Archive for August, 2015

In the Middle of a Miracle

Sunday, August 30th, 2015

God’s System of Faith

Thursday, August 27th, 2015

God has created a series of systems that define, grow, and help the believer. One system that powers our walk with God, is the system of faith. Faith in our life bridges the gap between spiritual concepts and our natural reaction to do those things in our life. There are three components of God’s system of faith.

The Establishment of Our Faith

Scripture tells us “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarded of them that diligently seek him” (Hebrews 11:6, KJV). The foundation of faith in our life is an event—a happening that occurred and was the starting point to our spiritual journey. Culture has turned the concept of faith into the feeling of community when we get among people who call themselves Christians. Faith is much more than just a “feeling.”

Faith is Established by Preaching

One way our faith has been established is by the preaching of the Word of God. Someone told us about Jesus! Paul explains in Romans 10:13–17 people cannot believe until they hear the Word, and they need a preacher to bring that Word. Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God!

Every man has been given a measure of faith (Romans 12:3). This ground level faith is enough for us to believe in the basic concepts of the resurrection—how we were lost in sin and a Savior came and shed His blood so we could have eternal life!

Faith is Established by Personal Revelation

Our faith is established when we try out the Word of God and find that His promises are true. Scripture tells us to prove all things (I Thessalonians 5:21) and to taste and see that the Lord is good (Psalm 34:8). We will never know how authentic and powerful God is until we try Him for ourselves and see that same power activated in our life.

Faith is Established by Observation of Evidence in Other’s Lives

Many people come to God because they observed a change in another person. We saw how others used to be, but when the Spirit of God got a hold of them they were changed! There is truth in the Word of God, and even though we may not have experienced it personally, there were eyewitnesses in Scripture (II Peter 1:16; I Timothy 6:12) and there are eyewitnesses today.

The overall establishment of our faith needs to have a solid foundation. We need to know how and when we accepted God and thus established our faith. If our faith is based on the church’s décor, the pastor, or the community feeling of being among believers, we will be disappointed later on because our foundation was in the tangible and not in the spiritual. When our faith is based on the Gospel of Jesus, everything else won’t matter because they weren’t a part of the foundation of our faith!

The Exercising of Our Faith

We cannot be sure we possess faith until we need to use it. However, faith is more than just a mindset—faith must be demonstrated. Faith will always bear fruit in our life if we allow it to operate effectively. James 2:18 notes “Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works” (KJV). Actions born from our faith become the evidence of faith being present in our life.

We know “…faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1, KJV). Even though we cannot see “it,” the Word of God is our contract that it will happen. Our faith needs to be convinced that God will do what he says.

We need faith in the beginning of our walk with God (establishment) and every day after that. This is why God puts us through trials—so we can exercise our faith. I Peter 1:5–8 tells us the trial of our faith is a refining process that removes the unwanted components so we can have a purer faith. God wants to purge out any disobedience, doubt, distraction, or distance in our walk with him (thus impacting our faith). We want to believe, but God helps our unbelief (Mark 9:24).

The End or Reward of Our Faith

There are two rewards that we will experience due to our faith.

Reward of Salvation

Our ultimate reward will be when this life is over and our mortal body takes on immortality, and we live eternally with our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. The end reward of our faith is the salvation of our soul (I Peter 1:9). Paul noted that he had finished his course and kept the faith. Because of this, there was a crown of righteousness waiting for him. This wasn’t a promise just for him, but to all them that love God (II Timothy 4:6–8).

Reward of Impact

God put a sense of purpose in each person, and this causes us to think about the legacy we leave behind when we leave this world. Paul told the Roman church their faith had been spoken of throughout the entire world (Romans 1:8). When we active the faith in our life on a day-to-day basis, we will never know just who we will impact, but this will one day be revealed unto us in eternity.

Adapted from Wednesday Night Bible Study on August 26, 2015

Focus Failure

Sunday, August 23rd, 2015

The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness! 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 (Matthew 6:22–24, KJV).

We all have a tendency to lose focus whether we like it or not in any given situation and environment. While there are issues with losing focus in our secular life, there is a greater danger in doing this in our spiritual lives. Scripture warns us not to lose our focus (Luke 14:28–30). We do not want to develop a reputation with people or with God as the one who always loses his/her focus!

Eliminate Distractions

Focus is about prioritizing work and eliminating distractions. Satan is a good distractor—he puts things in front of us and we too often take the bait. We also lose focus because we’ve never had personal buy-in to God’s Word or His kingdom. Other times, we lose our focus because we have a lack of clear goals for our walk with God. We never took the time to talk to Jesus to determine where He’s taking us.

Culture has trained us to live for today and not to plan and set goals. If we are going to keep our focus we need to finish the race (II Timothy 4:7) and we need to stand against distractions (Ephesians 6:13).

Focus on Jesus

If we are going to maintain a steady focus, we need to have unwavering faith (Matthew 21:21). Our faith walk comes from a clear understanding of what satisfies us. We need to be content in where we are in God (Philippians 4:11–13) and realize that we can keep our focus if we keep Jesus in the center of our life.

Matthew 6:22–24 tells us what we see will be our focus. If what we see is good, then our life will be full of goodness (and the reverse is true). When our focus is on Jesus, it will benefit everything in our life! We cannot focus on Jesus just a few times a week; our entire life must be focused on Him.

God is our maker and we are His workmanship (Ephesians 2:10), and therefore, God knows how we’re built (Psalm 103:14). If there’s something broken, you need to go back to the creator to fix it. If we’ve lost our focus, we need to go back to our Creator and ask Him what we need to do to regain our focus.

Seek the Kingdom

We lose focus because we’re too worried about everything in this life—distractions that God never intended for us to focus on. God tells us not to worry; He is going to take care of our every need (Matthew 6:25–33). If we stop focusing our hearts and minds where they shouldn’t be—on the “other” master keeping our focus away from God—we will have ever need taken care of. Jesus has one goal, and that goal is to save us! Instead of worrying, seek the kingdom of God and His righteousness. We need to get rid of all the other distractions and get a focus. That focus is Jesus!

Final Focus

We cannot become Jesus’s disciple until we give up everything that we are and focus on Him (Luke 14:33). Once we realize everything belongs to God, and relinquish the ownership we think we have, we will easily be able to re-focus on the final element of up-most importance in our life. Jesus.

God’s System of Personal Commitment

Thursday, August 20th, 2015

There are components that every believer needs in their life in order to identify, make, and keep their commitment to God. God has created these components through a series of systems. God’s created systems are not synchronous—they are like “cogs” that mesh and build together. Each system God designed for His creation help us produce spiritual fruit in our life and help us walk the life-long journey of discipleship.

Starting on Our Journey

In order to operate in God’s presence and to be His disciple, we must learn to commit to be what God loves. I Peter 1:15 tells us to be holy in all manner of conversation or behavior. One foundational characteristic of God is His holiness (Psalm 99:9), and if we are to be like Christ, we need to be holy.

In II Corinthians 6:17, God tells us to come out from the world and to be separate. We must sever ourselves from the culture we live in and to establish a behavior of holiness. Holiness is not something that we can “attain” in this life—holiness is a direction, not a destination! Because holiness is God’s absolute nature, we will walk toward this as we make the commitment to life a life for Him. A personal effort to live a life marked by God’s holiness is essential in maintaining our salivation.

While we can never come in comparison to God’s holiness, we can strive to be like Him day by day, and to be better yesterday than the day before. It’s possible in a day, month, and year, to be more like Jesus! God has given us His divine power to live above sin and to walk this journey of discipleship and holiness (II Peter 1:3). He would never ask us to do anything He wouldn’t empower us to do.

Personal Commitments

Personal commitments are stepping stones to actions or behaviors that are spirit-prompted, spirit-led, and God-defined. They take us on our journey toward a direction of holiness or God-likeness; they develop the nature of God (holiness) inside of us. Personal commitments are steps that are prompted by God, but we choose to commit to them in this life. We draw our own line in the sand!

We are motivated to make personal commitments to live holy lives not merely by enforced rules. Anyone can live by rules. But, we are motivated to make a personal commitment because we love God and we know these commitments will please Him—they are not grievous to us (I John 5:3).

Main “Cogs” in the System of Personal Commitment

An Ear for God’s Voice

There is a difference between hearing God’s voice and listening to God’s voice. We need to be careful that we’re listening with the ears God has given us (Psalm 115:6, Matthew 11:15). There are so many voices in this world—we need to develop an ability to discern God’s voice.

Many of us can hear God’s voice, but we choose not to listen. We will not allow ourselves to be directed by God: listen, comprehend, and apply what God’s told us. When we come into the presence of the Lord—whether in church or at home—are we listening for God’s voice? His voice will come to us through three main avenues.

The Bible

Our spiritual ears need to be just as open when reading God’s Word than at any other time. We need to be washed by the Word of God so that we may become holy and blameless before Him (without spot or wrinkle) (Ephesians 5:26–27).

Spiritual Leaders

God will place spiritual leaders in our life that we need to listen to. God has appointed them over us to watch out for us, to instruct us, and to be the mouthpiece of God. God created the five-fold ministry—apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers—to equip the saints for ministry, and to build up the body of Christ (Ephesians 4:11-13).

Holy Spirit

We need to listen to the Holy Spirit (God’s presence) working inside of us each and every day. God said that He will put His law into our hearts and write them in our minds (Hebrews 10:16). There are some things that God will speak to us about that we will never need a man of God to tell us. We may not even have Scripture for what God has asked us to do—but we need to be obedient to God’s voice!

A Constant Comparison to His Way, Word, and Church

We cannot identify what we will do in God’s church until we determine what we’re currently doing versus what we should be doing. Paul warned the church that it was unwise to compare ourselves to others (II Corinthians 10:12) because we are to measure ourselves against Christ. We cannot allow our own pride or what other people think to keep us from our personal commitments and from taking a step toward holiness in God. The only right we have is to compare ourselves against Jesus—we need to measure up to the full and complete standard of Christ.

There are three kinds of personal commitments and/or church principles we need to follow.

Bible Commitments

These are listed out plainly in Scripture. We are to abide by God’s Word in its entirety (Galatians 3:10) and never to depart from it (Joshua 1:8). God is an unchanging God, and what He directed the early church to do, He expects for us to do today.

Church Commandments

Jesus gave all of us authority by His Spirit (Luke 10:19). He did this also so that we could each be a spiritual leader in His kingdom. His ultimate desire is that we all can apply the principles of His Word. We need to determine quickly in our walk with Him what is profitable for the kingdom of God and what isn’t. The church body as a whole should abide by different standards of holiness and separation compared to what the world engages in, making sure what we do edifies the body of Christ.

Personal Convictions

There are times God will put a personal conviction on our heart to follow (these may be the things we hear from listening to and hearing God’s voice). These convictions will never contradict what has been spoken by the pastor or by the Word of God. God will never go against His word (Isaiah 55:11). These personal convictions will go above and beyond what the church already teaches.

Submission

Scripture commands us to be submitted to God (James 4:7). This isn’t an option in God’s system. Many times we have read something in God’s Word but we choose not to do it. We make too many excuses about how God’s still “working on us” or how “God hasn’t convicted of something yet.” Many issues in our spiritual walk will come not from a lack of revelation to God’s Word, but a lack of submission to it. Paul told the church to obey their spiritual leaders and to submit themselves (Hebrews 13:17).

Choosing to Draw the Line in Personal Commitment

God expects His children to draw a line in the sand and make a personal commitment to live for Him, obey His Word, and to listen to His voice. If we aren’t doing these things, we’re committing sin in our life and God’s doesn’t tolerate this. Many people mistake God’s mercy as acceptance for their blatant disregard for God’s commands—His mercy and grace will not last forever! Judgment is coming, so we need to make up our minds to get committed now.

The more we become like Christ and mature in our lifestyle, the more God can use us in His kingdom. God knows who really wants to serve Him. We need to be ready for God to use every day (II Timothy 2:19–21)!

Adapted from Wednesday Night Bible Study on August 19, 2015

Back to God

Wednesday, August 19th, 2015

It’s that time of year again when class bells can be heard ringing in the distance, yellow school buses don the city streets, and every store across America desperately tries to keep school supplies on their shelves. While children sit at hard, steel desks in stuffy classrooms and wonder where their summer went, parents rejoice in the small victory that they’ve survived one more summer. We all know this time of year all too well—it’s back to school!

We preface the return to the school year with “back to” because we also return to the onslaught of schedules and routines typically abandoned over the summer months: setting alarm clocks, carpooling, extracurricular activities, and the like. Even with a few months off, we haven’t forgotten the rhythm of the day-to-day. We don’t forget our activities/routines because they’re habits we’ve formed from repetition over the months and years.

Now, when we get “back to” our daily life routines, we may not be thinking about our spiritual routines. We all have a spiritual routine we’ve made into a habit. If we maintain a routine of prayer, fasting, and reading the Word, that’s our spiritual habit. If we don’t maintain a routine of the aforementioned items, that’s a habit too—and we need to break it. We want to get “back to” good spiritual routines. If we don’t have one, we need to develop one!

Scripture instructs us to develop new habits/routines in life: “…be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind…” (Romans 12:2, KJV). To develop new habits, we might have to break old ones. Our Creator knew we were prone to error and developing bad habits, so He also created us with the ability to break bad habits (Jeremiah 13:23). Finding a habit to develop or model after is easy—just imitate Christ (Ephesians 5:1)!

Now that it’s back to school, it’s the perfect time to get “back to” or introduce new spiritual habits. King David desired to have a good spiritual routine, and determined “…in his law doth he meditate day and night” (Psalms 1:2, KJV).

King David provided a good example of how to form a habit—completing it several times a day (morning and night) as well as several days in a row. Research show that habits take anywhere from 21–66 days to develop. Our new habit must become routine and ingrained in our minds through repetition—constantly going “back to” something so it eventually sticks!

Like most of us, starting a new habit is very daunting. If we’ve looked at our life and realized we need to get “back to” something new, we can start with something small and then add to it. For example, we can set aside 5 minutes a day to pray and 5 minutes to read the Word of God every day. Once we’re able to do this faithfully—and is our new habit—we can add more time (10 minutes in prayer and 10 minutes in the Word).

Once we introduce a new spiritual habit, and stay faithful to completing it day-after-day, month-after-month, it will become a routine we won’t break. We won’t ever need to get “back to” it. Our prayer, fasting, and Word-reading will be ever-present in our life. We’ll see the benefits of a close relationship with God and won’t be able to imagine a daily routine without it! This season, what are you getting back to?

Back to School Special

Sunday, August 16th, 2015

God’s System of Relationships

Thursday, August 13th, 2015

God has constructed various systems of spiritual growth for His children. Each of these systems include integral cogs. These cogs define elements that help Christians obtain the spiritual growth needed to be successful in their walk with God. One system in which we live and experience every day is the system of relationships. If we live successfully within this system, this will help the growth (well-oiled gears and cogs) in other spiritual systems.

Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting (Galatians 6:7–8, KJV).

What we invest in our relationships will be what we get from our relationships: good for good and bad for bad. Relationships are not automatic—they take time and investment.

Relationship Gears

Strong Marriages

Peter outlines the conditions for strong marriages in I Peter 3:1–7, giving instruction to both the wives and husbands. Both must do their part in the relationship of marriage to ensure a lasting relationship, one that can be beneficial to God’s kingdom.

Women are instructed to respect their husbands (I Peter 3:1) and to invest time and effort on the inward (not outward) person (I Peter 3:3–4). Peter gave Sara as an example of one who was a godly wife: adorning herself properly and honoring her husband (I Peter 3:6). Sara called Abraham “Lord” out of respect. She acknowledged God’s divine order of creation through which God’s authority flows: from God, to man, to woman.

Men are instructed to honor their wives as if she is the most valuable item on the face of the earth (I Peter 3:7). Peter tells men to dwell with their wife according to knowledge—men need to learn how to best live with their wife, do what pleases her, and care for her as best as he can.

Honorable Citizens

Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; Or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well. For so is the will of God… (I Peter 2:13–15, KJV).

In sum, Peter admonishes the church to be a good neighbor, community member, and citizen. Being a good, honorable citizen includes obeying the leadership that’s present in our life. It’s easy for Christians who stand on the truth of God’s Word, to be rebellious against government. Regardless of whether the leadership is good or bad, we need to submit ourselves. All leadership was put into place by God.

Good Workers

When we have a job that we enjoy and work for a manager we like, it’s easy to work hard. However, when we don’t like our job, or are at odds with our boss, we may not feel like putting forth our best effort. Peter tells the church to always be subject unto those who have rule over us and to work diligently, with our best effort (I Peter 2:18–19). When we work, it’s for the Lord and not for man. It’s not man who will reward us for our work—it is the Lord (Psalm 75:6).

Working, Willing Leaders

Everyone in some way is a leader—leadership is about influence. Peter spoke to the concept of leadership in I Peter 5:2–4. Peter used the analogy of a shepherd because of the cultural significance. His audience understood when he said “feed the flock,” which meant to care for the others with the diligence of a shepherd. Peter wanted the church to be leaders. Shepherds guide, guard, gather, and sometimes goad others, leaders must do all in love.

Peter gives requirements for leadership, and compares and contrasts the enemies and allies of leadership (I Peter 5:2–3). Leaders should not feel obligated to do God’s word, have the wrong motivation, or have a pride in their position. But, leaders should lead by example, and have the mindset of “me first”—being the first one to do something for God’s kingdom!

Unified, Submitted Saints

A key relationship is the one we have with the members of the body of Christ. Peter tells us to love our brothers and sisters in the church the same way that we would love a blood relative (e.g., brother, sister, mother, father, etc.) (I Peter 3:8–9).

Our job is to bless and love one another. Peter instructs the believer not to render evil for evil, but to be a blessing (I Peter 3:9)! If we are to be unified with the body of Christ, this is a relationship and behavior we must learn and practice on a continual basis. Part of this relationship will be submission. We are never in true submission to the body of Christ until agreement ends. God resists the proud and gives grace to the humble (I Peter 5:5).

Lasting Relationships

There are so many components in God’s system of relationships—additional relationships include safe friendships, caring parents, and obedient children. The list truly goes on and on! Overall, we need to remember that all relationships work together and help the kingdom of God and the individual’s personal spiritual growth.

Adapted from Wednesday Night Bible Study on August 12, 2015

Have You Paid it Forward Today?

Wednesday, August 12th, 2015

Paying it Forward is a fairly new concept taking America by storm. The premise of this philosophy is to extend an act of kindness (pay-it-forward) to someone—most often a stranger—once an individual becomes the recipient of a good deed. This is commonly reciprocated through monetary or product form, and isn’t typically offered to those truly in need.

Some people would claim their daily Starbucks fix is indeed a need, and it’s an act of divine providence when the Lord lays a burden on someone in front of them in line to pay for their triple espresso pump, caramel, mocha, latte (or whatever) beverage.

True acts of kindness and generosity are becoming less frequent in today’s society; extending a helping hand is the exception and not the norm. On occasion when we do feel charitable, many times we determine our benevolence based on convenience and/or after we’ve met our needs and wants first.

Can we sit back, take a moment to self-reflect, and honestly say we are doing all we can to help others? Are we taking part in supporting another person’s burdens or helping with their true need?

But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him? (I John 3:17, KJV).

My Pastor preaches often when we see a need, it’s because the Lord wants us to take care of it. God has already blessed us with the resources, finances, ability, time—you name it—to fulfill that need. See someone who hasn’t been to church in a while? Call them up, visit them, and pray for them! See someone who is hard-pressed to pay their bills? Bless them financially! See a mess? Clean it up!

As Scripture states in I John 3:17, if we see a brother or sister in need and don’t do anything about it, can we say we have the love of God in us? Are we only willing to “pay-it-forward” when we’ve been the recipient of a blessing, when we have the time, or when we feel like it?

If we have the love of God in us, and claim to be Christians, we are commanded behave in like manner as Jesus Christ (I John 2:6). We’re also to treat others the same way we’d want to be treated (Luke 6:31).

If we feel our ability to bless others is contingent on being blessed, we are without excuse for by-passing any opportunity to “pay-it-forward.” The Lord of Glory blesses daily and us not because of anything we’ve done, but because He loves us (I John 4:19).

As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are in the household of faith (Galatians 6:10, KJV).

Paying it Forward isn’t a concept man devised in the last few years–it’s been in the mind of God since the beginning of time and was penned down in His Word for us to follow every day. When we see an opportunity to do good, to pay-it-forward, to be benevolent, to extend a helping hand—whatever we’d like to call it—we need to do it, and we need to do it often.

When we have the opportunity to bless, and we take it, the Lord will bless us back again, and again, and again (Luke 6:38). He even enables us to “pay-it-forward,” so why wouldn’t we do it? Have you paid it forward today?

God’s System of Spiritual Growth

Thursday, August 6th, 2015

We all have different personality types. Some of us like spur of the moment activities and some like to plan. These tendencies can be the result of our upbringing—we do what we were taught by our parents. Regardless of how we were instructed in the natural, we need to look to our spiritual Father to discern how we operate in the supernatural. Our God is a God of plan and structure: God is very systematic and this is evidenced in His creation. He is not the author of confusion (I Corinthians 14:33)!

God creates systems: sets of principles or procedures according to which something is done. Our spiritual growth is a system—God has a clearly defined procedure for how we should grow. Spiritual growth is hard work, takes time, is very methodical, and may happen in seasons.

Spiritual growth will always be unique to the individual as natural growth. Our rates of growth will be different, but the methods, stages, principles, and procedures of the growth are all the same. God wants all of us to get to the same place—He wants to make us like Him!

Growth By Knowledge & Grace

But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To Him be glory both now and for ever. Amen (II Peter 3:18, KJV).

Scripture indicates God’s growth system includes grace and knowledge. There’s a false theology among us that we gain spiritual growth by osmosis, but in reality, we can’t do what we don’t know. There are principles in the Word of God that we must learn and apply them ourselves.

Paul admonished the church for not knowing the principles of God. He had to backtrack to teach them foundational concepts before they could grow in their knowledge (Hebrews 5:12). God’s knowledge needs to be taught, learned by believers, and applied in our day-to-day walk with God.

Grace is the system God put in place that enables us to apply what we’ve learned from His Word. We can’t expect to get everything right the first time; part of application is failing. In creation, God understood the potential for man to fail, so He put a system in place to redeem us. God desires for us to grow in Him and gives us opportunities to live for Him the right way.

Growth By Application & Experience

Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ (I Corinthians 11:1, KJV).

Paul told the church to follow him as he followed Christ. Above all else, Paul desired for the church to take spiritual concepts and apply them to their own walk. It is very important that each believer have their own practice and experience in living the Word of God.

There’s never a better time than now to start applying the Word of God! Discipleship starts the moment we start to obey the Gospel. Once we begin our journey, we are immediately qualified to start the discipleship of others! We don’t need to have years’ experience living for the Lord to bring people to the knowledge of Him. Scripture accounts numerous examples of believers who began their journey with Christ who moments after their decision to live for God. They went and found someone else to share their experience (John 1:1–42; 4:1–29). It is our responsibility to disciple other people and point them to Jesus!

Growth Over Time

Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ (I Peter 2:5, KJV).

Spiritual growth will start now, but will be impacted over time. God builds us up in Him and He does this on a day-to-day basis. We need to be patient in the growth God wants to take place in our life. We can hope for quick growth with immediate results, or we allow God to have His perfect work in us to grow us into a vessel that is healthy, strong, and powerful in Him.

In our walk with God, we need to endure the work necessary to know why we live for Him. This will always eliminate future frustration in our life—we won’t give up when we don’t understand what’s happening to us or when we get uncomfortable with how God’s changing us. God’s spiritual growth process allows for us to question him and be uncomfortable. But, know that He will always help us with our unbelief (Mark 9:24), struggle, and every growing pain we will endure (Hebrews 13:5).

Growth By Constant Review

It’s important to take a moment and self-reflect on how we’ve grown in the Lord. We can ask ourselves the following questions in our personal prayer time and study:

  • What knowledge do I have now that I didn’t have a year ago?
  • What positive commitment do I have toward Christ now that I didn’t have a year ago?
  • What am I now that I wasn’t a year ago?

If we can look at our walk with God and see a difference—even if it’s small—we’re growing! We want to make sure that we move forward in God and allow Him to work on us each and every day. If we see an absence of growth in our life, we need to take a moment, pray, and ask God to help remove anything from our life that is prohibiting our growth in Him.

Wrenches in the Works of Our Spiritual Growth

Wherefore laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings, As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby: If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious (I Peter 2:1–3, KJV).

If we’re not careful, we can sabotage our spiritual growth by throwing in “wrenches” that don’t belong.

In this setting of Scripture, we can see the progression of spiritual growth: laying aside elements that will stunt our spiritual growth, desiring the things of God, and seeing His blessings and grace. We need to remove everything from our life that isn’t like Jesus! If something is present that isn’t like Him, we have found the root cause what is stopping our spiritual growth.

Growing in God

God never intended for us to stay as “babes” and drink the milk of His Word for the rest of our life. While God’s Word is good, milk gets old after a while—we can’t stay infants forever! God designed a system of growth for His children to endure so that we could transition to the meat of His Word, grow stronger in Him, and get the right nutrients we need to live victoriously in this present world. Let us seek to understand God’s system of spiritual growth, allow Him to do a work in us, and see where He will take us in just a short while.

Adapted from Wednesday Night Bible Study on August 5, 2015

There’s a Lighthouse

Wednesday, August 5th, 2015

This life that we’re living is full of trials and tribulations. That’s a 100% guarantee every minute of every day, and is a truth that won’t change tomorrow, a month from now, or even years into the future. Scripture warns us: “Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you…” (I Peter 4:12, KJV). In sum, we shouldn’t be surprised when we face a trial because they happen, and they happen often.

Trials happen for a multitude of reasons, and it’s easy for us to feel like:

  • We’re going through our trial alone
  • No one could possibly know what we’re going through or how we feel
  • God has forgotten about us

We honestly feel like we’re drowning in the sea if life, and there’s no chance we’ll ever be able to breathe again or make it back to dry land.

There’s an old song that I’m reminded of, that paints a perfect picture of our life’s struggles. It speaks of a key component that we forget is present in the midst of every storm:

There’s a lighthouse on the hillside, that overlooks life’s sea
When I’m tossed it send out a light, that I might see
And, the light that shines in darkness now, will safely lead me o’re
If it wasn’t for the lighthouse, my ship would be no more

And, I thank God for the lighthouse, I owe my life to Him
Jesus is the lighthouse, and from the rocks of sin
He has shown a light around me, that I might clearly see
If it wasn’t for the lighthouse, where would this ship be?

In the midst of our storm, there’s a lighthouse—and that lighthouse is the Lord Jesus. He’s there shining through the torrential downpour, tsunami-like waves, and dark clouds.

Because a lighthouse shines a light 360° around itself, there may be times when the light isn’t pointing directly at us. When the light is facing away from us, the light won’t be very clear or might even be absent in the dark. But, in reality, the light is always there—whether we see it or not, or whether we admit that it’s there.

It’s easy to forget that Jesus is present in our life, and one of His goals is to help us overcome when darkness has closed all around us. It’s because of Him we’ve made it through every trial in the past, will make it through our present trial, and will overcome every future obstacle.

Jesus said, “…I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee” (Hebrews 13:5, KJV). When He speaks, it is truth because He cannot lie (Titus 1:2). When we can’t see His light, we need to remind ourselves of His Word and His promises. Even King David had to encourage himself in the Lord (I Samuel 30:6)!

We can’t drown in trials and tribulations because we don’t want to miss out on our greatest reward. We need to keep swimming even if we don’t see a light (Hebrews 12:1)—we’ll see it with that next gulp of air. Remember, there’s a lighthouse on the hillside!

My Identity in God, Regarding the Mind

Sunday, August 2nd, 2015

Scripture documents the story of the Prodigal son in Luke 15:11–24. After the son had gone away from home and squandered his living, he found himself among the swine. We’re told that he “…came to himself, [and] said, How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! I will arise and go to my father…” (Luke 15:17, KJV).

Minding the Battleground

God has given us a place in His family. When we mess up and fall short of what God has asked, we have a hard time accepting the truth that God loves us and will forgive us. Just like the story of the Prodigal son, God has His arms open—ready to welcome us home when we turn back to Him.

When we struggle to believe God’s truth, this is a struggle that happens in our minds. The devil will use our minds as the battleground to lead us away from our calling in God. We need to fight through his lies and our own doubt, and believe in the report of the Lord (Isaiah 53:1)!

Changing Our Minds

When we make up our mind to live for God, we will soon realize a change is not only needed in what we do, but also in the way that we think. The average person has 50,000 thoughts that run through his/her mind on a daily basis, and 35,000–40,000 of those thoughts are negative. God has called us to think on the good things (Philippians 4:8) because what we think about is who we are (Proverbs 23:7)! We need to adjust our thoughts put on the mind of Christ (I Corinthians 2:16).

Surrendering Our Minds

It’s easier to surrender our actions to God because our actions are visible to the church body. No one, but God, knows what’s going on in our mind. Therefore, it’s much harder for us to surrender over our thoughts and our emotions to the Lord.

When something bad has happened to us, it’s easy to think that we’re justified in thinking poorly about the person who did us harm. But, God tells us that we are to love our brothers and sisters and to forgive them! If we lend ourselves over to these negative thoughts—and allow the devil to do a work in us—before long, the devil will have rule over our behavior. If we want to have positive thoughts, we need to put good thoughts in our minds—this can be found in reading the Word of God, in prayer, and in fellowship with the church.

Changing Our Emotions

Scripture tells us that we are not to have the spirit of fear, but of peace, love, and a sound mind (II Timothy 1:7). When God’s presence comes in, He has dominion over all the power of the enemy (Luke 10:19). But, when the things of life trouble us and cause us to be afraid, when God’s presence comes in, we won’t allow the fear go away. We hold onto the fear! When the Spirit of God’s presence shows up—with all power and might—our emotions should change. We don’t want to ever leave the same way we came when we’ve had an encounter with God!

Choosing Revival & Renewing

Instead of hanging on to the negative thoughts, we need to let them go. We can either choose to have revenge or to have revival in our life, but we can’t have them both. If we choose to hold on to the negative things, it will eventually cost us something. Let’s give our minds, our hearts, and ourselves over to Christ today. Once we let go of the negative thoughts, we can have peace, joy, and victory in the Holy Ghost!