Archive for November, 2015

God’s Faith in You

Sunday, November 29th, 2015

The trials of this world may attack us on every side, and it’s easy to become discouraged. We may think that we can’t possibly make it. But, God has faith in us and has given us the ability to be an overcomer. We can become an overcomer by experiencing His presence, power, and promise. We can make it to Heaven’s gates and into His presence where there is fulness of joy (Psalm 116:11).

Experiencing His Presence

Scripture tells us that we are not the owners of ourselves—we are God’s people and He made us (Psalms 100:3). God has promised us that He will never leave or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). While we might not feel His presence, He is always there. We need to keep pressing through in our prayers and praise because He hears us and is responding to us. God knows what we’re going through (Hebrews 4:15) and He knows the way that we take (Job 23:10). When we realize we always walk in His presence, there isn’t any obstacle that can get in our way!

Experiencing His Power

There is power in the Word of God, and in speaking His name. Scripture tells us there is no other name under heaven whereby we can be saved, other than through the name of Jesus (Acts 4:12). God’s power is all around us, but it won’t become activated in our lives until we ask. We have not because we ask not (James 4:2–3). We read in Scripture where Jesus was in the house of Simon the leper (Mark 14). We don’t read where Simon ever sought after or received a healing that day—he didn’t ask for the power of Jesus to be activated in his life. We must ask for God to intervene and have dominion in our life to experience the victory. Once we experience the life-changing of power of God, we can be an overcomer.

Experiencing His Promise

Nicodemus asked Jesus what he had to do to be saved. Jesus told him to be born of the water and of the spirit (John 3:5). The Disciples were told to tarry at Jerusalem until they received the promise of the Father (Acts 1:4)—which was the infilling of the Holy Ghost (Acts 2:1–4). When we wait to receive the infilling of the Holy Ghost, and speak with new tongues—the signs following them that believe—we will be able to overcome all the power of the enemy (Mark 16:17–18)!

Plain Faith

We don’t need to have faith in ourselves today. We can have faith in God that He will always bring us out and will make a way where there doesn’t seem to be a way (Isaiah 43:19; I Corinthians 10:13). If we allow God’s presence, power, and promise to be active in our life every day, there will be no room and opportunity for defeat. God will give us the victory!

Adapted from Sunday Morning Service on November 29, 2015 with Guest Speaker Casey Pollard

Thanks for Giving

Wednesday, November 25th, 2015

Last night during our mid-week church service, we had a good old-fashioned testimony service. These times are wonderful opportunities to share with others what God has done in our lives, is doing, or is going to do! The season of Thanksgiving gets everyone in the “thankful” spirit, and rightfully so.

When we stop and consider how thankful we are, we might also note why we are thankful. However, in relation to Thanksgiving, we have a tendency to forget one important aspect: thanks for giving. When was the last time we stopped to thank God for allowing us to give?

Scripture speaks expressly of giving (Acts 20:35) in addition to how we should give (II Corinthians 9:7). God even tells us that when we give it will be given back to us in a greater measure than what we gave (Luke 6:38). We are basically blessed for giving! We’re blessed whether we give directly to God or others and blessed regardless of the way we give (monetarily, time, resources, etc.).

Have you ever been in a situation when you couldn’t give? Maybe you weren’t financially able to give to specific offerings. Maybe you had a sickness in your body and didn’t have the strength to participate in a church workday or outreach effort. Maybe you neglected to heed God’s unction to give in some capacity and someone else stood in the gap, which robbed you of your opportunity to give.

When we’re faced in times where we’re unable to give for whatever reason and in whatever capacity, we are robbed of a potential blessing. There is a sense of spiritual fulfillment when you’re able to bless someone else in the Kingdom of God. If you don’t believe me, just try it!

While we’re commanded to give tithes to the Lord (Malachi 3:8–10), our offering is a sacrificial gift to God for blessing us. We’re saying “thank you”—our giving becomes a form worship! There is a tremendous blessing in worshipping the Lord; giving God the glory He rightly deserves. The blessings we receive from God from our worship are limitless: spiritual, financial, physical, emotional, etc. Some blessings are made evident to us and some we will never know until we make it to glory! We will experience all of this, and more, because we can give!

If we truly had full comprehension of the blessings manifested in our lives because we gave (in whatever capacity), we wouldn’t be able to stop thanking God for blessing us with giving. This Thanksgiving, let’s thank God for blessing us with the ability to give—as Scripture tells us it’s indeed better to give than to receive (Acts 20:35).

Giving Thanksgiving a Voice

Sunday, November 22nd, 2015

That I may publish with the voice of thanksgiving, and tell of all thy wondrous works (Psalms 26:7, KJV).

Last week, we focused one “content” of Thanksgiving—contentment. While Thanksgiving is comprised of being content in what God has blessed us with, we cannot be truly thankful until we vocalize what we feel in our heart. In the Old Testament, the Nation of Israel offered sacrifices of thanksgiving to God, but they did not do so at the command of the High Priest. They gave offerings to God out of their own free will.

In Psalms 26:7, the word thanksgiving comes from the Hebrew todah, which means a vow of acknowledgement, adoration, or confession of thanksgiving. Our thanksgiving needs a voice! The concept of thanksgiving will never be complete until we speak it out.

The Psalmist speaks of the need to verbalize our thanksgiving many times in Scripture (Psalms 95:2, 100:4, 107:22, 116:17, 147:7), and this concept is validated by the prophets of the Old Testament (Isaiah 51:3, Amos 4:5, Jonah 2:9) and the New Testament (II Corinthians 9:12). Thanksgiving will always be more than a spirit of gratitude—we need to express our thanksgiving.

Two Voices of Thanksgiving

After Thanksgiving Voice

Jesus came across ten leprous men in the Bible, had mercy upon them, and told them to go and show themselves to the priests. On their way to the priests, the lepers were cleansed (Luke 17:11–14). Only one leper, upon discovery of his healing, turned back to thank Jesus (Luke 17:15–16). Jesus said, “Arise, go thy way: thy faith had made thee whole” (Luke 17:19, KJV).

Something happened to the one leper that didn’t to the other nine. The nine were cleansed, but the one was made whole. God’s work may not be done until we vocalize our worship/praise. Therefore, our thanksgiving isn’t done until we put a voice to it!

Hell wants to shut up our thanksgiving. Satan is the price of the power of the air (Ephesians 2:2) and nothing fights against him more is when the Saints of God cut through the air with our praise! We can be overcomers by the word of our testimony (Revelation 12:10)!

Pre-Thanksgiving Voice

Our most powerful thanksgiving voice is the praise we give to God before His work is ever done. When we praise God for something that hasn’t happened yet, we loose our faith! We need to have faith to speak of things that haven’t happened yet, as though they have (Romans 4:17), and praise God in the process.

The centurion had enough faith to thank Jesus for the healing of his servant before Jesus was even asked. Because of this, his servant was made whole that had been sick (Luke 7:10). Our praise and thanksgiving needs to come even when we don’t have any evidence that God is working. We cannot even comprehend all of what God would loose in our lives if we would just praise Him in faith for doing it!

Publicly Praising

King David went through a lot in his life, but he never failed to turn to the Lord and give Him thanks. David said, “My foot standeth in an even place: in the congregations will I bless the LORD” (Psalms 26:12, KJV). Because God blessed him and placed his feet on solid ground, David would never stop telling others how thankful he was for what God had done in his life. We need to not only tell others today how great our God is, but tell the One in whom we are eternally thankful.

There’s an App for That

Thursday, November 19th, 2015

Applications Worth Living By

And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light. Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying. But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof (Romans 13:11–14, KJV).

Paul admonished the church in Rome to take what they had learned in their walk with Jesus and to apply it to their way of living. If we wait for the right conditions to apply what we’ve learned in God it will be too late (Ecclesiastes 11:4). Until the Word of God lives inside of us and becomes our lifestyle, we will never change. Discipleship is a lifestyle—we become a new creature in Christ (II Corinthians 5:17).

Paul speaks of pure doctrine through a majority of the book of Romans. But, starting in chapter 10 he transitions to the application of doctrine. To be a follower of Jesus, what we believe and how we live become inseparable. Everything in God’s word has an application (app) in our life! We need to be hearers and doers of the Word (James 1:22).

Our Spiritual App Store

Put Ourselves in Proper Perspective

Paul tells the church not to think of his/herself in a better state than we truly are (Romans 12:3). Honesty in evaluating ourselves is a gift! We are to measure ourselves by the faith that God puts inside of us. Jesus Christ is truly our measuring stick—nothing or no one else should be the basis of comparison. Our perspective comes through hope, tribulation, and constant prayer (Romans 12:12).

Good Citizens and Submissive to Authority

We need to submit to the governmental authority God places over us (Romans 13:1–5). We can disagree with government, but we can do so without disrespect. If we strive to behave ourselves and live a godly lifestyle, we won’t have an issue with the law. We should also be obedient in paying our taxes (Romans 13:6–7)—render to the government what is due and render to God what’s His (Mark 12:17).

Responsible with Our Business

We cannot say that we love Jesus if we are a cheat and fail to pay our bills. We should not be slothful in our business (Romans 12:11) but a hard worker. We work and do all things for the Lord, not for man! We should be ready to help, be generous, and control our debts. We should owe no man anything (Roman 13:8) and pay bills on time!

Maintain Good Relationships

Our relationships should be positive with believers and unbelievers. We should love others without being fake, but hate what’s wrong (not the person) and love what is right (Romans 12:9). We need to live in harmony with others and not be too proud to enjoy the company of others (Romans 12:16). We should submit to the working of the Holy Ghost in our life to lead us into right relationships and to be a good steward of those relationships.

The Most Impactful App

The foundations for all other apps is our ability to love others as ourselves (Romans 13:9). If we truly do extend love toward others, we won’t ever put ourselves into a situation where we aren’t applying the Word of God. The love inside of us will go outward to the people around us. We can love others and truly fulfill the law of God (Romans 13:8). God’s Word must become our personal app. Do you have the app?

Adapted from Wednesday Night Bible Study on November 11, 2015

Positively Provoking or Provoking Positively

Wednesday, November 18th, 2015

Have you ever realized that God has a sense of humor? When reading Scripture, you’re bound to encounter God’s comedic genius somewhere. For example, I think God smiting the people of Ashdod with “emrods” was pretty funny (I Samuel 5:6), but others may not agree.

Even outside of His Word, God’s humor is evident all around us—especially in people! Just take a moment to look around you. There’s a lot to laugh about, I promise. All alone? Just look in a mirror—there’s something funny in all of us. We’re all different and that’s a good thing!

Sometimes the traits that are humorous to us (and God) may get on someone else’s nerves. Our laugh, eating habits, nervous twitch, word pronunciation, etc. could be the element that spins someone into a tizzy on the right day or at the right moment.

Children (and unfortunately some adults) like to press each other’s “buttons.” Some people take pride in frustrating others to the point of an emotional outburst. It’s in the childish comments of, “I’m not in your room, I’m on the line,” or, “You’re breathing on my side of the car” that provoke the recipient to do something regrettable. Hurt feelings, stress headaches, or maybe even a blackened eye can be the result of these encounters.

On the whole, provoking someone to do anything isn’t such a great idea. But, Scripture has a different perspective:

And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works (Hebrews 10:24, KJV).

Right there in Scripture, the writer of Hebrews instructs people to provoke each other. The word provoke in Greek is paraxusmous which means to “stir up” or “instigate.”

As previously described, we’ve labeled provocation or instigation of others to action as a bad idea. But, we find here in Scripture that we can stir up the hearts of others to love and to do good works instead of bad!

Should we taunt others into love and good works? No—just be an example! Scripture tells us to “Let [our] light shine before men, that they may see [our] good works…” (Matthew 5:16, KJV). When we show others how to love, how to worship God, how to tithe and give offerings, how to help the less fortunate, how to sacrifice, how to do anything positive, we help to encourage and stir up the desire in others to do the same thing! We are provoking positivity!

Through our example of living for God, and the love of Jesus emulating through us, we can provoke others to live a life dedicated to Christ, or better yet, start a relationship with Him! Our love and good works will eventually “rub off” on others in a good way. And, the result? Never will we see any hurt feelings, stress headache, or injured body parts. Others will definitely feel the warmth and love of God, the refreshing of the Holy Ghost pouring into their lives, and the miracle of restoration of mind, body, and spirit.

Let’s follow Scripture’s example of positively provoking others to good works instead of the other way around. We have an opportunity to stir up in others what God has stirred up in our own life. Have you thought of provoking someone today?

The Contents of Thanksgiving

Sunday, November 15th, 2015

But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at the last your care of me hath flourished again; wherein ye were also careful, but ye lacked opportunity. Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content (Philippians 4:10–11, KJV).

God has given each of us the ability to exercise contentment in any situation—good and bad. Scripture instructs us to be thankful in all things, but in order to be thankful we need to be content first. Contentment comes with being satisfied with the condition we’re in, right at this very moment.

Paul warned the church not to complain or vocalize discontentment because of looming destruction (I Corinthians 10:9–10). Discontentment will always breed bitterness (Hebrews 12:15), so we need to be careful to deal with behaviors that battle our contentment.

Self-Focus

When we constantly look at ourselves, we will create a breeding ground for discontentment. Paul warned Timothy about men becoming lovers of their own selves (II Timothy 3:1–2). If we become so consumed with making ourselves happy, rather than God, we won’t find contentment. Our focus has been misplaced! We need to look upon the Author and Finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2), and when we do, we’ll find contentment.

Forgetting God’s Blessings

King David outlined aspects of God’s blessings in His life he did not want to forget (Psalm 103:1–5). We also should remember we are blessed tremendously by the hand of God. We are instructed to enter into His gates with praise and courts with thanksgiving (Psalm 100:4) because God is good and has been good to us!

Anything currently in “our” possession isn’t our stuff; it all belongs to God. He’s placed stuff in our lives to be a blessing. But, just as something in our life can help us it can also have the propensity to hurt us. We need to be content with what we have and remember we have a promise in God that is worth more than any material possession (Hebrews 13:5). Stuff doesn’t last forever. We didn’t bring anything into the world and we won’t carry anything out (I Timothy 6:7). We need to be content with how we handle the stuff in-between that God blessed us with (I Timothy 6:6).

Other People

We let other people come into our life and dictate what we should or shouldn’t have, should or shouldn’t do, etc. Other’s comments and attitudes can give us a shortsighted view of contentment. Their comments can be frustrating and can volley the contentment we have in our own life. We don’t have to get upset with others and certainly don’t have to see their viewpoints! We can choose to ignore others and not give them permission to upset our life!

Own Lack of Trust in God

We read the Word of God, but don’t truly believe it. Paul was in Caesar Nero’s prison when he wrote the letter to the Philippian church. Paul couldn’t do a lot for the Kingdom of God when he was bound in chains with no hope for escape, but he decided to do what he could! His letters wound up being the very pages of our Bible. We don’t know how our present circumstances could be a piece of a much larger picture! We need to be content with whatever state we’re in! If we express discontentment, we could miss out on a blessing and an impact to others.

Ability to be Content

Paul told the Philippian church he was able to be content because of the strength of Christ (Philippians 4:13). When we have been filled with the precious gift of the Holy Ghost, we can truly be content because we have His Spirit living inside of us. His Spirit is all that we ever need—Jesus truly is the supplier of our every need (Philippians 4:19). The key to having a content Thanksgiving is Jesus!

Mutual Submission

Thursday, November 12th, 2015

If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies, Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross (Philippians 2:1–8, KJV).

Being Submissive

Paul wrote to the Philippian church to be wary of three things: strife, vainglory, and being better (Philippians 2:3). Having strife is contending for a viewpoint or fighting for a cause (pushing for a personal preference). Vainglory is the pursuit of personal attention or glory. And, being better is holding ourselves above others.

Being submissive to others is a difficult concept. We cannot be submissive to others if we exhibit strife, vainglory, or think we’re better than others. We should hold others above ourselves and not be obsessed with our own advantage. Paul admonishes the church to have the mind of Christ (Philippians 2:5). If we have His mind, we’ll make choices according to Him and His Word.

Jesus emptied Himself of His potential glory and Kingship and made Himself a servant. He faced the cross for all of us. Jesus emulated the epitome submissiveness to others and was the catalyst for starting a culture of mutual submission. We need to be a part of this culture to practice true submission to others.

Concept of Submission

There are numerous examples in Scripture that instruct the believer to be submissive. Of note is Ephesians 5:21 which tells us to submit to each other in the fear of God. We are not only to be submissive to God, but to each other. We must put our own ideas, notions, plight, goals, mission, etc. under someone else. We should favor their mission, lift them up, and meet their needs first.

The more spiritual success and maturity we have, the harder submission will be for us. Submitted Jesus followers will know how to lead and to follow (be submissive) and do a lot of both. There is nothing greater than mutual submission.

During Jesus’ ministry, He expounded to His disciples what would become of Him (Mark 10:32–45). After His monologue, James and John asked Him if they would be able to sit on his left and right in His Kingdom (Mark 10:35–37). Jesus explains the concept of being first in His kingdom is different than what the world has defined. To be great, we must be a minister and servant to all (Mark 10:43–44). If we ever choose to be first for the purpose of being exalted, we’ve chosen a position and role for ourselves that not even Jesus took upon Himself.

Ways to Submit to One Another

Create Space for Submission

Submission needs time, place, resources, and opportunity. We need to develop a culture within ourselves and our church where in every opportunity we look for ways to help. Most of the time, we do not submit because we do not have the space in our lives to submit. We must create an opportunity to submit take the opportunity to submit—we must create the margin to be able to serve. We need to take the effort to prioritize the kingdom and determine what makes the most sense for the kingdom first before anything we do for ourselves. If we don’t make room in our lives to be submissive, we will seek to advance ourselves and our kingdom first before His Kingdom.

Confront Our Egos

Paul told the church not to do anything in strife or for vainglory. As followers of Jesus, we need to think about what’s more important: creating a great ministry or a name for ourselves. When it comes to submitting ourselves to one another, our egos get in the way more than we care to admit. We need to get rid of our self-righteous attitudes that everyone should serve us and become a servant ourselves.

Kill Comparison

We love to compare ourselves to other people. But, when we do this, we start to build goals in our lives by what we see in others instead of what God sees in us. Scripture tells us we are unwise to compare ourselves to others (II Corinthians 10:12). The only time we should compare ourselves to someone else is to make sure that they have enough of something. If they lack, we need to give. If they are wanting, we need to sacrifice. We need to humble ourselves and serve our brothers and sisters! When we compare ourselves against others in the wrong way, we compare against flawed results. If we are going to compare, we need to compare to the true source—Jesus Christ.

Mutual Submission

We need to submit to each other out of the reference for Christ (Ephesians 5:21). We submit because Christ did, and He is our ultimate example. Jesus was submissive to us, and He was perfect for us. If we can submit ourselves to Him and His plan, it will become easier for us to submit to others. When we have the Holy Ghost flowing through us, it will flow out of us in the form of submission.

Adapted from Wednesday Night Bible Study on November 11, 2015

Grace Among the Gourds

Wednesday, November 11th, 2015

We’re amid the fall season and everywhere we look we see various types of gourds. The most famous, albeit the more familiar of the gourd family, is the pumpkin. Pumpkins have one purpose in my book: to be cleaned, pureed, and made into pumpkin pie, bread, muffins, etc. Any type of food will do!

I’m amenable to eating the pumpkin goods, but not so much to the cleaning and making part. Why? There’s a major gross factor associated with the process: scraping out the inside of the pumpkin, complete with the slime and seeds. There’s just something about sticking your hands into the inside of a pumpkin, feeling the cold inside, slimy seeds…well, I’ll just leave the rest up to your imagination. It’s not a glamorous undertaking.

All that inside pumpkin goo winds up in the trash. It seems like kind of a waste when you think about it. All of what is typically revered about a pumpkin is the basic shell. So much of it is discarded as unuseful.

While we’re human, we share many similarities to a pumpkin. Some of us are oddly shaped, have a few surface imperfections, and are different colors. But, we’re also cold-hearted and definitely, without a doubt, gross on the inside. If you don’t believe me, just pinch yourself—that’s your flesh: it hurts and it’s the worst part of us. Our flesh is what gets us into trouble, opens us to sin, sways us to desire the things of the world instead of heavenly things, allows ungodly words to come out of our mouth, and the list goes on and on.

Unlike the pumpkin, we can’t scrape out our insides and be an empty shell. We have a unique brain and an individualized heart and soul, and we kind of need that to exist. This is who we are folks. We all are misshapen pumpkins and don’t compare with the glory and perfection of Christ (Romans 3:23).

But, amazingly, God does something different with our insides:

Forasmuch as ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart (II Corinthians 3:3, KJV).

God implanted His Word in the fleshy walls of our hearts (insides). The seeds from the Word of God that live inside of us help to shape and mold us into something that is pleasing to God. It makes our inside not so cold, slimy, and stony, but gives us a heart to love God and have a mind after His ways (Ezekiel 36:26).

God uses the worst of us and transforms it into something that’s worthy in His eyes. He gives us a chance to be something—not just trash! He gives us a chance to live righteously and holy in this present world. He doesn’t see what we are today, but what we will be tomorrow (Romans 4:17).

Our Creator extends grace and new mercies to us each day (Lamentations 3:22–23). He doesn’t just throw us out in the trash, but he nurtures us, and waters the seeds He planted in us among our rocky interior with His Spirit, love, mercy, and grace.

It’s hard to see ourselves beyond our “gourded” make-up. But, can we try to see ourselves the way God does—the treasure instead of trash, earth-shattering ministry instead of insignificant no-body, soul-winner instead of a hollow shell? We are more than a mere pumpkin in the patches of life. Because of Jesus, there is truly grace among the gourds.

The Moment and The Journey

Sunday, November 8th, 2015

The Moment

Our life can be changed in just one moment. When Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, their life (and the course of humanity) was changed forever. When Rahab made the decision to help the spies of the Lord, she was added into the lineage of Jesus Christ. Moses listened to God’s call and aided in the freedom of Israel from bondage in Egypt. These were all moments in time that changed the course of history.

The decisions we make in life are completed in a fleeting moment, but they change our life forever. Just as the Patriarchs of the Bible were all changed in one moment by heeding the Word of God, we too can be changed. God’s Word has never changed (Isaiah 40:8) and God is no respecter of persons (Romans 2:11). When God speaks to us today, we have the same opportunity to respond and have our life changed forever. We have the same opportunity to do a work for God. We have the same opportunity to change the course of humanity—we can save a soul!

Our initial moment will be a sovereign act of God; one we will remember forever. But, not all encounters with God will be the same. If we heard from God in an initial experience, we cannot limit ourselves to the same setting to hear from God again. God may not always seek us out. If we desire more life-changing moments, we need to see after these moments! If we seek Him, we will find Him (Jeremiah 29:13).

The Journey

Once we’ve been changed in our moment with God, we have the journey with Him to experience. The journey after the moment is just as important. If our moment with God has changed us, we need to partake in our journey toward continual change. We need to commit to God and be consistent in following after Him and His Word.

Go

To embark on our journey in God, we’ve got to go! When Israel was in the wilderness, God instructed them to go northward (Deuteronomy 2:1–3). The Disciples, after being instructed by Jesus, were told to go into all the world and share that instruction (Mark 16:15). If we’re going to get anywhere in God and be anything in His kingdom, we have to go! Many of us fall short of our destiny in God because we never start!

Realize

We need to remember that our journey with God is just that, a journey. There will be points we feel it’s too hard and we’ll contemplate turning back to the life we lived before our moment with God. We need to realize feelings are momentary, but our walk with God is something we want for eternity. Living for God isn’t easy, but when we live for Him hard, it will be easy.

Our life before coming to Christ can overshadow our walk with God. We may feel we can’t move forward in God because of what’s behind us. If we’ve messed up, it’s important to continue to move forward in our walk with God. The past doesn’t dictate our future. Life is a journey! Our finish line isn’t in sight yet and God’s not done with us yet. Keep going!

The rich man had an opportunity to change His life in a moment and follow Jesus (Mark 10:17–22). He chose to continue down the wrong road and not begin His journey with Christ. We have the opportunity to experience our moment today and begin our journey with God. Will you make up your mind to be changed?

The Role of Adversity in Your Spiritual Growth

Thursday, November 5th, 2015

We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. For we which live are alway delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh (II Corinthians 4:8–11, KJV).

Thin to Thick and Hard to Soft

Oswald Chambers once said, “Spiritual maturity is going from being thin-skinned and hard-hearted to thick-skinned and soft-hearted.” The picturesque figure of someone who is “thin-skinned” gets offended easily and someone who is “hard-hearted” is not willing to be affected by others. Paul instructs the church in Scripture to obtain spiritual maturity: the transformation from being thin-skinned and hard-hearted to thick-skinned and soft-hearted.

Paul never conceptualized adversity, but spoke from his own experiences. He noted adversity and resistance was necessary to spiritual growth. Resistance builds us, teaches and instills faith in us, and forces us to depend on God. Once we have reached a level of spiritual maturity, we will be able to accept adversity as useful and also welcome it! Paul understood the necessity of adversity and the benefit it had in his life. He noted it was when he was weak, he was truly strong (II Corinthians 12:10).

Sources of Spiritual Adversity

The Devil

I Peter 5:8 says, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:” (KJV). Scripture calls the devil our adversary (our enemy), and he’s out to get us. Satan’s greatest weapon is his mouth. The Saint of God has the ability to overcome the devil if we would just push back when we hear his voice. Scripture tells us to resist him and he doesn’t have a choice but to run from us (I Peter 5:9).

Everyone who chooses to forsake a self-serving life and to follow God instantly becomes a target of the devil and other forces of darkness. All children of God will face afflictions from the devil—that is just a part of serving Jesus.

Other People

When we’ve matured spiritually, we will be able to deal with offenses from others and make allowance for their faults. Offenses will come to us and we need to make provision for how to deal with these in our minds. Colossians 3:13 tells us that we need to be ready to forgive other people. No one is perfect and we need to make room for people’s mess-ups. The writers of Hebrews 12:15 warns that we do not let a poisonous root of bitterness spring up in us.

Back in the Garden of Eden, God didn’t ignore the sin of Adam and Eve. He had a plan to deal with the problem. God set the example for us—we need to deal with the problems we have with others. We gain strength when we go to our brother or sister that have offended us and tell them!

Circumstances

Day-to-day we experience a little something called “life.” Stuff will happen, but we need to remember to reach for help when we need it. Jesus tells us to cast all of our cares on Him (I Peter 5:7); however, there are other sources of help at our disposal. The Saints of God are called upon to be a resource to people who are struggling. Galatians 6:2 instructs us to bear one another’s burdens and Ephesians 6:18 tells us to pray for each other! We are purposed to help with the adversity of our brothers and sisters. When we make ourselves available for someone enduring adversity, when we go through it ourselves due to life circumstances, God will make a way for us to receive the help we extended to someone else.

God

We need to be honest about three things in our life: 1) who we are, 2) where we are spiritually, and 3) how we got there. Our power to deal with adversity comes from position and not a location. The closer we are to God, the better suited we will be to handle adversity in our life (Psalms 91:1). When we aren’t close to God, we could find ourselves working against Him.

When God is our adversary, this is the worst place to be. “Is not my word like as a fire? Saith the LORD; and like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces?” (Jeremiah 23:29, KJV). When we’re not close to Him, He will pour out His judgment, and sometimes that comes in the form of adversity. We are commanded to present our bodies as a living sacrifice to Him (Romans 12:1) and allow Him to move in all areas of our life.

We may meet adversity from God when He tries to work in an area of our life that makes us uncomfortable. We have to stop slipping into the false notion of how we feel about God’s Word and its validity in our life! If we violate one principle of the law, we’ve violated the entire law (James 2:10). If we do not uphold God’s law in our life, we will be held accountable. God will always be able to discern the thoughts and the intents of our hearts (Hebrews 4:12).

Soft Heart vs. Hard Heart

In order to successfully work through adversity, we need to have a soft heart. “And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us” (Romans 5:5, KJV). We are to love others and to love God—this is how we are identified as a disciple (John 13:35). We need to know more of the Word than the devil so he doesn’t gain a foothold in our life. We need to love others too much to take offense. We should reach out to help others when they need it. And we need to learn to follow so closely to God that we don’t struggle with His Word.

If we’re able to focus on these areas of our lives we will be able to come close to the goal of spiritual maturity and be better prepared to face spiritual adversity.

Adapted from Wednesday Night Bible Study on November 4, 2015

The Highway Experience

Wednesday, November 4th, 2015

There are people in life who seem to have everything planned out. They have points B, C, D, and all the way to Z mapped out before they get to A. Sometimes these individuals live by the mantra, “it’s my way or the highway.” They might get a little bent out of shape when things don’t go their way.

These people are just crazy. I would know because I’m one of them. You may have someone in mind that fits the bill already. If you don’t, someone may have you in mind!

We may not be a meticulous planner in our daily life, but we all have this “quality” in our spiritual life. Whether or not we are honest with ourselves, we have a plan for how we think God should work in our life. We get an arrogant attitude and think we know more than the Creator of the universe, and that God better stick to our plan. This is a scary thought to think and even scarier place to be.

Jeremiah was a prophet who was obedient to God and prophesied what God spoke to him. Because he listened to the Lord, he angered the king and found himself in a dungeon, sinking down into the filthy mire (Jeremiah 38:6).

Living in this present world, we will inevitably endure a trial, spiritual valley, persecution, or face our own personal dungeon. We will sink further down into our situation with no way out except God make a way. While we have faith that God will bring us out, we really fail to exercise our faith because we pre-designate the way God’s going to deliver us.

Because Jeremiah was obedient to God, and had faith in His deliverer, it wasn’t long afterward that God sent Ebed-melech to free him. Scripture tells us: “So Ebed-melech took the men with him and went into the house of the king under the treasury, and took thence old cast clouts and old rotten rags, and let them down by cords into the dungeon to Jeremiah” (Jeremiah 38:11, KJV).

Jeremiah’s road to deliverance wasn’t glamourous. He had to put old rotten rags under his armpits to be lifted up from the dungeon to freedom. Jeremiah may have had an idea in his mind’s eye as to how God would work a miracle, but he went with what God provided. His attitude was not “my way or the highway.”

When we make up our minds for how God will work in our life, we limit Him, plain and simple. We wait for the exact deliverance to come in the exact way we imagine it. Without realizing it, we’ve shut ourselves off to other avenues God wants to work. We’ve set up spiritual roadblocks! When we live by the spiritual mantra of “it’s my way or the highway,” we’re truly missing out on the highway experience.

Jesus told a parable about a man who made a great supper and asked many to eat with him, but his guest made excuses as to why they couldn’t attend. Therefore, he sent his servants to gather people from the highways to fill his house (Luke 14:16–24). Those who wanted to receive a blessing their way and per their own timetable missed out. The people in the highway who took advantage of the opportunity received a blessing.

When we choose our own path it may just be the road to ruin. We forget that God’s ways are higher than our ways and His thoughts higher than our thoughts. The “highway” just may be the better route to take to see God perform a miracle in our life. His highway may not be a beautifully paved road, but full of gravel, potholes, a little mud, and some roadkill. His highway ends in deliverance. Are we willing to take it?

The Moral Compass

Sunday, November 1st, 2015

The integrity of the upright shall guide them: but the perverseness of transgressors shall destroy them (Proverbs 11:3, KJV).

A moral compass refers to a person’s ability to judge right from wrong and act accordingly. When we use our moral compass and make a decision, we need to be accountable for it. Like the world, many of us today have misplaced our compass. Whether we like it or not, we will be held accountable for the use (or lack thereof) of our moral compass—it may be immediate, months from now, or at the end of our lifespan. We cannot escape accountability; we can defer it, but no one can outrun it (Romans 6:23).

Integrity starts from the inside and works its way out. If we want to be honest with God about the use of our moral compass, we need to start in the right place. Our starting point is with ourselves. Honesty is what will guide people; dishonesty will destroy people.

Using Our Moral Compass

God is the Source of Right from Wrong

We need to realize that there is only one right way, and that’s God’s way. God is always right, and He will never change. Scripture warns that there are ways that seem right unto a man, but they will all end in death (Proverbs 14:12). The Word of God won’t always make us feel good, but it’s right (Hosea 14:9), and it helps us to live right in this present world.

We live in a culture that is slipping into the delusion that we have the moral capacity to choose what is right and wrong. We have all sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). We need to be careful that we don’t get caught in the “self-evaluator” mindset. If we don’t keep the whole law, we’re guilty of it all (James 2:10). Every time we fall short, we hurt the heart of God. We need to use His standard every day so we can live a life that is truly right and pleasing to Him.

Our Mistakes are Our Own

We are all the owners of our mistakes. In the Garden of Eden, when God confronted man for eating the fruit of the tree, Adam blamed his wife, and Eve blamed the serpent (Genesis 3:6–13). Both Adam and Even evaluated a choice and made a decision. Scripture tells us, “But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed” (James 1:14, KJV, emphasis added). We need to understand it’s our decision, our fault, and our mistake.

Too many times we forfeit our moral compass for happiness. Being right is more important than being happy. We should never mistake happiness in our flesh for being right with God. We cannot live our life in a euphoric state and think that everything is God’s blessing. We are making choices that hurt God’s heart and our sins are marring our spiritual lives.

We learn from Adam and Eve that we cannot hide for our poor moral decision—nothing is hidden from God’s eyes. Blaming other people also never buys us anything. The source of action for every success or failure is the simple process of spiritual evaluation, choice, and being honest about the choices we make.

Don’t Bring Back Things to Life that God has Already Killed

The world we live in is constantly in a flux of changing morals and values. We know that Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8). God may have killed something in our life, but due to the changing cultural values, we’re trying to resurrect something that God already put to death in our life. We need to make up our minds that when God helps us change to stay changed!

We need to crucify our flesh daily so we can walk the correct pathway our moral compass reveals to us. When we die daily (I Corinthians 15:31), we won’t be reliving failures and poor moral decisions that God helped deliver us from yesterday, a month ago, or even years ago. We can walk circumspectly with the Word and be wise in our decisions (Ephesians 5:15). God has given us the tools to live above sin and victoriously in this present world. Are we going to use our compass today?