Archive for April, 2017

When the Bad Eats the Good

Sunday, April 30th, 2017

And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, In my dream, behold, I stood upon the bank of the river: And, behold, there came up out of the river seven kine, fatfleshed and well favoured; and they fed in a meadow: And, behold, seven other kine came up after them, poorand very ill favoured and leanfleshed, such as I never saw in all the land of Egypt for badness: And the lean and the ill favoured kine did eat up the first seven fat kine: And when they had eaten them up, it could not be known that they had eaten them; but they were still ill favoured, as at the beginning. So I awoke. And I saw in my dream, and, behold, seven ears came up in one stalk, full and good: And, behold, seven ears, withered, thin, and blasted with the east wind, sprung up after them: And the thin ears devoured the seven good ears: and I told this unto the magicians; but there was none that could declare it to me. And Joseph said unto Pharaoh, The dream of Pharaoh is one: God hath shewed Pharaoh what he is about to do (Genesis 41:17–25, KJV).

Joseph was the favored son of Isaac and Rebekah. He was given a beautiful coat, and his brothers despised him for it. Through a series of events, Joseph was sold into slavery and then cast into prison. While in prison, he hears the dream of Pharaoh and the Lord gives him the interpretation.

Some of us are going through trials in this life that make us feel that we’re “barely making it.” Then, we can hear a Word from God, have our Pastor confirm it during Sunday’s service, and the walk right back out into the world and forget everything the Lord has told us.

God has told us that He will order our steps (Psalms 119:33), but it’s up to us to keep our prayer life in order to ensure that God can be present in our life to lead and guide us. We complicate God’s will too much—if we would just follow after Him and His presence, we’ll get all the answers, strength, and victory that we could ever need.

Jonah ran from the direct Word of the Lord (Jonah 1:1–2). But, the world around Him discouraged Him from doing what God told Him. If we allow the “bad” we hear about eat up the good Words of the Lord, we’ll be taken to the “bottom of the whale” just like Jonah. We cannot lose heart with the bad in this life—wait on the Lord (Psalms 27:14).

When God gave Joseph the interpretation of the dream, he told Pharaoh there would be 7 years of plenty and then 7 years of famine. He didn’t just focus on the bad of the situation, but highlighted the fact that there would be 7 years of good/plenty. It’s our job to get what we need in the times of good so we have enough to sustain us in the time of the bad.

Trials and tribulations will come to us in this life, but we cannot let them overcome us. We’re told not to announce the “bad” because the enemy will assume victory (II Samuel 1:20). Instead, let’s proclaim the good of the Lord and His gloriousness (Deuteronomy 32:2).

When God Sends a Lion

Wednesday, April 26th, 2017

I. Don’t. Like. Spiders. There’s a lot I could say about my strong aversion to arachnids, but I’ll just give you the highlights.

If I’m about to walk into a room and see a spider, it’s an alarm barring my entrance. If I see an abundance of spiders in the same environment—on repeated occasions—it’s an indication I should avoid such environs (e.g., nature). If spiders don their arrival at certain times of the day, it’s direction to me to make myself scarce during said times.

On the whole, a spider is a regular warning sign for me to keep out, stay back, change direction, or relocate. I’m in the right presence of mind to obey those warning signs, and I do so every time. God, in His infinite wisdom, is obviously trying to keep me safe from something—the spider or otherwise.

Okay—so you don’t think I’m crazy…it’s a spider for me, but something else for you. There’s something you will see that will make you stop dead in your tracks; a warning sign, urging you to halt, rethink, and to redirect. If we don’t pay attention, we can wind up in a world of hurt (don’t you know spiders bite?!?)…

And Samson went down to Timnath, and saw a woman in Timnath of the daughters of the Philistines. And he came up, and told his father and his mother, and said, I have seen a woman in Timnath of the daughters of the Philistines: now therefore get her for me to wife. Then his father and his mother said unto him, Is there never a woman among the daughters of thy brethren, or among all my people, that thou goest to take a wife of the uncircumcised Philistines? And Samson said unto his father, Get her for me; for she pleaseth me well…Then went Samson down, and his father and his mother, to Timnath, and came to the vineyards of Timnath: and, behold, a young lion roared against him (Judges 14:1–3, 5, KJV).

Samson was a pronounced a Nazarite from birth. He had a special calling and anointing to follow closely after God and His will. However, Samson didn’t want to pursue his calling at times, and ventured out into the land of the enemy. Instead of desiring a blessing in God’s will—a wife from God’s chosen people—Samson desired a woman from the Philistines. He wanted to choose his own course.

On Samson’s way to visit a woman in Timnath, a lion appeared right in the middle of his path. But, Samson didn’t heed the warning sign of the lion—he killed it, continued on, and through a series of events, broke an aspect of the Nazarite vow by touching a dead thing (Judges 14:8–9).

Instead of living in abundant victory, Samson’s life became checkered with spotted triumphs and trials. His wife betrayed his trust and shared a truth with the men from Ashkelon, he got involved with a harlot, had his trust betrayed by Delilah, lost his eyes, was put into bondage, and violated his vow to God.

All of this happened after Samson killed the lion. If he had paid attention to the warning of the lion—a sign to turn back, to take inventory of his life, and follow God’s plan—He would have lived a much different life.

We need to start paying attention to the lions (or spiders) in our life that cross our path when we’re on different journeys. It could just be that God has a different plan for us, or is trying to keep us out of trouble on the road ahead. He knows the end from the beginning and the plans He has for us. All God wants is the best for His children and to spare us from sorrow, trials, and hardship on the roads we’d normally pick for ourselves.

Today, let’s remember there’s a reason why God sends a lion. What we do next is up to us.

The Power of a Testimony

Thursday, April 20th, 2017

A Testimony by Any Other Name…

Testify means to declare publicly, to make known, to state of affirm, validate, bear witness to, or provide evidence for. True testimonies are powerful and can affect us personally and those around us. A testimony is not just a story—there is a true spiritual impact with a testimony.

Testimonies declare the glory of God, speak of His grace and mercy, and show others that God will do what He said He would do. We provide evidence to others about God. There’s a reason why God wants our testimony to be public—we need to provide more than just an example of what God’s grace has done for us (Psalms 91:2).

Why Testimonies are Powerful

Testimonies build faith for the people around us. We cannot doubt that God exists and what He’s capable of doing when we hear what He’s done for someone else. Testimonies also encourage: we can’t feel depressed or rejected knowing God’s performed the miraculous! We can know if God did it for someone else, He can do it for us. Testimonies also glorify God. While we can praise the Lord during church services, this is not the only way God wants to receive praise and worship from us.

Ark of the Testimony

When Israel was in the wilderness, God provided Moses with instructions to build a tabernacle—a place where His presence could dwell. Of all the furniture in the tabernacle, God’s presence would rest on the mercy seat—the lid/covering to the Ark of the testimony (covenant) (Exodus 25:21).

The Ark stored 3 items: manna, Aaron’s rod, and the 10 commandments (Hebrews 9:4). The tables of stone were to represent the law and the Word of God. The rod was to represent God’s correction/authority. And, the manna represented God’s provision and ability to work miracles. Based on all the experiences of the people of Israel, God had formed a symbol of their testimony.

A New Testimony

The Ark of the Testimony in the Old Testament was a foreshadow to the New Testament believer. We are now the tabernacle in which God’s presence dwells in. We all are to share that testimony with others and to use it to overcome our enemy (Revelation 12:11). We are to take every opportunity to declare God’s glory in our lives to the people around us (Psalms 34:1).

Not Staying Silent

We cannot stay silent about what God has done for us. We need to get an “attitude of faith” to speak out what God has done (II Corinthians 4:13). The faith that has helped us build our walk with God needs to be vocalized to others. If we share what God has done, others will hear and be glad (Psalms 34:2).

Our “good” testimonies are not the only ones that will help others. Our “bad” experiences—ones where we’ve messed up or God has had to correct us—are helpful testimonies as well. King David wrote Psalms 51 after he committed adultery. He wanted others to know not to make the same mistake he made, but also to illuminate God’s grace and mercy toward him when he repented.

Who Do We Share Our Testimony With?

We need to share our testimony with our church family—this needs to be very common! We are to comfort one another with what God has done (I Thessalonians 5:11) and use our testimony to minister (Ephesians 4:29).

We also need to testify to our own family. The next generation coming up needs to know who God is and what He can do for them! Some of what we go through today may just be a testimony needed for the next generation (II Timothy 1:5).

Lastly, we need to testify to our unbelieving friends. God will give us power through the Holy Ghost to become a witness of Him to all people and all parts of the world (Acts 1:8).

Adapted from Wednesday Night Bible Study on April 19, 2017 with Pastor Nave

The Valley of Blood

Wednesday, April 19th, 2017

II Kings 3 describes how the Nation of Israel was challenged by the king of Moab. They sought advice from the prophet Elisha. God moved upon Elisha to tell them He would fill their valley with pools of water—Israel wouldn’t see wind or rain, but God would provide it. The next morning when the people awoke, the land was filled with flowing water (II Kings 3:16–20).

When the Moabites approached to fight Israel, it was early in the morning. The sun shone on the water in such a way, when the Moabites looked across the valley, they perceived pools of blood. They thought the kings of Israel had fought and killed each other, making it easy for them to collect the spoil (II Kings 3:21–23). But, when the Moabites came upon the camp, the Israelites rose up and attacked them. Victory was in the hand of God and Israel that day.

When I finished reading this story in Scripture, God spoke to me and said: The battle is all about perception.

Perception. God, of course, is always right. But, the more I began to think about it, the more I began to see the truth in His statement.

Perception is a way of interpreting something. The Moabites thought they were looking across a valley of blood. Through their misperception, they believed the “battlefield” ahead was an easy one, but it turned out to cost them their lives.

While there is a lesson to be learned in this Scripture setting, the devil would like us to focus on the wrong portion. Satan, the father of all lies, would like us to read this story and perceive blood as a sign to turn back. Blood, something that can’t do anything else but bring harm to our lives. He wants us to think if the Moabites had the right perception, it may have saved their lives…

The devil wants us to look out over the valleys of our life and think we’re doomed, especially when we look over our valley of sin. From our vantage point, our perception, he wants to convince us there’s no way to come out victoriously. He wants us to believe that we’re dark, dirty, and stained, and there’s nothing that can wash us clean, deliver us, or help us find a way out.

You see, the devil got the wrong perception the last time he got a good look at blood. He wasn’t looking at a valley of water, but the blood spilling out of our Savior, Jesus Christ, as He hung on the cross. When Jesus died, the devil mistakenly thought he had the victory. He got the wrong perception about a few things…

When Jesus took back the keys to death, hell, and the grave before He ascended into heaven (Revelation 1:18), Satan got a whole new perspective. He knew from that point forward his time was short, he didn’t have the keys to his own house, and he couldn’t win the war.

Satan is doing all he can to convince the child of God to run from the blood. He’s trying to brainwash us into the wrong perception about what the blood can do for us.

When we’re in that valley of sin, death, and destruction, blood isn’t a sign of death for us—it’s our only sign of victory. We’re not Moabites! When we walk through a valley of blood—the blood of our Savior, washed in the waters of baptism, in the name of Jesus—we head on to life, not death.

Don’t let Satan convince you Jesus didn’t die for your sins. Don’t see the wrong story in this lesson. Get the right perspective today about the blood and what it can do for you. Go ahead and walk through that valley of blood, and see what’s waiting for you on the other side!

How Can it Be?

Wednesday, April 12th, 2017

I remember when I was in preschool I was given 2 tickets to see a play at church. I was excited to be at the church for a non-preschool activity, and even more thrilled to have a night out with my mother.

I somehow finagled my way to the end of the row; my eyes peaked out toward the center aisle. I had a perfect view of the stage: courtyard, cross, and tomb.

The play began, and I followed as much of it as I could, being a child of 4 years of age. Somewhere near the middle of the play, hot tears began to roll down my cheeks as I watched people hurt an innocent man. I grimaced as this man cried out in pain when he was whipped upon his bare back. I was beside myself as they drug this man up the center aisle, right past my seat, and out the back door of the sanctuary. And, I sobbed as this man hung on a cross in pure agony.

I didn’t understand what was happening before my eyes. Turning to my mother, and seeing her tear-stained face, I knew what I was witnessing was not just affecting me. There was something within the contents of the scenes on the stage that resonated with everyone in the audience that night.

Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed (Isaiah 53:4–5, KJV).

My mother explained to me in hushed tones, to soften my growing cries, that the man we saw was not hurt. The adults were actors, and they were just pretending that evening. But, she spoke of one man who did suffer. A man who suffered for my sins, died on a cross, and His name was Jesus.

As a child, you can’t possibly comprehend why people would hurt someone in the way I had just witnessed—especially if he had done nothing wrong. But, as an adult, I cannot say my mind fully grasps this either.

How could the Creator of the universe, who knew no sin, face the ultimate torture for every wrong I would ever commit? But, not just mine—the sins of everyone on the face of the planet, past, present, and future.

And, in our finite way of human thinking, how could a man, once dead, not stay in the grave? How could He rise after 3 days in a tomb and later ascend into Heaven? How could Jesus not leave me comfortless, but send the Holy Ghost to His believers? And, how could He, one day, return again for me to meet Him in the clouds?

Today, I still have the mentality of my 4-year-old self—in awe and confused that someone could love me that much. I don’t believe I will ever fully grasp what my Savior has done for me, but I do know I can celebrate Him and worship Him for what I do comprehend: what He’s done, what He’s doing, and what He’s going to do. I can celebrate what He accomplished on the cross and the promise I have—as well as the rest of the world.

I encourage you to reflect on what Jesus has done this Easter: what He’s conquered, what He’s sacrificed, what He’s poured out, and what He’s done for you.

We may wonder “How can it be,” but we can realize that we serve a risen Savior. We serve a loving Savior. We serve an amazing Savior who thinks we’re worth dying for. Let’s never take that for granted, or lose our child-like state of wonder and amazement in the God we serve.

He’s With Us

Tuesday, April 11th, 2017

Daily Bread

Thursday, April 6th, 2017

And the children of Israel said unto them, Would to God we had died by the hand of the LORD in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the flesh pots, and when we did eat bread to the full; for ye have brought us forth into this wilderness, to kill this whole assembly with hunger. Then said the LORD unto Moses, Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you; and the people shall go out and gather a certain rate every day, that I may prove them, whether they will walk in my law, or no…And the children of Israel did eat manna forty years, until they came to a land inhabited; they did eat manna, until they came unto the borders of the land of Canaan (Exodus 16:3–4, 35, KJV).

Daily

As with anything in life, if we ignore something and don’t invest in it, problems will catch up with us. Small issues we could have handled along the way will turn into one large issue we’ll struggle to deal with. It’s hard to undo the damage of 1,000 missed chances. This relates to our spiritual life with God. If we take care of our walk with God, it will take care of us.

Scripture tells us we will be destroyed for a lack of knowledge, not because we have an absence of understanding, but because we reject and/or disregard knowledge (Hosea 4:6). We’ll ultimately be destroyed because we don’t know God.

Our walk with God must be shaped by continual, daily investment with Him. We must pursue Him daily, and be doers of His Word (James 1:22). If we don’t apply what we’ve heard and learned from Him, we won’t remember His truth. But, if we apply it, and seek after it daily, we’ll reap His promises (James 1:25).

Bread Varieties

In our example for prayer, Jesus instructed us to pray for our daily bread (Matthew 6:11). God has many kinds of “bread” He wants to bestow upon His children. Our bread is the daily provision God puts into our lives that addresses our current need—bread for relationships, emotions, peace of mind, spiritual growth, and much more! God is our provider, and He wants to be able to feed us daily!

Bread’s Purpose

Jesus is the bread of life; if we go to Him we will never hunger (John 6:35). God wants to change our perception—we must understand we need Him for everything. And, in our pursuit of gleaning our daily bread, we learn our bread becomes an act of maintenance in our spiritual lives. Consistency is always the key in God’s kingdom (Psalms 61:8, 86:3; Acts 2:46–47). If we pursue God daily, God will add unto us and the church daily.

God has something specific He wants to invest in our lives every day. He provides a specific portion for us (Lamentations 3:24), and we need to step up to the table to get our nourishment for the day. Instead of getting frustrated with the onslaught of life, seek the bread that will sustain and give us strength throughout the day.

How to Seek Our Bread—Carrying Our Cross

Jesus said we must take up our cross daily and follow Him (Luke 9:23). This is a willful act of submission toward God. Jesus revealed a powerful, but simple truth—if we are going to follow Him, we must die out to ourselves daily through a multitude of ways:

Praying

We’re told numerous places in Scripture to pray first (Psalms 5:3) and then not to stop (I Thessalonians 5:16). Praying first in our day ensures we don’t pray reactionary prayers to what we’ve encountered that day. God wants to be in charge from the beginning of our day. Praying about everything in life will help lead us into the right position and to glean the right portion of bread.

Reading (Eating) the Word

When we seek our daily bread, and a specific Word from God, we should see what His Word already says first! His Word is a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our paths (Psalms 119:105). Because Jesus is the bread of life, His Word will provide the daily nourishment we need to press on.

Fasting

Fasting is not a diet, and is not for show; it’s completed in private (Matthew 6:18). We replace physical food with a spiritual effort to feed our spiritual man which must be renewed daily.

What Causes Us to Skip the Bread

Spiritual Laziness

Israel, when in the wilderness, were instructed to gather the manna daily (Exodus 16:16). It’s easy to comprehend what God has asked us to do, but harder to actually do it. We get tired of the daily pursuit. It’s work to maintain any relationship, but we need to make sure we work out our own salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12).

Failure to See God’s Provision

We fail to see the many blessings God places in our lives. We don’t realize every good gift comes from our Father in heaven. When we don’t seek God on a continual basis, we don’t realize how His blessing stop manifesting in our lives. We need to consider the daily “manna” we’re missing if we don’t seek Him.

Attitude of Independence

After God instructed Israel to gather the manna daily, there were some that tried to gather as much as they could. They had the mindset of gathering “extra” so they wouldn’t have to gather it daily. But, God was trying to teach them a principle of a daily relationship with Him and a daily dependence on Him. When they all got back to their tents and measured the manna, they all had the same amount (just enough) (Exodus 16:18). We must seek God daily for the bread we need instead of relying on what we think we can do on our own. We can’t do anything without God!

Adapted from Wednesday Night Bible Study on April 5, 2017 with Pastor Nave

The Story that Comes Alive

Wednesday, April 5th, 2017

My heart fluttered in my chest as my feet pounded on the hard pavement. The sound of the impact of my feet slapping the ground ricocheted back into my ears. Beads of sweat poured down my face, my clothes gripped my perspiring skin, and my lungs screamed for air with every stride.

My body wanted to stop, but my mind pushed me farther. I had to catch the man with my cadenza. My heart, my soul, my essence—all had been poured into the pages of that manuscript—and he had it. As the distance grew between me and the thief, I felt like my life was slipping away…

I plundered ahead, and soon, the man was an arm’s length in front of me. As I reached toward him, fingertips brushing the folds of his browned leather jacket, he turned with an ugly snarl and said, “Joanna, go to bed!”

Okay…so I wasn’t engaged in a foot chase, hadn’t written a cadenza, and wasn’t anywhere near a scary-looking thief. But, it was the middle of the night, and I was under the covers of my bed, flashlight in hand, ears pounding, heart fluttering, gasping because of the lack of fresh air, and the only scary person in the room was my mother.

I was one of those nerds who stayed up until all hours of the night (and morning) reading when I was younger. Parents, before your children become a “wild child” like me, you might want to sit them down and explain to them the dangers of reading through all hours of the night…

But, in truthfulness, I read because I loved how an author could write a story in such vivid detail—how the words leapt right off the page, became my reality, and transformed my life. The character’s experiences, trials, joys, and excitements were also mine. It was as if I was living in the pages of whatever story I read. The story became real, so tangible, so alive.

For the word of God is living and active and full of power [making it operative, energizing, and effective]. It is sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating as far as the division of the soul and spirit [the completeness of a person], and of both joints and marrow [the deepest parts of our nature], exposing and judging the very thoughts and intentions of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12, AMP, emphasis added).

As I grew older, I had to leave off my all-night reading binges, and focus on reality. No more temporary, secondary façades. I had to face the hard truth that this was my life, unchanging, and let’s face it—a little boring…

But, I soon came across one book I couldn’t put down. I soon found myself reading it both day and night. It pulled me into its pages, washed away my old identity, and gave me a new one. Those words written in that book became more alive to me than anything I’ve ever read or experienced in my entire life.

Those words, dear reader, are the very ones spoken by our Creator, penned by holy men of God as they were moved by the Holy Ghost (II Peter 1:21). These words exist in the pages of the Bible, and they have truly penetrated my soul and transformed me into a new creature.

I found a book that isn’t just a story for me to step into for a night. It’s not just a story that ends with a final chapter. The words it is don’t die off and trail off into the far recesses of my imagination. God’s Word is alive, is available for me every day—even in my waking moments—to transform, chasten, empower, convict, strengthen, enlighten, and so much more for me.

His Word is truth that can be manifested today, tomorrow, or any day in the future. God’s writing a new chapter in my life every day. And, His work in me is the most exciting plotline I’ve ever read.

I invite you today to get lost in book that will do more than just capture your attention for a brief moment in time, but for a lifetime. You might just find yourself like me, consumed, transformed, and in love with a book that you just can’t put down. You’ll find a story that comes alive in front of your very eyes.

Stop What’s Stopping Your Momentum

Sunday, April 2nd, 2017

And say thou unto the people, Sanctify yourselves against to morrow, and ye shall eat flesh: for ye have wept in the ears of the LORD, saying, Who shall give us flesh to eat? for it was well with us in Egypt: therefore the LORD will give you flesh, and ye shall eat (Numbers 11:18, KJV).

Up until this point in Scripture, Moses was a successful leader. Everything seemed to be going his way, working smoothly, and he had the favor of Israel. All of a sudden, he was faced a demand he couldn’t deliver; it was a circumstance much bigger than him (Numbers 11:4–14).

Moses finds himself “stuck” in a sense—he’s lost his momentum. There are many reasons why we lose our momentum. Our job is to find out what stops us and avoid it so we can keep moving forward in God.

Momentum Stops When We Fail to Stop Watching Where We’re Going

There were a few folks who had jumped on the bandwagon with Israel when escaping Egypt. They started to lust after that which the Lord had deliver them from. The Israelites, instead of turning a deaf ear to their grumblings, started to listen. In time, they began to grumble about what was left back in Egypt compared to what they had in the wilderness. They got their eyes off of the Lord.

When we realize we’ve lost momentum, we need to refocus on the Author and Finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:1). Our focus can never be on the world or the circumstances around us. We can get overwhelmed at the task at hand, but don’t let we can’t do get in the way of what we can do for God.

God spoke to Moses and told him He would provide enough flesh for the people to eat for a month (Numbers 11:21). But, instead of rejoicing, Moses started to question God in how he was going to be able to accomplish this (Numbers 11:22–23). We should step out in faith to do what God asks us to do and then allow God to work at what He can do. Moses learned that after he went to God in prayer, obedience was His next step.

Momentum Stops When We Give into Spiritual Attack

The moment we decided to follow Jesus, we opened ourselves up to spiritual attack. Our adversary is the devil and he is like a lion seeking whom he may destroy (I Peter 5:8). We must hold onto everything we can in God when the enemy tries to attack. We need to resist the devil and he will flee from us (James 4:7).

If we combat the devil’s attacks, he will begin to fight, but then he will see the force of the One who is always with us. We will be victorious in Jesus—greater is He that is in us than he that is in the world (I John 4:4). The greatest weapon we have at our disposal is the Word of God. Even when we can’t quote all of the Scripture, if we use what we know, even the name Jesus can bring victory!

Momentum Stops When We Steal What Belongs to God

God owns everything; nothing belongs to us. The whole earth is the Lords and the fulness thereof (Psalms 24:1). On days when everything is going our way, we accept this truth. But, when things get tough, we face trials, and not everything easy, we try to take back ownership of things that never belonged to us in the first place. Instead of trusting in God and allowing His perfect will to be manifested in our lives, we try to take control and use the resources God’s placed in our life improperly.

Today, we need to realize what God has done in our life. And, we need to return some things back to Him that we didn’t pay for! His Scripture tells us to cast every care upon Him (I Peter 5:7). It’s time to allow God to do the work He’s already said He would do, and allow Him to give us the strength to keep our momentum.