Archive for January, 2016

The Pressure of Doing Right

Sunday, January 31st, 2016

And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not (Galatians 6:9, KJV).

Building Pressure

Saul was the first king of Israel. He was a good king, adored by the people, and a man that was obedient to the Word of God. However, there came a time in his life when the enemy started to come in and the people began to pressure him to do something. Saul allowed pride to take root in his heart, and he made a decision to take charge instead of being obedient to God (I Samuel 13:5–14).

Saul made an offering to the Lord, which wasn’t a task that the king was ever allowed to do—he was to wait for the prophet Samuel. Samuel arrived on the scene seconds after Saul had finished offering a sacrifice to the Lord. We can learn a grave lesson as how not to succumb to pressure.

There is a pressure that comes with righteousness and doing right. There are elements that will begin building in our mind and our spirit that will try to get us to stop moving forward in God; elements that will try to get us to choose the opposite path. But, God tells us not to give up! There is a new season coming!

Sources of Pressure

When we make the decision to live for God, the devil, the world, and our flesh will war against us. Satan is our main adversary (I Peter 5:8); he will continue to attack us because he doesn’t want us to live for God, nor does he want us to become what we will in the power and authority of the Lord. The devil is truly scared that we won’t quit living for God! We need to remember there is a greater power in us working against the forces of darkness (I John 4:4).

Jesus told His disciples not to be surprised if the world hates them because the world hated Him (John 15:18). We have been called out to walk with God in His marvelous light, and we will live a way that the world will not understand. We should be cautious of even our own minds; we can be our greatest enemy. Our flesh will come against us as well—we must keep ourselves subject to the law of God (Romans 8:7). The only way we can overcome our flesh is the Holy Ghost working in our lives.

When we are faced with the pressure of the devil, the world, and our flesh, it is easier for us to give in and disconnect. But, not everything that is easy is truly right. We don’t have to strain to sin; it’s easy to come up short. Now is the time that we awake out of sleep, keep fighting the good fight because our salvation is near (Romans 13:11)!

Overcoming Pressure

Stay Connected

Satan knows a powerful tool against the Saint of God is isolation. Scripture tells us that Satan is like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour (I Peter 5:8). Lions only attack on the outskirts of the flock, not in the middle! If we stay planted and firmly set in the church, Satan won’t be able to drag us out and overcome us.

Have Rest and Prayer

We forget the importance of rest and prayer in our walk with God. Part of the 10 Commandments given to Israel in the Old Testament was to remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy (Exodus 20:8). Our rest today is in the Holy Ghost (Isaiah 28:11–12), and we can channel the rest through the Spirit in prayer. We need to clear everything out of our lives and run to God and keep up our prayer life and receive the rest through His presence. When we become weary, we shouldn’t step away from the church or the ministry! We need to depend on God for strength and He will provide it (Psalms 55:22).

Keep Doing Right

Our key Scripture in Galatians 6:9 instructs us not to be weary in well doing. We need to continue to press on and do that which is right. There is a season coming where we will be able to sow what we’ve reaped. God will always show up right on time—He will provide the answer; He will provide the blessing; He will provide our every need if we just wait on Him!

Release the Pressure

Jesus told us to cast our every care upon Him because His yoke is easy and His burden is light (Matthew 11:28–30). God is looking for someone today who wants to pursue after Him; someone who will keep doing right even in the face of pressure. If we learn to trust and lean on Him and keep doing right, we will see a great harvest of blessing in due season.

The Power of Implied Truth

Wednesday, January 27th, 2016

As a child, I was a terrible liar. I don’t know when I started lying or where I learned the concept. Somewhere in the cognitive growth process, I picked up on the idea and unfortunately became a pathological liar. My parents could pretty much know 99.9% of what came out of my mouth was a falsehood.

As I look back on my growth process and transition out of my “lying stage” I see how my human flesh was reigning supreme in my life—even at an early age. I was listening to the wrong voice; the voice telling me to speak a lie instead of a truth. I even knew what was truth, but spoke the opposite.

Because I hadn’t learned the ability to die out to my flesh as a child, I was serving self. But, I was also serving the one who urges us to serve ourselves; he is the ruler of this world (Ephesians 2:2; John 12:31).

Scripture tells us the devil is the father of all lies (John 8:44). When he speaks, he speaks lies. Being the father of all lies, Satin is essentially the inventor of the lie.

When God created the heavens and the angels, Lucifer claimed he would be like the most high God (Isaiah 14:14). Once he was overpowered and cast from heaven to the earth (Revelation 12:9), his propensity to lie led mankind into spiritual death (Genesis 3:1; II Corinthians 11:3). Now, the devil’s ultimate goal is to seek out those whom he may devour and deceive with his lies (II Corinthians 4:4).

In our spiritual walk, we can easily fall prey to the words Satan whispers in our ears. He can cause conflict, depression, anger—polluting the very joy God has granted to us! But, if we know he is the father of lies, and speaks lies, we have a powerful tool to combat those lies. We have an awareness of implied truth.

God has taught us all throughout Scripture the invaluable awareness of implied truth. When God gives a condition to receive a blessing, we know if we don’t follow His instructions, we won’t receive a blessing. Or, when God dictates which actions will receive punishment, if we avoid those actions, we won’t receive punishment.

For example, John 3:5 states, “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (KJV). While mentioned numerous times throughout Scripture, we can discern the implied truth of this verse—if we are not born of the water and of the Spirit, we will not enter into the kingdom of God.

So, how does this apply to what the devil says? When the devil speaks an untruth, we can know the exact opposite is true! When he tries to cast down a Saint of God by telling us we can never be forgiven, or God will not deliver us from our present circumstance, or we will be in a state of depression for the rest of our life, we can know that God will forgive us (I John 1:9), will deliver us (II Corinthians 1:10), and will give us joy for our sorrow (John 16:20).

The greatest tool the devil thinks he has in his arsenal can have the least impact on the Saint of God as long as we combat it with the implied truth. When he speaks defeat, we should rejoice that victory is on its way! The next time the devil tries to get you down with a nasty little lie, remember the implied truth. It is the truth that will make you free (John 8:32)!

Start Strong

Sunday, January 24th, 2016

Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock (Matthew 7:24–25, KJV).

A Strong Foundation

The wise man built his house upon a firm foundation. When the trials of life came, his house stood strong because of his foundation. The type of foundation we have will impact our outcome. Therefore, when we start anything in life, we need to have a strong foundation. There is only one strong foundation in existence, and that foundation is Jesus!

Jesus must be at the heart of every start. We can only find strength in Jesus (Ephesians 6:10)—He will support us with His strength (Psalms 18:32), give us strong confidence to prevail in the face of fear (Proverbs 14:26), and provide the ultimate foundation that will stand sure against all adversity (II Timothy 2:19).

The Heart of Our Start

The Psalmist understood the importance of keeping Jesus and His Word in his heart (Psalms 119:11). If we keep Jesus and His Word in our hearts, the world won’t be fighting against us, but the Lord. Nothing can overcome our God! We cannot live without the Word of God (Luke 4:4), nor can we start anything without it.

We need to consider what is at the heart of our start. Are we following after our self, or are we following after God? When we start with ourselves and we start with our own desires, we are unable to deliver any results. When then become depressed and discouraged because we try to accomplish a plan God never intended for us to begin in the first place. If we start with God and His Word, we will succeed.

Strength in God’s Foundation

God will gird us with His strength and will provide a strong foundation (Psalms 18:32). If we don’t have His belt encompassing us, we won’t be able to withstand elements coming against us. We need His belt of strength to protect us from the inside out and the outside in! His grace and strength are sufficient for every start in our life (II Corinthians 12:9). It doesn’t matter if we are weak; if we stay girded in God the rest of our life we will be strong.

Start Strong

If we start right in Jesus, our right start will never become wrong. When we adopt God’s plans as our starting pathway, we will follow a route that will lead to good fruit in our life. If we hear the voice of God and abide by His Word, we will be like the wise man in Matthew 7:24. Let’s start strong today in Jesus and we’ll never fail!

Developing Commitment: Prayer and Fasting

Thursday, January 21st, 2016

As we continue to delve further into the components of discipleship and spiritual commitment, we should become acquainted with the concepts of prayer and fasting. Both elements are much more than talking to God for a few minutes a day and “giving up” something for a period of time.

Prayer

Prayer is one of the best kept secrets in the world. The more we pray, the more we will understand it. Prayer isn’t making deals, missing dilemmas, a “protocol,” or a means by which we “make wishes” to God. Prayer is communication with God, and it is essential in a successful relationship with Him.

Communication is not one-sided, and neither is prayer. We can speak to God in prayer, but other times He wants us to listen! Prayer will grow us in relationship with God. And, while it starts focused on us, it will transform into being about Him and His kingdom. We need to learn to seek after Him and pray for His will—praying in the Holy Ghost will help us pray what God wants and not what we want.

Encouragement to Pray

God hears our prayers! If we are righteous (Proverbs 15:29) and call upon Him in truth (Psalms 145:18), He will listen to us. One reason we feel Jesus when we pray is to encourage us to keep praying! Scripture encourages us to continue in prayer (Romans 12:12; Colossians 4:1–2) because there are many benefits to us as well as others (James 5:16).

Prayer will strengthen us and our walk with God in His kingdom. The closer we draw to Him the more we realize how we need the strength He provides to us through prayer. Our prayers can also change the landscape around us for ourselves and others (Isaiah 38:1–5). Our prayers can move God!

Approach Prayer with the Right Attitude

Our goal in prayer is to do it reverently and in secret with God (Matthew 6:5–8). Jesus gave us the master key to revival: effectual, fervent prayer. We need to be real, relaxed, relational, and revealing in our prayers.

From the Heart

Our prayers need to be simple and from the heart. But, we can’t pray the right things from the heart if our heart (spirit) isn’t right (Matthew 15:8). When we search for God with all of our heart, and with the right heart, we will find Him (Jeremiah 29:13).

In a Humble Manner

We cannot exalt ourselves when we pray, but approach God knowing that He is able to do all things and we cannot. We need to know that we aren’t perfect and still need to work on us. Effectual prayer begins where we end and God begins—we need to die out to ourselves and be meek before God (Luke 18:10–14). We need to pray knowing it isn’t about us so we can produce fruit in the kingdom of God.

Follow the Prayer Model

Jesus gave us a model for prayer in Matthew 6:9–13, which is known as the Lord’s prayer. Jesus told His disciples, “this, then, is how you should pray…” (Matthew 6:9, NIV).

7 Parts of Prayer

Praise

We need to start our prayer by expressing our love to God. There are 2 kinds of praise: worship (praising God for who He is) and thanksgiving (praising God for what He has done) (Psalms 100:4). We can praise God for His many attributes found throughout Scripture (e.g., patient, merciful, kind, etc.). God answers prayers that acknowledge who He is! We can also praise God in the promises He has for us declared in His Word as well as the blessings we have in our life.

Purpose

We need to commit ourselves to doing God’s will. We should pray His kingdom on earth as it is in Heaven. Prayers should align everything in life (e.g., family, church, ministry, job, etc.) with God’s will. We need to seek His counsel in every area of our lives!

Provision

While prayer should be more focused on others, we should ask for God to provide for our daily needs. We shouldn’t worry about anything, but ask God to take care of it and praise Him for what He will do (Philippians 4:6). God will supply all our need (Philippians 4:19) and will freely give us all things (Romans 8:32). We will not have provision if we don’t ask (James 4:2). Our prayers should be specific—write them down and expect an answer!

Pardon

We need to ask for forgiveness in our prayer time. The Holy Spirit can reveal our sin (Psalms 139:23–24) so we can confess each sin specifically (Proverbs 28:13), make restitution to others when necessary (Matthew 5:23–24), and by faith, accept God’s forgiveness (I John 1:9).

People

Pray for other people! We are called to make supplications, prayers, and intercession for all men (I Timothy 2:1). We will be blessed when we pray for others (Job 42:10)—these blessings are even double from when we just pray for ourselves!

Making a prayer list of others to pray for is a good prayer resource. It can include family, friends, church leadership, missionaries, etc. Our prayers for others will produce miracles in their life (Acts 12:5–7). Miracles and signs will follow those who pray effectually.

Protection

We should pray for spiritual protection from the enemy and ourselves. We can fall prey to temptation and fear. But, when we pray for protection, God will give us the power and confidence to face every situation and to become overcomers! Greater is He that is in us than he that is in the world (I John 4:4).

Praise

Our prayer should always end the way we begin—with praise. We praise Him for what He will and is able to do!

Fasting

In Scripture, the disciples were not able to cast out a spirit from a child. When they asked why they were unable to do so, Jesus said, “This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting” (Mark 9:25–29, KJV). There is power associated through the combination of prayer and fasting.

Benefits of Fasting

The purpose of fasting is to bring our flesh into obedience with the will and voice of God. We will have a greater spiritual sensitivity to hear the voice of God when our “flesh” doesn’t get in the way. Prayer also builds up spiritual authority. As in the case of Jesus’ disciples, they were unable to conquer the enemy by themselves. Fasting helps us find a gateway into the power and presence of God, and once activated in our life can attack the strongholds in our life as well as others!

A Process

Like prayer, fasting is a process. We shouldn’t start a 21 day fast when we haven’t fasted 1 day. We need to first understand the purpose of fasting before we fast. Then, we can start to build up our fasting life as we feel led by the Holy Ghost.

Biblical fasting is refraining from food for a spiritual purpose. There are different types of fasts. We can fast:

  • From sunrise to sunset
  • Daily meals: breakfast, lunch, and dinner
  • The Daniel fast (Daniel 10)
  • The Esther fast: 3 days without food and water (Esther 4)
  •  Juice fast (only liquids)

And, when we fast, we should supplement the lack of food with prayer—this is why prayer and fasting goes hand-in-hand. While we abstain from one element of our life, we replace it with prayer and fill up on the truth, power, and strength the Lord has in store for us.

We have no idea how many lives we will change if we lay hold onto the concept of prayer and fasting. And, while we are impacting others, we will continue to grow in our own spiritual discipleship with the Lord.

Adapted from Wednesday Night Bible Study on January 20, 2016 with Guest Speaker, Sister Naomi Fisher

I Have a Dream

Wednesday, January 20th, 2016

A few days ago (January 18), our Nation celebrated a great man: Martin Luther King, Jr. He was a figure in our society who wasn’t afraid to stand up for what he believed in and for what was right. Through his passionate dream, he transformed the mindset of our nation.

One of Martin Luther King, Jr’s famous speeches was “I Have a Dream.” King painted his dream of a society based on racial harmony and equality. Because he spoke out against discrimination and voiced his dream, he helped pave the way for the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Like King, We can all have dreams shaped by our present circumstances. Our dreams for a better and brighter future can come to pass, but sometimes they do not. This is the true nature of dreams transpired in the minds and hearts of human beings. We are not in control, and therefore, cannot dictate what will come to pass!

God, however, is the One who is in control. And, the dreams God gives us will have a different outcome:

And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions: And also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my spirit (Joel 2:28–29, KJV).

When God gives us a dream that dream will come to pass! God will give us dreams and visions about His kingdom, ministries He wants us to walk in, warnings He wants for us to heed, etc. At times, unless we change our spiritual trajectory in an effort to change the outcome of that dream, what God has showed to us will come true. When God is the foundation of a dream—a truth—that dream will not pass away (Matthew 24:35)!

These God-given dreams may not always come to fruition in our own time, but will impact (benefit or harm) future generations. The promises (dreams) given to our Patriarchs of faith were awarded to their future generations. They died not receiving the promises themselves, but saw them afar off. Because of their faith, their dreams came to pass (Hebrews 11:13).

If we want to lay hold upon the promised dreams the Lord has shown us, we need to speak out those dreams in faith! Scripture tells us, “For all the promises of God in him are yea, and in him Amen, unto the glory of God by us” (II Corinthians 1:20, KJV).

When we verbalize the dreams God has given us, we are essentially saying “Amen!” We identify with the dream given to us, confirm it as being true, and build up and edify others in the church with that dream. We should remember faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God (Romans 10:17).

Like King, we should seek to receive dreams from the Lord. Many well-known preachers have said in times past, “If your dream doesn’t scare you, then it’s not from God.” Let us pray today that we can be a part of God’s kingdom—identified as those with our names written in the Lamb’s Book of Life—so we can see visions, dreams, and prophesy of that which is to come. Let’s seek God today so we can say alongside of Martin Luther King, Jr., “I have a dream!”

Start Strait

Sunday, January 17th, 2016

Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it (Matthew 7:13–14, KJV).

There are paths we take in life that are riddled with obstacles and others are a quite easy. We may desire to take the easy way, but we should remember there is very little in life that has much value that has been easy to obtain. If we want to experience something great in our life, it will take effort—maybe some difficulty—to see it manifested in our life.

While one path in life may be easier to walk, Scripture tells us to enter at the strait gate. The meaning of strait in our setting of Scripture indicates a path that will take a specified degree of trouble or difficulty. We cannot allow our road ahead or the enemy to discourage our walk with God. We must remember God’s presence within us will help us overcome anything that is in the world (I John 4:4). We cannot give up when we start on the strait path with God.

There is a flow in this world trying to lead all to the pathway to destruction. This path is easy, but we must get off the path and get on the path that is strait and narrow. The end of this path will result in something greater than the world could ever give us.

Let thine eyes look right on, and let thine eyelids look straight before thee. Ponder the path of thy feet, and let all thy ways be established. Turn not to the right hand nor to the left: remove thy foot from evil (Proverbs 4:25–27, KJV).

We need to stay on the straight path and keep our feet from following evil. If we commit our lives to God, He will establish our end with Him (Proverbs 16:3). There are steps we need to take to prepare ourselves for the obstacles ahead:

Determine Our Right from Our Left

Scripture tells us to keep our eyes straight ahead and not to look to the left or the right. The turns in life are there to distract us and to move us off the strait path with God. We need to become aware of the things in life that try to subvert us from God’s pathway; we need to identify the things that “throw us off.”

If we have yielded to something in life once that put us on a wrong spiritual cycle, it will be the same things that will divert our path again. When we continually go back to what we know hurts us, the end result for us will be worse than it was from when we started (II Peter 2:20–21).

Surround Yourself with an Atmosphere of Success

Scripture warns us not to fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness (Ephesians 5:11). If we are struggling to stay on the right path with God, the worst thing we could do is to stay in the wrong atmosphere. We need to find and atmosphere or a person who can help encourage us. Barnabas was called the son of consolation because he had a ministry of encouragement (Acts 4:36). Others knew this about him! If we aren’t an encourager, we need to find someone who is. If we find ourselves diverting from the strait path, we need to check the atmosphere around us!

Eliminate Distractions

Jesus spent time in the household of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. In the midst of the friendly gathering, Mary chose to sit at the feet of Jesus. She didn’t care about what the world thought of her decision—she chose to be with Jesus. Martha was too careful and troubled to see the good in what Mary had done; she was too distracted (Luke 10:41). But, Mary had chosen the good part—sitting at the feet of Jesus (Luke 10:42). She had chosen the strait path.

Start Strait

We can be like Mary today and chose the strait path. We can forsake all, remove obstacles from our life, surround ourselves with the church, and eliminate our distractions. When we do all of this, when we start strait, we will stay strait.

Adapted from Sunday Morning Service on January 17, 2016

Developing Commitment: Bible Study and Personal Devotion

Thursday, January 14th, 2016

With the beginning of a new year, we are increasing our commitments in life. Last week we learned there are elements we need to have in our life to increase our spiritual commitment. These components help us to develop a lifestyle of discipleship: Bible study, personal devotion, prayer, fasting, praise and worship, giving, and fellowship. This week, we will examine the first two components: Bible study and personal devotion.

Bible Study

The Psalmist said, “Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee” (Psalm 119:11, KJV). In our study of discipleship, we need to collect the Word of God daily. All Scripture was written by holy men, moved by the Holy Ghost (II Peter 1:21) and profits us every day (II Timothy 3:16–17).

God reveals Himself to His people through His Word, and therefore, wants us to study and internalize it. We must make reading His Word a priority in our life. Reading His Word will increase our faith (Roman 10:17)—we need to hear it!

How to Improve Our Hearing

Be Ready and Eager to Hear God

We need to have a desire to hear from God and have our “spiritual ears” open. If we have ears to hear, God will speak to us (Matthew 11:15). If we are excited to hear the Word, the Bible will become sweet to us (Psalm 119:103).

Deal with Attitudes that Prevent Us From Hearing God

We cannot let the devil, the trials of this life, or the cares of this world get in the way of our desire, and need, to hear the Word of the Lord. Once we hear His Word, we need to internalize it and keep it active in our life. The word needs to fall on good ground (Matthew 13:8)!

Purposeful behavior is required to keep the Word of God active in our life. There are four types of minds: 1) A closed mind prevents us from hearing God; 2) A superficial mind casually listens to God’s Word; 3) A preoccupied mind is too busy with everything else in life to hear God; And, 4) a ready mind says I want to hear from God. We need to have a ready mind!

Confess Any Sin in Our Life

In order to hear from God, we need to remove anything from us that hinders God moving in our life. We need to lay aside all sin and receive with meekness the engrafted Word which can save us (James 1:21).

Take Notes on What We Hear

We do not have an excuse for not writing down what we hear from God—technology has made this very easy! Scripture tells us we need to heed what we hear and take an effort to not forget it (Hebrews 2:1). If we don’t do something to help us keep His Word, it has the potential to slip away and be forgotten.

Act on What We Hear

We cannot just be a listener of the Word, but a doer as well (James 1:22). When we are obedient to the Word and follow it, we will be blessed beyond measure (Revelation 1:3). Scripture sure be our constant companion (Deuteronomy 17:19) and we should read it every day (Acts 17:11; II Timothy 2:15).

Guidelines for Bible Study

Don’t Look for Hidden Meanings

We should be able to read the Word of God for what it is. We can take the Word in in its ordinary sense. God has made His Word plain for us to understand it!

Don’t Read Verse By Verse

We should read paragraphs of Scripture so we can read in context. A good rule of thumb is to read 10–12 verses before and after a Scripture to understand the idea present so we do not take Scripture out of context. Scripture is not a list of unrelated ideas; concentrate on the larger units.

Don’t Jump to Conclusions

We need to read the Bible intelligently and think about what passages actually say. We need to see Scripture for the principles discussed. For example, when Jesus tells the rich young man to sell all and follow Him, we don’t all need to sell everything that we own to follow Christ. Jesus was trying to show this young man valued his possessions more than he loved His Savior (Mark 10:17–23). Our application should be to love God more than anything else in this world, and to remove anything that hinders that ability.

Don’t Read the Bible as a Duty

It is an honor and a privilege to read the Word on a daily basis. We need to remember that there are those who do not have such opportunity to do so. There are benefits to reading the Word!

Memorize God’s Word

We are to keep His Word in our hearts (Psalms 119:11) and write it on the table of our heart (Proverbs 7:3). We should guard the Word as our most precious possession and memorize it! There are many benefits to memorizing Scripture: 1) It helps us to resist temptation in life; 2) It helps us to make wise decisions (Psalm 119:105); 3) His Word strengthens us when we’re under stress (Psalms 119:14); 4) It comforts us when we’re sad (Jeremiah 15:16); And, 5) it helps us witness to unbelievers (I Peter 3:15).

We need to continually review the Word to keep it memorized; we will only remember what is most important to as. If we delight in His Word, it will be easier for us to remember (Psalms 119:72). When we meditate on the Word (Psalms 1:2) it will help us become like Him, answer prayers (John 15:7), and help us live successfully in Him (Joshua 1:8)!

Good Application of God’s Word

God’s Word can be very personal to us. If we read it, we can relate to it. His Word is practical, and we can utilize it in our daily walk with Him. God’s Word is possible for us to abide by! He would never tell us to do anything that we cannot accomplish. His Word is always provable. If we act on His Word, we can measure the results in our life. Scripture tells us if we are a doer of His Word, we will be blessed indeed (James 1:25).

Personal Devotion

Our personal devotion is time we set aside to get alone with God to get to know Him. This is done through our Bible study and prayer time. Personal devotion is not accomplished by attending services several times a week, but is what we do as an individual follower of Jesus Christ.

Why Should We Make Personal Devotion a Top Priority?

We Were Created to Have Fellowship with God

God wants to have a relationship with His people. This is why we were created—for fellowship (II Corinthians 6:16). He stands at the door and knocks, and it is up to us to make time to go to the door and answer so we can spend time with Him (Revelations 3:20).

Jesus Died to Make a Relationship with Him Possible

We were called into the fellowship with Him by Jesus (I Corinthians 1:9). Jesus would never die for something that wasn’t important!

Personal Time and Devotion was Jesus’s Source of Strength

Jesus drew Himself away from the throngs of people, and His disciples, from time to time to pray. He needed to renew His strength, and He did this through personal devotion. Scripture notes numerous times how he went into the wilderness to pray (Luke 5:16). We need to emulate Him and do the same!

Every Person Who is Effective in Service for God Developed This Habit

If we look at great men and women of Scripture, or even those in the last few centuries, they all had one common denominator in their life. They had a daily time of personal devotion! God will work through those whom He has a relationship with. The closer we are to God, the greater our ministries will be!

We Cannot Be a Healthy Christian Without It

Scripture tells us we cannot just live by bread alone (Matthew 4:4); we need to spend time hearing from God, seeking Him, and looking for ways to apply His Word to our life. His Word needs to be more necessary to us than food (Job 23:12). We cannot be sustained without time with the Lord. If we don’t feed ourselves spiritually, we will die spiritually.

Purpose of Daily Time with God

To Give Devotion to God

We should make it a priority in our life to dedicate time to God. He should always be the most important thing in our life. When we seek God, we need to do it with all of our heart (II Chronicles 31:21). God is seeking for His people to worship Him (John 4:23). Now is the time to develop a relationship with Him! Don’t wait!

To Get Direction from God

On any given day, we need to receive direction from the Lord. If He is to order our steps (Psalms 37:23), how can we do this if we don’t spend time with Him to receive that direction? God wants to speak directly and specifically to us through devotion (Psalms 25:4).

To Get Delight from God

If we would just spend a little bit of time alone with Him, we will experience His presence. In His presence there is fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore (Psalms 16:11). The better acquainted we get with Jesus, the more we will love Him!

To Grow More Like God

If we spend time with Him, His Spirit will reside in us. When we receive His Spirit, we receive divine power to give us the ability to be more like Him. We can grow in knowledge and virtue, and can be like God’s nature (II Peter 1:1–8).

How to Begin Personal Devotion

Select a Specific Time

It’s best to set a time when we’re at our best. In Scripture, we see many examples of people rising early to meet with the Lord. First thing in the morning may be our best, afternoon, or at night—whatever we choose, keep up with the time on a daily basis.

Choose a Special Place

Jesus went to the Mount of Olives to pray on many occasions (Luke 22:39). We should have a solitary place to get alone with God to eliminate distractions.

Gather the Resources We Need

It’s good to have a Bible, study tools, note taking resources, prayer lists, or whatever we find will help us in our personal devotion time right at our fingertips!

Begin with the Right Attitude

We should not approach personal devotion time with a bad attitude. Think about having a mindset of reverence when entering the presence of the Lord. We should have a spirit of expectancy that God will do something in our life when we get alone with Him. And, we should have an attitude of obedience that we will carry out what He speaks to us during our time of devotion.

Follow a Simple Plan

There are different ways to structure our personal devotion time, but we shouldn’t get so caught up in making this time complicated! We should with the flow and where God leads us each day. We might start in the Word and lead to prayer, or we could spend time in praise and then enter into a time of deep prayer. To begin, we should: relax, read, reflect, record, and request. We can see where God takes us during this time!

Overcome Problems in Devotion Time

We should be very disciplined about our personal devotion time, eliminate distractions, and be aware of what could promote “dryness” during this time. Stop at nothing to keep our commitment to personal devotion, be proactive about anything that can hinder this time, and put our physical and spiritual states in check for a retreat with God!

Adapted from Wednesday Night Bible Study on January 13, 2016

Pinnacle Performance Reviews

Wednesday, January 13th, 2016

It’s the time of the year when most individuals working for any company will receive their annual performance review. This can be a somewhat stressful time depending upon our performance the previous year.

Personally, I love mapping out performance goals at the start of the year and then meticulously tracking my progress throughout the year. Toward the end of every year I know whether or not I’ve met my goals. I always want to ensure I’ve fulfilled the expectation set by my employer, and I also want to know what the Lord has helped me achieve on a personal level.

Our performance may result in a potential raise, other benefits, or, quite simply, we get to keep our jobs! Accountability is a value most employers look for in their employees, and we should exhibit this values as Christians. Do we achieve what we’re expected to do, or during our performance review, do our bosses say: Who are you? I haven’t seen you at work all year? Or, What have you contributed to the company?

Completing the work that has been given to us is not just a workforce principle, but is something that we can find in Scripture. Jesus said, “My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work” (John 4:34, KJV).

We have all been tasked by our Father with the great commission: to go unto all nations, baptizing them in Jesus name, and teaching others to obey the Gospel (Matthew 28:19–20). We need to go out into His harvest and win souls for His kingdom (John 4:35–36).

If we are diligent, obedient, and meet God’s “work” expectations, we will be rewarded with eternal life. But, if we don’t complete the work God has ordained for us to do in His kingdom (workforce), we face an even greater danger than just missing out on a yearly raise. Jesus will say, “I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity” (Matthew 7:23, KJV). Our reward won’t be eternal life with Him.

If we mess up and fail to meet our employer’s expectations here on earth, we might need to find another job, or we may be given another opportunity to improve. If we miss out on Heaven, we won’t have another opportunity.

We will always reap what we sow (Galatians 6:7). We’re called to be hard workers, to go the extra mile (Matthew 5:41), and keep our commitments (Ecclesiastes 5:4). We are all bought with a price, and therefore (I Corinthians 6:20), are committed to Christ and His work. We are called to be obedient to His performance expectations—not just our own or even the ones our employers outline in the workplace.

Have we been a good worker in His kingdom? Have we been witnessing? Have we been praying? Have we been fasting? Have we been sacrificing? Have we done what the Lord has called us to do?

Today’s a good day to take some time in prayer and reflect on what we’ve done spiritually this past year in our “employment” in the Lord’s army. If we need to make some changes, it’s not too late! We can start being the ultimate worker for God starting today. We can choose to make a change in our spiritual walk that will not only impact our future “review” but other’s as well. When we give our all to do what God has called us to do, and to be who God has called us to be, we’ll pass the one performance review that really matters.

Start Smart

Sunday, January 10th, 2016

If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple. For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him, Saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish (Luke 14:26–30, KJV).

In the midst of a story about beginnings, Jesus spoke to His disciples about endings. Jesus shared an important aspect about starting—successful starts will always include a finish line.

When we look at our lives today, and maybe the lives of others, we can see ruins of foundations that were never completed: vivid plans that never came to fruition. We may have started out by doing everything right, but over time something hindered our growth (Galatians 5:7). We need to identify today what stops us from moving forward in God.

How to Make a Smart Start

Smart Starts Make God’s Plan Our Plan

Our plans don’t always work because they are flawed; we cannot account for everything. There is a difference between our plan and God’s plans—God’s plans succeed; nothing can circumvent His plans from coming to pass. We need to seek God to provide an answer to the plans we should make (Proverbs 16:11); His plans should become our plans! When God sets forth a plan it will be perfect for us (Psalms 138:8). Before we try to accomplish anything we should pray and ask God to reveal to us what His plan so we can make it ours.

Smart Starts Put Things in Priority Order

Jesus told His disciples that if they didn’t hate their father, mother, wife, children, brethren, sisters, and his own life, they could not be His disciples (Luke 14:26). Jesus didn’t mean for us to “hate” others in a general sense, but to realize that everything else should fall lower in comparison to God. God’s plans must take priority order in our life; we should realize God’s plan is the first and only plan in our life.

When we create our own plans, we will find out quickly these plans won’t work until we place them second in our life. When we make our work what God has ordained God will make it successful (Proverbs 16:3). When we put our relationship with God first, God will take care of everything else that doesn’t matter as much.

Smart Starts Consider the Consequences

In every decision we make there are potential consequences. Jesus said if we do not bear our cross and follow Him, we cannot be His disciples (Luke 14:27). Too many people make plans that satisfy themselves without considering the consequences or listening to what God is trying to tell us. When we take up our cross, we affirm that we will submit to God’s plans regardless of our own. When we yield to God’s plans, we will always be blessed. If we do not yield to His plans, we will endure consequences God never intended for us to face.

Starting Smart

Regardless of where we are with God, our plans will all lead to the same point. God desires that we follow His Word and obey His will. When we smart start, and we follow God’s plan, we will begin to see how God’s presence will unfold in our life. His plans can be found in every area of our life and everything that is within us.

Developing Commitment: Part I

Thursday, January 7th, 2016

At the beginning of the year, we determine to increase our commitments in life. Of these commitments, we should make an effort to increase our spiritual development. We have the right mindset to “commit,” but we’re committing ourselves to the wrong things.

Our Primary Focus

Most of us deal with what we like to call “problems,” and they make up this thing we live in called “life.” Our problems in life really aren’t the issue: we’re so focused our problems we aren’t focusing on the small things. Jesus noted the “small” stuff in our life really should be our focus:

But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you (Matthew 6:33, KJV).

Spiritual Commitment

Jesus has taught us there is a tie between love and commitment. The love of God is demonstrated, and we know we love Him, when we keep His commandments (I John 2:3; 5:3). Love and relationships are not solidified without commitment.

Our commitment to Christ is developed through the growth of good spiritual disciplines. Development takes time, which is why Paul equated our spiritual walk to a race (I Corinthians 9:26–27; Hebrews 12:1). There are many spiritual disciplines the believer should have in his/her life. They are the basic practices we need to develop to grow toward spiritual maturity (Romans 6:13).

The Road to Spiritual Maturity

On the whole, spiritual maturity is becoming like Christ. There are two approaches to spiritual maturity: defensive and offensive. The defensive approach is when we live our life and try not to do anything wrong. The defensive approach isn’t the best route because not doing wrong doesn’t always mean that you’re doing right!

The offensive approach is bearing the fruit of the Holy Ghost in our life on a day-to-day basis. When we allow Christ to bear fruit in us, showing results of spiritual maturity, spiritual maturity will bring other results in our lives (Colossians 1:27). As we purposely join our life to Christ, the character of Christ (His fruit) will grow in us (I Corinthians 11:1).

Spiritual Fruit

The fruit of the Spirit is the continued evidence of the Holy Ghost abiding in our life. The fruit is produced when we walk in the Spirit of God and not according to the flesh (Galatians 5:16–17). Our flesh and the Holy Ghost (God’s Spirit) are constantly at war with each other. Our flesh doesn’t want to yield to the working of God. Remember, these two are not equal in strength; the Holy Ghost will always be stronger than our flesh.

We must make the daily choice to live for God. We cannot live for God by our own effort. If we try, we’ll fail. If we don’t have the Spirit of God working in us, we don’t belong to Him (Romans 8:9). If we allow ourselves to be controlled by the Spirit of God living inside of us, we will overcome works of the flesh (Galatians 5:19–21).

God gave us the fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance) so we won’t live in conflict with the law (Galatians 5:22–23). These are not an all-inclusive list denoting what the Holy Ghost will do in our life. They are by-products and natural reactions to Christ’s control in our life! We can always fulfil the law of God much better with Christ than practicing it as a ritual.

Crucifying Our Flesh

In order to allow the Holy Ghost to reign in our life, we must crucify the flesh and walk in the Spirit (Galatians 5:24–26). This is a process we must learn and develop overtime in our spiritual commitment. The more we practice, the easier it will become! We must abide in Christ to allow His Word to live in us by means of bearing Spiritual fruit. Bearing fruit will tell Him, and the world, that we are His disciples (John 15:4–8).

Facts About Spiritual Maturity

It’s Not Automatic

We must transition in our knowledge of God by feeding on milk to meat (Hebrews 5:12). If we try to eat spiritual meat as babes in Christ, we’ll choke! Just as a child must learn to eat and digest more complex foods, we must learn to do the same with the Word of God in our life. There is a progression to our spiritual maturity. When we step into our walk with God, we’ve started on a journey.

It’s a Process

Scripture tells us that our spiritual growth will be a process. We need to grow in grace and our knowledge of Him (II Peter 3:18).

It Takes Being Spirit Led

We can study Scripture as much as we can and fill our minds with what we “think” we know about the Lord. But, book learning—even with the Bible as our main resource—will not be the end-all-be-all to lead us into spiritual maturity. We must be led by the Spirit. The Spirit will further reveal truths to us in our “book” learning that are far deeper than anything we could learn on our own.

It Takes Discipline

Spiritual maturity is like spiritual “physical fitness.” We must constantly train and keep ourselves in the Word and in prayer to grow (I Timothy 4:7). We must enter into a training period of “discipleship.” In discipleship, we: follow after Christ and become mature believers; become disciplined; and allow God to use us more (the more disciplined we become).

It’s Done Daily

Anyone who seeks after the Lord must take up their cross and follow Him every day (Matthew 16:24). We need to make a concerted effort to give Christ first place in our life.

The Holy Ghost Helps Us

God will always reveal His truths to us by His Spirit. There are so many things we cannot know unless the Spirit of God reveals it to us (I Corinthians 2:9–12). In order for His Spirit to reveal truths to us, it must be active, alive, and present in our daily life.

How to Be a Disciple

Disciples will always engage in practices that lead him/her to becoming more Christ-like. God is looking now (today) for someone to worship Him in Spirit and in truth (John 4:23).

Over the next few weeks, we will delve deeper into the 7 components of discipleship. These are all elements that we must embrace to develop a lifestyle/commitment to discipline that seeks to worship the Lord in Spirit and in truth.

7 Practices of Discipleship

Bible Study

Scripture notes that God will know that we are His disciples if we study His Word (John 8:31). We need to continue to study God’s Word on a daily basis.

Personal Devotion

After we’ve read the Word of God, we need to apply it to our lives. This will involve a time of self-reflection and study to see how we can make the law of God a habit in our life (James 1:25).

Prayer

In addition to reading the Word and following it day-to-day, we need to develop an intimate relationship with God through prayer. When we abide in Him, when we ask anything, it will be done for us through the power of prayer (John 15:7).

Fasting

Fasting is a part of discipleship this is paramount. Jesus told His disciples that some things could not be accomplished without prayer and fasting (Matthew 17:21). There are specific ways that we should fast—never in the open, but in secret. The Lord will reward those who fast diligently for His kingdom (Matthew 6:16–18).

Praise and Worship

We are called to worship Him—praise for Him should continually be in our mouths (Psalm 34:1). We are a chosen people and are different than the world. We are called to praise Him for what He has done for us (I Peter 2:9).

Giving

We cannot be tied to the physical make-up of this world (Luke 14:33). God has entrusted us to be stewards of what He has given to us, and we need to give cheerfully (II Corinthians 9:6–7).

Fellowship

We are commanded to love one another because Christ loved us (John 3:34–35). Our role as disciples are to encourage each other and to continue on the path of discipleship and spiritual maturity!

Practice, Practice, Practice

Developing commitment in our walk with God is going to take practice. We have to learn concepts, apply them to our life, and keep at it! We can develop good spiritual habits which will lead us into spiritual maturity if we engage in a repeated performance of the action. Once we develop a spiritual habit, we’ll be one step closer to spiritual maturity!

Adapted from Wednesday Night Bible Study on January 06, 2016

Right Resolutions

Wednesday, January 6th, 2016

New Years has come and gone once again. You possibly resolved to start or stop something in 2016—or you may be a part of the ever-growing population of the folks who “resolve” not to start or stop anything, but choose to stay the same.

Resolutions are daunting because we see the year ahead, all 365 days, and wonder if we’ll even make it through half of the year, a few months, or even a week! Before we start, we’re discouraged, and we quit before we begin. The sheer number of 365 seems overwhelming. Our mind sees an enormous task: 365 new things to start or stop, or 1 thing to do for 365 days.

Resolutions don’t have to be stressful or even scary—especially when we get our resolutions from the right source.

Jesus was on the earth for approximately 33 ½ years. In His ministry years He had a lot to accomplish, many “resolutions” to complete. We can arguably say that Jesus was successful in fulfilling those “resolutions” when He walked this earth. Why?

I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do (John 17:4, KJV, emphasis added).

Jesus received His direction, in all things, from the Father. Just as Jesus sought direction for His goals and “resolutions,” we need to seek God’s direction in realizing and setting ours.

God will show us His will for our life and will outline resolutions that He knows we’ll be able to keep. His thoughts are higher than our thoughts and ways higher than our ways (Isaiah 55:8–9). He knows the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46:10) and knows we’ll be able to accomplish anything with Him (Matthew 19:26).

In all honesty, we all have one same resolution, which is pretty important: And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature (Mark 16:15, KJV).

This should be on our resolution’s list no matter the year. We’ve got one resolution to fulfill during the 365 days of the year—just one! We’re called to be a witness and to share the Gospel. Is that so hard to do?

God will supply a boldness to help us be His witness (Acts 4:29). This boldness will help all of us who have an issue with speaking to other people. God’s presence and work isn’t foreign to any of us because He is our personal Savior (I Timothy 4:10). Because He died for us, we have something to internalize and personalize our witness of His Gospel. This is why Paul said many times in Scripture this was “his” gospel (Romans 16:25). In case we think we’ll forget our resolution, God will always help us remember (John 14:26).

We don’t need to have a resolution we come up with, own, remember, or succeed in doing. When we realize and accept the right resolution in our life, God will help us with everything else. If God sanctions the resolution, we will succeed! What’s your resolution?