

Scripture states in Proverbs 27:17:

Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend (KJV).

Get a mentor with experience! Our mentor should be spiritually sharp and a follower of the Word. Through his/her mentorship, s/he will continue to sharpen and mold us into a mighty weapon for the Lord’s kingdom. We shouldn’t look for a mentor with a dull blade. We need to pray that God will help us identify the right mentor that sets the right example.

Starting out in a mentor relationship, our weapons won’t be (and shouldn’t be) the same caliber as our mentor’s. Our mentor is the one who will show us best practices in our spiritual journey, strategies for attainment, and will help hold us accountable!

Get Wise

Proverbs 13:20 instructs:

He that walketh with wise men shall be wise: but a companion of fools shall be destroyed (KJV).

Our mentor needs to be carefully selected—if we maintain company with a mentor who is a fool, we too shall be unsuccessful. If we are who we hang out with, find someone who is spiritually sharp!

Get in Line

When we find the right mentor, we need to give them “veto” power in our life. If our mentor is going to hold us accountable, and help us strengthen our spirituality, s/he must be able to tell us what activities we shouldn’t participate in that could impede spiritual development. We should listen to our mentors, and validate their instruction with the Word of God. Remember, they are our mentor for a reason!

It’s never too late in the year to seek out the right mentor. The idea is just to start!

  • Pray—Ask for God to reveal and identify the right mentor for your life.
  • Ask—Ask your Pastor to recommend a mentor in the church.
  • Find—Seek our your mentor and negotiate the terms of your relationship.

We’re guaranteed to obtain a mentor if we just ask and make it a priority out to find one (Matthew 7:7–8). Set out today to start sharpening your iron. One day you too might just be that iron someone else is looking for.

Go

Monday, January 19th, 2015

“Go” is the third and final segment in the Following God’s Signals series. The focus of today’s lesson is to go, make a change, and align ourselves with the will of God. Jesus told the woman in John 8:11 to, “go and sin no more” (KJV). “Go” was the first word Jesus said to her, and held much instruction for her life. When we are caught up in a lifestyle of sin, our instruction from God is to “go,” and our goal is to determine what that means for our life.

Walk Away from What is Destroying Us

In the book of John 8, the woman caught in an act of adultery was centered in a circle of her accusers. This circle represented guilt, condemnation, failure, bad choices, etc. Those encircling her were vying for the opportunity to stone her. But, Jesus wanted to break the barriers of that circle.

Today, Jesus wants to break the same circle that is around us in our own situations. He has promised to break down every wall serving as a hindrance. However, until we decide to walk out of the chaos that is trying to overcome our spiritual and/or physical life, we will live in a circle that doesn’t have any borders―we choose to stay there.

If Jesus provides a doorway out of our situation, we need to walk out―walk away from what is destroying us. If we stay in the same place, continue what we’re doing, and don’t adopt a new mindset, we will experience the same results we’ve already experienced. We need to be attentive to the voice of God, follow the green light, and move!

Paul noted in Philippians 3:13–14:

Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus (KJV).

In order to walk away from what is destroying us, we need to think forward thoughts. Paul was reaching forward because he wanted to get away from his past. God wants us to move forward so we can grow stronger, get better, and draw closer to Him.

We don’t need to take a big step―we just have to move! God will celebrate even the little steps that we take. Paul noted that he didn’t have to be perfect; he just had to make progress! Luke 15:7 tells us that all heaven rejoices when one sinner repents. Repentance is just a little step! Just move away from the sin and reach toward Jesus.

Keeping Going

Once we start going and making progress in our spiritual walk, we can’t give up. We cannot let anyone or anything convince us to stop. We have a mandate from God to keep going! Too many times we come close to overcoming our dilemma and we give up.

In II Kings 13:14–19, we read about king Joash. The prophet Elisha told him to shoot the arrow of deliverance, which represented future conquests over the Syrian army. With additional arrows, Elisha told Joash to hit the ground, and Joash only did so three times. Elisha told Joash that he would only obtain victory against Syria three times instead of five or six times. Joash stopped too soon.

We too have a pre-determined idea of our personal threshold―how much we think we can take. But, we don’t know what we’re capable of, especially when the Lord of Hosts is on our side. We need to stop trying to dictate to God what we think we can take. God will never put us in a place of defeat! He will never tempt us beyond what we are able (I Corinthians 10:13).

Jeremiah 29:11 says, “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end” (KJV). God isn’t going to set us up for failure and will make a way of escape. If we keep going, in due season we will reap the benefits (Galatians 6:9).

Get Help

We need to get God involved in our situation from day one. He cares about what we’re going through. We need to get a vision from Him as to what our outcome will be―a vision is paramount (Proverbs 29:18). When we don’t understand His plan for our life, we will perish. Our vision needs to include starting at the feet of Jesus.

Jesus not only has an answer to every situation, He has the right answer. Isaiah 40:28 tells us that there isn’t anything that God doesn’t understand; He knows the unique dynamics of every situation that we face. If we want to be free from sin and this world of darkness that surrounds us, we need to:

  • Pray
  • Seek
  • Read the Bible
  • Listen

If we can’t hear His voice, we need to look for a sign. His Word will give us all the signals that we need―yellow, red, and green. God wants us to go.

Go

Even if we don’t know the right direction, find the light of Jesus, and walk. We will stay lost if we don’t start moving in the right direction; we need to walk out of our situation one step at a time. We don’t walk alone―God has promised that He will never leave or forsake us (Hebrews 13:15), and He walks with us every step of the way.

Stop It!

Thursday, January 15th, 2015

“Stop It!” is the second segment in the Following God’s Signals series. Our key verses for this series are found in John 8:2–11. The focus of today’s lesson is on verse 11, when Jesus tells the woman caught in the act of adultery to, “go and sin no more.” In our walk with God, there are things God will tell us to stop, so we don’t reap the results of our poor behavior.

Starting is easier than stopping in life―mostly because we don’t like the word “no” associated with stopping. We think our way, our thoughts, and our own actions are right. Scripture tells us in Proverbs 14:12, “there is a way which seemeth right unto a man…” (KJV). We must measure ourselves and our actions against the infallible Word of God to determine what is right and what is wrong.

Our culture teaches us that if we do what we want to do, our actions can cause us to go against the God’s Word. In every-mess up, we’re told God’s grace will cover our failure. But, God’s grace is more complex, and more robust, than just covering up what we did that’s wrong. God’s grace tells us to stop what we’re doing―to go and sin no more.

Stop It―A Quick Direction

When God tells us to “stop it,” it won’t always stop us dead in our tracks without prior warning. We’re told to stop because many times He’s already talked to us about the circumstance before. We don’t need an explanation of why we should stop because we’ve heard the reasoning before. In these moments, we truly know better than to do what we’ve started out to accomplish, and we don’t need a sermon, a Bible study, or a preacher to tell us otherwise. At other times, God will tell us to “stop it” very abruptly because He doesn’t have time to instruct us as to why we need to stop. In these instances, we may be facing imminent danger! We need God’s grace to stop us before we do something to destroy ourselves.

Grace Has Direction

God places stop signs in our life because He has something better in store for us. We should stop and thank God for His direction and the stop signs He’s placed in our lives instead of ignoring them. We need to remind ourselves that God can see further ahead than us. He knows the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46:10). He wants to save us from our circumstances, but we need to listen to Him.

Different Signs

Stop Sign

Stop signs are typically preceded by a yellow, caution light to alert us that a stop is ahead. Stop signs are there to calm traffic, to slow things down, and to alert us to make a decision. Sometimes it’s not that God has a problem with our direction, but how fast we’re going. He wants to stop us and/or slow us down so we don’t miss out on opportunities and blessings He has in store for us along the way. At a stop sign, God gives us an opportunity to stop , look, and listen, but we determine the duration.

Stop Light

Stop lights are typically programmed by traffic engineers to help the flow of traffic. In life, our stop lights are pre-determined by God at specific points in time, for specific lengths of time. God will put these stop lights in our life at key crossroads so we are forced to take time and look for additional signs and warnings, and take time to key into what He’s trying to tell us about the road ahead.

Do Not Enter

If we see one of these signs, we need to stop, pull over, back-up, and go the opposite direction. These signs require immediate action on our part. If we continue in a direction where God tells us not to enter, there’s nothing but an accident waiting to happen.

Stopping is Inevitable

No matter what path we choose in life, something is going to stop us somewhere. We’ll be stopped if we listen to God, or if we listen to our self. We call our “freedom of choice” the ability to do what we want, and when we want to do it. We forget that we were created to be ruled and governed by God. He gave us a choice, but we need to choose Him!

It is a fact that we are mastered by what we choose to move toward. Matthew 6:24 says, “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon” (KJV). If we give in to our own desires and our own directions, we will stop hearing God’s voice, and wind up in trouble. There is only one right way―this is God’s way. Don’t become a servant to your “self.”

When we think we have freedom to do what we want, we actually are bound in servitude to a cruel master. We place ourselves under control of our flesh, which will cause havoc in our life. We trade the King for a little king. We trade being ruled verses being controlled. We need to ask ourselves: Do I want to be ruled or controlled? Do I want to place myself under a King who cares for and died for me?

Just Stop It

We may find it easier to tell God, “no,” than to tell everything and everyone else, “no.” When we tell our flesh no, our flesh doesn’t like it. When we choose God over self, we become barraged by thoughts and feelings that will come against us and our walk with God. We need to overcome our flesh; don’t tell God’s mercy, “no.” Don’t trade God’s grace and mercy for one day of satisfaction; it’s not worth an eternity of God’s grace. Listen when God says, “stop it” and stay in the safety of His everlasting arms.

Retaining Resolutions

Wednesday, January 7th, 2015

It was just days ago that many of us found ourselves ushering in the New Year with various celebrations. Some of us were in specialized praise and worship services in our local church, participating in family get-togethers following time honored traditions, or my personal favorite—partaking in an old-time foot-washing service!

The most common element found within the cusp of the New Year is—you guessed it—New Year’s Resolutions.

This is the time of year when gyms are over-populated with people trying to get into shape, and diet campaigns are inundating all forms of media. New Year’s is the only time of year when a bakery can morph into an actual deserted wilderness, soon to be regenerated into a blooming oasis in just a few months—sometimes even weeks—later.

It’s no surprise that in a good natured attempt, everyone seems to make a New Year’s Resolution. According to Forbes, just 8% of people actually achieve their New Year’s Resolutions. That means the whole 92% of us who are left over—including yours truly—never keep their resolutions.

New Year’s Resolutions at best made on a whim, based on a momentary inkling. We don’t put much thought into them, and therefore, have a small tendency to keep them. If the resolution is unattained, we’re only letting ourselves down. And, because the resolution wasn’t too important to begin with, we’re okay with not having it fulfilled in our life.

Not all resolutions we make in our life can be treated in such a way.

Many times in our walk with God we make promises (resolutions/vows) regarding our spiritual life, commitment to activities, etc. Sometimes we bargain with God by saying, “Lord, if you would just do ‘X’ I promise I’ll do ‘X’.” If you think you don’t have a claim to that tactic—think again. We’ve all done it in one form or another.

The issue here is that we’re not making a resolution or a vow just to ourselves, we’re making it to God. And, the difference? God expects us to keep it.

If a man vow a vow unto the LORD, or swear an oath to bind his soul with a bond; he shall not break his word, he shall do according to all that proceedeth out of his mouth (Numbers 30:2, KJV).

“Vow” in this passage of scripture is from the Hebrew word neder, which means a vow of personal service or offerings. “Oath” in this passage is from the Hebrew word shebuah, which means promise. Scripture tells us that if we make a vow of personal commitment/service or a promise to the Lord, we cannot break it. God expects us to fulfil what we have pledged to do!

Scripture warns us in Ecclesiastes 5:5 that “better is it that thou shouldest not vow, than that thou shouldest vow and not pay” (KJV). Basically, it’s better that we don’t make a vow, than if we make a vow and don’t do it.

God has always been faithful to us (II Timothy 2:13), and is unchanging at His word (Malachi 3:6).  He will continue to stay faithful even if we aren’t faithful to Him. In making resolutions and promises to God, we’re not just letting ourselves down if we fail. We’re breaking a promise to the God of the universe—the Lord of our life.

In the grand scheme of things, we ask ourselves, “Just how hard is it to keep our promise to God?” Here are some strategies:

  • Pray—Ask God to help you keep you vow. We can pray for the Lord to order our steps and actions and help us ensure that we keep our commitment.
  • Set Reminders—In this digital age, we don’t have an excuse for forgetting things with the myriad of reminder apps. Set a reminder each day to tell yourself to keep your commitment! If you’re a paper person—put it on a sticky note and tack it somewhere you’ll see it each day!
  • Ask for Help—If you’ve made a spiritual commitment to God, find a Saint in the church who is already doing what you want do! Talk to them about strategies for keeping your commitment and glean from their experience. They might be willing to mentor you and pray for you as well!

If we truly make an effort to keep our vows (promises) to God at the forefront of our minds and seek ways to keep our commitments, God will bless us tremendously. And, before we know it—another year will have passed and we’ll be staring New Year’s back in the face once again. This time, being successful in attaining our vow.

As James 5:12 tells us quite simply to, let our “yes” be yes and “no” be no. Don’t make a resolution to God you don’t intend to keep.

Yield to Regret

Sunday, January 4th, 2015

“Yield to Regret” is the first segment in the Following God’s Signals series. This message helps us remember that God still shows His people signs. God is not just interested, but infatuated with giving  direction to His children. He wants to put His Word in our life, put us on the right road―at the right time―and to get us to the right place.

Scripture tells us in Matthew 11:15, “He that hath ears to hear, let him hear” (KJV).  God wants to speak to our hearts and give us direction as to the next step we should take in our lives.

Our focus story is found in John 8:2–11: a woman is caught in the act of adultery and is brought before Jesus by her accusers. This is an amazing story about God’s grace as well as two simple signals: “go,  and sin no more” (John 8:11, KJV).

In this story, Jesus provided the yellow light (sign) of caution to this woman after she was caught in the act of adultery. Being caught is not a good feeling; however, if the woman wasn’t caught, she wouldn’t have found her way to the feet of Jesus. And, it was at the feet of Jesus where she received the greatest direction in her life.

Purpose of Regret

It was at the moment of regret, she heard the clear voice of Jesus telling her she was going the wrong way. Many people don’t hear that voice too much anymore―the voice that leads to regret. While we try to avoid regret in our life, it still has its place. Regret is meant for us to feel sad, to be repentant, or to be disappointed over a missed opportunity or missed mark. God will use regret in our life as a big, yellow light (a sign) that tells us to slow down, change direction, or to be careful.

In today’s culture, we think being right and/or wrong as “relative”―we each have our own definitions. But, we cannot experience grace from God until we realize our wrong and get to a place of regret. If we don’t realize the need for grace, we cannot realize the power of grace. The worst diseases do not have any symptoms. Sin is this way. We ignore the warning signs, and wake up one day realizing we’re on the wrong road, headed in the wrong direction. We need to be shaken from our complacency and realize there is a God in heaven that wants to “catch us” so we can be made whole and right in Him again.

Warning of the Times

Paul warned Timothy “that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron” (I Timothy 4:1–2, KJV). People will get to a point when they can’t feel and hear God anymore, and they will turn away from the true faith because their conscience is dead. When we keep making excuses for our behavior, and don’t listen to the still small voice of God, we stop hearing it anymore―we stop feeing convicted. God provides a warning light from heaven to let us know that something isn’t right in our life, and we need to stop, look, and listen!

II Timothy 4:3–4 states, “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables”  (KJV). People will no longer listen to sound doctrine and teaching, and will look for teachers who tell them what they want to hear. Surgery doesn’t feel good, but the disease of sin will only be eradicated if God cuts open our hearts and removes everything that isn’t like Him. We need to desire for God to speak to us and pay attention to the yellow, flashing  light!

How Do I Yield to Regret?

Let Jesus Point Out the Sin

We need to allow Jesus to point out any sin in our life, and via any method He chooses: prayer, sermon, or even another person! Let Him use whatever avenue to communicate, and when He does, listen! Jesus didn’t tell us that we can’t point out the wrong in others, but we need to make sure that we clean ourselves up first so we can be a light and spiritual help to others (Matthew 7:1–5).

We need to allow Jesus to identify the sin so we can yield to the regret and repent. Paul told the church in II Corinthians 7:10, “For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death” (KJV). Godly sorrow leads us away from sin and to salvation. Worldly sorrow lacks repentance that turns us around and sets us in the right direction. Worldly sorrow blurs the line of actual truth and causes us to compare ourselves to other people instead of the Word of God. Godly sorrow brings conviction; therefore, we need to look to Jesus.

Allow God to Deal with the Sin

When Jesus identifies a sin, He will deal with us in love. In the story found in  John 8, Jesus didn’t condemn the woman caught in the act of adultery; He wanted to help fix her. It is here we learn what Jesus was to be for all of mankind. II Corinthians 5:21 notes, “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him” (KJV). Jesus was to become our sin―every mistake we would ever make. God doesn’t bring up our sin for us to carry it with us for the rest of our days. Once we recognize the sin, He’s ready and willing to blot out that sin with His precious blood that was shed on Calvary.

Yield to Regret

While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). God tries to bring His children to watershed moments of guilt and regret, all to give the pain purpose, which leads to a new direction in our life. If we stop and hear the preacher, listen to the still small voice of God, or abide by His Word, we will see what regret will produce in our life. God cares for His children, and He’s willing to stop us and change our direction. We just need to yield to Him.