Archive for September, 2015

God’s Calling

Sunday, September 27th, 2015

Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house unto a land that I will shew thee: And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed. So Abram departed, as the LORD had spoken unto him; and Lot went with him: and Abram was seventy and five years old when he departed out of Haran. And Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother’s son, and all their substance that they had gathered, and the souls that they had gotten in Haran; and they went forth to go into the land of Canaan; and into the land of Canaan they came (Genesis 12:1–5, KJV).

Abram received a call from God that changed his life. We all, at some time or another, have received a call that has changed our life. Calls from God are not always as exciting, comfortable, or desirable—His calls in our life are most of the time what we would consider ridiculous. However, when God calls, there is always a promise to those who answer. If God speaks to us, there’s something worth going after.

Scripture tells us that if we are God’s sheep, we know his voice (John 10:27) and we will always bid Him to come into our life when He calls upon us (John 3:20). God calls us because there is an avenue we have not yet walked with Him; there is not a blessing we have stepped into yet. There is always more with God.

We become too jaded with answering God’s call because of what culture has ingrained in us. We always think there’s a catch when we say, “yes.” We may also feel that we’ll be let down when we commit to something. There are too many inconsistencies with people. But, we need to remember that the One who calls us has never lied (Numbers 23:19), never forsaken us (Hebrews 13:5), and is faithful and true (I Corinthians 1:9)!

The Me Problem

Paul warned Timothy to beware in the last days when men would be lovers of their own selves (II Timothy 3:1–5). We like to think that everyone around us is the problem in our life, when the truth is, it’s us. We like to do things according to our way. We like when it fits, feels, and fashions well. Answering the call of God is easy, but the journey after the call may be a little difficult. But, what is so great about being called to do something easy?

We need to remember that God didn’t call us just to sit back and take it easy. Jesus died on the cross to save us from something (hell), but also for something. God has a plan that He wants us to follow to change our life forever!

God’s call may be a dangerous one. He may put us in the thick of the battle to be a light to others who haven’t yet answered God’s call. He’s called us to be holy—set apart for His specific service. We may not agree with where God wants to take us, but we need to be obedient to it. We need to realize that answering His call may not just impact us, but will impact others as well.

The Timing Problem

We live in a time when we want things to happen quickly; we want big results, and we want them now. When God calls us, we may not see the results of our obedience and the purpose of that call in our lifetime. God’s purpose for His call may impact well beyond the sphere of our own life. In the life of Abram, God told Him that he would be a blessing (Genesis 12:2) and in him would all the families of the earth be blessed (Genesis 12:3).

Abram lived a life never seeing the fulfillment of this call. Can we ask ourselves today if we would be willing to answer a call without seeing the outcome in our lifetime? Abram stepped out not knowing what the outcome would be, but he was obedient knowing it was from the Lord (Hebrews 11:8–10). He, as well as others we read about in Scripture, died never receiving or seeing the promises of God (Hebrews 11:13). But, Abram knew those promises were afar off and embraced it (Hebrews 11:13).

Ways to Answer the Call

There are three ways we can choose to answer the call. We can answer, decline, or defer God’s call. God wants us to answer when He calls because He knows the outcome! The worst thing we can do is defer the call. God tells the church in revelations that He spew them out of His mouth because they were neither cold nor hot (Revelation 3:15–16). They didn’t answer and they didn’t decline.

Those who defer the call of God don’t realize that they don’t have all that they need in their life. They need God—they need to answer the call (Revelation 3:17). It won’t be until we answer will we be blessed and will we be changed (Revelations 3:19–20).

A Blessed Life: Part IV

Thursday, September 24th, 2015

Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God. Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake (Matthew 5:9–11, KJV).

Peacemakers

We are all humans and have a tendency to be governed by our emotions. When we allow our emotions to get out of control, we say things we regret. We are all guilty of this and have seen examples of this in others throughout our life. In a moment of emotion, our words offend others rather than draw them to Christ (Proverbs 18:19). Instead of causing conflict, we should be creating peace! Be a peacemaker!

When we strive to be a peacemaker, we do what’s right in a moment when chaos is prevalent—we try to resolve the situation. Love and peace should emulate from us in every situation and in every circumstance (Hebrews 12:14). When there’s a conflict, others should see the love of Jesus shining forth from us (Matthew 5:16).

Peacemakers will speak the truth, but will speak it in love (Ephesians 4:25). Peacemakers are humble (Proverbs 18:12) and know who is ultimately in control! To mediate any issue in life, we need to know how to let the Holy Ghost speak through us and not allow our own thoughts and ideas get in the way. We should be open to the truth God bestows upon us (Proverbs 12:15) and how to speak a soft word in the Holy Ghost (Proverbs 15:1).

If we are governed by the Holy Ghost in us, we can have peace come from us. Jesus can always create peace in the middle of the storm (Mark 4:36–40) and He can command peace to enter into our life! By the power of His name, we can speak peace into any situation and allow others to experience that peace the passes all understanding (Philippians 4:7).

The Persecuted

Persecution isn’t a word Christians like to hear. But, when we choose to lay aside everything else in life and serve the Lord, we will face persecution in our lifetime. Scripture tells us that when we serve the Lord, we will be rejected and abused by our peers. However, when we are persecuted, we’re persecuted for Jesus’ sake!

Jesus mentioned that if the world hates us it’s because the world hated Him long before (John 15:18–20). If Jesus faced persecution, His followers will be persecuted as well. Absence of persecution in our life should make us question if we’re truly a follower of Jesus or a follower of the world. Can we really be blessed (happy) without persecution in our life?

If we abide by the Word of God, we shall suffer persecution (II Timothy 3:12). Persecution will come in many forms—from those on this earth and from the prince of this world. “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Ephesians 6:12, KJV). The devil gains great satisfaction when he thinks he’s affecting a child of God. But, nothing irritates him more than when a child of God continues to praise and give glory to God through every trial, tribulation, persecution, etc. We know the sufferings of this present time are not even comparable to the glory that will be revealed in us (Romans 8:18)!

If we can get a love for Jesus down in our heart that surpasses anything in this world, it won’t matter any type of persecution we face. We will count as a blessing—if we endure, we will receive the crown of life (James 1:12).

Adapted from Wednesday Night Bible Study on September 23, 2015 with Guest Speaker, Adam Ortega

APC Friends & Family Day is October 18th

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2015

Join us Sunday, October 18 following the morning service.

Invite your friends, family, co-workers, neighbors (even the mailman!) for food, fun, and fellowship. We will have inflatables and activities for all ages, raffle tickets and drawings, pork chop and chicken sandwiches, corn-cob-on-a-stick, desserts—and so much more!

The Apple of His Eye

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2015

Today is the first day of autumn, and I must say I absolutely adore this time of year. It’s the start of crisp, cool mornings, not-too-hot afternoons, changing leaves, and the beginning of a new wardrobe. But, the real reason I love this time of year? FALL FESTIVALS! Craft shows, cook-offs, art galleries, and food are the highlights of this season!

We’re just a few days away (in good ole central Illinois), from the annual Clinton Apple & Pork Festival. And, the hottest item on the menu? Apples! Natives to the area have apples on their brain!

Whether you are an apple fanatic or not, an apple should be on your mind and be your heart’s desire:

Keep me as the apple of the eye, hide me under the shadow of thy wings (Psalm 17:8, KJV).

The Hebrew word for apple is ishon, which means pupil. The pupil is the area in the middle of our eye in which rays of light pass through to form an image on our retina. When a person looks at us, we can see our own reflection in their pupil—a miniature of ourselves.

In order to be a reflection in the eye of another person, the individual must be looking at us. What we look at typically has our attention either because the object or person is attractive, desirable, or something we wish to monitor and guard. If the latter, it is because the person or object has great value to us and it is worthy of our protection.

The Psalmist desired to be the apple of God’s eye—in other words, He wanted to be the focus of God’s gaze! He desperately wanted to be worthy enough to hold the eye of His creator. In the context of this Scripture, he needed protection from God and sought shelter from Him. There’s no better place than to be in the safety and shelter of God’s loving arms. We should all desire to be the apple of God’s eye. It’s just a question of how to get there.

In order to see ourselves as a reflection in another person’s eye, they must be looking at us. There is a requirement for being worthy enough to hold God’s attention. Scripture tells us, “The eyes of the LORD are upon the righteous, and his ears are open unto their cry” (Psalm 34:15, KJV). If we want God to look at us (so we can see our reflection), we need to meet the qualification of this Scripture: righteousness.

I noted earlier when we are the center of a person’s focus we will see our own reflection in their pupil (a miniature of ourselves). If we are going to be the apple of God’s eye, we need to look like Him before He looks at us. Our reflection better be right.

I Corinthians 11:1 states, “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ” (KJV). We are to walk, talk, and look like Jesus. We are called to be like Him! This is all part of adhering to His call for righteousness; the element which makes us qualified to be in the direct line of sight for our Lord and Savior.

This fall, when we’re eyeing the best apple for consumption, let’s take a moment and think about how we look to God in order to be the apple of His eye. Do we have the right color, texture, softness—the all-around desirable qualities to hold His attention? Are we worthy of His protection? Lord, make us righteous and help us to be the apple of Your eye today!

A Blessed Life: Part III

Thursday, September 17th, 2015

Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God (Matthew 5:7–8, KJV).

Merciful

We are human and we all make mistakes. We hurt others in ways may not even realize on a day-to-day basis. When we’re hurt, we become offended, and then we develop a “grudge” toward the other person. We have a tendency to hold a mistake a person’s made over their head until we’re done feeling offended. People who are merciful have realized they don’t need to hold a grudge and feel offended when wronged. They’ve realized mercy brings them freedom.

Scripture speaks about the benefits of God’s mercy. God’s mercy is tender (Psalm 25:6), will hold us up when we fall (Psalm 94:18), and is everlasting (Psalm 103:17). Scripture shows God’s mercy as demonstrated by His actions. He extends those actions because He loves us. From God’s example, we can see mercy as love in action. When we show others mercy, we emulate the characteristics of Christ.

When we are merciful to others, we show compassion, kindness, and grace to others (e.g., enemies, those in power, etc.). We alone hold the ability to extend mercy toward someone who has offended us—someone else can’t stand in the gap to forgive others on our behalf! Mercy will always start with us, and when we are merciful, that will unlock the power of God’s mercy in our life (Matthew 6:14).

Merciful people realize that it’s important to extend mercy when you have the opportunity because at some point, we’re going to need it. Instead of hating our enemies, we need to “…love [our] enemies, bless them that curse [us], do good to them that hate [us], and pray for them which despitefully use [us], and persecute [us]…” (Matthew 5:44, KJV). We need to forgive others just as Christ forgave us (Colossians 3:13).

Pure in Heart

Happiness is not always in what we feel on the inside, or what we look like on the outside. True happiness and blessings are evident in our life when the goodness, and purity of our heart truly shows on the outside as well. When Scripture references being “pure in heart,” this refers to someone who does not have mixed motives. Being pure in heart means to have integrity!

Humans are inherently evil as we are born into sin. Therefore, many think they are pure in their own eyes (Proverbs 30:12). The truth of the matter is that we need God’s grace, love, and spirit pouring into our heart so that it can flow out. His righteousness will wash away that sin, help us put on His mindset, and walk each day with a renewed heart!

In order to be pure in heart, we need to remember and realign. God sees everything that we do—He knows the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46:10). We can fool others by playing the part, but God sees our inward heart, and knows its purity (I Samuel 16:7). We need to realign our priorities if we want to have a pure heart. Scripture tells us to think on true, honest, just, pure, lovely, good, virtuous, and praise worthy things (Philippians 4:8). We need to retrain our minds (hearts) to be pure!

When we have a pure heart, God will reward us. Joseph had many opportunities to harden his heart toward God, but he remained faithful, and God blessed him abundantly! Joseph became second in command in Egypt (Genesis 41:38–46). If we can get our heart pure, and then let it show on the outside, we will be blessed!

Adapted from Wednesday Night Bible Study on September 16, 2015 with Guest Speaker, Casey Pollard

Hurry Up and Wait

Wednesday, September 16th, 2015

Have you ever planted a seed and watched it grow? In the summer months, do you begin your countdown to Christmas? Have you ever anxiously awaited the arrival of your child upon hearing the news that you’re expecting? None of these scenarios happen overnight—in fact they require a great deal of waiting.

We live in a culture that is all about immediate self-gratification. We see something we want, and we want it now; we want something to happen, and we want it to happen now. If we haven’t realized yet that life isn’t in our control, and if we’re so driven for things happening now, we can hurry up and wait!

Scripture reminds us in Ecclesiastes 3:11, “He hath made every thing beautiful in his time: also he hath set the world in his heart, so that no man can find out the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end” (KJV). God does what is in His will according to His time, so we might as well wait on the Lord!

While society has ingrained in us the “I want it now” mentality for the physical, this has slowly crept into our concept of the spiritual. While our hearts and minds can be on the heavenly things (Colossians 3:2), we can want the spiritual things to manifest themselves in our life outside of God’s perfect timing.

Many people have received a word from the Lord (directly or indirectly) about their ministry, spiritual development, and/or an upcoming blessing. While this is an ever-so-exciting revelation, we must remember that God must first to take us on a journey to see the realization of that promise in our life.

Consider King David’s son, Solomon. David had a heart to build a temple for the Lord, but God told him it would be his son that would carry out this plan (I Chronicles 22:7–9). However, even after Solomon became king, he didn’t start building the temple on day one:

Then Solomon began to build the temple of the LORD in Jerusalem on Mount Moriah, where the LORD had appeared to his father David. It was on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite, the place provided by David. He began building on the second day of the second month in the fourth year of his reign (II Chronicles 3:1–2, KJV).

Solomon didn’t start to build the temple of the Lord until the second day, of the second month, in the fourth year of his reign! How many of us could wait a little over four years to begin a ministry for God? Abraham, when he was promised a son, waited around 25 years for this to come to pass (Genesis 17:15–17).

A preacher recently shared that Israel wandered 40 years in the wilderness before they reached the promise land. We can’t let the wilderness stop us from getting from our promise to the promise land! There is going to be some time, a waiting period, before we see God work in our life. Don’t give up on God; just wait (Isaiah 40:31)!

You’ve Got to Give God a Target

Sunday, September 13th, 2015

The Circle Maker

Jewish religion considers several books of great importance, the Talmud, Midrash, and The Book of Legends. The latter contains transcriptions of oral traditions from 1,000 of years of rabbis, documenting miracles seen and heard, of which were never recorded in the Bible. These texts mention a man named Honi.

During many years of drought, Honi walked into the heart of Jerusalem with nothing but a six foot staff, and proceeded to draw a circle on the ground. He prayed to God to send rain—and he vowed never to leave that circle until the God sent forth the rain. God heard Honi’s prayer and it began to rain.

Honi drew yet another circle with his staff. He prayed to God to send abundant rain—and again vowed never to leave the circle until the Lord sent forth abundant rain. God sent a downpour in response to Honi’s prayer. Finally, Honi drew a third circle with his staff and prayed that God would pour out an anointing upon his is life. He vowed never to leave until God sent that anointing. God too responded to his prayer.

Setting a Target

We can learn many valuable lessons from this account. If God’s people will humble themselves and pray (II Chronicles 7:14), God will hear and answer! But, we should never be satisfied with a little bit of God’s presence—we should always seek for more. We don’t want just a little rain of God’s presence in our life, but abundance! If we hunger for heavenly things, we will never experience a season of drought but always experience a season of overflow.

Honi physically drew a marker on the ground—a target—to get God’s attention. He not only called upon the Lord for an action, but made himself a vessel that the Lord could work through to bring a miracle to the land of Jerusalem. Per Honi’s last request, God was also able to send forth anointing in his life. We need to set a target for God.

Remembering the Target

Samson was called of God from his mother’s womb (Judges 13:5) and was destined for greatness. He operated in the power and authority of God, but was dissatisfied in his flesh. He didn’t feel valued, and he didn’t feel loved. He failed to realize the call God upon his life and the love associated with it. He mistakenly laid aside the love God was pouring out in his life and went to find an (ungodly) wife.

Samson fell victim to his wife’s deception and revealed the source of the power and strength in his life (Judges 16:17). Delilah devised a way to shave his head, and loosed the Philistines upon him. He was overtaken and his eyesight impaired, and was set to grind at the mill for the rest of his days.

As Christians, we need to be cognizant when our spiritual sensitivity is no longer where it used to be. If we no longer are making ourselves available for the Lord to do a work—becoming a target—we will be overcome by the devil and our sin.

Resetting the Target

If we do find ourselves seemingly conquered by the enemy, chained to the mill, this can in essence be our place of opportunity. We have time to reset our target with God. While Samson was chained to the mill, walking in circles, he had time to pray and ask God for a return of the power and anointing in his life. He once again became a target for the Lord. His hair began to regrow (Judges 16:22) and the Lord restored his strength. As it was, in the day of Samson’s death, he killed more than he did during his entire life (Judges 16:30).

We need to continue to pray today and ask God to pour out his blessing in our life. If we make ourselves available and a “target” that God can work through, we will experience the outpouring of God in our life that we’ve always been looking for.

A Blessed Life: Part II

Thursday, September 10th, 2015

Scripture tells us Jesus came to give us more abundant life (John 10:10), and this is evidenced by the blessings we experience every day. Jesus presented “The Beatitude” sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5:1–10, where He outlines the multitudes of blessings that come with living for God. With every sentence, Jesus uses the word blessed, which means happy. God wants His children to have a happy and blessed life!

Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled (Matthew 5:5–6, KJV).

Meek

Culture has taught us to assimilate meekness with weakness. However, the Greeks use the word meek to describe something that has strength and power—for example, a horse that’s been broken. Scripture teaches meekness is a blessed quality, and has been shown by many great men of God.

Moses himself was “very meek, above all the men which were upon the face of the earth” (Numbers 12:3, KJV). Moses was anything but weak! For 40 years, he led Israel through the wilderness, stood in the gap between the judgment of God and the Nation of Israel, spoke face-to-face with God, and withstood persecution from people.

Jesus continued the parallel of meekness to a beast of burden when He told believers to follow Him and to take His yoke to find rest because His yoke was easy and burden light (Matthew 11:28–30). And, even Jesus Himself demonstrated the power of meekness when He endured the cross. He had 12 legions of angels at his disposal (Matthew 26:53), roughly 80,000 of them, but He allowed Himself to be taken captive, hung on a cross, and died for our sins. Jesus choose meekness!

The meek will inherit the earth—not the present world, but a new one! There is coming a time when God will create a new heaven and a new earth and will make all things new (Revelation 21:1–7). When God creates anything, it is good, but the new heaven and new earth will be a greater work where the people of God will endure no more tears, death, sorrow, crying, or pain!

Hunger & Thirst After Righteousness

Living in this present world, many of us have felt an emptiness or longing for something more. We seek throughout our lifetime to fill that void, and sadly, most of the world never finds it. God placed a hunger in His children to seek Him, but instead people seek fulfillment in sinful ways. The pleasures of sin only last for a short season (Hebrews 11:25).

Many hunger and thirst in this life, but they hunger and thirst after carnal things. Seeking after righteousness is the key to experiencing true fulfillment in this life. If we try to fulfill that void our own way, or through our own righteousness, we will fall short—our best is as filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6).

King David said his soul was thirsty for the living God (Psalms 42:2; 63:1). If we seek after God, He will satisfy our souls and fill us with goodness (Psalms 107:9). When we let God fill our hunger and our thirst, we will can be filled!

There is a difference between being filled and being fed. The Greek word in Matthew 5:6 for filled is chortazó, which means gorged, abundantly filled, and fattened. We have the opportunity to be overflowing with God’s righteousness, or just to delay hunger pains for a season. We can choose to be changed forever or just a peace until the morrow.

Jesus will never send His people away empty—He wants to feed us. When Jesus spoke to the multitude, He did not want to send anyone away fasting, so He blessed 7 loaves of bread and a few little fishes, and distributed to the multitude (Matthew 15:32–36). And all did eat and were filled (Matthew 5:37)—4,000 men besides women and children, and there were 7 basketfuls left over!

Every time we step into the presence of God, He will fill us. And, there will always be extra. The overflow will not only bless us, but will bless the others around us as well.

Adapted from Wednesday Night Bible Study on September 9, 2015 with Guest Speaker, Jonathan Pierce

Spiritual Self-Defense

Wednesday, September 9th, 2015

The Illinois State Police recorded a shocking 114,373 domestic violence offenses in 2000. Sadly, 76% of these offenses involved assault/battery charges. This information may correlate to the steadily increasing number of women—and men—who are enrolling in self-defense classes now today.

When it comes to our mortality, we try to take preventative action: we eat right, exercise, and go to the doctor when we get sick. We plan for and strategize ways to overcome and guard against these anticipated obstacles. And, taking a self-defense class is one way we can protect ourselves.

Protecting our physical bodies from harm, especially from predators, should not be our only concern in our day-to-day life. We also need to guard ourselves from spiritual enemies:

Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour (I Peter 5:8, KJV).

Satan and his demons are constantly attacking God’s children. Their ultimate goal is to divide the body of Christ and to try to make us weak and seemingly powerless. But, God didn’t leave His children defenseless—He gave us an arsenal of tools to protect ourselves and to fight against the enemy.

Just as in a physical self-defense class there are “special moves” and “tactics” we can employ to keep ourselves safe from physical predators, there are tools we can use to keep ourselves protected from the spiritual enemy! Just remember the acronym PART—we must PARTicipate in defending ourselves against the enemy!

Pray

Scripture tells us the weapons of are warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God (II Corinthians 10:4–5). Our utmost weapon against spiritual predators is prayer. We need to fight enemies in the spiritual realm with spiritual weapons. Through prayer we can bind our enemy (Matthew 18:18), ask God to intercede on our behalf, and/or to send an angel to help us (Acts 12:5). When we pray, we exercise our spiritual muscles. Prayers helps us to grow stronger in the Spirit so we can fight the things not of this world!

Arm

While fighting a spiritual battle, be must be dressed to play the part. We must put on the armor of God (Ephesians 6:10–18), so that we can stand against the devil! God’s armor won’t truly be effective unless it’s coupled with prayer and the work of the Holy Ghost (God’s Spirit) in our life. We can’t rely on our Pastor, church ministers, etc. to be the ones fighting all of our own spiritual battles. We need to be ready and equipped with our own armor!

Rebuke

We learn from Scripture when dark spiritual forces came against Jesus, He rebuked them (Matthew 17:18). When spiritual predators come against us or others, we can rebuke them in Jesus’ name, and they must obey! If we resist or rebuke the devil, he will flee from us (James 4:7). The devil anticipates that a child of God won’t have the power to speak the name of Jesus and challenge his authority. Speak the name of Jesus and flex those spiritual muscles!

Tread

When we’ve prayed, armed ourselves, have the Holy Ghost working in us, and have employed the name of Jesus, we can take physical action! God has given us the “…power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy…” (Luke 10:19, KJV). In our fight nothing can hurt us! Our main adversary is the devil and we have the power to crush him with our feet.

Just because we fight not against flesh and blood (Ephesians 6:12) doesn’t mean we can’t fight effectively and win! We can PARTicipate in defending ourselves from the devil and his spiritual forces. With the tools God has given us, we will be more than overcomers!

A Blessed Life: Part I

Thursday, September 3rd, 2015

Matthew lists attitudes, actions, appetites, attributes and circumstances for blessings in a well-known passage of Scripture, known as “The Beatitudes” (Matthew 5:1–10). In this Scripture setting, Jesus describes elements that are contrary to what we would consider a blessing and/or what would make us happy. Culture has defined ideal happiness as modifying our external circumstances, but Jesus speaks of internal happiness.

Secret to Happiness

In Ecclesiastes 2, King Solomon describes many ways he tried to accomplish happiness, but was resolved to say all of life was irrational (Ecclesiastes 2:17). Jesus knew the human condition—that we would never be satisfied with “stuff,” so Jesus teaches about blessings: where real happiness and contentment comes from.

Happiness does not depend on the right circumstances, but on the right attitudes, behaviors, and attributes. Blessings and happiness comes from what God does on the inside, and not what we or others do on the outside. The secret to happiness is admitting our helplessness—something that seems odd and extreme.

In The Beatitudes, all scriptures start with an old English word blessed, which means happy—God’s favor in someone’s life. This study’s focus will be on the first two components of happiness: being poor in spirit and mourning.

And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him: And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying, Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted (Matthew 5:1–4, KJV).

Poor in Spirit

When Jesus teaches His followers to be “poor in spirit,” he wasn’t talking about having a bad attitude. Jesus spoke of the importance of humility. This is a problem in all of humanity. Jesus spoke about it, and all throughout Scripture there is evidence of the disciples struggling with it, as well as the early churches.

We need to be cautious to not exhibit a spirit of pride (Galatians 6:3) and not to think too much of ourselves. Humility and happiness go hand-in-hand; therefore, we need to examine how humility can help us.

Humility Reduces Stress

When we have expectations for ourselves and others, we have more stress when they’re not met (by us or others). When we allow humility to reign in our life it will reduce the gap between expectation and reality and will take us to a realistic place of operation.

Scripture reminds us to cast all of our cares upon the Lord (I Peter 5:7); the more we give up, the stronger we become. God will always resist the proud and give grace (strength) to the humble (James 4:6). Humility helps us to the rely more on our Creator, and Lord—Jesus!

Humility Improves Our Relationships

Prideful, self-centered people are never happy because they are depending on a source that is flawed: themselves. They bring their unhappiness into every relationship they touch: with others and with God. Humility will remove our focus from ourselves and will allow our focus to turn toward others. We should let other people speak about us (both good and bad).

Others should be given the opportunity to praise us (Proverbs 27:2). God will exalt us in His own time if He deems us worthy (I Peter 5:6), but if we exalt ourselves, God will take us down (Matthew 23:12). If we attempt to walk humbly before the Lord and be honest about what we are and depend on God, we will have better relationships—with others and with the Lord.

Humility Releases God’s Power

Scripture reminds us that when we are humble, we will inherit the kingdom of God. God’s kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36), but within us (Luke 17:21). God’s kingdom is not in earthly things, but in righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost (Romans 14:17)!

It is God’s desire to allow His children to be partakers of His kingdom (Luke 12:32). We should remember: The kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls: Who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it (Matthew 13:45–46, KJV). There is nothing that God won’t do for the humble!

Mourning

God’s happiness to those who mourn is that God comforts them! We may have a false perception that if we are hurting, this isn’t the will of God or that we have sin in our life. Scripture tells us it is okay to hurt—Jesus designed blessing to be a part of mourning.

Mourning is grieving over what is lost. It’s wrong for us to come to the idea that pain means faithlessness. If this is right, Jesus was a man that was marked with failure. Jesus wept for the loss of Lazarus (John 11:35), lamented over Jerusalem (Matthew 23:37–39), and cried in agony over facing the cruel and rugged cross (Luke 22:44). Overall, Jesus was, “…a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief…” (Isaiah 53:3, KJV). True faith is not acting like pain does not exist, but trusting in God when pain exists.

King David cried unto the Lord in Psalm 30 and God responded. From this experience, David teaches us three important lessons.

Mourning Should Not Last Forever

When David cried to the Lord, God heard him and healed him. David teaches us that mourning has a place, but should not last forever: weeping may last for a night, but joy is coming in the morning.

Mourning is a Process

There will come a time when we change into something else. David declared that God turned his mourning into dancing. Turning will take time and is a process, but has an outcome of joy! What once hurts us will turn into something we can praise God about!

Mourning is for a Purpose

We should understand that the trials we endure are purposeful in our walk with God. Romans 8:28 reminds us that all things work together for our good! God makes us endure tribulation because others don’t have the ability to endure it. God will give us strength to make it through (I Corinthians 10:13).

The added blessing in mourning is God’s presence. If God will come when we need help, than being in a place where God will show up isn’t a bad place to be! God is close to those who have a broken heart and a contrite spirit (Psalm 34:18). When we come through a period of mourning, our latter will be greater than our past (Haggai 2:9).

Manifesting Happiness

We should remember that God’s Word is always good and always true. We just have to try it out and see God’s promises activated in our life. Jesus reminds us: If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them (John 13:17, KJV).

Adapted from Wednesday Night Bible Study on September 2, 2015

Embracing Death for Life

Wednesday, September 2nd, 2015

Once again, we’re entering the Fall season—the landscape will become painted with beautiful hues of yellow, orange, and red. Nature will shed its yearly growth, don bare branches for the winter, and will once again come into full bloom during Spring.

We understand the turning of seasons to be a normal pattern—new life, sustained life, death, and a “hibernation” of sorts. Death in the Fall is truly a prerequisite for new life to grow in the Spring. We know this, accept this, and see it happen year after year.

We can learn much from the design perpetuated in Nature. God, in His omniscient state, invented concepts and patterns that were cross-applicable—He didn’t just implement the necessity of death and life in Nature; He created this for mankind as well.

While we chalk up death in Nature as a normalcy, we fight this concept in our own life. We don’t want to “let go” or allow anything to die. This is a natural order, ordained by God, but we dislike it!

Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit (John 12:24, KJV).

We like our stuff, our ways, our personality, the way we do things—we like to hang on to what makes us who we are. But, who we are isn’t the best we can be. If any spiritual growth is to blossom in our life, we must die out to some things. There has to be death for life! We need to die out to human habits and impulses and adopt God’s presence, Word, and direction in our life.

Even if we have a relationship with the Lord, walk in His ways, and bear godly, spiritual fruit, there still needs to be death. We have difficulty embracing this concept because if something is good, why get rid of it? We must prune so more can grow!

Let’s think about Nature again—the necessity for death to allow new life—and consider why we prune trees. We prune trees to: remove dead/damaged branches; remove weak areas that will break in future growth; maintain a strong, safe structure; and also to stimulate growth.

Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away; and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit (John 15:2, KJV).

God will sometimes cause “death” to occur in our spiritual walk so we are able to experience spiritual growth. He purposes this death and growth so we are able to complete a greater work for His kingdom! Where we are weak, He wants to make us stronger. God desires for us to have deep/resilient faith and have power in our ministry! Our roots, branches, and fruit need to grow outward and upward!

Sometimes pruning restricts growth where it is undesirable. We may not have something in our life that is hurting our spiritual growth just yet—but God sees it in our prospective roadmap. Death may be required to prevent future growth in areas that the Lord wants to protect us from ever experiencing!

When we see the leaves start to fall outside our window, let it remind us that death is all a part of God’s ultimate plan. There is a season for everything as well as a purpose (Ecclesiastes 3:1). If we want life—in many areas of our life—there must be death. Let’s allow God to complete His perfect work in us so that new life can begin!