Archive for April, 2016

Taking Time to Dust

Wednesday, April 27th, 2016

Children all across the globe dread the day when they’re told to clean their room. The activity of organizing, dusting, and purging isn’t a joyful task. Thankfully, for most, the ill-request doesn’t occur all that often. Most of the time it’s ordered due to punishment (frequency may differ here for some), and at other times it’s requested out of pure necessity. The dust thickness, overwhelming stench of dirty socks, or piles of stuff everywhere in the room is just too great to ignore. If you need to hedge out a pathway to walk from the door to your bed, it might be time to clean your room…

As a child, I did a good job keeping my room in order most of the time. It was the dusting I had a problem with. If my mother could write “dust me” on any surface of my room (without using a pen), I knew I was in for an ordeal if I didn’t heed the message engraved within the dust mites. A verbal request was not to follow.

Dusting sprees typically occurred once a month, which should have been more frequent for someone with year-round allergies. But, the dust cloths, furniture polish, Windex, and whatever else, came out briefly to clean away all the grime, dirt, and overall nastiness from my room. Then, as is the nature of dust, the build-up process started all over again.

When we think about our human nature, it is one that’s constantly blemished and tarnished by sin (Romans 3:23). It’s a constant battle to keep ourselves clean. Depending upon where we are in our walk with God, we too could have a build-up of dust, grime, filth, guck—you name it—in our life. Sadly, we live among the dust-bunnies of sin instead of reaching for the duster.

We could be ignorant to know how to clean up the grime in our life, what tools to use, and where to get them. Maybe, we know how to “clean house,” but are too lazy to do so. Or, maybe we honestly think we lack the time to do a little sprucing up.

Is our buildup of sin so great that God’s writing in the mire of our lives, urging us to take time to clean? God doesn’t want us to wait until we have mounds of sin in our life before we make the decision to “dust.” When you see the first speck of dust, it’s time to clean! It’s God’s desire that we repent immediately and ask for forgiveness. We must prioritize our daily time alone with the Lord (in prayer) (I Corinthians 15:31)—as well as maintain a prayerful mindset throughout the day (I Thessalonians 5:17) —so we can seek Him, and ask Him to help us clean house.

By taking the time to repent and ask God for forgiveness, those who have been bought by the Blood of the Lamb (I Peter 1:19) will have His blood applied. Their sin stains will be washed as white as snow (Isaiah 1:18)—all evidence of dust eliminated from their life.

God doesn’t want to be the “parent” who has to come into His child’s room, and etch reminders in our dust. He’s bought the cleaning mechanisms to keep us living in a clean, dirt free environment. We need to use them!

Let’s not take the blood of Jesus for granted today. He paid the ultimate price with His life so we could be free from sin. When we’re baptized in the name of Jesus (Acts 2:38) and have every sin removed from our life, God wants to keep us that way. We don’t have to live in a dusty state today, tomorrow, or any other day. When those dust particles start to float into our life, seek the “Master Cleaner,” and be wiped clean—inside and out!

Your Next Step

Sunday, April 24th, 2016

The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD: and he delighteth in his way (Psalms 37:23, KJV).

Ordered Steps

Scripture tells us our steps are ordered by the Lord. Ordered means to fashion, fix in position, frame, perfect, provide, make right, stabilize, establish, etc. It’s God’s desire to position our steps and put them in order. Godly people will delight in every way God moves in their life. We should not want to do anything without God’s direction. It’s not His will that we do so anyway (Jeremiah 10:23)!

Potential Obstacles

The greatest force that can come against God’s influence in our life is us. We like to measure our steps against what we see around us (Psalms 73:2–3). Instead of looking at the world, we need to get into the presence of God (Psalms 73:16–17) and allow Him to light up our pathways.

Job wanted the Lord’s presence and Word in his life more than he desired food (Job 23:11–12). We must allow God to teach us His ways and be diligent to keep them (Psalms 119:33). The devil cannot redirect the steps God has in store for us. But, he can change our minds; he can deter us from walking the path God has already established for our life.

If we’re willing to walk in God’s ways He will enlarge our steps and make it easy to walk in them (II Samuel 22:37). Anything we think is impossible, God will make it possible if we just follow Him!

Every Step Counts

Every step that we make today has a lasting effect in our future. We must realize that we serve a God that knows the end from the beginning, and He has been very strategic in the construction of the plan in our life. Even though steps may be difficult, God is preparing us for the road ahead. Our steps don’t just impact us—they impact those around us. We need to ensure that our steps are making a way for those coming up behind us; others need a safe way to travel (Hebrews 12:13).

Difficult Steps

When God orders our steps, this does not equate to the absence of trouble in our life. We may suffer for taking the right steps with the Lord (I Peter 2:20). But, we need to follow the example Jesus set many years ago. No one wants to talk about suffering and pain, but if we walk through the suffering with Jesus, we are sure to succeed.

Showers of Blessing

Wednesday, April 20th, 2016

Balancing. The. Checkbook. Do people still do that anymore? Yes, and I’m one of them. (Do you detect the scornful tone in my voice?) That activity is the bane of my existence on a weekly basis. For me, it’s not just the checkbook per se, but a reconciliation of all “account” activity—what’s coming in, and what’s going out.

Not only is it stressful to ensure every penny is accounted for, but my uneasiness intensifies when I see less pennies coming in and more pennies going out. I’m amazed how many people casually toss away pennies because they don’t feel like they have much value. They don’t even save them for a rainy day!

There have been many times in my life when rainy days were on permanent forecast. And, the checkbook had zero pennies. I’ve prayed diligently just to have just one penny, and for the rain of blessings to come.

Have you ever been there? Not a penny to your name, living paycheck-to-paycheck, or at the cusp of bankruptcy? Maybe you are there today, and you’re wondering how you’re going to make it, put food on the table, provide for your children, pay the rent, etc.

When we see zero pennies in the bank account, we have a tendency to devote all of our energy toward focusing on the absence of pennies. Then, our tunnel vision extends to the “how’s” and “when’s” of manifesting the exact opposite—the accrual of pennies.

Reality check? This shouldn’t be our focus! But, how can we shift our thoughts to anything else? How can we not be mentally distracted when we have bills to pay, a family to provide for, or food to put in our stomach? Our focus should be on the One who can actually take care of our needs, and in following His Word.

You may be thinking, “What does my spiritual life have to do with my physical provisioning?” Everything! Scripture tells us God will supply our every need (Philippians 4:19), but there’s a law in effect. If we are obedient to God, this will cause blessings to be poured out in our life!

Ezekiel speaks about how obedience to God has a beautiful outcome:

And I will make them and the places round about my hill a blessing; and I will cause the shower to come down in his season; there shall be showers of blessing (Ezekiel 34:26, KJV).

When we are faithful to God in service, worship, giving, lifestyle (and everything in between), He will send a shower—a downpour—of blessings into our life. Our focus won’t need to be on the rainy days, the wet clothes, the leaking roof, or whatever issue we’re facing due to life’s weather. God’s downpour of blessings will take care us one way or the other!

And, when we’re obedient to the Lord, His blessings won’t just be a shower, but His downpour will come at the appropriate time—the right season. God’s rainstorm won’t come when we’re amassed in floodwaters. He knows when we need rain (Matthew 6:8), and just when we need it—right when the bank account needs to be filled up.

Stop looking at the rain clouds in your life today, and start focusing on making your life right with the Lord. I promise you’ll like the change of weather when God sends His showers of blessing in your life!

The Power of a Maybe

Sunday, April 17th, 2016

Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth (Mark 9:23, KJV).

In life we are faced with many choices. There are times when we are given the opportunity to say, “yes” and others to say, “no.” Scripture even admonishes us to make decisions with a simple yes or no answer—and to stick to those decisions (Matthew 5:37).

However, there are many times when we’re faced with a decision and we’re indecisive with our answer. We make a “maybe” decision (instead of yes or no). There is truly no more miserable state as a human being than to be constantly in indecision. Indecision can be a graveyard for all of our good intentions.

James instructs us to ask with unwavering faith—a double-minded man is unstable in all of his ways (James 1:6–8). God can be hard on those who have doubt in their life. Even in Jesus’ ministry miracles weren’t performed in some places because of people’s unbelief (Matthew 13:58).

But, our stage of non-decision—our maybe’s—are different than a no, and that’s a better place to be. In our walk with God, our maybe still leaves the door open for God to do a work in our life. We need to test God at His Word; give Jesus an opportunity to do something in our life and we’ll see that He’s better than anything else!

When we’re faced with indecision, it’s important that we be honest with God about where we’re at. We may believe that all things are possible, but we still have some unbelief in our life. A man in Scripture asked the Lord to help his unbelief (Mark 9:24). If we ask God to help us, and just leave the door open a little bit for God to perform a miracle in our life, we will see a miracle on the other side of our “maybe.”

God can do great things in our life if we allow Him to work. God knows everything about us (Psalms 103:14) and knows our limitations. But, He wants us to make the decision to give Him a chance to work. Even if we have faith the size of a mustard seed (Matthew 17:20), God can combine our faith (our maybe) with His power and we’ll see the miraculous performed in our life.

Are we being honest about our faithlessness today? Are we willing to step forward into God’s presence with our “maybe?” Even if we haven’t made up our mind, are we desperate enough to see something change? God can work miracles in desperation—it’s just up to us to determine if we will allow Him to work. God can put us in a position where we have no other choice but to look up at Him. Then, we’ll be able to change our “maybe” into a “yes” about Him.

A Character Study of Moses

Thursday, April 14th, 2016

And there arose not a prophet since in Israel like unto Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face, In all the signs and the wonders, which the LORD sent him to do in the land of Egypt to Pharaoh, and to all his servants, and to all his land, And in all that mighty hand, and in all the great terror which Moses shewed in the sight of all Israel (Deuteronomy 34:10–12, KJV).

Background

Deuteronomy 34:10–12 quite simply, is God’s high-level summary of the man Moses. Moses was a man who drew close to God. And, because of it, God used him to do an awesome work.

God shaped Moses’s life all through his upbringing—he attended Egyptian schools until about 20 years of age and then was activity in a military career (Acts 7:22). God used the natural circumstances in Moses’s life to prepare him for ministry.

Moses had a heart to do something when he saw the affliction of his brethren. He didn’t handle a situation in accordance with God’s will (Exodus 2:11–12), but God still had a plan for him. While Moses fled to the backside of the desert (Exodus 2:16) he was still open to hearing from God. When he saw the burning bush, he was curious enough about God to draw close to Him (Exodus 3:2–3). Because Moses drew close to the Lord, God was able to talk with him.

Moses’ Objections

When the Lord spoke with Moses and told him he was the chosen vessel to lead Israel out of bondage from Pharaoh (Exodus 3:9), Moses had three objections. His objections are all excuses we all have made when the Lord has called us to do a work for Him.

Who Me?

Moses’ immediate response to the Lord’s call was, “Who am I, that I should go unto Pharaoh, and that I should bring forth the children of Israel out of Egypt?” (Exodus 3:11, KJV). Moses knew that he wasn’t anything compared to the Lord’s greatness and power, but God sought him out to use him because he realized his inadequacy (Numbers 12:13).

God is always looking to do a work through frail and meek people. God can do more through human frailty than pride; He can’t focus people on His will who are too focused on themselves. God told Moses alone he wouldn’t do anything, but with God he would accomplish something (Exodus 3:12). God wants to use people who will give Him the glory. We cannot be interested in making a name for ourselves.

No Faith

Moses was concerned that if he went to the Nation of Israel, they wouldn’t believe he was called to lead them out of bondage. God told Moses the people would listen to him and would obey his voice (Exodus 3:18). The perception of others cannot persuade our obedience to the Lord and following our calling in Him.

God began to minister to Moses through a common item that helped him get through the day—a shepherd’s rod. God instructed Moses to throw down the item (rod) that most likely supported him and was something he leaned on throughout the day (Exodus 4:3). God wanted Moses to learn dependence on Him and not on something tangible. God changed the rod into a snake signifying He would perform the miraculous in Moses’s life if he would empty himself and allow God to take dominion (Exodus 4:3). When we put something down at the feet of Jesus, He will always replace it with something new (II Corinthians 5:17). When we use what God has given us, we will see supernatural results!

Not Equipped

Moses’ last excuse was that he wasn’t a great speaker (Exodus 4:10). But, God told Him, “Who hath made man’s mouth? Or who maketh the dumb, or deaf, or the seeing, or the blind? Have not I the LORD?” (Exodus 4:11, KJV). God would be with His mouth and would tell him what to say to the people and to Pharaoh (Exodus 4:12). God didn’t ask Moses to complete the task—He asked Moses to be available so God could work through Him. If we allow God to flow through us, we will be effective in His kingdom. We need to get rid of the “I can’t” mentality and realize “He can.”

God will always surround us with resources and people who will help us complete a work for Him. He will not allow us to fail! We all have a spiritual purpose, and God has chosen and called each and every one of us to do a work for Him (I Peter 2:9).

Getting Close to Jesus

Moses was only able to complete signs and wonders because he was close to God (Deuteronomy 34:10). Because Moses was close to God, he heard God ‘s voice (Numbers 12:8)—others only saw the affects and direction of God. We need to evaluate our spiritual walk today and determine what we’re missing because we’re not close enough to God.

If we become close to God, we will become like Him. Moses was a type of the One who would come, Jesus Christ (Deuteronomy 18:15). Moses pointed to what Jesus would be; he’s the only character to whom Christ likened Himself (John 5:46). Jesus was faithful to God just as Moses was faithful in his service (Hebrews 3:1–5). If we come close to God, we’ll adopt the Spirit of Christ (Philippians 2:5). Once we have His mindset, we can serve people the way that Jesus did. Then, God can say that He knows us face-to-face, just like Moses.

Adapted from Wednesday Night Bible Study on April 13, 2016

Three Things for Certain: Death, Taxes, and Giving

Wednesday, April 13th, 2016

Offices across the nation are littered with stacks of file folders teetering like the Tower of Pisa. The drone of calculator clicks and pages running through inkjet printers hum continuously in the background. Blood pressure readings have begun to steadily increase to unhealthy levels. Take a moment now, breathe deep, and notice the smell that’s in the air. It’s tax time.

Benjamin Franklin once said, “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” One of those certainties, one is dawning in just two days.

We are given direction regarding our taxes in Scripture:

For for this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God’s ministers, attending continually upon this very thing. Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute it due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour (Romans 13:6–7, KJV)

Translation for today? We need to pay our taxes. As much as we loathe seeing money slip through our fingers, God is very specific on this point. Jesus even set the example for paying taxes in the New Testament. He said:

…Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are Gods (Matthew 22:21, KJV).

Every year we’re forced to follow God’s direction in paying taxes. If we don’t, the government will find us. And, if they don’t, God will. But, as food for thought today, I wonder how many of us actually pay attention to the second half of Matthew 22:21. Do we render unto God the things that are His?

What belongs to God? If you don’t know, that’s okay, but I’ll give you the answer here. Everything. Scripture tells us, “The earth is the LORD’s and the fullness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein” (Psalms 24:1, KJV). Everything we think we “have” in life is really God’s. He’s just letting us take care of it. We’re a steward of His stuff.

So how do we give back (render) to God the things that are already His? That’s easy—let go when He asks for it. My Pastor taught our church recently about the importance of returning the tithe back to God. We return to God 10% of our income (which is a command), and then He allows us to manage the 90%.

We can’t cling to the 90% like it’s going out of style. God may call upon us to give back to Him what He’s given to us. And, as my Pastor so insightfully noted, we should view this transaction of giving back to God as a blessing: we are given the opportunity to have money pass through our hands and given to whom God has it intended for—God has used us as a channel to bless someone else and to carry out His work.

If the government isn’t holding our feet to the fire, do we actually give? If our Pastor isn’t harping on us in every sermon, can we actually be accountable to God for what He’s asked us to do?

While we don’t have a date on the calendar each year to ensure we readily follow God’s Word, let’s pray, self-reflect, and allow God to teach us how to give back to Him. Let’s realize today that while death and taxes are certainties in this life, so is giving. And, when we abide by God’s Word, He’ll bless us for it. That, my friend, is a certainty in itself…

Broken Down and Unprotected

Sunday, April 10th, 2016

The Evidence of Rain

Wednesday, April 6th, 2016

When you walked out the door this morning, did you think about grabbing an umbrella? I play this game in my mind every morning—do I want to take a gamble on the weather or load myself down with another item to lug around? Of all the decisions I make in the day, this is the worst one. The sun could be shining without a cloud in the sky, no rain forecasted on the radar, and then out of nowhere…torrential showers.

If I wanted to save time, and always be prepared, I should just snatch that umbrella while I gather my laptop and lunchbox before heading out the door. But, I have to stop and think if preparedness is the true crux of the matter. Is it truly my faith? Faith that it will rain?

There was a time in Scripture when the prophet Elijah prayed that no rain would fall, and for three years and six months it didn’t rain (James 5:17). Nearing the end of the drought, Elijah sent his servant to see if the rain was coming. The servant reported an absence of rain, but Elijah instructed him to get up and look seven times. On the seventh time Elijah’s servant said, “Behold, there raiseth a little could out of the sea, like a man’s hand” (I Kings 18:44, KJV).

Elijah’s servant didn’t have faith that it would truly rain. After seven times of checking, the weather hadn’t turned. Even during the final perusal of the horizon, only the tiniest cloud was visible—and that cloud couldn’t possibly usher in any rain.

I’m reminded of a true story I read one time about a young man who had a life-changing encounter with the Lord in church one night—He was baptized and filled with the Holy Ghost. Upon arrival at work the following day, he shared his tremendous experience with a coworker. Laughing him to scorn, the coworker jeered at the young man saying, “God isn’t real and your encounter was impossible!”

Without hesitation the young man told his coworker emphatically, “God is real,” and turned to pray. But, instead of praying back the rain, he called it to come forth. He spoke to his disbelieving coworker: “You will know God is real when it rains today at 3:00pm.” There were no clouds in the sky that day and no call for rain. But, at 3:00pm, it rained.

Convinced it was a coincidence, the coworker laughed in disbelief, but the young man said, “Alright. You will know God is real when it rains again tomorrow at 3:00pm.” The following day, there were no clouds and no forecasted rain, but at 3:00pm, it rained again. For the second time the coworker denounced the finality of God, and the young man said, “Okay. You will know God is real when it rains again tomorrow at 3:00pm.” The following day the weather was clear, but the young man expected rain. With a trembling gaze, his coworker looked to the heavens once more. And, at 3:00pm it rained.

Elijah’s servant had a small bit of precursory evidence of pending rain—he had a cloud , but he still lacked faith. The young man in our more recent story didn’t have evidence, but he had faith. “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1, KJV).

Many times we claim all we need is a little “something” to believe. But, in all honesty, God could provide whatever that “something” is and we’ll still doubt, we’ll still be unfaithful, and we still won’t trust Him. We need to have the faith of Elijah, and of the young man—to have faith whether or not we have “evidence” to believe. When we do, we’ll see rain.

I don’t know what happened to the young man’s coworker, but I hope he was converted. Elijah’s servant adopted a new opinion after the heavens opened and there was a great rain (I Kings 18:45). Your faith can bring the rain, but that rain could be for someone else. It could be a miracle in someone else’s life or could very well save their soul. Are you willing today to have faith in the rain? Why don’t you start exercising faith and see just what God will do.

Go the Second Mile

Sunday, April 3rd, 2016