Archive for January, 2017

Salvation Steps

Sunday, January 29th, 2017

Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call. And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation (Acts 2:37–40, KJV).

Jesus had given the Apostle Peter the keys to the kingdom, and had said the salvation message would be preached starting at Jerusalem. When Peter got up on the Day of Pentecost, he preached the salvation message found in Acts 2:37–40.

But, Peter preached more than the Salvation message that day. He told the world that Jesus was the Messiah and that He was alive. It was in Jesus Christ that we would see salvation (I Thessalonians 5:9). When the people heard this message, they were convicted about what they had heard. They knew they could not hear the message of Calvary and do nothing with it. It was then Peter gave instruction as to the 3 steps they would need to follow.

Repentance

Repentance can happen in a moment once we realize the heart of God toward our sin. God is saddened by our sin every time that we fail, every time we miss the mark and fall short of God’s expectations. Repentance is an inward change of mind that will change our outward directions and actions. When we have godly sorrow about our sins, this will produce repentance in us (II Corinthians 7:10).

Baptism in Jesus’ Name

There is only 1 way to be baptized found all through the Scriptures—in the name of Jesus. We are baptized for the remission of our sins, evoking the work of Calvary. When we’re baptized, all of our sins ever committed are remitted as far as the east is from the west. The blood of Jesus washes our slate clean from all of our sins. We’re buried with Jesus through baptism so we can be raised up and walk in newness of life (Romans 6:4).

Receipt of the Holy Ghost

The Holy Ghost is hard to measure, explain, and imagine because we operate in a finite world. But, God and His presence are infinite. We cannot dismiss anything that we cannot comprehend or explain; we must embrace the supernatural move the Lord wants to pour out in our life. Once the Holy Ghost comes upon us we will speak with new tongues in a language only understood by our Creator. This is the one thing we cannot do in life—if we had the ability to organize or orchestrate it, we’d mess it up. This is why it’s known as the supernatural! To complete our salvation experience, we must be filled with His precious presence!

Just Because

Wednesday, January 25th, 2017

My nephew is an intelligent child at 4 years old. The other day at church he weaved a tremendous statement—dare I say scheme—on how an allowance should be awarded in lieu of helping out a Brother with a “church chore.”

I was flabbergasted to say the least and desperately tried to stifle laughter as my sister answered her son with a resounding, “No!” The poor, conniving child began to question “why” he wasn’t going to receive any money for helping at the church. The explanation ensued…

This incident flooded back memories to my childhood—me beleaguering my parents with endless questions. The word “why” was very much a part of my vocabulary as was my parent’s responses of, “no,” “because I said so,” and “just because.” And, my response was always, why?

Sometimes as children, when we ask our parents something, we’re given explanation as to why we can’t or shouldn’t do something. But, other times—albeit harder to understand—we hear a resounding “no” or “just because” without explanation. Regardless of the response, children are taught obedience and discipline, all the while preparing them to follow suit as adults.

As a child, I thought I’d reach a day in my life when every answer would come with a dignified response. I would never be told “no” or “just because” without plausible explanation. I was totally wrong—and wrong is a significant understatement. I’ve heard “no” without explanation in many environments and circumstances, but the most difficult are the times I’ve heard it from my Creator.

It’s shocking for some to realize when we pray and ask God to work in our lives, His answer isn’t always, “yes.” Contrary to belief, just because God doesn’t fulfil our every desire doesn’t mean He’s an uncaring God who doesn’t love His children. He says, “no”—probably more than He says yes to me anyway—and a lot of times it doesn’t come with an explanation. If I dare ask why, it’s answered with, “Just because.”

God knows the end from the beginning and the plans He has for us (Jeremiah 29:11). What we ask or what we want to do doesn’t align with His will most of the time. Because we’re trying to take control and not allow God to be Lord over our life, He has to tell us no. Because what we want to do will wind up destroying us down the road, He tells us no. Because it isn’t the right time, He tells us no. And, when we want to know why, He doesn’t respond.

We must remember today that God isn’t trying to be cruel or unreasonable. He says, “no” because He’s doing what any earthly parent does to their child. He knows best, He cares tremendously for us, and has unconditional love for us. So, His “no” does not come as a node of punishment. His “just because” is establishing His authority in our lives, helping us remember that He’s God and we’re not.

But, more importantly, His “no” and “just because” has another meaning. Truth be told, God can say one thing to us and mean so much more. I’ve found time and time again when God speaks these words to me, it really just means, “I love you.” And, love doesn’t require an explanation.

The next time God says no, or says no without a why, don’t get bent out of shape. Just see the Father of all Creation wrapping His protective arms around you and saying, “I love you.” You’ll find His “no” followed by “just because” are not such bad responses after all.

Strategic Steps

Sunday, January 22nd, 2017

A man’s heart deviseth his way: but the LORD directeth his steps (Proverbs 16:9, KJV).

Every decision we make will affect the rest of our lives. Due to human nature, we cannot make the right decisions. But, God never intended for us to make any decision alone—He has provided the answer to every question in His Word.

Scripture tells us not to lean to our own understanding, but to seek the Lord for guidance in the paths we walk upon (Proverbs 3:5–6). But, humans desire to have control; we want to make our own decisions. We need to trust God and not follow after a rebellious spirit where we seek to make our own decisions and be in charge.

We need to open ourselves up to the Lord and allow Him to direct us. We need to follow His steps, His direction, and have a mind that’s committed to doing what God has shown us. God did not create humans with the ability to know the right way (Jeremiah 10:23). If we follow God and His plan, we’ll see the right outcomes, and see something perfect and complete.

Scripture tells us the steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord (Psalms 37:23). God will bring us out of any situation and set us upon a firm foundation (Psalms 40:2). If we are obedient to follow Him and take the first step, He’ll enlarge our steps and help us cover more ground (Psalms 18:36). Today, our prayer needs to be that God orders our steps in His Word so we never fall (Psalms 119:133).

King David made the wrong decisions in his life when he got frustrated with waiting on God and following His process (I Samuel 27:1). But, in his frustration, the enemy crept in. The loss of everything in his life was the wake-up call he needed to turn back to God and ask Him to order his steps. David needed to find the strategic steps God had for his life again.

He Believed that God Could

David started remembering everything that God had done for Him in the past. It was God’s favor in David’s life that reminded him God could do the impossible; there wasn’t anything that God couldn’t do. He was able to encourage himself with what God had done to move forward in Him (I Samuel 30:6). Just like David, when we face impossible situations in our life, we must remember God will always be there for us and provide an answer and the right direction.

He Sought God’s Direction

After remember that God was able, he went to the Lord for his next step. David asked for those to bring him the ephod, and he asked if he should go after the enemy (I Samuel 30:7). Like David, we can’t make decisions on our own. If we’re going to succeed, and have the right outcome, we need to ask God what to do. Determining God’s will should be our number one priority (James 4:15).

He Did What God Said to Do

God had an answer, a step, when David asked. God told David to pursue the enemy. When David and his army came upon them, they were able to recover all that was previously lost (I Samuel 30:18). When we are obedient and trust God, there’s a miracle in store for us. All we have to do is follow God’s strategic steps.

The Power of the Spoken Word

Wednesday, January 18th, 2017

I’ve just recently discovered the wonderful invention of sleep machines. I don’t know where they’ve been all my life. Who knew listening to something while sleeping can actually promote sounder rest?

You may already be a member of the elite group of people who don’t need peace and quiet to sleep. But, some have taken it a step further—they actually listen to people speaking while sleeping!

The notion of listening to self-help tapes during slumber times has been around for years. What people pour into their minds at night is supposed to come to fruition during their waking hours. In the past, I’ve scoffed at this concept, but Northwestern University researchers indicate “depending on what we hear during the night, it is indeed possible to reinforce existing memories and enhance our recall after we wake up” (Smithsonian.com).

Basically—what people listen to at night can be perpetuated during waking hours; it can become a reality in their life. If you listen to musings on the power of positivity, you will be a more positive person. If you listen to encouragement on how to overcome social anxiety, you will become more comfortable talking with others. On the flip-side, if you continuously listen to negative words, you will become depressed and anxious.

Here’s where our spiritual life is impacted…

Whether we’re awake or when we’re asleep, the devil constantly speaks lies into our life (John 8:44). Over time, if we don’t do anything to combat these words, they will manifest themselves in our lives and negatively impact us.

God’s children need to take action against negative words the devil whispers in our ears at night! Each day we should be in prayer and in God’s Word. When we dive into the precious Word of God—penned by holy men as they were moved by the Holy Ghost—we can be reminded:

  • Greater is He that is in us than he that is in the world (I John 4:4)
  • God is near to all who call on Him (Psalms 145:18)
  • We are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works (Ephesians 2:10)
  • We are chosen, royal, holy, and a peculiar people called into God’s marvellous light (I Peter 2:9)
  • We can do all things through Christ who strengthens us (Philippians 4:13)
  • If God is for us, who can be against us (Romans 8:31)
  • God has plans for us and wants to give us a future and a hope (Jeremiah 29:11)
  • God will never leave or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5)

When we hear the continued promises of God spoken into our lives, this will cancel out the words of the enemy. God wants to empower His children to go and live a full, empowered life! When we read Scriptures, remind ourselves of His promises, and prophesy them into our life, they will be manifested—they will happen!

Make a decision today to drown out the voice of the enemy and hear what God wants you to hear. Remember who you are in Christ Jesus, and that His words are the only ones that matter. If you choose to listen to Him, you’ll see His presence in a greater way. The enemy’s words won’t even be a distant memory.

Side Steps

Sunday, January 15th, 2017

And it came to pass, after the year was expired, at the time when kings go forth to battle, that David sent Joab, and his servants with him, and all Israel; and they destroyed the children of Ammon, and besieged Rabbah. But David tarried still at Jerusalem…And when the mourning was past, David sent and fetched her to his house, and she became his wife, and bare him a son. But the thing that David had done displeased the LORD (II Samuel 11:1, 27, KJV).

Side Step

In our walk with the Lord, we’re commanded to move where He tells us to move, but more importantly, to move forward in Him. But, because we’re human, we have a tendency to make lateral moves—side steps—in our walk with God. The Lord will tell us one thing, but when we start to question, or doubt the plan of God, we pause. The moment we hesitate in God, we’ve made a side step in our journey. When we doubt God, we give place to the devil to come into our lives and influence us to take action contrary to the Word.

King David was a man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22). He had retrieved the Ark from the enemy, won many battles, and had God’s favor. But, one day he decided to take the day off. He didn’t move forward; he didn’t take the step God wanted Him to take. And, the moment he did, the enemy crept in.

3 Aspects of David’s Side Step

Action

Just because we’re not doing something, doesn’t mean we’re not doing something. Failure to take action for the Kingdom of God will be an action for the kingdom of flesh. When we’re not working for the Lord, we’re working against Him.

King David was called to be a leader of the people and to partake in battle. But, instead of taking action, he sent Joab. He did not fulfill his kingly duty appointed by God. Scripture tells us the steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord (Psalms 37:23). If we don’t follow God’s steps, we’re being disobedient.

David felt that in all of his works, he deserved a day off—a hiatus from his kingly duties, a vacation from God. But, in his “break,” and “I deserve it” mentality, he took a side step away from the righteous king he had been. Our side steps in God are not just “side steps”—they move us in a direction backward, away from God. God wants us to fulfill His will and to be faithful every day. Our one moments can impact us for a lifetime.

Getting Others Involved

When David decided to take a side step, he didn’t take it alone. He brought other people into his mishap—he sent Joab to battle, another servant to glean information about Bathsheba, and then engaged Bathsheba in an adulterous act.

When we side step in God’s kingdom, how many people do we truly impact? How many souls will we miss because we’re taking a day off? How many other people will have to pick up our slack because we aren’t pulling our weight in the body of Christ? We must remember our side step doesn’t just impact us and it doesn’t just last for a moment.

The Cover Up

Our human nature encourages us to try to cover up our sin. Adam and Eve were the first to do this in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:7–8). But, we can’t fool God for He is always present and knows all things. Instead of fooling God, we fool ourselves.

David tried to call Bathsheba’s husband home from battle to cover up his adulterous act, but when this plan failed, he tried to cover up his sin again. This time, his cover up led to the death of a man. David’s sin—his side step—turned from not only his initial disobedience, but to adultery, and then to murder. We can’t cover up our sins today, but confess them and repent. There is no other way to turn our life around, to get back on track, and to get right with the Lord.

Choose Grace

Today, we need to open our entire heart to God and repent when we take a side step. We need God’s presence to intervene in our lives and help us get back on track—back on the path ordered by the Lord.

Without grace, David wouldn’t be the man that he ended up being; we’d only know him for his side step. But, God sent a prophet to tell him what he’d done wrong, and David repented for his sins. If we seek after the Lord, God will reveal to us what we need to change and cover us with His grace. Let’s not take a side step today, but take a step with God, and step forward in Him.

I Think Myself Happy

Wednesday, January 11th, 2017

Many of us are still wandering around the second week of the year with a small haze from New Year’s Eve—deflating balloons cowering in corners, ribbon curls tucked under furniture corners, and confetti in more places than we’d care to explain. But, meandering streamers—being tracked down the hallway for the umpteenth time—are not the only thing with an ominous presence in our lives…

Bad attitudes, spoiled plans, crushed dreams, and failed resolutions seem to cloud life thicker than fog rolling in across turbulent waters. The New Year should be a time of happiness, new beginnings, and fresh starts—so says the ever-so-cliché media platforms of our time.

Truth is—today’s just another day, this year is just another year, and life is just life. Today may not have any particular importance, be any special occasion, and it might not measure up to the worldly-defined standard of the “New Year.”

I think myself happy, king Agrippa, because I shall answer for myself this day before thee touching all the things whereof I am accused of the Jews (Acts 26:2, KJV).

In the Book of Acts, we find a man named Paul, who prided himself in persecuting Christians. After an encounter with Jesus, He was transformed into the most powerful Apostle the world has even seen. Preaching the Gospel, Paul offended many and found himself cast into prison without trial. Given an opportunity to speak out against his accusers, Paul declares himself fortunate.

I think myself happy.

We may not find ourselves in a life the world defines as TV-terrific or Facebook-fabulous. It’s hard not to measure our lives per the media measuring stick, and even more difficult not to measure our lives per our own, sometimes unrealistic, standards.

But, we can choose something different today. We can choose to forsake impossible standards, lay waste to bad attitudes, say farewell to unhappiness, and think ourselves happy.

No one in this world can define who we are, how we feel, or what we will be. God has a plan for all of us, but it’s up to us to choose the way we think about it, what we’ll decide to focus on, and how we’ll ultimately feel about it.

What the world may define as a dead end we can see as the doorway to opportunity. When other’s think we have a mundane life, we can see it as God’s masterpiece.

Realize today is the day the Lord’s made, and we can choose to rejoice and be glad (Psalm 118:24). We can consider ourselves fortunate to be a part of something the Lord of all creation has formed with His hands; we can choose to be happy.

What do you think?

Small Steps

Sunday, January 8th, 2017

And after these things he went forth, and saw a publican, named Levi, sitting at the receipt of custom: and he said unto him, Follow me. And he left all, rose up, and followed him (Luke 5:27–28, KJV).

Jesus didn’t ask for much from His disciples. He asked for something small—for them to follow Him. Once the disciples took their first step, they embarked on a journey with a Lord that would change their life forever.

Many of us today can look at the life of Jesus, or the life of the disciples, and think we could never measure up to what they’ve accomplished; that we can’t do anything great in the kingdom of God. But, all He asks is that we be obedient, have faith, and take a small step.

Matthew 17:20 tells us that if we have faith as a grain of mustard seed, we can tell any mountain to get out of the way, and it will be moved—nothing shall be impossible for us. It doesn’t matter what we look like, our size, or shape, all that matters is the size of the faith inside of us to do something for the Lord!

In Scripture, Peter, James, John, and Levi all got up and followed Jesus. They took a small first step to move forward in their relationship with God. Because they moved—even a little bit—God used them mightily in His kingdom. God can take our small effort and do something great with it. God specializes in turning nothing into something; turning something small into something powerful.

The mustard seed is the smallest of all the seeds, but the largest plant (Matthew 13:32). If we’re willing to start—even starting out small—we can have a large impact in God’s kingdom. All we have to do is take the first step.

Just Grab a Bowl

Wednesday, January 4th, 2017

At least once a year, my family celebrates our German heritage by cooking spätzle. I’ve heard many stories over the years about my Great-Grandmother (Oma) in the kitchen, heartily mixing the spätzle dough, which could only be compared to the consistency of mortar. She would firmly cradle the bowl in the curvature of her arm, and effortlessly thump the mixture with a wooden spoon. My parents have continued her tradition, albeit with the help of a KitchenAid® mixer. No one can quite match Oma’s spätzle-mixing talent.

While spätzle is an incredibly hearty meal, my Grandfather could never get enough of it. After the family would be stuffed to the brim, my Grandpa would go back for another helping, insisting he could allow a few more spätzle noodles to fall down into any available “cracks” in his stomach.

I remember later during childhood, during one particular meal, my Grandpa grabbed a serving bowl—because a plate was just too little to hold enough spätzle to satisfy his craving. After his dinnerware selection, all the men in our family have followed suit. Plates just aren’t large enough to thoroughly enjoy a meal of spätzle.

Too little. Not enough. Have you ever been faced with a situation where something wasn’t large enough to suit your purpose? A time where after the completion of a task you still felt unsatisfied?

I’m reminded of a story in Scripture about King Solomon. He had just built a house for the Lord, and sacrificed so many sheep and oxen they couldn’t be numbered because there were so many (I Kings 8:5). But, that’s not what holds my attention in this story:

The same day did the king hallow the middle of the court that was before the house of the LORD: for there he offered burnt offerings, and meat offerings, and the fat of the peace offerings: because the brasen altar that was before the LORD was too little to receive the burnt offerings, and meat offerings, and the fat of the peace offerings (I Kings 8:64, KJV, emphasis added).

The brazen altar was the largest piece of furniture in the tabernacle. But, King Solomon’s sacrifices were too great in multitude; the altar was just too little to receive them.

I hear preachers say frequently we can never out-give God. But, do we ever try? Too often we allow our earthly constraints to dictate the maximum effort or impact we feel we can give to God. We stop praying because the hour’s up. We stop giving because the church has reached the fundraising goal. We stop praising God because our voice gives out and body fatigues.

King Solomon didn’t think that way. He had a platform—literally—to give sacrifices to the Lord. But, he didn’t allow that platform to paint his praise and worship into a corner. He built a new altar, although temporary, to continue his sacrificing. He wasn’t going to allow something that was too little or not enough to get in his way.

My Grandpa was a smart man. He knew his ultimate desire and made it happen. He renegotiated the procurement of a bowl instead of a plate to ensure he was satisfied in his spätzle-pursuit.

I wonder today if we allow ourselves to be stifled by the notion of too little. Just because the world defines something or our mind tells us it isn’t possible, we shouldn’t stop. And, we especially shouldn’t give up because of the invisible wall of being unable to “out-give God.”

Scripture never says God didn’t accept Solomon’s sacrifice. The devil would like us to believe that Solomon should have stopped when his sacrifice overflowed the brazen altar. And, he’d like us to believe our effort to worship God or work in His Kingdom should stop when it looks done or seems like it’s enough.

I encourage you this New Year to go the extra mile, to be bold in your approach, to give a little extra. Break free from the ideology of too little with God. When you start to build bigger and push farther with God, you’ll find something my Grandpa did many years ago. God, like spätzle, will fill your life and leave you satisfied in a way you’ve never experienced. All you have to do is grab a bowl.

Begin with the End

Sunday, January 1st, 2017

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 14:27–30, KJV).

We’ve entered another year, and most people are enthralled with the ideal of making New Year’s Resolutions. However, research shows only 8% of people actually follow through with their resolutions, while the rest don’t even start or continue with them.

In our Scripture setting, Jesus stressed the importance of follow-through and gives strategic advice to be successful in whatever we set out to do. Jesus’s directions are simple to starting any project: stop, think it through, plan, and expect obstacles. But, He also noted how we should think about the end before we actually start. Our question today is, what is the end goal? Is this our decision, or should we be receiving direction elsewhere? Before we start any work, we need to seek after God’s plan, His counsel, and not our own desires (Psalms 37:23).

The Risk of Not Beginning with the End

When we don’t consider the end, we can’t complete what we start, and we waste resources. We end up having regrets about what we could have done. We also are labeled as a quitter—and that’s something no one likes to be called. We all have an innate desire within us to never give up because we worship a God who completes what He starts (Philippians 1:6)!

How to Begin with the End

Begin at the End by Working Hard

We don’t like to work because we’re all lazy, but a little hard work never hurt anyone! Working hard is a godly principle—hard work pays off (Proverbs 21:5), and we will have prepared for our future (Proverbs 6:6–8). Jesus told His disciples that He must work while it was still day (John 9:4); He had to move forward and continue to advance God’s kingdom. We need to follow His example and work and we will reap the rewards.

Begin at the End by Learning Along the Way

We learn through wisdom—and through wisdom we glean knowledge (Proverbs 24:3–4). We cannot attempt to complete any task without wisdom and knowledge. If we lack any wisdom, we can ask God and He will give it to us (James 1:5). We must never stop learning in the natural and spiritual areas in our life. Our daily plight should be to seek after wisdom, knowledge, and understanding. Knowledge will unlock God’s favor and blessing in our life and help us succeed in Him.

Begin at the End by Taking Care of What Takes Care of Us

Scripture encourages us to take care of work first and then everything else that follows (Proverbs 24:27). It’s easy to think we’re overwhelmed and don’t have time for work, but we must be careful what we think our focus should be. We cannot cut things out that have substance, things that will sustain us in this life—or anything that God expects for us to maintain while living on this earth. No matter what we think, we cannot live without prayer, the Word, and the presence of the Lord! We need to learn to prioritize and start with the things that are the foundation of our eternal home.

Begin at the End by Getting God Involved Now

God’s end for us is not failure but victory, triumph, and blessing! God knows the plans He has for us (Jeremiah 29:11)—if we commit our work to the Lord, He will establish everything we do (Proverbs 16:3). We need to start out the New Year with more than just praise to God, but an investment in Him and submission to let God be Lord over every part of our life. Our life is like a vapor, so we need to go to do what God asks of us (James 4:13–15). It is not the time to be unwise, but to understand who the Lord is and what He wants for us to do (Ephesians 5:17).