Archive for March, 2016

Hearing Beyond “Wah, Wah”

Wednesday, March 30th, 2016

Do you ever go through days when everyone sounds like the “wah, wah” voice of Charlie Brown’s teacher? The intricate, complex sounds of the English language become blurred, float through one ear and out the other, without any comprehension on our part whatsoever.

We all have an innate ability to bypass processing words spoken to us. As children, we employ this ability more often when our parents, teachers, or other authority figures try to communicate with us. As adults, we exercise this talent when taking care of our children, during budget meetings at work, and—very shockingly—when our spouse speaks to us after a long hard day…

It’s almost like a magic switch we have in our brain. We can turn it on or shut it off at will. Evidence suggests we have a greater propensity to flip this switch when we hear people talking (not just during times of white noise). But, alarmingly we have the audacity to do this during the moments when we should be listening more attentively than any other time during our waking moments. A time when this switch should never be turned off—a time when our Creator speaks.

I hope you’re not thinking, “That’s not true; I always listen.” Because, do you really?

Many times we get so caught up in the cares of this life we forget to listen for God. Or, heaven forbid, we no longer find the voice of God worth listening for. We’re distracted by everyone and everything else, that when God speaks, we don’t hear it, it doesn’t move us, or it doesn’t convict us.

Too often, we allow for God’s voice to drift on by—we choose not to comprehend what He says, internalize it, and apply it to our walk with Him. Plainly, we choose not to hear.

He that hath ears to hear, let him hear (Matthew 11:15, KJV).

Scripture accounts more than once the importance of “hearing.” God has given us the basic ability to hear—we have ears. But, hearing goes well beyond just the fundamental basics.

I would venture to say Charlie Brown only heard the tromboned “wah, wah” of his teacher’s voice as just a sound. He didn’t process in his brain what was being said.

The word hear in the Greek means to properly listen to and comprehend. We are to consider what is said and yield to obey the voice. Why hearing is good practice in our day-to-day interactions with others, this is a must with God.

We must obediently listen for the still small voice of the Lord (I Kings 19:12). Once, identified, we need to push beyond the sound of God’s voice and allow His Words to find a lodging place in our hearts. We should meditate on the Words we hear night and day (Psalms 1:2).

Don’t let God’s voice become a “wah, wah” that gets caught up in the white noise of your life. Listen for Him diligently—have ears to hear.

Unexpected, But Undeniable

Sunday, March 27th, 2016

Now upon the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they came unto the sepulchre, bringing the spices which they had prepared, and certain others with them. And they found the stone rolled away from the sepulchre. And they entered in, and found not the body of the Lord Jesus. And it came to pass, as they were much perplexed thereabout, behold, two men stood by them in shining garments: And as they were afraid, and bowed down their faces to the earth, they said unto them, Why seek ye the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen: remember how he spake unto you when he was yet in Galilee, Saying, The Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again. And they remembered his words (Luke 24:1–8, KJV).

Today is a day to celebrate a time when God did something unexpected. Today, we celebrate something that cannot be denied. Today, we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

The Unexpected

During Jesus’ lifetime, the Romans were known the make a spectacle of everyone who believed in Him. The Jewish leaders feared the disciples would steal His body. And, the disciples were even preparing for a funeral on resurrection day. When Jesus rose from the dead, no one expected it! No one listened to what Jesus had said (John 10:17–18). Why were people looking for the living among the dead?

The Change

Paul was a man who was steeped in Jewish religion—he sought out believers and accused them of heresy. He was responsible for the beatings and deaths of many who followed after Jesus. We must ask ourselves today how a man who persecuted believers of Jesus Christ became a man who promoted the belief of Jesus Christ. Paul was changed, and it was because he had an experience with the resurrection power of Jesus (Acts 22:8). We cannot have an experience with the resurrection power of Jesus and stay the same—we shall be changed!

The Resurrection

There is a spiritual darkness over the world today. People are seeking after earthly pleasures and denying godliness (II Timothy 3:2–4). Our culture drives a continuing sense of hopeless—motivating people to strive after a lifestyle they cannot sustain.

The world is trying to force believers into relegating our spiritual walk to a “lifeless” experience. The world wants us to stay dead to sin. But, the resurrection is all about taking what’s dead and bringing it back to life. Jesus rose to put life back into the hearts of men and women on this earth!

God is searching the hearts of His people today to find those who believe in the power of His resurrection. When He finds someone who believes, He will change them forever! He will take what’s dead and bring it back to life (John 10:10).

Our Personal Resurrection

There is a power in the resurrection we won’t find anything else. It has the power to give hope to every situation (Philippians 3:10). The same Spirit that dwelled in Christ dwells in us. That Spirit will resurrect us and change us (Romans 8:11)! If we seek after Jesus, today could be our own resurrection day!

Jesus didn’t die on the cross just to put a bandage on the broken pieces of our life. He died and rose so He could heal our life and put things back together. He rose so His miracle could be a part of our life every day. The resurrection does more than treat mere symptoms of the diseases in our life. The resurrection conquers the disease!

The Undeniable

What Jesus did through the resurrection was undeniable. The Romans, Jews, and the disciples didn’t expect to find an empty tomb. But, Jesus did the unexpected. Jesus showed Himself alive through many infallible proofs (Acts 1:3) and many were eyewitnesses of His majesty (II Peter 1:16). Jesus wants each of us to be an eyewitness of His resurrection power and to see the unexpected in our life today.

Whistle While You Work

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2016

Do you remember the last time your mom had to remind you to pick up your room, empty the dish washer, or mow the lawn? Was she forced to use extraordinary measures to give you a little incentive?

For some of you, that’s not too hard to forget because it just happened yesterday—and I’m not just talking to the kids here. Doing chores, even the less favorable ones, are a part of life. It’s a continual process: once you’re done, you might as well start over again because whatever it is, needs to be done again.

I love to clean and organize, find folding laundry soothing, but cannot stand cooking—or even worse—cleaning my bathroom. To me the former results in a cleaner/picked-up space, and the latter result in an even greater mess.

But, I can make the “unfavorable” work seem light and joyful when I sing and/or listen to music. The old adage “whistle while you work” comes into play (though I sing or hum instead of whistle); my spirits are lifted and the task seems less arduous than before.

For some, any type of work is unpleasant. Our displeasure stems farther outside of the home perimeter and seeps into the classroom or our jobs. We may not like to work because it’s hard, or we don’t like our environment, or we don’t get along with our boss. Whatever the reason, we’re bound not to like something about the concept of work—and no amount of whistling is going to help.

It’s easy to get into a grumpy mode when we’re working in a capacity we don’t like. We might complete our work with less enthusiasm and maybe less quality compared to when we work on something we actually enjoy. But here’s a thought:

And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men (Colossians 3:23, KJV).

Scripture tells us that no matter what we do—mopping the floor, picking up the kid’s toys, a class homework assignment, year-end projection report, sales pitch, etc.—we do it for God and not for anyone else, including ourselves.

If we think right now about the quality of work we output in everything we do, is it “God quality?” Do we work unto the Lord in all things? If God graded our work ethic, would we get a passing grade?

You may ask, “How does this relate to cleaning toilets?” I don’t have the ultimate answer, but I do know when we do everything as unto the Lord, we work with the ability God gave us—not everyone is blessed with the ability to clean a toilet. Think about that. Because God gave us the complete ability to clean a toilet, we should do it unto the Lord as a form of worship—thanking Him for the privilege. And, we also should be thankful that we have a toilet to even clean!

When we work hard at whatever we do, we show the Lord honor, and we give Him the glory He deserves. We also show contentment with what He has placed in our life (I Timothy 6:6). If you work with all your heart, strength, mind, soul God will reward you for it. And, when you put a little whistle (praise) with that work…just taste and see (Psalm 34:8).

The Front Side of the Cross

Sunday, March 20th, 2016

For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God (I Corinthians 1:18, KJV).

Our Perspective

Perspective changes everything. It defines is, it molds our thinking, and isn’t easily changed. However, there are three factors that can change our perspective: need, benefit, and time. We live most of our lives changing our perspective based on these factors. But, when it comes to the cross, there are only two perspectives according to Scripture: lost and found. To the foolish, the cross is just a story. But, to those who have a relationship with Jesus, we realize the cross is more than just a symbol.

At Calvary, people parted Jesus’ raiment and cast lots (Luke 23:34), but there were some that stood beholding Him (Luke 23:35). Some understood there was a God, who had wrapped Himself in flesh, and was hanging on the cross for their sins. Their perspective had been changed.

Changing Our Perspective

Today, God wants to change our perspective—transition our eyes from the impersonal to the personal. Culture has commercialized the cross today, but the church sees the cross differently. We see one cross as the object that held our Savior, and is a source of freedom, hope, light, and salvation!

Jesus was a man on a mission to the cross. His mission was to take the disease of sin out of the world (John 12:31). Jesus faced more suffering than any man could ever know. He was beaten so badly He hardly could be recognized as a human being (Isaiah 54:14). Jesus hung on the cross for nine hours gasping for air, suffering for our mistakes.

If we can get closer to the cross, we can see everything Jesus did for us. Jesus loved us enough that He died for us in spite of everything we’ve done and everything we will do. He died to forgive us. We cannot live without the cross. The wage of sin is death (Romans 6:23); without the cross, we have nowhere left to go.

A New Life

Paul said, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me…” (Galatians 2:20, KJV). Paul recognized a truth and had a perspective many of us do not have today. We are not living our life. The life we have now is the result of trusting in the Son of God who gave Himself for us. The cross has made a difference in our life and we will never be the same!

The True Cross

Jesus was on a borrowed cross—it wasn’t His; it was ours. We deserved the cross, but He died in our place. We took our wicked sins and crucified the Lord of glory (Acts 2:23). He was despised and rejected, bore our griefs and carried our sorrows, was wounded for our transgressions, but by His stripes we are healed (Isaiah 53:3–6).

Jesus blotted out every sin and nailed it to the cross (Colossians 2:13–14). When we came to Jesus and repented for our sins, He removed every sin stain that was against us. Jesus stripped away Satan’s power to accuse us of our shame and guilt. We no longer have the debt of sin. We’ve been changed forever because of the cross.

The Front Perspective

We need to ask the Lord to give us a new perspective of the cross. We cannot see it as something mundane or owed to us. We are forever in the debt of our Savior and need to get a fresh perspective on how much He loves us and what He has done for us. Lord, help us see the front side of the cross.

The Blessing in Obedience

Thursday, March 17th, 2016

He brought me forth also into a large place; he delivered me, because he delighted in me (Psalms 18:19, KJV).

The “Delight” Perspective

King David was blessed mightily by the Lord, but there was a reason. He was a man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22): upright before God, honest, just, respected authority, etc. Therefore, God delighted in Him. Delight is from the Hebrew word chaphets, which means favor, take pleasure with, or approving. We cannot just gain “delight” from God living any ordinary way. There are certain requirements God places on us, and our obedience to those requirements directly correlates His behavior toward us.

Getting to the Status of Delight

Scripture tells us if our ways are blameless (Proverbs 11:20), trustworthy (Proverbs 12:22), and upright (Proverbs 15:8) God will delight in us! By walking in these ways, favor, blessing, protection, and promotion will come from God. All throughout Scripture we can see contingencies in God’s blessings—if man will do “x,” God will do “x.”

God will look to the works in our life that are toward righteousness. If found, He rewards us in the same measure that we extend and/or demonstrate in our life (Psalms 18:20). If we are merciful, pure, have clean hands, etc. God will extend those things unto us (Psalms 18:21–26).

We need to be careful we don’t take Scriptures applicable to salvation out of context and believe we can live any way and God will accept/bless us. These Scriptures don’t apply to our relationship with God, which comes after our initial salvation experience (repentance, baptism in Jesus name, and infilling of the Holy Ghost). Jesus wants to have a relationship with us so He can teach us what is acceptable. We won’t know how to live right without the Holy Spirit working in our life!

Obedience Modeled By Jesus

Jesus told the Pharisees strict obedience to rules was not going to lead them to perfection in the Holy Ghost (Matthew 5:20). We need to be careful our obedience does not lean toward man-made thoughts and intents. Obedience cannot be prideful and full of human thinking! God’s idea of spiritual obedience is defined by relationship, service, and sacrifice.

Scripture tells us, “For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous” (Romans 5:19, KJV). The obedience of Jesus made all men righteous—His obedience was based on His compassion for humanity. Jesus took upon the form of a servant, humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death (Philippians 2:5–8).

We were made in God’s image, and therefore, are designed to be like Him. There is already an innate sense in us to obey because it was in our Father! Our goal should be to strive to be like our Master. We were born to serve, but we need to choose what and whom we will obey. What way will we go (Romans 6:16)?

Obedience Starts in the Head and Not the Hands

Paul instructed the church how to utilize their spiritual weapons to pull down strongholds, cast down imaginations, and command every thought into the obedience of Christ (II Corinthians 10:4–5). He spoke specifically against people in the church raising up ideas contrary to what he was teaching. The strongholds he referred to are in the mind. If we allow the Holy Ghost to work in us, we can push back those thoughts and choose to follow Christ.

Paul described the war taking place in his mind—as well as other believers—which tried to lead him into the captivity of sin (Romans 7:23). We need to allow the Holy Ghost to work in us and bring those thoughts to obey God. When we have the Holy Ghost working in us, we’ll see the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22) and not the works of the flesh.

Obedience Ends in the Hands and Not the Head

Just accepting God’s word as true doesn’t make it active in our life. Even the demons believe there is One God (James 2:19), but they aren’t saved. James admonished the church to show their faith by their works because faith without works was dead (James 2:14–26). We cannot afford to leave obedience in our minds and not allow it to come out in our behavior. If we really believe it, we have to be it!

Our flesh will want to stop what God is trying to do in our hands and feet. We need to yield ourselves over to the work of God and become His servant (John 12:26). Obedience to Him will always require and action—thought, attitude, and sacrifice evolve over time into our words and actions.

Searching to Obey

Scripture spells out plainly how we can learn to follow Christ and what to do/not do in our walk with Him (Ephesians 4:20–32). But remember, we have to learn Christ before we can be like Christ. If we are going to be successful in our obedience to Him, we need to follow Him more closely than we ever have before and imitate Him every chance we get (Ephesians 5:1). We have a responsibility not to walk in darkness because we are the light of the Lord (Ephesians 5:8)—walk as children of the light and learn the blessing in obedience.

Adapted from Wednesday Night Bible Study on March 16, 2016

What’s Your Button

Wednesday, March 16th, 2016

I remember a few years back when Staples® came out with the easy button. In just a quick press of the button your solution would appear before your eyes. I’ve been waiting for the production of this actual button for years now. The only easy buttons I can find are cheap knock-offs that just make noise.

I have to come to grips with the hard reality that I live in the here and now. If I need something, it’s going to cost me and it’s going to take some effort on my part.

Many of us like to live our spiritual life through an easy button. We tote around this button wherever we go. When life gets a little hard, we like to whip it out, slap our hand on top of it, and have Jesus fix (you fill in the blank here) instantaneously. Then, I wonder how many of us spiral into a childlike temper tantrum when our button doesn’t actually work.

It’s not that Jesus isn’t a miracle worker. He pours out more blessings and miracles upon our lives than we deserve. But, everything is according to His time (Ecclesiastes 3:1) and His will (I John 5:14)—not ours. We may need to endure a little trial or a little hardship from time to time. It’s all going to work for our good (Romans 8:28) and bring forth a perfect work in us (James 1:2–4). God didn’t create an easy button for this reason.

I would venture to say that we also carry around a panic button. When the world’s closing in around us, the devil has us by the nape of our neck, and we’re being carried off into an oblivion, we smash our panic button over and over again as if to say, “Jesus help me!”

Why do we have a panic button? Have we neglected to ask God for help before we get into a situation that’s completely unbearable? Are we in the situation because we’ve neglected God, our prayer life, church attendance, etc.?

Jesus knows our thoughts before we even think them (Psalms 139:4) and knows what needs we have before we ask (Matthew 6:8). There’s no need to panic (or have a button) because God will never leave or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). There never should be a need to panic with the Lord in our life! If we’re panicking, we may be concerned that He’s not there because we’ve drifted too far away.

So, if you’re reading this thinking I don’t have an easy button, and I certainly don’t have a panic button, so what does this have to do with my spiritual life? You’re right. You may not have an easy or a panic button, but you’ve got a button. I may not know what your button has plastered across the top of it—but it’s there in your pocket, purse, nightstand, car, or wherever you like to keep it, so it’s within reach when you need it.

I encourage you, dear reader, to discard those buttons kept out in the open or secretly tucked away. We need to develop a walk with God that will help us avoid some life circumstances. Or, if it’s God’s will that we face them, we will know to draw strength from Him via His Word, presence, prayer, the church, or whatever other method He reveals to us. God has already given us all the tools we need: armor of God, Holy Ghost, prayer, fasting, etc. A button is not included.

God’s got everything covered. Ask God to reveal to you the button(s) you have stashed away. We need to ask Him for the strength to throw those buttons in the garbage and replace them with something else more tangible, and more powerful than any button could ever provide. That, dear reader, is Jesus!

Tested to Trust

Sunday, March 13th, 2016

By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, Of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall thy seed be called: Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure (Hebrews 11:17–19, KJV).

Defining Trust

Trust is very difficult to measure and even harder to build. We have a tendency to trust in something we think will lead to a particular result, or anything that will manifest the result we’re looking for. We lose trust when relationships do not go the way we feel they should go, and we fail to trust based on past experiences.

Regardless of our experiences in trust, we need to realize we serve a God who has never let us down. He has never left or forsaken us (Hebrews 13:5), and He cannot lie to us (Titus 1:2). God’s ways are perfect and everything and everyone else is flawed. His Word is tried and true. Trust in Him and lean not on our own understanding (Proverbs 3:5–6)!

Testing Our Level of Trust

Abraham was old in years when he gave seed to Isaac. The birth of his son was nothing short of a miracle; there was a promise in his life to be the beginning of all nations. God commanded Abraham to sacrifice his son only to prove how much he trusted Him.

God will test the level of trust we have in Him (Jeremiah 20:12). It’s easy for us to trust God for what He’s done in the past and even for what He’s doing in the present. But, it takes faith to trust Him for what He will do in our future. Abraham didn’t know how God’s promise would come to pass if he sacrificed Isaac, but He knew from where his son came from (Hebrews 11:19). If God was able to perform a miracle in his past, He was sure to do it again in the future.

Demonstrating Our Trust

God demands that our trust be demonstrated. We cannot ask God for anything and not prepare for it. We must show our faith by our works (James 2:18). If we are to walk by faith, we need to act as if a solution has already happened. We have no idea what God can do!

God’s Purpose for Testing

God will test us because He wants to give us the perspective He already has. He wants us to know we will not fail! We should never be surprised that tests will come (I Corinthians 10:13); everyone is tested. But, God will always make a way of escape from any situation.

God trusts us to trust Him. God trusted Job to still praise Him and trust Him even if He removed the hedge of protection around His life, family, and possessions. In the middle of His storm, Job still trusted God (Job 13:15). We cannot allow the devil to gain victory over us. We should give God the glory no matter what and know He will bring us out.

Blessings Through Testing

There will be a blessing in every test. When Abraham trusted God and tried to sacrifice Isaac, God provided a ram at the last moment. Abraham received a bonus blessing on top of what God had already promised him for His trust and faithfulness (Genesis 22:17–18). Job was blessed with more in his end than he had to begin with (Job 42:12). God doesn’t test us without there being a reward in Him.

Trust in Him

We need to learn to trust the Lord no matter what we face in life. We cannot celebrate just when we can actually see what’s in front of us—celebrate the same way even when we can’t see. There is an important lesson to learn in trusting God, and even greater blessing when we do.

Developing Commitment: Fellowship

Thursday, March 10th, 2016

It has been quite a journey in learning more about how we, as followers of Christ, can deepen our spiritual walk and develop commitment in serving Him. This final week, we will focus on the last aspect of discipleship: fellowship.

Avoid of Isolation

The devil’s main agenda is to keep God’s children isolated; isolation breeds despair and spiritual problems. God never intended for His people to be alone—in the garden of Eden, God said it wasn’t good for man to be alone (Genesis 2:18). In the New Testament, God indicated His church should not worship and serve Him alone—we shouldn’t forsake the assembling of themselves together (Hebrews 10:25). God wants to pull us out from our siloed Christian walk and into fellowship with His people and His kingdom.

God knows that there is very little people cannot do when they set their mind to it. At the tower of Babel, the people were working in unity, and God said, “…nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do” (Genesis 11:5–6, KJV). While agreement is good, agreement in Him is better—fellowship is different than just an agreement, consensus, or being in the same place at the same time.

Model of Fellowship

We can find the model for community and fellowship from the New Testament church. When the Spirit of God was poured out on the day of Pentecost, fellowship became a natural by-product to the people. God’s people were together and had singleness of heart (Acts 2:41–46). Fellowship is truly the result of the Holy Ghost poured out on our hearts.

Fellowship in the Greek is koinónia, which means participation and inward unity. James noted the importance of showing faith by our works (James 2:18), and the same principle applies to fellowship. We have to connect with other Saints of God in the church. As disciples, we have a responsibility to fulfill the role of fellowship—to share ourselves with our spiritual family: partake, participate, and partner.

Principles of Fellowship

I Belong in God’s Family with Other Believers

Paul described the church as being fellowcitizens of the household of faith and how we are all a part of the same building, which is fitly-framed together (Ephesians 2:19–22). We are to be builded together in God’s kingdom through His Spirit. And, we’re not just called to be a member of the church, but a member to everyone in the church (Romans 12:5). God wants us to look upon the church as our family and have a personal connection!

I Need Encouragement and Strength from My Church Family to Grow Spiritually

When it comes to our spiritual journey, we can’t do it by ourselves. We need each other for encouragement, help, and spiritual growth. Scripture tells us to encourage one another to do good deeds and to grow spiritually (Hebrews 10:24). Encouragement is a proactive action and should be a part of the church culture—and something we do as a disciple of Christ. We need the help of the church to pick us up when we fall (Ecclesiastes 4:10–11)!

I Need Accountability of Fellowship to Grow Spiritually

Scripture tells us iron sharpens iron (Proverbs 27:17)—we learn from each other! Not only is encouragement needed on a day-to-day basis, but we need each other to help us learn from our mistakes and to help hold us accountable to the Word of God (Hebrews 3:13). We should be willing to be held to a level of accountability by the brothers and sisters in the church and to remove the spirit of offense from our life!

Jesus is Present When We Fellowship Together

When we gather together in Jesus’s name, He has promised to be there in our midst (Matthew 18:20). When we choose to come together on a spiritual level, God will be present among us!

Fellowship is a Witness to the World

Love is what differentiates the church from everything else in this life. The church demonstrates who Jesus is and how His love drives it all! Jesus prayed that His church could be one as He was one with His Father (John 17:21). When we fellowship with each other, and allow Jesus to be in the center of that fellowship, our fellowship will speak to the work around us.

I Am Obligated to Every Christian

God has given every one in His church unique gifts. And, we are called to minister to one another as good stewards of those gifts (I Peter 4:10). Our gifts have not been given just to help us—they have been given to lift up and to edify the body of Christ!

We are to serve one another in:

Tips for Fellowship

Fellowship isn’t easy to do with all people, but we are to endeavor to fellowship and assemble with the body of Christ.

Don’t Fake It

Everyone has the ability to discern when people are being genuine or fake. Do not try to fake your fellowship because you will lose the trust of the other person. Pray for God’s genuine love to be activated in our life and to help us value the other person, even with all of their quirks!

Do Some Self Reflection

We should think about why we have a hard time fellowshipping with another person. We may find out after sincere self-reflection that the problem isn’t with another person, it’s with ourselves!

Get to Know Them Better

We may have a certain perception about someone; however, if over time we get to know them on a more intimate level, we can determine that our preconceived notions about them are incorrect. We may have more in common with someone than we think!

Grow in Relationship with God

The more we grow in our own relationship with God, the more we can grow in our relationships with others. We will be able to connect with others in spiritual unity—regardless of who they are!

Developing Spiritual Habits

Our goal in developing commitment is to develop spiritual habits in our life that we don’t have to think about. The following are ways that we can develop spiritual habits in our life.

Desire

We need to have in internal motive that is rooted in spiritual commitment. When we allow God to give us an internal spiritual desire, we can allow it to move into an external motivation. Our desire cannot be rooted in emotion—it must be rooted in spirit.

Declare

We need to announce our intentions publicly—there is significant power in a vow. We can build our faith when we speak things that are not as those they are!

Determine

We should never allow an exception to our commitment until it’s securely rooted in our life. Don’t stop doing it until we can’t stop doing it. Lapses can be fatal, so we can’t allow “just this once.”

Do

We need to go and do whatever it is, right now. We cannot just slide into starting a new habit. We have to establish a starting point and begin.

Double Up

We should find someone to help hold us accountable in developing our spiritual habit. They can help encourage us and not let us fail!

Depend on God

Our walk in developing spiritual commitment is in fact a spiritual journey. We need to rest on the ability that God gives us to change—we cannot do it on our own. We also need to allow God to reinforce what He’s doing on the inside to be reflected on the outside. He can give us the will and can help us do it (Philippians 2:13).

Adapted from Wednesday Night Bible Study on March 09, 2016

No One Can Take Your Promise

Wednesday, March 9th, 2016

Have you ever read a passage of Scripture and it just jumped off the page? Did the Scripture hit you in your heart or maybe your gut? This is why I love the Word of God—it’s alive and it speaks to me every time I read it.

The gambit of emotions felt when reading the Bible cannot be described in this venue alone. If you’re a man or woman of Scripture, you know exactly what I mean! In all the emotions, my favorite is the sense of joy I feel when I read about God’s promises. God’s promises will be resident in our life no matter what the world or the devil does to come against them!

While we clearly see the promises described for us today, sometimes those promises haven’t manifested in our life. Whether in the Bible, or spoken to us by God in prayer, days, months, or years may have passed and we are still waiting. Some of us may have even seen things removed from our life we thought would lead to a particular promise. All of these circumstances can make us wonder if our promise is sure and if God is going to come through…

In Scripture, we read about a young man named Joseph. Joseph had 2 dreams depicting his brothers and parents bowing down to him (Genesis 37:5–11). God gave him a promise to rule and to be prosperous, but the road ahead spoke differently.

Joseph’s father had given him a coat of many colors (Genesis 37:5). It was no doubt a prized possession because he wore it proudly and wore it everywhere. It symbolized his power and authority (being Israel’s son), but also the love of his father—he was the favored son. But, when his brothers sold him into slavery, his coat was taken from him (Genesis 37:23). It would seem that his power and authority was gone and attainment of his promise shaken. How could anyone become a ruler as a slave?

Later, Joseph was enticed by Potiphar’s wife over, and over again. Joseph refused to sin against God (Genesis 39:9), so he fled from her presence (Genesis 39:13). Unfortunately, Joseph lost his coat once again, and it was his coat that Potiphar’s wife used to accuse him of disorderly conduct. Joseph was cast into prison falsely accused. How could anyone become a ruler as a prisoner?

What can we learn from Joseph’s story? Over a period of approximately 13 years, starting at age 17, Joseph faced trials and tribulations. The devil and the world came against him in unfavorable odds, and he kept losing his “stuff.” In everything Joseph endured, nothing seemed to lead to a position of power and authority.

Even though Joseph lost his coat 2 times, and some other stuff along the way, we need to remember no one ever got his promise! God brought Joseph out of slavery and freed him from the bonds of prison. By God’s hand, Joseph was made ruler of Egypt, and was second in command to Pharaoh at age 30 (Genesis 41:46)!

If you’re wondering today if God’s promise to you is going to happen, remember Joseph’s story. God is faithful and true (I Corinthians 1:9) and never lies (Numbers 23:19). We can always count on Him to be there (Hebrews 13:5) and fulfill His promises to us! It may take a while, the enemy can come in and try to defeat us, we might lose some stuff, but the promises of God have all been fulfilled in Jesus (II Corinthians 1:20)!

No one can take your promise—stand on the promises of God today! Patiently endure and you will obtain the promise God has in store for you (Hebrews 6:15)!

This is How We Love Each Other

Sunday, March 6th, 2016

As humans we seek for comfort at whatever cost. Our innate response is to take care of ourselves first and then others. However, as a child of the Lord, we need to think about putting others first and ourselves last—what we can do for God’s kingdom and not what we can do for ourselves.

The church is not a disjointed body. There is one head—Jesus Christ—and He defines the values of the church. God never intended for His body to just join together at the same time in one place. He desired that we join with one another and work with one another (Psalms 133:1). If God’s people do not join together in community, we will not have unity. When we have community, we will love one another.

Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren (I John 3:16, KJV).

God desires that His people act a certain way—not the way we would want to act toward a person or in a particular situation, but the way He would act. Every chance we’re given we need to take the opportunity to be like Jesus.

It’s easy to know what we’re supposed to do, but knowing how is a different story. Paul gave the church the “how” in I Corinthians 13:4–7:

Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things (KJV).

We could have all the God-given gifts at our disposal, but if we don’t have love, we are nothing (I Corinthians 13:2). Scripture tells us that God’s love works in every situation and through every emotion. But, it will take practice to love God’s way. In order to love like Him (I Corinthians 13:4–7) we will need to experience these qualities ourselves—endure longsuffering, patience, etc.

Laying our life down for others is the only way others will know we follow Jesus. Some people will not be able to hear about Jesus until they are shown Jesus. We have a responsibility as a believer to show the world we have something different. The world needs a pattern that won’t lead to destruction. The pattern they need to see is God’s love. Today, let’s determine to seek after God’s love and show it to others so their lives can be changed!

Developing Commitment: Giving

Thursday, March 3rd, 2016

It is important to learn certain discipleship principles in our daily walk with the Lord. This week, we will focus on an important aspect of discipleship, which reflects every other area of our spiritual development: giving.

Moreover, brethren, we do you to wit of the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia; How that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality. For to their power, I bear record, yea, and beyond their power they were willing of themselves; Praying us with much intreaty that we would receive the gift, and take upon us the fellowship of the ministering to the saints. And this they did, not as we hoped, but first gave their own selves to the Lord, and unto us by the will of God (II Corinthians 8:1–5, KJV).

The act of giving is followed by many benefits in God’s kingdom—these benefits extend to our personal lives as well as to others. In this setting of Scripture, we learn when the church gave, they discovered the key to giving: giving yourself to the Lord first.

Money is a difficult concept for most of us. Money is personal—it says something about us and it changes us. Our giving and view of money reveals our level of spiritual maturity. If we are undisciplined in our giving, this is an indicator of unsurrendered areas in our spiritual life. If we cannot follow God’s Word regarding giving, we will create a breach in the “spiritual wall” in our life (Proverbs 25:28). We must be disciplined in our spiritual walk with God, and this will affect how we give.

Three Types of People

There are three types of people when it comes to money: 1) those who respect it, 2) those who ignore and squander it, and 3) those who worship it and serve it. All three of these instances will apply to anyone who either has a lot or a little money. The amount of the money isn’t the issue; how we view or interact what God has blessed us with does!

We need to be leaders in the spirit of giving just like other areas in our spiritual life (II Corinthians 8:7). The Bible mentions giving more than heaven or hell. Over half of the parables Jesus told in the Gospels had to do with money. The devil would like nothing better than to keep us from discovering God’s principles of giving and how it affect our discipleship.

God responds to our giving with a blessing or curse. Regardless of what we choose, there will be a supernatural response. Our goal is to determine what God’s Word says about giving and make up our minds to give.

Three Reasons We Should Give

It’s Commanded

We are commanded to bring our tithes into the storehouse (Malachi 3:10). A tithe is a tenth of our increase (income), and we are commanded to return it back to God. If we’re obedient in returning our tithes, we will be blessed with such an increase we won’t be able to contain it!

Returning the tithe to the Lord is a test of our faithfulness. We are only returning what belongs to God anyway. Tithing was practiced in the Old Testament all the way to the New Testament. Abraham paid tithes to Melchizedek (Genesis 14:20) and Jesus spoke to the Pharisees regarding tithing (Matthew 23:23). We’re told to set something aside for the Lord on a regular basis (I Corinthians 16:2). Giving is not an option—if we are a follower of Christ, we will be obedient and give.

It’s Rewarded

There is a heavenly response when we give. We can “rob” God when we don’t return the tithe and bless others with an offering (Malachi 3:8). God gives so much to us—we cannot be unfaithful in our giving! If we give bountifully, we will be blessed (Proverbs 22:9, 11:25), and He will give back to us pressed down, shaken together, and running over (Luke 6:38).

The law of the harvest mentioned in Scripture is our ability to harvest what we plant, harvest after we plant, and then harvest more than what we plant. God’s blessings are worth more than money could ever be in this life! If we give sparingly, we will reap sparingly (II Corinthians 9:6)—we must give beyond the tithe and give out of our abundance. Giving must be from the heart and be done willingly (II Corinthians 9:7). When we help those who are in need, they are not only helped, but God gets the glory for it!

If we can learn to give, we will build up a good, solid spiritual foundation in our life. Our giving will help us seek the eternal things, and help us come closer to grasping the treasure laid up for us in heaven (I Timothy 6:18).

It’s Natural

God created man with the ability to give. We serve a God who is a giver and we are made in His image (Genesis 1:27). We are to be like our Creator—we are called to give! God set the ultimate example of giving and sacrifice when He laid down His life for all mankind (John 3:16). God created man with a choice to give or to keep. If we call ourselves followers of Jesus, He should never have to assault or beg us to give to His kingdom. Our attitude should never be, “how much do I have to give?” Our attitude should be, “what can I give to the Lord and others?”

Three Reasons Why We Don’t Give

We Don’t Understand God’s Purpose for Money in Our Life

God doesn’t need money. The principle for money (regardless of measurement) is a resource that God placed in our life to see what we will do with it. We need to understand that any money (or possession) doesn’t belong to us—it all belongs to Him! God poured out wealth in the Old Testament to usher His people into the Promised Land (Deuteronomy 8:17–18) and He used it in the New Testament, as well as today, to usher the church into His spiritual kingdom.

We are only called to be the manager (steward) of what God has placed in our life. King David understood that money didn’t belong to the people or even himself. It all belonged to God! When people gave, they were blessed (I Chronicles 29:11–14). We have to get out of the mindset that money is “ours.” We should be glad that we can say God blessed us with the ability to have money pass through our hands to others! We need to honor the Lord with our money. He is asking for a small portion back and blessing us with the rest!

We are Negligent

We are too undisciplined with our finances. We don’t know where our money goes half of the time. We might find ourselves saying too often, “I want to give, but I can’t because…” There should never be an excuse as to why we cannot give. Our “because” is an idol we need to get rid of from our life. God has given us the ability to give—if we can’t give, it’s a problem we need to fix!

We have the idea that if we had more money life would be easier. But, if we have more money, it is easier to get our life out of balance. The more money we have, the harder we have to work at being disciplined with it. God will never give us more money if we can’t handle what we have. “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God” (Matthew 19:24, KJV). We need to remember it’s impossible to be out of balance financially and be balanced in our relationship with God. We need to be a good steward of the blessings God has placed in our life!

We are Rebellious

We have a love of money in us and we don’t want to give. God has told us plainly in Scripture we need to give. We must realize that God’s principle of giving is different from what the world has determined: gain is loss and loss is gain (Matthew 16:25). God wants His people to give! We need to lose out on things in this world so that we gain Christ (Philippians 3:8). He is what really matters. When we understand that God will always give back, we can get over our fear and rebellion of not wanting to let go of our finances. We need to be obedient to the Word of the Lord—give!

Ways to Give

God has called us to give willingly, cheerfully, and sacrificially. We can see examples of this all throughout Scripture and the result of giving. If we are struggling with giving today, we can pray and ask God to show us how we can be obedient to Him in our finances, and to help us see the blessing that is in store for us when we give.

Adapted from Wednesday Night Bible Study on March 02, 2016

Remember the Right Paths

Wednesday, March 2nd, 2016

We’re still a little over a month and a half away from the first day of Spring. With the cold weather penetrating our bones, our thoughts tend to lend toward Spring and warmer weather. With the coming season we may in fact begin to think about our uneventful Spring cleaning…

Episodes of Spring cleaning have a tendency to lead us down memory lane—retracing steps in our minds for how we acquired something, when a picture was taken, and why a note was written. Remembering itself is a two-sided coin. Our memory lane might be glossed with pleasant recollections and emotions that bring a smile to our face, and others make memory lane more like a nostalgia nightmare. Our impending memories influence our decision to either purge or keep.

As humans we need to be careful which memory lane we meander down from time to time. There are good roads and bad roads.

Remember ye not the former things, neither consider the things of old. Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert (Isaiah 43:18–19, KJV).

God tells us to avoid thinking about those unpleasant memories. We should never dwell on the past or our mistakes. Too much of our time is taken thinking about what could have been. We waste precious time that could be utilized in thinking about His Kingdom! Jesus desires that we look toward the future and consider the new work that He will make in our life, the doors He will open, and the opportunities that will presented to us!

Satan tries to influence God’s children to drive by way of the rear view mirror. But, God wants us to look forward and follow the plan He has for our life (Jeremiah 29:11). We need to be careful not to spend time marching down the same roads we’ve already trodden. We might miss out on a blessing that will become a future heart-warming memory for us and for future generations.

But, just as we are to avoid a few roads, there are others we should make sure we traverse down again and again.

Thus saith the LORD, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls… (Jeremiah 6:16, KJV).

We need to revisit—on a daily basis—the old paths wherein our faith and doctrine were founded. We must never forget the sacrifice Jesus made on the cross. We must never forget the covenant promises made with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob that are available to us in this very hour.

We cannot throw out, or purge the infallible Word of God as it was written years ago. The truths still apply to us today, and the God we serve is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8). We need to remember those paths and seek them out! God’s Word needs to be a hope chest full of good memories that we pull down again and again and never find anything to dispose!

There are so many avenues our mind will take when we allow it to wander. We can keep on the strait and narrow path (Matthew 7:14)—even in our minds—and keep “off the grass” in a sense. Don’t forget to remember the old paths and look forward to the new ones with Jesus.